Brendan and I biked from Boston to Montreal to NYC. 740 miles in 7 days! One day we did 135 miles. I think it was my strongest riding yet.
Vermont was the highlight — especially the section between Bradford and Montgomery, as we were approaching Canada. The Canadian section was actually really boring and difficult; flatlands, wind, bad roads. Montreal was cool though.
I woke up outside on the futon looking up at a clear, blue sky. I went inside for 10 minutes and came back out to an overcast, gray sky. What just happened? Mike and Michelle told me it was normal for the area.
I said goodbye to the crew and headed for the border a few miles away. People told me that getting into Canada was easy…getting back was another story. US border agents at the Canadian border were infamous for being huge jerks. I wondered if I would encounter an asshole.
I cycled up to the pedestrian entrance at the border and went inside the office. A border agent went outside and searched my bags. He came back in and called me back up with a menacing look in his face. His superior was standing next to him. I looked down at his hand. Shit. My bag of fruit. I forgot I was carrying it. You can’t bring fruit and vegetables across the border. If you are carrying fruits or veggies without informing the border agent, it’s an automatic $300 fine. No no no. I had butterflies. I couldn’t afford that.
His superior asked, “You know you can’t bring this stuff across the border?”
Gulp. “Sorry about that,” I said in a meek voice.
“Well don’t be sorry! Know the rules,” he forcibly said to me as he walked off. Luckily, I received no fine since it was my first time crossing the border back into the US. Whew.
back to cheap food
I was happy to be back in the US. I was getting sick of getting ripped off in BC by restaurants and grocery stores. 30% instant markdown as soon as I crossed the border. I celebrated by stopping at a Little Caesar’s 20 miles into Washington in the town of Ferndale. I ordered a large pepperoni pizza and ate it in about 5 minutes.
My first day of riding in Washington was fantastic. All of the buildings in the small coastal towns were uniform and made of brick. Everyone was out walking around town, and the towns were void of any huge chains. I rode along Chuckanut Ridge, a hilly highway in a forest southwest of Bellingham.
racing the sun
I stopped to call some cyclist contacts I had in Mt. Vernon, 25 miles away. Failure. I had been calling them for a few days and kept having trouble reaching them. Oh well. I’ll leap frog my destination and give Elizabeth a call. She was a friend that I grew up with in Georgia. Elizabeth had contacted me a few days ago letting me know that her couch in Coupeville, WA was open to ugly, tired cyclists from Georgia. She also said I could help out around the organic farm she lived/worked on.
I was happy that she picked up the phone. She told me to come on by. I looked at my map. I would have to do 50+ miles before it got dark. I was up for the challenge.
Before I left the Chuckanut area, I ran into two tourists enjoying the view at a cliff overlook. I talked to them a while about my travels and shared a few of the stories. They were really appreciative that I took the time to talk to them even though I had a pretty tough goal before sundown. Mary and Jim gave me a few snacks, including the coolest chocolate bar ever.
Coupeville was located on Whidbey Island. I would have to cycle out to a peninsula on the coast and cross over the water through Deception Pass State Park. A very cool area. Unfortunately, all of my electronics were dead or near-dead. GPS. Phone. Camera. Sorry…no beautiful picture of the sun setting on the Pacific.
I got to the farmhouse just as the remaining ambient light was fading. I can’t believe I made it in such a short time. I had pushed hard for the past 4.5 hours without a break longer than 10 seconds.
I was pumped to see a familiar face from Georgia. I felt a little bit more grounded as I spent time talking to Elizabeth and her boyfriend Kevin that night. Both of them had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in six months consecutively. It was a huge accomplishment, and I was eager to hear some of their stories about the trail and how it changed them.
They told me about a few of the good things people did for them along the way and all of the characters they encountered. Their story was awfully similar to mine. Kevin said, “We found out that we really enjoyed meeting the people…that’s what defined the places moreso than the geography.” Sounded familiar. I have been telling people the same thing. Eoin summed it up nicely by saying this in one of his previous posts:
The fun and memorable part of travel is the experiences you have along the way – the people, the problems, and the challenges.
