Sorry friends for the delay in an update, traded the bikes straight up for a yacht, Ville changed his name to One Eyed Willy and we are now sailing the open seas headed for Hawai'i. Alright, we have actually been busy biking, relaxing, and sightseeing, but I wouldn't put it past us to trade the bikes for a boat in Argentina and sail back. Hmmmmmmmmmmm......
After the ferry from Bella Coola to Port Hardy, we stealth camped late night when the ferry got in and started out early from Port Hardy heading south on Vancouver Island. The weather was overcast and a bit misty, but thickly forested and beautiful. We were passed throughout the day by a bunch of different people we had just met on the ferry that were heading south at a slightly faster pace than us, but who slowed down, waved, honked and made us feel like the most popular kids in town. So much fun meeting all these new people to add to our circles of great people we know!
Since we now had the time to slow down, the island was fairly flat and we were flying through miles. So we decided to end our days early, stop a lot to rest and relax, and meet more people along the way. We had only used www.warmshowers.org once before in Haines, but decided to connect with some more hosts to get to know some more people. And we were greatly rewarded with some of the nicest people, best food, hot showers, ability to do laundry, and shared great conversation and travel stories along the way. Warm showers is full of mainly other touring cyclists or fans of and who are happy to help other touring cyclists on their journey. Anything from a yard to camp, a hot shower, laundry, and usually lots of food! If you are looking to meet some great people on all kinds of bike tours and help them out, get signed up at www.warmshowers.org. (you don't have to be a cyclist!)
After spending a night camping with a cool motorcyclist, Rob, from Vancouver, at Woss Lake, we spent the next night camping in Tim's yard from Warmshowers. Tim welcomed us right into his swanky pad, shared some rockin' tunes, and made us pizza, handmade spaghetti dinner complete with homemade banana ice cream over heated pineapple. We could never afford a dinner like that in a 5 star restaurant, so we were pretty dang spoiled! Tim, you the man. Now open a food cart and we will make a trip back to eat your food.
Next stop, Campbell River, where after 2 days of cycling through thick green forests littered with bald patches from all the logging, we hit full on city and cars. Campbell River is a really neat town perched right on the coast of the Salish Sea with a vibrant downtown and we stayed a night with another host, Jacob and Jannie. Really generous couple originally from the Netherlands who are super involved in local charity rides and knew how to spoil a cyclist. Thanks for your kindness!
Heading south we struggled to find another host and finally Peter in Nanoose Bay came to our rescue and we pushed through 75 epic coastal, scenic miles to get to him by the end of the day. We couldn't have hit better weather on the island, but going from rain and mist to high 90's rocked my world and I, K.G, struggled a bit with migraines. Hard to get out of the baking sun when you are riding all day and melting in it. But Peter and Madeleine welcomed us to a fish dinner on the porch of Peter's unreal home right on the coast while watching the sun set over the water. It was pretty unreal. We even watched a seal swimming right out in front of his house. We spent a day being tourists and rode bikes minus gear into Parksville where we ran into a fellow touring cyclist named Bart from the Netherlands. We spent the day together talking bike talk and went to a sandcastle competition right on the beach. And man these castle builders were a bit more serious than I was in my day!
After a couple of nights rest, we headed south on a nerve racking freeway about 20 miles into Nanaimo. We tried to stick to a bike path, but we were pretty sure the straight up and down of the path was made for walkers and not so much cyclists. We camped a night in a very, shall we say "unique" camp spot (we will not say where to keep from the crowds that are sure to take it over if they know about it) and tackled errands around town before connecting with hosts Cory and Jim, in Cedar right outside Nanaimo. They have cycle toured, lived and traveled all over the world and were great for info and stories. Thanks for sharing food, your spare room, and maps with us guys!
From there we caught the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, about 20ish miles from downtown Vancouver. The ride was unreal. The homes lining the windy road clinging to the cliff faces overlooking the ocean were some of the most stunning I have seen since Mill Valley and Malibu. We passed the Yacht Club littered with Ferraris and Lamborghinis. We cycled across the Lions Gate Bridge and onto an actual bicycles only bike lane! Vancouver rivals Portland on its cycling friendly streets it was amazing! We finally connected with Jim and Mary, friends from Bend who made it all the way up to see/support us on our ride. Ville was quite disappointed with the lack of attention he was now not getting because of being off his bike, so he somehow covered his shirt in blood and bird poop. twice. True story. Luckily it all washed out before getting back not the road. After a few days of sightseeing (with our own local tour guide), relaxing, feasting, bathing, we had to sadly drag our butts back to the bikes and continue on our ride south. It has been really tough going back to oatmeal and wraps after having a master chef at our beck and call. Thanks again both of you for all the love!
