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My Yuletide Ride on the West Coast

By Heather Pardon

Heather Pardon on BC ferry

The past year has brought many “firsts” into my life including the fact that 2009 will go down in history as the first time I ever cycled my way to Christmas dinner. On the west coast, you can do this in December, which is something I found quite novel being an Easterner from Ontario. Mind you, it was also the first Christmas morning I’d ever woken up in an RV too!

I awoke early Christmas morning to only slightly brisk temperatures and readied myself for the bike ride down to the ferry, as I was headed to Vancouver for Christmas dinner. The RV park where I’m currently staying here in Nanaimo (on Vancouver Island) is situated at the top of a hill on the outskirts of downtown, which humanely offered me of a relaxing ride down to the ferry docks at the early hour of 7 for this “not so morning type of gal”.

It was my first time taking my bike onto the BC Ferries and I must say that it is quite an easy, enjoyable and cheap alternative to boarding with a car or RV. Bike plus one adult costs $15 one way compared to roughly $60 for a car plus one adult. And not to mention that bicycles and pedestrians are the first to dis-embark on the other end.
The 1 hour 40 minute ferry ride from Nanaimo’s Departure Bay to Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay allows plenty of opportunity to enjoy the local scenery which, particularly on Christmas morning, is a wonderful sight to behold. And while I have yet to see a whale or other ocean mammal during a crossing, people often do so keep your eyes peeled.

Upon arriving at Departure Bay, I cycled off the ferry and headed onto what is called the Upper Highway which takes you into North Vancouver where you must exit and take one of the lower roads into town. My door to door trip to my destination in North Vancouver took me just over an hour. The shoulder is generously wide just be prepared for the constant din of traffic passing by and take caution when crossing at any of the exit ramps. Generally, I have found BC drivers to be very respectful of cyclists here. Oh, and be forewarned, there is a quad-buster of a hill once you come off the ferry which, if you look on the bright side, will warm you up nicely for the rest of the ride and make the other hills on the ride look small by comparison.

Vancouver ocean front

Ocean Front Vancouver, BC

I decided to try out Marine Drive for the return trip on Boxing Day. Marine Drive meanders along the oceanfront taking you past the beautiful homes of West Vancouver right into the town of Horseshoe Bay. It’s a gorgeous cycle with its share of aerobically challenging hills and stunning ocean views. It’s a route I would recommend, just be cautious in parts as the road is narrow in sections and visibility can be a bit of an issue.

My Christmas Day cycle was a good introduction to winter riding here on the west coast. You can enjoy above zero temperatures, fantastic scenery, convenience on the ferry system and who knows what other “firsts” you could put on your list? I can guarantee you this though – that once you’ve had your “first” ride on the west coast, summer or winter, you won’t want it to be your last.


Heather Pardon with Miss Daisy

Heather Pardon with Miss Daisy


Join author and life change coach, Heather Pardon, a former resident of Ottawa who, after her cross-country RV trip last summer, caught the “west coast bug” and now resides in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Heather will share photos and stories from her cycling adventures on Canada’s beautiful west coast and beyond. You may also visit her personal blog in which she shares her own journey and thoughts on the theme of “following your heart” in life http://wilddaisy.ca/Blog/








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