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Days 1 - 14
There are no flat roads in British Columbia! Alright, I might be exaggerating a little bit but along the route that I traveled there was only one day of level riding. Everywhere else it was rolling hills and mountains, making for a very challenging ride, especially considering I was not in peak physical condition at the start of my trip. If anyone ever has an interest in seeing the raw, natural beauty of BC yet does not have much time to spend, I would highly recommend bicycling (or GASP ... driving) from Revelstoke to Canmore. This section of road was the most beautiful and scenic portion of the BC portion of my trip and the climbs were not as strenuous as elsewhere. Their sheer size and the power evident in the mountains as they towered majestically over me was a constant source of wonder as I pedaled my way along. In terms of bicycling, most of the roads in BC are in good repair with decent shoulders. Some parts, the climb from Salmo to New Denver and the one from Golden to Yoho National Park especially, were extremely scary due to the lack of a shoulder, winding roads, and large trucks.
In terms of my personal thoughts, British Columbia is the first leg of my cross-Canada tour and was the first time I have been on tour for any real length of time. I have discovered many things about myself and bicycle touring in general, both about my limits and the wonderful hospitality of the people of this great country. My hope is that through reading my travel diary, you will be able to vicariously experience the ups and downs of such an enormous undertaking and learn along with me.
I hope you enjoy reading about my adventure and please, if you enjoy a part let me know via e-mail. It is your comments and letters that help to make my trip so enjoyable.
Day 1. May 16, 1999. Distance 11 km. Total 11
Day 2. May 17, 1999. Distance 58 km. Total 69
Today is the big day! The weather is really crappy, rain and wind, but with all my raingear on it is ok. Because of my late start (11:30 am) I only had time to make it to Mission before looking for a place to stay. Today it just poured rain, a real deluge. I ended up staying the night at a motel because the rain was just too horrible and I figured that I would break into this crazy bicycle touring slowly. That and my parents generously offered to pay for it ;-).
Day 3. May 18, 1999. Distance 94 km. Total 164
Tomorrow I will make it to Manning Park (66 km) at least but depending on how I feel I might try to push on to Princeton (122 km). I would like to make it to Princeton because I called Manning today and they said that it is still occasionally getting down to -10 degrees at night!
So far the gear I am wearing has been Ok. Gortex cycling jacket over windbreaker over jersey. Rain pants over cycling tights over shorts. The only problem is that my pants do allow some moisture to seep through and I still get wet. I am going to have to scotch-guard them when I get the chance. Well it is now 9:20pm, time for bed.
Day 4. May 19, 1999. Distance 70 km. Total 234
km. 9.5 hrs. Manning Park
Today was an absolutely exhausting day. I have never had to work so hard in my entire life. I had to do two enormous climbs today. The first was from Hope (elevation 42 m) to the Hope slide (elevation 740 m) and this was over about 10-15 km. I then coasted down the other side and the real work began! For the next 40 km I climbed and climbed and climbed. Who put all those mountains there!?! I can't recall how many times I have passed through the park and not realized that the whole route is just one big hill climbing up to Allison Pass at 1342 m!!! I would say that out of the day, 60 out of the 70 km were all uphill. Since it only took me 10 min to go that 10 km that means I climbed for 9 hours and 20 min. By the end of the day I would walk for 5 min then bike for 2 min before my legs would start to cramp and I would have to walk some more. My legs were really tired at the start today (residual from yesterday) so I am somewhat worried about them for tomorrow as I worked 3X harder than yesterday.
I have not been sleeping well since I have left, surprising considering the exercise I am getting. I also NEED a shower! 2 days and 164 km, my feet are ripe! Well since I didn't did not get to camp till 8:00pm today it is now 10:20pm and time for bed.
Day 5. May 20, 1999. Distance 95 km. Total 329
km. 9.5 hrs. Bromely Rock
It is now 10:45pm as I am writing this. After talking with several people (everyone I meet seem to be Germans on vacation) it seems that the hardest part of my whole trip is behind me now. I woke up this morning feeling better than I thought I would, my legs were somewhat sore but it could have been worse. I should sell a How To Get Fit book, simply get on bike in Vancouver and start pedaling ;-). I stopped in at the Resort for a big pancake breakfast then coasted downhill for about 18 km (losing hard earned altitude all the way) then the climbing started again! Apparently there is another mountain that I did not know about so I had to climb for another 20 km to the top of Sunday summit (1284 m). Stupid, useless touring guide (The Canadian Cycling Associations Guide to Bicycle Touring in Canada). Again I had to struggle for every single meter. Didn't the road engineers think about going around the mountains? The whole time my legs were just screaming for relief. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I knew that if my mind gave up on me my legs would quickly follow. I started chanting the old army standard "left, left, left, right, left", pushing against the pedals with all my might. Yet once I made it over Sunday summit, the climbing still wasn't over! I coasted downhill for ~10 km then started climbing back up to the top of the Mine Hill outside Princeton. Another little detail that the book left out. I really flew down that Hill though, you haven't truly lived until you have hit 67 kph on a fully loaded bicycle! At the bottom guess what? Yep, more climbing (sigh). This time it was not so bad, neither as steep or as long as before. I finally got to Princeton at 5:00 pm, 6.5 hrs and 70 km after I started. The person at the tourist center said that what I just did was harder than even the route I will be going through the Rockies. Let me tell you, I nearly did my little victory dance when she said that from here to Keremeos it was all downhill and then just rolling hills through the Okanogan. Just for the joy of bicycling downhill (and looking for a place to camp) I biked for another 25 km to the provincial campsite at Bromely Rock.
