Wednesday, 30 September 2009

On my return, bits I left out and bits that came out (of me and Leonardo)

My flight back was relatively uneventful aside from a bit of turbulence and my seat mate. She was a older Jewish woman from the suburban Montreal municipality next to one I work in. I was surprised to learn that despite the fact that she enjoys the right to be a member of "my" Library for no charge (something coveted by a great many people) she had yet to darken the door of the institution. I encouraged her to do so, as the objective fact is that it is a very good library for Quebec.

I say for Quebec, as this province has a lot to learn about about making good public libraries commonplace. All through B.C. and Alberta, I used public libraries to make updates to this blog. The hours were good and the service very welcoming given that I was a random, somewhat sweaty and breathless stranger on a bike! The one in Nanton, Alberta had a "large type" keyboard and trackball available for those who needed it.To avoid alarming the Maternal Unit, I left a few things out of my blog entries. One of which was about the only unpleasant encounter I had on the trip. Shortly after I turned out the light for the night in Fort MacLeod there was a somewhat imperious knocking at my door. When I answered the door, there was a younger (about 20, possibly younger given that he was driving a fake wood paneled station wagon (i.e. his mom's)) man in wannabe hip-hop garb (he was white) wanting to know "Where was he?" as I obviously wasn't the person (or persons) he was looking for. I informed him that I had no idea who or what he was talking about and that I had only arrived and rented the room that afternoon. He left without any further incident but once he had, I moved Leonardo inside my room as there was something a little off about the guy and his presumably drug-related desires.

Another thing I left out was that in the evening of the day I was at Ainsworth Hot Springs, I was relaxing in the bath when I examined one of the very minor wounds I got on the Myra Canyon day. I picked a bit at one in my leg and removed a bit of wood from it. This showed to me that bits of wood were still in me, so I applied gentle force to a wound on my chest that had been nagging me. I was quite surprised when a large splinter easily popped out.
It had been six days since the accident! One could argue that this proves the healing effect of the Hot Spring!

The two days featuring significant rail trail portions, also saw a lot of dust and/or mud building up on my legs. This is one of the more illustrative of the pictures.
Leonardo suffered a flat tire (the second in over 7000 kilometers, so no worries) on the trip. When I took him out of the lock up at the hostel in Fernie, his front tire was flat. Upon examination, there was a piece of what appeared to be wire from a steel belt of a car tire embedded in the tire. I removed it and replaced in the inner tube. In hindsight, I think I heard and ignored a warning sound the day. I had heard a regular, speed related thud. A few days later, I heard a similar sound and when I investigated found a largish piece of tire wire embedded in my front tire. This piece was long enough to hit the fender every time it went around. Had I left it, it might well have snapped off, leaving an inner tube puncturing bit to work its way inward. When I have the time, I am going to carefully inspect the tires and remove any bits of debris I find. When I was doing a mid-trip inspection of the tires, I was a little bit shocked at all the dents and bits of embedded sand, etc.

I also suspect that some (or all of) the gears on Leonardo need to be replaced. There is often a noise when in the middle front gear that doesn't sound right. Given the relatively intense use he has seen, this isn't that surprising.

As well, the wiring on the bike computer is iffy. Luckily, I have a spare set of that, so it will be very easy to solve the problem.

Apart from that, Leonardo seems to have arrived safely, but I haven't checked the wheels to see if they good whacked out of true during the trip. The box Greyhound sold me was a bit big so there was the potential for shake damage.

Some pictures of the trip are up on my Picasa site. Most are under "Across the Rockies by bike" but some are under "Edward David." I will leave you to guess which ones.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

On leaving Alberta

Well, I got up early, biked to the edge of Calgary and took the C-Train downtown, with very little trouble. However, when I got downtown, the train stopped unexpectedly before its normal terminus. Apparently, the city centre section is closed this weekend for maintenance. Because I was unaware of this, I went back one station before I could get off. I looked around for a useful exit for someone with a bike for a minute or two before another C-train arrived heading in the right direction. Knowing that the next (last) station had a bike-friendly exit, I hopped on that C-train.
From there, I made my way to MEC where I zipped in to buy a duffle bag, then went to the bus station where I bought a bike box, then retired to a quiet corner to calmly disassemble and pack Leonardo, as well as sort luggage into flight mode.

I am now at a computer in the UPS store having checked Leonardo and my new duffle in at the Air Canada. Part of me can't quite believe it is all over now. In a few hours, I will be back home. But I have biked across the Rockies! How many people can say they have done that?

