When I Die, Bury Me in Gore-tex. I’m Pretty Sure It’s Raining in Hell.

Total Distance Pedaled: 1313km

When we left off I was just pulling into Revelstoke and it was raining. Who’d of thought this would be a trend that would occupy my next 4 days on the bike. After cycling through Golden, Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore I should be full of all sorts of interesting photos of mountains and wildlife…Nope. All it did was rain. And rain. And rain. And rain. I don’t have pictures of anything ’cause the only things on display were raindrops, fog, and misery. But I did it! I hauled my ass up and over Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Pass and all the way into Calgary, in the rain.

Now what’s really special about riding on the Trans-Canada in the rain is that every tractor trailer that passes (at least 100 trucks per hour) leaves you showered in a finely aspirated mist of rainwater, road grit, and whatever that particular truck happened to be hauling. And that mist gets into everything. Your ears, your mouth, everything.

Pause.
Licks lips.
Yup, pigs.
That truck was carrying live pigs.
*shudders*

The purpose bought rain jacket I brought along for this trip (Showers Pass Elite 2.1) proved to be woefully inadequate for the job, wetting out in under an hour, leaving my baselayer soaked. And that’s a bad thing when the temps are hovering just above zero. So one of the first things I did when I got to Calgary was took the Visa card down to the local outdoors shoppe and picked up an Arcteryx Alpha FL hardshell. It’s made with Gore’s new Active Shell membrane and it won one of those “Gear of the Year” awards, so hopefully it’s up to the task. And speaking of Gore-tex, if you aren’t currently wearing Gore-tex socks, you need to put the computer down and go get some. Mine are made by Rocky and they are amazing! I thought long and hard about how to handle the rain when it came to footwear. I couldn’t find a good pair of overbooties that I thought would work, and while the average woman on the streets of Toronto would likely tell you that a $200 pair of Hunter designer wellies is the way to go, I opted for the socks and scored huge. After 9 hours of riding in the rain, my shoes were completely saturated but my merino liner socks were just slightly damp. Big thumbs up!

The best thing about visiting Calgary was that my girlfriend flew in and we had 3 nights together at the Westin downtown! The worst thing about Calgary was saying goodbye to her this morning, knowing that I won’t see her for another month when I pass through Ottawa. After much procrastinating, I finally got back on the road around lunchtime. Everything was going well and I was about 25km east of Calgary when BANG! I had a sidewall rupture which completely destroyed my rear tire. I guess I was a little over enthusiastic with the air pump this morning. I moved the damaged tire to the front wheel and Macgyvered a boot out of duct tape and a piece of plastic to patch the sidewall. The second problem occurred when I went to fit a new tube on my rear wheel and discovered that the rim was only drilled for Presta valves and all my spare tubes were Schrader. F#@k me!! My damaged Presta tube had a huge unpatchable hole, so my only option was to ream out the rim to the point where the schrader valve stem would fit. I managed to accomplish this using the can opener on my Swiss Army multitool, which worked remarkably well. Richard Dean Anderson and his hypnotic mullet would have been proud.

On 2 wheels again, I limped back into Calgary, bought a new tire and vowed that I’ll never over inflate again. Thank goodness it happened near a city and not in the middle of the mountains. All in all a very emotional and frustrating day.

The mountains are behind me and I’ve got nothing in sight but flat prairie. So long as the winds and the rain cooperate the next couple weeks should roll along reasonably comfortably.

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Sometimes 1cm Makes All the Difference (That’s What She Said)

Total Distance Pedaled: 765km

I finally saw a Sasquatch! In Penticton! It was huge, hairy, smelled awful and was wearing a Jeff Gordon NASCAR t-shirt. I spotted it at the Penticton Mall, attacking the Orange Julius stand. Fortunately the young clerk was able to defend himself with his skateboard, causing the beast to flee the food court, jump into a Ford Festiva and disappear into the wilderness…True story.

Today is Day 8 and I’m enjoying a day off in Revelstoke. The last couple days have been interesting. After passing over the Cascade mountains I began to have pain in both knees. Bad pain. The kind of pain I eluded to in my last post that had me scared I wouldn’t be able to finish the trip. So when I made it into Penticton, I stopped for the day and began to do some research on the matter. The Internet recommended raising my saddle and pushing my cleats forward. So, I bumped my seat up 1cm and slid my cleats forward by a few millimeters. It was incredible! The strain on my knees went away! Unfortunately what I’ve now come to discover is that I may have raised the saddle a bit too much as I now have an inflamed achilles tendon. I’ve never had problems like these before so it’s a bit of trial and error and really seems to come down to a game of millimeters. I’m hoping this tendinitis calms down as I still have a lot of hill climbing to do between here and Banff.

