Days 75-80: CANADA: International Bike Trip WOOOOOO!

Day 76: Orcas Island rest day

We woke up in the hiker/biker site on Orca’s Island with some new friends.  After The Gabianelli’s departed the night before we were hanging around camp when some new bikers rolled into the campground.  We knew that all the sites were taken, but we also know the pain of having no where to pitch a tent so Joey went up to the distressed cyclists and told them they could share our site.  We have done this many times and it is always one of the best way to make friends with other bikers on the road.  We feel their pain and they know the struggle.  After we had been on the road for so long, it was impossible to watch another group flounder while knowing we had what they needed.  ANYWHO,  we told them they could share our little corner and I crawled out of the tent to say hi.  I am often in the tent before Joey.  A point of contention at some points of our trip, I have a tendency to retreat into my book in the tent when I get the least bit tired.  Joey’s father had bought me a new book earlier that day and I was eager to throw myself into East of Eden with the gusto that a penguin classic deserves.  Although I had to leave my new friend behind to go greet even newer friends in the real world, I only hesitated for a moment.  It is good to have time alone on a long, two-person tour but it is even better to have other people who truly appreciate the journey to share your stories with. And so I got out of the tent.

Emily and Rob were a couple from Seattle who were out for a weekend trip in the San Juans.  They are around our age and got to camp so late because they stopped at the brewery in town so they seemed like our kind of folks.  Rob had built his own bike and made a pretty solid bike packing, all terrain rig.  Joey was definitely jealous of the trail capabilities of his fatter tires.  He told us he got his bike chops from working in bike shops (HA!) in Colorado and had recently moved to Seattle to expand his horizons.  He also shreds some gnarly pow (all the skiing terms I know in one sentence) and he and Joey bonded over this, too.  Emily and I found all the jargon hilarious and as they compared battle stories we chimed in during silences with “pow, pow, gnar, pow, shred some corn.”  All jokes aside, I know nothing about skiing.

We stayed for a rest day on day 76.  While seeing Joey’s family was a joy and a treat,it was not intensely restful.  We had discussions to have, whales to find, and sites in general to see, not a lot of time for sleeping and day drinking, which is honestly what we did on day 76.  Emily and Rob reminded me a lot of some of our friends from college and I think they felt the same way about us because we had a good old time pretending to be undergrads again.  We drank cheap beer, went for some short hikes, and talked about our bright futures.  We explained the reasons for the trip, what we hoped we were learning, and what we wanted to do after.  Emily worked on a farm in Seattle and told us she got her job through a previous job at the local farmer’s market.  We traded tips on how to ingratiate yourself to potential mentors in new cities and how to make our way in the world.  All with the bravado of people who have only been supporting ourselves for 1/12th of our time on this planet.  Emily is planning a pacific coast trip and so we talked about her route, gear choices for extended touring, and the joys of being a woman on the road (look for a woman’s rudimentary guide to bike touring coming soon).  Overall we had a swell time and had the wizard staff to prove it.


The next day we bid farewell to our new friends.  We were so flustered in making sure we didn’t leave anything that I forgot to ask for their last names and so will probably never see or hear from them again.  Bummer.  HEY ROB AND EMILY, IF YOU READ THIS, HOLLA AT YOUR GIRL!  We were so anxious to depart because we were about to take our trip to the next level: International waters.  That’s right gentle readers, we’re going to Canada.  When we first planned the trip and still thought we were going to make it across the US (jokes) we had planned a Canadian jaunt above the great lakes to avoid some of the more urban parts of the mid west. An inspired idea in my opinion.  But when we decided to change the trip to stay in the Western half of the country, it was important to us to keep that international label and i mean we carried our passports for 2 1/2 months so at this point, why not?

We rode back to the ferry terminal, now mostly down hill so Ru wasn’t an impediment.  After crossing back from Orca’s Island to Anacortes, we purchased tickets to head to Sidney, BC.  Sidney is a small quaint town about 50 miles north of Victoria on the tip of Vancouver Island.  After probably the worst day of Ru’s life (2 multi-hour ferry rides, poor babe, he hates it so much) we arrived in Sidney.  We got to go through customs first and it was over in about 20 seconds.  The Canadian border guard glanced at our passports and Ru’s vaccination certificate (the only paperwork you need to get your dog across the border FYI), asked us how long we were staying.  We said 2 days and he just waved us through, no more questions, didn’t ask what we were doing or where we were going.  I guess we looked like we couldn’t move fast enough to get into any real trouble.

