Sidebar: Letters from home

One of my biggest fears when I embarked upon this journey was that I would be lonely. But there have been very few times that I’ve had that feeling of loneliness. I’ve met really interesting people along the way and I’ve always felt that I’m in close touch with my friends and loved ones. With cell phones, Facetime, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and my blog there are many ways to stay in touch.

Most people are shy about leaving comments on a blog. Don’t be shy. It’s the interactive aspect of blogs that make them so popular.

I’ve also received a lot of emails and they’re really appreciated.

I’ve received emails from my brother out West letting me know that his family reads my blog every day and he keeps me updated on his family. Perry sent me the lovely art work from my neice Hannah. She’s so talented.

20120608-085519.jpg 20120608-085530.jpg
Artist: Hannah Schmitt (use only with permission)

My brother Cliff in Pickering sends me notes of encouragement and promised to cook Bison for me (he’s a great cook.

I’ve received emails from our friends Ray and Elaine, and Cecile and Brian telling me how much they are enjoying my blog and encouraging me to continue. Vicki forwarded me a message from my cousin Brigitte in Germany informing us that her niece Sandra won a gold medal in the special Olympics. Fantastic!

I also received many emails from colleagues at work. Viviane’s mom offered me a place to stay over night in Ignace. Anthony gave me great recommendations on places to stay. Donna told me about Fort William in Thunder Bay. And there are many more.

But my favourite emails are from my Vicki, love letters really, telling me about her experiences while she was on a cruise with her mom in the Mediterranean. There was a pretty massive 10 hour time difference between us. I would fire off an email in the evening and I couldn’t wait to wake up to her reply early the next morning.

Vicki would regale me with the sights and sounds of such places as Santorini and Mykonos. Meanwhile I would tell her about climbing the Rogers Pass, Revelstoke, Golden and the fantasticaly interesting people I’ve met along the way. One thing we always had in common wasn’t the water or the rocks or the trees or the historic buildings but rather the amazing people we met along the way.

When I get back I plan to pull out everyone of those letters because they keep me pedalling day after day and they have come to form the colour and fabric of this journey.

Advertisements

Day 10 – Golden BC to Lake Louise AB – Total Distance traveled 925kms

Today started with a climb up “10 mile hill”. I was very happy we stayed in a hotel above Golden and so we avoided killer hill # 1 at least. We climbed into Kicking Horse Canyon and were presented with incredible vistas.

20120515-063310.jpg
That tiny white squiggly line is Kicking Horse River

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I have to tell you about the Bighorn Sheep deterrence system. When you exit the driveway of the hotel you have to cross these grates that are quite terrifying if you’re a cyclist. The idea is that the sheep can’t walk over these tubular grates. Neither can cyclists wearing hard soled cycling shoes.

20120515-063810.jpg
Bighorn sheep and cyclist deterrent system

So what happens when the sheep do get in by say, I don’t know, hitching a ride in a pickup truck perhaps? Well, they need to get out. For that you need a 1-way cat door sheep door. This one looks particularly inventive:

20120515-064406.jpg
Against all temptation I did not try to go through this

Then there’s clever exit door # 2. For this one, the Big Horn climbs the ramp and does a double back flip landing lightly on its pearly toes hoofs.

20120515-064835.jpg

Now back to the 10-mile climb. The best way I can describe this is that your playing cat and mouse with the Kicking Horse river. Climbing far above it at one point, crossing over long bridges, through massive cuts in the rock. When you think you’ve left the river long behind, you look to the side and there its, right beside you.

20120515-095619.jpg
It must have taken Iron Man 2 days to cut through this rock

After the end of 10-mile hill the road basically flattens out until about the 46 km mark you pass 1200m. Another interesting landmark is the spiral tunnels. the original rail line was so steep on the Big Hill it had to be replaced by the Spiral Tunnels in 1909. If you are patient enough to wait for a long train to pass you can see it both exiting and entering the tunnel at the same time.

Just before the final assault on Kicking Horse pass you come to Field. We stopped at the Alberta visitor centre (which is in BC before you get to the border) and enquired about getting something to eat. We were directed to Field and were pleasantly surprised by a nice cafe/gift shop/liquor store called the siding. A couple if double expresso’s later and we were on our way.

20120515-093706.jpg

More to come, right now I want to go play in the snow before I have to checkout here…

20120515-094949.jpg

Stats
Distance traveled today – 86kms
Moving average – 15kms
Moving time – 5 hours 41 mins
Max elevation – 1550m 1800m (the last climb to Lake Louise was higher than the pass!)

Day 9 – Golden BC – Rest day

Happy Mothers Day!

After a grueling day yesterday, and Kicking Horse pass ahead of me, I decided to take a rest day in Golden BC. The Golden website is awesome. You should check it out..

20120513-112907.jpg
Golden BC

The great thing about traveling through this part of the country at this time of year is that it’s what folks call the “shoulder season”. It’s too late for the winter activities like snowmobiling and skiing but too early for rafting, gold, hiking, swimming and all the other summer activities. As a result, hotels are inexpensive and there’s always a room available.

From our hotel it’s a 15 45 rmin walk into town (downhill of course). I really didn’t even want to look at my bike today. So walking it is. On way down the steep, paved walking/cycling path I listened to Jen and Rob debate what was larger: a hamlet, a city or a town. We weren’t quite sure what to call Golden. Just outside the hotel stood a heard of bighorn sheep. Everyone was nonchalantly passing by as if it was and everyday experience, which i guess it is.