Kevin and Elizabeth had the day off, so they took the time to give me a tour of the farm. Georgie, the farm owner, lets interns stay in the upstairs portion of the farmhouse, which happens to be a ‘historic structure’ of the Ebey Land’s area. Ebey’s Landing is the nation’s first historical reserve, created in 1978 to protect a rural working landscape and community on Central Whidbey Island. It’s home to Washington’s second oldest town, Coupeville.
Not long into the tour, I met Bill, the master of farming machinery. Kevin warned me that Bill would invite me to go sailing. Sure enough, Bill asked if I was up for sailing. It was an invitation I openly welcomed. We made plans to go the next day around 5 PM and grill up some food on the boat.
garlic party…throw your hands up in the air
Georgie was throwing a huge garlic cleaning party that night for any volunteers that would come. Beer and pizza were provided. Kevin did the manliest thing a farmer could do: bake brownies.
We watched possibly one of the worst movies I have seen on this trip. Trust me…I’ve seen some terrible movies along the way. Charles, Georgie’s husband, wanted to watch it pretty badly. No one had the heart to step up and tell him it was not very entertaining. The name of the movie was The Commitments, an early 90s comedy about the formation of an Irish soul group. I’m surprised I even remember the plot line without having to google it. I think I enjoyed cleaning garlic more.
After this huge cinematic letdown, Run Fat Boy Run was placed into the DVD player. I voted for Flight of the Navigator. Willow, Elizabeth and Kevin’s roommate, was the only one who had my back. We were both shut down. Run Fat Boy Runended up being pretty goodthough.
intern for a day
I decided to help out around the farm for the day and try to learn a few things about working on a big organic farm. The day’s chores included weeding all the onion rows and planting a bunch of seedlings. It was a pretty tough day, but the weather was quite nice.
We all passed the time by reminescing about really bad 90s bands and singing their lyrics. Third Eye Blind killed about 30 minutes for us.
I’m packed and I’m holding,
I’m smiling, she’s living, she’s golden and
she lives for me, She says she lives for me,
Ovation, She’s got her own motivation,
she comes round and she goes down on me…
I want something else, to get me through this,
Semi-charmed kind of life,
I want something else,
I’m not listening when you say, Good-bye.
And then Smash Mouth killed another 30 minutes. It was the same song Eoin and I obsessed over during our ride in east Texas, and now it was haunting me again. I couldn’t remember the tune or the lyrics until Willow saved me.
And then we made a really stupid rap about broccoli. Kevin was wrapping a row of broccoli seedlings back toward the ‘planters’ (Elizabeth, Willow, and I), and it spawned the worst rap song of all time:
Do the broccoli wrap, wrap, wrap, wrap,
Don’t put them on the map, map, map, map
Put them in the soil to make them feel royal,
So they will not boil, cook them in oil,
Do not toil, do the broccoli wrap, wrap, wrap, wrap.
I was pretty excited to get to Bill’s sailboat which was docked in Coupeville. After working a few more hours outside, we made our way to the docks. His boat was pretty incredible…43 feet with well-maintained wooden structure. Willow got started on the salmon while the rest of us drank beer.
Eventually Bill got drunk and wanted to go sit inside. He appointed me as Captain. I appointed a farm day-worker, Eric, to be my first mate. Tucker was my second mate. Kevin wanted to commit mutiny. I think he was jealous of my position. I sent him towards the front to swab the deck. I would have no dissent on my boat. To speak in such a way was treason.
I became cocky in my Captain position and yelled, “TACK! TAAAAAAAAACK!” Bill came up wondering what the hell we were doing. I didn’t know, so I blamed Kevin, the true experienced sailor. We told Bill we were tacking to change our direction, and he showed us idiots how to change the sail. We tacked successfully, and I felt like a new man.
After relaxing in the hull of the boat for a while, Bill came up and asked, “OK, what idiot wants to steer the boat now?” I volunteered Elizabeth for the job, for I was no idiot.
