A Turn of the Wheel

Welcome to my online Cycle Touring Diary. Named for a favourite song of mine, this log will bring you along with me on my very first solo tour. From the preparations the week prior to some of the highlights along the way, I hope this site will serve as an interesting and informative tool for cyclists and arm-chair travellers alike. "The steady state of matter is said to be the norm / But wait for a turn of the wheel." -James Keelaghan

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I finally have some photos of my trip on Flickr, click here. This isn't all of them, of course, but a nice sampling. Enjoy!

86.12 kilometers and four hours after leaving Victoria yesterday morning, I arrived in Vancouver, bringing the GRAND TOTAL up to . . . drumroll please . . . 1244.93 kilometers. For some perspective, that's equivalent to the width of Texas, over three times the length of Vancouver Island itself, 6 km short of the length of Cuba, approximately the distance from Winnipeg to Lethbridge, AB, or to Sault Ste. Marie in the other direction. That was fun.

As if smiling wryly, ironically, the sky opened up and dumped three weeks of pent-up rain down on the streets around me. I was safely inside my cove at 1986, 38th Avenue East, but I went out to get sushi anyway. I think it would've been funnier if it rained on me all day. The last day. A flat tire would've been a nice flair as well. But nothing. Just utter good luck all the way to the end. And I do believe good weather is just luck. Sorry. I
am thankful for it, but . . . well I won't get theological.

More Fun Facts and Figures:

Number of . . .

-times I walked my bike up a hill: 2
-drunken tugboat workers I partied on ferries with: 2
-nights I paid to pitch my tent on God's green earth: 7 out of 22
-times I got chased by a dog: 1

-islands I visited: 7, not counting Van Isle itself
-times I wished I had a companion: a few
-times I was happy to be alone: countless
-skinny-dipped: 3

-Americanos consumed in small-town cafes: lost track
-creepy Polish men who tried to kiss me: 1
-hours I spent in the saddle: 64 hours, 11 minutes
-times I got lost: a few
-times I actually cared: 2

-times I slept under the stars: 2
-friendly, hospitable, generous people I met: lost track
-flat tires:
-times I got entertained by a bluegrass bands on ferries: 1
-pubs I slept behind: 1
-Winnipeggers I met: 4
-extremely loveable people I know in Victoria: 2
-bee stings on my breast from the little beasts flying down my shirt:1

-times the ocean took my breath away:countless
-times I wished I was somewhere else: 0
-times I got eaten by a cougar: once, but thankfully I was reincarnated immediately

Monday, May 22, 2006

Well don't I feel lucky. It's finally raining, and I'm done my trip! I'm not setting up my tent, I'm not trying to cook in the rain, but I'm ensconced in comfort and luxury. It really is unbelievable to me that I managed 19 days in the saddle with a grand total of 1 hour of rain. Perhaps the weather gods were rewarding me for surviving a Vancouver winter. Regardless of the reason, coincidence or not, it was sweet.

Since I'm not able to post pictures yet, I thought I'd liven up the site by posting my route. Unfortunately it's not a very good graphic. I deviated, of course, from the itinerary I initially posted. What would a trip be without spontaneity, after all? Here's some facts n' figures, along with a few trip highlights: (kilometers/cycling time in red, highlight o' the day in blue.)

Day 1: 52.23/3:30 hours. Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, ferry to Gibsons, camped at Roberts Creek. Running into Nick and Nadia, Nick's bannana bread, and hooking up with Loren for the first leg of my journey.

Day 2: 80.48/4:32. Roberts Creek to Earls Cove, ferry to Saltery Bay Provincial Park. Generous Loren's instant mushroom risotto when all the grocery stores were closed!

Day 3: 60/3:36. Saltery Bay to Powell River, ferry to Texada Island. Camped at Shelter Point Provincial Park. My first shower en route, and hanging with Jim, the campground manager.

Day 4: 31/1:53 Ferry from Texada Island back to Powell River, ferry to Comox.
Witnessing island community and friendship over coffee at the Manyana Cafe, eating at the Flying Yellow Bread Bowl in Powell River, and of course, the "Tugboat Twosome."

