During the midst of our July heat wave (remember that, rain-soaked Nanaimo residents?), I was doing something especially familiar to Vancouver Islanders.
I was waiting in a ferry lineup. Stuck in Horseshoe Bay, truck windows down, gnarly feet hanging out the window, sunglasses on with hat pulled down low, reading an old Sports Illustrated with Tom Seaver (during his Cincinnati Reds days) on the cover.
"You a Cincinnati fan?" came the question.
"Hmmm?" (I'm a brilliant conversationalist).
An older fellow, making the lengthy hike up from the overpriced little "convenience" store in the village outside the terminal, had noticed the magazine as he walked past.
"Yeah," I said, again displaying my loquacious nature.
After swapping a few wistful Big Red Machine anecdotes, I found out the guy was from Ohio. He and his wife were out visiting family in Vancouver.
"I've always wanted to come to Vancouver Island," he said. "They (his relatives) have talked so much about it."
I asked him where he was going, and he had a familiar itinerary.
"Well, we're going to start in Victoria," he said, listing off Butchart Gardens, the Royal B.C. Museum, Fort Rodd Hill and a variety of other attractions.
He then mentioned the forest museum in Duncan, the murals in Chemainus, Cathedral Grove and the beaches in Tofino as other expected stops.
"Where are you from?" he asked. "Nanaimo," I replied.
"Oh. What's the big thing to see there?" "Umm ... errrr ... uhhhh."
Nothing immediately sprang to mind. I could have mentioned all the wonderful hiking trails or swimming holes, but that pretty much could be any community on the Island.
I ended up extolling the virtues of our waterfront.
They could go for a scenic stroll, get an ice cream and maybe see some crabs being caught or watch a seal pop his head up.
"Oh, that sounds great," he said (as believably as a politician during the runup to an election), as he left to plot his trip to everywhere else but Nanaimo.
It was a little disheartening.
Obviously, those of us fortunate enough to make Nanaimo our home know how lucky we are to live in such a spectacular location.
But is that beauty enough to attract legions of out-of-towners? For years, we've had a variety of alphabet soup organizations trying to do just that.
And though I sometimes wonder if they do much more than sit around in a circle patting each other on the back, it would be a lot easier for them with a truly special attraction to promote.
This has been an issue for years. I was digging through some old files last summer and found a professionally prepared report that indicated the city did indeed need some sort of iconic attraction.
I asked our readers for their ideas, and the response was overwhelming. Hundreds of suggestions rolled in.
Some were interesting (zipline/bridge to Newcastle, gondola rides up Mount Benson); some not so much (brothels, rabbit and pig races). But whether it's 45-foot Nanaimo bars, a pirate-themed restaurant/waterpark or city council's museum of golden parachutes, we need something.
As previously mentioned, some of these ideas would require a lot of cash.
Is the trough big enough when we have $16M employee playgrounds to build? More than anything, they would require leadership and vision.
The jury remains out on the city having enough of either.
Contact deputy editor Philip Wolf at PWolf @nanaimodailynews.com, twitter.com/philipwolf13, or call 250-729-4240.
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