The adventure officially began on Saturday November 19th as a hearty group of family and friends joined me on my ride from New Westminster to Abbotsford. I want to thank everyone who joined me and who came out to offer words of encouragement. It was a great way to start the trip.
We set out with an official police escort through Sapperton and over the Patullo bridge en route to Abbotsford. Unfortunately the cycling Shih Tzus (Reese & Rocco) were not allowed to join in the ride but rather got taxied to the final destination.
After a rest and a few bike adjustment in Abbotsford I headed off for Hope. The ride started nicely enough; just a light rain and a great tailwind. I took the opportunity along the way to weigh in on the commercial scales. Just 420lbs. (I wondered how that would be on the upcoming inclines). But the weather quickly changed after Chilliwack. I’ll describe it as a very exhilarating driving rain and headwind. However, that weather brought with it some challenges up ahead. Bad road conditions and avalanche concerns meant waiting an extra day in Hope as the Coquihalla was closed.
The ride from Hope to Merritt will go down as one of my epic days riding while cycle touring (although not quite a grueling as the ride over Allison Pass a year and a half earlier). In total it took 14 hours.
Unfortunately, I ran out of water about one km from the summit. (this part of the trip is all about figuring my best set up for the days to come). A kind highway worker was able to give me about 200 ml which got me to the top of the pass, where a BC Hydro worker gave me a bottle and can of ginger ale, enough to satiate my immediate needs, but not any left over. There was more ginger ale (drink of choice?) and a pack of nibs (my favourite!) from a snow plow operator closer to Merritt. Water was truly the challenge of the day.
At the summit I was never so happy to see a hot air hand dryer at the rest stop. I spent an hour there eating and drying out. As I continued on, I eerily had the road to myself. (maybe an accident behind, maybe the road was closed due to all the snow?). For two hours I was able to make fresh tracks in the powder, stopping every ten minutes to eat some of that fresh snow and slightly satiate the thirst.
As the night wore on the traffic returned and the amount of fresh snow on the ground diminished. After my first mouthful of sand and road salt it became clear I would need to climb over the snow banks to get to where there was no “road snow”. Those plows can throw snow a long way from the road.
Outside of Merritt a familiar face pulled me over. Scott Lawrence, the Trek dealer, had been driving on the the other side of the road and saw a cyclist and thought it must be me. Scott had lots of water. Thank you Scott! You made the remaining 13 km to Merritt much more pleasant. As Scott left, Peter Cox pulled up in his semi and we sat and talked for a while.
Fourteen hours after leaving Hope, I arrived in Merritt and met my hosts Stephanie and Diane at about 11:30. I was offered tourtière, a French Canadian specialty served around Christmas, I was told. Delicious. Diane owns a little French restaurant in town where I went for breakfast. During breakfast Diane tried to talk me out of this “crazy trip”. She was mostly worried about Michelle if something were to happen to me. You could see the concern in her eyes. I have to say that is definitely one of the hardest parts of this trip.
I left for Kamloops on Friday afternoon and arrived around 8pm . It was a fantastic ride. I took an alternative route along highway 5A. There were hardly any cars and the yellows of the dry hills were beautiful. Again, I was welcomed by a wonderful host, Kathy. I had a chance to rest a bit and later meet with the local t.v. station. CFJC TV7 news today in Kamloops. The interview will air on Monday and will be on their website: cfjctv.com.
Well, I am off again, leaving for Jasper today. I have lodgings in Valemount thanks to the generosity of another volunteer host. But the few days before that will probably require camping in Clearwater & Blue River. A good opportunity to fine tune my camping kit. I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle and seeing what the road ahead brings.