Wednesday, July 30, 2014


_____ This is the route I took on my BC tour. 3007 km on the bike and about 750 km on various ferries.  Part 2 of the tour comes after this post and Part 1 is after that. Blogs do things like that; so scroll down to Part 1 first and it will make  for a better read.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cycle-touring in British Columbia. Part 2.

____Part 2.

____Day 23. After a rest day in Port Hardy; I had another rest day on the ferry to Prince Rupert. BC Ferries' Northern Expedition takes two days to do a round trip of 508 kilometres in each direction. Its a long day at sea; leaving at 07.30 and arriving at 23.30 with just one stop at Klemtu. Check-in time is 05.30 so it made for an early start; packing up a wet tent at dawn. Rain and drizzle for the whole voyage kept me inside; looking out for orcas and dolphins. My pictures of the wildlife and stunning scenery don't do the Inside Passage justice; it's an awesome trip with shear cliffs rising thousands of feet from the ocean. Cascades of fresh water dropping straight into salt water.
____It's a good ship too. Built in 2009, very modern and fresh smelling. Comfortable seats, a decent cafeteria and none of the annoying vibrations you usually find on ferries. The Inside Passage waters are very sheltered so the whole trip was on calm seas. I thought there might be a problem with an arrival time of 23.30 at Prince Rupert but the campsite was open to welcome the ferry passengers with RVs and tents. The ferry can carry 600 passengers but I doubt there were more than 100 on board.

____Day 24. Breakfast at Tim Horton's and I set off early on the Yellowhead Trail, Highway 16. It is 140 kilometres to Terrace and nothing on the map that show any services. The first 30 kilometres are hilly but then the road joins the railroad and runs alongside the broad tidal Skeena River; river of mists. But it's a dry day, tail wind and light traffic; a great day to be on a bike. My worrying about a long day in the saddle are ended at Kilometre 89; the Kaskis Resort and Hummingbird Café appear as a mirage in the desert. That will do nicely, thank you. I spend the evening chatting with an Austrian cycle-tourer who started in March at New Orleans and is en route to Alaska.

____Day 25. I had never heard of the Skeena River before my arrival at it's north bank; but it is an important and impressive salmon habitat. Natural and un-dammed; cutting deep into the interior, it provides some of the best cycling of the tour. Fifty-seven kilometres for the day brings me to the first major settlement: Terrace. A place where the local black bears come in a variety of lighter colours; Spirit Bears or Kermodae Bears. I never met one.

____Day 26. Another day riding beside the Skeena; passing the tiny church at Usk where I read about the Bible that survived the worst flood ever seen by balancing on a floating table. The visitors book is recently signed by "Tori"; a cycle-tourer going from Inuvik to Argentina. Good luck! At Kitwanga is the junction of highways 16 and 37; the Yellowhead and the Cassiar. North to Alaska I go; but only the four kilometres to the campsite. A pretty long day at 95 km.

____Day 27. Just 48 kays, half of yesterday's effort; Kitwanga to New Hazelton, both with large Native American populations and their distinctive artistic style. Hazelton also has a distinctive mountain range; proper looking peaks, rocky, sharp pointed summits. Roche de Boule is King. Seven cycle-tourers pass by while I am in the laundromat; heavily laden, I bet they are going up the Cassiar.

____Day 28. Sixty-seven kilometres down to Smithers and I am handling that sort of distance with no trouble at all. Do different from the first days of the tour. A good day with a half-way stop at Morricetown with it's powerful rapids and adjacent fish ladders. Then on to riverside municipal camping at Smithers where I find 11 cycle-tourers having a rest day. They started at Missoula in Montana and are stocking-up with supplies before tackling the Cassiar Highway as they head for a final destination of Fairbanks, Alaska.

____Day 29. I wake up to a rear flat tyre and have to mend it under the scrutiny of eleven experienced cyclists. But it's good to be able to borrow some needle nose pliers and extract the piece of wire lodged in the tyre. Then  65 km to Houston; tackling Hungry Hill on the way before checking into the Shady Rest Campsite, as recommended by Alaska's 11. A very hot day, hottest of tour so far. Then the three cycle-tourers that I met at Woss turn-up and we compare notes.   

____Day 30. As I am leaving the campsite, a woman asks if I've seen her black dog running around; I haven't. But 200 metres from the camp entrance I spot something black coming through the long grass and onto the hard shoulder. Not the dog; a black bear who quickly does a U-turn as I fumble for my camera. Soon after I meet a guy who left Tierra Del Feugo 20 months ago, he's headed for Alaska. Total respect to him and all the others out there doing similar trips. He has brought the hot weather north with him; another scorcher. Sweaty toil on the 79 kilometre ride to Burns Lake; only to find that the municipal camping ha no showers, although it is free. I book into a cheap motel, clean with a tub for soaking and only a few bucks more expensive than a Tofino campsite.

