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RSVP and Back Again – day 4

Saturday, September 13th, 2008
Sidney by the Sea
Sidney by the sea.

The final day of my short little trip dawn mostly clear and windy.  After completing my morning routine in pretty short order I set out for coffee and breakfast.  I walked down the street checking out my options but the place that immediately appealed was a bakery that had doughnuts mounded up in the window.  I got a sugar cake doughnut and a blueberry scone to go as they had no coffee. I picked a small cafe a couple of blocks away and got a cup and a bagel.  The coffee was pretty meh but the pastries were fantastic.  There were a couple of other cyclotourists parked in front the cafe, a younger hippy looking pair and a much older couple. They set off before I had a chance to find out their destination.

Sidney waterfront
Sidney waterfront walk

sailboatAfter breakfast I checked out of the hotel and rode around Sidney for a time.  It really is a quaint little seaside town, with classic Victorian architecture, tons of cafes and a beautiful marina. I cruised the streets, checked out some of the neighborhoods and then began to make my way toward where I’d intersect with the Lochside Trail again.  As I mentioned yesterday I’ve done this route before and I knew that it wasn’t very far to Victoria, about 18 miles, and I didn’t have to catch my boat to Seattle ’til 4:30.  So I had a low stress day and I took the opportunity to see Sidney, cruise the trail and check out Victoria.

On the way out of town you pass the ferry Ferry to WAterminal that takes you to San Juan Island and Fidalgo Island. At one point I’d thought of taking this ferry to Fidalgo and then riding up Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands to the mainland and then home.  Not a trivial ride and I was a bit concerned that on the fourth day of riding after already doing near back to back centuries another 80 mile day would be too much.  I was feeling quite good at this point and I think I could have pulled it off. It would have been a day of hard riding though and I rather enjoyed slipping back into the touring mindset instead.

Sometimes the Lochside is on the road
Sometimes the Lochside is on the road

I really had falling right into my typical tour patterns, pretty much as soon as I was off the RSVP.  I slowed down, spent more time looking at things and noticeably relaxed.  I love touring and as iIve said in these pages a lot of it is a mindset. I can get into that mindset on rambling country day trips sometimes. As I’d riden this route before I really had little to think about w/r/t path finding and I was able to really enjoy this stretch of Vancouver Island.  The Lochside Trail, is a signed route that is partly on roads, partly on trail, sometimes on dirt roads between farmers fields sometimes on its own gravel path. It runs from the Ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. where I was yesterday, all the way to  Victoria where is joins the Galloping Goose Trail which runs to downtown and many miles outside Victoria.


My Atlantis on the Lochside

Coffee MessiahThere was a pretty brutal headwind on the Lochside, especially at the beginning as I rode parallel to the coast on pretty open roads. The sky was densely textured with overlaid clouds, though they didn’t look like rain.  Only a few miles on the coast before the trail turns inland a bit and follows the highway for a bit. Its hard packed gravel for most of this bit and is smooth sailing. I passed a few other riders here and I noticed a whole bunch parked at the McDonalds (why?) and more understandably at that Canadian institution Tim Hortons.  The trail leaves the highway after only a couple of miles and then spends the bulk of the remaining miles to Victoria cutting through and around farmland.  There are several points where you are on gravel paths that cut through trees, where I’d see dog walkers and horseback riders and as I got closer the the Victoria exurbs increasing amount of recreational users.

wetland
Crossing the wetland. (haven’t I seen this before?)

a paved section of trailA nice wooden bridge that cross a wetland signals that Victoria is near.  I was getting ready for lunch at this point so I made pretty steady progress. The trail tended toward being paved at this point and there were increasing number of parks and other riders along it.  Additionally street crossings occasionally popped up and the off trail parts were often through suburban areas.  The last little area before the route winds through industrial areas was a little bay that I ended up riding a leg of a race last time I was here. It has a fantastic large trestle crossing that was incorporated into the race (since I had full touring kit I didn’t do all that well in the race, FWIW).  After crossing that the route cuts behind business, outskirts of town and then crosses a bridge into Victoria.

trestle
Crossing the trestle

Parliment Building in the distanceI could see the Parliament Building in the distance but I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed from this point. I oscillated across this drawbridge a couple of times before just going for it. My hunch worked out and pretty shortly I was downtown. Now I needed to find a pub.  I cruised the downtown for a bit checking out menus and such and eventually settled on the Irish Times Pub. I needed beer of course, but also vegetarian options and they had a number of items. I ended up having another Lighthouse IPA and then a Kilkenny.  I’ve had KilkennyKilkenny at the source so I’m always inclined to get it when I see it.  I alsow had a little four cheese pizza which was very good – it used an interesting blend of Irish cheddars and a smoked cheese for a rich flavor.  I read a bit more of the Murakami while I was here, but soon set out to see a bit of Victoria while I had the chance. I was pretty much in the heart of the touristy shopping zone past the Empress Hotel so I spent a while just walking the streets checking things out. It was kind of cool now so I checked out a couple of the Scottish shops to see if I could find a cheap flannel shirt but they seemed to still be stocked for summer wear.  I gelato joint called Oh! Gelato caught my eye and feeling the need got a very tasty Blueberry-Cheesecake flavored cone.

Swans
Swans pub

I ended up walking almost back to the drawbridge and near there I found  Swans brewpub that made very British style beers. I tried their Oatmeal Stout which wasn’t bad if a bit on the watery side for that style.  These two other guys that were taking up the other two stools of the three stool bar were talking of expat adventures the whole time. As I was paying up to leave one of them informed me that the Scotch Ale they had was one of the rare treasures of Victoria.  I declined another beer and the man offered to buy me one. I thanked him but said I had to go.  Which was sort of true, mainly I was worried about my bicycle which I’d locked up at the outdoor deck of the Irish Times pub – not exactly a kosher local. Also I was very full of beer and not that inclined for another.  I do kind of regret not trying that beer though. Oh Well I’ll be back.

