Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Things I learned on this Trip

In no particular order and in addition to this previous blog:
  1. Nescafe instant cappuccino and mocha are great camp fare but only seem to be available in Canada.  Wish I could get it here in the US too.
  2. Talk with your riding companions about the route every day before you ride.  What will the lead person do if he/she decides to deviate?  How do you communicate stops?  What to do if separated (cell phones are not completely reliable)?  
  3. Decide if you can ride alone or not BEFORE the trip.  Understand what your companions want before the trip.  You may not be a good match, for instance, if you want someone within sight all the time and your companion is much faster and does not want to wait all the time.  This is the most important dynamic to talk about especially if you are not comfortable route finding alone and are potentially slower than others and in a small 2 - 5 person group where it is very easy to get separated during long days and in cities.  Those with lots of experience of touring alone will not even think about this - the less experienced touring riders will want to think long and hard before the trip.
  4. Do you really like the schedule of mileage, rest days, planned overnights, etc?  If you have not camped very much and want a motel every third night this can cause problems during the tour.  
  5. Shared equipment and tools are great if everyone stays together.  If the multitool is with the fastest person and they are no where to be found, you get the picture.  See #2 above.
  6. Don't run out of water!  My companions almost insisted I bring a camelback and it was a good thing.  High temps in Utah and Idaho cooked my goose one day when not using the camelback.  Have a wide-mouthed camelback and put ice in it.  You will drink more and stay hydrated.  In dry climates it is hard to maintain proper hydration when cycling over 4 hours per day.  You have to work at it.  A extra Nalgene can work in place of a camelback, it is just not as convenient.  The camelback is a lot of weight - there are lots of opinions on this - understand the temp extremes and distances between water sources and make your own decision.
  7. Be honest about your physical condition without whining.  There is a fine line here and whining gets old quickly.  However, hiding a potential trip-ending problem is bad form too.  
  8. Do your touring companions consider themselves and you as part of a team or is it every man for himself and just sharing the road together?  It is important to discuss this and understand how the others view the trip especially once the decision to share resources is made.  This is related to 2, 3 and 5 and if not resolved and understood can lead to conflict.
  9. Planned bailout points are good.
  10. Beef jerky rocks.
  11. Special diets are almost impossible to maintain.  Primal, low-carb, high protein, low fat, etc - forget about it.  Take advantage of good food when it presents itself and don't be picky.
  12. Bike maintenance - do it before and during the trip.  On a layover day take it to a local shop for chain cleaning and quick look-see by an experienced mechanic if you are not a top-notch mechanic yourself.  Another set of eyes can sometimes spot things and it is worth the $15 - 25 you spend for that alone, not to mention, the info you will get on local roads, food and goings-on from the shop.
  13. Jet boil camp stoves are great except the gas canisters can be problematic for leaking.  
  14. Vermont bag balm works to prevent and cure saddle sores - bring a little in a small container.
  15. Bodily cleanliness is important.  You must at least get dipped in a stream or lake every other day.  On days there is no water for bathing a wipe down with witch hazel or baby wipes is mandatory.  Don't let saddle sores get started!
  16. I did not lose weight on this trip.  Planning a trip to do that seems ludicrous to me.  Get in shape before and if you are overweight already plan to stay that way.  If you do lose weight that is great but don't plan on it.
  17. Though I subscribe to a diet of whole foods (eggs, meat, nuts, veggies, fruit) at home this will not work while cycle touring.  Embrace the really good bakeries!  They will keep you going along happily and with energy.
  18. The distances between towns and stores in much of Alberta and BC Canada is much greater than in the USA.  If you are from the US, you will be amazed and confounded about this fact and not believe your own eyes.  Plan for it everyday.
  19. Trail mix is my friend.
  20. I can live on trail mix, beef jerky and Nescafe mocha or cappuccino mix for days.  
  21. If something does not have a price on it - ask!  This goes for restaurants, bakeries, stores, etc.  You will be unpleasantly surprised sooner of later.
  22. DQ cones are great recovery food.
  23. This is a great pump and I have no regrets buying it and hauling my other one around as ballast.
  24. Wild blueberries in Blue River, BC are a good enough reason to plan a trip there in August.
  25. Brew Pubs are wonderful places.
  26. Why do hamburgers (not the fast-food variety) taste so good when cycle touring?  
  27. Blueberry pie at Mike Wiegele's restaurant in Valemount was the best pie of the trip.  Their prices for heli-skiing in the winter or summer heli-touring are as high as the altitude they fly.  Guess it will not happen for me in this lifetime.
  28. My equipment was all tested before the trip on numerous occasions and all worked fine:
  • Tent: Ray-way tarp and net tent.   Some people would not like needing to find two trees or two sticks every night to string this from but it was light, tough, and kept me dry from rain and dew.
  • Ground cloth - Ace Hardware 4 mil poly
  • Panniers - Ortleib front and Vaude rear.  The Vaude are not waterproof but the rain cover worked fine and you can always keep things that must be dry in a waterproof oven bag or stuff sack or other waterproof bag - be creative.
  • Bike - Rivendell Bleriot with 650b wheels/tire.  The odd size was a bit of a handicap but I could use 26" tubes and carried an extra tire.
  • Handlebar bag was Ortleib.  These are easy to overstuff and cause shimmy problems.  They are nice though for keeping your valuables in and pulling off the bike quickly and taking with you when eating and shopping.
  • Sleeping bag was Ray-way quilt.
  • Shoes - I used Ascics running shoes primarily on platform pedals with powergrip straps.  I also had my Chako river sandals which I used about 20% of the time for pedaling and everytime I took a shower at a campground.  They are heavy but I did not want to buy another pair of sandals just for this trip.
  • Riding shorts - Castelli Velocissimo  These were comfortable and stood up to lots of abuse at laundromats.  
  • Rain gear:  Showers Pass jacket and Rivendell Rain Pants.
  • Gloves - Riv
I am not going to list other clothes, tools and gear.  Write a comment if you have any questions.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 36 - The last day