Another guy named Nate that had worked on the farm that day was also hanging out on the boat with us. We told him about our broccoli song, and out of nowhere he shared a long rap song that he wrote about parsley. Weird, creepy coincidence. His rap was definitely cooler.
We eventually got back to the docks and left Bill at the docks with the boat. He went out to anchor in the water and fell asleep.
I wasn’t looking forward to getting out of Vancouver. It was a pain to get out of New Orleans, and that only involved one big waterway. To leave this city, I’d have to cross multiple bridges. I started out on a fairly busy road until someone yelled at me to get on a bike route. In Vancouver, they have ‘bicycle friendly’ roads. You know this because the street signs have green bicycle logos.
Crossing the bridges actually turned out to be pretty easy. Most of the smaller bridges were cyclist-friendly and had sidewalks dedicated to bicycles. I’m confident in saying that the roadways in Vancouver are much more superior to any of those in any Southern city. Traffic was always flowing, and public transit was efficient. It also helped that the city supported bicycling. You’d have a hard time finding a sign with a bicycle logo imploring people to ‘share the road’ in Atlanta.
My destination for the day was White Rock, a town that sat near the US/Canada border. I would be staying with Dave Cutts’ friend Mike. I guess I was milking Dave for all the contacts he had. I rolled up in the early afternoon and hung out with Mike, his girl Michelle, and his two roommates, Corey and Dave. We hung out for a while talking. Corey was a fellow southerner from Kentucky, and Dave used to be a pro kite surfer. Mike worked for the guy who owned the house they lived in. Cutts had told that Mike worked in the ‘motion picture business’. Oh, OK. Wink, wink. The porn industry. They probably film really hot, erotic movies upstairs. Maybe Corey and Dave were the actors.
I awkwardly asked him, “So, the porn industry, right?” I was wrong. Mike did camera and special effects stuff for movies. The huge tale I had created in my head was way off. Oh well.
Mike, Michelle, and I went to the White Rock docks to get a picture of me with my bike board. I didn’t ride with a message that day because I couldn’t think of anything. Mike, however, had this vision of me jumping on the dock with people walking in the background. I gave the board and a marker to Corey and let him have his way with it. This was the result.
Later that evening, Corey and I went to a beach bar. We left Dave, tired from the previous weekend’s big camping trip, snoring loudly with Terminator blaring on the TV. I felt ridiculous going to a bar with Corey. He had cool hair and clothes. I had stupid looking clothes and unkempt facial hair. The bar had pitchers for $16. OK…the beer was probably a good micro-brew. Wrong. It was Budweiser. Watered down beer was ridiculously expensive in Canada. Corey paid for two pitchers, and we partied all night long…dancing the night away.
Peter and I left the house at 5 AM. He told me he’d drop me off near his workplace, which is close to Highway 1. I asked him if it was OK to cycle to Vancouver the entire way on the highway, and he said, “Yeah, I don’t see why not. I see people do it all the time. I used to.”
He bought me McDonald’s for breakfast and sent me on my way. I wanted to give him a big slobbery kiss goodbye, but I was scared that he’d pound me into the ground. I settled for a big man hug.
My route would take me on 40 miles of freeway into Vancouver…during rush hour. I was getting a lot of draft due to the amount of traffic flying by me. When the cars started getting packed in, I started questioning whether I was permitted to cycle on this highway. I kept going anyways. I had no other option. It was this highway or the US/Canada border.
saved by the DOT
I pulled up to Port Mann Bridge and looked on with horror. How the hell was this going to happen? There was no shoulder. The side view mirrors of passing cars were nearly scraping the cement walls. Plus there was a bumper to bumper traffic. Certain death.
I walked backwards over my bike as cars continued to fly by. I had no room to turn around and walk forwards. I caught a glimpse of the sidewalk. It was 12 inches wide, used only as an emergency bridge crossing. Nope. Not happening. I stood over my bike once more and stared at the bridge in horror. This was the only option I had. I was about to pedal forward towards the bridge when I heard a honk.
