Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – The Last Leg

Destination: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken:  Alaska Highway

I’m calling this section “The Last Leg.”  There were still over 950 km to go but this section involved a lot of riding through consistent terrain and scenery.  I rolled out of Fairbanks on day 6 of my tour and continued pedalling down the road for the next 9 days without any serious mechanical or health issues.  The road conditions were variable, sometimes gravel with potholes, sometimes rough chip seal with regular frost heaves and on more rare occasions short sections of smooth asphalt which my butt thoroughly appreciated.  My impression is that the freeze thaw cycle and swampy environment that the road traverses are not ideal for maintenance.

I passed by Eielson Airforce Base where the runway ran right next to the road.  There was a lot of very loud activity with planes taking off and landing and circling the base.  Fun to watch for a few minutes.  Then farther down the road was North Pole and Santa Clause House.  Santa was available for photos and Christmas wishes but he was busy entertaining some southerners and I wanted to get back on the bike.  Delta Junction was my rest stop for the night.

Some interesting sights along the way ….

DSCF4520a DSCF4521a DSCF4526a DSCF4535a DSCF4528a DSCF4527a DSCF4538aAfter Delta Junction it was 180 km to Tok, the next town/campsite so in an attempt to gain some local knowledge I stopped in at the visitor information centre to find out if there was anywhere in between that I could set up my tent.  The woman behind the counter couldn’t find anything official in her book but remembered calling the Dot Lake postmaster for information about camping when another cyclist had asked the same thing.  The postmaster apparently has a reputation for providing tent space for wayward cyclists.  The Dot Lake postmaster is another angel along the way.  There is nothing at Dot Lake but the post office.  At one time there was a campsite behind it but that has been taken over by the forest.  The outhouse is still there though and the postmaster was happy to fill up my empty water bottles in exchange for an adventure story.

Dot lake postmaster

Dot lake postmaster

Alaska pipeline crossing a river

Alaska pipeline crossing a river

Day 8 was another epic day, from Dot Lake to Northway Junction 158 km.  I hadn’t planned on going that far but Tok wasn’t quite far enough.  My intention was to wild camp at one of the many interpretive pull-outs along the way but none of them had level enough ground for setting up a tent so I just kept on pedaling.  Just when I thought my legs were about to fall off from fatigue, I pulled into Northway Junction with a corner store.  I could use a drink!  I also noticed a giant camp ground sign.  That looked promising until I approached the door and saw the “Campground full” notice.  Sigh!  All I needed was a small rectangle of grass ……. no harm in asking.  The camp ground was definitely a no-go.  It was fully taken up by forestry service people and there was a baseball tournament in Northway so there wasn’t much available.  The woman, Sharon said I could camp in the grassy area in front of the gas station, but rowdy baseball players would be raucousing all night.  In the end she offered me a patch of grass in her yard by the state trooper station. Nice!  My third angel!

On day 9 I landed back in Canada.

As I was riding along the road I kept coming upon scat of different varieties with some unnerving frequency.  I wondered to myself what manner of beast would be crapping on the road.  Wish I could identify it and know whether or not I should be worried about bears or wolves.  I did recognize the occasional horse dropping interspersed between the unidentifiable  varieties.  I’d heard a story somewhere along the way about a Mexican who was riding his horse from Alaska to Mexico.  I wondered how long it would take to catch up with him.

Further along the road was the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.  Perhaps this refuge has something to do with the quantity of crap I was seeing on the road.  I stopped for a refueling break and went inside to see if they had something to drink.  No beverages but I did note that they had books on scat identification.  They also had telescopes sited on a huge bull moose eating grass in one of the lakes.

Back on the bike after refueling, I finally made it to the US Customs area.  Built on the crest of a hill of course.  As I was riding by, a Mexican on a motorbike stopped me to chat.  He was riding across all of the continents on a motorbike and had plans to repeat the trip on a pedal bike.  He really liked my ortlieb panniers and wanted to take a picture with me.  Ok?!

Canada Customs was another 27 km past the border and the no-man’s-land section in between was all bumpy chip seal.  Not an easy ride. It was slightly easier in the middle of the road where it had been worn down by cars.  And since I was encountering cars so infrequently, that’s exactly where I rode.  Somewhere in this section is where I also passed a convoy of about 100 north bound cyclists from Texas doing a Livestrong charity ride.