20120513-194027.jpg
Jen and Rob just moments before they were attacked by bighorn sheep

Golden is a spectacular town. It’s clean, has lots of patios and shops, has two rivers flowing through it, parks, a grocery store and it’s surrounded by white capped mountains backed by a deep blue sky. It wasn’t very busy while we were there and we had no trouble finding a seat on the terrace overlooking the Kicking Horse River and enjoyed a beer and wraps.

20120513-194628.jpg

After lunch we crossed the timber-frame pedestrian build by volunteers in 2001. There are biking and walking trails everywhere. We walked along the shoreline and on to an exposed shoal in the river where we dipped our feet in the water, skipped stones, and lay down on the warm rocks for a power nap.

20120513-195244.jpg

20120513-195305.jpg

After a long walk we were thirsty again and headed to the Island Restaurant which is beautiful log building and enjoyed some more of the cuisine (you work up a big appetite cycling). While we were there another group came in from a day of heli-skiing. You could see the look sheer pleasure on their faces as they regaled each other with stories of big powder and major wipeouts. We vowed to return to Golden one day to try some of the other adventures the area has to offer.

At any given time there is a community of cyclists criss-crossing our great county. On the way back to our hotel I met another couple cycling across Canada, Heather and Mike from Flin-Flon Manitoba. They had just arrived from Rogers Pass and planned to take a rest day.

Tomorrow we plan to head out early because we have a long and grueling climb up to Kicking Horse Pass. There’s a section called “10 mile hill” that’s giving me the butterflies again. After traversing the pass we’ll continue on to Lake Louise, at which time we’ll part ways, Jen and Rob heading to Jasper and I onward to Calgary.

It’s amazing how quickly you can make life long friends on a trip like this. I’m really going to miss Jen and Rob, but Rob has assured me he’ll stop by our home in Ottawa on his way out to St. Johns. You can check out Rob’s blog at FollowThatBike.com. It’s entertaining with lots of photos and you’ll see quite a different part of BC.

Tomorrow we’ll also cross the border into Alberta. I have to say I’ve really been impressed with the warmth and hospitality of the people here and the beautify towns and countryside. I’ll miss it a lot.

Link to the United Way of Toronto fund raiser now set up

Many of you have asked me if I’m raising money for a charity on this trip. I pleased to say that am! I now have a link to a site called Giving Pages where all proceeds will go to the United Way of Toronto. You’ll receive a tax receipt for your donation. I intend for this to contribute to the Allstream corporate fund raiser.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog please consider making a donation here.

If you don’t live in Toronto, don’t sweat it, but remember Toronto needs all the help it can get. It is the home of the Maple Leafs after all 😉

Day 8 – Climbing Roger’s Pass to Golden BC – Total distance 839kms

I stayed at a nice hotel last night in Revelstoke but the WiFi was down all night. The hotel staff gave me credit to use a pay Internet terminal so at least I could let every know I was still alive.

I got an early start this morning because I was going to climb Rogers Pass. My plan was to continue on to Golden BC today but there is also a hotel at the top so if your tired you can stay there.

Revelstoke is awesome. Skiing, hiking, cycling, mountaineering. If you’re into the outdoors this is your dream town. Revelstoke

There are still traces of snow and there’s supposed to be a lot of snow at the top of the pass. But its going to be a warm day, approaching 20C.

I made it to Rogers Pass. I think I’m going to start a petition to rename it the “Allstream Pass”. Rogers already gets enough attention and I’m still mad at them for changing the name of the Skydome to Rogers Centre. What do you think?

Here I am at Rogers Pass, not photoshopped or anything. This is really me!

;20120512-142714.jpg
Rogers Pass

Here’s an idea: Photoshop your face in there instead of mine and I’ll donate $100 to the United Way of Toronto on the winner’s behalf. That means you’ll get the tax receipt. Email your entry to me at chrisjschmitt[at]gmail[dot]com. The most original and funny wins.

On the way up to the pass I bumped into the two cyclists I met the day before in Revelstoke. We were 4kms from the top but climbing a very steep part. We decide to continue on and meet at the top for lunch. For $12 we ate a huge plate of delicious poutine and a half litre of even more delicious beer in the very rustic restaurant. We probably lingered around there a bit too long but we were on a natural high.

Upon leaving the restaurant I noticed I had another flat. I changed this flat even more quickly that the last, maybe too quickly because when I got back on my bike I noticed my derailer cable was lose. I had to take the wheel back off again before I could find the source of the problem, which is quite a task when the bikes loaded up with 2 panniers, a tent, sleeping bag and a camel back.

At about 12kms we encountered a bit of a nasty surprise. There was a traffic fatality on the highway up a head and it was closed. We cautiously cycled by a 2km line of trunks, campers and cars until we reached the front of the line. The authorities redirected us on an alternate path to get into Golden. He said “go up the hill and turn right at the stop sign”, and he softly chuckled. We should have suspected

The hill turned put to be a grueling climb. I shall call this part of the trek “heartless hill”. I got maybe 200m up the hill and finally conked out. I got off my bike and started walking. The hill continued climbing bend after bend. I caught up with Jen and Rob laying on the road, exhausted. I was so tired I forget to unclip my foot from the pedal when I stopped and I fell over with my bike falling on top of me. My pride was hurt more than anything else.

Now a great way to get help is to simply lay down on the middle of a road (I’m only partly joking). Shortly after a nice couple in a pickup truck slowed down and asked if we were ok. They told us we were only 1/3 of the way up the hill. They continued on and we continued on rather disheartened. Later Jessie returned in the pickup and offered us a ride to the top which we graciously accepted. I dont consider this “cheating” because we weren’t supposed to going this way anyway.

