29 June 2007

Having two days off just makes one lazy and slow. We slept in till (gasp!) 7, had some eggs, and kind of lounged around in our hostel. We were on the road by 10. A few blocks away from the hostel, one of my front racks had broken off. Actually, what had happened was the bolt holding it to the fork snapped, and there was no way to replace it with a new one. So, we headed to a bike shop to get it fixed. What an ordeal it all was! They told us they'd be able to remove it if we went to a hardware store and got them the appropriate drill bit (they didn't have the right size on hand). So off we went, to Home Hardware, the nearest store. They didn't have what we wanted, and so we moved on to Home Depot, where we met Steve, an employee who used to be a pro cyclist. Apparently cycling is as dirty as they say: Steve had to quit because he was addicted to steroids.

The drill bits in Home Depot were quite expensive, and we were told that we could go to Sport Check across the street to get it fixed. So, off we went. But, again, the staff at Sport Check didn't have the tools to help us out. We were starving, and frustrated. We decided to have some pancakes and waffles at a pancake and waffle house, and moved on. We went to a different bike shop where, after two younger mechanics tried what they could, the older, more experienced owner of the shop showed them how it's done. It took him five minutes, and my rack was back up. When he finished, he said, "why don't you give me $5 and we'll call it even." That's it, just as if it was nothing. According to Dan, that guy was a real man. Indeed, he was.

So, this day was not all that exciting. In the end, we decided not to even try going anywhere, as it was 4 by the time we finished with all that, and the wind was an easterly one, blowing at speeds of 40 km/h. We were not about to battle that this late. To save some money, we checked into a campsite just outside Regina, where we'll be spending the night.


28 June 2007

Today was quite uneventful, but relaxing. We went to a library to update our blogs, and then an internet cafe when the library wouldn't let us use their computers for more than an hour. Exciting stuff.


27 June 2007

This day off started out quite stressfully. Our first order of business was getting my derailleur fixed, so we walked downtown in search of a bike shop. We thought that since we were in a city, it wouldn't be too hard to find. It was nice out, and we didn't mind wandering the streets. Regina is a cool city with a lot of character. It is clean and filled with parks and trees, and not as big and overwhelming as many cities tend to be. The people there just seemed really relaxed, and we just got a good vibe from the place on the whole.

However, after a while, walking in circles can get a bit tedious. It wasn't as easy as we thought to find a bike shop, and eventually someone directed us to one that was quite a distance away. We dropped off the bike, and then walked around in circles some more while Dan tried to get money out of his British account, with limited success. Eventually, we got everything sorted out, and felt like we deserved some good food. We had delicious Vietnamese at Lang's Cafe, and then some excellent (and cheap!) ice cream. Dan went back to the hostel, and I trekked over to the bike shop to pick up Margarethe.

In the evening, we went to a park on Wascana Lake, which was right near our hostel. This small park was having a little multicultural festival, with a steel drum band and free hot dogs and burgers. The band was really good, and it was so relaxing to eat free food in a nice park on a pleasant evening and watch them. Afterwards, we walked along Lake Wascana and visited the Regina rowing club, which was really nice!

Tomorrow, we'll be taking another day here, since we still haven't gotten everything done, and Regina rocks.


26 June 2007

We slept in this morning, had breakfast and did laundry. The wind was strong and westerly, so we got ready as quickly as possible and left for Regina just after 1. Once we started riding, it was hard to stop, even for quick water breaks. Because my bike had been blown over earlier in the day, my rear derailleur was bent, and so I didn't have use of my highest gear. Nevertheless, we were cruising at 30-35 km, my legs spinning as fast as they could in my highest functional gear and still not working very hard. We had lunch in a Subway where one of the convenience store workers could not stop squeezing our legs and calling us superman and superwoman (I was especially superwoman, he said). He gave us each a bottle of water and we continued towards Regina.

We arrived in the evening and checked into our hostel. We met a Japanese guy there who was also cycling across Canada, but going east to west. He had his bike stolen in Thunder Bay, along with all of his panniers. He bought a cheap commuter bike, and has been riding it since!

We went out for dinner and drinks with some people from the hostel, and went to bed.


25 June 2007

Today we were meant to go to Craik, another 30 km east of Davidson. But the wind just wasn't on our side. After having a rather long breakfast part 1 in the restaurant in Outlook (we usually make our own, but we were straight out of food), we finally hit the road. My legs were absolutely beat from the past several days of cycling, and the morning's ride was slow. The last 15 km into Kenaston was a huge struggle. The head wind was so strong that we were only going about 13 km/h, despite pushing as hard as we possibly could. Breakfast part 2 never tasted so good, as we were both so hungry and tired. We ended up sitting in the restaurant for quite a while. We were joined by a guy who had hitchhiked to Kenaston--where he had just sold his house--today to check his mail. Apparently he's in the process of publishing an autobiography about his recovery from alcoholism.

