Day 7 – Living Forest to Newcastle Island (12 km)

The Traveling Wilburys – End of the Line

Well, it’s alright, even if you’re old and grey
Well, it’s alright, you still got something to say
Well, it’s alright, remember to live and let live
Well, it’s alright, the best you can do is forgive

Well, it’s alright (alright), riding around on the breeze
Well, it’s alright (alright), if you live the life you please
Well, it’s alright, even if the sun don’t shine
Well, it’s alright (alright), we’re going to the end of the line

12 kilometers. Maybe not even worth getting out of bed for that. But it’s another island! That would make 3 this trip! A trifecta! There are no cars on the island! There are no bears on the island! There’s a great ice cream shop!!! Okay, okay that does it, we’ll go.

So off we go for what turns out to be the last day of our trip. More on that later. We’re now pros at packing up our kit in the morning and after a hike around the campground we are off for a very short and easy ride to the ferry terminal where things get a bit interesting! Now, we are expecting a ferry to take us across to the island and yes there is a ferry. However, this ferry more resembles on oversized dingy. Well of course I exaggerate but this boat is small. It can probably hold 20 people and as we are informed upon arrival we will have to remove all our gear from the bikes as the bikes will be hoisted up and tied down to the cabin roof. Oh well we’ve got this load/unload thing down pat by now. But all this for a 12 minute trip!! Hope it’s worth it?

loading the bikes
apparently CC isn’t behaving
CC should have taken his new waterbike

The answer is yes. What a delightful place to visit and camp. Nice campsites spread out so you’re not hearing your neighbours’ snore. Even during the day when there are quite a few people on the Island it is very quiet and has great trails for hiking and biking. We did some touring of the Island and unlike yesterday’s lack of pictures we went crazy and photographed everything we could. RR and LL took a guided tour to learn some of the history of the Island and its native peoples the Snuneymuxw First Nation. And yes we did get to the Ice Cream Shop. All in all (except for the ferry issue) we chilled out and had a very relaxing day.

the campsite
your guess is as good as mine right LL
looking across at Nanaimo
the neighboring island at low tide
can you see the snake head?

Our plan for our last day on Vancouver Island was to revisit John and Carol and camp there for the night and head out the next day. Guess what?? But before I get to that, there was one last mishap. After getting off the ferry (an even smaller one this time) we headed up towards John and Carols. We were within 5 minutes of John and Carols; when as per now an established routine, the Captain would race up a steep hill and would walk back down to lend a hand to the others if needed. Well this time help was really needed. DD was lying on the pavement all tangled in her bike that lay on top of her. It took several minutes to disentangle her without causing further injury. As sore as she was from the fall, the trooper that she is (some might describe this differently, like mule headed) she got back on her bike and finished the bike part of the trip upright.

lots of room
the Bandito Bikers

Now back to the Guess What? John and Carol were having other company for the weekend and although they probably would have insisted we stay we didn’t want to impose and quickly made alternative plans. RR and LL would head back up island, this time by car where they would do some more camping and visiting before heading back to Vernon. CC and DD on the other hand decided to start the trip home and get in a visit with granddaughter Alyssa along the way. So back to the ferry terminal to catch a ferry back to the mainland, but this time on a really big ferry. Well before we could actually get on the ferry we had a 5 hour wait from noon until 5’oclock. Now we remembered what we didn’t miss about coastal BC living. Of course if you’re prepared to fork out an extra $15.00 you can reserve a spot and not have to wait but this option wasn’t open to us given our late in the day decision.

Regardless it gave us a great opportunity to visit our Alyssa that evening and as the poor kid still works for living, a day visit wouldn’t have worked. Get it “works for a living” and it “wouldn’t have worked”. Gee I wonder if all that biking has affected my brain. We really enjoyed our visit, as we don’t get to see her live and in person very often and she is such a wonderful and delightful person. We might be biased of course. Anyway we had a really great sleep, in a real bed, after a week of sleeping on the ground, and we were well rested for our trip home. Sad to leave Alyssa so soon but that’s life.

So you might wonder if we have any words of wisdom after taking on and completing this challenge. Well I do have things to say, but as to wisdom, well who knows. Every turn you take in life opens up new opportunities and closes off others. It doesn’t really matter though because we never know what we might have missed. What seemed like a good path may have been full of perils. Have no regrets. Once you’ve made a choice embrace it and move on and don’t fear the unknown. None of us knew for certain beforehand whether we would complete our trip. And if we didn’t so what. We would have had new experiences regardless. Enjoy the journey, the sore butt and legs, the stone that pokes into your hip while you try to sleep, the rain, the fresh air, the exhilaration of the downhill, and the sweat of the uphill and for DD even the pain of the crash. All of these things let you know that you are alive. Get out and show the world that you are alive in your own way. Erudite (big word for RR) maybe?????

So to simplify the foregoing. Live like a dog. Live in the present and always be ready for a meal.

By stubbs99


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