Monday, March 07, 2016

Route 66 by bike!!

I saw this news and thought it worthy of a post!  Thank you,  Adventure Cycling Association for mapping this most historic Route 66 for bicyclists to enjoy!!! 

Read More:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A bicycle RV -- just the coolest thing ever, surely!

This is positively too good NOT to post for others to see!   This bicyclist evidently rides this BIKE RV all over the country.  Read some of the comments underneath the story.  My helmet is off to him!!!!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Banks-Vernonia Trail -- starting from Champoeg State Park, Oregon

Copyrighted 2014 Paula Joy Welter
Probably my favorite of the Banks-Vernonia Trail photos posted here.

A vista along the Banks-Vernonia Trail

Amelia, my Bike Friday New World Tourist 2006

In August of 2014, Phil, a dedicated cyclist based in Ashland, OR -- only a mere 80 years old -- read one of my postings on and enjoyed it.  He contacted me and invited me to join a few other cyclists on a bike tour.   He coordinates several each summer.

I was most appreciative and made plans to join 4 other cyclists on a tour in Oregon.  The route basically would loop around the greater Portland area, going through towns such as Newberg, Hillsboro, Scappoose, and eventually back to the starting point, Champoeg State Park, which is about 40 minutes south of Portland.

Several things amazed me on the three days of the 6-day tour that I pedaled with this group:

a)  I survived 90 miles of the 159-mile tour;
b)  Two of the cyclists were over 70, one maybe closer than further to 80.
c)  One of the cyclists had ridden the infamous DEATH RIDE three times.  Whoa.....    

As it turned out, I was joining some very capable and steady-on cyclists who are evidently more used to CLIMBING HILLS than am I, based in Sacramento -- think flat!

Looking back down the winding hill I was climbing on Mt. Chelalem

I should point out that I am not naturally inclined to push myself to my physical limits.  I don't bike for speed, for daring, for competitive reasons, or to break some endurance record.  I have always loved bicycling because it allows me to enjoy the freedom of the open road and to explore beautiful places.  I pedal steadily, but at a moderate pace.  That's how I'm wired.  I pedal on a loaded tour bike, at 6 to 10 mph, average, typically.  On my road bike in Sacramento, I pedal at 11-13 mph, average.  

So...let's just say this ride didn't follow that idyllic script for Day 1.  Early on, it became clear to me that I was the turtle, and the other 4 cyclists were hares!  Somehow, the overall route I had previewed on online maps showed elevation profiles that looked relatively flat, except for Day 1 and 3.  Day 1 looked the hardest:  picture a sharp point, as in an upside down carrot, as the elevation profile for that day.   But heck, it was only 4 miles, I  assured myself, and I could walk up it.

On Day 1, I was doomed to do just that! 

DAY 1:  Newberg to Hillboro, OR

Rising at dawn, we broke camp and began our 28 miles of biking, from Champoeg State Park to Hillsboro.  I've biked 40 miles in one day a few times on a fully loaded bike.  This 28 miles seemed longer, thanks to the climb AND 90-degrees-plus weather!  My luck!  I thought Oregon was cool!  My stamina halves when it gets above 85-90 degrees.  In Sacramento, I'm off the bike before 11 a.m. during the summer because of that.  No escape this time!

Barely 9 or 10 miles out of Champoeg, after breakfast at a cafe in Newburg, the mountain loomed.  (Okay, I realize this 1271 feet is a comparatively small mountain...but it IS called MT. Chelalem, so it is a mountain!)

I gamely started pedaling it on my Bike Friday NWT, fully loaded.  (I'd say I had about 30-40 pounds of gear, including food, tent, clothing, etc., all as ultralight-friendly as possible.  And then, of course, there's me -- proud to be of sturdy Dutch-Belgian-German ancestry, so not a lightweight cyclist.)  The rest of my group pedaled the 4 miles of climbing...but I, the turtle, was very soon off of my bike, pushing my bike, Amelia, up the twisting roads that ascend to the summit.  There was little shade, and it was mid-day heat.  Ugh.

Once I was off my bike, I told the group to go ahead.  They said they'd wait for me at the first turn at the bottom of the hill, once I descended.   I was fine with that.  I had my cell phone and good turn-by-turn directions.  I trudged and trudged, stopping when necessary to guzzle more water, eat some carbs, catch my breath...step by step...WHATEVER I had to do to get to the top of that dang carrot -- I mean, mountain!  I drank the most water I've ever downed in one day, at least a gallon!  Finally, I reached the top and then carefully descended so that I was visible to cars coming around the curves. 

Why do I feel like I climbed Mt. Everest?
At the bottom of the hill, my group was waiting on benches outside a charming cafe  -- sadly, closed for the day!  A few of my pedaling friends told me they had even managed to take a nap while waiting for me.  Most humbling!  They had resourcefully found a hose along one side of the building to refill water bottles.

Once they congratulated me for surviving thus far and determined I was okay, they said they were going to keep going, which I agreed made sense.  I didn't want to feel like a rat on a treadmill keeping up with their faster pace, and of course, I didn't want them to have to pedal the speed of a turtle, after all!  We agreed to meet up at the Hillsboro campsite.

I sat outside on that cafe bench by myself, gratefully eating my peanut butter and whole wheat sandwich, banana, and drinking MORE WATER.  At some point while sitting there, a man in his 40's unexpectedly poked his head out of the cafe's door and inquired in a most empathetic voice:

Man:  "Hi, are you the one the group was waiting for?"

Me:   "Yes, I am."

Man:  "Do you need anything, say some ice water?"

