Lies. Or, Phillip Got Me A Fitbit For Christmas

In which the Cheungs take the least direct and most expensive route to Victoria, BC, all in the name of Spontaneity

In Cabo Phillip and I talked a good deal about taking more (or, should I say, ANY) family trips. Not so much Big Deal Vacations as little day trips or weekend overnights. Have we gone anywhere? No. Then Phillip had the day off on Friday and we talked about a day trip to Leavenworth, which is this fake Bavarian village in the mountains and you know how much I love fake and manufactured cheer. (See: Disneyland, Las Vegas.) But we were also invited to my niece's first birthday party in Port Angeles on Saturday and late Friday morning I dreamed up the following plan: we could drive to VICTORIA that afternoon, hang out, and take the ferry across the next day for her party. HOW BRILLIANT WAS THAT?


The brilliant thing to do would have been to spend at least five minutes looking up ferry information. Ferries, those terrible, horrible, miserable steel behemoths, the mode of public transportation that consistently gives me panic attacks and neurotic episodes, the most dreadful and ire-inspiring aspect of living where I do. You live in Seattle? Would you like to drive somewhere cool? OH SORRY, YOU'LL HAVE TO TAKE A BOAT OF SATAN.

Even though it is a well known and oft mentioned fact that I Hate Ferries, I did not consider them when suggesting Victoria. (Which is also not my favorite, but more on that later.) I think this is because we didn't have a SCHEDULE. I mostly freak out about ferries because WHO KNOWS if you're going to get on the one you want, no matter how early you get there, and what if you WASTE TIME?! Oh I HATE wasting time. How I LOATHE waiting around. The inefficiency! The un-productivity! My anxious Three heart is going apoplectic just thinking about it. 

THE THING IS. What I did not know when I booked (and paid in advance for) the Victoria hotel is that there are only 2 ferry crossings from Port Angeles to Victoria per day. OH HO HO. How this would have affected our decision! 

Because the INTELLIGENT way to get to Victoria from where I live is 1) take a ferry to Kingston, drive across the Olympic Peninsula to Port Angeles, take the 1 and a half hour ferry from the PA to Victoria, which drops you off right in front of the Empress Hotel, and you can just WALK ANYWHERE. The UNintelligent way to get to Victoria from where I live is to drive alllll the way to Canada, sit at the border forever and ever, then drive alllll the way to the Tsawassen ferry terminal in Canada, take a 1 and a half hour ferry to Sidney and then drive another half hour to Victoria. Which is, of course, what we did. 

But no matter! Phillip and I said to each other. At this point we were still big believers in Spontaneity and Good Intentions and Family Togetherness. 

And of course, on our way to Canada, I realized I'd left Emma's coat at home. So we had to stop at Target, obvs, and buy the only size 2T coat in the store and THAT took forever because Targets are few and far between once you leave The City and all the moms in a 25 mile radius had driven in to their mothership, Target, and it was trafficky and busy and ACK. 

The border was okay. Not the hour promised by all the warning signs in Bellingham, but not too short either. I was very nervous that they were going to ask me if I had any fruits and vegetables because I DID, I FORGOT, but they didn't ask and I didn't have to lie about my two bananas in my purse. I called my brother in the PA to give him the update. He didn't SAY we were insane, but I've had 33 years of experience communicating with him and I could TELL he thought we were insane. He DID say, about nine hundred times, that he is the expert on Victoria and we should have called him first and he could tell us anything, especially about FERRIES, which is IMPORTANT, and alert! alert! Internet! Do you want to visit Victoria? YOU BETTER CALL MY BROTHER FIRST.

Driving to the Canadian ferry from the border was okay. We were totally on time for the 3pm ferry and maybe we'd have an hour or two to explore Victoria before going to bed. (And leaving at 9am the next morning. Oh, did I not tell you that part? That we were basically going to Victoria for dinner? Yes.)

The 3pm ferry was all booked. Of course. "It's a very busy time of year," the ticket lady told us. "You MIGHT get on the 4pm ferry." Huh? She also wanted $100 which... what? 

THANK GOD there was a little playground at the ferry terminal and a warm little gift shop in which to wait. We were there over an hour and GUESS WHAT! One of my kids was not feeling well. Poor Molly. We tried very hard not to be annoyed with her, but come on! Where was HER sense of adventure and spontaneity and feelings of family togetherness? (Okay, mine was drifting.)

