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Photos Rob Nygren except graffiti photo by Murray Tough
AGM 200, Old Rails and Trails
This ride started at a very civilized 8:00 AM. When I arrived at the Tim Horton’s in Sidney, there was a large crowd of riders and organizers eagerly awaiting the start. It was great to see such a good turnout. The weather was good, it was cloudy and cool but it was also dry and calm.
Our first leg of the ride was down Lochside Drive, along the beach, past James Island and then onto the Lochside Trail. The Lochside Trail was the former Victoria & Sidney Railway, built in 1894. We rode through farmland, through canopied forest, across Blenkinsop Lake on the boardwalk. We rode along city streets and we passed graffiti covered warehouses before going back into the woods at Swan Lake. There was a cut through a ravine before emerging at the Galloping Goose Trail.
We only rode the Goose for a short time before turning around and heading back into the city on the E&N Trail. I would have missed the secret control if the rest of the group hadn’t stopped. The CRD does not allow our “Controle” sign because it is considered advertising.
The E&N Trail is the former Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. Today it is a “dormant” railway called the Island Rail Corridor. We followed the E&N Trail through View Royal and Esquimalt. We passed the Graving Dock where one of the BC Ferries was under repair. More warehouses, more colourful graffiti and into Vic West. There we reconnected with the Galloping Goose, past the Upper Harbour and then across it on the long Trestle Bridge.
We left the Goose at the Blenkinsop Greenway and rode up to the base of Mt Doug. A hill with many names, it was called PKOLS by the aboriginal people. It became known as Cedar Hill for a time before being renamed Mount Douglas. The surrounding park (formerly Mt Douglas Park) has been renamed PKOLS Park and there is a petition to change the name of the hill back to PKOLS.
At one point Willie Fast was at the front and I was riding behind him. Rob called out that it was not a surprise that fast and tough were the two on the front. You might have to look at my last name to get the humour. For the non-cyclists, the person on the front of a group does most of the work. The rest of the group can ride close behind for an easy ride without any wind resistance.
And then the Fun With Navigation began. Course designers Stephen and Mark took us on a delightful journey through Gordon Head and Oak Bay with lots of little “connector” paths. They were easy to miss if you weren’t paying close attention. We were still a group of about 8 riders when I missed the turn into Lambrick Park. Fortunately, the error was caught immediately so we didn’t ride any extra distance. The meandering took us past the university, through Uplands and onto Beach Drive.
We took another meander through Oak Bay before emerging at the waterfront on Dallas Road. We had a spectacular view across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Olympic Mountains. There were two towering cruise ships at the Victoria Cruise Ship Terminal at Ogden point. There was a staffed control in James Bay. This meant bananas, water and cookies! Thanks Mark. Back on the bikes, past the legislature, around the Inner Harbour with its ferries and seaplanes and over the Johnson Street Bridge to the E&N trail. We backtracked on the E&N trail to rejoin the Galloping Goose Trail at Atkins Road.
The Galloping Goose trail is, of course, another rail trail. We followed it through Langford, Colwood, Metchosin and Sooke. It couldn’t have been a better day. The fall colours were spectacular and the weather was perfect. We rode many miles to the turnaround at Sooke River Road. There we were treated to another staffed control. Fruit, chips, cookies, water. This one had it all. Someone told me that the grapes were delicious. They were. Thanks Stephen and Carol. We dawdled for a bit before getting back on the bikes to do the trail in reverse.
Our group was a little smaller now. Bob took a turn on the front. He was really making us work. We were practically sprinting off the many road crossings. Then Willie got on the front. I was barely hanging on but I was determined not to lose the opportunity to draft behind him. Were they both that desperate to get out of Sooke? I was concentrating so hard on staying in contact with Willie that I didn’t realize we had dropped Bob. We later learned that while the weather seemed perfect for riding, the gravel trail was a little damp and that fine gravel eventually packed into his fenders to the point that his wheels weren’t turning.
Now we were down to two. There was a short out and back past Langford Lake to a control. We stopped and snacked before heading back. As expected, Bob was not far behind. He was determined to catch us but some later navigation errors made the task impossible.
We turned onto Interurban Road and the Interurban Rail Trail. Yes, that’s right, another railway. This ill-fated railway ran from Victoria to Deep Bay in North Saanich. It opened in 1913 and closed in 1923. We made good time on Wallace Road, through the villages of Brentwood Bay and Saanichton. We rode through fields that will be brilliant yellow when the daffodils bloom in the spring. The backdrop was now the Salish Sea and the Gulf Islands. Breathtaking.
We crisscrossed the Pat Bay Highway on footbridges. Oh no, is that rain? We were only a kilometer from the finish when the course designers sent us back over the Pat Bay Highway for a trip around the airport on The Flight Path. The footbridges had metal decks. By the time we crossed the second one the metal was wet. My back wheel was slipping as I pedalled up the ramp.
To my knowledge, The Flight Path is not a rail trail but it is pretty flat. We have fewer than 10 km to go and its raining. I’m motivated. It’s my turn to push the pace, Willie is now the one struggling to stay in touch. We leave The Flight Path for Wilson Road and John Road. We both agree that this is one of the nicest rides on the Peninsula. The roads are quiet, flat and pretty. One more footbridge across the Pat Bay Highway for the final sprint to the finish. Yes, it’s still raining. The course designers threw in one last hidden connector to get us onto the streets of Sidney and back to where we started. Done! A good day.