A big Department of Transportation truck drove up from the access ramp to the bridge and blared its horn. A bearded, burly driver hopped out of the truck. I walked up to him with fear in my eyes.
“Do you want to die today?” he forcibly asked. Does this man want to kill me, or is he saying this because crossing the bridge is suicide? It was the latter I assumed.
“No,” I stuttered with a quivering voice. “A f-f-few cyclists told me it was OK.” It was true. I heard it from a few other cyclists along the way.
“Well, it’s not. You can get a $150 fine from the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] for riding on this freeway,” he said. “Plus, you would probably end up in a body bag crossing that bridge. Throw your stuff in the back of the truck and I’ll take you over to Lougheed. You can ride that into the city.”
He drove me across the bridge to Lougheed Highway and dropped me off at an interesting spot. Some stupid looking white guy was getting arrested by four police officers. I pictured myself in this poor guy’s predicament…getting arrested for crossing the Port Mann Bridge.
I cycled Lougheed Highway about 10 miles into the city. I soon found out drivers gave you no room here. I also learned that other cyclists don’t take the time to talk to one another. I actually felt stupid trying to talk to a fellow cyclist…
I pulled up to a stoplight alongside another cyclist. I removed my iPod earbuds, turned my head, and started to speak. I was mid-sentence when the light turned green. He took off. I looked stupid. I had gotten used to stopping on the road and talking to other cyclists. I was a country mouse in the big city. A stupid country mouse. Evidently cyclists were a normal sight.
My bike board might have scared the cyclist off. I replaced ‘Carmen San Diego’ with ‘Waldo’. I got zero reactions from people. Did no one remember trying to find Waldo and screaming out loud in frustration as your eyes stared for two hours at a ridiculous scenario with knights battling little green aliens?
I met up with Dave Cutts’ cousin Ryan who lived in Vancouver. I’d be staying with him for a few nights while exploring the city.
t-rex in a kayak
Ryan and his girlfriend Beth were planning on going out to Granville Island and kayaking around the strait. He said I should come along…his treat. What hospitality. Kayaking was expensive, but without hesitation he offered to pay.
After renting the kayaks, I clumsily climbed into the kayak. Beth and Ryan took off no problem. They kayaked regularly. I bumped into the dock a few times and nearly planted the nose of the kayak into an expensive, docked boat. I forgot I had foot pedals to control the rudder. I was a dunderhead.
We got out into open water, and Ryan and Beth darted forward. My arms have gotten little exercise since this bike trip. With my scrawny, useless arms, I felt like a T-rex in a kayak. I was struggling to stay within 50 yards of them. Ryan and Beth would often stretch out and rest far ahead of me. Damnit. I was never able to do that.
My arms were burning. There was no way in hell I could continue at this pace, but I didn’t want to complain. Ryan was a tattoo artist, and he had just given himself a tattoo on his leg a few days ago. He was tough. Beth was tough too. I was tired. I had been cycling since 5 AM, but I didn’t want to cry in front of Ryan and Beth.
After two hours of kayaking, I burrowed my head into my life jacket and cried. Cried and cried and cried. And cried. Ryan and Beth laughed and enjoyed the views. They had their love to keep them strong. Meanwhile, I had no arm strength.
biking, beaches, and babes
Ryan and I cycled in Stanley Park and formed an emo band on the beach.
I worked on my tan at the beach. A group of girls were near us on the beach. They were looking at me. I momentarily thought I was attractive…until they started laughing. I looked down. Right. My terrible tan line. I stupidly smiled at them. It happened a lot after that. I think these girls were alerting all other girls on the beach.
I was suffering from a bruised ego, but Ryan and Beth convinced me to go to The Cambie, a dive bar in the downtown area. At least I would have a shirt on.
Beth told me that she got really angry when she drank booz. After a few beers, I agreed with her assessment. She didn’t like a hipster girl in the patio section. “I just don’t like her face,” she kept saying.