Since this computer is $5/hr I am going to quite now and fill in the rest later.
Headlines coming up next:
Day 5, Part 2: Germans Ignore Park Regulations and Feed Famished Bicyclist
Not feeling like eating alone I invited myself to dinner with my neighboring campers. They in their huge 28 ft motor home and me with my tent, it was quite a juxtaposition. They were a nice German couple here on vacation for 2 weeks and had driven here from Vancouver in one day, doing in five hours what took me 4 days! Oh well, I know that I have seen and experienced much more than they have. During dinner I explained that as a result of all the exercise my appetite had increased a great deal. They watched in amazement as skinny little me (6' 4" - 145 lbs) killed off 3/4 of a loaf of french bread, a package of sliced meat, and three apples. As I was starting to slow down due to a lack of food to eat, they generously donated two delicious barbecued sausages to try to fill my bottomless pit of a stomach. As we were talking they explained that they owned a small business in Germany and that this was their first vacation in five years. It seemed to me that their experience in Canada was becoming a life changing one. The theme continuously coming up in the conversation was their need to slow down and enjoy life, not to continuously rush on, running a race where there are no winners. Do I detect bicycle tourists in the making? ;-)
Now to explain why I am paying $12 in a provincial campsite instead of camping for free. I did try to knock on some farm houses to ask if I could sleep in their yard but I could not even get to the door. Nothing keeps unwanted visitors away like 100 lbs of snarling barking farm dog. Yikes! I just try to keep my bike between me and the dog and back slowly away while talking softly to the dog. "Yes, this is your property." "Your doing a good job protecting it." "Please don't eat me. I am leaving now." I think that they can understand me or at least my tone of voice. They sure do know who holds the position of power in the situation, and it certainly is not me. I do have a can a bear spray but I don't think that the farmers would be too impressed me pepper spraying their dogs on their own property. Visions of buckshot coming my way keeps me cautious.
Well I am absolutely beat so I am going to go to bed now. Oops wait, one more thing. Today I had my first outdoor bath. After 3 days and nearly 250 km even I could not stand to spend a night in my tent with my feet. Ewww.... So I slipped on my swim trunks and hopped into the river. Boy it was cold!!! When I came out I made sure to make a show of it to another group of Germans (see they are everywhere) and said that it was better than being stinky. We all laughed as they mimed that NO WAY would they go in there, they would rather smell. Ha! I guess they just grow them tougher here in Canada. Bicycle across mountains with 60 lbs of gear on your bike, swim in frozen rivers, eat three times what a normal person eats. They are all going to go back to Germany with stories about how tough these crazy Canucks are.
Day 6. May 21, 1999. 52 km. Total 381 km. 4
Today I took most of the day off to try and recuperate from the Manning Park endurance test. My legs are quite sore and there is no energy in them at all. I guess it is true that you have about 3 days of energy stored in your muscles and I have used them up. My body now has to get really efficient at getting energy from food and burning fat to fuel my muscles. From Bromely Rock I made my way down the highway through Hedley to Keremeos. It was a nice gentle descent the whole way through the most beautiful country. The land is becoming more arid and dry, with large open spaces of grasses and pine trees. The road had a good shoulder the whole way and followed the winding Similkameen river with large rocky hills flanking both sides.
I met my first bicycle tourist today just outside Hedley. He was a young guy about my age who is traveling from Vancouver to the Rockies. He was shocked that I was going all the way to Newfoundland. Like they say, no matter how crazy you think you are there is always someone going further. When I asked him what he thought about Manning Park he just looked at me, I don't think that English was his first language, but when I mimed climbing, descending, climbing, descending his eyes widened with recognition and he emphatically stated "I hate Manning Park!". That about sums up my opinion on bicycling through Manning as well.
I pulled into Keremeos around 2:30 in the afternoon and started looking for a place to stay. As I was coming into town I saw a really neat place along the highway. It was a shop that had a whole bunch of old western carriages and wagons in various states of repair and construction. Since I was in no hurry I pulled in to take a look. The shop is called Carriage N Works and the owner is Glen Pegg. Glen is a really interesting character. He is a wagon smith and has been building and restoring carriages for over twenty years. The shop looks just like I imagine an authentic western one would look like a hundred years ago (minus the power tools of course), with tools and wagon wheels and parts all over and Glen looks like an authentic western smith as well. Jeans, cowboy hat, rugged looks. He was also working on building the body for an old Model A truck. Anyway, we got to talking and he offered his back yard for me to camp in. Of course I accepted!
Right now I am writing this by my tent under a spreading pine. I can look out 100 yards over the river and see an old covered bridge (the Red Bridge) which was built in 1907 for the railway. When I get my pictures developed I will be posting shots of some of Glen's work but if you would like to talk to him his number is (250) 499-7738.
Well again it is getting late. Hopefully tomorrow my legs will be better so I can cover some good distance. This is Trevor Hennessey in Keremeos, signing off.
