By Lois Night
Aptly named, our rain gear stayed securely at the bottom of our panniers for the entire fourteen days.
The tour began with my early arrival in Vancouver at 5:40 PM on Westjet. At first, I waited around for six of the remaining group to arrive on Air Canada because the Airporter said it wouldn’t take my “unboxed bike” and I knew they had a special Airporter booked for their bikes. However, after spending 3 hours reading in a lovely park located on the departure level of the airport, and seeing the main group’s arrival time delayed even longer, the airport clerk finally took pity on me and decided that my “bagged bike” would be acceptable and took me as far as the Bayshore Hotel–the most northernmost Vancouver motel. Then I had to taxi over to our motel in North Vancouver where I found Rick had already arrived by car–smart move! The Air Canada bunch arrived touched down at 10:15 PM and arrived at the motel at 11:00 PM!
Day 1 – Horseshoe Bay to Garden Bay
After a quick breakfast provided by the motel (the discussion of where to have breakfast took longer), the eight of us set off. After a short cycle to Horseshoe Bay’s Ferry terminal, we ferried for 40 minutes to Langdale where the tour really began. It started off with short, steep hills from Langdale to Garden Bay. Now when I say steep hills, all of us, except Neil and Martin, walked at least one of them. This was our toughest day. Depending on whose odometer was read, we cycled an exhausting 84-90 km. But the scenery was incredible! We saw lots of ocean. We visited the original Molly’s Reach from the old CBC program, “The Beachcombers”. We considered eating lunch there but after a hint from a local we ate at a wonderful health food bakery café. I had the best soup I’ve ever had, pumpkin-curry-coconut soup.
In the afternoon I experienced a few woes. I had a rear flat coming down a long hill. There was no one else in sight and I proudly fixed it by myself. I was worried about Joanna and Alberto about this time because I was by the side of the road for about fifteen minutes with no sign of them. Later on, I fell off my bike, to the right side, luckily. Then my chain fell off. But my woes were nothing compared to Alberto’s. Joanna and Alberto joined up with us by the end of the day. Alberto’s knee did not fair well on those hills. We ate supper out that first night. We had trout with lots of vegetables. We stayed at the Sundowner Inn. Alberto’s knee was seriously bothering him. He decided to pack up some tools and send them back home. What we would change about this day: the amount and grade of hills covered make it a shorter day, perhaps stay just past Sechelt.
Day 2 – Garden Bay to Powell River
What a great cycling day. We only did @ 65km with more great scenery. We’re noticing that many properties are for sale along this coast. After our arrival in Powell River, we went in search of a store opened on this, Canada Day. We found a general store that actually sold a lot of groceries for its small size. We found small potatoes, pork chops, broccoli, carrots, and we found wonderful bread from the bakery across from the Hyatt Motor Inn where we were staying. Our evening entertainment consisted of walking around. Cliff and I were so hard up for entertainment that we even tried to get into the Bingo hall @ 9:00pm only to be told that one had to show up at 6:30 to play. This town, having pulp and paper as its main industry was very smelly! So it was early to bed for me. Overall, amongst a few of the guys who shall remain nameless, there were a few grumbling about who was sleeping with who because of the grumbling of who was really snoring the night before.
Day 3- Powell River to Denman Island
Our easiest cycling day, yet! It involved taking two ferries, the first, a 5 min. crossing over to Comox, then a short cycle to Buckley Bay, then the second, a 10 min. crossing over to Denman Island, the first of the Gulf Islands that we visited with the best accommodation that we were to have all trip. We were divided between two B&B’s, Hawthorn House and Sea Canary. Our hosts, John and Carol, were very gracious as were Joanna and Alberto who provided us with some provincial red wine to go with our BBQ dinner that evening. Most of us went for our first dip in the ocean. And I collected seashells. I believe it was here that John and Cliff locked themselves out of their room and Cliff scaled a 6-foot wall and broke in through the window, an easy feat for a 6’2’’ man, I’d say.
