What you should expect from a long bicycle journey
Bicycle touring for a sustained period of time is a…
Customs. There hasn’t been a trip-post for a while, as a lot more time than expected was spent in the city of Prince George chasing up a new set of wheels through customs. It was nice to settle for a while, and explore the city, but a few days would have been plenty. By the end of a two week(!) stint in PG, I was getting frustrated. Several days were spent taking shelter in this doorway, which was an unusual but functional base. And there were obvious upsides to an extended period of static time – mainly a solid amount of work was done, but by the end I was absolutely ready to move on.
But maybe these are all just soured memories, as Prince George was the place that has caused the most physical pain so far. It wasn’t in some kind of epic crash, or brake failure, or in fact anything bike-related. As it turns out, walking face first into an air conditioner just really hurts and will leave a lump on your head for days.
It was the afternoon of day 206 when the wheels finally showed up. Being a fairly critical part of the project, I was over the moon to see they’d arrived, and ran to a bike shop to get them to swap over the cassette, making the bike a working item once again.
Outside the bikeshop, I met local resident and all around top dude Erik (on the bike below), who in the last couple of years had racked up some serious cycling experience, taking 6 week trips in Yukon and Alaska. He’s got a big plan taking shape right now that involves taking an extended leave from his job as a prison guard, to cycle across Canada, West to East, meeting with long lost family in various cities along the way.
Erik had some hilarious stories from his cycling in remote places, offered a place to crash in his basement (no more doorway!), and made it clear that he was the CEO of the BBQ, when he grilled up some stellar steaks. It was a great way to end a long spell in BC’s northern capital.
The morning of day 207. After the last couple of weeks, my motivation for cycling was at an all time high. It was a cracking day, the bike was working like a dream, and I was gunning for it. Standing up and pushing down on the climbs, face to the handlebars on the downhills. They don’t come much better than this.
CRUNCH. Are you serious?
Crunch. 70km, and now I’d somehow managed to rip the rear derailleur out of the hanger, bending and de-threading the hanger in the process. If you’re thinking I might have been frustrated by this, then you’re totally right. Fuming. Luckily there was a spare hanger kicking about (they’re unique to each frame so it’s a good idea to carry a spare – often bike shops have to order them in), but on closer inspection of the derailleur it was knackered and completely out of shape. I ended up hitchhiking 30km west to a campsite in the town of Vanderhoof.
The next day, the folks at Omineca saved the day. They had the right derailleur in stock, and were cool about letting me use their workshop and expertise to get the bike into a decent condition. The aim was: this has to stop happening. This service, right now, is going to fix the bike for the foreseeable. Luckily it has so far.
The day of the service, there wasn’t much progress made, but since then it’s been a great phase of being on the road. Motivation for progress is high, and I’m back in the swing of things. There’s been some horrendous headwinds, incredible downhills, uphill slogs, jaw-dropping landscapes of snowy mountain peaks, and loads of ‘Beware of Moose’ signs. I’ve been frantically looking around excitedly but am yet to see any. Hopefully in due course.
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The route for the last few days has been: Prince George – Vanderhoof – Fraser Lake – Burns Lake – Smithers – New Hazelton (where this is being written). From here it’s West to Prince Rupert (Canada likes the royal names huh?), and then it gets super exciting. All going well, the plan is to get a boat into the depths of Alaska and continue from there.