JUST SAY “YES”.
“’Yes’ is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say ‘yes’.” – Stephen Colbert
I have barely posted this Summer. We’ve been traveling a lot and I haven’t been able to get into a routine of regular writing. This post is about one trip in particular. I didn’t expect the unconventional anniversary trip we took to be one of the best ever, but it turned out to be. Steve and I went to British Columbia (BC) in early July to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Oh, Canada, I am in love with you – at least with your lovely, Summer self. You sure know how to deliver a fun vacation in a language I can handle with nice, polite, progressive, multi-cultural people set against a backdrop of gorgeous scenery.
It’s my friend K’s fault we ended up in BC. Well, that and the fact that the blow-out, celebrating-a-20th-wedding-anniversary-like-indulgent-Americans trip to Tahiti that I considered had the price tag and utility of a 24-karat gold toilet – absurd luxury that seemed crass in the post-Great-Recession’s sputtering recovery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I can chill in a posh tiki hut over a turquoise lagoon with the best of ’em, and I hope to see Tahiti some day, but we’ll wait until irrational exuberance re-entrenches in the commercial real estate world and the market starts kickin’ it old school again before we throw money around like it’s 2006.
In April, K told me she was heading up to the sparsely populated north end of Vancouver Island in early July. She used to do Orca whale research there years ago, and was meeting up with an old friend to hang out on his boat, unplug from the world, watch whales, and bond with the sea. She suggested Steve and I come see the area, meet up with her there, and then travel back to Vancouver for a few days. I’ve wanted to visit this part of the world for a while, and I became more intrigued when my well-traveled friend told me that, of all the places she’s been, she considers this corner of the planet God’s country – stunningly beautiful landscape that makes one feel closer to something Divine. Though Stevie-D and I had kicked around a few vacation ideas, nothing had stuck, and Julie “the Cruise Director” here hadn’t planned our anniversary trip by then. As luck (or fate, or whatever) would have it, I had a couple of airline tickets we needed to use that could get us to the Northwest, and the rusty, wanderlust-fueled, trip-planning machinery in my brain creaked to life. Ding, ding, ding. Ladies and gentlemen we have a winner!
I put together a loose outline of a trip – in and out of Seattle (see an old high school friend while there), drive up into BC, catch a ferry to Victoria and hang out for a couple of nights, drive to Telegraph Cove / Port McNeil on the North end of Vancouver Island (whale watch, see grizzly and black bears, maybe sea kayak and hope nothing surfaces and tips the little boat), and then road trip it back down to Vancouver and meet up with K and hang out in one of Canada’s most progressive, pretty cities. Aside from that, we would wing the trip and fill in details along the way by asking locals what we should see, do, eat, and follow their suggestions. Canadians straight up delivered with a welcoming, enthusiastic politeness that makes me want to spend more time with the nice, pasty set north of the border.
We definitely had that first-day-of-an-adults-only-vacation glow about us, and the tone for the trip – be open, say “yes” to whatever showed up along our path, be fully present, milk those moments for all they were worth – was set on the ferry to Victoria. I had never been on a boat that large and, though it was pretty cool it reinforced that a cruise ship vacation doesn’t interest me. Sailing across the Strait of Georgia, we experienced what was hands down the most beautiful sunset I have ever witnessed (photo doesn’t do it justice).
I stood at the deck railing mesmerized by the assault to the senses that were the moments taking in this particular sunset, thinking that if I could just breathe it in deeply enough it would stay with me always. I’m used to sunsets of pale hues and had never seen one as deeply color-saturated as this sunset silhouetting the mountains. It made the Southern sunsets, pretty as they are, seem like washed-out, lesser, shadow versions by comparison. I stood there as long as I could while my hands and ears went numb from the salt-tinged, frigid air blowing off the ever-chilly waters.
The sun set and while we were walking along the deck, I saw a couple of young, cute guys talking to each other. Charles, had an infectious smile, a long, dark, unruly mane twisted up on top of his head, and a get up that included turquoise leggings, jagged-edged sweat pants hacked off near the knees, and Chuck Taylors. He looked bohemian and like he probably had a reliable bead on where to score really good weed. Ben, was sporting a more conventional look – “classically good looking prep embraces/explores creative side”.
As we walked past them, we caught each others’ eyes, said “hello” and ended up chit-chatting a minute before Charles said, “Hey, we are looking for a ride to Victoria. Do you think you could give us one?” I stammered a little because his directness took me by surprise and I’m not used to strangers asking me for things (aside from panhandlers), and I still wasn’t sure about them. And also because it was ingrained in me pretty early to be careful talking to strangers because you might encounter “weirdos” who are hard to shake.
Steve’s version of the story is that I said “yes” right away. My version is that the words I said amounted to a “provisional yes but let’s talk more so I can make sure I’m comfortable with you” kind of an answer. It quickly became obvious that they were nice guys who just needed a ride, so the “provisional yes” became a “meet us at the car just before we hit the port”. Turned out Ben and Charles weren’t weirdos at all, but they were Weird’eaux (their band name).
“Great! Thanks!”, they said. “Oh, we do have one more friend inside who is sleeping right now.” “OK”, we said, “but we are in a pretty small VW sedan.” “No problem”, said Charles, “we had the whole band and all of our equipment in a VW Jetta Wagon recently.” Steve said, “Are you guys in a harmonica band? Y’all are welcome to stuff yourselves into the back seat.” So they did.
They were headed from Vancouver to Victoria to wish bon voyage to a friend sailing the next day from Victoria to Hawaii. They had paid the ferry fee, brought a tent and bed rolls, their skateboards, and the unflinching, youthful optimism that they could talk someone on that ferry into giving them a ride for the 30-minute journey into Victoria. Call me a sucker for a new experience with fun people. We were in.
Charles, Ben and Amine (knees folded up to their noses) cozied up in the back seat and we chatted for the half hour ride. We had a French-Canadian (Charles), an American from the Northeast who had done a stint at College of Charleston (Ben), and an Algerian whose father works for the World Bank and who has lived all over the world (Amine) – all three completely adorable – entertaining us with their stories. We were only missing their Pakistani drummer to complete the bon mélange.
They congratulated us on being together 23 years – almost as long as Amine’s parents. They were funny, engaging, smart, interesting, sweet, and appreciative. By the time we dropped them in downtown Victoria, they given us a list of places to visit in Victoria, and things to do, see, and places to eat when we got back to Vancouver. (More on that later.) Here’s one of their songs, Delirium. You can check out a few more here.
Meeting them was a fun way to kick off the trip. By the time we left Vancouver, and had followed some of their advice on the “must do” list, I was REALLY glad we had crossed paths. Here’s wishing the Weird’eaux much success and joy as they follow their artful bliss.