Last summer we took SweetEsther to the west side of Vancouver Island, Uclulet and Tofino, to be exact. We don’t surf, but we sure loved the laid-back vibe over there! We had a fantastic time, my bicycle accident not-withstanding. Oh yes, I took a mighty tumble on one of the crazy challenging hills that are literally everywhere in that area. I could go into it, but it’ll suffice to say there was an ambulance ride to Tofino and a crap-load of painkillers of various types that made our last night of camping quite interesting. The bike (stupid heavy beast that I hated anyway) was finished and I had no regrets about that! And while I am SO grateful that there were no broken bones or serious concussion, I did sustain a fair bit of bodily damage that I am still affected by even today. That said, I still wanted a bike this summer!
She’s a sweet little butter-yellow cruiser. Only the second bike I’ve ever owned brand new. She did about 1,000 miles on the front of the van this summer and we never did a bit of biking on the whole trip! How crazy is that? So yesterday, after we had worked hard cleaning up and doing things we must do at the house, we took our bikes for their first ride.
In the haze
of the forest fire smoke that has our small town socked in, we strapped on our helmets and took the easy paths that start in our neighbourhood, crossing the creek twice before delivering us back home. And we had the entire route to ourselves since no one else was stupid enough to go out in that smoky-pea-soup air….bonus!
I’d be lying if I said I had no fear. I’d be lying if I said it all felt completely natural and that I wasn’t nervous. I won’t lie. But I rode and I feel amazing for having done it. I’m going to get her a basket and a bell and fenders – I may even give her a kick-ass name. I’m going to get brave enough to ride to the post office to pick up my mail, or all the way across town to the Drive Thru for a coffee. I’m going to pop her onto SweetEsther’s bike rack and take her along camping on the Labour Day long weekend — this time, I’m actually going to ride my bicycle!
Today I turn 52. Typically, just saying that sort of thing would freak me out a little. Typically I would have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about it, getting all existential about it. So in my head.
But this year is different. This year, nothing has been ‘typical’, it’s all been one big adventure and things change from moment to moment. This summer I’ve been selling a condo, buying a house, travelling all over BC with Randy and SweetEsther. Now I’m up to my elbows in work at the new house. Who has time for reflection (other than an occasional blog post.)
When Randy reminded me that it was my birthday today, I was surprised. I had forgotten. I had failed to get all introspective and worried, and now it was too late, the day was upon me. I guess I’ll just have to do this birthday without the angst. I think I’ll be fine!
Why would I dream about grilled peaches, you ask. Probably because on our last night of camping, I grilled up the last of the delicious Okanagan peaches that we had picked up at Harker’s Farm Market in Keremeos. If you’ve never tried grilling peaches, you have got to try this. I just split them, gave them a quick brush with olive oil, dropped them on the grill for a few minutes to char a little. Paired with a chili-lime marinated chicken breast….splendiforous!
Honestly, I thought after spending 2 weeks living in a Westfalia, I’d be so over it. But as we drove up the Hart Highway (Highway 97) on Wednesday afternoon, we both felt a bit of desire to just keep driving. Randy’s never been up that way, and I’ve never been up there with Randy and SweetEsther….it just amazed us that we were even thinking it. This gypsy lifestyle has put some roots down in me, I think!
After finalizing our house purchase in Prince George, we spent our last camping night at Salmon Valley Campground on the banks of the Nechako River. The new owners, Frank & Bobbi, just took over this year and they are working hard to bring it up to date. Really neat people! It’s already a very beautiful space with lot’s of sites on the river, washrooms and hot showers. Highly recommended! Their little general store has everything you could need in an emergency, like Benadryl.
We battled some hornets all evening without incident (they were hugely attracted to the dead bug bodies on the front of our warm van!) Note: a wet tea towel makes an excellent sheleighly for smacking wasps in a small space. We were literally packed and ready to drive away when one finally got me, @#$%! Ergo, the significance of the Benadryl (thanks, Bobbi!) 2 of those little pink beauties within minutes of the attack kept the reaction at bay. They also kept me pretty dopey for the rest of the day, but, whatever, we were almost home with nothing significant to do until we get the keys anyway.
It was a good day. It was a good trip. It’s a good life!
