Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Paying it forward

Revelstoke B.C
First Flat Tyre after 800km - Caused by cactus thorn.
              As independent as a lone traveller may be, the dependencies upon generosity is the mortar in which binds budget travel with longevity. When alone the choice on where to go, when to go, and what to do is solely comprised of ones individual decision making, however those decisions and choices are dependent on the generosity of other people much more than what's given credit for. Be it climbing Mt Kosciusko in Africa, visiting the Alhambra in Spain, or hiking through the jungles of Borneo, the generosity must exist from the gate keeper to point you on the right path up the mountain, for the taxi driver to drop you off showing an alley on a map to the back entrance of a palace, or the villager who signals you in from the pouring rain to set up camp under a shelter of his. Adventuring alone around the world for years at a time presents you with many of these small acts of kindness and generosity on a daily basis in which are always welcomed and thanked but we hardly realize that these small gestures are what keeps someone going when the soul is about to give up, It’s small gestures like these that accumulate into a realization of how generous people really are if given the chance. You can say after three years of being on the road I’ve received more than what I have given and have accumulated a hefty debt needing to be paid back, luckily in a small mountain town of Revelstoke B.C I found a perfect opportunity to give back to a family who couldn’t be more deserving.
Awesome Newton Family + Me
               After writing my previous post I pushed off from Kamloops, B.C at 11:30 pm to search out a plot of grass along the highway to get some rest for the night. Kamloops is one hell of a big town and I found myself cycling along the highway at 1:30 am still looking for a place to put my tent. Realizing how dangerous and ridiculous it was to be riding a bike down the trans Canada HWY with a head torch in the black of night I broke my own rule of not paying for accommodation and pulled into a RV Park. The next day the woman who owned the camp site said I was so quiet and came in so late she wasn’t going to charge me for the night. The $20 might not have seem like a big deal to her but it meant a safe, sound night’s sleep and a much needed shower and that I’m back on track for my goal of never needing to pay for accommodation.  
Bathroom Before Reno
                Early the next day I came across a hole in the wall town which the only industry was houseboat rentals for holiday goers. My one treat to myself along this trip is to stop at a restaurant every day and have a cup of tea, partly because I love a tea and it’s cheap and it forces me to slow down and enjoy the trip instead of enduring it. It was a beautiful little restaurant on the shore of a placid lake surround by tall mountains, I was really glad I put in the extra effort to venture off the highway and into the small settlement. The bill was presented to me, it read “$2.00” Scrounging around I realized I had no cash what so ever and displayed my credit card exposed embarrassment to the hot blond babe working the bar. She smiled and said “listen, don’t worry about it. Today I am buying your cup of tea for you” It was only two dollars, hardly pocket change but couldn’t help but to be overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness from strangers. There I was dress in filthy clothes smelling like a bag of testicles with a single matted dread lock in my hair but I could tell by her eyes it wasn’t pity that bought me the cup of tea, it was her pride in being generous. She followed up by saying “Pay if forward” Paying it forward…. She’s right its was time for me to start paying up.
Bathroom After Renovation
               Arriving in Revelstoke B.C late that night I checked my email to find out a woman I had replied back saying it was okay for me to sleep and shower at her house that night through a website called warmshowers.org. Exhausted and excited I programmed my GPS and found my way to their front yard. Vegetables grew from one corner of the yard, chickens squawked in the other. Kids appeared and disappeared while zooming past by foot and bicycle. This place had a strange sensation of home to me. That’s when I met Sarah my host, a fit enthusiastic and hardworking woman giving me the quick tour around the house only to find out later she is the aunt of my best female friend Lucy Newton. I would frequently visit my friend Lucy’s house In Halifax and help myself to a bowl of cereal after letting myself in whether anyone was home or not so I knew right away I would feel at home here.
Personalized Touch
               I thought about the events in the past day, and then the past week, and then the past few years and of all the people who have opened their doors to me showing me that human compassion towards a stranger. It was my time to give back a little of what’s been given to me. Having little to offer other than dried fruit I found the best way to show this family how much I appreciate what they have done for me and many other people on their cycling journeys was to use my trade as a carpenter to renovate their bathroom. I’ve been here a week already venturing into hot springs, watching soccer tournaments, hiking up mountains, and finally putting the finishing touches on the bathroom today. Revelstoke for most people who don’t know is a small valley town nestled in In the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Canada’s best kept secret if you ask me.
I added a shower pot light, and back-lit glass mosaic tiles.
                Secretly I’ve been searching a place to finish my carpentry journeymen ticket and I very well could have stumbled upon the Canadian dream of year round outdoor activities such as skiing down and hiking up the best mountains in the world by winter, canoeing and swimming in glacier melt rivers by summer in a town sprawling with young women from all over world seeking that adventurous lifestyle. I still have 6250km’s to go but I don’t know if it can get any better than this. This place is breathtakingly beautiful and full of down to earth real people and I'm going to miss the Newton family  but my journey is young and this country is long.