Friday, 25 September 2009

On being blasted North

I got off to a fairly good start today. It was very calm as I left Fort MacLeod, but after Claresholm the wind picked up and unexpectedly, but very enjoyably, it was from the South, rather than the West. I have been bombing along Highway 2 at high speed.
Avro Canada CF-100 Mk. 3

I had planned to stop in Nanton as there is an air museum complete with an Avro Lancaster you can go inside. However, I had expected to get there a little after lunch, sometime well after 1 PM. Instead, I got to Nanton before noon, 80 odd kilometers worth at an average speed of 28 km/h!!!!
The air museum was very good and had a surprisingly large collection of aircraft. Labour of love and all that.
The highway has at least two design of rumble strip. One is the relatively typical design.
Standard rumble strip

The other is relatively wider but shallower. This last one is much less of a bother for bikes. I refer to it as a "mumble strip" rather than a rumble strip! (Not that I am complaining!)
"Mumble strip"

I am wondering if the Calgary C-Train might a good way to get Downtown with greater ease. While the purists might scoff, the clever will see the advantage of not having to navigate city streets with a loaded bike and mild time constraints. Ah well, back in the saddle time.

Addendum.

The C-Train does take bikes without issue on Saturdays. Furthermore, there are useful stations both on the Southern edge of Calgary and very near the MEC. Unfortunately, the MEC is low on the size and colour of duffle bag I want to get! I have already got some duct tape for the bike box. I have just checked in for my flight, and I think I have got a pretty good seat. At least, Seatguru.com thinks so.

It is only just striking me that tomorrow is the last day of my trip. It has been a hell of ride, with any number of "Bring me that horizon" moments. If tomorrow is anything today, this trip will have ended on a very high note. Sometimes on this trip I have had moments when I have been so out of myself, that I suddenly "realize" that "Hey, Bikemoose is doing this! This is me!!!" To be honest, I don't know if that is a good or bad thing!
"Bring me that horizon"

Many thanks to all those who helped make this trip possible.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

On blowing into Alberta

Well, I'm now in Fort MacLeod and back on schedule. A good thing too as Greyhound Buses aren't for bikes it seems. I left B.C. yesterday via the Crowsnest Pass. In Sparwood, I stopped to look at the world's largest truck. It went into service in 1974 with a 350 ton capacity. Apparently, that size was too big and it remained a one-off and was used until the cost of replacement parts got the better of the economics.
In the last few days in B.C., I fell into a couple of road games. One was counting how many vehicles were stuck behind an RV. I got to 14! Another was smelling the pine logs on the backs of logging trucks.
Crowsnest Pass was the easiest pass I have encountered on this trip. Getting up to the Frank Slide interpretative centre was harder. As I entered Alberta, I gained a powerful tailwind, that if it wasn't a Chinook, then it was a first cousin. Generally out of the West, it has blown, if not blasted me along the roads, and allowed me to catch up with my schedule. Rather than stay in Coleman as was my plan, the wind blew me on to Pincher Creek where I spent the night.
This morning I made the relative mistake of taking secondary highway 785 to Head-smashed-in UNESCO heritage site. This turned into fairly loose gravel that resulted in my bike skidding a lot. I once slid out and had to use my hand to stop my fall. Fortunately, no damage was done, either to myself or my bike. In spite of and dangerously because of the gravel, on one downhill section, between gravity and the tailwind, I found I was nearing 50 km/h which was too fast given the treacherous surface.

The pavement returned near Head-smashed-in. While it was possibly s mistake to use that route, it did give me an idea of secondary road conditions in Alberta. I'd had the notion that it might be possible to shadow highways using the plentiful secondary roads of the Prairies. Given my experience today, I don't think my idea was a very good one.
Head-smashed-in. Not a great place for bison

Head-smashed-in was interesting, but I don't think I can really describe it. There is something a little spooky about it, and what it represents. While it has been used since about 6000 years ago, there is also a strange, lengthy (1000+ years) period when it wasn't in use.

Leaving the historic site, I was again blasted along the (paved) road by the wind for 16 kilometers at speeds in excess of 30 km/h for the whole way! There is a very good reason to bike with the wind in the Prairies! Part of me is quite eager to come back and continue the Trans-Canada project!

It has been quite hot in Alberta. As my arm has mostly healed, I wore a short-sleeved biking jersey today for the first time since my mishap in the Myra Canyon. Yesterday and today, I made a point of washing my biking clothes immediately after getting into my motel room in order to take advantage of the blow-dryer wind. Tomorrow is supposed to be much cooler.
In Fort MacLeod, I went into the reconstruction of the original NWMP detachment which was essentially an RCMP museum, but a fairly good one. The video of the great march of the NWMP from Manitoba to here rather gives the impression that the commanders of the original NWMP were "Englishmen" rather in the mold of Franklin and co. Luckily, the Southern Prairies in summer aren't as harsh as the Northwest Passage!

