Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
I've given up on trying to keep Valeria clean. There's no use trying when it rains, at least a little bit, every single day.
To be fair, I haven't had any days lately where it rains all day, merely several days in a row where it rains off and on, and it usually clears up in late afternoon, just in time for the last few hours of each day. Still, I don't know how the clouds don't ever run out of water to dump on us. I started asking them the other day:
"Don't you ever go away? Or find something else to do?"
"What, you mean other than rain?"
"Yeah, maybe for a day or so."
"Not rain for a day? Like 24 hours?"
"...in a row?"
"Don't be ridiculous."
Maybe I need to get out of Canada...
On the plus side, the mosquitoes aren't nearly as bad anymore, and each morning seems to be getting a little warmer. The hills are getting shorter. The pavement is getting smoother. The grocery stores are getting closer together.
There are a lot more of those big loud metal scary things on the highway now. I don't expect many roads to be as empty as the Dalton, Alaskan, or Cassiar highways, so I better get used to it.
One morning I pulled over at a highway rest area to use the outhouse, and as I was walking back over to Valeria, a young couple pulled into the lot in their minivan. They were both rather thin. Tom, Irish and wearing large glasses, and Terry, Canadian with brilliant red hair. They had essentially converted their minivan into an RV, complete with a bed and a mini fridge! As you might expect, space was at a premium inside.
After they asked what I was doing, I was immediately invited to join them for breakfast. Fresh bread rolls with bacon and eggs on it like a sandwich, topped with homemade salsa. Salsa! This Texan had gone too long without. When I pass through the homeland in a month or so, an unbelievable quantity of breakfast tacos are going to make their way down my gullet.
Tom and Terry were spending the summer traveling, with an extended stay in the Yukon. Typically they park wherever is free and sleep there, and might be having a better time at that than I have. Even asking for help, I've paid for lodging three times now! Tom seems to have done a lot of world traveling in the past and gave a few useful tips about Central America. They sent me off with a can of a Canadian hefeweizen to enjoy later that night. Turned out to be pretty darn good, and after a long day's ride, beer is doubly satisfying.
The breakfast and pleasant company hit the spot that morning. I'm glad I had to stop and pee when I did!
Just as I arrived in Burns Lake, I bumped into Olga again! She had already logged 50 km and was intent on doing about 80 more. It was already 6:00 PM. I was done for the day. She was turning south in only a day or two, so it was likely that this would be the last we saw of each other. We exchanged contact info, and when I make it to Spain, I'm definitely looking her up.
Worth noting: when I met Olga in Kitwanga, she hadn't started riding yet that day, and she looked terrific! OK, so she looks good now, but she hasn't even been riding today. I bet she even washed up right before I got here. I remembered how bike touring doesn't do some ladies a whole lot of favors on their appearance, and how some of my Texas 4,000 teammates looked like entirely different people after the ride was over. But Olga today, after 50 km, looked just as lovely and feminine as she did when I saw her on a park bench in Kitwanga!
Good luck, Olga!
I should've gotten a picture with her and her bike.
Lots of good hosts lately! Telkwa is home to a WarmShowers host that owns a mobile home park. In the back, next to the river, is a cabin that is free to all cyclists. Had it all to myself, took my first shower since Whitehorse (more than a week!), and was able to rinse and wring a bunch of clothes. First time I've "done laundry" since Alaska!
Was planning on camping out in a free municipal campground at Burns Lake, much like the one in Kitwanga, only quite a bit nicer, in my opinion. Bumped into a lovely Canadian couple (only she was originally from Australia), who promptly invited me over to their campfire and fed me cheese and crackers, stuffed peppers, bacon, barbecue ribs, and cold beer. My goodness! I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!
Just when I was starting to believe "I need to get outta Canada," the days into Vanderhoof and Prince George happened. Sure, it still rained, but otherwise, good weather! Some actual sunshine, smooth pavement, less hills, and even a light wind behind me for the first time in over a week! Even the rain isn't as bad either! Just the lightest of sprinkles, sometimes during a monkey's birthday, which makes it more bearable. And it only lasts for 20-30 minutes anymore, 2-3 times a day. I haven't even been stopping to put my jacket on.
