After a late start to our day from the dropzone (and a significant lack of action from the centre) we set off to cover the modest distance to Langley, where we were to stay with a couple for the night. Another day of beautiful weather and mostly flat farmland ensued, and we arrived late afternoon at our destination and passed time by taking Theo to the local park as we waited for our hosts to arrive home after travelling for their own forthcoming venture- a three-month cycle tour of Europe.
We enjoyed a lovely evening of sharing stories, tips, advice and experiences with a glass of wine with the Dutch couple who hosted us for the evening. Having travelled across Canada by tandem a few years back, they had a wealth of experience and it was fascinating to listen to them recounting their adventures. From encounters with bears to their battles to conquer tough mountains- it was all wonderfully insightful and at times comfortingly familiar! Although they hadn’t kept a blog of their travels, they did keep a journal with various memorabilia and daily written accounts of their journey, along with a vast collection of photographs to document the entire length of their trip. Flicking through the pages and reading through all the ups and downs of their journey, it was a comfort to have it re-iterated that we aren’t alone in pursuing an ‘alternative’ means of seeing the world. Obviously, reading through various blogs and browsing on the internet, I know that cycle touring is becoming increasingly popular and we are far from unique in making this choice: however, due to the timing of our venture and being slightly ‘out of season’ for Canada, we have yet to see any other cycling tourists (actually- we did come across two young guys cycling from Victoria to Calgary-so not quite ‘none’, but still…very few!…) let alone any with children. Occasionally it 1s a little isolating at times and when we pull into yet another campground to discover we are the only ones in a tent, and most definitely the only ones on bikes, it feels as though we are quite alone: and no-where can truly appreciate what we’re going through. I’m immensely looking forward to the next leg of our journey as we head down the Pacific coast- many of the cyclists we’ve stayed with have re-iterated the advice of the ’Cycling the Pacific Coast‘ book I have been reading and advised us of the ‘Hiker-Biker’ sites at campgrounds, where we will have greater opportunity to meet other cyclists and cycling families on the road. As we cycle into the travel season, I’m sure it will become even busier still- and look forward with longing to meeting others undertaking similar travels and exchanging stories and advice.
I’ve found it truly inspiring that a number of the WarmShowers hosts we’ve had the privilege of staying with are retired and continuing to pursue cycle touring through the later years of their lives. To continue to be so active and follow the dream and ambition to travel by bike- either as a couple, with cycle groups, friends or alone- strikes me as an incredible way to spend retirement and certainly promotes a long and healthy life. I only hope we can continue to show the same stamina, strength and determination as we age- and not allow our increasingly weak bodies to hold us back!
After a 1am bedtime (we were far too busy enjoying ourselves and time slipped from our grasp!) we made a late start the following day to slowly ease ourselves towards the city and cycle to New Westminster, just on the outskirts of Vancouver. Contrasting significantly to our previous two days of cycling, we joined the hub of traffic and main routes weaving towards the city. Far busier, with complicated junctions and cycle paths that appeared and disappeared at will, we had to have our wits about us and opted on more than one occasion to pop onto the sidewalk in order to escape the fast-moving traffic. A world away from the quiet of the mountains, we cycled past every shop imaginable and the vast landscape was replaced by imposing office blocks and skyscrapers. At one point, we could see the mountains far off in the distance… and the promise of downtown Vancouver in the opposite direction.
We passed over the Pattullo bridge to actually get into New Westminster- and despite the dedicated cycle path across (which took us almost half an hour to get to, after needing to navigate crossing 5 lanes of traffic!) it was a very intimidating bridge to cross- extremely narrow lanes with a high volume of traffic and a number of large trucks speeding past. With the cycle path on the lefthand side of the bridge, you got the feeling as though you were heading into the oncoming traffic and with no barrier between ourselves and the road, I couldn’t escape the fear that one strong gust from a passing vehicle would send me tumbling onto the road. I hugged to the side of the bridge and proceeded very, very slowly! To our left, high above the water, was the Vancouver SkyTrain- I vowed to take Theo across on it if at all possible, as the views promise to be quite something!- and to our right, a hub of housing and shops lay spread out in front of the mountain backdrop. It’s ridiculous to admit, as an ex-skydiver, but I truly lack a head for heights- and when I paused at one point to peer cautiously over the edge of the bridge, the sheer drop down to the swirling murky-coloured river made me feel more than a little anxious. Add to that the rather sickeningly vicious vibrations of the bridge itself and I felt far from secure! We’re told the bridge is due to be replaced in the forthcoming 8-10years: not a moment too soon, I feel. The accident rate is extremely high and having crossed it, I can understand why!
We arrived at our next hosts in New Westminster late afternoon: fellow touring cyclist Jenny had the severe misfortune to break her leg at the very beginning of a two-week cycling adventure with friends and had been forced to return home ahead of schedule, but fortunately for us, that meant we had a place to stay with herself and husband Tom as we planned for our days ‘off’ in Vancouver. A beautiful evening was then spent sat eating outside on the patio as we talked through options for our stay in the city- and with limitless advice and help on choosing the route, how to navigate the Central Valley Greenway and the various attractions available, we finally felt a little more on top of things in terms of organising our stay! Together Tom and Jenny have also undertaken some incredible travels and trips- not just by bike, but on foot, by kayak and more. Their active lifestyle and experiences from around the world evoked a true feeling of longing and almost envy in me: for the second time in as many days, I made the promise to myself that I, too, would continue to follow my dreams and pursue my love of travel throughout my life. It’s incredible that the internet has made all these stories of travel and fellow travellers so much more accessible: no wonder long-term travel is increasing.
We had a challenging time with Theo (but that’s a post for another day…) which was the only blip on our otherwise lovely stay. Our slower, lazier days have allowed us to recover from the longer stretches in the mountains and thankfully Matt’s hand seems to be slowly improving also- he’s been experiencing numbness and weakness, particularly in his left hand, caused by nerve damage resulting from the pressure applied to his hands when cycling for long periods of time. We gather it’s a common cycling injury and as such he’s taken off his handlebar bag to allow him to adjust the position of his hands when cycling, is resting as much as possible (admittedly, not as much as he perhaps should- but when you’re cycle touring, that’s a luxury thats hard to come by!) and trying to do little exercises to get his strength back. We’re hoping our days off in Vancouver will aid his recovery before we head down the coast for leg 2!
Another huge thank you to our hosts for the past few days- Hans and Trix, and Jenny and Tom!- for their wonderful hospitality, delicious food and most importantly, their fanastic advice, help and for sharing their experiences.
Next stop: the city!
Miles today: Abbortsford to Langley 22miles
Langley to New Westminster 23.6 miles
Total miles to date: 532 (over 500 miles in just under 3 weeks!!!!!! Hurrah!!)