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Newsletter of the Vancouver Bicycle Club

The Dynamo

The Best of 2001

Who was John Hathaway?

By Henry Hulbert

Newer members of the Vancouver Bicycle Club may wonder who this John Hathaway we're naming our major spring ride after was...

It all started ordinarily enough on January 13, 1925. John was born into a pretty normal sort of family, right in the middle of England, and his brothers and sisters went on to become pretty normal middle- class sorts of people. By his teens, however, it became apparent that young Johnny Hathaway was becoming a cyclist first and foremost, leav- ing 'normal' somewhere behind him in the dust. By age 17 he was putting in hundred-plus mile days and by his early twen- ties was a star in his local Coventry Meteor cycling club. After serving in the Royal marines he resumed cycling. From the late 1940s to the early 1950s he set club records in time trials at all distances and won or placed well in many regional events in the highly competitive English cycling scene.

He wasn't just a racer though: he was already an experienced tourer and when he emi- grated to Canada in 1952, he landed in Montreal, cycle-camped his way to Toronto, spent the win- ter, then cycle-camped his way across Canada to Vancouver. He settled in B.C., did some cycling, worked for a while, then after a three-month 8000-mile cycle tour of the U.S.A, went back to England and did more competitive cycling with good results (including a 414-mile, 24-hour ride).

He returned to Canada in 1957, again riding across Canada from east to west, reaching Vancouver from Halifax in a record time of 24 days 13 hours. About 800 miles of his route were on gravel, as the Trans- Canada Highway hadn't been finished yet. Despite the difficulty of the trip, his time stood as a record for 20 years (when he helped fellow Vancouver Bicycle Club member Wayne Phillips prepare to successfully break it.) John again settled in Vancouver, and soon got mar ried. Most of his married riding was on a custom built Jack Taylor tandem with his wife Margaret. She died in 1971, ending what a friend described as the truly happiest time in John's life. Soon he was back to serious bicycling, setting records from Dawson Creek to Vancouver, and from Calgary to Vancouver. He helped found the Vancouver Touring Club which promoted non-competitive cycling, then in 1974 decided to take an around-the-world tour. He covered 50,000 miles in 100 weeks around the world as a self supported cycle camper, between November 1974 and October 1976, getting him- self a paragraph in the Guinness Book of World Records for quite a few years.

When John got back from his record tour, the Vancouver Bicycle Club had been re-formed after a period of dormancy. The new organizer was Norman Hill , an English cycling coach who organized the club along traditional lines, building a membership interested in all types of riding, from leisure rides to tours to international level racing. The new club had a welcoming party for John the day he finished his around the world tour. He became an enthusiastic member. From then on the Vancouver Bicycle Club was John's club. He organized innumerable rides and tours, served as president in 1990 and was made a V.B.C. Member for Life. He was always a valuable resource, gladly giving his time and sharing his more than half a million miles of cycling experience. John was a resource and inspiration when Gerry Pareja and Dan McGuire organized B.C.'s first Randonneur series through the V.B.C., and with Gerry, Dan, and Wayne Phillips formed the first B.C. (and V.B.C.) team for the Paris-Brest- Paris 1200-km ride in 1979. He returned from France and continued to ride in and promote randonneur and VBC club rides.

In 1986 John set off to ride around the world again, this time planning to ride all the world's highest mountain passes on his way. He was doing fine until Argentina, where he was hit by a truck and seriously injured. He returned to Vancouver, recuperated, rode with the club for a while and in 1991 set off on an around-the-United-States tour designed to take him through all of the mainland 48 states south of Canada . By the time he returned in 1993, after many adventures, he was a quite senior citizen, but still a strong and regular participant in any kind of V.B.C. club ride. John's January Birthday Ride was a club institution for many years. Each year the ride was a mile longer to match his age. In 1997 he didn't feel like riding the full 72 miles, so we turned around early and had a longer party. He became increasingly unwell that spring and when he could- n't ride his bike any longer he allowed himself to be taken to see his doctor, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and died on June 6, 1997. As stipulated in his will, after his funeral, club members, friends and cyclists of all sorts adjourned to a nearby pub and had another party. He left half his estate to the Vancouver Bicycle Club and the other half to the B.C. Randonneurs. The randonneurs now have the annual John Hathaway Award for the rider who com- pletes the most distance in a year and at the V.B.C. we've begun using his name on our major popular ride of the year in memory of his life long love and promotion of cycling.

Thanks to Gerry Pareja for his editorial assistance and precise memory and Harold Bridge for his personal insights and excellent May 12, 1988 story about John in Cycling Weekly.

A light load in 1975
A light load in 1975: on world tour

Originally published April 2001

"So, tell me again, why do you ride to work?"

By Chris McPherson

As with any cyclist who rides his (or her) bike to work I am often asked this question or variations on it. Actually, it is usually framed more like a statement: "You are nuts to ride to work." Typically this sentiment is expressed on those days when I wheel the one speed into the office, dripping muddy water all over the carpet. At times the tone is more accusatorial: "Cyclists are a menace on the road, they slow down traffic and are always getting in the way." Given that I deal with police officers every day at work, I suppose this attitude is to be expected. Every now and again, my female colleagues wonder aloud if is totally sensible to ride down the King George Highway, in the dark, in the fog, with ice all over the shoulder, with all those trucks operated by drivers who haven't slept in the past 24 hours and don't properly maintain their rigs. For some reason, my male colleagues rarely seem concerned about such things. Mind you, they do tend to wonder why anyone would ride a 20 pound bike when several tonnes of glass and steel is available (oops, not only am I making gender biased comments, I am mixing up metric and imperial measurements in the same sentence: I am sure we will all survive). How does one respond to such comments?

There are various approaches that I take which you may find useful. On those ever so rare rainy days, a bald-faced lie is recommended: "I like riding in the rain. I find it refreshing and invigorating." When that doesn't work (and it won't) it is always possible to play the "fitness" angle: "Cycling is great exercise - and low impact too." A similar approach is the environmental one. You know: "It is important to me that I don't contribute to the air pollution around here." Note the unspoken subtext: "Unlike you". For those who are nervous around cyclists on the road I find that soft cooing noises like "Yes, indeed, some cyclists do cause traffic problems but not responsible ones", can be helpful. For the true bike haters, I am afraid, no response is satisfactory. Thus my mantra for staying in one piece on the road: "Assume that you are invisible and that anyone who can actually see you is trying to kill you". It won't change the attitude of some drivers, but it might just keep you alive. Similarly, there is no real way to allay the concerns of those truly worried about your safety. I have been known to try the ever popular "I do have a mother you know", but it is quite difficult to make such a comment without sounding sarcastic and vaguely contemp- tuous. It works for me because, well, I am sarcastic and vaguely contemptuous and my colleagues seem to accept it since these can be useful traits in a prosecutor. As the reader can conclude, none of the above responses will ever convince a non-cyclist that riding to work is a good idea. It doesn't matter. I like riding to work. I like the warm, tingling sensation that stays with me for hours after I change from my cycling tights into my suit and tie. I enjoy the knowledge that, at least today, I did not contribute to the smog hanging over the Fraser Valley. Commuting by bicycle does improve my fitness level. Yes, it can be dangerous, but the risk is manageable by using safe riding skills (take that Canbike course!). At its heart though, cycling on busy roads full of stressed out, inattentive drivers is not a rational act. It makes no objective sense. But, I do it. I do it because I have a deep-rooted passion for these seemingly delicate two- wheeled machines of rubber and steel - machines that must be among the most beautiful, yet functional devices imaginable. I do it for the very process of cycling - that rhythmic turning of the cranks for mile after mile. I do it for that ephemeral feeling I get when, on the way home, a little bit of the stress of the day's work sloughs off my body with each pedal stroke. When it comes right down to it, I do it because, at a fundamental level, it is the right thing for me. There is no need to justify cycling to work to any- one. It might not be for everyone, but it is for me and, I hope, for some of you.

Originally published April 2001


"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."

Ernest Hemingway

A True Passion for Sport

By Chris McPherson

As the hockey play-offs grind to their tedious conclusion in cities where the only ice is found in glasses of bourbon, we regularly hear those eloquent sports announcers talk about how "passionate" the people of [insert name of large North American city here] are about "their" hockey team. As much as I enjoy watching a good hockey game, I cannot accept that wildly cheering for a bunch of millionaires is exhibiting a passion for sport. To have a true passion for sport you have to experience it.

