The slight mist prickling our faces at 5.30 a.m. was only somewhat discouraging as we peddled the two miles along 15thAvenue to catch the first sailing on The Victoria Clipper.
I am not a morning person. Unless I’m catching a flight for an exotic vacation abroad, I don’t generally find myself up at that hour and certainly not on a bicycle. However, a trip on The Clipper to Vancouver Island is akin to a flight. It is a sailing, at the very least. And Canada is technically ‘abroad.’
Our destination was the highly recommended Arbutus Cove Bed & Breakfast (www.arbutuscoveguesthouse.com/) via the Galloping Goose Trail. A former railroad line, the Galloping Goose runs approximately 60 kilometers between Victoria, B.C. and Leechtown (now a ghost town). Arbutus Cove B&B is located at the 36 kilometer post (23 miles), so I figured that was doable on my second cycling outing of the season.
Our panniers thoughtfully packed for the journey, we set sail at 7:45 a.m. leaving gray Seattle behind and arriving in sunny, albeit breezy, Victoria with our tummies grumbling for lunch. We fueled up at Darcy’s Pub across the harbor. Live music in Bastion Square put us in the festive vacation mode as we enjoyed our meals, watching people and gearing up for the long haul ahead.
The Galloping Goose
As we headed west across the the Johnson Bridge, the trail turnoff was not clearly marked due to construction. When we pulled out the map out, a helpful Canadian couple pointed us in the right direction. Throughout our travels, each time we stopped, a local offered help. At one point, my boyfriend, Jon, stopped to refer to the map. I needed to find a bush to take care of ‘personal’ business. I shouted over my shoulder, “You won’t have to open the map; someone will turn up the minute you pull it out.” As if on cue, a helpful passerby stopped to assist before he had it unfolded.
As we crossed the Selkirk Trestle, the paved trail beyond provided easy, flat riding for several kilometers. Cyclists in training whizzed by and we passed plenty of dog walkers, families, and joggers. The trail intersects with several urban streets, but drivers were courteous and stopped and waved us across.
At the 13 km post, the trail became hard packed gravel and foot traffic diminished. The dense deciduous trees formed a thick, green canopy, and mature blackberry bushes lined our path. Urban noises became sparse and rustling leaves, birds twittering, and our bike tires crunching on the gravel were the only sounds. We easily rode two abreast. On one of the many wooden trestles, we paused for a photo op and to view the creek several hundred meters below. We passed the homestead of the pioneer Field Family who settled the land in 1878 after traveling the Oregon Trail from Southern Kansas.
The trail was perfect for my cross country bike and its hybrid tires. Jon’s road bike fared well, but he was concerned about his skinny tires and the extra weight of the panniers on the small gravel stones. The trail eventually turned to softer, mostly flat, packed earth with just a few ups and downs. After passing beautiful Matheson Lake, we knew we were not far off from our final destination. At the 36 kilometer post, we arrived at Arbutus Cove B&B, ready for a break.
Arbutus Cove B&B is perched on the bluff on the east side of Sooke Basin. There are three comfortable guestrooms with water views and private entrances to the deck overlooking the basin, ensuite bathrooms, cable TV, DVD and wireless internet. But who needs all these modern day amenities with such spectacular views of nature to enjoy? A common hot tub on the deck enabled us to relax and enjoy the quiet seclusion. Our host, Kathy, was warm, friendly and accommodating without being intrusive. In addition to the guestrooms in the main house, there are two cottages on the property. Each is nestled amongst the trees and offers privacy, spectacular water views, private decks, and hot-tubs.
After our long ride, we were ready for a meal. Kathy suggested a couple of eateries nearby. We decided to walk the 2 km to The Stickelback West Coast Eatery Inc. Our table on the deck was lovely and peaceful, right on the water overlooking the kayak center. Jon ordered a beer and I ordered a cocktail, a vodka lemonade and soda that hit the spot. Jon opted for the special burger of the day, a giant patty, bacon, cheese, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, and onions. It was huge and messy and he loved it. I had the falafel wrap with crispy homemade falafel, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, homemade tzatziki and feta cheese. For dessert (We’d been up since 5:00 a.m. and had ridden a total of 25 miles. We earned dessert!), we shared the gluten-free flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Our spoons performed a duel scraping up every last drop.
