Comox, 1999

I happened to be online when the weeks's websaver email from Air Canada came through to my account, and the seat sale to Vancouver caught my eye. It being 1 in the morning, I only thought that I'd be sure to get a ticket if I called now, so I did. And got the ticket. Then wondered why oh why I was travelling again so soon after getting back from the road trips from hell. But since I was flying this time, it wasn't so bad. I dropped my brother an email and asked him to pick me up from the ferry and to keep the visit a secret from our parents. It worked like a charm. :)

Jul 17, 1999

I woke up at 6:30am and rushed around throwing last minute items in my pack. I'd decided to bring my backpack instead of my small suitcase with the rollers since I knew I'd be taking buses, and it's easier to hold the backpack on my lap if it gets crowded. I called for a taxi and it came just as I was ready to go. A quick ride to the airport and I was checked in, through security and waiting at the gate half an hour before they started boarding. I kept my pack with me, to avoid having to wait at the baggage carrousel in Vancouver, and luckily was the first in my row to get to the seat so I could heave it up into the bin with no hindrances. My seat mates arrived and proceeded to talk about golf and accounting the whole way across Canada. I welcomed the sight of the headphones and plugged myself into the seat console right away to get some distraction. Of course the monitors showed golf shows as filler. *sigh* But EdTV was quite good, and my book filled in the rest of the time.

We had a good landing and I was out at the bus stop by 20 to 11. I was aiming for the 12:45 ferry from Tswassen, and was to call Marc to come pick me up when I arrived at the ferry terminal. He promised to be hovering around the phone so that Mum or Dad wouldn't pick it up and spoil the surprise. I spent a few moments concocting a cover story just in case they did answer. The bus arrived, but the driver told me that he wasn't leaving again for 20 minutes. I took refuge from the sun in the terminal building and came back out when he opened the doors to let people in. Got off at the Ladner Exchange and found that I had to wait another 20 minutes for the bus to the ferry - it wasn't to leave until 12:23. I got nervous. Two people who'd had their bikes carried on the front of the bus they were on took off to ride to the terminal. Another man walked over to the McDonald's and got a coffee. I shifted around to get away from the smokers and ended up talking with a woman who was going over to Victoria for the day. I have a feeling that I might know her son who goes to Ryerson in Toronto, I have to check if the person I'm thinking of is really him. She recommended a few vegetarian restaurants in Vancouver for my return trip, and also reassured me that we were only about 15 minutes from the ferry. The bus arrived and then sat waiting for another bus to arrive so they could get the connecting passengers. I got even more nervous - the next sailing to Nanaimo wasn't until 3:15. A man from Montreal was chatting with a few of the other passengers and commented on how odd it felt to be speaking English on the bus. We took off and it turned out to be an express, and I got to the ticket booth just 10 minutes before sailing, ran up the ramp, checked my watch and decided I could spare a minute to call Marc to confirm I'd made the sailing I said I would. Luckily he answered and I gave him the info quickly then dashed onto the ferry proper. Of course it didn't sail for another 15 minutes.

The crossing was smooth, and since the weather was nice, I decided against dozing in the big comfy chair by the window and instead walked outside to doze. I spent most of the trip on the sun deck, watching the mountains go by. The water looked a bit more brown than I remembered, but Marc suggested that it was from the Fraser River spilling out into the Straight of Georgia. We actually passed a line in the water where the sea weeds started growing, and the water became a darker blue colour. I settled in the shade and watched the mountains, the sun bathers, and the kids running around the deck. A group of girls followed a pair of guys around for a while, with much giggling and hiding. It was amusing. :) We turned to make the approach to Duke Point and the ferry nuzzled up to the dock. I had moved to the forward cabin and debarked in the middle of the cloud of foot passengers. I spotted Marc hiding behind a group of guys and forced a hug on him. :) He then forced me to submit to his music on the drive up to Comox, about an hour and a half or so. His CD player was quite neat in that it transmits so the radio can pick up the music, no wires but for the power connection.