I finally arrived in Beaver Creek and decided to get a room and have a shower and a good night’s sleep.  It was an awful, smelly room with shared bathroom.  But 4 walls is what I needed right now.  I did wander down the road and found an awesome burger joint, Buckshot Betty’s.

I woke up at 6 am on day 10 to the sound of rain.  Sure glad to have those 4 walls and a roof over my head, hope it stops before riding time. Back to sleep. Zzzzzzzz ……

I’d planned a super easy day and after my requisite stop at the info centre found out that another Lakeview campground was a reasonable 80 km down the road.  More construction and more rides in pilot cars – short rides.  The next 40km was mostly loose gravel, packed gravel, a few paved sections and one more ride in a pilot car.  I battled a mean headwind as well.  But up to this point I had been quite lucky with the winds.  It meant hard riding up the hills and no coasting on the downs.  A mentally and physically draining day.

Dragonfly

My dragonfly friend

I pulled in to the campsite around 4 pm and I was literally the only person there.  I went for a walk just to make sure when another cyclist (northbound) pulled up behind me and asked where the water was.  There was no water, except for the creek running beside the campground.  The thing with most of these campgrounds is that the maps show things like fresh water wells and garbage bins and toilets but a lot of the time they don’t exist when you get here.  And riding down the road, especially in the 27 km of no mans land between the US Customs and Canada Customs there are numerous signs promising rest stops with food and water which, in reality, don’t exist. Do not count on the maps and information to be right.

The campground slowly filled up with people in giant RV’s over the next few hours.

Campsite by the river

Campsite by the river

 

On day 11 I was awakened by stoopid motorcycles at 6 am.  What assholes!  Is that kind of noise necessary?  Could still hear their bikes for miles after they left …. finally fell back asleep for a bit.  Woke for good at around 8 am.  I was trying for an earlyish start for a slow and easy 100km day.  It rained a bit over night so packed up a slightly wet tent.  I was ready to hit the road at 9 am.  The weather gods had other ideas though.  The downpour started at 8:59 and didn’t stop for 2 hours.  So much for my slow, easy day.  I hid out under the cooking shelter with Richard (the northbound cyclist) waiting for the weather to break.

Finally at 11 am we decided to take our chances as the rain had lightened up a bit.  We said our good-byes and good lucks and headed out in opposite directions.  The rain stopped completely after a few kms.

It would seem that this was headwind territory.  The uphills were gradual and not too tough but it’s really demoralizing to not get a break on the downhills.  Camped at Destruction Bay.  A bare bones ugly campsite, but the only one around.

Day 12 was another extreme headwind day.  Another day of battle.  I tried to take it slow and easy.  Kluane lake is a beautiful glacial green through my sunglasses.  It didn’t really tranlate in the photos.  The mountains were also amazing.  Tall and green but not many trees, with glaciers hanging in the tallest ones in behind the green ones.  Stopped to check out Soldier’s Summit, the site of the 1942 opening ceremony of the Alaska Highway.  After feeling like I was riding up-hill all day into the headwind the last 20 km down into Haines Junction was a dream come true.  I stayed at the Cozy Corners Hotel.

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It’s amazing how the wind at your back for even a short while can be a game changer.  Finally had a tailwind for a couple of hours on the morning of Day 13 where I cruised along easily at 27km/hr. I made significant headway before noon so didn’t even mind when the wind changed direction.  I’ve been seeing a lot of horse manure on the road and today I saw hoof prints in the dirt on the side of the road. I must be catching up with the Mexican.

I encountered a coyote today.  It popped up on the road right in front of me.  It didn’t know I was there until I gasped.  It looked at me for a few second and then turned back into the forest.  Glad I found Irene’s place and will be staying in the shed out back.  People have been asking about wildlife but apart from the muskox at Deadhorse, the Moose in the marsh and the coyote today, I haven’t seen much ……. and not one single bear.

Irene's Place

Irene’s Place

Shed behind Irene's

Shed behind Irene’s

 

On day 14 I finally arrived in Whitehorse.

Some photos of what I encountered on my last day ……..

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My overall impression: An exciting ride and adventure which was by no means lonely to do as a solo trip.  I met a number of people heading north along the way.  Mostly solo cyclists.

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Deahorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Deahorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Destination: Fairbanks

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Dalton Highway

Day 3

I had a much more restful sleep last night.  There was some comfort in hearing the trucks rumbling past frequently enough that I didn’t feel completely alone in the universe and infrequently enough that I could enjoy the solitude.

