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Sunshine Coast Cycle Tour
Sunshine Coast Cycle Trip - Day 2
Qualicum Bay - Comox (37 miles)
Tuesday Aug 27th
We woke up at 6:30 AM to the sound of crows cawing above our tent. It was like one of them was calling over his buddies because he had found something good on our picnic table. Even though we had been careful to put everything away last night, we couldn't help but wonder what they were up to. Looking out of the tent, we watched one of them fly away and drop something white out of its beak. It stopped and flew down to pick it up. We never found out what it was, but we didn't seem to be missing anything. Bloody crows!
Alex and Rachel had oatmeal for breakfast, but because we had forgotten to buy milk powder, Scott couldn't have his Carnation instant breakfast. Instead he ate a couple of pepperoni sticks, two mini yogurts, a chunk of cheddar cheese and a kiwi. Peeling the kiwi created a bit of a problem. Though we were certain we'd packed the camping knife, we couldn't find it anywhere! After 15 futile minutes of looking, we were just about ready to give up and ask a nearby camper if we could borrow one, when Rachel found it buried deep in an Ursack What's an "Ursack"? Ursack is a bear and rodent resistant food bag made from lightweight (5 ounces), flexible, bullet-proof fabric (Kevlar). It's much easier to stow and carry than traditional hard-sided bear canisters. Ursacks are great for cyclists, kayakers, backpackers and wilderness adventurers. We've been using the same 2 Ursacks since we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada) in 2002. They've protected our food from mice, marmots, raccoons, rats, squirrels and other critters (never tested by a bear, thankfully). We wouldn't go on a wilderness trip without them! Click to head to ursack.com, where you can learn more or order your own ursack (now comes in two flavors - white or yellow). food bag.
We didn't dally after breakfast, though it did take a while to pack up and by the time we were ready, it was already 9:30 AM. Scott was eager to get moving before the heat kicked in. There were a few clouds in the sky, but nothing that was going to provide us much protection from the day's heat and they were likely to burn off anyway.
Scott was pulling Alex today and Rachel commented, "It's nice to be more in control of my bike," adding, "I now know what the expression 'the tail wagging the dog' means, since Alex's movements on her 'Trail-a-bike' are translated directly to the handling of our bikes!"
We left Qualicum First Nations Campground and made our way through the rest of Qualicum Bay. The road followed the coast line for a ways before climbing into a few hills, where we lost sight of the water. We were making pretty good time. Scott and Alex were having fun riding together. However, as we made our way through the little town of Bowser, Scott broke a spoke on his rear wheel. The spoke went, "twang" and then got caught up in his gears and his fender supports, making an awful grinding noise. We pulled off the roadway and Scott had to bend the spoke back and forth to get it to break off so his wheel could turn. He and Alex continued on for a little ways, but near the Deep Bay Fire Dept we had to turn off again. His rear wheel was rapidly becoming more warped and he had to disconnect Alex's 'Trail-a-bike' and attach it to Rachel's bike.
While Scott attempted a roadside-truing fix, Rachel wandered into the Deep Bay Water Board office to ask about a bike shop. As she feared, the nearest shop was in Courtenay, some 35 kilometers distant.
Back on the road again, we were only able to cycle for about three or four kilometers before Scott's wheel became too warped to continue. It was rubbing pretty badly and getting worse by the minute. He was concerned that truing efforts might snap other spokes, but we again stopped and he managed to true it up again. This time, however, the wheel seemed almost straight when we did a spin check.
On the road again, the small towns of Fanny Bay and Buckley Bay came and went quickly. Cycling this stretch of highway was pleasant and mostly flat, as we were hugging the coastline. We couldn't always see as much of the open coast as we would have liked, because of all the houses, but it was still a nice ride. The traffic dropped off a fair bit too and there were times when we were able to ride abreast for a few minutes at a time.
Shortly after Buckley Bay, Scott spied a small community park, just off the side of the road and hidden in the trees. It's easy to miss, because the picnic tables and a BBQ area are hidden off an embankment in thick bushes and trees. The park opens out onto a stony, relatively flat beach. We stopped and ate a chocolate bar, enjoying the scenery, which included Denman Island. Alex raced along the paths, climbed every picnic table, tossed rocks into the ocean and declared the empty firewood storage hut "her fort", before we returned to the road and our bikes.
