Friday, August 31, 2012

A Celebration of Goodbye

Today I accomplished one of the main reasons for this tour. I rode to the top of Mt. Constitution and set free the small amount of my Mother's ashes that I have been carrying with me for the last 17 days.

The ride to the top was not too bad. I knew the road was steep and I wasn't carrying anything except my handlebar bag. I listened to music on the way up to help with the rhythm of riding.

At the top, I went around to the outside of the wall and sat down out on the edge. I was then able to set my mother free without her just landing on the rocks. I have to say, she floated away in the air as if she knew she was free to go.

Not to get too...weird, but it has been kind of cool having my mom with me on this tour. On occasion I would think maybe she was enjoying the ride! It's certainly not something she would have ever done when she was alive (well, maybe she would have if all she had to do was ride on the back of my bike like she did for this tour!).

When I got back to my campsite in Moran State Park, I fixed myself one of the better dinners I have made on this trip. For a "starter", I had some panatini toast with avocado and tomato. I cooked up some pasta, then sautéed some zucchini and carrots with garlic and Italian seasoning. While the vegetables were cooking, I sliced up the remainder of a Demi-baguette, buttered it, sprinkled it with some Parmesan, and toasted it in the frying pan with the vegetables. When the veggies were done, I dumped them over the pasta and added some cut up Provolone cheese. It was delicious! For dessert I had a little chocolate custard pie I bought in Eastsound today. Geez, I don't cook this good when I'm at home with a full compliment kitchen! Anyway, it was a great meal to cap off a Goodbye Celebration day.

Here is one photo of me at the top of Mt. Constitution.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Less Than Six Degrees of Separation...

Or...How a Box of Tomatoes Leads to My Cousins

It's funny how the title of a blog post often comes from something that happens at the end of the day. So, as usual, I'll start at the beginning and work my way to the box of tomatoes.

After stopping to post the last blog, I left the overly high priced campground of Lakedale to head to a much nicer and also much cheaper campsite at San Juan County Park. My plan was to visit the places along the way, get to the park, set up my site, and go check out the rest of the island. Well, most of that happened.

My first destination was Roche Harbor. This was another place I had been to when I was a kid. In 35 years the place has changed quite a bit. I guess not so much changed, as grown. Where it used to be just the Hotel de Haro, a restaurant, store, and the pool, there are now lots of condos and townhouses. The old stuff is all still there (even the pool), there is just a bunch of other stuff.

I restocked my produce at the store and perused the artisan booths (there was a candy place specializing in various types of licorice--there was also chocolates and other sweets--I bought a few...) before I made my way back up the hill. A gentleman I passed going up the hill said, "Don't you wish there was a tow-rope?". I said I wanted to know where the elevator was!

Before I left Roche Harbor altogether, I stopped at the Sculpture Park. It reminded me of the Monarch Sculpture Garden at home except it was in better shape.

The next stop was at English Camp. This was a camp occupied by the British during a dispute regarding a pig and who really owned the San Juan Islands--the Americans or the British. Of course, it was eventually decided that it belonged to the Americans. There are a few structures still standing, and it is on a nice little bay. It is run by the National Park Service. As an aside, there is also American Camp. It is on the southern end of the island. I've seen it from Shark Reef on Lopez Island.

Returning to the main road, my next stop was the park. San Juan County Park sits near the water looking directly West. It has a Hiker/Biker site that costs $10. It has flush toilets and water close by. The H/B sites have the best view of the water. In short, a much better deal than last night's accommodations (even though there is no shower here).

I arrived at about 12:30. Remember, my plan was to set up my camp and continue riding around the island. I set up my camp and...decided to stay put. Afterall, I will ride the rest of the way around the island tomorrow on my way back to the ferry.

I spent a leisurely afternoon looking out across the water watching for whales (didn't see any). I even spent a couple hours in my house ( tent) reading my book and looking out the window (fine...the tent door) at the beautiful view. I even watched the inside of my eyelids for awhile (took a nap). All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon. Oh, and a couple I had met while in line for the ferry yesterday (Patty and Gary from Florida) also stopped here on their tour around the island. So I talked to them again.

After my nap I went up to the lovely flush toilets to, well, you know. At the sink (yes, a sink with running water AND paper towels!!!), there was a box of tomatoes that said, "Free, Organic, Eastern Oregon Homegrown". There were about half a dozen tomatoes. I took two.

I cooked my dinner and then watched a beautiful sunset before doing my dishes. Like I said, the park faces directly West, so that makes for some spectacular sunsets and tonight's did not disappoint!

Later, when I was in the restroom doing my dinner dishes, a gal came in to dump some dish water. She commented on how nice it was for someone to leave the tomatoes. She wondered who it was. I said it was someone from Eastern Oregon. She said she was from Central Oregon. I asked where. She said Bend. I told her I have a cousin in Bend named Pat Brown. Here's the weird part. She said, "Oh, I know the Browns. I went to school with Vince. I grew up in The Dalles. I knew Jeannie and Erin too." Her name is Carrie French (French is her maiden name). I told her they are my cousins. She said she would message Vince on Facebook right away that she met me! Such a small world!!!

