|The Sunshine Coast, BC - Planned route of my bike trip|
I have been waiting a long time for a bike camping trip and I finally jumped into one a few weekends ago. The planned trip was to go cycling along the Sunshine Coast, BC up to Powell River from my home in Burnaby and back. This was to be a 3 day, 2 nights trip totaling 400Kms with return trip. Well, it didn't quite go off as planned..
Day 0 - Packing and Preparation
Being quite the boy-scout, I tend to over-pack. This is probably my first of many mistakes on this trip. Seeing as it was going to be a 3 day trip, I wanted to make sure that I was completely self-sufficient and prepared for anything that could happen on the road. I made sure I packed all the tools I needed in case I had to make roadside repairs. I made sure I had enough clothing for the duration of the trip, in cases of rain and cold nights as well. The obvious things such as my tent, sleeping bag, bike lock, food, water etc. were all packed. The downfall of being all prepared for anything is that all that weight starts to add up. All the gear I am bringing will be packed in my Maya Cycle bike trailer and with the 13lb trailer I am reaching 50lbs of total pulling weight. This does not even include my bike which is nearing 30lbs in touring form. This will become very evident through the course of the trip.
|Pre-Planning and Packing|
Day 1 - Bright and Early. Let's do this.
Breakfast, 1 hard boiled egg, a bagel and a banana. I made sure not to have anything that would not sit well in my stomach yet be enough to hold me down until lunch break which would put me 4 hours away on the Ferry. Destination, Garden Bay BC, Hotel Lake Campsite. Total Kms for the day, 135.
8am sharp. Off I go. Extremely excited to get going. I had a big smile on my face all morning. The first stage of my trip from Burnaby to Stanley Park/Lion's Gate Bridge would be a piece of cake as it is mostly downhill or flat. I rode mostly on the Central Valley Greenway all the way to Downtown Vancouver which was very relaxing and a perfect start to get my legs all warmed up. Riding through downtown was also a breeze with the separated bike lanes. Oh what a beautiful city to ride through and not have to worry about cars hitting you. I made it to Stanley Park and Lion's Gate bridge in record time.
|Reaching the Lion's Gate Bridge in record time.|
|Scenic Marine Drive from Lion's Gate to Horseshoe Bay|
Granted, Marine Drive was a very scenic ride and very beautiful. Unfortunately, there was no time to enjoy it as I had to catch a ferry. The rolling hills made it quite tough especially pulling nearly 70lbs of weight including bike and trailer. But alas, I made it to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal with time to spare. 11am. 3hrs from when I started. There will be plenty of time to rest waiting for the ferry and the 1hr ferry ride itself. Waiting at the ferry terminal, I couldn't help but laugh at myself at how exhausted I am and I still have 90kms to go! haha..
On the ferry, out of sheer luck, I ran into my brother-in-law, Ric, who I was to meet up with at the campsite for the evening. The plan is to join my sister and her family at a campsite they were staying at during the week. This way, I will have company on my first night of camping. Ric was on his way from a Vancouver meeting to join my sister and niece who was already at the campsite awaiting his arrival (they live in Sechelt which is also on the Sunshine Coast). The ferry ride was so quick as I had someone to talk to the whole time. I forgot to have my lunch. Oh well, there will be plenty of time to eat while I'm on the road. We had a small discussion about how long it will take me to get to the campsite.. I had so much confidence in making it to the campsite before dark as I had 7 hours of daylight to go, I had done century rides(100kms) before well within 5hrs so I thought 'Noo Problemo!' Ric, on the other hand, thought it would be very impressive if I made it there in 7hrs or less.. (just a reminder, Ric knows the terrain very well). Before the ferry ride was over, Ric had asked if I wanted to throw my bike and trailer in his SUV and hitch a ride with him to the campsite. I politely laughed at that idea and mentioned that this trip was all about the bike ride! Thanks anyways! We parted ways as we got off the ferry and will soon meet up again in the evening.