Although the weather was still horrible, we hit the road. However, my leg started bugging me a few kilometres into the ride, so we decided to just call it a day at the next decent town. That town was Davidson, and it was really quite nice. We arrived there soaking wet, as it had started to pour about 15 km before our arrival. We immediately went to the local restaurant, half hoping that someone would maybe invite us to spend the night in a warm house. That didn't happen, but we did get lucky--we met Elmer, an elderly organic farmer who had many interesting things to tell us. Apparently very few farmers in Saskatchewan are willing to go organic, so Elmer started a farm where he shows farmers how it's done, and conducts agricultural research. Elmer also writes for the local paper, and said he'd put our little story in! When he was leaving, he gave us $20 to pay for our meal. What a pleasure to have met him!

We had decided that we'd stay in a motel when the weather was still really bad; although it had cleared up by the time we left the restaurant, we stayed in an inn anyway, since we had our minds set on it. It was nice to have some proper showers and just relax and watch TV for once. Tomorrow, we'll be doing some laundry in the morning, and then heading for Regina, if the winds are on our side.


24 June 2007

After such a smooth ride into Kindersley, we figured getting to Outlook would be a breeze. Were we ever wrong! Again, we got up at 4:30 and left by around 6, but this time the conditions weren't so favourable. We had a bit of a headwind, and Saskatchewan hadn't quite flattened out yet. The riding was slow and hard, and it felt like there was always a slight upward slope. Everyone kept telling us how flat Saskatchewan is, saying that it's like a table top, you could watch your dog run away for two weeks, etc. But it's all a lie. Saskatchewan has been fairly flat, but there's always some kind of upward or downward slope, which makes it very challenging if you don't have the wind at your back.

Getting to our rest stop was painful; but the ride afterwards was even worse. The road was really quiet, and the landscape, monotonous. The lack of sleep was really catching up to me, and I was almost falling asleep at the handlebars! It was cloudy, and the gloom made the ride almost unbearable.

Often, when we're 10 to 20 km away from a destination, I start the "finish" of my ride--another rowing parallel--and go as fast as I possibly can, pretending I'm in a race. This time, though, I really needed to force that finish out of myself. The only thing I had left for motivation was finishing the long, miserable ride.

I was absolutely exhausted by the time we reached Outlook, a nice town with a long, red walking bridge overlooking the South Saskatchewan River. Having no propane (still! It's so hard to find the right container), we ate at the town's restaurant and called it a night.


23 June 2007

Today was the fastest, easiest and most fun cycling day of the trip so far. We had decided to get up at 4:30 to get an even earlier start than yesterday. I just love having an excuse to get up at such an early hour--cycling, rowing, anything! We had set off before 6, and ridden 50 km in less than two hours. We were feeling good about ourselves, and decided we'd have a breakfast part 2 in Alsask, an aptly-named town on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The ride from the 50-km mark to Alsask was ridiculously fast. We had a tail wind, and although we were riding over rolling hills, I'm fairly sure it was mostly downhill. We spent a sizeable amount of time traveling at speeds of 40-50 km/h, and it was amazingly fun! We arrived in the town on Kindersley, SK at just 1:30!

After an unsuccessful search for a proper can of propane and a new pair of gloves (I had stupidly left mine behind in Drumheller), Dan and I searched for a place to eat. We checked out the Red Lion Pub, which we found out didn't serve food. We had some beers there, anyway, and met Erika, her aunt (whose name I can't remember!) and Denille. Erika lives in Toronto in Little Italy, and works in theatre. She offered to get us a pair of tickets to the show she's been working on in the Harbourfront Centre. Yay!

Dan and I grabbed some dinner at another place, and headed for bed. The sun was still shining at 8:30, and a group of teenaged grils right outside of our tent kept us awake with their loud music and gossip. Oh well... we managed to get to sleep, eventually.


22 June 2007

We got up at 5 today in order to set off early and beat the afternoon heat. The morning's ride was beautiful--calm, quiet and cool--but I was quickly becoming bored of the monotonous prairie landscape. We stopped in Hanna for lunch, and it was hot by the time we set off again.