Jessie helped load our bikes and gear in the pickup trunk and drove us up the hill and dropped us off at the stop sign. The rest of the ride was pretty much downhill and very scenic (and cold).

Some people might look at these kinds of events as nasty. It wasn’t. Quite the opposite, it’s times like these that you realize that every experience is amazing. We would never have gotten to meet Jessie, or pass by this incredible canyon on the way down.

20120513-093101.jpg
A blurry pitcher of the canyon (I was shaking from the cold)

I was able to easily convince Jen and Rob a hotel with a hot tub would be a good idea for the night and that’s exactly what we did. The great folks in the hotel served us a late dinner where we met an interesting gentleman from north of Toronto who was training to be a cowboy, a singing cowboy at that, because he toted a guitar on his back. Afterwards we enjoyed our hot tub (this assistant manager left it open for us – where else would they do that?).

All-in-all it was a day to remember.

Stats
Distance cycled – 150kms
Moving average – 17.3kms
Moving time 8 hours and 40 mins
Highest elevation – 1330m (Rogers pass)

Day 7 – Salmon Arm (Canoe) to Revelstoke – Total distance covered – 687kms

I awoke to a bright sunny, cold morning with all body parts intact. Other than waking up in the middle of the night with my lips swollen like balloons I felt quite rested. Hidden Valley turned out to be an awesome campsite. The campsites are in a, um, hidden valley, surrounded by pine trees and a babbling stream. All the sites have concrete pads for the picnic tables, and grassy sites for the tents. Fresh water is available everywhere plus power, showers and WiFi (yes!).

Outside of Canoe you climb a gentle 3km hill. There’s not much to look at, just rocks and trees, trees and rocks. I frightened a couple of white tailed deer along the side of the road who bolted up an embankment. They scared the living daylights out of me too.

All along the road there are signs that say “watch out for falling rocks” or “avalanche zone”. It seems kind of weird to me. What are you supposed to do if there’s a rock fall or an avalanche? It seems like about the time you notice the avalanche it’s too late anyway. If you’re the driver you can’t watch out for falling rocks because your supposed to keep your eye in the road. Maybe your supposed to slow down? But then why don’t they just say that? I guess the “sign people” take great pride in their “falling rock” signs so I’ll let it be. Hmmm, I just got an idea: Falling Rock beer, but I digress.

20120511-210108.jpg
These falling rocks just missed me… by about 20 years

The view begins to improve as you climb up and coast down numerous hills. There’s a great view of Shawsup (sp) lake on the left.

I took a right into Sycamous where you follow the road through the town to join up with Trans-Canada a bit down the road. The visitor centre there is a new, beautiful building with cedar accents.

That’s where I got the low down on Rogers pass and Kicking Horse pass. After Revelstoke you start climbing up to Rogers Pass. Most cyclists continue on downhill to Golden but the total distance is 145kms. After Golden you climb the Kicking Horse pass which is the second highest pass in BC, there’s not a lot of places to stay between Revelstoke and Golden and between Glolden and Banff so you don’t want to get caught up there because it gets cold.

When I think about cycling these passes I get butterflies in my stomach. Not the cute Monarch kind of butterflies but more like the type of butterfly that’s really a moth that lands in your bowl of ice cream. But if I’m not trained and prepared enough to do these passes at this point then I’ll never be. Besides I heard little Suzy did the pass on her tricycle just last year (not really).

This route is so scenic I find myself stopping every 5 minutes to take a shot. You’ll be please to know that I’ve edited many of them out. At one point you cross the rail tracks and there’s a view of the Eagle River down below. This is the one time I hoped to actually see a bear because I know they can’t get me way up here. But no such luck, no bear spotted.

20120511-210021.jpg
A view of the Eagle River

Next stop was the “Last Spike” attraction and rest area. It’s quite impressive with a huge parking lot and a visitor centre, and gift shop with many useless things (I was tempted to purchase a replica spike, but you know, I don’t want the extra weight). This last spike spot is way more impressive then the last, last spike spot it stopped at on Day 4. Anyway, it’s an important part of Canadian history for sure, really important.

20120511-210558.jpg

w20120511-210626.jpg

It makes me think of how when there’s progress we always loose something and there’s some regret, but in the end the new is better than the old, in my opinion. Here’s one sequence of events describe progress in Canada:

  • The first explorers used canoes
  • Then they built roads for the first settlers
  • Then came canals which allowed goods to be transported much faster
  • Then trains put the canals out of business
  • Then came highways and transport trucks with cheap gas
  • Now massive cargo ships transport goods from far away

The same thing has happened with communications: Runners to the Pony express to the telegraph, to the telephone, to data communications, to the Internet, to wireless. What’s next? As I’ve mentioned, I’m a geek so I thrive on the Next Big Thing. There’s a phrase for it: Creative Destruction and you’re either part of it or you fall behind. But there’s nothing wrong with that either as long as you realize “you can’t stop progress”. Personally, I prefer to stay one step ahead if I can.

I stopped to take some photos at Crazy Creek. It’s very scenic whitewater and one of those things that you wouldn’t notice screaming by in a car. There’s a suspension bridge crossing the creek and apparently the worlds largest tress house is here too. That’s questionable: what about the Swiss Family Robinson tree house? That was huge.

20120511-212953.jpg
Crazy Creek – Git ur canoe!

There’s much more to write about but I need to get to bed because Rogers Pass is calling. Let me conclude by saying Revelstoke is friggin awesome!. There’s skiing, and biking, and hiking, great food, nice people, shopping… This is a real town, not a made up town like Whistler or Mt. Tremblant village. I will definitely return with Vicki one day.

