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!!
K.G. & Ville
In Huanaco, Peru. Battered, but still going south.
“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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