Seattle to Chicago via Canada


Fall 2005


Denis Kertz, ©2005


Day 0: Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Seattle, WA

I spent the previous evening wrapping up my packing and printing some final maps of the Seattle area from Google maps.  My touring plan was to ride across southern Canada on my way back to Chicago.  Vancouver was the logical start point but flying to Seattle was much cheaper and I was able to get a non-stop flight on Southwest for $118 plus a $50 bike fee.  This was almost cheaper than flying America West with my “Bikes Fly Free” via the League of American Bicyclists but with the decided advantage of a non-stop flight.


However, one problem is Southwest has open boarding and no pre-assigned seat assignments.  They did offer Internet printing of a boarding pass starting at midnight the day of the flight.  So I stayed up until midnight and printed my boarding pass but I wasn’t offered a seat assignment as I had hoped.


In the morning my friend Dave picked me up at 7:00 for the ride to Midway Airport for my 9:35 am flight.  We were there before 8:00 and there was virtually no line.  Since I knew I would have to pay a bike fee I didn’t try to cram everything into 2 checked baggage items.  I had a large duffel bag, my 2 rear panniers strapped together as a unit and my bike box.  The attendant tagged my luggage and told me my printed boarding pass was labeled with an A so I would get to board in the first wave, a definite advantage.  Then she told me to take my luggage to the X-ray machine and I did.  My bike box was manually inspected and I watched the attendant open the box, check it, and tape it shut again.  Then he carried it away and I realized I had not been charge extra for either my bike or my 3 checked luggage items.  I decided I liked Southwest a lot…


I checked right through the line myself, surprised that my carryon day pack was not manually inspected.  Then I killed time waiting for my flight.  I was surprised to see a Starbucks with coffee honestly labeled as small, medium, and large sizes rather than the usual misleading tall size which was really a small size.  However, the small coffee carried a large price, almost double what I would have paid in Naperville.  Paradoxically, the airport had a small coffee with a large price whereas Naperville Starbucks had a “large” coffee at a “small” price.


The flight to Seattle was uneventful.  I did get a good seat on a full flight, with a window view on an exit row with only 2 seats but the window view was largely wasted on a mostly cloudy day.


When I got off the plane I was immediately reassured that I was in Seattle with the appearance of airport Espresso signs along with the normal airport signs.  I retrieved my luggage without any discernible problem.  When I was planning my trip I was undecided abut staying in a motel the first night or riding out of the airport to downtown, taking the Bainbridge Island ferry and trying to find a campsite on this Labor Day weekend.  As I was checking the Internet for motel prices I just happened to see a Courtyard and I remembered I had tons of Marriott Reward points from a previous life.  So I was able to secure a stay at a Courtyard near the airport.  I had to wait almost 30 minutes but eventually got picked up by a courtesy van and delivered to my Courtyard.  This was very convenient since I was able to assemble my bike in the comfort of my room.


After re-assembling my bike, I checked with the front desk.  I had been unable to find the Lexan spoon I had used on past trips so I hoped the nearby mall would have a sporting goods store but I was told it didn’t.  Then I was asked if REI would be OK.  So I was able to walk a couple blocks to an REI and get a replacement spoon.  Then I walked to the mall to eat at a food court since I was starving with little to eat since breakfast.


Back at the ranch I re-packed my panniers and checked my maps for tomorrow’s ride downtown to the ferry and Bainbridge Island.  The trip plan was to ride to Bainbridge to Port Townsend to Anacortes to Bellingham and north to the border and pickup Highway 3 across British Columbia.


A comfortable first day with the unexpected surprise of no bike charge by Southwest.

Day 1: Mon, Sep 05, 2005 - Seattle, WA to Port Townsend, WA [65.9, 5:42:08, 11.6 mph, 106.3K]

I went to bed “early” last night but really late for me given the 2 hour time change.  So I woke up early.  Breakfast didn’t start until 7:00 because of the holiday but there was an Internet PC available that I used to advantage.  One thing I’ve always liked about Courtyard was their buffet breakfast that let you get in and out at your own speed without relying on service speed.  I had a little of everything, in effect 2 breakfasts and the price reflected that, almost $11, much more than I used to pay at Courtyard.


After breakfast I checked my room bill that was shoved under my door and nearly had a heart attack when I saw a $150 charge.  Fortunately the front desk cleared that up and applied my reward certificate.


I left just before 8:00.  I had an SDOT route from the airport to downtown but there was a bike trail called the River Trail that was right behind the Courtyard and I took it.  Right away there was some kind of squeaking noise that appeared to come from my front wheel but I couldn’t find anything.  This continued for a while when I finally noticed my rear fender was close to the wheel.  When I adjusted it the noise went away to my relief.


At 30th Ave S the trail ended and I picked up 99, an expressway with a good shoulder.  At that point I planned to follow the SDOT route but I missed a turn somewhere and took 99 all the way to 1st Ave which had little traffic.  When I checked my watch it was 9:00 so I picked up the pace to make the 9:35 ferry.  I rode for a while and just after I asked a cyclist who I overtook I saw the sign for the ferry turnoff.


When I pulled into the ferry station, I paid $7.10 for the Brainbridge ferry which included $1 for my bike.  It was good timing and I rode my bike right on to the ferry with about 10 minutes to spare.  It was an uneventful 30 minute ride to Bainbridge Island where everyone hustled off the ferry.


I took 305 north with a fair amount of noisy traffic but a good shoulder.  It was a modest up and down route through forests of cedars and pines.  When 305 intersected with 3 the traffic increased substantially on the way to the Hood Canal Bridge.  I saw a grocery store in Poulsbo so I stopped for my first food shopping.  Afterwards my front panniers were loaded to the hilt.


I nuked a burrito at a foodmart before taking off again at noon.  When I turned west to cross the Hood Canal Bridge there was a steady stream of oncoming traffic on the bridge.  This made the crossing a bit dicey since traffic couldn’t always easily pull out and pass me on the 2 mile crossing.  After I crossed the bridge there was a line of cars in the opposite direction extending past the end of the bridge, trying to get back home on the Labor Day Monday.