I asked if he had a bathroom I could use, and he ushered me in, thankfully.  I was then able to refill my water bottles for the 18 miles still ahead.  We talked briefly as he worked on some baking he was doing for the cafe he helps manage.  He told me, interestingly, that he used to travel and bike a lot all over the world, writing travel guides for Frommers, including one about Nepal!  Very nice gentleman, maybe an angel in disguise.  I thanked him profusely and decided I better pedal on after that 30-minute rest.

Looking back, I should have rested and recovered LONGER.  However, I started out on the remaining 18 miles through country roads that would take me to Hillsboro.  It was getting even hotter, now that it was mid-afternoon, and I was definitely not feeling "recovered" fully.  I settled on a rhythm of pedaling a mile or two and then stopping to rest and drink water.

At one point, I sat along a dusty bank of dirt under a lone tree, feeling as though I might be close to bonking.  Much of the route was in full sun, so that shade was needed respite.  Then, back on my bike, I pedaled as long as I could keep going before needing another rest!  I did my best to pay attention to nutrition and hydration, but I couldn't shake that "bonking" feeling.  (Note:  I was not imagining the difficulty of getting from Champoeg to Newburg, it turns out.  After the tour, Ken told me he was 74 when he started the ride from Champoeg State Park on Day 1, 79 by the time he got to Hillsboro at the end of Day 1, and then after a good night's sleep, 74 again.  :>)

Finally, I spotted a Norman Rockwell-reminiscent farmhouse and yard, complete with a tractor,  a garden in the front,  and a harmless looking dog.  Even more comforting, it had a spot of green grass out in front along the driveway area, in full SHADE.  A farmer was standing in the yard, so I asked him if I could rest on the grass for a while.  He was very nice and told me to do just that.  It was glorious to lay flat on my back, my hat over my eyes, and doze off a bit...eventually I heard the farmer addressing me:  "Ma'am, are you okay?  I just want to be sure you don't have heat stroke!"

I opened my eyes, sat up, and assured him I was okay, that I'd been drinking a lot of water.  He told me to come up to the house if I needed anything and headed back to his chores.  I rested a bit longer and then got back on the bike, somewhat more fortified to pedal further.

Eventually, Hillsboro loomed.  I wended my way through the town's busy streets.  It's a modern town, lots of wide streets with lots of traffic.  Felt like San Jose, just smaller.  Intel and Nike are based there.  No place to camp in Hillsboro, officially.  However, Phil had cleverly arranged through the Mayor's office for a make-do place where we could safely camp for the night.  I was looking for it in, of all places, a warehouse section of the town.  There was evidently an adequate area of grass and trees somewhat hidden behind one of the warehouses to pitch our tents.  Also,  a key to the city's maintenance facility would be made available to us, for access to nice hot showers!

As the sun slipped lower in the sky, I finally found this little oasis in suburbia.  "My people" again greeted me with hugs and enthusiastic "you made its" all around!  After setting up my camp and eating the dinner I'd brought along in a pannier, I retired early, knowing we needed to be up at dawn for Day 2.  I felt like I'd biked 100 miles... and slept like a baby!

DAY 2:  Hillsboro, to Banks, to Vernonia, Oregon 

At dawn, all of us woke up and I felt resonably revived -- more than I would have expected.  We broke camps, loaded our gear back on our bikes, and headed a couple blocks over to a strip mall with a market, Starbucks, Subway, etc.  (The group actually wanted to eat at Wendy's, so maybe that's their secret for endurance! I think they need to all donate their bodies to science!)

I explained to them that fast food wouldn't do it for me on this trip, and I headed to the market close by to get fresh fruit, yogurt, whole grain bread, nuts...figuring I needed the best nutrition I could get for this new day of pedaling -- 37 miles, some more climbing ahead.

Once we all were ready to roll, off we rode at a 12-mph clip for the first 4 miles through Hillsboro's morning commuter traffic.  Finally, we were out in the country, and at that point, I told the group I would need to go at a slower pace than they were comfortably pedaling.   I assured them I'd be fine and would meet them at the end of the day or somewhere along the Banks-Vernonia Rails-to-Trail route that we were all very much looking forward to pedaling.

Wishing me well, off they pedaled towards Banks, OR.  I pedaled the ensuing miles to Banks at about 9-10 mph an hour, happily drinking in the lovely farmlands along the route.  At one point, a man who I'd estimate was in his early 70's rode up alongside me on his road bike and said, "Hey, a Bike Friday loaded for tour!  Good for you!  I own a Bike Friday Tikit, and I love it!"  We yakked for a couple of miles, and then we reached a fork in the road, him heading in a different direction.  He made me smile when he said that he admired me for my pluck, that it took a lot of guts to be pedaling the roads alone on a bike tour, wishing me well.

With my spirits buoyed,  I kept pedaling.  Though I felt more energetic overall, I was still feeling the effects of Day 1's climbing and heat.   Overall, though, the route to Banks was not hard pedaling, so once I arrived, I stopped at a market for supplies -- and an ice cream sandwich!  Then I headed to the trailhead of this lush converted rail trail that is 21 miles long.  It climbs a 3-5% grade for about 15 miles, and then descends to the tiny town of Vernonia. 

Briefly stopping at a conveniently placed bike shop at the trailhead, I started pedaling towards distant hills, comforting myself with the fact that rails-to-trails conversions are GRADUAL climbs.  Trains don't climb hills easily, otherwise.  Gradual climbs are okay!  It's steep climbs that do my flatlander legs in.