When we started the day I had no expectations of good riding. As it turned out we had a great day starting with catching the early ferry since Rick and I had both got up early. So, we made the 7:20 out of Lopez instead of the planned 10:40 getting there only about 10 minutes before they closed the gate.

We had breakfast at Calico Cupboard in Anacortes, a little city that reminded me of Benicia, CA in a way.  Then we set off on another boring highway route 20.  That changed soon when Rick said let's make a left at Whitney Bayview Rd.  That eventually turned into Farm To Market Rd and then over to route 11 or known locally as Chuckanut Rd.  What would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck a nut?

Then when we got to Bellingham, Rick consulted some local garage salers and got directions to the bike path/boardwalk into downtown Bellingham and our hotel.  Way to go Rick and great way to end the trip.

Bellingham bike trail boardwalk.

A really nice downtown bike trail

Over 2000 miles in 35 days.  A great trip.  Thanks to Rick and Jerry for extensive pre-ride planning and Rick for leading this adventure.  Kiara should be congratulated on the best bakery sniffing nose ever - if there is a good bakery in town he could find it with his eyes closed.

Back at home in Mount Shasta - the cat seemed happy to see me!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 35 Lopez Island

Originally, we had talked about going to Orcas Island today but since we were going to come back to Lopez for our campsite anyways we decided to make it simple and just tour around Lopez.  I'm glad we did since it was a very relaxing day with us only putting in around 20 miles on unloaded bikes - a treat in itself.

Shark Reef straight between Lopez and San Juan Islands

Out by Shark Reef Park

Hangin' out by Shark Reef Park

A surprising number of farms and ranches on Lopez Is

Riding over to Agate Beach Park

A view of Agate Beach

Iceberg Pt Marker for defining the CA/US border out at sea

Enjoying an end of day beer at Islander Restaurant

If you are looking for the slow life then Lopez Island is your ticket.  It is very quiet and very mellow.

That night Rick and I took advantage of the campground grill to cook our first real dinner of the trip - steak, fresh salmon, wine, onions and peppers. We went out for ice cream and chocolate after dinner.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 34 Vic to Lopez Island

We cycled up the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails from downtown Vic to Sidney where we caught the ferry to Anacortes and then out to Lopez Island. Kiara went with us for about 1/2 the way until he turned off to join his friend who lives on the island for a couple days or island exploring and camping.

