Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sidney In Winter

The saying goes that only 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' go out in bad weather. That might be true, but both creatures aren't stupid; the saying only refers to rain. There certainly is rain out here on the 'Wet Coast', but the secret to surviving and thriving out here, as the locals will tell you, is to do what you normally do, even though it is raining. So, if you garden, garden in the rain. If you like to bike, you bike in the rain, and so on.

The thing is, the rain out here is basically pretty wimpy; not the bone-chilling deluges one finds in Saskatchewan, and not the hot cascades that periodically pelt down in Ontario. The rain here in Sidney, safely tucked away on the eastern side of the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is often basically a heavy mist, other than the periodic rain storms that in winter blow huge windstorms up the Puget Sound from Seattle. These slam into the island with great force, driving salt-spray and sheets of rain in its path.

I learned a valuable lesson about the force of these winds the hard way the first winter here. I had just driven back from Victoria and was about to round a corner down by the Anacortes Ferry to head for Sidney's main street, when I came upon two cars stopped in the middle of the road. Puzzled as to why these vehicles had stopped in this particular spot, I pulled into the on-coming lane, passed the two cars, and rounded the corner.

WHAP! I was suddenly hit by a deluge of water!

Now I figured it out; the two locals had stopped their vehicles to 'time' their passage between large, wind-whipped waves crashing onto the adjacent beach and spewing up onto the road. So powerful are the waves in these windstorms that Dallas Road in Victoria is closed due to the piles of massive logs thrown onto the road.

Below; the view to the east of the Sidney Marina. The snow-capped peak is Mount Baker, which is more than 200 km away, in Washington State. This is our version of Mount Fujii, and it is every bit as spectacular!

Fortunately, these wind and rainstorms only occur during the 'rainy season' which occurs in November and December. We in Sidney are blessed with one of the lowest amounts of rainfall on the entire West Coast, (half that of Vancouver, just across the water), and we actually enjoy more total hours of sunshine in a year than does Ottawa, Ontario

All this said, what you never hear is that the 'Mad Dogs & Englishman' don't do snow!
It wasn't a coincidence that the earliest English explorers decided to spread their Tweed Curtain over the southern tip of this remote Isle, and to make this a Last Bastion of Empire. No, the average Brit would quickly forsake the bitter and barren rocky shores of the East Coast colonies, the brooding boreal forests of Central Canada, the sweeping stretches of wind-blown grasses of the Prairies and even the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains for the gentle, warming climate of Victoria and area.

It isn't so much what Victoria has; it is more to the point what Victoria doesn' t have. That is snow.

Snow and the cold that accompanies it chills the Englishman in a way that no blinding rainstorm could possibly could. These intrepid tamers of wilderness and creators of empire would gather around the fire and swill warming pots of tea rather than venture out onto the frozen tundra of Canada in the winter. If you note from your history class, nothing, (no battle, no voyage of discovery, no epic construction project such as the national railroad, etc) ever took place during the winter months. That was because you couldn't coax anyone to venture outside of their dwellings in the bitter winter months.

So, when this Garden Isle with its gentle climate in this colony of misery was discovered, it instantly was favoured as a refuge from the elements.

To be fair, it does snow in Victoria at times, but it is more akin to a heavy frost rather than a snow dump. And even the heaviest storm will be a bitter memory withing a day or two of its appearance; washed away by rain, or simply melted by the warmth. Last year we had two small dumps of snow, and the locals called it the worst winter they had seen in more than 50 years! You can see pictures of the devastation in earlier blogs.

This year we had basically a heavy frost one evening in November and that was it, even though there is snow on the Malahats just across Pat Bay, and many snow dumps all up the island to our north. So unprepared are the locals for a catastrophic appearance of a flake of snow, that most residents don't own a snow shovel. (during the last snowfall a neighbour was trying to move the snow from his driveway with a rake!), and car windshields are cleared with credit cards.

