Exploring Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Port Hardy to Port McNeill

The start of Vancouver Island was slow haha. Because we arrived really late we slept in a bit so we werent out of the campground until 10 or so.

Port Hardy is a nice community. It is very diverse and has a nice walking path along the harbor.

We got to see a lot of it because we biked like 6 miles in total just within the town.

We got brunch at a Greek cafe, which was really good then did errands like buying food, stop at a bicycling store, and dropped by the visitor center.

We wanted to ask about fire roads or logging roads throughout the island as a way to avoid the main highway and all the cars. I didnt think they would have any info, just from past visitor center experience, and they didnt. I think part of the reason they werent so helpful, nice, but not helpful were because they were still in high school. They havent had much time to explore on their own. Versus the next visitor centers had older adults and they told us their personal experience with the roads and the island.

Finally, we were on our way to Port McNeill.

On the way, we met a cyclist out for a workout. He stopped and chatted with us. He told us some good information and told us some…different perspective information, I’ll explain later.

After a total of 33 miles, including the 6 in town, we arrived at the campground in Port McNeill.

First, there is a major downhill to get to the town and then there a steep climb to get to the campground.

The campground is good. Nice showers and decent wifi. We immediately set up the tent and went for dinner at Gus’, which was delicious.

Port McNeill to Telegraph Cove to Ida Lake Campground

According to the cyclist we met, Telegraph Cove is one of the most AMAZING things on the island.

This is where I mean about different perspectives.

Besides his suggestion, a reason we went to Telegraph Cove was to get rid of some of the car traffic by bypassing the main highway and using the fire roads (from Telegraph Cove to the cove it is a small paved road).

Well, that small paved road has a lot of ups and downs and still a decent amount of cars.

To me, the cove was a waste of time in the sense of tourist attraction. Dad thought it was nice, but both of us agreed that it wasn’t worth the hype the other cyclist gave.

Think of the cute homes on Cape Cod or Rhode Island, or really anywhere in New England and subtract the cuteness by 100 and add tourist attraction by 100.

The whole “town” is either restaurants or a motel/hotel/RV park or some whale watching tour company. It just wasn’t homey at all and the buildings were kind of ugly to me.

Anyways, I don’t think this stop is worth it even in a car unless you have not been to New England.

We ate lunch then hit the road. These logging roads…..I saw more logging trucks on the main highway than on the actual logging roads (I saw none). However, the roads were very rocky and washboard-y and lots of gravel. Dad and I agreed it was worse than the Dalton Highway in Northern Alaska.

We stopped after 24 miles. There aren’t any signs as well so we had to backtrack once or twice. Luckily, my Google maps GPS worked.

One of the reasons we stopped was for this reason. We turned down the wrong road, which happened to lead to Ida Lake Recreational Campground.

It looked nice and there were some people there, which was comforting since there was a lot of talk of bears and cougars.

Ida Lake to Eve River Rest Area

One of the campers at Ida told us that it was mainly downhill back to Highway 19. He was pretty accurate.

Besides the rocks and checking directions often on my GPS, the road was pretty easy. This being said, with the rocks, it was definitely worse than the Dalton.

However, the true heart beater was back on the paved and organized road. There were no shoulders until past Woss. Most cars were good about passing us, which was thankful, but still. There was more climbing also back on the highway.

We saw there was a cafe in Woss, but it was closed due to renovations so we had to eat at the gas station.

This was fine, but we are tired of badly made sandwiches and chips. However, we bought a gallon of milk and drank the whole thing. It was delicious….randomly enough haha.

When we were packing up to leave, there were 3 guys on motorcycles. One made a remark,

“If you put a motor on them, it would go faster.”

Like we haven’t heard THAT one before. Many things crossed my mind in response, but since these men were significantly older than me- all the responses sounded rude. I remembered the one gentleman we came across and his response to another snarky motorcyclist:

“Yeah, well, I’m not that lazy.”

From Woss to the rest area, it was pretty much all downhill- like, I wasn’t even pedaling we were going down so much.

Up here, berry season is alive and well. Dad is always looking for them and stops and picks them often. I’ve been saying he is like a bear- basically eating them with his lips like a bear would do. I just keep pedaling. The berries are good, but I’m not going to stop every few minutes.