 Head down, peddle hard, home is calling my name.

Friday, June 7, 2013

From Hope to Hell with you and your bike!

               I awoke late the next morning after a great night’s sleep on the floor of Rachel's parents’ house. A bit dazed and still half asleep I gazed at a family photo on the piano I must have missed the night before revealing not one good looking girl but FOUR of them all drop dead gorgeous blond sisters. In a small town like Hope of only a few thousand people I couldn’t help but to laugh at how many guys must have killed to spend a night on the inside and I thought it even funnier how her father must have been a busy man working a 9-5 and still chasing the local guys out of the bushes behind the house in his spare time. I could be run over by a truck, attacked by a grizzly, and shot in both my legs and it wouldn’t stop me from missing a day’s ride on my bike however, two girls heading to the lake for a swim gets me every time. Rachel and her sister were planning a morning out to float around in a nearby lake when I came up fully dressed in my cycling gear and packed up and ready to hit the road. That was until I invited myself along and gave into the peer pressure they never existed but wish it had. My options were to float around in a fresh crystal clear lake with two girls, or sweat my hole off for the next 12 hours on a bike. I decided to stay.
                After the swim they practically begged me to stay so I gave in (or at least that’s how I think it happened) I invited myself to another night on the floor. I spent the rest of the day with her older sister as she showed me some cool local spots. We went hiking through some old train tunnels, hiked to the top of Mt Hope as she showed me all the flora to stay away from and the ones good to eat. The only thing I had to offer her was the story about the time I shit my pants and pissed myself on my prom night, charming right? After hiking she took me to a cliff since I was bragging about how high I jumped in Australia and naturally got stage fright when push came to shove.  I didn’t completely pussy out as I still jumped at 15 meters from a ledge a little further down, I was in the presence of a girl I was trying to impress, I can’t just bike across a country and not jump off a high rock. The rest of the night was spent with just me and their father talking about some crazy life lessons and morals and I just thought of how lucky I was to be on the right side of the bush in the backyard. He was a super awesome dude and I’d love to spend some time back in hope again. I knew I needed leave in the morning because one more night would turn into many, I was falling in love… again.. and this bike isn’t going to ride itself across the country on love alone.
               A lazy start after some delicious tea and hard goodbyes, I hit the road with a goal of Hells Gate about 70km from the town on my first leg of the accent into the Rocky Mountains. The first hill out of the town was deadly steep and went on for a good 3 km before it flattened out at the lake above. Not knowing a thing about touring bikes I’m ever so grateful each day I ride that I have the one I do. I Don’t have much experience on the bike but I know enough that the bike is doing most of the work for me. The first 40km into the mountains felt like it was downhill the entire way, which is impossible considering the road follows the Fraser river upstream.. that was until I hit the mother of all hill right before hells gate which climbed into the clouds and twisted around bare rock faces.  Making it to the top I toppled over at a gas station and passed out and slept for two hours on the gravel subsurface. It felt like sinking into a hot tub in comparison to how my ass cheeks felt on my seat. I made it to hells gate shortly after through a couple of super sketchy tunnels with 18 wheelers wizing by in the darkness with less than a couple feet to spare.
                Like I promised, well I broke that promise to take it easy through the Rockies and the urge to make it 110km to Lytton took hold of my better sense. Sounded like a great plan until I hit the hill to end all hills, I had to stop 5 times to catch my breath and the entire accent took over an hour from bottom to top. I made it to the summit and was terrified of what could await me around the next corner so I decided it was the best time as any to settle down at 90km on the day for the night. Of course my fuel stove was messed up and after stomping out a mini forest fire after a few failed attempts I did manada a pot of noodles and passed out shortly after. I knew from the moment I woke up I had over done it the day before as my legs hut to the touch, even flexing enough put my riding gear on was a struggle. It was safe to say my heart and legs weren’t in it that day as I rode the final 20km into Lytton in tears and agony. I found a nice shady patch of land overlooking the canyon and watched the trains following their tracks along the river far below until I fell asleep and laid there until 3pm. Waking up and feeling 100 times better I knew they day was not yet at a waste. So I hit the road again.
                6:30 PM rolled around after 70km of riding and I was getting better at listening to my body as I still had light to push on but my legs needed the rest and so did my racing heart. I found a patch of flat ground off the highway some distance overlooking the river and thought it to be a great place to set up camp and wondered why it looked as if no one had ever ventured there. Well I found out quickly why as I also learned three new things about Canada. 1: Canada has deserts in the mid-west where no fresh streams are to be found. 2: There is very sharp Cactus scattered secretly among the tufts of grass 3: last but not least, deadly Rattlesnakes inhabit these deserts. I must have run over two dozen cacti before I notice what I was tramping on and luckily the Kevlar in my tires held up. Imagine that.. Ruining my trip because I pushed my bike over a field of cacti, that would have to be a first. After nearly managing to start another bush fire with my stove, I used up all my water extinguishing the flames which left me with no water for dinner and no water for the next 30km into town… doh I was tired I didn’t have the energy to pump up my air mattress and passed out for the next 14 hours on the bumpy pointy spinifex I set my tent up on.
                Today was by far the most rewarding day as I pushed through the desert making incredible time and average speed. My legs had healed enough with an extra oomf in their push I was feeling healthy and strong after fueling up on a plate of fries at Cash Creek where my northbound push stopped and the journey due east continues. The ride out of Cash Creek was the shit, downhill at 50km in a speed tuck for 10 straight Kilometers, damn that felt good and continued to feel good until I got back down to water level at Kamloops lake approximately 42km’s from the town but that’s where the fun stopped. A solid 7 kilometer hill took me up at an 8 degree slope the entire way. The views at the stop were stunning and well worth the hill I just climbed. A cyclist I met earlier in the day told me it was downhill all the way to Kamloops from there and boy was he wrong. The other side of hill dropped down almost to water level and the remaining 4 hours and 25 km were all uphill. 12 km out of town the highway drops down straight into the city center but by some awful joke to cyclists they decided to prohibit biked on this stretch of the road and I had to zig zag my way through residential streets losing my momentum and stopping at red lights and stops signs making it the most frustrating part of the trip so far. Four hours of climbing and not being able to glide down to the finishing line, I digress, such is life.
                But here I am 135km from the cacti infested desert I started in this morning to surpass my expectations and roll into Kamloops Tim Horton’s to indulge in a nice fatty French Vanilla Capochino. Despite the dude who took a seizure on the floor while I helped him from biting his own tong off, my coffee is still good when cold. My Bike odometer reads 630 km’s since I set off for Victoria making me realize this trip is a lot more achievable than I thought. I’m four days from a rest stop in Golden B,C and only one day after that until I say goodbye to British Columbia and hello to Alberta! These mountains are kicking my ass but I forgot how great abusing your body feels!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Heading for HOPE

