December 8, 2014 | Posted in:Canada, Vancouver Island

We got up nice and late the next morning and had a lovely breakfast together before attacking Mount Constitution. We lounged around enjoying the fact that we had the WHOLE day with no place to go, until we realized that we’d better get our asses in gear if we were actually going to make the hike. The trail to the summit took us through a beautiful old-growth forest with some massive cedars and Douglass Firs. Big tree forests are truly special places. The really big ones stand stoic and you can almost hear their bulk and age as they loom over you. They certainly command respect. The air is dense. You blood is slow. Everything feels old, even the saplings. Perhaps you are sensing their future.

We have a couple vistas on the way up and despite the haziness, the 360-degree view from the top was spectacular, which is no surprise because Mt. Constitution is the highest point on the San Juan Islands. Islands littered the sea around us and jagged mountains were visible in the distance. This was our first view of the Olympics we’d be cycling through in a couple weeks.

San Juan Islands view from Orcas

View from the highest point in the San Juan Islands

View from the highest point in the San Juan Islands

Walking on a dead tree on a lake

How could anyone resist?

We got back to the campground to find that two other sites had been taken by cyclists. One was a couple that didn’t seem too interested in being social, and the other was a British guy in his 50s at the beginning of his first bicycle tour. He was very lightly loaded and without cooking gear, so we cooked a little extra and shared our warm dinner with him. He too had been owned by the hills coming in, so we did not feel as bad about our own battering.

For some reason I had assumed that since the interisland ferries were so frequent, the same would be true for getting to British Columbia. After breakfast with the Brit, we discovered that the ferry schedule to Canada was much more limited and we needed depart immediately and with haste.

On the way down the massive hill out of the park, my front brake cable snapped. This was a fortuitous location for such an event because I knew that there was no stop sign or crazy curve at the bottom, so I could coast it out with tender pulses on the rear brake without worry about impending death.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, the car behind us passed and told us that Brandy had dropped something. We figured out that she dropped her rain booties she’d spent so long to make! I made the quick decision to leave her to hitchhike back to the top while I ran to town so I could get a start on fixing the cable and we might still make the ferry.

With the replacement from the town bike shop, I made a flash repair. I did a piss-poor job and it was a bit squishy, but it worked. Brandy showed up just in time and we bolted out of there. We raged it over the hills and discovered the climbing was much more gentle on the way out, but our pace took its toll on my joints.

We made it! Just in time… to find out the ferry had been canceled due to mechanical failure. We were stuck; hosed. We’d have to wait until the next day, which meant losing a day with my cousin, whom I was meeting in Victoria. Despite missing the ferry, our timing was fortuitous. It wasn’t long after we arrived that a massive rainstorm blew through. We were told that it was a freak storm and the buckets of rain that drenched the area were not typical at all. From the warmth of a coffee shop I sent out a couple quick last-minute requests to Couchsurfers on one of the neighboring islands that would position us for a more convenient access to Canada the next morning.

Lots of ferries in Orcas Harbor not going to Canada

Lots of ferries not going to Canada

We were fortunate enough to get a quick response from Brendan, another old-school CSer who was also a bit of a jaded vet like us and had only recently put his couch back on after a lengthy hiatus. The inter-island, not to Canada ferry was filled with soaking wet cyclists who’d gotten caught in the storm and we felt so civilized and dry. We filled my growler (yes, I’m carrying a stainless steel growler on this trip) and climbed up the much less intense hill to Brendan’s place and had a great evening with him.

Friday Harbor in the morning

Friday Harbor in the morning

We had an uneventful ferry ride over to Canada the next morning where we were waved through by a smiling elderly border guard. The 20 or so miles into Victoria took us through a bit of farmland and a lot of suburbs, but we were spared the indignity of sharing the space with krrs thanks to the excellent and well-signed trail that switched from off-road trails to tiny side streets and back and forth.

This short stretch of freeway had a ridiculous amount of billboards foresting both sides. Billboards are illegal in BC, but this section passes through a First Nations reservation where they can do whatever the hell they want.

This short stretch of freeway had a ridiculous amount of billboards foresting both sides. Billboards are illegal in BC, but this section passes through a First Nations reservation where they can do whatever the hell they want.