I broke camp at around 9 am local and headed down the hill.  At the bottom there was a road crew flag person fully outfitted in mosquito netting.  He advised me to take a ride in the pilot car for the next section as the road was a “real mess.”  Some hard core cyclists a few days ahead of me had insisted on riding the entire way and found it pretty rough.  I’m no super hero – I’ll take the ride!

Sixteen miles and some great conversation later I was dropped off at Galbraith Lake.  My goal for yesterday!  Doh!  If only I had ridden to the bottom of the hill the night before …..  I learned a bit about the road and how it is so hard to maintain on the melting permafrost.  It just slides down the hills leaving behind giant gaping holes or craters the size of cars give way as the ground melts and subsides.  It is apparent in the Arctic that global warming is real and accelerating.  As we were driving I noted that I most definitely would not have made it past this section had I chosen to ride.  After unloading my bike, taking on water and spraying down with the industrial strength bug poison offered to me by the road crew, I continued pedaling down the road.

I am struck by how everyone I have met so far has been amazingly friendly and helpful and giving and concerned for my well-being.  I have a feeling that nobody in trouble is left behind on the Dalton Highway.

Now for the major challenge of the day – Atigun Pass …..

The clouds were high in the sky and puffy and white with sunny breaks.  The weather was looking good for summit day 🙂  I had been closely monitoring the reports for the last week or so and there had been snow fall warnings for Atigun Pass 4 days ago. Word from the work crews was that it had snowed and stuck a couple of days ago but things were looking great today.  The terrain right up to Atigun pass was gradual and rolling,  not too difficult.  And then THE PASS!  My left knee had been giving me some grief this trip but now the pain was getting intense.  So pedaling a 100 lb bike up what I estimated to be a 6 – 7% grade (based on riding up Cypress Ski Hill Road back home) with one functional leg for approximately 3km was a serious mental challenge.  I took a lot of breaks to admire the view back down the valley and am not ashamed to admit that I walked for a ways.  I finally made it to the top!  Anticlimactic much?!  There was no sign telling me I had arrived.  No sign reading “Atigun pass, elev. 4800 ft.  highest highway pass in Alaska.”  So I uneventfully rolled over the top and started the steep descent.  I took as many breaks on the way down as I had on the way up.  The road was rough and my brakes needed to cool down frequently.  Also my hands were cramping from gripping so hard.  I descended into a beautiful green valley bottom where the grade and road surface were perfect for letting go of the brakes and cruising along for a while.

The pipeline runs close to the road as I approached the Brooks Range

Approaching the Brooks Range

Approaching Atigun Pass with the pipeline running along side the road

Approaching Atigun Pass

Atigun Pass where the grade steepens

Atigun Pass – The grade steepens. You can barely make out the switchback at the base of the mountain on the left where the road turns up towards the right under the rocky part of the mountain straight ahead.

Looking back down the valley from Atigun Pass

Looking back down the valley from Atigun Pass

Trucks passing me on the way up Atigun Pass

Atigun Pass

Me on the downslope after cresting Atigun Pass

Me on the downslope after cresting Atigun Pass. Happy to be going down.

Green, lush looking valley on the south side of Atigun Pass

Green, lush looking valley on the south side of Atigun Pass

It was dreamy riding for quite a long time with the occasional rough patch.  I eventually came upon another serious downhill I later found out was called “The Shelf.”  Brake cooling, finger relaxing, and vista gazing stops were required.  I landed in another  green valley bottom and the first trees I had seen since leaving Vancouver.  I made it through Atigun pass and landed in sweet paradise!  The sun was shining, the mountains were magnificent, it was finally warm enough for shorts and the mozzies had all but disappeared ………… well, until dusk anyway.

The first trees I have seen since leaving Vancouver

The first trees I have seen since leaving Vancouver

I continued down the gradual rolling terrain that was more down than up, thinking I will for sure have no problem reaching my goal for today.  I was aiming for Marion Creek campground at mile post 179.  Another paved section started at around mile post 209.  Yes!  Smooth sailing for a while ………. wait a minute, what is wrong with my bike?  Why is it wobbling so much?  After a quick inspection I found 2 serious looking bulges in the sidewall of my back tire.  Who knows how long it had been like that so I kept going along the smooth road.  A half mile later it blew up.  Dammit!  I changed the tube and reset the tire hoping that would help.  It didn’t, the bulges remained.  I continued on for a ways until it felt like my second tube was going to blow.  Conveniently I made it to a rest stop at mile post 204.