Rick, Kiara and I said our good-byes. Then Rick and I continued on to the ferry. 

This is a view of the Anacortes harbor.

We got into Lopez Island, set up camp, and then went out for dinner at the Bay Cafe which had been recommended by some island/sailing people we met at the ferry dock in Anacortes.
View from the Bay Cafe on.Lopez Island 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 33 Rest Day in Vic

We hung out in Vic today just pedaling around a little to see some of the city and checking out a couple local brewpubs.  Kiara met a friend for lunch and caught up to us later.
The Dude

Rick styling around Vic

Downtown Vic harbor

Seaplanes were coming and going out of the harbor regularly

The newest bike add-on in Canada to discourage cars coming close

The Vic capital building
The Swan was very nice and I would recommend it for brew, lodging, and food.  Rick and I sampled most of their beers and found them excellent.   I did not see the Swans rooms but the location downtown was perfect.  Their buffalo style chicken wings were pretty good according to Rick who is knowledgeable of these things from living in Rochester, NY for 40 years.
Rick and I chatting up some Vic locals at Swans

The beer list at Swans

Rick after some strong beer

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 32 Nanaimo to Victoria

We cannot wait to get out of Nanaimo even though the downtown bakery Mon Petit Choux recommended at the visitor center was one of the best.  We heard all kinds of weird things about Nanaimo from a story there were many women who thought of themselves as witches to that most of the bars were owned and run by the Hells Angels. Regardless of the truth of any of that, we were more than ready to ride on to Victoria. 

Rick eating a healthy breakfast - Sarah take note

On the ferry to Victoria

Pulling into Sidney which is about a 20 km ride from Vic

Local do-gooders in Vic
 The bike trail system in Vic is extensive and very heavily used by the locals for commuting to work and for leisure.  We made it to Vic and stayed on good roads with light traffic.  If we had understood better we could have taken a trail all the way.

We celebrated our arrival to Vic and the impending departure of Kiara with two Longboat Chocolate Porters from Phillips brewing.   

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 31 Squamish to Horseshoe Bay and then ferry to Nanaimo

This was supposed to be another downhill easy day that turned into over 3000' of climbing and over 60 miles.  My legs and brain by now are beyond tired and are not begging for time off, but, demanding it.
This Granny Smith apple pancake and good coffee at Red Bench started the day right

We got on the road and it was beautiful scenery.  The road was hell!  The traffic was non-stop trucks, RV's, and cars.  The shoulder was very narrow in spots.  The climbing was way more than I had anticipated.  I would see a hill and mentally just melt and just spin up them and not even try to power my way through anything.

Then a big semi and trailer combo beeps his horn at me and I see his trailer coming over the rumble strip and getting ready to crush me into the metal railing.  I am almost ready to jump off the bike and go over the rail when the trailer straightens and goes no further into the shoulder.  I realize then it is time to remember "Shut up Legs".  With new determination, I start pedaling with real effort and mental awareness.  Kiara and Rick are nowhere in sight.  I get an exit not on the cue sheet that says bike route.  I look everywhere to see if they are waiting for me down the exit and see no one.  Dejectedly I set off on the cue sheet route.

I get to the exit for the ferry and find myself in the situation that there is really no choice but to get on a ferry - all lanes lead to ferries.  I pay and get down in the walk-on passenger line and do not see Rick or Kiara.  I find out later they did exit where there was a bike route sign.  After calling 5 different people to get someone to send Rick an email (our cell phones did not work in Canada) I get hold of my friend Dave from the phone on the ferry.  He sends Rick a note I have boarded the ferry.
View of the islands from the ferry
I get to Nanaimo and reserve the last tent site. We reconnect and find a funky place for a dinner.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 30 Pemberton to Whistler

We were lucky last night to score a campsite at the Provincial Park.  We just happened to be talking with the ranger when the reserved campsite owners (two German college coeds) showed up with their backpacks.  The ranger asked them if they would be willing to share and with an affirmative we were set.

