Off the Mainland for the Day
The big day is here -- we’re taking Harley out of the country for the first time!  
We had our hotel breakfast and got on the road about 7:30 this morning.  Because we stayed in Bellingham, Washington, last night, it only took us about 30 minutes to reach the Canadian border.
Crossing the border was much less complicated than expected.  The only problem was that there was no way to pull over and take pictures as we passed through Peace Arch Park.  When we got up to the actual border, it was like going through toll booths on an expressway.  Signs directed us through the U.S. gates and on to the Canadian ones.  The guard checked our passports, asked a few questions about our stay, and wished us a good trip.
Once across the border, nothing seemed any different.  The scenery was just like Washington; the air was just as cool and crisp; and the traffic was the same.  The one change was the speed limit, which increased from 30 to 80 to 100 -- kilometers, of course!  Because Harley’s speedometer is only in miles, we developed a quick translation.  If you read the sign, drop the last zero, and multiply by 6, you get a very good estimate of miles per hour.
Following directions from Google, and the border guard, we continued on what was now Highway 99 until we found and turned on Highway 17.  This took us straight to Tsawwassen [tuh-WASS-en] and the BC Ferry dock.  Again, the entry looked like a line of toll booths.  We found the one labeled “Victoria” and confirmed that this was, in fact, our ship.  We paid our $49.50 for two people and a motorcycle and headed for the loading lanes.  (As we noticed throughout the day, Visa was acceptable, but American Express was not.)  
Although it was already sailing time (9:00 am), they gave us the option of getting on this ferry, anyway.  Harley was happy we did, because it meant he could be the last one in the hold, instead of being way up front with the other motorcycles.  That way, we had more time to get ready to disembark at the other end.  So, we got Harley blocked and situated, and took the elevator to the passenger deck.  The only problem so far is that the elevator doors took a very long time to open -- we didn’t want to spend the entire crossing in an elevator!
The Spirit of Vancouver Island may be a ferry, but it is really a full-sized ship!  We explored passenger decks 5, 6, and 7, and then found a nearly empty restaurant.  It cost us over $30 to claim a window table for the entire trip, but it came with an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet and real tablecloths!  We had a great time eating and watching the scenery as the ship crossed the Strait of Georgia and wandered among the Gulf Islands on its way to the ferry dock at Swartz Bay.
Once we reclaimed Harley and disembarked, it was just a short ride to our objective for the night -- Sidney.  After exploring the town for an hour or so, we went to our hotel (Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites) and found that our room was ready ahead of schedule.  We checked in, unpacked, and relaxed a bit.  When we went looking for a snack, we discovered almost everything was tourist priced ($6 for an ice cream cone?).  Finally, we found Stonestreet Cafe and had great sandwiches at a sidewalk table.
Later in the day, we went to Beacon Landing for dinner.  What an amazing feast!  We actually had to take dessert back to our room -- and then walk off our dinner.  We ate apple crisp on our private balcony...
Friday, July 10, 2009