He kept to the speed limit since there were lots of RCMP speed traps on the North Island Highway, but we made it to Courtney eventually. We turned there to go out onto the peninsula that Comox lies on, and stopped in front of the house. I'd only been here in winter since they 'retired' here, and it was nice to see the rose bushes in bloom, and the ivy edging the steps. Marc subdued Duke (a 140lb Lab-Newfie cross who's quite pleased to greet strangers with lots of slobber and whacking with his club that masquerades as a tail) and kicked him outside to calm down, and I fell down on the couch and didn't move for a while. I eventually grabbed a muffin and we waited for our parents to get back from church. I lay down on the couch to read so that they wouldn't be able to see me through the living room window, but sat up when they were at the door. Mum walked in and was talking to Marc, and walking towards the kitchen, not looking at me at all. I convulsed in silent laughter and must have waved or something, since she finally looked up. She almost fainted and dropped the groceries she had in her hand. It was priceless. :) After she picked up her jaw from the ground, she ran to give me a hug and sat in shock beside me for a while. Dad merely gave me a raised eyebrow and widened eyes then came to give me a hug. He wasn't quite so surprised since he knew I was off work and had thought about suggesting that I come out for a visit. I reassured Mum that I'd eat the supper she had planned and we decided I'd take over my sister's room since she was currently in Australia. I'd talked to Sue earlier that week, and another part of my visit was to reassure Mum that she did in fact have daughters still. Only Marc is still living in BC right now, going to UNBC in Prince George and living with them while he works in Comox for the summer.

We ate supper and then I brought out the photos I'd taken of my trips, giving Dad doubles from the visit to Saint John. I barely lasted to 9pm, due to the time change and having woken up at 3:30am PST, so headed down to the basement and just crashed.

Jul 18, 1999

Another good thing about making the visit this weekend was that the Comox air show was on. Mum and Dad were going to be going to it, while Marc went golfing with a friend. They were kind enough to let me sleep in and we had Marc drive us to the special bus stop so we wouldn't have to deal with parking at the Base. He came back briefly to get the house keys, then the bus arrived. It was apparently authorised to drive on the wrong side of the road to bypass the lineups of cars, so we got to the drop off point at the Canex very quickly. We walked through the main gate, bought our tickets and climbed up into the hangar line. Planes everywhere. *happy sigh* We walked through a troop or tank carrier, and inspected the plane with the huge radar equipment, and bypassed even more. We decided to find a spot to watch the airshow from and headed out onto the grass. I spotted a sushi concession stand in among the others and grabbed a 10 piece box. Dad had a piece, but Mum declined. The water bomber sprayed us just a bit, the wind was going the right way. The fighter jets were awesome, the roar of their engines loud enough to vibrate through me on each pass. The precision and acrobatic flying demonstrations were impressive, and Dad pointed out the planes that he'd soloed on before turning to more technical roles in the Air Force. The Search and Rescue techs dropped of men and picked them up again from the Labrador helicopter. The Hawks, I think it was, had opened the show with a sky diving demonstration from a Buffalo. The Snow Birds, as usual, finished the show with some amazing precision flying. The heart they made with smoke trails, as well as the downward burst, are still my favourites. The close passes were repeated multiple times, getting my heart in my throat each time. Dad explained that they lined themselves up on either side of the runway to keep them from colliding, but from the angle we could see, they looked far too close together!

As the show was finishing up, we decided to start walking back to the bus stop to beat the crowds. Dad ran off to see if he'd won the raffle draw and we panicked a bit as we lost each other. I'd set a meeting point by the stairs up to the hanger line, and planted myself there to wait. Dad found me and we managed to stop Mum from having them announce a message for him. I ignored their continuing bickering over who's fault it was and led the way to the bus stop. :) We walked back to the house from where they let us off, and did a quick change for dinner. They took me out to the Kingfisher resort restaurant right on the water. There wasn't a ton of seafood on the menu, or at least the lobster and crab were conspicuously absent, but I enjoyed the trio of salmon, halibut and oyster that I had. I gave in and had a polar bear (hot chocolate with shots of kalhua and peppermint schnapps) with the mud pie to overload my system on chocolate. They rolled me out to the car and we drove home. I read for a bit then went to sleep early again.

Jul 19, 1999

I slept in and lazed around the house reading for a while. Dad went out to work at 9:30, Mum came back around 10, Marc came home at noon for lunch. Mum drove Marc back to work so we could have the van for the afternoon, and we took off to tour my old stomping grounds. I'd lived here with the family on our second posting I was alive for, from when I was about 5 to 10 years old. We hit two beaches, a rocky one, and the one we usually went swimming at - Air Force Beach. It was still a bit cool, but there were swimmers and dog walkers about as usual. We had stopped at the entrance to the base to take a picture of me by the sign and the plane mounted there - I'm going to send it away for a contest held by a restaurant in Boston for the picture of someone the farthest away wearing their t-shirt. We managed to find my old elementary school, in among the PMQs and I wandered around the play ground for a while. My camera had used up all it's film by then, so I couldn't get a picture of the Airport Elementary sign - my teacher in grade 5 in Ontario had refused to believe me when I said that was a real school name, and yes, it still rankles. :) They'd taken out the merry go round that had sprained my ankle, but the soccer posts were still standing tall, as well as the see-saws and the woods that we'd played Star Wars in. I was usually Princess Leia since I was the only girl playing, but I tended to defect to the Dark Side more often than not. It was fun in spring when it flooded too.

