Day 2 – Port Alberni to Duke Point Ferry Terminal

Today was a day of intense contrasts, from the extraordinary grandeur of the vast cedar and pine forests in the interior, to the hustle and bustle of the Trans-Canada Highway nearer the coast. 

  • Today’s Distance (miles): 76
  • Time in saddle: 6h 15
  • Max/min temp (°c): 24°/10°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 3,606 / 3586
  • Calories used: 3,145
  • Cafe time: 3h 17


I camped out last night for the first time on this trip, at a farm that has expanded into tourism. To be honest, they are not quite ready for the start of the season (two lads were painting the shower block as I showered), but the incredibly relaxed, friendly, family atmosphere more than made up for it. Dogs were absolutely everywhere, asleep, chasing birds, dropping large lego bricks at my feet and cocking their heads hopefully, leaning heavily against my leg as I drank my beer (and I think falling asleep). After registering, I had offered to exchange cold, hard cash for a cold, hard beer, but Don, the son and chief on-site engineer, simply chucked me an ice-cold pilsner from the fridge. “No charge!” he said merrily. “We’re not licensed yet anyway”. I also bought a couple of tins of soup and beans for supper, and Anne, the mum, offered me a hotdog or chicken to go with it.


(That’s Don outside. saying goodbye this morning)

My tent has a great feature – when it’s warm enough not to use the fly, there’s a mesh in the roof for star-gazing at night. I can’t show you the night version photo, because it just looks black, but here’s a dawn one instead (soundtrack of countless unfamiliar bird songs)


I only got about 5 miles from the site before making my first stop, as the route has no other chances to stock up. I ended up having a second breakfast too at 7-11, where Awesome, one of my two teaching assistants from Beechwood Park School (who have both stowed away on this trip), made a new friend.


Flat Ted, who has infinite patience, hasn’t the heart to tell Awesome that it’s just an inanimate object. I also met a local guy who stopped to ask about my bike, and he told me all about how incredibly dangerous the logging business is to work in. He had suffered permanent ligament damage in his back from an accident, and was struggling to make a living as a carpenter, even with the compensation he received. He was a really kind-natured young guy, but moved like an old man despite looking ridiculously strong. As I started up the big climb of the day, straight out of Port Alberni, I passsed this Life Support Ambulance stopped on the hard shoulder. There seemed to be no-one in it, unless they were inside, and it was stopped just after the entrance to a big logging track. I thought of my conversation and had a picture in my mind of just how remote the location of an accident might be in this vast country. I hope everything was ok.


Sorry to keep the rather dark theme, but a short while later I passed this tree, where caps and helmets had been left pegged up in memory of a local logger. 


On a slightly brighter note, there is nothing more encouraging, I found out today, than a blast on the air horn and a fist-pump out of the window from a huge loggers’ road-train hurtling downhill, as I toil up it at the speed of a walking pheasant. Awesome.

The route took me through a famous area of outstandingly tall forest, dark and richly aromatic of pine and cedarwood (two of my favourite smells) and, once each wave of cars had passed me, thick with exotic-sounding birdsong and woodpecker drumming. I realised after having stopped for a few minutes that one bird, with a single gentle song like a referee’s whistle (What Is It, Sam?) was actually waiting until the lull in car noise to do his thing.


“I’ll just lean my bike here”


“Wait a minute…”


“You cannot be serious”

The cabin in the background is what is known as a “Long Drop” toilet. Not for the faint hearted. I read a Cormac McCarthy book once called “The Road”, later made into a successful film, but I was very disturbed by a particular scene in the book. When Susie, Sam & Jacob each came to read it, on my recommendation, I implored them all – “When they’re about to open the cellar door, STOP READING!! Go straight to the next chapter. Just do it.” Of course they ignored me. That’s how I feel about this long drop toilet. “If you’re tempted to look in the long drop, DON’T DO IT!! Whistle a merry tune and leave.” Luckily for you, there is no picture to illustrate my disturbing experience. 

I have a new favourite sign at the moment:


When you see this it means it’s time to zip up your jersey because after all that slog you are about to confirm Newton’s irrevocable laws of gravity…it’s a DOWNHILL!

At the end of this long, long exhilarating downhill section I finally pulled in to the Qualicum Trading Post. I got chatting with Mac who owns it, and he turned out to be a keen student of the history of King Henry the Eighth, but hadn’t heard of Wolf Hall. I insisted that he order it on Amazon that very day, so convinced was I that he’d love it as much as, well, everyone who’s read it. 


I felt safe leaving my bike in the protection of a bald eagle (I actually got buzzed by one today at an isolated road junction. Spooky)

He had some great stories about trading in the area over the decades. His till was from the early 1800s, and had a key for all possible amounts right up to, top left and printed in red, for big-ticket items, $1! He said there was a key for”notes”, meaning, “I got no money, take a note?”


Also he had a collection of animal bones. “See those? Jawbones. Traders carried ’em. It meant, “Don’t you DARE try and jawbone me for credit or a better price”. And if they were pointing up like a smile, it meant “open to offers” “. I had chosen a wooden pebble with a symbol burnt into it, which it said meant Protection. “Oh no!” said Mac. “You should never pay for protection, that’s like the mafia, eh? No, I’ll GIVE you that one!”


After a long ride along the coast I arrived at the ferry in good time to get back to Gill & Stewarts for supper, joined by Susie’s 1st cousin Micah Markson who is in the area scouting out a route for his bike tour company, TDA global. 


Now, here are today’s Signs That Are Funny (hurray!):


I still can’t decide if that’s good or bad.


Livin’ the dream, one spreadsheet at a time. 

