Day 98-105: 17-24 Oct 2008: ferries & friendly people, from Vancouver, CA, to Seattle, USA via Victoria
17 October 2008: Vancouver to Victoria, 75 km
The weather gods did not want us to leave Vancouver, maybe they thought I should rest more. Wind and rain pounded on us when we made our way to the ferries in the Southwestern point of the mainland of Canada. we had taken the monorail East first as the direct route would have led us through the George Massey Tunnel, off limits for cyclists. The shuttle for cyclist had stopped for the season and we did not think that any bus could take our heavy bikes on their frontloading rack. we could not lift them up there anyways
After about 30km through mainly flat and wet land we ended up at the ferry, just in time for a 14.00 departure. It takes about 90 minutes to cross the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island, the largest island on the West side of North America.
The Lochside Trail, turning into the Galloping Goose trail later on, starts right outside the ferry terminal and is a great way to see a bit of the island. It is an old rail track, sometimes unpaved, sometimes crossing roads and even wooden trestles but always very scenic for all its 35km. We saw deer along the car-free trail, many flocks of geese and fields full of pumpkins. we enjoyed it so much that we ended up entering in Victoria in the dark…
We stayed 2 nights with our great Warm Showers list hosts, Mark & Cathy. They took us to a nice little Farmer’s market, one of the last of the season. It is nice to see that more young people are supporting the local farmers and eating healthy produce, even though it costs more than the preprocessed and mass-produced ‘food’ from the larger supermarket chains. I feel that our generation (at least a part of it) realizes that we should value fuel for our own system more than that for our cars… Read more
Vancouver is a nice city. Even though we had to get used to being in a large place again, we enjoyed the neighbourhoods, the bicycle lanes, the beaches, Chinatown, Sushi. I will keep this report short and just show you some images.
We were surprised by the large number of homeless people in the streets downtown and the lack of a real ‘tourist’ area. A lot is going on in Vancouver as the Olympic Wintergames will be here in less than 16 months: new buildings, houses and more.
We spend many days resting at Kristen’s place. I had to transfer many websites from one host to another, which is the electronic version of emigrating an entire family, but all went well and now www.BikeTravellers.com, www.ExposedPlanet.com and some others are finally reachable and fast again.
We went into some big outdoor and bicycle shops but did not really need anything. I commented about this on Bikeradar, a well-known website that had reviewed our Santos Travelmaster Read more
Day 85 – 90, 4-9 Oct 2008: Cache Creek to Vancouver: tunnels, rain and big cities: through the canyon to the urban jungle!
4th October: Cache Creek – Lytton, 78km
Cache Creek is a bit of a weird city, or maybe it was just that we were there in rainstorms, while it is one of the driest parts in the country.. Anyway, the sun welcomed us again when we left the row of fastfood chains behind us and the dry landscape showed itself.
It was a fun day of cycling, as we were treated with some verrry nice downhills.
I have felt that one of the things that makes me most happy is cycling downhill fast: the wind in my face, the mix of speed, fear and excitement and the resulting cocktail of endorphins and adrenaline. Many physical and mental bystanders think that this borders to suicidal behaviour, but they have no idea about how much you can enjoy and celebrate life even in just a split second; it makes you want to scream and sometimes you just do
Halfway down I noticed some fruit stalls alongside the road and stopped at the biggest one and got some apples. After Mike, the owner showed us around and told us he had too much fruit and not enough pickers, we were tempted to stay a while and make some extra money. But with my back it would not be a good idea and we were still being chased by winter, so we headed back on the road instead, loaded with a bag of fruit and veggies that Mike had let us pick..
The rain suddenly came back in full-force showers and we stayed a while in a nice small lodge and bakery in Spences Bridge. We saw more of the huge freight trains passing and twice I counted over 210 wagons per train… Read more
“emmm, I have a problem”
“My back hurts so much now, I cannot get up…”
We had arrived at Richard & Maggee’s place the day before. The pain in my back had become slowly worse during the past days, but at this moment it was so bad, I could not move. We were sleeping in the Yoga room, on comfortable, but thin mats, so I could not ‘roll’ out of bed either. It took about 10 minutes of painful balancing and slow finger movements before I could leverage myself into a semi-upright position. Ouch.
Once up, the pain was a bit less, but a cough and especially a sneeze made me grimace in pain. It shot sharply in unexpected moments from my right shoulder, all around my chest. I needed pills, a doctor or both..
After trying different types of pills the next days, Richard called a doctor and I could see him the same day. First pay $60, then talk to the doc. Once I told him that I had been cycling from Alaska the past months, he was convinced it was muscle pain, even though I told him that I could not pinpoint any specific muscle that hurt. I tried to convince him, but all he said was, that if I thought it was something inside my chest, it might be my lungs, and that I maybe should get an X-ray in the hospital. Read more
15th September 2008: Stewart to Bonus Lake, 81km
We could not resist George’s offer to bring us back to the Meziadin junction. Though the ride from Stewart is beautiful, loosing a day –of which half would be uphill non-stop- cycling a stretch we had already done did not appeal. George was happy to get put of town and spend some more time with us, so we put the bikes in the back of the pick-up and 50 minutes later we got dropped off at the exact same spot where we had left the Cassiar Highway a few days before. Back to business!