So there you have it! A wonderful day topped off with a chance meeting!

Here's some photos from the day. Arrrggggg! I wish I knew why this app mixes up the photos! I'm sure you can figure out the correct order.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

$32 and the Showers Aren't Even Free!

Just a quick post here. I made to San Juan Island. I met a really nice gal on the ferry named Cassie. We chatted the whole time and before I knew it, they were announcing Friday Harbor.

Customs was quick. The guy didn't even ask me if I had any food (I ate those two avocados and two tomatoes last night for nothing)!

As the sun was setting, I made my way to the nearest campground which is Lakeside Resort. It was 4.8 miles from the ferry. By the time I got here, it was nearly dark. I should have guessed it would be pretty expensive when the guy in the lobby of the lodge asks me to have a seat at his desk. He asked if I wanted one of the Hiker/Biker sites. Of course I said yes (hello...on a bike here!). Then he said it would be $32 ($35+ with tax)! $32 for a Hiker/Biker site??? I shudder to think what the other sites cost! I asked him about showers. He said they are token operated and one token for 5 minutes is $2. Seriously??? $32 and the showers aren't even free? Unbelievable!!! So, what do I get for my money? Well, I get a site that is so far from the showers and one and only restroom building with running water and flush toilets that I have to ride my bike there (there are some lovely sani-cans aways down the road)! I get a site that barely has room for my small tent, and the space there is, is not very flat. I can't find anywhere on the map that indicates there is a water faucet other than the restroom building...that I have to ride to! So, basically, for $32 I don't get squat! Unfortunately, I didn't have much choice as it would have been too dark to make it to the County Park. But, you can bet I will go there tomorrow night! I believe it costs $10. There are no showers, but that's okay because I took my $2 five-minute shower tonight!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Ride to Afternoon Tea...Not!

Except I don't much care for tea and, besides, I wasn't dressed for it.

Today is my last day in Canada. I leave late this afternoon on the ferry to San Juan Island.

Since I didn't need to be to the ferry terminal until 5:00, I decided to ride the Lochside Trail to Victoria and back. I got up early and packed everything up to be on the road by about 8:00. It was just 20 miles to Victoria, so I had plenty of time.

The Lochside Trail is a mix of paved trail, road, and quite a bit of packed gravel trail. It was all pretty well marked except for this one intersection where the trail went off at a diagonal. I couldn't see the trail due to the traffic and the signage was very poor. I was going along the road wondering what happened to the trail. I was actually on the sidewalk (there was no bike lane). As I rode along slowly, a bus pulled up at the bus stop. There was someone getting on so I slowed down even more. Then I noticed there was someone getting off out the rear door. I stopped with my left foot down on the ground and my right foot still in the pedal. Of course, Betsy decided to go to the right. Down I went (well, part way anyway). Arrrrggggg!!! Scraped my calf on the chainring, but no big deal. It just adds to all the other various bruises on my legs.

Anyway, I stopped at a small shopping area and asked where the Lochside Trail was. I picked up the trail at the next intersection (there I could see where I had missed it). I continued on into Victoria where, at one point, the trail becomes the Galloping Goose Trail (I saw not one single galloping goose!).

I came across a bridge and was in the part of Victoria everyone knows--the Parliament Building, BC Museum, and The Empress Hotel. I thought of going to the museum, but it costs $21 to get in. I remember when I was a kid it was free! I just rode around and took pictures.

I decided to head back to Sidney and stop at a Subway I had seen along the way. I know I said I wasn't going to eat at anymore Canadian Subways, but I didn't have any lunch stuff left and it was conveniently located along the Lochside Trail.

Now I'm back in Sidney at a "Serious Coffee" shop that has free wifi. I have managed to spend the last of my Canadian currency. I'll post this and head down to the water to enjoy the view.

This will suffice for today's post as I will be arriving late into Friday Harbor. I am, most of all, hoping for a shower at the Lakedale Campground. Keep your fingers crossed because I REALLY need a shower!!!

Nice Doing Business With You, Fred!

Today was my last BC Ferries ride. It was Galiano Island to Swartz Bay (with a stop on Mayne Island, but this time not a transfer). Oddly, going back to the big island (Vancouver), there is no fare. If I had gone to Salt Spring Island and then to Swartz Bay from Salt Spring, I would have had to pay for the ride to Salt Spring. I also over-estimated how much all my BC Ferry rides was going to cost when I got the BC Ferries Card. When I calculated it, I had planned to come up a little short so I wouldn't have any money left on the card. Instead, I still had $22 on it!

While I was waiting on Galiano for the ferry, a guy was also waiting with a road bike. He was also going to Swartz Bay. I asked him if it was possible to use the BC Ferries card on the boat for stuff like food. He said he didn't think so. I thought to myself, crap, I'm going to be stuck with $22 I can't use! The guy said he thought the cards were best to use with a car--that there wasn't any savings going by bike. I told him there was a savings, and the bike goes free. Then he said he should get a card for the way back. I told him the minimum you can load on the card for taking the ferry with a bike is $55. He didn't seem to be all that worried about it.

