Tandem Treat

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We’ve had the most delectable grand finale to summer’s outings this past week. I guess it might not seem so to anybody but us. It was a ‘fitness vacation’ in the truest sense of the word. I guess that’s the way we do vacations–gotta get in some aerobic fitness—this time it was a tandem tour of three islands in the vicinity. Unforgettable treat.
We ‘cheated’ in the sense that this wasn’t a true cycle-camping experience. We chose to drive the highway miles and cycle the scenic ones returning to camp each night so as to save hauling baggage about by bike. It is after all a home-made tandem, constructed from our childhood ten-speeds, and not built to bear too much weight. Anyway, we started out ferrying over to Vancouver Island and driving down to Nanaimo…

Day 1

We set up camp just out of town at what we thought to be a lakeside campsite. (The lake was on the campsite map anyway…more on that later) then pedaled along a wending bike trail downtown to the ferry terminal.
Oops, the ferry dock is out of commission. We get a water taxi instead—the one used to ferry students to school normally. And the big old tandem has to lie on the roof!
Late afternoon, 20 miles later, we’ve done the circuit of our first island,
conquered our biggest hill to date…
taken a dip in the ocean…

…and we’re heading back to the ferry terminal to catch our ‘taxi’ back to the big city and pedal the 10 miles back to camp…
The amber light of parting day is settling by the time we get off the ferry. We catch dinner at McD’s—biggest meal ever. We’re famished. And refueled we cycle into gathering dusk with new energy (and motivation to beat the setting sun). Won’t a dip in that campsite lake feel good… But where is it? The map is definitely not to scale. Glad we opted to take the van. Ends up to be a mile and a half drive down a dirt road winding by pastures, barns and scattered homes… “Closed at Dusk” reads the lakeside sign. Never mind. We can still see. And we have a bracing dip to wash the sweat of our first 43 miles (69km) of riding away. Sweet way to finish a day!


Day 2

Cold cereal, bagels and tea make for a quick breakfast. Big day ahead. First the drive south. (Didn’t I say this was a ‘cheater’ cycling trip?) We are treated to a sea gull serenade as we stroll around a town enroute. If you haven’t been down to the sea in a while you can listen in here:

A rousing Seagull Trio!


  Our ferry destination today is the poetic sounding town of Vesuvius, on Salt Spring Island. From there the cycling tour begins.
Pasturelands and vineyards fill the valleys and slope above the sea. Idyllic. I love the pairing of farming and ocean views. It’s like a merging of my history… the fisher folk on my mom’s side, the farmers of my dad’s heritage. I love it.
There’s something too about the out-of-the-way quaintness of these islands… Time is of little importance.  No sense rushing if you’re going to have to wait for the ferry anyway.  So I have lots of dockside footage and not a lot in-between. 
The pedaling while taking pictures didn’t work out so well. Just doesn’t capture the serenity, or the sweep of land to sea, or the joy of the wind in your face as you ride stoker for your captain and best friend.
A populous island this, there’s plenty of access to fine food and we feast on Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Macadamia Nut ice cream at the wharf in Ganges (another poetic sounding town) before cycling back to Vesuvius at day’s end…
…for the romantic sunset ‘cruise’ back to Crofton’s hazy shores (it’s a paper mill town) and our van…
It’s dark before we get back to our campsite this night, but a dip in that lake we must have. Tiptoeing in the dark we take a delicious dip and wash the day’s sweat away. Is a dark lake alone at night the scenario for a horror flick (Do ogopogos exist?!) or a scintillating adventure? I thought it delightful. And the van heater made a fine hair dryer and warmer-upper. Then the campfire and marshmallows.  Ahh…
We’d logged 39 miles (63km) this day. We slept like rocks in a stream bed (taking a turn every so often in our sleep!)

Day 3

We break camp and drive North to access another island… landing a prime beach-side campsite. We set up camp, refill our water bottles and drive to a convenient starting point. Then the cycling begins to the Ferry—our town’s namesake, the old ‘Queen of Powell River’– and the tour of Quadra Island.

My body’s thinking a rest day would be in order, but not today—there’s an island to tour! We have our first flat, uneventful with a good captain in charge, and end up at one of our favorite ‘resorts’, the same bay we sailed to earlier this month. Rebecca Spit with its cold clear water, hot penetrating sun and splendid scenery has never been so delicious!
When the day is nearly spent we loop back to the ferry arriving just a moment too late. The ramp is going up. Ah well, time for a stop at the grocery store. Did a nectarine ever hit the spot so well? And have you tried Mango Lemonade, organic that is?! Back at the wharf we stroll about passing time taking pictures of rustic planks and boats…
…till the ‘Queen’ returns for us and carries us back to Campbell River…
Eleven miles of pedaling left to go. The day is turning golden but we are all energy (thanks to that organic mango lemonade?!!) and we ‘hammer’ back to the van in record time, hitting 24 ½ MPH (39Kmh) on the flat stretch, just for the sheer bliss of it! What a hoot! Back at the van covered in sweat, windburn, sea water and sun we share a Thermos of tea and are happy, happy, happy—and eager to get back to camp and grill some pork chops! It’s 8PM.  We’ve pedaled 37 miles (60km) today. And YES! the campground has showers–free, and hot! YES!

Day 4

I am full-up with gratitude and wonder at the Lord’s goodness in granting us this lavish treat as a tandem team…We spend the morning at Miracle Beach including a beach-side worship time with a local congregation…

(And I must interrupt this narrative to introduce this nervous hermit crab I found on the beach…He is desperately in need of a new home…and a jolly find!)P1030503
Now where was I…yes, well, after a relaxing morning at the beach we drove back down island toward home and one last day of tandem touring in the valley we love–full of country roads and hayfields, cows and corn. And a wayside creek for dipping. Haagen-Daas ice cream bars along the way completed the picture. We logged 33 miles (53km)  before boarding the ferry for home, a little sweaty, a lot happy, tandem team.  One hundred and fifty-two miles (245km) of togetherness to cherish. What a treat!

My lessons from stoking a tandem…

–Life is not a scenic cruise. After every idyllic island ferry ride comes ‘the hill’ to surmount. Count on it.
–Hills come. Learn to pedal in sync with the captain. It will save you much wasted energy.
–Trust your captain. He knows what he’s doing, even at high speeds, with unseen curves in the road. Relax; you’re in for the ride of your life!
–Give it all you’ve got and the rest at journey’s end will be all the more rewarding!
P.S. For the old fashioned “Daisy, Daisy”  press CTRL and click here.

2 thoughts on “Tandem Treat

  1. Loved this, especially lessons learned about being in sync with the captain and hills to face ahead after idyllic cruises! You know how to capture the heart of any experience, Linda, with a jolly whimsical flair and with your pen on the unseen pulse of a journey. Thanks for letting us tag along!

  2. Riding tandem is such a HOOT (as J.Olive used to say). I have really grown to love it this summer, probably because we are really in sync now and both loving the shared energy. Do you suppose this is how the Body's supposed to function? With greater power together than alone…I'm glad you're along for the pedalling!

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