BC: Victoria - Port Renfrew - Cowichan - Victoria

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Geocycle, Aug 23, 2010.

  1. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    Victoria – Port Renfrew – Cowichan – Victoria, with a slight side trip
    August 8, 2010
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    Background: Poser with a GS
    I like the idea of a practical go anywhere sort of vehicle. Logging roads and getting out to obscure hiking trails is always in the back of my mind so when my mind came to the idea of a GS it did not take long to take fruit. An older BMW F650GS came available when I was looking last winter and soon became mine to ride and maintain. Winter and spring were spent riding to and from work (yawn) - there are only so many times I can dissect the route, or change it up, to make it interesting. A proper little adventure was needed. I had done a quick overnight to Tofino mid-winter (all on slab) and found the twistys between <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Sproat</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place> and the Westcoast were slow that time of year (wet, with lots of gravel).
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    Like so many people I read ADV and enjoy watching the adventures of others. The craving to “just go” is real for so many of us. Family, jobs, bills and time all seem to get in the way of the epic journey, but there are still opportunities close to home.
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    So, today was a day to have a mini-adventure. It did not quite fit as fully adventurous or fully epic, but it was fun and the ride is one that others have asked about. So, here is a ride report on a simple one day trip – a trip I highly recommend.
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    The Trip Plan:
    Take a day and ride from home in <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Victoria</st1:place></st1:State> out to Sooke, fuel up, blast northwest on the Westcoast road to Port Renfrew, and stop for lunch. Then, hop across the mountains to <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Cowichan</st1:placeName>, <st1:City w:st="on">Duncan</st1:City>, and down the very familiar highway crossing the Malahat to <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Victoria</st1:place></st1:State>. Before crossing the Malahat I had a vague idea of going inland again and taking in some of the logging roads, and visit an old friend’s Geocache in the middle of no where. I expected to be gone for 6-8 hours, depending on the side trip.
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    The road from Victoria – Port Renfrew – Cowichan – Duncan – <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Victoria</st1:place></st1:State> is all paved. The section from Port Renfrew to Cowichan was paved in the last couple of years and is now being touted as a circle route. When you live at the south end of an Island there are few directions to travel (all roads go north, unless you hop on a big boat to really get away), so when there is an opportunity to travel a route that has no backtracking or repeat roads people get excited. You throw in some twisty roads and riders of all stripes start to vibrate. Throw in a dry day on a road that can be monsoon wet and the road becomes glorious.

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    #1
  2. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    to Port Renfrew
    I left home at about 11. No, not early. The problem was that Sooke had a triathalon on today and roads were backed up as a result. I wanted to time it so that I went through Sooke at a time when the wait would be minimal.
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    Travel out to Sooke from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Victoria</st1:place></st1:State> was low key, albeit a bit busy and slow. Once in Sooke I topped up the fuel tank (these F650GS’s have short legs, so best to keep it full). Sooke was still busy with the race, with runners now crossing the main road at two points, forcing cars to stop, turn off their engines and wait. This gave me an opportunity to stop, sit on the bike, and watch as the athletes ran past. There were three types of people: super fit women, super fit men, and middle aged heavy set guys (like me) that were trying to prove they could still do it. I have to commend that last group as they were definitely fitter than me (they must be if they were running without walking). Traffic soon moved and I was off.
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    Sooke to Otter Point is nice and gives you a hint of what is to come. The views of the ocean off to the left were quick, with few locations to slow or stop to take it in. I passed a handful of racers (guys on fast MCs) in this section. They blasted by south bound, engines racing as they used their gears to slow in the corners, leaned hard over in their full racing leathers. It looked like fun, but then I was reminded that almost every year this road takes at least one motorcyclist’s life, usually the result of things happening in the corner.

