My Atlantis on the bicycle path in Stanley Park
The day dawned bright and clear and promising to be another hot day. I had a couple of tasks that needed to be resolved in short order: Coffee, Food and collecting my bicycle from the RSVP storage room. I had awoken around 8 and the bicycle storage was open ’till 11 so I wasn’t particularly stressed about that. Coffee and food were much more pressing, so after getting myself ready I headed out looking for same. I was kind of interested in a breakfast type place but not really wanting to spend much time looking I settled for Delany’s Coffee house. I got a bagel and a muffin there and worked my way though a couple of cups of coffee. Their coffee wasn’t bad and the calories were welcome. While I was there I read through a number of haiku from The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets. I love haiku and Sam Hamil is the best translator of them I’ve read, a poet himself he really retains the music of the words.
is only a world of dew —
and yet. -Kobayashi Issa
The RSVP ride has options for return to Seattle, but that just doesn’t sit well with me. A lot of cyclists have no problem driving to rides, taking the bus back and driving home, only riding on the ride. I suspect this is again the influence of racing on normal cycling which creates some sort of concept of riding as a sport as opposed to transportation or an activity. So I never planned to take the RSVP bus back, but with the craziness at work I did have limited time. My plans had begun at taking Sunday off and spending the day in Vancouver then doing a week long tour back, to using a combination of ferries and riding over three days, to finally a two day return using a combination of riding, ferries and at the end the Victoria Clipper. So for today I needed to ride to at least Sidney BC and could ride to Victoria if I felt so inclined.
It got very crowded at the coffee house, I figured it was a lot of RSVPers looking for breakfast before taking the bus home. I got another coffee to go and headed up to the bicycle storage at the Coast Plaza Suite Hotel. I collected my ride, girded my loins and headed out to my hotel. From there I packed up, finished my coffee and headed out. I had decided that I’d spend a bit of time in Vancouver before heading out to Vancouver Island. As a kid we used to vist Vancouver a couple of times a year (I lived on Fidalgo Island, only about an hour and a half south) and one thing we used to do a lot was bicycle around Stanley Park. While I still frequently visit Vancouver, it is more often the downtown part for various music events and I hadn’t been to Stanley Park in probably 16 years. So I decided to do the loop around the park before heading out of town.
The path is a 5.5 mile one way loop around the park . When I used to come here as a kid the path was shared by cyclists and pedestrians and I don’t think it was one way. Since then it is seperated by height and being one way is clearly safer considering the amount of traffic it gets. It isn’t a place to ride for exercise, but for a scenic leasurly tool around one of North Americas great parks. One such a beautiful day this was a real treat, the shockingly blue skies highlighting the various public art and sights of Vancouver. Highlights including lighthouses, the Lions Gate Bridge, a large collection of totem poles, numerous instances of public art and of course spectacular scenery.
I took my time riding around the park, making sure to check out all the things I’d remembered and to see what had changed or been added. The cricket fields were still there though didn’t seem to be a match this morning and it looked like they built a large new visitors centre by all the totem poles. Most of the way around the park is Second Beach and it already was getting filled by people out to enjoy this hot weekend. After an hour or so I exited the park and continuing on the seawall path began the route to Tswassan where the ferry terminal to Vancouver and the Gulf Islands is located. I was now around 11:30 in the morning but I wasn’t in any rush.
I was following the Bicycling The Pacific Coast route by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall (in the third edition, they now have you go up north along the Sunshine Coast and riding more of Vancouver Island) and it follows the coast while in the city and then takes a route around UBC, then the airport, across the Fraser River and then west to Tsawwassen. I wanted to make steady progress, but again I wasn’t in any rush. I’d pretty much decided that I’d stay in Sidney instead of riding to Victoria today as that would allow for a bit more riding on my final day. Plus last time I rode through Sidney I only stayed long enough to get a new bicycle computer and to buy a cup of tea.
