We had a very scenic drive from Whistler on Wednesday as we headed to Vancouver, taking in the glacial views at Tantalus Lookout and the refreshing, cool waters of Howe Sound.
As we approached Vancouver, we learned we must cross the Port Mann Bridge, a cable suspension bridge with a toll. We had no idea what the cost would be for our 4-axle set-up. We said a little prayer that it would be cheaper than the George Washington Bridge (GWB) crossing from New Jersey into New York City, since we only have $35 Canadian left in cash. As we edged closer, we learned there is no toll booth to pass through to pay your money. You must pay on-line within 7 days or in person at one of two service offices. We were relieved when we learned it cost only $6.30 for Big Boomer and the rig one-way, a bargain compared to $84 US cash (or $62 US with EZ Pass) for the GWB!
We took the recommendation of our BC friends, Steve and Dianne, and stayed at Fort Camping Park on Brae Island in Fort Langley, BC, just outside Vancouver. And they did not steer us wrong. The Park offers full hook up (30 AMP), spacious sites with trees and foliage to give you the full camping experience within walking distance of Towne Centre. It is very family oriented with planned activities for children (it was Christmas in August when we stayed), a swimming pool, and a café and general store where you could use free Wi-Fi.
Since my family visited Vancouver and Victoria previously, we decided to explore areas we did not tour on our prior trip. So we spent considerable time right in Fort Langley. It is a quaint river town with a unique and tasteful blend of historical buildings/homes and modern, luxurious housing developments within a pastoral, canopied setting. It has a terrific trail system, giving you easy walking/hiking access to rivers, streams, woods, fields, and urban areas. We particularly enjoyed the Fort-to-Fort Trail along the Bedford Channel and Fraser River, which connected the original site of the historic Hudson’s Bay Company Fort to the location of its replica, and it linked to other trails along the way. I filled my belly with wild blackberries, apples, and even pears from a tree that dated back to the 1890s! Talk about heirloom plantings! The trail offered awesome views of Mt. Baker and Golden Ears.
Fort Langley Community Hall, Built 1932
St. George Anglican Church, Built 1901
Canadian National Rail Station, Built 1915
Holy Redeemer Church, Built 1897-1902 on First Nations' MacMillan Island. Golden Ears Mountains in background.
Modern, luxury riverfront condos
PoPo's palatial waterfront dream home, complete with personal aircraft and boat (too big for picture!)
Quaint home near Towne Centre in Fort Langley
View of Washington State's Mt. Baker
View of Golden Ears Mountains
Lovely walking trails
We visited the replica Fort free of charge through our Parks Canada pass. Only one storehouse, built in 1840, is from the original site. The Hudson’s Bay Company first traded in furs, then salmon, and eventually in agriculture, and encourage its staff to marry aboriginal women just to open more trade outlets. What people won’t do for a buck! When gold was discovered in the Fraser River in 1858, the Fort evolved into a retail operation and from its Big House, Great Britain announced the establishment of the colony of British Columbia.
Dad standing in front of the storeroom, the only building from the original Fort
I wouldn’t have minded overnighting in a yurt-type tent at the replica Fort! Yes, for $120 Canadian/night, these tents have everything you need--fridge, fan, heater, dishes, and outdoor grill to use. You just need to bring a sleeping bag/bedding and your food! And you get the exclusive benefit of roaming the outside grounds of the fort and feeding the barnyard animals. How cool is that!
This guy would love for you to provide him dinner!
After walking 11 miles in one day with temperatures in the high 80s/low 90s, we were running on empty, our bodies needing fuel. I am a champion of small, family-owned/operated businesses. So it seemed fitting to eat at Mangia e Scappa, an Italian bistro and market specializing in homemade pastas and brick-fired pizza. I fell in love with the inexpensive, but tasteful décor. The lovingly displayed family portraits adorning the walls matched the faces of the people working there, although all have aged. Gotta love a paisano!