The traffic has been getting intense, especially picking up around Vanderhoof. I feel the need to point out that in Canada, trucks don't stop at 18 wheels. 34 isn't that uncommon! They're huge and loud. Not a fan of that last part. But it might be better to have them, even if they're even louder, if that means there are only half as many.
Getting to my WarmShowers host in Vanderhoof involved turning onto a side road for 10 km. I approached it with dread. Around here, side roads are almost exclusively unpaved, and 10 km of that at the end of a day didn’t sound pleasant.
When I turned onto the road, it was the best riding of the whole day! The pavement was like glass, the scenery was beautiful in a simple, understated way, and it was quiet. Even though it was an extra 10 km, I was glad I got to ride it. This is the kind of riding that touring is all about.
Erica lives with her parents in a way cool cabin outside of a small town. Both her parents have been science teachers at one point. Erica is planning her first bike tour later this summer, two weeks in Ireland. Everyone in the house plays an instrument. And I noticed a few Calvin and Hobbes books laying around. Yeah, these are my kinda people.
Hot shower, laundry, and a rockin' dinner with homemade strawberry-rhubarb crumble for dessert. Wow...I had three servings of it! After that, I was introduced to Hans, Erica's brother, who had just come home from 12 hours of fighting a forest fire. He was even dirtier than I had been! What tolerant people these are, to have two dirty, stinkin' young men in their house on the same night!
Getting into Prince George was just as traffic-filled and stressful as Vanderhoof, but with the added obstacle of construction outside of town. In town though, it got a lot better.
It was a short day to begin with (just over 100 km), but I was trying to make good time. Mostly because of Dorrie.
I must have stayed with five dozen hosts on my way to Anchorage as a part of Texas 4,000. Starting in Alaska, I've been doing the Rockies route backwards, and will continue to follow it almost perfectly all the way to Central Texas. Dorrie is the only old host I felt like I had to look up.
I'd seen on WarmShowers that there are plenty of hosts in Prince George, so my original thought was to swing by and say thanks again in person, then stay with another host, because she already does enough for Texas 4,000. I called her a couple days out to see if she'd be around, and by the time I'd spoken a sentence about going to Prince George, she'd offered a place to stay. I didn't even have time to say no!
Not only did Dorrie immediately get me a shower, but gave me some of her own clothes to wear (shorts and a T-shirt) so I could wash everything! This was a big deal, since I hadn't had a chance to wash my pants at all yet, more than three weeks into the ride!
I also had a shave. Ten minutes later, I looked five years younger.
Before taking me to a bike shop, she offered to just give me one of her bike saddles, after I mentioned that mine was giving me trouble. I wound up getting a saddle at the bike shop anyway, along with a grip for my right handlebar. The tape wasn’t staying in place as I used the grip shift, and I'd been riding with a bare handlebar on the right side for almost a week. I think these two things are gonna be big.
After a grocery run to resupply, Dorrie added a ton of her own dried fruit to the mixed nuts I'd bought, giving me a colossal amount of trail mix. Not finished, she sent me off with eight bananas, four big hunks of banana chocolate nut bread, a handful of Clif bars, Twizzlers, and enough sports drink mix, in neat, non-messy packaging, to make it to Texas. I had a hard time just getting it all on Valeria!
I hadn't forgotten Dorrie's kindness at all, but somehow I forgot how energetic she is! Throw in her overwhelming generosity, and she's like Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity's good side all rolled into one!
One of the coolest parts of the visit was going through her scrapbook and looking back at all the Texas 4,000 teams. Kinda weird to see my 2006 team in photos, and funny to see the difference in the Rockies and Sierra teams that year. Also cool to see what all the other teams have been like since then. I wonder how big Dorrie's scrapbook will be when (if) she ever stops doing this?
Good hosts make you feel at home. Dorrie makes you feel like family. Three and a half weeks into the ride, it was a refreshing experience to feel like more than a welcome guest, to feel like I belonged.
I don't like over-exaggeration, and I'll go ahead and say that Dorrie is Texas 4,000's best host.