I met two other cyclists in the village who were looking for an expresso shot. Their website is followthatbike.com. They do “stealth camping”. Basically, you cycle until sun down and set up camp wherever you happen to land. They’re truly brave and I admire their courage. For those out there looking for adventure, you can do this trip in the cheap, real cheap like $20 or $30 per day if you want to. There’s nothing stopping you.

But I think I finally figured out what the difference is between youth in their early 20’s doing this trip and people in their late 40’s or 50’s. Us more “mature” folks can afford to stay at the nice hotels with their jacuzzi hot tubs and warm beds, while the young’uns are doing this trip on the cheap and camp wherever they can find a spot and cook their own meals. I’m quite happy with the warm bed and the jacuzzi hot tub, which is definitely what I plan for tonight. Especially given I’m climbing Rogers Pass tomorrow, and my knee hurts, whine, whine…

I had a great meal and a local brew in town and decided to find a place to stay outside of town so I could get a bit of a head start towards the pass in the morning. I’m glad i did because there’s a wicked 100m climb just outside of town. As for the hotel, boy did I hit a gold mine. the Hillside Resort is a beautiful lodge overlooking the mountains. I’m don’t feel bad missing camping tonight.

Stats
Distance travelled – 102kms
Moving time – 5 hours and 19 minutes
Moving average – 19.2km/hr
Elevation – 628m

20120511-213023.jpg
BreakfastLunch of champions

20120511-213038.jpg
A pack of wild horses couldn’t drag me in here. Too scary.

Day 6 – Kamloops to Salmon Arm (actually, Canoe) – Distance traveled today 127kms

After having breakfast and watch the pancake machine at the Holiday Inn Express I set up for another fun day of riding. It started out with a wrong turn and I ended up on the wrong side of Kamloops. But I did get to see a lot of nice neighbourhoods. Kamloops is a pretty nifty city (no, really Jeff). My only complaint is that it’s on the side of an enormous hill.
20120510-064554.jpg
Magical pancake maker

I slowly made my way back to the Trans-Canada and immediately got a flat. This was as good as any place to get a flat, and I’ve been lucky so far. I quickly made repairs and was on my way.

I had a brief moment of despair when I realized I’d left my MacDonald’s cherry pie and combo pepperoni/cheese stick back in the hotel fridge. Should i go back? Nah.

The next 50kms was a cyclist’s dream with flat roads, nice scenery and a wind at my back. I stopped in Pritchard for a well earned O’Henry bar and some of that beef jerky I keep seeing everywhere. I saw an old bridge in the distance and Googled it later. It turned out to be a magnificent trestle bridge.

The scenery changes dramatically after Pritchard. There are Ponderosa Pines, lakes, and lots of greenery. At one point I was passed by a flatbed truck with the biggest tires I’ve ever seen. It only carried four tires and they hung over the side (wide load).

20120511-101605.jpg
Ponderosa Pines just like in Bonanza

I stopped for lunch at a subway in the town of chase – another cute town. You can get off the highway to go through Chase and the road links back up with the highway further ahead.

20120511-101613.jpg
Still missing the tulip festival

Next you’ll pass through Sorento, the heart of the Shuswap.

There’s a climb after Chase with a nice view from the top.

Salmon Arm is on the shores of Shuswap Lake, where the Salmon River empties into the Salmon Arm reach of the Lake. It is a tourist town in the summer, with many beaches.

20120510-083526.jpg
The elevation profile today

This is the thirdforth draft I’ve written of this blog today because the WordPress app keeps crashing and its getting late and I’ve got to make it to Revelstoke. In the meantime, here’s some photos from the day.

Update

When I entered Salmon Arm I headed straight for the visitor centre… which was closed, of course. Why visitor centres close before 5pm is beyond me, but I digress. I did catch three gentleman who just about to leave. They were exteremly helpful in finding me a campsite (there is no campsite in Salmon Arm itself) even to the point of calling the campsite to make sure they were open. The only catch: it’s in Canoe which is 5kms down the road. But hey, I love canoeing, so why not?

One thing that one of the gentleman mentioned to me really scared me. He said something about how I was planning on “timing” the so-and-so pass. I told him I didn’t know what he meant and he replied, “oh, never mind, I thought you’d done this before”. Now I know he was talking about Rogers Pass.

In Canoe I camped in a wonderful campsite down in a valley. I asked about bears and the owner said that one came into the campsite last year and it was sad because they had to deal with it. I should have been more nervous when I went to sleep that night, but it was so peaceful and serene I fell asleep instantly. It also helped that the campsite owner let me hide all my gear and food in a storage shed for the night.

20120511-101653.jpg

20120511-101703.jpg

20120511-101853.jpg

20120511-101903.jpg

20120511-101911.jpg

Day 5 – Kamloops – Rest day

The upper part of Kamloops looks like pretty much every Canadian city: there’s a Staples, Costco, Walmart, Canadian Tire, Starbucks, Chapters. Big box stores and malls abound.

20120509-222001.jpg
Kamloops from above

But as you climb down the steep hill on Columbia St. Kamloops begins to take on its character: hill lined streets, cafe’s and restaurants, and an expansive Riverside park.

20120510-072937.jpg
Victoria Street

I don’t like bears, and Harley’s, apologies to the bears

It’s not that I don’t like Harley drivers, they’re perfectly fine, it’s the bikes that annoy me: way too loud.

About the bears. Several people along the way have suggested I should have bear spray. As I was walking down the hill into town I passed an outdoor store. This was my chance. I asked the lady in the camping section if she thought was a good idea, she replied “hell yes, I’d bring my gun too!”. Yes, this is a different part if the country that I’m used to.

