Surely she will die!

Snowy riding has been both beautiful and brutal

Snowy riding has been both beautiful and brutal

A couple of days ago I cycled into Alberta from British Columbia, on a happily unloaded Hercules as a recent host from Dawson Creek happened to be driving that way on that day, and so took most of my luggage. I am glad because the front wheel bearing had been feeling rather unhealthy for the last 500km, meaning I was working extra hard for my miles (think of riding with the brakes on). Coupled with a family of unhappy spokes in the back wheel that were starting to pop and fold, I was glad to finally make it to a bike shop that could give him some TLC.

Herc getting some new wheels

Herc getting some new wheels

The enforced rest days while waiting for Hercules have also been welcome, even though I have had lots of these recently and  sometimes have to remind myself I am cycling across the country. In fact, in the last three weeks I have only cycled 8 days – resting and waiting seems to have been the default, either waiting to banish germs or waiting for treatment slots for either myself or Hercules with local (very busy and spatially distinct) specialists. It feels like we are both ready to crack on again – a sort of Sarah and Herc V 2.0  (Winter edition), now that Herc is back from the docs. A few inches of snow have fallen in the last six hours or so too, meaning white riding again for at least tomorrow.

Herc looks pretty good in white

Herc looks pretty good in white

I have really enjoyed the time off the bike and am grateful for it. Had everything been fine with body and bike I likely would have pushed on and missed lots of stories and moments and wonderful people. Ever since quieting Chimpy when I first got sick a few weeks ago, I am pretty chilled about recent delays impacting on my journey east. Though I am a couple of weeks behind where I thought I might be, my team and I are happy with progress. I have also realised that I need to be cautious not to get caught up in peoples’ projecting their fears or concerns onto my own perception of things. Though they live in chilly temperatures and snowy conditions, there is only one person who knows what it is to ride my bike at the moment – me. With my host family in Grande Prairie tonight we spent the whole evening joking, rather morbidly but hilariously now that I think of it, over my host Alex’s declaration to the video camera of ‘Surely she will die!’ as we tiptoed outside through a fresh drop of snow en route to dinner. The thing is, new unknown things are often scarier than they actually are when you have a go. I am touched that her husband Brad took on a sort of fatherly concern and quizzed me about this and that before satisfying himself that I am sensible enough to ensure I have the best chance of not surely dying in the snow. I promise to my best, at any rate, and Hercules the warrior bike does, too.

Oil and gas country has been intense

Oil and gas country has been intense

My recent thwacking with the bronchitis was a really good reminder that my health took a beating over last winter and that I need to do everything I  can to stay healthy – sleeping, resting, getting massage and physio, touching base with pscyhotherapist Briony from time to time and eating my way East. It is not just about cycling to Cape Cod over the next four months but we need to ensure I am healthy enough to spend 4 months rowing across the North Atlantic straight afterwards. I recently hooked up with a dietitician in the UK and orders were given to eat more – both carbs and protein. Hooray and hooray! I have set to it with earnest, and though I had always thought I was eating enough, lo and behold, I now have more energy and less muscle soreness.

The pastoral sweeps of land remind me of home

The pastoral sweeps of land remind me of home

As I pedalled south through the foothills of the Rockies from Fort Nelson to Fort St John through all degrees of snow, ice, slush, fog and bright sunshine, with more and more oil and gas trucks rattling past at rocket speeds, I settled into the stop-start can-we-can’t-we mode of  riding when I could and pushing Herc up and down said hills in the slippery conditions or leaping off the road so as not to be obliterated by the gargantuan trucks. It was exhilerating to a point, interesting seeing the evolution of the landscape and the scale and pace of the oil and gas industry which criss crosses the region like an army of metallic ants marching between extraction sites and a good workout for mind and body being on high alert. Around the hubs of Dawson Creek (Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway) and Fort St John, the traffic became stressful and intimidating. I am glad the road shoulders have widened to give me a whole lane to myself now I am in Alberta.

