Newsletter - 2008 Archive

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Live Bait, Indians, and Broomstick Tandems..
by Bob Boonstra

The sign in Cherryville said so - a place of fishing and (mostly) other leisurely recreational activities like camping and such. Live bait indeed. I smiled to Richard and pointed to Deirdre and the sign. I thought it strangely amusing that here we were - 50 some km into the ride - the three of us under a live bait sign with a fish on it - at Franks General store - open at 07:30 with a cheerful manageress. We were not going fishing - except for that 600 km route completion - for me, it would be my final qualifier for the Rocky 1200. I needed this ride. Could it be that the sign might hold some significance for us? I wondered…

Usually one writes about the weather on randonnees. Well ok. The evening before had been outstanding - with enough standing water on the road during a torrential downpour to limit the speed of our Toyota to about 85kph if we hoped to keep the car on the road to Vernon. Once in Vernon, the rain had stopped but the wind was blowing so hard that it looked as if we were on a trip through a sandstorm across the Serengeti. Everything was airborne with a driven haze below waist level. This is Vernon… a place of calm, devoted retirees, serenity and such - right? We had only to get the motel manager to put his shoulder to the door to get into our nights accommodation of a hundred and fifty bucks. "The door always sticks - everything is 60 years old"…he says. Even the pool is out of order on the orders of the pool inspector. Cracks in the veneer I guess.

At 04:00 the alarms sound. Deirdre and I finish the last of the large pan-sized lasagna we had started at dinner. Enough for 6 normal people - or two randonneurs! Off to WalMart we drive - to the 05:00 start where I notice that Deirdre is the only female present. Too bad she will be alone with the guys. Looking more closely - I can sense that this is to be a testosterone-mediated adventure. Nervousness prevails among our group of about 10. I have no time to count. These guys plan on going places! Anyone can see that! Did I see Ken Bonner somewhere? Forgive me - but we are all in a hurry. Interior events are like that.

The relentless determination is proven as soon as we got out of the lot. No casual conversation here. With Richard warning Mike Eder to stay out of the way of our tandem now careening through the lot - we are off! Leaders Ian Fillinger, Bob Goodison, Ken Bonner, Tracy Barill, and Ryan Kurz quickly fade out of sight within a few blocks. No matter. We'll not likely see them again.. Hell, I didn't even get a chance to say hi. That's all I'd think of at that time anyway. The route heads into the thickest cloud of the bunch of clouds! Way too cool is the air!

The road fairly flies under the wheels of the tandem as we average 25 kmh to Cherryville. Bombastic. This is great I think, when Deirdre claims we have done 50 km in 2 hours and a minute! She's keeping track of things for us as usual. Good. Want another fig newton? There are even some uphills in here.. Things are looking good. The lasagna is working well. The clouds though, do not part and we labor on under leaden skies (cloudy and non-descript). We stop at the store and Randy Benz cruises by with a wave. We don't see him again.

Now the climb to the top of the Monashees is fairly sustained once one travels east of Cherryville and though I thought we had left our troubles behind - what with the rain and wind behind us, now a good forecast, a pit stop done and all - but after some poor shifts that ended with the chain clumsily in and out of granny - and now - apparent emerging derailleur problems, adjustment after adjustment - chain jammed past top gear…troubles were just beginning. What are we using top gear for anyway??? You see - the long and short of it - is that we were having some shifting and related difficulties. The pedals go skip-clank-skip. We have hills to climb and hills to descend. Lots of them! This is going to be a trial - we are NOT going to enjoy the fruits of our climbing labors on the spectacular run down to the ferry at Needles. No top gears to push. Too much clanking and banging is happening for us. No advantage of a downhill speed run on a tandem here.. Our legs are taking a beating. No gear is right except the steep uphill gears. What is going to become of our ride for the next 500 km? Where is the fun in all this? Tracy Barill returns from the summit - having forgotten his credit card and route card. He goes back.