Potholes and Tapas
The next day, we woke to clear skies, warm weather, and our first complimentary breakfast. Our tray was loaded with homemade blackberry crumbles, fresh fruit, and whole-grain bagels with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, yogurt, and a carafe of fresh squeezed orange juice. There were also coffee, and herbal, green, and black teas. We enjoyed our delicious breakfast on the sunny deck overlooking the calm morning water.
Since we had a 25 mile ride back home the following day, we’d planned to spend our second day relaxing. However, after talking to other guests, we decided to trek to The Potholes. They didn’t sound far, so we once again climbed aboard our saddles — this time, a bit more gingerly.
We crossed busy Highway 14, and continued on the Galloping Goose Trail for several kilometers. At the 56 km post, we suspected we’d missed the turn off. Spotting someone with a backpack, we asked about our destination. Sooke Potholes Provincial Park was several kilometers back. We’d missed the turnoff. Noting our sagging shoulders and tired, disappointed looks, the woman told us about several potholes along the Sooke River to explore and swim. She pointed us in the right direction and we excitedly steered to one of the spots.
The clear, clean pools of colder-than-refreshing water were a treat for our tired, hot feet. After a few minutes, numbness set in and Jon found it bearable. A few bathers actually swam, but this cold water wuss limited immersion to my feet. I pulled my frozen toes out after only a few minutes and relaxed on a warm sunlit slab of rock.
After a light snack, we headed to Sooke. We spotted the turnoff to the Potholes Park. It was no wonder we missed the obscure signage. We also missed the crowds. The park pools were loaded with floating devices, children, dogs, and chaos. We were pleased with our calm, private retreat.
We left the trail toward Sooke and climbed uphill about two kilometers (by now it felt like 22 kilometers). After the grind, the town of Sooke was a bit of a disappointment. We found a suitable coffee shop, but few restaurants appealed. So after a quick espresso, we forged our way back to Arbutus Cove. Checking our odometers, we’d ridden another 25 miles! No wonder I was beat.
The following day, breakfast consisted of Dutch apple pancakes baked in individual ceramic serving dishes, fresh melons and strawberries, yogurt, cheeses and fresh squeezed orange juice. The pancakes were amazing, but both Jon and I ate them faster than I could take a photo!
We hit the trail after breakfast and headed back to Victoria at a comfortable riding pace enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the woods. Back in Victoria, we stopped at Caffe Fantastico, for a latte and one of Fol Epi’s blueberry strudels from the previous day. (Fol Epi is a next-door bakery that’s closed on Mondays.) Even day-old did not disappoint.
We parked our bikes downtown and wandered in and out of the interesting shops and galleries of Victoria and checked out dinner options. We chose The Tapa Bar on Trounce Alley (tapabar.ca/) for our final meal. To my delight, we’d stumbled onto Martini Monday Happy Hour (selected martinis for $5.50)! After a 75 mile riding weekend, I was definitely treating myself to a martini or two. My first choice was the Cervante made with Absolut Citron vodka, triple sec, pineapple juice and lemon wedges (see recipe).
We enjoyed several tasty tapas. For our first round, Jon ordered the heart of palm salad (romaine with chili aoli and salsa fresca) and I ordered the ensalada de la casa with black butter lemon caper dressing. Then we dived into a yummy Cubanette, an opened faced focaccia, with melted cheese, grilled loin of pork, avocado, beans and salsa fresca. Easy to share, but I worked hard to get bigger ‘half’.
Our final tapa was Fried Fanny Bay Oysters on grilled focaccia bread with chili aoli, another fabulous and more than satisfying choice.
My second martini was the Goyas Passion made from Olmeca Gold Tequila, passion fruit liqueur, and lime juice served in a cinnamon sugar rimmed martini glass. For a girl who loves cinnamon (cinnamon dolce lattes, cinnamon buns, cinnamon toast), this was the drink for me! (Here’s the recipe.)
Tapa Bar’s Bar Manager Robyn Stevenson says other popular martinis include the Espresso Martini and the Blue Balls Martini, a variation of the classic martini that replaces vermouth with scotch for added complexity (called a ‘burnt’ martini) and it’s topped off with hand stuffed blue cheese olives. Two was my limit, but I will definitely return to give Blue Balls a try.
Stuffed with tapas and feeling relaxed with martinis, we made our way down to the Victoria Clipper and loaded our tired, but content bodies onto the boat toward home. We both agreed this was a trip to remember, to share with others, and to embark on again. – by Loreley J. Smith, RFT Contributor