I enjoyed ascending the 15 miles to the highest point of the Banks-Vernonia Trail.  It is beautifully laid out and most of it is BLISSFULLY SHADY, a canopy of trees overhead much of the way!  I took my time, enjoyed the natural beauty, stopped occasionally at a beckoning picnic table, enjoyed taking photographs of the various vistas...and eventually arrived at the point on the trail where I could glide downhill for the last 7 miles or so to Vernonia.  Right where the trail dumps onto the streets of Vernonia,  I found Anderson RV Park, where Phil had reserved us camping -- and hot showers!  My pedaling friends were again the light at the end of the day!

On one of the trestles I traversed on the trail
Though Anderson Park is a small RV park, there is a huge play structure for children in the center of it, and a creek and plenty of grass on one side of it.   We were quite happy spreading out there, instead of having to pitch tents amongst the RV's.  We had picnic tables to cook on, too, so I used my Trangia alcohol-burning stove to heat up a Mountain High backpacker's dinner of Teriyaki chicken and rice.  I had never eaten a dehydrated dinner before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted, once rehydrated! 

Another good night of sleep, we again rose early, walking a short distance to a cafe on the main street of Vernonia for a hearty breakfast.  After breakfast, as the others headed back to camp, I thought to ask one of the waitresses what she knew about the route we were taking, and she informed me that she lived out in the isolated area where we'd be heading.  She told me we should be aware of the fact that there is no cell phone coverage for about 13 miles, 4 miles out of Vernonia.  Ummmm, this fact and another day of climbing -- evidently not as daunting as Day 1's climbing but definitely more daunting than Day 2's gradual climbing -- got me to thinking hard.  Another fork in the road...

Did I really want to be out in the middle of nowhere, alone on my bike, with no cell-phone coverage and more climbing than I might be up for -- and back to back with the first two days of climbing?  I decided that it was not in my comfort zone, realistically.   I returned to camp and informed my group that I had made a decision:  I was going to bike back along the 21 miles of the Banks-Vernonia Trail to Banks.  My son had agreed to meet me on the trail, pedaling his cargo bike and two young boys for a bit of recreation until meeting up with me.  We'd head back to his Portland house in his truck then.

So the intrepid group pushed on.  They promised they'd let me know once they reached Scappoose RV Park, their next destination.  I promised I'd let them know I'd reached Banks.  When they called me to confirm their safe arrival in Scappoose, they told me they all agreed I'd made the right decisions...that they'd encountered some tough climbs, parts of which they had to walk, and that it had been a long 40-mile day.

I was most impressed, again, about this group's endurance!

The day following that one didn't sound a lot easier for them either...but for me, once I head back from Vernonia long the Banks-Vernonia Trail, it was just 7 miles of climbing the railroad-friendly grade, and then a smooth-cruise sail down the next 14 miles of the trail.  I met up with my son -- and my two grandsons, sitting on the back of his fancy cargo bike -- in Banks.  Talk about back-pedaling!

It was definitely a day of rest, once I was finally back in Portland -- if you call babysitting a 6-year-old and a 3-1/2 year old restful.  Heck, that is almost as wild as climbing a mountain!  LOL!

Heading back, last couple miles of the flat part of trail, near Banks, OR

What would moms do without a son and grandsons?

Looking back, this was 90 miles of touring I'll remember well, and even with some pride that I got as far as I did. To date, it's the longest tour I've done.   I was very inspired by my pedaling mates to do MORE touring down the road!  I will, without guilt, avoid hills when possible, and I will likely walk up them if needed....but I will look forward to more touring adventures on my bike.

I couldn't have asked for better pedaling mates!  We plan to keep in touch.  Who knows...maybe I'll even try to keep up with all of them again on a future tour...but I'll likely still be the turtle.  That is okay, as long as I keep moving!

On my long ride home from Portland (via my Honda Element), I stopped in Ashland and was delighted to meet Phil and his wife over a lovely lunch.  I gave them one of my bicycle mandalas in gratitude for including me on this adventure just survived!  if you are interested in ordering one as a greeting card, a cell phone case, a photo, a canvas, et.

Notes on the group, more amazing facts:

(Sadly, Phil, last minute, had to bow out of the tour -- after doing all the coordination!  He was waylaid by mechanical problems on his recumbent trike, which are soon to be behind him.  He lamented missing several weeks of touring opportunities he'd worked so hard on planning.)

Two of the cyclists, Ken and Leslie are over 70.  Ken is 74, and I think Leslie might be closer to 80?  She rode a recumbent trike, and the Ken rode an upright bike.  Leslie told me she loves her trike.  She explained that its gears allow it be pedaled as slow as 1 mile an hour up a hill, if needed.   It has a parking brake if the trike needs to stop while ascending a hill!  She also mentioned that she'll be riding an upright steel-framed bike on an upcoming trip to WI and MN:  50-70 mile days, 3700 miles of cumulative climbing.  OMG!  Both Ken and Leslie live in retirement centers.  This definitely breaks some stereotypes in awesomely refreshing ways!

Two other cyclists, Frank (think Death Ride) and Linda, were on Cannondale touring bikes -- and to my amazement, they had a 20-pound DOG along for the tour, Boomer.  This dog sat in a contraption that mounted to the rear rack of one of the Cannondales, complete with a canopy and water on hand to spray him as needed if he needed some air-conditioning along the way.  He was absolutely the sweetest, most uncomplaining dog I've ever encountered.   Frank and Linda said he's been on century rides and other tours numerous times. All three of them traveled like pros!

Ken, the pacesetter!

 Leslie, on her fancy trike!

Linda, Boomer and Frank, ready to roll!