Although we make many stops to wind and unwind the tension on the derailleur cable (which way to turn?) - our woes continue. The only gears that work are the little ones. Are they little ones or big ones? We discuss. Shimano is fussy. Oh well - we'll clash our way to Nakusp and "look for a bike mechanic" says Deirdre. We give up on gears. Mike Eder barely misses the ferry at Needles and has to wait as we sail off with a wave. He retreats discouraged. We know. We have half a cogset that works. It is a new drivetrain - brand new chain, new cluster - carefully selected, carefully installed by a master mechanic, new rings… what the hell is the matter?? I eventually ask - what did this stuff cost? Three hundred dollars for the lot - is the answer. I tell Richard jokingly, that the money is what makes it shift so well. Deirdre laughs nervously. Ah well - they are just metal - less metal than in an engine block. Who cares!

At 190 odd kilometers (who counts the details?) we find ourselves in Nakusp with Richard - now cautiously riding a safe distance behind - watching to see that our bicycle doesn't self-destruct in an explosion of little metal bits. It is not a pretty scene - unless one looks at the pristine vegetation, water and wildlife. Hey - we are a part of the wildlife - brightly colored jerseys and all! Deer, osprey, a marmot - and some randonneurs! What a cool day!

In Nakusp, we find an absence of bicycle mechanics. Sweet nothing! I'd thought so - but then you never know …maybe the guy at the Ford dealership can fix your bike! You never know.. Locals tell us there is a bicycle mechanic in New Denver - a mountain range away and not on our route. Different town. This is the backwoods interior and everyone helps… right? What's 50 km around here? Richard spots and points out to me - a poster - advertising nothing other than a bicycle mechanic! Whoa! He says there is a bicycle mechanic here! There is a bicycle mechanic here? I examine the advertisement in the window to find it is a poster of an Indian motorcycle mechanic no less! The motorcycle is an Indian and the mechanic is probably no more in evidence than the Indian ... Nice trick Richard! I resolve to buy it (the poster) the next time I have a place to carry it. I will come back…

We'll have to look more closely at our machine ourselves. I am now very determined to fix it. Over lunch we eat and toil with a broomstick to hold our "Broomstick Hilda" tandem aloft so we can spin the back wheel off the ground while we examine the rotating drive train. With two pairs of black hands we sort out finally, that a chain link has frozen on our brand new chain! We didn't expect this! We fix it and readjust our fine-tuned-deluxe-Shimano-interlaced-9 cog-double-indexed-ultraglide system with the lightweight-cool-black-and-silver chain rings worth so much (I admired them later) - and are off for more adventure! Mike is now with us as we "sweep" the course. Lantern Rouge - Deirdre tells me - is what they call the last riders on the course. We are the Lantern Rouge - a special designation just for us. That's why I love riding with my friends. They have such cool things to say. No one behind us now… We can go as fast as we like. I feel good again. We can only go slowly. I feel special.

With another wait for the ferry at Galena Bay we finally get across some lake and work our way to Revelstoke - to arrive just before nightfall. Mike Eder has left us now - his knees hurt too much. He takes some pictures instead. I notice that this part of the route contains the best highway I have seen in the province. The aggregate seems just right what with all those little hard quartzite chunks of just the right size and just the right amount of black stuff. No holes or cracks here - and a nice smooth surface. Deirdre had said earlier that the reason for all the potholes in the road from Vernon was because they make roads from oil. I hadn't thought the oil crisis would lead to all that, but apparently it is the cause of the holes. I clearly recall seeing one man, one pickup and one shovel with black stuff to fill the holes. That was it! Too many holes - too few good men and not enough oil!

