The Bicycle Diaries: A Series of Tales from the Kootenays
June 2, 2011 Fernie, BC

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Welcome to Nelson!
Now get the heck off the trail!
(I encountered a grizzly bear moments later..)

It's not the places you go that matter, it's the people you meet along the way.

Normally I wouldn't agree with this statement - I've always valued the destinations while traveling - but then again, I'd never traveled by bicycle before, let alone through the Southeast corner of British Columbia.

There is a certain spirit abound in the Kootenays. You can sense things are different here. Maybe it's the fresh air and clean water, or the "outdoorsy" atmosphere that make people interested in the guy with a solar panel strapped to his bike, or perhaps within these huge mountain valleys there's just a little extra room for an open mind - particularily in Nelson, a town that seems more accepting of dreadlocks and hemp clothing than of dandelion-free lawns.

The Nelson Open-Air Market
Get your hemp and crystal-based products here.

During every single day of my journey I have met at least one person who intrigues me or inspires me - but the Kootenays were different. The phenomenon seemed to be nearly hourly.

At first, I had a hard time leaving Nelson. Then it become impossible. I broke 8 spokes and suddenly I was back - hitchhiking into town with characters colourful enough to put a Skittles bag to shame. There's something that makes one smile - and a little nervous - about riding shotgun (nearly literally) in a rusty pickup truck, drinking beer and bouncing down the highway along stunning Kootenay Lake with a man who had just buried his dog on a mountainside. Pretty soon, I was deposited back on a friend's doorstep looking pathetic but happy to have returned. A return to a warm showers and warm feet. A return to good food and conversation. A mere moment to enjoy normal life, friendship and not worrying if tonight is going to be regular cold or extra super-duper cold, or whether a bear will steal my food during the night or a whether a thunderstorm will trap me inside my tent the next morning.

I hate that ****ing blonde in there with the huge ***s, she doesn't do a ****ing thing! Oh! Sweetie... you look tired and thirsty, would you like me to buy you a coke?"
- Customer outside the general store in Elko, BC

Then there are the people you meet that make you shake your head and laugh. The road has its own charm, and the promise you'll hear some outrageous things or meet some colourful characters. One such person was named Mazy.

Along the KVR, I met a woman from Vancouver who was riding her bike in the opposite direction. She said she had lost her 3 other friends who were riding along with her - and who were also carrying her stove and repair kit, though she was carrying the food. While I seemed impressed by the strange predicament she was in, she was equally perplexed by the fact that I was walking around camp wearing one shoe.

The City of Nelson
As high as you can legally get in Nelson

I explained that I had lost one of my prized Croc shoes farther back on the trail. Though I didn't mention it, the Crocs had belonged to my father - and while, yes, you can buy these cheap, ugly rubber shoes for about $10, they carry a certain sentimental value to me, even though they're falling apart and clearly are easy to lose.

However, a strange thing happened when I arrived to the town of Midway a couple of days later. There, shoved into a crevice of the Welcome sign, was my missing Croc! How in the world could it have beaten me here? Inside was a note from Mazy, explaining that I should buy new shoes, but that she had found my Croc and had a feeling that I'd find it if she put it in the right spot.

The Crocs are still going strong, even if one took a shortcut in a car.

All Aboard
Carrie says, "Respect the Hat!"

The point of the story however has little to do with Crocs, which by the way make excellent bike-trip camp shoes (ultralight, you can wear socks, they dry instantly, etc). The point is with the Crocs represented to me - the thought of carrying something of my father's along on the journey. In reality, I'm carrying many things that belonged to him, there was just something about his shoes that seem more symbolic - walking in his footsteps, perhaps?

However, while shaving one morning, I looked in the mirror and saw that I was carrying something else. I saw my own face looking back, but in that moment I saw my father's face looking back. I've been carrying along his genes as well. I'm carrying his wrinkles (getting there!), jaw line and cheekbones (though luckily not the same hairline - yet). My father is with me every day of this journey, whether or not I carry the rain pants, or the flashlight, or the pen that I gathered from his belongings after he died. Though helpful, these items have lost of a lot of the symbolism I gave them before starting the journey. I have something far more rare and special to carry along to remind me of him.

Case of the Missing Croc:
Case closed. Moving on.

Mazy was right after all. The Crocs are just cheap rubber shoes. However, they're still here with me, falling apart and looking shabby - but they're not here because they were my father's; it's because I'm too cheap to buy another pair.

Beyond the town of Sparwood lies Crowsnest Pass, a cut in the Rockies which will deposit me directly into the Canadian prairies, south of Calgary, Alberta. From here, the journey will leave the Trans Canada Trail and join mostly paved higways - though minor and mostly untraveled - en route towards Winnipeg. Thanks for following along!

Can you say "Cottage Party"?
The Hamlet of Sirdar
Columbia Brewery
Where good things come from.
So Many Kokanee!
Kokanee Original! Kokanee Gold! Oh My!
Caught Red Handed
They quickly learned why I should not be trusted as a bartender.
It's the Beer Out Here!
Please Ride Responsibly!
Sasquatch Sighting - and He Cheers for the Canucks!
Rails... to Trails!
The End of the Rail Trail in Cranbrook
Al Skucas, President of Trails BC
And for today, moonlighting as my trail guide!
Rocky Mountain Oyster Country
Cheap Rents
And I say unto thou: "Let's Do This!"
Sunset en Route to Fernie
Mudpie Ingredients
Slap this on a Dollar Coin!
Mount Broadwood Conservation Area
Proposed future home of the Trans Canada Trail in Elko, BC
Livin' on the Edge!
Killer Downhill
Purple Rocks, Mt. Broadwood Conservation Area
Hoodoo? We do!
Mt. Broadwood Conservation Area, Elko BC
My Rock Signature
Big Rocks, Mt. Broadwood
Muddy Tracks from Fernie to Sparwood
My final km's to the Alberta Border
World's Biggest Truck, Sparwood BC
I came, I saw, I will lean on it