Sunday 23 August 2009

Sunshine Coast and Island Scooter Ride (Part 3)

Here's the last entry about my Sunshine Coast / Vancouver Island trip.

Comox - Nanaimo
Distance: 120 km
Time: Two and a half hours

I proceeded to the Powell River ferry terminal where I had a nice chat with a couple of motorcycle riders, one with a very comfortable, very big Harley and one with a very serious looking BMW complete with a built in GPS!

After getting on the ferry, I grabbed breakfast and then relaxed as the ferry took the 80 minute crossing to Comox.


I left the ferry and headed along Highway 19A - the old coastal highway, also known as the old island highway or the Oceanside route. I was an excellent ride. The highway was not very busy, was very scenic, and actually went right by the ocean at many points.

This huge prop in Union Bay made a nice still life with my scooter.

I stopped in Fanny Bay while a scallop truck went to drop nets into the water.

Qualicum Beach was very nice and I was tempted to stop there for the day, not just get some gas.

I got into Parksville, a popular retirement city, and the wonderful Oceanside Route ran out! I had to join up with Highway 19 for 27 km until Nanaimo. The speed limit was 90 km while many cars and big trucks zoomed by. There wasn't really much scenery and I ended up in the breakdown lane most of the time.

It was during this harrowing time that I decided it would be silly to attempt to ride from Nanaimo to Victoria. The only way I can figure out how to get from Nanaimo to Victoria is Highway 1. Another couple hours of riding in the breakdown lane while traffic screamed by me was not my idea of fun.

At Nanaimo I headed to Departure Bay and took the ferry to Horseshoe Bay.

Horseshoe Bay - Maple Ridge Distance: 70 km Time: 2 hours

I was able to take Marine Drive again without having to go on the freeway - phew!

This time, I was not in a hurry so I was able to stop several times to take photos.

Not only were the views amazing, but there were incredible houses along the way. Definitely million dollar views.

Some vistas forced me to park in any scrap of dirt that was available, others I could only appreciate as I went by on my Vespa.

A great detour was Lighthouse Park. I stopped there and wandered around a few of the trails. The trail markers clearly showed the names of the trails but not the distances - how was I supposed to know how long the trail was? I finally went back to the parking lot and sheepishly noticed the stack of map guides at the entrance to the trails.

I saw this great view of Lions Gate Bridge as I approached West Vancouver.

I stopped in for a visit in West Vancouver at my brother-in-law's house. He has a spectacular view of Lions Gate Bridge as well.

I continued onto Maple Ridge, feeling that I had had another satisfying adventure on the scooter but still happy to return to my own bed. Now, to talk to my wife about that treehouse I want to build...

Friday 21 August 2009

Sunshine Coast and Island Scooter Ride (Part 2)

Powell River

Powell River is a larger community of around 13,000 (thanks Google) and has things like malls, Starbucks, and other important indicators of civilization. I popped in to the Tourist Information for a map and brochure, got a bottle of wine from the liquor store and headed to my accommodation.

The Boxwood Cottages are two very nice cottages, I'm sure, with kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. I, however, had booked the Treehouse.

At $50, it met the requirements for price and also for adventure.

It is an actual treehouse - the steps up are boards nailed onto logs and, once the door is open, there's a bed, a night table with a coffee maker and that's it. The bathroom is an outhouse across the lawn and the shower is underneath the treehouse - open to nature - although there's a curtain to partly shield you from curious onlookers.

Would my wife like it? Absolutely not. But for me, on a scooter adventure, it was ideal!

There were numerous seating areas around - a table and chair, an outdoor couch, another table - and I decided that instead of eating out, I'd bring something in.

On the advice of my hosts (Anthony and Diane) I went for a ride through the historic site of Powell River. It was interesting as the size of the houses increased as they got closer to the pulp mill.

I then headed back towards town, stopping at Willingdon Beach because I heard music!

The week long Blackberry Festival was taking place and there were families, food, and a live band. I hung around for an hour and then hopped on my Vespa, grabbed some Thai food, and went back to the Treehouse.

I had a very enjoyable dinner, as well as a few glasses of wine, as I sat under the trees thinking that it had been a very pleasant day indeed!

