Vancouver, BC By Bike

So, it appears that I’ve finally decided to commit to start this travel journal. I’ll begin by remarking that my dreams last night were intense. I was in portland with some people when I saw a huge explosion and realized it was a nuclear bomb and the following mushroom cloud erupting. Everyone around was frantic. I tried to inquire about what was happening. I learned that the bomb dropped over Seattle. It must have been a hydrogen bomb because it was large enough to see from Portland. I remember telling myself “this must be a dream”. But somehow, I didn’t realize that it really was a dream.

Anyway, it looks like I have some catching up to do — so I’ll try to recount how I ended up camping in an undeveloped public space in Nanaimo. My idea to do this trip started after I went to Pender island in March with Jacki. Pender Island is one of the many islands in the Gulf Islands chain in Canada. It was breathtakingly beautiful and relaxing, and I vowed to come back with my bike some day. After 5 months, that vow has now been fulfilled. Canada seemed like a good escape from the city and from my Job at Jama Software. (Woah, I just realized Jacki’s initials are JS, and so is Jama Software. And I programmed in Java Script at that job. Funny coincidence.) When I was working the 9 to 5, I had an overwhelming desire to detach myself from the shackles of any sort of fulltime job while I had the option to do so. Call me naive, but I want to live a life that embodies freedom. I know that traveling right now is draining on my reserves of cash, and that some day I will have to find a way to replenish those reserves. But for now, I’m enjoying waking up not knowing where I will end up that night, and being able to bicycle around one of the most beautiful areas of Canada. I remember reading something on a bike blog about the joys of bicycle touring. When all the cares in the world are reduced to the most simple things — the sound of the tires on the road, the meditative state of long-distance cycling, simple meals cooked in the forest, waking up to birdsong or the trickling of a stream. All of these things are making every day worth the low cost of touring.

I think I’m getting off-topic. I’ll do a quick recount of how the trip has played out so far. I took the train on a Thursday evening to Vancouver, BC. Instead of waiting in the long line to cross the Canadian border, I quite enjoyed the convenience of loading up my bike onto the train and postponing the customs process until we actually arrived in Vancouver. On the train, I ran into long time friend of the family Jill. At first she didn’t recognize me, but after a few seconds she was smiling and asking if she could sit with me at the bar to chat. We talked about how great it was that I was following my heart, that I had the courage to resign my job and go on this long-awaited adventure. She said she did a similar trip when she was my age and said it was the best thing she had done for herself. The timing for me couldn’t be better — I have no job, no relationship, no children to speak of. Basically, nothing is holding me back from taking the time to embark on a journey of self-discovery by bike. Part of this trip is about me learning to take life at a slower pace, to stop thinking so much and to meditate more often in nature.

After 8 hours on the train, we finally arrived. At the customs gate, the officer asked me questions about where I lived, what I was doing in Canada, how long I would be there, and whether or not I would “get stranded” in Canada (I think they assume that if you’re on a bike, you must not have much money). I told him I had savings in the bank. Thankfully, he didn’t ask to see a bank statement or anything too intrusive. I’ve heard some people being denied border crossing because they don’t have any money. I’ve begun to think they only let people cross the border anymore for economic reasons alone. I’m envious of anybody with any Native blood in their family, because they don’t have to have a passport, and they get to cross the border no questions asked.

When I arrived in Vancouver, it was 11:30 PM, and I needed to find the Cambie Hostel, where I would meet with my old roommate/renter Deepak. Our plan was to explore Vancouver by bike for a few days. And that we did. He had a Bike Friday folding bike which he took on the train. On friday, he was at a Linux conference, so I spent the day noodling around the city by bike. I went on a 32 kilometer ride (20 miles). On this ride, I encountered a few steep hills and a colorful character (whose name I forgot…) I started talking to him because of all of his crazy bikes that he had been working on. He had all sorts of trinkets and gadgets attached to his bikes. It reminded me of bikes I have seen in Portland. After talking to him for a while, he told me he was broke and offered to sell me a brooks-style leather saddle for my bike for $20. I had heard only good things about brooks saddles, so I said sure, why not. I got the saddle and only when I installed it at the hostel later did I realize that it wasn’t really my kind of saddle. So, I left it at the hostel, and wasted $20. Oh well, he needed the money anyhow, and it was fun talking to him. It was kind of funny/sad that halfway through my conversations with him, I realized he was hanging out with a crack dealer in front of this crack house. I noticed people walking in and out over and over, and asked “Is this some kind of drug dealer’s house?”. He replied in turn, saying “That’s very observant of you. We’ve got the best crack in town. We specialize in hookers”…. Despite his near toothless grin, I somehow still had respect for the man, and saw him as a man who had been through tough times, yet still managed to follow his passion for creating things, and I respected him for that.

The next day, Deepak and I went on a ride to Deer Lake, which was a rather quaint little antique style pavilion set in a forested park with a decent sized lake.

We relaxed under the shade of a tree, and talked a lot about life, relationships, enlightening experiences, and much more. After the sun receded a bit and was less intense, we kept rolling on our day trip. We stopped at this burger restaurant by a river, and had some pretty decent burgers. Deepak got the fabled “turducken” burger. I have only heard about this near-mythical culinary creation. I heard it was good. I opted for the tried-and-true bacon cheeseburger, and was not disappointed.

On our ride back, one of the things I noticed was that at night, their walk signal buttons react immediately to pressing them. If I want to cross, they will almost instantly turn off the intersecting traffic light just for us cyclists and pedestrians. Just an example of how Vancouver is one of the best cities for cycling. As the dark enclosed around us, I was thankful for my Reelite magnetic induction powered lights. With each revolution of each wheel, the lights flash twice via a strong magnet attached to my spokes. No batteries required! Ingenious…

By the fourth day in Vancouver, I had my fill of the noisy city, and was ready to press onward. I wanted to get closer to the gulf islands, so I decided to ride up to Horse Shoe bay and take the ferry to Nanaimo.

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