Years ago my husband, James, went on a cycling tour of the Sunshine Coast. He was eager to do it again, this time with me. Over nine days we cycled a circular loop along the ocean, covering multiple islands on the west coast of Canada.
The cycling tour was not without some challenges, however, it was the kind of cycling that took me back to the days when I was first introduced to this fabulous activity. Every morning the first clothes we put on were bib shorts and cycling jerseys. We wore this gear all day until we were at our next location, and checked into the accommodations for the night. We often enjoyed a café break, and sometimes even a post ride beer in our less than fresh cycling kits. They became part of our daily routine once again.
The first four days of the trip were packed full of climbing. James had tacked on extra riding to the planned routes, leaving us to climb at least 1000 metres each day over distances of 60 t0 80 km. This is a reasonable amount of climbing over a modest distance. Leading up to this trip, I had been focused more on the flat fast riding. Thus, in preparation I had started climbing a minimum of 500 metres a ride. The weather had been a bit rough, and as a result I had been packing all of this climbing into short distance rides. I didn’t realize just how perfect this method would be in getting me comfortable with the elements and the constant climbing that was ahead of me.
The islands we rode through were quiet, beautiful, and packed full of steep rollers. The first day was to start with a ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale. Prior to the ferry ride, James had me chase him up some steep hills surrounding Horseshoe Bay. The gradients were unforgiving, the views of the ocean were spectacular, and the warm up got me excited about the riding to come. I was rewarded with some time to bask in the sun over a frothy latte, overlooking the ocean. We relaxed on the ferry ride, then started riding immediately after disembarking. We rode on a very quiet, very scenic logging road as far as we could go on bikes. It was so peaceful, and the lack of traffic or stop lights allowed us to simply ride and be free. We then got back onto the planned route and found a lovely patio and lunch in Gibsons. This little town is where the TV show ‘The Beachcombers’ was filmed. If you grew up in Canada, you might remember this cheesy show. It brought back childhood memories of watching 80s TV shows with my brother, and choosing from the one of three stations that we got (way before cable was popular)!
The first day had me put in roughly 1200 metres of climbing over 75 km. When we reached our destination town of Sechelt, the support van hadn’t arrive yet. We found a patio and a couple of beers, relaxed and chatted. This definitely felt like the riding that I had originally fallen love with. I had climbed hard, lost myself in my surroundings, fallen deeply into the moment, and let the day present itself to me. We ended the day with a lovely Italian meal and live jazz music.
The second day I woke up feeling tired, in a good way. We started the day with a ride up to Porpoise Bay. The road turned out to be a fairly steep climb. We made it past the bay, but not to the end of the road. A mechanical issue resulted in us having to turn around, but luck was on our side. The support vehicle hadn’t left Sechelt yet, thus, James was able to fix things up and soon we were on our way.
The day was filled with winding, scenic roads that would require me to climb 1100 metres over 60 km. Up and down and winding around, I felt like a kid again! A tasty macaroon and stiff café at Half Moon Bay left me refuelled to finish the ride. As we neared our destination town, James declared that we were going to do some short, steep hills on an extra little section. A quick intake of some sugar, and an adjustment of my mental state allowed me to go after this. I knew I wanted it. This last section reminded me of Tuscany! As hard as it was a the end of the ride, it was fun. We reached our destination at the Painted Boat Resort in Madeira Bay.
The rewards were great. I soaked in a luxurious bath, and enjoyed a beer on a patio overlooking a beautiful bay. I felt satisfied in a way that only comes when you have earned your beer and your view. Nothing is better than getting yourself from one town to the next through sweat and hard work.
The route for the third day would be done in sections, and broken up with a ferry ride. The first part was a lot of fun. I could feel the accumulation of the riding and climbing, however, I really wanted to be out there. The scenery continued to be amazing, and the road allowed us to ride freely and have fun. We rode to Egmont, and of course, added on some extra little roads with more climbing. We had lunch on a patio with a million dollar view. The next bit of riding was going to be hours away, after the ferry ride, thus I enjoyed a local beer called ‘The Egmonster’.
After the ferry ride from Earl’s Cove to Saltery Bay, the evening was looming, and the wind had really picked up. We disembarked, and James allowed me to tuck right in behind him. He was my super human tug boat! I dug deep and focused on staying on his wheel. He pulled me about 30 km and over 450 metres of climbing. We made it to our destination, Powell River, had really quick showers, and sat ourselves down at the Thai restaurant next door. A local beer and some delicious curry completely hit the spot. We had definitely earned a rest, especially James, as we had put in about 1300 metres of climbing over 90 km.
Day four presented a real challenge for me. The first part of the day was quite enjoyable. After about 30 km, we stopped at Nancy’s Bakery in Lund for a lovely café overlooking a pretty little bay. We then took a water taxi to Cortes Island. Our driver and host, Joe, was extremely passionate about living in the area and gave us a wealth of information. He was really trying to persuade us to come back on a Thursday and watch the fishermen fight, some dawning guns.
