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Part 2 Jun. 6th - Day 8 - Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation

Updated: Jan 30

Vancouver Island -Nanaimo - Rockpool Taran kayak

Yesterday I covered thirty-two miles. No wonder I felt exhausted. I took things a little easier today and went at a leisurely pace until the town of Nanaimo, eighteen miles further north and just beyond the islands that shield Vancouver Island from the Strait of Georgia. This is the first place where I can look across the whole width of the strait, it's about 20 miles wide, but the mountains on the mainland make it seem like the opposite shore isn’t that far away. Only when seeing how small the container ships look on the horizon does the distance become apparent.

Once in town I had an important thing to do; change my dollars into Canadian money. Any settlement north from Nanaimo will be remote and may not always have the means to accept credit cards. Unfortunately, I discovered that none of the Canadian Banks will exchange your money if you’re not one of their clients. A very big inconvenience for tourists from south of the border, for no apparent benefit to anyone.

I searched for an exchange house on google and found the closest one was a Quickie Mart about two miles away in a strip mall. I called ahead to make sure they did indeed exchange money and was assured that they did.

“What’s your exchange rate?” I asked.

“1.22 Canadian for one Dollar, plus a fee of four Canadian dollars.” said an Indian voice.

The official exchange rate was 1.33 Canadians to 1 Dollar. “OK I’ll be there in an hour.”

I exchanged about $250 dollars to which the teller at the register gave me several $20 Canadian bills and a few $5 bills. I particularly liked the five-dollar bill. The back side shows the Robotic Arm in the International Space Station which was built by Canada.

“You want Loonies or Twoonies?”

“What are those? Looney Tunes like Bugs Bunny?”

“No Loony is the $1 Canadian, it has the loon bird on the backside so we call it the Loonie. The $2 has the polar bear, so I guess we should call it Bearney, but since it’s worth $2 we call it the twoonie to rhyme with the loonnie. Yes, confusing I know, took me a while to get used to it too. Stay long enough here and you’ll start calling them that as well.”

“Ah got it. So, what’s a good place to eat here?”

“You want a Canadian experience, check out the Tim Horton’s across the street.”

Every time I have been to Canada, I have seen at least a few of these Tim Horton’s chain restaurants. They seem to be ubiquitous in Canada with one in every corner, like Starbucks in the United States, in fact, it has been described to me as the Starbucks of Canada, yet I had never been to one. I googled the name to read up about the restaurant chain.

Tim Horton was a real person I learned; a man who played in the Canadian Hockey League from the 1940s up until the mid-seventies, mostly for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Another search for his name turned up hundreds of vintage photographs of a handsome young man with short spiky hair, chiseled jaw, and comically broad shoulders. His expression while in uniform isn’t at all intimidating for a hockey player; he looks like a good mama’s boy, however, a short biography described him as a formidable Defenceman and Enforcer. In hockey, the Defenceman Enforcer role is to prevent the opposing team from scoring, and also doling out a large can of whoop-ass on any adversary player engaging in dirty or violent play against his teammates, especially against the goalie (I didn’t know, but apparently a little violence isn’t against the rules in hockey, and some underhandedness is actually expected from the opposing team) . Yet even in this role, Tim Horton was a legend. He was nicknamed the Superman, on account of his baby face good looks combined with superhuman strength (and apparently, he was also extremely nearsighted and wore thick framed glasses when off the rink which made him look like the superman alter ego Clark Kent). The feats of strength credited to him are comical and yet borderline plausible. He could lift a forty-gallon beer drum over his head, toss a railway tie like he was playing fetch with a dog, and push over cement barricades to drive his car across a blocked intersection. He was feared and respected, and so his games were relatively clean affairs. I suppose that when Theodore Roosevelt said that you should “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Perhaps you could be extra soft on the talk if you carried a hockey stick.

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The restaurant franchise came about because Tim Horton, despite his tough but fair character on the hockey rink, also had a very sweet tooth and a culinary talent for baking muffins. The franchise logo, Tim Horton’s name written in bright red cursive font on a white background is apparently Tim Horton’s own signature.

“So, which one of these is Mr. Horton’s favorite?” I asked the lady at the cash register pointing to the muffins on display.

“Oh, he definitely was a fan of the carrot muffin with cream cheese filling. In fact, he invented it.” She answered me with a laugh, noting that she was in on the joke.

I decided to get a box, so I could try one of each. I bought one chocolate, one raspberry, one carrot, one fruit explosion, and one blueberry. “Since there are only five flavors, but the box fits six, I’ll get a second carrot muffin to honor Mr. Horton.”

“I’m sure he would be very pleased if he was still alive today.”

“Oh, so he doesn’t run the chain anymore?”

“Nope. He died in 1974 in a car crash. We are part of Burger King now.”

After arriving back in the hotel, I decided to eat one of the muffins before bed. If I had a hat with me, I would have taken it off to Mr. Horton baking skills. The carrot muffin was delicious.

Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation

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