We’re at a campsite just north of Williams Lake, BC. The mechanic was encouraging and after he tweeked a thing or two, he deemed SweetEsther completely road worthy in spite of her new creaks and groans. So we forwent the scenic route and took her up the Kokahala to make up time (she handled those hills like a champ!) We have to be in Prince George Tomorrow to sign papers for our new house!
This area was hard-hit by forest fires last summer and they are watching it very closely this year as well. We set up camp, hearing the water bombers flying overhead, surrounded by firefighters who will spend their summer here, living in RVs while they fight the fires in BC’s dense forests. God bless them! Our neighbour tonight a pilot who flies a helicopter, living in an old camperized Dodge for the time being. Really nice guy.
We’ve met so many awesome people on our journey. Just this morning I stopped to talk with an elderly man at our RV site in Merritt. I’d noticed he spent a lot of time sitting outside his trailer, just staring at it. I stopped to talk to him and he showed me the map outline of the USA on the side of his trailer, half filled in with stickers from the states he had visited. He told me he had visited all the states in his previous RV and was just starting again with the new one.
And while the mechanic was looking over our Westy, I got to meet the driver of another Westy that was in for brakes work. Bierget and her dog, Ayla, were travelling from Calgary to Gabriola Island where she and her husband had bought a defunct vinyard and are turning it into a self-sustaining farm. I loved getting to know her even for such a short time and I wished I’d had more time to hear her whole story!
Every day is like this. Every day there are new people, new friends. It’s like a club you are instantly in, no questions asked. We drive down the highway giving and receiving the Westy-wave (peace sign) and feeling this amazing belonging to a breed of people who just get it, who are willing to drive slow on the hills and let life unfold, at least while we are riding in our vans. And it makes me sad to think it’s almost over.
I’ve learned so much about myself (I’m not really shy! I can talk to strangers and they quickly become friends….who knew!) I love it! And I don’t want it to end. But when it does, it will be because I have another project to begin – a house restoration with my hubby! Too many exclamations, but I’m excited. It’s all unfolding as it should, and the only time I really suffer is when I worry or fret about it not being as I think it should be. It’s all good. I am blessed! So very very blessed!
On Sunday we left Squamish and drove to Cloverdale to have brunch with Carter (Randy’s younger son) before continuing on the Hope-Princeton Highway to the Okanagan, where we visited with Randy’s older son, Tyler. We ended up spending the night there, just plugged in and parked behind his house. Beautiful mountain as a backdrop!
I’ve been reflecting on how it feels to just drive your home from place to place, changing plans as you go, choosing destinations often on the basis of just trying something new. I’m kind of liking it more and more! We chose our route today largely on that basis. Let’s take highway 8 through the Nicola Valley, we said. It will be beautiful and new. So after an indulgent tasting at Rustic Roots and breakfast at the B&B where Tyler works, we set off.
We drove down the highway, marvelling at the landscapes, talking about how we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and how amazing it is to get to make this journey. Somewhere in all that, we became aware that the traffic coming towards us was really heavy – but we were all alone on our side. Then Randy made a joke: what are they all running from and what are we driving into! And even as he said it, I saw a plume of smoke in the distance and we knew, though we tried to stay in denial for some time. The road was closed at Spence’s Bridge, and we had just pushed SweetEsther along for the past 65km of hills and curves, only to have to turn around and go all the way back to Merritt! For all practical purposes, we’d spent this whole day going no where!
What I haven’t told you is that SweetEsther has not been feeling so geat for the past couple days. Yesterday she starting backfiring a bit, then she developed a ‘miss’, and today a few more troubling sounds began to happen. So we found a campground in Merritt and tomorrow we will see a mechanic and hopefully be back on the road quickly. It’s crucial because we have to be in Vanderhoof on the 25th! Will we make it? I don’t know.
In spite of all that, we agreed that we did not regret making the trip to Keremeos to see Tyler. We had a lovely time driving through the Nicola Valley (seriously beautiful and we got to do it both ways!) We found another really nice campground (Claybanks RV Park in Merritt, BC). And quite frankly, it just is what it is! I’m feeling pretty zen about it right now, we’ll see what I feel tomorrow after talking to the mechanic. We’re learning here!