Day 5: 76.96/4:13. Comox to Campbell River, up to Elk Falls, ferry to Quadra Island. Cycled Quadra. Wine and wild salmon at a Native-owned Lodge, meeting Shawn and Rita.

Day 6: 100.78/5. Ferry back to Campbell River, rode from there to Denman Island. Camped at Fillongley Park. The best cinnamon bun I've ever tasted, sharing a fire and conversation with Rob and Tanya from Comox.

Day 7: 101.56/5:22. Denman Island through Qualicum Beach to Port Alberni. Bussed to Tofino. Meeting Sheila at the Denman Island Guesthouse ("You're quite the woman, aren't you?"), fish and chips at the Shady Rest Pub, just making the Tofino bus in Port Alberni after the killer "Hump" (traversing the center of the island, 200 m gain in just a few k's...) meeting Arjan (cycle-tourer from Holland) on the bus to Tofino, scoring the last 2 beds available in the whole town! Campfire on the beach.

Day 8: Zip/Nada. DAY OF REST, hotsprings and oysters!

Day 9: 21.94/1:07. Tofino to Green Point Campground in Pacific Rim National Park. Bush-crashing with Simon, Dani and Miriam to a crashed WWII sea plane--so unbelievable, and only a local secret. Long Beach.

Day 10: 61.18/3:07. Campground to Ucluelet and back. Breakfast at the Blueberry Cafe and talking to my waitress for 2 hours. Meeting my camping neighbour Matt, and talking the night away.

Day 11: 50.50/2:50. Bussed from Green Point to Nanaimo. Cycled Nanaimo and Cedar/ Yellow Point area. Meeting Darren, Kait and co., camping behind a pub!

Day 12: 93.97/5:12. Ladysmith, through Chemainus, Crofton, and Duncan. Ended up in Cherry Point. Breakfast with Matt and Emily at the pub in the morning, learning about a local eco-forest. Meeting the Kolk family, and camping in the most beautiful cove.

Day 13: 101.53/5:14. Cherry Point to Shawnigan Lake, to Lake Cowichan, camped at Gordon Bay Provincial Park. Visiting a cidery and three wineries. Happening upon a May Day fair, having a fire with Tristan and Chantelle.

Day 14: 25.2/1:23. Spent a day on the freshwater beach of Lake Cowichan, biked around the lake a bit.Chips and Ice Cream for lunch. Talking to my family on my first real day of loneliness.

Day 15: 88.9/4:16. Lake Cowichan down the old highway to Duncan. Then to Crofton and ferry to Saltspring Island. Biked to Fulford Harbour and then to Ruckle Provincial Park.First really hot day. Dogs on leashes (phew)! Visiting Joan in her store. Sleeping under the stars.

Day 16: 36.57/2:25. Ruckle Park to Ganges, the main town on Saltspring. Cycled to Long Harbour, ferry to Pender Island, camped at Beaumont Marine Park (45 min. uphill hike in, carrying gear--ouch!) Gallery-hopping. Troy's veggie wraps outside the grocery store on Pender.

Day 17:
54.73/3:22. Cycled South Pender, then took the ferry to Galiano Island. Sitting in the pool at Poet's Cove and chatting with Colin. The sunset from Montague Harbour on Galiano Island.

Day 18: 65.06/3:47. Cycled the length of Galiano and back. Ferry from there to Swartz Bay on the mainland, and camped near the ferry terminal, as it was late.Dionisio Provincial Park, all to myself! Gado-gado for dinner at the ferry terminal. A pub less than a kilometre away from my campground--doesn't get much better. Mixed berry crumble and tea before bed.

Day 19: 56.22/3:10. Cycled down the Lochside Trail (part of the transcanada trail being built) into Victoria. Arriving in Victoria!!! Not camping! (although I do still love it!)

Day 20: 0/0. Comfort with a capital C. A nice bottle of wine.

Day 21: 0/0. Yoga and wandering the artisan's market in Chinatown.