    The section from Otter Point to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">French</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Beach</st1:placeType></st1:place> had some nice light twisties, with some more views of the ocean, but still there were few locations to pull over. I stopped for a quick look around a small restaurant and cabins at Point No Point. The views from the cabins and restaurant were bucolic, with an ever changing ocean view. Looks like a nice place to get away, de-stress and do little.
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    Next stop was <st1:place w:st="on">Jordan River</st1:place>. This bend in the road has a few old wood buildings that look to be part of Western Forest Products, as well as a row of buildings that hint at past economic activity. The area is almost at the ocean and sits in a tsunami zone, so if you feel the ground shake remember to head to higher ground.
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    There is an RV campground on the water’s edge and in better conditions the surf attracts surfers from around <st1:place w:st="on">Vancouver Island</st1:place> and beyond.
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    The old small café in the area is now closed, but a guy in an RV/trailer will make you a burger and fries if you like. He did not look like he was doing a roaring business, but it was not raining so life looked not too bad. There were no other services in <st1:place w:st="on">Jordan River</st1:place>.
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    There were a few other riders stopped here, but I did not even get a hello or head nod acknowledging a fellow rider. Oh well. They were riding bikes that rarely show a wave.
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    The section from <st1:place w:st="on">Jordan River</st1:place> to Loss Creek was great fun. The view of the ocean in here is rare, but the road makes up for it with some fun riding. For hikers there are many access points to the Juan de Fuca trail along here, but most of them are not marked – you need a guide book to find them. The Juan de Fuca hiking trail is quite amazing, but if you do any of it I suggest getting the appropriate guide book for some tips and suggestions.
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    The road gets progressively twisty as you get closer to Loss Creek. Another factor about the road in this area is the road heaves. They start to become noticeable, with a few up/downs as you ride. Nothing dangerous, but noteworthy.
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    <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">China</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Beach</st1:placeType></st1:place> is found in this section. It is a great beach, with about a 10-15 minute hike down (and later back up!) to go see it.
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    Going down into the valley that Loss Creek is in can be great fun. There are a few curvy bits of note and the local paper says a few of us riders have had some trouble in them, flinging themselves off the road. No problems. I did get stuck behind a small VW van in this area, but that allowed me to turn my head a bit and see some of the rough terrain.
    #2
  3. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    Loss Creek to Port Renfrew is all newly paved road. At times I was not sure if it was so new that I needed to be cautious of new road slickness.



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    The air starts to get noticeably damper as you approach Port Renfrew and the trees start to look like they are covered in green hair. They say this area gets some of the highest rainfall amounts on <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on">Vancouver Island</st1:place>.
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    There are a few one lane bridges in this section and in the section from Port Renfrew and Cowichan. A few of the bridges in the section before Port Renfrew are at a turn, so you need to use caution that you are mostly upright as you enter the bridge. On a wet day there is the potential for wet and bad angle to make for no fun. Again, no big deal, but if you are not watching you can get into a bit of a pickle.
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    Port Renfrew is a small town, with few year round residents. The small town is found on the on the south side of the bay, while at the north east end of the bay there is a small First Nations community. The area looks to be making an effort to capture a few of the curious that come for the circle route.
    #3
  4. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    I followed the road into the town, noting a café and a general store on the way in. I carried on until I came to the Renfrew Hotel. Parked outside were about 15 motorcycles, so I knew I must be in the right place.

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    I was getting hungry, so a stop was in order.

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    The hotel has a restaurant with a decent outside patio for days like today. The pub inside was fairly plain; on a rainy day it would have done just fine, though. Today, however, everyone was outside – the weather was perfect. The view here was decent, with a dock, a bunch of fishing boats and a view up the harbour to the north east.
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    The people having lunch were your usual grouping of characters common to the west coast.

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    The guy beside me had just come out of the bush, having completed the Westcoast Trail. When the waitress came over to ask him what he wanted he simply smiled and with a German accent replied “a beer”. A group on Harleys came in and sat at a larger table. The couple at a table close to mine started to make conversation. When the lady found out that my plan was to head over to Cowichan she wanted to show me her photos of the large Sitka Spruce found along the route. No problem. Her male companion sat and listened as she talked with excitement about their trip today.

    As I was leaving I noted the variety of bikes around: Harleys, VStroms, Goldwings, even a Spyder. The most common riding jacket colour was high-vis yellow/green. I liked it, surprisingly.

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    #4
  5. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    Port Renfrew to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Cowichan</st1:placeName></st1:place>
    The Port Renfrew to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Mesachie</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place> (Cowichan) was quite nice.

