Each Sunday morning, I meet with a group of fellow bicycle enthusiasts for a healthy jaunt via two-wheels. On one particular sunny Sunday during the summer, one of the group decided we should go biking in Canada. Just a day trip, mind you, as we are just a short ferry ride away from the very British city of Victoria on Vancouver Island.
We left on the 8am ferry. As a dozen of us approached the Customs agents with our bicycles in tow, I’m not sure they knew what to think of us.
"We’re biking to Sidney for lunch!" one of the bikers said. "Yep, us too!" another biker couple smiled. But the agents handled us efficiently, despite their thoughts of our insanity, as did the ferry employees, who told us where the bike rack was as we boarded the boat. After all, don’t those crazy Canadians do the same thing? One Victoria biking club I know comes over once per year to bike from Port Angeles to Sequim – and I bet they go to lunch and then head back home.
Well, we filled that rack up with bikes, and headed inside to overwhelm the other passengers with our spandex outfits. (Side note: why so much spandex? I guess I haven’t been biking long enough to have the answer to that yet… I’ll keep ya posted!)
The boat slowed as we entered Victoria Harbor. The city is extreme beautiful as we arrive by boat – with the marina and float planes landing, the Empress Hotel covered in ivy, and the impressive Legislative Building. We file off the boat, strap on our helmets, and follow the leader over the Johnson Street Bridge, which is big and blue and we can see it from the dock, so figure we can’t get lost.
The trail starts on the right just after we cross the bridge. After just a few minutes of pedaling, we first see this really great industrial looking apartment complex which was very hip, I must say. Shortly beyond that is the 100-meter Switch Bridge, then is a trail junction, where the trail heads west to Sooke and is called the Galloping Goose Trail (see separate entry) or east to Sidney and Swartz Bay, which is where we head.
This portion of trail is called the Lochside Regional Trail. Most of the 29km length of it stays in urban and suburban areas following an old railroad grade. Actually, I was a little surprised to see that a huge section of it just follows a neighborhood road. Granted, it wasn’t a super busy road, but I would have felt safer on a true trail. Lochside Regional Trail has lots of signs, but they are sometimes small, so we had to make sure to keep diligent watch for them so as not to get lost. Occasionally we had to whistle to the front man (aka Speedy) to come back, as he wasn’t paying attention and missed a turn.
Before reaching Sidney, we got some great views of the water. The day was so clear, we had a surprisingly stunning view of Mount Baker. Surprising because I didn’t know that we would end up facing that direction and because the view was especially clear that day.
When we reached Sidney, we didn’t know where we were going, but naturally ended up following roads leading to the waterfront. There were a plethora of restaurants to choose from, most in about the same price range (not cheap, but maybe I just thought so because of the crappy exchange rate). We ended up at Pier 1 at the bottom of Beacon Street on the waterfront. With so many of us, we worried about overwhelming the waitress and cooks – but they were fabulous and served us with speed and accuracy, and good food to boot! Most of us had grilled sandwiches and cold iced tea. The salads were also very good.
After lunch, we started pedaling back in a lazy manner. But as the ferry departure time approached, and we were no where near back to Victoria, we kicked it into overdrive! There was no slow cruises past painted murals – we were simply blurs going by the artwork. I’m sure some of us have never moved so fast! Being careful not to run over any walkers on the trail, and then careful but fast in making it through downtown traffic back to the dock, we made it with only 5 minutes to spare. We all grinned in relief, happy we didn’t have to wait 4 hours for the next boat.
We laughed and joked at our adventure all the way back to Port Angeles, looking for dolphins and whales out the windows. I was just happy to know such great, nice, fun, badass friends who liked to the same crazy things as me!
For more information, check out these websites:
Lochside Regional Trail
Washington State Ferries
The Lochside Regional Trail traverses the Saanich Peninsula. It goes through Sidney, which also has the Washington State ferry to Anacortes on the U.S. San Juan Islands. Beyond Sidney, the trail also goes to the BC ferry dock in Swartz Bay – with the ferry giving access to Tsawwassen and the Canadian Gulf Islands.
Another note about the trail is that I found a distinct lack of toilet facilities – be warned!