Eastern Coast, Vancouver Island: heavy rain.
Cowichan Valley: we barrel through despite the hand knit sweaters and wineries; we’ll stop on our way back when the weather’s nicer. Same with the totems in Duncan, though we do stop at the grocery store for water and other supplies. The cashier gives us a tourist discount. I wonder how she guessed, we’re not decked out in tear-away pants, many zippered vests or hats with strings attached. No backpacks, hula shirts or white loafers. In fact we’re wearing the same stuff we wear at home where no one ever offers us the tourist discount.
At Chemainus we don’t walk around looking at murals the way you’re supposed to; it’s still pouring, so we’ll do that on the way back too… Instead, we just use a public restroom and duck back in the car.
By Ladysmith the rain has slowed to a steady drizzle so we stretch our legs, browse shops on the main street; I find a dollar copy of Marian Engle’s Bear [if you want to meet the nicest people in any town, go to the book store]. Across the road, the Ladysmith Trading Company is not to be missed. Creaking hardwood floors and wooden shelves stacked with the most bizarre collection of things. If, for example, you went in looking for, oh, let’s say… lipstick, then decided you needed a floor lamp, underwear, moccasins, a few thousand skeins of wool, hinges for your kitchen cabinets, a souvenir tee-shirt, curlers and a mousetrap—you would be in the right place.
I’m there looking for shoelaces.
Someone I take to be the owner—a truly delicious man who so obviously was born to be a shopkeeper, so happy is he keeping shop—smiles and asks what kind of shoelaces? Flat or round? Cotton, nylon or leather? What colour? And, most importantly, what length?
Unfortunately I’m not wearing the shoes needing the laces so I do my best to explain them. He listens intently, nodding, then without missing a beat, recommends thirty-six inch, flat (they stay tied better) brown cotton. Okie dokie, I say, and he fetches a pair, writes up a bill in a little receipt book with carbon paper; he tears off my copy. Ninety-seven cents, including tax. I look around, don’t see a cash register.
From there we wander into a self-described ‘antique parlour’ where the guy offers his sympathies when he finds out we’re from Ontario. Calls it a parking lot, says he used to live there, wouldn’t go back for a million bucks, why should he, he says, now that he lives in lotus land, and as for the weather, well, this is the one day of winter they get… sunshine from here on out, he tells us.
I am, however, happy to hear the weather’s improving as we’re already about as soggy as you can get.