Canada Coast to Coast

Canada Coast to Coast

112 days, 4350 miles

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A Perfect End

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Now we have been in Vancouver for eight days now and I have to say I am glad that we did the east to west version of the trip as none of the cities we came across  on the east coast can compare with the culinary experiences that Vancouver offers. On our first night here after our last long ride from Port Alberni to downtown Vancouver, we found ourselves in a Chinese restaurant that aroused our curiosity about Asian cuisine in Vancouver. And our curiosity has now been quenched. After the Japanese noodle bar comparing well with our memories of noodles in Japan, we had to dig deeper into other restaurants to see if this was a one off, and it was not. From a great wee sushi bar by the name of “Sushi Mart” that saw me try my first BBQ eel (and boiii was it good) to a fusion restaurant (where the staff praise your entry and mourn your exit)  that offered a great twist on the Canadian yam fries (sweet potato chips) in the style of tempura. It shows that ethnic diversity leads to great things.

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However the most stunning meal of our stay so far was in a Mongolian restaurant with a unique cooking style, using a circular metal slab with two massive wooden sticks to prepare the best noodles of your life.  You decide what meat, vegetables and, best of all, the sauce you want. The restaurant offers a guide to how to make your sauce spicy or classic Mongolian but you can make up your own sauce which was just too tempting. I cannot remember what I mixed, just that it was trés good.

Yes, my stay in Vancouver was food focused but after all the cycling somehow the food tastes a whole lot better. This may be the end of this trip but I have not quite fulfilled my longing to travel so expect a lot more cycling from me in future. I mean I do not know about the rest of you, but does Vancouver to San Diego not sound like it could be just as amazing a trip as this has been?

 

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Olmo

Decompressione/ Decompression

“Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.” Cosí comincia uno dei grandi capolavori letterari di sempre, “Alla Ricerca Del Tempo Perduto”. Mi trovo al dodicesimo piano del Landis Hotel & Suites in Downtown Vancouver, dove é giunto a termine il nostro viaggio, in quella che mia sorella ha chiamato “fase di decompressione”. Dopo piú di tre mesi sulla strada, dormendo in tenda e coprendo mediamente 130 km al giorno, l’ora di coricarmi arriva ancora presto per me, come pure quella di alzarmi.

La prima realizzazione che eravano giunti alla fine ci venne a tutti e tre durante la prima delle colazioni che abbiamo consumato nel buffet dell’albergo, quando dopo  esserci serviti ci siamo guardati i rispettivi piatti e ci siamo detti con un’aria di delusione “ma non c’é piú bisogno di mangiare tanto!”. Dopo mesi di colazioni patagrueliche l’abitudine é normale. Il problema é peró che il nostro metabolismo deve essersi velocizzato ed abbiamo avuto fame nuovamente molto presto come se avessimo pedalato per 50 km. Alcide dalla partenza ha perso 7kg , io circa 6 , Olmo sembra avere messo su peso, ma considerando che era quello che regolarmente mangiava di piú non deve sorprendere.

Gli ultimi tre giorni sulla strada , si fa per dire, li abbiamo passati sull’Isola di Vancouver in un campeggio situato presso una fattoria dove fanno agricoltura biologica. Ne abbiamo approfittato per offrirci le migliori cene da campeggio dell’intero viaggio, a base di fiorentine ai ferri e salmone. L’Isola di Vancouver é stato il gioiello al termine della faticosa ricerca, il vero punto d’arrivo. Don Watt ed i suoi amici ci hanno lasciato con la raccomandazione di non dire troppo in giro quanto é bella la loro isola.

Non riesco a considerare Vancouver il nostro punto d’arrivo, per quanto accattivante sia come cittá. Solo dopo essermi sforzato di immaginare che sono qui per una semplice settimana di vacanza e non dopo un viaggio di tre mesi e 7000km in bicicletta, allora riesco ad aprirmi a quella che é dopo tutto la cittá piú viviibile del Nordamerica ed una delle piú belle del mondo. É vero ma non puó competere con la filosofica bellezza delle praterie, o quella drammatica delle Montagne Rocciose, la ferocia del Lago Superiore non va vissuta al dodicesimo piano di un hotel per quanto belli siano i lampi e i tuoni da vedere.

