Journey’s End: Arrived in Vancouver

Day 59: Lake Errock, BC to Vancouver, BC (91 km)

Well, this afternoon I arrived at my final destination of Vancouver, 4855 km of biking and 59 days after leaving Toronto. Not really sure how I’m feeling about this yet… it’s a mix of relief, exhaustion, happiness, pride, etc. I’ll just write briefly about today’s ride and do a final post in a few days.

I had an early start today, and spent most of the day biking along Lougheed Highway through parts of suburban metro Vancouver that I had previously only heard of in traffic reports. Traffic was mostly pretty light actually. Once I got to the closer suburbs, I was able to use my Bike Maps app to navigate onto some nice quiet bike lanes and paths for the last couple of hours of riding.

Thea commented the other day about my “re-integration plans.” I realized that I might have gone a little feral from spending too much time in the Canadian wilderness. Typically, if a person travelling along a suburban highway is feeling hungry and needs to pee, they’d probably stop at a fast food restaurant or gas station. Instead I stopped at a roadside patch of blackberries to snack on berries and take a leak behind the bushes.

I’m going to go work on regaining my usual urban sophistication, beginning with a long shower.

It’s All Downhill From Here? (One Day to Vancouver!!)

Day 58: Manning Park, BC to Lake Errock, BC (119 km)

After yesterday’s big hill climb, my elevation profile tool told me that today would be basically all downhill. That was true, but a mega headwind made the downhill slope almost irrelevant. At one point I was in my lowest (easiest) gear straining to move downhill! These mountain valleys seem to funnel all the winds to the middle where the road is. The winds were very gusty, so I managed to make some progress when it wasn’t blowing at its hardest.

A secret view of the Fraser River from a bridge where motorists wouldn’t be able to stop

Some of the people I’ve met on this trip have seemed to be impressed with what I’m doing, but I’ve always thought that it’s something that pretty much anybody could do if they have the time and motivation. Today I met a bike tourist who seriously impressed me. He caught up with me during that headwind I just mentioned, which was amazing because he was carrying probably about three times as much weight as me, including his daughter in a trailer! At the café where I had lunch yesterday, I heard about a 61-year-old German lady who’d biked there from Halifax. Compared to those two, I’m taking it easy.

Crossing over the Harrison River — check out that green (glacial?) water!

Beyond Hope, the winds died down quite a lot. The final 50 kilometers of biking this afternoon were some of my favourite stages on this trip. Especially funny was that I was biking along the Loughheed Highway, which I’d previously only known as a major suburban arterial road filled with malls, SkyTrain stations, and busy traffic. It was cool to see a different side to it, and many incredible views that I’d somehow missed out on seeing when I last lived in Vancouver.

A different side of lougheed highway… note the mild downhill slope 🙂

Tonight I am staying at THE! Campground, a mere 100 km from Vancouver! Wednesday will be the final day of this journey, inshallah. As I write this, I now have only 60 km to go, so it’s looking even more likely that I’ll arrive tonight!

Almost There / Final Level

Day 57: Princeton, BC to Manning Park, BC (73 km)

This morning RV farts ruined my breakfast. My riverside campsite that seemed so ideally located last night was right across from the RV sewage disposal. One pulled up and started emptying its load while I was eating. I cut my breakfast short and left the campground a few minutes earlier than planned. My second attempt at breakfast, in a café in town, was a lot more enjoyable with the much more pleasant aroma of a triple americano.

The unpleasant start to my day set the scene for a difficult ride. It was like the final level in a video game that combined all the challenges from previous levels:

  • Uphill — the last major climb on my route
  • Headwinds
  • No shoulder for most of the day
  • Aggressive trucks and RVs

I really don’t think I could have handled the combination of all these back when I started this journey. Even now, it was a really tough ride. I think I’ve had about enough of all this bike riding at this point. How convenient that I’m about two days ride from Vancouver.

Sometimes when I stop to catch my breath I get distracted by the view

In the afternoon I noticed a black bear cub eating berries from a bush by the side of the road, just a few meters away from me. The cub looked pretty harmless, but I’ve heard that mama bears can be aggressive so I just kept riding along and… nothing happened. Just another scary/awesome moment on this trip.

There are four campgrounds within Manning Park, and I chose Coldspring, the one located furthest to the west, thinking it would give me a good start tomorrow. Also, with a name like Coldspring, I was expecting it to have delicious fresh spring water. A more appropriate name would be polluted spring or diseased spring, since it was under a boil water advisory. It’s been truly shocking how many places I’ve passed through (probably about 20) that don’t have clean drinking water. This is in Canada, a developed country that has 25% of the world’s fresh water! Drinking water availability could be a cause I’d like to get involved with once this trip is over. I’ve always said that I’m not doing this ride for a cause but if anybody reading this blog is feeling charitably inspired, charity: water is doing great work.

