August 20: Kamloops to Barriere, British Columbia - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 20: Kamloops to Barriere, British Columbia

AND WHAT HAPPENED? Well, the fires are burning as bad as ever. But for an hour yesterday the wind swung to the east and half but not all Jasper cleared of smoke. The air is far from pure but it's acceptable. We smell of bonfires at the end of the day but we are out on our bikes and life is better.

We left Bryan and Linda around 8.30 after a coffee discussion about tents. We agreed that the difference between a tent and a really good tent is far less than the price of nights in a motel after the ordinary tent has let you down.

We left not by the main road to the east of the river but on a quieter road on the other bank, one that Linda suggested and which she knew from rides she conducts for what she calls her bike chicks. It carries only local traffic because after 55km, as it enters an Indian reserve, it loses its hard surface. The earth road runs all the way to Barrière but far better is the ferry that links the back road with the main road on the other bank.

There was traffic until we cleared the spreading suburbs of Kamloops and then we had the road to ourselves. It rose and sank, sometimes rudely but never so steep. And it wound like an old drunkard, between banks of wild flowers, pale blue and yellow. The smoke was still there, dulling the air, drying the throat, hiding the near-sheer faces of the mountains on the other side of the valley. But we were riding again whereas last night we were planning emergency measures.

Now, you know what a reaction ferry is? It was our destination and our way to cross the river. The ferry, instead of being powered, is attached to a cable that runs the width of the water. Angle the barge one way and

We arrived at the ferry moments after the ferryman knocked off for lunch. You can see the boat on the far bank. We sat, ate our sandwiches and played Pooh sticks.
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the current pushes it across to the other bank. To reverse it, just change the angle. "You in a hurry?", the boatman asked, a man in his late twenties or early thirties, fair-haired and wearing jeans and a T-shirt. We pointed at the bikes.

"You're never in too much of a hurry when you travel like that," we said. He smiled and nodded, changed the angle of the barge and let it drift back to where we had started, to pick up a regular who had turned up moments too late with a pick-up and a horse trailer. From their conversation, it was clear they knew each other well.

We first came across a reaction ferry when we were cycling along the Danube a couple of years ago. It is the only one we have seen. It turns out that there are five in British Columbia, although the way people say "still five" suggests there were once several more.

"You have a good ride, now, and be careful oat there," the boatman said as he let us off before the horse box. "Just follow the road and it'll bring you oat on the highway by a fruit stand."

The road turned out to be a quiet and winding kilometre. The fruit stall was a no-man's land between this bucolic pleasure and the rush of traffic on the road we had taken such care to avoid all morning. We prepared for the worst, another day of plodding along, never relaxed, on roads unfit for humans when, to our relief, we found the shoulder never vanished. It was there dependably throughout the afternoon. So was the

In case of emergency, eat fig rolls. Only our stomachs know how many we have eaten in the past 8,000km.
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traffic noise - I swear North American traffic is far louder than in Europe, a theory Steph supports by suggesting that many more drivers use all-weather tyres - but that is nothing compared to knowing you're not to be thrown out into the current on climbs, just when you need the shoulder most.

As we explained to someone a while back: "We're European; we're used to riding in the traffic. That's no problem. The problem here is that it's the drivers who aren't used to it."

A certain lack of charm to the campground at Barrière, but it's just for the night and at least we're still on the road.
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We have stopped at a bleak campsite behind a motel on the edge of Barrière, a place named by French explorers for the log jams that blocked a confluence of rivers here. The $20 we have paid doesn't quite work out at 50 cents for each blade of grass, but you get the picture. We are the only people here.

The smoke worsened during the afternoon but we can still make out the shape of the hills on each side of the valley. The government weather service forecast snow for just up the road today. We suspect someone used a drop-down menu on a computer and clicked "snow" rather than "smoke." We hope so, anyway.

The forecasters also said it could rain tomorrow afternoon. That will be a relief to us and to those poor people whose houses have been threatened by the blaze. We haven't heard any news since leaving Kamloops. We hope they're all right.

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