The Renfrew Road

BICYCLE TOURING 

1069 words

Title: The Renfrew Road; by Terry Connellan

Seasoned cyclists high on British Columbia's Renfrew route

Seasoned bicycle tourers will likely tell you that their 
long distance journeys are a natural extension of after 
supper and Sunday morning pleasure rides, and are 
not endurance trials. When asked how far they travel 
in a day they reply: "Just far enough." "Until I get tired." 
Or: "until I see a nice campsite." These are honest 
answers. These people aren't evading the question. 

And these people have discovered that the bicycle 
is the perfect vehicle for open-ended adventuring. 
Anyone of any age and either sex can master one. 
And they can choose from dozens of tours of varying 
length on and around British Columbia's Vancouver 
Island. 

One of my favorites begins and ends in the City of 
Victoria. It's best done over four days with two nights 
camping and the last evening to spoil yourself 
shamelessly in one of the Province's best dining rooms. 
         
Before embarking on any tour, read everything you can 
about the route, historical and geographical. This 
heightens expectations and enjoyment, and minimizes 
unpleasant surprises. 

For this tour I recommend the Victoria Outdoors Club's 
Hiking Trails I and II, and Island Adventures by Richard 
Blier. Maps to get include; Guide to Forest Land of 
Southern Vancouver Island, B C Ministry of Forests-Duncan 
Forest Recreation Map, and Galloping Goose Regional 
Park Corridor from the Capital Regional District

Give yourself an early start on day one by arriving at 
Brentwood for a morning ferry to Mill Bay. This avoids 
cycling the difficult Malahat Drive. Follow the road 
to Shawnigan Lake village and an ice cream stop 
at the first intersection. Take the road west along the 
north side of the lake to the junction with the Shawnigan 
Lake West  Road, keep straight on and you are on 
the start of the Renfrew Road. 

Six kms from here the pavement ends but the surface 
is good gravel as the road skirts the south side of 
Koksilah River Provincial Park. The riverside picnic 
sites on the right are a good place to stop for lunch. 

There are some fairly long grades of around 8% 
leading to truly spectacular views and you'll get 
there with reasonable effort if you have the proper 
gearing on you bike and the right size tires. 
         
From here the road to Port Renfrew is well maintained 
gravel logging road, and fairly well signed; when in 
doubt go straight ahead. Expect to be passed by 
large trucks from both directions. But don't worry 
these drivers are pros. 

After riding thousands of kilometers on logging roads, 
I feel qualified to offer a few tips about sharing the 
road with behemoth trucks: 

Be highly visible; wear a bright lime green, yellow 
or orange shirt. Be predictable; no sudden changes 
of position on the road. When you see an overtaking 
truck in your rear-view mirror, and he is a hundred 
meters or more behind you give two or three wide 
overhead waves to acknowledge his presence, 
Pick the "line" you're going to ride and move to it 
and ride in a straight line. 

This tells the trucker where you'll be and what he has 
to do to pass you in safety. I also give the wave to 
oncoming trucks sometimes accompanied by a 
downward pull motion as if I had air horns, more 
often than not there is a responding BLAAAT, 
a smile and a wave. 

Loggers will be a welcome sight if you run into 
a problem. They have radios, first aid kits and will 
be first to the rescue. They are our friends let them 
know that you are theirs. They have had more than 
enough interference with their right to earn a living, 
let them know that you are the "good guys". 
           
The Bedspring Suspension Bridge over Williams 
Creek, 31 kms from the start of the Renfrew Road 
is one of the real treats of the trip. It will be necessary 
to walk and lift your bike around barriers at each end 
of the bridge, and you may have to ford a washout 
section beyond before getting back on solid road. 
         
Head for the Forest Service recreation site on the 
San Juan River at the Black Suspension Bridge. 
This is a user maintained site so "leave only footprints, 
take only memories". There are a half-dozen shaded 
campsites riverside and the San Juan was shallow 
and cold when I camped there in late September. 
Remember to hoist your food bags [including all 
toiletries] on a line at least 4 meters above ground 
as a bear precaution. 
         
Across the bridge is a climb to start your day but 
before long comes continuous descent as you 
travel the last 18 km into Port Renfrew. 

The Port Renfrew Hotel serves consistently good 
food in cyclist-sized portions, so you might want 
to delay breakfast until here. It's possible to store 
your panniers at the hotel and cycle the five 
kilometers to the marvels of Botanical Beach. 
There are provincial park rangers on site and 
the interpretive program for the tidal pools. 
         
Touring by bicycle presents the ultimate in 
independence with unlimited options. You may 
wish to spend the entire day on the beach and 
overnight at the hotel before riding the 70 kms 
to Sooke, or, as we did, travel the hilly 38 km 
to the free Western Forest Products campsite 
on the beach at Jordan River. The views over 
the Juan de Fuca from here are breathtaking. 
Sunset is sometimes exquisite. 
         
My companion on this tour was accomplished 
cyclist Ellen Tremblay. Ellen is a knowledgeable 
birder, and this, coupled with her non-stop 
enthusiasm, makes her an enjoyable cyclemate. 
         
Our destination the next day was a delightful Bed 
and Breakfast on Belvista Place in Sooke owned 
by friends Joe and Pauline Cziraky, (250) 642-5005. 
This is a perfect way to cap your tour. You can sit 
and watch swans coming in to feed, or sit on the 
dock and catch crab. 

I like to finish the day with dinner at the fabulous 
Sooke Harbour House where most of the ingredients 
are fresh out of their garden or the ocean. 

Your ride into Victoria is along the beautiful, no-stress, 
35 kilometre trip along (a former railroad line) the 
Galloping Goose Trail. 

After this pleasant journey you may wish to avoid 
riding the tricky, tacky Colwood Strip by having friends 
pick you up on Aldeane at Sooke Road across from 
the gates to Royal Roads University. 
 


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