Thursday, September 3, 2015

Galiano Bike Camping Adventure: Day 2

That is one dirty Yuba Mundo!

Riding off to the ferry terminal, on time no less!
Here is day two of Four Kids, Four Adults, Four Bikes, & Four Days*. (If you missed Day one, go over here & read about our epic trip to Tsawwassen first. I'll wait. ;)

Day two started eeeearly: I was up at 6:30 after a fitful sleep. I'm still used to broken sleep, since Bronte usually nurses at least once during the night. Also, what rest I got made me feel a lot better than the previous evening when I bonked. I felt better but was still a little anxious, since we had a ferry to catch & then some major terrain to tackle on Galiano.

Not about to repeat yesterday's blood sugar nosedive, I choked down a good solid portion of oatmeal in spite of my nerves. We were packed & ready to head out by five after nine--only a few minutes late. The ride to the ferry was uneventful, flat & only took thirty minutes as expected.

There's a lot to like about biking onto the ferry. You're first on & first off the boat. Even when you pay you get priority: the bike lane takes you to a special gate, so we skipped line. Bikes are also significantly cheaper than cars: $2 each. & there's something exciting about standing right on the deck at the front of the boat & watching the staff use hand signals as they tie up the boat & bring down the ramp.

More side-of-the-highway riding, but only a bit
Once we'd paid, however, it's a bit tricky to figure out where to go. The lanes are clearly marked for vehicles & it's obvious where you go if you're walking on, but for cyclists there is very little indication as to where you wait to board & how you're supposed to get there. After asking two separate BC Ferries staff people, we found the right place & it was almost time to board.

On the ferry Brontë was charging around, as usual, & tripped, scraping her hands a little on the non-slip grit of the deck. Linnaeus enjoyed playing in the wind on the front deck & asked a million questions about the lifeboats, lifejackets, & every interesting thing he could see.

Although the kids were a little nuts on the ferry, the stress of watching them is something I'm used to. What was noticeable was once we'd sat down, all the rest of the logistical travelling stress--getting all our gear into the Skytrain, figuring out bike routes, riding on noisy highways, flat tires, skinned knees, catching ferries--just evaporated. I could relax & enjoy the trip. Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh. The sailing from Tsawwassen to Vancouver is only 55 minutes, so it wasn't long before we were strapping kids onto bikes & trailers, then riding off at Sturdies Bay.

Got to jump the queue of cars to pay at the ferry terminal
Lucy & Linnaeus did some blackberry picking while the papas foraged for food, er, grocery shopped for some heavy perishables: meat, fruit, vegetables. We decided to see if the Galiano Bike Shop would have an extra tube for the Yuba just in case, & rode there to check.

The Bike shop was a derelict looking garage on the property of a house just up the road from the ferry. Nobody seemed to be home, so we decided their law would make as good a spot as any to stop for lunch. The bike shop owners never did show up, so we headed out on our way after lunch, making a quick stop for more heavy items: a big bottle of wine & some rum.

Aaaaaahhhhh... Enjoying the comforts of BC Ferries vinyl seats.
The ride from Sturdies Bay to Montague Harbour isn't far: about 8km, but it took us about an hour & a half including many short rests & the liquor store stop because of the terrain. Google Maps tells me the elevation gain is nearly 170m & I believe it. We had to get off our bikes & walk at least three times on the steepest sections, which, I'll admit really sucks with the Yuba. The rear stoker bars & running boards hit my legs unless I walked quite far to the side of it. I discovered the best way to push it was to push the bars with my left hand & pull the seat with my right.

The silver lining to this terrain is the glorious steep downhills to fly on. I really enjoyed coasting down each & every one of those. There is virtually no traffic on the island & the roads take you through tall trees, with occasional peeks through to the water along the way.

Buffeted by the wind on the Queen of Nanaimo Ferry

Getting ready to disembark at Sturdies Bay
We were in Montague Harbour Marine Park by mid afternoon. We easily found our bike-in campsite, & set up the tents on the wooden platforms provided. This is one of my favourite things about camping. I love building things & putting together your own temporary shelter is especially awesome, somehow. Because we had two two-person tents & a 10'x10' platform, there was an extra level of challenge. Pegs weren't really going to work & we had rope, but only two 50' lengths. I came up with the idea of sort of 'sewing' the tents all around the edges with one of the ropes, which worked just fine.