I turn North tomorrow for High River. Calgary and my flight to Montreal on the following.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On a busy few days

Well, as previously mentioned, I didn't do the Gray Creek Pass. Consequently, I took Hwy 3A South along the shores of Kootaney Lake. That road has seen some landslides and the road surface bears a surprising number of scars from it. They ain't kidding in B.C. with their Look out for Falling rocks signs.The latter put me in mind of one of Granny's silly stories that featured the origin of said signs. Why do I mention it? Well, the only other time I was in the area was during the road trip from Calgary to Vancouver I went on with Granny, Granpa, Mummy and my brother Philip when I was 10. While I am currently off the route we took (I'm in Fernie now), the previous several day took me through Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs, the Kootaney Ferry...
Waiting for the Kootaney Ferry
...Creston and Cranbrook, all of which I went through. Furthermore, ads for Fort Steele heritage town and Radium Hot Springs were all over the place in Cranbrook, which were other places I went to on that trip. For the most part, I didn't actually see that many places that I actually remembered, but a lot seemed somewhat familiar. The Arrow Lakes and Kootaney Lakes were also weird as they reminded me of landscapes that often occur in my dreams. It makes me wonder if the dreamscapes were derived from buried memory.

Sunday was a very long day, made longer by confusion over the time. My map indicated that Mountain time stared when you crossed Kootaney Lake. This proved to be false. It turns out there is a strip of B.C. that never changes time, and moves from Pacific to Mountain time with the seasons. Instead of starting at 7:30 as I had thought I was, I was in fact leaving at 6:30! It was only after that I left Yahk, that I changed time zones.

I spent Sunday night in Yahk at the Moon River Lodge. I didn't seen any sign of association with Audrey Hepburn, Henry Mancini or Tiffany's. I made my own supper for the first time this trip. Luckily, I had planned for this eventuality, but the results were only nourishing, not gourmet.

It was quite chilly on Monday morning. For a while I felt little a bit of a wimp for wearing both a merino jersey and the soft shell that Margo and Chris gave me. Then I saw that there was frost on the ground in shaded areas! For the last few days it has been brilliantly sunny, but often very cool in the mornings. On Tuesday morning, I threw fashion to the wind and biked in my wool socks until lunchtime.

A little past Moyie Lake, I first saw something tan-coloured, possibly a deer, crossing the road ahead of me. Then as I got nearer I saw that it was a predatory animal. I looked ever more closely, anxious about whether it was a cougar i.e. potential trouble, but way cool! The creature turned out to be a good-sized wild canine. I couldn't get a great handle on its size as it was in an area of sun and shade. I think it was probably a coyote, but might have been a wolf. It was a tan colour and seemed fairly bold yet retiring. It was also, apparently, alone which makes it more likely to have been a coyote which are more solitary than wolves.
I stayed at the Mount Baker Heritage Hotel in Cranbrook. This is a town center hotel from the old days that has been renovated and has very reasonable prices. Unfortunately, it has kept the bar on the ground floor. The owners/operators appear to be an Asian family that don't appear to have quite grasped the opportunity they possess. The hotel could be very attractive, but they really need to do something about keeping the noise of gunk music from the bar out of the rooms. The facilities were very good, the price was very reasonable and the location away from Cranbrook's strip was great. However the music kept me awake. If you do stay, ask for a room on the top floor.
In Cranbrook, I spent an agreeable couple of hours at the Canadian Museum of Rail Trail which concentrates on restoring historic passenger cars. These included a couple from the 1930's Royal Visit to Canada, one of which was also used at various times by Churchill and JFK, before being sold to a circus!

Near the end of the tour of the cars, one of the other people on the tour asked for a suggestion of a restaurant in town. The guide suggested Heidi's as it that catered museum functions. I had seen it on my way to the museum from my hotel. As the name suggests, it featured Central European (Austrian mainly) dishes. While it was a bit on the expensive side, I figured you only live once. Also, the previous night's meal had been third rate. I had a flash on Monty Python's Bavarian restaurant sketch from one of the German episodes when I couldn't pronounce "Geschnetzeltes," the name of the dish I wanted! Luckily, neither could the waiter! It consisted of beef slices in a mushroom sauce over spätzle which are basically lump-shaped flour and egg noodles. I have often made them myself, but not for a couple of years. However, these ones were much better than my efforts and were utterly delicious. Combined with some B.C. wine and some sublime apple strudel, the meal led me to waft happily back to the Hotel.
Biking today was very nice. I zoomed along and got to Fernie by 3 PM, despite starting quite late and stopping to take a number of photographs, especially between Elko and Fernie. I eventually put my camera in a jersey pocket to make it more accessible. My speed was particularly surprising as I have apparently gained 500 m from Cranbrook despite the fact that today seemed mostly down hill. I guess the South wind helped me from Elko to here. Good news for tomorrow as the Crowsnest Pass is only about 300 m higher than Fernie!
Fernie is an odd place. The place seems very quiet, but friendly. There are a lot of bikes (mountain mostly) in use which of course is very good. The HI Hostel seems rather empty as well as being in the midst of renovations. I spoke to one of the staff who confirmed my suspicion that the place is most heavily used in the ski season.

I am not sure how I will compensate for having lost a day by not taking the Gray Creek Pass. I have been working on a number of ideas, but frankly, I think I am going to wait until tomorrow when I can hit the Alberta tourism info booth in Crowsnest. Plan A is to take a bus from Fort McLeod to Calgary on Saturday, and spend some time in Calgary. However there are other possibilities. Anyway, it is time to end this blog entry for now.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

On failure to make the pass

I had planned to take the Gray Creek Pass this morning, but I was turned back by two factors. One was that the road was closed because two bridges were being replaced. The other was that a cold, hard rain began to fall. I am now in Creston at an outdoor internet kiosk. Got to ride.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

On Nelson, B.C.

Well, unlike Hope, B.C., Nelson is much more open about it's movie heritage, viz, Steve Martin's Roxanne, with a number of references and murals around town. After all, Roxanne is much more P.C. than First Blood.

Nelson is also hot spot for "misfits" from around. I was surprised to here a lot of Quebec French spoken around town by young people including a squad of dreadlocked ne'er-do-wells. There are many signs of new age-y silliness including a raw food restaurant. Maybe there was the same in Kelowna but here in Nelson, it is all on Baker Street, in one obvious place.

There is a "fat tire bike festival" happening this weekend. I believe this refers to mountain bikes or possibly more extreme forms of bikes.

I seem to have fallen into a relative river of cycle-tourists in the last day or so. Yesterday, there were two heavily laden touring bikes outside the restaurant I had supper in. Today, I past a laden tourer going the other way. We waved and kept on going on the good road.

In Nelson, I hit one bike shop for intel about the Gray Creek to Cranbrook Forestry Service Road. In the process I found the bike sticker I had been looking for: something that symbolized B.C. without actually saying "B.C." It is a native depiction of a raven in red.

While I was about to enter another bike shop, I ended up in a conversation with another DeVinci riding cycle-tourist who turned out to be staying not only in the same hostel but also the same room! As we are traveling in roughly opposite directions, we swapped information about road conditions and the like.

At supper in an Indian restaurant, I fell into a conversation with the couple at the next table. I don't remember where he came from but she was from Quebec. We chatted a bit in French. She complimented me on my lack of an accent, before I used an anglicism, or possibly an anglo turn of phrase. People are really quite friendly here.
Oh, for Mummy's note, I saw an old Triumph convertible here in Nelson.

Ainsworth Hot Springs tomorrow!!!!!

Insane climb and descent followed by long logging road the day after.

Friday, 18 September 2009

On yesterday, and the day before, and today

Well, I technically started before 9 yesterday, but as I walked out of the motel office in Christina Lake, there was a heavy downpour that seemed like it wouldn't last long, so I waited it out under the eaves of the motel. After getting some sausage rolls and cookies for lunch, I had to wait 10 minutes for the local bike shop to open so I could get the most accurate information about the status of the Trans Canada Trail into Castlegar.
The upshot of this intel was that I took the Highway up (20+ kms worth of up) to about Paulson before getting on the Columbia and Western Rail Trail. The rain had brought with it cooler weather which was a very good thing, given the long climb of the morning. As I left Christina Lake, I passed some road works in progress. When I got to the far end of the site, the flagman asked me if I had seen the two vehicles involved and whether they were off the road yet. Apparently, communication within the unit was not their forte.

A few kilometers along the TCT, I came across Amity, a long distance hiker from Colorado going the other way. We were both relative novelties to each other as long-distance types have been relatively few and far between. Apparently, I was one of the first she had seen since starting in Cranbrook. We exchanged information about trail conditions and went our separate ways.
For the most part, excepting the ATVs, the C&W was in very good shape for bikes and had spectacular views and tunnels.
However, about the last 6 kms or so featured relatively unpleasant large but rounded gravel which was very bumpy. This came to an end about 1 km before a large dam at the lower end of the Lower Arrow Lake, when rails suddenly appeared. At the end of the trail, I came face to face with some actual railway cars! Unfortunately, after taking some pictures, I discovered that my homemade guidebook had fallen out of my map case. I went back a short-ish distance to see if two women walking their dogs had found it. They hadn't. I have since reprinted portions of the guide from my electronic backup memory stick, but I have lost the mileages I wrote down. Memo to self for the future: keep maps and guide data separate.