Gli incontri hanno reso il nostro viaggio speciale e, senza paura di usare un cliché, sono state le piccole comunitá rurali e vari individui incontrati sulla strada che ci hanno accolto con il loro contatto umano e spesso con aiuto concreto. Poi c’é il gruppo dei ciclisti come noi,  la maggioranza stava seguendo un percorso simile al nostro ma in direzione opposta, altri hanno risolto il dilemma est-ovest o ovest-est seguendo una direzione nord-sud con partenza dallo Yukon. Altri ancora sono in viaggio da mesi ed hanno in programma di raggiungere la Terra Del Fuoco , o di fare il giro del mondo. Sono stati momenti brevi, certamente troppo brevi. La memoria dei quali sembra peró consolidarsi con una maggiore e placida presa.

Poi c’é Jamie McDonald. The Globe And Mail di Vancouver del16/9 ha un articolo su di lui. Jamie soffre da quando era bambino di una malattia alla spina dorsale. Il dolore puó essere alleviato da un intenso esercizio fisico, cosí nel corso degli anni lui ha pedalato da Bangkok a Manchester e detiene il record mondialedi di bicicletta stazionaria. Queste imprese gli hanno consentito di raccogliere fondi per beneficienza. Ai primi di marzo Jamie ha cominciato a correre da St. John’s in Terranova verso ovest con traguardo Vancouver , 8000 km di distanza, una maratona al giorno. Questa é dopotutto la terra di Terry Fox. E questo per dare una giusta prospettiva alle cose.

Angelo

“Longtemps , je me suis couché de bonne heure.”  So begins one of the great literary masterpieces of all time. “In Search of Lost Time “. I am on the twelfth floor of the Landis Hotel & Suites Downtown in Vancouver, where our journey has come to an end, in a state of what my sister calls “decompression “. After more than three months on the road , sleeping in tents and covering an average of 130 km per day, bedtime is coming too early for me, as well as the time I wake up in the morning.

The first realization that we had come to the end of our trip was when we were at the breakfast buffet in the hotel, when, having piled up our plates, we looked at each other and we commented in disappointment, “But we don’t need to eat this much now .” After months of Pantagruelian breakfasts, it’s hard to lose the habit . The problem, though, is that our metabolism is still working at speed and get hungry again quickly, as if we had cycled 50 km. Alcide  has lost 7kg since we started our trip , I have lost about 6kg , and Olmo seems to have put on weight. Considering that is the one who has been eating the most, this is not surprising.

The last three days on the road were spent on Vancouver Island, in a campsite located on an organic farm. We had the the best dinners of the entire trip , grilled steaks and salmon. Vancouver Island has been the jewel at the end of our journey , the real point of arrival. Don Watt and his friends told us not to say too much about how beautiful their island is, to avoid a stampede.

I cannot consider Vancouver our point of arrival, as captivating as the city is. Only after I made myself think that I’m here for just a week of vacation, after a journey of three months and 7000km by bicycle, could I focus on what is, after all, the largest and most attractive cities to live in in North America, and one of the most beautiful in the world. This is true, but it cannot compete with the philosophical beauty of the prairie or the drama of the Rockies, nor can the ferocity of Lake Superior be experienced on the twelfth floor of a hotel, however striking the thunder and lightning.

It is meeting others en route that has made our trip special, and, though of course it is a cliché, the small rural communities and various individuals we encountered on the road, who welcomed us with their human contact and often with practical help . Then there was the group of cyclists like us, most following a path similar to ours but going in the opposite direction. Others have solved the east-west or west-east dilemma by cycling in a north-south direction, starting from the Yukon . Still others will be on the road for many months, planning to reach Tierra Del Fuego , or go around the world. They were brief moments of friendship , certainly too short, but the memories of which, however, seem to grip ever more powerfully.

Then there’s Jamie McDonald. The Vancouver Globe And Mail of 16 / 9 has an article about him.  Since he was a child, Jamie has suffered from a disease of the spine. The pain can be relieved by strenuous exercise, so over the years he has cycled from Bangkok to Manchester and he holds the world record for cycling on a stationary bike . These projects have enabled him to raise funds for charity. In early March, Jamie began to run from St. John’s Newfoundland to the west, with Vancouver, 8000 km away, as his goal, a marathon a day. This is, after all, the land of Terry Fox. And that puts our trip into perspective.

Angelo

Classic Car/ Auto d’Epoca

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Don Watt (no prizes for guessing his origins) was born and raised in Port Alberni and has spent his entire life there, working as a truck driver transporting large tree trunks to the sawmills. Perhaps his ancestors would have been happy to stay in his native Scotland if there had been a chance to work with dignity and to provide for the needs of a family there.