We made it to this rest area at Eve River. We figured we would pitch our tent here, because the next place was another 18 miles. However, we saw a sign that said no camping and to limit the stay to no more than 8 hours. Well, as much as the ranger in Grand Tetons National Park would disagree….we are on bicycles and we are special and we have special treatment.

However, by the time we set up the tent, an RV pulled up and set up for the evening and the next morning, there were 2 other vehicles camped out so apparently it isn’t that BIG of a deal.

It is a pretty nice rest area. The outhouses were pretty new meaning not smelly or gross. There was a lovely little river close by and the trees were quite beautiful with the changing leaves.

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Eve River Rest Area to Campbell River

The whole day was 61 miles- a good day. It wasn’t so hot, but there was sun. There seemed to be many downhills even though the topography was mainly uphill.

Sayward Junction was that 18 miles and so we ate a bagel and then rode to there for breakfast at the diner. We had been running into problems with diners and restaurants being closed- either for the season, the day, or just no longer in business, but luckily this one was open!

Breakfast was delicious and I had eggs benedict; however, here in Canada, they call them eggs benny. The waitress was really busy, but we enjoyed the coffee and wifi.

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We had some climbs after this point, but nothing too steep or strenuous. Right before the top, there was a rest area and we stopped for a break. We were watching all these women enter the port-o-potties and immediately walk out.

“Must be disgusting,” Dad said.

Finally, we talked to one couple who happened to be from Belgium! Finally, somewhere not Germany haha. The woman validated that it was disgusting. They were the cutest older couple.

We made it to Campbell River and stopped at Walmart and finally got bicycle mirrors. We just biked almost 2,000 miles and NOW I get the mirror haha. Then it started to rain.

We bicycled to the visitor center in hopes they had information on the fire or logging roads past Port Alberni, but they are closed Sundays and Mondays, which is a bit weird- I mean, tourists are still in town on Sundays…

We stayed at a hotel about 3 miles outside of downtown and you pass some cute shops on the way. I forget the name of it, but it was quite comfortable. On the ferries, I was having these random itchy bumps along my body and here it came too much to handle and we think it was from one of my shirts. I soaked and scrubbed it in the tub and when it dried later, I still had some sort of reaction. I didn’t wear it until it was properly washed and dried with high heat in the dryer- that seemed to solve the situation. At the Walmart, we also bought different lotion and I think that helped as well. It was a strange reaction.

Since the bicycling trip was nearing an end, we were calling our relatives in the Victoria area to plan our visit with them. Because they are busy people, there was some maneuvering. But, like all good plans, things change. I’ll get to this later.

Campbell River to Lighthouse RV

Compared to our 60+ days, this day was rather short at 44.7 miles. We started a bit late again due to family planning and the fact that we never leave early from the room unless it is for a ferry or bus.

In Campbell River, the highway splits between Highway 19 and Highway 19A, which runs along the water, but you only see the water maybe 30% of the time due to trees or people’s homes. But 19A is a lot slower speed for cars and a bit flatter.

The hotel recommended a brunch place called the Whistlin’ Waffle. It was really good. A bit hipstery, but good. Dad had never heard of waffle sandwiches before and I had to break it to him that this wasn’t a new concept.

A little bit away is a smaller town called Courteaney. We stopped for lunch at the Subway, got Dad a bike mirror at Walmart, and got another fuel canister at Vahalla Pure.

We eventually made it to Lighthouse RV park. We have also had experience that the office in campgrounds/RV parks are closed during times that I would think most people would be checking in (4/5pm). At least other places at self-registration. This place just had a whiteboard asking for us to call the manager, or in this case, owner. Well, we don’t have a phone that works in Canada. I was tired and hungry and a bit cranky, but luckily a couple walked by and called for us. The instructions were to set up anywhere on the green lawn and the owner would be with us in 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool. We set up. Had showers (coin operated, but free fluffy towels). Made dinner. The owner still wasn’t there. Which was whatever for us because we were relaxing.

He eventually did show up and was super nice, offering to connect me with someone in Montreal. He was telling us about his many projects going on so I think soon, they will have some sort of office or better check-in process as he just took over the place from his dad recently.

