OK, so the trip’s been over for a couple of weeks now. But we couldn’t help adding an extra post about our publication in the press! Here it is, our article in Adventure Cyclist magazine’s August issue!
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Le compteur vélo s’est arrêté sur 15 808 km.
Après notre course contre la montre vers Vancouver, on a décidé de s’offrir quelques vacances avant de réapproviser nos vies belges. On a donc passé nos deux dernières semaines de voyage à faire ce qu’on adore : du vélo ! Les États-Unis nous ont rouvert les bras à coup de parades et de feux d’artifice pour le 4 juillet. Des montagnes de l’Olympe jusqu’ à Seattle, en passant par les îles San Juan, on est devenu maître des ferrys sous un soleil éclatant. Et après 10 mois à sillonner le pays, on a trouvé un petit paradis où il ferait bon revenir vivre. Peut-être que c’est ça l’effet de fin de voyage.
L’heure est donc aux au revoirs. Et comme on a le coeur un peu serré, on va commencer par ce dont il ne sera pas trop difficile de se séparer.
Bye-bye riz, purée, haricots noirs.
Bye-bye nuits froides sous la tente, à s’emmitouffler comme des chenilles dans leur cocon.
Bye-bye Google Maps qui nous envoie sur des chemins désaffectés.
Bye-bye les coups de pompes de fin de pique-nique.
Bye-bye les chaussures à cales et mon T-shirt rose.
Bye-bye la sensation de devoir sortir de la tente alors qu’on y est bien installé.
Bye-bye les moustiques abusant de ma vulnérabilité lorsque ma vessie appelle à être soulagée.
Bye-bye les 7 hamburgers pour 7 dollars du MacDo.
Bye-bye les montées infinissables à nous exploser les jambes.
Bye-bye les pneus plats de Dynamite.
Bye-bye ma radio qui crachote une fois qu’on s’éloigne trop des villes.
Bye-bye nos peaux toutes collantes lorsque les douches viennent à manquer et qu’on essaie de se glisser dans nos sacs de couchage.
Mais bye-bye aussi snickerdoodles, corn-dogs et cosmic brownies.
Bye-bye la surprise de découvrir où on logera ce soir.
… le bonheur de passer toutes nos journées à nous 2.
… la vie sans clé ni carte de fidélité.
… les montagnes, déserts, forêts et océans.
… les high five échangés avec des passants en rue.
… nos appétits d’ogre.
… les orques, alligators et armadillos croisés en bord de route.
… le sourire complice échangé avec les autres cyclistes.
… le plaisir de sentir le vent dans nos cheveux et les paysages défiler sous nos yeux.
… l’honneur d’être accueilli comme des rois par des inconnus.
Bye-bye… mais certainement pas adieu !
After Vancouver comes Vancouver. Another one, Vancouver Island this time. An island that calls itself the bicycle capital of Canada, and we were all to eager to explore.
After our first night of Mansion Camping (i.e. pitching your tent in the backyard of a mansion), we rode down the island on a designated bike trail all the way down to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. We even got to endulge in a little sightseeing. And among the monuments that catch the eye, one of them stood out for us. A statue of Terry Fox, a kid who got diagnosed with bone cancer in his teens. After undergoing a first amputation, enduring and seeing the suffering of cancer patients, he decided to take a stand and run a Marathon for Hope across Canada. His plan was to run from the East coast of the country to the West, raising awareness, funds for research and hope for a cure. His race ended short in Ontario where his condition forced him to stop. He died shortly afterwards in 1981 at the age of 22. But as the moniument says, his legacy lives on.
When people ask us why we’re doing this, the answers always go something like “for adventure”, “to discover this beautiful area”, “to learn more about a country that’s part of our identity”. Terry’s journey was of a different kind. We took a moment to pay our respect to his inspiring story and remind ourselves of how fortunate we are. And that “dreams are made possible if you try”.
We had talked about our “end of the bike ride bucket list”. On that list, was to have some kind of an apotheosis, a Grand Finale for our bike ride.
So there we were one day, happily eating pancakes at a local restaurant. And all of a sudden, she says to me “How about we ride to Vancouver fast enough to make it for Canada Day, July 1st! We race to the coast, enjoy the parades and celebrate the end of our journey with fireworks!”. Sounds like fun, but how far is it? How fast do we have to ride?
After a brief map analysis, it turns out we’ve got over 700 km to go and about 1 week left before Canada Day. After 9 months of riding, it sounds like we could do it. The only problem, we found out later on, is British Columbia looks like a giant sheet of corrugated metal, with all the mountain ranges running North to South, ans dominant winds come from the West. It sounds like a challenge! Let’s do this!!!
And so the race began, with a couple of mountain passes each day, a Sasquatch, daunting headwinds, a rainy desert, provincial parks, mosquito attacks, and a century (100-mile ride) on the last day!