Day 22: 0/0. (See a trend developing?!) Rain, and I'm inside.

So that's all for now. Tomorrow I will leave early to catch the ferry in Swartz Bay back to Vancouver. It will be a long-ish ride (50-60 k's) but I think I'll be able to handle it.

I tried to focus this little log on high points, but I realize that some of the low points can have their humour value as well. Stay tuned for a future post on "things that happend that almost made me curse the trip altogether!" Good thing I'm such a headstrong optimist.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Turn on the Bright Lights . . .

Greetings from Brad and Jen's cozy little apartment in beautiful Victoria, B.C.! I'm alive, and yes, still kicking. One thousand, one hundred and fifty eight point eight one kilometers and counting (it's not quite over yet)!

Being in a city again is a bit of a shock to the system, after habituation to the wilderness; that silent sleeping mammoth. I arrived yesterday at 11 am, 5 hours after an early start from the campground at Swartz Bay at 6 am. I was deposited like an amphibian into my other ecosystem, one of bustling bodies, light, colour, and movement. Buskers and engines fusing into a soundrack to my every step. Solitary roaming traded for annoymous companionship. Corner stores and rural pubs for the generic and yet strangely familiar. Oatmeal and trail mix for culinary options drenching my palatte. My senses are assaulted as I beguin to acclimatize to the urban pulse once again.

It does come with its comforts, mind you. Once I found Brad and Jen's place and the key, hidden in their friend's planter, I stripped off the layers of sweat-soked, salt-water-rinsed skins, and let them find reincarnation in the washing machine. I had a too-long-to-be-considered-a- conservationist shower. I roamed the city--a frilled an luxurious princess compared to chic Vancouver--and cooked dinner over a real stove. Ran into an old friend on the street, and later snuggled into a fleece blanket on a comfy couch. Perhaps I have never appreciated such creature comforts so much. Like a turtle who has been carrying her home with her, even a modest cave feels like a grand palace. It is inexplainably perfect to wake up to Bran flakes and soy milk and home-brewed coffee, with James Taylor crooning in my ear as I overlook the ocean. Little pleasures everywhere, ones you barely noticed before. Tonight I am nursing a glass of Mission Hill Shiraz, and contemplating whether or not I'll bike any more before heading back to Vancouver on Tuesday.

It's hard to believe all those starry nights alone in campgrounds are now behind me. It's hard to believe all those miles of country roads are now just memories. As is the case when you travel alone, experiences seem to melt into the stuff of dreams. Sometimes you begin to doubt whether or not they really happened.

Stay tuned for pictures in the very near future. And thanks to all of you who sent good vibes my way through your comments, emails, and talking to me when I was lonely! Each pedal was fueled by love! (How's that for some cycling karma-cheese!?)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Another quick post before I head out to the common room here at Tofino Trek Inn (Budget B&B) for Darcy's fresh homemade bread and coffee. Did 2 100 km days in a row, and felt the need to pamper myself at the one-week mark! I biked from Denman island yesterday to Port Alberni, over what is called "The Hump" to cyclists. It's basically a HUGE hill over the central mountains, and let me tell you, I have not known pain and determination until yesterday. I just managed to make the Tofino bus, which rolled into Port Alberni at 4 pm, where I quickly befriended three lovely blokes, one from Holland, one from Halifax, and one from England. Two of them had reservations at the HI hostel in Tofino, Daniel and I (the Canadians, how typical!) were hoping to wing it when we got here. I was planning on camping, but after such a long day and meeting 3 others who were headed to beds and showers, I got sort of roped in! Daniel and I lucked out and there were 2 beds left here in this privately-owned, hostel-style B&B. Darcy met us at the door and safely locked away my bike and handed us each a beer. There are some great people staying here, and we all had a big fire on the beach last night. Today I am taking an hour and a half boat ride north of here to some natural hot springs, where I'll camp and rest in Mother Nature's spa. Its sunny and blue--again. I had about an hour of light drizzle (not even worthy of rain gear) yesterday, but somehow, the sun was shining through it the whole time! What's with this island?!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

This could be my only post...computer availability is limited, and can't compete with the scenery, people, and open roads I've been meeting.

