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Three Weeks in British Columbia #10 – Tofino to Butchart Gardens

January 17, 2018

It was anything but easy to bid adieu to the Tofino coast. All too few places in our increasingly homogenized cookie-cutter world are able, or willing, to hold out against the forces of kitsch and style-sameness. But because Tofino is still unique, it’s a place we’d love to return to again. But Connie and I had deadlines to meet, and Byron and Kim jobs to return to (in Kim’s case, a classroom full of children).

Since the whole of Vancouver Island appeared to be booked up, Byron had a mighty tough time finding room vacancies anywhere in the south part of the island, much less anywhere near our destination, Sidney-by-the-Sea. Finally, at the very last minute, two rooms came miraculously open in the Sidney Best Western. We breathed a sign of relief, ate a leisurely breakfast, loaded up, and headed south on winding Highway 4.

Eventually, on hitting Highway 19, civilization began to swallow us up again. Housing and commercialization grew more congested with every passing mile. Our goal was to get a place on the Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay ferry. Once we reached the dock area, we were initially pleased that so few cars were ahead of us–that was before we chatted with some of the people around us. “Be forewarned, it’s a small ferry!” A small ferry? We hadn’t yet even seen such a thing in British Columbia. But since no one appeared to know just how many vehicles would make it on, we could only wait, and pick wild berries conveniently growing next to the roadway.

Finally, about an hour later, a small ferry boat docked and disgorged a small number of vehicles. A bit later, boarding began–we all but held our breaths: We made it–and we were only the 21st vehicle. Turned out the car just behind us didn’t make it, and would have to wait an hour and as half longer for the ferry to return.

Once on land, we headed to our next destination: the world-famous Butchart Gardens. In June of 2010, we had visited the fabled gardens for the fourth time. I titled my June 26 blog, “Measuring Our Lives by Butchart Gardens.” We’d first come here in 1968 before our daughter was born.

But now, here we were again, for the fifth time! And we wondered, Will it be ‘Same ol’ same ol’ this time? Since people come here from all over the world, and many, like us, return again and again, those who design the gardens are always changing trails and flower configurations and locations. Result: No two visits are ever the same! And each time, the gardens appear more beautiful than the time before.

How much poorer would be this earth if it was stripped of its beauty! Twould be like a lifetime of murky skies.

Or as Keats put it in his “Endymion”:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness, but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of quiet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

* * *

Would we live long enough to return here for the sixth time–only God knows.


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Three Weeks in British Columbia #9 – Storm-Chasing Heaven





January 10, 2018

I first read about this magical place in the September/October 2016 issue of The Saturday Evening Post; the article by Todd Pitock was titled “Storm-Chasing on Vancouver Island.” The subtitle is just as intriguing:

Between October and early March, 10 to 15 fierce tempests a month gather and roll across the Pacific, unimpeded by any landmass until they crash on the shores here. For some, this makes for perfect beach weather. 

Wickaninnish Inn

The rest of the first-person paragraph is, “Sailors know the coast as ‘The Graveyard of the Pacific,’ and chronicles of disasters and survivor stories fill volumes.”


Once Pitock reached Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, one of the porters informed him, “Oh, a storm is coming all right. But not to worry: the Lodge is built into a rocky promontory, whose floor to ceiling windows are tempered to withstand 100 mpg gusts so guests can look into the heart of the storm without flinching.”

As to what it’s like in a storm, Pitock obliges: “Rain pelts the windows and taps the roof, strong and steady, and then builds into a real torrent, billions of little beads dropping from the sky. The water’s surface whips into a creamy brown foam, and enormous swells heave and then roll in long seams into waves that explode on the boulders, sending bursts of spume a hundred feet into the air. The wind cuts the crest of the waves like a scythe and slings foam and water. Across from the beach are tiny islands with huge sitka spruce trees so strong that the wind can’t bend them. Everything begins to look like an impressionist painting up close. The susurrations [whispers, murmurs] of the water are amplified by a rumbling, a sound of thunder that comes from the sea itself, which we can hear even from within the cozy safety of the lodge, thanks to a pipe that carries the sound in from outside.”