And we even got there a day early!
It took us 9 months, but we made it past the border to another country! For the occasion, we were expecting (or rather hoping) for a ceremony, a speech, a stamp on our passport, heck, even a body search. Some kind of event showing us we changed country. But the passage over the 49th parallel couldn’t have been smoother. So Canada, here we were.
Now on the map, Canada already looks huge. And knowing it’s only 3 times the population of Belgium living in a country 330 times bigger… that leaves a lot of room for trees ! And riding through it, you get a real sense of the immensity of the land. Especially when you find out there’s only one road that can take you towards Vancouver. You know that one road sticking out on the map? That’s literally the only thing to ride on. Unless you want to take your chances in the mud on logging roads with the coyotes, bear, bobcats and cougars (at least that’s what our first encountered local told us).
So off we went, into British Columbia, the land of trees and lakes, or “The Best Place on Earth” as they put it on their signs. (Would modesty be a Canadian virtue ?)
Aaah… Montana. Land of beautiful wilderness, big skies and fly-fishing-movie-stars. A relaxing and beautiful ride.Yet if we were time-warped to the area 150 years ago, the feeling would have been quite different.
We would have seen…
Legendary mountain men, those trappers struggling to make it rich before the beaver hat ran out of style.
Gold-prospecting pioneers being ambushed and robbed by corrupt sheriffs
Corrupt sheriffs being hanged by vigilantes in the lawless frontier land.
Nez Perce tribes being chased and massacred by US troops in one of the dark pages of American history.
We would have seen all that and more.
But Montana, luckily, is not too fiercely stuck in the past. It’s turned to the future. And as we know the future is bikes. Montana is indeed home to the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association, authors of the maps we’ve been following throughout the country. Stopping there was a milestone of our journey, as we got the chance to discuss our trip, eat free ice cream and go for a little photo shoot with Dynamite and Fireworks! What’s not to love!
– “Well, you’ll see, Wyoming is a really nice place to live… If you can tolerate the isolation. And the long winters. And the hot summers… And the wind”
– “Oh it gets windy around here?”
– “Hahaha! Did you hear that, dear? He asked if it gets windy around here!! You’ll see…”
As if the words of our first host in the state weren’t warning enough, in the “Climate” section of our Wyoming cycling map, you could read the following: “Winds in Wyoming basin easily blow 40 to 60 mph. What’s worse, conditions can change randomly, so expect it to blow in your face at all time. Expect to whimper and struggle all the way through your ride. It’s gonna hurt”.
OK, it maybe didn’t exactly say that. But that was pretty much the point.
The state motto of Wyoming – forever West – should be corrected.
We had to face it. We needed help. So we joined forces with another group of cross-country cyclists! As a pack of 6 (a.k.a. The 6-pack), we found strength and supported each other through a couple of gruesome days.
Our tracks took us along the paths followed by persecution-fleeing-Mormons, Gold-Rushing-49ers, and Trail-Blazing-Explorers. After all, it’s the only way to go West avoiding the high Rocky mountain passes and finding reliable sources of water & grass for the cattle. But I guess explorers mostly saw the state as somewhere to go through, not to stay. In a state the size of the UK, there are more antelopes than people. With a mere 572,000 people, Wyoming is the least populated state of the country.
Although the journey must have been desolate and rough for the early explorers, we must admit times have made things more enjoyable for us bike travelers. For us, crossing the state was a ride punctuated by strawberry-peach pie & ice cream, otter pops with firemen around a bonfire, and a night in a tipi! And guess what reward awaits when you’re done crossing the Wyoming basin…
- Our chains after a snowy day. The Canyon of the Gunnison. Nights above 3000 meters. The endless ribbon of tar crossing the state, our route. Black.
- Rocks and cliffs in the San Miguel river valley. Beans in chili sauce. Tail lights in the fog. The flower on Fireworks’s handlebar. Our cheeks after a climb. Red.
- Snow capped peaks over 4000 meters high. Snow and hail falling on 2 bikers attempting to pass over the Dallas Divide. Clouds looming over us, saying “Watch out”. White. (Well… whitish gray).
- Spruces, pines and budding aspen leaves finally coming out after an 8-month winter. Fireworks. Green.
- Granola. Dry wintering grass. Log cabins. Wood fences. Elks (were they really?). Brown
- Our windbreakers. Clear skies on happy days. Water, whether it’s ice cold rivers or hot springs and tubs. Dynamite. Blue.
As we crossed the state border, they said “Welcome to Colorful Colorado”. A land inviting us to paint our own adventures, climb every mountain and ford every stream.
But some of Colorado’s best treats don’t come in colors: downhills, full & happy bellies after a day’s ride, tailwinds, and catching your breath at the summit of a mountain pass.
So ride on.