Today started off early, We headed off at about 6am for brekkie at a local Grand Forks Café. Every café, gas station and local hang out we ever go to, when we ask how difficult our route is today, they always tell us that it is going to be the hardest day/summit of the trip and if you make this, you can make anything. I am not sure if it is localism, or if they really believe this but it always makes me smile to watch Russ’s shoulders slump disheartened as he finds out this news.
Our trip over Paulson Summit was ridiculous. An insanely long stretch of weaving, climbing hills that cuts directly through a pristine forest for 4 straight hours, I have now realized that my 10 sessions of spin classes with my disco dancing Filipino teacher and 10 rich foreign, expat wives in Manila did not quite prepare me for cycling across Canada. Paulson is a struggle to say the least. When we finally make it to the top we are rewarded with a massive hailstorm that hammers our spirits, luckily we have a pick me up.
Halfway down the mountain, completely unprepared and zoned out, I hear Ryan scream at the top of his lungs “bear”. Neville, Ry and I stop on the spot about 200 feet from the bear that is cautiously walking onto the road. Russ who is singing his favorite song “Call me maybe” does not hear us. 10 seconds later we hear Russ stop on a dime and scream "bear" in pure fear, almost going over his handlebars. We stop and talk to a passing motorist who tells us that it is a small grizzly and to keep our distance. Without our bear taming German we are a little more hesitant. The grizzly who looks dazed, disorientated and confused wobbles up onto the road, it is sickly skinny and its loose skin hangs from its weak body. We immediately start to give Russ a hard time saying that is what he is going to look like that after our 2-month cycling trip. Neville who is the boldest and bravest of us waits for the bear to cross and then rifles past it, knowing Sean is the smartest I follow right on his tail along with Ryan. For some reason Russ stays put. Russ reaches into his bag and pulls out his video camera, we watch as Russ starts to rock his bike back and forth, he then rifles into top Russ warp speed, seated in perfect aerodynamic position, head tucked flying down the road, I have never seen the big guy move this fast before. He beelines straight towards the grizzly the camera pointed straight at it, Russ swerves quickly to his right and swoops past the grizz for an unbelievable dive bomb of a 15-20 foot video shot well commentating. It is the most impressive thing I have ever seen him do. Russ is flying down to where we are, celebrating and pumping his fists only to realize he left the camera on pause and he has no footage. And so goes the life of Brother Rusty.
Whoever the biking gods are they made the descent into Castlegar from Paulson Summit. An hour and a half drop into a powerful forest, the fresh mountain air awakes all your senses! The four of us have never been so happy! I really wish we could have done this with Baha as I would have loved to have seen the smile on his face going down that hill.
It is amazing to see Ryan struggle on a bicycle. For being such an accomplished athlete, I have never seen a more awkward person on a bike. His go-go gadget arms and pogo stick legs shoot out in every which direction which constantly throws him off balance, he has gone down more than anyone so far which is surprising and awesome all at once. Brother Russ on the other hand is like an Olympic gymnast on his bike, any downhill ride, Russ stretches every part of his body, he pretty much does a downward dog pose on his bike. Russ is at his best going downhill, it is kind of his thing. He attributes it to years of practice of getting comfortable on our living room couch.
Speaking off our couch.
It is hilarious to see the highs and lows that each of us experiences during this trip. The whole range of human emotions takes place. For example during our painfully long ascent to Paulson Summit, Brother Russ was looking quite rough and fatigued so I pulled in beside him to see how he was doing. Russ who finished his teaching practicum and degree in December has been unemployed for 6 months. He mentioned to me earlier in the trip that during these past 6 months he had been clocking in at least 4.5-6 hours a day on our couch watching TV and eating Ice Cream. As Russ was climbing Paulson Summit he looked straight at me with his teary eyes and said “Scotty, I would give anything in the world to sit down on our couch for one hour, get a big bowl of Neapolitan Ice Cream and watch one episode of Jersey Shore.”
The amount of self-talk and self-entertainment that we provide ourselves on this trip has been a must so far. For anyone who has ever cycled, Panniers (Bags on your bikes) could be the most frustrating invention ever, you can never EVER find what you are looking for inside them. It is a daily occurrence to see all four of us frantically scurrying through our Panniers to find our rain gear as a massive rain cloud begins to dump on us. We never find the stuff on time and more than likely get soaked. The past few days the only logical one of us Sean Neville has meticulously started to sort his stuff into specific bags in the morning before we leave. Seeing Sean be successful with this technique has pissed off the three of us. Sabotaging Neville became a must. For three days now, anytime Neville has gone to the washroom or left his bike, we have switched all of his stuff into different Pannier bags. Watching Neville try and find his stuff and then unleash his verbal barrage of four letter words upon his bike has been comedic genius. Seeing his restraint in not drop kicking his bike off of a cliff has kept us all quite positive. Please do not tell Sean as he has not figured this out yet and I think it might get the three of us through the prairies.
Entering Nelson, Nelson is spectacular. By far the nicest place we have been so far. I love it and could live here. Unfortunately, We have another quick downer. Riding into Nelson I was leading with the boys following in order of birth. Out of nowhere Sean Neville’s phone rings and of all people on the other end of the phone is our guy Harry! From the back of the line I hear Ryan say, “Scotty, Let’s stop I need to put on my rain jacket”. Being at the front I turn to Neville behind me and tell Sean “ Sean, we are going to stop Ryan needs to put on his jacket”. Sean in sunglasses and in full conversation with our guy Harry does not hear me the first time so I repeat it four times. By the last time I am convinced he has heard me. (My fault) As we are passing over the bridge entering Nelson I stop abruptly and send all four of us into a classic rear end collision, pile up. With my fender hammered into the sidewalk, I turn around to see Sean and Ryan unleashing a combination of potent words towards each other, my bike scattered across the road, and Russ confused as to why the three of us are all so angry. I figured we did pretty good making it to day 6 for our first fight. Off to cycle the beautiful Kootenay Lake tomorrow, cannot wait!