Annual Road Trip 2019

Nov 6, 2019 at 10:06
by j-p-i  

2019 Annual Road Trip
A couple friends, 8 days and a truck
Is there anything better than riding new trails with your friends? -photo credit: Sara Kempner Photography

I have a couple of best friends that I'm fortunate to bike with pretty much all the time. Javan is an old friend I met in Whistler back in our snowboarding days in the early 90's and Simon I've known since I was in middle school. Javan gets on his bike and likes to go fast and hit some big features. Simon used to race downhill and has stood on the Canadian Masters DH podium a couple times. In first place I'll add. I just try my best to keep up; I'm definitely the weakest link here. For a guy pushing 50 though, I couldn't have a better pair of riding buddies to keep me going.

For the past 4 years or so we've embarked on an annual mountain bike road trip. We absolutely love riding new trails for the first time and what better way to do that than to get out and explore. In the past we've done the North Shore / Whistler / Squamish thing, another trip took us out to Nelson / Revelstoke / Okanagan. This year we opted to keep it West Coast again. Unfortunately for us, Javan was committed to taking his son around BC racing enduro and downhill so it was down to Simon and I. Hailing from Vancouver Island, the plan was as follows: Venture across to the Shore, down to the Fraser Valley to sample Vedder and Sumas, ferry over to the Sunshine Coast, hit Sprockids in Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Coast Gravity Park, Powell River then ferry back to the Island. Additionally, Simon's birthday fell on one of the days. Just a couple old dogs on a good old fashioned road trip!

We put the word out to a few friends along the route and were welcomed with floors to sleep on, trail guides, brewery recommendations and were even graced with our good friend Sara's photography skills for a couple of days.

There was a lot of this. Like every day after riding

Simon and I loaded up and were ready to leave on a Friday around 1 PM. Our intention was to hit up Mt. Benson in Nanaimo, one of our favorite Island spots before jumping on a ferry. Given it was a Friday we figured maybe trying to just make a ferry was the smart call. It was, as we were the second last car to get on a 3 PM boat. If you travel back and forth from the Island a lot you know the significance of this miraculous Friday occurrence. We landed in Vancouver in the evening and decided on a couple laps of Mt. Fromme. It had been some time since either of us had been there. First lap was down Pipeline...

Locals are probably chuckling at our choice but it was actually a nice throwback to that classic rough North Shore action. Simon and I have both visited here on hardtails and old bikes back in the day so there was some nostalgia for sure on Pipeline. Javan would have loved this. On the flip side, neither of us had ridden Bobsled before. Light was fading, brewery was calling so we opted for a quick lap down Bobsled next...

My brother in law Vince put us up for the night in Vancouver and took us on a little brewery tour (R&B Brewing, Electric Bicycle, Craft Beer Market). Glasses were raised, good beer was had as we pored over Trailforks planning the next day which would be Vedder Mountain.

The next morning we left a bunch of camping gear and unnecessary gear at Vince's and hit the road to Vedder. It took a bit longer to get there than expected but we did have all day. There was a good number of vehicles parked at Vedders base and we even recognized some folks. After a quick bike check we started the pedal up. In retrospect, we might have mixed the climbing trails with a bit of road to expedite that climb as I think one of those climbing trails adds a couple KM's. We probably needed to sweat out some beer anyway. It wasn't until we reached the top of Hide and Seek did we realize the camera hadn't charged at all last night. Hide and Seek was nice, loamy and felt quite fresh. Javan would have been squealing on this run. We rode over to Black Forest Ham after and were treated to some very friendly downhill. Rough in all the right spots. From Black Forest Ham we finished off with Femur back to our vehicle and a cold beverage.

Brown ribbon through some lush green
Who's the real invasive species here?

The thought of another climb up that climbing trail might have made the next day's pedal a bit rough. We had 7 more straight days ahead of us and opted for a brewery (because Road Trip!) and logistics. The plan was to ride Sumas Mountain the next day. Simon's friend Tyler is a Santa Cruz rep, lives in the area and offered up floor space to avoid a drive back to downtown Vancouver then all the way back in the morning. We took him up on that despite having just a minimal change of clothes each, having left everything back in Van. After a stop at the recommended Field House Brewing we rendezvoused with Tyler and another good friend Fiona, had some dinner and hit the hay.

A Santa Cruz truck. Thanks again for the couch Tyler!

The next morning we donned our stinky gear from the day before. No regrets. Our fifth rider that day was Julia. It was nice to see some old friends and meet some new ones. The day was non stop laughs and we were guided around some fantastic, more technical riding. Weather was spot on and the overall route we were led on had a bit of everything, starting with a straight forward road climb to a nice lookout and finishing off on a fast downhill course type run that Javan would have destroyed. There were some challenging short technical climbs mixed with optional steeps, flowy trails, jumps and bridge work in between...I recall some trail names; Knob Gobbler, Noah Fear, World Cup and No Time Out. It was great to have a local guide and be able to just follow along. Thanks again for the tour and place to stay Tyler...also Julia for being a great sport Wink

An alternate steep roll in Sumas

A quick stop at Field House Brewing again to cheers a fantastic day of riding and we were Vancouver bound to retrieve our gear and head for the Sunshine Coast ferry. We arrived at the ferry terminal and picked up our good friend Tara who would be joining us for a day in Gibsons and at the Coast Gravity Bike Park. Turns out Tara's friend lives in Gibsons but her beach front house is free for us to stay in for a couple of nights. We could even do laundry there. Yeah road trip! We made our way over the ferry to this amazing abode and kicked back for the evening. I may have "kicked back" pretty hard that night because 8 AM came very quick. Tara is a machine on a bicycle, has endless energy and had no problem leading the charge from the house up to the Sprockids riding area trailhead. Much to my hangover's chagrin. Where was Javan to aid in my suffering?

The climb up through the trails was very friendly and the shade was welcomed. A couple of stops to check Trailforks and we were well on our way up Mt. Elphinstone. At one point I saw a sign pointing to the summit which wasn't that far off...where was Tara even taking us? To a trail called Sneaky Pete apparently...

A short but loamy as hell trail, Sneaky Pete spat us into a number of other trails including Torrent, New Torrent and Doug's Detention. Torrent and New Torrent both had some great downhill, some short slightly steep corners, but nothing overly difficult. Doug's Detention was pure flow with killer berms and some nice hits. I had a good (Friday) fail on a step up wall ride thing in there. Javan would have made it. Good times. Exiting the trails, we coasted down the hill and right into the Persephone Brewery. Are you seeing a theme here?

While sitting in Persephone we got the word from our friends Shane and Sara. They were en route and would meet us at the house. Shane and Sara were down for a day at Coast Gravity Bike Park and a couple days of exploring Roberts Creek trails. We all met up, had a small reunion of sorts, swam in the ocean, had a nap on the beach then rode bikes into town for food and margaritas at Lunitas which was amazing. After four days of riding, the short ride into town for dinner felt like a whole other ride in itself. A few margs later and a bike ride home to watch the moon come up over the ocean, we fell into our accommodation and tapped out.

Really? We get to stay here?

That fail of mine back on that wall ride bent my pedal pretty badly. So the next morning before Coast Gravity Park we stopped at Elphinstone Cycles so I could pick up a new set. The owner Chris (A friend of Javans) sold me fresh pair of flats and offered up some local trail recommendations for the next day in Roberts Creek. Elphinstone Cycles is pretty central and close to the Roberts Creek network so it's a no brainer if you're in the area and need some gear. There's a nice breakfast spot across the street too, the Gumboot Cafe. Great breakfast burritos! With the bike sorted and breakfast accomplished it was off to the park.

I don't think the Coast Gravity Park needs much introduction. It's super fun and has something for everyone. Lap 1, I managed to introduce those fresh new flat pedal spikes to my shin. The fellow at the bottom cleaned up the deep gashes and applied some gauze and tape. I probably should have gone to the hospital for about 12 stitches but went for some jeans instead. More on that later.

Again, I'm pushing 50 here. I'm no bike park slayer myself but after a day there things started feeling pretty good. I'll definitely be back there to tackle some bigger hits like Javan would have. Maybe my local hill, Mt Washington, will get it together one day and build something comparable. Despite opening my leg up, It was out of my mind following Simon and company down the runs and just enjoying the near perfect bike park conditions. Sara is an accomplished photographer and brought her camera out for a quick shot or two near the bottom. Beers and dinner at the beach house were had to celebrate a (mostly) successful day in the park. We combed Trailforks planning our attack on Roberts Creek for the next day, which was also Simon's birthday, while Simon dropped Tara off at the ferry.