I notice lots of other things too. The lights on our bicycle announce shortly after our late dinner and in darkness - that they want new batteries! How can this be? Richard provides them and they go in. I figure that everything should last at least 30 years before throwing it out. Thank goodness for companions. We've forgotten our spare cells - though we have extra lights. Deirdre thinks of everything! I am so impressed. Sicamous town arrives thankfully at 01:30 and we get a much-needed rest stop for the next 4 hours. Richard has already sold his room in Salmon Arm to Mike who now has a faster set of wheels. We won't get there tonight. We estimate we've lost about 2 hours with gear skipping and the ferries. No matter - we'll just sleep less. Sleep deprives us of so much.

The alarms get us up at 05:00 and we're off by 05:30. Things go well and uneventfully to near Kamloops. More osprey nests, a bald eagle, cool powerboats to watch along the river running alongside the road. Life is good with emerging sunshine and we enjoy cycling at its best. Richard makes friends talking to everyone he can. He amuses Deirdre and I. The Monte Creek climb out of the Thompson valley is a hard hot grunt and I ask - well - more or less declare - that I want to stop for an ice cream at the general store at Monte Lake. My butt hurts and I want off! We've discovered too late that those heavy bags we are still carrying - could have been dropped off at the bottom of the hill - just a few km from my house. Oh well.. We enjoy a stop on the verandah of the store with a 5 year old boy - enjoying him enjoy his bike. Deirdre asks to put her feet up, and to his astonishment, uses the front tire of his bike to elevate her legs!! He spins the pedals in reverse - for he has nowhere to go! We three sit on a comfy wooden bench in the shade of a verandah with our backs on the wall - enjoying ice cream, a five year old, and some feet on a little bike. Life is still good.

Richard departs the store first then retraces his path just after we get underway. What for? We wait until he gestures vigorously for us to return. What can be the matter? We return to find that Richard has no money, no wallet and the locals don't steal anything he is told. The wallet is gone! Richard is red-faced and anxious. He doesn't care about the wallet. Possibly he doesn't care about his ID either at this point. It must be the route card contained with the wallet. What could be more important? Deirdre discovers the wallet among our stuff. Life is good once again. Richard is happy again. We roll on in the heat of day. There is only a hundred and sixty km for us to go now to the finish. A hundred miles… but km sounds easier. Time is short now - but life is good. We are going to get our money's worth out of this ride. We will use almost all of the time available! Stephen Hinde would be so proud of how much I have learned from him. We are still happy but we have to hurry!

Our front tire blows crossing the tracks before Falkland. Darn tracks anyway. The infrastructure is falling apart everywhere! We stop. Oh no! Mosquitoes descend voraciously on live bait - us! Now I must tell you that I have spent a lot of time in the bush but have never seen so many mosquitoes so hungry for a piece of flesh. Each of our combined total of twelve bare hot limbs is covered INSTANTLY with literally a hundred flesh eating insects. EACH ONE! We go nearly mad! We have a tube to replace to get out of here! We are now in such a panic! Life is NOT good. Traffic roars by! With spare hands swathing furiously at each other's arms and legs we frantically - and I mean FRANTICALLY - get the tube in when Deirdre discovers our pump doesn't work! How can a silly rubber thing fail in less than 30 years? Richard, luckily still with us - comes up magically and reliably with his (working) pump! What are friends for? Deirdre says next that we need some after bite. I think first Deirdre is having some kind of teething problem - first we have to get out of here - but then I understand. That cannot be. These rides do that to you sometimes… In what seems an eternity, we escape to Falkland to get some "after bite". Next time we resolve to carry some deet with the batteries and the pump! Be prepared.

The rest of the ride was uneventful - sort of - except for some fretting about the organizer's declaration and apology that the route was actually 611 km - and Deirdre's becoming somewhat ill - but then that last few km with Deirdre's judicious use of the drag brake on the sweet descents down to Armstrong and then to the shady places under the arbor of the trees on Otter Lake road in the evening sunshine was very special. So special… So are my friends. It's why I ride.

Deirdre - Bob - Richard
(photo Bob Goodison)

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June 17, 2008