Day 7. May 22, 1999. 59 km. Total 440 km. 6
Woke up this morning and my legs were not really sore anymore, just stiff and I still do not have any energy. I think my subconscious was aware of the stiffness in my legs because I sure had some weird bicycling related dreams last night.
I woke up at 8:00 this morning, chatted with Glen a bit and headed off. The ride today was pretty tough because my legs are still quite fatigued from Manning Park. The road from Keremeos to Osoyoos is very scenic but quite challenging, at least for me in my condition right now. There are large rolling hills for most of the length, 1 km up a good grade then down the other side, then up, then down, over and over again. I found that I had to get off an push every once and a while because my legs just could not do it. The heat was quite bad in the valley, high 20's, and between the heat and the hills I was getting pretty tired. The last climb up Richter Pass just about did me in. But I pushed on and descended into Osoyoos around 3:30 and found a gentleman on the outskirts of town who would let me camp in his yard. I went into town and had a bath in the lake and got some groceries.
As I have not done so yet I will describe my average day. I usually wake up around 7 or 8 and start packing my bike. The packing always seems to take much longer than it should, between 1-1.5 hrs to get everything organized and packed on my bike. During this time I make a breakfast (cereal, bagels, fruit, all of the above) or head into town for pancakes. I have been tending to eat out only once a day and make all my other meals to try to keep costs down. (Trevor's TIP: When eating out be sure to grab all the bicyclist sized food items you can. By this I mean salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard packets, those small containers of butter and jam, ect. They really come in handy without having to carry large portions and they are FREE). I am then on the road by 10:30 although I am trying to get going earlier. I bike for 7 or more hours with the goal of ending the day in a town around dinnertime where I can buy food for the next day and find a place to sleep. On the road I tend to stop every hour or so to eat the groceries I bought the day before to keep my energy up.
Once in town I start looking for a place to stay. I HATE paying camping fees, I would much rather spend the money on food. So I head to the outskirts of town and start knocking on doors asking if I can pitch my tent in their yard. Gotta watch out for farm dogs!! They are kings of their domain and do not like visitors period, especially those on bicycles. I never know if they are truly vicious or just acting, I hope never to find out.
Once I have a place to stay I pitch my tent, drop off a bunch of gear and head into town for a shower/swim and groceries. Some towns have public showers, others have pay showers in laundromats, or here in Osoyoos I just jumped in the lake. For groceries, I buy enough for dinner, breakfast and lunch plus snacks. Today I spent $7 and bought a loaf of Rye bread, a package of sliced ham, a tomato, 3 apples and 3 bagels. For dinner I made 3 huge ham and tomato sandwiches (using ketchup and mustard from 7-11), ate two and saved one for lunch tomorrow. I also ate an apple, one of the bagels and a bunch of jujubes I bought yesterday ($2.80 per Kilo, YUM!). For breakfast I will have the two bagels with jam I got from breakfast in Manning and for lunch I will have the extra sandwich, the two remaining apples and some chocolate bars. Not bad eh? Three good meals for under $10.
Trevor's Tips for Camping:
First some things you need to remember. People have every right to say no, so be polite if you are turned down. I have yet to have to ask at more than two places. I am sure to leave nothing behind except thank-you's and a flattened circle of grass. I also get their mailing address so I can mail them a postcard, I figure a 46 cent stamp and 25 cent postcard is the least I can do for the people kind enough to let me stay at their place.
My impressions on what works for getting people
to say yes.
Once they say yes I make sure to strike up a bit of a conversation with them about my journey to get them comfortable with me sleeping in their yard. I will also ask if they have a hose where I can wash up (Hint, hint, warm shower?) or if I am feeling particularly bold and they look receptive I will ask if they would mind if I could use their washroom to have a shower and clean up.
Well enough for now. I have to climb Anarchist Mountain tomorrow, 1000 m over 31 km, so I need to get a good sleep and start before the heat of the day hits.
The day started off beautiful, clear and crisp, little did I know what was in store for me. I should have stayed in bed.
I woke up early and was on the road by 9:00 with the hopes of getting over Anarchist Mountain before the heat of the day and perhaps reaching Grand Forks (~135 km) today. Neither of these were to happen. On my way out of town I dropped into a bike shop to get my rear wheel trued up (straitened), usually a 10 minute job. Instead, I discovered that my freehub seal had broken and had let in the rain during the previous Monday. The bearings on one side had then overheated and lost their temper. They were grinding so bad it sounded like someone had poured sand in there. The mechanic had nearly completed replacing the bearings and repacking the hub when I asked if this was likely to happen again. He said that with the seal gone it was likely that it would. I told him again that I still had over 7000 km to go and that I was very likely going to run into rain at some point so he should replace the entire freehub (something I feel he should have mentioned from the start). He could not find the exact same part so he tried one that was close then it took 4 hours of fiddling before we discovered that it would not fit properly. Then lo and behold he looked around a little more and found exact same part as mine (wish that happened at the start). Of course the cap of the hub he just put on was plastic with poor groves so it took another hour and a bunch of hammering to get it of my wheel so I could get the other one put on. To make a long, frustrating, story short 6 hours and $82 later I was back on the road. It was now 3:00 pm and 28 degrees in the shade, CRAP!!! I did not want to stay in town for another day so I slapped on some more sunscreen and started climbing, and climbing, and climbing. The sun was beating down, the rays cutting into the back of my neck like a laser. It felt like I was in a blast furnace. Sweat was pouring down my face, dripping through my eyebrows, burning my eyes and making it difficult to see. I set my timer so I would remember to drink a cup of water every 15 min to prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion but man was I tired. I really lost it at one point, and just screamed with tears of frustration blurring my eyes. It was not a fun experience at all. In total it took me 3.5 hrs to climb to the summit, 31 km from Osoyoos and by then my already tired legs were screaming with fatigue. I was hot, tired, and mad about my problems in Osoyoos. Fortunately, the next 25 km to Rock Creek was essentially one big descent so I made it to town without any more difficulty.
