This morning we awoke bright and early, ready to make our way into Canada. We rode the short distance from our hotel to the ferry port where we were to load our bikes on the boat and take a short trip over to Vancouver Island.
The last time I was in Canada, about 10 years ago, I took my car onto the same ferry, but in the reverse direction. I remember how strange it was driving my car onto a boat. Well, that was nothing compared to how surreal it was to ride a bike onto a boat. At times I felt almost like I was riding indoors, and through a hallway. It was another really unique and incredible experience. The boat ride itself was good, although a bit rocky at the start. Fortunately no one got sick, although there were a couple queazy moments.
Arriving on Vancouver Island a riding the bikes off of the boat was an even cooler experience. We rode right off the boat and up to a customs booth. It was the quickest and easiest customs crossing I have ever had. Once on the island, we took a quick stop over at the Empress hotel, a very snazzy old hotel from back in the day. We looked around for a bit, ooed and aahhd, and then got back on the road to go visit the Bouchart Gardens. These gardens span acres and acres and encompass a variety of garden from Japanese to Italian and everything in between. We had lunch at the restaurant there and then took a quick walk through some of the gardens. They were incredible. The colors of all of the flowers and trees was straight out of a piece of art. It didn't seem real, almost as if we were walking through a painting. We all could have stayed for hours, but we had to get back on the road to catch another ferry, this time to Vancouver.
We boarded the second ferry of the day, and the thrill was just as much if not more than the first time. Still strange. Still awesome. The boat ride was about an hour and 40 minutes, and after we arrived it was back on then bikes, and onto our hotel. From the ferry port it was just a short ride over the Lions Gate Bridge and into Vancouver. It turns out, the bridge was designed by the same guy who did the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and just like in San Fran, we hit traffic. This time however, it wasn't too bad, and we were able to make it over in no time.
After checking in to our hotel, and unloading the bikes, we met for our customary end of ride toast. Then, Betty Boop and I set off on our own little adventure. We visited some pubs, chatted with some locals, and had an all around good time. We met up with the rest of the group for dinner at a great place called The Steam-house Brewery. It was packed, and delicious, and they made some good beer too. After dinner we went to a well known Vancouver coffee shop, The New Amsterdam Cafe. It was a bit smokey, so we left and began the walk back to our hotel. A short while later, out of nowhere it began to rain. I couldn't believe it. Just hours earlier it had been quite hot, and now it was raining. Rather than take a cab, we pushed on and enjoyed the adventure of walking in the rain. We arrived back at our hotel, slightly soggy, but spirits high from a great day of riding, and our Canadian journey truly beginning.