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Is D'arcy Another Word For Hell? Not At All

Danelle Laidlaw


What is it about this ride that makes it so intriguing? I really want to do this brevet again because I know I can do it - I just couldn't do it on May 27th.

Look at the terrain and look at the scenery and this has got to be one of the best rides going. But there is no doubt - conditions have to be right for it to work. And they were not right for 9 of the 15 who started out from the BC Rail Station in North Vancouver. And for some, it was a disastrous start. Dave Blanche didn't see a median in the pouring rain and drove his car right into it, so that was the end of his ride.

The rest of us managed to get started amid a cacophony of "my computer is not working", "my route sheet is getting wet", and "oh my god, why are we doing this?" The route followed the lower levels road out to Horseshoe Bay and then Highway 99 up to Squamish. Some people think that the Sea to Sky Highway is really congested and dangerous, but I don't agree. Certainly on a rainy Saturday morning, the traffic was hardly noticable. The rain showers we encountered were relentless, but several times let up just enough for us to think that it was finally going to clear up - no such luck. By the time we got to Squamish, we were ringing out the gloves and booties and focusing on staying warm.

The route out of Squamish was the old highway and Sharon and Roger staffed a secret control in Brackendale. They were disgustingly cheerful (of course they were cheery - they were inside eating breakfast) and sent us on our way in record time. The old highway is very quiet and gently climbs up to the base of the Cheakamus Canyon before joining the highway. Despite the rain, the ride was fun. We had a wonderful view of the Royal Hudson steaming its way along as we sloshed our way up to Whistler. Doug and Susan had warned the PetroCan staff that we would be hanging out for a bit trying to dry out and they were most accommodating. Whistler seems to be a real siren to which we get drawn. Eric was captured by it on the way up. He had been plagued by flats and was having a tough time getting patches to adhere in the rain. Out of the mist came his saviour in the form of Barry Chase and his wife. They got him back on the road and then a broken skewer turned him back to the comfort of Barry's mountain retreat. Eric was down for the count.

I like not being the first person into an unstaffed control. You don't have to go through all that explanation stuff of "you are doing what?, in one day?". And that was the case for us at the Pemberton Hotel. After waiting for a few minutes for a train to pass, and then deciding just to go around it instead, it was a relief that the woman behind the desk just looked at us, shook her head, and without comment held out her hand for our cards and then pointed in the direction of the washrooms.

Our stay there was brief as we were anxious to get to the 1/2 way point. I used to not like out and back routes because I would see other riders who were so far ahead of me that it was depressing, but now I like them. It is the only way that I get to see a whole bunch of the folks that ride these events. About 5 km outside of Pemberton, we encountered the Terminator Twins (Ted and Keith). We had heard that Ted had come totally unprepared for the downpour and had to beg a jacket from Susan at the Whistler control. They paused long enough to say hello and wave and then the heads went down again and they were off. Between Pemberton and D'Arcy we crossed paths with Michel Richard being chased by Nobo, Dave Johnson riding with Keith Nichol, and Manfred on his own. We timed things right though - when we got to D'Arcy in sunshine and thought, stupidly, great - the weather has cleared. Yeah, right... Alex got us fed and watered which was quite a feat as there were no facilities in D'Arcy and pushed us out of the control where we were quite happy to enjoy the sun for a bit.

I had been riding with Ron Himschoot (now known as single speed Ron), John Bates (on sabbatical), and Jean Marc Boudreau. Jean-Marc had a deadline, so he decided to go ahead while we dawdled our way back down to Pemberton. Now it was our turn to shout encouragement to Wayne Harrington on his own and Keith Fletcher and Bob Bose riding together. On the way back down to Pemberton, we met Val and Bob Bailey who had ridden as far as Pemberton and were now providing sweep on the route, and Bob Marsh who decided his penance for not getting up at 3 a.m. in the pouring rain to come out and do his second 400 was to drive up and be the support slut - a role he plays very well - trust me, I know.

I am not sure what delayed us in Pemberton but we seemed to spend more time there than we should have as it was getting dark by the time we left, maybe it was another train, or another shower - who knows. The ride back into Whistler was not much fun for me. I was having a lot of difficulty seeing the edge of the road in the dark, and when cars approached, it was just blinding. By the time we got to Whistler, I was very tense in anticipation of the next segment of road.

At Whistler, the siren had captured Manfred and Jean-Marc. They had both decided that with the cold and the rain, and the offer of a lift back to Vancouver, it was better to abandon than to risk a harrowing ride. It was also getting very cold. Well, abandonment is like an infectious disease. Once the idea starts to take shape, well, you've had it. Our siren was that we had a place to stay in Whistler, so after some agonizing (not that much agonizing), we too pulled the plug and decided to abandon the brevet and finish the ride in the morning. Subsequently, Wayne was persuaded to quit and Keith and Bob were also glad to be picked up and taken back to Vancouver. We knew that the TTs had finished and the other 4 were well on their way. Karen, Francis and Bruce were doing a great job of staffing the finish, but as soon as the group of 4 were in, their job was over.

Our adventure continued the next day after bidding farewell to our hosts (the rescue team we called them), we set off in light rain, but in dry clothes. By Brandywine, the rain had stopped and we were stripping off. The weather improved all the way into Vancouver. Barry Chase chased us down and we had a leisurely lunch with him in Squamish. He told us about Eric's demise and we told him about the others. We all agreed that this was the ride to conquer. The only other time it has been run, of 8 starters there were only 2 finishers. That time it was heat that made it difficult.

I don't like abandoning brevets and I will get this one yet, but I also believe that we have to put safety first. It is after all, only a bike ride and sometimes things just don't work out. For my part, I really enjoyed the ride and coming back down the highway in glorious sunshine with a vista that is hard to beat was just the crowning glory. But I will be back to try that one again. My kudos to Val and Alex and all their helpers for providing superb support on a difficult ride.

NB. Ian Stephen (I think he needs an S on his name for superman) did the ride on his own the week before the official date, and Eric and Peter Stary finished the ride the week following. Barry started with them but got caught in the Whistler web!