Back to the bear spray. You have to sign a waiver that basically says your not going to go around spraying people in the face, or cute little puppies that annoy you. $50 later I was equipped with bear spray and holster. Now I have to think of a neat place to mount it on my bike, like some sort of gun rack thingy but for bicycles. Yah, that’s the ticket.

I really think it’s highly unlikely I’ll need the stuff. I’ll be in the highway for goodness sakes, and there’s lots if traffic and noise. But, what the heck. Besides, it’s bear spray. That’s cool!

A magical history tour

I went to the local museum and learned that Kamloops is a Secwepemc word for “the meeting of the rivers”. Specifically, the Upper Thompson and the main Thompson. What put Kamloops “on the map” was the fur trade. This period of time amazes me. The power the Hudson’s Bay Company had over everything and everyone was astounding. It’s hard to believe that felt hats is the main reason Canada was explored.

20120509-221914.jpg

Even after the area was all “beavered out”, the HBC retained a fort at Kamloops as this was where the fur trains passed through on the way to the Okanogan. Apparently these “fur trains” we’re a sight to see. Up to 300 horses each carrying two 80lb stacks of beaver pelts. They required a lot of men too: 1 man for every 15 horses.

Bu the way, I found out where the phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from. The process of converting the beaver wool into felt required the use of mercury. Many “hatters” acquired mercury poisoning and slowly went insane.

A new look

I took the time to get my haircut today. Yesterday the wind was whipping hair in my eyes and my face and annoying the heck out of me. After passing over a number of spots I stopped in at a barber shop, complete with the candy striped twirly thing, and somehow I felt this was the right one. The woman who cut my hair was so excited to have someone with long hair I think she used tweezers to style it. She gave me the best cut I’ve ever had. Something she called a “lawyers cut”. Hey, works for me.

20120510-073158.jpg
Before

20120510-072404.jpg
After

With my new look I checked out the local Chinese Buffet and enjoyed some traditional Kamloopian (?) cuisine. The server didn’t even say anything about my new hairstyle, sigh.

Stats
Distance travelled: 0 (you haven’t been paying attention have you?)

Day 4 – Lytton to Kamloops – Total Distance traveled 453kms

A few kilometres outside of Lytton I went through a wormhole and ended up in Arizona. At least that’s the only way I can describe the dramatic change in scenery. Lush green to dessert within a few short kilometres.

My day started with the usual: waking up at 5am (still not used to the time change) and then having a monster breakfast. Despite having stayed in a hotel, I still didn’t manage to get off until just before 9am.

Nine kilometres outside of Lytton you enter Skihist Provincial Park. Once again, the scenery is majestic, but so different from the previous days. It’s very dry and rocky with the Thompson flowing along side. This would be a fun park to visit. Theres canoeing, hiking and all manner of activities. The route itself was perfect, flawless roads with lots of climbs and descents.

As I pass through this part of the country I can’t help but think how brave those early explorers Fraser and Thompson and the men in their parties must have been. This is tough country and the waterways are unforgiving. Add to that ferocious grizzlies and mountain lions and hundreds of miles from the nearest civilization, and not knowing for sure that you’ll be able to get through.

There’s a spot where the highway slopes down and the train tracks and the highway criss-cross each other. I trained to capture this in film but i don’t think it does it justice. It was very cool seeing a train passing over the roadway.

20120510-063351.jpg
Train tracks passing over the highway

20120510-065236.jpg
The highway here rivals the Cabot Trail for the “fun to drive factor”. It’s fun on a bike too.

Further on I learned from a construction worker that my new friends from Quebec are ahead of me. They must have passed me while I enjoyed a salmon chowder at Hell’s Gate. Those who know me, know I have a competitive side. How did I let them get ahead of me? But then they’re 21 and I’m 49. Get real Chris.

20120509-081852.jpg

20120509-082002.jpg
Darn, where’s a canoe when you need it?

20120510-070831.jpg
A motorcyclist enjoying the view

Just before Ashcroft there’s a spot where the last spike was pounded in for the Northern Pacific Railway (which later became CN). This is actually the second last spike, not the first last spike. If I’ve got you totally confused head over to Day 7 where I write about the first last spike. OK, now I’m confused.

20120513-065114.jpg

20120510-070858.jpg
Lone pine (or spruce or whatever)

At Cache Creek I stopped for a burger and milkshake at Herbies drive-in. I found the folks at Cache Creek to be very friendly with several people asking me what I was doing. Two bikers that looked like pirates in leathers sat at the table next to me and asked me about my iPad: what can you do with it, how much does it cost etc. For a brief moment of panic I thought they were casing me, but no, you see even “Hell’s Angels” are upgrading their gear nowadays.

Cache Creek was my original destination today but I’d only travelled 85kms and it was only 2:30 and I was still feeling strong. So I continued on. If I’d only knew at the time what was ahead of me.

Outside of Cache Creek you immediately face a 100m climb that is very gentle and easy. Once on top there’s about 7 kms of straight and flat road. The crosswinds were terrible however. Seeing the hills to the south I thought this would be an awesome place for a windmill farm like they have in California. I wonder if it’s ever been considered.

I was determined to get closer to Kamloops. I planned to take a day off in Kamloops and I figured it was worth the extra push, and it would save me a day, and maybe, just maybe I could catch up to the Quebec group. Anyway, saving a day would also bring me one day closer to my son Eric in Saskatoon.