Ryan and I egged her on, stengthening her disdain for this poor, lonely hipster. The girl was texting on her phone for what seemed like hours. I didn’t mind her, but I dared not say that to Beth. Poor, lonely girl.
I woke up 6:30 AM and felt good. I had a full night’s sleep, which was occasionally interrupted by the hard flapping of my tent in the wind. I looked on my GPS to see how far I’d have to go that day. 96 miles to Chilliwack. Great. And that wasn’t even a confirmed place to stay. I would have to call Peter in the next town to see if it was OK if I could crash at his place.
The next town was 50 miles away. There goes my morning poop in a toilet. I made a makeshift toilet out of some rocks, read a bit of the funny paper, and went on my way. That little spot had been good to me. Absolutely no bugs.
I was eager to find out if there would be wind on my ride that morning. Yes. There was wind. A lot of it. During the ride, I saw signs that warned me of intense cross winds. I wish. They were intense head winds…all morning long.
It seemed like this road kept crawling uphill. I wondered if it would ever end. I was struggling to keep a decent pace, and when I didn’t think it could get any worse, it started to rain. I was not happy, but I tried to keep positive.
I stopped at a rest station to regain my composure and eat lunch. Nutella and bagels. I saw a few familiar faces at this rest station. One family that stopped to talk to me had previously stopped to say hello at a roadside spring in Jasper. This made me happy, but what made me happier was a guy telling me that the Coquihalla summit was only 10 miles away. After that, it’s a huge descent to sea level. I called Peter, and it went straight to voicemail. I might make it to Chilliwack, but I still didn’t have a place secured. Worse comes to worst, I’d just camp on the side of the highway again.
I killed off the remaining 10 miles to the summit pretty quickly. At the top, I took a few pictures in the middle of a busy freeway. Yayyyyy.
The next 25 miles were great, as I hardly had to pedal down the 10% declines. The landscape quickly changes, and the fauna changed to that of a coastal rain forest.
peter should wear a cape
The decline eventually went flat. It was 4:30 PM, and I was 15 miles out from Chilliwack. I still didn’t know if Peter was cool with me crashing at his place. I imagined him driving out to meet me on the highway to pick me up in his Lilydale truck.
There was no Lilydale truck. But a small Subaru charged ahead of me and pulled off onto the shoulder. Hmm. I began braking to see if the driver was OK. As I approached the back of the car, a big burly man popped out of the car. It was Peter. I had never been so happy to see such a big man on the side of the highway in my life. We embraced, or I should say I embraced him. Evidently Peter got my voicemail and realized how pathetic I sounded. He decided to just drive out from Chilliwack to see how I was doing.
Peter popped on the bike rack and offered to give me a ride the rest of the way. I accepted. As I got into the car, Peter gave me a bag from Tim Horton’s. Sandwich and a hot cup of soup. Damn. If I could fall in love with any man, it would be Peter.
Peter lived with his girlfriend Christine. I asked if she was cool with me staying there that night, and he told me that she was a little uneasy upon telling her about me. But Peter reassured her by telling her I was a good guy and said, “If he’s a psycho, we’ll just let him know he won’t be able to stay.” Hmm. I’ll try not to be a psycho.
Christine got home from work, and I put on my good ole boy from Georgia charm. It worked. She didn’t think I was a psycho, and she showed me where I’d be sleeping. A bed. Success! Meanwhile, Peter was cooking up some steaks and preparing huge bowls of salad. In the kitchen, he told me, “I love cooking!”
I laughed and said, “Well, I love eating your cooking.” I laughed to myself. Peter didn’t laugh. I thought about it after I said it. It didn’t make sense. I haven’t eaten his cooking yet. Plus the joke was stupid. I guess that’s why I was laughing alone.
After dinner, Christine’s friend from Georgia came by. She was a farm vet who liked to hunt, and she showed me a few pictures of her most recent kill: a black bear. I didn’t want to look at it. Although I had just eaten a steak, I didn’t want to look at a dead, bloody bear. I was a huge weeny. She was more man than I could ever hope to be. Oh well.