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Vancouver Island Chapter 1

Canmore, Alberta, to Victoria, British Columbia

Red-eye bus

The bus left Canmore just after 10:00p. It was still bright outside as the driver hoisted my bike box into the underbelly of the giant charter.

I found a seat toward the front and nestled in for the twelve hour ride.

Around 11:00a in the morning, the bus arrived to Surrey. The drop-off was simply the parking lot of a large shopping mall. I dragged my bike box out from under the bus and got to work reassembling it in the chilly drizzle that had persisted during most of the bus trip.

A woman exited the bus with me and awkwardly stood next to me, staring as I put my bike together. She kept trying to talk to me, but neither of us understood a lick of each others' language. Eventually she just walked away...

Success! Conveniently, the public library was at the other end of the mall parking lot.

I rolled Nolie into the library and asked the man working at the library's coffee kiosk if I could park my bike right inside the door for a few minutes while I used the restroom and internet.

He said no, that was not possible. Wet and cold, I softly explained that I was on a long bike ride and traveling without a bike lock. The bike was not in anyone's way and I'd be quick. He looked at me kind of stunned and replied, "Oh my God! Yes that's okay; please, take as much time as you need." Then he poured me a large cup of coffee and said, "It's on the house."

After changing into dry clothes, I sat drinking the hot coffee and catching up on errands over the Wi-Fi.

Soon I was back on the bike, headed to the Tsawwassen ferry in Delta, British Columbia. Much of the ride was along a gravel multiuse path that ran along the coast; my first glimpses of the Pacific ocean on this trip!

Nolie rides the ferry

The ferry was really cool! I didn't expect to nerd-out as much as I did. The whole experience was novel; from queueing in the car line to buy my ticket, then skipping the line to board with the other pedestrians, to exploring the many levels of the ferry and enjoying a nice lunch in the onboard cafeteria.

The ferry took me to Sidney, north of Victoria. I exited the ferry with an Austrian woman who lived in Vancouver and was cycling around the island for a few days. She'd been there before and offered to help navigate me to a network of bike paths that would take me all the way to Victoria.

A piece of me

It was right about then that I realized I had left my water bottle on the ferry. My only water bottle. A bottle that had provided me with life-giving water for two months. It never let me down, and yet I had completely neglected it to the point of total loss.

Sure, it had an ever-present crust around the mouthpiece. But it was my grime. A grime composed of particles of the New Mexican desert, the dirt roads of Colorado and my own sweat from long climbs in Montana.

It had been with me on bike, kayak, bus and ferry... and being without it felt like I'd lost an appendage.

After a moment of silence, I continued on to meet my friend, Adeline, at her place, where I'd be staying the next couple nights to visit and finalize logistics for the next couple weeks.

Girl time

It was sooo much fun hanging out with Adeline again! We initially met at Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, last September. I didn't realize she had moved to Victoria until I posted a question on Instagram Stories and she responded. She graciously offered to host me and I quickly accepted!

While she worked, I explored the city and secured tickets/reservations for the upcoming adventure. It turns out getting around an island by bike isn't as straightforward as it sounds and requires a lot of logistics.

At one point I passed the luxury waterfront Fairmont hotel. It had gorgeous gardens and a regal patio cafe. Knowing I didn't look like I had two pennies to rub together, I meekly approached the waiter and asked what the odds were I could get a table. He gave me a onceover and to my surprise proceeded with pure grace and kindness. He even helped me find a place to stash my bike. Classy.

I ordered dessert and a glass of champagne and sat there reveling in the moment, taking in the sights of the busy waterfront on such a gorgeous day.

Afterward, I hopped over to the Harbor Flight office to buy a seaplane ticket (more on that later) and found some Wi-Fi to book another bus ticket from Nanaimo to Tofino, and a mix of hostel and campground reservations.

That evening, Adeline, I and her friend Martine went out for drinks and dinner then drove around the posh areas of town. It was fun and made me really miss my besties back in Boulder.

Victoria's Sanitas

The next morning, Martine and I hiked Mt. Douglas. It was another gorgeous day and Mt. Douglas is easily to Victoria what Mt. Sanitas is to Boulder! It felt strangely familiar and was so nice to get back out using my legs for something other than pedaling and to spend more time with Martine.

When we got back to her car in the trailhead parking lot, there was a paper on her windshield. It was a scorecard, of sorts, from a local crime prevention group. They were literally walking around trying to break into peoples' cars then leaving them a review of how well they secured their vehicles and hid items out of sight.

I thought... what a great cover for ACTUAL criminals! Or at least a really fun summer job for some teenagers.

Back at Adeline's place, I packed up my panniers and set off back north toward Sidney to visit some botanical gardens and camp for the night.

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