Day 6 – Qualicum Beach to Living Forest Campground (68 km)

Neil Young – Long May You Run

We’ve been through

some things together

With trunks of memories

still to come

We found things to do

in stormy weather

Long may you ride.

Long may you ride.

Long may you ride.

Although these changes

have come

With your chrome heart shining

in the sun

Long may you ride.

Okay so I changed “run” to “ride”. I’m sure Neil won’t mind?? Everyone’s hepped up this morning and ready to get on the road. We’ve already done some sections of this ride on the way north so going south should be easier as it is “down south” as opposed to “up north”. We’ll see. Morning coffee was slow in arriving this morning as CCs and DDs butane canister ran dry. Fortunately RR managed to find a spare one amongst their massive supply cache. Once fueled up we headed out with just a little bit of trepidation on whether we had the mettle to reach our goal of the Living Forest Campground at the south end of Nanaimo.

The first 25 km to Parksville was a reverse of our earlier ride and followed the coastline with very little elevation to worry about. No hike-a-bikes. Not only was the ride fairly easy the weather cooperated and was a very moderate 18 to 20 degrees with no headwinds. What’s not to like about that and what’s not to like about the beautiful views along the ocean. A pit stop at Canadian Tire in Parksville (about 10:30 am) to pick up a butane canister and more Gatorade and we were on our way again. Only 45 km to go.

CC chases DD along the coast

We continued through Parksville for another 8 km where the old and new Island Highways merged. We would stay on the main highway for another 13 km until we were able to get off on Lantzville Road and escape the crazy traffic on the main highway. This section of the ride was significantly different from what we had experienced to date. Large trucks zipping by at 110 plus kph can be unnerving. Luckily the paved shoulder was reasonably wide so unless you had very long arms you were more than arms length away although the noise certainly ruined the ambiance of what could have been a very scenic drive. There was only one very long climb on this section which we struggled with but halleluiah was followed with an incredible long downhill (3 -4 km) where I would guess, had us rolling along at over 50 kph. Sweet. We took a break and enjoyed some Timmie’s lunch at the turn off before moving on.

Getting off the main highway resolved the issues of noise and traffic but reintroduced us to our old nemesis, hike-a-bike hills. This was a new route (9 km) for us and we should have known that our hilly route might take a turn for the worse as we made a turn onto Uplands Avenue as we tried to navigate our way to the Nanaimo City bike path. And true to its name, Uplands presented some major climbs, the last of which was close to the Denman Island ferry hill in degree of difficulty. It was at this point in the ride that the Captain called a break to make a special presentation to DD (the PMAUTH) for her heroic effort in making the climb without a hike-a-bike. This was the first and only Pedalled My Ass Up The Hill awarded on the trip. DD was quite pleased to receive this time honored award and is not shy about letting folks know about it.

DD shows off her biking beauty marks

Now for the fun part. After conquering the Uplands we were back on the city bike path (E&N Trail) and we rewarded with a 6 km section of a paved, slight downhill graded trail assisted with a tail wind. With only 9 km more to go and still only mid afternoon we were almost ready to celebrate our BIG RIDE.

DD seems happy – not aware of what’s ahead

But, and there is always a but, little did we know that a wrong turn would take us onto the Highway to Hell. For some unexplained reason we got off the trail and onto Highway 1 going through downtown Nanaimo. YIKES. This section of the highway was absolutely dangerous. No bike path, no shoulders and no ride able sidewalks. Fearing for our lives, we were back to hike-a-biking through a very seedy part of town before finding a side road that would get us to the Living Forest Campground. Shaken but not stirred, we checked into our campsite around 3:30 in the afternoon. High Fives were the order of the day and we all got sore arms from patting ourselves on the back. And to top it off as cyclists (pedal not battery) we received a 10% discount.

After setting up camp we made a short ride to get groceries, had dinner and we were all ready for an early night (like we ever stay up late) and a good night’s sleep. We had a great campsite with one obvious deficiency. The closest bathroom was about 100 meters away and while this isn’t a big issue during the day, keeping the night trips to a minimum was definitely required.  There will be no disclosure herein of how that worked out but we did make it through the night.

some of our camping buddies

Our last destination of our trip was Newcastle Island just off the shore of Nanaimo. Before heading out for the short trip to the Island off the Island we hiked a little around the campground.

