Week 36 – Vancouver, Vancouver Island & Seattle

Week 5 of our North America road trip and we’ve driven 8,032kms so far (that’s 1,695kms this week). We completed 2 ferry crossings and ditched Canada for the land of the free. Today we had a service done on our BRZ because it ticked over 30,000kms. We’ve done almost 9,000kms in our first month of ownership which is pretty amusing. Luckily the BRZ was such a low mileage car for a 2013 model so the resale shouldn’t be that affected.

Map 5
Our drive this week (week 5)

We had been advised that the drive from Kelowna to Vancouver can be a little hairy in bad weather but we were lucky that the conditions weren’t too bad. It was quite a nice drive with some snow in sections and one patch of heavy fog. That should be our last bit of snow until we head back to Canada in December – fingers crossed. When we were planning our stint in Vancouver we were thinking of spending 4 nights but Neil advised that he’d do 2 nights Vancouver and 2 nights on Vancouver Island. So with only a short amount of time to cover a city, we wanted to book a place downtown so we could hit the ground running. Hotels were far too expensive but we were lucky to find a room on AirBnB which included secure car parking. It was around the corner from The Fairmont at a fraction of the price so we figure that we scored a good deal. As soon as we arrived we dumped the bags and headed out. My friend Greg provided us with a great list of pointers for our visit to Vancouver and for our short visit we did a pretty good job of squeezing them in between the typical tourist sites. From trendy coffee places to well priced sushi restaurants and sports bars, we spread ourselves around.

Those who have been to Vancouver will be familiar with the usual tourist spots like the Gastown steam clock, the 2010 Olympic cauldron and Granville St shopping strip, but my favourite part of Vancouver is Stanley Park. It’s adjacent to the downtown area and has lovely views across the bay. Greg had recommended renting bikes and riding around the park but it was raining so we walked. We walked the seawall which is a 10km loop around the edge of the park and then we checked out the totem poles at the end. It would’ve been great to cycle, but considering it was only on/off showers I’m not going to complain. If we were to live in Vancouver, I’d say that we’d live in the West End district which is close to the park. Vancouver does have significant problems with homeless people which is a shame. They also seem to be very liberal with their Marijuana smoking, as we saw smoke shops everywhere.

We had an early start leaving Vancouver because we had to make a 9:30am ferry to take us across to Nanaimo, and we knew rush hour traffic was going to hold us up. There was also an accident on the way which didn’t help but we made it to the ferry on time. The system was very streamlined and the ferry had bow to hull loading which made loading and unloading a seamless process. The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is about 3 hours but we knew that we’d want to stop at a few places along the way. We had no idea where to stop so we pulled into a visitors centre to find out where to go. Luckily enough, the salmon are in the process of migrating upstream for breeding so we were able to go see them jumping up the waterfalls at Beaver Creek. This is something that I’ve always wanted to see so it was great that we could fluke it. The guide also sent us to Sproat Lake to see the Petroglyphs which are rock carvings that are thousands of years old. The drive to Tofino was probably my favourite part of the day though. The road is very twisty and the fall colours are beautiful at the moment. The best part is that Tofino is one way in one way out which meant I got to do the drive twice. In the BRZ it was a delight. Tofino is a surfing town so we headed to one of the beaches for some sunset shots.

The other place Neil suggested was Victoria, which is the largest city on the island, so we spent our second night there. We went for an orientation drive and then parked the car to roam through the city. Victoria has a great night scene with microbrew pubs and cheap eateries. I probably shouldn’t admit this but we had 3 dinners in Victoria! We had deep fried pickles with a pint of local ale at Garrick’s Head pub, which was packed on a Wednesday night. Then we went to Tacofino for a fish taco and quesadilla. At this point it doesn’t sound too bad, but then we went across the road to another Mexican place that had a 6 tacos for $10 promotion. They were small but it was still too much. Feeling guilty, we continued walking around the harbour and took some nightshots of the Parliament building. Victoria is a great little city and it would be nice to get back there someday.

