Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting in the groove

With a somewhat exposed campsite, we were all up early to greet the sun cresting the mountain tops surrounding our camp here at Thirsk Lake. After breakfast and a quick wash in the lake, we began the process of striking camp and humping everything through the deer fence and hauling the bikes from their hiding place and up onto the trail (which at this point is a logging road).
It wasn`t far down the trail that we came to the store at Bankier where Roy and Richard tucked into some bumbleberry pie ala mode. They had had breakfast after all! I was more interested in bottled water from the cooler and I also snagged two bags of dollar candy from the counter. I sure like my candy and it was a surprise to me that I hadn`t thought before to stock up on some. The idea came from a couple we met cycling their way to Vancouver Island along the TransCanada Trail. We had met them yesterday shortly after dowsing our hot bodies into the Samilkameen River and while we could only pedal as far as Thirsk Lake, they were headed to Osprey Lake to set up at the campsite there.They joined us in Bankier and while chatting, they explained that they were pretty grumpy with each other last evening and the only thing that carried them onto Osprey Lake was their secret weapon - candy! I had found myself dissatisfied with the power bars that not only were melted beyond practical use, but were just not ``Doing it`` for me. Candy - now that was a good idea!
Around 4 in the afternoon we made it to the outskirts of Princeton where we planned to camp at a resort that Roy had visited on another KVR trip. It was an exhilarating ride downhill from Jura along the highway and I hit 52+k. and I know the boys were even faster than me as they pulled away in the distance.
The Castle Resort was everything we had hoped for except the swimming pool was closed and the office didn`t sell beer. But they did kindly offer to drive into town to get us some while we set up our tents. The place wasn`t very busy and they gave us free rein to set up where we wished. As we rode around looking for a viable spot, we passed the couple`s spot where they had already set up their tent and we discovered later that their names were Matt and Sheena and that they had taken the highway all the way from Bankier to Princeton and that accounted for the fact that they had made camp 2 hours ahead of us.
Matt and Sheena joined us for supper and we augmented our boil-in-a-bag dinners with fresh salad fixings that Matt and Sheena had purchased in downtown Princeton after they had made camp. Maybe it was the 2 beers I guzzled or maybe it was just needing rest, but after dinner, I couldn`t move from my horizontal position on our picnic bench. It may have appeared that I was sleeping because my eyes were closed, but in fact I was enjoying Richard, Roy and Matt and Sheena`s conversation about their many trips and I had strength enough to add the odd quip to pepper their discussion.
Before sacking out for the night, Roy showed us a gash in his rear tire that we would have to fix the next morning before we could tackle the trail. He figured that he had hit a rock on the quick descent into the outskirts that had brought us into the Castle Resort. We were left to ponder the tire fix as we bid each other good night and crashed in our respective tents.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Riding the Rails

It was 8:30 on a Sunday morning that the three of us, my friends Roy, Richard and I were locked and loaded and ready to hit the road (or should I say trail?). Richard`s wife got up early with us to be able to take a pic of the three of us and say goodbye.

We started out making a large U-shape by going south to Penticton and riding along the lakeshore to highway 97 where we headed north to Summerland and then turned inland to find the trail near the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. It was already proving to be a warm day and we had to stop numerous times to get directions to the train station. Luckily for us, our route took us past the ``Dirty Laundry`` winery whose vine - covered patio appeared to my parched lips and sun-blasted skin to be a cool, shady oasis.

Without any rails on the trail, it is easy to forget that this wonderful trail system owes its very existence to the railway that was built throught these rugged mountain passes and at the time provided the only practical transportation to many remote towns and villages. Given the heat and the steep ascent to the railway station, it was tempting to put our bikes onto the train and ride the short distance to Faulder, the next stop on the line.

By late afternoon, the temperature was 30+ and as I followed Richard and Roy, the distance between us became further and further. At one point I caught up to the two of them relaxing in the shade of some trees and without much prodding, Roy and I scrambled down the bank of the Samilkameen River to drench ourselves in water to cool off. Roy had the great idea of doing push-ups from the bank and thereby lowering his whole head into the cold rushing waters.