The scenery in the Okanagan valley was beautiful.

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And the roadsides were home to these little groundhog dudes.

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The focus is a little soft on this pic, but I had to share because the expression on his face is just too cool.

I also passed through the village of Grindrod where preparations are well underway for the annual Festival of Garlic!

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Rumor has it that this year’s surprise guest host will be Bob Vila. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Next up was Sicamous, the self proclaimed “Houseboat Capital of Canada”.

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Reason #1 that I should never father children. The only thing I could think of when I saw these is that I’d likely get the ‘ol houseboat up to about 30 knots and then encourage the kids to use the waterslide. There’s just something about seeing some kid popping ass first out the bottom of the waterslide only to hit the lake at 30mph that makes me giggle.

Leaving the houseboats and overpriced lake lots behind, I joined the Trans-Canada and began to climb back into the mountains. I passed the spot where back in 1885 they hammered the last spike in the railroad, and Tweak came out to pose for a photo.

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I also got to pose for a few photos when a big busload of Japanese tourists showed up. They were impressed with my bike and asked to take my picture. Apparently I’m huge in Japan.

Well, that’s the kind of week it’s been. I’ll leave you with this last pic, snapped about 20km outside of Revelstoke. It was worth getting rained on to witness this.

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Music Soothes Even the Savage Beast

Total Distance Pedaled to Date: 390km
Vertical Rise Pedaled Over the Last 2 Days: approx 3km
Number of Sasquatch Sightings: Still 0

Tonight I’m camped out at Bromley Rock Provincial Park.

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It’s a small, quiet park with very basic amenities. No showers, no electricity and no running water, which means no RV’s, so I’ve got the whole joint pretty much to myself. There’s also no cell service, so I’ll upload this post in the morning when I hit a town.

Tonight’s festivities consisted of some bike maintenance: Pumped up the tires and lubed the chain. Next, I scooped a pot of water out if the river and boiled it up for some supper. Then I relaxed in front of the fire for a while before jumping into the tent just as a rain shower blew in. Dreadfully exciting for a Saturday night, eh?

Friday was (according to my guidbook) the hardest day of my entire continental journey.

Hey, where does this road go?

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It goes up!!

And up, and up, and up. All the nice smells of the previous days were replaced with the stench of burning brake pads from the big trucks making the descent into Hope. I left my campsite in Hope and pedaled uphill continously for 60km. I did however stop halfway up for an impromptu lunch.

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Finally, I reached the top at Allison Pass.

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Where I then proceeded to set my camera timer, run out under the sign and pretend to celebrate. YAY!!!
It did feel good to make it to the top.

The biggest problem with these endless hills is keeping my mind in a positive spot. I’ve been telling myself these last couple days that I’m not tough enough to complete this ride. That my body is going to breakdown and I’ll have to go home with my tail between my legs. It’s like I’ve got 2 little guys sitting on my shoulders. On one side is Tony “Banana Hands” Robins, who is trying to motivationaly inspire me up the hills. And on the other side is Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, who’s screaming “Come on Bicknell! You move like old people fuck!”. This is where music comes in. I usually never ride and wear earphones. In the city it’s just too dangerous. But out here I’ve resigned to the fact that if I’m gonna get run down by a logging truck, it’s going to happen whether I’m listening to music or not. And honestly, if I’m going out like that, I’d rather not hear the logging truck coming. And music really does help with distracting your mind. My second day out of Victoria, before I put on the earphones, I caught myself signing George Michael’s “Faith”. Of course I only know about 6 words, so the rest of the song ended up sounding like some kind of hooked on eubonics comedy routine.

Anyhow, enough of the serious stuff. Check out the size of this beaver!

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Damn thing could destroy an entire town. Well, apparently it’s not a beaver, it’s supposed to be a ground squirrel. ‘Course I didn’t know it at the time. I was just thinking, “Man, that’s one big ass beaver”.

And this was rather interesting too.

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That’s about it. That’s all I’ve got. I could show you more photos of mountains and landscapes; it truly is beautiful out here. But the thing about a blog is, if you’re not careful, it’ll quickly turn into the modern version of a 1970’s slide show where Aunt So-and-So would gather everyone around the living room and show slides of her trip to the beach. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Day 1 and 2

Total distance pedaled to date: 223km
Number of bald eagles spotted: 2
Sasquatch sightings: 0
High speed bumblebee impacts: 3 (1 right in the face!)

Ok, I’m 2 days into the trip and things are going really well. Fantastic weather and low winds have put me a full day ahead of schedule! I’m camped out tonight in Hope, BC.