Day 4- Denman Island to Port Alberni
We were all up at 7:00 am to pack our bikes prior to the 7:40 am “loaded” breakfast provided by our respective hosts. Breakfast included bacon, eggs, homemade strawberry muffins, whole-wheat toast, juice of choice and coffee. BIG CHANGE today. Alberto and Joanna announced they were leaving the tour because of Alberto’s knee. The Denman ferry back to Vancouver Island was on time. We all took the ferry back together and said our good-byes on Vancouver Island. Luckily they had a cell phone. Alberto located his brother in Vancouver who came and picked them up. We were sad for them seeing their expectations for the tour go unfulfilled but we also knew the pain that Alberto was in and this was the best point for him to pack it in before the hilly ride to Port Alberni.
Now we are six remaining, but I jokingly referred to us as Snow White and the seven dwarfs, seven ‘cause Rick being 6’7’’tall counted as two, we decided. Anyway, from the ferry dock at Buckley Bay, we cycled to Qualicum Beach, then beyond. Our major tourist attraction today was Cathedral Grove where the tallest Douglas Fir is located. More interesting to me than that, was the magical look of this forest caused from the amount and immensity of the Firs that had fallen. A little before reaching this spot, it was so hot we stopped to soak our heads at some watering hole. John attempted to toss me into it. I would have preferred if he had succeeded because we had a long climb to Port Alberni, soon after climb, which made me pause 3-4 times due more to the heat than the grade. Once at Port Alberni we stayed at another B&B located in the boonies and up another F… hill, of course. We went for a long walk down to the harbour and enjoyed a buffet meal while overlooking the water. The buffet consisted of all you can eat clams, halibut, roast beef, chicken, pasta and shrimp and desserts Afterward Martin, Neil, and I climbed the tower to look out over the ocean. Meanwhile Rick and John decided they needed to work off their dinner playing pool at the Legion. The rest of us ziz-zagged our way back up to the B&B. Yes. We were sober. We ziz-zagged to avoid the straight hill.
Day 5 – Port Alberni to Tofino
This day did not begin well for me. I did not sleep well, probably because I ate too much at the buffet. I hate buffets. They always make me feel bad the next day. Anyhow, I digress. I was so rushed in the morning I left Neil’s alarm clock behind that he was kind enough to lend me; I lost his nailbrush a few days before that; and I didn’t have time to have much breakfast. So luckily it was a four and three-quarter-hour ferry ride to Ucluelet. While the boys were having lunch, I had breakfast. Gee, this was getting to be a more expensive trip by the hour!
After the ferry ride, we only needed to cycle 42 km but they were a windy 42 km. My bike didn’t want to go into the granny gear and luckily I only needed it for the first 5 km. Oh! Here’s a rule of thumb for anyone planning a similar trip: always have your bike in the granny gear when leaving a ferry because it’s usually a heck of a climb from the harbour up to the main road. We cycled by Long Beach but took a quick peek at it with plans to spend longer upon the return. It lives up to its name but I didn’t know the water was too cold to swim in usually!
Upon our arrival in Tofino we were greeted with sun and wind. We had the best supper, yet. Martin stuffed a 4-lb. salmon and baked it. With it we had baked potatoes (microwave style) and stir-fried veggies. After dinner we walked to the harbour and peered into the boats. We were especially tickled with “Miss B. Haven”.
After, we went to the Legion for drinks and pool. I am happy to say I could “sink a ball in the right corner pocket” just as well (or as poorly) as the guys!
Day 6 – Rest Day in Tofino
Cliff and I checked out the seakayaking while Martin, John, and Neil decided upon hydroplaning and Rick did everybody’s laundry–what a sweet guy! The winds were down a bit today but not enough for the outfitters to allow us to have single kayaks. So we were in a double kayak.
We kayaked over to Meares Island, the site of the two oldest and largest Western Red Cedars. They are between 1500 and 2000 years old. They hollow out in the centre. I believe a VW Beetle could fit in one. The guys enjoyed the plane ride. Martin earned his nickname, “Cookie” from this adventure because he almost lost his cookies when the pilot tipped the plane. It is so lush around here that the foliage on some people’s property includes leaves that are larger in size than a human adult.
I was the only one that visited Tofino’s Botanical Gardens. Although small, I recommend it for its variety. Also, it even has a Children’s Garden with a sign that says “Adults must be supervised” and sure enough it has crawl spaces that only small children can get through, although I got through one or two. Move over Snow White, Alice in Wonderland has appeared upon the scene!