Boomer on guard!
May the road keep going, may I keep pedaling, and may the hills NOT rise up to meet me!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

MONTANA -- Kalispell and Whitefish day rides

I had a chance to visit Whitefish, MT, a real treat.  Taking the train from Portland, OR right in to Whitefish, MT was an overnight trip.  Considering that I didn't book the trip earlier than a few weeks out, I felt that $202 round trip was a decent price.  Each way, you have about 4-5 hours of daylight, so though you don't get to see Idaho or Montana much, since it is dark when traveling through those two states, the views of the Columbia River and the Gorge it runs through are wonderful, coming and going!  

Here are some photographs of Whitefish, MT (train station and scenics from the bike ride I took from Whitefish up and around one side of Whitefish Lake. 





 I highly recommend Glacier Cyclery, in Whitefish.  They can give you ideas for road bike or mountain bike rides in this stunningly scenic area.  

Here is the ride I enjoyed pedaling, described on their website.  (The views of the lake were worth the moderate climbing, and also, my friend and I passed some pristine ranches for the last few miles of the ride before turning around and heading back to Whitefish. Bring water and a snack.  For me, at 62, this was a definite workout, but doable and really gorgeous, as scenery goes.  We passed a few waterfalls, too. )  

"Head of Whitefish via Lakeshore Drive
This 21 mile round trip, out and back ride from town is a great short spin when you don't have a lot of time, but just have to ride. Moderate hills, good road surface and low residential traffic add to the views of Whitefish Lake. Stop by Les Mason Park for a swim on your way back, or head up Big Mountain Road for a fairly steep 5 mile climb to the Whitefish Mountain Resort's base area where you can grab a cold drink and take in some spectacular views. As you sprint along, you may over-take loaded down, trail weary backcountry bike tourers on the Great Divide Route as East Lakeshore Dirve is the route's backdoor entrance into Whitefish."

Also, I had an opportunity to ride the Great Northern Historic Trail from Somers, MT to a point past Kalispell, but not as far as the trail goes to Kila.

Though some of the trail was quite scenic, once I reached the point in the trail where it parallels the highway towards Kalispell, I was a bit disappointed.  The trail itself is nicely paved, and there are benches here and there along the way.  The section paralleling the highway is not as bucolic as I would prefer, however, for a ride in Montana.  That said, it is a valuable route for bicyclists to get from one town to the other, of course, so it is more good infrastructure for cyclists to travel on safely.  Bring WATER.  There is little found in close proximity to the trail itself unless you want to detour from the trail and ride into Kalispell.  There are long stretches with little shade, so in the summer, be advised to wear sunscreen and a good visor, etc.  It can be hot at times if weather inches up in temperature towards 90 degrees.  

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Yaquina Bay pedal near Newport, Oregon

Bringing my bicycle along on my most recent drive to Portland, OR proved a great idea.  I was able to do some cycling in Newport, OR along Yaquina Bay Road, which leads out of the Historic portion of Newport's fishing village.  

First, though, after marathoning up I-5 on a 12-hour drive from Sacramento to Portland, arriving there at 2:30 a.m., I managed to get up and pedal about 5 of 40 miles my son had planned to do as a 40th birthday ride with several of his friends.  I was happy to at least be part of the ride, but too sleep-deprived to do all of it.  Here I am, barely awake, but sharing a "kick-off" moment alongside my amazing, adrenaline-driven son and some of his friends:

 Once my visiting over several days was done with my family, I headed over to drive down the
along the Oregon coastline.  Once I arrived in Newport, OR,  I made it a point to visit  a wonderful bicycle shop there, Bike Newport, which I'd read about in my favorite monthly read, Adventure Cyclist Magazine.  (They are a waystation, of sorts -- offering  use of a wi-fi lounge and access to a hot shower -- to touring cyclists passing through!)  During my visit to this friendly, well-stocked shop,  I learned that they were coordinating a century ride the next day.  I opted to do part of the ride.  First, I had to find a place to camp for the night, though...the state parks and motels in the area were all booked.

Luckily, I was able to find a  place to pitch my tent for the night preceding the century ride  -- behind a country tavern, of all places!   I was right across the street from Sawyer's Landing RV Park.  Since they were fully booked, they suggested I ask the tavern folks for one night of safe haven, assuring me I'd be safe.  It all worked out that this came to pass.

 Directly behind this tavern is this lovely little spot for a tent!

The next morning, I awoke very early, packed up my tent, and headed to the Yaquina Point Lighthouse, where the century ride was to begin.  I planned to do only about 26 miles, so I headed down the well-mapped and signed route from the picturesque lighthouse to 101, and soon was on adjacent roads that were quieter and more bike-friendly.  

Winding my way along the route, I eventually ended up down in the historic section of Newport -- and interesting mix of working fishermen and related industry and as well, boutiques and cafes.  

 In this part of town, the sea lions provide "music" for one's ears, if one stops to listen to them and giggle at their shenanigans: 

 The Yaquina Bay Bridge is a dominant landmark that spans Yaquina Bay. 

Here are some other idyllic sights I saw along Yaquina Bay Road.  I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the friendliness of Oregon cyclists and would love to do my cycling in this area sometime!  

 A hill I'm proud to say I climbed from Newport's historic section to the more commercial part of the town. 

 Stairs to lug the bike up -- happily, my Specialized Sequoia Comp is light!

Heading back towards the end of the ride towards the lighthouse... 

I definitely want to do more cycling in Oregon someday!  Great folks, great roads, very savvy, considerate drivers that "share the road"!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sacramento Delta Pedal Escape

When Sacramento heats up, I head for the Delta, minutes away from downtown!  Nothing more refreshing than an early morning ride along country roads:  glimpses of herons and egrets vaulting and diving from time to time, vineyards, beautiful water reflections in meandering sleepy sloughs...great ride, nice and cool!

My friend, Audrey, pedaling a hidden levee road.

Water, water, everywhere!

Safflower blossoms glimpsed in the distance.

