Comox (Vancouver Island) to Jasper 15th to 24th June 2004

Maybe it's not a very good photo but you don't hang around long when confronted by a wild bear

Day 21 Tuesday June 15th Comox to Seymour Narrows

It dawned a wonderful day after yesterday's rain. From the breakfast room we watched a tiny humming bird. Hardly bigger than a large butterfly it is a perfectly formed bird. With its long beak it was taking nectar from a special type of bird feeder.

We got underway on minor roads, which was a pleasant change from the main highway. At first we were relieved because the tandem had definitely stopped creaking. Then after a longish level stretch we stopped and freewheeled and a strange noise emanated from the stoker's end of the tandem. This reoccurred several times during the day. The management cannot work out what is wrong. He is concerned, particularly because we are going into unpopulated mountain areas.

For the last couple of days we have not had a good phone signal. At lunch beside the sea near Campbell River we at last managed to send and receive our email. We always enjoy catching up with the goings on at home.

After lunch we were plunged into the urban sprawl of Campbell River. All these towns seem to have development and shopping precincts which sprawl out for 15km or more. Their level of ugliness has to be seen to be appreciated. It is also in strange contrast to the beauty of the countryside.

The stoker has found yet another wonderful B&B with magnificent views of Seymour Narrows. As we settled in on the deck we watched two cruise liners come through the narrows. The management said he would rather be on one of the tugs towing barges full of wood. He has a boredom threshold which is far too low for cruise liners.

In view of the long distance to the nearest place for dinner we had had a meal at about 3pm in town. Perhaps we should not have. Lynda and Bob, our B&B hosts, invited us to dinner. They had their webmaster staying and it developed into a very pleasant occasion.

Dinner for the carnivores consisted of huge pieces of steak done on the barbecue. Ours was the accompanying barbecued veg and very nice it was too. Strawberries and cream followed, all accompanied by an ample sufficiency of co-op red wine. We went to our huge king size bed very happy.

Day 22 Wednesday June 16th Seymour Narrows to Sayward Junction

After much photography we left the beautiful Seymour Narrows having been made very welcome and comfortable. As we again entered Highway 19 someone in a parked car called "are you not going to talk to us then?". It was Floyd, Sarah and family whom we had met in the pub at Comox. What a coincidence. They were off whale watching at Telegraph Cove.

It was hot again. The route immediately involved a climb to over 300 metres from sea level in about 12 km. It is very odd for us Brits to be down the gears on a perfectly straight highway several lanes wide. Even though there is not a hairpin bend in sight we were still going very slowly indeed. The road was busy. Most of the traffic consisted of huge logging trucks and recreational vehicles.

The loggers were very considerate towards us. We had heard that if they blast you with their horns then it is best to get off the road. This never happened. Without exception they gave us a wide berth and often went right over to the other side of the road. Chatting at lunch to a man tidying the rest area we were told that our progress would be being monitored by the truckers on CB radio.

The RVs come in all shapes and sizes. The biggest one we saw was at least as large as the biggest coaches we have in the UK and was towing a four wheel drive vehicle about the size of a Range Rover. We should be glad that in the UK they generally are no bigger than small vans and carry bikes. Fortunately, just like in the rest of the world, they seldom seem to venture more than a few yards from their vehicles. This leaves the countryside uncrowded which is great.

The tandem continued to make funny noises. Outside our cabin on a very pleasant campsite the management took the rear wheel apart. All he managed to do was to lubricate its bits and reassemble it carefully. We just hope that this does the trick.

Day 23 Thursday June 17th Sayward Junction to Woss

Today was a day of contrasts. Firstly we got up exceptionally early (for us). The weather is unseasonably hot and we had a lot of climbing to do. The management, a morning person, was roused by the worker in the adjoining cabin going off at 6.30am. The stoker, a notorious sleeper in, was coaxed and cajoled by tea and breakfast in bed. The result was a departure just after 8am.

The GPS said the height was 60 metres when we left. We progressed slowly onwards and upwards. For the first couple of hours it was pleasant. The scenery was becoming mountainous with snow covered peaks often visible through the pine tree clad valleys.

Soon after elevenses we were over 350 metres above sea level. We then had a very steep rapid descent. According to the GPS our maximum speed was 75.6km per hour (47mph). The stoker was so pleased with the progress we were making that she did not complain.

From here on in things got worse or one could even say desperate. Having dipped down again to 250 metres or so we had a climb up to 430 metres. It was awful. The sun blazed down on the four lane road and there was not the tiniest bit of shade. Considerations of scenery and wild life took second place to surviving heat stroke. In desperation we went on in half hour stretches, retreating into the shade of the forest for ten minutes to recover.

Eventually enough was enough and we retreated into the shade for a couple of hours. The management soon nodded off. The stoker, always more prudent, got out the knife and whistle. She was ready to stave off attacks by bear or cougar having read scary articles in Canadian Geographic. She did not however stay awake long and the very fact that you are reading this indicates that we were not eaten.

Although still hot when we continued in mid afternoon we had reached the summit and it was mainly downhill to Woss. Woss is the only oasis on this road. It was once a logging camp and now has a motel, pub and general store.