When I looked into the ferries I checked out the first crossing and there were at least a dozen different sailings that day. With that in mind I wasn’t too worried about the second one from Victoria across to Port Angeles, Washington. Well the day before we were looking to go I looked up the schedule and discovered that there were only 2 trips per day. One was at 10:30am and the other was at 4pm. Since the ferry took 2 hours and we then had to drive 3 hours to Seattle, we didn’t really want the later one. The boat was fully reserved but they did have a standby line to fill the boat. I called and they advised to come at 8am for a good chance. We got down there at 8am and we were number 9 in line. After waiting around and being cleared by customs we then got to board the boat. Only 3 more cars made it on after us and at least 15 were turned away. We were very lucky. As the ferry approached Port Angeles we couldn’t help but notice a huge mountain range that lines the coast. It’s part of the Olympic National Park and there’s a road that heads up to the top of Hurricane Ridge. The views were great as we were driving up and you could clearly see all the way to Victoria and beyond. Once you get to the top, it’s so high at 5,200 feet that we were in the clouds. It was still a unique experience to go from sea level to that altitude along the 17 mile long road.

By the time we arrived into Seattle we were tired so we cooked dinner and had a relaxed evening. The next morning we jumped in the car and headed to the Boeing factory. You may have noticed that I love factory tours – bikes, cars, beers… I’m really interested in mass production and the design of factories. Passenger jets are something else though because they’re so big and they take so long to construct. This is the only Boeing plant that offers factory tours so we had to do it. It didn’t disappoint either. We saw the production lines for the 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner in the gigantic factory. Seeing the components of the plane assembled in sections and then the wings bolted to the fuselage and the nose and tail added. Everything is so big and so grand but the way they talk about it makes it sound like it’s easier than assembling Ikea furniture. I really enjoyed the 90 minute tour and the time looking through the exhibition. We even got to see some brand new planes take off on their test flights. No cameras or cellphones were allowed inside the factory which sucks.

After Boeing we drove into an area just near the Space Needle and managed to find some free street parking. From here we set off on foot and walked to Union Lake and then down to Pike Place market. That name may ring a bell with some because Pike Place is Starbucks most popular brewed coffee. The first Starbucks is in fact in Pike Place market, but we didn’t bother lining up like the other suckers. Instead we chose to line up for the Russian Piroshky close by. We picked one that was smoked salmon inside a pastry parcel with dill. Yum! Just around the corner there is Gum Wall which is an alleyway where people stick their chewed bubblegum on the wall. It sounds gross but it was kinda cool at the same time. From here we wandered up to the Capitol Hill district which is known for its alternative culture. We stumbled across a very flash Starbucks store where they roast and package the beans that you see in the stores. The best part was that we could wander around and look but not actually buy anything. We headed to the Space Needle for some shots and then back down to the waterfront for some sunset pictures. After dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings (yep, we had hot wings!) we walked back to the car and went to Kerry Park for some nightshots of the city. We returned back to our accommodation and flopped into bed – it was a big day.

This morning we drove down through Washington state and crossed into Oregon. I found a Subaru dealer in downtown Portland which meant that we could drop the car off for a service while we went for a look around town. The Saturday markets were on today which mostly comprised of crafts and food, but were very popular with locals and tourists alike. We tried an elephant ear, which is a flat fried dough thingy covered in cinnamon sugar. I’m sure that makes no sense but the photo might help. Regardless it was yum and I even went as far as saying that it was possibly better than a churros.

Ben trying out an ‘Elephant Ear’ at the Portland Saturday Market

Knowing that I had a whole week to write up and Anna had a thousand photos to get through, we went back to collect the car and headed for the hotel. Over the next week we’ll head west and make our way down the coastal highway 101 to San Francisco. The temperature is getting warmer and we’re loving it!



Fail of the Week
On our way back from Tofino we saw a sign for Point of Interest, so we pulled over but there was no explanation what the POI was. We saw a walking trail go into the forest towards the lake so we started following it. We got halfway along the trail when we came across fresh animal poo sitting in the middle of the bush track. It was pretty remote and we were the only ones there, so we started discussing what type of animal droppings they were. We quickly convinced ourselves that it was most likely the feces of a bear and we retreated very quickly. Later that night we looked on Google and they were most likely from a deer. Haha.

Meal of the Week
Neil told us about a place called Triple O’s which is a burger joint attached to some Chevron gas stations. They also have restaurants called White Spot which sell the burgers and other fare. Well we went to White Spot in Vancouver and had the beef and bacon burger for dinner. It was fantastic. 2 days later we went to Triple O’s on our way to Tofino for a Spicy Crispy Chicken Baja burger. Well it was so good that on our way Victoria we pulled into the same place and ordered another burger. We’re so bad, but the burgers are so good.


More photos


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