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Seattle Bicycle Tour

Seattle Bicycle Tour

September 18th, 2007  · stk

Day 1 - Hutton House to Salt Spring Island (32.8 Miles)

3h 24m ride time – 9.7 mph avg - 33.2 mph max

 

Our tour got off to a rocky start. It was postponed.

Because of rain.

The night before our scheduled departure and all through the morning, it rained. We saw no sense starting a journey sopping wet, and the 5-day forecast called for clearing skies, so we delayed leaving until the rain abated. We used the time to pack up our bikes and make last minute preparations. Finally, around 11 AM, the rain stopped and the sun shone through a cloudy sky. By early afternoon, it looked like the rain was gone for good and we were ready to leave. The roadways were still wet and with the sunshine, the air was humid. We pedaled up our gravel driveway on our heavily laden bikes. Alex was tucked away in her buggy, excited to be leaving.

On our way out, we stopped by our neighbor's house, to let them know that we were leaving and to ask them to retrieve our mail. Charlie heard us pull up and he ventured out of the house, eating a sandwich.

We explained what we were doing and he thought we were crazy, cycling all the way to Seattle.

"You have more balls than I do," he said, summing it up with a single sentence.

We waved good-bye to Charlie and made a quick run down the hill and out along Yellow Point Road. It's a hilly route and with all of our gear, it was slow going up some of the steeper slopes. It seemed to take forever till we reached the Trans-Canada Highway, at the southern end of Cedar Road.

We joined the busy highway and headed south, toward Ladysmith (pop 7500). Many cars and trucks whizzed past us, traveling over 100 kilometers per hour. They create a backdraft that helped to speed us on our way, but we were eager to be off the the noisy highway, despite the wide shoulder. The sun was shining, but there were many dark and pregnant-looking clouds overhead and we were uncertain whether we would stay dry or if the rain might return.

We followed the Trans Canada Highway past this picturesque coastal town (did you know that Ladysmith is the birthplace of Pamela Anderson?) to its southern edge, where we turned onto Chemainus Road. Whew. The noisy and speeding cars were gone! We could still hear the highway, off to our right, but we were now on a shoulderless, hilly, sea-side road. We past many homes with beautiful views of Ladysmith harbor. It was a mixed bag of very expensive homes, rural properties and even mobile homes, all tucked into forested and grassy fields, overlooking the water. We cycled through the small village of Saltair, stopping for the first time, at a small grocery store, where we bought some juice and a couple of candy bars. We were already tired from our 15-mile ride!

From Saltair, we continued on, into the town of Chemainus (pop. 4500). The town is noted for it's murals. Rachel and I had cycled through Chemainus in 2001, on a tour with Rachel's mum, in the reverse direction. Ironically, we also passed by very close to our current home, on our way up Cedar Road, to the Duke Point ferry. We thought the area was pretty, but we had never thought that we might be living here, at some point in the future!

Our "off-the-couch-and-onto-the-bike" training regime caught up to Scott, just outside Chemainus, as his legs started to cramp. Fortunately, the town of Crofton (pop. 2500), was only about 7 miles south of Chemainus and once we passed the Catalyst Pulp Mill and got into town, we had a quick downhill run, to the Vesuvius ferry terminal, which services the north end of Salt Spring Island.

There were a line-up of cars, waiting for the ferry, which was docked. We cycled past the line-up and up to the toll booth. We paid for our passage (something like $15 for two adults, two bicycles and a free kid), then cycled to a small waiting area on the dock, where we watched the ferry unload, load and then we told to walk our bicycles onto the ferry and prop them up against an inner wall.

The ferry operator apologized for loading us last (bicycles are often the first loaded, not the last), but Rachel made the comment, "No worries. If we were in a hurry, we'd be traveling by car."

While we were waiting for the cars to load, another cycle-tourist pulled up. We didn't get his name, but he was headed south, after cycling the Alaskan Highway. He was from Los Angeles and was heading home after a long loop trip that took him through Utah, Glacier National Park and up to Fairbanks through Dawson Creek.

When Scott quizzed him about some of the challenges of riding the Alaskan Highway, he said, "One thing that I learned the hard way, is that it's not uncommon to go 4-to-6 days between resupply points. I was very hungry a couple of times!"

I bet! He didn't look like he'd fare well without food, either, as he was a bloody skinny bloke.

Suddenly, our little Seattle pedal-trip seemed to pale, in comparison to his epic, cross-continental journey. But we didn't let that dull our enthusiasm, however. Any trip one takes with a three-and-a-half year-old is a big adventure, as most parents can attest!

