Without depending on dry trails or turning chairlifts, bicycle touring combines exercise, community and immersion in the outdoors in a way Sun Peaks locals would appreciate.
For this reporter during the off season, the 2,700 kilometres from Abbotsford, B.C. to San Ysidro, Cali.—the Canadian border to Mexican border—proved cycle touring to be a mode of travel where the journey is certainly more memorable than the destination.
To be sure, it took time for my muscles to adjust to the grind and for saddle soreness to wear off. So too, for my mind to build up sufficient stamina to endure the endless hours of scrutinising the pavement ahead for loose grit and surprise potholes before they became puncture fodder for my tires.
Less-than-ideal weather, tendonitis, raccoon encounters and having greasy bike chain imprints repeatedly tattooed on my belongings made me question my choice. As did 18-wheeler trucks and first-time RV drivers—not completely at ease with the width of their new rentals—that jostled for space in the bike lane along narrow and winding highways.
But the self sufficient, minimalist lifestyle of living out of a tent and panniers was satisfying. The long distance pedaling rewarded me not only with tighter glutes, but also a deeper appreciation for how the landscape, climate and culture evolved along the route than if it had sped past me through a car window.
My caloric needs increased ten-fold, so any time that wasn’t spent cycling I was eating as much as I wanted, a definite highlight. And I was introduced to the subculture of cycle tourists who exist, comprised of people from all walks of life.
Along my route there was a young professional who had left a high-intensity job to retreat up the coast for some quiet solitude, a retired couple touring on a tandem bike, a woman pedaling away her heartbreak, a pair of competitive Germans who raced me 140 km to San Francisco. These strangers were from all over the world with a commonality, swapping stories and route tips in whispers that travelled up and down the coastline as we did, coalescing at campsites or on the road.
Thanks to this collaboration I avoided a two day detour around a highway closure on the California coast that would have meant missing some of the most stunning scenery of the trip. I was assured by fellow cyclists that the landslide debris blocking the road extended only 150 metres, not so far a distance that a bicycle couldn’t be carried over, but only once the construction workers had left for the day. Everything went smoothly and for the next 10 km the now-paved, but still-closed, road through big sky, big mountain coastline was all mine to soak up.
I was sad for the tour to end. My arrival at the Mexican border was anticlimactic; it was just the end of the road. I imagine Sun Peaks riders can relate; no one relishes the ride for the chairlift line that awaits them at the bottom. It’s the journey down the trail, curving and evolving that generates the thrill and satisfaction, after all.