Day 3, Powell River to Rathtreavor Campground, 56 miles
I’m up before dawn, not wanting to miss the morning ferry, so early I have time for coffee at the nearby shop. I chat with the barista about how her espresso tastes right, dark and nutty, not weak and sour like the lighter roasts which are now in vogue. She agrees, having tasted the new hipster coffee trending in the States.
I make the short ride to the ferry terminal at Powell River. Rains are holding off for now. This ferry is a much larger ship, auto desks filled with cars, RVs, busses, 18 wheelers. The passage across to Vancouver Island takes an hour and a half, the longest ride yet. Just a few minutes into the trip the rain begins, beating hard against the windows of the ferry. I’m glad to be inside, but dreading my ride once with dock.
This is the fate of a fair weather cyclist. Now, I love to tell people I’m an Oregonian, that I don’t mind riding in the rain. But I do. Oh, I do. I’ve got an old Showers Pass raincoat that I know isn’t up to the weather ahead. This means I’ll be not only wet but cold.
Cold, yes, it has been so cold the last couple days riding. What did I expect? This tour I began hundreds of miles further north, and didn’t begin until the beginning of October. And I didn’t train in the early rains of Oregon either.
The ferry docks near Courtenay and I pedal off into the windy rain. As predicted, I’m immediately soaked and freezing. I ride up the hill and into the town, find a coffee shop to dry off in.
I sit with my coffee, still shivering, and contemplate my options. I research a hostel in Nanaimo, book a room. Now, to get there, I must still ride several miles to reach the public transit bus. I don my rain gear, having dried it over the heat vents.
I pedal on, south on Route 19A along the eastern edge of Vancouver Island. The rains hold off a bit, then start again. Soaked, chilled, a headwind. Oh, the brave Oregonian cyclist is now complaining heartily! One grace is that the terrain is much flatter here on the island. I ride on past Deep Bay, setting my goal to Qualicum Beach, where a public bus can then shuttle me to Nanaimo and the warmth of the hostel.
Miles are slow and miserable. If it weren’t also so cold, the rain wouldn’t be as bad. So I tell myself. Grumbling, cursing, why am I doing this? I see a taco shack on Google maps, think if I can just make it there, at least some tacos. The rains tease me, stopping and starting again. Not quite a driving gale, but still so cold.
I reach and pass the taco spot. If I stop, I’ll just put off this inevitable uncomfortable ride even longer. At last I am approaching Qualicum Beach, though I’m late for the bus and will have to wait. The rains at last have cleared and I look over the waters, sun beginning to sink, clouds painted the rosy hues I love so much.
The beauty of the sunset inspires a change of plans. Just ten more miles to Rathtreavor Campground, my original itinerary before the weather fouled. On I ride! I put on the headlamp and pedal into the dusk. The few miles pass quickly and soon I arrive, greeted by the ranger who checks me in and tells me about the free showers. I set up the tent, then soak in luxurious hot water. Now nothing compares to this, a hot shower after a bone chilling day’s ride.
Back in my tent, now tucked into my cozy, warm sleeping bag, sleep comes quickly.