Back on the Saddle

Day 56: Okanagan Falls, BC to Princeton, BC (114 km)

Over another ample breakfast I had a good chat with my uncle Alan who had returned late last night. It was great to spend time with my aunt and uncle both of whom I had not seen for many years. But all too soon I had to say my goodbyes. (If you’re reading this, thanks again for your hospitality — I really appreciate my relaxing stay at your scenic place!). The weather forecast was calling for a high of 35 °C and I knew from yesterday’s drive around the valley that I’d have some big hills to climb at the start of the day, which is much easier to do when the temperature is less extreme.

A bicycle bridge on Lake Skaha (that I wasn’t able to use since it went in a different direction)

It always takes me awhile to get warmed up, but after taking a day off yesterday, it was especially difficult to find the motivation and physical energy to get moving. Thankfully, the uphill climb on highway 3A to Keremeos actually ended earlier than I expected. When the road started going downhill I remember thinking, “Was that all?” Maybe I’m finally getting used to these BC mountains. I stopped in Keremeos for some fresh produce from a fruit stand and had quickly devoured the lunch that my aunt had packed for me.

Highway 3 after Keremeos was very busy — possibly the most traffic I’ve seen on this whole trip? (edit: Winnipeg traffic was much worse) I noticed an alternate route along the Old Hedley Road that looked like it could save me 40 km of highway biking. After checking with a Hedley local, and a few mountain bikers I happened to meet at the start of the road, everybody agreed that it was a nice quiet street. Compared to the highway, the road surface was rougher and there were more up and downs, but I was still happy with my choice for the peaceful and quiet riding along this road that ran alongside the Similkameen River. All day long I’d been feeling slightly tired and sore but finally about halfway down Old Hedley Road I reached a point beyond tiredness where I could just keep pedaling smoothly.

Remains of the Storm

Only one problem with this side road: with my slightly slower pace, I got completely drenched by a thunderstorm just as I reached Princeton. It only lasted ten minutes, but I bet that if I’d taken the highway I could have avoided it entirely. Oh well, at least it cooled me off from the afternoon heat. A few minutes later I arrived at my campground where I thoroughly enjoyed a warm shower and a change into dry clothes.

Anarchy in the Morning; Family in the Evening

Day 54: Rock Creek, BC to Okanagan Falls, BC (106 km)

Day 55: Rest Day in Okanagan Falls, BC (0 km)           

Day 54 began with a climb up Anarchist Mountain. I heard that the mountain got its name from an anarchist who used to live on top of it. I had a pretty good time riding up since there wasn’t much traffic on the highway, and I was able to listen to music without it constantly being drowned out by passing trucks. A good soundtrack always helps with the motivation to keep going upward, and when I’m too out of breath to sing along I know it’s time to take a break. Along the way I passed another biker who commented on my “lots of energy!”

A classic view of Osoyoos from 10 km up Anarchist Mountain

After reaching the top I started descending down a series of steep hairpin turns toward Osoyoos. Strangely enough, I found that the safest way to make my way down was to go as fast as possible. The road shoulders were cracked and sometimes non-existent, so if I kept my speed up I could ride on the smoother road surface without getting in the way of traffic. I had lunch amongst the swarms of tourists on a summer weekend in Osoyoos. I’d been considering staying a night here, but wasn’t able to find any available accommodation. It seemed like a really nice town, but would be more enjoyable during a less busy time.

I continued up the Okanagan valley, passing by numerous orchards, vineyards, and fields. The heavy scents of the various crops filled the air, almost as if I was inhaling fruit. I especially liked the plum trees, which I’ve never seen before. Several hours of riding through the scorching afternoon (cooled off by a slurpee purchased in Oliver) took me to my aunt and uncle’s place in Okanagan Falls.

Plum Trees! (Click to zoom — see the actual plums and play “spot the animal”)

I’d been curious about how much my baggage weighs, so with access to a scale for the first time, we weighed my bags: 55 pounds. Later on I secretly weighed myself and was surprised to find that I’d only lost a couple of pounds. So despite what I mentioned yesterday about fat loss, it looks like I’ve made up most of that weight loss with muscle gain. During my stay, Aunt Gretchen fed me many healthy, delicious, and large-portioned meals so looks like I’ll be able to continue maintaining a healthy weight.