Up to this point I was not a happy cyclist. My heart was heavy, spirit broken and body toast. My 135 km day had turned into 55 km, I was out $82 and had lost confidence in my bike. To top it all off I was worried again about getting to Calgary on time and had decided that if I am still under time pressure in 7 days, I will start hitch-hiking up the passes. This upsets me a great deal, I want to bike it all the myself and this just seems too much like giving up and wimping out. But if I have no other choice....
God must have known how I was feeling because my spirits were restored at dinnertime when I was reminded the real reason why I was bicycling. It is not to simply cover X numbers of kilometers every day but instead it is to see the sights and meet the people of the Canadian countryside. At the cafe I asked three young ladies if I might join them for dinner as I could really use some company after the day I had and at this point I would really hate to eat alone. I think that God put these girls there just for me. They were from the surrounding area and were just passing through town on their way home from a Christian concert. We chatted about my trip and life in the area. Then when they were leaving the waiter came up and told me that my meal had been paid for!!!!! Thank-you so much girls. Your simple gesture came at a time were I was hitting rock bottom and you lifted my spirit. We met as strangers but I hope now to count you as friends. Bless you.
I am feeling much better now and hope to make it the rest of the way to Grand Forks tomorrow (~75km).
Day 9. May 24, 1999. 98 km. Total 593 km. 8
hrs. Christina Lake
From Rock Creek the road is rolling with ~10 km climb up Eholt Mountain (elevation 1000 m) but it was not that bad. I met two kids who had a flat tire at the top of the hill so I got their name so I could call their parents when I got to Grand Forks. From the summit I descended 17 km into town but because of a headwind I had to pedal downhill, I hate it when that happens! Work to get up the hill then work to get down, yuck! Today was even hotter than yesterday, when I pulled into Grand Forks around 4:30 I checked a thermometer and it was 35 degrees in the shade! A real oven and the main course was roast Trevor. I was really craving pasta and when I asked around the only place that was recommended was Mama Mitri's in Christina Lake another 20 km further down the road. On the way out of town when I stopped in at a motel to call those kids parents the woman at the counter recognized the name and number and asked me what had happened. I told her that it was only a flat and then when I called their parents the kids were already there. In the time it took me to get to the bottom of the hill they had already walked to a friends place and gotten a ride home! I chatted with the lady for a bit and I guess because I tried to help out those kids she offered me a free room for the night. I was tempted with the idea of a bed and a hot shower but decided that since tomorrow I had to climb Paulson Mountain (1500 m) I would like to do the 20 km to the base tonight. I thanked her and pushed on.
The road to Christina Lake descends most of the way from Grand Forks with a few little hills and a long descent at the end but an ever-present headwind was still blowing so riding was still a struggle. I arrived in Christina Lake an hour and fifteen minutes later and sat down for a good meal. Mama Mitri's was perhaps slightly on the expensive side but their special was reasonable and the portions were bicyclist size so I would eat there again.
The weather today was really hot but I have found a good technique to deal with it. Every time I pass a creek I soak my jersey, bandanna, and light windbreaker jacket. It stays wet and cool for 30 min or so and then I try to repeat the process. I make sure I drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration, more than 6 L today alone!
I am writing this during dinner so I have to go now and find a place to sleep. Cya.
Day 10. May 25, 1999. ~115 km (35 hitch). Total
708 km. 10.5 hrs.
Tonight I am staying in the most gorgeous valley I have ever seen, just outside the town of Crescent Valley. As I write this, the full moon is shining brilliant silver through the top of my tent as it migrates along the valley ridge, the stars are burning brightly and the crickets are chirping in the background. You can't pay for a campsite like this!
Today was another difficult day that ended well but before I elaborate I will start off with the road report. From Christina Lake the road descends for ~6 km and then climbs a difficult 35 km to the summit at 1500 m. From the summit there is a 35 km descent into Castlegar. Between Christina Lake and Castlegar is just one big mountain! From Castlegar to Crescent Valley (~20 km) the road descends most of the way. The mountain is really strange at parts. There are places where an optical illusion would occur where I would swear that the road was downhill but I still had to pedal and if I just stood there I would roll backwards. This was just about too much for my poor, fatigued mind. It kept expecting an easy descent but I would have to climb instead. I have noticed that when my mind gives up my body is quick to follow so I tried to keep my eyes glued on the road 5 feet in front of me and continued to crank on the pedals. After climbing for 20 km I began to hear a new noise from my bike. As all you car drivers know, new noises are never good news. I have gotten pretty good at diagnosing them now, loose straps, shoelaces hitting the frame, creaking cleats, but this time I could not find what was making the noise except that it was coming from near my cranks. The noise got worse so I ended up stopping and sticking out my thumb, hoping to get a lift to the next town to get my cranks/bottom bracket checked out. A fellow in a truck stopped and gave me a 15 km lift to the summit where he was scouting for bear. I felt like I was cheating a bit but with the memory of burned out bearings in my freehub fresh in my mind I just did not care. I flew down the other side, it was just one big 40 km long hill, really nice.