Things change constantly on the KVR and when we reached our intended campsite we discovered that it no longer existed. In fact, the spot that our guidebook recommended for camping had been bulldozed flat and deer fencing had been placed between the trail and Thirsk Lake where we planned to stop. Roy went up ahead and scouted a suitable site that had an opening just large enough for a person but not a bike. The spot he found was nice and flat for our tents, surrounded by trees and had a great view of the moon reflecting upon the waters of the lake.

We unloaded our gear and made camp after locking our bikes to the deer fence. While we set up our tents and put water on to boil, we enjoyed a fine Merlot that we had purchased at ``Dirty Laundry`` and either Roy or Richard had humped up the trail. I crashed very soon after eating and I fell asleep listening to Richard and Roy counting falling stars in a dark sky that was devoid of any light pollution.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where the smoke is coming from

Being out in the woods of British California for the best part of the last week and a half, the only news of Alberta we obtained was when we were able to call our wives and catch up on the news. And the big news of course has been the smoke innundating the Alberta atmosphere.
Finding the condition of the Kettle Valley Railway trail to be too torn up, we decided to take the highway route from Princeton to Keremeos and as we pedalled down the highway, we could see smoke filling the valleys up ahead. About 10 klicks out of Keremeos we stopped to watch the forest fire action on top of a nearby mountain. We had seen a helicopter filling a Bambi bucket from a river that parralled the highway and it was easy to spot the birddog plane directing the waterbomber and showing the bomber where to lay down fire retardant. Cars were stopped along the highway and a crowd watched as the fire service people did their best to control the fire. The mountain was too rugged to have firefighters placed on its slopes and we could only watch in awe as nature had its way and the flames crept down the mountain and into a strong wind.
When we camped in a peach orchard in Keremeos, we were concerned that the fire might sweep down the mountainside and cause us to have to evacuate. Our host assured us that it was unlikely that the fire would reach us, but she did explain that if an evacuation was necessary that a neighbour had already been designated as the one to spread the alarm door to door.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting Ready for Kettle Valley

With the clock ticking quickly, I've decided to pass on training tonight for the MS Mountain Tour. Preparations are necessary to ensure that this the 4th annual bicycle camping trip is a success. For the past three years, my cycling friend Roy and I have ridden our bikes along the Kettle Valley Railroad - an old railbed that is part of the Transcanada Trail. We do a different section at a time - usually 400 kilometers.
I have my TREK mountain bike (hereafter called BIG BLUE) up on the repair stand and so far have managed to reinstall the handlebar extensions, the fenders, an extra bottle holder, my unusual hornless bike seat, the rear pannier rack and the front handlebar bag. Oh yeah. Something new this year - an under-the-seat bag specifically to hold bike tools.

During my first year of doing the KVR, I carried 50 lbs. of stuff which I have since whittled down to 30. The weight of water is a concern. You want to bring enough yet you don't want the bike to be too heavy. I know Roy ran out of water one year and 2 years ago we ran out of water at Hydraulic Lake and were saved by a kindly lady at a farm that we had to ride off the trail to reach.

Last night I took the chain off Big Blue and cleaned it in gasoline and while the chain was drying, I cleaned off the rear cassette and front chainring. After installing the chain, I put copious amounts of oil onto each link, knowing that the trail is mighty dusty and the weather forecast is calling for 30 degree + weather which can dry out a chain in no time.

All my gear is laid out in the basement and having done this type of cycling before, I have drawn up a list that I only need to tweak slightly every year. For example, this year instead of taking heavy track pants, I'm packing lightweight nylon/spandex
pants. Why take a spare tube when a patch kit works just as well? I'm convinced that bringing a multitool is worth the extra weight and even though Roy disagrees, I'm bringing along an emergency kevlar spoke.

Another friend, Richard is joining us this year and I'm sure that once we all meet in Naramata, we can pool our resources and save some weight - why would we each need to bring a tire pump? Tire levers? Bike tools? Each year I have brought whistles so that we can signal each other. One blow means a brief stop. Two blows on the whistle means there is a problem. Since Roy usually rides ahead of me, he has never had occasion to use his whistle. Two years ago, just before we descended into Rock Creek, I noticed his rear tire was flatttening and I blew two sharp blasts and we pulled over to fix his tire. I think they are a great idea and again worth their weight.