We made ​​his acquaintance down at the Port Alberni marina while we were eating ice cream and he was waiting for a friend. Our conversation as usual, started off with our bikes and our trip, and from then soon moved on to his hobby. Don is a fan of classic cars, and for him classic means the fifties, when he was growing up,  first dreaming of cars and then owning the car of his dreams.

Sixty years later, a widower, he decided to revive the dream and bought a car of that era: a Ford convertible, which he uses only six months a year to avoid damage in winter. It is one of those huge cars, with flaps above the rear lights and an interior with space for 8 people. Cars like those seen in the films of Elvis Presley or later in American Graffiti. While we were chatting a friend of his turned up at the wheel of a Cadillac from the same era. When he saw how interested we were, Don offered us a ride in his Ford, and for a while we felt ourselves to be in a Hollywood movie.

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As a result, Olmo is now complaining that I let go the car of his dreams before he was even born: our old Mini. According to him, I should have kept it for all these years to give it to him on his eighteenth birthday!

Angelo

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Don Watt ( nessun premio per indovinare le sue origini), e’ nato, cresciuto ed ha trascorso tutta la vita a Port Alberni dove ha lavorato sempre come camionista  trasportando grossi tronchi d’albero alle segherie. Viene subito da pensare come i suoi antenati sarebbero stati felicissimi di rimanere nella nativa Scozia se ci fosse stata la possibilita’ di lavorare dignitosamente e provvedere ai bisogni di una famiglia.

Abbiamo fatto la sua conoscenza giu’ alla marina di Port Alberni mentre mangiavamo un gelato e dove lui doveva incontrare un amico. La nostra chiaccherata come al solito e’ partita dalle nostre bici a dal viaggio per poi presto arrivare al suo hobby. Don e’ un appassionato di auto d’epoca e per lui l’unica epoca che conta sono gli anni cinquanta quando da ragazzino divento’ un giovane adulto, prima sognando poi possedendo una macchina dei suoi sogni. Sessant’anni dopo, rimasto vedovo, ha deciso di rivivere il sogno ed ha acquistato un’auto della sua epoca:  una Ford decapottabile, che usa solo per sei mesi all’anno per evitarle i maltrattamenti dell’inverno. Si tratta di una di quelle macchine enormi, con le alette sopra le luci posteriori ed un interno con spazio per 8 persone. Macchine come questa si vedono nei film di Elvis Presley o piu’ tardi in American Graffiti. Mentre stavamo chiaccherando un suo amico e’ arrivato al volante di una Cadillac pure della stessa epoca. Alla fine visto il nostro interesse, Don ci ha offerto di fare un giro sulla sua Ford, e per un po’ ci siamo sentiti anche noi in un film holliwoodiano.
Tutto questo ha portato Olmo a rimproverarmi di essermi liberato ancora prima che lui nascesse dell’auto dei suoi sogni: la Mini. Avrei dovuto tenerla da parte e conservarla per tutti questi anni per regalargliela il giorno del suo diciottesimo compleanno!!!

Angelo

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The End

It is not really the end. Well, as we see it, the film is over but the credits are still rolling. We have made it to Vancouver and beyond to the island where we are currently chilin in Port Alberni which is the furthest west we can go. However we do not feel as though we have totally finished.

This is the same strange feeling, but switched around, that we had in Halifax where I could not see myself riding for over three months. I am glad my brother, father and I managed to do so. At first I could not see myself getting up and going for hours on end but now, with little over two weeks left till I am back home, where college, friends and a completely different time zone awaits, I will miss the getting up and going for hours on end, seeing completely different landscape everyday, meeting a whole range of colourful people and most of all the sense of accomplishment I share with my dad and brother.

All in all though I look foward to a long rest period in Vancouver as we have our fellow cycling companion Jordi to meet up with again, and Natalys and Kathryn who we met in our adventures around Lake Louise, but most of all, the amount of time I have to sleep.

Olmo

Chasing Salmon/ A Caccia di Salmone

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Upon our arrival at the campsite in Port Alberni Arrowvale, we pitched the tent and immediately started talking about dinner. After crossing the province of British Columbia, it was time to try the salmon, especially considering the fact that  Vancouver Island is a fisherman’s paradise. We were about to get back on the bikes when we heard a voice calling out to us in the accent of the north-east of England. It was John Pearson, a fishing enthusiast who is spending a dream holiday in the kingdom of the salmon, along with his wife. John gave us enough salmon to last a whole week. He had been fishing in the north of the island with great success, so much so that he had had to throw  fish back into the river in order not to exceed the daily quota. His RV freezer was full to the brim and he was happy to offer us a share of his fortune.

