A week in BC

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by rob_evans, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. rob_evans

    rob_evans Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    London(ish), UK.
    OK, a few of you may recall I started a thread in the "Great White North" forum a month or so back asking for hints and tips about travelling in BC. I had more feedback than I could use, so sorry to the offers of ride-outs, I just ended up doing a bit of sightseeing on the paved stuff. Even if it was the axle that was in contact for the paved stuff for a bit -- but more of that later.

    I flew over to Victoria by seaplane to pick the bike up from CycleBC. To get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, I just blasted up to Nanaimo to catch the ferry back to Vancouver. Sitting outside a mall an old lady asked if the bike was going to be OK there. Worried, I asked why? Isn't allowed to park bikes here or something? No, she said, it just looked as if it was going to fall over. I reassured her it was fine, had a quick chat about who I was, where I was from, and what I was doing before she went on her way. I always knew that BC folk were friendly. Just as I was getting ready to head down to the ferry terminal, I noticed a guy pulling into the parking lot and staring at the bike. He comes over to me and starts chatting. Turns out he also has a KLR and was going to do a few logging roads the following day with a few friends and asked if I wanted to come along. I was tempted to turn around, but I decided that grateful as I was, I'd stick to the plan. So thanks, Leo (I think he is also on AdvRider), next time!

    Getting the ferry was far easier than I'd expected, and the lady directing the traffic was also chatty whilst waiting for all the cars to come off. The was a suprisingly good bluegrass band busking on the ferry, and once off I made my way back to downtown Vancouver to buy some plastic bags to keep everything dry and pack ready to leave the following day.

    After a quick farewell, the first stop of the day was Murrin Provincial Park.

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    I didn't hang around long, though, I got back on the road and headed up through to Squamish where I stopped for lunch. The brewpub looked good, but I figured that if I stopped there I might not get any further that day, so I made do with a burger whilst I sat inside and tried to thaw out a bit.

    Continuing up the "Sea to Sky" road, it started getting colder, and it wasn't too long before the first signs of snow appeared.

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    I'd been tempted to stop in Whistler for the first night, but as I was making such good progress, I whistled straight through it, and continued on up. Stopping only at a level crossing whilst an impossibly long train went past, I covered the extra few km to Pemberton which would give me a bit of a head start the following morning. I checked into the Pemberton Hotel.

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    Not the greatest of hotels -- a single shared bathroom, but the room was warm enough. I had a bit of a walk around and came to like the town. Lots of skidoos on the backs of trucks, and it reminded me a little of the old TV series "Northern Exposure." Pretty much everywhere I went in BC it was obvious that the local elections were coming up the following weekend.

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    After a brief snooze, I headed back out to find a restaurant. In one of those moments that happen on holiday and are over all too briefly, it was extremely foggy, I could barely see the pavement (sidewalk), and there was a train horn echoing around the town as the locomotive and its cargo trundled through. Place I ate at was called "Wild Wood" and the food was OK, but most people were there to see the Canucks game against Detroit -- which they won.

    In an attempt to keep me warm the following day I decided to put my fleece on under my bike jacket in addition to a heavy shirt and a t-shirt, thereby breaking my record for most layers ever worn -- I wasn't even wearing that much when I'd been to Everest Base Camp in Tibet six weeks earlier. It was needed, as it had been a decidedly frosty night.

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    After procrasinating for as long as I could, waiting for the sun to have a chance to come up, I headed off. When I'd asked the guy at the hotel, he'd warned that the road to Lillooet might be a bit iffy on two wheels (paraphrasing), but I decided to give it a go. At the start it was no problem, I was on the sunny side of the valley and the road was mostly clear and dry.

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    However, now and again we'd cross a slippery wooden bridge and end up on the shady side of the valley, and I'd be riding through slush, easing right off and wondering if I'd made the right decision. However, being a stubborn sort, I carried on until I hit clear road again, could open her up and feel the rays hitting my jacket as the tarmac carried me onwards. There were some nice twisty switchbacks as the road came down towards Lake Seton and Lillooet where I stopped at Lou's Family Restaurant for a hot beef sandwich and loads of hot coffee.

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    With plenty of daylight left I headed down to Lytton, and what a fantastic ride it was. No more frost and snow, instead quiet, sweeping roads at the upper reaches of the Fraser River. I'd intended to stop the night at Lytton, but I'd enjoyed the riding so much getting there I hadn't paused and still had a good few hours of sunlight left. That, and the fact that Lytton looked a slightly less hospitable place than Lillooet tricked me into continuing down the road and deeper into the Fraser Canyon.

    After a couple of stops whilst the road was blocked for the teams working to make the walls of the canyon safe, I found myself in Boston Bar. Not the most attractive of towns, and I briefly considered heading back to Lytton, but I didn't want to press on in the dark and miss the views so I decided to call it a night. BB has a handful of petrol (gas) stations and a hotel, and, well, that seems to be about it really. I checked into the Charles Hotel (there wasn't a great deal of choice) where the fittings appeared to have been untouched since the early seventies and watched a bit of telly around the chinese meals that were the hotel's speciality (it is chinese owned, after all), and realised I hadn't had a mobile phone signal most of the day.