 I'm always drawn to the sculpted beauty found in bare branches...

Future wine...soaking up the California sun!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Monterey Bay Recreation Trail and Santa Cruz Pedal

Had some spectacular weather and went for a cycle along the coastline here and there in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and a bit of Carmel, this past week!  The purple ice plant along the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail was amazingly vivid. The pictures snapped along the way are here:

 The sea lions took over a beach along the drive down to Cambria, so I couldn't resist including a snapshot of them lolling around on the beach.  They just crawl over each other like gigantic slugs, and it is beyond me how they don't crush each other when doing so! 
 Along the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail... a lone sailboat...
 The water was blue, blue, blue and smooth as glass in places...tranquility!
 Along Santa Cruz coastline enroute to Natural Bridges.
Looking my usual geeky bike self -- I dress for comfort and for visibility.  The ice plant was in full bloom, a gorgeous site for a couple miles along Monterey's coastline!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Victoria BC to Sooke BC -- Aug 2011 bicycle tour

HERE ARE THE PHOTOS of my recent cycling adventure in British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. They are not in chronological order...

AFTER the photos (at the end) is a word-by-word account of my fun, if you care to read such things including some logistics -- since lots of folks wonder how a crazy women like me, newly turned 60, manage to pack and travel with a bike on a tour. I'm learning more each time, and each time, it gets a bit easier to plan out.

