By Lindsay Wynne
Distance Biked: 305 km
Daily Avg: 76
Terrain: Variable (lots of hills along the Sunshine Coast)
Due to our lack of experience bike touring, Greg and I tought it would be a good idea to do a bit of a test run prior to heading to Europe for our planned 3 month-long cycle tour. Back in May, Alex Thompson (a friend from University and subsequent co-worker of mine), Greg and I had planned on cycling the popular Sunshine Coast-Vancouver Island loop which takes you through Nanaimo, Comox, Powell River and Gibsons. Unfortunately due to rain (surprise surprise), we cancelled and went to Portland instead. Greg wrapped up his thesis (defended on July 17th!) which coincided with my last day of work (July 26th). This left us a few days between cleaning up our apartment and our planned Vancouver departure date of August 7th to squeeze the short trip in.
We had a casual starting time of 10:30 on Sunday morning where we packed up our bags in an effort to carry as much as we anticipate on our big trip. In the end I think I will have slightly more weight but I think we did a pretty good job of making this test run as realistic as possible.
We were joined along the way to Horsebay by a friend of ours Blaire MacKenzie who on her speedy road bike may or may not have been a bit faster than us up some of the hills along the way 😉
Our plan was to make it to Nanoose Bay (just outside of Parksville) for our first evening. We were being hosted by a fellow named Peter who we found via Warmshowers.org which is essentially Couch Surfing but specifically for cycle touring. We biked 35 km to his place with relative ease. It was very flat but there is a lot of traffic because we were biking along the main hwy so not the nicest portion of the trip.
We arrived at Peter’s place to find him just finishing up some gardening work and were astounded by how unbelievably quiet the place was. I didn’t realize how loud our Vancouver neighbourhood really is until I was on a lawn at the edge of the ocean surrounded by calm.
We spent the evening sharing dinner with Peter and his friend Madeleine followed by a lovely dessert and tequilla liqueur.
After a great sleep and eggs and toast in the morning (generously made by Peter!) we set off on what we thought would be our longest/most challenging day. The ride from Parksville to Comox turned out to be quite enjoyable following the secondary island hwy the whole way. The route was relatively flat and had a decent shoulder most of the way. We stopped for a rest and lunch at a cute cafe near the Denman Ferry terminal and completed the remainder of our ride to Comox. Our plan had been to take our time and leave enough space to catch the 7:15 ferry. We in fact arrive in Comox at 3:20 – just five minutes after the 3:15 ferry…so had some time to kill.
After taking the 7:15 ferry, we headed to our second host lawn. Robert and Elena had accepted us through couch surfing at the last minute having just gotten back from a camping trip. We didn’t get to visit too long but we chatted with them over some tea before falling sound asleep after a long but successful day of 100 kms! Our biggest touring day yet.
Day 3 turned out be by far our most challenging day of the loop – though it managed to start and end pretty well. We decided to bike the first 20 kms on empty stomach in order to make breakfast and some nearby falls Robert had recommended. This turned out to be a great decision and breakfast was paired with an early morning swim and some thrilling cliff jumping for Greg.
We proceeded to the Saltery Bay -Earles Cove ferry in between which we were met by one of the longest hills Greg or I have biked up (about 20 minutes of sustained uphill) as well as several other smaller ups and downs. On the Ferry we met an extremely friendly man, Lorne, who inquired about our trip and invited us to stay on his lawn that night in Roberts Creek. We had been planning on finding a logging road so this was a great treat! Lorne advised us that he had done the trip before and that the worst of it was behind us! Unfortunately…. he was wrong. The remaining 50+ kms to Sechelt were extremely hilly and very challenging for both of us. Needless to say we got a little grumpy and were very glad to finally reach Sechelt a mere 15 kms from Roberts Creek where we stopped for a coffee and a break.
Our evening in Roberts Creek was lovely – we cooked some pasta on the beach and watched the sunset/moonrise on the small jetty a 2 minute walk from our camping spot (Lorne and Debbie’s backyard).
The following morning after almost 11 hrs of sleep, we awoke and leisurely made breakfast and completed the remaining 15 kms to the Langdale Ferry without too much difficulty. The bike ride back from Horseshoe Bay though daunting turned out to be easier than I thought! Apparently the hills are a lot smaller/shorter in comparison to the ones we had experienced the day before. We arrived back home at 1pm in time to relax, unwind and watch a movie before heading to the second night of the Global Fireworks competition in Vancouver with a few friends.
A few lessons learned from our test run:
- Greg gets grumpy when subjected to the 3Hs – Heat, Hunger and Hills (he came up with this himself)
- Lindsay needs narrower handlebars – I was locking my elbows a lot but have now gotten this fixed at the bike shop
- Not being in a rush and taking frequent stops for snacks and to relax make the day seem less long and gives us time to take in the scenery
- Using camping in combination with couchsurfing / warmshowers seems to be a great way of setting up accommodation