Well, this is my first crack at a proper Branch entry. Hopefully these will go as well as I hope they do…
My weekend got off to a bit of a rocky start — my company laid off 12 people in our Vancouver office. The CEO and CFO of our company (both from our San Francisco office) came up to inform us of the situation. The two driving forces of the company, Ian and Rory (the guys, who IMHO are the men behind the curtain) broke the bad news, and the CEO and CFO put the spin on it.
Now I know why I didn’t like working for Corporate America — the spin. I hate spin. I like hard, cold, unsugared facts. I have to give Rory and Ian their credit — they know their staff well. The CEO on the other hand, well, he needs to be here a little more often to understand us, I guess. All I know is that I wasn’t the only one who thought his presentation was a little too slick.
On Friday, Allison and I decided we’d head to Nanaimo for the long weekend. Allison had not been home since our last excursion at Easter, and wanted to go home for a short while. I, too, wanted to go, because it would allow me to get out of the city for a brief period of time. (I don’t care what anyone says — a change of scenery is a must from time to time.
Allison picked me up at the office just after 12:00 on Friday afternoon. Our first destination was Granville Island, so we could visit the market. Our plan was to bring over all the goodies needed to have a good west coast barbecue.
Following a brief lunch, we looked around at the various shops. We purchased vegetables (asparagus, onions, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes), fruit (strawberries), bread (sourdough), salmon steaks wild sockeye), and a bottle of a not-too-dry white wine. The whole shebang came out to around $40. (The salmon and wine accounted for most of the cost.)
By the time we left, we found we would be hard-pressed to get to the ferry at Tsawassen in time. So we opted for the Horseshoe Bay ferry. One minor problem: We weren’t the only ones with that idea.
By the time we got to Burrard, the street was backed up. It took over 10 minutes to crawl a few measly blocks. Georgia was even worse — traffic was solid for several blocks. But when we finally cleared the entrance to Stanley Park, the flow began to speed up. However, it was already 14:10, and we had to be at the ferry no later than 14:40 … if we were lucky enough to find parking.
We had not been able to beat the rush to the long weekend, which was clearly evident by the very long lineup for the ferry. It looked like a three or four sailing wait for some people. Since Allison and I were aiming to be walk-ons, we were able to scoot down into Horseshoe Bay to look for a parking lot. Luck shone on us that day — we got one of the last spots.
Despite some communication problems, we managed to contact Allison’s parents. They picked us up at the ferry, and we went to the Collins’ for dinner. Luckily, they hadn’t started to make dinner yet. It was barbecue night.
The next day, Allison and I thought we’d do some driving. Mrs. Collins suggested Cathedral Grove, which is a rather famous patch of old-growth forest near the very middle of the Island. Mr. Collins thought Coombs would be a nice stop along the way. Mrs. Collins then started to tell Allison about the new interchanges in the area … then promptly decided that the four of us should go on the trip. I had no objections.
We stopped along the way at Rathtrevor beach, so I could see what a good tidal beach looked like. I don’t know how far out that beach went, but it looked like a half-kilometre. At high tide, the beach would completely vanish. All I could think was that the beach would be immense fun in the summer.
We proceeded north to Parksville, where we turned onto the Port Alberni Highway, and headed west. Not too far from Parksville, we entered Coombs, a little town in the Island interior. Coombs probably used to be nothing more than a mining or logging town. Today it has a thriving little tourist business, formed around the Coombs market. What’s so special about the market? It’s not every day you see a sod roof with real goats parading about.
Soon we entered Cathedral Grove. It’s a provincial park that was created from land donated by H.R. MacMillian, a forester who founded HR MacMillian (part of MacMillian-Blodel industries, if I’m not mistaken). Yes, Her-mac (as one call it) is a logging company. Sounds a little weird for a founder of a company that has come under a lot of fire for logging old growth-trees to donate a small forest of old-growth trees for parkland, doesn’t it? Well, Mr. MacMillan was apparently a nice guy, and wanted the future to know what the past looked like. Public outcry also forwarded the cause.
Cathedral Grove is aptly named — I have never in my life seen trees so large. But even trees so large are not immune to the environment. On Jan. 1, 1997, there was a tremendous windstorm that tore through the grove. It knocked over several trees and thousands of branches. Several parts of the forest floor were complete littered with timber. But none of it was cleaned out — the park is to remain almost completely untouched.
