|Andre Marier CKAP 989
2003 was my 9th consecutive year
of doing a fully self-supported, bicycle tour, or perhaps more aptly named, “Adventure”. For those of you who
don’t know me, I should give you a bit of background.
Ten years ago, I found myself alone and not knowing what to do to pass the time, so I went
back to my childhood memories and bought a bicycle. Wow, what a difference from my one
speed, CCM bike, with coaster brakes that I got for my 12th birthday. On my first outing,
I managed to go a bit over 4 kilometers. That resulted in one very sore butt and legs, for a
couple of days, however I persevered. Within a couple of weeks I managed to do a
50-kilometer ride. Left home early in the morning and managed to get back before dark.
Another couple of weeks later, I was returning from, what turned out to be, my first metric
“century” when I crossed paths, and had a conversation with a bicycle tourist from Sweden
that told me that he was cycling across Canada. I thought that he was pulling my leg. I had
never heard of such a thing, didn’t think that this was humanely possible. He assured me
however that he had started in Vancouver and was averaging around 125 kilometers per
day. Then and there, the idea was born. In 1995, I made my maiden voyage. I went back to
my hometown in Northern Ontario. By the time I got back to Ottawa, I had logged 2,000
kilometers. I was addicted, as I haven’t missed a year since. My longest trip was in 2002,
across Canada, from Victoria BC to St John’s Newfoundland, then back to Ottawa, a total
of 9000 kilometers, (report still forthcoming).
Andre's West Coast Tour
Gateway to :
Pender Street West
Lion's Gate Bridge
||Photo taken from :
Lion's Gate Bridge
||Strait of Georgia
|British Columbia June 2nd. to June 9th. 2003
On May 22 of 2003, I took a plane to Vancouver with my bike. After spending some time
with family, I started my “West Coast” journey. On June 2cnd I met up with my friend
“Robin Hittos (an SSOF). The following 500 kilometers spread over 5 days, took us
through some very scenic and hilly, (moderate for BC standards) countryside. Traveling
north along the sunshine coast to Powell River then as well as exploring a few of the Gulf
Islands. The sunshine coast normally gets an annual rainfall a bit in excess of 100
centimeters. The Gods must have been with us as this leg of the journey treated us to total
sunshine with temperatures around the high twenties and very little adverse wind
conditions. This portion of the trip included 5 ferry crossings and numerous communities
such as Horseshoe Bay, Gibsons (home of the “Beachcombers”), Sechelt and Pender
Harbor, to name a few along the Sunshine Coast. The views from the ferry from Powell
River to Comox are the same that you would experience on an Alaskan Cruise Ship.
Heading south on Vancouver Island along old Coast Highway 19A took us through
commuties, such as Courtenay, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Chemainus to name a few.
For me, Chemainus was most interesting for it’s famous Murals on many buildings
depicting an era gone by. The campground we had planned to spend the night at on Salt
Springs Island was closed. Robin suggested that if we hammered we could make the next
ferry to Schwartz Bay then on to Victoria. This would make for a long day, however with
the thought of cold beer in his fridge we decided to go for it. Some of you who know Robin,
may think that he is sometimes directionally challenged. Well let me tell you that his
navigational skills along the back roads and bicycle paths approaching Victoria, in the dark
no less; were second to none, and without the use of his GPS I might add.
San Juan Island
||Moran State Park
|Photo taken from summit of:
4.7 mile ride
20 minutes by car
1 1/2 hours by bike
|Washington State USA – June 9th. to June 16th. 2003
After 2 days in walking around Victoria and a few minor bike adjustments, Robin escorted
me to the ferry in Sidney via the same bike paths so that I could appreciate them in
daylight. The next 4 days were spent roaming around the San Juan Islands. Apart from
the forever-present beautiful scenery and quiet roads for cycling, other highlights
were watching wildlife, (no not in bars!) like a nest containing 3 Eagle Chicks (weighing
7 or 8 lbs. According to the Park Ranger) anxiously awaiting the parents to parachute their
next meal, like 2-foot long fish or a whole seagull. Then there were in the coves,
numerous Orcas Whales putting on a show. Needles to say these were low mileage cycle
days, notwithstanding a climb (in excess of 2400 feet) to the top of “Mount Constitution”
which gives a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of the Puget Sound as well as back
north to Vancouver, the Straight of Georgia and it’s islands. Whidbey, the last island
to cycle on, was left behind when I crossed to the mainland on the bridge at “Deception
Pass”. Highway 101 along the Hood Canal was dotted with Clam diggers at low tide.