Lighthouse RV to Port Alberni

From 19A, we took Highway 4 to Port Alberni, which totaled in 46 miles. We saw a cheap motel online and booked it.

There is one big hill, but for 10 km or so it is a really nice downhill into town. There is a decent shoulder, but around the lake, it does get a bit tight especially when the cars are trying to park to take pictures or do hikes.

We stopped on the way for brunch at the Sandbar Cafe. The restaurant is a bit small so one waitress would seem sufficient, but she was really slow or more focused on other people so a second waitress or just a more energetic one would have been better. It took us 10 to 15 minutes to get our drink order (black coffee and a soda) and then another 30 minutes to put our meal orders in. I asked for water later. She brought water to the tables around us. 15 minutes go by, I finally go up to the cash register and she goes,

“Oh, right, the water.”

I didn’t really want to leave her a tip at all, but Dad is nicer than me, though he agreed the service was bad. It is a shame because the food was really good. There is free wifi, which is a plus.

We then stopped for lunch at Island Drive In, a burger place. Dad made a joke about how pineapples shouldn’t be on burgers like pizza and the waitress took it a bit too personally. It was funny in a weird way because it was obvious my dad was just kidding around, but anyway, it was a nice place, nice food, free wifi, etc.

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Even though we did a fair amount of miles, this day went by pretty quick and wasn’t so interesting.

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We stayed at Bluebird Motel, which was a nice experience…this time. The room was comfortable and the wifi was really strong. Plus we had a microwave so we were able to cook dinner in that.

We had decided that we needed to go to Tofino on the Western side of the island. It is the surfing capital of Canada I believe. However, many people told us that the road there was super narrow with no shoulders.

“It is scary in a car.” Said one visitor center lady.

So we decided to take the ferry to Ucluelet and then bike the 20 miles to Tofino then take the bus back to Port Alberni. From Alberni take the logging roads/ back roads down to avoid Highway 19 and eventually Highway 1 to our relatives.

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Port Alberni to Ucluelet

Our ferry left at 8 am sharp. It is just a passenger ferry and mainly used by people wanting to kayak around the small islands or as a simple day ride from Port Alberni. There was another French bicyclist on the boat with us, but Dad mainly talked with a man from the area and I worked on my blog.

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The scenery was beautiful and the sun was shining. It was a good day to ride the ferry.

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Ucluelet has an aquarium. I am a bit of an animal snob meaning, I don’t really go to zoos or anything because I grew up with one of the best, if not the best, zoos in the world. I’ve also been to another one of the best, if not the best, zoos too (they switch the first place title every once and a while). I now have a high school friend working at one of these zoos. Anyways, I just don’t see the point in going when I’m traveling as there are other things to do and see. However, it was mentioned many times and our ferry ticket gave us a discount to go.

This aquarium is the first catch and release aquarium in Canada. This means they catch the marine life in the Spring and release them in the Fall so you get different creatures every year.

It was actually really cool. One of the workers sat and talked with us a bit and he was very informative. We were in there almost an hour I think.

We also stopped at the grocery store and a thrift store for a pair of shorts for me before biking out of town a few miles to Surf Junction campground where we had made reservations.

Forewarning… the next paragraph of this campground is quite angry as we had a jolting experience and I wrote it like 20 minutes after it happened.

The check-in experience was one of the most shocking and rude ones I’ve ever had. (Dad says this is a bit dramatic). We would have left from the first rude comment, but had already paid when we made a reservation. The guy was about 6 foot red head white male with an accent (later discovered he was German) and he gave us barely any time to get off our bicycles before barking at us that he was closing out the cash register and there isn’t much time to check in (at 4.10pm) and then later says the office is open till 9 or 10pm…..No hello or anything. He rushed us through the whole process and didn’t tell us anything about the campground until asked. Before finishing with us he started organizing closing (essentially ignoring us). We had to pay an extra $1.60 (some tax thing) and so we were digging out change conscious that we might need for later use (showers are 25 cents, which he didn’t tell us either until asked) and he was telling us what to pay with (because he couldn’t wait 30 more seconds for us to sort the change) to hurry us. Besides this, he proceeds to tell us about bears and that we need to keep everything in our vehicles. This is after he barked at us coming off our BICYCLES. He had us out the door and slammed it shut before we could even ask what should we do (bear boxes). We later talked with the next shift people who apologized and gave us free firewood.