While we were setting up, Lisa took kids on a "nature walk" in the immediate vicinity of the campsite. The campground is full of huge firs & cedars, but there isn't really that much undergrowth, so it's easy to walk around between campsites & the sight lines were great for the kids to range around. Which they did for all the time that we were there--it was so lovely to see our little city kids running around playing with rocks & sticks in the dirt all day.

I also set up our cheap old hammock, plus a food cache so we could hang up the groceries at night. We'd been warned that the raccoons were quite aggressive, so I came up with a way to use the second 50' length of rope, a rock, two trees & our trailer to secure one of Oli's weatherproof panniers up high.

Preschoolers are already going feral & foraging for berries
Once we had our camp set up, we all walked down to the lagoon for a little crab watching. It's so full of tiny green crabs that the bottom seems to be moving when you look into the water. The kids loved looking at the critters & Bronte was completely unafraid of the water, wading in, shoes & all, not once, but twice.

Camp Cook Dan made a delicious pork & pasta dinner, while Oli rode off to the store to buy me some bug spray--I had dozens of bites already, but I'm fairly sure the spray prevented me from getting any more.

After dinner we went down to dock & beach again--it's such a quick walk from the campsite, that even little B could get there on her own steam. When we we returned back to the campsite, Bronte went to sleep almost instantaneously in 'the girls tent'. Linny stayed up with the adults for a while, chatting at the picnic table around mugs of hot chocolate.

My view for most of days 1 & 4 of our trip.
Next we chased off a couple of groups of raccoons. They're really fearless, so I hoped that yelling at them & throwing pinecones might convince them that the should try raiding someone else's campsite.

Once all four kids were asleep, we took turns heading down to the water for stargazing. I can't remember the last time I laid on my back on a dock looking up at the sky. The sky was so clear that we could see the Milky Way. & though we were a few days past the peak of the Perseids meteor shower, I still saw quite a few of them shooting by.

We're here! Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park Campground

Four Kids, Four Adults, Four Bikes, & Four Days*
What I was carrying on my Yuba: some of the lighter camping gear, assorted toiletries & electronics, plus 70 lbs of kids

Aaahhh... hammock. It's quite old, so the strings started to break right after this. Oops.

The lagoon was a short walk from our campsite.

We made it back to the lagoon just in time for sunset.

Watch for the next installment all about day three on Galiano!

*Full credit goes to Lisa M for coming up with the name for our trip: 4 Kids, 4 Adults, 4 Bikes, 4 Days.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

"I'm drawing a fast ship. & this is the ocean!"

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Galiano Bike Camping Adventure: Day 1

At long last, here is the first of several posts about our bike camping adventure!

Skytrain shortened our ride & allowed us to avoid the equally crap options of Annacis crossing or Massey Tunnel Shuttle

My Mundo squeezed into the elevator at Scott road
Two weeks ago we went on a camping trip with friends to Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. A three night trip doesn't seem like that big a deal, maybe, but it was actually pretty epic to get four little kids & their parents to Galiano on bikes.

Since I'm sure you're dying to hear the details ;) & there are A LOT of them, I'll split it into several posts. Here's an intro to us & the first day of travel.

Our group consisted of me, Oli, Linnaeus (5), Bronte (almost 2), Lisa, Dan, Lucy (almost 4), James (1). Our bikes included Oli's Brodie cyclocross towing a single child trailer with gear, my Yuba Mundo with both our kids, Lisa's Raleigh city bike towing a double child trailer with their youngest, & Dan's hybrid with a rear child seat for their eldest (& sometimes towing their trailer too).

Lisa came up with a great name for the trip:

Four Kids, 
Four Adults, 
Four Bikes, 
Four Days.

Aaaaand we're off!
Back in July when we decided to do this trip & booked the campsite at Montague, we made a big mistake: we failed to check the ferry schedules.

Once we'd reserved the campsite & started looking into logistics a little later, we realized that there were only two sailings a day to Galiano from Tsawwassen midweek. The first one was 10:20am, the second in the early evening.

The later ferry would land us on Galiano with an hour or two of steep hilly riding to do at dusk, not to mention setting up tents & feeding cranky children dinner in the dark. Um, no. The earlier sailing would require us to leave the house by 5am & include a lot of stress about making it to the ferry on time. Ugh. What a dilemma!

