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


The Beatles – Fool on the Hill

Well on the way, head in a cloud

The man of a thousand voices

Talking perfectly loud

But nobody ever hears him

Or the sound he appears to make

And he never seems to notice

But the fool on the hill

Sees the sun going down

And the eyes in his head

See the world spinning round

There’s no fool like an old fool as the saying goes. While this adage may hold an element of truth there is something that is even worse than an old fool left to his/her own devices. How about 4 old fools? So this is a story about 4 old fools. What could possibly go wrong?? Read on and find out.

Now you might ask who are these 4 old fools and just what were they up to. You of course know all about CC and DD. Now let me introduce you to Repairman Rob (RR) and Logistical Les (LL). Rob is a master of fixing things and Les is a master of organizing things. Sounds like a great couple of folks to have hanging around before things, or after things, go off the rails. We met RR and LL at Swan Lake RV Resort a couple of years ago and became friends despite CCs constant requests to have RR help him with very basic remedial chores.

On with the story. Let me say unequivocally (RR loves big words) that the instigation and responsibility for the forthcoming (mis)adventure lies primarily at their feet, or perhaps I should say at their tires. Yep you read that right, tires. You see RR and LL have been training for years to head to Europe and undertake a ridiculously long bicycle trip. Who knows why, but I’m sure they had their reasons, probably because Europe isn’t as big as Canada. Regardless, Covid put a kibosh on that grand idea.  Not wanting their massive investment in bikes and gear to go to waste they hatched a new plan and looked for a couple of patsies, ahem, to join them. Who better than their elderly neighbours at Swan Lake RV Resort, CC and DD.

Without a lot of forethought or details, DD happily jumped into the fray and advised CC he would be along for the ride. What the heck, we’ve got bikes, we ride them, we’re not even 70 years old, so why not?? So we started to accumulate the necessary gear and make the needed modifications to our bikes. Hey kids we’re going bikepacking.

The planning began several months ago. The plan was to ride a total of about 295 kilometers over 8 – 9 days through the interior of BC. LL mapped out a route that would take us mostly along sections of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Being on an old rail line meant that there wouldn’t be a lot steeps hills to climb, there were lots of towns for resupplying and higher up in the hills the weather wouldn’t be too hot. The plan was to head out on August 11th which would leave ample time for us to get some training in. We managed to get together and get some short 50 – 60 km rides in but then summer arrived with a vengeance. Extreme heat (40c +) and drought were visited upon us and the inevitable forest fires and ensuing smoke necessitated a change of plan.

map of original planned route

And a new plan is what we came up with. After copious research and consultation with seers and fortune tellers amongst others we decided to take our show on the road and head to Vancouver Island. The weather would be cooler and there would be no smoke. Yes there would be hills to climb but we wouldn’t be riding as far (225 kms). LL would map out a course for us and we might even get in some wild camping. No problem. What did it matter that in the 2 weeks prior to the trip we were unable to do much riding or anything else due to the wildfires. No BIG deal.

the Vancouver Island route – return trip

Vernon to Nanaimo – August 11th

The big day arrives. CC and DD drive from Vernon to Nanaimo to meet up with RR and LL. We leave early in the morning (6:30 am) and hope to catch the 1:25 pm ferry to the Island. As luck would have it there are overloads on the ferries and we miss 2 sailings and catch the 3:55 instead. We could have reserved a spot but being too cheap to, we got to enjoy some rest time in the very warm hot parking lot at Horseshoe Bay. We finally meet RR and LL at their friends’ (John and Carol) house where we set up camp in the yard for the night. John and Carol were great hosts and made us a fabulous dinner.  Just like real Warmshowers Hosts. Not only dinner but they got up early the next morning to ply us with coffee and bagels.

The only other order of business before heading out the next morning was to put RR to work reorganizing DDs packs on her bike so they wouldn’t fall off. Seems CC overlooked this minor detail.

