30 June 2016 - Reston to Victoria via Seattle

Kerie and I have wanted to visit British Columbia and this year we decided to take our bikes and go. Initially I wanted to go to Vancouver. After doing a little research we learned about Victoria as a smaller, very scenic city with good bike access. Instead of riding from city to city as we often do, this time we decided to stay in Victoria and take day trips. We were looking foreward to a more relaxing trip.

We caught an early flight to Victoria via Seattle. The flight was packed with lots of people coughing and sneezing; the joys of flying. Victoria airport is about 20 miles from the city so it was a long, expensive taxi ride to our lodgings. Canada Day was the following day and many of the hotels were booked so we ended up renting a condo through Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) in a great location, a block from downtown, near Parliament building and Royal BC Museum.

The rental agent met us at the building entrance to let us in and give us a brief tour of the facilities. It was impressive to see the many recycling bins; one for cans, one for paper as you would expect, then one for plastic, for milk cartons, for composting, etc. Next to the trash container was a sign "Is that really trash?" They are serious about keeping waste out of the landfill.

Several restaurants were within walking distance. Our first dinner was at a small, funky burger joint called Pink Bicycle that has several local beers on tap. After dinner we walked toward the Inner Harbor. It was a beautiful evening with lots of people in town for the Canada Day celebration.

1 July 2016 - Victoria on Canada Day

Still on East Coast time I was up around 5:30. Took a walk along the Inner Harbor by the Coho Ferry where I passed a little old lady who remarked in her British accent that "The ferry's going to be late." The Coho travels to Port Angeles, Washington. We thought about taking a day trip there but never had the time.

Back in the room we assembled our Bike Friday folding bikes. The nice part of being in a condo was having a fully-functional kitchen. We mostly used it for fixing breakfast and a few lunches. There were three bike shops within walking distance so that afternoon we decided to check them out and walk on foot. Unfortunately all three were closed on the holiday. We ended up at MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), a sporting goods store modeled after REI.

After a lunch of smoked salmon on baguette, we walked along the Inner Harbor to the Parliament building where a crowd dressed in white and red. A holiday tradition in Victori is to gather a large group of people in the colors of the Canadian flag and create a human version of the flag. We planned to just hang out but since I was wearing a bright red shirt, I felt compelled to stand in one of the red sections of the flag. At one point the crowd recited the The Great Canadian Oath to reaffirm their citizenship. Given our presidential election was nearing we joked about keeping open the possibility of returning to really take the vow depending on who won.

After a nap back at the condo we walked to a very nice vegetarian restaurant Be Love. Afterwards we walked to the Inner Harbor to catch the Canada Day fireworks display which was planned for 10:20pm. It was a short but spectacular show, ending by about 10:30.

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Chilling in the condoWhere's Bruce? Helping fill in the flag red sectionParliament building on Canada Day

2 July 2016 - Shoreline Route and Lochside Trail

Anxious to get on the bikes we decided to ride along the shoreline route. Starting from our condo we rode south and then east along the shore toward Oak Bay, an upscale residential area with lots of shops and restaurants along Oak Bay Ave. We had drinks at JUSU juice bar then continued north along the shore to Lochside Trail and the back to town on Galloping Goose Trail. It was a short walk from our condo to dinner at Rebar near the harbor, another very nice place.

We noticed on the Galloping Goose Trail that at several intersections of the trail and low traffic roads trail users had the right of way and motorists faced STOP signs, which makes great sense when trail use is heavier than vehicle use on the side streets.

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Fishermans WharfTugboats at the BreakwaterKerie on the shoreline route

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Ped/bike cycletrackCottage on shoreline routeKerie and Old Farmer Roy on Blenkinsop trestle bridge

3 July 2016 - Galloping Goose Trail to Sooke

The "Goose" is a popular 55 kilometer trail that extends from Victoria west to the town of Sooke. The trail is paved from Victoria to about half way to Sooke where it becomes a crushed gravel surface. Beside the trail just outside of the downtown area were park and ride lots adjacent to a couple of the trailheads for suburban commuters park after driving with their bikes from home to the trail and then ride into the city. The lots were overflowing with parked cars; what a great idea.