I was thinking that this area would be a great place to film a western. In fact I passed by a movie set for a western. It’s funny because all the buildings are about half the size of a full size building. They look new when constructed and then painted to look old. The magic of Hollywood. I wonder what they’re filming here? I’m pretty sure there’s an episode of Battlestar Gallactica filmed near here. Surely you’ve seen that episode, you know the one where the Cylons start attacking them? Oh, never mind.

20120516-232012.jpg
The next speghetti western?

Coming into Savona the first thing you see is a about 20 aches of rusting machinery. Why would they do that? Savona could be (and probably is) a beautiful lakeside resort. But all drivers see upon entering the town is this mining equipment graveyard. When I’m mayor of Savona one day you’ll see some changes, mark my word.

20120510-055743.jpg
Not a pretty sight

Just outside Savona the Big Climb starts, but I didn’t know it at the time. It just kept going up and up. Around every turn I thought it would flatten out only to find out it still climbed high. Then I saw the sign indicating that the two passing lanes were narrowing to one. That usually means the hill is ending. Not this time. It simply meant there wasn’t room on this cliffside road for the extra lane.

I passed the time by singing the theme from Pocahontas, Just Around the River Bend. Actually I jest, I don’t know all the words.

Finally I spotted a sign that said “View Point” ahead. Here’s my point of view: this hill sucks. Actually, it’s not the hill’s fault, it was there before they built the road.

20120510-063858.jpg
Definitely worth the climb

I did make it to Kamloops – 165kms. But I definitely over did it. If I had done my research it would have told me that Kamloops is high up in the mountains! 700 meters to be exact. It was a heck of a lot of climbing and at many points the highway turned into the wind. About 30kms out I realized it was a bad idea trying to go this far in one day. It was one climb after another.

20120509-080256.jpg
Today I cycled between Lytton and Kamloops

But I’ll tell you something: while I’m not a particularly religious man, today someone above was looking out for me. At one point, when I felt that I couldn’t take another hill, a gust of wind came up behind me and literally blew me along for 3kms at 32kms/hour, and I swear, I wasn’t pedaling. It was enough to give me the courage to keep me going. I pulled in to Kamloops around 9pm and grabbed the first hotel I saw (no camping tonight).

Don’t get me wrong: I was safe. I carry everything I need for survival on my bike including a tent, sleeping bag, warm clothing, water, food and cooking gear. I could have knocked on the door of the nearest farmhouse and I’m certain they would have let me camp in their field. But the lure of Kamloops and a day off was enticing, and let me tell you, the experience was definitely character building, and humbling too, I made a mental note not to get too over-confident next time.

I’m taking tomorrow off to let my body catch up. I’ll take a look around Kamloops, which seems to be an interesting town, despite what Jeff says 😉

By the way, if any of you Allstreamers want to follow my cycling route, just find the fibre route from Vancouver to Calgary. That’s pretty much it!

Stats
Distance travelled today – 165kms
Altitude – 700m
Avg speed – 17kms
Moving time – 9 hours, 47 mins

Day 3 – Hope to Lytton – Total distance travelled 288kms

After a very noisy night (many trains, trucks and other traffic) I woke to another sunny morning. Truthfully, I woke up at 4am. Listened to Nora Jones, which usually puts me to sleep, and then read some of my book, which usually puts me tho sleep, and finally rose at 6am for a shower. I waited patiently for my friends to wake to no avail.

I toured the town looking for a restaurant. Finally discovered Rolly’s Pancake House. Had a guilt free breakfast of 2 pancakes, whipping cream, an egg and 2 sausages. I’m not feeling particularly guilty because I know straight off I have a 1km climb to face.

Hope is choked full of wood carvings like this one20120508-072024.jpg

Hope has a gorgeous park20120508-070728.jpg

I’m missing the Ottawa Tulip Festival20120508-070758.jpg

Packing up camp took longer than expected and I didn’t leave until 9am. Unfortunately my new found friends were nowhere close to being ready, buts that’s one of the advantages of cycling alone; you simply leave when you want to. We did plan to meet up in Lytton if we made it that far.

My ride started out today with a 120m climb. One pancakes worth! The great thing about hills is that for every up there’s a down. This fast decent lasted for 4 Km’s. After 20kms or so I passed through the town of Yale. After Yale you enter the majestic Fraser Canyon. For those of you familiar with the Baron canyon in Algonquin, it’s a lot like that but bigger, a lot bigger.

Entering the Fraser Canyon20120508-070824.jpg

Then I hit my first of eight tunnels. Neil and I were looking at this tunnel on Google Streetview and we were both a little alarmed by how narrow it looked. As it turned out there was nothing to fear because there’s a bike lane on the left. I tried riding it but it’s just to narrow for my comfort. Walking was fine.

Better to go under than over20120508-071016.jpg

While the tunnel wasn’t scary, the noise the trucks made as they went through was. Have you ever heard a Jumbo jet taking off? Well, that’s the sound exactly. On the next set of tunnels I learned to don my new-fangled WestJet noise suppressing earphones.

Coming out of a tunnel is a magical sight20120508-071040.jpg

This part of the highway is called the Historic Gold Rush Trail. It’s a circle tour 568kms which can be driven in 3 or 4 days (yah, right!). I think I might pan for gold when I get chance. I might be able to retire early!

By the way, the Gold Rush sounds a lot like the plethora of start-ups around today. Everyone thought it would be easy to find gold and get rich. In reality it was back breaking work and very, very few people got rich. Startups are like that to. It looks easy but you still have to work your butt off, possibly risk your life savings, and there’s a remote chance you’ll make it big. I guess the difference is that with startups less is left to chance if you go about it the right way.

