Jul 16

Port Alberni to Ucluelet

by in Tour BC

Day 4: 62.7 miles

Click to enlarge image of Spencer with campground kitty

Click to enlarge image of Carol & Ralph Nussbaum from Seattle

Click to enlarge image of Canadian Princess (photo credit Charlie Buchalter)

Click to enlarge image of the view from the W/C on the Canadian Princess

Click to enlarge image of Ambulance Al

Click to enlarge image of Lindsay with Charlie

Click to enlarge image of John

Today’s ride would set a new standard for “brutal”. It started off innocently enough. Gentle grades with some typically steep stretches. The first rest area was the beginning of the struggle.

Sheila was in serious need of a rest room when we got there. But there was nothing except a water jug on a table. She’d brought toilet paper, but no shovel so the trip into the woods was not as pleasant as it could have been. I just can’t figure out why there weren’t ever any sanicans where you needed them.

As we got ready to leave, the rain started crashing down. We got on all our gear. By the time we were riding, it was letting up. (Sound familiar?) You know the next bit of the story: we roasted in the rain gear going up the hills, stripped it off, and continued to lunch.

Now it was sunny again. People were whispering about a reported 18% grade coming up. There also was a rather steep, long climb out of the lunch stop. We opted to let the panniers go on the lunch truck. Oooops.

We climbed the hill without a lot of difficulty and cruised down the back side. Halfway down, it began to sprinkle. Then rain. We got to the next water stop (again no rest rooms) as it began to really pour. We hung out as long as we could stand it. But we were getting cold. We waited for a break in the rain, donned our windbreakers (not water breakers, mind you) and headed off.

Now the skies opened up. It was coming down so hard I had rain on the inside of the prescription lenses on the inside of my sunglasses! Sheila kept yelling, “Can you SEE anything?” Water sloshed in our shoes as we pedaled. We could do nothing but laugh deliriously and joke about going for swims. Then we got to the 18% grade.

Just so you understand, they put up the warning signs for trucks when there is an 8% grade. 10% is very steep. 18% was impossibly steep. Plus, the water was flowing down the middle of the road an inch or two deep. It was several inches deep at the side next to the barricades. We could have used paddles to go up the hill!

We persevered, though. We made it. Of course there was an 18% downgrade to follow which was very hairy since we couldn’t see and the road was slick. Oh, did I mention that the road was full of 18 wheelers, campers with boats, and bus-like motorhomes pulling cars? Of course, there was absolutely NO shoulder, not even a fog line. It was harrowing. We had to keep our wits about us, which was hard given the weather and the cold.

Eventually the rains stopped, even if the hills didn’t. By the time we were 7 km from Ucluelet (YOU-cue-let) we were dry, except for our feet. But the hills didn’t relent. WE hit another that must have been 10% just 2 km from home. I cracked. Sheila had to push us up. I couldn’t do it. Thank goodness for strong stokers.

The camp in Ucluelet was pretty rough. The road in was gravel, so we had to walk the bike. Then the washrooms were located hell and gone on the other side of the campground. Showers cost $2 for 6 minutes. Lots of people found hotel rooms that night. We set up our tent and explored the village.

Dinner was to be served in two shifts, 6 and 8 p.m. at the Canadian Princess, a moored boat near the campground. Tickets were going to be given out at 5:15. We didn’t want to risk missing out on the early seating, so we went to the bar in the Princess, ordered Peach Spritzers and waited.

When our friends Ralph and Carol showed up, we knew it was time to get in line. They had a knack for being first in line for everything. We followed them and got into the 6 p.m. seating.

The food was pretty bad. There was no protein for the vegetarians. They served veggies, rice, and marinara sauce. Then dessert was a slap in the face. They called it “West Coast Cobbler” a delicacy the chef learned in Vancouver. It looked like apple crisp, but tasted horrible. He had baked cantaloupe and honeydew into the cobbler and left out the sugar. Sheila didn’t even eat two bites of hers.

The tent was looking pretty good as we crashed that night.

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