    This sounds nice.
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    Rush Hour
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    The posted speed limit is 60km/h, though I suspect that most people find themselves at higher speeds than that.

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    Massive Sitka Spruce
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    Rain Forest
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    I stopped a few times to take photos and was immediately struck by how quiet it was. The only real sound was the hot bike as it ticked and clicked after turning off the engine. The lack of cars was beautiful.



    Reminders of the forest fire danger, even near the rain forest
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    Random water scene
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    Back on the bike I noted the temperature climb a bit as I headed inland. There were lots of big trees, many areas of second growth forest, and some active logging. It’s a reminder of how logging has been such a part of the <st1:place w:st="on">Vancouver Island</st1:place> economy for a long time.


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    <o:p>The scenery changed again. As you get away from Port Renfrew the air starts to lose some of its damp feel and the trees lose their green hair. The road itself is course pavement, relatively smooth and no real issues. There are lots of twists and turns, with good signage so you are not likely to get lost.</o:p>
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    There are some nice view points along this stretch, with a small canyon at one point, lots of small river crossings over single lane bridges, and the occasional view point.

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    I found I was a bit sad when I popped out at <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Cowichan</st1:placeName></st1:place>. The more secluded part of the ride was done and I knew I was going to quickly be back into “civilization”.
    #5
  6. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Cowichan</st1:placeName> to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Duncan</st1:place></st1:City>
    The <st1:placeName w:st="on">Mesachie</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType> to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Duncan</st1:place></st1:City> stretch was pretty boring. <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Cowichan</st1:placeName></st1:place> (the little town) is small, but has some amenities if needed (grocery stores, banks, restaurants). The area is known this time of year for its water sports, so it is common to see trucks pulling trailers with boats. I took the old Cowichan road for part of the way to Duncan, but in the end my sore bottom won out and I skipped back over to the highway where the speed limit is 110kph; I just wanted to get off the bike at this stage and have a pop (soda, to my American friends).
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    Once on the highway I saw the funniest thing of the day. In the distance I could see a rider approaching. Our closing speed was a combined speed of over 200kph, so really I only had a handful of seconds to see this. As he got closer I realized he was on a Harley. I try and wave at all riders (even the big scooters J) and Harleys are no exception. I even get a few that wave back. Anyway, as he got closer I could see that he was finding this stretch of road as exciting as I was. He was a guy, likely in his late fifties, big mustache, serious sad looking face, little helmet, and leathers. His left arm was off the bars, elbow leaning on his left leg and hand holding up his leaning head – imagine the Greek statue of The Thinker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_thinker), only on a motorcycle at 100-plus km. He blasts by in this “The Thinker” pose. I burst into laughter - that split second image make me grin for the rest of the trip into <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Duncan</st1:City></st1:place>.
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    I stopped in <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Duncan</st1:place></st1:City> for an ice cream and a stretch. How do you long distance guys keep your back end from falling off? I think my large body mass is compressing the Corbin and I am on the losing end of this one. Solution: less ice cream.

    #6
  7. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Renfrew Road</st1:address></st1:Street> (<st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Shawnigan</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place>)
    I decided to take a side detour on this day and get off the circle route. An old friend of mine has a Geocache in a remote area inland from <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Shawnigan</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place>, so I decided to pop over and see if there was a way to get to where the cache is. The trip took me inland, past <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Shawnigan</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place>, and out <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Renfrew Road</st1:address></st1:Street>. <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Renfrew Road</st1:address></st1:Street> turns into an active gravel logging road, so it was nice to use some different riding skills.

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    A small obstacle gave the impression that I would have to turn around, but in the end the Gelände features of the GS = Gelände/Straße (off road/road) came in handy. The bike did great on the gravel road, through some tank traps and drainages, and through a bunch of wet zones (in the city I call these big puddles). I got to the cache site with no trouble. Quiet. Ahhh…so nice.

