The drive back to Victoria was relatively uneventful. Same Twists, turns, narrowness, steepness and potholes as the outbound leg. A little less traffic, though, (it is after Thanksgiving), which is not a big deal for us, but it is good for international relations to have a shorter line of cars stuck behind us on the inclines. This time we DID manage a stop at Sproat Lake to see the Martin Mars Water Bombers. Which turned out to be a bit of an adventure…
There are no “official” signs directing one to the planes…it is a business, not a museum. We did see one sign – to a Pub that advertised “Home of the Mars Bombers.” Sounded promising, so we followed the road in the direction the sign pointed.
The road soon devolved to something very unsuitable for the Bluebird. A subsequent sign to the pub pointed down a steep gravel hill. I decided to walk down and make sure that bus could a) get down and b) turn around and get back up. What I found was a small marina, and the pub, which was closed. Probably for a long time. More importantly, the Mars Bombers were BARELY VISIBLE, all the way across the lake. We felt more than a little mislead!
After returning to the main road, I stopped to research the issue further. Dr. Google surfaced the company name that runs the planes and I called them. They no longer have tours or a museum, but they said we could see the planes pretty close up from the fence line. She gave me the address: 9350 Bomber Base Way. We easily arrived there…and the planes were parked undergoing maintenance.
Signs CLEARLY restricted getting close, but I asked a guy in the parking lot if I could come in to take a Pic. He said sure. I am really glad we persisted…seeing these marvels up close…even in a state of partial disassembly…was pretty cool.
We had mentioned to the Chandlers that our arrival in Oak Bay (near Victoria) would be “Cocktail-hour-ish.” They said they had not managed (yet) to rent the driveway to someone (anyone) else, so would roll it out for us again. This offer was even after having a week to consider just what it means to have a bus in their yard! Maybe it is because they knew we were going to be leaving SOON…
We had one full day to spend with the Chandlers, and Liz took the opportunity to visit Gera’s Hair Stylist. The ladies planned an entire day around this (According to Gera, “Its all about the hair”), culminating with drinks and dinner at the marina in Victoria.
She did mention that Chuck has a barber where drinks are served at the shop…however “Its all about the hair” does not extend to MY hair.
We developed a bus issue on the way from Tofino to Victoria. Phone discussion with friend Peter suggested that it could be a loose engine fan…very dangerous. So in Victoria I decided to swing the radiator and check.
Peter, in the meantime, had called fellow Bluebirder Rob Robinson (who lives in Victoria) and Rob called me to ask if I needed any tools or help. I said until the radiator was off and I had a look at the fan, not much to be done.
Once I got a look at the fan, it was apparent that the issue was not a loose fan, but rather a loose belt driving the fan. It did not appear that this was the ONLY issue, so more investigation was needed. After conferring with Peter, the conclusion was we were safe to get back to the states and all the way to Olympia, WA.
Why Olympia? Pat lives there, of course. ANOTHER Bluebirder who I have never met, and has a full shop, lots of tools, knows his way around a Bluebird—his is about the same age as ours and, most important, said ABSOLUTELY bring it by…we’ll fix it up.
This seemed prudent because, frankly, Chuck Chandler is an ACCOUNTANT…his driveway and “shop” are, shall we say, less well stocked with big heavy wrenches and air-tools. And, unless the bus needs help with a Business Valuation, Chuck’s knowledge and skill would not be valuable in these particular circumstances.
It therefore seemed NOT a good idea to start any kind of project…even one that seemed simple since Bus Projects normally turn out to be anything but. And because the terrain is flat and the weather is cool heading towards Olympia…minimizing the need for the fan…it seemed the risk was small.
So, basically, we were handed off from one helpful Bluebirder to another to another. Meeting each for the first time and each was just concerned that we address whatever issues are keeping us from being foot loose and fancy free.
Leaving Victoria included all the usual angst about the ferry logistics. This time, though, we had to clear customs before getting on the ferry (an added step). We found the Ferry Terminal, queued up and waited. The US Customs agent came to the bus and gave us the business. At first, he seemed to mistake our license plates for BC Plates…and he was prepared for a whole new level of “curiosity.” But when he realized we were from Illinois, that was pretty much the end of the questioning.
The Ferry Ride was uneventful. When we arrived in Port Angeles, we again showed passports and the Border Patrol decided we needed an Agricultural Inspection. We were not singled out…this was being done for all the RVs and trailers on the boat. We were directed to a curb and asked to wait. Eventually, an officer came on board and poked around. He asked about rice…we showed him a couple of Mason Jars with MAYBE 2 cups total. He said he would let it go because we were FROM the USA and probably bought it there (we did). The concern is rice from India, which can have bugs.
The agent also tossed the fridge…and confiscated….wait for it…A GREEN PEPPER. Well known instrument of terrorist destruction. That was it. Everything else, including a package of cheese, mushrooms and the potentially devastating pepperoni were allowed to remain.
Now, I know that agricultural products are a source of concern. In past border crossings, we have been given a pass…I guess because its our house, and we have the normal stuff in the fridge. We are not large-scale importers of contraband Citrus. But I get it…we try NOT to shop for groceries in the week before a border crossing, so the fridge is generally pretty empty.
We hope the green pepper did not suffer. Perhaps it was offered a starring role that evening on the agent’s pizza?
After leaving the border crossing, we started south, towards Olympia and Pat’s tools and expertise. Safe in the knowledge that the suspect engine fan and belts would not be called upon much on the flatter terrain and in the cooler weather.
We made it to Pat’s without any fan-related drama. We were directed to a place in front of the garage (where the tools are) and next to Pat’s Bluebird. Then we got out and introduced ourselves.
Seriously…this guy welcomed a broken bus and total strangers to his yard “for as long as it takes.”
We wasted no time and got dirty!