Day 7 – Tofino to Ucluelet
It was a short, interesting cycling day. The boys stayed behind to find a private beach. Although they didn’t find the particular one they had in mind, they found a beautiful one complete with starfish. Meanwhile I went on ahead to Radar Hill. I walked half of it. But it was a pretty hill and an interesting history lesson. Radar Hill was established after W.W.II and is the farthest West point of land Canada has, thus this strategic point served as a warning signal to the US if the USSR were attempting to attack the US.
After this, I went to Long Beach where I played along its shore for an hour. There were surfers in wet suits that found the water so cold, even they were taking their time to enter the water. Meanwhile I enjoyed splashing barefoot around the edge. We all met up at the Wichaninnish Trail where we ate lunch at its centre overlooking the water. What a view!
As you probably can tell by now the important parts of our trip were of scenic water views and seafood! Stay tuned to Part Two of this exciting adventure in September’s issue where we gain another cyclist, a woman, and where tree houses and teepees become part of our accommodations.
Day 8 – Ucluelet to Port Alberni
Ouch! A hill, another hill, AFH! O-oh, that last hill was so long and steep, even Martin was complaining about it and suggesting we find another route. I knew I was in trouble now if Martin thought it troublesome. Now, Neil, on the other hand, who cycles in the hope of hills around every corner, got his wish today. I actually tried to hitchhike the rest of this Summit Pass but found no takers. That was okay though because, much to our delight, the distance to the top was deceptive and only another 5 minutes away. And the route was rather picturesque, especially around Kennedy Lake. We sailed through the last 50 km to Port Alberni with several waterfalls en route.
Even though we were all pretty exhausted this evening after this 109 km ride, we walked back to the same harbour restaurant and ate from the same buffet as on day four. I enjoyed it more this time because there was more seafood and better desserts. Wine at dinner had become a ritual, ever since Joanna and Alberto treated us to some on Denman, and perhaps this was our way of continuing to include them in the group, but tonight we forwent the wine for a stop at the Legion for drinks and games of snooker. Rick, our pool guru, taught us how to play snooker.
The only other people in the joint was an older couple who were “feeling no pain” who proudly talked about the water bombers stored here and they looked like they were about to drive us out there and show them to us ‘cause you can’t visit the Port here without seein’ ‘em, ya know. We passed. Also they told us about an Al Pacino/ Dustin Hoffman movie that was just shot there and how they and their house were used for a scene. The movie is called Insomnia and is due out in late fall. We’ll have to visit them vicariously at that time.
Day 9 – Port Alberni to Nanaimo
At this point in the trip, we’d reached a pinnacle–we’re in shape. We did not find the infamous hill out of Port Alberni difficult. And this day was a bit confusing. Although we cycled the 92 km mentioned on the map, the distance between spots was inaccurate. Thus we made a couple of wrong turns and hesitated at a few more. But we had a lovely lunch at Coombs Old Country Market. For those who’ve been through the area before, that’s the place with the sheep on the roof. The produce was wonderful and so was the ice cream.
Nanaimo has an outlying area to it that is just beautiful with newer elegant homes by the water. We stayed at the Moby Dick Motel along the harbour front. A late seafood supper, cooked by John, was sure a treat. He even put some weird looking creatures in there (I didn’t ask–I was too hungry) and served it over pasta. He made an avocado lettuce salad to accompany it. MM.-good! After supper I meandered along the harbour front which goes for miles. It was enchanting to see a family of ducks tucking into a harbour cove at sunset. After our late night dinner, we all seemed to walk off in different directions but we all landed up in the same spot by setting’s end by the same ships in our harbour.
Day 10 – Nanaimo to Gabriola Island
So now we have finished with the Mainland and Vancouver Island and are cycling strictly the Gulf Islands. We began the day poorly. We missed the ferry. So we went grocery shopping for lunch, supper, and tomorrow’s breakfast. Except we didn’t get enough food for the latter two. We were leaving our brains behind on land, I guess. An hour later, we caught the next ferry and arrived too early at “Haven by the Sea”, our resort for the night.
So we took a 45-minute tour of the Western side of the island, at least I did. I swung back an hour before the others and took a quick tour of the Eastern side, which was boring, plus I had to take a road with a grade of 18% to get back to the Northwest.
