Driving Vancouver Island’s Eastern Coast

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The comfort in exploring an island by car comes in knowing one cannot too easily get lost, and that if it happens, by all means keep driving and you’ll soon become un-lost again.

I meandered north along the eastern edge of Vancouver Island, departing from Nanaimo, and found myself facing sheets of rain. The forecast had predicted the weather, which ranged from drizzle to downpour, but after a few years of living in Southern California I’d forgotten how quickly one can become rain-drenched if not prepared. Upon re-learning this lesson I know once again it is two seconds less than the time it takes to run from parking space to coffee shop door.

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Destination: Nanaimo, British Columbia

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Nanaimo, like all towns on Vancouver Island,  is small. The city has a few nicknames, including The Harbour City (no explanation needed) and the Bathtub Racing Capital of the World (true story). It is also known for its Nanaimo Bars, a no-bake Canadian dessert bar with distinct layers of custard and chocolate promoted by Tourism Nanaimo via The Nanaimo Bar Trail – reason enough to visit.

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Ferrying from Vancouver to Nanaimo

Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, British Columbia

A ferry pulls into Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, British Columbia

Ferries ain’t no thing but a chicken wing to many Pacific Northwesties, but until I’d traveled to Nanaimo, a larger town on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, I’d never taken one alone. Driving aboard was childishly thrilling, akin to reaching the next level of a video game; the worlds I’d conquered during my travels thus far—deserts, farmland, mountains—were all “played” on land. Here was the water level, and a new kind of notch in my figurative travel belt.

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Destination: Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Oh Canada. Though your people barely let me through border patrol because my American money is too fancy for you, I drove onto your soil one August day and then didn’t want to leave. So many trees. So many mountains. So many rugged men who look like they live in those mountains. So many interesting international people who seemingly don’t hate each other just for being different.

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Driving Seattle to the Canadian border

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I’ve gone and lost my photos of the drive between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. Gone are the images of Chuckanut Drive, a coast-hugging road that occasionally opens up to panoramas of Bellingham Bay. The day and everything in it – the sky, the water, the sand and the road – were nearly the same shade of gray. The water receded back some couple hundred feet; low tide, I supposed.

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Destination: Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Looking at Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry

Seattle is no cookie cutter city. It boasts more than its fair share of specialties, including unrivaled seafood and the rise of an eclectic dining scene in recent years, plus several lakes (most notably Lake Washington and Lake Union), parks and fairly distinct neighborhoods. Consider the following quintessential activities during your trip:

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Driving Portland to Seattle

Entering Washington state via the bridge that connects Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA, two cities divided by the Columbia River

Entering Washington state via the bridge that connects Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA, two cities divided by the Columbia River

Describing Washington, my state of origin, simulates describing an ex to someone who might want to date them, in that I simultaneously warn them of the bad parts while throwing in a “but you might really like it!” and a “I hope it works out for you!” Love is subjective, is it not?

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