I drove us down the hill to Courtney, and we had a gorgeous view of the Comox glacier on the way down. I dropped off my film for one hour processing, just to make sure that the picture I needed came out, and then home. Mum went to pick up Marc, we had supper, and I read for a bit until Dad took me to pick up the film. I showed off the pictures from my trip south and then labelled them and put them in my album. I read for a bit, then tutored Dad at the computer, setting him up with a hotmail account and stepping him through the accounting program that I'd bought for him, and set up his customer list in.

Jul 20, 1999

Dad woke me up at 7:30 and I missed saying goodbye to Marc as he drove himself to work in the truck, I'd misunderstood and thought that we had to leave at 8:30 to drive him there then take the van to the ferry, but he had to be there then. Ooops. Anyway, we got on the road and made the drive to Nanaimo. I was going to take the ferry from Departure Bay this time, and arrive in Horseshoe Bay, just north of Vancouver. I was there with lots of time to spare and checked my backpack, heavier now since I'd brought back some more of my books that had been moved out west with the family. I spent most of the trip on the sun deck again, and this trip was even more gorgeous than the ride over. I watched a few float planes land and take off again in Departure Bay, and then we were off. The peaks around Horseshoe Bay were very impressive and I was sorry to leave the boat. I managed to find the stop for the bus into Vancouver's downtown and crowded on with most of the other foot passengers. I got off at Georgia and Granville, hauled my pack a few blocks looking for a phone book so I could look up the restaurant that I wanted to have lunch in, but gave up when none of the phone booths had them. I stopped at an expensive little cafe and had an iced tea and a cranberry loaf thingy, then caught the Granville bus to connect with the airport bus. I had to wait about 10 minutes for the connection, but once it came it got me to the airport quickly. I checked my pack this time and got to the gate with an hour to wait. Members of a band were flying on the same flight I was, I never did catch the name though, and they were a bit put out at leaving the bar too early to get to their gate. Things quieted down until an airline attendant came running up with her suitcase to open the doors. She ran away and came back with another key, then repeated it again with the right key. We boarded soon after.

The flight wasn't very full, and I had two seats to myself. I ignored the movie, The Out of Towners, expect for the scenes with John Cleese. They played the same episode of The Nanny as they had westbound. I read the EnRoute magazine and my book. As the sun went down, the moon came out and the stars were very bright and clear. The sky slowly lost it's brightness, shading down into deep purple, with a hint of yellow left at the western horizon. I closed my book, turned off my reading light, and just sat looking out the window. There's something very magical about flying through the night, with moon and star light illuminating the cloud tops.

Eventually, we began the decent and bumped through a bit of turbulence on the way through the clouds. I sat and waited for my backpack, swaying a bit with tiredness. It came out finally, and I freed it from the plastic bag they'd placed it in to stop the straps from catching on anything. I found the GO bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I'd apparently just missed the last one, and when I found I had 20 more minutes until the bus arrived, I went in to find a bank machine so I could get the cash to grab a cab home - I'd be home in 15 minutes by car. The bank machine informed me that my balance was $29.95 and hence I didn't have enough to pay for a cab (it had only cost me $30 to get there, but airport taxis are always more expensive the other way), since it would only give out $20 bills. I ranted under my breath and kicked things a bit, since I knew that three days ago I'd had a hell of a lot more money than that in my account. I went back out to the bus stop and waited some more. When it arrived, it had the wrong sign in the window, but I asked and verified that they were going to Toronto, not Brampton. Caught the subway quickly, had a bit of a wait for the streetcar, but made it home. Called my bank and found out that it was just an ATM glitch, probably due to updating, and that my balance was what I thought it should be. Breathed a sigh of relief, sent email to my brother and father that I'd arrived, and crashed. Now it's off to Detroit for an evening to see the Cruxshadows play, finally! :)

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