We thankfully made it on the 4pm Tsawassen/Schwartz Bay ferry, and my God that thing is massive. MASSIVE. And MUCH nicer than any ferry I've ever been on, AHEM, Washington State. There were, like, multiple places to get something to eat. The bathrooms, which I used several times with various children, were very nice. The seats were comfy! If you found one to sit in, of course, as the entire population of British Columbia was going to Victoria for dinner with us. 

Please note that Phillip and I had not fought AT ALL. Our children were perfect angels (except for that sick one.) And once we made it to the island we easily found our way to our hotel where we dropped our stuff off and promptly ordered our tired and hungry children outside because we were going to ENJOY OUR HALF HOUR IN VICTORIA, DAMMIT. 

(Frail mopey Molly rode in Emma's stroller.) (I'm taking her to the doctor tomorrow morning.) (She has a Mysterious Rash! And a Fever! SURPRISE!)

THE NEXT MORNING. We felt smart. We KNEW that there were only 2 ferry crossings to Port Angeles. We KNEW we had to be there an hour and a half early. We KNEW, because we had looked it up on the website, that it was First Come First Served. 

We ate a lovely breakfast at the hotel and drove over to the PA ferry loading area. The girl in the ticket booth asked us if we had a reservation. 

"Uh, no?"

"Oh, then there's no way you're getting on the 10:30 ferry."

We were informed by the ticket girl and the ferry worker dude, who desperately wanted to get us out of the way, that if we parked NOW, we could be second in the STANDBY LINE for the 4pm ferry. Freaking FERRIES!

I was all "FINE" and Phillip was all, "DO NOT RUSH ME INTO MAKING DECISIONS, PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, I AM A NINE AND I WILL SIT HERE AND FORCE EVERYONE INTO A STANDSTILL UNTIL I FEEL LIKE COMMITTING TO SOMETHING, WHICH MIGHT BE NEVER" and finally I was all, "DUDE. Let's PARK and GET OUT OF HERE" and that's what we did. They hurried us out of line, parked us off to the side, wrote a big '2' on a scrap piece of paper, and put it on our dashboard. 

I felt super terrible about missing my niece's party, but we had a lovely time in Victoria. Even though I don't really like Victoria. And the only reason I'd suggested Victoria is because we could also make it to my niece's party. Victoria is... well, it's PRETTY and picturesque, but it's also got this stuffy uptight lady vibe (to me) and it's Britishness is not the Fake and Manufactured Cheer kind that I enjoy, but more, you know, ACTUAL Britishness. Victorian stuff (like Victoria) is not my bag. (But I LOVE London? I am a mystery.)

BUT ANYWAY. We really did have a good time. We saw the Christmas trees in the Empress, we walked up Government street and stopped in book stores and candy stores and had hot chocolate at Murchies (Murchies?). And we went to the Royal BC Museum which is pretty awesome and I could have wandered around forever (the HUMAN history parts, not the natural history parts - SNORE.) (Exhibits on Pacific Northwest ecosystems are right up there with ferries, in my opinion.)

We went back to our car at the exact right time to wait to be checked by Customs. And we waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and finally someone came to check us EXCEPT! We didn't have a particular necessary form because OOPS! we hadn't bought a ticket! Somewhere in the decision making that morning we'd parked in line without buying a ticket, or anyone requesting that we buy a ticket, or Phillip and I remembering that we needed to buy a ticket. Phillip ran out to the ticket booth and bought a ticket (for ANOTHER $100 OMGGGGG) - and then we waited again. And more and more and more and more and Phillip got out two or three times to see what was up and they just kept telling us to wait and wait and wait and HEY, THE CARS ARE MOVING WHAT'S GOING ON. 

Phillip asked ME to get out and ask that time since he was afraid he was annoying the Customs folks. When I got out they were nowhere to be found. The ticket girl was useless. I ran up to the office and was yelled at by a ferry worker who told me to (guess!) WAIT. 

We waited. And waited. And finally our line started to move and okay, I was considering freaking out at this point. See, I am anxious and neurotic and all that, but I'm actually QUITE GOOD in the moment. I was tense and had nervous tummy etc, but I was GOOD. I was READY. And when a Customs lady started running to our car I knew everything would be fine. 

Phillip rolled down the window and she shouted, "Why weren't you guys in your car for the check?!"