We part company with the AlCan, or trusty road for the last 1000 miles

We part company with the AlCan, or trusty road for the last 1000 miles

Hanging out with, and being hosted by, lovely local folks has helped the mellow mindframe – indeed can sometimes feel like I am leaving family as I cycle away from front doors, waved on by new friends. I suppose the warmth and comfort of houses and showers and someone else looking after me has a large part to do with said relaxing too, and I am really grateful to everyone who has hosted me for their kindness. It has been an education as well,  a snapshot into modern Canadian life up here. From being invited in out of the cold by the road grader who works out in the bush clearing service roads for oil and gas companies and listening to his tales of winters and wildlife; to having a field researcher deliver me breakfast to my snowy tent; to learning  about the work of a local First Nation band’s efforts to work with government and industry to regulate resource extraction and processing on their land; to hanging out with a rower-turned-environmental consultant and getting her take on the complexities of land management in an ecological, economic and cultural context; to making a dance video with six year olds through having a pair of  teenagers duet  for us in the kitchen; to sharing in the excitement of (my first) Halloween and all the associated candy and home made cosutmes, to sitting in on a book club evening of wine and debate; through comparing the graceful speed and technicality of a speed skaters’ group training with the somewhat brash and brusque ice hockey practice going on at the rink next door and joining in with family games.

Star brought me breakfast-in-tent in Buckinghorse

Star brought me breakfast-in-tent in Buckinghorse

Being able to put first-hand accounts of life working on the oil patch to the things I had seen on the road (bejillions of huge trucks, some crazy driving and various pump and compressor stations and flare chimneys) was interesting and so too has been my time staying with a family of family doctors.  Hearing more opinions on the complexities of, and challenges faced by, First Nations communities in modern Canada has been thought provoking and poignant and I find myself pedalling on with more questions than answers.

Abe Lincoln and a Juice Box for Halloween

Abe Lincoln and a Juice Box for Halloween

In summary, life on the road – or more recently off it – continues to be interesting, varied, emotive and peopled with kindness and good energy. Happily now, it also involves some working wheels.

Duetting teenagers - very,very lovely - everyone should have some!

Duetting teenagers – very,very lovely – everyone should have some!

Providing Tropical Storm Nuri and it’s associated systems doesn’t kaibosh things, the newly-wheeled Hercules and I shall zip south east to Edmonton over the next four days, stop briefly to sleep overnight and give a school talk, before cracking on towards Calgary, where I am expected a few days later. (The new front wheel is timely in this plan) I am really excited about Calgary for a couple of reasons. First off, one my L2L supported charities WaterAid is launching in Canada, teaming up with WaterCan to help implement safe water and hygiene solutions in communities around the world. And, super excitingly, in Calgary I shall be picking up a very special someone from the airport for six weeks of cycling. You probably have guessed already – it is Lucy, my fiancee, coming out to join the adventure and raise money for the L2L charities.  I am as happy as a bike with new wheels and Lucy is pretty excited, too. You will hear from Lucy soon on her thoughts ahead of our winter ride.

Sunshine and blue skies

Sunshine and blue skies

Meanwhile, thanks to local folk who have helped out lately: Family Keeler (FSJ and Dawson Creek departments),Family Noga/Martin and Katie and Matt for the serenades and ear-worms, Shelley and Bob, Roddy the rod grader, FourWord Bike and Board, Deep Physio, Nancy Doyle, Darrell Kaczynski and MSG Bikes.

Best,

Sarah and Hercules x

P.S To my friends in the Aleutians  and over the Pacific coasts, I hope you are all safe and well amid the big stormy stuff.

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Surely she will die!

  1. Susie says:

    So excited for you to be on the move again! You will be fine with winter… you are strong (even stronger now version 2.0) and willing to adapt to new scenarios. Good luck with the snowy roads, I think winter is here for real this time so hopefully that will be better for you (more snow but less slush)!

  2. christine ashdown says:

    Hello Sarah

    It was good to catch up with you again and to know that you have met so many lovely friendly people on your travels. We do so admire you and we love your blogs, they really do make us feel as though we are there with you, we are following you every inch of the way.

    So pleased to hear that Hercules has been sorted and you are on the road again.

    Just take great care and enjoy yourself as you head off to Calgary.

    Happy Pedalling and all good wishes

    K & C

  3. Christine Ashdown says:

    Hello Sarah

    Its been some time since we were able to catch up with you and your travels. We are so pleased that you have met so many friendly folks on your journey and more so they are so kind.

    We love to read your blogs they make us feel as though we are there with you.

    Glad to hear that Hercules is all up and running again and that you are now on your way to Calgary.

    Happy safe cycling and take great care.

