Butt Buster Tour – Day 1

Here is the long awaited trip report from newly graduated Gravel Pimp Michael Melo aka Mr. Smooth aka The Director!

We went counter clockwise around the route...

We went counter clockwise around the route…

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Had this actually happened? Month’s or is it years in the making I have completed my first bikepacking trip. My friend Vik an experienced backcountry bikepacker volunteered to take me on a loop he had previously explored on a solo trip in the reverse direction.

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip...

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip…

The weather forecast looked very promising with high’s in the upper teens and possibly even lower 20’s. Our first stop after leaving Victoria and before reaching our departure point of Port Alberni was Smokin George’s BBQ in Nanaimo tucked away in an unusual setting for a restaurant amongst industrial and commercial buildings. With our stomachs full of beef brisket, fries and corn bread we continued on to our departure point. Our next task was to find a safe spot to stash the truck for a few days, fortunately a new found friend Lee at Ozzie’s Cycle was gracious enough to let us park in their lot. With our bikes unloaded gear checked and après ride drinks organized it was time to head out.

Finally rolling like a boss!

Finally rolling like a boss!

Departing Port Alberni heading first east up the No. 4 highway. Vik wasn’t pulling any punches on my virgin trip, the first leg would have us humping 15km uphill, 450m meters of climbing with grades topping out north of 15%. Now road riding is not my preferred way to enjoy cycling and this particular road less pleasant still, No. 4 highway out of Port Alberni is a busy corridor frequented by large commercial vehicles. By the time we made it to the top and entrance to the fire road my left ear was aching. Which is just as well since it took my mind off my aching legs.

Look at that climb!

Look at that climb!

After that initial noisy introduction the silence of the first few meters up the fire road was pleasantly startling. With only the sound of my wheels rolling over the gravel the air tasted sweet and was invigorating, I couldn’t help but grin widely as I felt the weight of civilized life fall away behind me. A few short rolling hills later we come to a large old clear cut. The lack of any sort of trail required us to push our bikes over the terrain resembling a forgotten game of giant pick-up sticks. We picked our way across, carefully avoiding dropping a foot into a seemingly bottomless hole and doing our best to sidestep the young thorny bushes seemingly escaping every crevice.

Someone forgot to sweep up!

Someone forgot to sweep up!

With the sun hanging low we arrived at a decommissioned bridge over a lovely small river, presumably removed to reduce or eliminate travel over this route. As Vik pointed out one of the awesome things about bikepacking is the extreme portability afforded by our lightweight mode of transportation, allowing us to push forward through these types of obstacles. After some deliberation over whether to continue on or not we chose to camp on the opposite side and walked our bikes across the shallow side of the river. The water was exactly the perfect temperature (bloody cold) to drop our brews in to cool off while we set up camp and cooked up our dinners.

Pimping a new tent... :)

Pimping a new tent… 🙂

I was excited to express my wildageek and exercise some virgin outdoor gear, including a new Tarptent Moment DW and an alcohol cook set from Trail Designs.

Time for some vittles...

Time for some vittles…

I’ve been experimenting with a new product called a Hitcase, essentially a ruggedized housing for an iPhone 5s with a wide-angle lens mounted to it. It’s the poor mans GoPro, a previous trip and subsequent video edit proved it makes for a pretty decent action sports cam. Having used the iPhone for video all day I knew it needed a charge and my first job was to pull out a new portable battery I purchased expressly for this trip and give the phone a power boost. Unfortunately I discovered that I had forgotten the iPhone charging cable in Vik’s truck. So that was it for day ones footage, I was confident that we’d be able to pick up a cable along the next days route in one of the small towns we’d be passing by.

Time for a nice cold beer...

Time for a nice cold beer…

Vik coaxed a small fire to life and despite what appeared to be a buffet of dry wood surrounding us it was surprisingly difficult to keep it going. As the waning light of the sun faded we rescued the beer from the river a welcome treat at the end of the day and chatted, finalizing our plans for the next leg of the trip. With an early start planned we decided to turn in while the sky was still a shade of blue. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of what lay ahead the new experience of sleeping on an ultra light inflatable mattress, the use of a quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag or my bad habit of getting to bed late in my regular life. I had a hard time falling asleep, tossing and turning for what seemed like ages and two bathroom trips later at the sign of the first couple of stars I finally dozed off to the rushing sound of the river.

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5 thoughts on “Butt Buster Tour – Day 1

  1. Thanks Vik. Great edits and adds. I noticed a few grammatical issues but that’s ok.

    >

  2. I have been looking at that tent…and the Hubba NX. What did you think about the tarpatent?

    • @Rivers, the TT is great its a very spacious 1p tent that is ideal particularly where there is the possibility of inclement weather as it sets up crazy fast and with the inner attached to the fly keeping things dry should you need to setup in the rain. Because of its space, dual doors and huge vestibule’s should you be stuck in it for a bit it wouldn’t be terrible. It would make a great base camp tent where you’ll be camping in one spot for a while because of these features. Down sides are there are lighter 1p tents at 35oz all in its “heavier” than some 1p and if all your doing is sleeping the extra space and features are not very useful. Its not a freestanding tent as is, this wasn’t an issue in use but something to be aware of. Finally while its possible to set up inner only its not as simple or quick as a traditional free standing like a BA Flycreek UL so if you enjoy star gazing as you drift off to sleep it takes extra steps to get there, on the other hand the no-see-um mesh TT uses is great and nearly invisible vs the white mesh used on some of the BA UL tents. Have a look at the BC Copper Spur Ul1 as well.

      • Thank you Michael. I looked at the fly creek as well…really did not like how it was set up compared to the NX. As well the floor on the fly creek is suuuper thin, being a bigger guy I would be worried about ripping it while on my knees or something. I should look to see if the DW is the same light flooring, it’s a bunch lighter than the Hubba NX. Did you buy if off of their site?

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