It has to be said we have very occasionally had worse days but this one has to be in the top ten.

Day 24 Friday June 18th Woss to Port McNeill

On further inspection the oasis at Woss was more like a wild west village. The good old boys came into the bar to drink and show off their wheels. The locals made lots of noise as they came and went, some of them very early in the morning. We didn't see the House of the Rising Sun but expect it existed. The stoker, still suffering from a touch of the sun, slept through most of it.

We were again on the road early to avoid the heat of the day. Much to our amazement, soon after leaving we came across three young Canadian men on road bikes, but with touring luggage and tents. We thought we were the only people stupid enough to cycle on these highways. After a brief chat they went on, clearly being much quicker than us.

We pedalled on making the best pace we could. Much to our surprise, after a long morning in the sun, we caught up with them having a picnic lunch. This gave us more time to chat. They were out of Vancouver setting off for a trans-Canada ride. They were pushing on another 40km for tomorrow's ferry to the mainland.

We went on another 15km to Port McNeill. It is probably the kind of working Canadian town that most tourists never see. We like these kind of no nonsense places. After a walk down to the port we had the best meal so far in Canada. The stoker was replete on wild salmon while the management was delighted with his Greek vegetarian platter.

 Seymour Narrows

Day 25 Saturday June 19th Port McNeill to Port Hardy (Bear Cove)

Even though it is not a long day we decided to get up early and again avoid the heat of the day. This was not that difficult in view of the paper thin walls of the plastic built motel. These let every sound through and all human life is here. Some of which we could do without.

We were at the supermarket door when it opened at 8am. The stoker had established on the phone that there was no other shop of any kind before we left Vancouver Island. We therefore had to carry everything we needed for two days. This may not seem much but we do try to live comfortably and it all adds up. We had a dilemma over the wine. Even had the weight not put us off the liquor store did not open till 9.30am so we gave up on it.

Just for once the map showed a network of minor roads off route 19. We set off hopefully especially as the small roads seemed to avoid a hill. Unfortunately the roads soon became gravelled logging roads. This surface is very unfriendly to the tandem. They are used by logging trucks which are too large even for Canadian roads and are closed to other traffic except at weekends. At least we thought they were until we came across a barrier. Having come this far we were reluctant to go back. It was just possible to get the tandem underneath by leaning it over, and on we went through the forest.

When we finally came back to route 19 we were pleased to see it, particularly its nice smooth surface. We were even relaxed when we came across road work signs. These sensibly say that traffic fines are doubled in these areas which presumably focuses the rather dull mind of the average motorist. Had we known what it was like we might well have stayed on the logging roads. The surface had been removed for 5km leaving just loose gravel. This is one of the worst surfaces for a bike. Not only was there construction traffic but also through traffic and single lane working. The ladies working the stop go boards radioed on ahead. "Pick your way through" one said and that was about the strength of it.

We arrived at literally the end of the road around lunch time. We had thankfully left route 19 onto a side road to the ferry which we would be taking to the mainland the day after tomorrow.

We had booked a cabin for our day off. It is extremely pleasant on an elevated sight overlooking the sea. A home from home. There are eight cabins here all beautifully sited and equipped. The owners Wade and Shannon and father Gordon are extremely hospitable. The washing was done for us which always pleases the stoker. And then Gordon presented us with two bottles of his very drinkable home made red wine.

Days 26 to 30 Sunday June 20th to Thursday June 24th
Port Hardy to Jasper

The stoker, who did the detailed planning for this trip, has now declared a very long holiday. The management, never one to be happy unoccupied for long, is apprehensive about this. The stoker is therefore expecting trouble. As it was she managed to keep him busy fiddling with the tandem, cooking and things. With the exception of the ferry port, a kilometre along the road, we were right out in the forest. The stoker went walking that way and was warned by the locals that bears actually live in Bear Cove. She shrugged off the warning, sure it was scaremongering. It was not. In the heat of the day while testing the tandem we found one or vice versa. We lurched to a stop and looked at it. Cameras came out to record the standoff. It looked at us and we looked at it. It went slowly into the trees at the side of the road. The management is convinced that it knew it had met its match. The stoker is equally convinced that it knew who was boss.

The following day we caught the ferry at the crack of dawn. This was a 15 hour voyage along the Inside Passage. For many this is the highlight of a trip to Canada. The ship travels along narrow channels with a backdrop of trees and mountains. It also carries a good number of cyclists bound for all places north and east. The weather was good and we saw two or three whales in the distance. The management survived another 15 hours of inactivity.

We disembarked at 10pm into the gloaming and checked into a nearby motel in Prince Rupert. The next day we explored the town. It would justify the one horse category easily but certainly not two. It seems to be building a cruise liner terminal. Perhaps it is managed by the same people as Portland Port. The success rate could well be similar. Prince Rupert claims to have 100 inches of rain a year. We found this hard to believe.

On Wednesday we were again up at the crack of dawn to catch the train to Jasper. The bike was loaded into the huge luggage car next to the engine. It was altogether a relaxed and pleasant affair. The train takes two days stopping overnight at Prince George. This enables all the passengers to rest from the rigours of the day in various hostelries, gaining sufficient strength to sit through the second day of superb and varied scenery.