Arriving in Vancouver

The start of our adventure hasn’t been as smooth as we’d have liked. Firstly our flight arrived way later than we’d anticipated. Secondly the luggage firm at the airport couldn’t ship our empty bike bags to San Diego. So we had to take a taxi to the large UPS depot near the airport. They were able to transfer the bags (for a princely sum) but getting to the courier company, unpacking and building the bikes, packing the bags into one another and filling all the forms to despatch them to San Diego took four hours, so by the time we were heading into Vancouver it was dark. Fortunately, we had lights and hi-viz bike bag covers, but it was not a nice ride in. Navigating a city you don’t know at night when extremely tired is tough. Well done to Mike (and Garmin) for getting us to our first Warm Showers host – Matthew Cooke. We arrived at his house gone 10pm but were welcomes warmly by Matthew and Rex the dog (once he’d had a good sniff and lick – that’s Rex, of course, not Matthew). We were pretty pooped by then after nearly 24 hrs travelling with little genuine sleep on the plane, so we turned in almost straight away.

Morning. Feeling bit fresher after a night’s sleep – looking forward to some coffee. We set off on our first leg of the journey proper today to Mount Vernon. I think navigating our way out of the city will be the trickiest bit, followed by getting across the USA border, (arranging to send an empty bike bag parcel across the border was complicated enough). After that hopefully a good 80 mile ride lies ahead of us, fingers crossed.

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Blogging past my bed time

Got told off today for blogging, “When I should have been in bed asleep.” I agree – but to be fair I was in bed, just not asleep. My blog post tonight is slightly earlier (but only just). We’re just sending our final itinerary to our Warm Shower host (Mike is doing this as you can see) and a link to this blog (“Hello”, if you’re checking it out – look forward to meeting you soon). We’re nearly ready, just need to pack our bikes into their bags tomorrow and check in online for our flights.

Tomorrow is my final day at work. There is so much to do and I’m afraid that some of it is going to have to wait until I get back. Apologies to my work colleagues, sorry if I have left stuff that you’ll have to do. Everyone at my work place has been through a tough year (and we’re still going through it) and I do feel a bit guilty going away – but I promise I’ll come back refreshed and energised and raring to go. Hang on in there guys, you’re doing a great job.

Really is time for bed now as it’s going to be a full on day tomorrow … night, night.

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Top tourist tips win prizes

So much to do and so little time. I can hardly believe that there is barely a week to go (9 days to be precise) before we fly to the USA. Still need to sort the travel insurance and to test packing and unpacking the bike bags in their carry cases. Also need to contact our wonderful Warmshowers hosts again to check that they are still ok to accommodate us. I can feel a ‘to do’ list coming on!

I know that it’s probably a bit late to be asking this question, (and I probably won’t have time to do many of them) but any top suggestions for a USA west coast cyclist gratefully received. So far I’ve been advised to stop by at Hearst Castle, savour the giant redwoods and try a particular chip shop – can you suggest anything else? Who knows, there might be a small prize for the the best (i.e. my favourite) suggestion.


Join the Bristol cycle hospitality challenge

Tonight I chaired the Bristol Bike Forum, the first time I’d managed to get to a meeting for ages. I guess it is inevitable that when you get a bunch of hardcore cyclists in a room it all gets a bit geeky. I had attempted (and failed) to try and get more women to go along to try and improve the feel of the meeting, for some reason they didn’t seem to be very attracted by endless talk of this pot hole or that advance stop line. I can’t imagine why, it’s all thrilling! My heart sank tonight when very near the start of the meeting one attendee said ‘I’d like to discuss anti social cyclists’. We all know they exist, but it’s not like there are thousands of them – what about anti social car drivers or anti social pedestrians? (Yes I was once knocked off my bike by a rogue pedestrian!). It wasn’t exactly what I’d intended spending my evening talking about. Thankfully, that agenda item was deferred to the next meeting – mark the date in your diary now: 29 Sept!

On a more positive note, I mentioned WarmShowers under any other business. I was a bit surprised that very few people at the bike forum had heard of it. It had a very positive reception and it was even proposed that we make it one of the forum’s aims to make Bristol the most cycle hospitable city in the UK by having more WarmShowers hosts than any other city. So that is the challenge, will you be part of it? All you have to do is join WarmShowers, (if you haven’t already) – become a host and live in Bristol obviously. I’ll be keeping a note of the number of WarmShowers hosts between now and September to see how we do.

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Belgium visitors

I know I’ve already sung the praise of Warmshowers on here (and probably will do some more once we start our trip), but I can’t not mention the guests we put up on Saturday night. Arend, Mireille and their children Emrys and Kiren, from Mechelen in Belgium were passing by on their way to Lands End. They had cycled from London to Bristol in one of the wettest weeks of the summer, so we were very pleased to host them for the night with a dry, warm bed a washing machine and of course a warm shower.

Thankfully, the weather looks much kinder for them this week as they wend their way down towards Cornwall. They’re travelling at a far more leisurely pace than we’ll be going at which is rather enviable, but it’s hard work: Arend and Emrys are on a tandem with a well-loaded bob trailer, while Mirelle was cycling with Kiren on a pull-along. I don’t think that Kiren was doing much pedalling – but she was quite small, but this meant lots of work for Mirelle. I hope that the Teddy makes it to Cornwall (and back to Belgium) – Kiren was holding it dangling from her handlebars in a very precarious grip as they set off.

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Warmshowers people are very nice

If you’re a touring cyclist who hasn’t experienced Warmshowers (the touring cyclists equivalent to Couch Surfing for backpackers), then you should. We first tried it at Easter this year when we rode to Hamburg and back. We stayed with Klaus and Katherine in Munster who fed us with a fab breakfast and sent us on our way with a packed lunch. In Oldenburg Dietmar (a retired Lutharian pastor) had a four course vegetarian meal waiting for us on our arrival and in Zwolle Faulkirt and Lineka also fed us wonderful meals. Whilst the food was delicious, the best thing about all our Warmshowers hosts was their friendliness and insight they gave us into the places we were visiting. They all showed great interest in our trip.

We’ll be staying with ten Warmshower (WS) hosts during our ride down the west coast of the USA and from the communication we’ve had so far we’re really looking forward to meeting them all. Today we go a message from our WS hosts in San Diego who’ve kindly agreed to receive and store our bike bags during our trip. Posting them from Vancouver to San Diego is a lot more inviting than having to carry them 1800+ miles (they are quite big). It seems apt that as we’ll be taking advantage of lots of WS hospitality we should repay the favour, so we’re pleased to have been contacted by a young Belgium family who’ll be cycling the south coast of England later this month. I hope we’ll be able to repay some of the hospitality we’ve received through Warmshowers.