Family portraits--from the old country to the new
If you have read my blogs before, you know I am a very harsh food critic—nobody, I say nobody, makes pizza like the whole-in-the-wall joints in New York and New Jersey. So rather than experience another pizza disappointment (read my tirade "Popo's Pursuit of the Perfect Pizza" from South Dakota in 2015), we opted for the fried calamari and their daily special of chicken and pasta in a pesto cream sauce. Surprisingly, it was quite good and reasonably priced! It's worth a visit just to drool over the homemade Italian pastries, cookies, and other delicacies.
Speaking of paisano, look who I ran into in town! My cousin twice removed, Gus Gus! His owners are evicting him! They will give him away for free if you take him off their hands, but for him to keep his worldly possessions, it will cost you $25 Canadian. I asked if we could adopt him, but my parents said one rat in the family is more than enough!
Can you find it in your heart to adopt Gus Gus?
We hopped on the motorcycles on Friday to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Rainforest. The first bridge was built in 1889 of cedar planks and hemp ropes by George MacKay, whose sole purpose of building a bridge was to find out what was on the other side of his 6,000 acres on Capilano Canyon (sounds like “why did the chicken cross the road”, doesn’t it). The bridge construction as well as ownership has changed several times over the last 127 years; but interestingly, this bridge has always been a privately-held attraction.
With a name like Capilano, I was perplexed that none of the owners were of Italian heritage. Then I learned the facts: the First Nations’ name for the Canyon and Bridge were Kia'palẵno. The Europeans just “Anglofied” the name, hence it being called Capilano.
At 230 feet above ground and 450 feet long, the current bridge is an engineering delight in its simplicity yet stability. I am happy to be numbered among the “Capilano Tramps”, as those who ventured over the bridge called themselves back in the day. The Park also had a cliffwalk and tree top walks. Mom did pretty well with her fear of heights, although she freaked out a few times when the bridge swayed heavily. Speaking of Mom, her tailbone is still swollen from her bobsled fall in Whistler. It is so bruised and black and blue, it looks like she has a giant Smurf tattoo on her butt!
Rambling RV Rat rushes across the bridge
This bridge is freakin' high in the sky--no wonder Mom freaked out with her fear of heights.
I stayed away from this rainforest inhabitant--he looked at me like I look at Swiss cheese!
A rainforest miniature waterfall
Dad would have liked to fish in these waters--they were stocked with trout.
We completed our tour of the Vancouver area with a visit to Stanley Park. Although entry to the Park is free, they nab you for parking at $3.25 Canadian/hour or max of $11 Canadian/day. Usually, we can park both bikes in one spot, thereby saving ourselves money. But no can do in Stanley Park—they do not number their spots and instead identify payment for parking by license plate number. And the meter police are watching, so don’t try to screw them!
Stanley Park is lovely, with something for everyone, from gardens to beaches, from an aquarium to sporting activities. During our prior visit to Vancouver, we visited Stanley Park’s aquarium and gardens, so this time we decided to walk the Seawall Trail, an easy and picturesque 9-kilometer walk around the perimeter of the Park that gives you access to cultural, historical, and natural wonders. We were excited to see raccoons, squirrels, seals, and blue herons while enjoying the sights of seaplanes, ships, trolleys, and horse-drawn carriages. We watched a game of cricket, which was interesting. And we were amazed that the leaves are already changing colors!
The leaves are already changing colors
It was an enjoyable day, despite the white-knuckle city driving. Traversing through Vancouver on a motorcycle is no easy feat. Between dodging pedestrians, bicyclists, construction zones, cable cars, heavy traffic, and red light cameras, you need to stay alert. Good thing we come from New Jersey, and can handle crazy driving conditions!
Sadly, this was our final stop in Canada. We enjoyed visiting our North American neighbors and the country’s abundant beauty. Tomorrow we head back to the lower 48 of the good, ole U.S.A. Talk to you soon!