Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Week 3 Bow Island to Virden (857 km)

AKA Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Three provinces in week, although you couldn't tell it from the scenery. Apparently I've been through prairie, grasslands, plains and farmlands. Which as far as I can tell are all different words for flat and windy.There's a definite difference in people though as you go further east. In Alberta a lone foreigner on a bicycle doesn't even turn heads - just another one of those outdoorsy BC loons who took a wrong turn in the mountains and wondered over the border. In Saskatchewan, if you're not in a truck or tractor you're pretty much invisible. In Manitoba however, it was like I rode into town naked on the back of a three headed dragon. You're doing what?? On a what?? WHY?? BUT YOU'RE A GIRL?? Which is kinda funny because Virden, Manitoba is where I finally ran into some other cycling weirdos, when we all randomly ended up at the same tiny campsite. I was the first to arrive, followed by Joe shortly after. He's also going west to east, and had been tailing me for a couple days before finally catching up. Despite the popularity of this route, since leaving BC cyclists have been few and far between, particularly tourers. We were just chatting about how neither of us had seen many other riders, when cyclist number 3 arrived. Steve is heading north to Alaska from Montreal, and was equally surprised to see us. Clearly there was only one way to celebrate impromptu cycling club: to the liquor store! Which consequently resulted in Steve taking a "rest day", whilst Joe and I did hungover battle with a headwind straight to the nearest Tim Hortons for coffee, donuts and paracetamol. I ended up riding with Joe through some horrifically bad weather until Winnipeg, where he stayed to hang out with a friend whilst I pushed on. Pretty sure I'll be seeing him down the road though, we'll be keeping in touch to make sure we meet for a few shandies further east. 

Bow Island to Medicine Hat - 69 km
Medicine Hat to Eagle Valley - 93 km
Eagle Valley to Swift Current - 134 km
Swift Current to Besant - 149 km
Besant to White City - 126 km
White City to Broadview - 143 km
Broadview to Virden - 143 km

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Week 2 Christina Lake to Bow Island (747 km)

This weeks update is brought to you courtesy of the Manitoba tourist board, who may also be responsible for the sweet tailwind that's blown me across the border from Saskatchewan. Great job guys.

This post is a little late for a few reasons: there is essentially no internet in Saskatchewan; I wasn't sure what to talk about and my iPhone magically deleted this post the first time I wrote it and annoyed the hell out of me. Gah. 

Anyways, onto this weeks update. I have no desire for this blog to become one of those self congratulatory, obnoxious things along the lines of "look how far/fast I rode, I'm so amazing". Blurghh. Nor do I want to write about the mundane ins and outs of life on the road. No one aside from mum and gran actually cares all that much about what I had for breakfast and the last time I brushed my teeth (half a donut and about 2 hours ago). So what to write about. Hohum. Well, before I left for this trip my BFF Jen gave me a beautiful diary with some hand picked travel quotes written inside, and so far they've been strangely fitting. This week Ranulph Fiennes said "There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.". He's clearly never been to the Canadian prairies. Since coming down from the BC mountains I've experienced baking heat, gale force winds, thunder, lightening, hail and most recently, fog. But just as varied as the weather conditions are the awesome people of all types and ages that I've met along the way. I could bang on for ages about the kindness and generosity of these people that have alternately given food, shelter and alcohol (or sometimes a combination of all three) to a random grubby foreigner, but I'll keep it to a brief list of honourable mentions. There was the elderly German man in Salmo who I shared luke warm beers (him), squashed peanuts (me) and  bear horror stories with (both of us). There were Charlie and Judy in Creston who took me into their trailer and gave me wine and popcorn and sent me on my way with a giant bag of chocolate biscuits, all because their kids once cycled across Canada. There were Bass and Treble the labradoodles and their ma and pa (so sorry I forgot your names) who fed me fresh watermelon and donated to my charities. There were Cody and Maureen who let me crash their romantic weekend and share their beers and their campfire. And last but not least there was the Thacker family (Roxy, Roger, Kassie and stormin Norman the dog) who took me into their trailer, saving me from a huge storm and a mosquito plague, and giving me my first home cooked meal since Vancouver (on a plate and everything!!). All of you people are heroes.

Christina Lake to Salmo - 115 km
Salmo to Creston - 59 km
Creston to Cranbrook - 137 km
Cranbrook to Fernie - 96 km
Fernie to Pincher Creek - 122 km
Pincher Creek to Coalhurst - 95 km
Coslhurst to Bow Island - 123 km

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Week 1: Vancouver to Christina Lake (571 km)

Ok so this is my first post typed on a dirty  iPhone coming to you live from a washroom power socket via dodgy campsite wifi. There will be typos, iffy grammar and interruptions whenever someone wants to use the sink. But apparently I've been slow on the updates and you people want to know how things  are going, and more specifically whether I've got blisters in rude places (negative, owing mostly to liberal applications of Vaseline from the industrial sized tub I packed in order to defeat the dreaded chafe). 

First things first: it's been 6 days since I left Vancouver and since then I've been up and down at least 7 mountains, been bitten by numerous winged beasts (I'd like to call them something else but my mum is reading) and got the weirdest tan, sorry, burn lines known to man. But most importantly I've covered 571 km to my current camp at Christina Lake.  My top speed was 60.4 km/h and my longest haul was 171 km from Manning Park to Osooyoos. But these are just numbers and mean nothing really. 

They say the hardest steps on any journey are the ones out of your front door. That is particularly true when trying to exit a basement with a fully loaded tourer slightly hungover at 6 am. But I prevailed and after the obligatory photos I  waved goodbye to Auntie Liz and wobbled off to meet Greg who escorted me out of Vancouver. Before I left I thought it would be neat to dip my wheel in the Pacific, and do the same in the Atlantic in a couple of months. If I thought getting the bike out of the basement was hard dragging it back up Kits beach was even harder. But again we managed it between us with a lot of grunting. Greg left me about 15 km outside of Vancouver and that was it. Go time!  

Since then a ton of stuff has happened, too much to bang on about here. So I'll just include the best bits and tell you the rest when I get home mmmkay? Good. At a place called Mission I stopped at the visitors info centre to get some campsite advice but mostly to take advantage of their air con. The ladies in there were super sweet and super helpful and we spent a while chatting about the what's, why's and wherefore's of my trip. This old guy on a bike turns up and comes bursting through the door yelling something about cycle lanes and how the signposts suck. Turns out he's called Wally and he's the neighbour of one of the ladies who work at the centre. We chit chat about bikes for a bit, then the ladies tell him what I'm doing and why. This guy comes up and shakes my hand then gives me the biggest hug ever, like a bear hug properly lifts me off my feet. He apologises for being sweaty, tells me "atta girl you show em" shakes my hand again then jumps back on his bike to ride a round trip to the next town Harrison Mills a good 30 km away. Apparently he does this nearly everyday and has done for years. One of those super fit old men that will go on forever. Only after he's gone his neighbour takes me aside and says Wally is dying from leukaemia and has months to live. Hence the bear hug. Now everyday the first few km of my ride I cycle for Wally. 

Vancouver to Lake Errock - 115 km
Lake Errock to Hope - 56 km
Hope to Mule Deer (Manning Park) - 79 km
Mule Deer to Osoyoos - 171 km
Osoyoos to Midway - 77 km
Midway to Christina Lake - 73

Mileage is currently limited by the next populated area where I can camp, as I'm in grizzly country and don't fancy tenting alone. Plus I have implemented a 2 mountain daily limit for the sake of my poor old knees.