Blown sidewall on bike tire

Blown tire

My grand total on the Dalton highway was 210 miles (340 km).

How disappointing …….. of all things to fail me, tires were just about the only thing I didn’t have spares for.  I had brakes, brake cables, shifter cables, extra chain links, tubes and screws for my racks but no extra tires.  After all, my Continental touring tires were only 2 weeks old and every other pair I’ve ever had were bomb proof.

Now what to do?

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

The end of my Dalton Highway ride

Without really thinking much about it I stuck out my thumb for the next vehicle that came by (20 min later).  They stopped but didn’t have enough room for me, my gear and bike so I stayed put.  I checked the time and it was about 9 pm which I realized that would put me in Fairbanks at a very inconvenient hour for finding a place to stay.

New plan!  Set up camp and start hitching in the morning.  At least I’m in a convenient place to pull over, with a pit toilet and bear proof garbage bins.  I noticed some handles on the back of the bin and opened it.  Hmm …….. this could be a good place to store my food bag.

I was just getting ready to bunk down when a big tanker truck pulled into the stop …….

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – the Last Leg

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Destination: Fairbanks

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Dalton Highway

Day 2

I survived the night!  I wasn’t eaten by a bear, or a wolf or a raven ……. have I mention the ravens are huge up here? …… and my food cache was untouched by the tundra scavengers ……..again, have I mention the ravens are huge up here?

At some point I finally warmed up and was actually quite cozy when I awoke although I’m not really sure how much real sleep I got.  My face felt like a giant puff ball and my eyes were swollen almost shut.

I packed up camp and set out into the misty morning.  It was pretty easy going for a while as the road was packed down by the trucks and was almost as smooth as an asphalt paved road.  Outside of the wheel tracks though it was definitely not bicycle tire friendly.  A tip to remember is that this road was built to transport supplies to the work camps along it and to Prudhoe Bay so the haul trucks have the right of way.  They do most of their hauling in the winter months when the road becomes solid ice and much easier for transport.  During the summer months they are still hauling but I think I only encountered one every 30 to 45 minutes.  It wasn’t a big deal to move over to the side of the road give a wave and let them pass before continuing on.  And a vast majority of them slowed down as they passed in an attempt not to fling rocks and dust in my direction.  They slow down when passing each other as well.  Nobody wants a cracked or broken window  hundreds of miles away from an auto body shop.  Courtesy goes a long way on the haul road.

I learned quite a bit about the Dalton highway and the people that work on it as my adventure took a detour from the plan on day 3 …….

Muddy dalton highway stretching off into the misty distance

Heading out into the mist …….

Interesting tundra flora

Interesting tundra flora

After riding for a couple of hours the sky cleared and the sun came out.  I made it to Last Chance Wayside with a pit toilet and over-flowing bear proof garbage bins …. its probably a good thing I didn’t make it this far yesterday.  I stopped for a lunch break and as I was finishing up my feast of PB&J wraps a van pulled into the rest stop.  I chatted with the driver for a bit, he was surprised to see a solo female cyclist out on the haul road.  By this time I was starting to feel much more comfortable with my new reality and enjoying being out on the open road.  He offered me some bottled water before continuing on his way.  Never pass up a water opportunity.  Up to this point I had only passed small ponds with standing water looking more like mosquito incubators than re-hydration opportunities.

After lunch, It was slow going again but there were 2 long paved sections I tried to take advantage of.  At about the 90km mark (for the trip) the mosquitoes came out in full force.  It seems that when the sun comes out and the tundra warms up a bit the mozzies come “Alive.”  They didn’t bother me too much for the first 3 hrs but they were relentlessly dive bombing my head, buzzing my ears, and trying to get up my nose, in my mouth and in my ears.  It makes breathing a bit of a challenge.  I sprayed down with bug spray which worked well for about 20 minutes until I sweated it off again.

Note: Definitely need a no-see-um head net for this trip.  I put a half-hearted effort into finding a head net before I left for the trip.  Checked the local MEC store but no luck so didn’t pursue it further.

Despite the mozzies, I really enjoyed the landscape.  Green rolling hills with a wall of snowy peaks rising out of them.  Beautiful!  The scene is big  and wide open and there is no way I could capture the vastness in my tiny camera lens.   But I made an attempt anyway …….

