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CKAP GOLD MEDAL Self Supported
West Coast Tour 2003

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).

START
Andre's West Coast Tour

Gateway to :
Vancouver's Chinatown
Pender Street West

Crossing
Lion's Gate Bridge

Photo taken from :
Lion's Gate Bridge
city of
Vancouver
in background
Stanley Park
in foreground

Andre
Along
Red Roof
Road
Sunshine Coast

Strait of Georgia
Malaspina Strait

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.

Roche Harbour
San Juan Island

Moran State Park
entrance
Orcas Island

Photo taken from summit of:
Mount Constitution
4.7 mile ride
20 minutes by car
1 1/2 hours by bike

Ferry
approaching
Orcas Island
dock

Self explanatory
Fidalgo Island

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
from
Fidalgo to Whidbey Island
Extreme currents between tides

Just another
cyclist
I met
along the way

Empty
Oyster Shells
(Not an Ottawa snow dump)

Oyster Mud Flats
Willapa Bay
Washington


Long Beach
north of
Illwaco, Washington

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!

Cape Disappointment
Lighthouse

Bridge across mouth of the
Columbia River
Wastington State
to
Astoria, Oregon
Over four miles
"Narrow Sholders"
but heck
"Car Traffic can Wait"

Spectacular View
"First of Many"
Oregon Coast
at or near
Canon Beach

Rockaway Beach
area
Oregon

Scenic Side trip
Through
Siuslaw (rain)Forest
just north of
Lincoln City

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.

Bridge at
Newport
crossing the
Yakina River

Beside
Highway 101
Stonefield Beach
Area

First Flat
(1,500 km into trip)
Cape Creek Tunnel

Foreground
Susan Stockhouse
Andre's
cycling partner
for ten days

Background
Humbug Mountain

Sea Stacks
near
Pistol River

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
Victorian Homes
Eureka, California

Matolle Road
to the
Lost Coast
Area

Humboldt Redwood
State Park

45 miles south of
Eureka, California

The Shrine Tree
Notice that this tree is hollow
3/4 of wood is dead
1/4 refuses to die

Highway No. 1
south of
Fort Bragg

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.

Manchester State
Park

Creative
Tree
Sculpture

Switch Backing Down
to
Jenner
Mouth
of the
Russian River

Andre's
Blue Tent
Bodega Bay State Park

School
Site
of
Alfred Hitchcock's
Movie
"The Birds"

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.

Crossing
Golden Gate Bridge
Very Windy

Sea Lions
Sunning
on the Docks
of
San Francisco Bay

If
Lions
can do it
so
Shall We

Leaving
San Francisco
Heading South

"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.

Crossing
Bixby Bridge
Looking North

Coast Highway

Coast Highway
approaching
Lucia

Coast Highway
area
Ragged Point

Now Ain't I
Photogenic

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.

St. Martin
Area

Morro Rock
in
Morro Bay

Quiet Road
Pleasant Cycling

Spanish Mission
Santa Barbara

Sunset Boulevard
Entering
Santa Montica

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.

Mission
San Juan Capistrano

Chapel
inside
Mission San Juan

Camp Pendleton
a
U.S. Marine Base

Mexican Border
at
Tijuana
3,937 Km
since
Start of Journey

Heading Home
at midnight
Las Vegas

Statistics are boring for most, but interesting to some I suppose,
because I’m often asked these question:

Statistics on this Trip

Number of Ferry Crossings:
Kilometers pedaled:
Days in the saddle:
Daily Average kilometers (Riding days only):
Average weight of load:
Body weight of rider:
Total hours in the saddle:
Average Speed:
Top Speed (Down hill, of course):
Slowest speed:
10
5,904
67
88
80 lbs.
20 lbs. less than I started
369
16 kilometers per hour
75.9 Kilometers per hour
Dead stop and almost falling over!

Utah
north of
Moab Utah
along the
1 - 70 Highway

St. Louis, Missouri

"Ottawa"
but still in
Ohio

Pelee Island
from the ferry across
Lake Erie

Algonquin Park
East gate
on the way
back home to
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada

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”.

Andre Marier

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