Langdale Ferry Terminal to Sechelt BC
As I got off the ferry, I knew that there was to be a long and steady uphill if I had stayed on the Sunshine Coast Highway. Knowing this information, I decided to take Marine Drive (that name again) into Gibsons which was to be a nicer and easier route... another mistake coming up I foresee. Well, it was indeed a nice ride, very scenic and all downhill. All downhill? This could only mean one thing, I will have to climb up a hill at some point. And as soon as I reached Gibsons at Molly's Reach restaurant, it was indeed nothing but up I can see. I was warned about a street that was 21 percent incline by some cyclists before I got on the ferry. I knew for sure that I wanted to avoid that street. Sure enough, at Molly's Reach Restaurant, there it was, dead smack in front of me.. the dreaded School Road. Signs saying 21 percent incline and NO Trucks Allowed!
|A Google streetview capture of the dreaded School Rd. sign. 21% incline, No trucks allowed!|
|This is the only picture I took of School Rd. The monster hill I rode up on.|
The ride to Sechelt was uneventful. All I could think of was how hot it was. I guess they don't call this the 'Sunshine' Coast for nothing! It was so hot that my MP3 player overheated and died in the heat, my accompanying music is gone, I was not very happy with that. The ride towards Sechelt wasn't overly difficult. It was fairly flat for the most part. My confidence was building once again as I was making good time. I even took my time in some areas just to take in and enjoy some of the sights and take pictures, which was the whole point of this trip. The Sunshine Coast certainly is a beautiful place, I just wished I wasn't in such a rush.
|Overlooking the Strait of Georgia at Davis Bay|
Sechelt to Garden Bay.
This whole time of my bike ride, my sister has been in contact with me via text messages wanting updates of my current location and constantly asking me if I wanted to be picked up. I think she knew, much more than I did, of what was ahead of me. Still having full confidence that I would make the whole trip to the campsite before dark, I simply told her not to worry and that I would be there soon. I was determined to make it, there was no way in hell that I would ask for assistance, no way! I was still 45kms away not knowing the terrain ahead of me., But 45Kms is just a cakewalk comparing from what I have ridden in the past. Hah! Was I ever wrong. This was to be one of the biggest mistakes I've made, #6. Know the terrain you will be cycling on ahead of time! I have completely underestimated this bike ride. The hills were long, the hills were steep. It was non-stop, they kept coming and coming. UP and down, up and down. The downhills were fun and gave me time to rest, but they were all short lived. My quads were burning, and my calves were tightening up. There were a few occasions that my quads would completely lock up that I couldn't even keep standing on my stops. It was punishing and painful, but I had to keep going. I couldn't stop as I was running out of daylight. The enjoyment of the passing scenery was replaced by focus and drive to keep on pedaling. At this point, I had ignored some of my sister's text messages just so I wouldn't have to stop and reply to them. I knew what she would have said anyways, and my reply would be the same, 'I'll be there soon, don't worry!'. But in the back of my mind, I was the one getting worried.
|Pender Harbour - slowly running out of daylight|
Ric came quickly enough and picked me up at the side of the highway. I was devastated. But during the drive to the campsite, the 10Kms I gave up on quickly turned out to be a great decision. The roads were unlit, no shoulders and completely forested over. AND, more damn hills. My pain of giving up eased up a bit as I had made the right decision. I still had to put up my tent, eat, shower and take into consideration that my 5yr old niece had to be in bed soon. It was almost pitch dark when we got to the campsite. I was greeted by a whole bunch of strangers who seemed to know what I have been doing all day. All my sister's and bro-in-law's friends who happen to be on their same annual camping retreat in the same campground. All claiming what I had just done was extreme and borderline crazy. This group included a triathlete and some of the most fit people I know. Maybe they were all just trying to make me feel better for not making it all the way, maybe they meant it, but I now tend to agree with the 'crazy' part.
Ric put up my tent for me as they rushed me to get a shower so that they can feed me. I showered, I had spaghetti, and I had plenty of replenishment. There was very little time to sit around and chit chat with the whole group, but as I sat down with a bunch of strangers, I looked up at the sky and saw the most stars I have ever seen in a long time. The Milky Way was so clear and I must have counted over 7 shooting stars in a span of 30minutes. I have been a city boy too long, this stuff is amazing. As the night came to an end, I lay in my tent bundled up in my sleeping bag under the most amazing star-filled sky and thought to myself, 'this is what makes this whole trip worth it'.