Following Highway 19A, known as the Oceanside Route The Oceanside Route The Oceanside Route on Vancouver Island in British Columbia (Highway 19A) follows the east coast of Vancouver Island and passes through many tourist destination centers. It's a slower scenic driving route compared to the Inland Island Highway (Hwy 19), which bypasses most of these quaint coastal communities. The Oceanside Route (Hwy 19A) extends from Nanaimo, in the south, all the way to Campbell River. Click for a mile-by-mile description of this scenic driving route (and be courteous to and cautious of - cyclists!) , we passed through Union Bay, which much like other nearby towns, seemed to be comprised of only a few stores, a community hall, a gas station and a few houses that gradually diminished in number, until once again, we were pedaling through larger properties and the odd waterfront home.
Another 10 kilometers or so and we were in Royston. All that we really saw of Royston was a bad intersection where there is a connector road that leads back to the main Island Highway. The intersection was particularly bad because a bus pulled up beside us and between the bus and a couple of other cars, we felt like we were being squeezed off the roadway.
After Royston, we soon found ourselves entering into Courtenay. We rode past a nice "Welcome to Courtenay" sign along Highway 19A, but thought it would be a while before we were actually "in" the town proper. Well, the next thing we knew, we were coming up on a WalMart parking lot, complete with all the other normal big box stores. We toyed with the idea of stopping, but decided that finding a bike shop was a higher priority. Scott stopped to ask some people on the side of the road, "Excuse me, do you know where I can find a bike store in town?" Not only did he get directions to a good bike shop, but he also learned about the Courtenay River-way Trail, which started a block or so behind us and would take us right into downtown Courtenay.
We soon jumped on the Courtenay River-way Trail and enjoyed a nice car-free ride into the heart of Courtenay. The trail meandered along the estuary and river, around an airport and a marina and eventually ended a block behind Cliff Street at Sixth Street. We were told that there was a good bike shop, "at Cliff and Fifth".
We ventured across Sixth Street and into the lane that led to Fifth Street. BOOM! There in the lane, we came across a bike shop - "Sarah's Bike Parts and Repairs". Thinking that that must be the shop, Scott went inside and inquired about getting his spoke replace and wheel trued. The shop was small and disheveled, but the woman (Sarah?) was wearing a shop apron and bike shoes. She seemed willing to help and we just rolled with it. She came outside to help Scott get the wheel off his bike. She immediately deflated the tire and then announced, as she was walking back into the store, that it would be easier if the wheel was on the bike. "Take off your front panniers and bring the bike into the shop," she said. Scott was a tad perplexed by this and asked why, "I just need a spoke and a truing of the wheel, right?"
The woman then thrust his deflated rear wheel back at Scott and mumbled, "it's best if you take this to 'the other bike shop'. I don't have time," she added, "I'm right in the middle of something. I'm by myself and I can't afford to get hurt." Scott asked where the other bike shop was and she said a couple of buildings over. Hmmm. Odd. But that's what we did. But because she had been so kind to deflate his tire first, Scott had to carry his bike down while Rachel followed with the rest of the panniers, gear and Alex. (Scott had asked to borrow a foot pump to re-inflate his tire, but the woman said she didn't have one and practically threw Scott out of the shop).
"Wow," Scott thought, "What a grumpy, unfriendly woman! No wonder her shop is devoid of customers!"
The bike shop two doors down - Mountain City Cycle - was much more conventional, and the guys inside were pleasant and accommodating. We dropped off Scott's bike and parked Rachel's out front. They let us stow our valuables inside the shop and were very helpful at suggesting a number of nearby dining options. We walked up the street, looking at a number of menus, before deciding to lunch at the Zocalo Café. Scott and Alex had pizza and a drink, while Rachel had a chicken club sandwich with salad and a hard apple cider. The cafe not only had free wireless internet, but there was an outlet beside every bench table, so Rachel quickly ran back to the bike shop to grab the charger for the HP Jornada Our Pocket-size Computer Since 2002, we've written out adventure journals using pocket computers. We used to use a Sharp Mobilon hand-held computer, but it broke. So a couple of years ago, we purchased a used HP Jornada 720. Despite the fact is was used, it's a more technologically advanced computer than the Mobilon. The battery can last for something like 9 hours of life. Rachel writes using Pocket Word. (Rachel does nearly all the journaling, because she has much more slender fingers than Scott, which means she can touch-type - as opposed to stubby finger pecking). The good news for readers is that Rachel does an awesome job of detailing our adventures. The bad news for Rachel is that it takes a lot of work and she misses out on some of the adventure, as she's huddled over the computer, typing. (Big "Thanks" to Rachel, eh?!) Mind you, Rachel's job is generally finished when she gets home, but that's when Scott's starts - downloading, correcting, uploading images, links and other items to the journal on this website. as well as her iPhone. (We charge these devices while we can, because it's not likely we'll be getting full hookup at our campsites!)