And here’s today’s What Is It, Sam? Incidentally, there was a very impressive haul of results from yesterdays posers. There is some serious brainpower out there. 


Down by the river at the campground this morning.

And just for today (maybe), here’s an extra special very funny video clip, courtesy of my loving family from all the way back in the comfort of their own armchairs (BTW, a shout-out here to new friend-of-the-blog, David Daly! I hope you’re sitting comfortably in your armchair David)


Today’s Song Stuck In Head Whilst Cycling is:

Winter Trees, as performed by Ella & Amber Chisholm with Jacob Buckton. 

25 thoughts on “Day 2 – Port Alberni to Duke Point Ferry Terminal

  1. Just for the record, I never read The Road, after the awful things you told me about it, and certainly would have avoided the trap-door scene if I had. Even the thought of what could be under the trap-door gives me nightmares!
    And Micah is my first cousin once removed. He’s way too young to be my first cousin! (or I’m way too old to be his first cousin). His father, Stephen, is my first cousin.
    I thought you were jettisoning something every day? You took on a wooden pebble. Uh-oh, you’ll have to get rid of TWO things today.
    Lots of love, Susie xxxx

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  2. I’m reacting to those journey numbers in the same way Susie reacted to The Road. I can’t really even look at them. Makes my eyes water.

    Your tent sunroof looks a lot like a shark viewed from beneath. That combined with the bones and the leaping whale-accountant gets me wondering, are you already planning the next trip on water? A bike adaptation perhaps? Or maybe more of a Steve Zissou type ship. You’ll just have to swap the helmet for a woolly hat and you’re good to go. (I’m babbling because I don’t know plants…)

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    1. Also I nearly went there on the ‘you’re nearly there… oh no you’re not’ gag but decided that would be a bit cruel. You can always trust your family to come through though eh?!!

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      1. Hi John! Yes, I like the bits where Jacob can’t stop himself from laughing at his own fake caring tone. We watched it at supper last night with Susie’s relative who runs global bike tours, and even he thought it was mean. Hope you are all doing well. How’s Carrie doing? (And apologies if it takes a while to respond again, as I’m wifi-less all day!)

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    2. John, you know I’m up for a Life Aquatic-themed trip, any day any time, as long as we can have that incredible Mark Wotsitbaugh soundtrack! Bubbly bobbly hats all round! “They’re breeding a little early this year” Lov the shark image – and that IS what it’s been reminding me of.

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      1. Some Portuguese Bowie is what we’ll need! I’ll start planning.

        Carrie’s great thanks, very large very early and with all my running, were awaiting the day when our respective weights pass in either direction!

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  3. More great chance encounters to join the human chain. I love the 1800s till.

    The Road is NOT the best novel to be thinking about just now…..

    Maybe Jacob could make a soundtrack for your trip – all the songs stuck in your head, loggers roadtrain air horns, birdsong, ukulele. How about it Jake?

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  4. Yes, where is “Winter Trees as performed by…?” Let’s hear it. One of my most happy memories of a year in Canada in the Air Force in 1953 was the generosity and hospitality of Canadians briefly met on the road. It sounds like they are still the same lovely people. Tell them I remember them! Dad xxx

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  5. Ben; Great waking up to your news of the day, back here in T.O. Susie talked me into reading the entire Creepy Trilogy last year. Inspiration of the day : Listen to ; Night Ride and Sunrise, Sibelius…..Mayta and I are with you all the way love mandj

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    1. Now my blog is complete! I have you two aboard. I had a lovely evening with Micah last night, eating a delicious lamb stew with polenta and green beans, a fine Aussie chiraz, all courtesy of Stewart & Gill, my old friends now in Tswassen. I may pay for the final single malt later in the day! Do keep in touch via comments or whatever you prefer,and any local knowledge or reminiscences as I pass through each place are very welcome! Heading for Toronto… Bxx

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    2. Hi Auntie Mayta and Uncle Jerry, Susie here, posing as Ben – don’t know how to pose as myself… (see above): anyway, it was the Border Trilogy I recommended, wasn’t it? I NEVER would have recommended The Road, partly because I’ve never read it (see above!) and partly because of the infamous trap-door scene which even people who’ve never read it have nightmares about. See you in Toronto in July! Love S xxxx

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  6. Congrats on completing the first couple of days. You should consider the mean map video as the equivalent of an air horn and a fist pump out the truck window–motivation! I was wondering how tall that tree you leant your bike against actually is?(Also how deep the long drop toilet is, but probably best to leave that alone). Haven’t read The Road and not sure I want to! I’m most impressed by how efficient your packing is Ben–are all your equipment/supplies really in those compact panniers? I had an image of you slogging along barely visible behind bales of stuff. But it is a lean mean Canada-crossing Machine! Ol xx

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    1. Hi ol! Great to hear from you. Re trees – chuffing tall is all I know. It’s great to stop somewhere that makes everyone stand in awe of just trees. The urge to hike off away from the road was hard to resist, because the silence bring amongst the soaring branches must be amazing. Re panniers – they’re great but packed tight so everything I own has creases! I’m seriously trying to get rid of something everyday. It’s a psychological trick to feel lighter. Love to Laurice Bxx

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  7. Hi Ben!
    Really enjoying your blog and comments from all .
    Ben, it’s AMAZING and courageous of you to tackle this magnificent challenge and we’re all rooting for you!! Well done so far and Big hugs and lots of love to you, from the Chisholm Clan! Xxxx

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    1. Thanks Miranda! I’ve been listening to your two lovely girls and Jacob singing Winter Trees and wishing I’d brought that Xmas present cd they made. Maybe Jacob should upload it somewhere clever?! Another flat day today before it gets a tiny bit hilly. Love to all Bxx

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