The Empress Hotel
The Empress

I quickly walked back to where my bicycle was locked and it all seemed okay. It was still too cool for most people to want to eat outside though it was starting to clear up. I decided I do one more bit of shopping before I moved on.  You can get Cuban Cigars in Canada, which you can’t in the US due to our ridiculous embargo.  I rarely smoked cigars, but every once in a while I enjoy one and I’ve only had Cubans a couple of times. There was a smoke shop just up the block from the Irish Times so I headed there. The shopkeep asked me what I was after and described a variety of different smokes. I settled on a Bolivar Habana which he described as a spicier smoke (I smoked this the weekend after I returned, it was fantastic).  After that purchase I unlocked my bicycle and rode down to where the Victoria Clipper is. I still had about 45 minutes so I locked up down there and strolled the waterfront for a bit.

The Parliament Building
Parliament Building.

buskerI bought a fresh squeezed limeade from a street vendor to enjoy as I walked along the waterfront and up by the parliament building.  I was committed to spending the remainder of my Canadian money as I never remember to bring it back when I end up with leftover.  The waterfront marina is a boardwalk style park with buskers, street vendors and out on a pier a bunch of shops.  I did a cruise all the way around and with check in time approaching eventually called it a day.  I deposited my last Canadian two dollar coin with a girl playing the Irish fiddle (quite competently) and headed to the Victoria Clipper port.

The Victoria Clipper
The Victoria Clipper

Checking in was pretty straightforward but they wanted me to remove all the bags from my bicycle. Said it would be outside!  I wasn’t happy about this, but I pulled off my rear bag and removing my little carry on from it, filled it up with stuff for the ride and put the contents of my front bag into the saddlebag. My front bag is pretty permanently attached so I left it on, but empty. I checked my saddlebag and after a quick passport check I was on board.  There isn’t much to say about the Victoria Clipper. It is a high speed catamaran that is pretty akin to taking the bus or an airplane. I’d done it before when I was a lad and recall being pretty bored. So I read the whole time finishing the Murakami book as it pulled into Seattle. They did have small deck in the back that you could go outside on, which I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the last time I rode it. It was so incredibly windy that I only stepped out long enough to snap a couple of pictures.  As it was dark when I got into Seattle this is the last picture I took.

heading home
Just to say the word
home, that one word alone,
So pleasently cool – Kobayashi Issa

We docked around 8pm and it took 30-45 minutes to get our bags and get through customs.  I successfully smuggled my cigar through and then I had to put my bicycle all back together.  Finally I was ready and I set off at night in the Seattle Streets. I of course was prepared for this with my Schmidt Hub and E6 light, plus an additional Cateye light on my handlebars I use as a front standlight.  I noticed a bit into the ride that my Odometer wasn’t registering and I pulled over and reseated it.  Probably less then half a mile unrecorded I figure.  That done I rode through Seattle and up to the I-90 trail.  This is the fourth time I’ve done this route and while it’s become fairly routine it always is a bit stressful. First off its a pretty stiff climb up from the waterfront, there is always traffic and this time it was night. I made it okay and once on the trail it was a mechanical ride home. I felt great though I have to say, no where near as beat as I usually am when I do this final bit. The hills on Mercer Island and later on the Lake Washington loop portion of the ride were no problem at all.  Of course I really hadn’t ridden much this day, but still with four days of riding, I was feeling that I was in pretty decent condition.

I pulled in at home at 10:20pm and unloaded the bicycle. And then even though it was after 10:30 at night I hosed down my beloved Atlantis and wiped it dry. It had just been exposed to seawater after all.  After that I had a shower, a beer and some food and after an hour or two went to bed.

See all my pictures from this day, in my RSVP day 4 gallery.
Total distance this day: 40.6m/65.3km over 3’50” of ride time
Total distance for the whole trip: 286.7m/461.4km

RSVP and Back Again – day 3

Friday, September 12th, 2008
My Atlantis in Stanley Park
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.

This world of dew
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.

Back streets to Stanley Park
Riding from my hotel to Stanley Park

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.

Stanley Park bicycle path
Stanley Park bicycle path

LighthouseThe 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.

riding out of Stanley Park
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.
The seawall bicycle route
Most of the waterfront in Vancouver is parkland with a bicycle path running along it.

Sculpture in the waterfront parkI 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.

Atlantis at the Maritime Museum
Now that’s a big anchor.

Riding by UBCI 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.

Crossing the bridge
Crossing the Arthur Laing Bridge

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.

Veggie Buffett
Veggie Bunch – Vegitarian Buffet.

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.

Temple
A temple I rode past.

The route goes through Richmond and then follows pretty major roads through various fringe city types of places.Dragon 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.

George Massey Tunnel
George Massey 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.


Tswassen.

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.

Ferry Landing
The ferry departs
As the tardy man stands in
The first winter rain – Yosa Buson

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.

Ferry Terminal
Ferry Terminal

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 Bashō

Islands in the Strait
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.

Ferry docking
Ferry Landing.

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.

Lochside
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.

Exhausted, I sought
A country inn, but found
Wisteria in bloom. -Matsuo Bashō

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.

Sidney
Sidney

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

To see all my pictures from this day:: RSVP Day 2 Pictures
To see my accounts of the rest of the trip: RSVP and Back Again