From here we have taken a ferry to Victoria, back on Vancouver Island and had a night here with fellow touring cyclists Chris and Karen. Thanks for showing us around a bit and the route advice guys. I really recommend setting up those walking tours on tape you are planning for your future Warmshowers guests. That would really be the finishing touch to making this the best sleeping place! :) Today we will tour Victoria and this evening we have another ferry to catch to camp the San Juan Islands before heading into Seattle. If your out there on our route, give us a shout. Until next time...peace, love, and bicycles.
Highway 20 was another big highlight of our tour! Getting off busy Highway 97 and heading straight west and sometimes even north west was far better than the traffic and the views and local folks were awesome! The climb out of Williams Lake was treacherous. We kicked ourselves down to the granny gear and just plugged away up and up and up until we dropped down into a gorgeous canyon with fields of green pasture surrounded by towering high desert canyon walls and a river cut right through it. Once dropping down to the river, we continued the longest climb out to the plateau that we have had yet on the ride. But once we got to the plateau, it was rolling pasturelands littered with small pines very similar to our home in Bend, Oregon. *sigh*
Right at the top of the hill, we pulled over to rest and happened to meet LeAnne and her mother, Susan. First Susan offered us a yard to camp in once we got to Tatla Lake and then said they had an extra house they keep for visiting family we could stay in. Sweet! We cycled to dark and camped at a recreation site on a lake and met the Johnson family camped in their RV. They shared beers, a fire and great company for the evening. In the morning they made us coffee with Baileys creamer and we felt way too spoiled! Plan a visit from us guys when the trip is over! Tell Kathleen we will be expecting some of her excellent cooking when we get there :) And thanks for the plums, great snack!
The next day we put in some miles enjoying the easy road and beautiful scenery until I, K.G., ran over something terrible that flattened my tire and put a mess of sharp metal needles all in my rear bike tire. We pulled over, pulled some out, patched a tube and it deflated in about 5 min. up the road, we tried again and no luck, tire deflated, but now it was getting dark and a nice local couple pulled over to help but we decided to camp and reassess in the morning. Since we were right next to Redstone, we hitched there from a nice farmer and Ville caught a ride back east all the way to Williams Lake with a super nice couple on their honeymoon from Boise, Idaho. Thank you both for taking my dirt ball husband all the way to town and a bike shop guys, I'm sure it really added to the romance of your honeymoon :)
I waited until a nice man came along and was able to give me a ride with both of our bikes to Tatla Lake to wait out Ville coming back with a new tire and tubes. Susan and her husband Dave were excited to see me and let me shower and relax at their spare house. Ville was able to get the nice guys at the bike shop to put on a new tire, and check for anything in the old one (they couldn't find anything, but our last patch had not held and was our last try before dark, so we kept the tire and put on a new cheapie to get us at least to Vancouver). It took poor Ville 4 different rides back to Tatla Lake (one being dropped off right next to a huge sign that said, "Hitchhiking prohibited. Pickup is illegal" was a bit of a deterrent for pick up), but he managed to make it back to Tatla Lake that evening and LeAnne made a huge dinner of bar-b-que chicken with fruit strudel and ice cream for dessert! They even packed us the leftovers for lunch and dinner. Thanks a million all of you for your hospitality and helping us when we needed it most!
With a new tire, we were back on the road, but had two days of big miles to power through to make the ferry on the 15th. Since there is only 7 ferries a month from Bella Coola, we HAD to make it. It was a long climb up to the top of the pass, but an epic downhill on "The Hill" or "Freedom Highway" that gets it's name from being built by the locals to connect those up on the plateau with those down by the sea. The road has been improved a bit over the years, but it was a 60 kilometer stretch of gravel and packed dirt with an 18% grade in spots. It was wild! And flying around a turn I scared a little black bear that shot up in the air and took off straight up the side of the cliff. Poor guy, I scared him as much as he did me.