After all the bear-less hours in Hyder, we got a pleasant surprise. I stopped to pick up CAD $3 in change from the shoulder: our total is now up to about 9 dollars in change found along the road, somehow people literally throw money away… Ivana came up to me and asked if I had stopped for the bear. Bear? Which bear? I looked ahead and saw a large black spot on the side of the road. Damn, she was right, a huge black bear was strolling in the grass. We filmed a bit and tried to warn a passing car, but he did not decease any speed and nearly hit the poor bear as he was crossing the road…
We had planned to stop for lunch and a few minutes ahead we rested near a so-called ‘bear-container’. No it does not contain bears, though that would be funny (funny/interesting and funny/haha), but it is a strong trash container. These are useful in more ways than one: the lids cannot be opened by pear paws so bears cannot get to the trash and will not get used to human food remains. As the sticker on it says: ‘be bear aware, a fed bear is a dead bear’ as once a bear is used to human food, it will no longer be afraid of humans and will have to be hunted down.
The containers have another very useful feature: the backside can be opened and campers can place their food bag inside, next to the hanging plastic bags hat are inside as well. So the supplies are safe from bears and other scavengers, but outside the actual trashbag, so everything stays clean. The availability of a bear container was one of the most important reasons for us to stop at certain places along the highways of Canada & Alaska; even though most are on ‘no overnight camping’ rest areas, we rather be breaking a non-enforced law than attract and feed bears…
It was clear that we were getting into the last and warmer part of the Cassiar Highway. Not only were the glaciated and snowy peaks disappearing out of sight, but we also encountered new types of animals: small yellow and black-striped suicidal caterpillars (even though only a few cars pass the Cassiar per hour, it takes the critters longer to cross it) and some small garden snakes, though mostly in the flat and/or dead variety.
Ivana and I always use to joke that we are collecting airmiles when we are climbing yet another hill and Newton would probably kinda agree as basically we are gathering gravitational energy. The long sweet downhills we always refer to as ‘free miles’ , even though we were riding in Canada, which is a metric country. It was nice to see that after a day of collecting airmiles, we not only cashed in our accrued miles for some free miles, but we ended up at the aptly named hidden but beautiful ‘Bonus Lake’ rest area to top it off. Read more
After I had asked the noisy neighbour to shut off their generator (which was outside their big RV!), we had a peaceful night, without any bears. Even the wind had stopped and in the morning we had a great view over the Meziadin Lake.
The way to Stewart is only about 65 km and with the sun in our face, it was a pleasant ride. The scenery is very impressive, with huge glaciers hanging on to steep walls. The road itself climbed steep for a while, but leveled out in front of the famous Bear Glacier.
Not only well-known for being one of the most accessible glaciers (the road passes right in front of the lake), but also as a backdrop in the movie Insomnia (with Al Pacino & Robin Williams). Though even in the short period since, it has retreated visibly and for the first time the glacier is no longer touching the lake directly.
The strong headwind was pretty cold and soon we continued our way: downhill! Through beautiful scenery, we freewheeled all the way back to sealevel, the first time since we started at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, a few months before.. Read more
Day 53-62: 2-11 Sep 2008: The Cassiar Highway: a wonderful wilderness with hills, gravel, jade, wildlife… and people
Of course we took the road less travelled Highway 37, The Stewart Cassiar Highway, or simply The Cassiar Highway. All names for this infamous road, almost 1000km long, known for the lack of services, bad weather, bears and gravel patches. The latter issue had been solved we had been promised, but the other?
2nd September: Nugget City – French Creek, 58km
The adventure started sunny, but dark clouds appeared, especially on Ivana’s face when she noticed the first set of hills. “is this going to be like that for the rest of the road?” she asked. I truly did not know, but suspected that this was just the beginning…
Fortunately some nice people made our day by donating a full bag of cut-up watermelon, just what the doctor ordered as the sun had come out. Unfortunately the wind had come to and after a week of tailwind, we were not happy to have it in our face again, slowing us down.
Ivana spotted a black bear, right beside the road, I must have raced right past him on the downhill. At least that made her a bit happier and when we also found a nice deserted rest area called French Creek where we -after hanging our foodbags in the trees- could relax near a good campfire.
It was hard to leave Tracy & Sylvester as we had felt so much at home in their place, but we had to hit the road, winter was catching up…
We managed to delay ourselves until about 16.00 in Whitehorse and then left in a terrible downpour, and as the first few km were steep uphill to get out of the valley, we were feeling down. But the sky stopped dumping water on us and soon we found ourselves going up and down over rolling hills besides more Wonderful Lakes. We had set ourselves a new goal: get to Scott’s Anarchy Farm! We had met Scott in the Potlatch (see previous post here) and he had invited us to visit him when we would pass.
