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Sunshine Coast Cycle Tour

Sunshine Coast Cycle Tour

August 23rd, 2010  · stk

Sunshine Coast Cycle Trip - Day 1
Nanaimo - Qualicum Bay (40 miles)
Monday Aug 26th

We didn't get up as early this morning as we had planned, even though the alarm went off at 6 AM, we quickly turned it off and rolled over. A little while later, Alex came into the room and asked if she and her friend, Maia (who had spent the night) could watch television. In order to buy ourselves some more sleep, we said, "sure4". It wasn't until 7:30 AM, when the cat was climbing all over us and meowing, that we finally got out of bed. We had been up till nearly midnight sorting though our gear and packing our bags, but we still had items to add and much to do before we could head out.

Our friend Angela came by at 8:30 AM to see what we wanted her to do for the chickens, cat, fish and plants. It sure is nice to have a great friend as a neighbor! Alex and Maia were off playing outside and we were able to get ready to go. We packed an extra bag to drop off at the Harbour Air float-plane terminal, to fly as baggage to Vancouver. That bag has some normal street clothes for us to wear when we get there and stuff for Alex to take to Watch Lake with her next week (We'll be dropping Alex off in Vancouver, so she can have a follow-on trip up to the Cariboo region of the B.C. Interior, with her maternal grandparents).

It was about 10:30 AM before we were actually ready to leave. We dropped Maia off at her house and visited with her parents (Dave and Bev) for a while, then we stopped at McDonald's - much to Alex's delight - to grab a quick lunch (LOL ... by now it was already 11 AM). We then drove by Harbour Air to drop off our bag and then - finally - up into the neighborhood near the Nanaimo Regional Hospital. There, we parked the truck and loaded up our bikes for Alex's first big pedaling adventure! When we finally started cycling, it was ten minutes after noon and it was hot.

We cycled down to the E&N Parkway Trail next to the train tracks and then made our way along the near empty trail. It was an adjustment to be riding with loaded panniers again, as they really affects the handling of the bikes. Add to that the side-to-side motion from Alex on the trail-a-bike and there are definite steering difficulties. Rachel was really glad to have a nice wide path to ride for the first five kilometers, so she could get used to it.

When the E&N trail ended, we hopped onto Wellington Avenue. As we were cycling up our first hill, we happened upon Chad Willick, who was sitting in the shade of a tree, near the Vancouver Island Fitness building. He was on a break from his 6-hours of physio, so we stopped and said hello. Near the end of Wellington we spied Arrowsmith Bike Shop, where we stopped to pick up some chain lube and then we made our way across the intersection and onto Metral Drive, heading for the Real Canadian Stupid-store to pick up the last few-minute items: pepperoni sticks, sunglasses for Alex, Minute Rice, oatmeal, etc.

By the time we were done all of that it was about 2 PM. We threw the purchases haphazardly into our bags, where ever we could fit them, and then we pulled off onto the Island Highway. We only had to ride the busy highway for a few blocks, to Dickinson Road, behind the Canadian Tire, before we turned off. We were glad to be away from the congested highway. We followed Dickinson Road down a steep hill and through a residential area, before we finally climbed up again - onto Lantzville Road and into the little community of Lantzville. Though we've lived here almost four years, it was the first time that any of us had been into downtown Lantzville. We were surprised at how close it was to the north end of Nanaimo. Go figure.

We turned north on Lantzville Road, blinked and had passed through town and were soon back into residential areas. Lantzville Road meanders through trees and farms, with a mixture of classic old farmhouses and new construction. The cycling was hot, but being in farmland, we had a fair bit of shade and were happy for it. Lantzville Road eventually met up with the Island Highway (Hwy 19), smack dab in the section near the Nanoose First Nations land, where all the ugly billboards are located. Thankfully we had passed most of the billboards already and only had to endure one or two. We rode along the shoulder of this busy highway for the next 5 miles - it was hot, noisy and unpleasant. The cars screamed past us, one after another in an endless line of polluting noise. Even though the shoulder was three feet wide (or wider) it still didn't feel wide enough. As each car or truck blew by, we felt a blast of wind. There is one benefit of highway riding however, with all the tailwind from steady traffic, our pace was much quicker. The smoggy draft from the cars buys us an extra two or three miles per hour - and - combined with relatively moderate grades, allows for faster cycling.

