Here in Canada, We Play Nice

Canada II 126I entered British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada, on June 27th. Canadians, in my experience here, are truly as nice as everyone says they are. In certain situations, I expect people to give me disgruntled faces, honk their car horns, roll their eyes, curse, or wave their arms. Canadians? They say sorry and move out of the way. They actually go out of their way to make sure that everything is not just okay, but wonderful and lovely. Being from New Jersey, I’ve been going through stages of culture shock throughout the last few years. Even in DC, people are friendlier and less sarcastic than NJ. The Canadian’s genuine friendliness, though, is not to be matched.

While I’ve been here, I’ve bounced between islands that I first heard about from other cyclists while riding in California. So for the other East Coast folks who are as ignorant about Canada as I was, I’ll do some explaining. Victoria is the capitol of British Columbia. It’s charming and quaint and a small city on an island. The island is called Vancouver Island and it is, indeed, an island. Vancouver, the city that most of us have heard of, is on the mainland. In between these two urban areas are a series of islands called the Gulf Islands. There are a bunch of islands that extend into the US side, and on the US side they are called the San Juan Islands. The bigger islands are connected to the mainland via ferries. I’ve met some folks who live on the isolated smaller islands. There is no ferry service. They operate their own boats to get to and from work; some even commute by kayak.

Canada II 041I took the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, then to Salt Spring Island, Galiano Island, and yesterday, to Vancouver. These last few days of staying with a friend’s family, taking ferries from island to island, and now being in Vancouver City have been luxury. I have been able to stay up late with electricity, wake up when I want to, lounge in the sun, and generally relax. I went to a creamery on Salt Spring Island and sampled numerous goat cheeses. I even went to Tim Hortons and ate the adorably named Timbits. I got to Vancouver on Canada Day and watched fireworks at the downtown waterfront. (Don’t worry, Americans–we do the patriotism thing way better. And by that, I mean we’re really good at blowing shit up.)

This is a pretty big milestone of the trip. If my journey is from San Diego to Vancouver, then to Montreal, I’ve hit a pretty big step along the way. The icing on the cake is that I have been able to spend my time in Vancouver with Anne. After we parted, she ended up taking a series of buses to Vancouver. We have spent the last 24 hours talking and talking and talking, endless conversations recapping travels and people we’ve met and places we’ve been and thoughts we’ve had along the way. I noticed that most of my time recently has been spent in the company of people older than 50  years old, so it’s refreshing to chat with a lady friend who is my own age.

Tide pool life on Salt Spring Island

Tide pool life on Salt Spring Island

The next stages will be trickier. I’ll bike down into Washington and then head east. In my first week of riding, I’ll be crossing mountain passes of 5500 feet of elevation. There will be a stretch of 80 miles with no food or water. On the plus side, I will have tailwinds. The wind will push me towards my destination, which is a feeling I have only experienced once or twice on this trip. I’ll be riding a route that is frequented by hundreds, maybe thousands, of cyclists every year, so people will be used to seeing cyclists.

As I reenter Washington, here’s a little of what I’ve done and what I’m looking forward to:

1. Watch a fish get thrown. I’ve heard that in Pike’s Place Market, fish are thrown around comically between the people who work in the fish market.

2. The Gum Wall, which is also at Pike’s Place Market

3. Enter the Space Needle. The future is now and it’s in the Space Needle.

4. Descend into the desert, once again. Apparently all of Eastern Washington is desert, so I’m excited to leave the stereotypical rainy days of Washington and experience a drier reality.

5. Exist in a temperate rainforest. At Olympic National Forest, I experienced the Quinault Rainforest. Walls of green on all sides.

6. Get rained on. I biked in the pouring rain for a whole afternoon on my way into the rainforest. The days following that were overcast and misting throughout the day. I have, appropriately, had my first days of rain first in Oregon, then in Washington.

Sunset over English Bay in Vancouver

Sunset over English Bay in Vancouver

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