We stopped at this really cool bike shop, the Recyclistas Bicycle Coop, to have a look at my brakes and also grab a couple screws for Brandy’s brakes. We chatted with the dudes there for a while and they gave us some restaurant recommendations and invited us to bike polo later that night.

We stopped for some grub at one of their other recommendations, a brewpub on the water, but that turned out to be fairly mediocre. Thankfully we still followed their pointer to the sushi restaurant because that would turn out to be the best sushi we’ve ever eaten, hands down.

After getting settled in at the cheapest hostel in town, we met my cousin Diana and her partner Orin at the soon to be named best ever sushi restaurant. Despite coexisting on the same planet for 33 years, Diana and I had never met, so it was really cool to get together and talk about each other’s respectively mysterious branches of the family over some amazing raw fish. Did I mention that the sushi restaurant was awesome? Part of why it was great was the salmon, which tasted like nothing we’d ever had before. We were later told that it was probably fresh Sockeye. Yes, my east coast friends, there are several different types of salmon.

Nighttime in Victoria

Nighttime in Victoria

After dinner, we were feeling lazy, but knew I would regret it if we didn’t go to the bike polo meet up. We showed up a bit late in the evening, but I still got to have a round. I had seen bike polo many years ago and had wanted to try it since and finally got my chance. I LOVED it. It is extremely challenging and heavily strategic. It felt like the physical aspect was much more technical than endurance, so I could play all day without being exhausted. Of course, that could also be because of the low level at which I was playing. The next time we have a stable home I will definitely try to get involved with polo.

We spent the next day hanging out with Diana and Orin driving out to a small town out on the Pacific coast. Port Renfrew is an isolated logging town, that was at the end of the road until they built a cross-island connector a couple years ago. It has also become a tourist destination as there are a lot of nice spots nearby and is the terminus of the Juan de Fuca Trail. We got into another lovely grove of old-growth trees called Avatar Grove, which seems to have very recently been “developed” as a tourist destination by some local conservationists who were concerned about possible logging. Port Renfrew is nice, but we were regretting not packing a lunch when we discovered the astounding prices at the couple of available restaurants and ended up munching on white bread and cold cuts from the sparsely shelved store.

Port Renfrew

Port Renfrew

Lighting up a gnarly one in Avatar Grove on Vancouver Island

Lighting up a gnarly one

Back in 2012, shortly after the Guyana trip where we formulated the plan for this trip, we hosted a blacksmith from Canada who was participating in the Tough Mudder competition. We resolved to visit him if we made it to Vancouver Island on this trip, so we rode the awesome Galloping Goose Trail out to Justin and his father’s forge in Sooke. We spent a few days at his parents’ B & B relaxing, hanging out, playing board games and taking a couple nice hikes.

Sun on the sea

Mystic Beach

Mystic Beach

We also got a cool demonstration of the forge from his dad.

We also got a cool demonstration of the forge from his dad.

The shop

The shop. Can you find the skull?

Justin's dad in the shop

Check out Justin and his dad, Marty’s shop. They do a ton of cool stuff. Justin gets a lot of commissions to do Star Trek weapons.

View from the forge

View from the forge

The next morning

The next morning

We meet so many awesome people through our online hospitality communities and travels in general, but the vast majority of the connections we make are brief singular encounters as they or we continue onto the trails. Rarely do we cross paths again, so we are left with a momentary impression completely colored by the circumstances of each other’s lives and the place and time. Such is the life of the traveler. It is always (well, thus far) a delight to reconnect with someone on their home turf, or in another continent far away.

This post reminded me of someone’s blog I read who had a “continent club” for people he’d met up with on multiple continents. My multi-continent club is so far quite small. Brandy is the only person in my four-continent club, naturally. I believe there is also only one person in my three-continent club. My buddy Nick, whom was in my exchange program in Budapest and I saw a few times in the States, accompanied me to the Asian side of Istanbul where he bought bunk AA batteries for his camera, “ohh, I didn’t realize these were Kordak!” There are too many people to mention in the two-continent club, but I’m sure I’ll have to get all nerdy and make a list sometime.

What are your experiences meeting up with friends in random spots?