Saturday, August 27, 2005

Biking, Ferrying, Busing, Busing, Biking...or, Eight hours to get from Victoria to Vancouver


The journey on Wednesday, August 24

Yes, that's right. It took almost eight hours in travel time to get from Recyclistas in Victoria to the Dino-plex, where I'm staying at in Vancouver. How? It's about 30km from Recyclistas to the ferry terminal, about a 50km ferry crossing across the Strait of Georgia, then another 35km from the Tsawwassen ferry landing to the Dino-plex in Vancouver, about 115km overall. But things ain't so easy.

The first part was nice and straight-forward. Ride the Lochside Trail north. That took a little under two hours, and I arrived at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal at a little after 5pm. Nothing to do but wait until the 6pm ferry departed.

The ferry ride takes about an hour and a half. The whole trip is great, and I spent most of it on the forward deck, viewing the Gulf Islands passing the ship left-and-right. There's a couple of narrow passages between isles the ship must make, and then it was out on the open water, with Vancouver looming in the distance. There were some great views of the mountains to the north, and of Mount Baker to the east in Washington State.

7:30pm found me disembarking at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal on the mainland side. After riding across half the loading area, I found the bus and put my bike on the front. And here is where things start to get complicated.

The Victoria side of this journey was so easy. I had the option of taking one single bike path that led me from the front of Recyclistas to the ferry terminal itself. Or, I could have taken the bus from downtown that led straight to the terminal. No sweat. But the Vancouver side? The bus I got on, the only bus leading from the terminal goes only to Vancouver Airport, on the other side of the Fraser River from the city itself. There is no direct bus connection to downtown, which seems highly illogical. From the Airport transit station, I could catch another bus, none of which would take me that close to where I needed to go, which meant I would need to make yet another bus transfer. To complicate matters even further, I had a lot of shit with me, which happens when you do bike touring-camping. I had my shoulder bag, two panniers, a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and pillow. On the bike, it's fine. Off it, it's a pain to maneuver.

Why not bike it? That is theoretically possible, but not practical. Between Tsawwassen and Vancouver proper is flat lands (good for bicycling), but filled with wide, multi-laned thoroughfares (not good), general suburbia (ditto), and the biggest obstacle of all, the Fraser River. The closest crossing of the Fraser is via BC Route 99, which uses the George Massey Tunnel to go under the river. Meaning: NO BIKES ALLOWED. You gotta bus it through the tunnel no matter what. If you don't want to do that, the next crossing is at BC Route 91, about 12 klicks northeast of there and NOT going in the direction I want to go. Plus, the sun was setting, and a 30km ride at night in this area was not a good idea.

The bus from the ferry dropped me off at the Airport Transit center and my plan was going to take a 98 B-Line bus that would bring me downtown. Unfortunately, that was the plan of everyone else. The first bus showed up, packed so full of people that it was standing room all the way to the front door. And there was 5 bicycles that wanted to get on the bus. Uh-oh. I waited another 15 mins for the next and saw the situation repeat itself. Problem. So I went over to another bus that was in the wings, uncrowded. The bus driver even put my bike on the bus! Sweet. "So, this bus goes along Marine Drive, right?" sez I. "Yeah, where do you need to go?" "Hastings and Victoria, sort of". "Well, I can drop you off at Marine and Victoria, the rest is up to you."

After passing by many a car dealership and strip mall, I arrived at Marine and Victoria, in the far southeast side of Vancouver. It was about 9:30pm. All I have to do is head due north on the Sunrise Bikeway, over many a hill, across the width of the city, and eventually I'll find my way to the Dino-Plex. Which I did. I sweated and gasped over the many hills I had to overtake, with god-knows how much weight on the back of my bike, but I got to the the Dino-Plex at about 10:45pm, where I found a surprised Lee. "I thought you were coming tomorrow?"
"Change of plans" I replied.

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