Vancouver to the Rockies; Wet days on two wheels

It’s here! After 3 years of having very vague plans to ride across Canada the time had finally come! You’d think after that long, it would all go pretty smoothly right? No, the start was a massive pain in the sensitive delicate rectum region.

We had subjected ourselves to that horrible thing known as “having a job” back home in Australia in order to save some extra cash for the trip seeing as we couldn’t save at all living in Vancouver and after 7 months had finally saved up enough pennies to get back to Canada and begin our next adventure!

We arrived in Vancouver after some major flight delays (8 or so hours) plus missed connecting flights, lost baggage and dramas getting our camping stove on the plane (when the stove did eventually make it to Vancouver it had been damaged on the flight…fuck you westjet!) and were ready to rock! Sort of. Before starting a bicycle trip it is probably a good idea to have a bike. We had purchased 2 bikes on the recommendations of a bike shop in Vancouver to pick up when we arrived, I would not recommend anyone else trying this method, not a good idea. We thought it would save time organizing bikes before arriving but in the end it was a major hassle and cost us several days and a whole lot of stress.

Seeing as we are planning on spending the next few years riding, I had wanted to get steel framed bikes capable of touring around the world so we invested a little more cash than last time, but we still couldn’t afford the top of the range touring bikes so I was pretty happy when I found a store that had two of last years model bikes in our price range of under $1000 (bikes were $820).

When we arrived though I soon realised that Kelly’s bike a Norco search S3 only had two chain rings at the front giving it a total of 18 gears…my bad I thought it had 3 at the front…sorry Kelly! You like pushing up hills though right?? The bike shop had talked up how great these bikes were for touring and how they’d be perfect for what we needed them for, but really the gears on this bike were not exactly ideal for lugging a whole ton of shit through the rocky mountains and beyond and the shop should have been straight with us instead of trying to clear out old stock on a couple of tourists.

Leaving vancouver day one on Kelly's first bike

We persisted though, the shop swapped out the rear gears for something with a wider range, but on the day we left Vancouver it was clear it was not going to work, we made it 65kms to Kelly’s friend’s house near Abbotsford and she couldn’t get the bike up a hill so mountains were gonna be a pretty big issue! The next 2 days are a blur of stress, anger and frustration contacting the store, dicking around attaching and detaching crap to the bikes and eventually managing to exchange Kelly’s bike and pay the difference of about $450 to get this years model touring bike the same as mine (brodie circuit) instead of a unsuitable cyclocross bike. I’m sure there’s plenty of good cyclocross bikes for touring and I believe you can tour on just about anything, but as we were planning a pretty massive trip we wanted something better than we had last time. It was a frustrating experience and I could go into more depth about the shit that went on but it’s in the past now and thinking about it makes me want to curl up into a big shiny bald ball and cry my little peepers out so we’ll leave it there. We were just lucky that Kelly’s friend Kira is such a legend and gave up a whole day to take us back to Vancouver to sort it out.

So take 2…the trip restarts!

We greatly underestimated the sheer volume of shit that we had brought with us for this trip. It was ridiculous. The bikes were so heavily loaded up they were wobbling like a drunk cowboy at the Calgary stampede and still struggling to make it up hills, so over the next few weeks tough decisions were made and we both ended up donating various crap we could do without to people along the way. It’s still an ongoing process though, I feel like I have a lot more stuff than when we rode from France to China, but at least the bikes were actually up to the job!

After the initial stress and disappointment of starting the trip like that it felt great to finally be on our way plus we were riding through a place called Chiliwack so that cheered up my small childlike mind a bit. Spent a night wild camping next a river near Cultus lake and had all the old feelings of total freedom flooding back as we pitched our tent in a hidden little spot in the trees. The tour had begun!

In the morning I snapped my chain before we even left our little camping spot (first ever snapped chain for me!) and Kelly was stung by a wasp, but we weren’t gonna let it get us down goddammit!! Fixed up the chain and hit the road again passing through some beautiful B.C scenery at Bridal Veil falls, through the Othello Tunnels near Hope and camping next to a highway down an embankment hidden from sight. People kept talking to us about the Coquihalla mountain pass and making us regret our lack of physical fitness and pre trip training as we pedaled through the rain towards this hilly beast. Our legs definitely got a little shock when we hit it, but memories of some of the horrendous climbs we’d tackled through central Asia and Europe made it seem not so bad.

Coquihalla mountain pass

The rain persisted on and off so we were going from shivering and wet one minute to baking and sweaty the next having to constantly put on or take of layers of clothes. We cruised through valleys and mountains and passed through cool little towns on our trip through Kamloops to Merrit camping in hillside scrub, rest stop areas barely hidden from view and one particularly stunning spot on our way to Kamloops next to a river with perfect views on our little tents’ doorstep!