As soon as I crossed the bridge I turned off on Paradise Bay Road.  Immediately to the right was a state park where I had camped my first night on my 1994 trip but camping was no longer allowed nor was I looking to stop.  The turnoff was great because it got me out of traffic but the price was some short, steep climbs.  Almost immediately I had to slip into my granny chainring.  I didn’t realize I needed the granny but my bike did and automatically shifted to my granny.  There were some good views of Pudget Sound and then I stopped at Port Ludlow, where I had also stopped in 1994.


After a short break I continued toward Port Townsend, picking up 19 and a fair amount of traffic.  I recognized 19 as the road where I had my first flat while touring and also managed to sever my cyclocomputer’s pickup wire when my front wheel jackknifed as I repaired the flat.  That wasn’t going to happen on this trip with my wireless cyclocomputer.


The initial section of 19 cut through a ½ mile wide valley that was a scenic farming/ranching area.  When I got to the Old Fort Townsend State Park, my destination for the day, I continued towards Port Townsend to find food.  On the town outskirts I looked for the outside telephone booth where I lost all my money in 1994 but didn’t see the booth.  I descended down the hill to town and spied a BBQ place where I stopped rather than ride all the way into town.  I had a good BBQ pork plate that was a bit pricey at $11 in a tourist town.


Then I retreated 3 miles back to the park turnoff and noticed a placed called the Sea Breeze along the road with an outdoor phone booth.  I recognized the Sea Breeze but I didn’t see any money lying around.


From the park turnoff I rode a couple miles to the park campground.  I expected to find $4 hiker-biker sites based on an Internet report but found they now cost $10, not any particular bargain.  It was a nice secluded area with tall pines but little sunlight was able to penetrate the dense, clustered trees.  I was the only camper at the end of the Labor Day weekend and set up for the night.


Then I walked to the shower area, sure I was going to get stiffed since I only had 3 quarters but was pleasantly surprised that the showers were free, the only bargain of a day when everything appeared to be more expensive than it should have been.


It was a somewhat hard day for the opening day of a tour but a reasonable one to start getting ready to do some serious climbing in BC.

Day 2: Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Port Townsend, WA to Bellingham, WA [64.3, 5:48:36, 11.0 mph, 103.7K]

I was tired last night and went to sleep around 8:30.  So I woke up early around 6:00 and started packing, using my LED headlamp in the fairly dark campground.  I rode 1.5 miles back to the main road and 4 miles to town, arriving just before 7:30.  The next ferry was at 8:00 and then 9:30.  I decided to take the 8:00 ferry and worry about breakfast afterwards.


On the ferry I met 2 other cyclists who were touring the islands on bikes with only rear panniers.  There was a nice view of the mountains in Olympic National Park from the ferry which took 30 minutes and cost $2.85 ($0.50 for the bike).


At the ferry landing on Whidbey Island everyone made a mad dash off and I held back to let the auto traffic get out of the way.  Then I took Ferry Road to Coupeville where it was the first day of school.  I found a small café and had a reasonable breakfast with French toast.  By the time I left it was 10:00 so I didn’t save much time by skipping breakfast in Port Townsend and taking the 8:00 ferry.


At Coupeville I resumed by leaving on Highway 20 with a good amount of traffic that would hold true for the day.  It was a nice ride through pastoral farmland and some views of the bay, including one with a view of a snow-capped Mount Baker in the distance.


At Oak Harbor I stopped at a Wal-Mart.  For this trip I had picked up some pencil cases carried at Wal-Mart that had proved very useful for organizing various things such as tools and toiletries.  So I picked up a few more.  Since it had been over an hour since I had eaten I stopped at a foodmart for some more food.


Then I continued on a few more miles to Deception Pass, which separated Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands.  Deception Pass was just as spectacular as I remembered with another view of Mount Baker in the distance.  I walked the length of the bridge and back to admire the scenery before riding across the narrow bridge on my bike.


I continued another 9 miles to Anacortes on another nice fall day with temps around 70 with some climbing along the way.  I stopped for another food break where 20 headed east to rejoin the mainland.  On the mainland I took the first opportunity, Bayview Road, to get off busy 20 to head north to Bellingham.  A sign advertised Bayview State Park which I hoped might be a place to stay but it was only a few miles up the coast and too early for stopping for the day.


So I continued on as the road zigzagged east through Edison and then intersected Highway 11 which I took north.  Ahead were some big hills which 11, also called Chuckanut Drive, skirted by heading west along the base of the hills and then wound its way north along the western edge along the shore.  This climb was a beautiful ride through trees that formed a canopy over the road with views of the San Juan Islands off the coast.


Then I saw a sign for Larrabee State Park, which turned out to be Washington’s first state park, established in 1915.  It was only 6 miles south of Bellingham and a good place to stop for the day.  The place had walk-in sites like last night for $10 and I found a nice site with more light than last night’s site.  However, the showers did cost $0.50 for a 3 minute shower although mine lasted longer than 3 minutes and I eventually shut it off.  A bonus though was a ranger station opened at 5:00 and I was able to pay with a credit card and conserve some cash.  Then I settled down to eat from my food stash and write my notes.


It was another moderate day where I made good progress towards the Canadian border and hopefully improved my cycling condition for the assault of the BC passes.

Day 3: Wed, Sep 07, 2005 - Bellingham, WA to Bridal Falls, BC [84.7, 7:12:00, 11.7 mph, 136.6K]

I managed to stay up to almost 9:00 before crashing and I got up at 6:00 and packed, leaving around 7:00.  There was some fair climbing heading to Bellingham.  The route was not as scenic as yesterday, mainly because homes dotted along the road.


It was only about 6 miles to town but then I had to weave my way from the southwest to the northeast part to pick up Hannegan Road north.  Fortunately, I had printed a Bellingham map from Google Maps so navigating wasn’t too hard.  What was not so easy was finding a breakfast place along the way.  I passed up a couple of small places that didn’t look appealing and I ended up giving up.  Instead I stopped at a foodmart for milk for a cereal breakfast.


I left around 9:00 heading north on Hannegan Road, using a route from a Seattle-Vancouver bicycle ride.  It was a fairly busy road but was also a bicycle route with a decent shoulder.  Shortly after 10:00 I pulled into Lynden, the last town before the border.  When I spotted a café I stopped for breakfast even though I wasn’t really hungry but I wasn’t sure when the next opportunity to eat would be.  I had a stack of pancakes that were huge, about 10 inches in diameter.  They were fairly thin but were still a handful for a not very hungry cyclist.  When I paid, I took the opportunity to use up all my coins, since they weren’t going to be all that useful shortly.