Gabriola has a North Road and a South Road as main roads. The North road is the nicest with its shady trees. There are lots of Arbutus trees on Gabriola. Haven by the Sea is one of those luxurious resorts complete with swimming pool, hot tub, and billiard room. The boys found some high cliffs to jump from in the evening, while I soaked in the hot tub. Those cliffs were the most interesting things that Gabriola had to offer. And the sunset, of course!
Day 11 – Gabriola Island to Salt Spring Island
As soon as we departed the ferry, we spotted Vicki. She had driven from Edmonton to Nanaimo, then cycled from Nanaimo to this ferry spot. Now we were a group of seven. First we took the ferry over to the Victoria side of the Island and cycled down to Chemanis. It is the town of Murals. It is a tourist attraction complete with horse drawn carriages, ice cream vendors, and curio shops. In its centre is Old Town, a semi-forested area, where visiting bands play outside in a park decorated with a handcarved bear and a cat in trees. Today we heard a band visiting from Peru.
Then it was another ferry ride to Vesuvius on Salt Spring. I was feeling especially energetic this morning and was cycling way ahead of the others only to miss their “dip” in the river under the bridge while on our way to the hostel.
The Salt Spring Hostel is delightful! One can sleep in the hostel proper, a teepee, or a tree house. Neil had craftily arranged for Martin and him to stay in a tree house. And it was so cute, complete with the stuffed animals from Winnie the Pooh. And I wonder which ones they slept with? Winnie, Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet–they were all there, no lie!
Vicki and I slept in a teepee. Vicki stayed there even the second night. I did not find my birch bed comfortable and elected for the hostel the second night. John and Rick would have nothing to do with “these mosquito infested teepees” (Actually these critters don’t fly low to the ground, thus one need not worry about their entering) and stayed in the hostel both nights. Cliff stayed but rather uncomfortably, he reported, in a teepee.
Our first evening on Salt Spring was spent around the campfire with others visiting from other lands. There were two British, two Dutch, two Australian, one Vancouverite, and us seven Albertans. One of the English fellows was a great singer and guitarist and the Vancouverite was not so bad, especially with the blues harp (just not as good as he thought he was), but between the two of them we had a great singsong around the campfire. Also, a family of deer seemed to enjoy the music too, as they came within several yards of us and daddy deer pranced across our path.
Day 12 – Salt Spring Island
This wasn’t an official day off but John, Cliff, and I elected to treat it as such. While the rest of the group cycled the south side of the Island, John went hiking and Cliff and I rented mopeds. What a hoot! We scrambled all over the Island with these bikes. We were beginning to think this is the way we should go from now on, or should I say in future as our trip was nearing its end. As we were motoring down to Ruckle Provincial Park, I was thinking how I made the right choice today, because the Southern part of this Island is very hilly. Sure enough the cyclists returned exhausted.
That night, except for John and Rick, who probably found a Legion, we taxied to town and took in live music at Moby Dick’s. It was open stage night so some of the music was so bad it was good. An atomic size order of nachos ended the evening. So now I know why Salt Spring has earned the reputation of being the party island of the Gulf Islands.
Day 13 – Salt Spring to Pender Island
More darned hills! Aren’t I getting polite? I must have finally gotten used to them.
Our day began cycling the sunset drive road to the NorthWest part of Salt Spring. Then we continued North East to Fernwood and down to Long harbour where we caught the ferry over to Pender Island. There were a couple of serious roads (hills) on this northern stretch but mostly it was just as much fun as it had been motoring it yesterday. Now the ten km we cycled from the ferry over to Cooper’s Landing, our hostel on Pender, was a different story. It was 10 km of hell! It took us over an hour!
Supper was nice. We ate rice and beans and what Neil calls “sex in a pan” (chocolate overdose). For those of you not calorie conscious, here’s the recipe: store bought chocolate iced brownies turned upside down, added chocolate pudding, with whipped cream served on the side. Yummy!
This hostel is situated in probably the most picturesque setting on North Pender, which is located by the Bridge that separates North and South Pender. There was a beautiful loon living close by who made his presence known at the oddest hours. After supper, on both nights, we took a short walk to the bridge, and chatted about our adventures till the sun set. Pender is a very magical, beautiful isle. The owner of the hostel invited us in to listen to him play his grand piano. Then Neil played. I wished Neil played longer.
