17 August 2011

Family Vacation 3, sponsored by Ford

Driving around Vancouver Island with a large family is exactly what Ford had in mind when they designed the Ford Explorer. The narrow, winding roads seem to be built for this SUV, as you're driving it, you forget that you are not driving a car.

Today, we tested the automatic parking - I've never tried this in any car before, it was quite fun. Not sure if I did it all correctly, I did let it do all of the steering but I punched the breaks like I was startled by some prankster. If passersby weren't taken back by the car steering itself, I'm sure the look on my face was entertainment enough. Neat feature, although, I doubt I would use it. The back up cameras however, have become a staple in our travels.

On Monday we drove out to Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park - wow. This is truly a must see for anyone - the waves crashing into an all-natural beach that stretches for miles and miles and littered with driftwood, some the size of small cars. If it were situated in a warmer part of the world, it would be overrun with hotels and cheap souvenir shops. Tourist season does bring it's share of people to the region, in the thousands I'm sure, but it is so immense that you feel as though you are a discoverer from days gone by, finding it for the first time. The locals are a mix of naturalists, fishermen, hippies and surfers - all are friendly.

After beach combing and dipping our feet in the chilly waters, we headed inland to a Zip Line place. I'm not afraid to admit that I am a big yellow chicken when it comes to heights, so this was not an easy purchase. Well, I'm also cheap and zip lining is not exactly inexpensive when you've got a family of five. I sucked it up and we donned helmets and webbing, got onto an old logging bus and drove up the highway for a couple kilometers where we met our first platform.

If you've never zip lined before, it's not as bad as you might think it is. This one wasn't. I mean, we traveled over a narrow gorge with some 170 foot drops, covering 1.5 kilometers in the air in 6 zips. It took 2 hours and was amazing. My only regret was not filming some of it as the scenery and the gorges we went over were absolutely breath-taking. The kids ate it up and went flying down each zip upside down, without hands and giggling the entire way. Karen and I screamed and held on for our lives the entire way.

Tuesday we kicked back and relaxed at the condo, the kids played in the pool nearly all day and I attempted to tan my pasty white skin. At least the kids found success. In the late afternoon we headed up to Qualicum Beach to visit my cousin who is going to guitar building school there. We met up with him at the school, he gave us a tour of the workshop and explained how to build a guitar, it was quite fascinating.

We drove to Steve's house so he could get ready for dinner, at his place he showed us the two guitars he built - man, are they nice. You'd never know these were his first projects, they are flawless and play cleanly. We took him for dinner then walked along the beach as the sun set, it was a beautifully calm evening and the kids each found sand dollars.

Today, we went into Chemainus - a town famous for it's murals. Their weekly fair was on so we took advantage of the day to visit with local artisans and drop off some laundry. Some great shops in Chemainus, all owner operated and friendly to tourists.

We packed up our clean laundry into the Explorer and headed down to Cowichan Bay where we had ice cream and visited some more artists. It's not a Franco family vacation without a purchase of some art - we try to get a nice piece of original art from everywhere we go. This helps us remember our trips and keeps our closet void of t-shirts that we'll never wear.

Tomorrow we may journey to the Horne Lake Caves and do some spelunking.

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