Sleep, puke, flu'ish, vommit. Sleep, puke, flu'ish, vommit, rinse and repeat.
That is all.
ahem. Seriously, that was pretty much it for Day 2.
But sure, let's reflect on that day...
|Waking up to this view as I unzip my tent confirmed that the previous day's hardship was all worthwhile.|
The original plan for Day 2 was to get up early in the morning, ride to the next ferry terminal at Earl's Cove and make my way out to Powell River. I was going to leave my tent and trailer at the campsite so that I can return to it at the end of the day. Camp overnight once again at the same spot and make my way home the following morning. This would have been the perfect plan! Unfortunately, this did not go the way I had wanted.
I woke up at 5am because nature came calling very early from the previous night's binge drinking of liquids to replenish what I had lost during the day. I tried going back to sleep but for some reason I couldn't. No matter how tired I was, I could not sleep again, I noticed my heart still pounding quite heavily as if I was still riding my bike. I layed there for at least the next hour until the exhaustion finally took over again and I passed out. I can still remember the dreams I was having that night. My dream was,.. get this.. I was on a bike pedaling. Weird dream eh? The whole night I had that dream.
I never woke up again until around 10am. I was feeling very sick., sick to my stomach and feeling quite dizzy. There go my plans of riding out to Powell River today. I will be bed-ridden all day. My stomach aches from the previous days has gotten progressively worse. And to add, I am now feeling flu'ish and can't seem to keep my food down. I have caught a bug. Heat exhaustion is what my camp 'mates' are calling it. But I think heat exhaustion is only part of it., I did not feel well. And to top it off... diarrhea.. gross. That's the last mention of that.
There really isn't much else to say about Day 2 other than I spent the day when I wasn't sleeping in my tent trying to enjoy myself and putting on a happy face for everyone so they don't notice what I am going through. It was a beautiful campsite, I could have easily enjoyed myself if I wasn't feeling so crappy. They had kayaks! I LOVE kayaking! ..but no, was just too sick. Everyone was so good to me, making sure I was well fed and taken care of. These complete strangers are becoming friends. Everyone. And their children are all fun and beautiful.
|No, I was not actually kayaking. Was too sick to enjoy the lake. :-(|
As comfortable as everyone tried to make me feel, and in addition to feeling quite sick all day, something else was stressing me out. All I could think about was how I was going make it home the following morning. If I wasn't able to make the whole journey to the campsite from the ferry in 7 hours with full of energy and strength, how am I going to make it back in my weakened, sickly state? I had to get back home the following day as I have work on Monday and the thoughts of trying to ride back was really scaring me at this point. I don't think I am capable of the whole ride back. And the last thing I will do is ask anyone for help. If you know the type of person I am, asking anyone for help is not in me. I love offering my help to anyone but asking for help just isn't me. It's a pride thing, and yes, it's a downfall at times. I put myself in this situation and I need to get myself out of it. And the thoughts are definitely stressing me out and actually making me feel more sick. I think my sister and brother-in-law were showing the same concerns. And when the conversation came up about my trek back home there was no hesitation on their part.. They wanted to drive me home. I had refused this offer several times before caving in. A few plans were discussed but very few were considered due to the state of my health. The best solution was for me to be driven all the way to the Langdale ferry first thing in the morning and I would find my way home from there. This was 72Kms and a total of 144Kms with the drive back so I was really quite hesitant on their generous offer. But yes, I know, family is family and we are always out for each other's best interest. I did accept the offer in the end. I will be driven to the ferry and someone on the other side will come pick me up. This is what I told them so that they will be comfortable in thinking that I will be driven home safely all the way.
I have to apologize for this little lie as I did not get anyone to try and pick me up from Horseshoe Bay. I decided that I would ride this end of the journey even in my sick and weakened state. Sorry guys! It is only 43Kms and with plenty of daylight hours to get home. I can actually take my time and enjoy this ride home.
So with all the stressful thoughts aside, I was finally able to relax and enjoy myself a little, actually a lot. I got to spend time with my sister's family and my darling little niece, their friends and families and the wilderness and beauty that surrounded us. I was feeling much better now. I spent all night at a campfire surrounded with friends until it was time for bed. Once again, a beautiful star filled sky hovered over me as I closed my eyes to sleep.