The second guy tried excusing the behavior because the redhead was German, but Dad said,

“That’s not an excuse.” To which the second guy agreed.

I have many German friends and none of them are that insensitive.

But, there was a French-speaking couple ahead of us being helped by a French-speaking worker- she seemed very nice and helpful. I wished we were with her.

The actual facilities are nice in this campground. Wifi around the office. Free hot tub. Showers and toilets were clean, etc. But unfortunately, that redhead and; therefore, the management made the experience poor.

The second guy also gave us a locker key, which we stored our food and things for the night. We used both bundles of firewood- hehe

Ucluelet to Tofino

You have to go through a national park to get to Tofino. We stopped in the visitor center and they said we only have to pay if we plan on stopping and doing things in the park. Well, we didn’t. However, the road in the park is nice with decent shoulders. As soon as you get outside the park, the shoulder ends.

There is another visitor center outside the park near Tofino and here is the start of the bike path. So it is like a few miles with no shoulder before the bike path.

It was another lovely day and once got our campsite we checked out the beach. We stayed at Bella Pacifica and it was directly on the water so our campsite was a few feet away, which was cool.

However, the rain forecast was rain for the next week so we bought bigger tarps and spent close to 2 hours setting it up. We still had to adjust it later, but we are not tarp people haha. Lots of other sites had their tarps look so professional…ours was kind of pathetic.

And we took advantage of the sun to wash and dry our laundry. Unfortunately, we didn’t do it fast enough and so it was damp until we just used the washer and dryer at the campground the next day.

“People are just going to see our clothes on the line when they drive by.” I told Dad.

We biked into the city for the grocery store and to walk around and then cooked dinner on the beach.

A woman, K, was walking by and sat and talked with us for a while. We made plans to meet the next day,

“Yeah, our campsite is with the bad tarps and the laundry.”

“Oh! I saw the clothes hanging there early.”

We laughed.

Tofino for 2 days

It rained ALL DAY. It was miserable. K had a van so she drove us into town. She converted her back to a bed so I sat in the front while Dad laid in the back on the bed.

We ate at the Shed for lunch, which was good with Wifi, but the burgers were kind of small… the next day we had Linner or Dunch at Wolf in the Fog and those burgers looked and tasted great.

After Shed, we saw this Totem Pole raising ceremony. It was pretty miserable in the rain. K didn’t really like the pole thinking it wasn’t that greatly carved.

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Then to warm up and dry out, we went to the brewery where they give you samples in big shot glasses. Dad and I later (after 2 samples) got 2 flights of 4. This too also has free wifi.

There was still time to kill and there was still rain so we went to Wolf in the Fog. We had plans for dinner so we just got coffee and this is where we saw the hamburgers (on the happy hour menu (hint linner/dunch, since happy hour is between 3-5)) and decided to go back the next day.

We cooked some salmon, soup, and veggies together. It was the fanciest meal I think Dad and I had at a campground…maybe ever.

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This night, the rain kept going, but it really poured.

We were already in our tents when someone came next to us around 9/9:30pm. There was some noise as they were setting up and blowing up an air mattress etc, but it was done by 10.

Ok, fine.

Well, around 1 am- things got….dramatic.

“Everything is fucking soaked!” Called out the older voice woman. Noises of packing, shuffling around, and car doors slamming ensued.

“What are you doing?!?!” Said the older voice woman. We think it was mother and daughter because the other voice was a younger woman. More noise.

“What were you doing with the cooler and the tent?!?!” The older voice. We could hear the younger woman, but not actual words. The older one was much louder and much angrier.

Finally, the car door slamming stopped. It was a good 30 to 40 minutes and Dad and I hoped they were there when we got up so we could ask what happened and why the cooler was near or in the tent at all, but alas, the car started up and they drove away. That was the end of their camping trip it seemed. We will never know now.

The next day, we drove into town again and got some snacks and toured around a carving exhibition (luckily indoors). They also had some art on display and for sale. It was really cool.

One particular art piece had junk food in it- part of the message. But one little girl thought it was free food and was eating from it. One of the coordinators tried to explain to her, but the girl shrugged and kept eating. I can’t imagine those Cheetos being very good since they are left out in the air for a long time, but maybe there were not stale yet. It was funny.

