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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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BreakfastLunch of champions

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A pack of wild horses couldn’t drag me in here. Too scary.