After an awesome week of hiking and flying RC Airplanes with my cousin mark and his wife, I was dropped off at the ferry terminal in Nanaimo Vancouver Island where my trip officially starts. I made some promises with Mark to come back west at some point do take on some wild pacific coast on a multi week trip around some pristine untouched and rugged coastline on kayaks, a promise in which he better hold me to, and a promise in which I don’t plan on breaking. The 400 meter cycle from the car to the ferry was a pretty pathetic start to what will become the most intense adventure I’ve ever attempted. Nanaimo is a good 2 hour ferry ride to Tsawwassen Bay south of Vancouver city. I’m amazed at the amount of people with their heads dug into a laptop or fingers frolicking a smart phone to get to the next level of angry birds. The trip is absolutely beautiful, white snowcapped peaks line the shore to the east while massive old growth pine trees descend to the seas edge. I was the only one bearing the chilly weather at the bow of the boat to witness the killer whales exhausting plumes of mist only a few hundred meters away. Maybe it’s nothing new to the boat full of locals but I liked the fact it was almost a private performance instead of a platform full of tourists screaming and shouting while the sound of beeps and shutter release noises polluted the scene. As the boat landed I was the first one out but unfortunately had to walk the bike until I got off the loading ramps. I know I shouldn’t be so excited for what’s to come but the first few meters in any journey is a milestone of a an uncertain future.
40 kilometres was my goal for that day to ride from the ferry to a small suburb hugging the border of Washington State of the U.S.A. It was great to spend some time with my cousin Kathy and her family for the small amount of time I was there. I never seem to feel awkward or uneasy because all my relatives are luckily down to earth and all around awesome people. I took Sunday off biking and I’m glad I did, My legs were burning that first night and stiff as a dead cat Sunday morning. Despite having a great ride in from the ferry the day before, I knew things were only going to get worse if I’m sore after only 40km on flat coastal roads. I hadn’t known this before but my cousin in law Robert was an avid cyclist in the earlier days and has done Calgary to Golden B.C over ten times over. Incredibly impressive considering it’s the hardest section of the entire cross continent ride. It made for an incredibly honourable morning as we pushed off at 7 am sharp this morning as he guided me out of the town district and got me headed straight in the right direction. I love that feeling to know he’s sacrificed an early mornings start at work to cycle the first dozen kilometres to a journey in which I know everyone wants to experience just a little bit.
Feeling fresh and invincible was short lived as I missed my turn only 3 km after splitting with Rob and ended up an extra 5 kilometres in the wrong direction and evidently, in the valley of a canyon. Not to worry though, the morning was young and my energy levels high. I hadn’t expected the hills that dropped and climbed beneath my wheels that morning to exists in all honesty, I was saving my climbing energy for when I got to the mountains but 15 degrees hills I found myself struggling up and zooming down killed my energy and prompted the 10:00 am grilled cheese sandwich lunch my cousin had packed for me the morning. I had done 40km in only 3 hours which I consider an incredible pace for someone who’s never ridden a bike laden with 105 lbs of gear before. Eventually I crossed the Fraser River into the town of Mission just east of Vancouver city where I got onto a beautiful nicely paved and relatively quiet road following the Fraser river all the way up to my goal for my first big day, the town of HOPE.
Things were flowing smooth until I hit 70km, my legs started to shake, I was out of breath, and felt like fainting. My energy was gone and so was my water. I know better than to push too hard on the first day so I found a nice gassy patch on the shoulder of the highway and fell asleep in the ditch like the self-proclaimed homeless man I am. It’s the same way trek, I walk until my knees buckle and where I fall is where I rest. When the shakes go away and my heart stops racing, I get up and continue on. The rest of the ride on the highway to hope was gruelling to my unconditioned body but a cyclist can’t ask for better conditions. The road was perfectly flat and straight for nearly 100km with a wide shoulder and trees to shade the afternoon sun. I had expected to ride no more than 110 kilometres as my first ever ride in triple digits but as it turned out Hope was in reality 143.5 km from where I started the morning. The last 30 km into the town took 4 hours as I would cycle until I got dizzy and flop into the grass for a little nap to find the energy to push for the next 10km stretch. I told myself I wasn’t going to overdo it on my first day like I did on a hike in Australia that left me injured and immobile in the forest for three days but the extra push was so worth it considering what happened tonight.
Needing fuel and bear mace, I had no other choice but to head into town tonight at 7:30 pm. After I fuelled up my gas canister with petrol I could hardly walk or keep my eyes open after 143 kms and 12 1/2 hours on the road so the decision was made to treat myself for my first day ever to hit three figures on a bike and reaching the base of the rocky mountains via a massive plate of French fries at a local restaurant. As I walked in I couldn’t help to notice a super cute girl working the tables and that she was talking to an older couple about travelling soon. She was beautiful, young, and planning her first backpacking trip around the world so it was out of my control and I had to talk to her. I savoured my fries and enjoyed talking with the staff as much as I did ingesting the delicious deep fried heaven in my mouth. As I tried to leave and pay my bill, a large paper bag was slid across the counter full of fruit, snacks, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches. She looked up at me with a grin telling me my meal was paid for and this bag was to keep me going on my trip. I was shocked and had a hard time accepting it since I was planning on leaving a hefty tip to help her fund her way across Europe.I knew I was looking for that special part of Canada so many talk about but I was shocked to have gotten it on my second day into my trip. The kindness and friendly attitude really does radiate from Canadians and I believe it will only get better the further away from the cities I wonder. I made an attempt to leave again to find a Mcdonalds to publish this post and yet again I was pulled back into the restaurant and offered their company wifi and password along with unlimited coffee. As I was about half way through this blog an older man came across the restaurant introducing himself as the girl’s father, little did I know she was in the kitchen making plans to let me stay the night at their home. So now I’m warm, full, and written a blog as I just finished my 4th cup of coffee.
I have a safe friendly place to stay the night that all started with a smile and simple hello.