Canada - Taring Down the Coast - CycleBlaze


Parla campagnolo?, lost at sea, futbol stars

We assembled our bikes out of their shipping boxes, and Ed immediately cross-threaded one of his pedals and striped one of the aluminum crank arm's threads.  We were dead on the road before we had pedaled one revolution.  Vancouver has always been a very cosmopolitan city being on the western edge of the British Commonwealth.  Through a series of inquiries we finally found a bike shop that spoke a little Campagnolo.  It would be the last bike shop we found until we reached San Jose, California that had ever worked on a ten-speed bike let alone the likes our racing bikes.  The bike shop didn't have a thread tap but with the aid of a hacksaw they were able to get us the road.  

We decided we were not going to ride through hostile Seattle, abandoning our plans to ride the entire length of US 101, which starts in Olympia, Washington sixty km south of Seattle and then heads north to Port Angeles before turning south down the Pacific Coast and ending at the Tijuana border crossing.  So using our sophomore logic started our ride south to Mexico by riding north across the Lion's Gate suspension bridge (A warm up to crossing the Golden Gate Bridge going into San Francisco we thought.) to Horseshoe Bay and caught the BC Ferry to the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, where we stayed at a youth hostel while we waited for a new crank arm to arrive by airmail from San Diego.  

Lionsgate Bridge - from public domain
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An older “Indian” couple (today, that would be First Nation) ran the hostel.  It was one dollar a night and we were the only customers.  The wife gave us fresh berries and smoked salmon and the husband sent us out in his skiff  powered by a lawnmower engine bolted to the bottom of the wooden boat with a one gallon glass wine jug filled with gasoline, and some cushions for personal flotation devices.  It was terribly slow, but we explored small islands along the Straits of Georgia on a beautiful Canadian summer day.  Of course we got lost in the endless shoreline of a dense old growth cedar trees, Thuja plicata, with their branches curving down into the saltwater and then one to two meters off shore reemerging looking like magical Christmas bows .  

Time and distance got away from us and when we turned around we had no idea where our hostel was. As our panic subsided we just hugged the coast of Vancouver Island and knew we would eventually return to the hostel.  Now decades later with hundreds of hours kayaking in Washington and Canadian waters I know intimately how strong the tides and currents can be in northern waters.  We were lucky to have what I now know to be a slack tide with little current.  That night the husband plied us with hunting and fishing stories that kept even a country kid like myself wide-eyed.  He caught a wasp and put it on the back of his hand and let it sting him.  He even squeezed it to get all the venom into his hand.  He said he had been stung hundreds of times and there was no pain.  There was no visible welt.  He said it was good for the arthritis in his hands.  

We got the new crank arm and a crank puller at post office, but our crescent wrench was too small.  We got on our bikes and ask a gentleman walking along the road for direction to Victoria.  It was in the mid-seventies (25c) and we were a bit chilly.  The man was in his Bermuda shorts and a cotton dress shirt with a large sun hat on.  He asked us how we were dealing with the heatwave?  We smiled and said we could use a little more of it.  We rode off to Victoria to meet the Black Ball Ferry, Coho, Ed with his shiny new crank arm strapped on top of his sleeping bag.  The road to Victoria was atrocious for being the main link between the mainland and the provincial capital.  It started out as little more than some chip and seal over an old twisting logging road.  It was narrow and there were no shoulders at all.  We saw a sign that said forty miles to Victoria and after riding for ten miles we were greeted with another sign telling us we were forty miles from Victoria.  It stopped being amusing at the third and fourth forty mile signs. When we rode into downtown Victoria we had missed the morning ferry and had to wait for the afternoon run.  Children and teens ran up to us in our matching uniforms asking for autographs thinking we were 'futbolers' in town for a exhibition soccer match.  We had real fish and chips like I had eaten in London and we manage to have high tea at the historic Empress Hotel, $1.25.  Today if you have to ask the price for a cup of tea and a biscuit at the Empress you can’t afford it.

When it was time to board the Coho, there were no Canadian Custom officials visible to declare our bicycles to.  Months later the Canadians tracked me down with a warrant and I had to go my local police department to get a form signed and mailed to clear my name as not being a bicycle smuggler.

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