AKR Visits The Hinterland: June 6 - 8. 2004
Our intrepid voyageur disembarked in the Comox Valley for the first time in his life, liked what he saw and promptly claimed the Island in the name of Le Roi Jean du Quebec. As always, the natives greeted him warmly, ignored his claims, promised another 100 years of litigation if he pressed them, and serious jail time if he insisted we all learn French. It's tough enough to master English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi just to take coffee orders at Tim Horton's.
Al's view of Via Rail's E&N service from Victoria to Courtenay was uncomplimentary. The distance, which can be driven in 2.5 hours, normally takes 4.5 hours. However, on Al's trip, there was an extra 35 minutes when the ancient Budd car broke down and a mechanic was called to repair it. Another 10 minutes was lost when the train slowed for a dog who mistook the rail right-of-way for his personal exercise track.
Courtenay looks like an old fashioned station, like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. In fact it consists only of a waiting room and a lavatory. The rest is rented out to various organizations. It is totally unmanned; you buy your ticket from the conductor as you board. A posted paper provides the arrival and departure times for the single daily train. There were about 20 passengers who joined Al for the ride which he said had a few scenic vistas. Most views were simply of tall trees near the tracks.
We gave Al just time to change his shirt before we drove to Painter's Lodge in North C.R. where we boarded a water taxi for a 10-minute ride to April Point lodge on Quadra Island. There we dined El Fresco while we watched the seals bob, and Al saw his first bald eagle as it swooped low over the water, then up up to perch in the trees. In the absence of poutine and tortiere, Al joined me in a meal of salmon while Eleanor opted for tiger prawns. Regrettably, even at this fishing lodge, the salmon was locally farmed Atlantic, "for product uniformity" we were told.
Here Al & Eleanor disembark the courtesy water taxi at Painter's Lodge while a P&O cruise ship glides by silently in the background. The ship was approaching the exit from Discovery Passage shortly after the flood had turned to ebb.
There are more than 300 cruise sailings that pass Campbell River each season. There's a move afoot to have some of the ships out of Seattle stop at C.R. for at least part of a day.
On Tuesday morning Al treated us to breakfast at the Harvest Restaurant and we followed that with a walk along the waterfront. In the picture, the sign above Eleanor's head marks the 50th parallel of north latitude.
Our home is a bit rough but it's cozy and it has a wonderful beach-front location.
Al is a very good house guest but I gained 2 pounds just watching him eat. He developed a particular predilection for Eleanor's grasshopper pie. As he took on an additional piece as a bedtime snack, he was heard to mutter, "I'm glad Cynthia's not here". He also likes to sleep. He retired at 2200 last night. At 0900 today, I wondered if I should check on his breathing. Instead, I used my bugle to blow a terrible rendition of Reveille. It seems my bugle is showing its age. Eleanor commented, "I'm glad he's your buddy and not mine". Otherwise she would never have forgiven me.