Pitock goes on to some tourism stats: “Today, the 1,875 residents receive about a million visitors a year, though most of them come in season for the water sports and whale watching, not for the storms.”

But Pitock does not conclude without warning po’ folk like us that staying at the inn is not for pikers: “When the Wickaninnish Inn opened in 1996, its cedar-sided building, along with furnishings from recycled old-growth fir, western red cedar, and driftwood and natural stone tile floors covered by wood sisal carpets, all let the 75-room inn fit the setting. But the ‘Wick,’ as it’s called, was intended as an experience for people who take their rustic neat, without the rugged. Let’s call them (or us, as the case is) the Pampered Traveler–people who appreciate a good double-soaking tub, heated floors, private ocean-facing balconies, in-room fireplaces, and a four-star full-service spa. . . . Construction was no mean feat. Each massive post of the restaurant is mounted on a steel saddle connected to a concrete post that is anchored deep into the surrounding bedrock. Pairs of 5-foot-wide panes knit by narrow mullions give guests a 260 degree view of awe-inspiring weather in awesome digs.”

* * *

After I read and re-read that article, I sighed, Wouldn’t it be great if we could see this incredible place for ourselves. Even more–since I’m wishing for the moon–, to be actually privileged to stay there.

The seed had been planted, thus when ten months later we set up this three-week sojourn in British Columbia, a must-see had to do with the Tofino Coast and the legendary Wickaninnish [that extra “in” throws me every time] Inn.

View from the dining room

For, always, I have been a stormaholic. How well I remember a banana boat experience when I was about twelve. My missionary parents booked tickets on this 300-foot ship that shuttled bananas from Trujillo, Honduras to Tampa, Florida. It was cheap so my folks could afford it. Then there was the not-so-small-aspect of all but nonexistent weather forecasting back then. No sooner had we headed out into the Gulf than the wind began to blow, the rain to fall, the waves to grow higher and higher, and (not coincidentally) the ship to rock, roll, wallow, and all but sink; every sane person on board, even seasoned sailors, retreated to their bunks and clutched their bedsteads like they were life-rafts. Same for my parents, brother, and sister. I, however, decided it was high time to get a better view of the action–and my folks were too sick to care what I did. There were no equalizers back then. I staggered down the hallway to the stairs and up to the deck. No one was crazy enough to be there but me. Gradually, I pulled myself along the railing until I reached the bucking prow. And there, shades of the Titanic film’s protagonists, I rode the screeching maritime bronco as the prow reached far up towards the sky, then plunged down deep into another canyon. Never in all my life have I experienced higher highs or lower highs than during those hurricane-driven hours. Finally, as the storm passed, my folks and the irate captain discovered my whereabouts, I got the castigation of my life.

Another time, at the Eagle’s Nest on the rim of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, we were lucky enough to be visiting my brother Romayne (internationally known concert pianist) when a terrific storm blew in. It was no laughing matter as it was the only time in my life when a storm blew up at us from a mile below us! The storm blew up rather than down, through the louvered windows, into the studio onto the priceless nine-foot Steinway grand piano, and an equally valuable seven-foot grand. For hours we labored to save the pianos.

Another tremendous storm hit us in the Mediterranean on board the Stella Solaris. We were in the dining room when the storm hit, sweeping china, glassware, pots, pans, etc., off the serving decks and the guests’ tables, and catapulting them across the room and splintering on the walls.

And, more recently, returning on a cruise from Alaska, just north of Vancouver Island, in Queen Charlotte Sound, a doozy hit us. While Connie hugged the bed, I sallied out into the hallway and sashayed like a drunk toward a stairway. Occasionally I met other lunatics who reveled in storms like me; sometimes we passed without careening against each other, and sometimes not. It really got funny when I got to the stairway–sometimes the next step was higher than I calculated on, sometimes not there at all! Oh how we fellow inebriates laughed! Once I reached the prow of the ship, I joined a crowd of other passengers afflicted with the same malady as mine.

Oh, it was wonderful!