"Then why didn't you TELL anyone that no one had CHECKED YOU?"


"Well you might not get on this ferry! You should have ASKED!"

She had us pull out of line (THE STANDBY LINE) while she went over our passports, though, to her credit she gave us the fastest lookover in the history of customs. She sent Phillip running to the office for some sort of pass and ordered me into the driver's seat so I could meet him there and bypass the cars bypassing ME. And Phillip jumped back into the car with the appropriate papers and the grumpy customs people grudgingly let us through and YES. We made it onto the ferry. 

And THIS ferry... so, at first I'm driving on thinking "Oh thank God, there's ONE SPOT LEFT." But it turns out that spots are relative. It was like car tetris. A ferry dude came up to me and said, "Okay now, what we're gonna do is swing out waaaay far and then turn here and then go right into that slot right there." Fine! And I assumed he meant I should back in. I don't know why. Maybe it was the condescending driving directions? Because I didn't NEED condescending and overly specific driving directions to basically park head first in a regular parking space? So I swung out waaaaay far and then turned the wheel as if to back in and suddenly MANY ferry dudes are barking at me and making faces and Phillip is grabbing the wheel and THAT, my friends, THAT is when I lost it. Here I was doing precisely what I thought was the Right Thing, and it turns out they just wanted me to REGULAR park and what's wrong with this idiot woman who can't just REGULAR park and once I got into that parking space I cried. I put my forehead on the steering wheel and sobbed the sob of a girl who hates being yelled at, hates doing things the wrong way, hates being taken for an idiot. 

The ferry was slow. It was rocky. We were practically the last car off. We saw my brother and his family for MAYBE 45 minutes, long LONG after the pary had ended. Then we drove to our very last ferry, which we made with time to spare, and got home at 10pm. 

I am never getting on a ferry again. 

We've discussed blaming Spontaneity, but this would have never happened if we'd gone to Leavenworth. You don't have to take ANY ferries to go to Leavenworth. I thought about blaming my brother - how come HE didn't call ME? But I've decided to blame ferries. Miserable horrible STUPID STUPID OVERPRICED FERRIES.

Our next trip is to Disneyland. SO THERE. We have much better luck with airplanes, believe it or not. (See you in February, Sunshine!)




Murchies is worth the trip to Victoria. Also love the Royal BC Museum's city section. Makes me smile.

Sounds like a painful trip with the ferries though. They make me nervous. It just doesn't seem right to be on a boat while in my car.


You really should have consulted me. I have waited all day for that very same GD ferry and I now vote against the ferry every time. Next time you feel spontaneous just drive to the Central Valley. No ferries here.


I very much enjoyed this because I actually knew exactly what you were talking about. I've been to Victoria! So has everyone else, apparently, but I live in Iowa so I get bonus points. I also feel like calling my parents and waking them out of a sound sleep to thank them for apparently doing everything right ferry wise because we had no troubles in that department.

We did get the back window of our rental car smashed in Victoria because a certain small-town hick from Iowa (moi) didn't know you shouldn't leave things like purses laying in plain sight in a car. Luckily, the only thing in my purse was lip gloss and we had rental car insurance.

Laura Diniwilk

I think I just got sympathy hives while reading this. Yikes. And I hope you have a Blathering exception for your ferry ban, because I'm totally all about the ferries. Maybe not the $100 ones though.


Wow, that was quite the adventure!! It made for a great story. Thanks for sharing!


My family once waited in line for a ferry for something like 36 hours in a ferry strike in Paris and it is about the most bored I ever remember being. (I was ten? My poor parents.)


Um I'm like completely terrified of driving onto a ferry. Have never done it, despite living most of my life in the PNW. Once, in high school, my friends and I jumped onto a ferry as it was about to pull away (we were walking on, not driving) and that has grown in my head into a giant leap like from some crazy movie and is literally the most adventurous ferry-type thing I've ever done. Your parking experience would have done me in. So good on you for holding it together until you were parked and could have a good cry. :-)

Erin G @ebum1101

OH GOOD GRIEF MAGGIE. Oh man. I just. Oh man.

Megan @ Mama Bub

Still catching up. Everytime you mention it, I feel like shouting "I've been to Leavenworth!" Preeetty sure I've said that before.

I do not enjoy ferries and I totally understand your feelings about Victoria. It DOES feel stuffy, if also a little bit charming.

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