Archive for July, 2011

Day 34

A reasonably long day of about 75 miles (back in the USA means ‘miles’, folks) which bought me through some stunning Washington scenery, some nastily busy roads and one odd cyclist.

Here’s a picture of some stunning Washington scenery.


And a view from the bridge. Don’t look down!


It wasn’t all hills, but this is the first time since Day 3 that I’ve had to push my bike. Some 14% gradients with a headwind. Not much fun. But then it gives way to coastal farmland and it’s all flat and easy. Still with this fecking headwind, though! This has been against me now since the Cassiar Highway. Do you remember the Cassiar? Such a long time ago! Anyway, it turns out that there is an unusual dip south in the jet stream and this is dragging low systems further south which in turn is bringing the cold, wet and, for me, the annoying southerly winds. Looks like it’ll be against me at least until San Francisco. TAXI!!

Just as an aside does anyone else think this looks suspicious?

That’s a lot of cows around either a meteor impact or an open-cast mine. Hmm? What are the cows mining? Or are they attracted to strange emanations coming from the impact. No one was saying nothing! Conspiracy or just a hole in the ground? You be the judge..

And the odd cyclist. Well not so much odd as a bit unfriendly. We cycled together for a bit, but there was little conversation from him and he was quite slow – both mentally and his cycling speed! Turns out he was from Vancouver and was doing a circular trip through Seattle. Did he ask anything about me? No. Not a sausage. I made my excuses and left.

I’m in Port Townsend now, which I think the Americans would call ‘quaint’. I like it so much I’ve decided tomorrow will be a rest day here. I’m staying in the Palace hotel, which was, amongst other things, an old Victorian brothel. By far the most interesting and nicest hotel I’ve stayed in on this trip. I’ll get photos for tomorrow’s blog


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Day 33

Damien and Jill, being the keen cyclists they are, decided to accompany me part of the way today and probably to make sure I left!

Again thanks chaps, it’s so much easier not having to read a map and cycle at the same time.

Almost as soon as we’d parted company (a) I got myself lost and (b) the sun came out. I was only lost for about five minutes, but considering that I’d joked about it about a minute before I felt a bit of a berk. And since crossing into the States, it’s been glorious sunshine with more forecast for tomorrow. Hip, hip, hip hooray! Finally I can work on that sexy forearm/lower leg combo tan. Grrr!

I’m in a place called Ferndale tonight, which looks like the sort of small-town-USA kind of place Doc Hollywood got held in. Quite cute, but it’s been past by with the building of the I15 highway just outside of town. I didn’t see the drunk, aging, quarterback, but he’s there somewhere.

I’m ashamed to say it, but after at least ten years of McAbstinence, I had to buy a Big Mac today. There, I’ve confessed. I feel better for having shared that with you. Still feel a bit grubby, though. It’s bananas and salads from now on and I may get my chi centered when I get to California. “Chakras!” And to you, sir!

Now to plan the next leg of the journey. It’s pretty much all been done for me by the chaps at the American Cycling Association and their maps. They’ve got a route from Vancouver to San Diego through some beautiful scenery all mapped out, so it seems a little silly to re-invent the wheel. All I’ve got to do is figure out how far to ride each day, where to sleep and how to avoid MacDonalds, which is not easy.


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Day 32

I approve of Vancouver. Well done. Carry on. I spent this morning cycling around Stanley Park surrounded by fellow cyclists, runners, bladers, dog-walkers, mums, dads, kids, in fact, all of Vancouver seemed to be out enjoying the not-rain weather and I rather like the manicured wilderness at the heart of Stanley Park.
Here’s a photo and bear in mind that this is as close to the centre of Vancouver as Hyde Park is to London.


It may be just because it’s Sunday, but there are loads of cyclists in this town. Lots of cycle lanes and cycle-only routes make it a pretty safe town to cycle around unlike Los Anchorage which was bordering on the deadly.

I was put up by a couple of other cyclists tonight who belong to Warmshowers. For those who don’t know, then Warmshowers is, despite the dodgy name, a web-based collective of fellow cyclists around the world who put up other touring cyclists for free. Well, maybe a bottle of wine to smooth the way, but no cash is exchanged. In theory I should be able to travel the length of America using Warmshowers, but with uncertain travel plans and times it’s a little hard to ask someone to put you up for free and then possibly turn up a couple of days late or maybe not at all.
Anyway, Damien and Jill were charming and considerate hosts, but the weird thing was that they’d only just come back to Vancouver after having lived in London. What a coincidence. But the coincidences got weirder when it turned out Jill had lived and worked in Poole for about six weeks a couple of years ago. What a small, beautiful world we share! Thanks guys.

Oh, and their next door neighbour was Bob from Leeds. I don’t think we had any coincidences, but it’s nice to know were doing a roaring trade in ex-pats.

Thanks for all the comments. It can get lonely out on the road so please keep them coming.