However, by mid-January, all of the trauma is past; there are definite signs of Spring about. This is the Victoria Advantage at work; we don't get that warm in the summer, and we don't get cold in the winter. Also, spring starts to appear in this favoured isle when the rest of the country is just beginning to bury their lawn lights with the snow from their driveways, and the blockheaters, touques, gloves, scarfs, overcoats, boots and shovels are getting into the swing of the season. The rest of Canada has a good three months to go before they get to the stage things are here; already we are checking the medicine cabinet to see if there is sufficient sunblock!

We have had no snow this year. Flowers grow and bloom in our gardens year round, the grass can be cut in January, I am not really sure where in the garage the snow-shovel rests (it was moved from Ontario with the rest of our household goods), and the only snow that we see is either on TV or during a trip away from this sheltered centre of civilization to the desert of muskeg and frozen lakes that lies on the mainland.

So, with brilliant sunshine warming the town, I took a stroll along the ocean and snapped some winter souvenirs of Sidney in the Depths of Winter!

For the rest of Canada, don't worry; only 10 more weeks of unmitigated misery and you, too, will be released from your confinement into the welcoming arms of a gently nuturing Mother Nature.

Our house in winter.

Winter Flowers found in our yard.

More Signs of Confusion

1. Avalanche warnings are common in the Rockies, but as this close-up photo reveals, sometime things can be over stated at times.

2. A snake crossing? Slow to 25; is that the snake, or the car? This one is in the BC interior.

3. The Time Horton's drive-thru take-out window has nothing on Victoria. By clicking on the photo at right to read the sign, you will discover that a local floating restaurant (unfortunately called Grill-Agains!) in Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf on the Inner Harbour has a kayak paddle-thru takeout window!

According to the restaurant operator, the only trouble with the kayak crowd is that they are decidedly against tipping!

4. The sports car, snug in its little cocoon while it patiently waits for the warming rays of sunshine before striking out onto the backroads of the Saanich Peninsula.

That's about it for now; so back to your hot chocolate and timbits, put another log on the fire, kick back and settle in for a long winter night watching the complete Pedator collection or whatever else strikes your fancy. Remember, what doesn't kill you will only allow you to keep on shovelling out the driveway! You are the only bright spot in what would otherwise be a dull and dreary job as a snow plow operator for the city!

Douglas A;

Out Sidney Way;

Saying, Bye for Now!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2007 Photomontage

[For a full-screen view double click on the image]

At Jay's house in North Sannich; my sport's car in front and his vintage Fiat behind.

Below; two kids in a local pumpkin patch; Buddy the cat; a busy November day at the harbour - (note the migrating geese, the whalewatchers heading out, the kayak expedition and the sailboat race offshore); sunrise over the Fish Market on the Government Pier in Sidney; a totem; the Empress Hotel in November; an Arbutus tree on the hotel grounds.

A moonrise near Sidney

Jean in Banff, Alberta

Above Left - the waterfront in January 2007 shows the aftermath of our massive snow dump. Right -The marina at Brentwood Bay (on the other side of the pinensula). The Malahats upisland are in the background.

Below; our house in November; me, Jean and Della at Sam & Scott's wedding in September; Sam & Scott; the marina at Sidney showing a Pacific Sunrise in October

A St. Lawrence scene in Belleville Onario in August.

A BC ferry making its way through Active Pass, between Vancouver and Victoria

Below; Jean with a bale of wheat in Saskatchewan; Moran Lake; us at Lake Louise.

Above - a busy July day for the water taxis on Victoria's Inner Harbour; me taking my mother for her first ride in my sports car; the new park on Sidney's waterfront.

Right; an abandoned truck at a Port Alberni lumber camp.

Local Sidney scenes.

Above and left; my brothers farm in Chilliwack, BC.
The Sidney marina and a local street scene in March

The Lieutenant-Governor's grounds in Victoria in February.

Below; the Sidney marina in January.

Douglas A.

Out Sidney way

Saying 'No worries for now'