This thought was brought home to me on my recent trip to Norway. There, the sport is cross-country skiing, and the Norwegians are truly passionate about "their" sport. In Oslo, by far the largest city in Norway, a common sight is people, of all ages, walking in ski boots with skis over their shoulders, on the the way to the underground. You can literally take the train to the last stop, put on your skis and ski off into the hills where there are twenty six hundred kilometers of groomed trails (yes, 2600 kms - 90 of which are lit) upon which to ski. I have never seen a sport that is so central to the way one lives one's life. Everyone skis. Toddlers ski. Eighty year olds ski. Three generations of the same family go skiing together. Even teenagers (yes, teenagers) cross-country ski. Some of these teenagers even ski (horrors!) with their own parents - and enjoy it.

This is not to say that everyone is a Bjorn Dahlie (probably the greatest Olympian of all time). Indeed, there were lots of skiers with poor technique, on ancient equipment, wearing knickers and sweaters. But, it didn't matter. No one cared if you were fast or slow or if you could go 50 kilometers or 5 kilometers. The point was that on a sunny weekend afternoon, you didn't plop yourself down in front of the TV to watch some overpaid professional play a game. You went out and did it yourself. Perhaps something like this still takes place in small prairie towns when the local field is flooded and the kids go out with their hand-me-down skates to play shinny until the sun goes down. I am afraid though, that that image, so central to the Canadian cultural identity, has passed into myth. In Norway, the equivalent image, of families skiing off into the bush to visit friends in the next village, still occurs every day.

In flights of wildest fantasy, my mind's eye dreams of a similar passion taking root in our society. Imagine a sunny weekend morning in the spring, and instead of hordes of gas eating, carbon monoxide belching, noise spewing 4x4's rocketing down our streets, picture fleets of cyclists gliding to the market, or to church, or to visit friends on the other side of town. Or maybe, just out to enjoy the fine day. No one would care if you rode a brand new Pinarello with a Record 10 speed gruppo or an old Huffy with no-name components. It wouldn't matter if you went 30 kilometers in an hour or 3. Cycling simply would be part of life, part of who you were. No, it will never happen. But, it doesn't hurt to pretend it could. After all, each of us can get out on our bike, and go to the market, or to church, or to visit friends, or just to enjoy the day. We can choose to exercise our passion for cycling, our true passion for sport.

Originally published May 2001

Every bike ride is a journey

By Chris McPherson

Every bike ride is a journey. At times a ride is nothing more than a physical journey, from one place to another along familiar, well- worn routes. But there are those times when the journey is more than that. A ride can travel through both space and time, through both external and internal places. There is the external place of wind and sun, of pavement and dirt, of cars and German shepherds.

Then there is the internal place where abstract ideas flit in and out of your mind in competition with tomorrow's grocery list. Cycling at its heart is an exploration, both of the world without and the world within.

These thoughts occur to me as I swing my right leg over my thoroughly broken-in saddle and prepare to ride home. Work has been particularly bad the last two days: too many stories of ruined lives and shattered hopes; too much sorrow; too many wounded children. Why, I ask myself for the thousandth time, do I do this? Why didn't I stay downtown in that big firm defending insurance cases and making three times what I make with the Crown? And I answer myself for the thousandth time, because that was not me. This is. So is this bike on which I begin my ride.

Sometime during this day that began so many hours ago in a cold, penetrating rain that felt like March, not June, the sun has returned. I don't know when. Perhaps it was while I was in the Courtroom, asking questions of a sixteen year old in a wheelchair, testifying behind bullet-proof glass. Perhaps it happened as I re-read the evidence of a child who witnessed something no eight year old should ever see. Or, more prosaically, maybe it was while I stared blankly out of the window, not even noticing the weather. It doesn't matter. The sun is here and it won't set for four more hours. It is time to journey somewhere else. Home, I guess, but not before I milk everything I can out of this evening on the edge of summer.

West then, and down the little road to Highway 10. What is that smell? Roses, of all things, giving off their perfume from the gardens around a building that houses so much anger, so much hate, so much pain. Roses that trigger memories of other summer evenings - playing badminton in the back yard as the sun goes down. The highway now, its shoulder wide and clear - at least by Surrey standards. The streets roll by, quarter mile by quarter mile, the trucks grinding their gears a few feet to my left. Then down the hill that drops from the ridge towards the delta - Tsawassen out there in the haze, and the mountains of Vancouver Island, pale and insubstantial in the distance. Where is that trail? Here? No - the gate is locked. Now where? That one I suppose - but is it too rough for this bike? Only one way to tell. I head north, into the forest with its dappled sun. It is quiet. The trucks are gone, supplanted by the birds. The gentle whir of tires on asphalt is replaced by the crunch of rubber on gravel. Then dirt. Then dirt and rocks.

The wide smooth trail is narrowing, brambles are brushing my bare legs, raising the hint of blood just below my skin. But the trail is fine and the salmonberries are ripe and tasting of that peculiar soapy sweetness. The german shepherds are content to chase me good-naturedly until they decide to return to their own humans - abandoning ancestral memories of caribou hunts and howling packs. But, the trail is ending. The bridge is there. It is time to climb. Trucks again, separated from me by a concrete divider, the river hundreds of feet below us. My tires hum on the metal deck. More choices present themselves. River Road wins out.

The traffic seems to have vanished, perhaps everyone has hurried home to catch the latest episode of an endless rerun. All the better for my ride. Another smell, the one that the landlocked among us think of as the sea and sailors think of as the shore. I am miles from the ocean, yet the river feels the moons pull just as surely. Its water is so low that the remnants of the once proud firs and cedars lie beached in the mud.

The air smells of life and death and all the fecund glory of the massive area that this river drains. There are mountains, deserts, fields and forests in that river. Its bank are rich with life. Goslings follow their parents to the brown-green water which churns and roils around the pilings with their captive booms. Garbage from the humans that live along the banks slowly circles in the eddies. The sawmill looms, its sharp smell assaults my nostrils. Industry intrudes upon my ride. It pollutes our water, corrupts our air, but it built the steel upon which I ride and the fabrics that make up the clothes upon my back. It is a blessing and a curse. West still, mile after mile. Nine and eight road are behind me, then it is seven road, six road, five, four - a left at number three and two more bridges, two more arms of the same river, more cars, more trucks, more noise and still more choices. Where to now? Cypress, straight ahead? It is so calm there beneath the shade of enormous trees that shelter enormous houses - temples to the wealth that drives our world, and our city. But no, there are hours to go and other places to explore. UBC it is, but not the road. Trails are my destination and I turn onto one as Marine Drive becomes a highway. Mud. Mud is everywhere. It covers my legs, it clogs my fenders, it jams my brakes - where is that 2 mm allen key anyway? Improvise. I'll get home eventually. I think my lights are working. Carry on. The trail is dryer now, my brakes and fenders clear - sort of. I know this trail. I know it from my youth a thousand years ago. I caught tadpoles in that very pool on my meanderings home from school. And this hill. I know this hill. I know it from winters when this forest actually saw the snow and my brothers and I, far too mature too slide down the "kiddie" hill in the park, came here and flew down this precipice, and it must be said, off into those trees. Our mother fixed the clothes, our father fixed the toboggan. Hot chocolate fixed our scrapes.

And still more trails, and still more hills and still more mud until I emerge above Spanish banks and head down the road to the beach. More memories, more dreams. The journey is never linear. It drifts back and forth through time and space. It reaches forward towards events that probably will never happen and back to half-remembered recollections. It touches upon the friend whose funeral I am to attend and to another whose baby is nearly due. Unexpectedly, I come across yet another friend - one I haven't seen for months, or is it years? He runs along the beach. I ride. We talk. He looks strong and fit. There is no evidence of the broken back from that horrific bicycle crash. Now, he spends 25 hours a week training and is planning to "rip up" the Ironman this year - "if he doesn't get injured". My pathetic attempts at fitness seem laughable in comparison. But I don't much care. He has his journey. I have mine. And this evening's journey is about to end. Dinner, a few more miles, one last bridge, one last path, one last turn and I am at my door. Only now is the light fading from the sky. Only now do I feel a chill, but I am home. The tea is made and the day is ended. And tomorrow? There will be further tragedy played out across my desk and in the Courtroom, but there might be a bit of light and perhaps some humour too. And then?

Well then, there will be another journey both on my bike and in my head.

Originally published July 2001

Of Dirt and Pavement

By Chris McPherson

The apparent split between cyclists who ride on dirt and those who ride on pavement often puzzles me. In our club, few of us seem to ride both on and off road. I do not understand it. Cycling, whether it is on the road or off, is just one sport. I find it particularly odd that many of those who enjoy just one aspect of cycling seem almost to look down on those who enjoy the other. The reasons elude me.

In speaking with "mountain bikers" the most common complaint about road biking is the traffic. This one I can understand. Traffic is both annoying and dangerous. However, many routes are very lightly trafficked. There are other routes with a lot of traffic but good, safe shoulders. Another complaint is that it is "boring". This one I cannot really get. Yes, there can be long days. No, there is not the constant changing of pitch and cycling surface. But, boring? There is little boring about flying down Cypress Bowl Road at 75 kilometers per hour, or travelling in a fast moving paceline at 40. Besides, there are so many benefits to riding on the road. There is no better way to improve fitness and to smooth out your pedaling technique. You can cover astonishing distances in the course of a day. You barely need a car. It is a perfect compliment to riding on the dirt.

Road bikers also tend to complain about some aspects of mountain biking. Some of the complaints seem to focus on the "gonzo" attitude that is associated with mountain biking. This makes no sense to me at all. It is true that if one pays attention to Mountain Dew commercials or the latest issue of Mountain Bike Magazine, one could conclude that mountain bikers are generally a disreputable lot. I tend to think that this attitude is much more closely associated with being a young male human than a mountain biker. The mountain bikers in our club bear little resemblance to the media created image of a mountain biker. Another complaint is about how technical (read: scary) mountain biking is. Just as some roads are better for cycling than others, some trails are better for less experienced riders than others. Some trails are, admittedly, best left for the highly skilled, not to mention resilient, cyclists. There are, though, an almost unlimited number of trails for riders of every skill level. Mountain biking is also a great compliment to road riding. It is mostly interval training, unlike the road, and nothing builds cycling skills (like balance, cornering, braking and climbing) better than riding off road.

If you consider yourself mostly a "roadie", try some mountain biking. If you ride mostly on the dirt, try some road riding. You will be amazed how each one compliments the other and keeps both feeling "fresh". Your skills in each will improve in leaps and bounds and you may find yourself even more eager to get out on your bike (or bikes!)

Originally published August 2001

A Midsummer's Night Ride

By Chris McPherson

So, there we are, three superficially normal humans, at 3:30 in the morning in deepest, darkest Surrey - fixing a flat tire. The only lights are from our tiny lamps and the street lights at the corner of Fraser Highway and 176th Street. The farmland all around is silent. The only noise is the occasional truck as it rumbles along highway 15. We are cold. It is raining. Hard. We are, naturally, smiling, laughing and joking. There is nothing odd about this because, while we may be superficially normal, we are cyclists. There is very little normal about cyclists - particularly ones who thought it was a fine idea to ride straight through a midsummer's night.

The ride itself began some six hours earlier at the Knight and Day restaurant at the corner of Lougheed Highway and Boundary Road. It will end two hours from now at the same spot. In the course of those eight hours we will experience sunset, sunrise, a glimpse of stars, many clouds, a few showers, some driving rain, a fair bit of wind, rednecks hollering at us in Haney and donuts and coffee at the Tim Horton's in Aldergrove. There will be three changed bulbs, several battery replacements, one puncture, a ferry ride, a few big climbs, a couple of speedy descents and roads which were variously busy, empty, wet, dry, smooth, rough, gravel or cobbled. A better way to spend a Saturday night can scarcely be imagined.

The Vancouver Bicycle Club's all night rides began many years ago as a way to test out lights and to prepare for randonees. After a long hiatus, we revived it last year when two riders braved the night and headed out into the wilds of the Fraser Valley. This year our numbers doubled as Holly and Patrick joined Henry and Chris for the ride. The threatening skies and pessimistic forecast kept more sensible riders at home. The ride took its expected course out the Lougheed Highway into Pitt Meadows, then Dewdney Trunk and through Haney back to the Highway then over to the Albion Ferry which we boarded 'round midnight which is when the rain arrived. From there the ride meandered up the hills of Fort Langley, and down 248th towards Fraser Highway where Patrick, apparently closer to sane than the other three, headed to his parent's place for a deserved sleep. The remaining riders ventured into Aldergrove to partake in the fine food at the Tim Horton's on Fraser Highway where we spent perhaps forty-five minutes. Then, it was west toward home. Several hours later we steered into the Knight and Day for breakfast.

It is hard to describe why this ride is so special. On practically any level, it is a very silly thing to do. Nevertheless, in its own way, it is a remarkable ride. There is something primal about heading out into the darkness in a small group. Picture a dark, empty road. There are no streetlights. Forest crowds the gravel shoulders. There are night sounds - frogs croaking, rodents rustling in the underbrush, a dog barking off in the distance. The air is thick with the smell of wet cedar. A skunk has sprayed an hour or two ago, the pungent odour decaying beneath the firs. In this place, there are four humans, on insubstantial bicycles, with their four wan lights reaching defiantly into the darkness. You can hear the eight tires hissing on the pavement and the gentle creaking of saddles, chains, cranks and pedals. There is some quiet conversation about politics, philosophy and whether dynamo hubs are a good idea. We ride on and on through the midsummer night. Then, almost imperceptibly, the sky begins to brighten. The birds begin to sing. The night is ending and the soon it will be day. With the light, new strength seeps into our muscles. The sense of accomplishment grows. It is all a bit surreal, a bit magical. Like the characters in a child's story, we have cycled straight on 'til morning, even if we did not turn right at the first star.

Originally published August 2001

Bicycle Wandering in Germany, Austria, & The Czech Republic

May - June 2001

By Vladimir Ulovec

The plane is circling over Prague, the golden city of thousand spires, spectacular architecture and music. Mary and I are tired but excited. A friend delivers us to my mom's house and our holidays are on. We immerse ourselves in the magic of history, the music in ancient churches and the opera. Erich and Leanne join us a week later and the trip is beginning.

My friend, Josef, drives us to the border town of Cheb from where we start cycling to Germany. 50 km to Weissenstadt in the afternoon, and 140 km to Bamberg, the first sightseeing town, the next day. Ouch! It was not planned that way. We have to stay away from cycling paths to limit the daily distance. The weather is summer-like and we love it. Rothenburg, a fully medieval town behind the walls, stops us for another day of sightseeing and then it is toward the spa-towns and half-timbered houses of the Black Forest. The scenery is magnificent with lush, forested landscape and picturesque villages. So far, we encounter no steep hills and avoid busy roads. The drivers are endlessly patient and very courteous. It is a pleasure to ride in Germany!

Two very unpleasant highway tunnels and a six kilometre 12-14% hill challenge us after Schiltach. The hilly scenery of meadows and forests is out of this world. The Bodensee appears in the distance and we are rewarded by a ten kilometre 6% downhill on a smooth, wide road.

After hard and hot 130 km, we camp on a beautiful, tiny promontory at the Mediterranean-like Bodensee. Swans abound and we enjoy a wonderful swim. Cheap beer in the campground makes a fine ending to another great day.

The storm which hits during the night is vicious. For about two hours, there is nonstop lightning and thunder. The wind is ferocious and the rain is horizontal. I am worried about my tent not surviving the onslaught; never mind the flooding.

We are away for a day of sightseeing in Konstance and Meersburg when another storm hits. The hail is the size of hazelnuts and the gale is fierce. My companions' tents are not pegged down; what will they find on return? A kind soul with extra tent pegs comes to the rescue and, except for another flooding, our stuff is fine.

The sunshine returns. We cycle to the eastern end of the Bodensee and up another killer hill through a beautiful forest. The switchbacks are numbered; there are seven of them. In the granny gear we grind at sixeight kilometres per hour for about an hour. It feels like an eternity, though.

Neo-gothic Neuschwanstein, infested with thousands of tourists, is too much for Mary and myself. We agree to meet Erich and Leanne in the campground 40 km away in the evening. Heavy rain hits us part-way on and we seek a dry room rather desperately. The others do the same, later, only about three kilometres from us.

It is still raining in the morning and snow is in the forecast. We decide to take a train but first have to ride to wherever it is. We are totally soaked and the snow is sticking to us. Neither one of us has fenders, booties or a cover for our helmets. We take a train to Munich and Salzburg skipping two days of the cycling. A heavy fare of pork and beer was never more welcome.

Salzburg is a beautiful city with the most spectacular alpine background imaginable. It is also the city of Mozart and magnificent gothic and baroque architecture. We spend two days there sightseeing and resting. Erich and Leanne show up on the second day. We make a picnic dinner with wine and beer to celebrate the birthdays of Leanne, Mary and myself.

Mary leaves for her next arduous assignment of sailing in Greece and Turkey. I leave for Braunau hoping that Erich and Leanne will catch up later after some sightseeing. The rain comes again and I cycle 90 km, partly on dirt, in the thickest of it. The bike is a muddy mess. I hope I don't have any problems as I am too cold even to contemplate fixing a flat tire.

I pitch my tent during a pause in the rain and Erich with Leanne show up as well. We enjoy another great dinner in a restaurant. There is a communal room in the campground and we are not the only ones using it for trying to dry our stuff.

Passau is a great little city at the merging of three rivers: the Inn, the Danube and the Ilz. Our secluded campground on the Ilz is only a ten minute walk from the historic centre. We do our laundry and enjoy an organ music concert on the largest pipe organ in the world in the magnificent baroque cathedral. The huge structure vibrates, some of us keep falling asleep and most of us cannot understand the complexity of the music. Nevertheless, it is a memorable experience. We see a great exhibition on the thousand years of Bavarian and Hungarian interaction - and the marriages with some very beautiful Hungarian women.

The rain comes again during the night. Our laundry is hanging under cover but has not dried a bit. We consider taking a boat to Linz but leave on our bikes while it is drizzling. We ride alongside the mighty Danube impressed by the towering forest-covered hills and the castles along the way. The weather is improving. We are enjoying it again.

It rains while we are pitching our tents. We have dinner in the adjacent restaurant and enjoy socialising with a young American student couple on their first cycle-touring trip ever; however, by now they have survived, cheerfully, half of Europe and three moths of it. We hope to hear from them. We pack for Bohemia in pouring rain. The 30 km hill to the border seems endless, but it keeps us warm. We are soaked from within and without. Our laundry from three days ago is still wet. There is not much we can change into.

The ride from the border to Cesky Krumlov is very spectacular. We follow a meandering, shallow river, the mythical Vltava (Moldau). Huge oak and beech trees line the road and create a nearly complete canopy over it, there are fly fishermen in and canoeists on the river, a medieval village appears through the trees and the road is nearly deserted of cars. What a pleasure it would be to ride here on a nice day and have a dip in the river.

Cesky Krumlov, one of Unesco's monuments of world significance, is an incredibly beautiful medieval town nearly encircled by the river Vltava. However, we arrive totally soaked. We get a room in a pension and decide to stay one more day for a tour of the castle. The prices are only about one third of those in Germany and Austria.

30 km on a busy road to Ceske Budejovice, the home-town of the original Budweiser beer, are not very pleasant. Czech drivers appear suicidal and murderous simultaneously in their passing habits. Not one of the many cyclists we see wears a helmet, though. We take a train to Tabor. The weather is nice again. We find another pension for a very reasonable price, tour the medieval town, socialise with a couple of American women and, yet again, enjoy great, cheap beer.

The last day on the road. The weather is great, once out of Tabor, the roads are almost empty of cars, the scenery is spectacular - we have got spoiled by it - there are 8- 10% hills throughout, after 80 km, we eat late lunch in a garden restaurant for about $4 each including a couple of beers and then there are only 20 km to go.

Back in Prague, all three of us are sitting, along with my family and former in-laws, in yet another gothic cavern eating and drinking beer, an old accordion player comes over to play Czech songs from the time long ago, we sing, or try to sing, along... and then it is all over.

Originally published August 2001

Galiano Island

By Terry King

On Saturday July 7, a group of VBC enthusiasts lead by Eric Bebey headed for Galiano aboard the Quinsam, which departed from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal at apprxoimately 9:30 a.m. Forty-five minutes later, seven of us were climbing Sturdies Bay Road leading away from the busy harbour through the quiet hilly terrain of Galiano. We were headed for Dionisio Marine Park. We made two important stops early on. The first stop, the island bakery, is every bit as good as its reputation. The next stop was the local store where, among other things, licenced refreshments could be purchased.

Galiano is blessed with tall trees along its many roads providing constant shade from the beating sun as we made out way along the length of the island. By noon we had reached Dionisio Park. The marine park shoreline tidal pools offered warm water swimming. The unique rugged rock formation left pockets of explorers purched everywhere. The sandy beach had sun worshipers sporting the latest summer colours. Gold, orange, purple and white starfish clung to the rock and filled the cracks. Eagles soared above the beach. Dinners with international flair were prepared on an assortment of camping stoves. Sipping refreshments after dinner, we shared stories until the eveing grew dark and everyone retreated to their respective quarters.

Our first glimpses of Sunday were the morning sun and high tide. After a layed-back breakfast, camp was broken at a leisurely pace and our island exploration began. We climped a dirt road to bluffs overlooking Active Pass and settled down for lunch. We took turns naming the islands near and far, watched super ferries pass below us and small craft bobbing in their wake. Our bikes vibrated down the dusty mountian road onto the main highway to the local pub for some cool ones, grub, and time to kill before boarding the Quinsam.

Originally published August 2001

Saanich Peninsula

By Chris McPherson

At about 4:30 AM on Sunday, 15 July I found myself woken up by an unusual noise. I soon realized that the noise was rain. Really, really heavy rain. Great, I thought, one of my favourite rides is going to be washed out. I was really looking forward to the quiet, scenic roads of Saanich. A couple of hours later, I got up, looked outside and said to myself "It's not that bad. I am going to go." It was a great decision. It did not seem like such a great choice during the drive out to the terminal. If anything, the rain was getting worse. Even so, I decided to persevere. I took my bike out of the car, waved goodbye to my ride and cycled through the toll booth. Only one other rider showed up - Kevin. He had cycled from his home in Richmond through the torrential rain. Fortunately, the cycling gods were with us. The rain stopped about halfway through the crossing and we emerged at Swartz Bay to rain-free skies and dry roads.

The ride around Saanich was as marvelous as I recalled. The roads had very little traffic (except for a stretch of West Saanich Road which was overrun by tour buses heading for Butchart's Gardens) and the views were superb. Land's End Road is something like Marine Drive in West Van, just without the cars, buses or hills. Most of the rest of the ride traverses quiet farmland. We even took the gravel Lochside trail on the east side of the peninsula. This was something of a challenge on my (very) skinny tired road bike, but well worth it. The ride was actually a little shorter than I remembered - only about 65 or 70 kilometers. We were back at Swartz Bay by 2:20 PM.

The 3:00 PM ferry left 35 or 40 minutes late, which posed something of a problem. The crossing takes about 90 or 95 minutes, which meant we would dock at about 5:05 or 5:10. It is about 13 or 14 kilometers to the bike shuttle at the Town and Country. The shuttle leaves at 5:30. You do the math. In addition, naturally, by the time we got to Tsawwassen it was raining again (or still, depending on your perspective). We did not want to wait for an hour for the next shuttle and a cyclist needs a death wish to ride the metal decks on the Alex Fraser Bridge in the rain. So, it was a time trial along highway 17. Twenty exhausting minutes later we rolled up to the shuttle. From there, it was a relaxed, though rainy, ride home. All in all, it was a very worthwhile day.

Originally published August 2001

Summer's End

Chris and Kevin on the Elfin Lakes Ride

By Chris McPherson

The days are still bright and warm. The nights are not yet crisp. But it is there, isn't it? In the air. In the sunset that comes well before 9. In the dawn that is breaking as you wake. A diffuse, elusive melancholy drifts about. Summer is ending. Autumn is there, somewhere, just around the corner.

This time of year has always been a favourite of mind. As a cyclist, it just might be the very best time of year of all. Your body has long since worked through the stiff, sore muscles of the spring. The hills do not look quite so daunting any more. The saddle seems less of a medieval torture device than it did in April. But, the sometimes oppressive heat of summer is gone. A couple of water bottles lasts for a whole ride now. Yet, it is still pleasant to ride in shorts and a jersey. A ride in the evening after work is not a dangerous proposition in the dark like it will be in a few weeks. There can be no better time to be out on your bicycle.

I always look forward to this time of year and the rides that our club traditionally offers. Each year, we head over to Sechelt and Tawanek with those steep hills - perfect for a September day. I don't know why, but it seems that every year the weather is great for that ride. And, even better, the climb to Elfin Lakes in that narrow window after last year's snow has gone but this year's has not arrived. Nothing could be better than that roller coaster ride along Paul Ridge, with Diamond Head on your left, Opal Cone in front, Mamquam to the right, and Howe Sound a mile below stretching out behind you.

This is not a time to think about the prospect of months of low clouds and endless rain. No, it is a time to celebrate the special pleasure of living where we do. It is a time to be outside, revelling in those last grand rides of the year, enjoying the last warm days and the softness of the evenings. It is a time to climb to Cypress Bowl and gaze at Mt. Baker in the distance. It is a time to tackle those hills in Mission, or Belcarra or wherever else with strength in your legs. It is a time to ride just because it feels so great to do so. The monsoons will be here soon enough. Seize the moment now, as Summer ends.

Originally published September 2001

Spruce Lake

By Chris McPherson

I have been pushing my bike up this hill for what seems like hours. The sun has disappeared. The trail is muddy. The wind is howling across the open alpine meadows as we approach the col. One seven thousand foot pass is behind us. Just ahead is the second - the aptly named Windy Pass. We have already cracked open the first aid kit once (or is it twice?). I thought (mistakenly) that I just saw a bear cub running across the ridge line (my the marmots are big up here). I turn around to see my twelve companions spread out on the slopes below me, pushing their own bikes. Their jackets - cherry red, fluorescent purple, lime green, lemon yellow, primose blue - leap out against the stark hills of dull green, burnt ochre, charcoal grey. The mountains in the distance, palest blue capped in white, are disappearing behind a tranlucent screen of cloud and the snow which has begun to fall. It is so beautiful I could cry.

There are places in the world that are haunting in their beauty. Here, where the Coast Range begins to melt into the interior plateau, is one such place. Three times I have been here. Each time the memories of the place have floated around in the corners of my brain only to drift forward at unexpected times with a startling clarity. From the first time, three years ago, the strongest memory is the exhaustion I felt at "cowboy camp" after hours and hours of pushing my fully loaded bike up the Gun Creek Trail. Out of shape and recovering from a broken wrist, I was at the absolute limit of my endurance. I can still feel how tired I was. But, the sheer beauty of the place stayed with me. The terrain does not compare with the Rockies for drama, nor, I suppose is it as spectacular as the coast, where the green of the forest reaches straight up to the glaciers hanging on the summits. It is a quieter, calmer, more introspective beauty - one that sidles its way into your memory and stays there, perhaps forever.

This year the trip was organized quite differently than in the past. The first year, we carried all of our own gear. The resulting weight and awkwardness meant that there was precious little cycling done. Last year, we camped at Jewel Bridge and then rode all the way into Spruce Lake and back as a day trip with light packs. The problem with this approach is that it gave very little time to enjoy the alpine meadows and terrain, since we had to return to the camp by nightfall. This year, we arranged to fly our gear into the Lake and cycled in (by Eldorado and Windy Pass) with our day packs. We were then able to spend a day in the Spruce Lake area, before cycling out (again with just our day packs) by the Gun Creek Trail. The ride in involved rather a lot of climbing, the muddiest descent I have ever done, and weather that changed about every minute and a half. It took our large group about six hours the get into the lake where we made camp. The next day, after our fairly strenuous cycle into the Lake, about half the group cycled, the other half hiked. Mike K., having read about the fishing on the Lake, spent the day in his "belly boat". He even caught fish! Unfortunately, a pair of larcenous mink made off with them before dinner. The weekend was not without other incident. A number of bears were seen in the area, one of which had figured out how to get into the oats kept at the horse camp near the recreation area where we spent the night. To me it is appalling how people with supposed expertise in "bear country" can store grain unattended. I am afraid that this particular bear is not long for the world since he clearly now associates humans with food. There was also a fairly serious injury to one of our riders on the ride out. Lesley suffered a puncture wound in her thigh after a fall. She was able to ride out to the road where Mike K gave her a ride back to our starting point. Despite the injuries (Sharon J had hurt herself on the first day) the trip was truly wonderful. The mud and the cold weather (it was hard to believe it was August) detracted hardly at all. The scenery is impossible to describe in words. The riding itself was spectacular and included a stretch of the finest singletrack I have ever had the pleasure of traversing. For miles, the track swoops and dips and swerves across a hill festooned with wildflowers. The views in every direction encompass mountains, forests, meadows, and barren, multi- coloured slopes dotted with snowfields. The memories of this trip, like my other ones to this area, are sure to rattle around in my head for years to come.

Originally published September 2001

Triple Mountain Challenge Ride

July 22, 2001

By Henry Hulbert

A bit cool and foggy for late July, the day was at least four star for this kind of long hard ride. In fact we started with six stars, Alex, Andrea, Chris, Damien, Henry, and Martin, left nearly on time and headed up Mt. Seymour. This was such a jolly, chatty bunch that some grumpy mountain bikers we (easily) passed described us as "better than bear bells". Indeed! We had a pleasant if fog- shrouded stop atop Seymour, headed down and said goodbye to Andrea at the bottom. He was riding well, but apparently the thought of getting his new bike dirty on the next climb was just too much! So we were off through the Lynn Canyon trails and up Mountain Highway and the Grouse Mtn. access road. Again the fog thickened 'til it was all we could do to keep on the right road.

Cracks were beginning to appear in our previously gay demeanors by this time. Chris seemed quite disappointed that his new bike had lost the use of it's small chainwheel on this particular ride. Still, at least some of us had a pleasant break before heading back down. Coming down got very bouncy. and on one particularly bad bounce Chris flatted, repaired, bounced again, flatted again. It must have been very distressing, but by the second and subsequent bad bounces the rest of us were relaxing at the bottom. Finally a passing cyclist told us what we'd suspected, that our President was again flatted and abandoning. Only then did we notice that Damien was also the victim of a slow flat,so our break was extended while we all shared our opinions on flat repair, not just once, but twice! And so it was, west (and up) on Dempsey Rd., on to the Cleveland Dam, through British Properties and on up to Cypress Bowl. As we started our final big climb, by now very late in the afternoon, darned if the sun didn't finally come out and it get really hot, at least for mountain climbing, no doubt adding a little extra stress to the event. By the time we'd all gotten to the top though, (well past the restaurant closing time) it had turned quite chilly and some of us were pretty well frozen in our thin summer jackets by the time we got back down, not really warm again 'til we'd climbed back up over the Second Narrows span. That officially was the end of it, a round trip of three mountains and 138.6 km.

The official finish was:

Damien Waugh 10hrs 48min
Martin Neale 10hrs 50min
Alex Soukoroff 10hrs 50min
Henry Hulbert 10 hrs 50min
Chris McPherson 2 mountains
Andrea Corona 1 mountain

As a post script I'd like to point out that all of the above would have gone faster and/or farther if the ride leader hadn't kept insisting on so much periodic togetherness, but I think that was a good thing...

Originally published October 2001

Mt. Baker

By Chris McPherson

"Counter-steer, lean, recover", "counter- steer, lean, recover". I keep repeating the mantra to myself as switchback after switchback flashes by. "Weight on the outside pedal - not enough, more weight, more, get your butt over the side of the saddle". The bike dives around the hairpin. "Relax, straighten up". The bike accelerates towards the next left, gaining on the car in front of me. "Slow down, feather the brake, that driver is a little nervous". The bike slows; the driver of the car does brake more than necessary to negotiate the gentle left-hand curve. "Counter-steer, lean recover". I wish that car would use that pullout. The yellow mustang did. Should I pass? No, there is too much traffic; the road is too narrow; I cannot see well enough around the corners. This speed is fine. Sixty kilometers per hour works for me on this road. "Counter-steer, lean recover". This is so much fun. That hour-long climb was more than worth it. You have to earn this. Oh-oh, what is that just ahead? Frost heave. "Soft arms, soft legs, float over the bump". I love this ride. I wish this hill could go on forever. Is there a better mountain road anywhere near Vancouver? I doubt it. The trees, rocks and creeks are nothing but a blur in the corners of my eyes. "Counter-steer, lean, recover". Too bad, there is the bridge over the North Fork of the Nooksack. I am at the bottom. The descent from the Mt Baker Ski Area (which is actually on Mt Shuksan) is a rarity in these parts. Unlike Mt Seymour or Cypress Bowl, it is one switchback after another. Seymour has a few up near the top and Cypress has three pronounced ones, but the Mt Baker Highway must have 15 or 20. This, combined with the reasonably gentle grade, makes the descent about as perfect as any cyclist could hope for. With a sufficient amount of skill, good tires, a quality bicycle and only a little foolhardiness, it is possible to fly safely down the hill with only the most judicious use of the brakes. Or, at least it was when the seven of us took on this VBC tradition on the last weekend of August. The day was picture perfect. A few clouds hung around the peaks. The temperature was warm, not hot. The pavement was dry with relatively few bumps or holes and very little dirt or gravel. The group was strong and fit.

David B., Jean-Yves, Lorrie, Kevin, Paul and Josee joined me at the Sumas border crossing a bit before ten o'clock. David, Jean-Yves and I had done the ride the previous year when the rain overtook us about halfway up the mountain and we were looking forward to a dry, sunny day. The others were new to this particular ride. The whole ride was close to ideal. It started with a gentle warm-up through the cornfields of the Sumas prairie before the first challenge - Reese Hill. Reese Hill, for those unfamiliar with it, rises in a series of very sharp turns over the shoulder of Vedder Mountain. It is quite steep and a little narrow, but only lasts a couple of kilometers. At the top, the road flattens out and we were able to track along at a fine speed. As we approached Kendall, two other members of the bike club passed us in their van. After a quick chat at 35 kilometers per hour, Brian and Lesley headed up to Mt Baker for their August Ski while we pedaled up the gradual slope towards Maple Falls. After Maple Falls there is sharp descent to the Nooksack River then the road continues its gradual climb to Glacier - the last outpost of civilization on the Mt Baker Highway. Resisting the temptation of an early ice cream cone, we continued. We soon arrived at "round two" - the climb up the Nooksack canyon. The three or four kilometer climb is fairly strenuous and the group started to spread out. We were mostly together again by the start of the "main event" - the 14 kilometer ascent to the ski area.

Each of us rode up the hill at our speed. It is a terrific climb. I would say it is about as steep as Cypress Bowl - somewhat less than Mt Seymour. The views of the Cascade Mountains are quite marvelous. You could actually see the mountains, which was a pleasant change from last year. The highway twists and turns as it climbs the mountain. You ride in the sun then the shade. The shoulders are not terribly good but the drivers seemed universally considerate of the riders - giving lots of room. One drawback is that the route seems to be on the list of "best motorcycle rides in the Northwest." There were endless streams of motorbikes, largely very noisy Harleys. I have always wanted a motorcycle, but not one that sounds like a Mack truck as it gears down around the corner. Give me a human powered bike any day. An hour or so after we started the riders began to pull into the Visitor's Center at the top. We considered riding up to Artist's Point, but four or five more kilometers and several hundred more meters of elevation did not seem to appeal. Besides, we were out of water. Strangely, for such a popular area there is no concession open in the summer. The only running water is in the washroom of the downhill lodge. It seemed a little dodgy, but we really had no alternative. There were a couple of vending machines outside which only dispensed carbonated drinks. I went with a can of Mountain Dew, diluted by the water from the tap. I reasoned that if there were anything in the water the Mountain Dew would render it harmless. It seemed to work because I suffered no ill effects. After the hour or so spent at the top, it was a rollicking descent back down where we all joined up again.

From the base of the mountain, it is mostly a gentle downhill all the way to Kendall. We stopped in Glacier for the traditional ice cream where we waited for one of the riders who had experienced a flat. Luckily, we ran into a couple of people we knew who went back and checked on the rider, confirmed that he had fixed the flat and was riding but also let us know that we should go on without him. After some discussion, the remaining six of us decided to keep going. With Jean-Yves setting the pace, we tucked in behind him and charged back to the cars. The pace really picked up, even on the flats, and we arrived back at the border in great time. Riding in a paceline is almost as much fun as screaming down a mountain road. It is amazing how fast the group can go when it works together. Riders of different speeds can all travel quickly by taking advantage of the draft and taking turns at the front. At our level of skill, it is not a sensible thing to do on a steep descent, but on flats and gentle hills (both up and down), the energy savings are truly noticeable. On the mostly flat road between Kendall and Reese Hill, the group was coasting along at more than forty kilometers per hour. The hill presented its usual challenges - sharp corners, no shoulders and a bit of gravel. Fortunately the car immediately behind us wisely slowed and let us use the whole road. I am always amazed that drivers think it makes some degree of sense to pass a bike on a winding descent when the bicycle is going all of two kilometers per hour slower than they are. I guess that extra five seconds will make a big difference in the driver's day. I generally give the driver no real choice and travel right down the middle of the lane. I would rather annoy someone than be passed on a hairpin turn. Once we negotiated the final right hand turn onto the Sumas Prairie, it was time to drop the pace a bit and enjoy the last few kilometers of a sunny afternoon, surrounded by ripening corn and the Fraser Valley spread out in front of us.

We rolled through the border and to our waiting cars some time after 6 PM. My computer showed a riding time of a little over 5 hours and 35 minutes and an average speed of around 25 kilometers per hour - not bad for climbing a mountain. I can hardly wait for next year's ride.

Originally published October 2001

Sunshine Coast

By Chris McPherson

There are those rides where nothing seems to go quite right. Our annual ride to the Sunshine Coast on 9 September 2001 was one of those rides. First, even though I have ridden to the Horseshoe Bay terminal countless times, I can never quite remember just how long it takes. The Seabus didn't start until 0816, and given the ferry leaves at 0920, that did not seem to be a sensible choice. The shuttle over the Lion's Gate Bridge left at 0800. I thought that was probably enough time, assuming no flats or other mechanical problems but was not confident. So, I decided to leave home at 0700 and cycle over the Second Narrows (or whatever it is called now). At 0815 I was having coffee in Horseshoe Bay. Another half hour of sleep might have been nice. The coffee was good though.

From Horseshoe Bay it is a pleasant 50 minute crossing to Langdale. The eight of us disembarked and headed for Gibsons, where Victor had to pick up some water. The first little problem occurred soon thereafter. Victor's saddle needed adjustment. He stopped to fix it and the rest of us headed off. At the right hand turn at Pratt, I looked behind, saw Victor about 300 or 400 yards back and was sure he saw us turn. Oooops. We waited at the top of the hill where it soon became apparent that Victor had continued along Gower Point Road - which dead-ends a few kilometers along. I decided to go back down to look for him and Paul came with me. The others went off to Robert's Creek. Apart from Pratt, there is only one other road from Gower Point Road back up to Highway 101 - Seventh.

Naturally, as Victor was going up Seventh, we were continuing down Gower Point. The inevitable occurred and we missed one another. So, it was back up Seventh and Pratt, then 101 towards Robert's Creek. It was now time for the first flat of the day. Paul stopped to fix a tire while I continued west. At the turn to Lower Road, I looked back and was unable to see Paul. I turned around and went back. Skillfully, despite yelling from Paul, I did not see him and went all the way back to the bike shop, thinking Paul may have returned there. He was not there, so I turned around again. I found him on the side of the road with his tire just about fixed. The two of us then went on to Robert's Creek, where, of course, Victor had caught up with the group and everyone was now waiting for us.

The next minor disaster was my own flat on the hill between Davis Bay and Sechelt. I sent the group on to Porpoise Bay while I set about fixing the puncture. Typically, I keep a spare, patched tube with me. Well, I had the tube, but it would not hold air. Great. I patched the first tube and went into Sechelt for lunch. I met the group again on the Porpoise Bay Road and we cycled back to the ferry. At least, that was the intention. Even though I have patched several hundred tubes in my life, it seems that this patch job was a wee bit faulty. I ended up borrowing a tube from one of the other riders and, as tends to happen when one hurries, managed to pinch it during installation. By this time, it was becoming all rather comical. After another patch, I stopped at the bike shop and bought three new tubes. Enough patching of tubes for me for a while!

Despite the problems, it still turned out to be a worthwhile ride. The roads are fairly quiet (except the highway, which generally has a good shoulder), the views are great and the hills are challenging. I hope to see you out next year.

Originally published October 2001

Vancouver Island Wine Tour

By David Bishop

Dave & Mary, Erich & Leanne, JeanYves, Lucy, Kati, Pat and Dave all caught the 9am ferry from Tsawassen (with Lucy running through the terminal with her bike, due to a flat). Everyone relaxed upstairs while Lucy struggled with repairing her tube down in the dark and smelly car deck. Frustrated, she came up and enlisted the help of the generous and talented Dave, who quickly and efficiently repaired the tire.

Then it was off to the Mill Bay ferry, in the sunshine, through the lovely Saanich Peninsula. Arriving early, we had a nice break before catching the ferry, then on to the first winery on the tour, which was, in fact, a cidery. Despite the complaints of two elderly English women ("That's not cider!") the presenter was lively and we all enjoyed the tasting. Next was a new winery, then it was on to the Riverside Campground in Duncan.

We set up our tents, had showers, then dinner, washed down with a variety of beverages purchased along the way.

The next day Dave and Mary departed for a different adventure on Saltspring Island, and the rest of us visited another set of wineries, some really beautiful, peaceful places. At Cherry Point, we realized we were running late to catch the Mill Bay Ferry, so we jumped on our bikes and rode as fast as we could, making the ferry with two minutes to spare, despite making a wrong turn.

At Swartz Bay, we arrived half an hour early for the 5pm ferry, and were able to catch the 4pm ferry, getting us home nice and early.

Originally published October 2001

Tour With The Lady

By David Poon

3 weeks before the start of the tour to almost the day before the trip, I was inundated with calls and emails of people wanting to come. This poses a very interesting problem for me to try and fit 20 more people on top of the 9 people I have confirmed going. Anyhow, I decided to go with the 9 and tell the rest that they will have their chance next year. It is also interesting to note that most of the callers for this trip were mostly from women and couples.

Some of us met as strangers. 9 of us, myself, Mark F., Sharon A., Karen M., Tom & Helen, Luc & Teya and Pat P., all arrived on time at our base camp. The Edelweiss Bed and Breakfast in Port Alberni was chosen not only for its close proximity to the Lady Rose but also for its infamous European style breakfast. Trudi, who runs the place, treats her guests very well, a service you would only expect from a very expensive hotel. She also has a guest book with a collection of interesting stories and photos from her guests. Trudi also told me that The Edmonton Cycle and Touring club used this very same place as their base for their own Tofino trip too in June of this year.