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Day 31

I’m beginning to sense a motif here on Vancouver Island. Rain. And not a leitmotif either. No, this one just keeps droning on and on and on. So I’ve had enough. I’m off this sorry, soggy little island and over to the bright lights of Vancouver City.

Before I left I had to go to Coombs. Sadly no one seemed to notice my surname and therefore I was denied the usual fanfare and keys to the city that usually accompanies these coincidences. But the most important thing was to witness the Goats on the Roof. Some killjoy had told me that health and safety had removed them and now it was just a plain old Roof. But no! They were there and I have the proof…


There! Goats on Roof! In the rain.

After another 40km of busy, rain-soaked highway, I found the Nanaimo to Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) ferry. And a brief hour and a half later I was on the mainland and struggling with the bike rack mounted on the front of the bus. To be fair, the bus driver was far more helpful than a London bus driver would have been, but I was still made to feel like a cretin for a few minutes. An improvement on my personal best. After the ride into town it was a quick, but wet cycle to the nearest hotel (I know, I know. I’ll make it up later when I don my hair shirt) and a gloriously hot shower. Now I hesitate to mention this, but it turns out that I stayed right in the heart of the Gay Village. It was fabulous! Not that I took much notice, as I was comfortably holed up in my warm and dry room watching the thunderous rain sweep down Davie Street.

I’ll leave you with a photo of Horseshoe Bay in the rain…




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Day 30

That old blues standard, A Foggy Day in London Town, needs to be re-written as A Soggy Day on Vancouver Island.

It’s been a short ride today, barely 65km, to a town called Qualicum. Normally I would have pushed on another 50km, which would have brought me to the town of Nanaimo, but there is a rumour that there is a folk festival nearby tomorrow and, you know me, any chance to wear a chain-knit sweater and folda-roll with the best of them and I’m there. However the weather is obviously not a folk fan and has been conspiring against it. And the forecast isn’t good for tomorrow, so although I would dearly love to hang around in a drenched mud-pit, finger in ear, swigging local gut-rot, I think I may have to decline. These things are all well and good if you have somewhere to clean up and fresh clothes to change into, but since I have neither of these things, then I think this will be the definitive rain-cheque (is it ‘cheque’ or ‘check’?).

Perhaps it’s a bit soon to be reviewing Vancouver Island, especially since my experience of it has been very much limited to cycling the main highway, but it does appear to be predominantly a tourist island. There is logging, but it must be just for the locals. I mean they’re not short of the odd tree or two on the mainland. And the fishing has a similar story. And if they are dependent on the tourist dollar then this poor summer must be hitting them hard. I have seen lots of ‘For Sale’ signs the entire length of the island. Not just for houses, but for plots of land, cars, a farm was up for sale and even a horse was going cheap (it needs a special bit and lots of training, I thank you). Now it’s obviously not just due to this one poor season, no, it’s the economy, stupid. Which makes you wonder how a heavily tourist-dependent island like this is going to survive without the tourists coming over and spending their tourist dollars. Or maybe it booms in an economic downturn, bolstered by the domestic tourist. The ‘For Sale’ signs say otherwise.

That hasn’t really given you enough information to form a decision on whether to come here for your next holiday, has it? Vancouver Island is lush, verdant and, I hear, sunny on occasion. There are just enough wild animals roaming about to make it interesting without being terrifying and the locals combine the characteristics of an American and a Frenchman… they’re happy to please, but if you don’t like it, ‘bouff!’ From what I’ve seen it’s pretty cute. Come with a car and some out-door toys and you’ll have a blast.

I’ll be heading off to Vancouver on Sunday 17th, so if anyone has some must-see places to visit (thanks Jim, yours is at the top of the list!) then please let me know.

And here’s a photo of the rain steaming off the road…


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Day 29

I got my first flat tyre. Wouldn’t you know it, you travel thousands of miles through bear-infested wilderness where every discordant creak, groan and ping worries you into a nervous wreck that you might be pushing your bike for the next 59 miles before you finally get picked up by Bubba and the ‘crew’ looking to get ‘Biblical’ on someone’s ass! Instead, it was a tiny sliver of wire that managed to wrong-foot Billy the Bike (this is a name in progress!). A speedy patch and he was as right as ninepence. I think he liked the attention. This happened at pretty much the first large town I came to on Vancouver Island, Campbell River. If you’re ever in these parts, don’t enter Campbell River from the north; it’s a dump. From the south is a different story as you pass the sea on the right and well manicured lawns on the left. When they get a summer here, it’ll be lovely.

That was pretty much the tale of the day. The rest was cycling and rain. The weather is so bad here that it’s making the news! As a consequence I’m going way over budget on the accommodation front. I don’t mind the camping, but after 110km in the cold, cold rain the last thing you want to do is put up a soggy tent. No, a Best Western with hot showers and soft beds is what the cycling doctor prescribes. I shall make up the cost by only camping in the US. Promise. Hopefully Oregon and California is where all the sun is hiding. I suspect Washington will be as moist as British Columbia.