Pics taken at Living Forest Campground below:

The following link to LLs Vlog starts with our ride from Denman Island to Qualicum Beach Campground and finishes up with our ride to Living Forest. Enjoy

By stubbs99


Day 3 – Little Qualicum to Denman Island (49 km)

David Clayton Thomas – Spinning Wheels

What goes up must come down

Spinnin’ wheel(s), got to go round

Talkin’ ’bout your troubles, it’s a cryin’ sin

Ride a painted bicycle, let the spinnin’ wheel(s) spin

You got no money, you got no home

Spinnin’ wheel(s), all alone

Talkin’ ’bout your troubles and you, you never learn

Ride a painted bicycle, let the spinnin’ wheel(s) turn

Did you find the directing sign

On the straight and narrow highway????

The Bicycle Banditos were once again up early and with some trepidation were looking forward to their longest ride of the trip to date. Even with the aforementioned shortcut (see Part 2) the expected mileage was anticipated to be in the 50 km range. Additionally the BBs were entertaining the option of ending the day with some wild camping. The Captain had done some dubious research and located a possible wild camping spot near Fanny Bay at an abandoned road side rest stop. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Bad. After retrieving our “bear bags” out of the trees and another hearty breakfast, for DD which consisted of a tortilla coated liberally with peanut butter, nutella and rolled around a banana, we hit the road. Wait hold it right there. We did not in fact “hit the road”. You might better say that the road hit us, as within 2 minutes a steepish climb turned our enthusiastic group into unhappy hike-a-bikers. Okay we’ll get over it, but no sooner said than done and another hike-a-bike was required just to get out of the damn park and onto the main shortcut road. End of the Bad for now.

The Good. How quickly things can change. Once out of the park and onto some silky smooth country back roads the ride took a downward turn. In this case downward was a good thing. For the next 10 km we followed a mostly downhill grade through some gloriously traffic free country roads that had DD whooping with delight. I’m not really sure if whooping is an apt description of the noises emanating from DD but I think you get the idea. After turning north on the old island highway our stress free ride continued as the road basically ran flat along the shoreline for the next 35 km. Although the weather was warming to the upper 20s range, the ocean breeze kept the heat mostly in check. Our first pit stop for a snack was alongside a creek in Rosewall Creek Provincial Park and a second pit stop for supplies at Bowser. All in all a pretty decent morning ride – The Good.

DD on the old Island Highway
Rosewall Creek rest stop
Cruising through Qualicum Bay

The Bad # 2. By noon we had arrived at Buckley Bay. So this is where the grand plan for some wild camping went off the rails. The Captain was once again sent off on his own, up a seriously steep gravel road mind you, to find the wild camping site. A wild goose chase minus the goose. On to plan B. Plan B being a seriously steep ride (or hike-a-bike as the case may be) up a paved road to the Rest Area and another potential wild camping site. The rest area was quite pleasant however No Camping signs were posted liberally around the area and honestly it seemed far too busy a place to consider setting up camp. Two strikes and we were almost out; however we did enjoy a lunch break with spectacular views of the ocean to the east. Time for Plan C.

CCs fruitless quest for a wild camping spot

The Good # 2. While having lunch we had a great view of Denman Island. There was a ferry to the Island. There was a Provincial Park on the Island. None of us had ever been to Denman so why not make Denman Island Plan C. A quick call to the Provincial Park on the Island settled the matter as there was an overflow camping area if all the sites were taken.

So off we go hitting speeds of 60+ kph on that sweet downhill arriving at the terminal just in time to catch the 1:00 pm sailing. There would only be another 4 – 5 km to the Park once we were back on shore, so things were working out just fine, until?…

The Ugly! Now you would have thought that DD and CC would have remembered, after all we lived on the coast for 20+ years, that pretty much after disembarking from a ferry there would probably be a hill. Maybe big, maybe small?? This was brought home to us when a fellow cyclist casually inquired as to our intentions in regard to the “hill” once back on shore. “Oh we’ll be riding up” the BBs optimistically replied, in unison I might add. Sad to say, but the optimism only lasted the 100 yards or so until we actually got to the base of the hill. Can you say hike-a-bike? I thought so and so did DD, LL and RR. No problem though, as we hadn’t had a hike-a-bike for 4 – 5 hours and stretching the legs is good for you. Once we remustered at the top we were down to 4 km and back on the bikes. Then???