                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.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


                Eight weeks ago I sat alone in hot humid fourth floor hotel room in Vietnam. Monsoon rains beat down on my panoramic view balcony, a view in which I never bothered to enjoy. The sounds of laughter and clinking bottles rung out above the thud of the rainstorm against the tin roof next door, laughter I had no ambition to contribute with. I had a motorbike and a camera to roam freely around the countryside, a photo album which was never documented. No budget, no timeline, no responsibilities. I had everything most people in the world strive for except for except for the most important thing of all, happiness and family. Living the dream as many call it and that dream has become my reality and when I found myself unsatisfied while living a life most of the world want but will never get to experience, I knew there was something wrong. Not all who wander are lost but I was. I was lost, lonely, and directionless, a bad place to be after nearly three years of unplanned journey’s and uncharted maps. I was a lone traveler wandering aimlessly around the globe, without direction we have no structure, and without structure we have no ambition. I realized then that it was the first time in my life I was without a goal; I had nothing to aim for. I needed a new challenge, a new horizon to set my sights on.  It came to me suddenly and clearly, there was no mistaking the happiness growing inside my gut. It was time to go home…….. but not before a good challenge.
                I’ve never ridden a bicycle further than 30km before. I don’t even know how to sit down to peddle as the only bikes I have ever owned where either a bmx or downhill mountain bike. Taking this into serious consideration, I saw no better way to return to my small home town of Halifax Nova Scotia than to cycle across the second largest country in the world from ocean to ocean, crossing 8 provinces, 5 time zones, 3 months, and 7000 kilometers. What I do know is perseverance is stronger than fear, will power is stronger than defeat, and the satisfaction of conquering a challenge will give me strength to overcome any obstacle that gets between me and my dreams.
   Ever since leaving Canada I’ve felt guilty for not exploring what is said to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, a statement in which I can shed no opinion. Whenever asked about my country while abroad, I was lost for words as I’ve never been a tourist in my own backyard. It usually ended up in a pessimistic opinion on shitty weather, low wages, high taxes, and a corrupt government, an opinion in which I’m not proud of. I’ve never given my country a chance to be that safe haven in which immigrants are so thankful for, to sip hot chocolate amongst that picturesque snow capped mountain, to accept the overwhelming friendly hospitality the rest of the world knows us for. I want to scream my white and red painted face off at a hockey game, I want eat maple syrup off snow cones, I want to be proud of my country and I want to know why and cycling from one side to the other is the best way to find out.

  I’ve spent the past three weeks meeting new family, seeing old friends, and testing my new bike and gear on the most western side of Canada. My confidence is up and my spirits are high. The weather looks good and the east awaits. Tomorrow I hit the road and journey into the unknown, this is going to be one hell of a ride.