It was an emotion-filled week as we made it over the steepest mountains to date on highway 99 and were nearing the Canada- U.S. border. We always anticipated the completion of Canada, the most remote area of our journey, as a huge milestone and confidence-booster in ourselves and this entire undertaking. It seems as though we were so excited for our second border crossing, we did it three times. Let me explain..
My mother who is a whiz at finding incredibly cheap flight deals (she could start a business if she wanted to), found flights for her and my dad to fly to Portland at the end of October. They asked us where we thought we would be, and looking at the calendar and our progress to date, we estimated that we would be in Oregon! We told them they could book the flights and then a week later, I got injured in Houston, BC where we spent 10 days with our new friends Dee Jay and Kerry. With a combination of being forced to slow down and feeling less pressure from the weather to get south, we decided not to rush through southern Canada or Northwest U.S. Instead we opted to take our time and wherever we ended up in the end of October, we would use hitchplanet, or take a bus to Portland to meet my family for the weekend. We ended up making it to Whistler and taking a couple days to visit Gordon’s good friend, Tony. Feeling ready for a few days of rest after those crazy inclines on highway 99, we jumped on a cheap bus and headed into the States. Although we were crossing the border, neither of us felt like it was for real since our bikes, which had become such a big part of us, were still resting in Canada. Even though in a few hours we arrived in Oregon, in our minds, we still hadn’t crossed the border.
We enjoyed a fun and relaxing reunion with my parents along with my brother and sister-in law that surprised us at the hotel!! We spent a weekend of food luxury with a breakfast buffet that was a bicycle tourist’s happy place. I would come back to sit at the table, feeling that there was something in my pockets and pull out packets of nutella, peanut butter, jam, tea bags, and even a bagel rolled up in a napkin in my coat. I must have adapted a reflex to take whatever I can to save for later. The weekend flew by and before we knew it, we were saying our goodbyes.
I was thankful for quality time with my family after 6 months of travel (Peru before Bikeliving) but goodbyes never get easier. I tend to do my fair share of “leaving”and have been told on multiple occasions that I’m always gone some place, and asked when I’ll get it “out of my system”. That’s not exactly how it works and although I enjoy being a nomad, and acknowledge how privileged I am to do this, choosing to be a traveler does not come without it’s sacrifices. It’s not always as glamorous or easy as social media may portray. Being away from family and close friends is by far the hardest part. It kills me to be absent from big life events such as weddings and birthdays and miss out on all of the daily happenings of brunch with the girls, participating in Wisconsin tailgating, and weekend dinners with family. All considered, I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else in my life at the moment than BikeLiving and I’m lucky to have family and friends who understand my absence not as wanted to be away from them but as being drawn to explore.
After stopping in Seattle to visit friends and check out another city that is not on our bike route, we were ready to head back into Canada to reunite with our bikes for the “real” border crossing. Our first day back on the road was a whopping 95 miles from Whistler to Vancouver. Luckily we were welcomed by warm showers hosts in the city and ended the day with dinner on the table and fresh towels on our borrowed beds. You can read more about our friends Margo and Chris in our Thanksgiving blog.
Margo and Chris biked with us for 10 miles to guide us through the city and we continued to inch our way closer to the border. It was a huge milestone but everything seemed to go wrong. Gordon, having a British waiver allowing himself to enter the U.S. for three months, was lead to believe that it would start over once crossing the border. To our surprise, that was not the case, and they did not count our 2 months in Canada as ‘leaving the U.S.” We would only have 2 more weeks before Gordon would be kicked out of the country. We entered the U.S. knowing we had a place to stay at a home in Bellingham, WA that we found on ‘warmshowers.org’. We biked to a restaurant for dinner with our friendly hosts, Simon and Wendy, and decided that Gordon would return to Canada the next day and try to get a meeting at the consulate to beg for a longer visa. After dinner, we stepped back outside to find that my lock was cut and my bike had been stolen! Although in different ways, both Gordon and I were stuck.
On the outside I was calm, rational and positive but on the inside I was devastated. My bike had been my home. I loved that bike and I was excited for the places it was going to take me. The Trek520 was an ideal touring bike that my friends and sponsors at Bicycle Doctor helped me decide on and it proved to be a great decision. It was comfortable, strong, light, and it was gone.
Just like every other hurdle Gordon and I have had to jump, we went into brainstorming mode. Looking back I realize that giving up did not cross either of our minds. These were just more problems to solve along our adventure. I know challenges will come up. That’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this. And although these challenges seemed like a big ones, it’s nothing we couldn’t get through. We agreed that we will stop and work along the way to pay off extra unaccounted for expenses and If things didn’t work with Gordon getting in, we’d figure something out. Maybe we’d sail the West Coast. I’m not sure but we knew there were always more options. One thing was for sure; we would keep going. It wasn’t going to stop us, just pause us, which is O.K. too.
Gordon spent 10 days in Vancouver with other Warm Showers hosts. He helped them paint the inside of their house to thank them for letting him stay while he set up an emergency interview at the consulate, found out he was accepted, and then waiting for his visa to be processed. My Warm Showers hosts let me live on their sailboat (fulfilling another dream of mine to live on a boat). I took the opportunity to explore Bellingham, took free dance classes, joined a science-fiction book club, went to the circus, met some new friends, and spent three full days building a new bike! Bellingham has a non-profit, community bike shop called “the hub”. It is the coolest place all about recycling bikes and encouraging community. Everyone at the hub was incredibly helpful after hearing our story. A volunteer mechanic, Jim, was the owner a trek store in Alaska. He spent over 10 hours teaching me how to Frankenstein a bike and we fixed up an old trek bike (since I’m forever a proud Trek girl). I still have hope that my bike will eventually show up since I have called every pawn shop in WA and have the police involved. In the meantime, I have a bike that will last and invaluable knowledge of actually having built it myself.
Although we spent weeks off of our bikes around the Canada- U.S. border, we had quite a few adventures to add to our story. BikeLiving is all about the journey.