What you should expect from a long bicycle journey
Bicycle touring for a sustained period of time is a…
The final section of California riding ended in Eureka, which is where the mayhem ensued. Not got long to write this so it’s more like a photo timeline.
For the last few weeks there’s been a looming whisper attached to the journey – the Canadian border. Much more time was spent in California than first anticipated so the project was way behind track for a while, and crossing in to Canada would make all visa concerns vanish. Ah.
It means I’ve skipped cycling through Oregon entirely, and most of Washington state too. I don’t mind jumping ahead too much though, as there’s new plans in momentum that will provide much more of an adventure than the original route. So anyway, the looming deadline. The start of May means being in Canada. It just wasn’t going to be possible by cycling. After some googling, the most suitable option from Eureka was the bus. Not just one bus though. It went: Eureka, CA – Oakland, CA – Sacramento, CA – Portland, OR – Seattle, WA. That should have raised alarm bells. And it took an entire millennium (not 100% accurate but that’s how it seemed).
It was a truly awful bus journey – in hindsight I’d have tried hitchhiking instead, or crawling for that matter. Putting a bike on the bus shouldn’t be that complicated – but for whatever reason (Jeremy Jobsworth’s who enjoy making life difficult) the ‘policy’ is a nightmare for bikes, and maybe it was just a bad stroke of luck, but the staff at the terminals were the worst people to deal with. Probably ever, but certainly on this trip.
Anyway after jumping through the most absurd hoops, getting in to a ‘heated discussion’ with a staff member at Sacramento who proclaimed that he ‘ain’t gonna pull no fucking dollars out of his ass’, dismantling the bike, shoddily boxing it up, and sitting down for a 32 hour bus ride, we pulled in to Seattle. And at that exact moment I vowed never to ride the Greyhound ever again. Is that a vent? Because just writing that down felt great.
On a more positive note, Seattle was brilliant. I stayed on Emily and John’s couch for a couple of nights, who live up in the Wallingford area (they also make High Above Designs bags). It was quite a novelty to be able to leave the bike and explore the city on feet, free of the heavy weight for a while and without burden. Also, there’s a neat bike shop called Recycled Cycles who did a stellar job servicing the stead.
Numerous people in Seattle suggested avoiding the mainly-urban mainland route up into Canada, and taking the ferry-hopping San Juan Islands route instead. It was great advice. From Seattle it was a quick hop over to Bainbridge Island and an amazing bivvy overlooking the downtown Seattle skyline.
The ferry hopping and island riding was in some jaw dropping areas. Hopping a couple of states means that the geography has changed significantly, and now it’s very much a snow-topped and serious-looking mountain landscape. It’s the first indication of the remote nature that’s to come over the next couple of months.
After several ferries and some awesome riding, I boarded the ferry which would mark the end of the US section of the trip (for now). Getting on at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, and docking in Sidney, BC a couple of hours later. I always find border crossings a little intimidating, until that wonderful stamp hits the passport and puts ink on the page. Welcome to Canada, eh! And breathe.
I hung out in Sidney (which is on Vancouver Island, a bit north of Victoria) for a few hours and got the last boat from there to Vancouver proper. Although where it actually drops you off is actually 40 miles from Vancouver. Damn. Maybe being in a new country acted as a catalyst, but at the stealth camp (behind a concrete bollard by the highway – luxurious) this morning I had a sort out of gear and all the unnecessary weight that has accumulated in the pannier bags over the last couple of months. There was loads, so I sent a package to a buddies house back in California, and holy smokes the bike felt great. It was lighter than ever before, and it had just been serviced. It was the best the bike has felt for months. And then two spokes snapped. Of course they did. Is that sods law? Luckily they were both non-drive side so were easy to replace on the fly.
I was lacing the new spokes in a park when a red pickup truck pulled over. It was a local couple from Richmond, Gary and Wendy. “You know you can’t cycle under that tunnel, right? You need to go back to the service station. Bikes are put on a shuttle through the tunnel.”
Several people have mentioned Canadian friendliness and generosity, but I didn’t think it’d happen so fast. Gary and Wendy ended up acting as the shuttle, we piled the bike in to the back, and drove over to their house where I could finish fixing the wheel, do laundry, take a shower, have some lunch, and all that good stuff. The first full day in Canada and the rumors are true.
It’s all go from here. A new section of the adventure begins now, it’s getting wild and that’s super exciting. Eh.