Blue Bird Day on the Dalton Highway

Blue Bird Day on the Dalton Highway

The pipeline

The pipeline

Snow Capped Peaks of the Brooks Range from the Dalton Highway

The Brooks Range from the Dalton Highway

Near the end of my day I came upon a caribou with the most massive rack I have ever seen.  By this time I had packed my camera away and was focused more on finding a good camping pullout than Arctic wildlife.  The caribou was relieving itself at the side of the road.  I stopped and stared.  It stared right back at me and continued to relieve itself.  I went for my camera but it wouldn’t come loose.  The caribou walked up on the road, stopped and posed perfectly for me – stoopid camera not coming loose – it walked across the road and looked at me again – poser – stoopid camera – and then wandered off onto the tundra – finally my camera came loose.

Caribou on the tundra

Caribou wandering away from me after posing so perfectly on the road just in front of me

I rode on a little farther feeling more exhausted than ever.  Crested a hill around mile post 289 and looked over the top to see another fairly steep down hill followed by another uphill.  There was no way I had another hill in me.  Construction on the other side meant loose gravel anyway and generally hard riding so I set up camp at the top of the hill.  It was super windy – a blessing as the mozzies left me alone.  The goal for the day was Galbraith Lake at milepost 274 but I just didn’t have it in me.

Camping on the hilltop provided spectacular and unobstructed views of the tundra and sky as the sun sank low on the horizon.  Again, the camera just didn’t do it justice!

Day 2 camp set up on pipeline access road

Day 2 camp set up on pipeline access road

The sun dipped low behind the hill in the back ground creating this sunset effect.  It's 2 am.

The sun dipped low behind the hill in the back ground creating this sunset effect – it’s 2 am.

Pink mountain scene behind the tent at 2 am.

Pink mountain scene behind the tent at 2 am.

2am sunset/sunrise

2am sunset/sunrise

Stay tuned for the continuing mission to conquer the Dalton Highway ……………

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – The Last Leg 

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part I – Conquering the Fear

Destination: Fairbanks

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Dalton Highway

My latest adventure began on July 26 2014 in Deadhorse Alaska.  The goal was to ride the Dalton Highway from Deadhorse to Fairbanks, Alaska and then continue on to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory along the Alaska Highway.  I had initially planned to do this trip with a friend but due to a  scheduling conflict it morphed into a solo venture.  I had never really questioned whether I could do the trip physically and the reality that it was an unpaved haul road for big rigs was not lost on me.

The psychology of doing a trip like this solo was daunting though.  But why?  I’m not sure if the fear was emanating from me, or if it was projected on me by others.  My family, friends, the oil field workers at the airport, people I met along the highway?  Would they have expressed as much concern for my safety if I had been a man doing this trip solo?  It is true, the first full 24 hours were a bit rough as I transitioned from my familiar busy city life to remote solo cyclist.

Day 1

I was feeling fine for the flights up to Deadhorse.  I had some anxiety over my bike having to be transferred between 3 planes which increased slightly when I saw them taping the box back together in Anchorage before loading on the final flight to Deadhorse.  My anxiety increased further upon disembarking the plane and realizing I was the only girl getting off and everyone else was being greeted by someone who would bring them to their respective work camps.  While waiting for our luggage, a few of them were putting the fear of god into me about bears.  I put my bike together and questioned over and over again “What the hell am I doing here?”  All the while seriously considering buying a plane ticket home immediately.

After my bike was assembled, the first order of business was acquiring bear spray.  I found the Deadhorse store after navigating some extremely muddy streets and miserable, misty weather, all the while considering ordering up a hotel room and buying that plane ticket back home.  It was 6 pm local time when I finally hit the haul road with my 100 lb fully loaded bike.  Food weighs a lot!!  I had to transport it from Vancouver as there is no real grocery outlet in Deadhorse.  Fresh food is delivered directly to the camps where the oil field workers have all meals prepared for them.

Fully loaded touring bike outside Deadhorse hardware store

The requisite photo of my fully loaded bike outside the Deadhorse hardware store after picking up bear spray (a.k.a. my super powers).

I made it all the way to the Deadhorse city limits when I encountered a Swedish cyclist trying to hitch a ride back to Fairbanks.  He had ridden north from San Francisco.  He gave me some tips, affirmed that the Arctic Ocean tour wasn’t worth it, we said our “good lucks” and I headed out into the mist.  Deadhorse is about 10 miles from the ocean which is inaccessible except by tour bus as civilians must be escorted through the oil fields.  I had considered taking the Arctic Ocean tour to say I had put my foot in the ocean but would have had to wait another day until the next tour so decided to ride on instead.

