Chapter 1, in which it takes 11 hours to get to Nanaimo

I am pleased to report that I was an attendee at the Network in Canadian History and Environment’s 2013 Canadian History and Environment Summer School (CHESS), which was held on Vancouver Island.

We learned a lot about the logging industry in the area! Ergo, The Log Driver’s Waltz seems like an appropriate soundtrack for this post.

Bellevue, Washington, is really only about 200 miles (that’s some number of Canadian tiptoes in metric) to Nanaimo, British Columbia.

So close, in the grand scheme of things, and yet…

Despite this seeming proximity, the journey to Nanaimo was somewhat epic, involving as it did trains, planes, automobiles, and other forms of transportation for the various participants.

I tell you this not as a way of complaining about public transportation–because I couldn’t have gotten to the seminar without it!–but rather to indicate how islands are fascinating places with fairly limited access.

It took some meticulous planning, but I eventually made it to my destination. (I was without internet / cell phone for the journey, hence the meticulous planning – with maps!)

Should you choose to follow my route, here is a detailed outline of my travel arrangements:

Step 1: Take the bus from Bellevue to Seattle.

busStep 2: Take the Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver (not the one in Washington!).

The train station was pretty cool - not very crowded until the aptly named Empire Builder from Chicago arrived.

The train station was pretty cool – not very crowded until the aptly named Empire Builder from Chicago arrived.

Step 2.5: Arrive in Canada and take care of Canadian errands (banking and post officing for the win!).

Step 3: Walk through Chinatown to the Horseshoe Bay Express bus stop.

map2

Step 4: Ride the bus to the ferry.

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Step 4.5: It smells like fish! Reminisce about last summer in Sitka, Alaska.

IMG_3253Step 4.75: Wonder, what’s a Marsec?

IMG_3252

Step 5: Take the ferry to Nanaimo. Hear your name announced over a loudspeaker for the first time ever (“Can Amanda Murphy–Murphy You?… meet her group at the gift shop?”)

IMG_3254

Overall, it was a pleasant journey. I packed lunch, brought along plenty of maps (thanks to Mom and the Archives of Grandma Rose), met a bunch of strangers, and enjoyed the sunshine. Once I met up with the other CHESS participants, the real fun began…

It was raining, so I stayed inside and took poor quality photographs.

It was raining, so I stayed inside and took poor quality photographs.

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