Day 3 - Time to go home.
8am sharp once again is the time to leave for the ferry. This time I did not have to rush and pedal hard just to make the 10am departure.. I had the luxury of a brand new Mercedes SUV driving me there.
I packed up my tent and gathered all my gear. Stuffed my bike and trailer in the back of the Benz and bid my farewells. Not everyone was awake at this time so I said goodbye to those who were. Maybe next year I will try this venture again and have better results. Thanks for everything Sis, I owe you bigtime.
The ride to the ferry along the same stretch of highway I had ridden on 2 days ago was quite the eye opener. At every hill and every turn we made, I was constantly thinking to myself 'Did I just do that??!' These are the types of inclines and descents that when I see other riders riding on that I would think of them being crazy. Have I become one of those people that I myself think are crazy? Maybe, quite possibly. Having seen what I've just been through, I now fully respect what I have done and no longer see it as being a failure. Would I do this ride again on a 30lb bike with a 50lb trailer? Probably not. But I will be more smart about it, more efficient and packing a whole slew of 'lessons learned' for the next time. This has truly been a wonderful learning experience that I can use for future longer bike trips.
As we approach the ferry terminal, this is where Ric had asked who was going to pick me up on the other side. I finally told him the truth that no one is picking me up and that I will be riding the rest of the way home. It was the only way that I thought that would satisfy me with this whole trip, a feeling of personal achievement. I don't think he was too thrilled about the idea but clearly understood my position. We said our goodbyes and I was on my own once again. Thanks Ric, your help was immensely huge! I promise not to make fun of the mirrors you bought for your bike anymore. ;D
|In the ferry|
|On the ferry|
Knowing full well that Marine Drive was full of rolling hills, I decided to ride on the highway this time around. Hwy 1 to be exact. As some of you may know that coming from the Horseshoe Bay terminal onto the highway was a very long and steep incline. This was a sacrifice that I had to make as the alternate option of many rolling hills was not appealing at this moment. I prefer fewer longer inclines over many shorter, rolling hills. Unfortunately, I did not take into account that there would be no shade while on the highway. It is all open road and today was a very hot day. The heat was scorching, and the pavement was blinding. The heat caused by the cars also added to the overall temperature of the ride. This was not going to be fun. All I can look forward to is getting off the highway and onto sidestreets and residential neighbourhoods where there will be plenty of trees and shade. Fortunately, I only had to ride to Lion's Gate Bridge and from there I can take shelter from the heat at Stanley Park and the downtown Vancouver highrisers.
|Every underpass was a welcomed stop from the scorching heat of the highway|
|I saw many roadies today with their $5000+ carbon bikes, probably thinking what a poor sap I am with all the gear I'm pulling|
|I took every opportunity I had to rest at the few shaded areas on the hwy. I still had 40kms of riding to go.|
|On the Lion's Gate Bridge|
|The Beautiful Stanley Park|
|Gorgeous view of the inlet|
Riding through Stanley Park I had made a quick stop to rest when I realized I had no food left, and I was starrrving! So my rest was short-lived as I continued on in search of the perfect food stop. Onto the downtown Vancouver core I go! Once again, a beautiful city to ride through especially with all the separated bike lanes. The best way to see the city is by bicycle! Searching for that best place to stop where I can buy food and keep my bike and trailer close by without having to worry about it being stolen was a bit tricky. I knew it had to be within an arm's distance of my bike with the least amount of people traffic.. a smokey vendor would be perfect. But out of the corner of my eye I see a big sign that said $1 per pizza slice! I couldn't resist so I jumped off my bike and ran in for some slices. I think I had 3 extra large slices and that was more than enough to set me for the day. I brought a chair out so that I can eat while being with my bike at the same time.
I took my time riding the rest of the way home as it was still early in the afternoon and I had no reason to rush home. On my way, I decided to stop by my brother's house so that I can drop off the tent and sleeping mattress that I had borrowed from them through MEC. No one was home to greet me so I decided to take a short nap on their lawn. I also took the opportunity to use their garden hose to give myself a quick spray. That was the best thing to do on a hot summer day.
