A Canadian Love Affair: British Columbia and Alberta Mountains (draft)(prairies soon)

July 9. Hills today, finally some real ones, not too long though, and sunshine and a tailwind. Can’t beat that. The roadsides and meadows are filled with flowers: paintbrush, daisy, columbine, yarrow, and a spike of white orchids. There are more pines and meadows and it is opening up to the sky. I am getting that Montana big sky feeling.

Today our rear tire, (it has been de laminating on the sidewall) got so thumpety bumpety, bump, we decided to ditch it. That meant we were down to one almost worn out spare, not enough when heading into the high empty country ahead.

After a huge dinner in Houston (despite picking the “smaller appetite” meal option) of salad, potato, vegetable and veal or pork chop, we lucked onto an all-sports shop open after 8 pm. The owner was repairing bikes and had the front door open. She had one good road slick for us and found the spare chainring bolt I had been trying to get since Victoria. She was delightful, sharp and attractive woman with a well kept and organized shop. She seems to be doing well in a very small town with a very long winter.

We feel much better with a good spare. Now we can speed down hills again, unafraid.

In Burns, outside the post office, we met Ray Brown, 65, out walking. Says he walks all over town every day; seemed to know everyone, white or native who passed by. He was interested in Zippy. I mentioned that we had met a Terry Brown at Moricetown falls. “Oh, yeah,” he said, “that’s my cousin’s boy. Good boy.” Small world.

He wanted to talk. Told us he’d had two wives. The first one died of heart problems years ago. The second one he’d been with 14 years when she was found dead in a snow bank last winter. Hit by a car and left. He said she was walking home drunk. Heavy drinking and violent death go together often in remote places like this. Sweet old man, walking and talking, waving to everyone, making do.

Past Burns Lake was the famous six-mile-hill we’d been warned of for days. It was famous with the locals. “We don’t mind hills,” I’d told a woman in a restaurant. “Talk to me after,” she said. But then she was a smoker.

The hill was indeed steep, but by our reckoning, only two miles long. The mystery was solved in Fraser Lake where we learned they meant the whole hill, up and down and flat on top. Oh. And we’d worried for days. Here we are in long valleys between mountains, but the Canadian Rockies are not far away; we’ll have enough long hills then.

The ragged snowcapped mountains have given way to meadows and rounded mountains. Aspens edge fenced fields of cows, meadows white with daisies and dotted with grazing horses, cowboy hats and boots, and more toots and waves from motorists. Moose warning signs remain on the roadsides (we’ve seen a couple) along with ponds ringed in lily pads and aquatic grasses rippling in the winds. More sunshine.

At a campground in Burns Lake, we saw a huge Safari diesel pusher motor home we’d seen at a campground a couple days back, and once on the road. It tows a convertible behind and sports a satellite dish on top. When we first saw it, strolling the campground, looking at RV’s and meeting people as we often do, Claire looked at the monster’s license plate. “How did I know they were from California.” I agreed. We all have our knee-jerk prejudices don’t we.

Just then, the door opened and a man and a dog got out. Heck. Why not? We strolled by, smiled big. “Hi,” we said in unison. “We’ve been seeing you on the road.”

He looked at our shorts and parkas, and beamed. “You’re the ones on the bicycle!” And so it began, the road bonding.

They are Dick and Donna Sargent and Ginger the German shepherd. They’ve been on the road since May and loving it. They picked the new coach up new in Eugene, Oregon and have been to Alaska and back. They usually stay two days at each stop, and see the local sights.

They invited us in. Whoa. White leather everything, three televisions, two of them bigger than most sports bars have, a laundry room and sit down tub. Oh my. Ginger has her own couch (covered by an old blanket) and the cabinets are a beautiful custom burl.

Claire and Donna talked arts and crafts, Donna’s drawing and Claire’s bread-dough art, and full-timing (living full time in an RV), which we are beginning to consider.

Dick was in the food service business in Santa Cruz (now passed on to his son) and they also have a 42 footer (sailboat) at the yacht club there. They are discovering they like RV people a lot better than yacht club people. More real. Less artifice and cliquishness. Well, they would certainly be at the top of the pecking order, if there were one in the RV community, so there must not be. And they even invited a couple of lowly tenters into their palace, and fed us ice cream; how did they know how to win us over?

Very nice people. Very amazed at what we do, but supportive. So we’re eating humble pie. We’re always preaching tolerance for others, usually those poorer or of another color, but it goes the other way too. Don’t judge rich folks until you get to know them. It’s a lesson I’ve had to relearn more than once.

We saw them coming from behind on the way into Prince George two days later. We were stopped by the road so they thought we might need assistance. We were worried their train (they tow a convertible) wouldn’t be able to get off the road, but Dick managed it well. I showed them the ball of string I’d just collected from the shoulder. “We’re salvaging,” I said. “This will be our bear-string, to hang our food with.”

Dick shook his head. “You guys are amazing.”

No, Dick, cheap.