I'm on Quadra Island, waiting for the 10:00 ferry, which will take me back to Campbell River. From there I'll begin my trek back south, to Denman Island. I have so many stories already, and today is my FIRST day of drizzle. And it's only a drizzle. I haven't had the chance to be lonely, as I've been joining up with wonderful Islanders and travellers alike. What a place.

Bonnie's well, I've only had to tweak a few small things on her. The "repairs" I've done so far are nothing memorable, but make me feel extremely competent and self-sufficient!

Well, since I'm borrowing a very generous gentleman's computer, I should sign off now.

This trip is absolutely exhilerating and filling me with such a zest for life and nature and people, I can't even do it justice. When solitude and strangers meet, good things happen, renewing your hope in humanity.

A few nuggets to describe things in a very small nutshell: Hills hurt. The Sunshine Coast really is that sunny. 99% of people are good, well-meaning, genuine and generous. Missing ferries isn't always a bad thing, it can lead you into very interesting conversations while you wait... and, I've never had such an appetite before in my life. Seconds, thirds, steak even? It's been a long time since I ate that...all part of being a polite guest!

More to come.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I leave tomorrow morning. Sometimes before a big trip, especially alone, I have these fleeting little mini-thoughts that go something like this: "are you crazy, what do you think you're doing? You're not even ready for this. You have no idea what you're doing."

Then I take a deep breath and remember that uncertainty is OK. Uncertainty and trepidation are more likely to keep us alive than rigidity and sedation.

I am eyeing the green beast in the corner of the room. It is almost as if she is smirking at me, "can we handle this?" or, like a deviant child, "maybe I'll behave, maybe I won't." I like machines with personality.

I am ready to accept whatever this journey brings. Adios amigos! I will post if and when I can . . .

Tentative Itinerary:

Day 1:
Vancouver - Horseshoe Bay - Gibsons.
Day 2: Gibsons - Sechelt - Powel River - Texada Island
Day 3: Texada Island - Little River - Comox - Courtenay - Campbell River
Day 4: Campbell River - Quadra Island
Day 5: Quadra - Sayward - Woss
Day 6: Woss - Port Mc Neil - Sointula Island and Alert Bay - Telegraph Cove
Day 7: Bus back from Port Mc Neil to Courtenay. Denman and Hornby Islands
Day 8: Buckley Bay - Parksville - Coombs - Port Alberni
Day 9: Ferry to Ucluelet.
Day 10: Tofino
Day 11: Tofino - Ucluelet
Day 12: Ucleuelet - Alberni - Nanaimo - Gabriola Island
Day 13: Gabriola - Ladysmith - Chemainus - Crofton - Duncan - Cherry Point Vineyard
Day 14: Cowichan Valley Road and Wineries
Day 15: Port Renfrew - Youbou - Honeymoon Bay (Circuit)
Day 16: Port Renfrew - Sooke
Day 17: Sooke - Victoria
Day 18: Victoria (HOUSE SITTING!!!!!)
Day 19: Victoria
Day 20: Victoria/
Saanich Peninsula
Day 21:
Mayne Island
Day 22:
Salt Spring Island
Day 23: . . . back to Vancouver

This is ALL subject to change. Especially the last few days.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bonnie's New Look:
A lot of fun in a can of paint and some reflective tape. The little sticker on the down tube says Burn Fat Not Oil. The one on the vertical tube says I Bike Everywhere. Today I got my spokes re-adjusted by Darren at Dream Cycle on the Drive. I scratched the cornea in my right eye somehow, and while I was waiting for my bike I had to wander up and down the street looking for a walk in clinic. Ouch. Nothing like an eyelash or a gnat. This one HURT. Hopefullly it won't happen to me in the bush where the only eye-wash stations are probably full of other snaggles. Did some training on the Grouse Grind. Legs are feeling strong. Free from the Ouisi Bistro tomorrow, at approximately 1:00 pm. Things are looking up. That is, until I get eaten by a cougar.