Today, we’re a tourist attraction
The tourists were out in force on this Victoria Day Saturday. They were gawking at the Empress Hotel, they were gawking at the Inner Harbour, they were gawking at the B.C. Legislature. They were also gawking at the line of scooters directly across the street from the Empress.
“Wow, look at the mopeds,” they kept saying.
Today’s first activity is the early-bird ride. We were supposed to meet up at the Causeway at 10:30, but that got postponed. To noon.
Hey, if you know anything about the “scooter lifestyle,” you know noon is plenty early.
The Weather Network brought welcome news in the form of seriously delayed rain. Group rides can be, well, not so much fun in the rain. As far as I’m concerned, it can rain hard enough to require an ark this evening, when the group gathers for a burlesque show at Lucky. Let’s just stay dry for the meetup with the Vancouver contingent at a Tourist Information booth on BC 17.
We’re off, dodging the tourist buses on Government Street as we head north. The traffic lights are not well synchronized, so we end up stopping at just about every intersection downtown. Not that I mind, the folks on the sidewalks are smiling and taking pictures and video with their cell phones.
There’s a gas stop at an Esso station, but I still have just about all of my CDN$8 and change tank of gas from yesterday. Gassed up, we head north, the semi-suburban sprawl turning semi-rural. So far, the pace is reasonable and I can stay in a mid-pack position with little extra effort, at least on my part… the PX requires serious flogging in 2nd and 3rd gear. In fact, 3rd is a really good gear to be in when riding in a group, since you have considerably more engine braking effect if you need to slow down (remember, don’t stay in 3rd if what you really need is 4th, but you can quite safely bop along at 30-35 mph in third if necessary).
As semi-rural gets less semi, the roads get twistier and the pace picks up. The Vancouver group will arrive at the ferry dock in Sidney; we pass a sign indicating the direction to the ferry terminal. Nope, we aren’t going that way. Okay, the idea here is to take an interesting route.
The sky is getting darker, the temperature has dropped. These roads are in nice shape, with no frost heaves and few potholes. Keep in mind, Vancouver Island is far more likely to experience things like frost heaves because it gets colder than Seattle.
So far, so good. I’m still running mid-pack and there’s nothing affecting my comfort level. Yet.
Up ahead, there are trees bent over. Really big trees, bent way over. We ride into an open area and the wind is so strong I have to fight hard to maintain my heading. We seem to be going faster.
The ride leaders signal a right turn. Oh my gosh, is that gravel? The Victoria rally’s first ride used to be a mad dash through the hills on gravel roads… has the meetup with the Vancouver group been scrubbed? We have been riding an awfully long time.
Yes it’s gravel, but just a few loose bits. We’re on a road that was probably made by dumping gravel, grading it and dumping oil on the top of it. It’s twisty, it’s bumpy. I back off a bit and some vintage bikes blow by.
We pass several more signs indicating the direction to the ferry dock, and don’t follow them. The wind has gotten worse. In fact, a gust seemed to push the PX’s wheels to my right in a way that made me think, “okay, I’m goin’ down.” I didn’t. It was miraculous. Once again, it’s just not my time to go.
I’ve fallen to just about last in the group (someone on a rental Honda Jazz is behind me). Caprice from Vancouver has fallen off the pace, too, but she’s close enough to keep them in sight. I can keep her in sight. As long as I don’t lose her, I can follow the route.
We’re near the Victoria airport. As a WestJet flight lands, I can see Caprice signaling a right turn. I look to the right of a stand of trees and see scooters going up a slight hill. They haven’t lost me yet!
Then, miracle of miracles, the group is stopped at a light, a long enough light that I can catch up and tuck in. The light goes green, the group moves out. There’s another “Ferries” sign. We don’t go that way, either.
We do make a twist and end up on what looks like a freeway rest stop next to BC 17, which at this point is pretty much a freeway. This is our destination, the tourist information center. I really need to use the facilities, but there’s a sign stating emphatically, “No Public Restrooms Are Available.”
“There’s lots of bush around,” quips one of my fellow riders.