Friday, June 27, 2014

Canada ... Still North

Today was a first for me. I rode my bicycle across a nation's border.

Really, it was a different country. It's called "Canada," and it has its own government and everything. They even have different money from ours.

I left the hotel in Bellingham about 8 am, after a less-than-thrilling breakfast in the hotel's lobby, and almost immediately missed a turn. Fortunately, Bellingham is a pretty cycling-friendly place, so it was easy for me to make a few turns and get back on route.

Soon, I was on roads that more-or-less followed I-5. About 10 miles in, I got to the first town -- Ferndale -- where I stopped for another coffee and to see if their wifi worked better than the hotel's (it didn't, which is why all of these blog posts are being published after my return to Nashville).

From Ferndale, I was on a series of quiet country roads. I had started the day wearing tights and a jacket, but by 10 am it had warned up enough for me to remove them. Soon, I was in Blaine, where I crossed the border into Canada. The customs folks were very nice, and since I was on a bicycle I didn't have to wait in the line with the cars.

There was a tough ridge to climb then, followed by a very bumpy descent to a flat quiet farm road towards the Vancouver suburb of Surrey. This was pretty much like most suburbs -- and, thus, not that much fun to bike through. Eventually, I got to a very confusing network of bike paths that were more like sidewalks ... and not very good sidewalks at that ... followed by a couple of bridges that I had to cross on scary bike paths that had been kind of tacked on to the side. Some of them had good views, of course, but it was not a great place for an acrophobic touring cyclist.

I was very glad to cross the final bridge and enter Vancouver proper. I was also impressed, since the bike paths in the city made the bike paths earlier look like sick jokes. They had a beautiful network of bike lanes and signed bike routes down quiet shady streets that made it very easy for me to get through the city and up to the north end of town.

After a late lunch at a burger place, I headed up to the very end of the Adventure Cycling route at the marina. Then I went exploring for a bit, taking pictures of the boats out sailing and just generally having fun watching families enjoy a gorgeous first day of summer.

It was almost 4 pm when I finally headed to where I was staying the night, the HI Hostel at Jericho Beach. This was the first hostel at which I've ever stayed, and I kind of expected some kind of bohemian vibe with a bunch of college students out seeing the world. It had plenty of that -- I'd missed the yoga class that morning and the organic farm tour at noon -- but it also had folks my age, some of whom even seemed to be from this hemisphere.

I'd splurged on a single room, which was $56/night. It did not have a private bathroom, and was kind of warm when I first got there since it did not have air conditioning and was on the sunny side of the building. But they had a nice space where I could lock away my bicycle, the bed was comfortable, the group shower was very clean, and the temperature quickly cooled when the sun set.

After spending most of the day on the bike, I decided to walk to one of the neighborhood places nearby for dinner and to get some groceries for the next day. It was about two miles, but I had brought some nice folding sandals with me on this trip and they were quite comfortable. After a small pizza and a glass of wine, I walked back through the beach area about 8 pm, with plenty of daylight still.

The hostel was bustling when I got back, with a young group hanging out in the front yard. Nonetheless, I kept falling asleep as I lay in bed reading, finally waking about 11 pm and turning out the light. By then the kids had turned in and my room was getting chilly, so I slept great through the night.

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