It was nearly 11:00 when I left and I weaved through town to pick up Double Ditch Road to the border.  At the border I could have just crossed a little ditch and been in Canada but I would have been illegal.  Instead, I had to head west a short distance, parallel to Zero Ave on the Canadian side.


I crossed the border at the Aldergrove Border Crossing, getting in line with about a half dozen vehicles.  I answered a few question and I was on my way, heading east on Zero Ave just a few feet further north than a few minutes earlier, finally making easterly progress back towards Chicago


Shortly after another cyclist, all decked out in cycling attire on a racing bike, caught up with me and we rode together for a couple miles before he had to turn off.  Before he did, he offered the useful advice to stay on Zero Ave until it curved north to Huntington Ave whereas I had previously gotten a route suggesting turning north earlier.


The rest of the day was spent meandering through the Fraser Valley, a large, flat agricultural producing area.  To the east lay foothills that had to be skirted to the northeast, which is the route of the Trans Canada Highway #1.  From where I crossed the border, I could have picked up the TC almost immediately but wanted to delay riding the TC until necessary.  This avoided all the traffic on the TC and got me an up close look at the large farms in the valley.


The route strategy was to head east until the foothills forced taking a northern road and then picking another road to head east for a while.  This stair step approach was repeated all the way to Chilliwack, which was a very suburban area with all the typical malls and restaurants of any sizeable US city.  There was a Starbucks and 2 Tim Horton’s, Canada’s version of a Starbucks.  This did have the advantage that I found a bank where I used my ATM card to secure Canadian cash and converted my remaining US dollars.  I also stopped for a cold drink but no food as my late morning pancakes were still fueling my journey.  After that, I hustled to get out of this suburban congestion as fast as possible.


When I continued it was on a road that paralleled the TC a few more miles, delaying entry on the TC to the bitter end.  At this point I had to consider finding a place to stay, hopefully a campground.  Just as I was starting to enter the TC, I saw a sign for a campground on the frontage road so I headed there.  It was an RV park that wanted $19 for a tent site but as I was about to sign on the proprietor noted that a water advisory recommended boiling water for drinking, which was impractical since I had no stove.  The proprietor noted they had drinking water for sale in their store but I balked at having to buy water.  I did have enough water but I would have had little left in the morning so I passed and rode on, riding up the frontage road a bit and then made my own entrance ramp on to the TC.


I had previously seen a sign for camping at the next exit so I wasn’t too worried about find a place although there was no guarantee it would be better than what I left behind.  So I rode a couple more miles to the Bridal Falls exit where there were 2 RV parks and a restaurant adjoining a foodmart.  So the services were much better although the tent sites were a $1 more.  I picked the place right next to the restaurant for the convenience and settled in a fairly nice grassy area, although it was noise due to the proximity to the TC.  I ate at the restaurant where I also tried to find out how much further it was to Hope.  All the locals could tell me was it was another 20-30 minutes by car but they couldn’t give me a distance.


A day that was about 20 miles longer than the two previous days.  However, there was less climbing and some tailwind so the day didn’t feel harder.

Day 4: Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Bridal Falls, BC to South Manning Lodge, BC [71.4, 7:29:47, 9.5 mph, 115.1K]

After I packed in the morning I stopped next door for milk for a cereal breakfast.  I left shortly after 7:00 headed for Hope.  Now that I was in Canada which is on the metric system, I changed my cyclocomputer to report kilometers rather than miles.  It was an uneventful 37K ride with some nice views of the surrounding mountains and the Fraser River.


I reached Hope shortly after 9:00 and headed for the town centre where I found a small café and order the pancakes, which I knew would be good because the waitress warned me they were large.  After breakfast I did some food shopping and stopped at the library, which was on the way out of town and checked my email.


Leaving town I immediately started climbing as I started the real part of the trip, the ride across British Columbia on Highway 3.  After about 5K I exited the TC on to Highway 3, also known as the Crowsnest Highway, although the only difference was 3 was not a divided highway.


The climbing continued to the Hope Slide, 18 kilometres east of Hope, which was one of the largest slides in Canadian history. The southwestern slope of Johnson Peak, collapsed on January 9, 1965, spreading 47 million cubic metres of debris, 85 metres thick, over a 3 kilometre stretch of the highway. The slide occurred in an unpopulated area in early morning hours and resulted in four deaths.  This climb was 668m over a 17K distance with nice views of the steep tree-covered hills that hemmed in the road. The last 5K or so were pretty strenuous in my less than perfect condition and I used my second lowest gear.  There was a rest area at the Hope Slide and it was just what I needed, except there was a guitarist/singer in the parking lot hawking his CD.  The climb did reward


From Hope Slide the road descended through Sunshine Valley and behaved itself for about 20K.  Then it started a 700m climb over 22K.  Fortunately, it was not as steep as the first climb but it was plenty long and not as scenic.  I took a couple breaks as my legs felt the stress of the first hard day.  The climb peaked at Allison Pass at 1342m.


From there I descended down to the Manning Lodge in Manning Provincial Park.  I needed some food so I had a fairly expensive hamburger and Coke at the lodge’s restaurant around 5:00.  The bartender told me there was a campground about 3K further down the road on the left.  So I grew somewhat nervous when the campground didn’t appear on schedule.  After 9K when I was beginning to think there wasn’t a campground, there was one on the right and I stopped for the night for $14 but no shower.  I got a nice site next to the Similkameen River.


There was a couple camped next to me in a pickup camper and the guy invited me over to his camp fire so after I got settled in I wandered over.  He was drinking a beer and said he would offer me one except he had the last one.  It didn’t seem right to fight him over it so I let him enjoy the beer without grumbling.  In return I got some interesting conversation about his soil conservation business, where his wife was supposedly a renowned soil conservationist in Canada, his daughter who was a basketball player at a school outside Pittsburgh, and their vacation trip that started today.  An enjoyable way to spend the evening rather than trying to read in my tent.


When I entered the campground there was no way to pay the $14 fee but an attendant was supposed to come around and collect.  I never saw an attendant but as I was leaving my host’s camp fire someone pulled up to my host’s site.  I suspect he was the bill collector and I suspect my host paid my fee, which more than made up for not having a beer to share with me.


