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My (our) Van Isle 200
The New Tour of Cowichan Valley
Ride Date: July 20, 2020
by Gary Baker

I’m still wondering why this ride appeared on my to do list. Looking at the route, over the years, I have ridden 90% of the roads and trails along this route. But a road with a name like the Riverbottom Rd. sounded inviting and I had not ridden the section of the Great Trail from Cowichan Lake down to Duncan (at least not since it had been upgraded). Many years ago Sheryl and I tried riding this section of trail, on our tandem, when it was little more than a cow path. It didn’t go well.

The other attraction of doing this ride was the logistics of getting there. I didn’t want to have to go over the day before, I wanted to go to the island, do the ride, and get home more or less in one day. It was possible if I did the ride at NIGHT. I bounced the idea off Bob K. , and he was in!

The plan was to catch a 2pm ferry to Swartz Bay, ride the 20km to catch the Brentwood Bay ferry to Mill Bay, grab a bite to eat, ride through the night and catch an early morning ferry back to the mainland. Brilliant!

We were to meet in Tsawwassen and ride to the ferry together. I intended to park at a friend's place, change in to my cycling gear there. Sh*t, I had my shoes and helmet but I had forgotten my clothes at home......Riding 200km , either commando or in my street underwear, was not appealing. I phoned Bob on the chance he hadn’t left, he hadn’t. Lucky! He grabbed an old pair of shorts and jersey for me.

We got to the terminal early and were told the ferry would be leaving immediately. Once on board Bob commented, “I’ve never known a boat to leave early.” The reply from the crew member was we were on the 1pm ferry, that was leaving late. Great bonus time.

The ride to Brentwood Bay was wonderful, something about the Saanich area in the sunshine and we were able to make an earlier ferry to Mill Bay than planned. Departing the boat in Mill Bay, there was Colin Finger. He had just finished the ride and was heading home. He, being the Prez, we asked if it was OK to move our start time up 90 minutes. He was OK with the suggestion, we’d decide later whether to do so.

We grabbed a quick meal at Tim’s and were about to head out, low and behold, Stephen and Carol Hinde meet us at the door. As the Island Brevet organizer(S) we asked if an early start would be OK. The reply was yes, but we would do the ride with our watches ‘figuratively’ set forward 90 mins; 6pm became 7:30pm).

Off we went. The first control was at the amazing Kinsol Bridge. Bob had not been there before, so we parked the bikes and strolled across it, neat. From there it was off to Glenora, one of my alltime favourite country store stops. The muffins there are wonderful, too bad it was way past closing time. From there it was down into Duncan on Indian Rd. with its swiping tight curves near the bottom. It was dark now, Bob was infront of me; I heard a thud, thud and saw bits and pieces flying off Bob’s bike. He had hit a nasty pothole. I had time to stop and go hunting for ‘whatever’. It was one of his tail lights. I found the body, the lens, and one battery. In the meantime Bob was surprised I wasn’t right behind him at the bottom of the hill. Had I hit the potholes and crashed? He started to ride back up the hill. It ended well. I was safe and he can salvage the light.

Next was the climb up to Cowichan Lake where we would be riding on Riverbottom Rd. for part of the way. What a desolate road , deep in the forest; it was DARK, DARK. There were no lane markings, there were no visual reference features. The only indication you were going up or down was speed and effort. In some places there was way too much effort. I had the gearing, Bob didn’t.

Cowichan Lake has nothing for teenages, except 24hr fast food joints which on past rides were like an oasis in the desert. Of course they are closed.

The ride out to Youbou and back was uneventful as anticipated, it seemed shorter than usual though. Back in Cowichan Lake we stopped to ‘light up’ in preparation for 25km of trail riding. The trail was a treat, smoother than a lot of the pavement we had been riding. It was surprisingly busy though, being the middle of the night. Deer and more deer. I was in the lead when I encounter two does standing in the middle of the trail, one stepped off to the right one to the left. Then they just stood there staring at me. The classic look of deer fixated on the headlights. Bob pulled up behind me and they still hadn’t moved a muscle, which way would their escape bound take. I wasn’t about to make my move until they made theirs. Getting T-boned by a deer did not seem a wise move.

Movement, the animal to our right, turned, and vanished into the forest; the one to our left turn and started to run down the trail ahead of us. It went about 50 m then turned around and, at speed, headed directly back at us, interesting development. With only a few metres between us it turned into the forest. It wasn’t the quiet, silent deer vanishing into the woods. It sounded like a moose clearing a path through alder.

On we went to Westholme and then back towards Maple Bay via Richards Trail (a delightful side road), then through Cowichan Bay and up that $%()^&_$_ hill to Cherry Point. Bob walked, I think.” I’ve never seen a hill I can’t walk up.”

We had called our team the ‘Old Farts’ or something like that, but considering it was a night ride and it was a slower time than planned we think ‘night crawler’ might have been a more appropriate team name. I was back home in less that 24hrs. The plan worked.

Thank for building a fun route Stephen!

 


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