Then we discovered how wonderful the bike paths are on the other side of our northern border.  People give Canada a lot of flack, it is easy to make fun of the people for being quiet, polite, push overs but someone must have stuck their neck out pretty far to get the bike path system in place today.  That or they must actually value bikes, bike tourism, healthy populations, green transportation and reduced traffic in their cities.  How novel.  Anyway we hopped on the Lochside Regional Trail and cruised all the way to a state park with ample camping, a full recycling program and an upcoming talk from a native historian about the wonders of a cultivated clam garden.  Man, Canada is great.  The only draw back is that they don’t so heavily subsidize dairy and corn and therefore food is slightly more expensive, but hey pick your battles.

The next morning I got a little over excited and made a slight mistake.  I threw the ball for Ru and it bounced further than I thought it would.  Seeing as we were following all rules of the park to avoid Canada Jail (though I’m sure it is much more rehabilitating than the US alternative), Ru was tied to a lead on the picnic table and as he ran for the ball the rope ran out and he did a truly impressive and terrifying mid air 360 on the pivot point of his neck.  He got the wind knocked out of him and tweaked his paw.  He appeared shaken but not permanently damaged so after a thorough scolding from Joey, I resolved that even though it had done no permanent harm, I needed to make it up to Ru.  We pushed on down the Lochside Trail from Sidney toward Victoria and entered a bayside area full of municipal parks.  I saw a chain link fence, giant water bowl and I knew WE FOUND A DOG PARK.  So we stopped and let the Ru run off his morning trauma.

He was having a grand ol’ time and playing with all the dogs when he noticed someone from across the dog park.  Ru is very fond of playing with female labs.  He is in that awkward teenager stage when he is not sure what to do with himself so he just runs in circles around them until they lose interest.  As we were preparing to depart, he saw a black lab bounding through the field with a tennis ball in her mouth.  He bolted over to say hello and before we knew it they ran down to the dog beach.  Emboldened by his new audience and the adrenaline he built from running all morning he sloshed into the water after his new play mate and before he knew it RUBEUS WAS SWIMMING ON HIS OWN IN THE OCEAN.  What a moment, what a man.  Good work boo boo.

After that we finally departed and rode further on down the trail. We passed through farm land and blackberry brambles.  For lunch we stopped at Market Rd, a farm to table food cart style kiosk set up on the side of the bike path and packed full of produce from the surrounding farms.  Joey and I ate croissants stuffed with goat cheese, marinated beets and carrots, tomatoes and greens (his had bacon) and some of the crispiest, square-est, heftiest fries I have ever had.  Top it off with a cream soda brewed in Victoria and we were walking on air.  That also could have been because our wallets were so light after paying for it that gravity could not hold us.  We saw many more people urban foraging in Canada than I ever have in the US.  Himalayan blackberries are a highly aggressive, invasive blackberry bush species that is fast becoming the kudzu of the Pacific Northwest.  In BC I saw at least 6 different groups of folks picking these sweet little plant predators and the buckets of berries I saw I am sure will become jam for the winter or syrup for ice cream, or pies, or turnovers, or any number of things not possible when the berries are seen as a scourge on the earth instead of a ready food source.  Good on ya people of Sidney.  Eat the invasive species to death.

We went to a Walmart to buy food for dinner, because we are both American and running out of money.  Luckily it was in a shopping mall so it was weird enough to feel foreign.   I guarded the bikes and stared down the trendy teenagers swarming through the plaza as Joey went in search of some potatoes.  We still had about 15 miles to go to get to the other state park we hoped to sleep in.  When Joey returned (victorious I might add) we loaded up and set out once more.  We left the Lochside trail in favor of heading west on the Galloping Goose trail.  Both adorable and alliterative, the Galloping Goose snaked its way out the west side of Victoria (we didn’t go into the city proper until the next day).

As we approached the provincial park we were hoping to call home for the night we noticed something.  We noticed tat we were on a four lane, divided, trans-canada highway that also happened to be under construction.  So obviously we got lost and missed the campsite.  So we were thwarted in our attempt to give the Canadian government our money, and found a place to lay our heads at an out of the way trailhead.  We were not arrested and thrown in Canada Jail so I guess we didn’t do too much harm.