Overall, a fairly hard day with 2 major climbs to Hope Slide and Allison Pass.  But the climbing was nice scenery and I ended up in a nice campground.

Day 5: Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - South Manning Lodge, BC to Princeton, BC [39.4, 3:33:02, 11.1 mph, 63.6K]

During the night it rained a couple times even though the sky was clear when I crashed.  In the morning I packed my panniers in my tent and ate breakfast.  It was overcast and then started drizzling again.  Since Princeton was only 60K with one climb, promising a short day, I went back to sleep hoping to wait out the rain.


At 9:00 the sky was still overcast but much lighter so I completed my packing.  It was 39F so I put on my Seal Skinz socks and my new lobster claw (2-fingered) gloves and set off.  The first 10K was 4-lane and drivers moved over to avoid spraying me.  I stopped for a muffin at a gas station since it was likely the only stop until Princeton.


Then it started a light drizzle that stayed with me the rest of the way.  Views were not great due to the overcast although there were a few views of low clouds hanging in the valley below.  After 17K the route climbed 330m to Sunday Summit over 11K, not too hard except for the last stretch.


At the summit it looked like clear-cut had taken place but BC was suffering from beetle infestation and trees had been cut to try to control the disease.  My windbreaker was drenched but I had refrained from using my rain gear to keep from overheating on the climb.  Now I put on my rain gear in anticipation of downhill runs to Princeton.  Initially, the road veered up and down for a while and then there were a couple of 8 and 7 degree runs.  The 8 degree downhill would have been more fun on dry pavement but I exercised more caution because of the wet pavement.


Near Princeton there was a rather dramatic change in scenery from mostly tree-covered hills to some open yellow grass covered hills which would have been more dramatic in sunlight.  Princeton itself was a town of 2,900 that was situated in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains where the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers meet.  Agriculture, tourism and cattle ranching were the mainstays of the local economy.


In town I stopped at Billy’s, a place that advertised all day breakfast, around 1:30 for an omelette to kill my hunger pangs.  That taken care of, I wandered through town and found some cabins near the river for $43, not a great price until I realized the exchange rate made this about $37 US.  I moved into a rustic log cabin that had a bed and shower, room for my bike, and room for me to set up my tent to dry it out.


With time on my hands I took the opportunity to do the first laundry of the trip.  Later, I picked up my first pizza of the trip at a takeout place and then adjourned to the bar at the Princeton Hotel for my first beer of the trip.


A lot of firsts on this day – first laundry, first pizza, first beer, and first rain.  Unfortunately, it looked like rain tomorrow so tomorrow could be the first layover day.

Day 6: Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Princeton, BC

It was drizzling lightly when I got up in the morning and the forecast was for light rain in the morning and showers in the afternoon and evening.  So it looked like a layover day, which wasn’t too disappointing since I figured I might need a rest day in the first week with all of the climbing.


I walked to a breakfast place and found 6 guys in a cycle touring group already there.  I had seen them yesterday, about 8 of them, on bikes with only small rear panniers.  I learned they were touring on trails in the area and staying in motels.


As the morning wore on the weather looked better and the barometric pressure was rising although the TV Weather Network channel, Canada’s version of The Weather Channel, continued to predict rain.  I finally decided to leave but just as I was ready to leave some drops were coming down so I decided to stay.


I ran a few errands including stopping at the library which had 2 Internet PCs, one not working, and got to use the working one.  Then I found some Simple Green at a hardware store to clean my chain.  My biggest problem was finding a smaller container to take only half of the Simple Green with me.  I donated the rest to the local bike shop, which I had previously visited to get information on the ride out from Princeton.


In the evening I ate at a Chinese buffet which was disappointing.  It had very limited selections and in retrospect I would have passed but I had automatically assumed a buffet was GOOD.  I did find an ice cream shop and had my first ice cream of the trip, but I’ve had no luck finding one of my favorite treats – the chocolate chip cookie vanilla ice cream sandwich.


Back at the ranch I watched the Texas-Ohio State football game that was a thriller.  The sun did come out during the afternoon but it also drizzled a bit in late afternoon and again in the evening, so laying over was not a bad move.

Day 7: Sun, Sep 11, 2005 - Princeton, BC to Osoyoos, BC [77.6, 6:30:58, 11.7 mph, 125.1K]

In the morning the road was wet outside my cabin from the overnight rain but it wasn’t raining, just very overcast.  I had milk in the small refrigerator and ate breakfast in my cabin.  As I packed my clothes I realized I didn’t remember seeing my Seal Skinz socks.  Hoping I had left them at the Laundromat I checked there but didn’t find them.  I had debated whether I needed 2 pair on the trip and now I knew why I had brought the 2nd pair.  Still it was a disappointing loss since these special socks cost about $25.


I left about 8:15 in heavy overcast with clouds cutting off the hill tops.  I crossed the Similkameen River on the one-lane bridge by my cabin to take Old Hedley Road.  This was suggested as a quieter route to Hedley where I would rejoin 3.  It was a great choice, a quiet serene ride on a country road on the north side of the river with 3 often visible on the south side of the river.  The valley was hemmed in on both sides by tall steep hills whose tops were clipped by the clouds.  It was a scenic ride through ranchland with a number of horses and pine forests.  The only downside was a 2K stretch of asphalt pavement with loose gravel on top.


After 33K I rejoined 3 and within a couple minutes saw more traffic than on the entire Old Hedley Road.  I looked for a breakfast place in Hedley but didn’t find anything so I continued on to Keremeos, another 30K, a town of 1,200 noted for its orchards and cattle and hay ranching.  The road in and out of Keremeos was virtually continuous orchards with many fruit and vegetable stands along the road.


It was just before 12:00 when I rode into Keremeos but I was able to find a place still serving breakfast.  When I asked the waitress how large the pancakes were, she indicated they were almost as large as her serving tray so I only ordered 2 pancakes.  They took forever to arrive but they were as large as advertised.  They partially hung over the sides of my oblong plate that were 10 inches across at the narrow point although they were fairly thin.


I left town around 1:00.  After the lead out past orchards lining the road, the valley was ranchland, orchards, and vineyards.  The land also started changing to desert with desert scrub in places not irrigated or used for orchards/vineyards.  There were still some low clouds cutting off the steep hills and it was very picturesque.  I took so many photos I just kept my camera ON and let it go to sleep in between photos rather than waste the power and time to continually turn it on and off.