    All good wishes

    K & C

    xx

  4. Brad Martin says:

    Sarah, I see you’re a terrific writer, as well as an artist (able to sketch yourself balancing a crocodile in the circus, at any rate)! Wish you all the best. Please be safe. Brad.

    • Sarah says:

      I laughed aloud alot these last few days remembering the sketching game! Happy days indeed. Safety is my #1 goal, I assure you. As such I took a ride to Edmonton yesterday to pick up my winter tyres 🙂

      Thanks again for hosting me – it was fantastic to spend time with Team Noga/Martin.

      Sarah

  5. Rilla says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m interested in hearing more about your thoughts on the oil industry further north as we do not support the new BC Enbridge/Northern Gateway pipeline. We own a small business on a small island on the BC coastline, and are deeply concerned about the risk to our pristine coastline if huge oil tankers spill here. We are all hoping the First Nations will stay strong and not cave to financial pressure, and we support them in their protests. Unfortunately, the news media is reporting more and more support from the Canadian government, and it seems it is being pushed ahead despite our concern.

    I am a long-time follower of your adventures, and was excited to see you’re heading towards my home town of Calgary. I now live on a southern gulf island in BC so will miss meeting you personally, but hopefully you’ll hear from a friend of mine that still lives there. All the best, and enjoy your time in Canada. Stay safe and eat lots! 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      It is certainly mind-boggling to see the scale and pace of things up here in this industry Rilla. I am all for economic development but in conjunction with environmental preservation. I still don’t think I know enough about it to make a call, but the pace/scale suggests that the quick buck is top priority. Go well, Sarah

  6. Steven says:

    Hello Sarah

    Its been some time since we were able to catch up with you and your travels. We are so pleased that you have met so many friendly folks on your journey and more so they are so kind.

    We love to read your blogs they make us feel as though we are there with you. What adventure you have!

    Glad to hear that Hercules is all up and running again and that you are now merrily on your way to Calgary.

    Happy safe cycling and take great care. We trust you will teach your honey Lucy the rules of the road!

    All the best and happy holiday wishes too!

  7. Bruce Ellen says:

    Hi Sarah.
    Take it easy and rest when you can. if you dont make your target tomorrow there is always the next day or the day after, or the day after. Who cares as long as you stop when you need to. how about more photos.

    Cheers from sunny Queensland 29c

  8. Are you having to do much pedalling in snow? It’s awful in my experience. Good to read that you and Herc are chimpy free and recharged. May the road be snow and truck free…

  9. Alan Pattinson says:

    Wow, you made it over the Canadian Rockies! I am totally impressed!

    Love reading your blogs, you write very descriptively, seems like I’m there with you.

    One trick I do when riding in cold weather, and coasting downhill while braking (when the wind is stronger), is to concentrate / focus my mind on the HEAT of the rubber rubbing against the wheel. Imagining the heat produced helps to put heat into my body/mind. Crazy, but it works!

  10. Roger Botting says:

    You are having such an amazing journey. I was in some of those places, sometime in the last century but your descriptions bring back sharp memories.
    And now you are just about to leave the tropical season in Canada. You should perhaps read up on the story of Steve Fonyo who ran across central Canada in the winter. And he only had one leg. Steve is a troubled sort but he did do such an amazing feat.
    And stay warm.

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for the headsup on Steve. I shall look him up – it sounds like an incredible story. I imagine some places have changed hugely since you were up here. The oil and gas boom seems to have made some places grow rather quickly, I understand.

  11. Ray Girard says:

    People telling you to be careful…….is just another way for them to be ‘involved’ in your journey, and for them to wish you ‘continuance’…..so they can also continue with you.

    Keep your heart smiling, and drink your water.

    Ray,
    Langley, BC
    CANADA

  12. Dale Myers says:

    I was watching the calendar as you spent time in Alaska and finally started east, wondering where you were planning to spend the winter. Now I have the answer.
    All I can say is that riding a bicycle across Canada and Northern United States in the dead of winter will be a real challenge. Good luck, and if your route takes you through Michigan, be sure to put Saginaw on that route, and let me know when you get here.
    Years ago I cycled from here to North Carolina via ferry across the St. Clair River to Ontario and back to New York on a bridge that is no longer open to the public; and from there by ship to points east. Here you can see a picture of me with a group of farm hands in Eastern Kazakhstan:
    http://webpages.charter.net/dalemyers/pics/photo.jpg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *