After our epic climb and mammoth day on the road, our aching bodies and rather sorry-looking bikes commanded a day off and so we rather naughtily opted to treat ourselves to an additional night at our hotel in Hope. It continued to rain with vengence outside while we indulged in the indoor heated pool and hottub, feeling relieved not to be soaking ourselves to the skin once again! Our hotel room had become a make-shift laundry room, with our tent suspended in the kitchenette to dry and clothes and shoes covering every available surface in order to coax some of the moisture out. Such a glamourous life I now lead…
Theo surprised us by displaying some true independance and an adventurous streak we don’t normally associate with him whilst swimming, and for the first time, decided to hold onto a float and kick his little legs as hard as he could and guide himself around the pool! Previously he would insist on being held and cling to me if I ever attempted to loosen my hold on him: it was amazing to watch him swim off without a care in the world. We’ll make a water baby out of him yet! It’s been amazing to spend every single day of the past few weeks with him: I hadn’t fully appreciated previously just how rapidly he is changing and growing, and even on those 3 days a week I was working back home, I was missing those small, simple changes that take you by surprise as they creep up on you. It’s been a slightly challenging experience having him ‘full time’ with no opportunity for a break- his bottomless supply of energy frequently contradicts our own worn-out state at the end of the day!- but it’s been incredible also, and I’m so grateful for the chance to really spend some quality time with him. I can’t wait to see how this trip will continue to change him and help him grow- if just 2.5weeks can bring about small, noticeable differences, how great an impact will 5 months have?!
Our bikes were granted some much-needed tlc in the form of a jet wash, scrub down and had all the nuts and bolts tightened; the tyre pressure checked and a thorough ‘examination’. We’ve been extremely fortunate that in spite of some horrific potholes and questionable terrain, our bikes have remained in remarkably good condition to date (touch wood..) and haven’t required much work. My rear brake pads are admittedly close to non-existant and in desperate need of replacement (we already used the spares to replace my front pads, which were also rather thin) and of course my chain famously chose to snap in the middle of Kamloops, whilst Matt’s rear cogs had changed from a bright silver to a murky brownish-black due to the excess of dirt and grit from the roads. As we cleaned our bikes off, the sheer amount of black liquid pouring off them was astounding- and it was a relief to get our chains lube-d up once more and cycle along without the sickening sound of grit trapped within the gears. Rule number one of a cycle tour: look after your equipment (and it will look after you!!)
Unfortunately due to the weather, we were unable to seek out the sights that Hope had to offer and Matt in particular was rather disappointed to miss the Othello Tunnels in Coquihalla Canyon Provincal Park- a series of bridges and tunnels blasted through the rock of mountain cliffs which once hosted the Kettle Valley railway, and are more famously known as the backdrop for the blockbuster hit Rambo First Blood. In fact, areas of the town used for filming (including the infamous petrol station that was purpose-built and then blown up for an iconic scene within the film) remain in tact and form part of a tour dedicated to the movie: not a love of mine, admittedly, but it certainly would have been interesting to see. Unfortunately due to the weather and spread out nature of the locations, it wasn’t an option for us and we rather feebly limited ourselves to some very localised shopping and chatting to locals instead!
Day 16 saw us heading from Hope towards Chilliwack, where we would be staying with a WarmShowers host for the night. We opted for Highway 7/9 as opposed to the Trans-Canadian for this section of our route and were pleasantly surprised (and nicely ‘eased’ back into cycling!) by this relatively flat and quiet route. Sadly the weather continued to work against us and from the outset we endured heavy rain which once again treated us to a thorough soaking: in particular, I was extremely let down by my “waterproof” Gore-tex shoes, through which the water began to seep at just 2miles…by 5miles, my soaks and feet were well and truly drenched, with small puddles forming at the toe of my shoes. With every turn of the pedals, I felt the squelch as water oozed out of the shoe lining and actually out of the pores of the shoes- but actually, the sensation was so bizarre and the situation really so ridiculous, it just made me giggle as I went. Despite the weather, our spirits were high after our achievement and being back on the bikes with that slight ‘burn’, that satisfyingly tells you you’ve worked hard, gave us a huge buzz. We’re finally getting into the rhythm of the trip: and it feels fantastic.
On arrival in Chilliwack, we sought out the home of our WarmShowers host, understanding that she would return home early evening and until then we were welcome to sit upon her porch and park our bikes in the garage. You can imagine our surprise, delight and gratitude when on arrival, we found the following pinned to the door:
Peeling off our waterproofs, which by now had assumed the feel of a second skin, clinging tightly to every piece of bare flesh available, was a fairly comical sight. As I wrung out my socks and poured the river of water from my shoes, I wondered, not for the first time, why I found this experience fun. But strangely, in spite of the pitfalls that I’m sure would deter others, it is. Even getting soaked through: there’s something so refreshing about going back to basics and learning to appreciate the really small things- like being dry, and warm- and I’m finding my attitude towards the less-than-perfect aspects of the trip is slowly changing. What had caused me to despair and wonder, “WHY am I doing this?!” in the beginning is now losing the power to bother me so greatly- in fact, I’m learning to embrace the challenges. It’s a great change of perspective- I just hope it stays!
Walking into a warm, dry house after our wet ride was a form of bliss. As I took a hot shower and then curled up on the sofa to read as Theo played with the toys left in the lounge, I was overwhelmed with graditude. The fact that there are people out there- people to whom we are perfect strangers, who know little or nothing of us- who are willing to open their homes to us, trust us to come into their lives and share their experiences, offer us a bed, food and invaluable advise is just astounding. I know I’ve touched upon this previously after the incredible hospitality shown to us by Gillian and Jason in Calgary, but I can’t help but bring it up again. The kindness and openness of those who have done this for us is truly admirable and I’m so tremendously grateful. Here, we have been truly spoilt with our own double bed and bathroom, had our meals cooked for us and free use of the washer and drier, as well as the privilege of meeting a fellow cycling advocate with a vast knowledge about touring, the local area and the routes we are hoping to undertake. She’s looked after us wonderfully and we’re so incredibly grateful- so a big shout out to Sharon, our host in Chilliwack! We can’t wait to return the favour and hospitality to travellers and touring cyclists alike upon our return to the UK- if we ever get a house, that is!!
We’ve made fantastic time cycling across Canada by comparison to our original estimation- mainly due to the fact that we’ve had no option but to undertake more miles each day than we had expected!- and are set to arrive in Vancouver a whole week ahead of schedule. As such, we’ve decided to slow down where possible and have spent today relaxing, route-planning and having the boys’ hair cut! We’re excited to be heading to Vancouver in time for the long May weekend and are planning to spend a rather nostalgic night at the Vancouver skydiving DropZone tomorrow night and then perhaps go to a rodeo as we head into the city on the weekend! We’ve adapted our route to hopefully now include Victoria, which has been highly reccomended to us- but our knowledge of Vancouver and the surrounding area remains limited, so please, if anyone has any suggestions or ideas for us, we’d love to hear them.
As an aside we’d also like to wish a fellow cycle touring family the very best of luck as they set out upon their adventure this Saturday- the Pedal Powered Family from Hamilton, Ontario, are undertaking the huge challenge of cycling around Canada and America with their two young children for a year, and their blog and preparations have been a huge inspiration to us as we pieced together our own adventure. We know you’ll absolutely love it and can’t wait to read your adventures as you go!
Tomorrow, we head to the DropZone- so for a day or two, it’s bye from us.
Miles Today – Day 15 (Hope) – 0
Day 16 (Hope to Chilliwack) – 41
Day 17 (Chilliwack) – 0
Total miles to date – 449