We couldn't resist spending a little time in the morning watching Peter Sagan win State 2 of the Tour de France while we ate breakfast in the room. Galloping Goose trailhead was a short ride from our condo. At the entrance to the trail an electronic sign showed how many cyclists have passed so far that day (around 600 that morning) and how many so far that year, similar to the counter on the Custis Trail in Rosslyn. From a news article about the sign: "The sign was proposed by the City of Victoria, and cost $21,000 to supply and install. The money came from the federal gas tax fund, and was part of a $473,650 bundle of money that the Capital Regional District handed out last year. Most of the money was designated for improvements to bicycle trails and infrastructure, such as $75,000 for a buffered cycle lane on Kelly Road in Colwood." Sounds like a great source of funds for bicycle projects.

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The Astoria condosWooden trestle on Galloping Goose trail50km into ride to Sooke

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Potholes Provincial ParkGalloping Goose Trail along Sooke Basin, algae bloomReturning to Victoria

We saw few people on the trail. It was a weekday and the commuters had already passed through and similar to our W&OD Trail that is packed on the weekends, during the week is the best time to ride. We passed Royal Roads University on the way to Sooke where we returned later in the week. At Sooke Harbor we were surprised by the turquoise color of the water. We learned later that the color was due to an algae bloom.

We stopped for lunch on the water at Stickleback for fish and chips and lemonade. When we mentioned we were from Virginia the server said she had family in West Virginia; it seems most everyone we talked to had a "Virginia" connection. After lunch we rode to the 50km marker and decided to turn around. The round trip would be 100km. It was mostly a slight downhill with a tailwind on the ride back to Victoria.

4 July 2016 - Ride to Butchart Gardens

One of the most popular sights in the Victoria area is Butchart Gardens. You would never know that the gardens are located on a former limestone quarry, donated by the former owner. Over a million people visit the gardens each year, many bussed in from the cruise ships that dock in Victoria. There were several busloads of people there when we arrived after our ride on a bike-friendly route of trails, bike lanes, and low-traffic roads. Most motorists were very respectful. The only problem we encountered was with a tour bus leaving the gardens when the driver insisted on passing me with oncoming traffic, just missing my left side. I later reported the driver to the tour company and was told they would talk to the driver.

We had an OK lunch at Purple Poppy, a cafeteria-style restaurant at the gardens. We thought about visiting the nearby Victoria Butterfly Gardens but didn't have the time or want to venture out on the route that didn't seem that bike-friendly. Later for dinner we walked to a nearby pub, Bard & Banker, for more fish an chips and beer. The pub was reminiscent of many I visited when living in England in the mid 60's.

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Rose gardenLunch at Purple Poppy

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Butchart Gardens lily pondKerie at sunken gardenGalloping Goose and Lochside Trails sign

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Pedicabs at The Empress HotelDinner at the pubOrca sculpture at Inner Harbor

When we rode past the bicycle barometer 1,500 cyclists had passed that day. The owner of the Trek Bicycle Store across the street said on a typical day 2,500 will have passed by the time he closed at 5pm.

5 July 2016 - Ride to Royal Roads University

Earlier we had heard from a couple from Port Angeles who traveled to Victoria regularly with their bikes that Witty's Lagoon Provincial Park was a beautiful place and a possible cycling destination. About 12 miles from downtown Victoria, that was our destination.

We took the Galloping Goose trail again headed west. Royal Roads University. was about halfway to Witty's. Guidebooks mentioned the beautiful gardens at the school so we stopped there to check them out. Hatley Castle is located on the campus and was the residence of rail baron James Dunsmuir. The property was sold to the government and the site became a military college and is now a public university. The gardens, Japanese, Rose, and Italian, were well worth the visit. We also checked out the military museum in the basement of the castle.

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Hatley Castle at Royal Roads UniversityHatley Castle GardenHatley Castle

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Bike rack dedicated to Victoria cyclist Ryder HesjedalBike mural at the GorgeCyclists Ride in Centre of Lane on Johnson Street Bridge

We had a decent lunch at the school cafeteria. Afterwards it looked like it could rain so we headed back to town. That morning the maintenance man spotted us leaving the condo with our bikes and he let us know that bikes are not allowed in the condo. We parked the bikes in the garage in the parking space alloted to the condo. There was a metal loop in the wall we could use with our cable locks. It worked out fine; the garage was card-accessible and we weren't too concerned about possible theft.

We walked to Flying Otter for an OK dinner. The service was very slow; we were told that it was the in-between season and they were short on help.

6 July 2016 - Ride to Sydney, about 40 miles

Sydney is a small coastal city not far from Victoria. It's not far from the airport and ferries depart for U.S. destinations San Juan Islands and Anacortes. Lochside Trail passes through the city and it's about an 18 mile ride. The route is mostly paved trail with several sections of unpaved trail, bike lanes, and sharrows.