We arrive in Youngstown in the early evening. With a population of 170, Youngstown is the smallest town we've been to on this trip. Its main street consists of a gas station, a run-down hotel, and a general store and laundromat. Across the street from the store was a small field with a few picnic tables, a bathroom and a cooking shelter; it vaguely resembled a campsite. We went into the store to ask about this, and were greeted by Greta, who was working there, as well as Betty and a few other locals who were having coffee inside. Everyone was extremely friendly, and really wanted to make our stay a pleasant one. Since the campsite didn't have showers, Betty offered to take us to her place to get cleaned up. The washing machines in the laundromat were all full when we were there. Not a problem: Greta took our dirty clothing and told us she'd do our laundry and bring it by our campsite when it was finished. We hadn't been grocery shopping in ages, so we bought a few items from the store, and good ol' Greta threw in a free bag of peanuts for us. Such nice people!

We went over to Betty's and had our showers. Betty told us a bit about herself. She had grown up on a farm, moved to Youngstown as a teenager, and lived there since. Her husband of 30 years had passed away only two years ago, and she was grateful for the support of her friends and the Youngstown community.

After our showers, we had some dinner at the local (Chinese) restaurant, as it turned out that we had bought the wrong can of propane in Drumheller, so we couldn't cook. We set up our tent, and went to bed before dark.


21 June 2007

We were off to a slow start this morning, getting up after 8 and not leaving our campsite till about 10. The plan was to go to the museum, and then head straight to Youngstown, our next destination; but we realized that we had a few more things to do before going, like getting more propane for our stove and some groceries for the day. We went to Canadian Tire first and bought the propane. We went back to our bikes, which were parked just outside, and I placed the new bottle in the cooler on the back of my bike. Moments later, we heard a POP! followed by a hisssss: flat tire #4. This delayed everything--after changing the inner tube, we had to find a bike shop in town to buy some more inner tubes. In time, we realized there was no way we'd make it to Youngstown, or even Hanna--a biggish town about 30 km west of Youngstown--by nightfall. We decided we'd spend an extra night in Drumheller.

Since the Tyrell Museum was about 6 km away from our campsite, and we try to make a point of staying off our bikes on days off, we started walking. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we managed to hitch a ride with a family from Toronto. On the way back, another family from Regina, SK drove us to our campsite. It's amazing how many half empty cars pass by before someone finally stops to give you a ride. We were clearly just a pair of you tourists, and I know we don't look threatening or anything. People need to lighten up!

The museum was absolutely amazing. There was a wide variety of fossils on display, as well as some live animals and very informative exhibits. We must have spend about 3 hours going through it all.

After the museum, we went for a swim in the public pool, had some dinner, and went to bed. The extra day in Drumheller was well worth it!


20 June 2007

This day turned out to be much longer than we expected! We got up at 5, and Basia and Leszek got up with us to help us get ready. Basia made us delicious crepes with ice cream, and Leszek cycled with us to the bike path we had decided to take out of Calgary. We were glad to have taken the path rather than the roads, as the traffic was horrible.

We had made it to a small town called Beiseker about 80 km away before noon, and devoured the sandwiches that Leszek and Basia had made for us. Dan called his parents, I took a power nap, and before we knew it, it was already 2:30. We hit the road again. It had gotten quite hot, and we had a bit of a head wind. Alberta wasn't quite as flat in this part as we would have liked. The cycling was slow and tedious, and just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, we hit a 19 km-long construction zone, where the roads were mostly gravel.

It was very rewarding to finally hit Drumheller, the badlands of Canada. We had planned on going to the Royal Tyrell Museum, a huge paleontological museum and research station, but arrived in Drumheller too late for that. At our campground, we met Jim and Corey, a couple who had also cycled across Canada a few years ago, and were now driving across in a VW camper van wth their sons. They invited us over for some wine, gave us a bit of touring advice, and insisted we take $20 for admission to the museum tomorrow. We thank them for their generosity, and will check out that museum as soon as it opens!


19 June 2007

Despite having gone to bed around midnight last night, Dan and I couldn't manage to sleep in and were awake by around 7. We lounged around and had some tea with Monika. As soon as Basia woke up, she made us an amazing breakfast of crepes with fruit and yogurt, and then took us downtown. We spent the day there--Dan got his bike looked at while Basia and I had some delicious tea at Oolong Tea House and just strolled around the city. Afterwards, we had some huge slices of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Cafe, and then headed home for dinner. We figured out a safe route out of the city for tomorrow, and headed to bed.