We got on the ferry and went our separate ways (kind of hard because it was one of the smaller ferries). I had taken my Kindle in with me and just as I sat down to read, I had this idea. I would ask the guy if he would like to buy my BC Ferries card for $20. So then I went to find him. I went to both levels and couldn't find him. It was strange because it really was a small boat! Finally I found him sitting on the middle deck. I went up to him and told him I had a proposition for him. He agreed and gave me $20! Woo Hoo! Much nicer to lose $2 rather than $22!

As we were riding up from the ferry dock into Swartz Bay I asked him his name. It was Fred. I said, "Nice doing business with you, Fred!".

From the ferry I got on the Lochside Trail with a couple of other riders. It was strangely confusing trying to find the park. I actually rode right past it the first time. In all fairness to my stupid self, I was expecting the usual blue Provincial Park sign. Instead it was a different sign with the park name written in smaller letters below a bunch of other crap (oh, and everything also in French). I finally made it into the park. McDonald Provincial Park would not rank high on my list of places to stay. In addition to there being no showers and just pit toilets (at least I'm far enough away from them that the smell is not wafting over my campsite), the highway is very close so the traffic sounds are pretty loud. Maybe I'll just try to pretend its the ocean.

Once I got my campsite set up, I decided to ride into Sidney to double-check about the time I would need to be at the ferry tomorrow to go through customs. The gentleman said 5:30 would be early enough. I'll probably plan to be there at 5:00 just to make sure.

I rode around the touristy part of Sidney and stopped at Subway for some cookies (I can now check a Vancouver Island Subway off the list). I didn't want to get dinner because I need to eat up the produce I have because I'm sure I can't take it through customs tomorrow.

From Subway I rode back to the park on the Lochside Trail. Tomorrow I will take this trail to Victoria and back to Sidney in time to catch the ferry to San Juan Island. Yes, tomorrow is the end of the Canadian portion of my tour.

I've really enjoyed the Canadian Gulf Island hopping, the Sunshine Coast, Port Alberni, and Pacific Rim National Park.

I'm looking forward to the San Juans and getting back into the US where I don't have to worry about getting cash, and I can use my phone.

I didn't take too many photos today, but here's a few. The "Mayne Queen" was my last BC Ferries vessel. The first photo is coming into Swartz Bay. The last is Mt. Baker from the pier in Sidney.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tommy Transit and the Pub Bus

We all know there is no texting while driving or talking on a cell phone, BUT no one ever said you can't play percussion instruments while driving!

As usual, let's back up to where I left off in the previous post. I left the bakery and headed to Montague Marine Provincial Park. I was going to stop somewhere along the way and fix a little lunch (and eat the pie I bought at the bakery), but I ended up just riding to the park. As I was going up a hill I saw an local islander on his bike. He asked where I was going. I told him I was going to the park. He told me the best way to go (well, the way that had one long hill instead of several short steep hills--the long hill option is generally better than leg-killing short steep hills). It was a total of about 8 km from the ferry to the park. Counting the miles from Welcome Bay to the Pender ferry, I rode all of 9.6 miles today. Over the last three days I have ridden a total of 58 miles. This island hopping is going to make me soft! But, I digress...

I arrived at Montague and looked at the board at the entrance that told which sites were not reserved and thus available first-come first-served. My favorite number, 27, was available as was 28 and 29. By the time I got to those sites, 29 was taken. Sites 27 and 28 were still available. In fact, they were the only walk-in sites available. I chose 27 not just because it's my favorite number, but between the two sites, it seems to have the least amount of odor from the pit toilets. BC parks seem to favor the pit toilets and no showers. I have only encountered showers at one BC park (Rathtrevor). I am looking forward to getting back into Washington just for the showers (although I don't believe San Juan County Park has showers--but I may not stay there anyway). Again, I digress...Oh, one more thing about BC parks--for not having showers and flush toilets, they sure are expensive. Montague is $21 per night!

Anyway, my tent is set up on a wooden platform. Since the rainfly requires stakes to have the vestibules (as do many tents), there are i-bolts on the sides of the platform to tie the rainfly to. It's quite nice actually (still not worth $21 though).

After my camp was set up, I walked to the marina. I wanted to see if I recognized it from when I was a kid and we chartered boats and came to Galiano. Well, it's not the place we stayed. One of the park guys said there used to be a dock at the Galiano Inn, but that is on Sturdies Bay. That must be the place because I remember a restaurant called the Galiano Inn that was near the dock.

As I was walking back to the campground, I saw the Pub Bus at the park entrance. Denise (from the Pender ferry) told me about this bus. It runs in the summer, shuttling people from the Montague Marina and Park to the Hummingbird Pub and Restaurant. It operates on tips. The Hummingbird Pub Bus has been in operation for 28 years! I decided to take the bus to the pub for dinner but I had to go back to my campsite first. The bus runs every hour until 11:00.

I got back to the bus stop and got on the bus when it arrived. I was the only one on the bus for the whole way to the pub. The bus driver was Tommy Transit. He's been driving the Pub Bus for many years and has even written a book called "Bus Tales". When I told him that I had heard about this bus, he said he'd better start the show then. He cranked up the music and handed me a shaker. He had his drumsticks and was playing the tambourine and cymbal as he was driving the bus! He would also stop the bus or slow down and point out various things along the way.

