I am a homebody and like my routines so the approach of the trip has been a mixture of excitement and perturbation. I thrill thinking about the many different places I’m going to see but my stomach tightens at the realization that at the end of the day my bed will be far away. Just what have I got myself into? Besides food, my life will be reduced to these few belongings. Of course the anxiety isn’t about the things I’ll do without but the complete openness of it all. No schedule, no one relying on me or expecting anything of me, only open roads beckon. Yikes! Simply getting to the west coast is weighting the scale from anxiety toward excitement. After all now there’s just a minor issue of cycling back across the country over the next three months.
Since I’m still on an east coast time, I explored parts of the old city and the inner habour before much of Victoria awoke. The Empress hotel and the provincial legislative building add a lot of gravitas to the inner harbour. In their shadows the city has put a lot of effort into telling the story of the various First Nations who used to live here and their interactions with the early settlers. Not surprisingly, the information and images focus on innocuous things like canoe races for the Queen’s birthday and trading. As a sign of their sovereignty in the harbour today, the Songhees People have the exclusive rights to sell their art on the promenade around the harbour. Considering the looming architecture and the history it represents, this right seems a little on the nose. A further along the walkway away from the gaze of the harbour authority, resistance to the public narrative cropped up. Someone took the time to correct a plaque to include the unpleasant history (correction in brackets): The Songhees way of life played a vital role in Victoria’s early history. The Village became a gather place for aboriginal people from Alaska to Washington State, a place for trading, potlatch ceremonies, and other ceremonies (until they were outlawed). In 1911, the Songhees People were relocated (to a reserve on) the north-east side of the Esquimalt Habour were they reside today. We could probably use more resistance to the stories we tell like that.
I stumbled across a different, colorful piece of unofficial public display made from drift wood. The artist’s websites (fan-ta-sea-isle.com) explains that he’s always seen eyes and faces in the wood. After getting sick, he was inspired to drawn them out by painting the wood. Michelangelo is supposed to have said that the statue is always already present in the stone, just waiting to be revealing. Maybe not another Michelangelo but a kindred spirit of sorts.
Finally, many bicycle tourers travel with a mascot or a ride-along found somewhere on the road. Who knows what fluffy creature I’m yet to come across but I believe I’ve found my piece in a large 1936 King George copper one penny that I found at a local antique shop. For full disclosure, it was one in a box of old coins. Neither the money nor imperialism it represents appeal to me but the stories and journey the coin might tell if it were possible. I will take it on one more journey; maybe it’ll take me. It could just be my lucky penny.
Images of the day: