Posted by: Silver | September 19, 2010

Black Creek to Port Alberni

This journey seemed to be particularly rich in little events and observations, so here is a random selection for you:

It is often said that Vancouver Island is the most English part of Canada, and the area around the Comox Valley (where Black Creek is) certainly lives up to this description. The scenery would not look at all out of place in Cheshire (although the architecture would immediately announce itself as an incomer), and my route, which took me through Cumberland, Royston and across the River Trent in less than 10 km was interestingly familiar, if slightly geographically disorientating!

My planned route took me back along Highway 19, but on climbing the hill to the junction, I was met by a sign proclaiming ‘vehicles incapable of 60 km/h prohibited’. Now, as I proved on the way into Whitehorse (and a couple more times since), I am capable of 60 km/h, but I guessed that semantic nit-picking would not help me much in my hospital bed after being run over by a truck that wasn’t expecting me to be there, so I turned tail and returned to the old Island Highway and its longer but quieter route to the junction with Highway 4. Why they couldn’t have put the sign at the bottom of the hill, though…

On a more enjoyable note, star prize of the day goes to the raven who just happened to call out exactly in time to the track I was listening to whilst passing his neck of the woods, including one stunningly timed cry during a dramatic pause in the music; it’s really lovely how such tiny things can put such a huge smile on one’s face.

After having their little joke during my last ride, the weather gods were once again smiling on me this time, and by the time I reached Qualicum Beach, it was positively sunny. I thus seized the opportunity to spend a very enjoyable half hour sitting by the ocean, eating a huge piece of chocolate cake (yes, one that I’d made!), and watching the fish leaping clear of the water. Big thanks here to the Qualicum First Nations camp site: I don’t think they know that I snuck in and used their excellent facilities like a picnic site, but thank you to them anyway!

After 60 km of fairly flat, oceanside cycling, I turned inland and the ground began to rise. I spent the next 20 km agreeing vigorously with those who’d mentioned that there was a big hill on the way to Port Alberni, only to discover – after a further 10 km of fairly flat road that I assumed was the start of the descent – that I hadn’t actually got to the BIG hill yet. And so, after having cycled 90 km already, my tired little legs embarked on the 3 km slog up a slope that was never less than 8% and more usually around 11 – 12%… The shoulder was nice and wide, though, so at least the snails had plenty of room in which to overtake me…

Of course, the usual pay-off of big hills for cyclists is that you get to come down the other side, and the downhill slope into Port Alberni is certainly impressive, but it is also where my love-hate relationship with rumble strips reached its peak. These have been gouged into the tarmac of quite a lot of the highways on Vancouver Island, and whilst I’m obviously enthusiastically in favour of anything that might prevent a wayward driver swerving into me, the amount of smooth shoulder that they leave is only just barely wide enough for Ranger’s front wheels. Thus, rather than being an enjoyable free-wheel, the downhill into town was nothing but a relentlessly intense, headache-causingly concentrated feat of precision steering, coupled with frequent sharp braking (handled superbly by Ranger’s hydraulic disks), since the rumble strips also prevent any possibility of swerving around obstacles. I’m sure the rumble strips are a good thing really, but I can’t help suspecting that no-one thought about trikers when they put them in (an inexplicable and unforgiveable oversight, I think you’ll agree).

There were actually many more interesting moments on this long but (mostly!) enjoyable ride, but I’ve gone on longer than usual already, so I’d better stop there and get back to the volunteering!

What is an 'ation', and does it also come in solid form?

Thought I'd discovered where Nessie goes on holiday, but it turns out that Cameron Lake has its own monster myth



  1. HI Silver,
    You touched a nerve with rumble strips! They installed them this year on Whidbey Island WA, and your description of navigating the shoulder with the rumble strips is spot-on. Highway 525 is off my trike grid until they are removed, and Yes, they will be removed along the shoulder, the shoulder isn’t wide enough to accomodate them according to code. They will remain between the lanes, fine with me!

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