* * *

The dining room

But with that windy [pardon the pun] preamble, our foursome did make it to the Wickaninnish Inn. Not being flush enough to actually stay there, we did book breakfast in that already referred to iconic restaurant with 260 degree view windows. The service was all one would have expected and the food, in a word, “wonderful!” The view itself was worth the price of the trip.

Our waiter loved us! I’ve observed this, in other grand hotels, the waiters clearly tire of many of the so-called “beautiful people” who stay there, affluent couples and families who are bored of luxury the rest of us can only sigh for. Waiters who are used to being all but ignored, really come to life when they meet people like us who sacrifice just to have a meal in their famed dining rooms, people like us who take a personal interest in them, where they come from, how they got here, and how they relate to such five-star facilities. “The Wick” is sometimes referred to as a “Ten-Star.”

* * *

After we’d remained longer than we should have in that Shangri-la of a dining room, we explored the hotel, the grounds, and the rocky promontory storm-chasers revel in.

We vowed to return. Byron declared that he’d save up his sheckels so that he could bring Kim back here on a romantic anniversary. I’d like to do the same, but it’s a “fer-piece” from Colorado!

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Lloyd C. Douglas’s “Magnificent Obsession”





January 3, 2018

Pocket Book – 19th Printing

As we begin our new series of blogs, looking back, I notice that though “Wednesdays with Dr. Joe” began on August 31 of 2009, “Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club” did not begin until October 26 of 2011. Consequently, the book club series has now survived for six years. Believe me, it has not been easy to keep both series alive concurrently. The feedback we’ve received from all of you book-lovers has been so positive that it has energized us to keep the series going.

Pocket Book – 8th Printing

Because our passion is to help parents to institute and preserve the institution of daily story hours with their children, the books I have chosen have generally been skewed in the direction of those books generations of families have cherished. And the values are generally Judeo-Christian (but also relatable to other faiths and cultures–for any civilization that loses the observance of values worth living by is doomed to extinction).

* * * * *

Now, as to our 73rd book selection. When I begin a new year, I give a lot of thought to the book selection that anchors the 11 books that follow it. So I’ve been wrestling for several months, discarding one book after another that didn’t quite measure up to what I was looking for.

But finally I thought of how much Lloyd C. Douglas’s books have meant to me over the years, though I hope to revisit him again in years yet to come, I was convicted that Magnificent Obsession would be the logical successor to his Home for Christmas (November 28, 2012).

The theme of the book has to do with one of the key reasons I dedicated four years to researching and writing two biographies of St. Nicholas and have so loved Henry Van Dyke’s The Mansion. I’m saving that book for another Christmas.

Grosset & Dunlap

The book has to do with Christ’s repeated injunctions that when we give, we should not grandstand, we should not seek public recognition for what we give–in short, we should give anonymously, and thereby receive a blessing from God rather than the general public. Now I don’t know about you, but I have found such anonymous giving to be so hard to do that even now–after all these years of good intentions—, I’m nowhere near winning the battle against self, against the deeply entrenched desire to make sure my giving gets noticed on earth.

Since I know full well that others share this temptation’s siren call, I’m choosing Magnificent Obsession as this year’s anchor book. Easily one of the most beloved books of the last century.

As I re-read it once again, I was moved almost as much as I was the first time I read it during my growing-up years. Seminal books–the ones you re-read again and again–are mighty few. Most books are merely “quick reads,’ read once, and never thought of again. Not so seminal books, for imbedded in their texts are such disturbing, such insidious, thoughts and concepts that they so plague your subconscious that again and again through the years, you reach for such books and prepare to once again do battle with your soul.

This is such a book.

* * *

Lloyd C. Douglas [Cassel] Douglas (1877-1951), was born in Columbia City, Indiana. He was educated at Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio and Hamma Divinity School. Although ordained as a Lutheran minister, his later pastorates were in Congregational churches.