A few days later I arrived in South Bend and Bay Center area of Washington, known as the
Oyster capital of the world. Here along the shores of Willapa Bay’s mud flats were shucked
Oyster shells in numerous piles in size that would rival Ottawa’s snow dumps. Talk about
a Power Breakfast to start your cycling day on, of all things, “An Oyster Omelet”!
Not sure of the Carb. content here? My last night in Washington State would be spent
tenting at the Mouth of the Columbia River in the shadow of Cape Disappointment lighthouse
at Fort Canby State Park.
||Deception Pass Bridge
Fidalgo to Whidbey Island
Extreme currents between tides
along the way
(Not an Ottawa snow dump)
|Oyster Mud Flats
|The Oregon Coast – June 16th. to June 24th. 2003
The Oregon Coast bicycle route, mostly on highway 101 has a bit over 600 kilometers (not
counting side trips) of spectacular ocean views, long beaches, sand dunes, wave sculptured
sea stacks and headlands as well as quiet farmlands and forests. From Fort Canby,
Highway 101 hugs the north shore of the Columbia River. This appeared to be a very
popular fishing spot as there were hundreds of hopeful fisherman lining the shore up to the
Astoria Bridge, which crosses the river to Oregon. This bridge will be the longest to
cross on this journey. It is a narrow bridge, however has 2-foot shoulders. It measures almost 7
kilometers in length. Most of the state parks have hiker/biker sites that cost $4.00 a night
per person. These sites are off-limits for anyone that arrives in motorized transportation.
Of the 8 campgrounds that I tented at in Oregon, the 2 most memorable were “Oswald
West and Cape lookout state parks. At Oswald West, cars must be parked ½ a kilometer
from the campsites. The sites are situated in a grove of giant redwood trees. This park is
also very popular with surfers. From the Cape Lookout hiker/biker sites you can see the
sun set from your tent as it just seems to sink into the Pacific Ocean; you then are lulled to
sleep to the rhythm of the waves crashing on shore. It just doesn’t get much better then
that. An added benefit in Oregon is that there are no sales taxes; the price you see is the
price you pay. Almost brought me back to my childhood days!
||Bridge across mouth of the
Over four miles
"Car Traffic can Wait"
"First of Many"
at or near
|Scenic Side trip
just north of
|I start most of my adventures solo. I am often asked if I don’t get lonely riding all by
myself. When I say that I’ll be cycling with other like-minded people, invariably I’m asked,
who? Of course the answer is, I don’t know, as I haven’t met them yet, however I’m
confident that I will, as so far, this has never failed me. You meet all kinds of people, from
day-trippers to around the world adventurers. From elite “Tour de France” types on fancy
bikes to adventuresome ramblers on department store models. At some time or other in the
course of my bicycle travels, I’ve met and ridden with people as young as 19 and as old
as 80. There are no barriers when you associate with like-minded people. Except for the
unlucky few who may have lost their health; in my opinion, age is a state of mind. This trip
was no exception. I met, rode, shared campsites and conversed with people from Europe,
Asia, Australia, USA as well as, of course Canada. Some would slow down to my speed,
while on their training ride for their next century race if only for a few hundred meters,
curious and inquisitive of my adventures and then be on their way. With others, to name a
few, like Susan from Colorado, Jeff from Hawaii and Marcus from Germany, we shared the
experience for up to 10 days. A more detailed description of such an experience follows.