Looking down the ferry hill

The REAL Ugly. Within minutes we encountered the “Hill from Hell”. A half kilometer 13 percent grade with a switchback at the bottom. It became quite obvious within the first 2 minutes that none of us were going to ride this beast and our sunny positive outlook was quickly clouded over with despair. Now no hike-a-bike is ever a lot of fun but this one looked to be brutal without even the cool ocean breeze to temper the way. So to their credit DD and LL conjured up a miracle of sorts and before you could say “I’ve got sores on my saddle sores” the Denman Island Bus rolled up behind us and offered a lift to the top. Needless to say DD and LL had their bikes and butts on the bus regardless the cost, which they both opined later as the best 2 bucks they’d ever spent. The dumbass boys however wanting to prove their manliness opted to stay the course and limped their way to the top.


The last few kilometers to the Park were easy riding and we arrived around 2. After a short wait for the Park Ranger we were fortunate to get an open site for the night. We had decided to spend the next day on the Island as a rest day and the Ranger advised we would have our site for the next night as well. So after what was our longest day on the road we relaxed on the shore for a bit, cooked up some grub and waited not so patiently for bedtime (8 o’clock) to roll around.

Day 4 – Rest Day??

No rest for the wicked is a saying the Captain often utters. Mostly this is to let others know he is not happy having work to do. As he considers himself a “good boy” he shouldn’t have work to do. On this occasion the lot of us must have misbehaved given the events that transpired. Shortly after breakfast and before our hoped for morning naps we were advised by the Ranger that there had been a “scheduling” snafu and our site had been booked out to other campers. Not only was our site booked but all the sites in the park were booked. We did have the option of moving into the overflow site however we would have to wait until 5 o’clock to set up there. In the interim we would be required to move our stuff off the site onto the beach. And wait, as none of us had any burning desire to pack up and head back on the road with no plan of action so we planned on inaction.

Sunrise on Denman Island
DD doesn’t seem happy to be waiting around

Now waiting around all day was probably no big deal, however by early afternoon the weather forecast had rain arriving by late afternoon. This would have been our first rain and we weren’t looking forward to setting up camp and dining in the rain. Once again Lady Luck was on our side and around 6 o’clock a group of campers decided to leave a day early an bequeathed us their site. A mad scramble ensued and we managed to get camp set up just as the rain began and enjoyed our first in-tent dinner.

DD still waiting
moving to our new site

Our plan for the next day was to do another short ride to Qualicum Bay. The day after that we were going for broke and would attempt a 70 km trek.

pretty easy going back down the hill

Go to the following link for LL’s YouTube video of this section of the trip:

Day 5 – Denman Island to Qualicum Beach (25 km)

Day 5 wasn’t really much of an adventure to write home about. By now we were such highly conditioned bikepackers, that a 25 km run barely produced a sweat. In addition, the campground we spent the night at was crowded, somewhat dirty and poorly run. No I won’t name the place but you’ll know it if you ever camp there. The positives were that It was in a beautiful location right along the ocean and the rhythmic surf was a great background for relaxation had it not been for the constant fog horn like trumpeting during the night. Now fog horns can be tolerated if you like that kind of sound, but alas the fog horn we were subjected to overnight unfortunately emanated from a tent about 100 feet from ours. Say no more.