We arrived at the pub and he said the bus leaves at 10 minutes till the hour. I took some photos of Tommy (which he gladly posed for) and went into the pub for dinner. I had delicious fish and chips. I even saw two hummingbirds at the feeder outside the window at my table (I guess they don't call it the Hummingbird Pub for nothing)!

It was almost time for the bus and since I was finished with my dinner, I asked for the check so I could catch the bus back and not have to wait another hour.

This time the bus was packed. The ride back was much more of a party. Everyone was singing and Tommy was cracking jokes and promoting his book. There were even some kids sitting on the floor in the back of the bus. They laughed the entire way back. Tommy was playing his instruments, kicking out his leg, and waving light wands all while driving the bus! We all sang "Blueberry Hill" (apparently a tradition), Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire", and "Yellow Submarine". It was quite a different ride from the ride to the pub.

As I was walking back to my campsite, I saw a gal I'd seen earlier. Her name was Ann and she was on a bike too. I stopped to talk to her and stayed there for about an hour. As we were talking, a guy named George came up and asked if Ann could heat up some water for him. She said he could, but he would have to clean a pot first as both her pots were dirty from dinner. He had no problem with that so Ann fired up her stove and heated water for him. He seemed to be of the transient variety. He was raised in Nova Scotia and had a penchant for "cleaning up" the park. He stays for two weeks at a time (he must get money from someplace because $21/night seems pretty expensive--if you are homeless) and clears all the brush and branches from whichever campsite he is at. So much for keeping things in a natural state! After he got his hot water, he took off.

Later is started to rain a little heavier (it had been off and on spitting rain throughout the afternoon and evening). I told Ann I should probably head back to my campsite to make sure I'd closed everything up.

I came back and just threw the tarp over Betsy and put the panniers under the vestibule. All is protected now. Of course, now it's not raining anymore.

Tomorrow my ferry to Swartz Bay isn't until 11:55. I may stop at the bakery again (I still have the wifi password) and post this blog.

Here's some photos...Bijou the little dog in her little chariot on Guy's bike. There's Tommy Transit and the Pub Bus. The last is Boyd and Mary Ann and Jet.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Welcome Home to Welcome Bay!

Once again a change of plans. I was going to go to Prior Centennial Provincial Park. I wanted to see Denise again. But, this morning Diane and I took off (me to ride to Prior and Diane to go to a little farm stand). As we rode past Welcome Bay, Diane wanted to show me the campsites. So we rode down the driveway. Fred Smith, the owner (along with his wife Vi), was out in his garage when we rode up. Diane said she wanted to show me the place. So, after a short visit with Fred (who gave me a hug--"Shakin' hands is for men"), Diane and I walked through the camping area. There are just 7 sites on the little point between two small bays (one is Welcome Bay). There were two sites open. As soon as I saw the place I decided it would be my home for the night. The view looks out over the water to Mayne Island. I can also see the tip of Saturna Island. It's light and sunny with bits of shade amongst the trees. Really quite beautiful!

I paid Fred for my site, unloaded my bags, and headed off with Diane. Diane and I said our goodbyes at the farm stand. I continued on to the library where I posted the last two days' blogs.

Since I had given Fred my last $20 Canadian, I needed to get some cash so I could go to the Pender Island Fair that was going on today (think small country fair). I rode to the Driftwood Center and went to a ATM machine. I was unable to get any cash. I went to another machine. Same thing--no cash. So, since I needed to restock breakfast food, I went to the grocery store. I was able to pay with my card, but not get cash back. Apparently just on Pender, there is an issue with combined Visa/Debit cards. As I was loading my stuff into my backpack, a gal came up to me in the grocery store and asked if I was the other American trying to get cash. I said I was and she said I could go to the bank and they would change US currency for Canadian. Perfect! I did that, then went to the bakery for some lunch of Spanakopita and a turtle brownie.

While I was eating my lunch, I met Boyd and Mary Ann. They are from the mainland near Vancouver. Turns out they are also camping at Welcome Bay! We talked for awhile, then I headed over to the fair. I paid $5 and walked around the little fair. For such a small fair, they had a little of everything. I even saw a 4-person tandem bike!

I met up with the couple from the grocery store at the fair. I asked where they were from. Clair and Kalen are from...Olympia! They are also on a bike tour, but going the other direction. They were staying at Prior in the site next to Denise! Such a small world!

We chatted for awhile, then I headed back to Welcome Bay. I got my camp set up and met the rest of the people here. Guy and Claire with their daughter Lucy (14 years) and their little dog Bijou are from near Vancouver. They are also on bikes. Bijou rides in a little box with an arched cover on the back of Guy's bike. Zack and Reena and their two little girls, Ayla and Juniper are also from near Vancouver. Travis and Jackie with their little boy Ashby and their 3 year old daughter, Jolene are friends of Zack and Reena. There is one other guy here who I think is also friends with Travis and Jackie that I haven't met. Then, of course, there is Boyd and Mary Ann (and their dog Jet). It's quite the nice group of people here. I'm really glad I stayed here.