Pocket Book Giant Cardinal Edition

Douglas’s first books were entirely of a religious or inspirational nature. He was in the midst of a series of lectures on “personality expansion” when, at over 50, he suddenly wrote his first novel, Magnificent Obsession (1924). No one was more surprised than he at its immense success. It was followed by Forgive Us Our Trespasses (1932), Precious Jeopardy (1933), Green Light (1935), White Banners (1936), Home for Christmas (1937), Disputed Passage (1939), Dr. Hudson’s Secret Journal (1939), Invitation to Live (1942), The Robe (1942), The Big Fisherman (1948), A Time to Remember (1951), and The Living Faith (1955).

As for his own philosophy of writing, he wrote, “If my novels are entertaining, I’m glad, but they are not written so much for the purpose of entertainment as of inspiration. There are many people who realize their great need of ethical and spiritual counsel but are unwilling to look for it in a serious homily or didactic essay. It has been my belief that many such persons can be successfully approached by a novel, offering in a form palatable to them the inspiration they seek.”

* * *

I’ll be surprised if quite a number of you won’t go on to purchase others of his novels for your personal library.

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Blessed Be Our Cherished Readers




December 27, 2017

We’ve now come to the end of the sixth year of Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club. As all you book-lovers who have stayed with me over the years would know: the series does not represent 72 literary classics, but rather 72 books I have either loved or consider significant enough to be on a short-list in my own library.

Only once a year, since there is no way of my knowing for sure how many readers are staying with us year after year, purchasing our book selections and adding them to your personal library, do I feature a master listing of all the books and ask you to weigh in (by email or personal letter) and let me know your thoughts about prior book selections. Following is a list of all 72 books; you’ll note that this year we featured the following authors:

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Daniel Defoe

Valentine Davies

Charles Dickens

Alexandre Dumas

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Elizabeth Goudge

C. S. Lewis

Jack London

Catherine Marshall

Slavomir Rawicz

P. R. Reid

David Wyss

Now once more, I’d appreciate all of you book club “members”–even if you only recently joined us–to weigh in and let me know:

1. Which of this year’s books resonated best with you, and why?

2. Which of the 72 books are your all-time favorites, and why?

3. What authors or books would you most like me to include in the future?

4. General thoughts on the impact of the book club on your life?

Just to make it easier, here is an updated list of all 72 books.


Alcott, Louisa May                 Little Men                                            July 7, 2015

                                              Little Women                                      June 3, 2015

Aldrich, Beth Streeter            A Lantern in Her Hand              November 4, 2015

Barr, Robert                           A Prince of Good Fellows                    April 1, 2015

                                             The Swordmaker                                  May 6, 2015

Bergreen, Lawrence              Over the Edge of the World               May 28, 2014

Bronte, Charlotte                  Jane Eyre                                             June 8, 2014

Brown, Abbie Farwell           The Christmas Angel                November 23, 2011

Buck, Pearl                           Christmas Day in the Morning    December 2, 2015

Burnett, Frances Hodgson   Little Lord Fauntleroy                  February 29, 2012

                                            The Secret Garden                           January 4, 2017

Cervantes, Miguel de          Don Quixote                               September 9, 2016

Dana, Richard Henry          Two Years Before the Mast                March 26, 2014

Davies, Valentine                Miracle on 34th Street                   December 6, 2017

Defoe, Daniel                     Robinson Crusoe                                 March 1, 2017

                                          The Farther Adventures of

                                                 Robinson Crusoe                           March 1, 2017

Dickens, Charles                A Christmas Carol                       November 23, 2011

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor        Brothers Karamazov                          October 4, 2017

Douglas, Lloyd C.             Home for Christmas                     November 28, 2012

Doyle, Arthur Conan        The White Company                              April 30, 2014

Dumas, Alexandre            The Count of Monte Cristo                  January 6, 2016

                                         The Three Musketeers                    September 6, 2017

Duncan, Dayton; and Ken Burns  The National Parks:

                                         America’s Best Idea                               June 27, 2012

Eaton, Walter                    Prichard The Man Who

                                                    Found Christmas                 December 7, 2016

Exupery, Antoine de         Wind, Sand, Stars                              February 3, 2016