18 June 2007

After all of our struggles cycling through the mountains, today's ride through the rolling hills of western Alberta was a piece of cake. It still really amazes me how abruptly the landscape changes from day to day. It was awesome to go really fast today, and the weather actually cooperated with us.

We had lunch about 50 km into our ride, at a picnic table near a reservoir. We were quite content, basking in the sun and eating our sandwiches and broccoli. Since we were both facing the water, we didn't notice that behind us, a whole bunch of black, ominous-looking clouds had formed. Although we hadn't thoroughly digested our food yet, we decided to pack up and get going. Luckily, we did not get rained on this time; we were happy to watch the lightning and listen to the thunder from a distance.

We arrived in Calgary by 4:00, and were greeted by Basia and Monika Raciborska, daughters of a good friend of my dad from Poland. We had a nice dinner with them and their dad, Leszek. Later on, we went out with Basia and some of her friends to a place called Schank's, a massive sports bar that had mini gold and virtual golf, in addition to many pool tables. We played some pool, had some beer, and called it a night. Tomorrow we have a day off in Calgary.


17 June 2007

When we woke up this morning it was still pouring rain, and only a few degrees above freezing. Although we were expected in Calgary--where we were to spend the night with the Raciborskis, family friends of mine--we decided that cycling in these conditions would be miserable, and we had better check into the local hostel for the night.

We lay in our tent for a long while, hoping beyond hope that the rain would ease up a bit. When it didn't, we got up and had some breakfast anyway. Again, we waited around in the cooking shelter for the rain to die down, so we could pack up our stuff in dry conditions; again, it didn't. The ride to the hostel was by far the most miserable part of our trip so far. My feet were numb, and my hands hurt so much I wanted to cry. We were quite happy to finally arrive at the hostel, where we could be warm and dry.

We had quite the relaxing day at the hostel, doing nothing but eating, reading and sitting in the sauna. We met Christine and her boyfriend (whose name I never got!), a couple from Montreal who were on vacation in the Rockies. Christine works for the Trans Canada Trail, and said she'd post a little story about us on the Trail's website,! She also invited us to stay with them in Montreal. Yay!


16 June 2007

We set off this morning in the rain, yet again. We were taking the Bow Valley Parkwy (Hwy 1A) rather than the Trans-Canada today, since we were informed it would be more scenic and have less traffic. We were informed correctly--the road passed right through a forest, and was smooth, winding and relatively car-free. The amazing thing about the Rockies is that there is just wildlife everywhere. Before we hit Banff--55 km into our ride, and our rest stop for lunch--we had seen a deer, and elk and two big-horned sheep.

About 20 km before Banff we got rained on again--hard. The rain itself would have been alright, if it wasn't for the ice-cold temperatures. However, it stopped, and we had a pleasant lunch in Banff. But, this brief clear moment was just a tease--our lunch got interrupted by rain. We decided to hit the road early so we could reach Canmore and just relax.

It was sunny again when we arrived in Canmore, and even warm! We set up camp at Wapiti Campgroud, this crazy, hippie place that did not allow RVs. Then, when we went into town for dinner at the Grizzly Paw microbrewry, where we had some truly delicious beer and decent food.

We we returned to our campsite in the evening, the clouds had gathered and a storm was quickly approaching. We were forced in our tent by 9:00, and had even managed to fall asleep; however, our peaceful slumber was interrupted by a drum circle in the tent next door, lasting till at least 3:00 AM. The rain continued, and I got progressively colder, as I lay in my sleeping bag wondering how we would deal with the rain tomorrow.


15 June 2007

Getting up this morning was tough, since it was so cold outside and our sleeping bags were so nice and warm in comparison. We had set the alarm for 7:00, but, knowing we had such a short day ahead of us, we stayed in bed till 8:30. The plan was to get to Lake Louise early to have time to relax and check it out. However, we left much later than planned, and arrived accordingly late.

We finished our first province today!! We felt quite proud of ourselves for having conquered BC, the province we most feared. Alberta was not very welcoming, though. The road became really bad, and as soon as we had crossed the border, it started to rain, then hail. By the time we arrived in Lake Louise, it was pouring rain and freezing cold. It took a hot, 20-minute shower for my feet to finally defrost.

The weather here is bad, and we missed the last gondola ride. Oh well, this place is much too expensive and touristy for our liking anyway. We're just going to relax for the rest of the evening, skip Banff, and head to Canmore tomorrow morning.