I pulled into Castlegar around 1:30 and headed to a bike shop. The mechanic diagnosed it as loose cranks. These are the arms that attach the pedals to the front chainrings and with all the climbing they must have loosened. While the bike was up on the rack I checked out my rear rim and nearly fainted when I saw it. I have been watching it since Vancouver because ever since I had it built the rim was slightly deformed, pulled out, by the spokes. This did not look right to me but when I asked the mechanic who did my tune-up in Vancouver, he said that there was no problem and that the wheel would last for 1000's of km yet. Well when I looked at it in Castlegar, all those little bumps were gone and in their place were small hairline cracks radiating from the spoke holes. I had just come barreling down a mountain at over 50 kph with 60 lbs of gear and a wheel that was ready to fail at any moment. I shudder to think what could have happened if I had hit a good bump and the rear wheel completely gave out. Can you say road pancake boys and girls?
To be Continued: How much did our hero have to spend? Were there more problems to be had in the near future? Stay tuned for next time. Same bike time, same bike channel.
I am so unbelievably tired that I hope this is making sense. Tomorrow I plan on hitchhiking my way to Revelstoke. I have done a realistic appraisal and have determined that at the rate I am going I can't make it to Calgary in seven days if I have to bike the whole way. If I can get all the way to Revelstoke tomorrow I think that I should be able to make it. <SIGH> Oh well, I guess I am redefining bicycle touring to moving by feet (pushing), legs (biking), or by thumb (hitchhiking), all with a fully loaded bike. The purists (is there such a thing as a bicycle tourist purist?) may not agree but they don't have 700 km of MOUNTAINOUS terrain to cover in seven days to catch a flight.
Day 11. May 26, 1999. ~105 km (35 hitch). Total
813 km. 10 hrs. Nakusp
I am so bushed I am just going to whip this report off.
Road report: Rolling hills to Slocan. From Slocan the road is winding and climbs for some distance, no shoulders in places. Pretty narrow so I would not want to be riding it in tourist season. Descend 8 km in the town of Silverton. Road is fairly level to New Denver. Met a nice bike mechanic in New Denver (Rob Farrel - WOC Cycle), I would recommend him. The road loses its shoulder and is rolling out to the town of Hills with an upward trend to the grade. From Hills to Nakusp the road has a decent shoulder and is level for much of the way with a long descent near the end. The area after New Denver is VERY isolated, if you come this way be prepared!
I had my first flats of the trip today, 3 of them!!! All were on the new rear wheel. After the third flat I had just about had it with my bike. I had just blown $300 and now this! I am sure you know the kind of mood I was in, feeling like punching holes in walls and kicking in doors. I was loosing my mind and threw a little tantrum by the side of the road. It was all becoming too much for me. The long distances without adequate rest, the worries about getting to Calgary on time, and now problem after problem with my bike. To top it all off no one would stop to pick me up hitchhiking! I had all my bags off my bike, one wheel off and my thumb out, looking quite desperate and yet no one would stop. Where is this fabled rural hospitality? I know all those guys (single occupants) with empty pickup trucks had to be locals but they just blew on by. I mean come on, how many psycho serial murders are dressed in a bright yellow cycling jersey trying to thumb a ride in the middle of nowhere with 40 lbs of camping gear and a bike?!? My only rides of the day were obtained at gas stations where I was actually able to talk to the person and they could see I was a normal person.
It is of my opinion that the myth of rural hospitality is just that, a myth. Or perhaps rural people are more friendly to their neighbors than city people but are different to outsiders. Sure, I have met and slept at the places of some fabulous people but I have been selective, only picking places that look friendly and well maintained. I would bet you anything that if I looked for a well maintained house and yard in the suburbs of Surrey or Vancouver and said I had bicycled from Newfoundland and needed a place to stay, they would let me camp in their yard. It is not the location where a person lives that makes them friendly but instead it is the person themselves. I might just be feeling a bit jaded from my experiences today but right now that is how I feel.
Anyhow, when I realized that I was really starting to get angry I knew that I needed a break to calm down and put things in perspective so I stopped in Slocan to have lunch. While I was eating I disassembled the rear wheel and wiped the rim, the tube, and the inside of the tire with a damp napkin to try and remove whatever was causing all those flats. Seems to have worked as I have not gotten any more flats during the rest of the day. Again, this is something I think the mechanic should have done when he put the tire on the wheel.
I have decided that I can't deal with the uncertainty around my bikes reliability. In Calgary I am going to get an all new group set put on and have new wheels built up, hopefully for under $900. I will keep the handlebars/stem, frame, seat/seatpost, racks, fenders and pedals but everything else will go. I could probably make due with replacing a part here and a part there but with >7000 km to go I will just pay up front for piece of mind during the remainder of the trip.