DD ordering from Skip the Dishes after seeing what CC and RR were preparing for dinner
the Captain tries out a new radioactive bug helmet
By stubbs99


Day 1 – Nanaimo to Rathtrevor Provincial Park (33 km)

The Band – The Weight

We pulled into Rathtrevor, were feelin’ about half past dead
We just needed some place where we could lay our heads
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where some bikers might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said

Take a load off Fanny
Take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny
and (and) (and) you put the load right on me

So this was the end of the day, now back to the beginning. Our first night of “camping out” in John and Carols’s yard just wasn’t the way to get ready for our first day of biking. Sure we had our tents, comfy sleeping pads and bags, however one must remember that the last time the Captain and Debbie Dewdrops slept on the ground was several decades ago. Funny how the body doesn’t adapt like it used to! Actually sleeping on the ground wasn’t all that bad once you found a comfortable position, if in fact you could. Okay, I would finally get the right position after almost an hour of squirming and drop off to sleep when the neighbor’s dog would start barking and start the process all over again. In addition to the barking dog(s) the scare light would come on whenever a squirrel would amble by adding to the disruption. Everything’s good by morning though as us old folks don’t really need more than a couple hours sleep to function at about 25%.

DD gives the big thumbs up
RR already hiding in the background

Even in our deprived state we did manage to tear down and pack up camp in under an hour and after coffee and bagels we were set to hit the road. So without so much as a by-your-leave to our hosts, we left. Wow this was great. The first 200 meters was a delightful downhill until we had to slog the bikes (an omen perhaps) across an abandoned rail line. Not to worry though, as the bike path after the crossing, was paved and pretty darn level. The trail stayed that way for several kilometers and didn’t we think we had this bikepacking gig made.

But just like that, the trail took a turn, two turns actually, and began a gentle meandering through a pleasantly forested area. Now we would have enjoyed the meandering all day but some sadistic circus carnie had morphed the path into a roller coaster extraordinaire. So for the next few kilometers the steep down hills were a bit of a hoot, except for the tree roots masquerading as speed bumps, but the up hills was just plain ugly! And this dear reader is where the theme of this Post, The Weight is derived from. Now for those who profess to have read Part 1 you will remember a comment about the copious amounts of gear being carried by our biking buddies LL and RR. If not, I’m sure you get the picture.

Lots of gear = lots of weight = lots of trouble doing steep climbs. The solution of course is not a solution, but a different mode of travel called hike-a-bike. Hike-a-bike is not a lot of fun but when there is no alternative?? Well part of the solution was to have the Captain cycle to the top of the hill(s) and hike down to help whoever was closest to collapsing and push his/her bike to the top. With quite a few rest breaks we managed to escape the ravages of the roller coaster trail. Back on the main roadways things leveled out for most of the rest of the days ride, except for one or two steep climbs that got us to the gates of Rathtrevor Park.

DD setting the pace

Fortunately we arrived at Rathtrevor at 11:30 am (only 29C) after a 4 hour ride. After setting up camp (no shade) we spent the rest of the day doing our damndest to not do anything but recuperate for tomorrow’s challenges. Oh, and RR spent quite a bit of time rearranging the loads more equitably on their bikes and just like in “The Weight” he:

Took a load off his Fanny
Took a load for free
Took a load off his Fanny
and (and) (and) he put the load right on Leslie

Well to say the ride today was a bit tough may be an understatement due to the terrain. However, you may also remember that one of the allures of riding on Vancouver Island was the expectation that the weather would be coolish compared to the Okanagan. And well it normally would be, but as luck would have it the weather gods were having one on us. By late morning the temperature was into the upper 20sC and heading to over 35C and worse with the high humidity. For my American readers that is 85 to 95 plus humidity.

DD puts together another fine dining experience

BUT HEY WE MADE IT KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 2 – Rathtrevor to Little Qualicum Provincial Park (24 km)

The weather report for the ride today is a carbon copy of yesterday. Hot! Hot! Hot! Fortunately the ride was considerably shorter and not nearly as hilly, except for the steep climb to get out of the park.

Sleeping was much better for everyone last night. No barking dogs, no scare lights and the fact that we all were pretty drained will do the trick. Even the hordes of bunny rabbits in the park were well behaved and left us alone. There is one major difference for CC and DD in tenting rather than RVing and that is the middle of the night bathroom breaks. Depending on location it could be anywhere from 100 feet to 100 yards to the loo. Quite a venture especially if it is very dark out and definitely an odyssey if you are like DD and are very much directionally challenged! Normally CC and DD would try to make the trek together however DD did a solo jaunt and managed to get lost once, but she did find her way back after almost walking into the ocean.

