The Wagon Caf'eh in Comox had the best latte art
We departed Kin Provincial Park to ride to Qualicum Beach which is about half-way to Nanaimo. The ride on 19A (Island Highway) which runs parallel to the busy highway 19 was scenic with views of Georgia Strait and had a moderate to small shoulder. Traffic was relatively light. On the way out of town, we stopped at a roadside espresso stand, The Wagon Caf'eh. It turned out that the barista made the best latte art on the trip ... the espresso came in second place. We also had crunchy breakfast sandwiches here.
We continued onwards to Qualicum Beach and diverted from 19A for a few miles to check out Deep Bay. After taking a right at Gainsberg Rd. and riding a few miles, we stopped at the Ship and Shore Cafe and Campground for a lunch of local clam chowder. We debated staying at the small camping area which had a nice view of the harbor and Deep Bay but decided to push to our original destination.
Our original destination, the Qualicum Bay Resort (RV park and camping) looked better on the web pics than in reality. It seemed a bit run down and no one was at the office so we ended taking a small room at the Lighthouse Motel nearby. The motel manager recommended a quaint restaurant within walking distance, the Sandbar Cafe. The prices are moderate, good grub with water views. It is not big place but worth a stop for lunch or dinner.
Sandbar Cafe, Squalicum Beach
Crossing the Georgia Strait from Powell River to Courtnay-Comox
After a hearty breakfast and coffee at Nancy's, we made an executive decision to hitch hike back to Powell River. In the early afternoon, a woman and her son picked us ip in their pickup truck towing a small trailer filled with landscaping tools. After removing all the panniers and bags, the bikes were hoisted into the pickup bed. Pat and Eli were going to Powell River on a landscaping job.
After the 40 minute ride, we had several hours to wait at Powell River for the 1.2 hour ferry ride across Georgia Strait to the Courtnay-Comox area. We spent the time at pub near the ferry terminal watching the Seattle Seahawks game.
As it was late in the day, we wanted to find a camp before sundown. With some local knowledge, we biked to the Kin Provincial Park ... about four miles from the ferry terminal in Courtnay-Comox. We pulled our bikes in next to a 39-foot diesel pusher RV and set up camp. It was a basic park without services with exception of a pit toilet. However, the views of Georgia Strait were spectacular.
Kin Provincial Park
The plan was to start early to try to avoid traffic on the Sunshine Coast on the way to Lund but it turned out that Debbie's front bike tire was deflated .... probably from a thorn puncture. After replacing the tire, we were on the way at 8:30 am. We stopped at Suncoast Bikes a mile down the road to top up the tires.
After a few miles, we stopped at the Old Courthouse Inn in the historic pulp mill district, the original townsite, to have breakfast at Edie Rae's Cafe. The eggs Benedict we ordered, which is the house breakfast specialty, were perfect. The staff was friendly. The cafe is named after the owner's mother and her pictures decorate the walls The inn is located in the historic area where a logging mill is still operating. We did not have time to walk the historic townsite but is is worth a visit.
We were on our way to our Lund destination, the furthest point North on the Sunshine Coast ... the so called "Mile 0". The ride from Powell River was hilly with no shoulder so we were very cautious. On the way, we passed Sliammon village. The Powell River area is the traditional home to the Tia'Amin nation, a branch of the Coast Salish peoples, who still reside there to this day, although having been forced to relocate from their original village site at the mouth of Powell River to make way for the construction of a power dam and paper mill. Their village is commonly referred to as Sliammon (the usual English adaptation of Tla'Amin).
After a glorious three-mile downhill run to Lund, we arrived and checked into the Historic Lund Hotel. Our first task after arriving was a stop at the hotel pub for beer and calamari. The hotel has been in operation for 125 years.
We had draft beer in the hotel pub and celebrated our arrival. The TV only had two working channels, so I ended up listening to the Notre Dame-Purdue game on Internet radio.
The Lund Historic Hotel, Nancy's Bakery, and the Boardwalk Coastal restaurant are the main eatery attractions in Lund. Nancy's is a popular bakery which serves baked goods, sandwiches, and coffee. They are best known for their blueberry cinnamon rolls. The Sunlund RV park is nearby. It has a RV spaces, tent sites, a few cabins and the famous "Tool Shed," AKA the Campers Cabin.
The small village is a gateway to Desolation Sound with a small marina and services for boaters. Fishing charters and kayaking are also popular.
We set out at 8:00 AM to ride four hilly miles to Earl Cove to pick up the ferry to Saltery bay. It is an 18 mile ride on the ferry which takes 40 minutes. There is no charge to board the ferry Northbound.