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    Next morning I cracked on again, past the Air Tram across the canyon (closed for winter, opening again on April 13th, 2006 if I remember rightly), until I reached a bridge that looked as if it might give a good photo-op. A stopped the bike in a lay-by on the other side and walked halfway back across to take a couple of photos. There was one brief moment where I realised that the lorry coming on the same side of the road was carrying a wide load and there wasn't enough room for me between it and the side of the bridge, but luckily there was nothing else coming and I had time to cross to the other side of the bridge to get out of the way.

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    From the canyon it was pretty much a straight ride to Horseshoe bay to catch the ferry back to Nanaimo. After a bit of confusion where at a petrol pump my credit card company had finally (after 10 days of being in Canada) decided all these foreign transactions were looking suspicious and stopped the card, I managed to get some fuel, sort things out with the card company and reached Nanaimo after watching a rather attractive young woman exercise by walking round and round the ferry for 90 minutes.

    I checked into the Travelodge, then headed into town for dinner and a couple of drinks at the Acme Bar and Grill. There was some live music scheduled for a club called Queen's just around the corner, but instead of that I headed for the Foundry Pub, on the way back to the hotel. After settling down for a drink or two the evening went down then up. Down, because I found out it was Karaoke night. Up, because after a handful of songs the pub was plunged into darkness with a power cut.

    I pretty much expected this to be a regular occurrence in this part of the world, but apparently not. However, there was still enough pressure to draw the beer, and as I was paying in cash rather than credit card, I carried on -- though even the emergency lights had failed and going to the loo meant using a mobile phone as a makeshift torch (oh, and though you won't be reading this, apologies to the couple I interrupted in the middle of a "private moment" when I went to the gents -- I'm not sure how private they expected it to be standing right in front of the urinals though). In fact, towards the end of the evening when the pub was finally being emptied out after the power had failed to come on for a couple of hours, they were doing a sweep of the bar and concluded it was "only people they knew" still left. I felt at home. Thanks to Dan the barman, Courtney, and Scott for chatting through the evening. The power was out at the hotel too, so they supplied a little candle to use to light the way back to the room. I put the light switch on so that I'd know when the power returned and drifted off to sleep. I awoke at six -- still no power. Again and seven and eight. At nine I had to go to the loo / bathroom / washroom, and carried the candle in with me. I still hit the lightswitch, though, and to my suprise it worked. I went back into the room, and when I flicked that switch, it worked too. Oops, looks like I hadn't left the light on after all. Finally I had the bright idea to look at the alarm clock and it was showing 8:20, so the power must have come back on shortly after I got back to the room after all.

    The following day I decided to head out to Tofino. It had been the plan anyway, but Courtney had also recommended it. I wasn't sure if I was going to stick out there for the night, or try there and back in a day, so I packed everything up and started out. Nothing too spectacular for the first few km, but then I got to "Cathedral Grove" with huge, magnificent trees. There were also a collection of pumpkins lining the road. Now I know that pumpkins are done for Hallowe'en, but why are they lining the road across Vancouver Island at Cathedral Grove? Can anybody tell me?

    Going further across the island the road gets twistier and twistier. Incredibly fun to ride, and fortunately free of ice and snow. I stopped off briefly at Kennedy Lake before finishing the journey to Tofino.

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    There wasn't much to Tofino, so I pootled around, and without even getting off the bike (expect to fuel up), I decided to head back to Nanaimo that afternoon and have another go at those twisty roads.

    This is where the axle met the road. I can't have been going particularly fast, but I was cranked over in a tight right-hander when it suddenly tightened up and dropped downhill. From this point there was only one way things were going to go, and before I knew it I was sliding across the road wondering where the sparks were coming from. Fortunately there was nothing coming the other way -- if there had been I'd have been toast. Or squashed frog.

    A teensy bit shaken I got up, checked for damage and started to haul the bike back upright. I'd like to thank the woman that was in the car coming the other way that got out and asked if I was OK, then helped hold the bike whilst I got the stand down. Not so many thanks to the car behind me that just carried on, stopped a couple of hundred metres down the road, then carried on.

    I got off rather lightly. Holes worn in my jacket and trousers where I'd been sliding down the road (I'd rather not think what would have happened if I'd not been wearing proper gear), marginal scuffing to a corner of the plastic on the KLR's bodywork, but a substantially worn down axle. Even the saddlebags were pretty much untouched (so I can't have been going that fast). Both rider and bike were still roadworthy, so very gingerly I started back off to Nanaimo. As if to prove the incident shouldn't put me off, there was a small Black Bear running alongside the road at one point. Those are the moments that make a day, if not a trip.