Shortly after making my previous post in Greenwood, I took the Phoenix road through the ghost town of Phoenix. This reduce the number of kilometers but increased the time as it was a very tough climb up to the town site. Unfortunately, while the town had been abandoned around 1920, the mine had been worked in the 1960's and 1970's using open pit techniques which effective destroyed what was left of the town, except for a cenotaph and a cemetery. Still it was very pretty.
This is heaven for a cyclist
From the point I rejoined Highway 3 to Grand Forks, there is a stretch of highway that is a cyclist's wet dream. I am not sure of the precise length, but it is on the order 10 to 15 km. It was a long steady, smooth and gently curving downhill that saw 40+ km/h occurring for extended periods. It was sunny and glorious.

In Grand Forks, I had a late-ish lunch at a Russian restaurant. The restaurant was in an old hotel that had seen better days and operated on a cash only basis. The other half of the ground floor was occupied by a dodgy-looking bar. Still, what the place lacked in decor, it made for with the food.

After lunch, I biked the short distance to Christina Lake where the motel receptionist was extremely helpful in all things.

Today is a rest day as I am only going to Nelson which something like 45 km from here in Castlegar. A good thing too given the time I am posting this (a little after noon). ;-)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

On biking against the wind

Owing to the non-communicative status of the Beaverdell Hotel, I opted to go farther (to Rock Creek) than originally planned yesterday. 135 km instead of 85 km. This has made my carefully printed guide book out of whack from here to Castlegar, possibly even Nelson, as I am now about half a day ahead of schedule.

The weather has been superb on the whole with lots of sunshine, low humidity (so sweating works) as well as reasonably warm temperatures. I have stopped using garbage bags to line my panniers for the time being (though I have kept them). Unfortunately, yesterday saw a persistent South wind that I was biking against for most of the day. It wasn't very strong, but enough that I am quite sure it added a good hour of biking time as I just couldn't get up to normal cruising speed despite the relatively favourable road.

Rebbecca and Paul were extremely welcoming and helpful. I got all kinds of advice from Paul as well a couple of biking tools. I also swapped a couple of my smaller water bottles for some slightly larger ones. Paul had cautioned me about the lack of a shoulder near the top of the pass out of Kelowna on Highway 33. However, it seemed to me that there had recently been added a shoulder in the winding section so all was good. Incidentally, I was amused when a loaded logging truck gave me a "shave and haircut" honk as it chugged up behind me in that section.
Purely by chance, I stopped by the side of the road to answer a call of nature, when I realised that there were some grouse displaying to each other in the bushes! I went back to my bike to grab my camera and snap a picture or two.

The biking is going very well today, and I made Greenwood in record time from Rock Creek.

Monday, 14 September 2009

On folly, pride and a fall

I made the mistake of riding on the KVR from Penticton to Chute Lake. The surface was terrible, mostly loose and sandy, with a fair number of rocks. It was quite brutal mentally as I had to be continuously on my guard about where I should go. I could only make about 10 km/h and had to stop to eat or drink as I needed both hands at all times. At one point in particular, I should have switched to the Chute Lake Forestry Service Road, but I was too stubborn/proud and/or optimistic that the trail would soon improve.There were, however, grapevines to look at...
...as well as Lake Okanagan

Chute Lake was another disappointment as the lunch I had hoped for had gone with the staff at the lodge. (Apparently, the kitchen staff had quit unexpectedly leaving the owner/manager in the lurch.) I made do with rhubarb pie à la mode and a couple of cans of Coke plus half of the bar of Swiss chocolate.
The road surface improved a bit after Chute Lake, but it still wasn't very good. I was stopped by an older man in a pickup truck who wanted to know if I had seen a woman on a bike with a trailer. I hadn't. However, about a half hour later I met a woman answering that description. I inquired if she was the one being sought and if so, that she was being sought. It turned out she was. I also pumped her for trail surface conditions up ahead. She said that they did improve after the next Forestry Service Road (FSR). As I was well behind my planned timing, I was wondering if I should opt out of the Myra Canyon section and head to Kelowna early. She indicated that the Myra Canyon section was worth it.
The trail surface improved dramatically, so I was able to make my revised cut-off time. This despite being held up by some cattle on the KVR. There were four branded black cattle on the trail that wouldn't let me by and instead headed further up the trail. I ended up driving them on for about a kilometer before I could pass. As there was a cow and a calf, I was a little worried that they might turn on me. There were signs warning about bears in the area. As they were black and close in size to a bear, I had a moment of worry when I first spotted them before making the correct species identification.
The Myra Canyon section was indeed beautiful as being well-maintained and features lots of signs explaining what everything was.
The mishap happened at left of this picture

