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.


Chloe said...

What a fantastic trip you had! Loved your photos and reading about your adventure. What an inspiration!

TXGalOnTheGo said...

Sweet. Glad I followed up this link from Lynette Chang (on FB). Enjoyed reading *in detail* about your adventure. Makes me wanna get back there. Saw this area many years ago, but from a smalll motorhome.
Thanks for taking the time to put this blog together and share.

Stuart said...

Now my dream too. Decided not to tow the bike case? Seems one could have enough carrying capacity to "dress appropriately" as well.

Barb said...

What a wonderful travel narrative with great photos! I loved your Slow Bike Movement way of traveling.

Cynthia said...

Paula...thank you for the delightful trip...I felt I was there [almost]. Fantastic photos and definitely the 60th year to remember!!! Proud of you.