Deadhorse city limits

Deadhorse city limits

Muskox by the river

Muskox

I made it another 100 m down the road and saw a heard of muskox down by the river.  Cool!  It was exceedingly slow going on the variable road.  Sometimes it was hard, sometimes bumpy, sometimes soft and muddy ……. still questioning my sanity.

Bear Spray a.k.a My super powers

My Super Powers

My goal was Last Chance Wayside at mile post 354, approximately 96 km from Deadhorse (the mile markers count down from Deadhorse which is marker 414).  This would have been no problem at home on smoothly paved roads.  I gave up from exhaustion at 11 pm (local) at mile post 373.  The sun was expected to set on July 29th so still plenty of light.  I set up camp on a pipeline access road and nearly froze to death in the wind.  There is no protection from the elements on the tundra.  Not sure if I got much sleep.  Had nightmares that made me want to turn back, heard lots of noises (mostly the tent flapping in the wind), thought the ravens were eating through my food pannier.  I had the bear spray at my side the entire time like it was the holder of my super powers.  Without it I would lose all powers and courage to move forward.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

View from tent my first night.  The sun as it swung low on the horizon at 2am.

The view from my tent the first night as the sun swung low on the horizon (at 2am).

A close up view of the muddy Dalton Highway

The muddy road ahead

One of the millions of ponds I passed on the tundra

One of the millions of ponds I passed on the tundra

Stay tuned for the continuing adventure …………….

Read the continuing story here:

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part II – The Sun is Shining

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part III – Atigun Pass

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part IV – People

Deadhorse to Whitehorse Part V – The Last Leg

Vancouver to Victoria by Bicycle – A First Timer’s Guide

Destination: Victoria (or Vancouver if you go in reverse)

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Vancouver to Victoria

There is challenging terrain to traverse, amazingly wild beaches to explore, eccentric artisans to meet, and cute little villages to visit on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands, all accessible from the BC Ferries Tsawwassen Terminal.

But how do you get there by bike?

I quite frequently commute between Vancouver and Victoria and must admit that when I first started (about 5 years ago) the Massey Tunnel seemed to be the most insurmountable obstacle to overcome.  Not only did I have to find the pick-up point for the shuttle but also had to become a scheduling mastermind to coordinate which tunnel shuttle I had to be on to catch the ferry I wanted.  Did I mention bicyclists are banned from riding through the tunnel?  Thankfully there is a shuttle and slowly, year by year, the hours seem to be  improving as more people use it.

Massey Tunnel Shuttle Schedule here.

The alternative is to ride over the Alex Fraser Bridge, an additional 25 km added to the trip, or take the bus.  Keep in mind there are only 2 bike racks on a bus and you might have to ride to the Ladner Exchange to catch one that isn’t already full.

The “Route Taken,” above, links to my usual route map so I won’t comment too heavily on the actual route.  I will focus more on the “secret handshakes” that I found were not quite so clear no matter how many websites I visited.

I have not yet found an easy way to traverse across Richmond in the North/South direction towards the Massey Tunnel bike shuttle.  Perhaps Shell Road gravel trail is the safest route as far as interacting with traffic, but I always seem to be running late so I opt for the paved roads.  Often times, other shuttle riders pass me en route and recognize a fellow shuttle rider.  Unspoken etiquette is whoever gets there first lets the shuttle driver know there is another person coming.  He usually waits.  The secret handshake here is that the pick-up/drop-off spot is on the east side of the highway 99 (not the Richmond Visitors Bureau as the website implies) so follow Rice Mill road over the 99 and turn left through the do not enter signs.  There will be a bench and sign on the left side of the road.  You can load your own bike onto the shuttle or wait for the driver to help you.  This section of the ride from Vancouver to the Massey Tunnel Shuttle is approximately 20km depending on where you are coming from.

Massey Tunnel Shuttle Pick-up and drop-off location North side of Tunnel

Massey Tunnel Shuttle South Bound Pick-up Location

Take a time out to relax through the tunnel.  The shuttle drop-off/pick-up point on the other side is the Shell Gas Station (again, not the Town and Country Inn as the website implies).  The first few times I took the shuttle I didn’t know about the easy back road route to the ferries and risked my life negotiating the traffic interchange onto highway 17a.  Thankfully on one of my tours another shuttle rider showed me the safer way which I’ve mapped in the “Route Taken.”  Other shuttle riders are a great resource for finding new, safer routes.

