Tofino was the apex of the trip, the land’s end for Vancouver Island and the land’s end for us. It was as far as we were going, north and west. Next, we boomerang back through Victoria, Washington, Oregon and the boring part of California.
Since most of the day would be in the car, we started with a hearty walk along Chesterman Beach. There were surfers, which was impressive enough, but I was gobsmacked by the daddy with his two-year-old, rolling around in the surf. It’s 47-freakin’ degrees outside, or 8 degrees as the metric people would say. The water is decidedly frigid. I checked.
I didn’t know you could acquire toddler-sized wetsuits, but clearly you can and, apparently in Tofino, you must.
We have to pile back in the car, batten down the hatches, and endure the twisty ride back through highway 4, where we know there is a construction slowdown. Warning signs pepper the roadside. Canada Public Works explains this is the end of a three year project to fix the Kennedy Hill Embankment. It is the hazard of driving mid-week in October. Fewer tourists, but more construction work is scheduled, and often work is frenetic as crews try to finish in the last few snowless days of the year.
I have a crossword puzzle at the ready to keep the driver’s mind occupied and the audiobook is well under way. We are listening to Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarty, a variation on Sherlock Holmes that employs a Scotland Yard detective disgraced by and obsessed with Sherlock accompanied by a New Jersey-based Pinkerton operative. The Pinkerton man tells the story a la John Watson, and the audio narrator gives him a thick Jersey accent. Even more than Watson, our man Chase is thick as a plank, completely oblivious to one clue after another. We’re trying to figure out if his obtuseness is a parody or if writer Horowitz lacks imagination or intelligent readers. “It’s the coughing man in the next room, you numbskull!” says my driver, rolling her eyes.
An explosion happens in the book just as we come to the expected halt for the construction. We have to shut off our engine, so the book is turned off, too. Back to the NY Times printouts that I have been carrying around. What’s the instrument that plays the duck in–“Oboe!”
We finally get rolling after twenty minutes.
When All Else Fails, Hunt for Chocolate
The plan was to stop and do laundry in Port Alberni. There is some wrangling over whether the best laundromat was the one KK saw earlier, somewhere near the hotel, or the one I can navigate us to, next to the Salvation Army. KK wins, and we eventually “find” the right one, after only one u-turn and a skirmish next to a Greek restaurant. Off to scrounge for Canadian loonies for the machines.
On the road again, late afternoon, and still two hours to go. We will pass through Nanaimo again. Since I set an earlier post in Nanaimo, several people asked me if we had stopped for Nanaimo bars. Dios Mio! We did not. The search is on.
This local delicacy is a three-part confection that does not require baking, although you find it in bakeries. Clever Canadians! The top layer is thick and hard chocolate, the middle a custard, and the bottom a wafer with a little coconut.
There was a slight complication in that I couldn’t get a signal for a big stretch of the highway, but as soon as we neared civilization again, I was googling like a madwoman. The trick was to find someplace still open late afternoon…no not a Tim Horton’s… where the bars were locally made… not a FoodMart… where the bars could be purchased individually…easily found off the highway, not too many 1-star reviews. Here we go–Bocca’s Cafe.
Turns out Bocca’s had award-winning bars, and there were five varieties, including original, peanut butter, and salted caramel. Yes, please, one of each of those three. We immediately broke out the original one and scarfed it on the way back to Highway One. Heavy ganache, custard, and a smidge of coconut. I award it Best Bar to Eat After Driving Three Hours and Searching for a Laundromat.
All the Channels You Want in Chinese
The evening “hotel” is an AirBNB in the University Heights neighborhood of Saanich. The hardwood floors are squeaky, and the TV channels are international, meaning most of them are in Chinese. It doesn’t matter because we like to hook up my ancient mini-DVD player, acquired somehow through my previous work, many moons ago. We set up to watch the last two episodes of season three of Justified, the one with crazy Neal McDonough where his arm– well, if you’re a fan, it’s one of my favorite season-ending episode moments.
To celebrate surviving the drive, I serve up a trio of Nanaimo bars (plus a Bocca brownie), slicing off small portions and carefully laying them out on a paper towel above a plastic Tupperware cover. I give myself a fit of the giggles thinking of all those shows we watch, You eat with your eyes… so I add a box of raisins and garnish with a stray Tootsie Pop found in the pocket of my winter jacket. Bon Appetit!
The rubber band is twanging us to Victoria tomorrow with a food tour (of course) downtown and a few museums. Plenty of potential still left in this trip.