Newsletter - 2001 Archive

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Island Off-Road Populaire (August 26, 2001)

Stephen Hinde


Well, I admit that I didn't think much of the idea. I'm a road guy. My forays into off-road have been less than successful, like the time I ended up dead last (by a good 20 minutes) in a Boxing Day mudfest of a cross-country race. Like the time I ended up 5 feet up in a tree, head down, with my bike rolling down the cliff below. Like the time…well, you get the idea.

"Hey, it's only the Galloping Goose", organizer Mike Poplawski pointed out. "It's flat, firm, and not too rocky."

"But it's only 75 km," I pointed out.

"No problem," said Mike. "I'll add on another 25 km on the paved section of the Goose, to bring it up to 100 km."

"Now, if I finish the Goose, and then do the Flatlander as planned, I'd have my Rando 1000 for the year," I mused. "Sold."

So now I had to find my mountain bike, a 1987 Specialized Expedition, friction-shift 15 speed, no shocks, and no toe clips. I haven't ridden it in 3 years. Still air in the tires? A good sign, so I did a quick tune up. (Well, I mounted a speedometer, put a little more air in, and went for 2 loops of the garage.)

Sunday morning was promising nice weather as 9 riders, organizer Mike Poplawski, checkpoint man (er woman) Carol Hinde gathered at Thetis Lake. Rob Fraser and I are doing the full 100-the rest have opted for the original 75 option. Off on time (a miracle in itself), we headed for the Goose. As I left the pavement and headed for the dirt, that annoying hum of knobbies was replaced by the squishing of gravel. (For those of you who don't know the Galloping Goose, it's a converted railbed turned into a Regional Park, running about 55 km from downtown Victoria to Leechtown, an old gold-mining town between Sooke and Duncan. The route meanders through some wonderful scenery in Metchosin, along the Sooke Basin, and then turns inland to follow the Sooke River into the Victoria watershed. We were only going as far as the Sooke Potholes, a wonderful park and swimming hole-beyond that the route was closed for fire season. For more information on the Goose, go to the website[severed link]. Soon I was feeling pretty good. 7 of us in a paceline, 25 km/hr, and the day is magnificent. Lots of trees and shade, and it's pretty quiet. I worked my way to the front of the line, just in time for our first gully crossing. A quick little down, cross the bridge, and then up…Wait a minute. Up? This is a flat ride! Down I shift and start spinning like crazy, and stop moving. I've thrown my chain. After avoiding being run over by the pack, I walk to the top, fix the chain (great tune-up, there) and sprint off in hot pursuit. After a small section of highway construction, we're back together on the Goose. Now, for those Effective Cyclists who avoid cycle paths like the plague, I can tell you that's a wise thing. Road crossings? Slow down? You've got to be kidding! We shortly have the system worked out, with everyone shouting "Clear," so I'm happy again.

By now, we've broken into 2 groups: 7 together at the front, with 3 riders off the back. 7 plus 3 equals 9? Organizer Mike is riding with us. "A roving secret control," he says with a grin. Our group has 5 mountain bikes, one almost hybrid bike, and a racing bike. "I don't have a mountain bike", says Marianne. Our pace has risen somewhat. Rob is at the front, having an "easy" time. We're doing 29 on the up grades, and 34 on the downs. Jeez, with these knobbies, I can't even ride that fast on the road.

The route really is very pleasant (what little I got to see). Matheson Lake and Roche Cove are particularly wonderful. As we cross to Sooke Basin (another little uphill), I drop my chain for the 3rd time, so now I'm sprinting the upgrade at 34 to catch the gang. Just in time, we have another little gully crossing, with a Kayaker and his boat in the middle of the bridge. Isn't he supposed to be in the water? Ha, now I know why I'm riding my knobbies, as I pass Marianne spinning her wheel in the gravel. We now turn up along the river. The maples lining the route are glistening in the sun, which is directly behind us. Maybe I've given up on this off-road stuff too soon? I could go on like this…oh, we're back on the road down to Sooke Potholes Park, and the welcome sight of Carol with food and water. We've just done 37 km at an average of 26 km/hr. Not fast by road standards, but too fast for me to keep up. So, after a brief discussion with Rob, we head out at a more leisurely pace of 24, retracing our route to Thetis Lake. The trail is becoming a little busier, as we pass hikers, runners, walkers, dogs, and, yes, other cyclists. Yes, we're passing them-except for the blur of the 2 younger riders in our group. Back at Roche Cove, I'm following Rob, admiring the view, when…that's right, I run into the back of him. A few seconds of terror as I head for the Salal. Fortunately, I stay up and pull back onto the trail.

"Halfway," Rob informs me. "I need to slow down." Fine with me. We meander back to the start at Thetis Lake (there's Carol doing a secret check-the front 2 are about 10 minutes ahead). I stuff in a sandwich and we're off. Now, I know that Mike trained on routes that I designed, so I was really pleased to see the next section of trail. Through Thetis Lake Park, with its really steep (but short) ups, and hair-raising descents (not because of the terrain, but because of the horses and dogs and humans wandering about). A short stretch of road brings us back to the Goose, where Rob and I head for downtown Victoria, while the others head for the finish at 6 Mile Pub. From here, the Goose is paved, and even has a centre line. Rob and I quickly reach the famous Selkirk Trestle across the Inner Harbour, and on to our next checkpoint at Tyee Rd. A quick stop and we're back on the trail, now heading up the Saanich Peninsula towards Sidney. The Goose up to Sidney joins with the Lochside Trail (another old rail line), but this section is not yet complete. Fortunately, we have another checkpoint where the Goose exits onto the road, and we turn back for the finish.

Rob and I roll into the 6 Mile after 5 ½ hours of wonderful cycling. Wait, where's the official control? Well, the officials, and the rest of the riders, were inside, enjoying some well-earned food.

My thanks to Mike Poplawski for convincing me to ride this wonderful route. Put this on your calendars for next year. I'm going back.