While we were eating our lunch, we talked about whether or not we should try to catch the 3:15 PM ferry to Powell River or camp near Comox. We figured that camping would be limited and decided to push toward the ferry. As it was still 11 kilometers to the ferry terminal in Comox, we had to finish our lunch quickly and get on our way. We downed our drinks and headed back to the bike shop.
The repairs to Scott's bike were complete and we were faced with a modest $15 bill. While we were settling up, Rachel asked if they could recommend a good route to the ferry and about camping options near Comox. They suggested the most direct route to the ferry - straight up Ryan Road - even thought it meant a steep hill. When it came to camping, they mentioned a little Provincial Campground near the CFB and very close to the ferry terminal. We thought it sounded like a good option and went outside to load our gear back onto our bikes.
In front of the bike shop, an older lady asked us how far we were cycling. She was from Oregon and was also doing a Sunshine Coast bike tour. They had starting in Nanaimo a couple of days ago and were catching the Comox-to-Powell-River ferry first thing (6:30 AM) tomorrow morning. She was riding with her husband, who was riding a recumbent bicycle, and her son and daughter in law. Like us, they were in need of a quick repair (recumbent chain) and had stopped in to have it taken care off. By the time we finished chatting with them, our decision was made for us (the conversation had delayed us enough that we wouldn't be able to catch the 3:15 PM ferry).
We pulled out of Mountain City Cycle parking lot as satisfied customers. After our odd and rude encounter at "Sarah's Bike Parts", it was a breath of fresh air to be treated in a friendly and courteous manner at Mountain City Cycle. If you find yourself in need of a bike shop in Courtenay, British Columbia ... we can definitely recommend Mountain City Cycle!
Back on the road with a full set of spokes and a straight wheel, we crossed over the Fifth Street Bridge and then quickly veered off the Inland Island Highway and onto Ryan Road. Looming ahead of us was the big hill that the guys in the bike store had warned us about. Wow. They weren't kidding. It was a big hill! Before we tackled it, however, we passed by a Real Canadian Superstore and decided to stop. We needed some milk powder and Rachel needed a bra (yes, she somehow forgot to pack a bra - probably because she wore a sports tank yesterday).
Scott and Alex waited outside, sitting in the shade and enjoying the cool of the concrete. Rachel rushed in to get her bra and skim milk.
While Rachel was inside, a woman approached Scott and Alex. She asked them where they were going and explained that she was part of the "warm showers" cycling network and that her and her husband are cross-Canada cyclists. It's always interesting the people you meet when you're on an adventure!
Inside the store, Rachel held a bra in hand, as she went over to the bulk food section to buy milk powder. She was disappointed to find that they didn't carry skim milk powder in the bulk section. Hmmm. Well, while she was there, she bought Alex some M&Ms, for us - some mixed nuts and Wasabi peas, before dashing over to the dairy section for a 1/2 litre of liquid milk. Foiled again! They don't sell milk by the 1/2 litre! Poor Scott. No milk!
Once the purchases were made, we cycled across the parking lot to the liquor store, to purchase our apré-ride refreshments. Then, we had to face the big hill.
We pulled onto busy Ryan Road only to stop at the lights at the base of the hill. When the lights turned green, Scott scooted across the intersection, but Rachel and Alex got an uneasy start, weaving a bit as the cars rushed past. Fortunately, the traffic came in waves, dictated by he cycle of the traffic lights. Nonetheless, each time a wave of cars rushed by, the cycling became more difficult. The slower Rachel cycled, the harder it was to keep her bike moving in a straight line. Compounding matters was the fact that the she was hemmed in between a high curb and rushing traffic. Just as she thought that she couldn't carry on, Scott doubled back to offer encouragement and Alex started saying things like "C'mon mom, were almost there!" The going was still tough, but it seemed to be easier for her with a cheer-leading squad!
We finally crested the hill near Northern Vancouver Island University and the Home Depot. Soon, the road leveled off and we were back to normal cycling speeds. We cycled along Ryan Road, enjoying a gradual downhill run to the entrance of the CFB Comox, where the road teed. Through the end-of-the-day rush of traffic off the base, we turned left, on to Little River Road. It was nice to leave the traffic behind and we felt like we were on a quiet country road as we pedaled our way down the hill, looking for the signpost to Kin Beach Provincial Park.
