Friday July 23, 2021

Catch the Spirit: the day trip.

My girlfriend Stella and I are homebodies outside of work. We love to explore and have new experiences but prefer sleeping in our bed. Also, shift work means that our schedules don’t always line up, so it would be tricky to plan something longer. And lastly, we’re saving to buy a home, so skipping out on accommodation means we can do more fun things together. Stella happened upon this Spirit Loop website, and we find it super handy for last-minute adventure planning.

We wanted to share our notes on a few day trips with protips that we did over the summer, with what we hope are handy for someone who wants to do the same. Oh, we share an apartment in James Bay, Victoria, for context, and are both in hospitality—maybe that is helpful?!

Protip #1

If you happen to have a Friday off together, don’t lounge about for the whole day and wait until the afternoon to drive to Langford for a 5 pm bowling reservation at Langford Lanes Bowling & Entertainment. Head out of town earlier and treat yourself to lunch at Turmeric Indian Cuisine, Baan Thai Langford, or maybe V2V Black Hops Brewing.

Trip #1

Langford Lanes

So, yes. We were supposed to bowl for 1.5 hours, but we had just an hour because we were so late. An hour was actually fine, though. Sometimes you can extend your bowling reservation, but it was a Friday, so no dice. People-watching there is fantastic because there are families, couples, lady-crews. There was this elderly woman (maybe 80?) bowling solo, just clearing all the pins every time. Plus, she had on a retro baby blue satin bowling team jacket that said “Debbey” across the back that was for sure hers from way back. Stella was obsessed with watching little humans and the contraption they have to help kids launch the balls. The vibe was great—loud and energetic. After our game, we went to the restaurant and were stoked with the Greek Style Boneless Dry Ribs, Deep-fried Pickles and Hot Poppers with a couple of pale ales. Then, as we do, we went home. We will absolutely do that again with friends. You can enjoy alcohol as you play, if you like, just so you know. We are just both terrible bowlers so figured it would not help.

Protip #2

If your plan involves a lake swim and a visit to BoulderHouse, do bouldering first (or you might end up doing the lake swim twice because you get sweatier than you think).

Trip #2

Langford Lake and BoulderHouse Langford

Stella was called in to work last minute, so I did this one on my own. I’d never bouldered before. But I really like it when something physical also engages me mentally, like trail running or mountain biking, where there are technical considerations. BoulderHouse Langford is a new two-storey facility with a 150 linear feet main wall and a dedicated training area. They change up the challenges regularly, so if you become a regular, you will still be engaged. That appeals to me. There is a BoulderHouse in Victoria, but there is something so relaxing about driving out of town through Goldstream. Plus, I wanted to finally swim in Langford Lake and eat at Turmeric, two things I kept planning to do but was forever missing.

I drove straight to Leigh Road, where there’s public parking for Langford Lake. Friends told me it isn’t as cold as other lakes. I don’t like cold water swimming at all. Man on a mission, I parked (already in my trunks), took off my shirt, grabbed my towel, locked the car and headed down the trail. I got into the water, and wow, it was so fresh and clean. I swam hard into the middle of the lake then floated on my back for a bit. After about 40 minutes of swimming around, I was ready to try bouldering. I changed in my car and beelined to my next destination. I booked my intro because I like to learn from pros before I freestyle, and I have an old shoulder injury I don’t want to bug. The 1.5-hour session was the right call. There are some tricks of the trade to use your body the most efficiently. He explained his technique, tracking his path from starting with where he wanted to get to and working backwards from there. When it was finished, I was hooked, but I also had worked up a bit of a sweat. Back to Langford Lake to pull on very soggy trunks for a quick dunk and dry before finally making it to Turmeric for Indian food.

Chicken Pakoras, Lamb Biryani, Eggplant Bharta, Papadums, Paneer Tikka and Mango Ice Cream. That’s what I ate for lunch. I know, that’s a lot, but I had heard it was fantastic (it was), and Indian leftovers are always the bomb. Stella had requested the tandoori fish and turmeric chicken tikka for later. I did not realize it at the time, but I was there for more than two hours solo dining, and it was fabulous. The service, flavours, all of it.

Protip #3

If you both like to enjoy alcoholic beverages, delegate who is not drinking before you see an incredible array of tasty libation options. If neither of you wants to be the driver, best of three rock, paper scissors can be handy.

Trip #3

Merridale Cidery & Distillery

After finally getting up one Thursday morning that we both were not working, we headed out to Merridale in Cobble Hill for a late brunch. We were here a few years ago for a friend’s wedding but had not returned since.

Every apple-based beverage they make is produced with “undiluted” apple juice from fruit grown on their property. I am a huge apple fan. Stella, not so much. She was the one who informed me that they also make gin, vodka and “rumb” (with a “b” because instead of sugar cane, like traditional rum, they use caramelized honey).

The gardens, flowers, orchards and the whole location are really something to see. Definitely made me miss having a garden. Their open-air eatery is stunning. We decided to do a charcuterie board double-header. Let me paint the picture for you: we ordered the Breakfast Charcuterie Board with sausage, smoky bacon, French toast strips, brick oven bread, Merri Berri Jam, their Apple Butter, maple syrup, Brie cheese, house seasoned yoghurt, graham cracker crumble, fresh scones and the regular Charcuterie Board with cured meats and select cheeses, dried fruit, nuts, assorted housemade chutneys, their Cyser Mustard, assorted pickles, bread and fruit & nut crisps. We both had the Cowichan Caesars, me with vodka, Stella with gin. Then she sampled the Gin Mixologist Flight with Gin and house tonic and a Gin with Fever-Tree, Copper Gin and House Tonic, Copper Gin and Fever-Tree while I nursed a Drumroaster coffee. They do have these really cool yurts you can stay in, but as I mentioned, we prefer to sleep in our own bed.

We wandered around after our feast and learned the trees were planted in the 1980s. They have been artisanal for more than 30 years, way before it was trendy. The ambiance is very settled and welcoming. We picked up a housemade rhubarb and apple pie, the Horseradish Pepper Jelly and the Scrumpy Apple Cider Vinegar at the farm store and headed back to Vic.

That’s as far as we’ve got so far. Thanks so much from both Stella and me for reading. There is a ton more stuff we want to check out. We do have a list of upcoming trips for when our schedules allow. Here are a few places we can’t wait to explore:

The Raptors (towards Duncan): Why? To learn about and get up close and personal with eagles, falcons, turkey vultures and more. There are flying demonstrations and the biologists and falconers who created this space to heal and support birds of prey are deeply passionate about their work. They are on a mission to inspire and educate people of all ages.

Legacy Drive-in (Langford): Why? Neither one of us has ever been to a drive-in. That’s a pretty great reason. It takes place at Westshore Motorsports Park. You can also order food (like the foot-long chili-cheese Martinsville hot dog, for example!). Giddy up!

Mystic Beach (Past Jordan River): Why? It’s our favorite beach because that’s where we met. She was hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail, and I was taking a break from an epic bike ride up to Port Renfrew.

Foggy Mountain Forge (Sooke): Why? Just like they say, “we are not your normal blacksmiths”. Blacksmith Marty Gilbertson is a legend. He has been working with metal since he was 12. Honestly, just look at the section on dragons. Stella has wanted to see his work firsthand for years, and I am amped to check out the studio.