This was the first day the BC scenery was truly special for virtually the entire day.  It was a day when the pace was slowed by the many photos.  Cycling was fairly easy on the winding road that sneaked along the river with no major climbs.


After 95K, the road left the Similkameen River behind and began the climb out of the valley to Richter Pass at 682m on a 6% grade.  A fair climb but not in the category of the previous passes and the pass didn’t even merit a sign at the summit.


From the summit it was a nice descent to the Okanagan Valley to the town of Osoyoos, home of Canada’s only desert with the lowest rainfall, the highest temperatures, and the warmest lake.  The last part of the descent had good views of Osoyoos and the valley.  I rode into town a little after 4:00 after a great day of riding.  I picked up some food at a grocery store and then ate at my first Subway, bypassing a Tim Horton’s in town.


After eating I rode across Osoyoos Lake on the bridge that bisected the two halves of the lake and rode down Lakeshore Drive to find a campsite.  I passed an RV/slide park that advertised $15 tent sites but looked too RV for my tastes.  At the next RV place I found they had shut down their tent sites and the proprietor directed me down the road, noting that the $15 place I saw had tent sites on gravel.  At the next RV place, no one was around but their sites weren’t attractive and they cost $24.  I began to think the $15 gravel sites weren’t so bad and turned around.  At the RV/slide park I got a $15 site on grass and the place didn’t look so bad inside.  The $15 was an off season rate, down from the normal $20.


A great day of cycling with great scenery and continuous photo opportunities.

Day 8: Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Osoyoos, BC to Greenwood, BC [56.7, 5:51:02, 9.7 mph, 91.4K]

When I got up my tent was wet so it obviously had rained overnight and it was overcast.  After packing up I had to ride all the way back through town to find a foodmart for milk for breakfast.  Then the sky looked more threatening with rain in the west that was moving to the east.  So I took the opportunity to check out the Tim Horton’s next door, which had more food than a typical Starbucks and honest coffee sizes of small, medium, and large.


After a half hour I decided to take off with the weather in the west looking better.  I got to the east side of town when the drizzle hit.  There was a closed food stand with a nice overhang so I waited out the rain there.


Finally, just after 9:00 I really left and started the long climb to Anarchist Summit, a climb from 280m to 1233m.  The first 15K was a pretty steep 8% climb with switchbacks.  This offered a number of great views of the Okanagan Valley, Osoyoos, and Osoyoos Lake.


After the first 15K, the road descended a little and then climbed to the summit with more great views of rolling hills, yellow grass covered hills, and evergreens.  Then the road descended to Rock Creek.  Along the way there was a great view of Bridesville nestled in the hills with rain further off in the east.  As I descended to Bridesville my left pannier started hanging loose and I was fortunate to bring my bike under control without any mishap.  There I discovered the bolt that went through the mid-fork eyelet and held the bar from which the pannier hung had sheared.  Fortunately, I had a replacement bolt in my stash of extras and it was a thicker, stronger bolt.  It took about half an hour to find everything and put it back together.  I made a note to also replace the other side’s bolt with a thicker one but I couldn’t do it on the spot because I didn’t have a matching nut.  As a finally check of my repair, I grabbed my bike by the headset stem and shook it sideways and detected what appeared to be play in the headset.  Like my tour last fall when I experienced front end shimmy, and never resolved the issue, I had experienced front end shimmy again.  This little check suggested my headset might be the culprit and I decided to have it checked at the next bike shop.


Continuing I descended to Rock Creek with some more great views.  I also noticed very wet roads from the rain I had seen earlier in the distance.  In Rock Creek I stopped for a break and some food.  The first place didn’t have much so I just had some French fries.  Then I stopped at another foodmart where I met Josh Byrne, another touring cyclist who also was heading east.  He was taking off as I stopped so I said maybe we would meet up down the road.


When I left it was after 2:00 and I was only abut half way to Grand Forks, my planned destination, which I was obviously not going to make with my late start and front rack mishap.  When I continued there was a dark cloud trying to catch me.  Eventually the cloud caught me and it started to drizzle but I made it to a foodmart in Midway where I found Josh had already taken refuge.


There I learned Josh had suffered a serious brain injury in a car accident 20 years ago when he was 15.  From a case of a coma and a paralyzed right side and no speech, Josh had made a dramatic recovery over the years.  His speech was now pretty good but his right side was still a problem without the use of his right arm and some loss in his right leg.  Still he was able to cycle tour and was a member of a ski team despite being limited to using a single pole with his left arm.


After the rain passed we pushed on together to Greenwood.  I wasn’t sure whether to lead but Josh took off and it was soon obvious I would have difficulty keeping up.  Of course, Josh was 20 years younger and in better cycling condition, having cycled from Calgary and on his way back, to my one week of touring.


When we rolled into Greenwood around 4:30, I found the post office and mailed a birthday card just before the 5:00 closing.  Greenwood is Canada’s smallest city with a population of 665, down from its peak of 2,000 during its mining boom, and now mostly a tourist attraction after almost disappearing after the mining bust.  After the post office, we went looking for a motel and found one at the east end of town.  Josh often received free lodging based on his disability and brain injury advocacy.  In this case we were offered a kitchenette for $40 that usually cost $62 and I paid for the room.


After cleaning up I walked the half mile back to town and was surprised to find the library still open in this small town and was able to check email.  I found a foodmart that had pizza subs that was a reasonable substitute for pepperoni pizza and a couple of these took care of my basic food needs.  I also bought milk for the morning.


Back at the ranch, I put up my tent outside to dry it out.  The kitchenette had a bedroom with one bed and a couch with a fold out bed.  I took the bedroom because Josh often had trouble sleeping and preferred the couch with access to the TV for late night viewing.

Day 9: Tue, Sep 13, 2005 - Greenwood, BC to Nancy Greene Provincial Park, BC [71.7, 7:18:23, 9.8 mph, 115.6K]

I got up shortly after 6:00 and so did Josh.  I had my cereal breakfast and packed up my tent that I had left out overnight to dry, which it did mostly.  It was fairly cool so we didn’t hurry to leave, finally leaving just before 8:00.