Unfortunately he was not in the Greenhouse: a big plastic covered collection of wonderful smelling flowers and vegetables. We waited outside for some moments and cycled around in the area, but as we did not had the directions to their house, we returned to the greenhouse. The rain started again, and we decided to sleep inside the greenhouse, setting up our inner tent only. It was by far the best smelling campsite on our entire trip.
In the middle of the night we heard some noises and Scott came in. He did not seem to surprised to see us sleeping in the middle of hundreds of flowers and added one more log to the slow burning woodstove, so the temperature stayed above freezing.
The next morning he came back with coffee. A few weeks later he sent us a great poem, please check it out here on his 1000 Americans page. We stayed close to the warm fire all morning and only after noon, we packed our tent and continued riding through the rainy Yukon lake District. The wind was friendly and even with our late starts we did over 100 km, ending up late at a deserted state campground, close to Teslin lake.
August 28 – 30: through the lake District with Mate & tortas
We had promised ourselves to start earlier, and actually managed to get on our bikes before 8 ‘o clock! We arrived quickly at the small place of Teslin, where we spend several hours in the library. We were surprised at the many small libraries we met, there is so much great stuff to see and hear, most offer Internet access and the ladies running them are without exception all nice and friendly, so support your local Library and get your kids to read!
We spend some time in the Teslin Motel, working on our reports and chatting with Heather, who was on her way North, on a big BMW motorbike (see her picture here). We fixed her iPhone for her and chatted with this lovely woman, who was in great spirit.. Do not pass the Motel without seeing the hidden gem: a small museum with stuffed animals in the gift shop (some of Ivana’s images are on Flickr here). This sounds much worse than it is, they have done a wonderful job. Oh, and the Wifi is free at the Motel
Ivana managed to cross the scary and long bridge, which had a steel bottom, through which you could see water below. As with most rivers, we had to climb a steep hill to get out of the valley it had created, but during the climb a van stopped. Read more
We had spend another night in Champagne, hung over from all the food! We headed out on the old Alaska Highway and took a look in the old Indian Village nearby. It is more like a museum, with some examples of how the people lived before the days of the Highway and the ‘white men’. Though it was closed for the season, we wandered around, through the different huts. It had a very high ‘Blair-witch-project’ -level and Ivana wanted to leave quickly
It had started raining again and though it stopped for a while, it came down with full force when we were about 30km away from Whitehorse. I was freezing, but Ivana -who did not have any rainpants- was even worse. We went to the first open store and asked if we could make a call. 10 minutes later, Tracy picked us up and took us to her house..
Tracy is one of the 6000+ people on the Warm Showers list. These are biketravellers from all over the world, opening their house for other cyclists. This can mean anything from a place to pitch our tent to a spare bed. No money is exchanged, as in the end most hosts will get some Warm Shower elsewhere. As the host are cyclists, they know what other cyclist need: mostly a warm shower (hence the name), a place to wash and dry laundry but also a lot of food
If you want to meet some nice people on a bike, usually filled with stories, sign up yourself and host us or other biketravellers.. Read more
Hi all, apologies for not posting before, we were too busy cycling, getting fed by friendly Canadians, watching bears and visiting doctors. I wil write about all of that soon, but first as promised, our day in Champagne:
We woke up to a nice day, which means: no rain Before heading out towards the seductions of Whitehorse, we decided to cycle around in Champagne, which appeared to be a ghost town. We spotted some good campsites near the community hall, wondering why our ‘hosts’ had not pointed these out. Just when we were turning around to start our trip towards Whitehorse, noticed some smoke coming out of a building. We checked it out and found a few ladies cooking in a large kitchen.
‘Do you want some breakfast?’ One asked.
‘Sit down, you can stay for the Potlatch.’
We had no idea what the Potlatch (often called Potluck) was, but we found out during this wonderful day. It was one year ago that one elder of the Champagne-Aishihik First nation had died. Now, one year later, a spirit house was built on her grave and all friends and family came together for the celebration of this occasion and to remember her.
So during the day a row of people came into the huge community hall, from very young to very old.. We were happy that we could help out during the day. I helped making al the tables and chairs ready for 200 persons and grilled several hundred of ‘Hooligans’: some small type of fish. Ivana helped serving the people, there were many courses. We got fed ourselves as well: from Moosejaw soup to fish eggs to salad and salmon. Ivana convinced teh shy children that she could turn them into animals by painting their faces. We talked with the elders as well as the younger generations. It was all great.
I spoke a while with Yoyo, one of the elders.
‘So you can tell your friends that you were with the Indians and that they all wore feathers and such’, Yoyo remarked.
I told him that that stereotype was not my impression of the First Nation people we had met so far. He looked at me, decided that I was good and started to talk about his past.
‘You know, the younger generation cannot speak our language anymore. I am one of the last ones to speak it. Our language is lower to the ground, closer to the earth. If I forgot my gloves near a tree in a big forest 60 miles away, I could explain a friend where to look for them in a few minutes. In the high speech, this is impossible’. Read more