14 June 2007

Because we had such a short ride today, we decided to set off a bit late and take care of a few things in town first. Dan was having a few problems with his bike, so we went to 180 Mountain Sport to get it looked at. The mechanics there, Chad and Rene, were extremely helpful to both Dan and I. They talked to us at length about our bikes, gave us some sound advice, and weren't just trying to sell us stuff all along. The best part was that I got a new cassette for my bike, which added a low gear. This was quite necessary, as before this, I only had 16 gears, which were barely enough to get me up Roger's Pass, and would not have gotten me through the madness that was to come today.

As we were getting ready to leave outside the bike shop, we met Alec and Adam, two cyclists who were biking to Calgary to raise awareness about the environment as part of the Otesha project. Adam is a rower at Trent University!

The first part of the route to Field was treacherous. Right away, we were faced with 15 km of some very steep climbs. Now we were really in the Rockies--the road twisted and turned, and only a short concrete barrier separated us from a deadly drop. Shortly after this climb, it started to really pour. The zipper of my rain coat had broken a few days ago, and I got absolutely soaked. Luckily, though, the weather in the mountains is constantly changing, and the rain didn't last.

We stopped for lunch at an entrance to Yoho National Park shortly after it stopped raining. We saw a deer jump out of the forest, bound across the road, and then leap back into the forest on the other side. Then, literally seconds later, we saw another deer get hit by a car! It all happened so fast: the deer jumped out of nowhere, right in front of the car; the car hit the deer, then stopped immediately. The deer, after getting hit, just jumped right back up and bounded back into the forest! It was insane!

The rest of the ride into Field was absolutely amazing. We are really in the mountains now, and words cannot describe what that's like. Despite having seen so many pictures of the Rockies, nothing can compare to actually riding through them. It's a bit cold and a tough ride, but absolutely breathtaking.

We spent the night in the Kicking Horse campground in Yoho National Park, 2 km east of Field. This night was the coldest yet. I don't know what the temperature was, but we were shivering in our sleeping bags, even though we were wearing many layers to bed. Oh well, tomorrow we're only going to Lake Louise, a mere 25 km away.


13 June 2007

We felt we had been slacking a little bit for the past couple of days, so we decided we'd go big today, cycling the full 150 km into Golden. I took an exceptionally long time to get ready in the morning, for some reason. Although we got up at 6:00, I wasn't ready to set off until about 9:30. Luckily, I have a very tolerant traveling partner :)

Since we had lost so much time in the morning, we pounded out the kilometres for four hours without anything more than a few water breaks. There wasn't really anywhere to stop for lunch, anyway, until after Roger's Pass, a long climb, with a summit at 1382 m above sea level. We had been fearing the infamous Roger's Pass since the start of our trip; but, before we knew it, it was over and done with! After cycling 70 km, mostly uphill, we had no qualms about eating the unappetizing, overpriced cafeteria food at the summit.

Although it was already after 4:00 by the time we left the cafeteria, we decided just to book it all the way to Golden. The ride was beautiful--mostly downhill, sunny, and with a beautiful view of the Rockies. We saw the most brilliant rainbow of our lives a few kilometres west of Golden, and arrived in town well before dark.

Since we had had such a long day, and it was already quite late, we decided not to camp tonight. Instead, we stayed in Rondo's Motel for a very good price, pigged out on pizza, and watched TV for the first time since we left Vancouver. It was a well-deserved treat!


12 June 2007

Again, today was a bit of a shortened day. I've been having these really strange pains and numbness in my left hand from the pressure of my handlebars, so I decided to see a doctor so I could potentially do something about them. Dan and I decided to just ride to Revelstoke today to deal with this and a few other things.

The ride into Revelstoke was probably my favourite yet. Our surroundings had changed yet again: this time, we were riding through densely forested mountains. By the end of our ride, we began to catch glimpses of the Rocky Mountains--what a sight!

A few kilometres before reaching Revelstoke, I had the first flat tire of the trip. For some reason, this was kind of exciting, perhaps because for once I had a mechanical problem I was able to fix myself. Shortly before we arrived at our campsite, I had yet another flat! This time, it was my back wheel, and it was less amusing. Oh well, I guess these things happen.

I took care of a bunch of things that needed to be dealt with in Revelstoke. In order to alleviate some of my wrist pain, I got a set of aero bars--handlebar extensions that give you an alternate riding position--as well as some medication that the doctor had prescribed. Hopefully my hand will feel better soon!


11 June 2007

The plan was to cycle to Revelstoke today, but about 100 m into the ride, I started having some mechanical problems. My front derailleur just wasn't changing the gears properly, so Dan and I spent about an hour at the side of the road attempting to fix it, before deciding to cycle 10 km to a bike shop in Salmon Arm to get it looked at by a mechanic. The staff at Skookum bike shop were quite helpful, and dealt with my gears immediately; however, by the time we had finished with all of that, it was almost 1:00, and we realized we'd be hard pressed to make it to Revelstoke before dark. We decided to get some lunch and then just have a short ride into Sicamous.