It was an easy climb to Eholt Summit at 1028m.  Josh took off first and was soon out of sight.  I took a few photos but there wasn’t much to see with the overcast and low hanging clouds.  I found Josh waiting for me at the rest area near the summit.  We donned our jackets for the descent and took off for Grand Forks on an easy descent.  Approaching Grand Forks the clouds were clearing and there was a good view of the area on the descent to town.


Since I had determined yesterday after my rack mishap to have my headset checked, I stopped at the tourist bureau and got directions to the bike shop in town.  Then just ahead I met up with Josh who was waiting for me.  We both agreed that this was a good time to split.  I think we both realized that we weren’t well matched for riding together since Josh was much faster than me and I also took longer with my photo stops.


After good-byes, I rode over to the bike shop and explained the wheel shimmy and headset suspicion to the mechanic.  He quickly sized up the problem and decided another spacer was needed to permit tightening the top headset bolt.  He also replaced the top cover with a slightly larger one to match the 1 1/8 headset diameter.  He also frowned on the use of 1 1/8 stem on my 1 inch steerer tube because it required a shim to accommodate the size difference.  He didn’t believe that was the best arrangement but he didn’t have a 1 inch stem.  With his changes he was able to tighten the headset and believed that would fix the problem and charged $15.  The afternoon riding would prove that this eliminated all but a minor wobble and was a major improvement and money well spent.  With the change I figured I would be able to fine tune the handling by adjusting the pannier packing and the fore/aft positioning.


Next I went next door to a hardware store to pick out some more bolt/nuts for attaching the front rack through the mid-fork eyelet.  Since one side had sheared the bolt it only seemed prudent to replace the other side with a sturdier bolt rather than wait for another failure.


Finally, I addressed food.  It was nearing noon but I found a small café that served breakfast all day.  The waitress assured me their pancakes were large and I ordered their 2 pancake meal.  Unfortunately, our ideas of large were largely different and what I got was 2 medium sized pancakes.  Had it been an order of 4 pancakes it would have been about right so breakfast was pretty much a waste.


After that disappointment I went back to the bike shop to solicit their input on riding.  When I reached Castlegar tomorrow I had the option of continuing on 3A to Nelson and bypassing a couple of summit climbs.  They suggested the Nelson route which was longer but they felt was more scenic.  They also suggested the Nancy Greene Provincial Park just after the Paulson Summit was a good place to camp.  They noted the park had a warming hut where I might be able to roll my bike inside and stay there since it was not likely in use this time of the year.


After picking up a couple food items at a store I finally hit the road around 12:30.  Almost immediately I noticed the stability of the bike and elimination of all but a slight front end shimmy.  It was a relief to be able to ride and only need 1 or 2 fingers to control the handlebar.


The road was an easy grade to Christina Lake, a narrow 19K long lake set in the midst of the surrounding hills.  It is the “warmest tree-lined lake in Canada”, attributed to the fact that a sizeable fault runs through the middle of the lake which supplies constant geothermal heat to the lake.  About midway along the lake the road veered away to the east and started a long, 35K, arduous climb of 1073m to Paulson Summit at 1535m.  Initially, the grade wasn’t so bad but the length of the climb was just wearing.  Usually I can just power my way up climbs with determination but in this case it became evident after a while that I would have to take a break.  The climb didn’t look so bad but when I glanced back down the road I could see how steep it really was.  To reinforce that, the loaded semi-trucks were groaning up the slope and just crawling past me at my snail pace.  It made me feel better to see and hear these behemoths struggling up the hill.


Finally, after crossing the Paulson Bridge, I gave up on the brute force, never-say-die approach because my legs were dying.  So I stopped for 15-20 minutes and threw all the calories of granola bars and M&M peanuts I could down my throat, hoping that would revitalize my legs.  At the same time my back was soaked with sweat and stopping gave me a bit of chill.


Eventually I took off again and groaned up the hill just like the trucks.  Finally the road swung east towards the summit and the grade relented.  Then I broke the 10 kph barrier and followed up with using my middle chainring for a bit.  When I thought I had crested the summit I realized I had not seen a summit sign.  Shortly I began some more modest climbing and in a short distance the summit sign appeared.


I started a nice descent, expecting to see the Nancy Greene Provincial Park shortly.  I started getting cocky as my legs recovered and smugly noted I could still make Castlegar, another 35K, if I really wanted.  Then it hit me that I had descended a while and had not seen Nancy Greene, which was near the 3B intersection.  Not so smugly I began thinking I might have to make Castlegar.  Fortunately, after about 10K from the summit I saw the Nancy Green Lake, a sub-alpine lake in the Monashee Mountains, alongside the road.  The sign to get to the campground was confusing but I finally found the turnoff and discovered no one in camp.  I found the warming hut deserted and it became my personal abode for the night.  It had a picnic table inside and a stove but no wood.  Other than missing a shower, it was much like rolling my bike into a motel room, albeit a cold room, except this room was much larger.


I settled in, got into some dry clothes, and threw calories down my throat.  Later, I rolled out my sleeping bag on the wood floor and dreamed of flat roads.

Day 10: Wed, Sep 14, 2005 - Nancy Greene Provincial Park, BC to Nelson, BC [48.7, 3:41:15, 13.1 mph, 78.5K]

It was 48F inside the warming hut when I got up a little before 6:30.  I slept well just using my sleeping pad and bag on the wooden floor.  There were no cars in the parking lot so the 2 young guys I saw last night must have left last night, though they left evidence of their appearance, much like a bear leaves scat.  In their case it was 2 empty potato chip bags that they just left on the asphalt, which I cleaned up for them.


I was ready to leave quicker than normal because of my superior accommodations and left shortly after 7:00.  On my way out I noticed again that the camping rules/regulations sign was covered, which suggested the campground was actually closed.  Later, I found a website on the Internet that listed the campground as open until September 8.  It was an easy 26K downhill run to Castlegar but that wasn’t all great.  It was 38F outside and the wind chill chilled my exposed fingers and toes but I didn’t bother to put on socks and real gloves.  It was a clear morning as opposed to the recent overcast mornings so the sun was peeking through in some areas, which were noticeably warmer.


