Victoria Daily Times (1907)
Victoria, British Columbia
On the long weekend of July 1907, 40 people in 14 cars left Victoria for Port Alberni on a return Vancouver Island trip arranged by the Victoria Motor Club. The trip's sole purpose was to demonstrate the state of the road between Victoria and Duncan and how impractical it was for carriages and motorcars alike. At the time, the route between Victoria and Duncan was via the Sooke Hills. Along for the ride were local politicians who had enough power to finance a new road and change the lives of the island residents forever.
The club left Victoria at 9:30 am on Saturday morning. Driving out ahead of the group was a powerful British Import called a Beeston-Humber. Behind its wheel was a professional driver and auto mechanic who was also a British import. When the Beeston-Humber arrived in Duncan, it was already an hour ahead of the other vehicles. It would later break an island driving record and be featured in a famous London newspaper the following year.
The rest of the club spent their Saturday helping each other's vehicles over the summit between Goldstream and Duncan. The roadway was considered fair, but the turns and grades made the transit extremely bad. It was a challenge for many of the vehicles, and all agreed that it was most undoubtedly impassable by horse-drawn carriages. Some owners played it safe and took their cars across the Saanich Inlet by barge, bypassing the Sooke Hills altogether and meeting with the club in Cobble Hill.
By mid-afternoon, club vehicles began to arrive in Duncan. After taking great care to account for all of the cars, they continued on their journey and met up with the occupants of the speedy Beeston-Humber in Nanaimo. They had arrived an hour earlier, just 7 hours and 20 minutes after leaving Victoria. The Beeston-Humber's times were recorded as follows:
Victoria to Goldstream - 20 minutes
Goldstream to Duncan - 2 hours and 30 minutes
Lunch and waiting for others to arrive - 2 hours and 40 minutes
Duncan to Ladysmith - 1 hour
5 minute stop in Ladysmith
Ladysmith to Nanaimo - 45 minutes
Total time: 7 hours and 20 minutes
Total driving time: 3 hours and 50 minutes
For the rest of the club, Sunday started out well. The road to Port Alberni from Nanaimo was like saving the best till last. However, it wasn't until they reached Cameron Lake that they realized it was the end of the line for most of the cars. A few made it over the summit to Port Alberni, but most didn't. Some broke down, some got lost, and others could go no further than Cameron Lake. By Sunday evening, all cars had returned to Nanaimo where arrangements were made to transport the overburdened vehicles back to Victoria by train or boat. By Monday evening at 8pm, the last of the club had arrived in Victoria and reported an excellent trip on their return.
It was a big weekend. In the end, the decision-makers were convinced that a new road between Goldstream and Mill Bay was necessary. Within one year of the club's excursion, a new road to Mill Bay from Goldstream was in development. This road later became known as the Malahat Highway.