Newsletter - 2002 Archive

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Island 1000

Danelle Laidlaw


Every once in awhile, just when you start getting a little cocky about riding Rando rides, the Rando gods test you to see if you are ready for the challenges. I had one such challenge on my recent 1000 km ride on Vancouver Island.

Originally, I had made other plans for Labour Day weekend – thought I might provide support for a 24 Hours of Adrenalin team in Vernon. But when that fell through, and back-up plans to attend the tandem rally in Levenworth, WA didn’t come together, then the idea of maybe making a run at the Iron Butt award started to take shape. Thus, it was decided to head off to Vancouver Island to ride the Island 1000.

As this was ride was unsupported, we decided to start from Parksville in order to be able to leave a change of clothes and additional food where it could be picked up at the end of our second day. The plan then was to go from Parksville to Port Hardy in day one, return in day two and Parksville – Victoria return in day 3. Stephen Hinde helped us organize motels in Port Hardy and Parksville and even came to the ferry terminal to give us our cards and route sheets and deliver us to the motel in Parksville – that was certainly above and beyond the call of duty but graciously accepted.

We started off from Parksville at 6 a.m. and had fairly good weather with light tailwinds all the way up to Port Hardy. I had done this ride before and knew to stock up on food and water after Sayward Junction. There is now a restaurant in Woss which is less than ½ km off of the road, and there is a new Esso service station just north of the turn-off for Port McNeil – open from 5 am to 9 or 10 pm. The scenery is lovely and although there is quite a bit of elevation gain, the hills do not seem too bad. We were in Port Hardy just after dark.

On our return from Port Hardy, the day started out dry enough, but rain developed about 20 km outside of PH and by the time we reached Woss where we had planned to have breakfast, we were well and truly drenched. However, while we were there, the sun came out and although we did get wet again, it was only showers after that. We encountered another couple on singles, loaded with camping gear, who had started in Vancouver and ridden up through Squamish, Duffy Lake Road, off-road from Pavillion to the highway to Bella Coola, taken the ferry to Port Hardy, and were doing the last leg of that 1600 km odyssey when we met them. Quite the feat – particularly loaded down the way they were.

As we discovered, though, our odyssey was just beginning. Everything went fairly smoothly back into Parksville. We encountered Jim Trout, the only other participant on this ride at Sayward Junction. He had started a day after us and started from Nanaimo. Jim was supported and seemed to be doing well. We later learned that he finished after battling headwinds on the last leg of his trip.

One humorous incident occurred just outside of Fanny Bay, on the uphill past the ferry terminal to Denman when out of nowhere came this kid on his mountain bike with a fishing rod. He had no lights and just tore passed us. It was quite startling and funny – my theory is that he had been told to be home before dark and was haring back because he was late. Thankfully, John did not take up the chase!

Our final day into Victoria was beautiful sunshine. Stephen had routed us through Cowichan Bay because of some construction on Highway 1 and it was just lovely going along the water. We expected Stephen and Carol to spring up as a secret control, but instead Harold spied us just north of Chemainus and conducted an impromptu secret control. He had been over to participate in the Masters end of season Hillclimb and Wine and Crab do.

The fun began when we descended the Malahat. With the memory of Eric Fergusson and his broken frame in my head, when we reach the bottom, I asked John – what was that funny noise I heard. He didn’t know but we both thought it might have been the sound of our tires on the white line – not so. As we got close to Victoria, we started to hear a knocking noise when the brakes were applied as if the wheel was out of true. I looked down and it wasn’t. So, we stopped to investigate and the rim on the back wheel was starting to split. Yikes!! We weren’t far from the Victoria control, so we cruised in there, and then started phoning bike stores to see what we might be able to do.

Well – good luck – it was Sunday afternoon of a long weekend – what chance did we have of finding a shop that was open, that would have a 26”, 40 spoke rim to sell us, and have time to build up the wheel or let us use their truing stand. The first few shops we phoned weren’t open, then the Bike Cellar said they had 36 spoke, but not 40 spoke rims, but suggested Fairfield Cycles as “the” tandem shop in town. We called them up, yes, they were open and yes, they had a 26”, 40 spoke rim, but no, they did not have time to build a wheel for us nor would they let us use their truing stand as they were closing at 4 p.m. (this was about 2:30 p.m.).

Undeterred, we beetled off to Fairfield, got the rim and sat outside the shop to start lacing it up (I use the word we rather liberally here – John started to lace the wheel. I ran off and bought a jar of peanut butter, some bread and bananas to make lunch). Fairfield Cycles is at the corner of Fairfield and Moss. I remembered that I had a friend who lived on Moss who just might have a truing stand, so I called him up. On the second phone call, he was home but alas, did not have a stand. Oh well. About 15 minutes later, Denys showed up at the shop, thinking that he could just lend me a wheel. But that idea went nowhere when he realized that I was riding tandem and it was a different size. But not one to be easily defeated, Denys thought some more about it, and said wait here a minute and off he went (like we were going anywhere fast?).

About 15 minutes, later Denys was back with Sam Whittingham in tow. Now, if you have never heard of Sam Whittingham, you should make a note of this name. Sam is the holder of the Human Powered Vehicle land speed record (117 km/hour – on the flat over 200 metres). But he is also a frame builder and an excellent wheel builder. His bikes are called Forte! and he builds conventional bikes as well as recumbents. If his bikes are built as well as his wheels, then they are definitely worth looking at. After the introductions, Sam pulled out a homemade truing stand and John handed over the wheel he had just finished lacing and we were in business. 20 minutes later, we were ready for the road again. We were most grateful for Denys’s ingenuity and Sam’s expertise.

After Denys and Sam had left and we were just packing up, Neil showed up riding a Forte! bike. He was looking for Sam and we had a good look at the bike. I was impressed with the attention to detail and Neil attested that Sam knows his stuff. If you want more information, - - Sam Whittingham, 1204 Clover Ave, Victoria, BC, V8S 1A6, (250) 381-3119,

By this time we were 4 hours behind our schedule, but just thankful to be on the road again so quickly. We made a hasty departure from Victoria in order to be down the Malahat before dark. We accomplished that, just, and were back in Parksville about 2 a.m. after a little bit of rain in Ladysmith and a great tailwind from there north.

We finished off our experience by meeting Stephen for lunch at the ferry terminal, handing over our cards and enjoying a celebratory beer. Another great ride.