Wow, I can’t believe it is August already! That means the Tour de Victoria is almost here. Of course, I am very excited about doing the ride, but at the same time the summer seems to be just flying by — and I am not sure if I have been training enough since I am making the jump to 100km this year.
July was a busy month for me with a mix of family and work-related travel reducing the amount of time I had available to ride, but I still managed to get on my bike 19 times covering 363 km over 20 hours. A lot of those were shorter rides, though, with a big chunk of that mileage part of an awesome four-day stretch when I rode more than 200 km.
It started on a Thursday afternoon when I rode out to Swartz Bay on the Lochside Trail to meet my friend Glen who had made his over from Vancouver with his bike. From the ferry terminal we rode to Category 12 Brewing on Keating X Road. It was a strange weather day -— bright and sunny most of the time with occasional rain showers popping up out of nowhere. For most of the ride we avoided getting wet, but one moment we were riding on a perfectly dry road and then over the next hill we’d find the pavement soaking wet.
After sampling some tasty beers at Category 12 Brewing we got back on our bikes and continued to downtown Victoria where we stopped for another “hydration break” at Whistle Buoy Brewing, Victoria’s newest brewery, which is located in the bottom level of Market Square. It’s a beautiful spot, and we enjoyed sitting on the patio in the warm evening sunshine until our hunger sent us home to my place for supper.
On Friday morning, we got back on our bikes and made our way across the New Bridge to Spinnakers Brewpub where we met another friend, Chris. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and, yes, a pint of beer, and then rode west on the E&N Rail Trail to the Galloping Goose. In Langford, we detoured through the busy city streets across the highway to the Axe & Barrel Brewhouse where we took a break to sample their beers on the patio lawn outside the tasting room.
Back on our bikes we returned to the Galloping Goose and rode through farms and forests, high above the gorgeous Matheson Lake and along the shores of Roche Cove, finally arriving at the Sooke Oceanside Brewery, which is located next to the Shell gas station on the highway about 6km before “downtown” Sooke.
After catching our breath and enjoying a tasting flight, we continued on our way into Sooke. I did this ride last summer, too, but I had forgotten that the last stretch into Sooke along the highway is basically one long, steady climb, so by the time we got into the centre of town, my legs were pretty darn tired! No worries, though, because another brewery awaited us: Sooke Brewing.
After another flight of samples we stocked up with groceries and made our way to our accommodation, a townhouse at a marina down by the water. That evening, we soaked our tired muscles in the hot tub and cooked steaks on the barbecue. Doesn’t get much better than that!
Last year, when I rode out to Sooke, it was just an overnight trip, but this time we stayed for two nights, which gave us a full day to do some exploring in the area. Sooke has a third brewery that I have never had the chance to visit in person, so this was the perfect opportunity. We rode out of town along Otter Point Road, finding ourselves climbing hill after hill. And then we turned on to the road that led to the brewery and the hills got steeper. When we finally made it to Bad Dog Brewing, we had definitey earned our reward: a flight of tasty beers, which we enjoyed sitting outside at the brewery’s picnic area. It was absolutely idyllic!
Continuing on after our stop at Bad Dog we headed out towards Tugwell Creek Meadery, which is located just off the highway on the western outskirts of Sooke. Because we were returning to sea level, we were able to enjoy some amazing downhill stretches — according to Strava I managed to hit 58.7 km/hr at one point! Tugwell Creek Meadery is a beautiful spot, which I highly recommend to anyone. It is located on a farm with goats, security geese, and lots of bees, of course, where you are invited to walk around on a self-guided tour. In the tasting room you can sample some of their delicious meads and honey, and purchase a bottle to take home with you.
Back on our bikes we headed back along the coastal highway into Sooke. While the road was busy, we found most cars gave us a wide berth, although there were some sketchy moments where the shoulder was skinny. Back in Sooke we finished our ride with a visit to Sheringham Distillery where we stocked up on their delicious Seaside Gin to enjoy with tonic while soaking in the hot tub (oh yeah!) back at our AirBnB later that evening.
On Sunday morning we got back on our bikes for the return trip to Victoria. We had decided we wanted to make it back in time to catch the HarbourCats game at 1:00pm so we needed to ride straight through without any stops. We made it just in time!
If you haven’t considered riding out to Sooke before, I highly recommend it. Most of the trail beyond Langford is gravel, but it is relatively flat and very well maintained. It’s not too busy, either, so you won’t feel like you’re always having to dodge around someone. Here is a short video I shot, which will give you a sense of what it’s like.
Following the epic Sooke trip, I managed only one other big ride (apart from quaxing around Victoria) out to a place near Goldstream Park and then back home from Thetis Lake (I got a ride to the lake from a friend because I didn’t want to ride on the highway). And as the above photo hints at, I made a reydration stop on the way home at Île Sauvage Brewing.
That ride was a good training session for me because it involved some really big hills out along Finlayson Arm Road. Which brings me to the massive Munn Road hill (foreboding music now begins to play in the background), which I still have not attempted in advance of the ride on August 17. Every time I mention it to fellow cyclists who have done it, they grimace and shake their head, which doesn’t really make me feel any better about it! I still plan on tackling it in a training session before the ride, just to make sure I can even do it. Well, worst case scenario: I’ll get off my bike and push it up to the top by foot if I have to!
Next time, we’ll see if I managed to conquer it or not…
Joe Wiebe, the “Thirsty Writer,” is the author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries, the definitive guidebook to British Columbia’s burgeoning craft beer industry, currently in its second edition. Joe has ridden in all of the Tour de Victoria rides and will be challenging himself with the Christie Phoenix 60km this August.
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