The Tale Of The Lost Pirate Marbles
It was a dark and stormy night on the Pacific Rim and we had nowhere to stay
We left the parking lot and turned north towards Tofino — the sun had just set, there was a light rain, and we still had no idea where we would sleep. Every hotel we came to was booked solid. What was I thinking? Summertime in Tofino is not the time to just walk in and grab a hotel room.
Up ahead, I saw a motel with a VACANCY sign flickering. The N wasn’t working. VACA CY. Flicker. Glitch. Flicker. I pulled in and went in to talk with the front desk clerk. We were in luck; there was one room left, it had two queen beds, and they could bring in a cot. I thanked him, grabbed a key and went to tell the boys.
This was not a nice motel. This motel did not have five stars. One star would have been two stars too many. This motel was blissfully unaware of stars as the rating of comfort and cleanliness. If their motel had a rating system, it would be measured in chlamydia, and this would be a Five Clap motel. The room was disgusting and smelled like the sea lions had rented the room for an hour and had just left without finding all the salmon.
The boys walked in and thought it was fantastic. Before they could touch anything, I said, “Nope!” and escorted them back to the Minivan of Wonder and returned the key. I did the heebie-jeebie dance all the way to the van. Shook it off and got behind the wheel.
Looking back at my rag-tag crew, I said, “I have an idea! Let’s camp instead.”
Never ones to back down from adventure, the kids cheered.
I stopped at a gas station to buy a 4-litre jug of Purell and ask about campgrounds. When the gas station attendant stopped laughing, he said, “You’re not going to find anything here, man.” Then, grabbing a map from the rack, he opened it and pointed, “If you head south down here, you’ll get to Ucluelet, and they might have something.”
Another new adventure!
The road to Ucluelet had some roller-coaster qualities to it, but we hadn’t eaten in a while, so we didn’t have to make any emergency vomit stops. It was raining hard when we found Ucluelet Campground and cars, SUVs, and campers were leaving in droves — we were the only ones driving in.
Inside I asked the lady if she had any spots available. She looked at me. Looked out her window at the pouring rain. Looked back at me and smiled. “Sure,” she said, pulling out a campground map. “You can have this spot down here. Do you want some dry firewood?”
“Great!” I said, “Yes, we’d love some firewood.”
“Enjoy your stay. Please don’t feed the bears.”
“Okay, thanks!” Wait. Bears?
I passed the map to one of the boys, tossed a couple of bags of firewood into the back of the Minivan of Destiny and drove down to our campsite in the rain. It was right by the harbour, and as I backed in, the rain suddenly stopped. Completely stopped. If you believe in signs, this was precisely that.
The boys helped me get a fire started, and to save my sanity, I told them to go explore while I set up the tent. Every so often, they would thunder past and let me know what they discovered, “THEREARESHOWERSANDWENEEDTOKENS.CANWEHAVEMONEYTOGETTOKENS?THANKS!!!!”
It dawned on me that if there were bears here, within moments of the boy’s arrival they would have left for quieter and less chaotic environs. Boys are nature’s bear repellent.
The tent was set up, the air mattresses inflated, and the sleeping bags rolled out. The kids would take the tent, and I would crash in the Previa of Comfort. We had a crackling fire and a cooler full of camping food. It was low tide and the air smelled of oxygen, burning cedar, fresh rain and salt spray.
The kids emerged from the harbour-side of our campsite to show me what they found. Because it was low tide, the kids had ventured out into the harbour on a sandbar and found hundreds of marbles half-buried in the sand, to their delight.
They spent the next hour eating camp food, swooping out to collect marbles, eating more food, and collecting more marbles. I could hear them telling stories about how the marbles probably got there — they were Pirate Marbles, but maybe they were Magic Marbles, or it could be this is where marbles came from, and they had to be harvested at low tide. Kids.
The fire was starting to dwindle, and I gave each boy a token and a towel and shuffled them towards the showers to rinse off the salt, seaweed and muck they were currently covered in.
The kids made their way back to the campsite seaweed-free with teeth brushed and pyjamas on; they piled into the tent. They got themselves sorted away in their sleeping bags, so I turned off the lantern, wished them a good night and zipped the tent closed.
I sat at the picnic table and looked out at the harbour; the tide was starting to come in. There was a plate full of marbles on the table, and behind me, I could hear the whispers and giggles of kids reliving a day of adventures.
Tomorrow we’d start the day with an epic campsite breakfast and then go see about surfing.