I misread the ferry schedule and got up way too early. I hurriedly packed my panniers, jumped on my bike and dashed to the dock...where I waited for 2 and half hours in the dark and the cold. But what a fantastic sunrise! I sat shivering watching the eastern sky slowly lighten. At one point, the sun created a perfect, magnificent silhouette of snowy Mt. Baker miles off to the south.
When the Queen of Cumberland finally rounded the bend and came steaming up to the dock, the sun had risen enough that I could ride onto the ferry without the use of my headlight. In my haste I’d neglected to eat breakfast and by the time I was settled into my seat on board my stomach was growling. Since there was no food service on the boat I rummaged around in the far reaches of my panniers for something to eat. My search produced a moldy orange that had been there since the Johnson administration and a packet of dog food.
You might wonder why, since I don’t have a dog, I would carry dog food. The answer is it’s a throwback to my mountain climbing days. I would always carry something very unappetizing in my pack in case I got stranded for longer than a day or two. My reasoning was that I’d have to be pretty hungry to eat dog food so it would always be there for an extreme emergency. I guess that philosophy just got transferred over to my bicycling touring.
I wasn’t at that point yet so I put the dog food back in my pannier and promised myself a hearty meal once we reached land. The ferry doesn’t go straight to Schwartz Bay. It meanders through the islands and stops at Saltspring Island to take on passengers. It’s a wonderful trip, especially early in the morning. We passed incredible beaches and rocky bluffs. There was a plethora of wildlife including, gulls hawks, even a bald eagle or two.
It took a bit more than an hour to reach Schwartz Bay and I rode off the ferry and found the Lochside Trail heading south. I wasn’t as hungry now and I decided to skip the restaurant at the ferry terminal and instead rode the 10 or so miles to Sidney where I grabbed a muffin and a hot chocolate.
My ferry back to Seattle didn’t leave until later in the afternoon so I took my time riding to Victoria. I stopped often to take pictures and enjoy the landscape. Once in the outskirts of Victoria, I lost my way and stopped to ask some folks lounging on their front porch for directions. They were as friendly as could be and wanted to know all about my bike, me, and where I was going. I rolled into the Ferry dock and checked my panniers at the desk. I had time to kill and it was a nice day so I did a tour of Victoria then stopped in at a sports bar for a beer.
This was during the 2010 Olympics being held in Vancouver and it was the day of the final playoff between the U.S. and Canada for the gold medal. The game was being shown on about a dozen flat screens and everyone in the place was watching intently. As you may remember it was a real squeaker. With only seconds left to play, the score was Canada 2, U.S.A. 1, then Zach Parise scored sending the game into overtime. The crowd groaned. Now it was 20 minutes of sudden death. The first team to score would win.
When the Canadian team won, the place went wild. I’d been talking to a couple of Canadians and they knew I was an American. I must have been the only one in the place because suddenly I felt myself being lifted off my feet and carried out of the bar. Outside was mayhem. Cars were honking, people were running in the streets, an RCMP cruiser drove past, a fist-pumping Mounty hung out the window to the cheers of the mob. It seemed that the city was in the grip of a rising nationalistic frenzy. The normal social order had broken down completely and for a tense moment anything was possible. Hands tightened around my arms and legs. I felt myself on the edge of panic. What was going on? Was this some ancient Canadian ritual in which I was to be the center of a sacrificial offering to the Gods of Hockey? No one seemed to be in control. They'd all gone completely mad.
Would they wrap me in chains and throw me in the harbor? Burn me on the steps of the Empress Hotel? Instead I was lowered roughly to my feet. A pole was thrust into my hands. The crowd backed away so that now I stood in the middle of a ring of drunken, wildly yelling fans. “Run!” Someone shouted.
I looked around at the wild, flushed faces, their eyes glowing feverishly. I noticed for the fist time the pole I grasped had a huge Canadian flag attached. “Run!” Came the call. Soon the chant was taken up by the crowd, “Run, run, run!” I smiled weakly and took a few hesitant steps. “Run, run run!” The crowd cleared out a path as hands pushed me along. I trotted through the gauntlet then turned around and started back. Now hands reached out and slapped me on the back. “Run!” The crowd cheered. I held the flag up and waved it back and forth, clobbering a couple of drunks who fell to the ground then happily jumped up.
When I reached the end of the sidewalk the flag was jerked away and a Molson’s was thrust into my sweaty paw. The crowd closed in. I was jostled, hugged, slapped on the back. “Pretty good effort you yanks put up!” Someone said. “Thought you might’a had us eh?” Said another. “We dig our own graves,” came a slurred comment from somewhere in the crowd.
As quickly as it began, it was over. The crowd filed back in the bar to drink and gloat. I found myself alone and I gave the flag one last wave then crossed the street to the ferry waiting room to nurse my beer in peace and quiet and to ponder these strange events.