After two days in route, we have arrived at the gateway to the Broughton Archipelago, Port McNeill. Our trip started with a 13-hour marathon from Washington’s Reagan Airport through Toronto on to Vancouver an then a jump over to Nanaimo. Air Canada, with the help of Mother Nature, did a great job. No delays, courteous service, no lost bags and comfortable seats. Still 13 hours and crossing three time zones makes for an exhausting day.
Nanaimo Harbor (Make that Harbour)
We spent the night in Nanaimo, before beginning our trek up the East coast of Vancouver Island to Port McNeill. Our travels North began with a provisioning mission. First, to the Chandlery to pick up some deodorizer for the boat’s head, then to local grocery store stock up on non-perishables and finally the mandatory visit to the liquor store. Our reasoning was that we would have the best selection and lower prices if we did most of our shopping in the “big city”, leaving the perishables and frozen purchases to just before we board the boat at Port McNeill.
There is one road north and it’s a four hour drive. We broke it up with a lunch stop at the Laughing Gul pub at Schooner Cove located at Nanoose Bay. And two more hours up the road we did a slight sojourn over to The Old Country Market in Coombs. Best known for the “Goats on the Roof”, they also have the most remarkable selections of gourmet and specialty foods from all over the world. So we stocked up some more. However, we were heart broken that we could not take advantage of the awesome selection of cheeses, fresh baked breads, and one-of-a-kind meats.
Now back to those “Goats on the Roof”. Yes the store is covered with a green grass roof populated by a small family of goats. Why, I have no idea, but it is certainly memorable and all the signs by the side of the road direct you to the “Goats on the Roof” with no mention of the store’s “real” name. If you ever find yourself in the area, it’s a must do. For more information visit: http://www.oldcountrymarket.com/history.html.
All the guidebooks talk about our route as being a road that gets smaller and “more rugged” as you go north. They also remind you to look for deer and bear along the way. Well, having spent some time in the area, we did not expect to see either. The animals tend to stay away from man, and highways are not their favorite. There were signs for deer crossing and lots of signs for elk crossing. But none of the named critters made an appearance. Imagine our surprise when traveling along the four lane, divided highway portion of route 19, a very large black bear bounded across our two lanes, jumped over the concrete-divided median like an Olympic hurdler, and continued with great speed across the oncoming two lanes. Fortunately for all, we and the trucker in the right lane saw him in time to slow down and the opposing traffic also had time to slow and let the bear pass. And that’s pretty much what you can expect up here whether on land or water. You always find the unexpected, the delightful surprise and that’s why we like it so much.
Karen at Port McNeil
We’re staying at the Black Bear “resort” in Port McNeill. It is by no means a resort, but it is a new 2 story motel that has clean rooms and a comfy king size bed for us, which is all we need. After checking in around 6:30pm, we drove to the harbor, which is really more of a walk (the town is small). We saw some interesting boats and had fun walking the docks. Karen’s eyes lit up and, spying a red tabby cat on a sailboat, she yelled “KITTY!” The cat sprang to life, leaving the cozy cockpit to run out of the boat, jump on the dock, and demand serious petting by us both. The cat’s owner, who lives on the boat in Port McNeill year-round, told us the cat was 9 years old and named Rusty.
Then, off to dinner at the Sportsman’s Steak House, overlooking the harbor. We saw a nice sunset through breaks in the clouds and had a great meal.