We planned to catch the 8:00 am ferry from Schwartz Bay but by 7:30 it wasn’t looking good. Once packed we made a mad dash and were one of the first in line for the (you guessed it!) the 9:00 ferry. The ferry ride was very scenic and the island coasts looked a bit like the Bay of Fundy shoreline. We had been in contact with Al Lens through the web site and he was nice enough to offer a guided tour through some of the cycling paths and streets of Vancouver plus an offer for us to be hosted by his lovely family. Cycling through a big city like Vancouver was amazing and something we would have never done if it wasn’t for Al.
We left the campground by 9:00 to get supplies, drop off a box of excess stuff to be shipped home, pick up the bikes at the bike shop and drop off the van. By 2:00 we were off to find the mile 0 marker for the required photo and officially start the challenge. We took the scenic route out of Victoria and camped at a nice campground a few kilometers from the ferry. Before reaching the campground, we stopped at a Safeway to get another box for shipping stuff back home. Years of scouting have made us prepared for everything and this is evident in our packing.
We were up at 4am local time, starting to sort through all the gear, getting everything from the hockey bags it had been shipped in into the individual saddle bags . By 8am things were in order, and we were thinking maybe we had too much stuff! We had breakfast and headed out to Tofino, through Pacific Rim National Park. We stopped at Long Beach for a bit, driving through the tsunami risk areas (makes you think!). We were in Tofino by noon. We wandered around, seeing lots of Westfalia vans, flowering shrubs in full bloom (its rhododendron season here!) skateboarders and surfers. We are definitely on the laid back West Coast! We even saw a guy cycling with his surf board attached to his bike, wearing his wet suit! Wish I had been quick enough with the camera for that one! We had a great lunch at the Common Loaf Bakery. We then headed back through the Park towards Victoria, stopping at the Rainforest trail to have a walk through the preserved Old Growth Forest. You follow along a narrow boardwalk (24″) into the forest of huge old trees, each one making you stop in awe. Some of the trees there are over 800 years old. A few had diameters of 10-12 feet. It was very impressive. The forest had an ancient feel to it, very quiet and still, almost spiritual. Andre remarked that when Christopher Columbus arrived in North America, some of these trees were already a couple of hundred years old! Amazing! It rained a bit, but we still walked the Cathedral Grove trail on our way back to Victoria. These trees were old growth firs. The oldest Douglas Fir was about 800 years old. Huge, straight and tall! Photos don’t do justice to them. Its amazing to think that there was a time when the whole island was covered in this type of forest. We slept near Victoria in the Goldstream Provincial Park which was a very nice park. The rain had stopped before we set up our tents.
We were at the airport for 6am for a 7:30 departure to Toronto. The big day was finally here! Louise saw us off at the airport, despite the early hour. We went to Toronto, then to Vancouver. The flight into Vancouver was late coming in due to strong headwinds, and we nearly missed our connection to Victoria. We jogged through the airport and found the gate we needed just in time. Our bags made the connection too, yeah! We rented a van at the airport, loaded all our gear and headed for Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver island. The road was narrow and winding with no shoulder to speak of, not a cycling road for sure, but the motorcyclists seemed to love it! We were off schedule and jet lagged. I don’t know how Andre drove all that . By the time we arrived at the campground, we had had a 21 hour day. There were partyers at the campground but we were too tired to care. We slept.
The bicycles and the Yak left today, and are supposed to arrive in Victoria either tomorrow or Friday. They’re certainly moving faster now than when we’ll be on them! It seems weird to be without a bike. Makes training a little awkward too. We’re still swimming, and trying to get some walks in in between the packing and fretting about what to pack. You can pack all kinds of stuff, but you have to be able to pedal the bike when its loaded. Obviously, the lighter, the better. I went for a short semi-loaded ride last week before André crated the bikes and was amazed at how hard it was…can’t wait to hit the mountains!! I’m sure it will all come together, shorter days to start, and great legs by the time we finish!
The bikes are leaving this week. They are going ground because bikes and airplanes don’t get along and airplanes always win. We started making a pile in the middle of the living room with all the stuff we intend to bring. It’s looking like everything still fits but we aren’t done adding to the pile. The countdown is on, there is less than 20 days before the fun begins.
So. How did we get to this point? Well, it’s all André’s fault. OK. Not fault. Idea. He started it all. Way back, when we were just starting to cycle, with barely a trip under our belts, he started to talk about crossing Canada. He’s very good at planting seeds and letting them germinate, watered with the occasional reference, heated by his passion for the idea he’s trying to grow. He doesn’t yank the idea up by its spindly stalk to see if the roots are coming along. He waits, and feeds the idea until he’s sure it’s ready to be transplanted. What started as “when the boys are 16 and 18….” slowly changed. Of course the only constant in life is change. The boys grew and got stronger, we all got more confident on our bikes and with our abilities, and the little idea grew. We made a few trips, some of them tougher than others (Newfoundland comes to mind…) and the little idea grew, its roots now strong, and ready for transplanting. Transplanting meant changing dates. Suddenly what seemed like something way off in the future now loomed in front of us. Of course, it’s still easy to ignore “in a year from now”, “in six months”, but the gardener kept us all informed and on track. He was looking forward to the harvest. And now the countdown on the wall says 22 days to departure. We are tending to the last details of a huge set of logistics. To his credit, the gardener hasn’t neglected the crop. He is the main logistics person on this adventure and has held up despite the pressure from the office to get things ready there as well. We think things are in order. Oh, we’ll have to adjust along the way, no doubt, but the bulk of it is taken care of…except the tents. We do need tents…I think I’ll go check that now
Time is getting short. Departure is planned for May 15. We have a small computer that we will use to stay in touch with friends and family. You can contact us at *email disabled*. You can also comment on these articles. We will only be able to return messages when we are in range of wifi. Every day we are planning, preparing, thinking, checking, researching. Real scouting!
Well the web site is coming along very nicely, This Joomla CMS (Content Management System) is great. It is well suited for people with little experience in Web design that want to create and maintain a web site. That is exactly what I was looking for. I figure we are going to push this site on the server in about 5 days. One could get carried away with this free software and add more and more features as you go along developing the site. We will see how far we go before we need to tend to other matters. Route planning as well as equipment and logistics still need to be looked at. We are short of a few tents, sleeping pads, front bicycle racks for the panniers and some small stuff. It will all work out in the end, its just that the end is approaching fast. Time to take out the old boy scout logistical skills.
One neat thing we got is a small PC from ASUS. It is called the Eee and is quite the computer. It is very portable and will come in very handy for updating the site and checking emails. I had done some research on the web and this computer had gotten very good reviews for long distance cyclists. It does not have a hard disk drive but has a static drive instead. This makes it very stable when carried on a bicycle. We will find out soon enough how well it performs.