Gilbreth, Frank and Ernestine Cheaper by the Dozen                    March 2, 2016

Goudge, Elizabeth            City of Bells                                 September 26, 2012

                                         Pilgrim’s Inn                                            June 7, 2017

Grey, Zane                        Heritage of the Desert                  December 28. 2011

                                         Rider’s of the Purple Sage                        June 5, 2013

                                         The Vanishing American                       June 30, 2014

                                         Wanderer of the Wasteland                March 28, 2012

Hale, Edward Everett, Sr.  The Man Without a Country             February 6, 2013

Hill, Grace Livingston        Happiness Hill                                   August 21, 2013

Hilton, James                    Lost Horizan                                      October 7, 2015

Hope, Anthony                 The Prisoner of Zenda                       October 5, 2016

Hugo, Victor                     Las Miserables                             September 25, 2013

Huxley, Aldous                 Brave New World and

                                         Brave New World Reed                            May 8, 2013

Knight, Eric                       Lassie Come Home                        November 6, 2012

Lewis, C. S.                       Mere Christianity                                  August 2, 2017

London, Jack                   The Call of the Wild                                   July 5, 2017

Lorenzini, Carlos              Pinocchio                                     September 24, 2014

Lowry, Lois                      The Giver                                            August 27, 2014

Marshall, Catherine         A Man Called Peter                         November 1, 2017

Moody, Ralph                 Little Britches                                     October 29, 2014

Munthe, Alex                  The Secret of San Michele                      August 5, 2015

Porter, Gene Stratton      Freckles                                                    July 27, 2013

                                        Keeper of the Bees                                August 3, 2016

Porter, Jane                     The Scottish Chiefs                                    April 6, 2016

Rawicz, Slavomir             The Long Walk                                   February 1, 2017

Reed, Myrtle                   The Master’s Violin                                    April 3, 2013

Reid, P. R.                        The Colditz Story                                       May 3, 2017

Richmond, Grace            Foursquare                                           January 2, 2013

                                       The Twenty-Fourth of June                      May 23, 2012

Sabatini, Rafael               Scaramouche                                   February 26, 2014

Scott, Sir Walter             Quentin Durward                            September 2, 2015

Sheldon, Charles            In His Steps                                          August 22, 2012

Sienkiewicz, Henryk       Quo Vadis                                           January 28, 2014

Spyri, Johanna               Heidi                                                          July 30, 2014

Tarkington, Booth         Penrod                                                October 31, 2012

Tennyson, Alfred Lord   Enoch Arden                                               May 2, 2012

Thoreau, Henry David    Walden                                               January 25, 2012

Tolstoy, Leo                   War and Peace                                    February 4, 2015

Twain, Mark                  Tom Sawyer                                                  July 8, 2015

Van Dyke, Henry           The Other Wise Man                          December 4, 2013

Wallace, Lew                 Ben-Hur                                                      May 4, 2016

Wiggin, Kate Douglas   The Birds’ Christmas Carol              November 26, 2014

                                      Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm           November 2, 2016

Williamson, C.M. and A.M. My Friend the Chauffeur                October 26, 2011

Wright, Harold Bell       The Calling of Dan Matthews              October 26, 2011

                                      That Printer of Udel’s                           January 14, 2015

Wyss, David                   Swiss Family Robinson                               April 5, 2017

You may use my email: – or write to me by snail mail:

Joe Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, Colorado 80433.

I look forward to hearing back from each of you!

And Blessings for the New Year!


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Three Weeks in British Columbia #8, Tofino

 BLOG #51, SERIES #8




December 20, 2017

And now we come to the beach town of Tofino itself, the hub of life at the terminus of Highway 4. Interesting, isn’t it? Lund, Port Hardy, and Tofino–each one is situated at an end of a road. I find such ends of roads to be intriguing. Perhaps because there are, in comparison, so few of them in the U.S.

One of the miracles of this wild Pacific Coast is that it has not yet been blighted by towering high-rise condos, such as is all too true of much of the U.S. coastline. British Columbians obviously have made some tough decisions where it comes to what to preserve intact and what to prevent.

