Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 24 - Coquihalla

To get your weekend started right, here's a whole series of blogs from our adventures so far in BC!

Coquihalla summit, looking west
The second day in BC is the hardest. That's the unanimous advice from cyclists, with fair warning from motorists and locals. And everyone asks the same question: "Are you taking the Coquihalla?"

There is really only one way from Hope to Merritt, the 5. It isn't the highest mountain we'll climb, nor is it the steepest grade (it's close, 8-13%). But it is a rude initiation to the mountain ranges we will tackle this week. I'm not sure which mountain range it belongs to - Coastal or Cascades - but we'll call it the foothills of the Rockies. And it went up, and up, and up...

Looking back up the Merritt valley highway.
We stuck together on narrow shoulders, up the steepest grades, and through the first snow-shed. Trucks were either whipping by us on the downhills, or passing us so slowly on the uphills that we wanted to reach out and grab hold. The snowshed was it's own adventure - dark, narrow shoulder, tremendously loud. Then it's the final ascent with the 13% grade, which we hammered out at 8km/hr out of the saddle in the lowest gear. But we made it - pic above.

The other story of the day can also be introduced with a question: what's so great about Madison, Wisconsin? What you need to know is that on this day, we have an insane amount of flats, and at super inconvenient and times. Kyle has to hitchhike a few kilometres at one point, and we fix three flats in the space of 100m coming down the Coquihalla. We only brought 6 tubes to Vancouver, and the bike shop we passed the day before was closed Mondays, and our patch kit has gone missing. We are hoping to make it to the next city, but given our seven flats over two days, it wouldn't have happened. Which brings us back to Madison - it's a top-5 city in the US in terms of bicycle friendliness. By this point, after having incorporated city cycling into our daily lives in training, we certainly appreciate. So in what can only be terms a best-case scenario, as Tyler and I are at a rest stop, trying to figure out what to do about Kyle's strandedness, Madison's cycling dynasty bails us out. Arthur and Jeanette, who are responsible for Madison's status, are at the very same rest stop, and they give us a tube, and more importantly a patch kit (as well as lettuce and tomatoes). It was nice meeting you - thanks SO much!

But we got a flat coming right out of that stop, which resulted in my cycling 5km back uphill. In a related story, Kyle now has the patch kit. Inexplicably frustrating, but the day improves. We will hit what is probably a new high speed of 67.5km/hr entering the Merrit Valley, and we use the promise of fast food to get us to the city. As it turns out, A&W is the first one we find. And so we camped in Merrit.

Another big thanks to some people on the home front. Lindsay for calling ahead and finding us water on the route! And my dad Lloyd for running an online tool to give us the anticipated elevation and summits. Can't do it without either!

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