Prince Rupert to Houston, BC
I just can't seem to stop smiling. The morning greeted us without rain and with a beautiful sunrise. For the first time, I knew where all of my stuff should be packed for the day� I felt organized. It took only a half hour to hurriedly get everything together, and I was right in line with the timing of the others. The loading of the ferry was horribly disorganized, but eventually we had our bikes on the ferry and were watching the finale of our trip on Vancouver Island and of the sunrise. The wind was cold, and after we were well on our way I went to find some food. Down below I met up with two retired gentlemen that had charged my computer for me the previous night in their camper van. They are very fun to listen to, each with stories of their adventures, as well as many funny and interesting court cases as one of them is a retired judge. Soon all six of us were sitting together laughing and trading stories. The retired pair of lifelong friends (since high school) is on their way to canoe the Yukon river. There were nature talks given throughout the day by student rangers, and endless people to listen to their plans for the next few months. The end of the trip was highlighted by a dinner treated by the judge for all six of us - a grand buffet with Gavin's friend the piano player (a coincidence as he had no idea she was working for the ferries) as musical entertainment. That night the four of us rode our bikes through the dark streets of Prince Rupert and set up camp for the night under a dark purple sky of the north's midnight twilight.
Debbie and Peter, the couple from Holland (see previous log
for photo), left after breakfast to explore the town and wait for their next ferry to Alaska tomorrow. Gavin and I set off toward Prince George. Gavin is much faster than I am, but he kept his speed quite slow for me today. The weather was amazing! Prince Rupert is known for its rain, but for us it has been the beginning of blue skies after the abundant rain of Vancouver island. The mountains rose around us as we followed the flat path along the inlet which later became a river. It was very nice to have someone to bike with as conversation made the pedaling easier. Gavin turned out to be a Unitarian and we spent a bit of time remembering all of the wonderfully wacky traditions of youth conferences and learning that they are fairly similar across the continent. At lunch we discussed one of my favorite books, Miles from Nowhere by Barbara Savage
which he had just read, and I have read many times over the years, though the last time was quite a while ago. There was one thing that I had forgotten� I didn't realize that they also biked Vancouver Island and took the ferry to Prince Rupert. As happens with conversation, the world seems a bit different now, and I look at the same mountains that Barbara and Larry saw on their trip and that I have read about so many times, and they seem to be even more beautiful for the recognition. If sunny days were a common thing in this area, I would recommend the ride to anyone looking for an incredible place to bike, as the route is long, flat and downwind through unbeatable scenery. The conversation did its job of taking my mind off my sore knees, and we covered more than 100 km today with a top speed of 49.1 km/hr both breaking new records by a large margin for my trip so far.
It is Canada day today. It is a holiday that is almost equivalent to the Fourth of July in the US. The weather continues to be nice, and the road smooth and flat. We made it into the first town inland, Terrance, and stopped for a Subway sandwich for lunch, food, and to use the air pump on our tires. I was tired today from yesterday's long biking and short night as the sun doesn't set until 10:00 and twilight doesn't end until 12:00, but sunrise is around 5:00. It is hard to convince myself to stop pedaling and set up camp, and then once set up to not continue to write this log, but instead to go to bed. But I am very tired today, so all there will be are the simple stats: 82.68 km covered today, 561.60 km so far this trip, 43.3 km/hr maximum speed. Maximum speed is interesting for me, as it is a function of the terrain and my packing proficiency. The first few days out my maximum speed was 46 (a very scary moment that first day), and the subsequent days were all under 34. Now my packing is becoming more even from side to side and higher speeds are safely possible. By the time I am ready to come down the mountains I should be able to finely tune my packing and drift down them without much worry of an unstable bike.
|Cabin in Usk, BC population appr 20.
Today we biked from Usk (where we were the first bikes to use the old river current driven ferry across to Usk this year) to New Hazelton. The ride was surprisingly easy, mostly flat land with only a few hills. We have covered some of the areas colored in yellow on our map, indicating that we are gaining altitude, but luckily it doesn't feel like we are climbing. The wind remained a tail wind the entire day, and hopefully will continue tomorrow as well. The scenery has stayed the same, a wide rushing river that looks very interesting for long distance kayaking in the future, snow capped mountains and forests in between. There are some new additions to the plant life around us now though. Most notable is the addition of the quaking aspens. The fields are now filled with yellow hawkweed and daisies. Today's stats: 111.83 km today - a new record!, total distance =673.43 km, 50.4 km/hr maximum.
Nearing New Hazelton we came through an area with road construction. The new road was incredibly smooth and easy to ride on. The most notable part about this road however was the workers' attitudes. They called to us as we passed yelling "NICE ROAD EH?" We yelled back that the new road was wonderful and their faces broke into even larger smiles of extreme pride. That evening, looking for a place to stay in New Hazelton we met a large man wearing an equally large western hat who lived in a large trailer with a flat inviting lawn. After talking about where we were from and where we were going Gavin asked where in town we might be able to set up a tent, and he offered his yard. The best part about this offer was the conversation after setting up the tents. He spoke of the people in the area and we began to understand what we had been seeing. Most of the people are out of work and on unemployment insurance waiting for the logging mill to reopen. The price of lumber has fallen so drastically that many people are out of work until the market improves. I smiled with understanding and mentioned the construction workers. He understood and confirmed, "Yes they are perhaps the happiest people in the area as they have work!"
The rain had been intermittent, falling from odd misty clouds that seemed to stay along the mountain range. The rest of the area's weather seemed fairly explainable. The winds were at our back during the days up the river valley starting about 11:00 am, increasing as the sun heated the land and drew air in from the ocean. However the rain that we saw near New Hazelton seemed very disorganized, and didn't follow any of the regular micrometeorology patterns. At the end of the day having cycled around the main mountain range, a very difficult (very hilly and raining most of the day) ride from New Hazelton to Smithers, I learned what caused this rain. The winds from the ocean blow along the valley and up the mountains blowing the snow off the mountain and into the air, where it melts and falls as a combination of mist and rain. (See the picture above.) I've never heard of such a pattern, but there is was, plain as day to see at sunset. We stopped at a ranch where the owners are avid touring cyclists and thus host any bikes that come through their area with all of a cyclist's dreams - showers, laundry, flat grassy lawn and easy access to water! Stats: 88.1 km, 49 max.
Today was an incredibly beautiful day! The sun covered the high plains with a yellow brightness and warmth across the very green hills. The air, full of humidity from all of the area's rain, made the mountains a beautiful dark blue color in the distance, contrasting well with the bright red barns of the area. Half way through the day Gavin broke his back derailleur cable and told me to go ahead as he'd catch up later after changing the cable. While we had head wind that morning, the road turned and soon I was making incredible time. Houston came and went very quickly, and soon I was at the next rest stop and decided to cook dinner and wait for Gavin. I wondered if the wind had not been as good by the time he fixed his bike and that was why he hadn't caught up yet. I finished dinner and still, Gavin hadn't arrived. I was starting to get a little worried and when a woman from an RV came over to talk, I asked her about seeing a cyclist along the road. They had seen him walking his bike up a hill toward Houston. This answered my question. Gavin did not walk his bike (his gear ratios, in shape body, and biking shoes all make it something he simply doesn't do.) His bike must not have been able to be fixed. Stats: 74.62 km, 53.6 max (Good packing job this morning!)