The next stop was Hell’s Gate. The Fraser River passes through a small gap in the canyon creating 3 times the flow of Niagra Falls (did you ever notice that everyone compares their waterfall/flow to Niagra Falls?). You cant see much from the top. You have to take a gondola down to the bottom.

At first I thought “I don’t have time for that” and then I remembered that’s what I’m here for after all! I paid my $20 and took the gondola with another family and their excited kids. It was well worth it. It’s quite the site to see and if you white water canoe you’ll go pale at the intensity of the water flow. The Salmon chowder and the Hell’s Gate lager were particularly tasty.

Next comes a 150m climb. Not overly difficult but long. Once you get to the top it’s quite flat and you can make good time.

20kms before my destination of Lytton I faced a massive and daunting hill. I downed an power gel and a half a bottle of water and after 10 minutes started my way up. It was tough but I made it without having to walk it. No real cyclist would walk up a hill anyway, right? Let’s see if I can still say that over the coming days.

You get into a rhythm climbing hills. It’s hard and your heartbeat accelerates, but after awhile you get used to it and you just keep going. When the hill is really long I pick a point up hard, like a sign or a rock, or whatever, and just concentrate on getting to that point. The worst thing you can do is stop. It’s almost impossible to start up again on a steep him. I do find I have to concentrate intensely or it’s all too easy to veer off one way or another. The good thing is that most hills have two lanes for the slow pokes (like me), so the vehicles give you lots of room.

There’s no Rogers cellular coverage at all on this route. That means tonight I’m looking for a hotel with WiFi because I promised Vicki I would email her every day.

My next climb took to me to 350m. There’s a pull off and you can see the canyon, for oh, 50 miles! The CP tracks are on the west side and the CN tracks are on the left. I can see why people love to take the train through this route. Oh well, another thing to put on our bucket list.

One strange thing happened. At one point I thought I was about to go down a steep hill, but I wasn’t. It was actually on a flat section of highway. It was like Magnetic hill. It was very weird.

Another hill or two and then I coasted into Lytton. Unfortunately, Lytton is down a very steep hill so I have bit of climbing to do tomorrow morning.

Lytton is located where the Fraser meets the Thompson River. In gact the Trans Canada follows the Thompson instead if the Fraser from here on. According to the folks in Lytton, it’s the “rafting capital and hotspot of Canada”. I could see that. There’s certainly more people rafting this river then say, Niagra Falls. Actually, there are a lot of rafting companies and it looks like a hoot. Well you know what they say, if you can’t canoe them get in a raft. Actually, “they” don’t say that, but I prefer canoes to rafts.

Now I off the see the point where the Mighty Fraser River meets the Thompson. Hopefully I won’t fall in from exhaustion. I don’t fancy swimming Hell’s Gate.

20120509-081408.jpg
Sunset over the Fraser (the Thompson River joins to the right)

Stats
Distance travelled today – 111kms
Total distance – 288kms
Avg speed – 16.7kms
Moving time – 6 hours, 37 mins

Day 2 – Fort Langley to Hope BC – Total distance 178kms

The day started out with a hearty breakfast with Edward and his son Jason. Jay took a picture of me and Edward with assorted Allstream paraphernalia. Right afterwards I dropped my iPad on the asphalt driveway. No harm done, unlike poor Armand who dropped his on the Golden Gate bridge and the screen looks like a spider’s web.

20120517-102410.jpg
Edward and me (never hold your iPad this way!)

Today’s ride
I started out around 8:00 on a beautiful sunny day.

20120517-102454.jpg

I crossed over the Golden Eye bridge get to The Loughheed Hwy (#7). The view from the bridge is amazing. It’s very new and they constructed a wide path along the road for cyclists. The best part is that cyclists don’t have to pay the toll. See, another reason why biking is the only way to go!

20120506-210914.jpg

20120506-210851.jpg
View from the Golden Ear Bridge

The Loughheed Hwy first goes through the pretty little town of Haney. The shoulder is very wide and the roadway is new. Next take the rolling hills to Mission. As you ride a long the Fraser river you vpcan smell you can smell the cedar mulch mills (what would you call them?). Pass the Stave River Hydro electric park with is a national park.

20120508-060423.jpg
A Fire Engine fueling up at a gas station (seems odd to me)

I stopped at a great fruit market just before arriving a mission and picked up apples, bananas, apricots and water. I planned to stop in mission and find a nice park bench to sit on and enjoy my snack. Unfortunately, mission is completely void of anywhere for someone to sit.

Seven kilometers out side of mission the road turns to the right, crosses the CP tracks and then curves back east. This is a completely flat part of the Lougheed but there’s not much of a shoulder so I rode mainly on the road. I’ve discovered that the safest thing is to pull over to the right when a stream of cars are coming in the opposite direction, especially if I see vehicles coming up behind me. It’s easy riding and you can see mountains all around you.

After a while the road turns left, crosses the tracks and then turns eastward again. The next section of highest probably the best road I have ever cycled. The view is stunning, with white capped mountains all around. The shoulder is a good 5ft wide and it’s smooth and clean. There’s one 120M climb and a second 80M climb just before hope. Nether will gave me any trouble. A primer for what’s up ahead. It’s also a thrill screaming down the other side at 50kms. I had to slow down so that I kept within the speed limit.

I have to say the only thing I didn’t like about the trip was the Harley’s. There’re too damn loud and couple of them passed me a little too close for comfort.

I stopped for lunch at the Sasquatch Inn which had amazing burgers but also seemed to be a haven for bikers (not the self propelled variety). They were out for what they kept calling The Ride which raises money for charity. It was hilarious listening to the two tough looking bikers in leathers and all the gear talks about how great Google maps was on their iPhone.