The ferry ride gave us a chance to rest our couch-trained legs and provided Alex with some much-needed, out-of-buggy time. We walked up the stairs to the small passenger cabin, where we made use of the rest room and looked at the map of Salt Spring Island, posted on the wall.

The ferry ride took a bit over 20 minutes and before we knew it, we were following the cars off of the ferry. Unfortunately, the road leading from the Vesuvius ferry terminal was steep and after, we continued to climb into the heart of Salt Spring Island.

When we boarded the ferry, we had no idea what kind of cycling routes Salt Spring Island (pop. 10,000), the largest of the southern Canadian Gulf Islands, might offer. As it turns out, there are a number of cycling routes on the island, but many are quite hilly and while they're great for a day's exploration of the island, most aren't suitable for a cross-island jaunt.

As a result, we just stuck to the main road across the island, which leads to the largest town - Ganges (pop. 6000) - then to Fulford Harbor (pop. 1200). The road didn't have much of a shoulder, but fortunately, the automobile traffic wasn't too heavy.

The minute we landed on the island, we both had a sense of "island life". There seemed to be many artsy-type houses, people and cars. It gave us a sense that time slowed down, that communities were tight-knit and filled with laid-back, hippie-types. (Mind you, this is only an impression, but it was palpable).

We wound our way past eclectic homes, steep driveways, forested hillsides and various businesses. Scott's legs were in dire need of a campsite and we debated about stopping at the very first one, just outside of Vesuvius, but pushed on toward Ganges, instead.

We had a bit of a downhill run, into Ganges, which was nice for off-the-couch legs, at the end of the day. Ganges is a bustling port town, and we cycled past a few restaurants, art shops and other businesses, before we pulled in at the marina. There, we picked up two beers (a remedy for tired legs) and enquired about camping. Apparently, we had two options and we took the advice of the proprietor, heading (ugh) back up to Rainbow Road, to the "Garden Faire Campground".

The campground is associated with an art gallery and plant nursery of the same name. It's at the back of the business property, nestled in some trees and there's a walking trail that one can take, through Mouat Park, back to town, right from the campground. The place was pretty empty, as school is back in session and "summer" is officially over. We found a walk-in tent site that we liked, set up camp, sat down in one of the plastic-resin chairs and sipped our still-cool beer. Ahhh. Cycling for 'Day One' is done and we can rest! The cool beer at the end of the day is definitely the best part of cycle-touring!

Alex, of course, was very excited about our new digs. She 'helped' set up the tent and wanted immediately to go inside (then just as fast, come back out again). The ground was still quite damp from the morning rains and in an effort to keep things reasonably tidy, we had to explain that it's "shoes-off" in the tent and that one can't just go into and out-of the tent as often as a three-year-old might like.

"If you're in the tent, then you're in the tent," explained Rachel.

"Okay," Alex said, "Please may I go in the tent?"

"Sure," we said, "but you'll first need to take off your shoes."

"Okay."

The tent rocked and bucked, while she gleefully played inside, but after about 5 minutes, she poked her head out and asked, "Please may I come out now?"

Because it was getting late in the day (and) because we were tired (and) because we were near town (and) because we were on vacation (and) because we're bad for it (and) because neither of us wanted to be bothered with cooking ... we made the decision to cycle into town for dinner. We cycled all the way through town, along the pier, up the hill leading to town and back down again, before we finally settled on a place to eat.

As further proof that the island is populated by hippie artisans, we caught the distinct smell of ganja in the air, at a couple of places, as we cycled around town. Yep ... there is a laid-back, artsy-fartsy atmosphere here!

We had dinner at the Harbour House Hotel, with a beautiful view over Ganges harbour. We stuck to our usual burger and fries, which was the cheapest (and most filling) item on the menu. As we ate, we watched the sun set over the harbour.

After dinner, Rachel telephoned her childhood friend, Sarah, who's living with her mum in Victoria. We informed them that we'd likely be arriving in Victoria, the following afternoon and they said that they had plenty of room and invited us for the night. This took the pressure off of us, for catching the 3 PM ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington. (We were a tad concerned about trying to catch two ferries and cycling all the way into Victoria, in one day).

By the time we were done with our meal and the telephone conversation, it was past 8 PM and we had to cycle back to the campground, in the dark. We brushed our teeth and went to bed. Alex was over-tired and over-excited and she had difficulty falling asleep. She kept wanting to "play" hide-and-seek, poke us, giggle and do EVERYTHING but sleep! Scott thought this was (a) predictable and (b) cute. Rachel thought it was bloody annoying!

Finally, Alex went to sleep and eventually, so did we.


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