Kiara had scored a bottle of Chocolate Porter which we enjoyed down by the stream last night.  I would never have bought this and have never enjoyed beer with added flavorings like chocolate, but, this is the exception to the rule - very, very good and highly recommended.

The ride to Whistler was tough.  Many more climbs than advertised and my legs are tired.  When trying to take my arm warmers off my watch strap decides to break.  Off comes the watch into the road.  I stop immediately to get my altimeter/watch and a lone car comes around the bend and runs it over.  This watch is too expensive to replace - bummer.

The scenery is beautiful and kept my mind from dwelling on the climbs too much.  Rick and Kiara have left me in the dust today and had to wait 10 minutes or so at the entrance to Whistler.  I have always wanted to visit here and ski.
Pulling into Whistler

Reminds me of Disneyworld a little

Looking forward to different food Kiara scoped out for us

Supposed to be the best ice cream in the world - ???

After some excellent Indian curry for lunch for set off again down the road only to find out there was more climbing and the temps were setting record highs. I ran out of water right where Rick and Kiara were waiting by Alice Lake Provincial Campgrounds which was sold out. There was a huge mountain bike festival going on at Whistler which had supposedly drawn about 50K people and everything was sold out for miles around Whistler.

We kept going and made it to just above Squamish and I saw a sign for a private campground. We did not hold out much hope and were prepared to offer payment to set our tents on the front lawn. To our surprise we find out that they had open tent sites due to a large group of people who stayed Thursday and Friday nights to watch the meteor showers and had left that day. The stars align for us again!

Happy Campers

Dawn, the manager, was very nice and recommended the Red Bench restaurant which was about a 4 minute ride away in Brakendale. Our dinner was fabulous. Rick had surf and turf.. I had the mussels and chorizo in a coconut milk curry sauce and Kiara enjoyed the salmon. Our waitress was lots of fun and very informative and kept things lively and the food and drink coming out at just the right pace.  The general store next door provided the ice cream bars for dessert.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 29 Lillooet to Pemberton

We biked from Lillooet to Pemberton today which encompassed about 5K ft of climbing and descending with many of the sections in the 10 - 15% grade up and down and the total ride around 60 miles long!

I just showered at the community center and feel great.  It was one of the toughest if not the toughest climb of the whole ride due to the grades and distance.

The road coming out of Lillooet. 

It is so hard to capture the grandeur of this place.
We took our helmets off on the long climb
Check out Rick's description of Kiara descending this....
I have not posted for quite a while due to issues with electronics access in Canada and am connecting using a computer at the Pemberton library for which they charge $1 for two days of access 1 hour each day.  The lst two days have been really tough going with over 5K feet of climbing each day and more than 60 miles.  The legs have done well but want a rest.  Will they get it?  We "hear" it is all downhill to Whistler.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 28 Clinton to Lillooet

I am still trying to say Lillooet correctly.  Something like lil - loo - et.  That shouldn't be hard.

We decided to take another dirt road today since the last one had turned out so well.  We were warned by one that this would be too much for our touring bikes and by others that it was too steep.  We were told that it was a beautiful road too.  So, off we went on Kelly Lake Road.
Before the climb along Kelly Lake

Here we go and this sign was not kidding

The climb was 14% for 5km and then kept going at a less steep rate for about another 7 km or so.  Then there was rollers for about 7 km and then a long steep downhill.

Rick ripping on the downhill.

Once we came out of the trees and finished the descent then we could see Bridge River which is in a huge canyon.

In Lillooet we first ate a late lunch at the bakery and then had spaghetti and meatballs at a Greek restaurant - italian at a greek restaurant called Dinah's Place was probably not the best choice but I had been craving that for about 3 days and couldn't resist when I saw it on the menu.

At this point in the trip we made it a priority to stop by the Travel and Info Bureau when getting into any town that had one. We found the people working there (usually college students) to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable. They would give us consistently good advice on places to eat, camp, and purchase needed items along with route finding and statistics on amount of climbing involved and road status. Utilize these places if you visit BC.