Up close and personal at speed -photo credit: Sara Kempner Photography

The next morning Shane, Sara, Simon and I got a campsite at the Porpoise Bay Provincial campground and headed out to the trails off Largo Rd. I opted to keep the bandage on my leg last night and in the morning I cut the toes off a sock and slid it up over the bandages to keep it all together. We parked at the bottom and pedalled up to a trail called Loamer Simpson. The birthday boy took pole position.

While not super long, Loamer Simpson lived up to its name. Clearly lesser ridden, it was a great start to the day starting and ending with nice pitches and filled with friendly downhill. This dropped us into trails like iTrail and Mach Chicken, after which we opted to take turns shuttling back up to hit stuff like Dudette, Hand Solo, DNZ, 2001, Pacheko Street, Janet's Jungle...we spent the rest of that day exploring and Sara brought her camera up for a forest shot before heading back to campsite with some birthday tequila and a cooler full of carbonated birthday favours. I honestly can't believe we didn't get asked to leave the campsite that night. I think a couple camp chairs were tossed into the forest and we were pretty loud. Happy birthday Simon Smile

Happy Birthday Simon! -photo credit: Sara Kempner Photography

That night I peeled off the disgusting bandages and cleaned the deep canyons in my leg thoroughly before applying a new dressing. We shuttled Roberts Creek the next day. I think the day at the bike park really warmed me up to some of the hits on Hand Solo and DNZ. It was good to push a little in there and hit some stuff I probably would have rode around any other day. Roberts Creek really stood out for me.

We left Roberts Creek and made our way to the Earls Cove ferry terminal. I was texting Javan when my handheld communication device reported a potential tropical storm rolling in and as the skies darkened over the horizon we made a plan to head to Powell River immediately and find a motel for the night. As we got off the ferry at Saltery Bay the storm hit and we found shelter in a local motel where we watched XGames vert skateboard halfpipe, listened to the rain pound down and again the bloody mess that was my leg got another dressing change.

Simon at home on Hand Solo

Things were a lot calmer weather wise in the morning as we said goodbye to Shane and Sara. Simon and I spent some time analyzing Trailforks deciding where we wanted to go. Initially I wanted to ride Civil Disobedience (Mahoney area) from the top but the more I heard about it from other travellers on our trip, the less I wanted to do it from the top. It sounded like more of a rough hiking trail up there. We heard about a trail called Burly that led into Civil Disobedience and was apparently a really good line. Judging by the Trailforks map, we'd exit Civil onto an access road that maybe we could actually park the truck at. We found the spot, got out and stretched. I would try and describe the smell emanating from the truck at this point, the morning of day 8, but I'm sure many of you are familiar with it. While we were unloading bikes under sunny skies and getting geared up, a truck pulled up with a couple of bikes in it. Two locals, Jordan and Drew, informed us we were in the prime parking zone for the ride and offered to guide us up since they were doing the same route; Burly into Quaver into Civil Disobedience to be clear.

After the pedal up and the run down my legs told me they were about done with biking. I offered to be the driver and shuttled them back up to hit some stuff not on any maps. Powell River is most definitely worth a stop. There's a lot of trailwork happening there, the views were great and the locals lads were stoked we'd stopped by. We had to stop by Townsite Brewing and toast a pint with our guides before getting in line for the Powell River to Comox ferry.

After 8 days of summer riding.

It was nice to get home. We waltzed in to our local brewery after the best shower ever to celebrate a successful mission. We would both have a day off before heading up to compete in the Mt Washington enduro race. We're really looking forward to getting the full trio together to explore a new area of BC...looking like Williams Lake, Prince George, Burns Lake, Terrace, Smithers, ferry through the Inside Passage back home next year. I highly suggest you grab a couple of friends, book off 9 or 10 days and make it happen somewhere.

Living in BC, which is a world class mountain bike destination, we're thankful we have the opportunity to do this kind of trip and we don't take it for granted. We're thankful to enjoy the land of the First Nations people and have the utmost respect to the environment we are riding in. Everyone we spent time with exuberated the same lust for life, respect for each other and for the trails we were riding on. It's beautiful to get out and see first hand, that passion everyone shares for mountain biking and realize the common values we all share. Doing this kind of trip every year is a way to reach out and soak in the things that make life worth living while radiating the same.

Some previous road trips here: VPRMTB on youtube


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