Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Harbor History Museum

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  Croatian and Slavic settlers came to the east coast of the Olympic Peninsula in the 1860s to fish in the bays. They were soon joined by Scandinavian immigrants and settlers from the Midwest who started farming and logging.

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  There were few roads and until 1940 when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built almost everyone took the ferry or rowed themselves across the bay to Tacoma. The bridge cut automobile travel distance from 90 miles down to 7.  However the design of the bridge caused the deck to move up and down on windy days earning it the name “Galloping Gertie”.  Four months after it opened it was hit with 40 MPH winds. The deck started swaying side to side as well as up and down, adding a twist which broke cables and towers. Fortunately everyone managed to get off the bridge before it collapsed.

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  Labor and material shortages due to WWII meant a new bridge could not be built until 1950. They got it right the second time. This bridge is still in use although a second bridge was added in 2007 to carry the increase in traffic.

This excellent small museum covers the history of the Native Americans who lived here first and the immigrants and their means of making a living. Besides the museum galleries, a one room school house and the Shenandoah, a fishing boat that was used from 1925 to 1967 and is being restored, are on the grounds and opened to tour.

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   The museum is accessible but to get to the second level which contains the bulk of the museum it’s necessary to go outside where the Shenandoah display is located and up a long ramp. The exhibits are accessible but some of the video screens are hard to see. The schoolhouse is accessible. The interior of the Shenandoah is not accessible.

  The parking lot is small. Large RVs can be parked on the street.

Museum  47.33722, -122.59349

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Vancouver Island - General Information

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  After exploring Vancouver Island for three weeks we realized that we hadn’t seen half what the island has to offer. So a bit of advice to future visitors – plan a long visit if possible! We drove Route 1 and Route 19 from Victoria to Port Hardy and made a loop starting on Route 1 in Victoria, going west and north on Route 14 and east on Route 18 and back on Route 1 at Duncan but didn’t take any of the paved roads to the west coast or any of the many gravel roads. We stopped at both small out-of-the-way museums and popular attractions, sought out short, easy trails, and enjoyed nature in the provincial parks but we missed many potentially interesting places. The next time we visit we’ll spend more time in Victoria, drive to western port cities, and look for camping spots along some of the gravel roads. We had a chance to spend time with our daughter and son-in-law who came for a few days and to see our rubber tramp friends who live on the island or were visiting. Great to see everyone! Thanks for sharing campsites, front yards, meals, and conversation.  : –)
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  Getting to the Island
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  If you want to take your RV the only way to get to the island is by ferry. From the US you can take  Washington State Ferries from Anacortes or Black Ball Ferries from Port Angeles. Both accept oversize vehicles. BC Ferries leave from Tsawwasen, south of Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver. BC Ferries have other routes from Vancouver Island to smaller islands if you want to explore more. I believe they all will accept oversize vehicles. Reservations are a good idea on any of the ferry lines. If you need room to deploy a wheelchair lift make sure that the ferry crew are aware of this when you are given a place in line.  We took the ferry from Port Angeles because it was the shortest, most convenient trip. The Black Ball Ferry line does not have an elevator to the passenger deck so anyone who uses a wheelchair or needs to borrow one is loaded first with help from the ferry crew.

          Roads
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  Touring on Vancouver Island almost always involves driving to the end of a road, turning around, and driving back to your starting point unless you want to spend a lot of time on gravel roads. Route 1 is the main road at the south end of Vancouver Island. It becomes Route 19 at Nanaimo. Route 19A offers a parallel route through the coastal towns. Route 1 and Route 19 are limited access at times but have traffic signals when passing through towns and populated areas. Fortunately all of the traffic signals have warning lights a good distance ahead so that traffic can stop safely. Route1, 19, and 19A provide access to the east coast of the island. The only road on the west coast is Route 14 at the southern tip of the island. The rest of the coast is broken up by numerous inlets and channels. Four paved roads extend from the east coast roads to harbors on the west coast but for traveling anywhere else you’ll be on gravel roads, ferries, float planes, or private boats. All of the roads that we drove on were in very good condition but don’t expect to get anywhere as fast as you normally would.

  Weather
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   We had excellent weather - between 65 and 75 and sunny most days. The island was experiencing a drought so it may not always be that nice.

  Camping
IMG_5873   We camped a five different provincial parks. All of the parks are very well maintained and all follow the same basic design standards. All have level, roomy sites with sturdy picnic tables, metal fire pits, and abundant vegetation. Some have sites that are spaced farther apart than others but none feel crowded. Amenities determine the prices which range from $20.00 to $35.00. The cheapest have pit toilets and drinking water. The most expensive have flush toilets, showers, drinking water and a dump station. Everyone, including campers, pays a $5.00 fee to use the dump station. Many of the campgrounds have an additional fee for an extra vehicle which I believe extends to towed vehicles. Reservations should be made well ahead of time for coastal campgrounds and campgrounds near the cities. Sites at other campgrounds can be reserved but are readily available first come/ first serve.

  None of the campgrounds have electric hookups. Generator hours are limited and solar panels don’t get enough sun to provide power. The sites seem like they’re large enough for class As but most of the other campers were in tents, pop ups, trailers or small RVs.

  We camped at two free campgrounds managed by Western Forest Products. One appeared to have been a provincial park at one time. It had standard sites with good tables but the sites in the other were randomly scattered and many were missing tables.

  This is a very good website that includes all of the public campgrounds including free ones - All US and Canada Public Campgrounds. I downloaded the campgrounds to my GPS as POIs. There's also a phone app.