This last caused my downfall as near the end of the section, I was momentarily distracted by one of them just as I got onto a trestle. As bikes and people are smaller than trains, only a central portion of the trestle (width-wise) had nice boards. The edges were sleepers, set at about the historic distance. I veered off the central portion, down 2 inches onto the utterly bike-unfriendly sleepers and over onto the solid cedar railing at a good speed. My right arm and my right breast took most of the blow with my right leg picking up some of it. Or should I say scrapes and cedar splinters as there is now a good size patch of road rash on my right forearm and the signs of many splinters removed from chest and leg.
Shirt damage
Rather stunned, I walked the bike to the end of the trestle in search of a bench to sit down on. I flagged down the first cyclists I saw for help. Glen and Isabel (the cyclists) produced a first aid kit while I pulled my shirt off. We swabbed down the afflicted areas with disinfectant and pulled out some of the bigger splinters. As I recovered from my shock, Glen and I chatted about bikes for a few minutes. Having caught my breath, I thanked them profusely and headed off to Rebecca and Paul's house in Kelowna.

I arrived very much later than originally anticipated but luckily just before Paul had to go to pick up Rebecca at the airport. I was warmly greeted at their unconventionally kept house. Rebecca had been away for about a week and things were a bit chaotic. However, it was a warm chaos. Paul, who is an avid cyclist, has been particularly helpful both with the bike and dealing with my injuries.
In other news, it seems that Alice and Mark will be getting married in Norris Point, Newfoundland, next June. This throws a bit of a spanner in the spokes of my planning as I had been thinking of biking from York to Campbeltown at about that time. I guess I might just bike from Deer Lake to St-John's instead! Possibly with a detour to St-Pierre et Miquelon.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

On the kindness of strangers, or in Rod we trust

The day began well enough as I pedaled up out of Princeton along the Princeton-Summerland road, the back way between the two said communities but also the extremely scenic route, passing through ranch land. I saw two groups of mule deer, 8 in total. This route paralleled the KVR and indeed crossed it a few times. I tried it for a bit before giving up on the loose sand.
The heat of the day wasn't in full force for much of the time and I had lunch at the Teepee Lakes resort in relatively cool weather. The lady managing the place asked me if I had known the place was there. I confessed that I hadn't but that I had been hoping that there would be somewhere I could buy something cold to drink. (I had bought a sandwich on my way out of Princeton.) She commented that it was a sign that the owners needed to do a bit more advertising!!!

Shortly after lunch, the road turned to manageable dirt, and came into more sparsely populated territory. At around 80 km from Princeton, I was pedaling up a grade when something went in my drivetrain. Cursing, I stopped to try to fix the problem, only to discover that my chain had parted at the link! A quick examination of the chain told me that I couldn't fix the problem. I was pretty sure I was out of cell range and didn't really know where to call anyway. Consequently, I started walking towards Summerland. A minute or two later, a pickup came along from Summerland which I flagged down. While he wasn't going in my direction, Rod (the driver) very kindly drove me the remaining 10 odd km into Summerland, where he left me in search of a bike shop. There wasn't one, so I coasted out of town towards Penticton, where I was assured of finding one. I coasted out as I figured I would have more luck hitch-hiking out of town than in. Also, Summerland is only about 10 km from Penticton and one of my fallback plans was to walk to Penticton before 5 PM. (It was 3ish.) After about 10-15 minutes, a young German-speaking Swiss couple picked me up in their RV. They drove into Penticton and to Freedom the Bike Shop. I never caught their names, but they turned down my offer a beer on me and gave me a Swiss chocolate bar!!! Here's to Rod and the Swiss couple. The subtitle of this blog entry was suggested by Rod.
The oddly named bike shop very kindly, and swiftly replaced the link and sold me a reserve replacement link. They only charged me for the reserve link which was very good of them. Then again, they were DeVinci bike dealers. ;-)

The bike shop was only a block away from my youth hostel. Unfortunately, the office only opened at 5 PM and it was about 4 PM. I walked my bike to a nearby coffee shop to wait. Before I entered the shop, I was accosted by a man wanting to know about my touring bike. He was in the process of planning a bike trip in Australia and was wondering about what bike to acquire. I gave my opinion that DeVinci touring bikes were pretty good (I don't think I mentioned the broken chain and anyway, it could have been a defective replacement chain) but cautioned that my aunt Margo and uncle Chris while owning DeVinci touring bike had opted for Surly Long-Haul Truckers for their Bangkok to Europe trip. We chatted for a bit, before I went in to find some cool liquid refreshment.

