A different kind of Road to Nats

On August 3rd, 2013 I arrived in Vancouver.

I made it.

I made it.

It was not your typical two practices a week road to Nationals. Here is what it did involve…

Here are my final biking stats:

• Total days: 119
• Biking Days: 65
• Total Km: 7449
• Average Km/day: 114.6
• Median: 116 Km
• Longest Day: 194 Km
• Shortest Day: 17 Km

Here is the final map from Canmore to Vancouver:

The other maps can be found here

Here are my final ultimate stats spreading over 9 provinces and 22 different communities:

• Tournaments: 7
• Practices: 6
• League games: 7
• Pick up games: 4
• Clinics: 3

Here is my final budget information:

• Total money spent: $ 4235
• Average $/day: 35.59
• Number of nights paying for accommodation: 6 (total $173)

Expenses breakdown after 119 days on the road from Halifax to Vancouver.

Expenses breakdown after 119 days on the road from Halifax to Vancouver.

My final days on the road were a real grind as I tried to bike off the fatigue of the Nelson tournament without giving myself a day off. That combined with the desert like conditions of mountainous Southern BC, made for a tough final leg of the journey.

Biking through the province that proudly boasts of its beauty right on its licence plate brought back a flood of memories. Like the family vacations I went on when I was younger to ski or horse back ride. Or as I grew older, with a voracious appetite for adventure, the time I hitchhiked with a friend and arriving at our destination in the dark we unknowingly set up our tent in the middle of a road. These memories and more came back to me as I pumped my legs over the last few hundred Kms of my journey.

Even though the cycling portion has come to a close some things will end where they should have begun. There is still one last ultimate tournament left to play. Right around the time I was sleeping on the couch of Jeff, whom I had met in Chicoutimi, in Revelstoke another Jeff, who I had also met in Chicoutimi, was pulling strings over in Newfoundland to offer me a roster spot on the Mixed team representing the Atlantic region at the Canadian Ultimate Championships in Vancouver: Wreckhouse. Some things come full circle; the one province that I did not bike through will in spirit be how I end my voyage surrounded by its inhabitants.

The eve before my final day on the road I had the pleasure of receiving an email from David my companion on the very first day of my trip. In his writings he linked me back to his account of my first day of cycling where he accompanied me for the first 25 Km. In turn I began to read my own blogs from the beginning and my tales from the Maritimes as I started to make my way Westward.

I was glad that I got to look back and reflect on some of my finer and not so finer moments and the experiences I shared with so many along the way. It also reminded me that although I will disappoint many superlative hungry individuals out there; there is no ‘best moment’ or ‘favourite this’ or ‘worst that’. Along the way every moment, community, and person represented their own unique story and choosing one over the other for better or for worse would be a mistake.

Nice clouds, but I think they were hiding something even nicer

Nice clouds, but I think they were hiding something even nicer

So I arrived at my final destination, as I did with most of my journey, without incident and on an even keel. I had been cheated of great views over my last few days of my trip due to low cloud cover. The first thing I did was relieved myself from the burden of tweeting daily and then took a glorious week away from both bicycle and computer. My first meal in Vancouver was the back up rice that had quietly kept me company throughout the 1000s of Kms of my journey. It wasn’t glorious but you have to respect the back up rice.

I figure I have one last blog post left in me to give a brief account of the Canadian Ultimate Championships and to try and summarize that which is un-summarize-able; this trip as a whole.

Konnecting Kootenays and Breaking Discs

I recieved two real good pieces of advice as I began my assault on the mountains. One was from my Uncle Ken in Canmore who told me not to make my last few Kms into Vancouver too much of a chore. Before getting my second piece of advice I had to climb Rogers Pass, so I guess I had already started the mountains. I left Canmore after a real good rest, making sure that my cousins Macx and Nicola knew their place in the family pecking order by destroying them at Monopoly.

I had been told that I had a lot of descending ahead of me into Golden and I was not disappointed. The jury is still out as to whether I cracked 200 Km that day but it would have to be close as I made Donald, BC. It was somewhere around Golden that I noticed that I had broken a spoke in my front rim. The first time my front wheel has given me any trouble whatsoever this trip. I decided that if I backed off the brakes a bit the wobble wouldn’t interfere with my pedaling too much so I took on Rogers Pass the following day with a slight wiggle.

My second good piece of advice came from my buddy Jeff who I stayed two nights with in Revelstoke. Jeff and I met in Chicoutimi doing a French learning program called Explore, which I have mentioned in other blog posts. Honestly that program pays for itself not only in the language skills you acquire but also the people you meet along the way, I highly recommend it to anyone in a post-secondary institution because the governement will even pick up your tab.

Jeff and I were chatting about my bike ride across the country, he had to recover a bit from his disbelief at the fact that I was doing it on a $45 bike, with no clip ins on my pedals, and without padded bike shorts but once he did and he realized how far ahead of schedule I was he told me to get off the TransCanada.

