Adversity and Hope

After spending Saturday night feasting at my parents’ house, we departed Vancouver Sunday morning. Rather than struggling through a novella of directions, we just took the Skytrain to the outskirts of town and cycled onto the Fraser Highway. The route was easy and rather uneventful, other than everybody nearly hitting a live(?) lizard on the shoulder of the highway, which resulted in a lengthy discussion about the habitats, tendencies, and standard mouth positions of the average lizard.

The Fraser Highway took us all the way to Abbotsford, where we were once again put up in the backyard of a beautiful home. Our hosts were generous, welcoming, and engaging, despite the thin connection and non-existent expectations we previously shared. I learned about police bicycle squads and was really impressed to hear first-hand about the Vancouver Police Department’s initiatives to support needle exchanges, women’s shelters, and “John schools”. It’s good to hear more than the usual sensationalist stories of brutality that often describe our police forces.

That evening, several of us also went to check out the oldest Sikh temple in The Americas. That particular temple has been turned into a museum and was actually closed to entry, but the newer temple across the street was open and in the midst of a worship period. We were invited in and guided in practice (though I think we all felt tentative and anxious about mis-stepping and insulting somebody). After a while of sitting in the main worshipping area, meditating, and listening to the tabla-driven hymns, we were led out of the space. None of us had any idea what was going on. I was once again worried that I had caused offense, but when the priest took us to the basement we were greeted with a traditional feast and handed trays piled high with delicious rice, paneer, chapati, and other dishes I still don’t know the names for. I’m sure we were looked upon a little differently because we were so obviously out of place, but the folks there still shared freely.

FYI, the proper pronunciation of the word is “Sick”, not “Seek”. The latter is an anglicization that came about when the religion came out West.

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The old temple, as seen from outside

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Statues of Sikh warriors at the old temple

Monday was a big travel day for us. We knew we had to cover about 90km to get from Abbotsford to the Katimavik house in Hope. What I didn’t predict was the extra 35km of distance I’d have to cover in roasting heat.

The morning dawned hot and clear, and we traversed quiet country back roads for a while, absorbing the mountain and farm scenery of the Fraser Valley.

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This was the first day we got to ride the Trans-Canada, and it was an exciting beginning. The Ocean2Ocean group will be riding it for the better part of four months.

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Fifteen kilometers out of Chiliwack, when we were all stopped on the shoulder for a lunch break, Coady realized he had lost his phone. As Coady’s bike buddy, I was committed to sticking with him through all adventures and mishaps. We stashed our paniers in the tall grass and turned west.

The experience of riding uphill against highway traffic was not fun. Fortunately, the humor of that day’s non-stop misadventures was. In the preceding hours I had discovered the loss of my good cycling shirt and shorts, a sweater, and a toque. I then stepped in dog poop twice, lost a glove, and had a beer explode in my panier. It only made sense that we’d be going backwards on the Trans-Canada too.

We got lucky. Coady and I didn’t have to go all the way past Chiliwack, but by that time we had already passed food items and cooking duties onto other group members, so we decided to take our time for another side adventure.

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We found the phone on the side of the highway where we had stopped for a photo opportunity

We rode East and followed the signs to Bridal Falls for sightseeing, a snack, and a chance to poop in a toilet.

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While pooping, we received texts informing us that Dom had also lost her phone. Coady and I got back on our bikes and set out West again.

As the back pair, we became the default phone-finding team. We scoured shoulders, grasses, and potential pit stops, taking extra care because we didn’t know where Dom may have been. We even hopped a bridge and waded through a creek to search in the shade. Unfortunately, this hunt was not a success.

By that time we had been in the same 10km stretch for nearly three hours. We were anxious, tired, and sunburnt. We were also running out of water. That last 40km to Hope was a serious ordeal. My legs felt like soggy asparagus, and, I swear, the hills were suffering from reverse gravity.

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The final count on Coady’s cycling computer was 126km

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My game face at the end of the day

Now we’re nestled in the blue and green coastal mountains, dropping blogs and drinking beers by the water.

Tomorrow is the day we climb the Coquihalla. Or, as we’ve taken to calling it, Coquiholiday. Hoo boy.

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We’re going right to left. That 1.2km hike from Hope is tomorrow’s exercise in meditation.


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