I took the next day off to rest up and wait for my uncle to return from a “star party”. In the morning my aunt gave me a tour of the local area, including the town of Penticton and some interestingly coloured layered lakes. But I spent most of the day indoors enjoying the air conditioning and catching up on some Internet browsing.

Changing My Plans and Myself

Day 53: Grand Forks, BC to Rock Creek, BC (74 km) 

The only constants on this trip have been my direction (west) and destination (Vancouver). Otherwise, my plans keep changing. Today was a good example. I started out with ambitions of following the rail trail that I’d travelled on briefly yesterday. I was hoping that the sandy surface would stop once I got out of town. My bicycle doesn’t like sand … or maybe it likes sand too much since it kept trying to lie down in it. Anyway, I realized that this trail would have been lots of fun on a mountain bike, but for now it’s a better idea to get off at the next road crossing and turn back to the highway. I’ve being enjoying the challenges that occur naturally on this trip (wind, hills, heat, etc.) but there’s no need to go out of my way to create difficult situations.

After I returned to the pavement, it was quite an easy ride to my planned stop at a town called Midway. Just one little 500 m hill to climb today and not very steep either.

An old tunnel I saw along the way

I arrived really early in the afternoon, claimed a spot in the campground by setting up my tent, and then rode back into town to run my usual errands. First stop was the library, which claimed to have no wifi access despite there being a network called “library”. I sat at a desk and used the internet on my phone for awhile, but apparently they have a time limit on this too? I’ve never seen a library so discouraging of people using it. Perhaps that’s why only one person came in during the hour I was there. Next I stopped by the grocery store / liquor mart, where I was weirded out by the sketchiness of the other customers: middle aged men reeking of alcohol hunched over pushing child-size carts down the aisles. Overall I was getting really bad vibes from Midway, and decided to leave — another change of plans. When I arrived back at the campground, at first it looked like my tent had been replaced by an RV. But no, some people had just parked their massive vehicle six inches beside my tent. A final confirmation that I’d made the right choice to leave town.

Just 10 kilometers down the road I found a peaceful and friendly campground where I had a very relaxing evening thinking about some of the other changes I’ve noticed on this trip:

  • Trusting my intuition: Whether making a judgment about a town’s culture or picking a route travel, I don’t overanalyze the decision like I used to.
  • Fat loss: Not that I was very fat to begin with, but what little I had came off in the first few weeks and the snug-fitting pair of jeans that I brought along now must be worn with a belt.
  • Patience: It must be because of the slow pace I’ve been moving, but I never get impatient any more, like when I’m waiting in line at a store.
  • Stronger Legs: Pretty obvious this would happen, and good thing I’m not just wasting away from the fat loss. I can feel the difference when I’m biking up these hills, and starting to see new bulges too.
  • Willing to Work Hard: In my life I’ve generally tried to avoid hard work (especially physical effort) and instead relied on cleverness to get by, but there’s no way to think your way up a steep hill.
  • Pain Tolerance: Kind of related to hard work, I’ve never before been in situations where I’m in pain and just forcing myself to put it with it and keep going. Well, there were some multi-hour conference calls that seemed painful at the time.
  • Interesting Tanlines: The ones on my hands are especially weird because of the biking gloves I’ve been wearing.

I wonder how many of these changes will persist once this journey ends?

On Sale and Off Road

Day 52: Nancy Greene Park, BC to Grand Forks, BC (68 km)           

After yesterday’s exhausting climb I’d decided to take it easy today to make sure I don’t injure my legs. So naturally I began the day by conquering Paulson Summit (1575 m). Actually I’d camped at quite a high elevation so the ascent was pretty short. The descent, on the other hand, was another crazy downhill ride! I coasted down for about half an hour until I arrived at the village of Christina Lake where my cell phone had service again.

While I was out of coverage yesterday evening, Apple had approved the iPhone app that I’ve been working on during this journey. It’s on sale the app store now, so if you know anybody who has an iPhone and a bicycle and might be interested in this app, please help spread the word! Here’s a little more info and a link to the app store:

Bike Maps shows maps of bike routes, lanes, & trails everywhere in the world. Fantastic for travelling to new cities; great for exploring local neighbourhoods. You can also track your rides to find out how far & fast you cycle.

I decided to celebrate by firing up my Bike Maps app on my phone to see if there were any bike trails nearby.

It showed me this rail trail that was a lot more scenic than the road, but the sandy / rocky surface was pretty slow going on my skinny cyclocross tires so I rejoined the highway before too long. After several days in campsites without running water I had no clean clothes left so I wanted to get into the campground early today to do laundry.

Some of the mountains around Grand Forks are grassy rather than the thick forests of evergreen trees I’ve been seing for the past few days of riding in BC