The next morning, I woke up in the Treehouse after a very restful night's sleep. I did wake up a few times in the night, but the sound of the creek below lulled me back to sleep.

Less restful was the funky outdoor shower. The curtain didn't hide much but that was OK as it was early and no one was around. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the temperature of the water above 'really cold' so it was a brisk shower, reminiscent of some Youth Hostel showers when I backpacked through Europe.

I was ready with time to spare so, naturally, I went to Starbucks and grabbed a latté which fit nicely in my drink holder as I headed of towards the ferry, leaving Powell River behind.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Sunshine Coast and Island Scooter Ride (Part 1)

Finally, a scooter trip!

The plan was to go to Horseshoe Bay, and up the Sunshine Coast to stay in Powell River for a night. The next day I planned to go to Comox on Vancouver Island and then to either Nanaimo or Victoria to take a ferry back to the mainland.

Because of the length of each entry (and all the pretty pictures) I've split up the trip into three parts. Here's part 1.

Maple Ridge - Horseshoe Bay
Distance: 77km
Time: 2 hours

Although I have made through a number of renos this summer relatively unscathed, I've managed to injure myself while holidaying - my knee when attempting a cannonball in 4 and a half feet of water ("Don't jump, Dad, don't jump!") and slicing off the top half of my nail and a bit of nail bed with a utility knife while attempting to jury rig a pannier to my scooter. Despite these minor injuries, I headed off today for my circle tour of the coast and island.

The first leg on my route was to go to Vancouver and continue on to Horseshoe Bay where I would catch the ferry for the Sunshine Coast - Langdale. I wanted to get to get the 9:40 ferry so I left around 7 AM thinking that I would have lots of time.

The ride to Vancouver was uneventful except for the numerous construction projects on the way. I figured I was OK as I crossed the Lions Gate Bridge at 8:40.

I love going over the bridge - it's so high up and the view from the scooter is truly spectacular.

I had decided to take Marine Drive all the way to Horseshoe Bay to avoid going on the freeway. As the name suggests, the route goes along the water, snaking around houses, stone fences, trees, and shoreline. It was a very scenic ride but it took a bit longer than I thought, so there was no time for photos.

I arrived in the village of Horseshoe Bay at 9:15 but I couldn't get to the ferries - I was supposed to double back on the freeway four kilometres and then turn around. I really didn't want to go on the freeway and it's also all uphill out of Horseshoe Bay so I started on the freeway but luckily spied a place where the cement barriers separating the freeway lanes had a break. I hopped this break and then a curb and found myself zooming towards the ferries - but without a ticket!

I flagged down a ferry flag person and he radioed his boss:

Flagperson: I've got a scooter here who needs a ticket but doesn't want to go on the freeway.
Boss: How'd he get there?
Flagperson: He hopped the curbs down by the chute.
Boss: He can hop a curb but he can't go on the freeway?

I then went down to the terminal and bought a ticket there. But then I had to do the exact same thing and hop the barrier again to get back in the line up!

By this time it was 9:30 and I lined up with the other motorcyclists until the ferry left a few minutes later.

Langdale - Earl's Cove
Distance: 88 km
Time: 2 hours

From Langdale, I took the Sunshine Coast Highway 101 north.

It's a fairly nice highway but would have been better if it spent more time right near the water. It's also only two lanes so I had to pull off fairly often, particularly until I figured out to let all the ferry traffic leave first.

At Red Roofs, about half way, I stopped in to visit my nephew and nieces. My niece, Charlotte, had her birthday the following day so I wanted to surprise her with my visit and a little something. I also had a quick lunch and a wonderful view of the ocean.

My sister-in-law takes her kids there every summer to their family cabin and they spend most of the summer holidays up there. Nice!

After lunch I sped north to Earl's Cove, about another hour, on the highway. It was better as there was little traffic. I fuelled up about 20 km from the ferry, not wanting a repeat of the White Rock fiasco!

I got to the terminal in good time and had a chance to sit in the sun before I made the 50 minute voyage to Saltery Bay.

Saltery Bay - Powell River
Distance 50 km
Time: 40 minutes

Upon arriving at Saltery Bay, I headed off, jacketless, pulling off the road until the ferry traffic passed.