Plan B was to add another day to the trip & stay the night somewhere closer to the ferry. Luckily, Lisa & Dan had family friends in Tsawwassen who happened to be away at the time & didn't mind the eight of us crashing in their house for the night. Yay! Their neighbours opened the doors for us & we actually got to cook in a real kitchen & sleep in beds for our first night of 'camping'. Spending our first night 'in civilization' with running water & electric lights was great for many reasons, which you'll hear about in a minute.

Thanks for the sign! I couldn't tell under all the debris.
We'd intended to leave by 1pm, but ended up departing an hour late--SURPRISE! Not--riding to Main Street Skytrain Station to take the train to Surrey. On the ten-minute ride to the station we had our first technical difficulty:  Lisa's internal gear hub wasn't shifting properly. Considering how hilly Galiano is, Lisa was understandably worried. Oli & I both tried riding it but couldn't get the problem to happen again, so we decided to just press on.

After several elevator trips at Main Street Station ferrying children, trailers & bikes up to the platform, a Skytrain staff person offered to put a hold on the train for us so we could get in together. Sweet!

Just after I got on the train, in a separate car from Dan, Lisa, & Oliver, I realized that Dan still had all the tickets! I tried not to worry & hoped if the transit police did check fares, we'd be able to plead disorganization & avoid the $173 fine.

This is where I should have eaten a doughnut.

Super stealth secret bike route under the Alex Fraser Bridge
Thankfully it was easy for me to get on & off the train--the Yuba Mundo just fits across the train car, though it nearly blocks the doors, so not a lot of people wanted to squeeze past it to sit in that end of the car. No cops appeared on our half hour trip out to Scott Road & getting off was a breeze. I had to pull Bronte's seat back a bit to get the elevator doors to close, but the elevator was just long enough for the bike. (I actually went to both stations in advance to measure the elevators a while back--they're about 88" deep)

Once we were off the train with Lisa & Dan, I realized that Oliver hadn't made it onto the same train. He arrived a few minutes later without incident. Before heading out on the big ride, we had a quick breastfeeding stop to tank up the two youngest of our group. We left the station at 3:15, riding on two blocks of off road paved path, then turning onto the South Fraser Perimeter Road, aka Highway 17.

The shoulder was relatively wide but full of gravel, metal filings, various nails, bolts & other hardware, plus tiny bits of glass. The 20-30 minute ride along the SFPR was nerve wracking because leaving an hour late put us at the beginning of rush hour. Many of the semi trailer trucks gave us a wide berth as they passed us, but there was enough traffic that most couldn't move over much.

Shortly after exiting the SFPR at the Highway 91 Connector, we made a pit stop at a Tim Hortons. We had to consult google maps & double back a block to find the bike path that took us under the Alex Fraser Bridge & connected to the trail through the Delta Nature Reserve. There were no signs, no bicycles painted on the road & even the road itself just seemed like the entry to the truck weigh station.

Very Safe Overpass glamour shot of the Yuba & kids

Slightly less safe glamour shot of the Yuba with kids (Anyone want to nominate me for parent of the year award? ;)

Woooo! We're halfway there!
Once we'd found the trail, it was a nice ride through forest. We encountered a few people walking & biking, & I even saw a deer briefly. The trail is dirt & packed gravel for the most part, but places where drainage has been an issue, there is sand on the trail, which we found tricky to bike through fully loaded with kids & camping gear. The trail parallels the highway, so we were not without car sounds on our ride through the trees, but it was definitely nice to be off a road for a while. We also encountered a musician taking advantage of the acoustics beneath an underpass & stopped to listen to his trumpet for a while.

After stopping to ask locals for our exact location a couple of times--I knew we were on the right trail, but wasn't sure which underpass we were at--we decided to take the long way down to Mud Bay & ride the entirety of the Serpentine Greenway along the dykes at Boundary Bay. This added five or six km to our route, but we thought it would be better than riding 2 km along a highway with a narrow shoulder, then trying to make a left in rush hour.