Tomorrow I will head to Galiano. My ferry is not until 3:25 so I'll have some more time to explore Pender. I've decided from Galiano I am going to ferry straight to Swartz Bay. That is where I would end up anyway. One less boat ride, but it's a better plan.

Here are some photos from the day.

The first is Tickles the Clown from the fair. The second is Diane and I. The third is a nice buck on the beach of the bay. The fourth is Mt. Baker and part of Mayne Island. The last is my little campsite.

Update: I packed up this morning (after helping Jolene and Ashby find the coveted treasure of beer bottle caps) and found out from Claire that the 11:05 sailing to Tsawassen also stopped at Galiano (with a transfer at Mayne again). So, I made that sailing. There were tons of bikes on the ferry from Mayne to Tsawassen. I was the only bike that got off at Galiano. I guess its Sunday and everyone is headed home. I'm headed home too, only it will be awhile longer before I get there!

Now I am at a bakery on Galiano that has wifi. I'll head to Montague Provincial Park when I'm done here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Boat rides 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12

I was only supposed to have 3 boat rides today but, due the bizarre sailing schedule of the Gulf Island BC ferries, I have two more. At some point I will get to Diane's on Pender Island (preferably in the daylight).

My first boat ride of the day was from Newcastle Island back to Nanaimo. My pilot today was Rick, but I also saw Dale. To make things easier, I removed the bags before loading on the boat. Mary, on the other side, helped me by holding Betsy so I could load the rear panniers without taking the stack off. Thanks to all of you, Dale, Rick, and Mary. It has been my pleasure to ride upon your cute little ferry boats.

On the road again, I followed the route directions out of Nanaimo. I was going to attempt to make the 11:55 ferry to Salt Spring Island (boat ride #2). Although I don't think I would have made it anyway, I definitely didn't make it due to an encounter with a fish hook in Betsy's rear tire. I thought the ride seemed a bit bouncy for awhile. Then as I came through an intersection and made a slight turn, I recognized the feeling of a flat. Fortunately, I was right near a restaurant that had a picnic table right next to the road (not a great place for eating if you ask me, but a good place to change a flat). I got the flat changed and was back on the road pretty quickly (not nearly quick enough to make the earlier ferry).

My next ferry option was 1:00. I was starting to despair that I wouldn't make that one, but no fear, I made it with a good 20 minutes to spare!

The ferry from Crofton to Vesuvius Bay on Salt Spring was just a 20 minute crossing. Just enough time to hit the washroom and then have a little snack. There were 3 other touring cyclists, but none of them were very talkative.

Once on Salt Spring, I headed to Long Harbor for Boat Ride #10. Do to my apparent inability to read the ferry schedule, I thought the ferry was at 3:25 to Pender. But, no. Today is Friday and the boat does not sail to Pender. It goes to Galiano. So, off I went to Galiano. I could stay on Galiano, but I really want to see Diane and she won't be home tomorrow. So, that means I take the ferry from Galiano to Pender. However, the ferry doesn't go to Pender. It goes to Mayne Island, then I have to transfer to another vessel to get to Pender (thus boat rides 11 and 12). I will get to Pender at 6:50. Then I have to ride to Diane's.

I wrote the above while waiting for the ferry from Galiano to Mayne. I made it to Mayne and then transferred to another ferry to Pender without any problems. I met two other cyclists who were also transferring at Mayne to go to Pender. Mark is from the UK and Denise lives (I think) in or near Vancouver. Mark is on a long trip and Denise is out for a long weekend. We spent the entire ferry ride to Pender chatting about various bikey things. I'm planning to stay another night on Pender at Prior Centennial Provincial Park so I will likely see Denise again as she is also staying two nights on Pender.

After getting to Pender, I followed Diane's directions and had a pretty fast trip to her house. She has a beautiful house basically across the road from the water. I had called her from Salt Spring and told her of my ferry snafu. I wasn't sure if I would make it. But, I'm really glad I did because we have had a lovely evening chatting and a delicious dinner. Tomorrow she'll head out for her thing and I will head to Prior Centennial. I'll stop at the library for wifi and also check out the Saturday Farmers' Market.

I think five boat rides in one day is about the maximum. Any more and I would have been in the dark! Oh, and I got to go to another island (even though it was only the ferry terminal, I'm still going to count it)!

I didn't take a whole lot of photos today, but here's a few (out of order as usual--the third should be first, the last should be second, the second should be third, and the first should be last--the last photo is all the bikes that were on the ferry from Galiano to Mayne. They had all been on since Tsawassen.)

So Close and Yet So Far

I am on a perfect little island where there are no motorized vehicles (except a couple of golf cart type cars) and not that many people. But, let's back up to the beginning of the day.

I started from the dust bowl of Sproat Lake Park at 8:15 this morning. Val was up before I left so I was able to say goodbye. Chrissy (on the other side) offered me wood for a fire, but I told her I was almost ready to go. When she asked where I was headed today, I told her I was hoping there was camping on Newcastle Island, but that Val had said there wasn't. She said she was pretty sure there was and, since she's from Nanaimo, I was much more hopeful.