As I approached town I saw what looked like a long, thin stream of steam and I assumed this was due to a power plant.  However, in a few minutes I was engulfed in fog.  I took the town exit to the city centre to find a breakfast place.  Soon I realized the centre was a ways so I retraced my way back and ended up in a motel restaurant, which I normally avoid in favor of a restaurant that has to live and die solely on its food and service.  This place was OK and I chose their special, a safe choice of bacon, eggs, and 2 pancakes, which were predictably undersized.  Service was slow and it was about 10:00 when I left.


I took the 3A highway to Nelson, about 50K away.  This route up to Balfour and the free ferry across Kootenay Lake and then down the east side of the lake to Creston avoided 2 summit climbs before it rejoined 3.  According to my route description of 3, the rest of 3 from Creston was pretty tame.


The route to Nelson followed the Kootenay River which cut through forested mountains.  It was scenic where the river was in view but that wasn’t very often after the leaving Castlegar.  I also figured the road would be fairly flat, following the river and the railroad that also paralleled the river.  Relatively speaking that was true but there was a fair amount of up and down, just nothing requiring serious climbing.


Around 12:30 I pulled into Nelson, an old mining town of 9,700 nestled in the side of the Selkirk Mountains.  Passing through town I descended a short steep hill to get to the tourist bureau.  I learned there was a city campground nearby for $15 but better was a hotel, the New Grand Hotel, which had private hostel rooms with shared bath for $19.  Unfortunately, I had to ride up the short steep hill to get to the hotel and that almost did me in.  Had the hill been a little longer I would have had to push the bike.


One bad thing about the hostel room was my bike wasn’t allowed in the room, with the claim that bikes were too hard on the walls.  However, the room was on the 3rd floor with no elevator so transporting it to the 3rd floor would not have been fun.  Instead, I removed the panniers and stored the bike and tent/sleeping bag in a locked closet and carried my panniers up.  Just climbing up the stairs I could feel my legs were tired so I hoped this easy half day would serve as a rest day.


The hotel was conveniently located right downtown and after cleaning up I walked down Baker St, the main street which was just a block away.  I checked out the variety of eating places with an eye in particular for breakfast in the morning.  The library was also nearby and I stopped to check email, though the library charged $1 for 15 minutes and I paid $2 for 30 minutes of use.


After email and wandering around I went back to the hotel to work on my bike.  I got it out of storage with the intent to replace the right side bolt for the front rack only to discover it already had the sturdier bolt.  So I just tightened the headset a little more to see if that would eliminate the remaining minor shimmy I felt sometimes.


There was a Chinese buffet right next to the hotel for $13.  I ate there and it was good, vastly superior to the buffet attempt in Princeton.  Then I walked down Baker St and stopped at a small restaurant with a table open to an outdoor patio.  I had a Grasshopper beer and wrote my notes.

Day 11: Thu, Sep 15, 2005 - Nelson, BC to Creston, BC [73.8, 6:08:37, 12.0 mph, 119.0K]

I got up around 6:00 and I needed to in order to catch the 9:50 ferry across Kootenay Lake.  Otherwise I would have to wait until 11:30 since the ferry was on the winter schedule.  Surprisingly, most breakfast places didn’t open until 8:00 but the Hume Hotel just 2 blocks away opened at 7:00 so that was my target.  I carried my panniers downstairs and checked out.  This was a little more involved than just handing in my key since I had to put down a $50 key deposit.  So I waited for the receptionist to cancel my VISA charge key deposit.


Then I checked my bike out of storage and loaded it up and rode 2 blocks to the Hume Hotel.  I ordered the pancakes which were very good but undersized.  On my touring scale, size matters and had these been 50% larger they would have gotten top billing.


I left just after 7:30, giving me over 2 hours to make the 9:50 ferry, 32K away.  I rode down Front St which took me to the bridge across the West Arm of the Kootenay Lake.  I rode on the crosswalk so I could stop and take photos.  It was another overcast day with low hanging clouds and it sprinkled a few drops as I left.


It was a nice ride to the ferry.  The lake was in view most of the way and there were some white, low hanging clouds hovering over the lake in the distance that was nice.  I made good time and there were no unexpected nasty hills so I was about 30 minutes early.  As I pulled into the ferry parking area there was a group of cyclists congregated in front of a bakery shop, eating cinnamon rolls.  This group of 9 cyclists from Salmon Arm, BC, was doing a figure 8 supported tour from Revelstoke.  I didn’t realize it at the time but they had 3 support vehicles.  Being a cyclist myself, I emulated them and had a cinnamon roll too.


It was a nice ferry ride across the lake, 8.8K and took about 35 minutes.  I pumped the cycling group for information on my route to gain whatever knowledge I could.  Leaving the ferry was a pretty big climb and I struggled up the hill compared to the others on their unloaded bikes but once the downhill started I had no trouble.


I didn’t realize it at the time but the group had a planned stop at the bottom of the hill.  So when they waved as I passed by, I just presumed they were regrouping and I could gain some time by continuing before they caught up.  I continued riding for 3 hours, only stopping for photo opportunities, which were fairly frequent along the way, with the low hanging clouds across the lake and in the big hills along the lake the attraction.


When I stopped at the rest area at Kookonook, I could see rain to the south but it didn’t seem to be moving my way.  When I left after about 20 minutes the rain looked fairly cleared up.  A little further south was a small store so I stopped for a drink and a snack and continued on.


The lake ended just before Creston, a town of 5,000 in an agricultural region with dairy farms and orchards.  The road climbed some along the eastern side on the way into town.  I spotted a Scotties Campground sign where the cycling group was staying so finding the campground was easy.


I waited at the campground for 20-25 minutes before the first support vehicle rolled in and I was able to fit in with the cycling group in a fairly nice tenting area.  The others dribbled in and soon a major operation of setting up the tents and preparing dinner was underway.  I was invited to dinner, which was a nice, basic cycling meal of pasta, salad, bread and desert along with drinks and a lot of good conversation.  In addition to sharing my cycling tours I managed to get a lot of useful information on parts of my remaining tour.  One member of the group, Ian, was particularly interesting.  He seemed to be interested in everything and was a travel aficionado.  Ian was also a collector of information and he couldn’t help but share what he knew.  Information just tumbled out of him virtually non-stop.  Every time I saw him he filled me in with a few more tidbits of things to see along my route in an attempt to be genuinely helpful.  Unfortunately, this also led to information overload and it became difficult to remember the most useful tidbits.


