Canada – British Columbia Back in the Right Direction
It’s been getting noticeably colder over the past week or so and although the days are still long, the novelty of darkness when waking up in the night still abound there is now an ever apparent reminder of the latitude and the climate that can make Northern Canada such an inhospitable environment.
The summer has flown by, and despite numerous comments from folk travelling North on the uncharacteristically wet weather that BC had been experiencing throughout the summer I’d been fortunate to avoid most of this in Alaska and the Yukon. Two days ago however was what was probably the most horrendous cycling conditions yet. Pushing on along the Cassiar Highway through a storm with no real destination other than Dease Lake in a day or two as a resupply stop. At times the sky was indistinguishable from the roadway, the wet asphalt disappearing up into the sky a few hundred metres ahead. A small price to pay however for the immensely rewarding journey over the past few weeks with almost impeccable weather and incredible scenery for hundreds of miles of lakes and back roads.
Noticing the chill in the air in the later hours of the night and in the short walk from the hotel – night 3 in an actual bed since departing from Prudhoe Bay! – to the supermarket this morning, the changing season is ever apparent. The autumn colours are already very much on the way here in Northern BC and back in the Yukon. Having landed in Alaska on midsummer day it felt like the endless days would go on forever, like the sun would never set, nor even be occluded by cloud. Though the latter was quickly disproven, the endless sun, or more specifically endless daylight, went from novelty to norm with the darkness then becoming the novelty to be appreciated!
Catching up with Rob, another long distance cyclist, yesterday made for some pleasant company for the evening and joined too by a man who will be forever known as the Smelly Dutchman. A man who’s personal hygiene can only be described literally as second to none and far from the usual positive connotations of such a statement! But with nose plugs fashioned and an air flow through the hotel room the company was positively second to none.
Two days back, when the storm hit I’d have probably sat the day out and rested but having caught up with the Dutchman, who’s name had yet to be set in stone, a little company added to the motivation to push on. Thijs was on a schedule, two and a half months for ride from Alaska to LA and needing to average at least 75mi per day, time off was not an option, not for resting and seemingly not for washing either. His schedule reminded me of my ride across Europe in the spring, it reminded me of the change in attitude I’d realised since arriving in North America, that I’d been very conscious of, and what had set this journey apart from every previous trip I’d taken on the bike. With every other journey on the bike the outing had been defined by a date and a time on which I had to be at a specific point usually for a flight back to the UK and back to work. Usually too with an absolute minimum of rest along the way.
Back in Europe in the spring I still had this holiday from work mentality. Though travelling much lighter than now the focus was still on speed. Long days in the saddle, epic mileage, the enjoyment, came from the riding rather than necessarily the journeying and it still very much does. I find I still need an epic day in the saddle from time to time, the days that leave me substantially further along the way, that get the endorphins flowing and leave me fatigued with a feeling of worth.
I seem to frequently get asked how far I ride in a day. In Europe I’d covered 4000km in 40 days, including rest days. So 100km per day, probably 140km or so if you just took the riding days into account. Here however I literally have no idea! A good solid day is still 100mi+, a satisfying day is still 80mi+ but there have been no shortage of days where I’d maybe only covered 30 to 40mi. I’ll work out an average at some point soon. Since arriving in North America however there has effectively been no time limit. Unlike in the past and unlike currently for Thijs. So daily mileage has ceased to matter. The 30,000mi target is a colossal target and mentally tough to appreciate. But, though the destination is known, the journey is only loosely directed and, open to variation, the route has been undefined beyond the next achievable target.
Fitting into a timescale and the plans of others is a needless and unnecessary stress, until June this year I was supposed to be riding the Americas from Argentina north but sense prevailed and the journey began in Alaska, though too late for a Denali climbing permit this season the mountain target there was postponed but this led to the delivery of a my packraft and kit to be able to explore the Canadian wilderness by boat; a slight tangent to the cycling but every bit an achievement as climbing to the overly controlled summit of North America’s highest mountain.