I made pretty quick work of getting back to Port Alberni. I rode past the restaurant where Chris, Nathan, and I had eaten dinner and recalled how delicious it was! From there, in downtown Port Alberni, it was pretty much an uphill climb to not only get out of the valley, but back over the "hump" that is the middle of Vancouver Island. Before I started the climb in earnest, I stopped at Coombs Country Candy. They just so happened to be having a special on fudge (buy two slabs get the third free)! Yes, BEFORE I started the climb back over Port Alberni Summit, I added a hefty pound (or so) of fudge to my load (it was worth it though--yum, yum)!

Since I had a pretty good idea what I was in for, having come the other direction, the climb didn't really seem that bad. Of course I was in Super Granny most of the time, but it seemed like, before I knew it, I was at the top. The descent down the other side was good. I did check my speed since it looked like it had just rained a bit.

This time I stopped at Cathedral Grove, but just to use the potty shack. I've seen plenty of big trees. I didn't need to take a walk to see more.

As I came into Coombs (crawling with tourists!) and then went past the Parrot Refuge, I really wanted to stop again and visit Socrates. But, since I wasn't too sure about being able to camp on Newcastle Island and therefore having to find someplace else if I couldn't, I figured I'd better keep pedaling.

I came back into Parksville and stopped at Starbucks to post blogs from the last few days. I also checked my email and saw I had one from Diane on Pender (met at Fox Glacier in NZ) with directions to her place. Should be pretty easy. Then I checked the BC Parks website about Newcastle Marine Provincial Park. Everything pointed to there being camping on the island so I was pretty happy. Now, all I had to do was get there!

I continued riding down Hwy 19A until it appeared I was forced to go onto Hwy 19 itself. I wasn't sure I was supposed to get on the freeway until I pulled out the book and, sure enough, it said to "get on the busy freeway". I'm certainly used to riding on freeways, so it wasn't a big deal.

From there I followed 19 to Nanaimo where I exited to get back on 19A. It is a busy road in its own right with tons of shopping places. I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some produce. I was even able to get the "card specials" as a visitor. Saved me a bit of change.

A mile or so after the store I got onto a bike path that took me all the way to the park where the ferry to Newcastle Island docked. I wheeled Betsy down to the dock and saw the tiniest little boat. It said Harbor Tours on it so I thought it couldn't possibly be the ferry to the island. Well, it was! Dale, the pilot, asked if I was going to the island. I said I was, and he helped me load Betsy. It was a little tricky since there wasn't a lot of room (did I mention it was a very very small boat?). Fortunately, there were only two other people going over. I paid Dale the $10 for Betsy and I, and we shoved off. We chugged our way across the harbor to the island. In about 10 minutes we arrived. Since Betsy is a little weighty with all her bags on, I opted to remove them in order to make it easier to get her off the boat. Dale was very nice and held Betsy while I put the bags back on up on the dock.

From there I just walked Betsy up the path to figure out about the camping situation. There is actually quite a bit of camping spots here. There are huge group sites (of which it appears many are occupied with groups of kids) and the individual sites are tucked just in the trees. It is really a spectacular place. It is so close to Nanaimo that I can actually hear the traffic, yet it is still a boat ride away. The seaplanes were taking off frequently from the harbor on the Nanaimo side. I think I'm the only one who rode my bike here. The guys that work here said they had never seen a cycle tourist on the island. The book (Bicycling the Pacific Coast) mentions Newcastle as a side trip. It is definitely worth the trip and even more awesome to camp here!

I'll catch the first boat tomorrow at 9:30 (tomorrow is a 3-boat-ride day). I think I will take the bags off to load Betsy this time!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Surviving the Dangerous Hwy 4

This morning I left Pacific Rim National Park and made my way to Sproat Lake. Most of the people I talked to said Hwy 4 was VERY VERY dangerous. It is winding and narrow! Traffic goes very fast! The log trucks are the worst! Well, yes, the road was winding and places. The traffic didn't seem to be going any faster than one would expect. I didn't see a single log truck! Maybe it's just my good karma..but it wasn't too bad of a ride. The hills, on the other hand, were some serious doozies! They weren't extremely long, just extremely steep. There was one that the other side said 18% grade. That part I came down, but I swear the part I went up was every bit as steep if not more! But, I made it.

I stopped at a place that I think is the Taylor River. There was a large expanse of flat rock where you can tell the river flows over in the winter. In August, however, it flows through a narrow gorge. The water was crystal clear and a beautiful blue. At first I walked down to the rocks in my bike sandals. After a few hairy moments of slippage, I went back to Betsy and changed into my 5 finger shoes. Ahhh, now I was like a lizard scampering over the rocks! There were lots of people climbing around. I heard a variety of languages.

After a few photos, I continued on my way. Eventually I made it to the top of Sutton Pass. I didn't actually know I was climbing a pass. When I got to the top, some people in a pickup parked across the road applauded. They yelled that they had seen me far below.