The bottom of the hill opened into a canyon with a giant river fed by all the small rivers coming down off the surrounding mountains. It was mindblowingly beautiful! Huge ponderosa pines towering above our heads covered in moss from the sea winds and occasional farmlands. We made it to the market in Hagensborg to get groceries for the ferry and then to Bella Coola to grab some burgers before finding an area to camp near the water and close to the ferry. We had to check in 90 min. before our 7 am take off and met some really nice people on the boat. The first ferry was tiny, held about 7 cars and a handful of people, but they served coffee and some snacks and we had a whole day on the open ocean so we were pumped!
We sailed through a huge pod of dolphins and they were swimming in the wake of the boat and doing all kinds of acrobatics! It was SO cool! And then we saw whales and their tales as they surfaced and even a black bear swimming across the straight! The boat finally docked at Bella Bella 4 pm. There we got off and changed onto a giant boat that looked just like a cruise ship that I had taken to Mexico with my family. We stowed our bikes and headed upstairs to find a huge buffet complete with prime rib, salmon, Indian food and like 6 different kinds of desserts. Keep in mind we still look like bicycling dirt bags, but now we are fine dining on a cruise complete with table linens and people that are stoked to have 2 dirt ball hikers stuffing their faces with plate after plate of food. I wonder if they thought we were just picked up off a deserted island and hadn't eaten in days?
On the boat we met a couple from Canada who were on a road trip in their van and rocking an Oregon shirt and shared their bottle of wine and sat up on the top deck watching the sun set over the islands. It felt like a million dollar cruise. We felt pretty lucky. The ship finally docked at Port Hardy at 11:30 pm (16 and a half hours of travel) and we had to ride a couple miles until we found a safe spot to camp.
The plan is to head south from here on Vancouver Island at a much slower pace and enjoy the scenery and meet some of the Warmshowers hosts here before we make our way to Vancouver and then head south. For all of you friends and family in Seattle, we are almost there and would love to see you all! Connect with us if you are free to see us while we are riding through. And for all you Bendites, we will be there in about a week and a half so get ready!! Here we come!!
It was rough to leave Smithers. A very cool little town and a big need for lots of rest, we stayed a few days to recoup. Many thanks to Joe for letting us stay as long as we needed and making us feel at home. Our last day there we were able to connect with Gil and Mary-Ellen (whom we had met at the gas station the morning we left the Cassiar Highway and hit Highway 16) and went over to their house for pie and ice cream and were given some korvapuusti (a Finnish roll/pastry)! Gil's grandfather was Finnish and they knew just what a Finnish long distance bike tourist needs. And then, they even drove out to meet us the next morning on the road with a big ziplock bag of fresh korvapuusti for the long trip! Thanks so much Gil and Mary-Ellen, they greatly helped get us up Hungry Hill and 6 Mile Hill.
First stop was Decker Lake, a full day from Smithers, but we got to meet and stay with Gwen and Gordon, family friends of our new friends Robert and Jennifer from our day at Stewart and Hyder. They had passed on our info and we were welcomed right into their house, served a plate of smoked salmon and dinner, had showers and even a bed! What treatment. We are starting to feel a bit spoiled here. Not having to rough it for days as a sweaty mess while tenting it next to the road. After breakfast the next morning, we tore ourselves away from their place and headed back out on the open road going east. Thanks again Gwen and Gordon!
The next couple days of riding were beautiful rolling hills of farmland scattered with giant rolls of hay bails while thunderheads threatened rain, but the weather remained unbelievably hot. Poor Ville had chipped a tooth when we were riding the Dalton Highway due to the excessive dirt and gravel that got into everything (including his mouth) and by Prince George, we made it into a dentist to get it fixed before it became a major issue. Better Canadian health care than in the U.S. we figured. My rear back tire had some issues and Kyle at Evolve Bike Shop was a saint and helped me get the Blue Bullet back in tip top working order. Thanks Kyle!
We had wanted to stay a night, but decided to hit the road after loading up at a Mongolian Buffet, and headed south out of Prince George on Highway 97. This road proved to be our least favorite, by far. It was heavily trafficked, shoulder disappeared when we were climbing or around blind corners, and I can honestly say only about 20% of the passing traffic cared enough to move over. Since there are multiple large lumber mills on this stretch, most of the traffic is giant log-loaded semi trucks. If you have been in a car when one of these passes you and the vortex of air nearly blows you off the road, imagine what it feels like to be skin and bones and on a itty-bitty bicycle and one blows by you at 60 mph/ 100 kmh about a foot from you. IT SUCKS! SO, we have decided to get off this road and take a giant detour (which will add an extra 300 miles/500 kilometers), but lots more scenic and lots less traffic. Win/win.