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We then went to the Wolf in the Fog as mentioned earlier. We got there a bit before 3 and they let us sit there until 3 to order, which was nice.

This day for the weather was particularly weird because unlike the day before, it didn’t rain the whole day. In fact, during the part of the day we would have been biking, it was pretty dry.

We met with K for breakfast the next day. It was lovely meeting her and spending time with her. I hope to see her again in the future!

Tofino to Port Alberni

I mention all the weather stuff because it plays a big part into the rest of our trip. After bicycling 2 months (for me, 3 months for Dad), and a lot of miles in the rain being wet, we were not enthusiastic for the rest of the week (being a huge downpour).

From the campground to the bus station- 4 km, we got soaked- our shoes took 2 days to dry from that. Dad and I had a long discussion.

We checked the weather multiple times and it was almost 100 percent rain in the places we would be biking. We couldn’t wait out the rain due to my grandmother’s birthday.

However, when we got to Port Alberni it stopped raining the rest of the evening.

I’ll get back to this in a second.

The bus company is called Tofino Bus and they go all over the island. Only 2 bicycles per bus so reserve or plan accordingly. They go under the bus with the freights or big boxes that are being sent around the island so sometimes they might need to lie on top of each other. However, the driver said he gets these boxes in Port Alberni so we didn’t have to lie them on top.

Because they don’t want any lawsuits or angry customers, the bus company does not touch the bikes at all- the driver wouldn’t even look at them under the carriage.

The rain was really bad- actually, it was raining so much that on the drive there were so many waterfalls. It was beautiful.

We got lunch near the bus station and it was this small restaurant that apparently makes everything- homemade food. But we just got there after the rush, well technically, during the rush and they were out of many things like feta for my salad or meatloaf when Dad ordered that. It was funny.

The road is really narrow and they were doing construction. We were glad we didn’t bike it.

We stayed at Bluebird Motel again, but this time our experience was not that great.

The room was nice and clean, but there was no microwave and upon asking the owner about the wifi,

“Yeah, it doesn’t work in your room. You have to go outside.” This was super inconvenient and uncomfortable. If it is a known fact, they should have some sort of extender in the room or something.

We had dinner at Granny’s Chicken and Grill and they had everything imaginable there- it was amazing. We got the ribs, which Dad didn’t really like, but I thought it was good.

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Lunch near the bus station in Port Alberni- the Mandarin salad was amazing!

Port Alberni to……

We went to the McDonalds for breakfast and wifi to plan our trip.

Again, with the weather- it wasn’t raining. This caused Dad to think we should still bike, but I didn’t think it was going to be like this on those dirt roads PLUS we had to deal with road conditions like coming from Telegraph Cove. I was just not keen on it.

After many hours of scratching our heads, Dad decides that this was the end of the trip. We got a rental car.

Driving around, it was a bit sad actually. Unlike the Transam trail, we did 2 summers ago, this didn’t have a nice finish with the bow on top. It was so anti-climatic. For this reason, I would have preferred to have biked the whole thing. But I, and Dad, were so fed up with rain and being wet. Plus, Dad’s rain gear isn’t that great. His jacket is cheap and falling apart and his shoes have holes in them. Especially since it didn’t rain really anymore.

We drove back on Highway 19, stopping in Nanaimo for the night and then continued on to Lake Cowichan (where we were planning on bicycling to) and took those side roads down to Port Renfrew and over to our relatives’ place by Victoria.

When we got to Lake Cowichan, it was pouring. This made us feel better because- we knew what we would be feeling if we were biking in it. Miserable. It rained pretty much from Cowichan to Victoria.

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Goats on the roof in Combs

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Double rainbow in Nanaimo

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That drive is really nice- even with the pouring rain. I’m sure in the sun it would be beautiful. Cowichan, Nanaimo, Port Renfrew, Victoria, is a circular bicycle route, which is quite popular and I understand why.

After a few days with family, we will be heading off to the States. We plan on taking the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington, bicycling 2 days to Bremerton and picking up a rental car there.

We will see if plans change.

I’ll post on those final days and do a summary post about the trip so stay tuned for those!

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