The "Inner Harbor" view of Victoria, BC after a three-hour ferry ride from Seattle.
My favorite place for tea -- when dressed appropriately... NOT this time!
Government buildings close to the water... British "proper" style.
The Galloping Goose Trail is lush and canopied by trees along much of the path.
My bike, resting next to a bench along the Galloping Goose as I snapped photos of a lake.
Ummmm, cougars and bears were evidently in the area... I strung my pannier with a bit of food in it up high -- away from my tent area. Sooke Potholes Regional Park is closer to the wilderness than Victoria...
Bike campers in Canada are treated right! This is a fire ring and permanent benches so bike tourists can trade stories -- except that I was the only one in the bike camp the night I camped at Sooke Potholes Regional park!
Yes, I did some climbing occasionally! This was a road taking me to Goldstream Provincial Park.
I loved the shady canopy that trees provide along much of the Galloping Goose Trail!
Another trail view on the Galloping Goose.
No I didn't have time for high tea...but I've had tea here and at the Empress Hotel before, and it is a memorable experience!
One of a few tunnels along the Galloping Goose trail, this one near Victoria
A little island of trees on the lake. Benches along the trail provided places to rest and enjoy the many views that the Galloping Goose provides to those lucky enough to pedal its meandering miles!
A seriously large lake that I enjoyed glimpsing before I reached Sooke's harbor.
Lovely lake view as I passed through a community between Victoria and Sooke
This is the Galloping Goose trail leaving Victoria to head towards Sooke, and the murals were notable.
Homestead settled by a pioneer family many years ago.
I stopped for a rest near this sign, commemorating a homestead that is still thriving today.
In Victoria near the Government buildings and a totem. Such an elegant city!
Wooden Trestle Bridge on the way to Sooke, BC, high above a ravine.
Heading towards Sooke, BC over the railroad trestle, I asked another cyclist to snap a photo of moi!
Sooke Potholes Regional Park -- crystal clear, not-too-cold deep pools of refreshing water, perfect for a swim!
Forgot my cooking fuel, so first night, just outside of Goldstream Provincial Park, I was lucky to find delicious food and very friendly Canadians in this little pub. Beer was the perfect ending to a day's pedaling!
Another shady view of trail, as I passed through Langford.
Had to wonder if a cougar was perched on a boulder licking his chops as I pedaled by...
Trail heading back into Victoria
Relieved to get off TransCanada's busy highway, to get to Goldstream Provincial Park! I was on a narrow shoulder!
Lying on a bench for a rest from pedaling, the shady tree and sky was soothing!
Victoria has the best hanging flower pots ever!
Chinese musician on harbor walkway in VictoriaVersion:1.0 StartHTML:0000000195 EndHTML:0000039297 StartFragment:0000002751 EndFragment:0000039261 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/paulajoy/Downloads/Galloping%20Goose%20tour%20Recap.doc
Aug 2011 -- EPIC 60TH YEAR bicycle tour
Victoria BC to Sooke BC
by paula joy welter
For my 60th year, I felt the craving to do something to REMEMBER that year with a smile. My bicycle always makes me smile when I'm on it, as many of my friends know, so I decided a bicycle tour was in order, even if I could only do it for four or five days -- squeezed in between work reality. After lots of cruising around on the Internet to decide what was within reach, I decided upon Vancouver Island, BC. I'd been to Victoria and over the Malahat to Duncan, BC, on past travels with my music bookings, and I never forgot this splendid place, so what better place to return!
Also, I loved the fact that I could travel mostly by train or ferry. I prefer both to flying, any day! It feels like a journey instead of an ordeal, due to the slower pace and the chance to talk with travelers or read or look out the window at leisure -- no pat-downs, no hassles with the (needed) TSA, no squished-like-sardines seating, etc. It reminds me of what travel used to be, before 911 changed everything. I'd rather put up with a few inconveniences of train travel than put up with those, if I can make it all logistically work!
Here is my look back at my second modestly-paced bicycle tour. Can't wait to start planning another one!
I headed to Portland via Southwest Air, since my son really needed help with babysitting the night I had planned to, instead, take the train to Portland. I was happy to oblige.
People often ask me how the heck one does a bike tour, re packing, etc. I'll share logistics for those interested:
First, you have to acquire ultralight equipment (think backpacking) if you plan to camp, cook, etc., during your tour -- aka as 'fully self-supported." I had done that, buying everything with its cumulative weight carefully considered!
For the first time EVER, after putting off doing so for the five years I've owned my New World Tourist performance travel bike (made by Bike Friday, Eugene, OR), I PACKED her up in a 29" Samsonite hard-shell travel case with wheels. It's a suitcase that fits within the airlines' size limits. Because "Amelia" -- what I've dubbed this bike -- is designed to fold up in this suitcase, I can check the suitcase like any other, no special handling or fees involved! Awesome! Most bikes have to be crated and the airlines charge dearly to check them, but Bike Fridays don't!
When I arrived in Portland and opened the suitcase, my bike looked totally undisturbed! I had put a note in the suitcase and a photo for the TSA, explaining that Amelia only fits in the case one way, to please look at the photo if they decided to remove her for inspection, etc... They must have respected my wishes. Wow. I finally GET IT! I can take this bike with me relatively easily, just like the company promises!
In addition to the suitcase, I had a 24" duffel bag loaded with my two rear BikePacker Plus Ortlieb waterproof panniers and my sleeping bag (folded along the bottom of the duffel as extra cushioning). Also, I had another smaller duffel that can be put on my back, if needed, with my two smaller front Ortlieb panniers. I also had my helmet and water bottles in there. I brought my camera, passport, etc., in a daypack, including my Kindle, loaded with The Help, to read on my tour, so that I could keep those close at hand at all times when traveling.
If I want to only travel with two pieces of luggage, next time I would ship the smaller duffel bag ahead, which, via UPS, would only cost about $25 to do. This would still allow me a small carry-on bag if I needed some standard street clothes for a visit on either end of the trip. My bike clothes were already packed up in my panniers. I don't travel with street clothes when on actually on a cycling tour, due to weight concerns, so people have to take me as I am, dressed down (but clean).
I enjoyed a couple days with my grandsons and son and daughter-in-law and unpacked my bike during that visit. (I left the suitcase with my son for the duration of my bike travels, until the point that I had to use it again to get the bike down to Sacramento since that Amtrak line accepts packed bikes only.)
Once the bike was unpacked, I organized gear in my panniers. When the day came to hop on the train to Seattle, I was able to check the panniers and then wheel the bike straight over to the baggage car a few minutes prior to boarding. The Northwest's Amtrak CASCADE trains are set up to transport assembled bikes -- as long as you have reserved a rack space for the bike in advance. Through the window, I could see the bike hanging safely above all the baggage in the baggage car.
The train trip to Seattle takes about 3-4 hours and is restful and scenic since the train passes through lots of beautiful farmland and over or alongside lakes, rivers, and marshlands.
I was delighted and grateful to be picked up at the Seattle train station by dear friends, Kathey and Dave, my tour "angels" in between my pedaling adventures. We had a great time catching up over dinner, eating wonderful seafood at Ivar's and visiting with their daughter, now a lovely young woman instead of the little girl I remembered last!