Breakfast at The Cove Cafe by the ferry terminal included coffee and an egg/sausage wrap. I bought a turkey/cranberry sandwich for the road which turned out to be Debbie's favorite sandwich. This eatery was a good place to hang out while waiting for the ferry.
The 20 mile bike ride to Powell River from Saltery Bay was hilly ... mostly with a small shoulder on the road. Prior to the establishment of any settlement in the area, the area was inhabited by the Coast Salish people, and was used as a landing spot for gold prospectors coming from Vancouver Island. The town was named after Israel Wood Powell, the superintendent of Indian Affairs for BC at the time. Town is known for its pulp mill and lumber operations. The mill which was started in 1908 employed about 2,400 in its heyday but today is down to several hundred employees. At one time the Power River Company pulp mill was the largest of its kind in the world ... one in every 25 newspapers in the world was printed on paper from the Powell River mill. Today, the mill is downsized significantly, and the local economy has diversified to include eco-tourism, as well as fishing, mining and general forestry. There is good access to Texada and Savary Islands from its port. About 13,000 people live around the land-locked Powell River area ... the town has a laid back vibe.
Trivia: Thanks to Dr. Andrew Henderson, Powell River became the first community in BC to have a medical plan for its citizens in 1910, deducting one dollar from each workman's paycheck to cover medical costs.
We arrived at the Wiilington Beach Campground at 4:00 PM which is located on the North side of town. After setting up the tent, we enjoyed a dinner of grapes, local brie cheese, Hungarian salami, salads, a baguette and a bottle of red wine which we purchased at a local grocery store.
Willington Beach Campground is a nice campsite with good beach access and a park nearby. The town of Powell River is nearby and easy to access by walking or by bike.
Chris, a 25 year old, touring by himself, also camped there. We met him earlier at Earls Cove getting on ferry. He had a unique mountain bike touring set up.
We retired early at 8:00 PM with a plan to depart for Lund as early as possible.
On way out from Pender Harbor, we stopped for breakfast at La Verne's, a small funky mom-and-pop restaurant, about one mile from Pender Harbor Resort, near the Garden Bay Pub. Afterwards, we headed to Ruby Lake
The short ride to Ruby Lake Resort allowed us to arrive at 1:30 PM. The 100 acre property included a motel, safari tents, amphitheater, gardens, community kitchen, common shower facilities, sculptures, chickens, peacocks, a pond, an event center, a meditation area, various funky lodgings for the staff, and the La Trattoria Italiana restaurant.
The facility is undergoing change. The Italian Cogrossi family bought the land and developed it 25 years ago but is now looking to sell the property (except the restaurant) to an owner who will keep the eco-reserve ambiance and maintain it as a sanctuary for wildlife. Currently it is leased to group who wants to eventually buy it and turn into an Esalen, Kalani or Harbin Hot springs style of yoga and retreat center with workshops which would be open year round. Up to now it has been a seasonal resort,
We stayed in one of the safari tents situated on a steep ridge in a forest setting. The tents have queen beds, electric fireplace, and basic furnishings. The view from the porch is spectacular. The resort was somewhat in need of refurbishment but the safari tent was a great experience (except there were no lions). The resort is a very serene/quiet place and Jessica who greeted us was very friendly and helpful. We hope the eventual new owners will have funds to refurbish the facility while keeping its eco-friendly ambiance.
The cuisine at the La Trattoria Italiana restaurant is Italian inspired by slow cooking techniques at the hands of resort owner and chef Aldo Cogrossi. The restaurant which has an outdoor patio overlooks a pond in a tranquil setting. The dinner was excellent. We ordered lobster salad, sturgeon from the Jervis Inlet, and tiramisu for dessert. The emphasis is to supply the ingredients from local farmers and fishermen.
Ruby Lake Resort
La Trattoria Italiana restaurant at Ruby Lake Resort
After leaving Creekside Campground, we stopped at the Strait Coffee house in Sechelt for lattes and scones. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that this local joint has terrific espresso drinks ... definitely worth a stop.
On the way to Pender Harbor Resort, the German couple from Cologne with the rented RV stopped in front us to return two bananas an two chocolate snacks. Debbie gave it to them the previous night at the Creekside Campground since there was a friendly bear which visited camp recently to forage.
