It was a novelty finding myself in a strange city one summer morning. All around me are what my friend Roy tells me are Ponderosa Pines. A tree that I thought only grew in California and yet here I am surrounded by them.
Roy, my long term friend and I are in the parking lot of an apartment building not far from downtown Penticton, British Columbia. Since we plan on riding our bikes for the next seven days, Roy has gone up to speak to an elderly acquaintance and make arrangements for leaving his vehicle in her unused parking stall.
I spend my time with my bike leaning against a chainlink fence surrounding the parking lot. This is my very first attempt at bicycle camping and I have no idea how to attach, stuff, cram, squeeze, compress into two saddlebags the pile of equipment I've brought along with me.
For years, Roy has been telling me stories about the fun he has had riding his bike in the Okanagan Valley and finally I've agreed to join him. I have experience. Camping has always been an important part of most holidays I've taken and as for cycling - I commute to and from my place of work.
It isn't until we start riding the rolling streets of Penticton that I immediately realize what poor shape I'm in - either that or my friend cycles at a much faster speed than I'm used to. Plus I hadn't taken into account just how difficult it is to maneuver in traffic a bike that now weighs 50 pounds more than what I'm used to riding. I begin to wonder if I have made some sort of mistake thinking I could bicycle camp as I watch Roy disappear from view and now have to push even harder to be able to follow him in this unfamiliar city.