Amazing wild camping spot next to a lake on the way to Kamloops

After about a week we decided a shower was in order as we had various plant life growing on us and had begun to smell like a French cheese boutique so found an air bnb in Clearwater to escape the still constant rain and scrub ourselves raw. Felt nice to be indoors and have access to a kitchen as our stove had died on us a few days previously and we had to buy a tiny emergency twig burning stove to heat up our meager rations of oatmeal and pasta. Also felt nice to fill my insides with sweet delicious beer! Spent a few hours checking out some amazing waterfalls in the nearby Wells Gray provincial park with our awesome Airbnb owner and then hit the wet road again! Climbed higher heading towards the rockies and smashed out our first 100+ km day of the trip so far through an isolated stretch heading to mosquito capital of the known universe, Blue river BC.

Waterfall in Wells Gray provincial park

As we pulled into the small mountain town looking for a clearing in the forest to duck into and set up camp, A large friendly black bear appeared casually chilling on the side of the road roughly 4 metres from Kelly so we decided perhaps this was not the ideal spot to rest our weary bones for the night and continued on into the town.

I asked a couple with a young daughter if they thought we would get into trouble if we set up a tent in the local park next to a lake, but turns out they weren’t locals either and didn’t have a clue. The Spanish couple quickly offered us a backyard to camp in overnight and we were set…apparently the town had been having a bit of a bear problem recently with a particularly big grizzly stalking the area and they showed us the large trailer parked across the street from their house with a huge metal bear cage trap. Felt a bit better knowing we were near a house at least and we could store our food inside to hopefully keep the furry little buggers from eating us and our tent.

Bear trap in Blue River B.C about 20 metres from where we set up the tent

We had no encounters with Yogi or his friends that night, but my god the mosquitos were savage! We had originally thought we’d get to hang out and practice our now terrible Spanish over a coffee with the nice couple that saved us, but instead were forced to rip everything off the bikes and dive head first into the tent as quickly as possible before we were sucked dry of all our precious blood that we need for living and stuff. Thousands of them. Thousands of the horrible little shits. Looking up in the tent at the outside was terrifying, it was a covered black mass of swarming blood thirsty winged shit heads. I already felt a bit dizzy from dehydration, I think if anymore had munched me I probably would have passed out.

Camping in spanish families' back yard in blue river

It was onwards and upwards in the morning and another big day with stunning scenery and pedaling close to 100km getting to Valemount to stay with our first Warmshowers hosts (like couchsurfing for cyclists) Tom and Peggy. Was great meeting this couple who had an incredible amount of experience cycle touring all over the world for years, plus Tom was a pretty handy guy who brought our poor little stove ‘Colin’ back from the dead! He could no longer simmer and only functioned in the ‘off’ or ‘burn the absolute shit out of everything’ modes…but he was alive! Pretty stoked we could cook food and boil water for coffee again without scavenging for dry twigs when it had been raining solidly since we arrived.

Spent a nice evening with Tom and Peggy chatting and getting lots of helpful tips about the route and then had a leisurely 40km day started off by gorging ourselves at the local swiss bakery before setting up camp in one of those weird ‘non wild camp on the side of the road’ official government run campsite thingos near Mt Robson. Camp sites with showers toilets and water?!?! Who knew! It continued to piss down solidly over the course of that day and the coming days as we finally entered the Rocky Mountains!!!

Disneyworld, Orlando Florida

To celebrate entering the rockies I decided it would be a grand idea to clip a guard rail with my pannier while trying to take a photo, throw my camera several feet in the air into the middle of the road and crash off the bike carving a chunk of flesh the size of a late night drunken kebab out of my ankle. I will admit, not my finest idea, but I like it to mix things up while cycling to keep it fresh. It felt like we needed some more excitement and our luck had got better since the start of the trip so I didn’t want us getting too cocky. My ankle looked pretty nasty as I had carved it up on the front gear cogs forcing a kilo or so of black greasy shite and grit into the wound so we stopped on the side of the road to rub my dirty gash clean(ish) with some alcohol wipes…not a fun time for me to be honest. In hindsight, I most definitely needed stiches as this occurred roughly three weeks ago now and it still keeps opening up to let the inside of my ankle say hello to the world and give my blood a chance to explore Canada, but we were nowhere near a doctor or hospital and were also in a bit of a race to get to Calgary in time for the stampede so didn’t want to have to take a break off the bikes. Yeah I’m an idiot.

My bandaged up ankle gash

So we had made it!!! After a shaky start and some ups and downs we were finally entering the rockies! We had started to feel better about the cycle trip and our chances of survival (despite my little tumble) and were slowly getting back into the swing of things after nearly two years since the last trip and felt ready to invade the Canadian rockies like Ghengis Khan on a push bike!

Balls Out!

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