There did seem to some discrepancies from the Kirkendall and Spring route in the years since the book was published but I only got off route once and for only a couple of blocks. In general riding in Vancouver is great. They have tons of signed bicycle routes, even if they are just on the streets, they are well signed and usually safe roads. Even when I was riding right downtown it was so much better then riding in Seattle (which is much better then most of America). The drives don’t seem angry that you are there, they are used to it and just consider it typical. Really a dramatic difference, drives may pass you at about the same speed, and give you similar space but they aren’t afraid or angry and its much safer.
I stopped for a bit outside the Maritime museum before continuing on, there I enjoyed a Mint Aero Bar, one of the true Canadian treasures. As I was following along the coast I saw vast amounts of recreation on this beautiful day. A huge number of kayaks set off as I rounded one cape and of course tons of sailboats, sunbathers and at one point a beach volleyball tournament. One stretch I had to walk my bicycle along the beachfront path as it was so packed with people. But eventually I was back on the road and riding up the only real hill of this day as I climbed up to UBC. But once up the hill it was very gently rolling hills on a well shouldered arterial. I was able to make up some time here, just cruising along for over ten miles. Eventually the spread out houses got more dense and there were some shopping and then some light industrial. The route seemed to dead end on a highway and I pulled over to double check I was on it. There was a big bridge that it said I should ride over and as I was scoping that out a group of riders whipped past. Figuring they knew what they were doing I immediately set out after them.
I followed these riders onto hwy 99 and the Arthur Laing Bridge over one of the branches of the Fraser River. Once over the bridge we were at the airport and the club riders circled around to a bicycle trail that ran below the bridge. The route I was on followed the road to the airport and then just before it turned off to Richmond. The bicycle path had a sign saying it went to Richmond and the Airport but I chose to follow the printed route. I suspect the path post dates the book and it would have worked out, but I felt I didn’t quite have the luxury to explore it. It worked out fine anyway, as I was deliberating two girls on old 80s bicycles passed me by so I ended up following (and later passing) them on the published route. It was only a mile or so to the Richmond turnoff and soon enough I was in this airport town.
As I rode down the city streets of Richmond I spotted Veggie Bunch, a vegetarian Buffet. I was plenty hungry at this point and this looked like just the ticket. I locked my bicycle up and headed in. I was the only one at the buffet (it was 1:30 now) but I loaded my plate down with a little of everything and pretty quickly put it away. As is usual with a buffet, some was good, some not so good but I was full and ready for the next leg. Behind the Veggie Bunch was basically a huge warehouse that was an indoor Asian market. I walked around it a bit and bought a bottle of water and a peanut crunch thing of some sort. A nice little break from the ride and I was now feeling ready for the last bit to the ferry.
The route goes through Richmond and then follows pretty major roads through various fringe city types of places. Some interesting sights along a road that sort of paralleled Hwy 99, a large mosque looking structure, the temple pictured above and what looked like a Chinese theme park with a huge plastic dragon at the entrance. Just past this was a crossing with a major road that lead to the freeway and things became less trafficked more back road feeling. A couple of turns and one a true back road I crossed the freeway and was at this stop where you wait for a van to take you through the George Massey tunnel. This tunnel is not accessible by bicycles and the nearest bridge crossing that is, is over ten miles out of the way. So the Ministry of Transportation provides a free shuttle service for cyclists through the tunnel.
Where you wait for the shuttle on this side had a bench and a sign with the crossing information. There were two college kids lounging on the bench with their old bicycles as I pulled up. They took up the entire bench, primarily by leaning their bicycles on the front and while they greeted me friendly like they made no offer to move them. One of them, the boy, was wearing only a speedo and was lying down eating spaghetti out of a Tupperware container. The girl noticing my Obama Spoke Cards asked if I was from the US and when I answered in the affirmative, informed me that she was as well, from Georgia. I felt like I was on the set of Gummo. I went and sat under a tree and ate my Asian Peanut thing and drank some water. Eventually the van arrived, which had this neat trailer that could fit about a dozen bicycles and was easy to load up. A woman rode up just before we left and so we were four in the crossing.