I was getting hungry and started looking for a suitable lunch stop when I came upon the Taylor River Rest Stop. Perfect! I had a bit of lunch and talked to a road cyclist who was there too. I asked her about the danger of cycling Hwy 4. She said she has heard that too, but has never had a problem. It reminds me that I should not take too much stock in what non-cyclists say about a road. Sure, their perception is that it's dangerous but, they would likely think cycling on any road is dangerous. I found it to be no worse and often better than New Zealand roads.

I made it to Sproat Lake to find the campground full. I circled around once then as I came around again, I stopped to ask a gal with just one tent on her site if I could possibly share with her. She said sure. Her son and daughter-in-law had been there with their tent, but had to go home. Her name is Val and she just lives in Parksville (not all that far from here--I will go through Parksville again tomorrow). Several of her family members are on adjacent sites. She has to go home tomorrow. Her two granddaughters are with their parents. They are Kailee and Ashley (6 and 4). They were fascinated by my cooking set-up. I let them play with my collapsible cup. I told them the area around my stove was the "No Go Zone". They are cute girls.

The big tanker plane is sitting out on the lake like I remembered when I was a kid (I'm sure it's a different plane though). Val said it took off yesterday. Dang! I was hoping to see it take off. I don't remember much else of the park. I have no memory of the petroglyphs, but I'm sure they were here long before I was.

Anyway, I'm planning to stop in Parksville at Starbucks to sent these last few posts. Then it's on to Newcastle Island (that's if they have overnight camping there--Val says she doesn't think they do).

333 Stairs to the Beach

Today I took a day off to ride around the park and to Tofino. So, it wasn't really a day off since I ended up riding 29 miles.

I left my campsite at 9:00 (with food panniers safely locked in the bear locker). I took my raingear because it seemed like it could rain (it didn't). On the way toward Tofino, I pulled into a place called Incinerator Rock. There was no explanation as to the origin of this name. There wasn't much happening (no incinerating going on) so I continued down the road. Next I came to the trail to Schooners Cove. I had read about this one. It was a 1 km walk through the forest to the beach and Schooners Cove. I didn't feel like walking just yet, so off I rode.

The place I was most interested in going to was Radar Hill. The park info said it was a short, but steep 100 meters walk. What the info did not mention was that it was a long, very steep road to get to the trail. I was only carrying a bag with my raingear and I was in super granny gear to get to the top! The last time I was in super granny without bags I was going up Hurricane Ridge! I made it to the top and walked up the "short, steep, 100 meters" to a spectacular view of...nothing. There was too much fog to see anything and, as for the radar stuff for which the hill is named, not much there either. At least I had the ride down, right? Unfortunately, the road was a bit too rough in places to let Betsy fly too fast.

Back out on the main road, I left the park and not too long later picked up a bike path into Tofino. As it was getting close to snack time, I was looking forward to finding a bakery in Tofino. I rolled into Tofino keeping my eyes peeled for signs of a bakery. Believe it or not, there wasn't one! Really all Tofino seemed to have was places to go on whale watching tours. Finally, I just stopped at the Co-op grocery store and got some cheese and crackers for lunch and a couple of donuts from the bakery part of the store (and some chocolate milk). I ate at a table outside the store, then headed back to the park.

On the way back I stopped at Schooners Cove again. This time I did the walk to the beach. The trail was a boardwalk for the entire 1 km with 333 stairs! It was a nice little cove at the end of the walk.

I also stopped at Incinerator Rock again. This time there were several people out surfing (or "waiting" as I like to refer to it). They had full wet suits on, of course.

I returned to my campsite at Green Point at about 2:00. It was a good ride for a day off. I changed out of my bike shorts (wore them under my pants) and had a little "campsite bath". There are no showers here which I find odd because there is hot water in some of the restroom buildings. Oh well, I should have a shower at Sproat Lake tomorrow.

Tonight there was a lovely sunset. The weather has finally cleared up. I think tomorrow will be a nice day.

Just Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale...

...a tale of a fateful trip and fall--but more about that later.

Today was the day of the voyage on the MV Frances Barkley. I woke up early and was ready to go by 6:45. It worked out well because I wanted to take some photos and get some donuts at the "Best Donut shop on Vancouver Island" before boarding the boat. When I got to the dock, I went first to the Lady Rose Marine Office to pick up my ticket (The original boat was the Lady Rose. The Frances Barkley started making the trip in 1990). It was 7:00 and I didn't need to be on the boat until 7:45. Off I went to the Donut Shop. The fresh ones weren't quite ready yet, so I went to take some photos (had to get a photo of the boat). When I came back, the guy (Mike) asked me what I wanted so he could make them up for me. I got a chocolate coconut, a lemon coconut (Nathan, you were right! It was delicious!), and a maple walnut. I also got a chocolate milk to go with them. I don't know if they are truly the "best donuts on Vancouver Island" as I haven't had any others but, freshly made and hot, they were pretty darn good!

After my pig out on donuts, I rode back over to the boat to board. I took one look at the skinny gangway and wondered how I would best get Betsy on the boat. She was too wide for me to walk beside her. I was thinking I was going to have to take the bags off when a gentleman offered to help me. He suggested he would take the front and I would take the rear. It worked just fine and Betsy was safely aboard. I secured her to the railing with my bike lock.