Conveniently located next to the bike shop was Rahn's Cafe and Bakery, where we met Al, the manager, who served us some delicious soup, chicken pie, sausage rolls and (best of all!) pastries. He was quite impressed with our bike trip, and gave us a loaf of dark rye for the road. Thanks, Al!

We got a nice little campsite in Sicamous, and cooked ourselves a delicious dinner of rice with beans, chicken, salad and some Black Bear beer. Mmmmmm....


10 June 2007

Today was the most truly relaxing day I've had in a long, long time. We slept in, and then did nothing but eat, read and solve cryptic crosswords. I managed to get all of two answers all day, and this was an accomplishment. Perhaps I'll get better at these crazy crosswords in due time. We had an excellent dinner, and now I'm just about ready for bed. Many thanks to John, who not only provided us with a beautiful place to stay, but also hooked us up with some contacts in Lake Louise.


9 June 2007

Today was cloudy, and later rainy. For some reason, neither Dan nor I had much energy, and the first half of our ride to Salmon Arm was incredibly painful. The rain began while we were having lunch, and lasted right till we arrived at our destination, the home of John Worrall, friend of Darch Oborne and former general manager of Lake Louise. It really started to pour about 30 km west of John's house, and by the time we arrived, we were drenched, dirty and tired.

Now, John's house isn't just any old house; John lives in a cabin in a remote corner of Shuswap Lake. The main room of the cabin has large windows and everything you need--kitchen, couches, desk and fireplace. After a nice, long, outdoor (!) shower, Dan and I continued to warm up in front of the fireplace with beer, wine and a nice, heary stew. John taught me how to do cryptic crosswords--which is awesome, because I've been wanting to learn for ages--and invited us to stay another day. I know, we've already had two days off for only six days of cycling, but I just couldn't resist. If the weather in the morning was bad, I wouldn't want to leave; if it was good, I'd want to stay. Either way, this amounted to yet another day off. Dan was eager to keep going, but he conceded that we just couldn't pass such an excellent opportunity up.


8 June 2007

The great thing about this trip is that every day of riding comes with a change of scenery. The road to Kamloops was a fairly quiet one, running through mountains that were beginning to look greener than those in Merritt. We passed a number of lates, and had our lunch at a rest stop
next to Stump Lake. I decided to go for a dip, even though it wasn't all that hot outside and the water was freezing cold.

When we were about 10 km away from Kamloops, we met Bonita Wiens, a cyclist who was headed in the opposite direction. She had also cycled across Canada with her husband Gord, and invited us to spend a night in her home in Kamloops. Yet again, we had really lucked out. After an awesome dinner with Bonita, Gord, and their daughter Karey, Gord helped us solve some of our bike problems. He even fixed my cycling computer, which had never worked and I believed was a lost cause. Later on in the evening, we attended a coffee house fundraiser at the Wiens' church, which Bonita and Karey had helped organize. It was so much fun to meet some like-minded cyclists! We are thankful for the Wiens' kindness and generosity.


7 June 2007

So today was supposed to be a relaxed, rest day with the Obornes, but neither my nerves nor my muscles got a break. Darch picked us up from the campground in the late morning. We had lunch and then used the internet while Darch ran some errands. When he returned, the real fun began. The Obornes are really into mountain biking, and Darch offered to take us out for a nice little ride on a trail that started at the information centre, fittingly called "Too much info". Too much info ran all the way up the mountain, and then right back down. It was the most intense trail I've ever been on--it was narrow, winding and, of course, replete with large rocks, roots and branches.

I hadn't been on a mountain bike for a while, and I felt very unstable as I tested one out in the parking lot before hitting the trail. The first half of the ride--the uphill part--was really hard, as the trail was extremely steep at many points. My front wheel kept lifting off the ground, and there wasn't a moment when I didn't feel like I was going to fall off my bike and break something. The absolute worst part of the experience came when we were nearly at the top of the mountain, when we were meant to cross the Big Easy, a ramp about 5 m long, less than a metre wide, and about 2 or 3 metres off the ground. It may not sound like much, but I was absolutely terrified to cross it. So, I got off my bike and walked across. But Darch wouldn't have any of that.

