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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.