It’s good to be home. I think I was suffering from some sort of travel burnout, and I really need to put down roots for a while. I foresee some shorter and more local adventures in the near future, with frequent returns to our base camp here in Vancouver for the grounding I need.
We’ve been members of a hospitality exchange for touring cyclists called Warm Showers since 2010. We haven’t used it often while travelling, but we’re happy to host passing bike travellers when we’re at home. Since our return, we’ve hosted three young Europeans, all of whom having touched down in Vancouver to begin journeys across Canada. All have been delightful guests. There has been discussion in the Warm Showers organization about cyclists who use hospitality and never return it, but I have no qualms about helping younger cyclists because I know they will pay it forward at later stages of their lives.
Two age clusters predominate in the extended touring demographic; if you plotted frequency against age, you’d probably get a nice bi-modal distribution:
Of course there are cyclists of every age travelling the byways of world, but there are two stages in our lives when it is easier to take an extended break from a “normal” settled existence; one is earlier in adult life, and the other is later. Riding across Asia in 2009 we met many cyclists in their twenties and thirties, but also a good number in their late fifties and early sixties. Many of these were French retiree couples, whose reply when asked their destination was often “On s’en va vers la Mongolie!” I think Chris and I are fairly typical of this second group.
Vancouver is the natural start of several long rides. All three of our recent guests arrived by plane to set out eastward by bicycle, and we helped where we could with the logistical needs of such a turnaround. As their jet lag abated, bikes were rebuilt from baggage format into working machines, route options discussed, sim cards and converter plugs purchased, and panniers stocked with snacks and staples before departure. We like to follow our guests on their blogs or Facebook as they travel, to see how they are faring. Our three guests represented a wide range of travel styles.
Eva, the Danish triathlete, made the quickest turnaround, taking only a day to complete all errands and head toward the Rockies via Whistler and Pemberton. Sadly, her journey ended prematurely with a return to Europe to be with her partner who was to undergo surgery.
Sandrine was an enthusiastic convert to bike travel, and had been planning every detail of her journey for months. She even toted the correct spatula with which to flip delicate crepes she made us one morning! We chuckled at her tale of throwing a rope over a tree branch at the park in her home town of Nantes in the Loire Valley, France. She had read about protecting food from bears when camping in Canada, and had made sure she had all the skills to haul a bag up to a suitable branch. When she got her rope –with its rock weight at the end– stuck in the tree, she had to call her mother to bring a long ladder to help retrieve it!
As she rode off to the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island before heading east, we watched her struggle with a very heavy bike. We believe strongly in planning, but also in travelling light. If you pack what you might need for every possible situation, you end up with a cumbersome bike that no mere mortal would enjoy pedalling over the Rockies. Sandrine had wisely decided to leave her crepe pan at home.
Matthieu had flown to Vancouver from New Zealand. He had reached the Antipodes from his home in France, having ridden 25,000 km in about two years, and after crossing Canada he planned to fly from St. John’s to Ireland so as to complete his global tour which began in France. A naturalist and a linguist – he was a relaxed and curious traveler. He set out just yesterday on a southerly crossing of British Columbia toward the Crowsnest Pass.
As for us, in addition to cyclists from Warm Showers, we have a stream of house guests booked for most of the summer. There will be gaps in the flow, and we are keeping late summer clear for a more local adventure. North America is the land of cars, so it pays to seek out gravel roads that reach the quiet corners. With the 2” tires now on our Surlys, and having come across a site detailing back road options in Oregon, plans are afoot for a ride that might start or finish by rolling onto an Amtrak train.
There is much to explore close to home, and there are even good rides that start from our front door.