I crossed the British Columbia/Alberta line today. That means one province down and only nine more to go. I also crossed over the Kicking Horse Pass which is another 300m above yesterday’s summit. At 1627m (5338ft), this is as high as I’m going to climb on this trip. While I’m not fully out of the mountains for a couple of days, crossing the provincial border and summiting the highest pass feels like an accomplishment. It’s starting to look like I may just be able to do the trip. To give you some sense of how high I climbed, snow and ice still covered the lake at the top. Sadly, no sign announced the pass and the welcome to Alberta sign was not yet up. Newly under construction, crews were only putting the posts in as I passed. I felt a little cheated at being prevented from taking a celebratory picture.
I really enjoyed the bounce in my seat today as I climbed towards Rogers Pass. The soft buoyancy was new but rather pleasant. I chalked it up to further wearing in the Brooks leather seat. Long distance cyclists put great value in Brooks seats because with proper care they only get better with time as the leather conforms to your backside. When I looked down at my tire another reason presented itself for my soft ride. My tire was going flat. Now any cyclists expects to deal with flats but I have extra heavy duty tires that are almost impenetrable by road debris, which also makes them difficult to get off and on the rim. Being in the middle of nowhere I was filled with dread at the possibility of struggle for a few hours if succeeding at all. I pumped the tire up instead hoping it deflated over time and not because of a hole. Sadly my optimism was misplaced. I struggled at first and noticed there was a good prospect of breaking my tire irons. Luckily the videos I watched on working with these tires helped and I managed the task in about 30 minutes. Not that I want anymore flats but bring them on. I will overcome.
Cycling through a lot of similar scenery got me thinking about our perceptions of time and progress. On a map I can show you the progress I’ve made, the line from where I started to where I am now. However, in terms of experience that progression is a lot murkier. While the town names change, my knowledge of the hills, curves in the road or really of the places themselves in their infinite variety is nonexistent. I wonder and thrill at the sights as they roll by but there is a sense in which I feel like I’m spinning my wheels in the same place. I have no prior experiences of these places to mediate my move through them. Eventually, I’ll shift gears and be in a different place but the progression isn’t particularly linear. A lot of it has to do with the pace of cycling. There is a gravity-like pull from the places that I don’t think is the same in car.
If anything is likely to break my spirit this trip, my money is on rain. I’ve dealt with some hills thought the highest is yet to come, I’ve dealt with routing frustrations though I’m certain there will be more but today was the first day of rain. Even a little rain begins to reveal the potential power it possesses for discomfort, especially rain at the end of the day when setting up camp. Regardless of how idyllic rain pattering on the tent may sound, it makes living out of a couple of bicycle bags more frustrating. Fortunately, I brought a spare tarp to give myself a little shelter outside the tent. If occasion called for it, I could cook my dinner underneath there. I’ve become pretty good at making and breaking camp; I’m sure I could learn to do it in the rain too. I hate to think what my stuff would start to smell like. Let’s hope I won’t need to find out. Read more
You need to rest once in awhile regardless of how much fun you’re having, especially when your knees crank out mile after mile for you. I tried camping in Peachland but nothing affordable presented itself so I promised myself a day off if I pushed on another hour and half to Kelowna. And that’s the calmest conversation I’ve had with myself. I’m staying at a hostel full of internationals here to travel and work. I feel a little like I’m back in undergrad. A fun experience but also a reminder that I’ve grown and changed a little since a dorm room was my abode.
Think trucks, RVs, and ATVs and you can imagine the kind of country I cut through today. The usual route heads further south before north again. My very soul rebelled against that idea after all the hard work of a few days ago. The only alternative is a cross country road with 40km of dirt road. Luck proverbially changes third time around and did it pay off. The first part of the day wound around ranch lands and cottage country. Isolation would be the word of the day. Naturally, I fretted about the condition of the coming dirt road so was very relieved to come across a couple of cyclists coming my way. They assured me the road was very bike-able. To add to the luck, I came across a country store with a restaurant in the middle of nowhere where I enjoyed a very delicious burger. To give you a sense of the place, here people roll up on their ATV to use the pay phone beside the road.
The misadventures continue to pileup but with scienic rewards. I intended to get to Kilowna today which would be direct east from my starting point. Unfortunately, a number of miles in the highway I needed prohibited bicycles among other slow movers. The pull out of Merritt was steep so no desire to turn around and repeat that. The only option remaining was due south, just the opposite direction from yesterday. I’m a little further east to put it generously. Nevertheless, it was a lovely ride along some unexpected landscapes. The valleys around Merritt and Princeton are surrounded by a mixture of rolling green hills and forest. I was unaware of the ranching in BC but the valleys have their own ecosystems that support grasslands.
Climbing and climbing for four hours on end, the Bunyan-esque foreboding of yesterday became reality today. In hindsight the odds were against me but it seemed like a good idea to take the less travelled route by cyclists for the chance of getting on the Kettle Valley Railtrail to Princeton. I’ve seen the pictures to see how awe inspiring the trail is. But it’s not just the view, the trail uses many of the old trestles that are supposed to be unparalleled as far as bike trails go. You can deduce by now I did not go on the trail. It’s still snowbound! Only by climbing to the top of the Coquihalla highway did I get that information from a food truck guy. This missed opportunity will remain memorable if for no other reason than the cost of the attempt. The numbers will probably mean little to you but I feel I need to acknowledge the pain; Coquihalla Summit is 1244m (4081ft). And that is with no reprieve, just up.
Abottsford is deep in the heart of Mennonite country in British Columbia. I guess we always notice our tribes beyond what may be apparent to the rest of the world but I starting noticing too many Mennonite names on mailboxes to be a coincidence or mistaken identity. If you notice an Enns or Braun here or there it’s probably a fluke but in numbers you start to expect a church or two. Not to disappointed I came across various stripes in the Mennonite tradition. On top of that Mennonite Educational Institute, Columbia Bible College, and a new headquarters for Mennonite Central Committee. Anyway, I enjoyed the best part of Mennonite country by staying with a friend last night and having farmers sausage (Mennonite pork sausage) with another friend for brunch. Thank you! Read more
I was in Vacouver today. I thought I had died and gone to bicycle heaven. The bicycling infastructing is astounding. There are regular and dedicated bike lanes, bike lights on bike routes, lots of bike signs, bike greenways, and on certain routes speed bumps and little parks in the intersection turning it into a roundabout to calm traffic. Look at that bike route through uptown (or downtown I’m not sure the local vernacular). I could just cuddle with it and whisper sweet nothings to it! All the gushing aside, biking infrastructure does more than accommodate cyclists. It makes the city human again. For all the conviniences the automobile enables, it also destroys the human scale of urban places. Everything spreads out, only accessible by highways and we move around in separate boxes trying to reach them. Much of downtown Vancounver was obviously laid out before the car but it felt as if the people has returned, not just rushing somewhere but being in this place. I noticed a number of smaller inner city schools, there were people in the parks, and just a lot of people around. Enough sermonizing for now. I probably glowed a little riding along. Oh and the biking miracles didn’t stop at the city limits. On my way to Abbotsford I hit a lot of rural spaces and many of those roads had clear bicycling markings for the shoulder. Read more