    View from the cache site
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    I made some notes in the cache, noted the rate of growth on the new trees, and hopped back on the bike to head home. The trip out of the woods was uneventful, though I did come across two guys in a truck, a guy on a quad and another on a dirt bike. I had to wonder how the truck got in here….
    #7
  8. the darth peach

    the darth peach eats crackers in bed

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    11,400
    Location:
    N.California
    Very nice!
    I missed you out there by a few days!
    #8
  9. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    Last bit home
    I fuelled up at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Mill</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Bay</st1:placeType></st1:place> and headed home. Sunday evening traffic was heavy, but a heavy dose of patience was the way to go. I got home 8 and a half hours after I had left. It was a great day. Not epic, but great for the soul.

    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    The <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Pacific Circle</st1:address></st1:Street> Route
    The total Circle Route is about a 250km round trip (that would be a start/end in Langford). I live 15 km from there, so that added 30km. I also popped in and out of the woods for another 55 km of slow gravel and dirt. Total <st1:State w:st="on">Victoria</st1:State> – Renfrew – Cowichan – <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Victoria</st1:place></st1:State> is likely about a 4.5 to 5 hour trip, with few stops.

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    Other details for the circle route:
    Fuel: I fueled up in Sooke and did not fuel again until <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Mill</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Bay</st1:placeType></st1:place> (after I did the inland wilderness portion of the trip). I was into my “reserve”fuel by the time I fuelled - my bike has fairly short legs. I took a 1 gallon fuel can along in case I needed it once in the woods, but his really was overkill. I also wanted to see what the full can would do on those kinds of roads. It was strapped on pretty good, but still managed to need an adjustment on the trail.
    Food: The food at Renfrew Hotel was good to excellent. The wait staff was busy, but courteous and quick.
    Weather: I had dry conditions. It rained the day before and the day after, so I chose a good day. The weather out toward Port Renfrew can be very wet. I would not enjoy the twisties on this road if wet.
    Wildlife: Saw none to speak of (some of the people I saw not included).

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    My Stats:
    The bike: 2001 BMW F650GS, fairly stock
    Total Trip Time (time the GPS was on): 7 hours 30 min
    Total Distance: 332km
    Maximum Elevation: 1752 feet
    Total time moving: 5 hours 54 min
    Moving Average: 56.3kph
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    I stopped a bunch to take photos, which distorts the true trip stats.

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    Final Thoughts
    It is hard to describe to people what the attraction is to riding. If I could give them a glimpse of sensations it would involve working the controls, feeling the wind, and taking in the view. For me I often imagine I am in an open cockpit WW1 vintage bi-plane, with the wind flowing across my face, leaning into the turns, chasing my foe. On a ride like this the foe really is something less visible, but equally deadly. Stress is a funny thing and as I get into that age where the doctor wants to poke at me in ways that my younger self would have laughed at, I realize that we need to seize those moments in life where we can shed some stress and live a little. Today’s journey was great for that. A ride close to home, with that kind of pure mind/body connection that really is unique to riding. Working the two brakes, the clutch, shifter and throttle, leaning into the corners, accelerate up and down through the gears as the situation demands. End result: pushed life’s stresses aside and concentrated on what was right in front of me. A great day.
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    #9
  10. Sundance

    Sundance Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    61
    Location:
    Siskiyou Mtns
    Nice report - great pictures. I've had BC on the mind lately, was thinking family vacation next summer; but maybe need to find a moto vacation sooner.
    #10
  11. duhgee

    duhgee Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    234
    Location:
    Guelph, ON
    My wife and I did the same ride this spring, but in a cage. Your pics are just as we remember, but luckily we had sunshine the whole way. Nonetheless, a fun simple ride, off the beaten trail. I was amazed by the size of the logs (trunks?) the trucks were hauling. Thanks for the RR.
    #11
  12. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    Well, next time you come up this way let us all know so we can get a peek at an ADV celebrity :D

    I am glad to hear that you got on such a great ride way up north and that our little area was part of your mind clearing journey. So many places to see...
    #12
  13. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    It is a great place to be. Come on out and enjoy the place. July is usually our best month for minimal rain. The downside in recent years is we have ended up with campfire bans. So, if camping this restricts things a bit.

    Thanks for reading my little report.
    #13
  14. Geocycle

    Geocycle Explorer

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Victoria, B.C., Canada
    Ya, definitely a different feel when it is sunny. I enjoyed the ride so much more with the nice weather. I would get car sick if I was in a car on that road; on the bike it is awesome.
    #14