(1,500 km into trip)
Cape Creek Tunnel
for ten days
|While going downhill around a place called “Devil’s Elbow while enjoying the scenery, and
not paying enough attention to where I was going, a hole in the road just seemed to jump in
front of me. My front wheel missed it, but not my rear. Within a short distance, now
approaching a tunnel, going uphill, I got
my first flat. While struggling to get off the road for
repairs, a young touring lady cyclist named “Susan” came along and asked if I needed help.
I assured her that I was OK and she went on her way. Co-incidentally, that night we were
neighbors in the same campsite. After exchanging several cycling adventure stories,
we agreed to ride together the following day. The next day her friend Smith joined us. After 3
days they were taking a day off. We bade farewell at Gold Beach, on the Rogue River and
I continued on to the California border.
|One of many
45 miles south of
||The Shrine Tree
Notice that this tree is hollow
3/4 of wood is dead
1/4 refuses to die
|Highway No. 1
|California - June 25th. to August 1st. 2003
California’s landscape varies greatly, from very rugged coastlines similar to that of Oregon
to Giant Redwood Groves where some trees are thousands of years old, exceed 21 feet in
diameter and over 360 feet in height, to the hustle and bustle of Southern California where
one has to be extremely cautious in order not to become a hood ornament on a Ferrari or a
Mercedes to towns with much Mexican influence as you approach the border into Tijuana.
Although As opposed to Oregon, California has sales tax, however now the “Hiker/Biker
sites in the state parks are only $2.00, but you do have to pay $0.50 for a shower. I did
treat myself to hostels, whenever they were available or convenient, as much for comfort as
well as safety, especially in southern part of the state where vagrants are more
predominant. Thirty-Six days may seem like a long time to cycle the 1,650 kilometer,
suggested bike route along the California Coast. And I suppose it would be, if you didn’t
include any adventuresome side trips and if one’s goal were to put in as much mileage as
possible. However, to add a semblance of sanity to this trip; I spent 3 days in San
Francisco, I did waste time sitting on the dock of the Bay, I did stop to smell the flowers,
even though I didn’t wear them in my hair; (my hair’s too thin to make them stick you see!).
I toured around beautiful Monterey/Carmel/Pebble Beach area for 3 days. I also spent an
additional 3 days in the Los Angeles area as well as 6 days in the San Diego/Tijuana area.
Also a trip through Southern California is not complete without a visit to a few of the old
Spanish Missions, such as San Juan Capistrano.
||Switch Backing Down
Bodega Bay State Park
|The insanity portion, some would claim, was the side trip to the Lost Coast. When
California’s coast road was built, the section between Eureka and Rockport was considered
too rugged therefore the road went inland. Later, in the interests of loggers and ranchers, I
suppose; a stagecoach road, now called the “Mattole Road” to the lost coast was built.
This road of rough pavement (and some gravel sections too) is recommended only for
cyclists in the fittest of condition. Except for one short flat section along the coast, the road
is full of twists, turns and sharp switchbacks, all the while climbing and descending hills so
steep that would make a mountain Goat cringe. After leaving the picturesque Victorian
town of Ferndale, the first sign of civilization is a place called “Capetown”. As you enter
(and almost immediately leave) the following sign greets you, “No Food”; “No Gas”; “No
Services”; “Population, a Few”. After another major climb, you descend into “Petrolia”, the
largest town on the “Mattole”, Population 347. Here it appears that time has stood still
many years ago. Here, the front of the General Store has an old fashioned billboard to
advise the inhabitants of the community’s activities and news. Although there is a gas
station, more prominent is the blacksmith shop, which of course advertises on the
aforementioned billboard of their services, such as shoeing horses. Then out of
“Honeydew” one last major climb then descent, like magic you enter in Humboldt State
Park to the “Avenue of the Giants”, fairy tale like groves of Giant Redwood trees.