I have 6 days and 500 km to go. Tomorrow I am going to try to hitchhike to Revelstoke to get the Bob trailer I have called ahead and ordered from Castlegar. It is a cool little trailer that hooks up to a special skewer through the rear axle and this should allow me to get all this weight off of my bike and hopefully reduce the number of problems I am having. Then I will chose to do one of two things: I will either hitchhike from Revelstoke to Lake Louise and continue bicycling to Calgary from there or I will just rent a car in Revelstoke and drive all the way to Calgary. I have resigned myself to my fate. I don't feel too bad about not cycling the whole way. I have still covered 750 km in 10 days and will still be doing 7000 km more before the trip is over. With the bike problems and time pressure I just don't have a choice in the matter. I can always come back and bike from Revelstoke to Calgary at another date.
Day 12. May 27, 1999. ~145 km (95 hitch). Total
958 km. 15 hrs. Albert Canyon.
I woke up at 5:00 am this morning to try and catch a ride with someone who commutes to Revelstoke. After an hour someone finally someone stopped and offered me a lift. I will call him Bud (short for Budweiser) and the less said about him the better. I probably made a bad judgment call continuing riding with him (thought he was drinking a Coke when he picked me up, WRONG!) but I guess with the state my mind was in at the time I was not thinking straight. Yep, he finishes the can he is drinking from, reaches behind to a cooler and pulls out another beer. A what? OH CRAP THIS GUY IS DRINKING!!! Here it is 6:00 am in the morning and this guy is on his second beer already (well second with me in the truck anyways). He finishes the second beer, tosses the can in the back and asks me to grab him another. Oh no! What do I do now? What a nightmare, here I am 30 km outside of town in the middle of wilderness and the Revelstoke is still 65 km away. I figured that since this guy is drinking so early that he must do it frequently and therefore have somewhat of a tolerance built up. I gingerly handed him the third beer and told myself that if he goes for a fourth that I was going to get him to pull over .and let me out. He downed the third beer and said, "Well that's enough for me for now, have to wait till I get there before I have anymore." Wonderful, a ""responsible" drunk driver. Oh well, I made it to Revelstoke in one piece and won't make the same mistake twice. I think it was because I was so desperate that I made that bad judgment call.
The road from Nakusp to Revelstoke is extremely isolated, 95 km of absolutely nothing but bush and a short ferry trip (no buildings at the ferry, you drive right onto the ship). It was hard to tell from the truck but it looked like we climbed rolling hills to Galena Bay and for some distance from Shelter Bay, then descended the rest of the way into Revelstoke.
I pulled into Revelstoke around 9:00 am and asked the first bicyclist I saw where the bike shop was. She told me that it was not open yet and in the course of our conversation I discovered that she too is bicycling from Vancouver to Newfoundland and that today is her rest day. Her name is Kati and she is from the US. Last year she did a supported tour across the USA but wanted to try REAL bicycle touring and so went North to go across Canada. It sounded like she ran into much of the same problems as I did with not being in REAL bicycle tourist shape although she has not had the bike problems that I have. I guess because she is traveling alone and is from the States she has not been camping but instead has been staying in hostels along the way. I tried to tell her that we Canadians are a pretty friendly bunch and if you are careful to pick the right places to camp you should not run into any difficulty. I would much rather spend my money on food.
I spent 3 hours in the bike shop getting the bugs worked out of the trailer (it could really use a center kickstand, parking the bike/trailer is a pain) and went for groceries. My bike did not feel much different although it was nice to get the panniers off the front wheel as I now have much better maneuverability. I am absolutely certain though that my bike can feel the difference, all that weight has now been moved to the trailer and the bike just has to pull it. When I told the mechanic about my plans to swap out all my components he took a look and said that they were all good and strong and that he would not do anything. FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS!!! As it was only 3:30 and with new-found confidence in my bike, I decided neither to hitchhike nor to rent a car but instead to push on under my own power. Calgary here I come!
I made it 35 km east of Revelstoke to a campground
in Albert Canyon. If I was not so tired and REALLY wanting a long hot
shower, I would have just pulled off the side of the road to camp because
the campground was a total rip off. $23 for a stupid campsite and you
had to pay extra for the use of the hot springs! Oh wait, for $23 I was
allowed ONE free shower, oh goodie! I probably should have just continued
on but I wimped out and stayed for the hot shower. I had just set up my
tent when a train roared past on the tracks just 20 feet behind my site.
I said to hell with that and packed up and moved to another campsite.
I was also warned about a couple of bears that have been frequenting the
area and that I should be careful with my food. With that in mind I hung
my food high up in a tree and was feeling all cocky about how prepared
I until I looked over and saw my German neighbors cooking their steaks
over a fire. Wonderful, while they are sleeping all nice and snug encased
in their steel cocoon of a motor home I have to play bear sandwich in
my tent and sleeping bag when the hungry bears come around attracted by
the fat in the fire.