On the way back, we stopped briefly in Coombs, to shop at the market, and look around. It’s a nice little market … with a few hundred people packed in. But it’s worth the drive … at least, I thought it was worth the drive.
We had a late lunch in the restaurant, and wandered through the multitude of wares in the market. (Oddly enough, most of the wares were Mexican … a little strange, IMHO, considering the Native influences in BC.) I purchased two very large Mexican hand-woven blankets (which are really warm). Allison bought a handful of paper mache vegetables for decoration.
Returning home, we sat down to the task of making dinner. But even then, we didn’t eat until 20:00 or so. I offered to try and fix Mrs. Collins’ email problems on her computer. She’d been having problems with the addressbook, and having multiple copies of Netscape floating around.
The next day we rose early to go see the Victoria Day Parade. The Victoria Day Parade is a big thing out here. Few places in Ontario (only Ottawa comes to mind, and apparently Orillia also carries on the tradition) have a formal parade. In Ontario, the Victoria Day Weekend is more commonly known as the “May Two-Four” (the weekend was traditionally around May 24th, and a case of 24 beers is known as a “two-four”). It’s essentially the start of the cottage season in Ontario.
We arrived downtown at about 10:40, expecting the parade to start at 11:00 (which was what we were led to believe). However, we noticed that there were still a lot of cars on the parade route, not all the reviewing stands had been completed, and we were the only people standing around. Mr. Collins soon found out that we had come too early — the parade didn’t start until 13:00.
So we went wandering down on the waterfront. It was a nice day, albeit a little chilly from the wind. The weekend had brought a small amusement park to the waterfront (where just attractions appear during festive weekends). We had a batch of less-than-satisfactory french fries (they left a horrible taste in my mouth, and neither Allison or I were feeling too good as a result).
At about 12:45, we headed back to the road to see the parade. When we arrived, the crowds that I had been expecting had appeared. Just after 13:00, the first sign of the parade went by — a fire truck. I had forgotten what community parades were like. It had been so long since my last one.
I found out after the weekend that one of my co-workers, Greg Mayer, had been on the Hungarian Cultural float (it won for best Cultural Presentation, and Best Presentation Overall). We had somehow managed not to see each other.
We had to hurry back to the Collins’ to go to a family barbecue with Mrs. Collins’ parents. We were sidetracked temporarily at home. Allison wasn’t feeling well, and had to lie down for a while before continuing out again.
The barbecue was great — Mrs. Collins had made a potato salad that was exactly like the one my mother makes. It was like being at home. We ate until there was no food left to eat, and then ate some more. Dessert was a berry mix on a sponge cake, with whipped cream. Very tasty. Mostly considering that until this weekend, I didn’t eat berries. Things just keep changing…
After dinner, we went inside where Allison and I watched the last episode of Murphy Brown. It was sad to see such a good show go, but it was a good last episode. Between Murphy Brown and the X-Files (which came on later), we went into the kitchen to make “stamps”. These were pieces of paper that you stamped with ink, and then sprinkled a special glitter overtop. Using a heater, you melted the glitter to make the stamp. It was fun. I won a prize.
Then the final episode of the X-Files came on. Well, the final one that was filmed in Vancouver, anyway. (For we Canucks, it might as well be the final one.) I felt bad because I pretty much had the entire family in the living room watching a show that really didn’t seem to appeal to anyone. It was only a plot-builder for the movie being released this summer.
Following the movie, the Collins and I made a hasty retreat back to the waterfront to watch the fireworks. Unfortunately, we were late in arriving, and the fireworks had already started. As a result, we didn’t get out of the car. On the bright side though, we managed to be the first car out of there, and missed all the traffic. I felt bad again for making everyone miss the start of the fireworks.
I tried to amend for my selfishness by buying coffee (and hot chocolate) and donuts (and muffins) for the Collins on our way back home.
The next day, the weather couldn’t make up its mind. It was either rainy or somewhat sunny — there was no comfortable medium. We left late in the afternoon, catching the 16:30 ferry from Departure Bay. For those of you who know the ferry schedule, yes, that is not a standard ferry time. Extra ferries were running to cope with the traffic.