Around 9:30 everyone was pretty much in their tents or well on their way.  This turned out to be a great day of cycling and meeting new friends.

Day 12: Fri, Sep 16, 2005 - Creston, BC to Cranbrook, BC [68.8, 6:18:01, 10.9 mph, 111.0K]

Peter was already up making coffee when I got up around 6:00 and that was apparently his designated role.  I had some coffee but other than for that I was able to fend for myself utilizing my cereal stash.  Everybody else came alive at their own pace and it was a leisurely breakfast with interesting conversation.  I didn’t expect a hard day to Cranbrook so I left with everyone else about 8:30.  The group was heading west to climb Kootenay Pass and on to Nelson while I headed east.


It was an encouraging morning with mostly clear skies and temps in the 50s.  Some modest climbing led me back to 3 where I discovered an inconsistent shoulder.  There were two problems.  First, there were rumble strips that sometimes crept to the edge of the pavement forcing me to ride inside the white line.  Mostly though the shoulder to the right of the rumble strip was often cracked and sometimes completely chipped away.


The road itself was pretty tame with only some modest climbing but the scenery wasn’t as alluring as the previous days, mostly riding through forested mountains with occasional glimpses of rivers and streams.  I made good time and in late morning after 40K I would have liked a second breakfast.  However, the restaurant/cafes in Yahk were closed, either because summer was over or they were struggling.  I did manage some food at a small food store.


The most scenic spot was the ride past Moyie Lake although the hill to the northwest had been clear-cut in several sizeable chunks, almost certainly due to beetle infestation.  Shortly after I passed the lake I could see rain not too far off and almost certainly coming my way.  So I started scouting for potential shelter spots and found a side road that led just off the road.  I managed to find a reasonable pine tree that I camped under with my bike.  Then a steady drizzle arrived but I was comfortable enough with my rain jacket that I dozed off for a few minutes.  When I woke the rain had just moved on and it was clear ahead.


I pedaled the remaining 16K on an easy downgrade to Cranbrook, a city of 19,600 that owes its existence to the Canadian Pacific Railroad.  It should have been about 4:30 but was 5:30 because I had entered mountain time, too late for the town’s railway museum that might have been interesting.  I did some shopping at a Safeway off the main drag and then went looking for dinner on the main drag.  On a busy Friday evening I ended up at a Subway where I got a tip there was a campground fairly close to the Safeway although the Subway attendant couldn’t give me specific directions.  I retreated back to the Safeway and had no trouble finding the campground and a tent site for $15, a so-so site with a gravel pad for the tent.  The sky was looking like it could rain but it never did.

Day 13: Sat, Sep 17, 2005 - Cranbrook, BC to Sparwood, BC [84.9, 6:59:05, 12.2 mph, 136.9K]

My timing was off a bit because of the time zone change but I got up around 7:00 and packed.  I immediately headed to a Smitty’s for breakfast because I had seen a sign yesterday advertising all-u-can-eat pancakes for $5.  My first batch of 3 pancakes was medium sized, similar to what I had in Nelson but not quite as good.  I got a second round of 3 that made up for the lack of quantity.


When I left town just after 9:00 it was about 40F and very foggy and I wondered if I would see anything.  However, a few K outside of town as I was headed towards a mountain range the fog started lifting and I could see some “real” mountains with rocky, jagged tops, unlike the forested hills I’d seen all along.  There was also a thin line of clouds hovering along side the mountains that was an added scenic effect.  The road headed straight at the mountains and then veered southeast to loop around the southern end.


After 40K and after 11:00 I stopped in Jaffray for milk and a second, cereal breakfast.  The road continued another 20K, looping around the southern end of the mountains to start heading northeast.  I had a small climb and stopped in Elko for a drink.  There a driver complimented me on my climbing skills as he had passed me in his vehicle but I had to tell him that hill wasn’t really much of a climb.


When I continued the road hugged a rocky edge that was reportedly home to Rocky Mountain sheep but I found it difficult to gaze up, looking for sheep, while keeping a bicycle upright.


The road passed through a really picturesque area where it first cut in between two large hills and then followed the Elk River to Fernie with a view of the Three Sisters near Fernie with some snow at the top.  There were multiple views of the Three Sisters and the river along its way.  The river was also an obvious fishing hole with anglers, some wading and some floating, trying their luck several places along the way.


It was about 3:30 and 100K when I rolled into the mountain community of Fernie, a skiing town of 5,000.  I found the library downtown in an older, two-story brick building.  They had 8 Internet PCs and no users so I had no problem checking email.


When I left the library and started unlocking my bike a guy came along and suggested I check out the Taste of Fernie, an event going on a couple blocks away.  I was debating riding on to Sparwood but when the guy gave me 6 food tickets for the event it suddenly made sense to check it out.  In addition to a half dozen taste stations there was a music stage where a guitarist and violinist were playing a nice tune.  Unfortunately, I caught the last song of the set and they were replaced by a local singer performing popular songs accompanied by recorded instrumentation.  This was OK but not an attraction for me so I spent my 6 tickets on a taste of Thai chicken on crispy noodles, which I figured was enough food for a 5K boost.


While I was tempted to hang around Fernie, I decided to continue the 30K to Sparwood since the librarian had said it was an easy route, though you can never really trust a non-cyclist’s cycling judgment.  However, my intention to detour to Waterton meant that Sparwood was a much better position so I headed out.


And the librarian was right.  The first 20K was flat and easy riding.  This was followed by a short climb and easy ride into Sparwood, population 4,000.  Sparwoods’s claim to fame was its world’s largest truck display, right at the entrance into town.  Sparwood is also one of the youngest towns in BC.  This whole area is a big coal mining area and until 1967, there were three close-knit communities known as Michel, Natal and Middletown that had grown up to support coal mining.  However, in the 1960s, BC dismantled these communities and replaced them with Sparwood.


In town, I found a good pizza takeout place where I had an interesting chat with the owner while I waited for my pizza, which was very good.  I enjoyed the small town atmosphere as opposed to Fernie’s more sophisticated skiing town atmosphere.  After eating I retreated back on 3 a couple K to the town campground turnoff.  I paid $16 and the proprietor said I could pick any spot, which I did and settled in for the night.





Copyright Denis Kertz, 2005. All rights reserved.