After that, it was a delgihtful ride on the 101. I stopped a few times for photos as the weather was fine and I wasn't on a strict schedule. It was a lot less stressful as, when there were cars behind me, the breakdown lane was a good width.

It wasn't far and I was in Powell River.

More about Powell River next blog entry.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Icefield Parkway Cycling Trip

I was excited as this was the week of our summer cycling trip. We have gone to many different places, mostly in the Rockies, during the past several summers and this year was a repeat ride - the Icefield Parkway that goes by the Columbia Icefields. It is a 230 km ride each way for a total of 460 km (285 miles). Satellite image link.

We headed out from Maple Ridge on August 1st - holiday weekend. The 9 hour trip from home to Jasper was fairly uneventful. We did pass some areas which had quite a lot of smoke and haze, reminders that there were several fires still burning in the province.

The main campground in Jasper was full but we managed to pitch our tent in the overflow lot and bedded down for the night, hopeful of good weather in the morning. The bottle of whisky that we had purchased after dinner provided a couple wee drams that helped to encourage sleep.

We awoke around 6:30 and broke camp, ending up at a restaurant for bacon and eggs at 7:30. The previous night we had decided to bring one vehicle with us - something we called a "supported ride" - as the weather forecast had some iffy days ahead. It would turn out to be a very smart choice.

We were on the road by 8:00, a tad late, but I felt good from my riding in Victoria and things progressed nicely. It was cool still when we left and rolling - which means hilly but not insanely steep. I had rigged up a solar charger for my ipod which worked very well so I had good tunes and a variety of podcasts while I rode. Traffic was also quite good.

We stopped several times for water breaks and, after about 70 kms, came to Sunwapta Lodge, a place which had accommodations and, more importantly, a cafeteria. We had lunch there and a quick rest and then set out for the last 10 or 20 km for the campground at Jonas Creek.

We had gone about 80 km that day and I had driven for the last 20 km. A supported ride gives everyone the opportunity to take a break - like it or not - but I was quite happy to have an easy end to the day.

Jonas Creek is a fairly basic campground - an outhouse and a water station - so we all set up camp and then dipped our sore parts in the creek. After a bit of a rest, we all hopped into the vehicle and headed back to the Sunwapta Lodge for a dinner of chicken burgers. Very civilized!

Back at the campground, we were pretty tired and I think I headed to the tent around 9 o'clock.

The next morning, we were up at 6 and on the road by 7. It was another sunny day which definitely helped as there were a few bigger hills. The terrain steadily climbed until we arrived at the Icefield Centre. The centre is where tours leave for the Columbia Glacier but you can see the glacier quite well from the cafeteria. We had a less than exciting brunch at ridiculously expensive prices - captive audience, I guess.

The whole bike ride is in a National Park. It was a little disheartening to see that all of the food operators in the park supplied most things - ketchup, butter, jam, vinegar, etc - in little packages. In this time of environmental awareness, you'd think that Canada's National Parks would set an example.

After brunch we headed out of the Icefield Centre, heading south on the parkway. We ended up our destination sometime later at Saskatchewan River Crossing. Finally, a motel!

The Crossing Resort is really just a basic motel - and one that is in need of a bit of maintenance. The girls at the front desk, however, were very hospitable and friendly - but had some bad news - the weather forecast called for rain for the next five days. We decided, after several beer that evening, to check the weather the next morning and make a decision at that time.

When 6 AM rolled around, I was tired, but actually felt pretty good. We met outside the rooms and looked up to a grey, grey sky. Not a patch of blue was evident. We looked over to Bow Summit - our climb for the day - and it was shrouded in cloud. There were even rumours that there was snow forecast for the summit. We then looked towards Lake Louise and it was clear that it was raining. The forecast continued to predict 5 days of rain.

We decided that the trip was all about having a good time - and slogging through the wet was not our idea of that. We had all ridden the parkway before (in good weather) and decided that it was a better idea to pack it in. Waiting out a day or even two is one thing - five days? Forget it!

We carefully disassembled the bikes, threw our bags in the back. recycled the empty bottle of scotch that the four of us had imbibed during that past three nights, and headed back home.

Thanks to Chuck McCafferty (unframed) and Keith Rajala (framed) for their photos of the trip.