Days 80-Port Angeles

We woke early to get out of the trailhead before many Canadian mountain bikers ran over our tent.  Just kidding, they would never do that.  The Galloping Goose (and American soil) was calling our names.  We rode through Victoria proper.  We saw the capital building and its elaborate gardens, the wide cosmopolitan streets crammed with restaurants and retail behind their dramatic stone facades, and (best of all) we saw all the little water taxis and harbor ferries that must have only been 25 feet long but all trailed a 10 foot canadian flag.  If I ever get the chance to go back and do not have everything I own strapped to the  back of my bike I would love to tour the historic parliament buildings and visit the multitude of museums we passed.  Victoria has piqued my interest but alas our affair was a short one.  We ate some 7/11 croissants and proceeded directly to the ferry terminal.  I went in and paid the fare ($25 US dollars for the crossing) and got our tickets to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula.  We got in line with the other cyclists and of course, the couple behind us lived in Portland.  We got to talking and discussed bike infrastructure differences between our homeland and Canada at length.  We all agreed that while Portland may be a pinnacle of bike accessibility in the US, there is no connectedness in the US to even hold a candle to Canada.  We resolved to make our next tour Canadian and take advantage of all the wondrous paved paths we knew to be there.

We boarded the ferry with little incident.  Ru rebelled in the customs line and had to be chased up the gangway but hey, nothing we weren’t expecting.  We tied our bikes to a set of racks for that purpose on deck and went to find a spot in the shade.  This ferry was perhaps the low point of Ru’s entire life.  I don’t know if dogs can get seasick but the pain and fear in his eyes while on this pitching, rolling behemoth seem a convincing argument in the affirmative.  He also got quite the fan club.  There was a tiny girl, couldn’t have been more than 2 ft tall and 2 years old who kept trying to pull him to the railing yelling “Bow wow, come see the fishes!”  Then there was the rudest set of British twins I have ever met who poked and prodded him within an inch of his life then pointed at my unshaven legs and asked me if I was a boy or a girl. Then there was the very aggressively awkward college freshman aged girl who insisted on misidentifying the anatomical name for his dewclaws (the 2 vestigial toes on his back legs that help him grip in snow and show his Great Pyrenees breed lineage) and wouldn’t let up in poking them after Ru squirmed out of her reach.  We did our best to protect him but he is a magnet for children of all ages with his markings and fluffiness. The crossing was a little more rocky than we had originally hoped and by the time land came into sight I was beginning to feel the pitch and roll internally as well.  When we disembarked we waited til the end of the passengers so we could take our time.  Ru obviously needed to relieve himself (the ferry ride takes close to 3 hours) and so had to be locked into his trailer to avoid an international incident.

When we got to the front of the customs line, our status as nomads began to pose a problem.

Border Guard: Where’s home?

Joey: Atlanta

BG: So what do you do in Atlanta

J: Well I haven’t lived there in years….

BG: So where do you live?

J: Well we were living in Portland….

BG: I’m gonna ask you again, WHERE’S HOME?

Alice *speaking very fast and high pitched*: We were living in Portland, but then we didn’t like it so we went to my parents house in California and then we left on this bike trip and we’ve been biking around the Western US for almost 3 months and I was born in Maine but I haven’t lived there since I was seven and here is my passport and we were only in Canada for 2 days.

BG: OK….

He let us through after my information outburst and as we were walking away he and another guard were talking behind us.  I could have sworn I heard our guard say “I wish I could do that.” Yea bruh, it’s ok to be jealous, thanks for letting us back into the country.

We left the ferry terminal and entered the city of Port Angeles.  We pedalled up away from the wharf and went to a Safeway where we enjoyed US government subsidized cheese prices, deli sandwiches made on pretzel rolls, and cookies with whole reeses cups.  God Bless America.  We went back down to the wharf and picked up the harbor-side bike trail.  Eventually it dead ended and we went back up the 500 feet to the tops of the bluffs.  The bike path pushed on and we took advantage of its paved, empty bliss.  The upshot of the unpopularity of biking in the US is that we usually have the trail to ourselves.  Plenty of room to ride slow and side by side so we can both hear the NPR app on my phone.  We whiled the afternoon away winding up to the beginning of Olympic Peninsula National Park.  We stopped halfway up the rise to Crescent Lake and found a place to camp on the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure Route.  No more details because it was illegal….welcome back to the motherland.


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