Golden Gate Bridge
on the Docks
San Francisco Bay
can do it
|"The Lone Cypress"
17 Mile Drive
|To back up a bit, as luck would have it, while fixing yet another flat, Susan and Smith
caught up to me again and we once more became a cycling team while Smith would drive
ahead to the next campground (he didn’t have his bike with him) to set up camp, do a run
then some studying. Unfortunately, Smith was with us only for a few days, as he had to
return to Colorado for he had other commitments waiting there. In all, Susan and I cycled
together for 10 days. In addition to cycling across the “Extremely Windy” Golden Gate
Bridge, a major highlight of this tour had to be the side trip to the Lost Coast. This was
Susan’s idea. I wouldn’t have done it had I been alone, as I had never heard of the place.
For this I thank you Susan. We parted company one more time at “Fort Bragg”, as she
wanted to take another rest day before continuing to her final destination of San Francisco.
||Now Ain't I
|Two days later, at Bodega Bay State Park, I ran into Jeff and Marcus, both of which I had
crossed paths with several times in the preceding weeks. We would become traveling
companions up until I left San Francisco. Marcus, a 26-year-old lad from Regensburg
Germany was telling us how his father was in disagreement with his son’s bike trip.
He said that Marcus was too old for such a thing and should settle down. At the very next
opportunity, Marcus was quick to telephone his dad in Germany to tell him that he was
cycling with an old fart that was in fact older than he was. He figured that would keep his
dad quiet! Jeff (probably in his forties) who hailed from Hawaii was most interesting to
cycle with. He had many stories to share and was most helpful as we approached San
Francisco, as he had lived there previously and knew of all of the pleasant bike routes that
avoided traffic. There were various other 1-2 day riding companions along the way, too
numerous to mention. Although I got to the San Diego area on July 25th, I didn’t get to the
Mexican Border until the 28th, 3,930 kilometers since leaving Vancouver.
|Heading Home - August 1st. to August 24th. 2003
On August 1st, I left San Diego by bus and made my way to St Louis Missouri, via L.A.,
Las Vegas, across scenic Utah, just north of Moab, across equally scenic Colorado, over
the Rocky Mountains in the Aspen area and Denver. After several days of gathering dust
in San Diego, two days in the belly of a Greyhound Bus then two more days (while I
recuperated from the bus ride) tied to the bedpost of a less than desirable hostel in St.
Louis, my bike was just crying, Ride Me!.. Ride!.., so, I listened. With the flat prairie lands
of the Mid-West, and mostly Soy Bean and Cornfields for scenery, even though I was
experiencing some head winds, my daily distances got longer. I discovered that there was a
ferry service across Lake Erie, from Sandusky, Ohio to Kingsville, Ontario in the Windsor
area. This was quite welcome, as I was able to avoid the Detroit rat race, which I was not
looking forward to. After two most pleasant 100+ miles cycling days, pushed by tail winds,
on quiet country roads through garden lands and tobacco fields of Southern Ontario, I
arrived early in Oakville where I visited with a cousin for a couple of days. Two days later
and once again in rolling hill country; I arrived at my sister’s place in Orillia where I spent
three more days just resting and reminiscing old times all the while tipping a pint or two.
Four more days of cycling, via Huntsville area, across Algonquin Park on highway 60 to
Renfrew and now on very familiar roads, brought me back to Ottawa, Ontario Canada.
San Juan Capistrano
Mission San Juan
U.S. Marine Base
Start of Journey
Statistics are boring for most, but interesting to some I suppose,
because I’m often asked these question:
Statistics on this Trip
SHORT STORIES ARE WELCOMED FROM C-KAP MEMBERS
|Number of Ferry Crossings:
Days in the saddle:
Daily Average kilometers (Riding days only):
Average weight of load:
Body weight of rider:
Total hours in the saddle:
Top Speed (Down hill, of course):
20 lbs. less than I started
16 kilometers per hour
75.9 Kilometers per hour
Dead stop and almost falling over!
1 - 70 Highway
||St. Louis, Missouri
but still in
from the ferry across
on the way
back home to
|For anyone who might be contemplating the West coast in full or in part, I highly
recommend the book “Bicycling The Pacific Coast”, by Tom Kirkendall & Vicky Springs.
In my 9 years of loaded bicycle touring, this is by far the best book of it’s kind that I’ve
come across. Lonely Planet also publishes a good book called, “Cycling USA West Coast”.