There's a vibrant downtown strip with lots of restaurants, galleries and other shops. We ate nearby at Rumrunners, a pub located on the water. It was a beautiful, clear day and we took lots of photos. Talked to a nice older lady who lives in a bayside condo originally from New Zealand who married a Canadian.

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Kerie entering SydneyLunch in Sidney at Rumrunners Pub & RestaurantSydney marina next to Rumrunners

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Sydney waterfront sculptureSelkirk Trestle, Galloping Goose TrailOne bike, 3 people, one on the way

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Bike to Work Day t-shirtCommuters leaving downtownBike counter on Galloping Goose Trail, 2100+ at 5pm

We returned during bike rush hour with hundreds of commuters on the trail, mostly leaving the city for the suburbs. We talked to a woman with a Bike Victoria t-shirt who was waiting for her husband. They both commute by bike and bought a place near the trail recently. They also own a condo in the Astoria, the same building where our condo was located. They also rent the place through VRBO. She said real estate prices in Victoria are about 1/5 of those in Vancouver but as more people move to Victoria prices are rising.

We again walked to a local eatery, Foo Asian Street Food, a small place with seating on an outdoor porch.

7 July 2016 - Museum visits

The weather forecast called for rain most of the day so it was a good time to visit some of the fine museums in Victoria. It was a long walk to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to view the Emily Carr exhibit. Carr was a local artist heavily influenced by indigenous art. She traveled to and worked in aboriginal villages. There was also an interesting exhibit of erotic art from Japan and China.

Blue Fox Cafe, known for it's locally sourced dishes, received good reviews and when we walked past earlier there was a line outside so we decided to try it for lunch. Service was slow but we were in no hurry and the food was good, almost worth the half hour wait to get in. Next stop was Royal BC Museum. When we arrived there was a line and the place was very crowded. We decided to return the next day when the museum was open until 10pm. Instead we walked to The Robert Bateman Centre. Bateman is a realistic wildlife artist involved in many conservation causes. Really enjoyed the exhibit of his etchings, especially the lion and lioness.

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Victoria Gallery of Art Small Works showRobert Bateman CentreInner Harbor and lighted Parliament building

After the big lunch at Blue Fox we opted for a light dinner of cheese, crackers, fruit and wine back at the condo. It was nice to have a little down time.

8 July 2016 - Shoreline route to Oak Bay, 20 miles

On our last full day in Victoria we decided to repeat the shoreline route we had done earlier. It turned out to be another pleasant day after a cloudy start. The shoreline route is mostly on-road and most motorists were very respectful.

Victoria is a popular cruise ship destination and we could tell one had recently landed when we saw lots of people making the long walk from the ship docks to the Inner Harbor. We continued to Oak Bay where we stopped for great sandwiches at Ottavio Bakery and Deli. We returned to the north part of downtown known as Chinatown and visited Chowichan Trading Company to look for a souvenir. I settled for a card of an iconized whale drawing. Kerie wanted to return to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria for her souvenir. We also rode to nearby Craigdarroch Castle, built by a coal baron in the late 1800's.

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Orca-themed bike rackEnjoying the view on the Shoreline routeSailboats near Oak Bay Marina

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Craigdarroch CastleRoyal BC Museum, maskRoyal BC Museum totem poles

Not wanting to spend a lot of time in a restaurant eating dinner, we checked out the food trucks behind BC Museum where we had good salmon burgers and beer. It was a wise decision to postpone our visit to the museum as there were very few people around during the evening hours. Several totem poles were on view as well as a wooly mammoth.

The evening was spent cleaning the condo, dumping the compost, trash, recycling, and packing the bikes for the flight home in the morning.

9 July 2016, Victoria to Reston

We had an 8:40am return flight and were told to get to the airport a good 2-3 hours before the flight. We scheduled a taxi for 3:45 which made for a short night. It was wise to get there early. Once we checked in we were told to have our bags scanned, along with about 500 people using a single scanner. It was a madhouse, with no formal line and everyone worried about missing their flight. It took forever to make our way to hte front, me trying to organize the line and only managing to piss off several people. We barely made the flight. The rest of the trip went smoothly until we waited for our bags and my Bike Friday case never arrived with the others. Fortunately it was there when I returned to the airport a couple of hours later.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Victoria and plan to return. There are several biking options just in the greater Victoria area, with lots of areas still unexplored just beyond Victoria.