The next day, they took me down to Pier 69, and my tour began by boarding the Victoria Clipper bound for Victoria BC! Again, I was able to take my bike and gear, having made an advance reservation for rack space for the bike.
The ferry ride was smooth and relaxing, and the inner harbor of Victoria was as stunning as I'd remembered it. Once off the ferry, I hooked my panniers on Ameila after a short detour through Canadian Customs, passport in hand. My first miles were ahead of me finally -- to pedal! I had inquired ahead through a worldwide bicycle hospitality network, WarmShowers, and a very cordial, interesting couple had agreed to put me up for my first night on the island. They lived about a 40-minute pedal from downtown Victoria, some HILLS taken into consideration! Being a Sacramentan, aka a "flatlander," any hills are always a challenge, but I did well. Okay, I walked up the steepest parts a couple times, but most of the way, I pedaled! My gears were slipping on the hills, so I knew that meant I needed something adjusted. More on that later! Victoria definitely has hills to navigate, I realized, once you get away from the water. Good for developing more cycling stamina!
Once I arrived at the beautifully kept home of my hosts, I was treated to a deliciously prepared dinner of chicken, roast potatoes, two lovely salads, and frozen yogurt and fruit for dessert! Both Europeans, my hosts grew up in cycling cultures (Denmark and Holland). Though now in their 70's, they looked fantastically 50-ish in age. They still bicycle in Europe and their own area and the States regularly. I enjoyed their description of recent cycling trips in Washington State -- and in Denmark. I want to be like them when I'm 70! They were very gracious people and very inspirational, a testament to the long-term benefits of cycling.
After retiring to an upstairs room and bathroom all to myself, I fell asleep to the unfolding chapters of The Help, a profoundly moving novel that I was totally immersed in throughout my trip whenever time allowed. In the morning, I awoke to breakfast being served. I'd planned on coffee and a bagel on the road so as not to inconvenience my hosts, but was enticed to visit a bit more over breakfast at their invitation. Then, after goodbyes, a hug for both, and my appreciation expressed, off I was, DOWN the hill towards Victoria proper.
Along the way, I found a bicycle shop open, as I'd been told would be the case. An impressively tattooed and muscled bike mechanic quickly determine what adjustment my bike needed in the re-routing of cables. Then, after filling up my bike's tires with air from their pump, I pedaled off!
Side note on Canadian courtesy noted -- again: As I was heading into town toward one of the roads that skirted the water (Dallas Road), I stopped by the side of a well-traveled street to consult my map...voila! All of a sudden, a gentleman pulled up in front of me and hopped out of his car to inquire if I needed help. upon telling him where I was headed, he helpfully set me straight on the most bike-friendly route through morning traffic. I was struck by his unsolicited interest in being sure I was okay. Several times during my trip, I was impressed by the wonderful manners and warm hearts of Canadians. Canadians rock!
After cycling along the harbor for a few miles, enjoying the shoreline views, I reached downtown Victoria, bustling with tourists and hubbub! I stopped at MEC, the Canadian equivalent of REI, just to see what kind of cycling gadgetry they offer. After purchasing a neon-orange safety sash (for better visibility) I pedaled off to find the Johnson Street bridge (the big blue one) because this is where the Galloping Goose Trail can be accessed. This trail would take me all the way to Sooke, BC, on another side of the island. I found the trail's start easily, and off I rolled along a lovely
bike-friendly, no-cars-allowed paved trail that was the start of my Epic 60th Ride!
I traveled this trail for a few hours, stopping here and there in small communities along the way. Until this point, the trail was mostly through countryside but not at all far from civilization and often shaded by trees, thankfully. Sometimes the trail crossed roads, but it easily reappeared again, well marked by two posts to announce its reconnection!
The weather was gorgeous, in the low 70's throughout my visit! I dodged the rain that evidently has come and gone all summer long, somewhat atypically, in the NW.
Once I got to Langford, the trail turned to a hard-packed fine gravel. My bike handled beautifully on it, to my relief. This is how the trail's surfacing remained from this point all the way in to Sooke. In Langford, I exited onto Goldstream Avenue, where I found a bank to exchange currency and, as well, a yummy ice cream cone to devour.
At this point, I pored over my map, not sure exactly how to get from Langford to Goldstream Provincial Park, where I planned to camp for the evening. The map showed a route that seemed unavoidable, involving a couple miles of pedaling on TransCanada
Highway 1! What? I wasn't crazy about this route, because that highway looked like a major freeway, to me! I asked around, including owners of a bike shop. To my chagrin, everyone I spoke with insisted this freeway was the only way to get an exit called "Goldstream Ave," which leads to the park. With some trepidation, I hopped on the onramp, pedaling up it until it was on the freeway.
Yep, there was a shoulder. Not that wide. 70-mph cars were zooming past me, a few lanes wide. I hugged the right of the shoulder as best I could. At one point, I passed a flowered roadside memorial along the way, thinking, "Jeepers, I sure hope that wasn't a cyclist" -- but likely it was! I muttered to myself that the Canadian routers that draw the maps must be NUTS to put cyclists on this road.... Finally, the Goldstream exit appeared. I coasted down the offramp onto "normal" roads, winding through some new housing developments and out into the countryside.
Eventually, I started climbing a gradual grade and finally saw "Ma Miller's Pub on the left and the entrance to the provincial park on the right! I'd made it! Not quite, though.... there was a long HILL into the park. I pedaled up it without having to walk any of it! Yes! At the ranger's hut, I paid $30 CDN for a night's stay. Up ANOTHER HILL was my campsite, a huge fir-shaded site with picnic table and fire ring. I wasn't isolated but I had plenty of room between me and other campers and felt secure. Once my tent was set up and my bike "hidden" under its vestibule's flap, I decided I had better walk out to the pub to eat something for dinner. I had FORGOTTEN to get my cooking fuel in town and realized that I also hadn't thought things out well to pack along some dinner! What was I thinking? I am the fuel when riding a bike! What if I ran out of pedal power? This was an oversight the next night, too! I will definitely rethink strategies to avoid this on any future tour!
Luckily, the pub was open. I had a delicious sandwich and salad and cold glass of Canadian beer. The cute young guy at the counter kept calling me "sweetheart" or "love" when waiting on my table, but of course, I realized he talks this way to everyone, just being friendly and at ease. After all, I am a woman just turned 60, in spandex, no less, after a long day's ride; I just chuckled at his ways. He was another very gracious Canadian and gave excellent table service.
Heading back up to the campgrounds, I enjoyed the walk through the heavily forested roadway. Evening was upon me, so I prepared for a good night's sleep, again immersed in The Help as my Kindle light illuminated my tent and that beautiful story.
At dawn, I packed up my gear and headed out to find something for breakfast. At a local convenience store, I had a muffin and coffee, purchased some trail mix, banana, and yogurt, and set off. Pedaling back down the road, I was able to get back onto the Galloping Goose via a very short entrance/exit on and then off of the Transcanada Highway, basically accessing Goldstream Avenue back to town. Once I was back on the Galloping Goose, I knew I had some miles ahead of me to get to Sooke, but I loved knowing I had all day to do it! Nothing is nicer than taking the time to meander and explore at leisure during a day's ride, in my opinion. I call it "getting lost" on my bike. Camera on the ready, I let the trail's beauty unfold.
