Well, the last long weekend of the summer draws to a close. I have just returned from four days up on BC’s Sunshine Coast where I spent the time visiting family, enjoying what little sunshine there was to be had, and imbibing in rum. Also, I watch the live action version of the Jungle Book. Seriously — this is meant for kids??
My main mode of transport to and from the coast is the fleet of ferries operated by the BC Ferries Corporation. While traveling back to Vancouver It dawned on me that ferries present welcome opportunity for writing, and rather less welcome opportunity for practicing one’s cardio.
You can probably guess why ferries are good for writing. You’re not going anywhere — at least not on your own — and you can use the time to write or edit your masterwork. And frankly, during good weather, who wouldn’t feel inspired to haul out the laptop or pen and pad with this sort of scenery sliding by?
No one. AmIright? You know I am.
Yeah, cardio. That’s less attractive. Cardio kicks in when you are a foot passenger, rather than a vehicle passenger, on a BC ferry. Most people truly do not understand the ramifications of the word ‘foot’ when it comes to ferry travel. Allow me to explain.
When traveling on foot up to the Sunshine Coast on a ferry, one disembarks from the car deck. Upon disembarking, there is a a three block sprint to the bus stop where the only bus for two hours awaits its formerly ferry-carried passengers.
There are always more foot passengers than there is room on the bus. Always.
The bus always departs on schedule, regardless of whether or not the ferry is late — which it is, always.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
The result is a brutal dash down a narrow fenced corridor to the bus said corridor crammed with shoulder bags, wheeled carrying cases, backpacks, and, of course, their huffing, puffing, very annoyed owners. One must be swift and without mercy in order to gain a seat.
Traveling back from the coast can be worse.
Foot passengers board on the lower car deck before the cars. This is critical because it gives foot passengers a head start on the way to the on-board restaurant. Securing a place at the front of the line-up for food is crucial as the sailing is only 40 minutes long assuming, of course, that boarding is completed within the prescribed 15 minutes, which it almost never is.
However, before arriving at the on-board restaurant, one must first dash into the lower car deck, and then ascend three very long flights of stairs. As I usually travel with an overnight bag stuffed with my laptop, I’m humping the equivalent of a 30 pound dumbbell. You can’t take your time up the stairs because there is a starving, growling, crush of humanity hot on your heels.
This is a pretty good cardio workout, trust me.
However it is nothing compared to what awaits you at the other end of the trip.
About twenty minutes prior to arrival at Horseshoe Bay (the northern “Vancouver” terminus of BC Ferry routes), canny foot passengers begin positioning themselves on the upper outside deck behind a short orange guide rope. It is from here, rather than the car deck, that they will disembark.
As the ferry pulls into the slip the waiting passengers grow restless and jockey for position, each intent to be the “first out of the gate” when a wary ferry employee lifts the guide rope. Then he hopes he won’t be crushed by the ensuing stampede as the foot passengers begin the long sprint to the bus stop.
And I mean long. First, passengers funnel through a small “draw bridge” that allows them to exit the ferry. It’s narrow — just wide enough to accommodate one person at a time, so being first or second is key. Next, they navigate a slightly wider passage beside the ferry terminal waiting room before gaining access to a still wider concrete path leading to the final leg of the race. This concrete path allows the “runners” to spread out, but they must contend with foot passengers coming the other way, en-route to the ferry terminal waiting room.
This is a lengthy journey, likely in the order of two to three hundred yards, accomplished while carrying over night bags, purses, dragging wheeled carrying cases, and making sure that the kids don’t get lost or crushed in the melee.
But you’re not done yet. The most grueling part of the race awaits — a two hundred yard run up a long ramp with a 10 degree incline. Who designs these things? I’ve no idea, but you’ve scarcely time for ruminating on such matters as you move towards your final goal — a seat on the bus into town. At the top of the incline you’re not done. Down a flight of stairs, out the terminal doors and twenty yards to the bus stop, where you begin jockeying for position again, this time to board the bus.
After all that, you finally gain a coveted seat, precariously balancing your luggage on your knees.
Only to rise and offer it to that nice grandmother you had barrelled past earlier.
I’m glad I only do this on long weekends during the summer.