We were cycling along when all of a sudden Rachel noticed a little wooden arrow nailed to a telephone pole, with "Kin Beach Camping" written on it. We came to a quick stop, checked the map on my iPhone and soon realized that it was the turn off we had been looking for. Alex announced that she needed to pee and, "couldn't wait". She disappeared into some nearby bushes and emerged a few moments later, with a happier expression on her face.
We were surprised that a Provincial Park didn't have better signage, but the important thing is that we noticed the small sign and we didn't overshoot our turn off.
We cycled through the quiet seaside residential area. Just as we were beginning to wonder if we had missed the Provincial Park, we saw some Recreational Vehicles lined up near the beach. We pulled into the campground and stopped at the registration booth. The camping fee was only $12, which seemed much more reasonable than last night's $22, even without the availability of showers. Rachel went to give the lady her credit card only to be informed me that they only take cash. Uh oh! We don't often carry cash. We emptied pockets and managed to cobble together only $9 between us. Fortunately, they were amenable taking less than full price, saying, "If you ever find yourselves back this way again, just stop by and pay the difference." How nice was that? She assigned us a campsite and off we went.
Before we had even registered for a campsite, Alex asked, "Is it OKAY if I go and find some kids to play with?" Who could refuse her an opportunity to play, considering that she - again - had cycled all day with nary a complaint? There seemed to be a lot of kids at this campground and we saw little of Alex as we made our way to our site and set up camp. With the tent pitched, we relaxed and drank one of our semi-cold beverages). Afterward, we headed over to the beach for a salt-water swim, which helped to wash away the days sweat and grime.
The beach was rocky along the shore, but a few yards out there was a sandy patch. Scott dove right in, being the swimming fish he is. Rachel on the other hand, was much more tentative and took her time about entering the water. While Scott was out deep, splashing around and diving under, Rachel, as could be expected, never ventured into water deeper than her waist. Nonetheless, we both felt refreshed for having cooled off and cleaned the sweat off of us. We sat on the beach for a little while, letting the heat of the sun dry us off before we headed back to camp to make dinner.
We opted for Shepherd's Pie for dinner. It's always nice to get a tasty home cooked meal while you're out camping in the sticks. A little black rabbit came by the camp while we were eating, which provided some entertainment. Alex and the other kids around the campground had gathered some crab apples and put them into a pile, in an attempt to "trap" a rabbit. While they were making their "trap" Rachel and I both thought it unlikely that a rabbit would show interest in their "bait". The little black rabbit proved us wrong! At first, he hopped around the camp perimeter, eating leaves and other greenery. Slowly, however, he eased his way over to the crab apples. Once he found them he was a happy little guy and sat there munching apples for a time (until the kids spied him and tried to "sneak" up on him)!
After dinner, we heated more water so that we could have a sponge bath. Alex was starting to get really whiny and fussy so we called her back to camp and told her that she was done playing for the night. She cried about that and threw a little princess fit about all of the world's injustice, but through the tears, we heard her fatigue from a day full of activity. She was dirtier than the both of us put together; so we took some time to wash her really well before she changed into her pajamas.
As we crawled into the tent at around 8 PM, we listened to the noise of the campground around us. It was not a quiet campground. Kids were playing loudly and people kept walking around the small loop, stopping right outside our tent to chat and talk. Up the steep bluff behind our site is the back edge of the Comox CFB. They were still running sorties and practice runs, which mean the occasional roar of jet engines over our heads. We waited for full darkness to set in, hoping that the black would drape the campground in a veil of silence, so we could get some sleep.
We don't remember what time it was when sleep finally came and claimed us, but aside from Alex waking up at midnight to go pee, we all got a good night's sleep.
Today Alex pedaled us 36.6 miles, which isn't too bad for a 6-year-old girl, eh? Our average speed was 11.0 miles per hour and our maximum speed was a fairly boring 29.9 miles per hour. Alex didn't complain about sitting in her bike seat for three hours and nineteen minutes, which is fairly amazing, considering her age and hyper-activity!
Table of Contents
• Start Page
• Ride Map (Overview)
• Day 1 - Nanaimo to Qualicum Bay
• Day 2 - Qualicum Bay to Comox
• Day 3 - Comox to Saltery Bay
• Day 4 - Saltery Bay to Roberts Creek
• Day 5 - Roberts Creek to Vancouver