Darch is one of the most positive, charismatic people I've ever met, one of those mind-over-matter types who just make you believe you can do anything you want to do and really live life to the fullest. He kept telling me that I could do it, I just have to believe I can, etc. But I was petrified, and simply could not do it. I was in tears--yes, that's right--I was just so afraid of the stupid thing. But, Darch wouldn't take no for an answer, so eventually, after many attempts and much persuasion, I did it, even if I started part-way on the ramp rather than on the hill immediately before it.

The road down the mountain was even more terrifying. Again, it was quite steep at many points, and that scared me. I just didn't have this mountain biking thing down well enough. I was too afraid to gain speed, so I'd brake; but then I'd start skidding, so I'd just stop, get off my bike, and walk. Eventually, I decided I'd just walk my bike all the way down. Of course, Darch wouldn't have any of that. At the beginning of every 'easy' part of the trail, he'd make sure I got on my bike and followed him. So, I'd get on my bike and follow him, but only until I encountered some scary piece of trail (usually about 5 seconds later), when I'd get off and continue to walk. I did this all the way down the hill, and had no qualms about it.

Having a nice dinner and chilling in the hot tub after all this biking helped calm me down. I will be happy for the stability of my fully-loaded road bike tomorrow.


6 June 2007

Today was possibly one of the best days of our trip so far. We awoke after a long, comfortable sleep, had a delicious breakfast, and set off for Merritt by 10:00 (it was really hard to leave that nice little inn!). Merritt was only 65 km away, through the hilly desert, and we were told that our ride would be much easier than the previous day's. It was, indeed, pleasant--there was much less traffic on the road we took (Hwy 8) than on the Trans Canada, and the weather was cloudy and cool--but the day wasn't without its challenges.

The first challenge: hills. We thought this day would be smooth sailing compared to yesterday, but we were wrong. The climbs were not as long as yesterday's, but really, really steep. It was as if this landscape was messing with us: we'd go down a big, steep hill only to climb right back another one, just as big and just as steep.

The second challenge: wildlife. Or, as Dan put it, domesticlife. We were riding over small mountains sparsely covered in trees, some farmland, and native reserves. Everything was going smoothly when, all of a sudden, a big black dog jumped out at us from one of the farms on our right, barking and looking as if it wanted to devour us. Shortly afterwards, his partner in crime, another big, black dog, jumped out at us as well. We were forced to swerve into the oncoming traffic lane (which was fortunately free of traffic at the time!), and just narrowly avoided being knocked off our bikes and being chewed up by these dogs. It was absolutely terrifying. I don't think I've ever pedalled so fast in my life, and the adrenaline kept us going pretty fast for quite a while.

We arrived in Merritt fairly early, around 2:00. We headed straight for the visitors' centre, as our previous experiences with campgrounds had convinced us that this should always be our first stop to get the lowdown from the locals. Dan's gears (and mine, too, sort of) were malfunctioning, so one of the first things we asked was whether there was a bike shop in town. There wasn't, but the woman working in the info centre had a son who was good with bikes, and offered to drive him down to our campsite to take a look at our bikes. She also invited us to her house for dinner, an offer we graciously accepted.

We biked down to the campground we had chosen, called the Moon Shadow. This was a brand new campground in Merritt, and you could tell--everything was nice, new and well-kept. We were greeted by Roxanna, the park manager. She was amazingly nice to us, and even offered to let us sleep in the campground's spacious laundry room if it got really cold and wet outside. After a moment's consultation, Dan and I decided to ask her if it would be OK for us just to sleep in the laundry room regardless of the weather. It was so warm and clean and included a *free* arcade! Roxanna was totally fine with that, and we were happy campers :)

At 5:30, Catherine Oborne--the woman from the visitors' centre--picked us and our bikes up for dinner. Her son, James, helped us with our gear problems, and we had a pleasant dinner with Catherine, her husband Darch, James and Claudio, an exchange student from Switzerland. The Obornes treated us with tremendous hospitality, and even invited us to stay with them another day. They called a few friends of theirs in cities along our route, and arranged for us to stay at their places. We are so lucky to have met them, and look forward to spending another day in Merritt tomorrow!


5 June 2007

I didn't even have the energy to write in my journal on this day--that's how tired I was. Dan and I woke up at 5:00 and left by 7:30. For some reason--perhaps having had a day off, or the cool, cloudy weather--we had ridiculous amounts of energy. And we needed it. What we thought were hills before was really nothing but flat land with a bit of a grade. Today we really started heading into the mountains, and we felt it. It's amazing what your body can do if you put it to the test! It was just up and down, all day long. And there were tunnels! These were a bit scary because trucks and cars go through them, and there's always a chance you'll get hit, so we basically sped through them as quickly as possible. We made it through, safe and sound, and were rather proud of ourselves.

