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The long and winding road

The Pacific Rim Highway is very hilly. There are plenty of terrible uphills and downhills. Just before heading out for the day, we stopped to ask a construction worker what to expect up ahead, and he said that there was this big hill named Hydro Hill. He said "[we] will know when we hit Hydro Hill" … and we did. They don't just give any hill a name in this neck of the woods. It was very steep, windy, and seemed to go on forever. I was in my lowest gear (on a mountain bike!) going less than 4 km/h, but I rode the whole thing. You would’ve been proud if you seen it – with the gear and a headwind too. There was another major hill heading east out of Port Alberni. This one wasn't as steep, but it lasted for over 9 km (no joke - we measured it on our odometer!). The worst part was that we could only see about 400 metres ahead of us, and it seemed to peak just around the corner, but we were wrong and disappointed far too often.

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the uphills without the downhills. The one coming down from Hydro Hill was a solid 18% grade. On many of the downhills, we had to go onto the main road since it was far too windy and we were going too fast to safely make our way to the bottom along the shoulder, if there was one at all. Many stretches up/down a mountain had a rock face on one side, and a steep drop on the other, with a visibility of around 50-200 m. But somehow we lucked out with the traffic and there were no cars behind us as we zoomed down the hills. Just past Hydro Hill, I hit a max speed of 58.3 km/h in a headwind and using my breaks, and I tried to slow down because I realized that if a gust of wind came from my side, I would've been thrown off my bike and sprawled along a 100 m stretch of the highway, maybe not in one piece. We had a headwind all day, which made some of the downhills feel like uphills. It wasn’t a strong headwind, but it was consistent and we definitely felt it. It seemed to take forever to get to Port Alberni, which at first we thought we could make on our first full day of cycling. Port Alberni is a quaint little town, with nice people that like to chat us up. We enjoyed talking with them for a bit, but since we were on a bit of a deadline to meet up with Travis in Victoria and we wanted to find a place to stay for the night that I got a little impatient. We weren't rude to them, but it made me think that maybe people think that Torontonians seem unfriendly since we're used to direct, efficient answers.

After Port Alberni, we were looking for a place to camp as we cycled down the summit. We wanted to camp by 6-7 pm every night so we're sure we don't get stranded in the dark without a tent pitched or a place to stay. We ended up in MacMillan Provincial Park, but camped behind a concrete barrier after a river. The forest is starting to look like a BC forest in this area, with tall trees and the moss that is on almost all the branches. It was a solid day of cycling, and we get to do it again tomorrow.

Fun facts, stats and lessons learned

Distance travelled today: 99.31 km

Total distance travelled: 145.80 km

Starting point: somewhere along the east side of Kennedy Lake, by the side of the road.

Our Route: Took Highway 4 into Port Alberni, turned left at Johnston Road, and continued on Highway 4. The roads were in excellent condition, although there was no shoulder for the first 50 km (which could've been very dangerous), then a small shoulder, then a decent shoulder as we approached and left Port Alberni. The only place with a less than great stretch of road is the 10 km leading into Port Alberni from the west, where there were plenty of potholes, cracks, no shoulder and lots of traffic.

Ending point: MacMillan Provincial Park, along the side of the road near Cathedral Grove.

  • Summited 2 peaks today. Summit west of port Alberni: 240 m; summit east of Port Alberni: 411 m.
  • Maximum speed: 58.3 km/h.
  • Vehicles must wear winter tires or chains from October 1 - April 30 along these roads. That's just a week ago. We really lucked out with the weather.

  • Saw two black bears today along the side of the road, grazing along and eating. We were no less than 30 m from one of them.

Day 4

I have one word for the day: HILLS! and lots of them! It was actually a long day of hills. We summited two mountains (one was 240m and the other 411m.... but the 240m summit was HARD. it was steep, a lot of uphills with a few downhill/flats. It was MUCH harder than the 240 suggests).
When we woke up and started packing up our gear I went over to talk to the road crew guy holding the stop/go sign to ask about the weather for the day and the roads ahead. He said if it rains it will rain a bit and it won't last long, but it's probably not going to rain at all (there were slight sun showers that lasted like a few minutes and were comparable to the cool zone at wonderland). But regarding the hills, he said there are two really bad ones: Kennedy hill (the hill in front of us that we stopped in front of), and hydro hill. He said once we got to the two lane highway we're in the clear (have a few ups and downs, but the worst of the hills are over until Port Alberny). He was really nice and said that if we hit the road before 8am we could have the whole lane on the other side of the pylons, but after 8am the road crew would be there working on the roads. Unfortunately we left after 8am but they still let us use most of the area on the other side of the pylons so we didn't have to deal with local traffic! Much safer!!! It was a hard hill for sure, but nothing compared to Hydro hill (when I asked the road crew guy how I would know when we reached Hydro hill he just said "oh, you'll know" and we did!). When I started swerving I decided to walk. It was too narrow (one lane), had no shoulder, was INCREDIBLY windy and steep, and had a lot of logging trucks driving past. I just didn't feel like it was safe to bike up and swerve into traffic. Michael, being Michael, cycled it. He has a lower gear set than me so kicks my ass on the uphill. I still beat him at the downhill. ...Unfortunately the uphill is more important, especially when we start tackling the Rockies...
One of the biggest highlights for the day would be the bear sightings! We saw two bears! The first was pointed out to us by a guy driving in the opposite direction. He stopped to tell us to stop and take a look. That bear was on the other side of the road. The second bear was on the same side of the road as us, down a gully. It was really cool to see! The bears were happy out just grazing and both left after realizing they were being watched.
Another thing to note is the amazing weather! So far, three days of great weather! Not too shabby!! (esp since BC is known to have a lot of rain!).
I also want to say thank you to all the drivers who gave us a lot of room on the road! We really appreciate it! (and most ppl did give us our space!!! so thank you bc!!). And no thank yous to those who didn't. Like if there is an empty lane beside you, there's no need to ride close to us, or speed right beside us! We get it, you're faster. Good for you, your motor is faster than our thighs. You win! Now give us our space so we don't get hit!
After summitting the 240m mountain (killer mountain I should say), it was a decent ride into Port Alberni. There was one are where Michael and I both walked up a hill because it was too dangerous to cycle it (it wasn't ridiculously high, but there was NO shoulder, a lot of traffic, and a lot of potholes. the likelihood of falling or veering into traffic was too high). But other than that it was a decent ride into Port Alberni. Leaving Port Alberni was a different story. There was a 10km uphill out of the city (or town?). It was long and difficult climb! It just seemed to last forever! But finally, we summitted it and started looking for a place to
camp out! We found a provincial park on the map and headed for that (MacMillan park) only to find out that there is no camping at MacMillan. Instead we decided to camp out at the side of the road. We pitched our tent behind a concrete barricade so we would be safe, and passed out (Michael was passed out the whole night, I woke up every so often as cars passed by and kept honking for whatever reason!). But our hard day is now over! Now onto Nanaimo tomorrow!