As the trail heads towards Sooke, it becomes less traveled, so the natural beauty gets more dramatic. I passed a long, long lake with many wide vistas, some really beautiful groves of trees and ferns, and for some time, I traveled high up above the approaching harbor of Sooke along rocky ridges to one side of the trail. Very picturesque scenery all along the way, and thankfully, benches thoughtfully placed for periodic rest and recuperation! At one point, I stretched out on one, gazing up into the lace of trees and sky as my heart rate slowed to a gentle, harmonious beat.
A few times, where the trail crossed the road, there was a steep descent on gravel and then a steep ascent on gravel that was needed to get down and back up on the trail. Signs were always posted in advance, advising cyclists and hikers of the need for caution at these spots. I walked my heavily laden bike down and up these sections, as did most cyclists I saw along the route. Luckily, I had with me at least two large bike bottles of water, so I was not lacking there, when thirsty. If it had been warmer, I would have needed three bottles, though, to be safe.
By 5 pm or so, I was nearing Sooke Potholes Regional Park. This was my destination before heading back to Victoria, and I was very happy to finally see the signs into the campground. I had made it as far as I'd planned! The bicycle campers are not charged for a campsite at this park, but donations are happily accepted, so I gave the ranger $10. I was the only cyclist using the bike camp that evening. Most impressed, I was, with the thought the Canadians put into this type of campsite. A lovely wooden shelter had been permanently built over 3 wooden picnic tables, and next to that, under the stars, one could sit on solid wood benches that had been built to surround a fire ring. I'm sure the point was so that cyclists could gather round a fire, roast marshmallows, and trade stories on the road. The tent sites were close by, and there was even a rack to lock your bike up as part of the campsite! How cool!
I set off for a swim at the Sooke Potholes I'd read about on the Internet, after a desperate dinner of trailmix, a chocolate bar, the banana, and a granola bar. Yes, again, I'd not thought out my dinner provisions and still had no cooking fuel! AAAHHH! I was starving, so I ate all this and felt I would get through the night! But I knew I would have to find breakfast first thing the next morning or I'd be in trouble....
Anyway, back to the Potholes! They are beautiful, crystal-clear pools of water that are situated all along the river that runs alongside the camp. There are numerous potholes to swim in, but they are quite a bit underestimated in beauty, if you just go by their humble name! They are really closer to what I would imagine pools at the Garden of Eden to be, and the temperature is lovely for a swim! I waded in slowly and enjoyed the scenery surrounding the pools - trees and high outcroppings of rock surrounding the pools and a sandy bottom for my feet to sink into. Soon I was floating around feeling like I was 15 again! There are places to skinny-dip, but at this pothole, there were a few campers visiting from Germany, so I just swam in my bike clothes which doubled just fine as a swimsuit. I will remember the tranquility and beauty of this swim for a long time.
I headed to my tent as darkness approached, but not before noticing a sign at the bathrooms announcing a "bear alert" and a "cougar sighting"! For once, I was glad I didn't have much food left in my panniers, and just to be safe, I strung one up away from my tent, "just in case" a bear decided to explore my campsite during the night. There were numerous other families camping not too far away, and they all stowed their food in cars.
That night, I got up once and stepped out to peer up at the Canadian sky. Stars twinkled brightly by the millions, it seemed like, and I thought about how rare a sight that is for me, a city dweller, and how lucky I was to see them that balmy night.
The next morning, I headed out on the trail early, because I knew I had to pedal all the way back to Victoria in one day. For me, 25-30 miles is the most I want to do in a day when pedaling a fully-loaded bicycle, at least at this stage in my limited touring experience. I don't see the point in doing 60-mile days if I don't have ample time to stop and explore new places! That said, I knew I'd likely have 40 miles to pedal this day, so I wanted that early start. As I pedaled the quiet trail through crisp morning air, I realized I was the ONLY one on that trail for a few miles that definitely felt removed from civilization -- i.e., friendly places to bears and cougars! I eyed the boulders high above me on one side of the trail, imagining the many Western movies I had watched in my youth that always included a cougar perched above the stagecoaches passing along the trail.... gulp. I would make a tasty meal, that is for sure!
I kept pedaling, figuring that "Well, there isn't anything you can do if one decides to make you his breakfast, so enjoy the scenery!" Happily, that wasn't probably too likely -- even though a possibility -- and I only encountered, eventually, two older women walking their dogs along the trail as I got close to the town of Sooke.
I stopped them to inquire about nearby cafes for breakfast....and though they weren't too specific and couldn't say there was anything real close by, they did confirm that there was a cafe in the town of Sooke "a few miles" down the HILL... One of them told me she would be happy to make me tea at her home if I wanted to wait about 20 minutes until her dog was exercised. Amazing, these Canadians! I declined but thanked her sincerely, saying I had a long day's pedal ahead.
Bidding farewell, I headed down the HILL and eventually found a little convenience market where I was able to get some food to sustain me for my ride towards Langford. Then I pedaled back UP the HILL -- not walking, but using my lowest gear -- and back onto the trail, after a couple miles. The rest of the day, I pedaled and stopped and took photos and read my Kindle from time to time and pedaled some more, on and on through the scenery in reverse. I met some touring cyclists along the way and we stopped to share hellos and information.
Eventually, towards the later afternoon, I was really getting hungry, so I found a shopping center and had pizza at Romeo's Pizza. Yum! Back on the trail, I pedaled the miles back to Victoria.
Once I hit Victoria, I had to get to the University of Victoria, UP some HILLS, to stay for the night. I was starting to feel my energy flag....and I even hit the "wall" a bit. But I plodded along towards the University by taking some ridiculously roller-coaster-like hilly road to get there. I walked up the hills, pedaled down them, and repeated that rhythm for a while.... resting along the way as able. Happily, I FINALLY reached the University. They have a visitor program for the summer on campus, and I was able to get a private dorm room and hot showers and even a voucher good in their cafeteria. A night's lodging was only $45. In Victoria, where everything is rather expensive, as lodging goes, this was the perfect solution for me!
A hot shower never felt better. I wheeled my bike right into my room, set out to eat a healthy dinner next door, and once again, said goodnight to that day by reading more of The Help. I felt lucky to have found a week's time and freedom to pursue this little bicycle tour "dream" to its fruition...I reflected about how many people never do get to follow a dream, even a small one, if their life circumstances are vicious or dead-end. It made me treasure this little trip all the more.
The next morning, off I was, down the hills and dells to reach the ferry building in Victoria -- feeling victorious! My odometer said 110 miles by journey's end, but my memories will travel far greater distance than what that odometer recorded.
Ride a bike! The world is yours to explore, even if just for a short ride through a place you've never been.