____Day 31. World Cup Final day; so find a sports bar for the lunchtime kick-off. Not so easy on the Yellowhead Trail where the next town of any size, Fraser Lake, is 71 kilometres to the east. Roadside advertising boards for the Endako Bar and Grill give me a glimmer of hope. I roll up and order a pint of shandy; three minutes after the start of play. Two customers and two staff who are making fresh homemade recipe burgers; I'll have one of those and another shandy. After extra-time it's on to Fraser Lake for camping and some clothes washing that dries well on another hot day.

____Day 32. Smoke from forest fires hangs in the air as I ride the 59 km to Vanderhoof but it is no excuse for riding into a pot-hole. A badly buckled wheel and four broken spokes; I wobble into town with the back wheel on the point of collapse. There is no local bike shop that does repairs but there is a "Source for Sports" which does have a new wheel of the correct size; even the same brand. $110 and I'm up and running within a couple of hours. The Woss Three turn up at the camping and say that I am very fortunate to sort out my problem so quickly.

____Day 33. The tent is covered with a layer of ash from the forest fires; smoke still makes it a hazy atmosphere. Over one hundred kilometres to Prince George on another day in this heat wave along a much busier Highway16. A long descent down to the Fraser River; I don't actually go into the town centre but swing round the south side which leads to Highway 97 and several campsites.

____Day 34. Smokier and hotter than ever; the long haul out of Fraser River valley is a hard start to a long day. But there is a good smooth hard shoulder on a road they call the Cariboo. I stop for a rest at Cinema, a tiny village so named because a Hollywood movie mogul bought land in the area with the intention of using the location for making films. The old general store is still operating with most of the income coming from the sale of soft ice cream and fireworks. Vic, the owner, is sitting in the shade after fixing-up a canopy for a dance floor. He organises a country music festival for the village. I join him with an ice tea and ice cream. We sit and watch the world go by, three hours; waiting for heat to subside so we can both get back to work. Then it's onto Quesnel, which I now know is pronounced "Quennell." A day of 121 kilometres; split by a long break and some good company.

____Day 35. Just 74 kilometres today, following the Fraser Valley; but not near the river and not on any flat land. Still hot and still thick smoke in the air. Alexandria is today's spot for a pot of tea and siesta. McLeese Lake is the overnight stop; where I find five Italian registered BMWs. By the collection of stickers that they are sporting; they are on a world tour. On there way down from Alaska, it must be a bit deflating to see so many people are doing the trip on push-bikes. Bet they don't mention that when they get home.

____Day 36. Forty-four clicks, all in the rain; after I had sat and ate breakfast while it was still dry. The Italians all give me a wave when the come past; good lads. The environment certainly needs the downpour as forest fires have been raging out of control for well over a week. Maybe this will slow down their spread if it doesn't put them out. After checking-out my options at the very smart Williams Lake Tourist Information Office, I settle for an early finish in the hotel next door.

____Day 37. Ninety kilometres to 100 Mile House; the strange-named town that is a hundred miles north of Lillooet, the start of the Cariboo Gold Rush Trail. A day of dodging showers, the heaviest at Lac la Hache; before finding that the cheap municipal campsite was crap. Only suited to RVs and then, only the ones with self-leveling equipment. Another night in a cheap motel; but those soaks in the tub are sure doing me good.

____Day 38. Clinton used to be 43 Mile House; I'm counting down so must be going in the right direction. A hilly section of road with a good shoulder; cycle-tourers own the shoulder. Rolling hills rather than mountains; woodland with ranches. Hay-making in progress everywhere. Seventy-five kilometres for the day.

____Day 39. Mostly downhill to a busy Cache Creek; where the competition between the many motels forces prices down to a very reasonable level. But its only halfway in my 91 kilometre day. I climb the long drag out of Cache Creek before dropping down to run alongside the Thompson River. Back in amongst the mountains again and the dry desert-like sheltered valley. Free apricots, straight from the tree, at the Spences Bridge Camping; run by English couple, Roy and Sarah.

____Day 40. For the first time on the trip, I wake up feeling unwell; headache and nausea. It takes an age as I plod around, packing up in four times the normal time. Eventually I make it down to the "Packing House," the local café in a town that more than its fair share of boarded-up enterprises. Coffee and French toast put me right for a short ride beside the Thompson before it joins the Fraser River at Lytton.

____Day 41. With just 108 kilometres left to complete the circle; I go for it. Feeling much better, I get to Boston Bar before the heavens open. This should put out the forest fires and give the helicopter pilots a break from their dousing activities. It's raining hard as I stop for a quick look at Hells Gate, the famous rapids on the Fraser River. I don't know why people think they have the right to charge money in order to let the general public see natural attractions. They didn't make the narrow gorge that makes the waters boil, so why do they think they have the right to own it. It is still pouring at Hope and the wind is now blowing hard. The Red Roof Motel is the first one I come to; straight in.

____Summary. 3007 kilometres ridden in just under six weeks and not a bad moment during the whole trip. Awesome hospitality from everyone I had dealings with. Some problems with the bike and some problems with the physical condition of the rider but I feel a whole lot fitter and lighter. Thank you British Columbia for everything.