Every year near the end of August to early September, people in Port Alberni celebrate the Salmon Festival together. Bands of singers, food stalls and a smoked salmon BBQ attracts all of the town folks. We were fortunate enough to come at the right time and enjoyed the festivities and of course, most of us had their famous BBQ smoked salmon for dinner. It was fun!

Our boat ride on the Monday morning was with the Frances Barkley, part of the Lady Rose fleet. The FB, if I may call it, is a 200 passengers freight boat with better facilities and speed. There were plenty of things to see while the boat sailed along the Alberni Inlet, making only a stop at Sechart lodge to offload the kayaks and their guests. One must come to see it to appreciate the beauty of our West Coast, if not the coastal scenery itself will guarantee you will never get bored during the long 4 hours voyage.

As the boat docked at the government pier in Ucluelet and with our bikes ashore, we proceeded to cycle our way to Tofino. Along the way, we stopped to see the original Wickaninnish restaurant, the bog, and Long Beach briefly before we arrived into the town of Tofino.

It was not until 7PM before we arrived at Coastal Village, our B&B of stay in Tofino. After all of us had a nice quick shower in the luxury of a 4 star bathroom, we quickly headed out to Weigh West in Tofino for dinner. We were quickly seated on a table overlooking the Tofino Inlet as the sun sets below the horizon. It was very romantic indeed. The seafood menu was very impressive and the wine list, well stocked with the finest vintage.

With Tuesday being a rest day, Pat P. and Karen M., our surfer babes, decided to body surf on Long Beach. While some of us did the touristy things like visiting the Roy Vickers gallery, the craft shops, the camp shops and the local liquor store. For myself, I went cycling around town and out of town to Long Beach, Green Point and Radar Hill. A word of advice: don't climb Radar Hill if you don't plan to grunt your way up there.

For dinner, we reserved the Schooner, another well-respectable local restaurant that only takes dinner reservations. Food again was extremely well prepared and the fancy sauces and the recipes were very tasty and man, the exotic drinks certainly got Pat's attention! But by this third night having dinner together, we all developed a sense of camaraderie, a bond between us that lasted even after the trip ended.

We ended the trip by catching the boat back to Port Alberni. The reverse trip was equally rewarding. We saw a whale! I had now saved $45 for not taking on a whale-watching trip in Tofino. All in all, we recalled the fine moments we had together as a group and how time passed by so fast. It is funny when we thought that friendship developed on the trip can have a lasting effect and how we all looked forward to doing the next Bed and Breakfast trip together again next year. So yes, I do plan to do something similar like this again in 2002. But this time folks, please phone early to reserve your spot!

Originally published November 2001

Fraser Valley Plus

By John Joyce

For the benefit of readers in Ottawa, Edinburgh, Galway, or Hampton Court, the Fraser Valley stretches 100km East of Vancouver, British Columbia. Some of it communities are Sumas Praire, Yarrow, Cultus Lake, Sardis and Chilliwack. It is a delight for cyclists as there are few cars, beautiful scenery and opportunities for disputing the planned route. The Vancouver Writers and Reader Festival was on and productions in town were The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Rex by Timothy Findley and The Marriage of Figaro by .... 18 elite cyclists descended upon a coffee shop off the Whatcom Road early one October Sunday morning for the annual FVP, Fraser Valley Plus, presented by the Vancouver Bicycle Club. It had rained the night before but the day was dry with a tiny nip in the air to facilitate a hot pace line for Yarrow maintaining a cadence of 92 and heart monitors at 137. When not watching the latter we saw hazelnut trees and many caterpillars crossing the road. After power lunching at a private picnic table in Yarrow, we sped to Cultus Lake which seemed forlorn and resting after a busy season. We tried to locate Teapot Hill somewhere up there, as we enjoyed water, mountains, clouds all in a southern diffused light pattern. What music might a classical guitarist play on the dock? Some Francisco Tarrega or could they play an unplugged version of Wonderful Land? On the secret route back we stopped at Birchwood Dairy (604 857 1315) where serious ice cream was for sale. One of the customers was a writer from Altus Arts. This was the sixth year for this 88.31 Km ride and some returnees had hopped for a new trip report. but alas! The Fraser Valley has much to offer cyclists and innumerable routes to explore.

Originally published November 2001

Elfin Lakes Ride

By David Bishop

The weather was clear but chilly as the VBC riders gathered just off Highway 99 in Squamish preparing for the ascent up to Elfin Lakes near Diamond Head. Chris, Stephan, Josee, Howard, Judith, Henry, Dave and Shu (who arrived in style - by train) donned their helmets and gloves, and were off, climbing the winding gravel road. Many layers were shed early on, and 15 km and 900 metres of elevation gain later, they were at the parking lot, where they took a break and started the next stage, going up the trail another 11 km, climbing 600 m. The trail is fairly easy up until Red Heather, where there are some bumpy, tricky sections, especially for those with road tires. The last section is easy, rolling single track that takes you down to the lakes and cabin.

The trail follows Paul Ridge and provides beautiful vistas. At Elfin Lakes, Columnar Peak, the Gargoyles, Opal Cone and Mamquam Icefield come into view.

We enjoyed lunch sitting on a picknik bench in the sunshine near the lakes, then headed back down the trail, then it was an exhilarating descent down the gravel road, back to the cars, then to the Howe Sound Brew Pub for a well-deserved meal.

Originally published November 2001

What I Did On My Vacation

By Chris McPherson

There I was, alone, riding my touring bike down a lovely hill in Joshua Tree National Park. It was a brilliant November day in the high desert. The skies were clear blue, the temperature in the twenties, a light wind. I had just had lunch at a viewpoint overlooking the low desert and the Salton Sea. The Coachella Valley stretched out a mile below me, the San Jacinto Mountains reached a mile above me. It was a landscape totally different from ours, and totally glorious. A better day of cycling would be difficult to imagine. As I returned to my campsite along the poorly paved road, surrounded by a forest of twisted Joshua Trees, it happened. The front carrier collapsed into the wheel, stopping the front wheel dead. Somehow, a bolt had come loose on the carrier. I was travelling at least 40 or 50 kilometers an hour. With the instant stop, I catapulted over the handlebars, crashed into the pavement on my left side, ripping my jersey, spreading my gear all over the road and tearing the skin from my legs, knees, arm and shoulder. Great.

It is remarkable how, in situations like this, a person reacts. It is as if I stepped outside my self and started to assess the situation as an objective observer. Immediate hazards: yes, the road. OK McPherson, get the bike (and yourself) well onto the shoulder. Significant injuries: breathing is fine, the bleeding is already stopping. You do not think you hit your head. Check. No, there are no marks at all on the helmet. You can stand. You can walk. You can think. You are only sweating a bit. You do not seem to be in shock. Good. Other injuries: ouch, that shoulder area hurts. Yup, nasty abrasion. It is swollen a bit too. That feels like a little deformity. No sharp pain on gentle pressure though. Hmmm, maybe the clavicle isn't broken. Yikes! Yes it is. You really should not have tried to move it like that. The abrasions look like typical road rash. You knew you should have kept shaving your legs. That is going to hurt when it is cleaned up. OK, now what? Take stock. Can you fix the bike? Let's see. Well, untangle and remove that twisted piece of aluminum that was the front rack. Done. How about the wheel? That's not pretty. A rock might get it straight enough to turn. Doubt it though. The fork is bent too. Oh goodie, so is the downtube. You aren't going anywhere on that. What else do you have? Three liters of water. Plenty of food. A first aid kit. The warm clothes are at camp. It is three, three and one- half hours to sunset. It came close to freezing last night. Not great. It is not going to rain though. Mind you, there is no shade either. Camp is 20 kilometers away. The main road is perhaps 12. That roadwork might be 15. You could fashion a sling. Walk out? No, that's stupid. Three liters is not much in the desert. There were some cars back at the viewpoint. It is an out and back road. You are in no immediate danger. A car will come by. Someone will stop, or at least contact the ranger. You will be able to get a ride to camp. There is an emergency phone there. There must be a hospital in that little town outside the park, or in the bigger one 10 miles down the road. So stay put. Drink water. Enjoy the view. You will be fine. Damn, that shoulder hurts.

As it happened, within 15 minutes, two vehicles stopped. One, a van driven by a couple from England on an extended vacation, picked up the bike and me. They drove me to camp to get my gear. Then they actually drove me to the hospital (yup, broken clavicle, road rash, bruising), waited for me there, and drove me the 50 miles back to Palm Springs (where I was heading in two or three days). They would not even let me buy gas or take them for dinner.