  We stayed at one private campground, Thetis Lake, near Victoria. It’s small and the roads are narrow. It’s a good place to stay convenient to the city but not designed for large RVs.

  Boondocking and Overnighting
  The island is thickly forested and most of the dirt roads are logging roads. In the southern half of the island almost of the dirt roads are gated so it isn’t possible to scout for boondocking spots but we did find a few large pull offs that will work for a night.  Boondocking opportunities increase north of Campbell River but since we stayed at free Western Forest campsites we didn’t look for any boondocking spots. I believe that most of the island is crown land which is managed like US national forest land but I can not find a map that shows crown land.
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  Few of the Walmarts allow overnight RV parking. Try other big box stores but keep in mind that they may prohibit parking overnight too. Many of the rest areas allow 8 hour parking, however, they may be very small and close to the highway. The rest areas north of Campbell River are larger and set back from the highway.

  Phone and Internet
  We did not switch our phone and internet plan to one that worked in Canada so we relied on free WiFi. All of the information centers have WiFi. Only one charged us a small fee. WiFi is also available at Walmart, other big box stores, and fast food restaurants. Our friends who had Canadian phone service could not get a signal whenever they traveled more than five miles from the main road.

  Border Crossings
   In both the US and Canada you’ll pass through customs as you leave the ferry. The process is very quick and we were asked few questions. We ate most of our fresh product before entering Canada just in case.

  Accessibility
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  Victoria is very accessible. Access in smaller cities and in the country is not as good but still manageable. Most of the provincial parks have accessible sites. They may not be marked as such but they are listed as accessible on the online reservation site.

  If you have any questions I’d be happy to try to answer them!
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Beacon Hill Park and Waterfront Trail

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    The land for Beacon Hill Park was set aside as a protected area in 1858. It includes woodland and shoreline trails, two playgrounds, a waterpark, playing fields, a petting zoo, tennis courts, many ponds, landscaped gardens, and what was for a time (erected in 1956), the world’s tallest totem pole. We took a short stroll through the eastern edge of the park and walked/rolled along the Waterfront Trail.

   We didn’t spend enough time in the park to give a comprehensive review but the trails we used were accessible.  We went about one mile east on the Waterfront Trail. It’s paved, smooth and accessible. Able bodied visitors can access the tidal pools at Clover Point.

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IMG_5776  Short RVs will fit in the two parking areas along Dallas Road. It may be possible to park larger RVs parallel to the road. It’s easy to access both the park and the Waterfront Trail from the eastern most lot. There’s also parking inside the park.The center of Victoria is about 1 1/2 miles from Dallas Road making this a good location to park an RV and see the city.  Park  48.40794, -123.36022

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French Beach Provincial Park

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  This park has level, roomy campsites and a large day use area with very good access to the beach. We did not notice an accessible site but most of them are usable. The trail along the beach is not accessible due to large round stones.  Park  48.39372, -123.94311

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fort Rodd and Fisgard Lighthouse Hill NHS

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   In 1840 Britain’s navy began using Esquimalt harbor for anchorage and for taking on water and lumber. A base was soon established near Victoria across the water from the knob of land that would eventually become Fort Rod. For further protection of the harbor gun batteries, underground magazines, command posts, guardhouses, barracks, and searchlight emplacements were built at Fort Rod. The fort was active from 1895 to 1956.

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  The Fisgard  Lighthouse, built in 1860, was the first lighthouse on the Canada’s west coast and is still in use. The lighthouse and many of the fort buildings are open for self tours.

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  Paved and gravel paths lead to the fort and lighthouse. Most of the fort area is not accessible due to large loose gravel on the grounds and steps in the fort buildings. A barrack building next to the fort has historic displays and is accessible. A very steep paved ramp accesses the base of the lighthouse but there’s a step at the entrance and stairs to second floor exhibits. The nature trail is steep and not accessible. The garden trail is accessible.

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  The parking lot is large enough for RVs. Park  48.434, -123.45419

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Royal British Columbia Museum

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  Two floors of the museum are filled with very good exhibits covering the natural and human history of British Columbia.  The First Nations argillite carvings and huge totem poles are wonderful.

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IMG_5695  The upper level of the “Old Town” exhibit, a small section of the early settler exhibit, and the ship, “Discovery”, are accessed by steps only so I was given a 15% discount. The rest of the museum is accessible but the floors in the farm and town exhibits which are made to resemble dirt and brick are rough, lumpy and a little hard to rolling along.

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  Parking is limited in Victoria especially for RVs. We parked in the southern most lot on Wharf Street. It’s the only lot on Wharf Street where parking of RVs is permitted - $15.00 for 24 hours. The road up to the sidewalk is very steep.  Museum  48.41997, -123.36732

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Butchart Gardens

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   Robert Butchart, who began manufacturing cement in Ontario in 1888, moved his business to Vancouver Island in the early 1900s.  By 1909 the quarry which supplied limestone for his cement plant had been worked out leaving a large, ugly hole. Robert’s wife, Jennie, went to work transforming it into a beautiful garden that attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Butcharts built a house in the quarry that is now a restaurant.

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  The Sunken Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Japanese Garden are the largest gardens but plants and flowers line all of the walkways. Quieter areas have fountains and ponds. A short walk to the cove leads to a nice view of the Tod Inlet.

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  Almost all of the garden is accessible. Visitors are given a map that shows the best path for wheelchairs. The grades of the paths are gentle. The boat tour (additional fee) is not accessible.

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    Follow the signs for RV and bus parking. The lot is slanted so much that we needed to level our RV.

Garden  48.56274, -123.46655 

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