After having to endure the banter of the two kids on the short crossing I set out as soon as they unloaded my bicycle. Across the parking lot was a couple who had a various Rivendell accouterments: a Country Bag on one bicycle and the man was wearing a Rivendell cap like mine. I talked to them briefly before setting out, they seemed like my kind of riders, practical and out enjoying the scenery from the saddle. I had I think around 45minutes to ride 9 miles to the ferry. Not particularly daunting but I really, really didn’t want to miss this. So I totally hauled ass to the ferry. It was a flat route with only a couple of bumps as it crossed freeways and I kept my speed around 20mph the whole way. The ride had been technically quite easy so far so I really didn’t mind expending effort here. There was an increasingly strong headwind as I approached the water but I made great time.
I pulled in at the ferry at 3:45, after having ridden about 44 miles. I had made it well before its 4pm sailing to find a couple of other cyclists in the waiting area. A couple others pulled up while we were waiting. Two of these were islanders who had ridden to the mainland but a couple others looked like solo tourists. Always good to see. It had clouded up as I rode down and now it began to drizzle a bit. Luckily the ferry pulled in and we loaded on before the rain became anything beyond rather pleasant.
I was on the Queen of Vancouver which pulled out of the terminal around 4:20. This is a big ferry taking a lot of cars and pedestrians to Vancouver Island. The crossing took about an hour and a half and I mostly walked around the ferry enjoying the crossing of the Georgia Strait. The ferry had a cafeteria, a cafe and a duty free shop and I checked all of these out as well. I went outside and listened to a naturalist presentation on the flora and fauna of the Strait and then feeling a bit cold went in to get a cup of Green Tea. Returning to the outside I read a few more haiku.
With dewdrops dripping,
I wish somehow I could wash
This perishing world -Matsuo BashÅ
Islands in the Strait.
About half way across the strait a storm hit with rain, thunder and lightening. We caught only the edge of it and soon moved away from it, but it broke up the scenery. It also became quite windy at this point and I moved to the opposite side of the ferry to be in the lee of wind. The late half hour or so was going around the Gulf Islands, of which I recognized all the ones I’d visited in 2004 for my Island Tour. Around 6pm we landed with the weather still looking a bit sketchy as we waited to ride out from the ferry.
Not inclined to linger I walked up the ramp and as soon as possible mounted the bicycle and set off. I was riding with one of the locals while the other tourons were dilly dallying getting themselves ready. I’d done this ride before on the aforementioned tour so it was easy sailing for me. Across the parking lot, over and overpass and onto the Lochside Trail. It was just over 5 miles to Sidney and on the trail a pretty quick 20 minute ride. I arrived at Sidney around 6:30pm, on a nice, if cool, summer evening.
On the Lochside Trail
At the turnoff to downtown Sidney I talked briefly with the local lady I’d been sort of riding with. She lived just outside of town and was riding on the trail a bit further. I bid her safe riding and turned down into town. I rode past a couple of hotels and after doing a quit circuit settled on the Best Western. Probably could have found something more quaint but I really didn’t care much- I was just here for the night and only intended to sleep, shower and so on.
A country inn, but found
Wisteria in bloom. -Matsuo BashÅ
After checking in and taking said shower I walked into town in search of three things: a bookstore, beer and food. I wanted a book to read tonight and on the Victoria Clipper the next day as I was done with my little haiku collection. It turns out that Sidney prides itself as a big readers town and there was something like ten bookstores in this tiny city. One of these was open late and I hit it and picked up Haruki Murakami’s latest work to be translated: What I talk about when I Talk about Running.
I walked down to the waterfront and there was the Beacon Landing Pub. I wasn’t that inclined to search around so in I went and immediately ordered at a Lighthouse Brewing Beacon IPA which was pretty decent. Along with this I got Halibut and Chips which was super good. A second beer, Vancouver Island Brewing’s Pipers Pale Ale was decent. I read a bit of the Murakami and then headed out. I visited a beer store and picked up a bottle of porter and walked around town a little bit. It was dark now and there wasn’t too much to see so I headed back to the hotel. I read a little, drank my Porter (which was really good, but I failed to note the brand) and watched a bit more of the Olympics.
Distance ridden today: 49m/78.8km over 3’58”
Distance ridden so far: 246m/395.9km