June 17, 2012
Williams Lake – Vancouver, BC: 351 miles
A nervous edge of anxiety woke me early. A million thoughts swarmed my
head in a furious battle of nonsense quickly weighing into deep sadness. I left the room to sit in the hall and write in my journal, hoping to settle my mind.
I wrote about my ride through the storm, the epiphany feeling I felt, the peaceful calmness I experienced, the happiness. Why had all that left me now? Why was I so sad? Why was I so tense?
I was sad this would be my last day riding for a while. I was sad it would be my last ride with Billy. I was sad I felt this was the end of my journey. Although, it wasn’t even close.
I knew I still had 10,000 miles of riding to do before the summer would end. I knew I would probably see Billy again in California. This was hardly the end of my journey. So why was I so sad?
I was nervous about working at the Aquarium, knowing adjusting back into a normal working and learning state of mind would be challenging. I was nervous about living and commuting in a large city, larger than I had ever lived in. I was nervous about meeting my host family, wondering what they would be like.
I snuck back into the room and tried to rest a while longer, waiting for Billy to wake. I wanted to move, I needed to leave. The dry lump in my throat made swallowing strenuous and the butterflies in my gut made me want to run from everything. Vancouver was just 350 miles and I just wanted to be there already.
Billy stirred before too long and I explained my desire to hit the road soon and get to Vancouver early. I said I didn’t want him to feel rushed and we could meet up later in the day if he didn’t want to leave so soon. He said he wanted to get going too however, so we went down for our complimentary breakfast and coffee before packing up the bikes.
It didn’t take long in Billy’s company for me to feel more at ease. He had a calming energy about him that encouraged me to slow down and relax. I asked myself, “Why are you in such a damn hurry anyway? Just enjoy this.”
After filling up on waffles, bagels, pastries, and all the carbs we could consume, it was time to pack. It only took me ten minutes to be ready to go. Billy however, took an hour. It was a trying lesson in patience on my part. I jokingly offered to help with my arms crossed while tapping my foot. Typical woman, I know.
Although we got off to a much later start than I desired, I was still enjoying having someone to ride with. Especially, someone that made me smile.
We had lots of rain of course, and I was trying not to be in a bad mood. I was still having anxiety about getting to Vancouver at a reasonable hour after several of Billy’s 30 minute breaks at every fuel-up. But with him having me constantly laughing and smiling, I learned to enjoy the entire day taking my time. It was good for me to slow down and share the ride instead of dwelling on everything else that really didn’t matter.
We turned onto the Sea to Sky Highway and I was blown away by the change of terrain. I suddenly felt I was back in Wyoming with rocky dry mountains surrounding a deep winding canyon.
This section of my trip was by far one of my favorites. Unfortunately, it was raining for the majority of it. But, if I were to revisit any road on my trip, this would be one of the first, along with the Denali Highway and Icefield’s Parkway.
I remember reading about this road in The Milepost when I was route planning.
“CAUTION: Northbound travelers expect 13 to 14 percent grades, some of the steepest in British Colombia’s road system, next several miles . . . is steep and narrow with several hairpin turns.”
I knew this was a must-ride-road. Those words are like porn for any motorcycle enthusiast. This is how it was translated in my brain.
“ATTENTION MOTORCYCLISTS: Badass road ahead. Don’t miss this ride.”
It poured down rain on us as we ascended and descended the steep and twisty curves along the canyon of the Fraser River. It felt like the most technical road I had been on and I was getting nervous. My visor kept fogging up making it impossible to see and judge the turns, so I asked Billy to lead giving me lights to follow. I felt very fortunate to have a riding companion here.
We stopped for a late lunch in Lillooet. It’s a cute town perched above the river and we found a little Greek restaurant to dry out in. I devoured an amazing salad and half a rotisserie chicken thinking once again, I would never have stopped here had I been riding alone.
I looked at Billy and said, “Don’t cry Billy, but I’m really going to miss you.” Then I spit water in his face with my endearing impression of a cherub fountain I have a habit of doing only with people I really like. I choked on my own spit in laughter. We got a few strange looks from the owners after that.
After lunch we stopped for fuel before leaving town and the sun popped out for a bit. Within moments another group of riders rolled in and every pump was taken by a motorcycle. It was a great sight to see.
Before long the group of riders had surrounded me asking questions about the Radian and where I was from. They were all dumbfounded an old bike like that could make it all the way to Alaska. I think they were more astounded to see a chick riding solo. They neglected to notice my riding companion.
One of the guys asked to take my photograph. He said he wanted to show his wife that girls can ride too. “I bet you don’t get a lot of pictures of yourself riding solo.” He asked if he could email it to me provided I emailed him back when I returned home safely. He was ecstatic when he received that email four months later.
Billy teased me as we were leaving, “Figures the CHICK riding back from Alaska would get all the attention.”
“Yea well, you have a GS.”
The remainder of the day the rain subsided. While riding along the Lillooet Range I couldn’t stop thinking about the astonishment of the guys at the gas station. I had covered 8000 miles in four weeks. That sounded crazy to say out loud. But it didn’t feel that way. It felt like no big deal, like anyone could do that.
It was reassuring what I felt was sheer ignorance, insanity, and stubbornness, others saw as incredulity.
We rode through Whistler and Squamish, two areas I wish I had more time to explore in. It seems like the outdoor capital of the world offering rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and camping in the summers and skiing in the winters. The mountains there are magnificent, especially for motorcycling.
Billy and I stopped in Horseshoe Bay for fuel and to say our goodbyes. I was sad to lose my riding partner, but I knew I’d see him again in California. We hugged and I shook his hand like a man and said, “Until we meet again.”
I didn’t get to my host’s house in North Vancouver until 9:30. His name is Jules, originally from South Africa, and he is a friend of a friend in Virginia that offered to let me stay during the course of my externship at the Aquarium. He introduced me to his girlfriend Jean, two other house mates Julian and Cliff, and Bonny the house owner.
I felt very welcomed and immediately comfortable with everyone’s hospitality. It was a beautiful large house and I was to have my own room. I even had two packages waiting for me; a box I packed at home and had my mom send of all my street clothes and work clothes, and a box with my replacement SPOT I had called about when in Anchorage. I just hope this one works, now that I’m done with the remotest part of my trip.
While unpacking and trying to figure out how I was going to get to the Aquarium, bike or bus, I received a message from the technician I was to train with. She said to not come until Tuesday, something had come up.
I was relieved I was to have an extra day to sleep in and find my way around Vancouver before starting work immediately. This would give me time to learn my travel route and stock up on some food.
I was a little self conscience about one thing however. I hadn’t done any laundry in ten days. I asked Jules if I could start a load even though it was late, and he said, “Just make yourself at home, anything you need.”
I have no doubt I was carrying a stench around with me and didn’t want to ask if they noticed.
Jules offered to show me around the city tomorrow and suggested I take the bus. Traffic was terrible he said, and I shouldn’t risk it on the bike. I suggested we take the bus to a brewery.
I rested comfortably feeling it will be nice to be in one place for a little while; having my own room, my real clothes, working and learning. My anxiety had left me. My sadness had left me. I was excited to explore the city on foot. I was excited to start work at the Aquarium. I was excited to go to a brewery.
(This was such a beautiful ride and I'm sad I don't have more pictures, damn rain.)