Since we will be in the woods where there is no outside communication, I won't be updating my blog as often as normal. And besides, I don't want to carry the extra weight of a laptop and all its accessories. I'm proud of my 30 pounds and don't want to upset the fine balance that I have discovered over several years of bicycle camping!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mountain Tour Training Part 2 (Ass Over Tea Kettle)

On our way back to the Terwilligar parking lot, we had one final short ridge to climb. We gathered at the top of the ridge and Al, our instructor pointed to the left toward a steep single track that he was going to take and suggested that the rest of our group go straight ahead and down a less steeply pitched track and we would meet up near the parking lot.
I watched Al and it looked pretty easy. One of our members went down as well and I thought if he could do it so could I. Perhaps being a little tired, my judgement was impaired. I knew the instant that I turned to my left and pointed my bike to the track that it was a bad idea. How is it that even when we know something is a bad idea that we do it anyway? I wasn't 5 feet down the track when my rear wheel raised up and I was thrown onto the trail. Immediately getting up, I tried to get on the bike but the steepness of the incline prevented me from getting on and preparing properly. Another meter (for those metrically inclined) and I was ass over teakettle and on my back staring up at the evening sky. After getting up again, it was difficult enough to walk the bike down the rest of the way down. Thankfully none of the group was paying the least attention so my pride wasn't too badly damaged.

Just yesterday, out of sheer stubborness, I decided to try the off - pavement trails in the river valley. Having obtained a map at River Valley Cycle, I chose to try the Canada Cup Trail some of which is under the High Level Bridge, on the south side of the river. There are parts of it especially west of the Walterdale Bridge that are a lot of fun and similar in difficulty to Terwilligar Park.

Then there are parts that are absolutely dangerous for someone of my experience. One false move and you would tumble through the woods and into the river. I got trapped by a staircase of tree roots after a short descent and managed somehow to bash the back of my right calf into my front chainring and tear a bunch of skin off in a rather interesting design. I walked the bike up onto the paved trail and thought to myself that this week's training at Terwilligar couldn't be any worse than this - and I vowed not to try anything that was going to send me flying over the handlebars or require stitches. I have to think about my trip to south central B.C. that starts on Thursday. A bicycle camping trip along the Kettle Valley Railway - something I look forward to every year.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mountain Tour Training

I spent some time this week stripping my blue TREK mountain bike in preparation for mountain tour training. I normally use the TREK for commuting so quite a lot of accessories had to come off - first the headlight and tail light, then the fenders, next the rear pannier rack and the front handlebar bag and finally the kickstand. As you can see from the photo, there's not much else I could have removed - oh yeah, I did take off the long handlebar extensions and replaced them with shorter and lighter ones.
Our trainer guide is Stew Hutchings from United Cycle along with his riding partner Al. They have us gather around at the parking lot at Terwilligar Park and after discovering that out of the 8 people who showed up, I'm the only one who has done the Hinton Mountain Tour, they explain the requirements of the tour and what to expect. To my surprise, Stew describes the Hinton Mountain Tour as an entry-level mountain biking experience. I found it quite challenging last year and my daughter Jackie and I came through the finish line last on the second day of the tour. So if this is entry-level stuff, then I need this Training!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fancy Dancy Method of Recording

I used to carry around a small notebook to make cycling notes and observations. While on the MS tour last year, I came up with the idea of somehow attaching a digital voice reorder to my person in such a way that making audio notes or recording conversations would be simple and practical.
Now when I`m riding it is just a matter of hitting one button (which I modified with epoxy putty so that it would feel different than all the other buttons) to record and one button to stop.
Using a small square of velcro and some thread, I sewed the square onto the left shoulder strap of my MEC ``Camelback`` and using epoxy glue, I stuck the ``Hook`` velcro to the back of the DVR. In using it for over a year, the DVR hasn`t moved an inch and the recorder is close enough to my mouth that I don`t have to shout to make a decent recording.
Now, I just play back the recordings to write stories and to remember details. The recorder also has the date and the time that the recording was made - a handy reference!
I should add the the picture to the right in the ``About Me`` section is of me making notes while adventure cycling on the Kettle Valley Railway taken by my cycling buddy Roy near Westbridge, British California.