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Victoria, B.C.

Aug. 30, 2007

After parting with A.J. and Marie, I pushed on south towards Vancouver. The first day on the road saw me re-establishing my own pace as I rode through more rolling farmland and wooded hills to Quesnel. While riding out of town in search of a place to camp I came across my first roadside fruit stand. I walked up to the stand in a state of wonder, having never seen so many easily accessible berries in one place at once. I bought a pound and a half of blueberries, and proceeded to shovel them into my mouth with wild abandon and pure animal pleasure. I finally ended that first day in an undeveloped forested lot on the southern edge of town.

The second day saw the return of a long day of riding as I rode south to Williams Lake, past it to 150 Mile House. I fully intended to camp there, but for some reason, I just could not stop riding, all the while telling myself I’d stop just after this hill or at the next good spot to camp. I finally found an abandoned lot and called it quits near dark.

It was also very hot that day, and some of the tar on the road seeped into where I was riding. The combination of tar and small rocks coated my tires, and made riding a very interesting experience. Some of the rocks would dislodge themselves from the tire at the apogee of their orbit on my tire and variously fly into my face if they were on the front tire, or into my drive train and touring gear if they were on the rear. It was a new experience for me, adding small rocks to the list of items that my tires might throw at my face (water and mud being the other items). This increased my desire to buy fenders as soon as possible rather a lot.

The next day as I was leaving my clandestine spot, which turned out not to have been abandoned at all, my chain decided that it would prefer to not be a loop anymore, but would be much more satisfied if it could be something with entirely useless ends on both sides. We had an argument for a while, and through the use of tools, cleaning rags and spare chain links, I temporarily convinced my chain to become useful again.

This debate, spirited as it was, put me in no mood for vigorous exercise that day, so when I found myself in Lac la Hache, I decided I would take my time eating breakfast at a local eatery. I struck up a conversation with the table next to me and I learned that it is wise to ride the mule and pack the horse if you intend to be safe while you ride in the bush (horses being easily convinced to do stupid things, mules being otherwise), and that if you intend to turn a profit on junked cars, you need to collect a few dozen and then rent a flat-bed truck to haul them. The wisdom of both of these things is readily apparent.

I pressed on and bought yet more blueberries at another fruit stand and some cherries for variety. While stopped for an engorgement session, I learned from some locals that the Chartreuse Moose in 100 Mile House is a cafe not-to-be-missed. I went and they were right. The next time you find yourself in 100 Mile House, I recommend you go.

Well, it begin to rain again as I climbed up to 4200 ft (precisely: 1232m), and I decided to pay $12 for the privilege of sleeping in a shed in 70 Mile House. I was not very happy about that, but it was pouring buckets, and I was somehow able to rationalize paying at the moment I forked over the money.

That evening I stared at my map and was tantalized by the prospect of a shortcut to Lillooet, and despite warnings against taking the road, some amount of hubris led me to it. The road in question is the Clinton-Pavillion Road, and as it rolled along for about ten miles I became increasingly confident in my choice. But then the dirt started. “No sweat”, I thought, “I’ve seen all this before.” But then I saw a sign which concerned me rather greatly. And that sign said: “14% grade next 5km”. Now, what that means is that in 5km of riding (3 miles), I was about to gain 700m (2333ft), and the fact that it had been raining and was, in fact starting to rain again, and that the road was dirt (well, mud to be exact) gave me pause. So, over the course of the next 50 minutes, I embraced my granny-gear and pushed on up the hill. At one point I had to stop to take off my rain gear (I had become too hot to wear it, and thought I should prefer the rain to sweating). I found that I could not get my bike going again. So I walked up to an inflection point in the road, and gunned it, barely preventing myself from falling over.

The other side of the hill was washboard and large rocks and more moderate 12% downhill grades for the remaining distance into Pavillion. At the bottom of the hill, my bike and my body were covered in mud, and I was thankful to have escaped injury and equipment damage. All told though, I think I did save some time taking that road…

So I pushed on and arrived in Lillooet, where I collapsed into a deep sleep after eating a large pizza and setting up my tent. The next day began the road from Lillooet to Pemberton, which started out with 12% and 13% grades, but thankfully also pavement and dry weather. This road turned out to be a lot of climbing and my chain decided to break again (leading me to suspect my previous arguments had not convinced my chain very well), but I was rewarded with 8 miles of 11% grade descents at the end, which wiped away all fatigue and restored my high spirits. I free camped in a secluded field in Pemberton that night, and was rewarded with a sky bursting with stars.

The next day saw me ride up to Whistler and then down to Squamish and finally to Porteau Cove Provincial Park, where I camped the night. The riding on this day was made notable by the fact that there was a ton of construction going on leaving me with poor margins for riding and a lot of dust. Despite descending all the way to sea level, I still managed to climb as much as the previous two days.

In Porteau Cove, I met another cyclist with whom I shared a site. We talked about riding alone versus riding with other people and found we had many similar opinions about each. We discovered we had differing routes, so we went our separate ways the next day. While the scenery at Porteau Cove was absolutely stunning, round the clock road construction nearby made sleeping quite difficult.

I was up early the next morning to complete the ride to Horseshoe Bay, where I caught the ferry to Nanaimo. Something about the island, perhaps the lush blackberry bushes, the beautiful land- and seascapes, or the knowledge that I was finally out of that nightmarish construction zone just put me in a wonderful mood. I took my time alternating between the highway and side roads just taking my time and enjoying every moment. I ended the day about 25 miles north of Victoria, and shared dinner and conversation with some Australian bicycle tourists I met at the campground.

The next morning I finished the ride into Victoria, promptly did my laundry and took a long hot shower, and felt human once more. Victoria is an absolutely gorgeous city, whose combination of natural and architectural beauty make it a serious contender for the Where to Look for Eric When He Vanishes Off the Face of the Earth List. I am taking a couple of days here to give my legs a chance to air out their grievances and to restore some fat to my body. From here I intend to take the ferry to Anacortes and then push on to Seattle, where my family is eager to pamper me with unlimited food, opportunities for regular bathing, and a bed with sheets. I still remain convinced that this trip is the best thing I’ve ever undertaken to do.

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