Thank goodness I haven’t blown up yet I am safe and sound on the outskirts of Port Alberni. I’ve just swung the van into the tourist information parking lot and it’s around 5 pm. I think I left Victoria somewhere around lunch time so my guess on my timing was just about right. Before I had left Victoria I had called and talked to the nice lady at Lady Marine Services and she told me the drive should take about 2.5 hours. I chuckled and said “Perfect! that’s about 5 hours for the Red Mountain and I.” There was a pause on the other end of the line and I quickly added “I like to take it slow.”
I am thinking it might be a good idea to ask someone from the tourist bureau where I might find a good spot to camp for a couple of nights. Looking around I see that the parking lot and the building look brand spanking new. The lot is only half paved and when I pulled in dust billowed into my open windows. Now I’ll probably be chocking on it the rest of the night in bed. When I jumped out of the van I was hit with a blast of light air that carried a sweet scent of wild roses in the sunshine. Giving my legs a good shake I headed towards the building and the washroom. I am just like a kid when it comes to having to pee.
As I entered the building a young First Nation’s girl was bending over the counter locking up the cabinets for the night. When she heard the door open she looked up and flashed me a wide smile “Welcome” she says cheerfully “can I help you?” I instantly thought what a nice girl because I am sure she was really thinking “Damn it, its closing time and I want out of here on a hot sunny day.” I told her what I wanted and we settled on the Somass Motel and RV Park. It’s close to downtown, the river, and not too far from the boat. If I wasn’t so tired and if it wasn’t locking up time I’d like to have had a good look around this fancy building with its First Nation’s atmosphere. But instead, I thanked the pretty girl and jumped back into the van, started her up and left a cloud of dust behind as the Red Mountain and I headed down the hill into town.
This is my kind of place, the Somass Motel. The motel is full of working men and the parking lot is tight full of studded, 4X4, pickup trucks. Strangely enough most of them all seem to be the same brand and colour of truck, grey Chev’s with thick layers of dirt and grim embracing them. Also there are about four BC Hydro trucks lined up in the driveway, two abreast, a couple with buckets and equipment, extra amber lights mounted on the tops and sides, and a few mud-crusted others parked in front of individual units. Most of the boys have there doors open and I can see them sitting on the hide-a-beds and kitchen chairs, some guys are standing around, beer in hand, bare-chested and some are in white tea-shirts with jeans watching the hockey game. The evening air is filtering out there laughter and clanking of bottles.
There are only 6 RV spots tucked in behind the Motel. The sites have flat gravel pads and luscious grassy spots sporting large green picnic tables. The tables aren’t wobbly and the place is well tended and clean. There are four spots across from me with an open yellow grassy field behind. A small cloud is stretching across the peaks of a line of mountains in the near distance. To the right of me the sky is a deep ultramarine blue with golden ringed clouds dotted about in it. It’s getting near sunset and the warm yellow light is lighting up the tops of the hills making the mountains bumpy looking. I am surrounded in trees and now that the sun is coming down I feel like jumping back into the van to find my sweater.
Where the van is parked there is only two spaces. I am tucked in backwards in a treed alcove and have my own private lawn area. Just past my grassy spot is the back of the shower, washroom and laundry building. Every time I go to the bathroom (which by the way is the cleanest washroom I’ve ever experienced in a campground) I have to walk the gauntlet past the boys in there rooms. They can’t seem to help themselves when they see me coming they stand up, lean on the door frame and watch me walk by. It amazes me that even an old gal like me can still attract a little attention from the boys. Most men just can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to watching women. It must be a habit that they just can’t shake no matter what the women looks likes. Oh well, it’s a habit I like as it helps me forget how quickly I am getting older.
Where I am sitting in my striped Canadian tire fold up chair the lawn is full of tiny white daisies with pink tips and yellow centres. Underneath the bushes along the edge of my site are golden-yellow five pedal flowers on green vines. As the sun falls these pedals are closing up in shapes like tiny yellow roses the size of the end of my pinkie finger. The flowers are packing it in for the night and that’s just what I feel like doing to.
But here I am with my ass up in the air and sticking out the side door of the van when I hear a slight knock behind me. Then I hear a heavily accented male voice through my open side doors. “Hello in there” it says. He couldn’t have caught me in a more inconvenient position as I was bent right over with my rear end pointing straight into his face and my head titled sideways on the floor. My head was crocked with one eyeball closed and the other was squinting down the hole of a little box thingy at the bottom of my fridge. I was having a bitch of a time trying to see if my pilot light was lit. My food was warm in the fridge and I was trying to see if the light was on or not. There is a little reflective mirror I should to be able to look into and see the reflection of the lit flame. It’s hard to tell what’s going on down there as no matter how much I tried to block out the light coming into the hole from above I just couldn’t tell if the flame was lit. You have to see into the box thingy ass backwards to see if you can see the light coming off the lit flame. Whoever the dumb ass was that invented this system must have been dyslexic because it all felt backwards to me and I am dyslexic.