Finally, after my short rest and nap, I proceeded to go on my final leg of the trip. It was all uphill from here on, but the incline was manageable. I no longer had to worry about rolling hills and massively steep uphills. It was everything I had done numerous times before.
Upon my arrival, no one was there to greet me. No cheering fans to see me across the finish line, no trophies, no awards. It was only my own personal victory. And it was perfect. An amazing experience come to an end.
Total Distance Covered: approx 268 Kms according to Googlemaps
Total Distance on Bike: 156 Kms - bike computer
Vertical up: 2240 meters
Vertical down: 2090 meters - iPhone GPS tracking
Total money found: I would have made 5 bucks if I had stopped to pick them up
Total Roadkill: 1 - a garter snake slithered right on path of my wheel. I couldn't stop. Splat.
Total Weight lost during the trip: 10lbs in 3 days.
|Everytrail GPS tracking using iPhone4|
MayaCycle Bike Trailer
As promised from a previous blog that I would provide updates on my bicycle trailer by Maya Cycle as I use it on my cycling ventures. This is the first time that I have used the trailer travelling this distance and carrying this kind of load. As expected, the trailer performed admirably without any problems. The convenience of the legs acting as kickstands is a godsend. I don't think I could ever go on long trips anymore without this feature. As seen from the many pictures I took and the countless amount of stops I made that the bike and trailer is always standing. It made my life so much easier that I can stand the bike anywhere especially when it mattered most, when I (the rider) was at my weakest. I can personally thank my trailer for allowing me to leave the bike standing while I crunch over at the side of the road in pain because my quads were locked up. The bike and trailer has even acted as a crutch when I couldn't keep myself standing due to the pain.
Carrying a 50lb load is probably the most I would carry on the trailer, although the trailer has proven to carry in upwards of over 60lbs, I personally would not carry any more than 50. It's not to say that the trailer can't take it, but it is more for my own personal sake. Carrying that kind of load is grueling, especially if you are facing countless amounts of hills. I'm just glad that the trailer only weighs 13lbs because with all the gear I had, it would have weighed a lot more if the trailer was a tank!
Upon reaching my campsite, the trailer proved itself once again. With the 'wheelbarrow' feature, it was so easy to move all my gear around especially at my weakened and sickly state. And the trailer and bag was compact enough that it fit right under my tent fly for easy access and at the same time standing up on its legs keeping the bag off the dewy grass.
There are a few things that I learned on this trip regarding the Maya trailer; as slow and grueling it is to climb hills pulling the trailer, when you go downhill you go fast, really fast. Now this may sound like a lot of fun, but it can actually be quite dangerous. Make sure your brakes are 100% functioning and in top condition, because you will need them and need them a lot. Also, going too fast on a downhill can sometimes give you the trailer 'wobble' effect where the trailer feels like it's wobbling behind you and wanting to pass your bike. I found myself in this situation a couple of times. Now this is not Maya trailer specific but actually applies to all trailers be it on bikes or on cars. The Maya trailer being a single-wheel trailer actually reduces this effect significantly, but it still exists. The best thing to do is to avoid putting yourself in the situation where 'trailer wobble' can occur., meaning don't go too fast! I did, however, find myself going over 60Km/h on a downhill on a few occasions where I had no problems at all with 'trailer wobble'. I wouldn't recommend going that fast too often though. Another thing I've noticed while pulling the trailer is that it creates a lot of squeaks and creaks and all sorts of odd noises that you've never heard from your bike. I was constantly checking on the rear stays and dropouts of my bike to make sure there isn't anything lose or broken. There never was any. It's just the nature of the trailer I would guess. One thing I would recommend, and I wished I had some with me, is to use Grease! I would grease up the fork joint where the trailer connects to the fork, and I would grease up the fork where it connects over the axle on the bike. This will greatly reduce the squeaking and odd noises being caused by the trailer and possibly lengthen the life of the trailer and bike due to obvious wear from friction created. I will surely be doing this on my next bike trip with the trailer.
|Great shot for my good friend Marta wherever she may be right now. ;-)|
Maya Cycle Bike Trailer