Once we reached Cortes Island, I was really starting to struggle. The cold that James had before this trip, and was still battling a little, had taken its hold on me. I could feel the bug invading my body. I focused on climbing the steep rollers and trying to relax. I waited by the bay for the next ferry while James explored a little more. Once we disembarked the ferry onto Quadra Island, my body was really giving in. James was spectacular. He guided me through the last 10 km to our hotel. We found a patio, a beer, and a dinner. Despite my declining state, we had covered 80 km and 1000 m of climbing.
I then crashed into bed. I was down for the count. It was disappointing being sick. I missed out on exploring the island with James the next day. However, the timing couldn’t have been better. We were staying at the Whiskey Point for two nights. I was so grateful for the rest day. I slept, slept, and slept some more. I fought the bug enough to make it through the next day of cycling. It would have been so easy to focus on how much it sucked to miss such a great day. But, looking back, I am so grateful for the timing of this glitch.
On the sixth day of the tour, we took a ferry to Campbell River. James made the route a 75 km day for us. The 400 metres of climbing was significantly less than what we had been doing, and James set a very doable pace for me. We took our time and explored. We stopped at Oyster Bay, and sat looking at the ocean. We also stopped at Miracle park and rode on some smaller paths.
Near the end of the ride, I made a real rookie mistake. In trying to get a snack, I lost control and went head first into a steep ditch. I hit hard, head first, arm second, leg last. I sat in the ditch, completely stunned, tears rolling down my cheeks. The good thing was that I knew I was ok. I just needed to compose myself and continue. I was wearing different gloves than normal and had to remove them to get my snack out of my jersey pocket. I should have stopped. I didn’t. This could have been a lot worse than it was. It was a HUGE reminder to me of how quickly something can go wrong. I felt quite stupid, and disappointed in myself for not being more careful.
Of course James was there to guide me the rest of the way to our destination town. I had gone into a glum sort of place. We were again staying in the same place for two nights. This was a relief to me. However, I continued to choose to be in a negative space over my accident. We found a patio and a beer. We talked. I started to feel better. James just continued to be completely supportive. He did what he always does. He listened to me, he encourage me, and he helped me to learn and move on from this incident. He found us a lovely little restaurant, ordered a Chardonnay (my favorite, not his), and encouraged me to have some local oysters (another of my favorites). We had fresh fish. My dish was quite French, which I loved. The restaurant was rustic, beautiful, and located right on a garden. We finished the evening with some real craft beer.
The next day I took James’ advice and rested. I was quite sore from the crash, and we still had two more days of getting from town to town.
The eighth day of the tour would take us to Qualcomm Beach. The first 20 km was quite easy with little climbing and a tail wind. We decided to take a short ferry ride to Denman Island and do a little extra riding. It was fun! More quiet, scenic roads. A little deer even hopped like a bunny along ahead of us until taking a left turn to a pottery shop! We added a good 400 metres of climbing to our day over that little island. As I sipped a tea and waited for the ferry back, I felt very grateful for all I had. I was again choosing the right attitude, and was very glad to be.
The rest of the ride to Qualcomm Beach was fairly easy. The day saw us put in another 85 km and 600 metres of climbing. We found a patio and a beer. I enjoyed every bite of a very fresh, very local, clam chowder. We joined the group for dinner later on, and chatted with people of all sorts of personalities.
The ninth and last day of the tour was tough. I was really tired. But, I really wanted to be out there finishing this thing off. We covered another 80 km and a final 800 metres of climbing. It felt good. About 60 km and 400 metres in, I was really struggling. James took us on a side route to English Bay where we did some really fun off-roading on a lovely wooded path covered with a canopy of trees. It felt adventurous and fun. We joined the group for a lovely patio lunch. The rest did me good, especially from a mental aspect. Off we went, and I felt much better. I had a lot of fun putting on that last 400 metres of climbing. James had found us the perfect road where we could unleash and go. Next thing you know, we were at the ferry terminal. We found a patio and a beer, and other members of the group trickled in and joined us.
A long ferry ride lead us back to where it had all started at Horseshoe Bay. We had a lovely last meal on a roof top patio with the whole group. I had some very entertaining conversation with Peter, who had driven the support van, and had provided me with a lot of laughs all along the way. We expressed our gratitude to all he had done. We also expressed our gratitude to Sandra, the saint of a woman who organized the whole thing, and was there for everyone every step of the way.
I now reflect on my extremely deep gratitude for my health, my abilities, my bike, and especially my husband. He was so patient with me and extremely supportive through everything. When I was getting sick, when I was broken mentally from my crash, and when I was out there having fun and being free. He was my super human tug boat in the wind late in the day. He was my guide when I limped along. He added on so many extra adventures that reminded me of what I am capable of, and why I fell in love with cycling so long ago.
One of our fellow cyclists on this trip, John, had some long conversations with us. A regular topic was how his wife used to cycle with him, but was now more comfortable at home. We talked about not stopping as we get older, and not letting ourselves get too comfortable. I truly believe that when you stop, it all stops. I am so very fortunate to have a best friend in life who continuously pushes me and sees me for what I am truly capable of, even when I don’t believe it.