Saturday, February 11, 2023
It was a day of magic, a day of wonderful surprises, a day that would leave you smiling ear-to-ear for years to come.
Our 7 am ferry suddenly slowed down. The captain announced,” It is your lucky day folks. We have pods of Orca whales on both the starboard and port side of the ferry”. Half the ship’s passengers – including me! – ran to the stern. Two pods of orca whales swam in unison on either side of the ferry.
I have never seen orca whales in my entire life, except in the movie “Free Willy”. Their towering dorsal fins sliced in and out of the sea. A passenger told me that this J-Pod crew regularly hangs out in winter between Mayne and Galiano islands. She pointed out a rocky spot on Mayne Island where the winter salmon are plentiful. It is the favourite fishing spot for the local First Nations.
As we ate our traditional ferry breakfast, we heard a “Hello!” and I looked up to see my oldest and dearest friend from Toronto. It was a crazy surprise. He is the only friend in the world who has met four generations of my family. Can this day get any better?
Well of course it could! Another North Shore Hiker emailed me the night before saying she hoped to meet us and guide us to Victoria. Oh, joy! She is a wealth of knowledge and knows the historical significance of almost every hike and bike ride on Vancouver Island.
Our guide for the day, she pointed out the significance of the Blenkinsop Trestle, Lockside trail, Swan Lake as “the First Auspicious Feng Shui site in Canada”, and the famous “Old Farmer Roy statue”. She showed us glacial terminal moraines that hold sandy beaches on one side and great hiking trails on the other, and indigenous art by the Songhees people. We saw the grand BC Legislative buildings, the coastal bike trail along the shoreline of Victoria, and over to cliffs hiding salty sandy beaches that are a hidden gem for private picnics – and all before noon!
We biked at an average speed of 10 km per hour and it took us 4 hours and 17 minutes to get to our final destination (43.06 km): Prima Strada Pizzeria in Cook Street Village, across from Beacon Hill Park.
Meeting us at the pizzeria was a fellow cyclist who worked on my Mariposa bike in 1984 before my big bike race from Paris to Nice. He had moved to Sidney from New Jersey with his family. and had texted me at 2 am to say he and his wife would be joining us for pizza – more magic!
My Napoli-certified “Vera” pizza was mouth-watering and delicious. It had slices of garlic and spicy pepperoni on a thin crust that was cooked in 90 seconds in a 900-degree Napoli-made pizza oven. In fact, it was too much good food! Maybe our stomachs were full after visiting Adrienne’s tea garden at Michell’s and Mattick’s farms for elevenses.
We jumped back on our bikes to catch the 5 o’clock ferry and as we got closer to the Johnson Bridge, heard a loud announcement. The draw bridge was opening and all bikers and pedestrians must wait. An unforeseen, but delightful, delay in our tight schedule. It was an amazingly engineered structure to watch open and close.
We hustled off to catch our ferry with a laugh, peddling wildly to make up for lost time. At one point, my forearms started to sweat and my forearms never sweat! The odometer fluctuated between 19.3 km to 25.75 km/hour. One cyclist said he had reached his limit but kept peddling – we didn’t need a rescue line just yet.
Another cyclist was riding a fancy ultra-light Niner gravel bike and I swear she could coast uphill! I was peddling my heart out and it was exhilarating. We howled with joy. It was now 3:30 pm and my Apple watch decided to expire at 68 km. We had 12+ more km to go. No time to drink or pee, we just flew like the wind. We got to the Swartz Bay ticket booth at 4 pm – we made it!
I loved biking on Vancouver Island. It was the fastest ride I have ever led for North Shore Hikers and so much fun with a great group of seasoned riders. Two of us will be partaking in my North Shore Hiker’s self-guided Italian bike trip in May 2023. This gives me great confidence that 70 km daily is very doable and it can be quite fun with a group of lively cyclists. The key is to be kind, laugh in moments of stress, leave space for magic, and be positive that it will all work out.