Not only did this male voice startle me but my heart jumped right into my throat. “What the heck” bolted out of me before I even knew it. “Now what!” I thought to myself as I brought my butt back in towards the fridge and stood up. This isn’t good; I can see it’s the old guy from the worn out RV across from me. I think he’s German. I noticed him earlier staring at me from inside his tinted windows as I ate my hotdogs outside at my lovely green picnic table. I could see him hovering around in behind the window on the driver’s side with his straw sunhat leering at me. He gave me the creep factor then and more so now that he was at my van doors. As I turned around he asked me nicely” if I liked Hockey?” Before I could reply he added “Would I like to come over to his place and watch the game with him?” When I hesitated further he stiffened and proudly said “I have Air!” I thought to myself “well tell someone who cares.” You’d think he’d come up with a different pick-up line when he saw me standing there in my orange hand-knit sweater. I glared at him. I wasn’t in the mood to be nice, I was tired and I didn’t like the idea of him invading my personal space. So I stood tall and said “Yes, I like hockey but not now, I‘ve got stuff to do and I am exhausted so “No Thank You.” He slumped a bit and opened his mouth to say something else but I turned away and gave him the cold shoulder treatment. He got the message and left. I did feel an ache of sadness in my bones for him as he did seem a bit forlorn in his big motor home. Heavens knows how long he’s been living in there by himself. His faded rig was outlined with old plywood skirting to keep out the winter cold. Maybe if he asks me again while I am here I might chance a visit with him. His image would create an interesting portrait either to paint or to write but for now I really am, truthfully, too tired to be social.
After I chased my visitor off I tried again to light the pilot light on the fridge. Down on my hands and knees and peering down that hole I just couldn’t tell if it was burning or not. So I gave up and headed down on foot to the 7 Eleven to grab a bag of ice. The ice should do the trick and keep me from food poisoning until after my boat ride tomorrow.
Off I walk past the boys, the work trucks, the motel office and up onto the highway. Along the riverside of the highway is a gravel path and on the other side is a paved sidewalk that leads the couple of blocks to the 7 Eleven. Since I have a thing about being on the water I naturally chose to walk the narrow path along the edge of the highway by the river. Just before I was going to cross the highway to the store I felt movement on the water. I turned and my eye’s instantly spotted two Merganser’s swimming in the swift current. They had four orange youngsters floating in-between them heading towards me. I don’t know why but I was really surprised to see these tousled headed guys here on the river. They haven’t been around Victoria harbour for a while so I had assumed they were off on summer holidays wherever ducks go for a break. Who would have guessed Port Alberni was on their holiday hit list.
As I was standing there staring one of the ducks high tailed it over towards the shoreline into a little back eddy leaving behind the chicks and other adult duck. Then it called for the chicks to follow over towards the shoreline. Which they did, gliding away from the other duck, lining up one by one like little fuzzy soldiers marching in a row. The left behind duck just kind of circled around pushing water with its red feet watching with one eye the chicks as they scooted over towards the other duck. Then the duck with the babies twirled back and forth gathering the kids together and then pushed each chick, one at a time, up on to a wet rock. There fuzzy dis-proportioned bodies slipping and sliding as they tried to scale the rock with there floppy big feet. Two of them kept falling back into the water with a fanfare of flapping and neck stretching while the other two explored the rock by stomping around in circles.
It just goes to show you looks can be misleading because next thing I know there’s a ruckus going on. The duck with the chicks starts displaying concern as the other duck starts paddling towards it and the rock. It is stretching its neck out and flinging it around like a piece of string shaking in the wind. When all of a sudden with its head just above the water it attacks the other duck with a vengeance. Its wings flapping, waters splashing and beak quacking and the worse part is that the children are watching from the sideline. My mind is trying to figure out what went wrong. Two minutes ago both ducks seemed to partners in life, raising a family like the rest of us struggling with our own rough waters. I had just witnessed them shuffling the kids safely through strong currents by tucking them up close and in-between both of them. Now one duck was over by the kids all puffed up and the other was back out in the current with its body pointing downstream but its head is turned back facing the rock and the chicks. It’s like its taking one last longing look at the group.
The vicious duck once again starts wagging its head and circling. It looks like it wants to round up the chicks that are off exploring the rock and shallow water. One is strolling on top of the rock in the last of the violet light taking bites at invisible bugs and things, its little spiky body in deep shadow and looking like something out of a prehistoric period.
I am not sure what she is thinking but Mrs. Duck, I am pretty sure now that she is a girl, loads the chicks up on her back and heads back out into the wicked current. In the last of the yellow light I can see chicks dropping off her back into the fast flowing current and floating away. There tiny wings would flap like hell and little bodies would lift and skim across the water top. Somehow they would manage to catch up and jump back up on to her back. Once in awhile she must have felt the slipping off of their little bodies as when one would drop she would stop, turn her head around, circle, and gather it up in a flash. She had a parent’s strong awareness of who needed extra help and who could make on their own.
In the meantime the other merganser was still keeping a healthy distance from the other. But he never took his eyes off her and the kids. I am assuming he is a male just because of the way he hung around in the distance watching, protecting, and keeping an eye on things. I could feel his compassion as he waited until they were all safely across to the other side. Once he knew they were safe he gave one big flap of his wings and lifted off downstream and away. There was no looking back just a low flight over the top of the river with his wings beating and a hint of sunset on his butt and darkness in his wake.
That’s it for me, I am done, and it’s time for bed, I will get the ice tomorrow. I’ve shaken the dust out of my sleeping bag and it is lying out and waiting for me back at the Red Mountain. I hope my weary legs will hoof me back. Goodnight folks see you in the morning if all goes well.