Cast of characters: Kevin Pierce, Alex Annejohn, Tom Curran, Liz Lund, Anna Stemberger, Greg Reynen
At 4:45 a.m. my alarm went off and, with an audible groan, I stood up and looked out at the world.
Cycle touring is a quality sport; rarely scary, scenic almost to a fault, often fun, and an excellent excuse to consume five digits of calories. Getting on Highway 91 at 5:45 a.m. is a good way of eliminating at least the first two of those reasons to participate. However, with the only ferry to Galiano leaving Tswwassen at 8:30 a.m. and about 55 km to ride, a little buffer is nice to have. The keen observer will note that it is about 35 km from Vancouver to the ferry terminal via the George Massey Tunnel but cyclists are a forbidden breed in the tunnel and must travel east to the Alex Fraser before immediately putting the sunrise to their backs again. A sign along Highway 17 announced the beginning of a replacement project beginning in 2017 so at some point this odd little problem will be rectified.
The ride to the ferry was fairly uneventful if you don’t count Alex falling over while clipped in (minor amounts of blood and dirt), then Alex getting a flat, then Kevin getting a flat, then Kevin getting a flat for the second time. In no small part due to Kevin’s prodigious talent in the realm of fixing flats, we still arrived at the ferry with a half hour to spare but only one oddly-sized tube that fit the same description.
Once on the island we re-upped on spares at $8.50 a pop (pun intended) and hit up the Saturday market for supplies. Anna met us a little before noon after travelling from Victoria. She had risen at the still worse hour of 3:30 a.m. but still managed to miss her preferred ferry. Luckily she had a second chance a couple hours later and nothing was lost.
We managed to cover the 20 odd kilometers from the end-to-end of the island in three or four hours. This impressively languid pace was achieved through a strong insistence on stopping every couple of kilometers and seizing the opportunity to visit the sea caves at Retreat Cove. I was once told that the Sunshine Coast is only flat when one wheel is on one hill and your other wheel is on the next. As it turns out, this advice applies equally well to travel on the Gulf Islands.
A quick climb over the ridge of the island via Vineyard Way, Bodega Beach Road, and a gated, private road and we arrived at Dionisio Provincial Park. Accessing this park by road is actually a contentious issue with more information available at bivouac: http://bivouac.com/DsxPg.asp?DsxId=3840. The short version is that land was purchased, the private road was built, development was blocked, blood boiled. Apparently there have been occasional instances where certain landowners have turned back tourists attempting to access the park. Fortunately for us the only living thing encountered on the road was a little deer; a novelty for me but old hat for Anna.
The park was also hosting a sea kayaker who was one paddling day away from completing his long-term goal of circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Over the course of the past eight summers he had accumulated 83 paddling days and all that remained was quick jaunt from Galiano to Jericho Beach. He explained that he would first wait for a favourable weather forecast with light winds and clear skies. His friend had arrived by land to meet him for a celebration with provisions and, based on the amount of liquor they had, they were prepared to wait a long time for the ideal opportunity for the crossing of the Georgia Strait.
After dinner we settled in for the night where nature provided us the opportunity to add to our wildlife bingo cards with a particularly bold brood of raccoons. Some bread and textiles were victim to their advances but there was no loss of life from either side despite our best-aimed chunks of wood. Liz was in the most vulnerable position having decided to sleep outside.
The return trip was largely like day one. the ferry back to the mainland didn’t leave Galiano until after 5:00 p.m. so we had plenty of time to sleep in and make up for the lack of the sleep of the two previous nights. The park is home to otters, seals, and a neat shipwreck that is only revealed at low tide.
We hit the road in Tswwassen at 6:30 p.m. and began to retrace our prior day’s journey. With mostly eastward travel on the flat river delta we got to observe the moon rise and the beginnings of the eclipse as well as round out our bingo cards with a coyote and a great horned owl.
In the end, despite the alpine start of Saturday, the trip scratched the touring itch I’d been feeling in recent weeks. I’m told there will be another installment of the gulf island series in November with a trip to Saltspring so keep your eyes peeled and your butt in the saddle.