We met Dave at a rest stop just out of Malakwa.
You find yourself attracted (magnetically, not necessarily physically) to other cyclists when you’ve been riding a while. The shared experience of being grimy, achy and sunburned is a good conversation starter.
Dave was the trove of generosity and openness that a cycle-tourist should be. The usual “hi, how’s it going, where are you going, we’re from the UK, ah nice!” evolved into a couple of hours swapping stories and touring tips, then absorbing lessons on history, geography, world affairs, energy, culture, kit, conspiracies and everything else.
His bank of stories was bigger than his gear, and he was the most well-laden cycle tourist I’ve ever met. He carried more than us two combined, most of which rested on a huge trailer behind his bike. It was a truly formidable set-up.
A benefit of so much gear is that you’re afforded certain luxuries that the more streamlined tourer sacrifices. A huge tent and custom-made 1.5x size sleeping bag is one example. Supplies for a full pancake breakfast, complete with syrup and butter is another example.
Dave’s invite to join him for the latter is one of the highlights of the ride so far.
As he began to unpack his full kitchen and pantry, I washed the melted butter out of his pannier bag – fine barter for a pancake breakfast.
For a few minutes Kristian pottered about, Dave kept unpacking things, I cleaned.
The stories kept flowing. The rest stop we were at was the site of The Last Spike, where the final spike in the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in 1885. “Every Canadian kid knows that”.
The pancake mix and syrup made an appearance, as did the redundant eggs and butter. Each item unpacked sparked a foray into a new task or story. “If you buy frozen strawberries, you can eat them over the next couple of days!”.
I finished evicting butter from the bag and started making some coffee, which prompted Dave to unpack his coffee making set-up. Comparing gear is another essential part of chatting to other cyclists, so we evaluated each other’s cooking and coffee making arrangements, taking photos and notes so we could improve ours later. My Bugaboo received warm and deserved praise.
Kristian started making pancakes while I made coffee and Dave unpacked more things. He told us about the merits of a plastic egg holder, about his life in the Middle East and his time spent teaching English in South Korea, about T. E. Lawrence and his unorthodox military career, about his night spent camping at the Eton Boat Club, about Paul Hellyer’s declaration that aliens are real and, my favourite, about two Swedish girls who are cycling too, one of whom is a mechanical engineer and told Dave that his trailer was mechanically inefficient because of the arrangement of the axles.
His touring tips were often accompanied by labelling us ‘Innocents Abroad’. I enjoy the implication of a Master and Apprentice dynamic where us young tourists are earning our stripes and collecting experiences and miles from the road, and knowledge from other people riding it.
This dynamic was immediately flipped when a guy came over and introduced himself as Miguel, touring North America in a van with his girlfriend Misaki. He asked us for tips for preparing for his first ever cycle tour, and it felt great seeing his enthusiasm build as we answered questions about distance, kit, hills, and everything else.
Another great example of the automatic camaraderie between people on adventures,
Miguel’s observation that after a long time travelling – when the days and places start to blur into each other – that “it’s all yesterdays” was nice too.
So cheers to Dave, Miguel and Misaki for a fine pancake-filled rest stop.