Eastwards and Far


Sunburn, routine, and slapstick


We are in Summerland, BC, 266 miles out of Vancouver. Today is our 6th day on the bikes.

Day 4 was the first day where the rhythm felt established, and things felt smooth and rehearsed. A routine is evolving out of disparate tasks.

It was the first day the weather permitted riding topless too, which I think is essential for ‘proper’ bike touring. Both of us are now sunburned to shit, another essential rite of passage.

You start to learn the signals specific to the region you’re riding through. A sign warning vehicles over 27000kg that they need tire chains in winter means a long uphill is coming; a sign telling the same drivers to check their brakes means the opposite.

You lock into the rhythm and sensation of climbing, and begin to stop resenting the fact that each down brings an inevitable up later on. This shift in mindset makes valleys and mountain passes beautiful rather than brutal.

We climbed a long straight nine percent hill, with a line of traffic being held in the other lane. People watched from their cars, expressions ranging from awe to mild pity. Some gestured encouragement, a couple shouted from their windows. My favourite encouragement was:

“Think you can, think you can’t, know you will”

In my mind this perfectly describes the internal battle that happens on hills.

We have been among mountains for days, on roads that are thankfully never more than a fraction of the gradient of the slopes they weave around and cut through.

A river is with us too, sometimes a blue ribbon thousands of feet below, other times a roaring presence beside us.

Day 4 was also the first day that we’ve had a few dry light hours at camp to air things out, tweak gear, tighten nuts and bolts, and generally hang out (quite literally: we set up our hammocks and laid in them for a couple of hours).

The little acts of tidying camp and gear and mind that contribute to that feeling of structure, routine, rhythm.

My favourite part of the routine is the slapstick rigmarole of suspending our food bags up a tree. This involves getting a length of rope over a branch at least four metres off the ground, achieved by putting a stone in a carrier bag, clipping the string to the handle, and throwing it over the branch. When a suitable branch is found, the clip moves from the carrier bag to the food bag and we pull, then tie the other end of the string around a tree. It sounds simple but I really think that if we wore 20s clothes and filmed this in black and white, our efforts would pass as a Laurel and Hardy routine.

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