What you should expect from a long bicycle journey
Bicycle touring for a sustained period of time is a…
177: Vancouver to Squamish
Back on the road again, back into the swing of things. Pretty simple ride out of the city, with well-planned roads and cycle tracks where possible. Vancouver’s a cycle-friendly city for sure. A few hours of riding put me at the top of the Squamish valley, where there were subtle indicators of what was to come. Perfect roadside swimming lakes, with a glimpse of granite on the not-so-distant horizon. A five minute ride from there, around a corner, and there it was. The Chief. The rock climbing mecca, and for good reason. This place is on the same level as Yosemite in California only quieter, it’s spectacular. Huge granite walls, 700 metres high, towering overhead as you look up in awe, wondering how on earth such a thing can exist.
Sorry you lost me there for a minute. I ended up at a campsite, after visiting Shannon Falls – the third highest waterfall in BC which is quite-a-sight, which made a nice change from the stealth camping that had been the only method for days and days now.
178: Squamish to Whistler
It’s tough leaving a place like Squamish, knowing that you haven’t scratched the surface at all. Being constantly on-the-move is one of the toughest parts of this whole project, and was something that, in all honestly, I didn’t expect to be a problem at all. That was wrong. There have been similar moments on the journey, of leaving a place that you could happily stay in. That momentum can be draining, not having a base and fleetingly passing through. It’s something that I struggle with a lot, but at the same time the journey is a big part of this trip, as is the mental challenges that it brings, so I’ve tried to adjust my framing to think more like – “This place is awesome, so I’ll come back at some point and explore properly”. Squamish is right up there. It’s leading the way on top of the come-back-to-list.
The ride was just awesome, I set off late (as in 7pm late) after bouldering about a bit and generally hanging out in Squamish, and the road just got more and more impressive. The mountains were in full view, still with a bunch of snow on top, there were the first ‘Bear’ signs, all in all this was the first time for a while where it’s felt like it’s getting really adventurous. Ended up at the campsite in Whistler, after snapping yet another spoke on the journey (but with a landscape like this it’s easy to forget about), which had some in-situ bear nets to hang your food in. A sign of what was to come.
179: Whistler to Pemberton
Hunted around all morning for a bike shop who had the right size spokes – I’d run out of spares because of multiple recent replacements. Apparently a touring wheel is an awkward size, and most bike shops in Whistler just stock mountain biking parts, which are the wrong size. I was getting concerned, as there was only one shop left. Maybe there just wasn’t going to be any spokes in town and I’d have to either wait or ride with a super weak, and quickly-wobbly wheel. But there was still one last shop to try – Bike Co – and as fate would have it they had loads. I wasn’t going to risk getting caught out again so took 16 spares off their hands. Overkill? Maybe. The wheel got fixed and there was an all-downhill cruise to Pemberton. I was getting a drink and a couple of policemen walked into the same place. They were really cool, and when they weren’t chatting about their skydiving and bungee jumping exploits, they had a lot of advice. Official advice too, like the fact that you can camp anywhere in BC as long as it’s not private land. What that means is, even if your camping just off the road, it’s legal and there’s no need to worry at all as long as it’s public land. That’s a massive relief and removes a lot of the nightly stress in choosing an appropriate place. Turns out one of the policemen, Steve, is a keen cyclist and XC motorbiker, and offered up a couch in his basement to crash on. Happy days – shelter!
180: Pemberton to Lillouet
There have been times on this trip that people have advised, and warned about something that’s imminent. But never to quite the same degree as this morning. I couldn’t escape the constant warnings about ‘the hill’. This ominous, intimidating climb that by the sounds of it would be a teeth-chattering scare fest.
Because the project’s been on-the-go for a while now, I feel fairly confident with hill climbs. Being warned of ‘the hill’ has actually happened in a few places and you quickly learn that there’s just no point even thinking about it. It is what it is. There’s only one way to get up a big climb and that’s to pedal until you get up it. So this wasn’t a worry. What was a worry, however, was the alarmist warnings and rumours about what was lurking at the top of the climb. Animals – big ones. I’ve spent a lot of time reading guidelines, advice, and strategies in dealing with North American animals, but with sentences like these from Pemberton locals suddenly that research seemed not worthy. For a moment it was as though Jurassic Park had just opened on top of ‘the hill’, and the people of Pemberton were happy to provide a voice of doom.
“When you get to the top, be really careful of the moose. They’re really aggressive. My grandad once got chased by a moose and hid up a tree. The moose waited at the bottom of the tree for 2 days before getting bored. My grandad said he’d never been hungrier.”
“Look out for cougars up there. They’ve been known to climb trees and jump out on humans.”
“The bears are really hungry at the moment. Make sure you don’t surprise them.”
“I hope you’re carrying a pistol just in case.”
Here’s a video about the scaremongering on the day of the climb. (Click here to view video if you’re reading this in your email browser)
There were some big animals up there. I bumped into loads of deer, and a couple of bears, one big and one small. In fact, whilst cycling downhill, I didn’t see the big bear until the last minute. Luckily it dived into the bushes rather than into the path of a blundering Brit on a bike. The smaller bear was hanging out by the side of the road, and we were really close at one point which was, at the time, a small part amazing, but mainly bloody terrifying because the mother was nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t take much reading up on bears to know that being in between a cub and a mother is the worst possible scenario, so my heart was pumping like never before, and my eyes were scanning the area like a lunatic in search of a bigger bear. It was nowhere to be seen, so eventually I slowly walked around the cub. It was a terrifying but in hindsight an altogether incredible experience being one-on-one with such a switched on and intelligent animal. But any closer than that would be quite a different proposition. Roar. Here’s a really crap photo – in the moment, taking a photo was the last thing on my mind, so it’s taken from a fair distance away and looks like one of those UFO hoax conveniently-pixelated images.
181: Lillouet to Marble Canyon
So lethargic. Late start and absolute snails pace after ‘the hill’. Made a bit of progress and was happy to keep moving, albeit unenthusiastically and slowly, but when I was riding past the awesome Pavilion lake, the enticing blue water, and saw a sign saying ‘Camping: 6km’, the decision was made.
182: Marble Canyon to One Hundred Mile House
It’s been really hot for the last few days, perfect weather for swimming, so to wake up just feet away from a magnificently-clear lake brimming with fish and surrounded by huge cliffs was a wonderful sight. Who knew such blue water could be so bitterly cold? Locations like that are going to be more frequent for a while now, so I’m excited to experiment with some fishing line and a hook. Maybe fish will be on the menu at some point – it could be a fun learning curve and interesting experiment. I haven’t got a clue how to catch fish, or how to prepare them, but anything to spice up the trailmix bars and noodles has to be a good thing right?
As for the day’s ride, it was going well, and wasn’t too hilly. Less forest than before, it was a ride through agricultural plateau’s mainly. It was all going so well until that now-familiar *PING* sound, another spoke snapped. Drive side this time too, which makes things a bit more frustrating. It’s about time that this problem gets fixed for good.
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Thanks to Ramada for providing a room in One Hundred Mile House after a long stint of mainly roughing it!
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