Today has been the toughest yet. I’ve been baked alive by the heat today.
I headed out of Campbell River at 8am and followed the coast road for 30 miles. It was a beautiful morning, about 17c and really flat! I managed to get averages of 20mph for most of that section which is unheard of on this trip!
I made it into Courtenay at 10am, loaded up more water, drank more and bought some sandwiches for lunch later in the day.
The town was closed off for Canada Day celebrations. I was cycling along the street it was coming down, a few people asked if I was part of the parade, I smiled and said I just needed to go this way to get to the Lake Trail road.
I didn’t know how rough the road would be so left my road tyres on for now. I regretted that when I came to a hill. I had zero traction and had to push the bike up a really steep section. I was pouring with sweat, in the temperature bouncing off the surface was 30c.
I got to the top and spoke with two trail bike riders. They told me the road was closed. I tried my luck and went up to the watchman on the gate.
He steadfast refused me entry, saying they have 12 loaders up there and it’s too risky.
I tried to explain I was a bit of a logging road connoisseur of late and was hoping to get by for my challenge. He said there had been too many incidents this year but I could access it after 4pm.
The bikers recommended a way back to the highway. I was boiling by now though and had directions dyslexia. All I heard was a series of lefts, rights, place names and landmarks. In my mind, I tend to rearrange it to completely confuse myself. Very annoying.
So back towards route B I went which I checked on my phone, also on the recommendation of the bikers. Via more logging roads to a village called Cumberland and back onto the coast road I was on earlier. That added 18 miles to my ride, I was thankful I didn’t swap to my off-road tyres!
I’d been along this road on the second day of my ride and knew a few places to stop for photos and to get refreshments. such as a coffee shop at the Denman Island ferry for much needed water and coffee.
Not only was it Canada Day, but also Massive Flying Ant Day too. I must have had 5 or 6 of them in my helmet at one time. There were thousands of them today, and they were pinging off me for most of it. I didn’t mind acting as an Ant Taxi for a bit though.
By now, the heat coming off the Tarmac was 37c. There was no wind and the sun was beating down hard.
I was on 65 miles and was desperate to get to the turning to the pacific rim highway which leads to Port Alberni and then onto Tofino.
I was suffering badly. A sequence of hills drained me, I was nearly out of water again and I realised why. The water bladder I had been using had a leak and had barely a mouthful left!
Riding that highway was hot, horrible, stale air, cars ripping past and nowhere to take shelter from the sun. Somehow it was a favourite hangout for deer, dozens of them as I passed along.
I was overheating and needed to stop soon. I found a tiny shadow cast on the side of the road and stopped there for a few minutes while I finished my water. It tasted vile. Hot water that had been festering in the sun all day, it tasted of the highway.
I knew there would be somewhere to get a drink after the turning and told myself the rewards would be big. Loads of cold drinks, some food and less miles to go once I got there. But I was flagging and had to pull into an outlet park in Coombs.
The left turn light just wouldn’t come on for me. My bike didn’t activate the sensor, no other cars were turning. I sat there for 10 minutes, pouring with sweat and started to feel shakey.
I had to get into some shade, it was 33c, so I ran a red light and sat in the shade under a shop. None of the shops were open, I was hopeful they would be just to get a water top up.
I used my phone to search for the nearest garage or restaurant. I really didn’t want to head back towards nanaimo/qualicum, that’s yet more wasted miles but if needs must.
Luckily I found a dot on the map and called it to make sure it was open. It was a garage about 8 miles away and they were definitely open. I was so relieved.
That was one long ride to get there. I went inside and embraced the air conditioning. It felt amazing! The selection of drinks was staggering and there were the ice creams, this was Whiskey Creek, famous for its ice cream.
I opted for a slush puppy and 4 litres of water. It was heaven eating that ice cold slush. It’s the best ice cream headache I’ve ever had!
I refilled my bottles and strapped the remaining bottle to my bungee. It was another 25 miles and I’d be in Port Alberni.
The pitstop kick started me again with the the sugary drink acting like petrol in my legs. I tapped out a modest pace while the road was still relatively flat. It was still baking hot but I knew I could stop when I liked to rehydrate.
The temperature dropped to 28 as I skirted around Cameron Lake. It looked so inviting, cool and perfect for a dip. There were dozens of people in canoes, swimming and enjoying Canada Day by cooling off in there.
A few more miles and I’ll stop for a short rest and drink before heading on. I came to Cathedral Cove, a fantastic ancient forest of huge Douglas Firs, some are 800 years old! It was lovely and cool in there, I loved it but knew the longer I stayed, the less downtime I’d have when I got to Port Alberni.
I was done, if there was a campsite there I’d have pitched up straightaway. I had to muster up another 15 miles, that’s all it was, pretty standard stuff, I could do it.
I did, but it was painful and slow. Just as I left Cathedral Cove, up pops a hill. Quite a big hill, about 3 miles long, that thing broke me. The sun pounded down and melted me even more. I struggled to get above 4mph up that.
A logging truck was struggling next to me too, I was in the hard shoulder and the roar of his engine in low gears was deafening. As he came past me, small red hot balls were falling down the hill. The heat and exhaust fumes that thing generated was overpowering. That’s all I needed grinding up this bastard hill.
It eventually passed and so did a procession of impatient cars who where stuck behind him.
At last, I could see no more up, cars were disappearing over the top, so there must be a bit of down at least.
From there on in, it was about 3 miles of downhill. I picked up to 48mph and loved the cooling breeze from that. A few sketchy moments when I only had 6 inches between the rumble strip and concrete barrier, but the descent was a life saver. I was so hot, I knew I was within reach of Port Alberni, then the sign appeared.
By the time I came to the last set of traffic lights at the bottom of the hill, I was done, fried, hungry, tired, thirsty and could barely stand up.
The heat was immense today and still was at 6pm when I arrived. I had no strength left, I needed to lay down as soon as possible and drink more water.
With that I canned any idea of camping. I didn’t have anything left, not even putting up my tent. I made the call to find a motel, as soon as I found the room, I was asleep in about 30 seconds.
I woke up 90 minutes later and drank and drank. Today was horrible, more wasted miles from logging road politics/safety and that sun was way more powerful than I anticipated.
Sleeping in a tent would have cooked me even more. It was a big ride by all accounts, combined with 9 previous days. I’m hoping a huge feed and good sleep will fix me. Right now I feel like another day like that will be too much.
The ride to Tofino will be big, more climbs and it’s meant to be warm again. I’ll take more drink than I need. I also know there are rivers which I can purify water from. It’s also meant to rain a little too. That stuff that I’ve come to hate from previous days, I’d actually love to see it back for a bit to cool things down.
I’m done. I need to sleep, today was the hardest ride I’ve done, bar none. I knew this wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t realise just how hard either.