We started to chat about this and that. John is also a bicycle enthusiast and has taken part in the Dolomites, Marathon; as is so often the case with us, he was very curious about our recumbents. Unfortunately, after two unsuccessful fishing outings in the river near the camp, he and his wife decided it was time to move on and go to the Pacific Ocean chasing the dream of every fisherman: The Big One.

Angelo

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Al nostro arrivo al campeggio Arrowvale a Port Alberni abbiamo montato la tenda e ci siamo subito messi a parlare della cena. Dopo avere attraversato la provincia della Columbia Britannica era ora di provare il salmone, specialmente considerando il fatto che l’Isola di Vancouver e’ una delle zone preferite dai pescatori. Eravamo in procinto di risalire sulle bici quando ci siamo sentiti chiamare da una voce con un forte accento del nordest dell’Inghilterra. Era quella di John Pearson, appassionato di pesca che con la moglie sta trascorrendo una vacanza da sogno nel regno del salmone. John ci offriva praticamente abbastanza salmone da sfamarci per una intera settimana. Aveva pescato nel nord dell’isola con strepitoso successo, tale che aveva dovuto ributtare dei pesci nel fiume per non superare la quota giornaliera permessa. Aveva quindi il freezer del suo camper stapieno ed era felicissimo di offrirci una parte della sua fortuna.

Ci siamo messi poi a parlare un po’ di tutto. John e’ anche un appassionato di bicicletta ed ha partecipato ad una edizione della Maratona delle Dolomiti, come al solito si e’ mostrato molto curioso riguardo alle nostre reclinate. Purtroppo dopo due uscite con la canna da pesca nel fiume vicino al campeggio senza successo, lui e la moglie hanno deciso che era ora di cambiare zona e spingersi verso l’Oceano Pacifico inseguendo il sogno di ogni pescatore: The Big One

Angelo

In un mare di frutteti/ In a sea of orchards

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Una delle cose che piu’ ci sono mancate questa estate e’stata la frutta che specialmente durante le nostre vacanze in Italia mangiamo in abbondanza. I prezzi erano proibitivi, per frutta che non era molto buona, venendo appunto  da lontano. Che gioia incontanibile quando una volta scesi nell’Okanagan Valley, ci siamo trovati immersi in un mare di frutteti. Se non fosse stato per i bellissimi laghi mi sarei sentito quasi di essere nella mia Romagna. La Columbia Britannica ha una estate calda, ed una primavera che comincia tardi, la frutta quindi matura tardi. Quest’anno ha coinciso con il nostro arrivo. Non ci immaginavamo certo di potere mangiare ciliege, albicocche, fragole etc in settembre, per non parlare di cocomeri che non hanno nulla da invidiare a quelli famosi del ferrarese.

Lungo le strade del sud della Columbia Britannica ci sono centinaia di fruttivendoli che attirano i locali come i turisti con prezzi stracciati ed un prodotto che in molti casi viene dal frutteto dietro il negozio. Si tratta davvero di una manna per poveri ciclisti bisognosi di vitamine, zuccheri e liquidi. Come sempre pero’ bisogna sapersi controllare o fare fronte alle conseguenze.

Angelo

 

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One of the things we have missed most this summer has been fruit, especially as during our summer holidays in Italy we eat it in abundance. The prices here were prohibitive for fruit that was not very good, not surprisingly as it came from far away. When we arrived in the Okanagan Valley, we were overjoyed to find ourselves immersed in a sea of orchards. Were it not for the beautiful lakes I would have felt almost as if I were at home in Romagna. British Columbia has a hot summer, and a late spring, so the fruit ripens late. This year, it has coincided with our arrival. We certainly hadn’t imagined being able to eat cherries, apricots, strawberries, etc. in September, not to mention watermelons that could compete with those of Ferrara.

Along the roads of southern British Columbia there are hundreds of fruit stands that attract locals as well as tourists with bargain prices and fruit that in many cases comes from the orchard directly behind the stand. This is really a boon for poor cyclists in need of vitamins, sugars and liquids. As always, however, one must eat in moderation, or cope with the consequences.

Angelo