Vic2Cow (ow, ow, ow)

The Victoria Wheelers hosted a 175 km ride from Victoria to Cowichan Lake… by way of Port Renfrew. I’m used to thinking of Port Renfrew as The End of Everything, but the province paved some logging roads over the spine of the island a few years ago and now it’s passable even by nutbars on road bikes. We had a perfect warm (but not too hot) day to steal a late summer weekend and enjoy some of the island’s most scenic clearcuts.

Unfortunately, I can’t really go on and on and on about how epic this ride was, because there were more than a few really serious nutbars who stopped with the rest of us who were weeping, gnashing our teeth, pulling cramps out of our legs, and eating cheeseburgers… and then waved goodbye and kept going all the way back to Victoria, almost 300 km.. I firmly insist that the majority of us who chose to stop got the better end of the deal. The Wheelers packed our bikes lovingly into a truck and packed us lovingly into a school bus equipped with a genial driver and coolers of tasty adult beverages and then propelled us all down the island. By the time we got back, the bikes were neatly racked and ready to take home. Very carefully.

But I digress, possibly because one of the very best things about this ride was stopping. I might have handled it better, except I spent last week playing very hard on the shores of Lake Superior, kayaking, cycling long empty roads, and crashing a rented MTB through sand pits and into trees with abandon. Those chickens came home to roost right around Jordan River when the whole girdle of insulted core muscles announced they’d had enough and seized up shockingly quickly, shockingly painfully. I stopped, snivelling, waved the little group I was with onward – and waited for the sag wagon. But after about a minute of self-pity and stretching, I felt kind of OK again and discovered I’d bought myself another 45 minutes or so. So I soldiered onward like this for the next 100 kilometres. Start, seize, stop, stretch, lather, rinse, repeat.

Sadly, one of the most painful things to do was holding a stable position while descending, which robbed the screaming, rip-roaring plummet into Port Renfrew of much of its joy. Rolf and Marcus managed to cover their dismay as I limped into the Port Renfrew fuel stop but agreed to let me tail along the rest of the way. I mean, how hard could a mountain pass with 110 km in the bag possibly be? And 30 of that on rollicking riverside?

So, up we went, Rolf, Marcus, and I, knowing the group of Wheelers who were sweeping were tactfully staying back about two turns in the road so we couldn’t see them. But I knew they were there. The road is spectacular as it winds up and over into the Cowichan Valley. There were a surprising number of cars and trucks sharing the road with us but every last person was understanding and patient.

Which also goes for my companions. They each helped so in their own ways. Marcus is an unstoppable diesel. He manages pace perfectly and got stronger the whole way. Rolf opted for head-games, alternating teasing, cajoling, outright lying about the upcoming terrain, and feigning tiredness of his own. That, and he shared the very best can of lukewarm Coca-Cola ever bottled.

It all came to a head for me with only seven kilometres to go. Even riding downhill, I couldn’t pull any more and I just hurt everywhere. Even my right shoulder (?!) was screaming. When the sweep started to smell the barn, they rode up and over us, encouraging us – even (thank you so much) giving me a push on the saddle back toward the wheel slipping away from me – but that last burst of effort broke me and I started bawling there in the middle of nowhere. I waved the pack on, snivelling, and they vanished from sight. But when I looked back: there was Rolf, still pretending he was Very Tired. He stuck it out with me to the very end and I’m so grateful. I’m chalking it up to the Tripleshot spirit of “no-one left behind” and will make sure to pay it forward.

If I ever get on my bike again.