There was this guy I kept seeing on the second day of my road trip. I can’t get him out of my head, although I kind of wish I could. He was about five ten, looked to be in his late forties, early fifties (like I can tell? I still can’t believe I’m in my late forties…), wild head of black hair with grey streaks, and a wild beard of grey. He was always wearing a blue and red windbreaker, and was always carrying a cardboard sign which I never got to read.
Why do I remember him? Because he appeared at every single rest stop I made along the number one highway, all four of them. And why is this remarkable? Because he was hitchhiking. So, every single time I stopped to stretch my legs, maybe grab something to drink, he appeared apparently out of nowhere, holding his sign and hitchhiking.
In addition to constantly appearing out of nowhere, every time I passed him on the road he would stare at me, looking me straight in the eye, with what I imagined was growing malevolence. By the fourth time I saw him I was convinced he hated me on sight.
I have no idea why.
I’m just glad he was evidently sticking with the number one because as soon as I turned north I stopped seeing him.
At least I hope that’s why I stopped seeing him.
I made a mental note of it, figuring I’d work it into a journal entry at some point, but didn’t think anything significant about it.
Except he keeps surfacing in my mind, his eyes staring at me. I fully expect to stop at some dimly lit motel out in the middle of nowhere and find he’s working as the night clerk.
Hasn’t happened yet, though.
My trip to Quesnel has been a good visit. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the boys and they’re growing like the proverbial weeds. Shane and Dianne’s house was exceptionally busy this visit as they had two exchange students living with them. Simon, from Venuzuela, and Pauline from Germany. Pauline is supposed to be staying with a different family but some scheduling misshaps wound up with her spending her first week with the Puts. Add to that Dianne’s birthday party and you have an exhausting week.
And I was only there for three days of it.
Dramatic change has always been a struggle for me. I’m much more comfortable in my routines. Even something as simple as always keeping my keys in the same place provides me with comfort and reassurance. I worry less about forgetting things when I have a routine that keeps them all in place.
Travel, of course, completely shatters my routine, and no matter how much I love to travel I always struggle with the dramatic change it brings about. For example, even though it was the fourth day of my vacation I was still twitchy about not being at work. I also had to consciously work at not worrying that my condo might be flooding while I’m away. (This is not unreasonable as my condo did flood just prior to my vacation… so I’m not paranoid. Nyah.)
Dianne, in her ever understanding fashion, teased me mercilessly about being “oober late for work” and about the possibility of my condo flooding or, perhaps, burning down.
The world does turn, however, and sometimes what goes around comes around. On Thursday, a day Dianne had planned on getting caught up on her work (since she was busy with her birthday all day Wednesday) the washing machine decided to start flooding… just before their wood pellet stove in their entertainment room started belching out smoke. Running around and dealing with these emergencies, as well as the demands of a five child household, meant Dianne wasn’t able to get nearly as much work done as she’d intended.
I quietly pointed out that, after all her teasing, it was she who had her home flood, almost burn down, and it was she who was late for work.
Be careful what you wish on others.
That being said I didn’t come out of the visit without some drama of my own. Boomer had started making a rather alarming clicking noise from just under the fuel tank sometime early in the second day. As the trip continued the noise became more pronounced. Dianne recommended a reliable mechanic in Quesnel (for the record, Curry Repairs) and I took Boomer in to have her checked out.
The mechanics were grim in their estimation of the noise. They figured it could be one of two things: either the valves were extremely dirty, or I needed to have them replaced. From what they could see of the bike it looked like replacing the valves would involve dropping the entire engine just to reach them.
Upon further inspection they discovered, much to my embarrassment, that Boomer was rather low on oil, and what was in there was charred. I won’t say how low Boomer was, but I will say my shame was as hot and burnt as what little oil remained in my bike.
They topped up the oil and added in a cleaner they kept referring to as “sea foam”. I didn’t get the exact details of the product but the mechanics were singing it’s praises highly and I couldn’t help but hope it was as good as they felt it was.
They instructed me to run the bike for a while. “Take it around the lake once” were their exact words but, not being familiar with the area, I just took it out on the highway for a while. I figured riding out to Ten Mile Lake north of the town and back would be enough.
Boomer was sounding better before we even left the town limits. By the time I got back the noise was gone completely.
After giving me the “you don’t know how lucky you are” glare they took Boomer in for a complete oil change. The one mechanic also inflated my tires a little, advising me that he always did that for highway riding as it mostly involved a lot of straight running at high speed and less tire contact meant less tire wear.
Given that the man who rescued my bike from my own ineptitude was himself working from the confines of a wheelchair I felt doubly shamed for nearly squandering the privilege I have of riding such a blessed piece of engineering.
I will not forget.
My first day of riding toward Quesnel was incredibly long and arduous. I did make it more relaxing by stopping often, but even after the first day I was wiped out, exhausted beyond my reserves. On the plus side I slept like the dead. On the negative side I was even worse the second day. The last hour in to Quesnel was torture to my ass and thighs.
Having spent three days in Quesnel I set back out onto the road with more than a little trepidation. I was worried that my endurance would not hold up, that I would rapidly succumb to fatigue and strain. I was just simply worried I couldn’t hack it.
Today has been, quite honestly, the best long distance ride I’ve ever had. And that after spending the first half of it in some damned chilly rain. The temperature didn’t crawl above ten degrees until south of 100 Mile House and the rain kept hitting just as I was drying out from the previous downpour. But it was a great ride.
Kilometers disappeared under my wheels without notice and I kept hitting the next town with mild surprise, always arriving before I expected to. I won’t pretend I’m not tired, and my glutes are definitely sore, but I’m in a much better mood than I’d expected.
I’ve also been using Foursquare for the real purpose it was intended: finding interesting places in new locations. I found a nice coffee shop in 100 Mile House called the Chartreuse Moose. It was actually a little too nice as I spent over an hour relaxing and reading when I should have been riding. Foursquare also lead me to my wonderful hotel here in Lillooet, BC, called the Reynolds Hotel. They had some good reviews and are located right at the end of the road that leads into town. You literally can’t miss it. In fact, if you don’t make the turn at the end of the road, you’ll wind up parked in the front lobby.
They had a couple of rooms left and I opted for the one that had only one bed. All I would need. I was informed that it was arranged a little … differently from other rooms. The room isn’t located at the head of the stairs, it’s located above the stairs. Consequently, the bed is raised up off the floor by about three feet. You have to cimb a couple of steps in order to reach it.
The bathroom is equally quaint with an old porcelain tub set up for the shower and a tiny porcelaine sink substantiated by a small end table for your toiletries.
And the adventure continues.