After several more people boarded and all the cargo was loaded, we departed from the dock right on schedule. It was a beautiful day for a boat ride. There was seating inside or outside. Since I dressed for sitting outside, that's where I spent most of my time. I talked to one couple for awhile, then got up to check out the rest of the boat. In addition to the captain announcing points of interest along the way, there was also a gentleman roaming around the boat giving other tidbits of info about what we were passing. Periodically someone would spot a whale. The first one I saw was likely a Minke whale. Later on I got a photo of a tail! I kept telling the whales to come closer, but they declined.

While I was sitting outside, a gal came over to talk to me and ask about my bike. She was starting a week long kayak trip with 3 other friends. They all had code names because, according to "Thunderbird", what happens on the water, stays on the water! Thunderbird's (from Calgary) partners-in-crime were Orca, Raven, and Hummingbird (I told them my code name was Super Biker Woman). T-bird had given the other three "name tags" in the form of jewelry depicting their individual code name symbols (First Nation depictions of the Orca, Raven and Hummingbird). At first I thought T-Bird was the fearless leader of the group. Actually, it turned out to be Hummingbird. She was going to be their kayak guide extraordinaire.

Today was T-Bird's birthday, so we all sang "Happy Birthday". The group presented her with a cupcake. I'm sure all four of those gals are going to have a fabulous time! (T-Bird, if you are reading this, email me some photos--I promise I'll keep them to myself--what happens on the know).

The boat made a stop at Sechart Lodge. That is the jumping off point for the kayakers. Several people got off, including the Fab Four. The crew off-loaded the kayakers gear and those passengers waiting to board came on.
An older gentleman and his daughter were boarding when the gentleman tripped and fell hitting his face on the sharp metal gangway. Those of us watching from above on the boat could see he was cut up pretty bad. They got him up and sat him on one of the crates. He looked to be doing okay, but I'm sure the adrenalin was responsible for that. Once he was ready, they helped him on the boat (there is likely no medical personnel at Sechart). Later the captain asked if there was a nurse or doctor on board. I said I was a nurse, but I hadn't worked as a nurse for some time. They said he really just needed first aid. So, I went downstairs to see what I could do. When I got to him there was a young gal who was a doctor (must have been pretty close out of med school). Between the two of us we bandaged him up. The first aid kits on the boat were kind of a mess, but we managed to find enough dressing material to patch him up. The worst cut was on his lip. That one would probably require a stitch or two. He had a pretty good cut and goose egg under his eye that we put an ice pack on as well as a dressing. He was actually in pretty good spirits. His name was Stuart (or Stewart?) and he was 92! Pretty tough guy for 92! After we got him patched up, he came up on deck with his daughter, Ruth. He sat next to me and we had a wonderful chat. His only view was of the port side as the ice pack was covering his right eye. I told him he looked like a pirate (all he needed was a parrot on his shoulder). We decided when he got back to the place he lives (in Seattle) he should tell them he got mauled by a bear (some of the abrasions looked pretty convincing)!

The crew on the boat called ahead for a taxi (ironically, there was a parrot on the side of the taxi!) to take him to the clinic in Ucluelet. They also let the clinic know he was coming. The boat only spends 1 hour in Ucluelet and Ruth's car was in Port Alberni so they needed to get back there. I hope they made it okay.

Mike, the guy who helped me get Betsy on the boat also helped me get her off. Thanks again, Mike!

Once I got to Ucluelet and off the boat (about 1:00), I changed into my bike jacket and headed up the hill to Peninsula Rd. It was a super steep (but, thankfully, short) hill up to Peninsula. I had to stand up to pedal--even in Super Granny gear! I made it and headed out of town toward Pacific Rim National Park. I wanted to stay at Green Point Campground in the park. It is a popular park so I was hoping I would be able to get a site. Along the road, I noticed a bike path. I hopped on over to it and had a nice ride almost to where Hwy 4 comes in from Port Alberni. From there I was back on the road to Green Point.

They still had tent sites available in Green Point. They are walk-in sites where the car campers have to haul their stuff in (no wheelbarrows like at Rathtrevor). Again, I just wheeled Betsy to my site. I'm in site 10 which the gal said is one of the nicest ones (she was surprised it was still available). I can hear the ocean and if I walk down a short trail, there are benches where I can sit and see the beach below. I was hoping for a gorgeous sunset, but the fog rolled in just as the sun was going down.

Earlier, I walked down to the beach. Green Point sits up above Long Beach and Combers Beach. I walked along Long Beach over to Combers Beach. They are nice sand beaches with big rocks.

When I returned to my campsite, I went and fetched my food panniers out of the bear locker. Bears, wolves, and mountain lions are present here, so every effort is made to have a "clean" campsite. I fixed my dinner, washed my dishes, and put everything back in the bear locker. It is a ways away, but I don't need anything in there anyway. When I get ready for bed, I'll brush my teeth, then put my toiletries bag in the bear locker too.

Speaking of getting ready for bed...I suppose it's about time. It's dark and I can see my breath in the cool marine air. I'm guessing it will be foggy for awhile in the morning. I'm sure I will sleep well with the sound of the ocean lulling me to sleep.