In general the bike and all the kit is performing well (I’ve probably jinxed it now), but I figure if you don’t even have to think about it then it must be doing it’s job pretty well. I’ve had to tighten up the chain (by rotating the eccentric bottom bracket – for all you technical fans out there), and the odd squirt of lube on the chain, but that’s about it. The blue brake pads seem to be hardly wearing down at all. Which, now I think about it is probably because I hardly ever touch the brakes. Not like you do when you’re commuting.

More tomorrow after another wet day in the saddle!



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Day 28

Nothing happened.

Ok not much happened, but I did figure out how to attach my camera to my handlebars. Expect low res videos of tarmac and sky soon.

I ended up in a place called Sayward. I would have pushed on after lunch, but it started absolutely hammering it down and I thought why hurry. And why get wet. So here I am. Just waiting for tomorrow to push on south and get some miles under the tyres.

In beard-related news, I’ve shaved it off. It was just getting on my nerves and to be honest there is quite a lot of hot water in Canada suitable for shaving. When I get to the wilds of South America then maybe there’ll be a case for beardage, but whilst there’s hot water I shall remain beardless.

I fear the interesting otherness of the remote northern states has now vanished and I’m on the threshold of the bland shopping mall that is north America. So expect less bear tales, folks. Your vicarious visceral thrills will have to be replaced by an amusing side-ways look at American life (cue Seinfeld plucked bass sting).



This is Port Hardy before the rain


And this is Port McNeil after the rain


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Day 27

Well, after a quick adjustment of the saddle, my knee seems to be better already. I did a 100km today and it feels pretty good. So, thanks Gav for the advice. I adjusted the saddle back about 10mm in the end. I’ll keep you all posted, but it seems like the odyssey can continue.

It also seems like bears can swim, ‘cos they’re on the island! I rode past one today by the side of the road with only a small gully between me and certain DEATH! Well he looked up when I rode past. Ok he looked up after I’d ridden past and honked him. Yes, even the island bears are not safe from – The Bear Honker. Fear me!

I met a nice couple from Cirencester, of all places, blatting around in a lovely vintage AC Bristol. They were on a classic car rally and I must admit for a bit I was jealous. Then I realized I was on a bicycle and they were in a beautiful sports car and I came to my senses… Next time I’m taking a car!

Parp Parp!


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Day 26

Overheard conversation in a cafe in Port Hardy.
“Oh, I’ve got two kittens as well.”
“Hey, you shouldn’t let them out at the moment, there a lots of eagles around now.”
This ain’t home!

I’m in a crows-nest bar overlooking port hardy cove and it’s relentlessly pissing it down outside (the main reason I’m in this bland, hotel bar in the first place) and whilst reading an article about cycling, I realize that the self-pitying I’ve been indulging in recently, caused by me cycling alone, is total nonsense. I’m alive and in a beautiful part of the world and there are a lot of people who aren’t in my position. Dead or alive. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking this expedition-light is just a silly diversion from the main game. The main game, from my position, is being with the woman I love, raising kids and creating our future. Funny how life always seems better from the observer’s position. Always.

Anyway, just some thoughts from the bar. I can see how Hemmingway lost a few years that way.

Pip pip

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Day 25

An early start saw me at the ferry terminal for 0600 and a cup of coffee and a cookie from a Prince Rupert café mobile annex – a coffee cart – later and I was on the ferry settling into my outside cabin. You may think that extravagant, but having somewhere to lie horizontally during the thirteen hour cruise through the Inner Passage was money well spent in my view. Especially looking at the dead-eyed, pacing zombies that endlessly encircled the boat trying to see if the things they’d seen a few minutes ago in the gift shop or café had changed and were worth another view.

There was another cyclist on the boat. He was a young Canadian and I think a little simple. Through the very brief and one-sided conversation I had with him I managed to extract from him that he was from somewhere called Surrey and that he’d cycled a circular route somewhere through Canada and was on his way home. This took about ten minutes with him smiling inanely all the time. After that I saw him a few times throughout the voyage, but kept my distance. He never once took off his helmet or removed his light blue tinted glasses. Weirdo!

The trip itself went through some amazing scenery – that is a recurring theme throughout this part of the world. And the photos probably tell the tale better than words.





The ferry got into Port Hardy at about 2230 and it was the first time I had to use my lights this trip. That’s been more down to the continual daylight rather than any late cycling, but it did mean for the first time that I had to put up my tent by the light of a head torch. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – head torches are brilliant! You turn your head and there’s the light, right where you need it. Turn it again and the light’s just right there! Brilliant! Maybe only FingerTorches(tm) could be better. Add that to the list along with the NanoKayaks. We’ll be millionaires, I tell you!

The knee is still hurting, but I’ll adjust the saddle tomorrow and see how we get on. Also, pain killers seem to work pretty well which doesn’t solve the problem, but at least keeps me cycling. I’m going to stay in Port Hardy for a day and then leave for the south of the island. There seem to be lots of campsites spread along the length of Vancouver island so if the knee starts hurting I can always stop and keep the mileage low. At that rate I think I should ‘do’ the island in about four days.


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