Massey Tunnel Shuttle Pick-up and drop-off location North side of Tunnel

Massey Tunnel Shuttle North Bound Pick-up Location

Another possibly not so clear section is crossing under highway 99.  Follow 64th Street until it almost crashes into the 99.  The road turns left here but there is a path heading to the right that goes under the highway and then joins back with 64th Street.  The rest of the route is fairly clear on the map.  Just remember when you get to the ferry terminal on a bike, you can go to any one of the kiosks.  Pick one with no line-up.  It doesn’t matter where it says it’s selling tickets for.  You can buy a ticket for Victoria from a kiosk that says Nanaimo.

64th Street Bicycle Route to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal

Cycling along farmers fields looking south down 64th Street

Active Pass BC Ferries

Active Pass

Man overboard drill on BC Ferries

Man overboard drill

Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal

Waiting for the go ahead to ride off the ferry at Swartz Bay

Once you reach Swartz Bay Terminal it’s another 35km to Victoria.  The choices are cruising down the highway drafting with the vehicle traffic or taking the Lochside trail.  I usually take the highway, it’s got a very wide smooth shoulder and I can make it to Victoria before the city bus does.  Gives me some sense of satisfaction.  The Lochside Trail takes a bit longer as it is a combination of paved pathways, rural roads, dirt and gravel trails and trestle bridges.  But there are no hills and the scenery is a lot more fun AND it is completely doable on a bike with skinny tires.  The “Route Taken” map shows the Lochside Trail option.  It is well signed so no more comments from me until reaching Victoria.

Scenes along Lochside Trail just outside Sidney BC

Scenes along Lochside Trail just outside Sidney BC

Scenes along Lochside Trail - the biggest pigs I have ever seen!

Scenes along Lochside Trail – the biggest pigs I have ever seen!

Scenes from Lochside Trail - Passing through farmers fields

Scenes from Lochside Trail – Passing through farmers fields

Scenes from Lochside Trail - Trestle over Blenkinsop Lake

Scenes from Lochside Trail – Trestle over Blenkinsop Lake

The Lochside Trail connects with the famous Galloping Goose trail just under Carey Road in Victoria.  At this point the more direct route into the city is to ride back up a steep, but short path to the Carey Road crosswalk and then along Ravine way to the Pat Bay Highway which has a bicycle lane all the way into Victoria.  The return trip at this point will be a little different as the North and South lanes are separated.  On the return trip there is a parking lot for a Saanich Municipal building just after Ravine Way on the right.  Turn right, into the parking lot and ride straight back until you see the Lochside Trail on your right.

So give yourself a pat on the back!  You made it from Vancouver to Victoria (or Victoria to Vancouver) by bicycle.  A total of approximately 70km ridden!

This is a great way to get back and forth between Vancouver and Victoria.  It’s good exercise, not too challenging terrain with some natural built-in rest stops.  Just to give an idea on how much time this tour might take, I usually leave from work near King Edward Ave and Cambie Street around 4pm and ride hard (about 27kph on the flats in Richmond) to the 5pm shuttle.  It’s a good idea to leave in plenty of time because if you miss the shuttle it sets the whole schedule off by an hour.  With no messing around on the south side of the tunnel I immediately get on my bike and ride hard again to catch the 6pm ferry but in reality  there is often a headwind and I don’t feel too bad about easing up on the pedals and rolling on to the 7pm ferry.  The ferry takes another 1:35 of rest and refuel time.  Riding into Victoria from the ferry along the highway usually takes about 1:20 but I would guess it takes about 2hrs on the Lochside Trail.  I sometimes make a day of my return trip on Sunday and take my time to sight-see along the Lochside Trail so I don’t have a good estimate of how long it really takes.  Best case scenario the trip takes about 5hrs!

Richmond Loop Iona Beach Bike Ride

Route Taken: Richmond Loop Iona Beach

It was a beautiful day for a bike ride on Saturday so I went for a wee ride around sunny Richmond.  Richmond is a great place for early season riding.  It doesn’t rain as much as Vancouver and it is flat.  The one drawback is wind but you can’t have everything and at least half of the ride has the wind at your back.