    After dinner at Gina's Mexican Cafe, it was back to the Foundry. There was another Canucks game on that evening. Courtney asked about the trip to Tofino and I explained the slide. I had a couple of beers, watched the game and headed back.

    The following day was the last full day with the bike. I headed back to Victoria, then veered around to Sooke and back on yet more of the Island's good roads. Back in Victoria I did a bit of shopping to find a DIY book that a friend had written (but isn't available in the UK), met up with another friend for some drinks, and that is about it. The following morning I rode the bike back to CycleBC, passing quite a few bikers on their way out of Victoria and caught the bus and ferry back to Vancouver.
    #1
  2. HighwayChile

    HighwayChile greetings from Wa state

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,966
    Location:
    Bow, WA USA
    great report and good on ya for pushing on through the snow/ice, those wood bridges w/ ice are a bitch.

    did the rental shop nick you any for the go down?
    #2
  3. rob_evans

    rob_evans Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    London(ish), UK.
    Hi HighwayChile, thanks for that.

    I had to pay for new decals and a new axle. Only fair though, and they didn't charge labour. :)
    #3
  4. hutchman

    hutchman Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2002
    Oddometer:
    834
    Location:
    Richland, WA.
    Great report. BC is a great place to ride.

    Glad the get off wasn't worse!

    Hutch
    #4
  5. waveydavey

    waveydavey happy times!!

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2005
    Oddometer:
    11,601
    Location:
    In storage.
    The pumpkins on the road are an Island thing, people have them carved and such in and around their homes for Halloween, then the day after or so they park them onto a stretch of road. I have seen it in a few spots, not every place does it. Looks kind of cool at night because some of them will have a candle burning inside. First time I saw it was on the Crofton/Duncan road. Many pumpkins, made me say WTF!
    #5
  6. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,084
    Location:
    On the cut
    Nice ride, report, and pics.
    #6
  7. Geordietraveller

    Geordietraveller On the road to nowhere...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    175
    Location:
    Victoria,BC
    Hi rob,

    We just rode the same roads as you (only in the summer!) We flew our bike into Vancouver and spent 3 months riding round BC, Alberta and the Island before following the sun down through the US (currently in Tucson).

    That road to Tofino is a bit treacherous - have they finished repairing it yet? There were miles and miles of gravel sections when we were there in September - I hope you're ok after the fall.

    We took this pic on our way from Pemberton (where we also stayed for a night) with a couple we met in Vancouver. That road is a beaut but you've got my respect for riding it at this time of the year!
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    Take care

    Simon & Fiona
    #7
  8. rob_evans

    rob_evans Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    London(ish), UK.
    Hi Simon & Fiona,

    I'm fine, thanks. Need to get a new jacket, there's no harm in having an excuse for that, eh?

    The road was surfaced all the way, but some of it looked pretty new and there were teams painting the lines on some of the stretches. Must have been a hec of a ride for you if it was on gravel -- please tell me you stayed overnight and didn't do the round trip in a day!

    That photo looks like it was taken from the same lay-by (are they called pull-outs over there?) as:

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    I'll have to go back there in the spring/summer, should be a completely different ride.
    #8
  9. Geordietraveller

    Geordietraveller On the road to nowhere...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    175
    Location:
    Victoria,BC
    Yes same location that's what I thought. (and I thought we were being original!)

    We stayed about 4 nights camping pretty much on the beach at Tofino - there's a lot more to see than you might think - amazing beaches. We heard of a few bikes going down/ having puctures on the gravel afterwe got there :eek1 . We also took some gravel roads to the 'backside' (as they call it over here) of Lake Kennedy and that was a lot of fun.

    We loved the whole of BC though - would be heading back now if it wasn't for the cold as our US Visas are up. I'm sure you'll have an amazing time in summer.

    Simon
    #9
  10. araspitfire

    araspitfire Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2005
    Oddometer:
    429
    Location:
    Voorburg, The Netherlands
    They are never finished repairing the road to Tofino.

    The big trucks and huge rainfall cause it to shift faster than they can resurface it.

    The locals drive it like maniacs, knowing just where to position the car (or bike) entering the blind corners to miss the rougher bits on the way through the dips...

    You should have seen it when I lived there... the dips were deeper, lots more twisty corners..... Lots of bikers go down on that particular road... too much fun... to many situations like the one where you went down on...

    Sounds like you got a good taste of BC though...

    Al...
    #10
  11. rob_evans

    rob_evans Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    London(ish), UK.
    Ahhh. Cheers WD, that explains it. Thought things were going a bit Blair Witch for a moment! :-)
    #11
  12. Steve G.

    Steve G. Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2004
    Oddometer:
    16,151
    Location:
    West is the Best
    You've got serious bollocks for heading up Duffy Lake to Lilloett this time of year. In a month, they will probably close the gate to the highway, it gets that bad sometimes. Bad avalanche area. This is one of the classic west coast rides in the summer, with hundreds of bikes Sat and Sun doing the complete circle you did, in one day. Well done!

    Ciao, Steve G.
    #12