(Thanks June at Stone Creek Campground for the box of bars to keep us truckin' You know what cyclists need :)
So, today we are finishing our ride into Williams Lake and Highway 97 and have a huge climb out on Highway 20 heading back straight west towards the coast. It should take around 4 days to get to Bella Coola on the coast. From there we are taking a ferry all day down to Port Hardy on the north end of Vancouver Island. We decided that even though the cost of the ferry ride will ruin our food budget for the month, we really wanted to see Vancouver Island and never say later, do it while we are here, right? So off and up we climb!
Being such a flashy couple on bikes, we seem to attract a lot of attention where we go and people have lots of questions. And I don't blame them! What are two nut jobs doing riding bikes from Alaska to Canada? Ville says you don't have to be crazy to do it, but it sure helps! Well, we compiled some questions that inquiring minds seem to want to know about our tour, so here is a couple questions answered:
How many miles/kilometers we ride a day? Totally depends on the day, terrain, wind, how we feel but typically 65-85 miles/ 100-140kilometers a day.
What is a typical day like for us? Ville wakes up first, takes a dump, and goes to get our food bag where it's hung or hidden from bears to cook our oatmeal. I slowly wake up but usually by 8am and pack up our stuff in the tent. We eat our deliciously tasty oatmeal, pack up and start riding. We break about every hour to stop and stretch so we don't end in Argentina completely hunched over with lots of health problems. Well, we hope to have minimal health problems. We eat a couple bars throughout the day and a lunch about halfway through the day. Lunch is tortillas, pepperoni, cheese, onion and sometimes mustard packets. Dinner has been dehydrated food bags (this is why I had to buy good probiotic pills in Smithers because my body has been very not happy with all the processed foods). We eat dinner usually an hour or more before we camp because of bears (don't eat where you sleep) and around 7-8pm we start to look for a good stealth camping site to pitch our little tent and hang food. We usually play a couple very intense card games of Rummy before one of us looses and pouts and we finish up with reading some of our books (Ville has a Kindle from my mom and dad and loves it mom and dad!) before popping in the ear plugs, putting on the eye mask because its still pretty bright out early up here, and hitting the hay. We leave our bikes right next to the tent, cover our saddles, and our tent fits us both very cosy so we can pretty much camp anywhere. Oh and we take some pictures throughout the day. When we get to a town, we spend a lot of time on this blog and eating. A ton! We should look like bean bag chairs except for the fact that we ride bikes all day and burn a bazillion calories so instead we look like sticks.
What has been the hardest part? Read the post about the Dalton Highway from the Arctic to Fairbanks. That was rough. Really rough. And the beginning when we were not at all in shape yet. I am pretty sure we were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when we reached Fairbanks and my legs hurt so bad I could't make it up the stairs. But, after that stretch it has all been a bit easier since. That and we are in better shape now.
How can I help? Go to the Carlys Kids link on the right side of the page and donate! We are doing this ride to keep Carly's dream of helping underprivileged kids go to outdoor school alive. Help if you can. Even little bits help. And if you know anyone or are in our path of travel, reach out! We would love to see all our family, friends and followers on this journey and connect in person. We need any of the following: safe places to pitch our tent, showers, laundry, a bed, and food. All of it helps keep us moving south. Thanks SO much to all of you that have helped us out in any way. You all have special places in our hearts :)
If you think of any questions you have been dying to ask us, email us, click on the contact tab above, or add it in the comments below. Really, do it.
After waking up and eating a hefty breakfast, K.G and I rode to the intersection of Cassiar Highway and the road leading to Stewart/Hyder in order to catch a ride to see the glaciers. I think our thumbs were up for a whopping 15 minutes before a white Ford pickup pulls in, Robert the driver gets his tall and tattooed body out and asks where we are headed. We inform him that we were hoping to see the Salmon and Bear glacier in Stewart/Hyder area but that we were hoping to catch a ride for this side trip since both of our bodies needed rest instead of some extra added miles. He tells us that he and his wife Jennifer were going to go see some property in Stewart since Jennifer just landed a job there. So we threw our bikes on the back of his pickup and jumped in. In the car we chatted with them a bunch and came to realize that Robert grew up in the area and knew everything about the nature and the towns, he had worked for his parent's B&B and had got accustomed to take out their European guests to see the local sights and knew really well what tourists like us wanted to see. He and Jennifer told us that they would be more than happy to take us to see all the sights and be our personal tour guides for the day, how freaking nice is that!