Our gear setup was pretty basic. CC and DD were riding their regular mountain bikes. The only modification was DD had added a rear rack and had her trunk bag packed with the food and cooking gear. DD also had the tent (minus the poles) strapped to her handlebars and her backpack with additional food. In total DD had about 20+ pounds of added weight to her already fairly heavy bike.CC had the sleeping bags in a handlebar bag and the sleeping pads, groundsheet and tools in a seat bag. In addition he had a 50 litre backpack filled to the brim with clothes and DD’s massive footwear collection. CC had 40+ pounds of added weight. (DD would like to edit that last sentence as she for once did not even take a 2nd pair of shoes!)

It is hard to adequately describe the gear carried by RR and LL except to say they packed enough to be on the road for a long time. Each of their Bike Fridays had 2 front and rear panniers as well as front and rear bags. More to come on the perils of this setup in BIKEPACKING 2.

By stubbs99

Fathers Day

It has been quite some time since my last blog post and much has happened around the world. And while I have been remiss on providing updates to all my readers on the Captain’s and Debbie Dewdrops ongoing (mis)adventures the time for that is not right now. This post is not about CC and DD, although indirectly it is. It is our about all of my family. It is about my mother. It is about my brothers, sister, nephews, nieces. This post is about our celebrating our Dad as we face our first Fathers Day without him.

John Edward Cowell (The Coach) September 28, 1928 – May 5, 2021

Dad definitely loved his food

Where to begin? How to begin? I have no plan, no outline on how to proceed. As usual I’ll just stumble along with my thoughts and feelings. When I first gave Dad the moniker of the “The Coach” in this Blog I didn’t do it after a lot of deep philosophical thought and meditative contemplation. No, it was quite simple. When we were kids, Dad was our hockey coach. That’s what he was and a darn good one at that. But of course nothing is ever that simple and being a Dad is being a life Coach for your kids. That’s what he was and a darn good one at that also. More than a darn good one.

Never too old to learn from the Coach
The Coach’s most challenging player

It is next to impossible to try and figure out the life events that impact and ultimately determine the character of the people that you know and love. Maybe knowing about those events doesn’t really matter all that much but then again maybe it does help in our understanding. So I will pontificate for only just a little bit here. Dad’s childhood experience of growing up in foster homes undoubtedly had a bearing on his development and character. My suspicion is that not having his immediate family with him growing up was a major factor in him wanting to start his own family and to make sure that his children were loved and provided for unconditionally.

Never done until the dish is clean

And so it came to pass. Dad hooked up with Mom, they started a family and had four (lovely I might add) children. So just what kind of father (with Mom’s help of course) was Dad? So here I need to go back to the “coach” idea. Who can be a good coach? In particular who can be a good life coach for kids? Dad was more than good coach. Dad loved us unconditionally. He put us first. He led by example. He didn’t need to talk about being a decent person, he just was one. He didn’t need talk about himself and what he did for others, he just did good things. He didn’t need to be praised for what he did; he just did what needed to be done.

Now that’s not to say everything was always “Leave it to Beaver” perfection in the Cowell household. Although Dad was mostly patient with his not so always well behaved children, there were a few times that Dad lost his cool, so to say. As an illustration I present you with the infamous backyard “Mad Man Monks” episode. One hot summer afternoon at 64 Boothbay Crescent, Newmarket, the backyard grass was desperately in need of mowing. Dad apparently had too many other things to do so he asked for one of his kids to get the job done. So after 30 minutes with nothing being done Dad once again asked for someone to help with the grass. Well the second request received the same non response and at some point Dad kinda lost it a little and fired up the mower and with steam coming out of his ears got that backyard lawn mowed in record time. We, the kids, witnessed this amazing feat from our lookout in the upstairs bedroom and one of us remarked, hey look at Mad Man Monks mowing the grass, he’s getting it done in record time. We all avoided any contact with MMM until he cooled down a bit which he did in short order.

Dad lived a long (92 years) healthy and happy life. He was grateful for this and pretty much everything he had and experienced over the years. He was grateful and thankful that he was able to share his life with our Mom and they were devoted to each other. He loved his kids and would do whatever was necessary for their wellbeing.

Dad always had your back

We miss him mightily, particularly on this Fathers day. As thankful as Dad was for his life and family, it is we, his family, who give thanks that we were so fortunate to have “The Coach” as our father. See you at the rink Dad. Happy Fathers Day.

Love Mom, Don, Gary, Barb & Jim and all the Grandkids.

By stubbs99