One summer, when I was eleven or twelve years old, I brought to Hornby Island the one-speed bike my brother, Rob, had handed down to me. It was pretty basic, and on the verge of still being a tad large for me, but I loved it.

Starting in 1971 the roads on Hornby Island began to be paved. They started out the first year paving about three kilometres of road from the ferry landing at Shingle Spit to just past Phipps Point. It was a rather rudimentary style of paving, but it did the job, and the road would finally be relatively smooth, and great for riding a bike. 

Bob Cain, who took the black-and-white images on this page, worked on the road crew back then. He said: “The most fulfilling [road crew work] was road construction. We got to drive dump trucks, graders, and loaders. Nowadays they bring everything over, and the local workers get to sit and watch. I don’t recall any other name than ‘road construction’ but George Cowie (Hornby foreman) used to call our work ‘getting ready for ‘Tarvey’.”

Road Construction on Hornby Island, 1972. Photo by Bob Cain
Road Construction on Hornby Island, 1972. Photo by Bob Cain

These days bikes are everywhere. It seems like every other car getting off the ferry to the island has a bike rack with two, three, four, sometimes five bikes on the back. Whole families go out cycling. But, in 1971, bikes were a rare thing to see on Hornby Island. I guess I was just “ahead of my time.”

I’d ride out often on summer evenings; it was rare to see even one car on the road. I had such an incredible sense of freedom, and even though I was not very far from home, I felt like I was on an adventure. 

As I’d cycle along watching the big open fields of the “Bond Farm” on my right, and the sun filtering through the rim of trees above the beach, reflecting up the sparkly water from the lowering sun, I’d think about how great it felt to be alive, and how my future was ahead of me. 

John McLachlan riding in 1970

Yet, despite the contentment, there was something just lurking below that I couldn’t quite identify except that there was a mix of excitement and danger, knowing that something was coming, and something was about to change, and the days of my young childhood were done.

Your Day Is Done

August breeze blowing through my golden hair
Feet spin round and round moving through the air
Two months of summer have burned like the sun
Blacktop from gravel, new road has begun

Silver spokes sparkle by blue sunlit sea
Blood pumps round and round, feels good being me
Twelve years have passed now in my life to here
Time cuts like a knife slicing the year

Just around the bend, the dirt road they’ll pave
Lying out before me like a rolling wave
Where will I go? What will I become?
Goodbye childhood, your day is done

Flowing fields fly by the light has grown long
Thoughts go round and round, will I know my song?
Smooth road is ending of youth held so dear
Butterflies inside and a little bit of fear

Just around the bend, the dirt road they’ll pave
Lying out before me like a rolling wave
Where will I go? What will I become?
Goodbye childhood, your day is done
Goodbye childhood, your day is done 

John McLachlan waiting for the ferry to Hornby after cycling on Denman Island. 1970