Check the link above for the route taken.  After crossing the sky train bridge from Vancouver I usually head west past the casino towards the airport.  The ride down Ferguson Road to Iona Beach is a dream with little traffic and quite a number of other cyclists.  It is a very popular stretch of road for training rides.  It’s also quite exciting to feel the “awesome power” of planes as they fly over head on their landing approach or take off from the airport.

Ferguson Road to Iona Beach

The long straight stretch along Ferguson Road to Iona Beach at Sunset

Heading back from Iona Beach the route turns south through Burkeville and then onto a brand new bike path towards No. 2 Road bridge.

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Airport Park at Burkeville – interactive globe

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Airport Park at Burkeville – interactive “paper airplanes”

There is a bike route to the right after the bridge that I use to make my way to DSCF4058Railway Avenue, another long straight stretch to Steveston.  Railway has a designated bike lane for faster riders but also a brand new multi-use path runs along it.  It’s set back from the road and great for less confident riders.  At the end of Railway the route loops counter clockwise around to the historical Britannia Shipyard (A pleasant place to explore on a sunny day) and then heads in an eastward direction.

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Britannia Shipyard

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Britannia Shipyard

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Britannia Shipyard – bunk houses

The next leg of the ride is a scenic cruise along the dyke by the river.  It meanders away from the river, through some farm fields and then back along the dyke.  The section connecting No. 5 Road to Sidaway road is a bit complicated so read the route map carefully.  The route heads north along Sidaway road towards Westminster Highway where it turns east again.  There is a choice of riding on the road along Westminster or riding on the bike path.  The bike path is a bit sketchy with the number of hidden driveways so I would suggest faster riders ride on the road.

The route passes under the East-West Connector just past the railway tracks and eventually rejoins the now northbound Westminster  Highway just after the the big S-curve by the fire station.  This road is a designated bike route and after a short jaunt the route heads back westward along River Road.

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Scenes along River Road

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Scenes along River Road

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Scenes along River Road

 

The Richmond Iona Beach Loop is a very popular ride for cyclists and you are bound to encounter many groups along this route.  I look forward to seeing more people taking advantage of this route!

Whytecliff Park Bike Ride

Route Taken:  Whytecliff Park Bike Ride

After yesterday’s monsoon weather it was a pleasant surprise waking up to the sun streaming into the condo today.  Even more amazing was the usual bank of dark clouds blanketing the North Shore Mountains were nowhere to be seen.  What to do with this gift of good weather was a no-brainer since I got the call from the shop yesterday that my bike repairs were complete.  Bike ride it is!

Whytecliff Park Bike Ride North Shore Mountains

A rare sunny winter day in the North Shore Mountains

My typical winter training ride is to head south to sunny Richmond.  It’s usually drier but also much flatter.  Today though I took advantage of the clear skies and headed for the rolling hills of Marine Drive, destination Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver.

 

Challenging Time of Year

Destination: Up the Creek Backpackers, Roberts Creek

Mode of Transportation: Bicycle

Route Taken: Vancouver to Roberts Creek

It is a challenging time of year in Vancouver. The weather is such a major player in deciding what to do with time off and waning light makes self propelled travel a bit sketchy in the evenings. So, the decision was made to ride to Up the Creek Hostel in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast. Rural enough to satisfy the need to get out of the city for a couple of days and still close enough for an after work bike ride.

It was a great evening for riding, warmish (for October) and dryish (only a light sprinkle of rain). We arrived at Horseshoe Bay two minutes after tickets stopped selling but thankfully the kind ticket lady sold us a couple anyway. Note to self: leave 5 min earlier next time. After the requisite stop in Gibsons to fill our panniers with wine we arrived at Up the Creek Hostel and were greeted by our host Martin and a cozy fire. A very welcoming site on a cold October night.

Up the Creek is a very bike friendly hostel and Martin is a well seasoned cyclist himself, with lots of stories to tell.

Next day was an exploratory mission of Roberts Creek also known as the Gumboot Capital of the World …… A short mission in this one stop sign town.  After our initial success in finding  amazing cinnamon buns at the Gumboot Café we wandered on down to the beach and happened upon the very colourful Roberts Creek Community Mandala.

The afternoon was spent trekking through the waterfall and fungi filled Cliff Gilker park.

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The ride home was a dream. Unseasonably warm and since the ride over was in the dark we took our time and really enjoyed the scenery.

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