Now we know why it's called the Serpentine Greenway
After another breastfeeding stop, we headed out along the picturesque dyke trail & I started to feel really tired. I realized after a half kilometre or so that I had a low rear tire. It took me another half kilometre to catch up with everyone & get them to stop because they couldn't hear me behind them. Oli pumped up the tire with the tiny hand pump we'd brought & we hoped the leak would stay slow enough to get to our destination. We still had about 14 km to go, mainly along the trail.

Sunset was lovely, but I was getting too tired to enjoy it much with a low tire on the gravel path. Also, mosquitoes. Oh. My. God. The mosquitoes feasted on me that afternoon!

We pressed on, despite the low tires, cranky children, & we made it through the last couple of kilometres in Tsawwassen. We had to walk our bikes up the last hill to the house; when I hopped off my bike, my leg muscles were really stiff, but I didn't think too much of it. We moved our bikes around back, got what stuff we needed inside & tried to keep the four slightly zoo-y children from breaking anything in the house. Dan prepped dinner & after a few minutes, I started to realize that I wasn't feeling right.

I love that my Yuba Mundo's tires say 'Freedom'! 

Of course somebody had to get a flat...
Nausea, dizziness, the chills, stiff muscles, & frequent bathroom trips made me think I might have some sort of stomach bug coming on. Then I realized what it really was: I'd bonked.

I didn't get enough calories throughout the day because I did what I normally do when I'm stressed about travelling: I hardly eat. Really dumb move for this trip, however. We were riding the bikes on & off for five & a half hours) so my body was in a pretty severe state of hypoglycemia by the time I dragged my butt & the Yuba full of children up that last hill.

I am so thankful that I had three other adults around to take up the slack for me with chasing children & everything else, because I could barely move. I tried to choke back as much of Dan's delicious chili & corn muffins as I could, plus about a litre of sugar water, then I had to nurse B to sleep. I passed out with her & slept like the dead for two hours.

Besides the blood sugar issues, I'd also realized another screwup. When we were setting up the bedroom for the night, I realized that I'd grabbed the wrong sleeping bags. I meant to take two bundled together, but actually only brought one for me & B. It wasn't really a big deal though, as the temperatures didn't dip below 15C at night & B had a fleece sleeper & sleep sack.

First casualty of the trip: Linny tripped on the road.
I woke up around midnight, feeling much better, hearing Dan & Oliver talking about the struggle they'd had getting my Yuba's rear wheel off to change the tube. They had to go on a hunt throughout the house to find something to help with leverage: the adjustable wrench we'd brought wasn't enough to get the rear wheel nut off. Last time we had it serviced the mechanic tightened it waaaaay too much. After something like two hours of fighting with the damn wheel, taking off the wheel skirts & even one of the running boards, the tube was changed. We vowed to buy the most bombproof rear tire ever after that.

That's it for day one! If any of you are planning a ride to Tsawwassen, here's our exact route from the Skytrain to the home we stayed at in Tsawwassen the first night:

Scott Road Station

Head north on 120 St/Scott Rd toward 120 St/Scott Rd
Turn left to stay on 120 St/Scott Rd
Turn right onto Old Yale Rd
Turn left onto BC-17 (South Fraser Perimeter Road)
Turn left onto Hwy 91 Connector
Turn left onto Nordel Way
Turn right onto Weigh Station Road
Turn left onto Alex Fraser Bridge Access (bike path under bridge)
We're almost there!
Slight right onto Delta - South Surrey Regional Greenway Access Trail
Turn left onto Colebrook Rd
Turn right onto 127a St/Serpentine Greenway
Turn left onto Railway Rd/Serpentine Greenway
Turn right onto Serpentine Greenway
Turn left onto Beach Grove Rd
Turn right onto 12 Ave
Turn left onto 56 St
Turn right onto 8a Ave

Tsawwassen Friends' home

The trip from home to Scott Road, including a half hour Skytrain ride plus 15 minutes on either end to get the bikes & gear up/down from the platform was an hour. From there to Tsawwassen was 44 km, 5 hours 30 minutes riding including many breaks to breastfeed babies, pee at Tim Horton's, clean skinned knees, etc. Other than the South Fraser Perimeter Road & the very last hill in Tsawwassen, the route was quite flat. The Delta Greenway path was somewhat loose dirt & sand in places & the gravel on the dyke trail also slowed us down.

Too tired to enjoy the pretty sunset

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