We were making good time, and hit a town called Boston Bar about 61 km away at around 11:30. We decided not to stop for lunch quite yet, since we were still feeling energetic. But shortly afterward, it started to rain, and my body also just began to ache. It wasn't just the legs: my arms, shoulders, neck and lower back were feeling it as well. At one point my hand just cramped up and I almost couldn't shift my gears.

The thing about hills is that it's not just the climbs that are challenging; the descents can kill you as well. You really have to squeeze your brakes sometimes, while still trying to avoid getting hit by a truck. With the wind and the rain and the traffic and all the gear, my bike often felt wobbly--not a nice feeling.

After a particularly long climb--the Jackass Mountain pass--we realized that we rally should have stopped in Boston Bar for lunch. By this point, we had completed nearly 90 km in about 7 hours, and we were beat. Luckily, we stumbled upon a restaurant called Kanaka Bar Cafe run by a friendly Chinese couple. It was so nice to be out of the rain, and we sat there for a good hour and a half digesting our food. Going back out into the rain was painful and cold.

By 6:00 we had finally arrived at our campground, an RV park about 12 km west of Spence's Bridge. It was definitely not designed for tents, and also deserted. We were dead tired by this point, but decided to carry on to Spence's Bridge anyway, in search of some nicer accommodation. We found just what we were looking for: the Spence's Bridge Inn, a clean, nice, homey place run by a very friendly couple. We were absolutely exhausted, having cycled 140 km in about 12 hours, through the mountains, so we decided to splurge on a room. We had the best meals, showers and sleeps of our lives that night. Hooray for dryness and warmth!


4 June 2007

Today was a pretty chill day. We didn't do anything special, just ate, did laundry, used the internet. In the evening, we wanted to have a fire, but it started to rain as soon as we had it lit. It was disappointing, but we survived.


3 June 2007

I woke up this morning feeling less sore than I expected. Although we got up at 6AM, we didn't leave the camp site till 9--packing up our stuff took a while!--and then we still had to go grocery shopping. So we probably hit the road around 10. The first part of our day, a 50K ride to a small town called Agassiz, was challenging, to say the least. There was definitely one climb for which my lowest gear just barely sufficed. But we made it in good time, and felt like we deserved a long lunch break in the park. The break was refreshing, and gave us the energy to finish the final 35K of our day in only about two hours, including our short water breaks. This final stretch was the most satistying yet. It was mostly flat, and absolutely gorgeous. I was in my zone, and managed to conquer some climbs with relative ease. We arrived at our camp site in Hope at 4:40, but it was completely deserted. We took the advice of a local who told us that it was a sketchy spot, and pitched our tent at a much nicer site nearby.

Hope is completely surrounded by mountains. Maybe that's just the way it is in BC, but I just can't get used to how amazing it is to see mountains everywhere you look. We went for a dip in a freezing cold spring from the mountain runoff. It was so refreshing after such a hot, sticky day. We were absolutely beat, so we've decided that tomorrow will be our first day off.


2 June 2007

It feels great to have completed Day 1, finally, after all the stress of preparing for this trip. Before this afternoon I had not yet attempted to ride my bike fully loaded, with front panniers, rear panniers, and handlebar bag. Through all of the planning for this trip, not once did I feel nervous; not once, that is, until 10 minutes before our departure time. That's when Dan and I had finally finished packing and loading our bikes up. We took them for a quick ride around the block just to get a feel for the weight. My bike felt completely unstable, and I was terrified. So we're really going to do this? I mean, are we actually going to bike across Canada? These are questions my mother had been asking me from the moment I decided to do this, but it was only right before leaving that I realized what I had gotten myself into.

Despite the fact that I was literally shaking, we finally began our journey--slowly, but surely. After completing the ride from Richmond to Vancouver--which includes three big bridges--we felt like we had accomplished something. Getting out of Vancouver was quite the ordeal. Apparenlty cyclists are allowed to ride on the highway in this province. At least that's where our route led us. The experience was absolutely terrifying. Not only did we have to worry about not running over sharp objects on the road and following our directions, but also not getting run over by cars, some of which were traveling at remarkably high speeds. However, we made it out of the city, safe and sound. The rest of the road to Mission was smooth sailing. We just got into the zone, and had to keep pedaling until we made it to our campground. And what a feeling of accomplishment it was! Finally, after all this time, we are on the road. Mission accomplished.