The fires were ravaging the BC interior causing road closures and town evacuations, as well as choking out the sun and those who tried to breath. Alexia and I planned to hopscotch from Watson Lake to Prince Rupert then ferry to Vancouver Island to avoid all this. The van, or Universe had us on another path we weren’t aware of at the moment. At Watson Lake campground the van was pissing out hot coolant and steam. This happened two more times in two days until we decided to separate.
We found a local guy to tow the van back to Whitehorse to fix the overheating issue. Alexia was introduced to the Subaru Guru, Mario Ferland, who happended to have a brand new ’92 SVX engine in his garage from which parts could be taken and later replaced. He also loved VW vans. At half the cost of the initial estimate from another garage she was on her way. The thing was we didn’t have any way to connect to know where the other one was. Also, neither of us had cell service or wifi at the same time.
I had biked south on the Cassiar trying hard to get as close to Prince Rupert before we rendezvous to catch the ferry on the 28th. At Boya Provincial Park I met seven cyclists; five were friends who met at random sections along Highway 1, one, Thorin Loeks, singer/ songwriter, from Whitehorse, and a solo female, Shantal, going from Anchorage to San Diego. All rode at different speeds and had their own schedules. I found this to be a bit of an anchor as one does when traveling with others. As it was nice to have someone to share stories or meals with, I had a self imposed daily schedule and pace that was faster than normal. Shantal, the girl doing the solo ride opted to ride with me. The next six days I unknowingly brutalized myself , and probably her, riding 100km+ days, days with some of the most beautiful and dramatic terrain so far, but also cold, rainy, and windy. Each day I never knew of Alexia’s whereabouts nor her of mine. Kinda discouraging. However, it was on day seven I pulled into a rest area to set camp when I heard that unique sound of the van – there she was…again, all things in the Universe are good, temporarily.
The day before the ferry I was getting packed and ready to bike from Terrace to Prince Rupert. I had told Shantal, who had been riding in the van for a couple days, that Alexia and I might meet half way and she would have to stay at her friends and heal herself, or start biking. She was taken a back by this but I didn’t care. Free rides when riding for a foundation and raising money for said foundation when supposed to be cycling is cheating yourself and those who sponsor you. Enough said. What happened next was unexpected…my legs seized. My quads and calves tightened so badly I was on my back on the ground in tears with pain. Karma, doubt it. The previous seven days, definitely. It was now known I was riding with Alexia and that we may or may not see Shantal again. The drive to Prince Rupert was stunning and would be the tops of riding terrain; meandering level roads, the Stikine River, dramatic snow-topped mountains, good shoulder, camping options, and wafts of coastal air. A small personal regret not to have ridden.
After Vitamin I and a good rest my legs were still sensitive yet without the extreme pain and I was able to amble along once in PR. We were there to catch the early morning ferry departure to Port Rupert, Vancouver Island. While there we experienced the Museum of Northern BC with a superb collection of Tsimshian First Nation artifacts, the Flagship Pale Ale from Wheelhouse Brewery to further temper the leg pains and, a special site under the Bear Totem on the Heritage Totem walk. The next day was early and long with a six-thirty am departure and seventeen hour ferry ride. We met a couple from Haida Gwai, Chris, Jacquie and their daughter Aubrey who were heading to Alberta for a wedding. Chris is a tree man, both cutting and restoring the environment that sustains most of their lives. He is also a mushroom hunter which brings in a pretty nice subsidy to their lifestyle. Also, he is a guy rich with local, and regional knowledge and applies it to sustain and enrich their lives. She is an outdoor educator taking at-risk local kids in their own back yard (BC) for up to a month to teach them self-reliance, motivation, team work, character building, and knowledge of their local ecosystem. We look forward to meeting them in the future on Haida Gwai. The ferry unloaded late at night in Port Hardy which left us driving around to find somewhere to park and sleep. Visitor centers have been good to us before so we pulled in, set up and slept.