Having just announced to Ultimate Rob in my interview, that can be seen here, that I didn’t think there were any tournaments in between Calgary and Vancouver prior to Nationals I did a little research to make sure. Turns out I was wrong and there was a tournament in Nelson, BC called Disc Break.

Originally my plan had been to bike to Kelowna and then catch a ride over to Nelson with one of the teams that was sure to be participating in the tournament. With the advice I had recieved from my uncle and friend, both indiviuals who I look up, I decided I should just bike to Nelson. In the grand scheme of things what is an extra 300 Km.

I bombed out of Revelstoke having taken a day off to get my bike fixed, eat some tacos, and try my body out at rock climbing all of which were successes to various degrees, the rock climbing the lowest but still a fun activity. The wonders of the Slocan valley and the Kootenays were pretty amazing to look at. I met up with Ian, a truck driver, who shared my grasp of the perfect free campsite on my first night out of Revie near New Denver. He was equally impressed with my garage sale get up and having chatted a bit and said our good byes he came back down to my tent and offered me a delicious sandwhich and some yogurt that were a cool temperature thanks to the cooler he had in his truck. I really appreciated the generosity.

I didn’t think I knew anyone in Nelson, so Jeff had put me in touch with a friend of his, Kendra, where I could spend Thursday night waiting for the tournament camping to kick in. It was a really hot day and I was trying to make good time so that I had a shot at meeting Kendra at her place before she left to go mountain biking for the afternoon. I pulled over at a lemonade stand about 20 Km from town to get ready for my last push of the day. That is where I made eye contact with a girl who seemed vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. After some mutual staring I decided to ask her name: Meredith, and boom turns out we went to high school together in Ottawa.

It is a funny thing how your situation has a huge impact on your relationships, Meredith and I agreed that had we met on the streets of Ottawa in front of our old high school we may have chatted for 5 minutes and then moved on. Given that we were several 1000s of Kms away from that scenario we chatted for a bit and then she offered me a place to stay on Sunday post tournament.

Nelson, BC a strong hold of granola and hemp

Nelson, BC a strong hold of granola and hemp

I am familiar with the feeling of being unique in a town with a big beard and a only a tent or perhaps a couch, if I am lucky, to sleep on. It turns out that in Nelson, I am not unique at all, in fact: I fit right in. This beautiful town that seems to have been built on a stronghold of granola and hemp has got a pretty sweet vibe and they aren’t so bad at ultimate either.

Disc Break is Nelson’s tournament that I had only found out about a week earlier. I had sent out a general email and asked to pick up with anyone that would have me. I was contacted by Luke the captain of Fat Kids (or Phat Kidz, depending on your spelling) and he invited onto a team that was billed as short on players but long on experience. This could not have been more true when I went out for dinner with one of my teammates, James, on Friday night and found out that one year, earlier in his ultimate career, he played in 32 tournaments. I gotta think that is the record.

When James and I got back from dinner more of our team had arrived at the campsite, the majority of the Fat Kids hailing from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, having taken the day off to drive in. We had a few drinks and some pizza then retired for the night as our weekend was bound to be a long one having only a 12 person roster.

The tournament itself was a blast with some hot weather and wind to keep eveyone honest, but the Fat Kids came through Saturday undefeated. Saturday night was a ripping party at the Nelson Curling Rink with a DJ and local beer. The organizers overall did a stand up job with the 10 teams in attendance. There were 5 freshly painted regualtion size fields and catered lunches on both days. Sunday came around and having a 10:30 start time made for a nicer morning than most. The Fat Kids continued their streak taking down a team in the quarters and then having a good game against the local team. Nelson Home Grown, and finally winning the whole tournament against a team out of Kelowna: Mana Burn.

I headed over to Meredith’s after watching Team Canada lose to the United States in Ultimate at The World Games on Sunday evening. Had a few beers around a campfire and then went to bed in order to prepare for my final push into Vancouver.

Crowsnest Highway Elevation, courtesy of these folks: http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/1000km/routes/crowsnest_prof.html

Crowsnest Highway Elevation, courtesy of these folks: http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/1000km/routes/crowsnest_prof.html

I came across the above image and put it on facebook yesterday without much context. Having spent nearly 4 months in my head on the seat of a bike I understood completely what it meant, but the heat of the desert was upon me and I forgot to give an explanation that might resonate with those who work in an air conditioned office 9-5. That is an elevation map of Highway 3 or the Crowsnest Highway. I am moving from right to left along it. I dropped onto the highway at Caslegar and now only have two humps left to go. I am particularly excited for the last 56 Km of Highway 3 into Hope, BC that are a full out descent. That is not the end of the road there is still about 150 Km to go before I hit Vancouver from Hope.

When I get there it is going to be awesome.