A Canadian Start
Talking about big ideas is easy. I do that a lot. Getting started is the tough part. I began this bike tour slowly, attending an evening workshop on bike touring, researched gear, took a couple of longer bike rides. Once out in Seattle I hit up an REI to purchase a few last minute pieces of equipment. Then we stepped up our game and tried a fully loaded trial ride on Bainbridge Island.
It seemed a poor omen when our campsite was lit up by police flashlight. Our location was not legitimate for camping. Although the cop understood the need for our trial run, he could not allow us to stay. Our trial run had ended shortly after it started, with a chilly ride by flashlight back to my friend’s house. To add icing on the cake, I tipped the bike a block from home base. It was a week before I realized there the bruise on my chest came from; I was too embarrassed at the time to notice I had been gored by the handlebars. Chalk it up to the adjustment period of learning to ride with clipless pedals. Which coincidentally are pedals you clip into.
Three days later, rising before the sun, we started the journey north. I had decided on a start location only hours before. We caught the 7:05 ferry from Bainbridge, and picked Maggi up in Seattle. The border crossing was seamless, and after passing through a strange world of smokey industry we pulled into Stanley Park of Vancouver before noon. This city seemed to have quite a bit going on and I could see myself coming back to experience it a little more fully. We explored totem poles, stepped around goose-poop and found a place to have our last pre-ride lunch.
There we were. The bikes were off the rack and loaded down with gear. We said goodbye to my friend who would return to his home and hold onto my car for the duration. Our first leg lasted approximately fourteen seconds, riding straight into the ferry terminal to purchase our tickets. The boat would take us thirty five miles to Vancouver Island, where the actual riding would commence. Upon landing we would make our way to Victoria, and rendezvous with a couple who accepted our first request on Warm Showers. We were starting our epically long bike journey by floating into the sunset. I had to laugh, actual bike riding wouldn’t commence until dark on our first day.
It became apparent quickly why so many travel in the summer. Lesson #1: Days are longer. We were losing daylight by 4:30 in the afternoon. Compared to a summer ride, we would have maybe another four or more hours of seeing where we were going. Not to mention taking in the beautiful sights along the way! Thank goodness for Maggi’s powerful light, it illuminated the path on the Lochside Trail that guided us into Victoria. We questioned the trail as it morphed from marked, paved trail to slippery/haunted forest paths, interspersed with backcountry dirt roads. We complemented our navigational skills by swinging into McDonalds to ‘borrow’ Wifi for screen-shotting directions. Turns out I’ve become exactly what I hated, depending on my smart phone for simple directions. I asked one stranger for mediocre directions just to realign with the world.
Arrival at our destination was a couple of hours late and Maggi’s chain promptly fell off her gears. The front door opened and we were welcomed in, our hosts sat us down at their kitchen table and filled bowls with fresh clam soup. Homemade apple butter made with apples from the tree out back was set out, and I sipped on bitter mugwort tea foraged from coastal rocks. It was just like traveling of old, we connected with the husband and wife duo as fellow travelers and seekers of life experience. She tugged on my beard to validate it, and we scratched off places we’ve lived on a giant map so they could track the guests that they’ve hosted. By the end of the night we felt like friends and I wanted to buy a book on mushroom hunting.
The next morning I was reunited with an old friend I often meet while traveling. He is that feeling of not wanting to leave interesting new places. Victoria was a cute town, great architecture with lots of places to explore. We had met just a few of it’s many interesting inhabitants. Just before we got ready to leave a gentleman atop some steps beckoned us to come over. Because he was a security guard I immediately imagined that we were walking our bikes in a place we weren’t supposed to be. Instead he happened to be a fellow bike-tourer, and gave us some important tidbits.
“Safeway has $3 breakfast burrito’s, get them. All McDonald’s have free Wifi…etc.”
However, the best advice was, “…as far as riding, Washington is a waste of time. Oregon is amazing. California is ok.”
Then we got on our third ferry in two days and left Canada behind. Let’s see if he’s right.