Day 14 – Pender Island
On this the last day of our tour, most elected not to cycle. Cliff, John, Rick, and I took a hike up to the summit of Mt. Norman and the view was certainly worth it! One could see all of the Gulf Islands from this point. Meanwhile Neil, Vicki and Martin took their turn at kayaking and we could see them pass from the summit. We yelled our hello’s at them, but of course, they couldn’t hear us, although Vicki swears she heard something.
In the PM, I cycled up the two hills to the grocery store where I shopped for supper and Neil arrived just in time to pay for it. I don’t know how Neil does it but he always has “his fingers on the pulse of the group”. Most of the others came along for the ride but I think Vicki stayed back to veg-out. Near the grocery store was a bakery where I found a big beautiful apple pie for dessert which the clerk packed “expertly” on the back of my bicycle. She said she was used to this because she rode and packed her bike around Galliano for over a year.
After shopping, I was the only one who wanted to cycle but at the last moment Martin chose to join me for a jaunt down the coast of South Pender to Gowland Point. He probably preferred to veg-out too but thought I’d get lost but it was nice to have the company to share the beautiful view at the point. And get this. It was a downhill ride, both ways, no lie! The tree-lined road suddenly ended with beach water and two mountains in the distance. I think the others missed something.
After supper, (linguine with clam sauce and enjoyed by all) dessert wasn’t just simply served up. The pie was cut in eight and there were seven of us. So Vicki decided we needed to cut the cards to decide who gets the last piece. I decided we’d deal until the first ace showed up. Well you’d think the stakes were a million bucks or a car! We went round and round, individuals crying out, “Can’t we just have the highest card win after this round?” Finally on the fourth round an Ace was dealt to Cliff. He happily ate that eighth piece of pie in front of us while good naturedly taking all the ribbing that went with his win. And oh yes. This was an exceptionally large and tasty apple pie.
Before packing it in for the night, Martin, Neil, and Vicki, played on the dock with the plankton and something made them laugh. And they and myself shared a room and while getting ready for bed, they talked of the plankton and something about Neil’s big, slimy stick…well being overtired we just howled with laughter, so much so that John, from the room next door had to come in and act like the strict father to get us to pipe down because there was a family staying in the house that night. So we shut up and went to sleep like dutiful children.
July 15 – Pender Island to Home
Up at 6:30, with myself up at 7:00 to say good-bye to all of them. Yes. I was on my way to Victoria on a 12:15 ferry while the others were to go home. We forgot to buy breakfast so dutiful Neil and Martin hopped on their bikes and cycled up the two hills to the store to pick up some muffins, just some energy food that would get them to the ferry on time.
Our good-bye was quick. What a great trip! Fourteen days of nothing but sunshine and mirth!
Later it was reported to me by Cliff, that the gang had a bit of difficulty en route to the airport. Martin and John had a flat tire each. And no one was exactly sure of the route so it took several pauses and stops and they just arrived in time to meet their plane.
Our thanks go to Neil and Martin for a super job on organizing this trip. I can imagine the countless hours required scheduling accommodation and making the maps. Neil began planning in January. We are also to understand that Jody Marshall and the late Larry Walkhouse helped to scout this trip. They were often in my thoughts throughout. Our thanks to them, too.
In summation here are a few of our favourite things not necessarily in any order:
1. Where’s Cliff?
2. Car back
3. Bike back
4. Neil’s slimy stick
5. Rick’s sneeze (not really a saying, but it was so cute and I didn’t know w where to mention it)
6. Martin eats for 3
7. John eats rice for 4
8. Now, John, you’re talking to Lois, remember
9. Lois leaving something behind.
1. The Legion
2. Moby’s Dick’s
3. Camp fire 1st night at Salt Spring Island
4. Hawthorn House B &B – Denman Island
5. Bridge between N. and S. Pender Island
6. Cathedral Grove
1. John’s Chicken N’ Vegetable soup
2. John’s Seafood Pasta
3. Martin’s Stuffed salmon
4. Lois’s Linguine with Clam Sauce
5. Health Food Bakery Café by Molly’s Reach
6. Buffet in Port Alberni
7. Neil’s “sex in a pan”
Total # of Flat Tires: 5
Written by Lois Knight