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Wednesday, 12 November 2014 07:00

Vancouver Island Time

columnist Eoin KennyUCLUELET, B.C. – I’ve made it to the Pacific Ocean!

 

 

I bid farewell to my friends Cathryn and Charlie and their boys Angud, Rhys and Owen, zipped through a still-sleeping Vancouver and caught an early ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. I was a little anxious about the Bike-a-Lounger's first boat ride.

But thanks to some much-appreciated advice from fellow BMW tourer Mark and the three dozen other bikers heading for the Island’s made-for-motorcycle roads, I was soon installed at the bow of the BC Ferry M/V Queen of Cowichan.

 
Vancouver Island TimeThe 70-minute crossing was smooth and uneventful. We arrived in Departure Bay at exactly the time on the schedule. Air Canada could learn a thing or two from BC Ferries. Not only were bikes loaded first, we were the first to disembark!!
 
I counted 37 bikes – Harleys, crotch rockets, a 6-cylinder Triumph and several BMWs, from naked sports bikes to my all-out luxury tourer. What a racket we all made firing up against the steel hull of the Queen, then off the bow ramp and through the early morning sunshine for Parksville on the eastern shoe of the Island and the turn-off for Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, where I'll turn around and head aceoss this land on two wheels! 
 
Speaking of sunshine, the weatherman had called for 14C and showers, so I had re-installed the liners in my pants and jacket. I must have cut a dashing figure – not – in my longjohns in the parking lot of a community park in Parksville as I stripped off the suit and removed the liners.
 
The bike pack had moved on and I was once again a lone rider. The Scott suit was as windproof and waterproof as advertised when the forecast showers began near Coombs in the lush Comox Valley. By the time I made it to Cathedral Grove, though, the weather had cleared; now sunny and in the low 20s. Perfect biking weather!
 
Vancouver Island TimeCathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Provincial Park, is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. Mindy and I first strolled through its sweet-smelling trails in 1996 on our honeymoon, my first trip west.
 
I walked under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas fir trees -- “majestic pillars untouched by the modern world,” according to the interpretive signs. Some of the biggest are more than 800 years old.
 
 I got my first attack of the lonelies walking back out of the forest gloom to the bike and BC Hwy 4, the Alberni Highway. Truth is, Mindy and I haven’t been apart for more than a week or two in more than 20 years and I miss her. 
 
Mindy doesn’t really like riding on the bike. I know she goes on the occasional day ride just to humour me and I’m always happy when she does. But I miss not being able to share this fantatic adventure with her.
But enough of the mushy stuff!
 
I was feeling a lot better after some super-bendy motorcycle therapy and was soon heading into Port Alberni. As the New York Rangers shellacked the Montreal Canadiens, I tucked into a steaming bucket of local Manilla clams at the Clam Bucket.
 
Vancouver Island TimeI went for a walk along Port Alberni’s Snomass Estuary where I saw an older couple picking armfuls of what looked like pretty yellow wildflowers. But looks can be deceiving.
 
Scotch broom, says one internet site, is native to the Mediterranean and was intentionally introduced to B.C. in 1850. A hardy invader, it quickly spread up the east coast of Vancouver Island before invading the Gulf Islands and mainland. Highway departments planted Scotch broom as a bank stabilizer because of its deep root structure and rapid growth.
 
Nowadays, this weed is a strong competitor with various native plants including those within declining Garry oak ecosystems as well as newly planted coniferous forests. Digging it out, the man said, only made it worse as disturbing the soil triggers the release of each tiny blossom’s cache of seeds!
 
I have to admire committed volunteers like these folks. Where would we be without them? It’s also got me thinking about putting my time to a worthy cause when I get home.
 
I got in to Ucluelet in the late afternoon sunshine, only to discover from my hosts Gerry and Jackie that I had descended on them a day early! (That’s what I get for planning on a 30-day May and dropping May the 16th out of my schedule altogether! Forehead meet palm of hand!)
 
But welcome me they did and today, after a good night’s sleep, I’m heading over to Pacific Rim National Park to listen to the sea lions barking!
 
Last modified on Thursday, 13 November 2014 09:08

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