We arrived at The Pender Harbor Resort at 3:30PM. The office was closed ... the sign said to text Jeff. I did and a few minutes later he called back to check us in. Pender Harbor Resort is mostly a high end RV park with some long term residents. In addition, there are three tent sites, three yurts and seven cabins. A heated swimming pool, WiFi, and a small marina for seasonal moorage is located on the premises. The small store is minimal so it is best to get supplies in Madeira Park prior to arriving at Pender Harbor. The place is very tranquil in a scenic setting. It would be nice if the store had more supplies, opened earlier, or had coffee.
The nearest pub, the Garden Bay Pub, is about a mile walk covering two steep hills. Turned out that the food was excellent, terrific calamari, and fresh halibut fish and chips, Cheesecake with peach raspberry puree was a surprise.
Pender Harbor Resort is better suited car camping, not for bike tourers.
The ferry ride to Langdale was 40 minutes which is the start of the Sunshine Coast. For the first few miles, a long uphill awaitted us ... four lanes with a wide shoulder. Finally reached the peak after working hard and even walking the bikes sometimes. Then coasted towards Gibsons Landing, a funky seaside village, with a relatively big marina.
We ventured into Gibsons Landing which required a very steep descent to the waterfront. After exploring the small village for 30 minutes, we stopped at a pastry shop for croissants. Pushing the bikes half a mile up 20 degree hill required some fuel.
As we were grunting up the steep hill, a local man told us about an alternative way to which bypassed most of the hill. It was scenic route along quiet residential areas and finally dead-ended at a beach. The alternate route is to follow Gower Point Rd. which will turn into the Ocean Beach Esplanade, eventually dead ending on Ocean Beach.
Now we had to push our bikes across half a mile of beach to get to steps that would take us back to the Lower Rd. and eventually to Highway 101. Crossing the pebble and sandy beach was like dragging heavily laden bikes through molasses. After a good workout and rest stop, we found the steps. We had to unload all the gear to be able to carry the bikes up some 40 steps and a gnarly steep trail. A local couple who happened to be there helped to carry gear and Debbie's bike to the road. The couple gave another tip for more scenic ride which avoided highway.
The steps and trail from Ocean Beach took us to Gulf Rd. and a brief climb to Lower Rd. We rode on this road until it winds around and turns into Beach Ave. Continued on Beach Ave., right on Henderson to a dead end. To get to 101, a trail through Roberts Creek Provincial Park needed to be traversed. The initial part of the trail was extremely steep which required muscling the bikes up one by one ... another workout. After a short ride through the park we arrived back on Highway 101.
After lunch at the Gumboot Garden Cafe, we pushed off to the Creekside Campground on the South side of the Sechelt area.
We departed the Canadian Inn at 9:00 AM with great expectations that we would arrive in Horseshoe Bay by 3:30 PM. Our lodging for the night was the Horseshoe Bay Motel, the only motel close to the ferry terminal ... located in the Horseshoe Bay Village.
Even the best laid plans go awry. Three mapping systems (Nokia Here Drive, MapFactor Navigator and Google Maps)) failed to deliver reliable information ... I made wrong turns, missed turns, signs were confusing, etc. By 2:00 PM, I realized that we were way behind schedule, only about half way through Vancouver.
It was time for plan "B." We took the Skytrain to the Waterfront station. From there, a 15-minute Seabus ride landed us in North Vancouver at the Lonsdale Quay. From there, it was a 15-mile ride to Horseshoe Bay. But the fun wasn't over yet. The first half of the Marine Drive route was very busy traversing towns and heavy traffic. We only made a wrong turn once. The last half of the route was scenic with moderate traffic but the narrow twisty road had no shoulders so we had to be very cautious. The final leg took twice as long as expected. We arrived in Horseshoe Bay Village at 5:00 PM.
Our night lodging, the Horseshoe Bay Motel, was a pleasant surprise ... the interior was nicely rennovated with nice decor within walking distance to everything in the small village situated next to the ferry terminal. After checking in, we walked to the Troller Ale House which had excellent grub (great calamari) and a large selection of craft beer on tap. Spectacular views of Howe Sound was a bonus.
It was an adventure today trying to figure out the best way to navigate a bike through the Vancouver metropolis. Perhaps some day I will spend two or three days configuring the best route using as many bike paths as possible. Vancouver can be frustrating for touring bikers. For those that want to simplify things, ride to Surrey. From there, take the Skytrain to the Waterfront station (downtown Vancouver). Then hop on the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay, North Vancouver. Both the Skytrain and Seabus allow bikes.
The Trip Journal is Steve Szirom's account of his British Columbia Sunshine Coast bike tour. Posts will be made regularly depending on the availability of Wi-Fi.
The Sunshine Coast bike tour covered 426 miles with a total cumulative climb of 20,000 feet. The detailed route is shown here.