We reached North-West Bay Road and the PetroCan gas station, where we stopped for a break. Scott suggested that for all her cycling effort, Alex was deserving of a Popsicle or a slushy. Excited by this prospect, we were surprised that she opted for a funny-looking, sour sucker stick instead. The parents were the ones that got slushies and after the first couple of sips, which were refreshing, didn't really enjoy the rest of the drinks. (They were horribly sweet and gave us 'brain freeze'!) On the other hand, Alex enjoyed her sucker stick for the rest of the day's cycling, then incorporated the plastic "ring" into her play. Who made the better choice, eh?

We left the gas station and started the first of two steep climbs out of the marshland and up onto the headlands along NW Bay Road. We were huffing and puffing in the heat, but steadily making our way up, passing into more farmland. After a while, we came out and joined up with the West Island Highway (the Inland Island Highway). We stopped at a tourist information building to inquire about the camping between Parksville and Courtney. They gave us a listing with about 8 or 9 campground on it, most of which are north of Qualicum Beach, in Qualicum Bay. We pretty much decided on the Qualicum First Nations Campground, which is just north of Qualicum Beach, as our destination for the night. (It was the campground furthest to the north and had heard it was a good place to stay).

The ride through Parksville on the W. Island Highway was not pleasurable. It was hot, which was confirmed by a bank sign that said it was 34°C (93°F). The traffic through Parksville was constant and the road had no shoulders and instead, had a sharp, steep curb with a sidewalk. We didn't stop, partly because we could hardly look around. We had to concentrate on the road and avoiding the rush of cars, trucks, buses and Recreational Vehicles.

We were thankful to leave busy Parksville, as we continued down the West Island Highway. Dense housing gave way to homes on acreage and larger lots, but we never felt like we really left town. Although the flow of traffic had lightened, it was still busier than we would have liked. We tackled a couple of hot climbs and then sped down to the waterfront, where we found ourselves cycling along Qualicum Beach. We stopped at the information booth adjacent to the beach, enjoying the relative coolness from a shaded park bench. We both guzzled the entire contents of our water bottles, in an effort to stay hydrated. Alex played on the beach with a little dog, tossing a toy into the water, while the dog's owner looked on. Once rested, we refilled our water bottles with refreshing cold water, ate a candy bar, then steeled ourselves for the remaining 11 kilometers to the campground.

The lady in the information booth said that the campground was, "about 11 kilometers away," adding not to worry, because the road ahead, "was all flat". She must not ever ride her bike! The only part of the 11 kilometers that was flat was the first couple of kilometers along Qualicum Beach. After that, we spent the next 8 kilometers climbing and dipping. There were a few spots where the roadway leveled, but more often than not, it was followed by a slow and steady climb. The worst part for Rachel, who was still towing Alex, was that she was unable to get into her smallest front chain ring. This meant she had to grind up these hills in a more medium gear, rather than spin up them. Not a lot of fun. Alex did her part to help and pushed her little heart out. They eventually made it up each climb, but it took a lot of energy.

It was a long 11 kilometers at the end of a very hot day. Our bodies were tired and suffering from the day one fatigue, but at last Big Qualicum River was in sight and so was the campground. We pulled in, propped our bikes up against the registration booth railing and then flopped into the chairs inside while we registered for a campsite. We paid $24 and change, as well as $3 for three shower tokens for a non-designated spot on the grass with a picnic table. Nonetheless, it is a place to lay our heads tonight, and there is a bit of a playground and a number of kids that Alex was eager to engage in play.

We re-hydrated a chili meal, combining it with Minute Rice for our dinner. Scott is in the shower as Rachel finishes up with this journal entry. Alex got filthy on an old tire swing and isn't too happy about being informed that she too, will be having a shower, but she has resigned herself to this fact. She did a super job cycling today. Only near the end of the ride was she asking every now and then, "how much further to the campground, mom?" She didn't whine about the length of time, the distance or the heat at all. She was a really good little trooper and we are very proud of her first day's efforts.

On our first day, we cycled 40 miles from Nanaimo to Qualicum Bay. Our average speed was 11 miles per hour and our maximum - downhill - speed was 37.4 miles per hour. Alex sat in the saddle, pedaling her little "Trail-a-bike" for three hours and forty minutes. Way to go Alex!

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