While on the topic, here is another interesting cycling story I have heard a couple of times now from several different bike stores. There is a couple ahead of me who are traveling from Vancouver to Montreal on their 64 year old Raleigh tandem. Apparently they immigrated to Canada from Europe in 1949 with their baby and this bike. They got off the boat in Montreal, put their baby on the back and pedaled from Montreal to Vancouver! I can't even imagine what the roads through the mountains would have been like back then. This year is their 50th anniversary of the event and so with the support of a motorhome they are retracing their journey from West to East on the SAME BIKE! Wow, like I said earlier, no matter how great of a thing you are doing, there is always someone doing something better. I have heard that this couple has a website describing their trip so if any of you come across it could you e-mail me the address, I would love to get in contact with them.
Day 13. May 28, 1999. 120 km. Total 1078 km.
10 hrs. Golden.
Today was an absolutely fantastic day! The sun was shining and I was bicycling through the most gorgeous country ever created. It was a long haul but with a nice tailwind most of the way it felt like I was flying through the mountains. For 28 km from Albert Canyon to the start of Rogers Pass it seemed to be mostly a slight downhill grade although that could be the tailwind talking. There was an 8 km climb to the summit of Rogers Pass but it was nothing compared to what I have done before. On the other side there is a totally killer descent for ~20 km. In places I was riding the brakes and still going over 60 kph! I would NOT want to climb the pass from the East! At the end of the decent/level ground there was a tough 9 km climb on the way out of Glacier National Park then there was intermittent climbing for some distance. I then descended to the Kicking Horse River and continued on level ground to Golden. At 5:30 pm a nice tailwind picked up and pushed me the rest of the way to Golden.
The scenery for most of the day was astounding. I am truly in the mountains now. Everywhere I look I see magnificent outcrops of rock and ice and snow, all towering upwards toward the sun. Tendrils of cloud clung to the peaks and with the sun behind them, they encircled the summits like brilliant silver halos. Breathtaking.
At the summit of Rogers Pass I met a bicycle tourist who was feeling like I did a few days ago. Her knee was really bothering her so she had boxed up her bike and was taking the Greyhound to Calgary and was thinking about catching a flight home to Ontario from there. She had been traveling with a partner from Vancouver until her knee gave out and he continued on. It sounded like the guy was really pushing it and wanted to cover the distance as fast as he could while she wanted to take her time and see the sights. Not a good combination for touring partners. I did my best to describe the state that I had been in a few days before, the fatigue and despair that I had felt and that now I was feeling better with a newfound strength and desire to press on. I told her that she should take a week in Calgary to recuperate and make her decision about continuing on from there. If you are reading this please e-mail me and let me know how you are doing. I hope that your knee recovered and that you decided to continue on.
I took some time at the summit to admire the mountains and eat lunch and then continued on. On my way down the other side I had my first drafting experience with a semi. Drafting is a term used to describe what occurs when cycling with teammates. One rider cycles in front and serves as a windbreak to those bicycling close behind. Well when you get one from a semi it is quite an experience. Here I was barreling down the mountain at 50 kph when the semi trailer passes me. As he goes by the blast of his passing nearly tossed me off the mountain, then I was yanked forward by the vacuums behind him. For 1 km I was racing close behind at nearly 70 kph until he pulled far enough ahead that I was subject again to wind resistance. The experience was quite exhilarating but I think that once is enough! I find that with the BOB trailer I now have an additional pivot point to worry about and I can get weird oscillations from passing cars if I am traveling faster than about 45 kph. Between Rogers Pass and the Kicking Horse River there were two good climbs but once I was on the straightaway with a good tailwind I really flew into Golden.
What a magnificent backdrop! There is a wall of mountains on the South side of the river that extends all the way to Golden and beyond. It is not just one mountain, from town I was able to distinguish 15 distinct peaks but they were all attached to form a wall that was about 3-4000 m high and ~50 km long. During the last ice age it must have formed a boundary, funneling the glaciers through the area which then scoured the ground to form the valley present today while leaving the mountain range raw and exposed.
I pulled into town around 8:00 Alberta time. I am in a new time zone! For dinner I bought some fried chicken and a slurpee from 7-11 then hit Overweighty for more food. In total I ate 2 pieces of fried chicken with 10 potato fingers, a 1 L slurpee, 4 doughnuts and three apples (before bed I ate another 2 doughnuts and 2 apples, like I said, my appetite is HUGE!).
While I was busy doing my best impression of a ravenous animal, I was joined by a local girl who stared in shock as I inhaled my meal. We got to talking and she offered her parents yard for me to pitch my tent in. I usually like to screen where I will sleep so I was somewhat hesitant but agreed to check it out. I went there and met her mother but her father did not come to see who was sleeping in his yard (weird thing #1) and I could smell alcohol in the house (weird thing #2). There were other little things that I will not go into here but it all added up to make me feel uncomfortable. My instincts were telling me that something did not feel right so I moved on. Always trust your gut feeling (except when it tells you that your compass in wrong but that is a different story ;-). As I biked down the road I saw a guy eating dinner on his porch with a fairly nice bike in his yard. I have found that cyclists tend to be sympathetic to my plight to I asked if I could sleep in his yard. He was renovating and did not have room but he thought that a friend might. I ended up spending the night in his friends yard, a wonderful young couple, after having a shower at the first fellows place. I ended staying and talking until midnight before heading back to my tent to sleep.
So far the BOB is working out great and I am regaining confidence in my bike.