Hyder and Stewart are two towns separated only by 100 yards and the Canadian border control, Hyder is part of Alaska and Stewart belongs to the Canadian British Columbia. For some reason there is no border control when entering the US side. First stop of our tour was the famous Salmon Glacier 20 miles into the mountains from the town of Hyder, the road up to the glazier is a steep climb on a dirt road mainly used by mining trucks and tourists. Along the way we saw multiple active gold mines and we were also able to catch a glimpse of the salmon spawning up the rivers. At the end of the road we got out of the car and spent some time marveling the sights of the mighty Salmon Glacier, as you can see in the picture we forgot to dress properly to see a glacier. In our defense it was hot and sunny where we caught the ride, didn't occur to us that in the presence of that much ice it might be a bit chillier.
After taking about 50 photos we headed back down in the luxury of a warm vehicle to see the two towns. Hyder was our first stop coming down from the mountain and we went and got some food at a school bus that was turned into a restaurant, we got fish n chips plus a halibut burger. It was delicious and undoubtedly very fresh. After the meal it was time to get me (Ville) Hyderized at the local watering hole. It costs $4 to get Hyderized, what they do is they pour you a shot and tell you to slam it and if it comes back up in the next 10 minutes you owe the whole bar a round. After I slammed the shot they informed me that it was 150 proof everclear and took the class and poured the remaining drops on the bar and lit it on fire. Oh well, when in Rome..
After getting me hammered it was time to look for some houses in Stewart for Robert and Jennifer, they had a list of potential properties and we did a quick drive by them to see which ones were good for the second round. They also took us to see the massive wind turbine parts that were dropped at the harbor, from the harbor they make their way on extra long semis to Manitoba. They have to close the road often to deliver these massive components. We finished the tour by stopping at the Bear Clacier on the way back to where they pick us up, it was smaller than the Salmon one but the lake in front of it gave this one a nice reflection.
After saying our goodbyes to our awesome tour guides ( Thank you so much Robert & Jennifer!) we pitched our tent for the first time on a provincial campground and the second time in general on this trip that we stayed in a campground. The place was full but the nice couple who worked at the campground let us pitch the tent next to their trailer. After the tent was up they treated us for an amazing dinner with ribs! In the morning they invited us for eggs, bacon & pancakes! This is such a great start to a full day of riding when you are always hungry. We keep running into only good people, let's keep it that way!
The next day we woke up to blue skies and an amazing tailwind, we flew almost the remaining 95 miles of the Cassiar and we actually had to stop ourselves after 90 miles so we would line ourselves up nicely for the next day's breakfast. That same day we had stopped to have lunch at a pull off for a forest service road and met a couple from Switzerland, Wally and Petra. Wally & Petra retired recently and are traveling the world for 8 months before they return to Switzerland for a brief moment and hit the road again. They showered us with amazing gifts like powerbars, Gatorade and sandwiches. Before we parted ways they insisted on giving us new shirts to ride in after seeing our old ones that even a hobo would refuse to wear. Such a nice couple! We got to see them later in Smithers and they treated us for a lunch and we shared great conversations about traveling and cultural differences.
Where Cassiar Highway ends a new one begins, this one is called Yellowhead Highway or Highway 16. It is also known as Highway of Tears due to the large number of women who have disappeared mainly hitchhiking on this highway. Really sad, and will not be hitchhiking on this road.
We camped only about 10 miles outside Smithers and then on our ride into town, K.G. got her first flat tire of the trip! Can you believe it? Almost 2,000 miles/3,200 kilometers and our first flat from a huge nail. After a quick fix, we made it into town where we met up with James Fitzmaurice, a brother to Max whom K.G. nannied for in Bend and San Diego for years. We have stayed in his house the last couple days while using his jeep to resupply our stuff in town, get hot showers, laundry and catch up on this blog. And many many thanks to Jim and Mary for mailing us a laptop to use to keep this blog going! Since the last laptop was not down for such an adventure and fried in Tok, we have struggled to keep this going, but not to worry folks, we plan to keep the updates coming once again!
Today we have some rain, but this dynamic duo must trudge on so out we go towards Prince George and Williams Lake where we will decide weather to ride Vancouver Island or not on our way to Vancouver. Stay tuned!
K.G. & Ville
In Cuenca, Ecuador. Next stop, Loja.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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