Of it, Andrew Hempstead (in his Moon British Columbia handbook) notes, “The bustling tourist town of Tofino sits at the end of a long narrow peninsula, with the only road access to the outside world being winding Highway 4. In winter, it’s a quiet, friendly community with a population of fewer than 2,000. In summer, the population swells to several times that size, and the village springs to life. Fishing boats pick up supplies and deposit salmon, cod, prawns, crabs, halibut, and other delicacies of the sea, and cruising, whale watching, and fishing boats, along with seaplanes, do a roaring business introducing visitors to the natural wonders of the West Coast.” Speaking of seaplanes, Byron, whose day job is keeping Alaska Airlines pilots updated on aviational technological changes, has a sideline passion: flying seaplanes all over this region.

As for Lonely Planet editors, here is their introductory take on the town: “Transforming from resource outpost to hippie enclave and now a resort town, Tofino is Vancouver Island’s favorite outdoorsy retreat. It’s not surprising that surf fans, families, and city-escaping Vancouverites keep coming: packed with activities and blessed with spectacular local beaches, it sits on Clayoquot Sound, where forested mounds rise from roiling, ever dramatic waves.”


We wandered through the town, savoring its uniqueness. Of course, I had to find another coffee mug to haul home to my museum-size collection of other coffee cups: one of Connie’s crosses that she bears [not quietly, I might add] for being married to a collector. We also tried out a number of eateries (the most popular one being a truck called “Tacofino” where we joined hundreds of others waiting for their Mexican food fix). We had to wait for over an hour just to reach the front of the line.

Our first night’s stay was in a condo called “Raven’s Retreat,” set on the water. It was hard to leave it. We also spent quite a bit of time down by the harbor watching seaplanes flying in and out. The second night we spent in Rain Forest Inn, itself positioned in a rain forest.

We’ll conclude this B.C. sojourn story in mid-January.

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Three Weeks in British Columbia #7, Clayoquot Sound Rain Forest





December 13, 2017

The Tofino area encompasses many natural wonders–so many that, to really do justice to it, one ought to stay there for at least a week. Unfortunately, we’d only been able to book reservations for two days.

In the U.S., we fight so many environmental battles that we have little time to listen in on such battles in other countries. This is the reason I’d never heard of Clayoquot Sound. Shame on me! For environmentalists around the world have been fascinated by the titanic war being fought by lumber barons and environmentally conscious residents of British Columbia over the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate forest (contains 494,000 acres of Old Growth Forest). It took over 20 years before the Clayoquot Sound Land Use Decision was hammered out.

But John Muir was correct when he declared of the world’s remaining natural wonders: “Nothing dollarable is ever safe.” Each generation has to fight again for the preservation of parks, forests, monuments, etc. that the previous generation assumed were safe forever. When we were there, locals told us that Prime Minister Trudeau was extremely unpopular in B.C. because he’d been among those who failed to value such places as the Tofino Coast. Reminds me of similar battles being waged in the U.S. today.

Within this area are a number of parks: Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park, Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park, Hesquiat Provincial Park, Flores Island Provincial Park, and Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. We only had time to immerse ourselves in one of these. What an experience! Miles of elevated boardwalks–needed because so much rain falls here that otherwise visitors would have a tough time making it through. Sadly, B.C. had already had two months without a drop of rain–and the terrible drought continued long after we were gone, so pretty much all the rain forest streams had dried up before we got there.

Nevertheless, if you’ve never been privileged to see what it’s like to walk beneath Old Growth forest, by all means remedy that soon while such pristine pockets yet remain! As we wended our way through the trees two hundred to a thousand years old, we were almost too awestruck to talk! Just as is true of the pitifully small groves of redwoods and sequoias that yet remain in California, one can only imagine what it would have been like to journey through before lumbermen cut down so many millions of acres of trees that had stood for millenniums!

These wonderful stands of trees grow clear down to the beaches. One of those, Long Beach, we walked on long enough to get a beach-fix. The Tofino coast alternates between rugged rocky and flat sandy beaches.