Editors note: Thank you to Ruby Ewens, an AMS Bike Co-op volunteers, for writing this stunning piece for our blog.

August 5 – 7, 2017.

BC long weekend: the sky closed with bushfire haze, sticky and wet.

As the AMS Bike Co-op and Bike Kitchen crew headed north on their staff camping trip, I headed south — all of us bee-lining for the archipelago of the Salish Sea, the Gulf Islands.

My sturdy Gitane was saddled up. I had a chest full of cheer and a vague island-hopping plan: Galiano, Saturna, Pender and Mayne. Ambitious or a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock, as they might say.

The fickle and complex schedule of BC ferries is worth the trouble to get to the sub-Mediterranean landscape of coastal solitude. The islands are small so in peak season cars and bikes share the same narrow road space. Cars and hills are also numerous, throwing you to your feet if you’re pulling any decent pannier weight.

Pender Island

The Penders are a humble mix of residential and rolling farmland. It’s a rewarding cycle — the 1955 single-lane bridge belts North and South, taking you on a shore-hugging ride where laneways beckon you to private inlets stretching along crystalline waters.

Galiano is less generous with its views, only letting you peek out from the canopied Porlier Pass when you get to the crescendo of Lover’s Leap. Cyclists of all kinds whip by, including carbon-framed comrades making the steep inclines look easy. But they aren’t easy. In the unrelenting ache of tackling Galiano’s hills I thought I was hallucinating when a yellow school bus overtook me, leaping towards Spanish Hills. Singing and drumming blasted from its windows, the driver throwing me an encouraging thumbs up. I found out that the bus is a courtesy transfer from Sturdies Bay across the island and the driver has a strict statute commanding all passengers to pick up instruments in the back and sing along on the ride.

Lover’s Leap

Island living, island hospitality: from introductory warm beers with a local at a sailboat regatta on Pender, to first-aid on Galiano from a family of valiant sea-kayakers when I burnt myself badly on my camp stove. Raccoons screeching and doe-eyed in the dark, lazy bumble bees brushing roadside blackberry vines, warm winds off the turquoise waters, the sluggish amble of boats up the Trincomali Channel. The mottled light through arbutus limbs, the slow labour of breath, the crackling understory.

During my last day on Galiano, swathed in gauze, I woke to a dusty blue dawn in Montague Bay. I had conceded that like many adventures, this one had not exactly gone to plan. I was resistant but needed to pull up stumps and call it quits, as my burns required of me. My body was humming like a tuning fork from the riding. Cooling off in the water that sucked at my toes on the shell beach, I sensed a change in the breeze. Against the clattering boats in the harbour, still shrouded in bushfire smoke, a bright angry sun began to rise.