I can’t believe how kind people are to us. I don’t know if it’s just that wearing bike clothes makes us so dorky that others become confident and comfortable, but throughout our days people approach us to chat. What is really astonishing is how nearly every conversation results in people offering us gifts.
Wednesday we climbed the Coquihalla. It was really frickin’ hard. The last incline was so steep that we were barely moving. I stopped for a break and almost fell over from dizziness. When we got past the summit though, and were looking for a place to camp, a truck stop vendor tipped us off stay in the heated seating room on the lot. He then gave us free cookies and muffins. Then he handed out sandwiches.
In Merrit the next day, we were spontaneously offered open-ended help and a personal phone number from a bylaw officer, given three free bags of oranges, shown a cheap campsite immediately before a storm hit, and given directions to a liquor store by a passing observant police officer. That night we cuddled in a tent with beer and cards.
Today we planned to cycle to Kelowna, but we took so long to leave that we were pretty much screwed for that plan. By the time we started up the massive hill out of Merritt we were four hours behind schedule. We had split supplies and divided into two groups, hoping to find a campsite but planning a divided emergency stop on a snowy shoulder to set up tent near the summit.
The bright spark to the morning’s frustration was Rachel, who worked at the Visitor’s Centre. She gave us apples as we were leaving. Then, just as we reached the top of that first marathon hill, she pulled up beside us with a full compliment of buns, cheese, meat, strawberries, watermelon, and cookies, all of which she had picked up just to serve us for lunch. She drove out of town to feed us then turned around and went back to work.
The day got challenging again when we encountered more hills, rumble strips on thin shoulders, gravel, and headwinds, often simultaneously. Coady, Ciaran, Dom and I were hours ahead of the others when we summitted another gigantic hill to cross the snow line. A stranger had recommended a place called Elkhart for camping, but based on their directions we should have found it already. The rest of the group hadn’t even reached the base of that hill at five o’clock. We were cold, we were hungry, we had only a two-person tent for four people, we desperately needed an outhouse, and our cell phones were dying. This evening looked like it was developing into an emergency.
Somehow the world gifted us yet again.
As I write this, everyone is safe, our water is topped up, and our cell phones are charged. I’m lounging on a sofa in a heated lodge while drinking a beer and a hot chocolate. We just cooked a tasty, filling dinner in a fully equipped industrial kitchen, and we’re making popcorn to snack on while watching Batman on VHS. After that Coady, Ciaran, Dom and I will cozy up on soda beds and sleep late before meeting the rest of the crew on the road to Kelowna.
This is unreal.