Monday, September 7, 2009

Vancouver 2009: M.V. Coho

Unfortunately, our last day in Victoria was largely wasted with waiting around for things. While we were downtown the previous night, we stopped by the Black Ball Ferry office to make a reservation for the 3:00 ferry to Port Angeles, WA on Friday. The woman at the counter informed me that my timing was superb -- there were only two slots left on that sailing. The gentleman behind me reserved the last slot on that particular boat. We were then instructed to be at the ferry terminal no later than 1:00pm for customs.

In the morning, we checked out of our hotel and headed to the fine Canadian dining establishment named Denny's for lunch. This was a poor decision, as lunch at Denny's can only be described as terrible. From there, we walked over to the Toyota and Honda dealers next door to see what new cars cost in Canada. We found the costs to be roughly similar to the U.S., despite Canada's weaker dollar. actually tells me that the Matrix has a lower base price in Canada than the US by about $500, but this could easily be due to the fact that they are manufactured in Cambridge, Ontario. The thing that was striking, though, was the insanely liberal estimation used to determine gas mileage on these vehicles. The listed MPG rating on a Toyota Matrix, for example, is 36 city/46 highway in Canada. The identical car in the US has an EPA rating of 21/29. Assuming the current model year Matrix is anything remotely similar to the 2004 version I own, I can vouch for the 21/29 numbers being much closer to reality. Even the 29/35 that was advertised when I bought my car was a pipe dream which has never materialized.

Anyhow, back on topic. After walking around the dealer lots for a few minutes without being pounced by slimy salespeople, we hopped in the car and drove across the street to get gas. We got just enough to last us for the small road trip we had planned to kill our time before needing to be at the ferry terminal -- the plan was to drive north and see how far we got before we needed to turn around and head back to the ferry. We planned this out well; We had less than two gallons of gas left in the tank by the time we arrived at the Coho at 1:00pm for customs.

Customs was an interesting process and utter waste of time. We basically sat there for an hour watching some episodes of The Office on my laptop while waiting for the Customs agent to get to us. They asked the cursory questions, told me that they didn't actually care about the thing that I was told I would have to declare when I purchased said item, and made me go stand in line for 20 minutes while they scanned our passports. Finally, it was time to drive onto the boat.

The M.V. Coho is a small, old boat. Currently in its 50th year of service, it has been taking autos back and forth across the strait of Juan de Fuca since 1959. As you will be able to tell from the pictures, the boat also hasn't been given a facelift or new furniture since then -- a much different and less comfortable experience than BC Ferries. The foodservice counter on the boat accepted both US and Canadian dollars, so I spent my last few Loonies on "lunch" at 3:00 as we were setting sail.

Upon our arrival in Port Angeles at 4:30pm, we headed directly for the Safeway to top off the gas tank at reasonable prices and began the drive to Seattle. I almost ran a few red lights, turned down a few one-way streets in the wrong direction, and just generally almost killed us several times while trying to navigate the terrible street system that is Downtown Seattle, but we eventually got to the hotel and put the car in valet. There was a Cheesecake Factory a few blocks from the hotel, so we had a (very late) dinner there and then retired to the room for the evening, where we were treated to brand-new ultra-comfortable pillowtop mattresses. A treat for the last night, and WAY better than the Red Lion in Victoria.

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