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Writting this as a very light rain falls on my tent fly. The forecast is calling for sun for the next few days (Yay!) and I expect I’ll need the head start I’ve got now that I’m getting into some serious mountains. This was my view starting out this morning from Surrey.

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The ride this morning was fabulous. One thing about bicycle touring that you don’t experience in a car is the smells and this morning was super fragrant. My trip along Highway 7 had me passing all kinds of sawmills. They were pulling logs out of the river that had been rafted down and it totally put me in a Beachcombers frame of mind.

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Each mill had a massive pile of wood chips; some kind of cedar or other redwood, and the smell was wonderful. This coupled with the smell of the Highway Dept mowing the grass along the shoulder made for a great day.

At this point I should introduce Tweak.

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Tweak came from Switzerland and was brought back to Canada as a gift by my friend Justin. Since then, Tweak has become my cycling good luck charm. He came along last summer on my Toronto-Montreal trip, and he’s along for the ride this summer too.

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Here’s Tweak relaxing on the BC Ferry.

It was a good crossing. Nothing like the ferry rides I’ve taken in Atlantic Canada.

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After we landed on the mainland, Google maps steered me onto a rail trail that took me along the edge of what I believe was Boundary Bay and through a nature reserve where I spotted these two guys.

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These birds were amazingly huge!

Before I left Victoria, I stopped at the MEC and picked up a cylinder of bear spray. Upon reading the label, I was releaved to learn that along with being effective against bears, it was also good against wolves, zebras, lions and tigers (oh my!), Santa Clause, baby seals, dolphins, and last but certainly not least, Rosie O’Donnell.

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You better back it up Rosie!!

Before I turn in, I’ll pass along something I learned today.
This is the Fraser river.

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It was/is a very important waterway ’round these here parts and interestingly enough, was dug entirely by hand by Mister Fraser (Miss’s Fraser didn’t even help). And to make matters worse, Mister Fraser had to spit continuously into the dry ditch for 3 months just to get the thing flowing…He died shortly afterwards due to dehydration. A fascinating bit of Canadian history.

Have a great night!

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The Introduction

Well, here we are. It’s about 2 weeks before the start of the big trip, so I may as well explain exactly what it is I’m up to. For those of you that I don’t have the privilege of working with, (who are probably all sick and tired of listening to me ramble on) on May 21st I’m loading my bike into an airplane and flying out to Vancouver Island. From there I’ll pedal my way out to the eastern tip of Newfoundland, arriving around mid August. I’m following Steve Langston’s book, Canada by Bicycle, http://www.canadabybicycle.com and also available in print at Mountain Equipment Co-op. My intentions are to follow his route until I get to the Maritimes (my birthplace) where I’ll divert from the course to visit family and friends. It’s gonna be a cool ride!

Up at the top of this page, under the picture, you’ll see a title called The Gear. Click on this and you’ll be magically transported to a place where you can read about all the junk I’ll be hauling around. The list isn’t complete and will likely change over the next 2 weeks and as the trip evolves, so I’ll update it accordingly. The one thing that isn’t going to change is the 5 clothes pins…That shit is locked down. “Five shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be five”. Now granted, clothes pins are nowhere near as cool as a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, and honestly, who wouldn’t want to tour around the countryside with a grenade toting dude named Brother Maynard? Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure they only had to count to 3…But I digress. The one thing you won’t see on that list is toilet paper. Unlike most of the great explorers I was exposed to during my childhood, I’m fairly confident I’ll have to take a dump somewhere along the way. Take Jacques Cousteau for example. I used to watch his show all the time and not once did I hear the narrator exclaim “Cousteau has the shits! Tune in next week for more exciting undersea adventures aboard the Calypso!” Now as benign as this may sound, toilet paper isn’t exactly sold in single roll quantities and there’s no way I’m riding across Canada with a 12 pack of Charmin tied to my back. So I consulted with what I consider to be an expert in the field of wayward fecal matter; the father of 2 young boys. He tells me that modern science has in fact built a better mousetrap in the form of pre-moistened Wet Ones wipes. Fascinating, eh? So, the plan is to stock up on the baby wipes and beg, borrow or steal a roll of TP from campground washrooms, coffee shops, etc as the situation demands.

Finally, as Lorne Greene used to say, “a tip of the hat” goes out to my employer for granting me an unpaid leave of absence so that I might undertake this little adventure. Most folk aren’t permitted or can’t afford to take 3 months off work and I’m glad my boss saw fit to cut me loose for the summer. It removes a whole layer of stress and really, who needs more stress?