So, is there a moral to this story? Probably not. I am hardly the first cyclist to break a collarbone. I will make sure I carefully check the bolts on the carriers at least every day. Ironically, I did tighten the back one that morning. I am certainly glad I took that Wilderness first aid course. Nevertheless, I am not about to stop cycling (despite suggestions to the contrary). I might think twice about going on a trip by myself, but I am not ruling it out. I will keep cycling. I will keep going down hills at high speeds. I will keep touring. I just cannot conceive of a life (right now anyway) that does not include riding my bike. I will not trust the equipment quite so much but this crash is not going to keep me off the bike. Well, not for long anyway.

Originally published December 2001

Sea to Sky Ride

By Judith Beeman

The weather was kind of tricky in October, and after blowing it by not attending an earlier club ride to Aldergrove (held on a glorious, not rain-sodden day as I expected), I was determined not to miss out on any Fall rides while the weather was cooperative. Not only was it surprisingly nice for the tail end of the month, but we had the bonus of an extra hour of sleep due to the time change. Our fair-sized crew consisting of ride leader Chris, Henry, Jean-Yves, Dave, Josee, Ziff, Werner, Holly and myself, Judith, were feeling no pain as we headed out of West Van down the highway towards, well, as far as we felt like going (it all felt very biker-esque?). A bit of a headwind on the way out, but the tailwind on the way back evened things out.

Henry remembered he might have left his iron plugged in, so he turned around at Lions Bay, to save his place from catastrophe. The rest of us decided to go as far as Furry Creek and visit the golf course for something to eat. Alas, this was the last day of the season at the golf club and the place was booked solid for the sunday buffet (which looked truly worth the $19.00 price tag - maybe another time). We had to settle for the patio, which seemed like an swell idea until everyone started to cool down. Soon it was really cold and some of us huddled around a heat lamp. Josee was wise and decided to have her coffee in the lounge but upon closer inspection there is no lounge! Perhaps she kept warm and limber by playing a hole or two of golf.

Back on the road. I must say the sea to sky highway is very pretty with a surprising amount of scenery both ahead, to the right (pretty granite walls) and to the left (the ocean and islands). Ditto on the way back, just backwards. The road is smooth although there sure isn't much of a shoulder. The auto drivers that passed were fine; not one one blaring horn or rude shout met my ears nor any sudden slamming on of brakes at the sight of a cyclist.

On the way back we decided to take Marine Drive from Horseshoe Bay and make Savoury Island (a bakery) our destination for lunch. This was the first time I'd ridden Marine Drive: what a blast. Lots of twists and turns; perhaps a bit too hilly for me at this point of the ride, but most satisfying. However, about halfway to Savoury Island I began to bonk, big time. I got off my bike to rest for a moment when (my hero) Dave Bishop showed up behind me. Dave saved the day by sharing a sandwich with me and we were back on target a few minutes later. The bakery was pleasant and after some hearty snacking some of us dashed off to catch the Lions Gate shuttle and the ride was over.

Originally published December 2001

Eastern Washington

8-16 September 2001

By Vladimir Ulovec

As I am beginning to write this, the rain is pelting down, the bicycle is gathering dust, the running shoes seem to be permanently drying on the heater and the cross country skis are still covered with storage wax. My mind wistfully returns to the early days of last September, to a week-long cycling trip in Washington State.

The weather was pleasantly warm and the forecast was for more of the same when Andrea, Jim, Yvonne and I left for Chelan. Crossing the raw beauty of the Cascades brought back the memories of the long-ago days in the mountains, of standing on the top of Liberty Bell high above Washington Pass and having "the world" below my feet. We passed through Winthrop and Twisp to where we were to return the following day on our bicycles. Another 100 km brought us to Chelan, to my friends' house, where we would leave the cars for the week.

After sleeping under the countless stars of the clear Chelan sky on my friends' sundeck, we got on the road by 8 a.m. Yvonne had a flat only a few kilometres into the trip; thankfully, it was the only mishap we had. While driving the route the previous day, we were descending all the way and worried about a full day of climbing on the bicycles. However, the gentle incline was not even noticeable. In retrospect, the first day was the easiest day of the trip. The scenery was spectacular and the weather was pleasantly warm.

At the pleasant, treed campground by the river in Twisp, Andrea put on an impressive display of yogic stretching, Jim spent half the evening rigging up his flying machine like contraption masquerading as a tent, Yvonne read a book and I enjoyed consuming copious quantities of German beer. It was a great day for all of us!

The hills started early the next day and the weather turned hot. The climb to Loup Loup Summit (4,000') was about 20 km long, a good part of it at about 6%. Thankfully, we were mostly shaded as we cycled through a pine forest. The descent was pure fun. We cycled through Okanogan at 60 km, bypassing a small riverside municipal campground, as we were hoping to put in more distance for the day. However, after glimpsing the wastelands of the Omak campground, overflowing with forest-fire fighters, we returned to camp at Okanogan.

We left Okanogan on the morning of 11 September. The supermarket, where we stopped to buy groceries for lunch, had loudspeakers on and thus we learned of the terrorist attacks. It felt surrealistic to be on a cycling holiday and having fun while the whole of U.S.A. seemed to be in shock and confusion.

Past Omak, we entered a vast Indian reservation and endured a 40 km gentle climb in the searing heat to Disautel Summit (3,300'). Again, the descent was great. The traffic continued to be light and, except for one red-neck driving a red truck, all drivers gave us the road.

Grand Coulee Dam was closed to all traffic because of the attacks. Consequently, to bypass the dam, we had to endure a steep climb in the blistering, late-afternoon heat. We found a pleasant campground by a lake near Electric City and had a wonderful, refreshing swim.

The natural history and scenery along the route of the next day were very interesting. The landscape had been formed by the volcanic activity aeons ago and was reshaped by the gigantic floods during the last Ice Age. To our benefit, there were no long hills and hardly any traffic. The big, semi-desert country was ours-well, almost ours.

About 30 km after Ephrata, we had to cycle on the I90 freeway for about 30 km; however the shoulder was wide and there was not much traffic. The desert scenery high above the river was spectacular. The one unpleasant section was the bridge over the Columbia River.

After lunch, at 37 C, with no shade anywhere, we had to climb for 20 km non-stop. Yvonne took off like a gazelle while the rest of us plodded behind like dehydrated tortoises. The sight of a Dairy Queen in Ellensburg was cheered by my companions while I dreamed of cold beer. This was our longest day at 110 km.

The stretch to Blewett Pass (4,100') was beautiful. For about half the distance, the traffic was light. Afterwards, the shoulder was wide. Only the last few kilometres were unpleasant as the traffic was heavy (apparently, this was very unusual) and the shoulder on the steep part to the summit narrowed to a ribbon. Despite two lanes, a couple of truckers seemed to want to make the point as to who should not be on the road. However, that was an exception; most drivers were very courteous.

As I neared the pass, my Chelan friends, unexpectedly, drove by and gave me a couple of fresh peaches. Selfishly, I gulped them down before the others arrived.

The descend was long and sweet! Some passing trucks came close, but, overall, it was just a well deserved fun. We stayed in a beautiful, treed KOA campground in Leavenworth. I felt nostalgia recalling the semi-annual trips to climb on Castle Rock and Peshastin Pinnacles and to drink beer in Gustaff's Tavern. It seemed like ages ago. In the middle of nowhere, between Leavenworth and Wenatchee, in an apple orchard, there was Anjou Bakery. My companions thought that it was a secret I had been hiding from them to salute the last day of the trip. No, I stumbled on it only because I was ahead of them. However, it was the treat of treats! The breads and pastries were incredible and there were coffees, too! After lunch by a lake on the Columbia, the lethargy set in. I did not want to stiffen up by sitting down for too long and also hoped that my friends in Chelan would have a fridge-full of Czech beer ready for my return. So, I got on the bike to finish the trip alone while the others lingered on.

The climb to, through and after the highway tunnel was brutal! After the tunnel, it did not even look like an uphill, but I could not go any faster than some 12-13 km/hr while dripping sweat non-stop. The heat was oppressive. Finally, I reached the summit and saw the lake far below. I felt like a phoenix on the gentle, long and hard-earned descent.

The hardest climb of the trip was back to my friends' house high above the lake. It was the only time I had to stand up in my pedals. However, the reward was in the fridge as I was hoping for. My companions arrived a couple of hours later after stopping for a swim in the lake.

It was a great trip! With all the detours, we cycled almost 700 km in seven days. We did not see a cloud in the sky all week. I never slept in my sleeping bag, just under it. It was sustained and it was demanding. However, it was enjoyable and scenic. We were compatible and we got well along. I would like to do this trip again.

Originally published December 2001