Some reflections and opinions.

The most frequently recurring reflection I have is that in my first day’s log entry, I mention not envying Graydon and Frances having to go back up the hill at Agassiz the next day. Naturally, I then spend a good chunk of the next day grinding halfway up the Cascades to Hope Slide. The other reflection in that vein is that my snarky comments about open pit mining at Sparwood were followed pretty quickly by the observation that such practices might have prevented the really substantial loss of life from the Frank Slide (and generally prevent lives lost due to mineshaft collapses and other such joys). That said, most of my thoughts on the ride don’t actually simplify to “gee that was a dumb thing for me to say”.

Another common thought I have is “it’s really a lot of pedalling, even when you take that into account”. While there was a tremendous amount of really nice scenery, there was a tremendous amount of the stuff. A lot of the time, unless something pretty spectacular was going on, the baseline level of pretty wasn’t really enough to take my mind off of things like “how much farther do I want to ride before I stop for a snack/lunch/the day”, “is it raining enough that I’ll get more wet with rain keeping my raingear off, or more wet with sweat putting it on”, or “this road runs right next to an [expletive] river/lake, but they just had to set it back far enough from the shore for it to be hill after hill after…”

Basically, there were plenty of really fabulous high points in the ride, a few rather troubling low points (and those notable situations are what made it into the blog), but there was also an absolutely colossal amount of just pedalling. So much so that if I were trying to convey what actually happened, instead of points of interest, the entries would look a lot more like “pedalled, pedalled, truck passed, pedalled, pedalled, checked distance covered today, time, and calculated average speed including stops, drat I looked to be stopping half an hour later than I’d hoped, still before sunset though, pedalled, pedalled, took a swig of water, pedalled, pedalled, saw some widened paved shoulder up ahead, pedalled, …” except with even more pedalling in there. It would be completely unreadable. So instead you get a version condensed into a certain degree of inaccuracy.

Outside of those two thoughts, one of the largest classes of reflection I have is reviewing my gear choices. For the most part, I think that I was well equipped, and that everything was pretty well packed, though a few potential changes have rolled about in my head.

The one change that I absolutely would not make is to bring portable music device. It struck me as borderline suicidal when I saw them on other riders and (even though I know at least one of those riders to have survived) it still strikes me that way. As nice as it may be to hear music (and I sang to myself from time to time to break the monotony), I’d still much rather hear the traffic around me.

On the other hand, one thing that it was nearly suicidal for me not to have brought would be some sort of mirror for the handlebars. I have a lingering suspicion that, had I had a mirror, I might’ve been able to see how close to the side of the road the dump truck that grazed me was riding, and pulled off to the shoulder before getting brushed like that.

Another thing that would have been nice would have been a multi-fuel liquid fuel stove. I already had ready access to two stoves running on some sort of gas, so I took the Coleman figuring that it’d be easier to refuel (the other one took fuel cylinders that I’ve only ever seen at MEC, and the route I took doesn’t pass a MEC anywhere between Vancouver and Winnipeg). That said, I passed all manner of places that had jugs of kerosene, naphtha, white gas, but no propane (and a few of the multi-fuel stoves even take gasoline). On top of that, the fuel bottles for the liquid fuel stoves seem less bulky and easier to pack.

I didn’t really hang on to anything unnecessary, having had plenty of opportunities to just throw it out or mail it home, so I can’t really say that there’s much I regretted lugging around with me. A notable exception to this is my bike lock. The thing weighed a ton (well 6lbs, but that was nearly 10% of my non-bike/non-self weight) and didn’t see any real use. It turns out that whenever I was in a city big enough for theft to be a concern, the need to secure my panniers and all their contents had me storing the bike indoors anyhow.

Also largely unused was have a heavy load of spare parts. I wouldn’t do without them, but it’s worth noting that (apart from my second broken spoke incident and the tire, which patched up was still more durable than the spare) all of my parts needing replacement were generally parts that I wasn’t carrying (except that I also used up plenty of my spare M5 allen bolts, even had to top them up — not sure whether to count them as parts though)

The key lesson about mechanical failures that I’d take away is that the length of a ride like this isn’t all that far off the designed useful life of some components. In particular, any part that actually wears out from ordinary use (i.e. brake pads, cables, chain, gears, tires, and rims) should probably be new before going, and that entering a city of any appreciable size should prompt a review of what parts are in a position to wear out before the next city (and therefore should be replaced). Also it’s a good idea to use stupidly durable models of just about everything (but particularly the parts that wear out), after all, I did make the trip on a single set of brake pads.

For timing, I followed a sort of conventional wisdom that leaving around the end of April or beginning of May tends to mean warm enough weather for the mountains, and still making the Canadian Shield before the humidity and bugs really get going. This worked well enough for my ride, with Spring having gotten a late start in BC, but it typically means hitting the prairies around a storm season, when all the expected tailwinds get replaced with headwinds. In years where Spring doesn’t get such a late start, it’s probably a good idea to leave a couple of weeks earlier so that the prairies can be crossed before the headwinds fire up (alternately, start a little later, take a lot of time crusing around BC, checking out hot springs, then take the prairies slowly in spite of the tailwinds, and hit the Canadian Shield after the bugs have died, the weather’s started to cool, and keep riding east, through the Fall as the colours change; though that approach would add 2-3 months to the ride length).

As for the route, I really liked not being on the Trans-Canada Highway much more than I had to be. Had I not had an interest in passing through Deep River and Ottawa, I probably would have turned south just past Webbwood, taken the ferry from South Baymouth (on Manitoulin Island) to Tobermory (on the the Bruce Peninsula), and taken less heavily travelled roads across Southern Ontario. That said, if I hadn’t wanted to pass by DRAO and Nelson, I probably would’ve just taken the Trans-Canada across BC (not having known any better at the time).

Another subtle change I’d make to the route if repeating the ride would be not to bother with the suburban portions of La Route Verte on the stretch from Montreal to Quebec. Le Chemin du Roi is still a really nice road to bike on in those parts, and the signage on La Route Verte isn’t quite adequate in the suburbs to prevent confusion with the local bike routes.

In the end, the parts of the country that I’d be most eager to ride through again would have to be Quebec (particularly Le Petit-Temis, and the stretch from Quebec City to Riviere-du-Loup), the Prairies, and BC (in pretty much that order, though the Prairies and BC are really close, and I suspect that one of Quebec’s biggest advantages is that it’s a reasonable distance to just catch a train to, and air travel is a tremendous hassle with much of the gear involved). That said, I’m also really curious to check out some of the bike touring routes in the States (particularly the Underground Railroad route from Moblle AL to Owen Sound ON, if only because it ends reasonably close to home), and maybe ride around a few parts of Europe too.

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