I am sharing a room in the hostel with a young German from Hamburg, who is here in search of a job and an older, possibly retired, expatriate Englishman. When I told him I was bike touring, we fell to chatting about it as he had ridden from BC to Kenora on a mountain bike, camping every 50 miles or so. He had to quit in Kenora as his hip had given out on him.

I am rather tired, so I am looking forward to getting to Kelowna and the Tysons for a good rest. With luck, I will be able to go a day without biking as my legs are rather sore.

Friday, 11 September 2009

On the ups and downs of biking in BC

The optimism inherent in the end of my last post was excessive. It absolutely poured the rest of the way to Hope. I quickly found the tourist information office and had them check if my landlady was there to received me. The Misty Mountain B&B is located at short distance from the town center, and I didn't wish to bike out there to find that no one was home. If not, I would have holed up somewhere in dry clothes over a hot chocolate or the like. Luckily she was there, so I biked off to be greeted by her friendly golden retriever and then by herself. She is a very warm lady and was extraordinarily kind, doing a load of laundry for me and driving me to a restaurant for supper as it was still pissing down.
By the next morning the rain had stopped. However, the sun still had some ways to go before it got through the remaining clouds of mist. This being the case, I stayed in town for the morning (it was scheduled as a rest day) where I saw the start of the Hope Brigade Days in the form of some people starting work on their chainsaw cravings. (Hope bills itself as the chainsaw carving capital.) It was quite impressive to watch.
Lunch was in the Blue Moose coffee shop. I had to laugh when I saw that the t-shirts that they had on sale were made by Hatley Designs for them!!!
After lunch, I biked up to the very impressive Othello tunnels built to get the Kettle Valley railway through an extreme impressive gorge. The river had carved an extremely narrow and sheer gorge that twisted through the solid rock. This was the shooting location of one of the more spectacular scenes from "First Blood" which was shot in Hope. They are rather proud of the fact. The landlady lent me her copy of the DVD to watch last night.
From the Othello tunnels, I biked up to Hope Slide. This was more of a slog than I had anticipated. The sight of transport trucks crawling up the hill was one thing. The sight of transport trucks crawling down the hill was quite another. For a while I was concerned that I found it so tough going. "Am I that much out of shape?" was a question that went through my mind. However, I have found that I am having increasing trouble judging just how steep a hill is. When I got to the top, I was relieved to see that the top of the slide was 720+/- meters above sea-level. Hope is only at 40 or so! This discovery cemented the plan I had been working on for today.

After zooming down the hill at ear popping speeds, I inquired if there was a taxi that would be willing to drive me and my bike up to Hope Slide the following morning. Wimp solution? Possibly, but it is 130 km from Hope to Princeton and there are two other passes of approximately 1200 m elevation each.

Not to mention lots of annoying other hills. At times I wonder if the BC ministry of transport could learn something from Portugal as well as Col. Edmund of White Mountain trail fame. My least favourite road annoyance is a dip down into a side valley followed by a slog up out of it.

The taxi driver turned out to be someone who had done a certain amount of cycle-touring in his youth. He was knowledgeably impressive with my DeVinci, comparing it to a Surly. He commented that he gave bike-touring up when he had kids. I cited Margo and Chris as an example of the fact that you can do again after the kids have grown up. He agreed with the idea, though I gather his wife is not well, which could play a factor in his hobbies.
Today and yesterday have been very sunny and warm. However, today I was often struck by sudden hits of cool air as I went through shady areas of forest. Less so since I came down from Manning Park. There have been rumours that the temperature will hit 30 tomorrow. As I went through both my main bottles (total ca. 1.3 L) twice and my reserve bottle (.5 L) once, I think I am going to get an ordinary bottle of water as an additional reserve. Tomorrow promises to be a low-level slog with few towns.
I was last in Manning park when I was 10. For some reason, a number of places I remembered were on the other side of road from what I expected.I broke my speed record from Newfoundland coming down from Manning Park at 71.2 kph. This was a bit too fast for my liking as the road was fairly winding. A couple of times, I had to brake to get below the recommended speed limit for some of the curves. As well, on some of the curves, I carefully pulled out in to the road to give myself more room to maneuver. Also, the shoulders of the road in some places aren't up to the normal BC standards. Thankfully, the traffic was light and understanding.