Packing up the kit still seems to take quite a bit of time so even with getting up around 5:30 am, having coffee, eating breakfast, doing dishes and a few moments of morning meditation we are around 1 ½ to 2 hours before getting on our saddles. And speaking of saddles (nice segue CC) I expect there will be some saddle soreness for us today and most likely tomorrow as well. By 7:30 am we are on our way and yes even with our renewed energy and spirit, the climb out of the park starts the day with a short hike-a-bike.

The first part of the ride today takes us through the town of Parksville and onto the gravel track of an old railway bed from Parksville to Coombs (14 km). Very easy cycling and we arrive at Coombs around 9:30 am. We’re definitely not burning up the pavement (we’re on gravel remember) but it is a remarkable change from yesterday’s grind. Now Coomb’s only claim to “fame” is a country market building where goats graze on the grass covered roof. For those of us who have visited this place many years ago may recall that originally the country market was it. The market and basically nothing else. Not so the case today. The market has exploded into a quagmire of touristy enterprises that is incredibly popular, as evidenced by the hundreds of people populating the grounds, even at the early hour we were there. Despite the inconvenience of all the tourists (we didn’t see ourselves as tourists – biker snobs?) wandering about we enjoyed a break to load up on caffeine, buy some fruits and of course the Baguette then were ready for the second half of our ride. Even the parade of garbage trucks that descended on the place weren’t enough to chase us off too quickly.

The ride from Coombs to Little Qualicum Falls Park (10km) was more of a challenge than the first half of the ride with several long hills but only one or two that involved short hike-a-bikes. And yes as you can probably guess we arrived shortly after 11:30 am. Do I detect a pattern here? Entering the Park we stopped to check with the Camp Host on directions to our site. After a lengthy conversation the Captain, RR and LL managed to skulk away leaving DD engaged in conversation with the host. I know this comes as no surprise to those of you who know DD but we expected she would be along shortly. Well it wasn’t “shortly” and when we did see DD she was riding around like someone who was lost. She was but she did eventually manage to find us.

DD finally found us
the cleanup crew in action

Little Qualicum was a delightful place to do a bit of hiking and we spent a couple of hours in the afternoon wandering the shaded trails around the park and waterfalls. The forest canopy provided some relief from a very hot afternoon.

After dinner LL reviewed our route for the next day and discovered a potential short cut that would save us about 10 km on what was going to be our longest ride so far. A recognizance party was suggested to scout out the route; however the Captain failed miserably to enlist any additional scouts for the mission. Beleaguered as he was, he set out alone on his bike at dusk and within 30 minutes had the new route scouted out.

CC heads out to find the short cut

Returning to camp the Captain found the rest of the crew engaged in what was becoming a nightly ritual. The ritual had everyone sitting at a picnic table looking at their watches hoping 8 o’clock would arrive soon so they could get off to bed. All in all, a much more satisfying ride than our first day.

Before turning in for the night RR and CC made sure that the food bags were secured and tied up in a tree so as not to entice Yogi and friends into our camp. Given DD’s night adventure last night she was pleased to see that the outhouse was located directly across the road from our camp. Not even DD could get lost on such a short sojourn??

  • Special Report on the Coomb Goats – While in Coombs the Captain was requested by one of the Goat Leaders (said his name was Billy – obviously an alias) to meet with a group of Goats to discuss unionization. The Goats claim they are overworked, fed garbage and get no time off. In particular the Goats claim that after a grueling 12 hour shift on the roof, and after the tourists have gone for the day they are herded to the ground and forced to eat all the garbage left on the grounds by the said tourists. The Bosses claim the Goats get “time off the roof” to eat garbage, which they would eat anyway so what’s the beef. The Captain has agreed to meet again with the Goats at next year’s We’re Not Kids Anymore Conference.

I also failed to let folks know that in addition to LL being our route planner she filled the role of our trip Vlogger. Catch LL’s report on this section of our trip at this Hyperlink.  

By stubbs99