Today was a pretty difficult day. My legs were somewhat tired from the long ride yesterday so I took my time getting ready in the morning and did not get on the road until 12:00. Big Mistake! When you have to go over mountain passes, always start out early in the morning before the wind picks up. Although the day started out clear with the wind from the West, by the time I left the wind was from the North-East and an angry black cloud was dumping rain about 15 km behind me. I said my characteristic "Oh Crap!" and started pedaling furiously. The highway from Golden to Yoho National Park was by far the worst stretch of road I have had the misfortune of bicycling on yet. In some places there was a decent shoulder but in others the shoulder was all torn up or nonexistent. The road was winding and to make matters worse you were bounded by either a rock face or a 500' drop to the river below. All the while the trucks would be flying by inches from my elbow.
From Golden there is a steep climb and then the road climbs intermittently for 20 km to Yoho National Park. Most of the climbs were in the 6% range but the last one is ~3.5 km long and is a 8% grade. I did get to fly down some good hills but even those were made unpleasant by the poor road conditions. The whole time I could see that black cloud with its sheets of rain chasing me.
After 20 km or so I entered Yoho National Park and lost the rain cloud. Here the road was mostly level with a nice large shoulder. This has to be my favorite parks so far, the mountains are spectacular and you cycle along a glacial green river for much of the journey. Unfortunately, even with the level road I was not given a break from my toil. The whole time I was in the park was spent fighting a brutal headwind that came rushing down the valleys to beat itself against by body and bike. Every single meter was a battle, grinding against the gears to crawl into the wind. I find that the wind is even worse than hills because at least with hills you know sooner or later you will reach the top and get to coast down, with the wind you never know if it will lighten up at all. To make matters even more frustrating, every once in a while it would start to rain so I would put on my rain-pants, boots and gloves but then it would stop raining and I would start to overheat and have to take them all off. Then a while later it would start to rain again and I would have to do it all over again. I can't take the risk of getting wet, with the wind-chill causing subzero temperatures and some distance to go, wet feet and knees would be murder so I just had to play mother natures game. I did reach an interesting state of mind that day though. The wind would be gusting and howling around me and I would be screaming back at it, howling like a banshee myself. Shouting, yelling, taunting the wind to do its worst, that I have come too far and gone through too much to be beaten or cowed now. Toss me the worst that you can mother nature, I'll kick your ass. With this attitude I forced my way into field around 8:00 with burning legs and a hoarse throat but with a triumphant feeling that I had persevered and fought my way through.
I arrived in town absolutely starving. I had no desire to cook and was craving a large, hot meal. Now you must understand that Field is a railway station town, I would guess that the population is 200 souls tops, and so when I was referred to the General Store for dinner I was not expecting much. To my astonishment and delight I discovered that it contained a quaint little restaurant called Truffle Pigs and I was served the BEST meal I have ever eaten in my entire life. Even in factoring in that I was absolutely starving they still beat out the meals I have had in the best restaurants in Vancouver and Montreal. If you ever pass by Field I would say that you have to stop in to try the food. The café is run by Sean (Chef), Jeni (Baker), and Michelle (Waitress extraordinaire). All ingredients are fresh and prepared on site. I had their special of the day and will have to e-mail them for the full description but essentially it was fresh pasta sautéed in white wine and spices, topped with a tomato based sauce and fresh cooked spiced sausage. It was absolutely outstanding, a real diamond in the rough. Apparently the local resorts and hotels even send their guests here to eat! If you are interested in contacting them, they can be reached at email@example.com.
After the fantastic meal I went in search of a place to pitch my tent. The first person I talked to suggested the local churchyard and so that is where I set up camp. I can't express in works the majesty of my surrounding that night. Field is surrounded on three sides by three massive mountains and I was camped right at the base of them all. The night was cool with temperatures close to freezing but I stood around a fire in a barbecue pit and chatted with the woman next door until late in the night. In the morning I awoke to an awe inspiring site, the rising sun was behind Mount Stephen, highlighting the mountain with a golden aura and turning the wisps of clouds at the peak into a blazing white halo. With that site impressed in my mind's eye and my spirit soaring, I packed up my gear and continued on my way.
During Day 15 I crossed into Alberta so I will post it in the Alberta section.
First and foremost in my mind is the realization that you really can not train for an undertaking of this magnitude. When training I just did not load 50 lbs of gear on my bike and ride for 7 hours up and down every hill I could find. The best I could hope for was to have a good baseline conditioning so that I did not seriously hurt myself while I quickly got into touring shape. Although it was really hard initially, after a week on the road my legs were in shape and my appetite had grown large enough to provide enough fuel for my activities. My biggest advice would have to be DON'T LEAVE WITH A DEADLINE. You need time for rest, breakdowns (bike and/or body), and sightseeing. Having a deadline made it feel more like work than a vacation. All in all, British Columbia was an absolutely gorgeous trip, a fantastic adventure, and likely the most difficult portion of my cross-Canada trek.
(Here is a note written after I have completed
the trip. I was wrong, you can and SHOULD train better for a trip like
this. It will help you a great deal in avoiding some of the problems that
I hit and make climbing the hills a great deal easier. See day 60 for
a story about someone who trained properly and what he was able to do
because of it.)