This area has some of the best cycling you could possibly experience: excellent roads, incredible scenery. The only hard part is trying not to stop every 2 mins to take photos.

20120506-210948.jpg

Stunning views around every bend

At Agasez I stopped at a Hazelnut farm and bought a supply of hazelnut bark, chocolate covered hazelnuts, and beer flavored candied… you guessed it… hazelnuts. There are hazelnut farms all over the place and they taste nothing like the ones you get out of the can. They’re soft and sweet, not dry and woody.

20120507-184942.jpg

Hazelnut trees

Making new friends
As I approached Hope I met Casie and Arnie who had just come from a one day cycling trip from Agasez to Hope and back. There’s noting to special about that except that these to we’re in their seventies!. They were such an inspiration. That’s what I hope Vicki and I are like when we reach that age.

20120508-061716.jpg
Hope BC

I me two groups of cyclists at the campsite in Hope. One group of 5 from Quebec City and 2 gentleman from France who had met each other on the flight to Vancouver. I expected to meet other cyclists but this was a nice surprise. I had a Spaghetti dinner with the Quebec group. I contributed a hazelnut appetizer and an extra stove and pot. They’re headed the same way I am so there’s a good chance I’ll see them again.

I was trying to explain to the two from France what raccoons were. They had no idea what I was talking about. Finally I googled a photo of one and they had a good laugh. Anyway, I checked with the owner of the campsite and she ensured there weren’t any animals around. There used to be a couple of raccoons but they had an unfortunate accident crossing the road. So I’m going to leave my food pack out. That makes things a lot easier.

A fork in the road
The decision of what highway to take out of Hope had been keeping me awake for days. The blog I’ve been following recommended the Cocahaula Hwy (check sp.). But that highway is 120kms of wilderness and since the BC government constructed it as a short cut to the interior there’s a climb like none other. As well, I was also told there’s still snow on the Cocahaula.

The second route, Hwy 3, goes south over Manning Park pass, which is also a climb, but nothing like the Cocahuala. The problem is it’s very winding and its a huge detour. But it is the CCA recommended route.

The third route is the Trans Canada which follows the Fraser Canyon and other then a few killer climbs is relatively flat and very scenic. Plus I love white water and can’t wait to see Hells Gate. So that’s the one I’m taking. Plus Casie and Marnie gave me pointers about what to expect after hope and they know both routes and suggested the Trans Canada Hwy north because it’s flatter and more scenic.

Good night
I’m writing this post sitting on a picnic table over looking the fast mighty Fraser River. The sound of the waves splashing against the shore is soothing, Venus is shining just above a mountain top, amd my stomach’s full. Life is good. Time to settle down for the night.

;20120508-060854.jpg
The moon setting over the mountains

Stats for the day
Distance covered: 120kms
Max speed: 60kms
Moving avg: 21lms
Max elevation: 130M

20120517-102410.jpg

20120517-102454.jpg

Day 1 – Vancouver International Airport to Fort Langley BC

My flight landed on time at 9:30 am PST. I picked up my bike and other equipment at the special baggage claim and found a nice empty spot on the floor to start the assembly process.

20120506-050459.jpg

By 11:30am I was changed and ready to go with a fully assembled and loaded bicycle. I stopped off at the Travelers Assistance desk and bought a map of BC and a map of Canada. The very friendly gentleman behind the desk helped me find the safest route out of the airport.

I found it quite amusing walking about the airport with my bicycle. No one really seemed to take notice. It was like it was an everyday event. Well, it is Vancouver after all.

The best route out of the airport is to follow the cycling lane (duh!). It takes you to Grant McConachie Way and north to Marine Drive. At that point I wished I had spent a little more time mapping out a route to Langley. I discovered Vancouver has a ton of rivers and bridges to cross and it’s not that easy to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

I also discovered that my GPS routing sucks. Although there’s a bicycle setting it doesn’t actually optimize the routing for bikes and it made some pretty poor choices. Regardless, by about 3pm I reached Edward’s house in Fort Langley.

The climate’s very different in Vancouver compared to Ottawa. The fruit trees are in bloom, the trees have leaves and the flowers are out. It’s very refreshing after the cold spring we’ve had in Ottawa.

20120506-063316.jpg

Edward and Pat were great hosts. Edward chauffeured me around Langley to pick up spare spokes, fuel for my stove, and some packages of dehydrated food. Then he showed me different parts of Langley including the old town. Later we had dinner at a great Sushi restaurant.

Fort Langley is a fascinating mix of country farms, golf courses, pastures, big box stores, and the historic village. Fort Langley was originally a part of a network of trading posts established by the Hudson’s Bay Company on the Pacific Slope in the early nineteenth century. And yes, there is a fort. In fact it’s part of Canada’s National Park system. It’s a pretty little town and I’d like to take Vicki back here again one day.

By the way, the dehydrated food packages were in limited supply apparently because people are stocking up since, you all know, that the year 2012 marks the end of the world. At the cash the clerk explained to me that the packages were not returnable. With a straight face I asked if that was because of the “end of the world thing”? I don’t think she really heard me. She replied “no, it’s just that we don’t want people tampering with the packages”.

All-in-all it was a great first day. I faced a few hills, enjoyed the wonderful West Coast hospitality, and I’m raring to head out on my way to Hope BC tomorrow morning.

PS – After writing this post I realized that I didn’t sleep in and that it’s not 6:30 in the morning and that it’s actually 3:30am, and I better change the time zone on my iPad. The bright side is that I can sleep for a few more hours!