Coasting down into Princeton, I easily found the Villager Inn Motel. The manager was sitting outside the front door and made me welcome, despite my lack of a reservation. The price was right and they have the free internet which is making this post possible. Time to check the weather.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

On getting wet

Well, I am in the public library in Agassiz, BC. I have stopped here for lunch and a bit of relief from the weather. It has been raining off and on at various intensities all day, but it looks like it will be clearing in the afternoon. The next three or four days should be very nice, so it is a small price to pay.

Louise saw me off from Margo and Chris'. From there, I made my way via bike routes across Vancouver, getting slightly lost in New Westminster. Leonardo wasn't working quite as well as I felt he should, so I brought him in to Cap's Bicycle shop where I bought him in Sapperton. The front brakes were diagnosed as being out of alignment, so I left him in their care while I went to find some lunch at Greens and Beans which one of the people at Cap's had recommended. Less than an hour later, Leonardo was much improved and I headed off to Surrey and beyond with Sarah McLachlan's Building a mystery in my head.

This included Fort Langley where Louise had recommended a gelato place. It had very good gelato indeed. I was tempted to skip the National Historic Site, until I realised that my legs were protesting a mite. I wisely decided to give the place a whirl and spent a surprisingly interesting couple of hours at what was labeled the birthplace of British Columbia.

I had sort of planned to cross the Fraser on the Albion Ferry from Fort Langley, but alas, it no longer runs as they just opened a new bridge several kilometers to the West. My revised plan was to cross at Mission. After zooming along the edge of the Fraser, I turned inland along some some surprisingly badly laid out farm roads which included an incredibly and surprisingly long and steep hill.

Crossing the bridge to Mission was no fun at all as I was in with a substantial amount of automotive traffic that seemed much less polite than BC traffic usually is. As I was coming into Mission proper, I suddenly became aware than my chest was hurting: it felt as if my ribs were caved in. I was worried that I might be seriously ill or something, so I stopped at a gas station to catch my breath and to find out where my motel was. After five minutes and a bottle of orange juice, the pain went away. I think the issue was that I was scared without having realised it.

This morning I set off with Stan Roger's McDonnell on the heights running in my head, likely due to my reading Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Waterloo the night before. I stopped mid-morning at a gas station for some hot chocolate. As I sipped it, a suspiciously well-dressed man got out of a car wielding a brace of magazines and asked me if I wanted something to read. I turned down the offer of Watchtower and Awake. As I rode along a few minutes later, I pondered why Jehovah's Witnesses offend me so. I first thought by devoting so much attention to the text of the Bible they were ignoring or even denying Christ's fundamental message. Then I realised by their assertion of the literal truth of the Bible, they were denying the Bible it's historical and social context. Thus, they deny the very things they claim to believe in! At that point, Stan Roger's Pharisee began to seep into my brain.

I was spared further contemplation of this silliness by the sight of a bald eagle, followed closely by an osprey and a raven.
The views are "typically" super, natural British Columbia. I wish I knew the names of some of the mountains I am seeing, especially that of the big, snow-capped one near Abbotsford. Time to get back on the bike.

Addendum:
I have been told that the big, snow-capped mountain is in fact Mount Baker in Washington State, which is quite far from Abbotsford.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

On leaving Vancouver, shortly

Well, I was just checking the weather forecast before I got dressed, and I thought a quick entry would do the trick. Yesterday, I saw Kristine, Kevin, Julianne and Elizabeth.
Julianne was delighted with her (somewhat large) biking shirt.
Elizabeth was fairly grumpy most of the time. I understand she was hungry and in need of a nap. The ladies and I walked to the Cleveland Dam to look up at Grouse Mountain and the clouds surrounding them. Actually, that is not entirely true: Julianne rode her bike in her new bike shirt.
Leaving them, I rode down the hill to the Seabus. While I was on the Seabus I noticed that I had lost a bolt and nut. While still on the ferry, I replaced them, and tightened them thoroughly along with a few other likely looking bolts. I then hit MEC for some more bolts, locking nuts and some other supplies.

I then had supper with Rosie and Cecil, an aunt and uncle from the paternal side of the family. I had been trying to figure out if Rosie had ever met Margo. The only definitive proof I could come up with was at my parents' wedding when both acted as bridesmaids! Rosie agreed with this analysis, but then Cecil thought that he remembered Margo from some party in North Hatley, which would have put the last meeting at a much later date. Such as "only" twenty years ago!

Anyway, back to work.