Friday, April 24, 2015

I've Finally Named My Bike Futility

I started the day with a bunch of chores, laundry, charging stuff, organizing the car, buying some supplies, before heading out to... The Museum of Flight, one of the best aviation museums in the world. Some highlights were the SR-71, walking through a Concorde, and seeing the Gossamer Condor II. There was also the sailplane that currently holds the highest unpowered altitude record at around 51,000 feet.

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After that I headed to Paseo, a Caribbean sandwich shop and had a deliciously messy roast pork sandwich, and then headed to Stoup, one of the better local breweries. And then just to put me in my place, I got a parking ticket. I thought we were friends Seattle!

I did some chores at Kristina and Ryan's before meeting up with them to head to Elliot Bay to get a burger and a beer before heading to Beer Junction. It's a local bar/beer store, so I stocked up pretty well for at least my first week in Canada.

The following morning I said goodbye to my wonderful hosts, admired Miho after her free Seattle car wash, and decided to head straight for the border to take advantage of the clear weather. Along the way I found an amazing breakfast burrito in Bellingham called Burrito King. I should have known a college town would have a good burrito place.

Pretty quickly I was at the border, where the border guard gave me a couple weird looks based on my car and asked tough questions accordingly, but once satisfied let me by. Immediately going in to Canada, I think they built up a lot of impressive infrastructure close to the border, there's no way their entire road network is this nice.

I no longer had any cell data, so I would be relying on a rough map and dead reckoning. I was immediately lost when I hit Vancouver and ended up downtown, a place I was hoping to avoid. I parked next to the bay to find out where I was, and when heading to the water to get a bearing immediately saw at least a dozen seaplanes. I had randomly stumbled onto the Vancouver Seaplane Base. I basically ran down to the water to take as close a look as I could, and watched at least a half dozen take offs and landings.

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I saw the bridge I was hoping to get to from the base, and once on it it was a pretty straight shot North to my goal, Whistler. I was pretty quickly stopping at every opportunity to check out the scenery. The road was along a large waterway, with mountains on either side. It had just snowed at higher altitudes, so most of the peaks were white with green trees down below.

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I stopped at an enormous waterfall right off the roadway (where Yogi had his first taste of Canada), a couple scenic overlooks, and finally got to Whistler about 10/6.2 faster than I was originally calculating. First stop, obviously, was the local brewery (for my first taste of Canada) where a bartender Tony, besides giving me some delicious samplers, pointed me towards the closest place to bike and camp.

First taste of Canada

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The bike ride started out poorly, despite functioning flawlessly on my previous ride, the chain immediately snapped. After a repair, it snapped again. I think it was finally calling it quits. Luckily I thought ahead and bought a replacement at the REI in Seattle, so after a quick installation I was heading up the river.

The trail ran along a large turbulent river, with enormous rapids. Luckily it was down too far for Yogi to try to swim in it. It was pretty short, but just at the top of the trail just before a bridge my drivetrain locked up. My immediate thought was that the chain came loose and got jammed, but I quickly discovered that my derailleur finally imploded on itself. Luckily most of the ride back would be downhill, but it was still a pain in the ass. I'm had to find a bike shop the next day to get a new one, which is probably something I should have done in Petaluma anyway.

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After scooting my bike back to the car, I decided to make a quick dinner and then head back to the brewery. I gave the bartender one of my Old Rasputins earlier in an attempt to convince him he needs to head down South to try out some California breweries, and as a result they were returning the favor, many times over. Luckily I remembered the way back to my campsite.

The following day I packed up and tracked down a bike shop to fix my derailleur. They nicely bumped up working on my bike so that I could get on the road, and after a coffee break I was back out on the road. I didn't test ride it first, which will come up later...

The guys at the bike shop recommended Williams Lake, a 5 hour drive, which was going to be hard but I decided to go for it. The drive immediately put me in a very remote part of the mountains, I don't think a lot of people must take that road north of Whistler. It went through a lot of gorgeous passes, and I kept the top down even as it started snowing on us.

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The clouds prevented me from seeing some of the peaks, which also gave me the impression the mountains kept climbing far beyond where I could see. The tree line is much lower here, perhaps due to the limited growing season, so 4000 feet seemed like 12000 at times when you're climbing above where the forest can reach. I started using my headphones to listen to music (the Miata doesn't have a stereo), and each song seemed to fit the scenery in its own way, but Alt-J was definitely a highlight.

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Eventually the mountains gave way to some more arid rolling hills, which lasted all the way to Williams Lake. I decided to climb around Fox Mountain, which was supposed to have a good biking network and views of the lake. That might seem like a neat idea, but in hindsight, a network just means it's incredibly easy to get lost.

I started out and the bike was working fine, exactly as expected. I stopped for a quick picture with Yogi when I encountered the only other people I'd see on the mountain, and then kept moving. There was a symbol for a trail that was supposed to circumnavigate the whole network, a fox's tail. So I had hoped if I followed this symbol I'd be fine.

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I was about a third of the way into the trail when I had my first gear skip, and was immediately annoyed that even with a new chain and a new derailleur I'm still having issues with the drivetrain. I press on and immediately the trail starts descending rapidly. I could have turned in to the network, but I would have been lost immediately. I had a reasonable idea of where I was and where I needed to go, but it didn't feel right that I was descending so much. I decided to keep following the fox's tail and pressed on.

After that, another worrying thing started happening, it started drizzling. I picked up the pace to get back sooner, and after about another mile the trail started to get more confusing. There were the occasional tails, and usually a sign at every junction, but worryingly I passed a few junctions without signs, and had to hope that my choice was the right one. After a while I didn't see any more tails, and eventually the trail ended at a neighborhood that was definitely not where I parked my car, and definitely at a lower altitude than where I needed to be. I started back from where I came from, and noticed what looked like a trail that could be a shortcut. It was sort of in the direction I needed to be, and it was uphill, which was promising, so I started on it. What looked like a trail from below turned out to be just a deer trail at best, and pretty quickly I was walking straight up a mountain in an uncontrolled area. Every 50 feet I thought I saw a biking trail going left, the direction I needed to go, but once I climbed to it it would just be another deer trail.

Finally, after at least 500 feet of climbing up a mountain with a bike on my back in some light rain, I found a clear mountain biking trail. It wasn't optimum, it was effectively a steep downhill run, so I had to continue carrying the bike on my back, until it finally leveled out a bit and I could climb on my bike.

This was great, except it started raining a little harder, and then, oh joy of joys, the derailleur broke again the exact same way as the day before. I angrily tried to bend and crank the parts back into their original position, but eventually I had to give up, remove the chain, and scoot back to my car.

Thanks for leaving me stranded again #Shimano

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I immediately sped to the closest bike shop, thinking I was going to buy a bike on the spot, but after considering getting a $1200 Specialized Pro Evo 29, I decided I didn't want to make that purchase emotionally. I headed to the local pub for a beer and some wifi to research reviews on that bike and others, and then headed to the in-town campsite to sleep on it. So that's where I am now, writing this in a tent, my stomach hurts for some reason, it's raining off and on, I knew every day wasn't going to be perfect, and I should at least be happy this one started well. Hopefully tomorrow will be better! 

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