Leaving Vancouver was hard. It was Canadian thanksgiving. Punk and pro-Indigenous kids can still make a festive atmosphere on a day that celebrates less than praise worthy events. It took me an hour to say good-bye to all 12 or so kids that were in the kitchen cooking. I made some good friends in the 10 days I was there; friends I hope to return the hospitality to if they can ever get over hating LA so much.
From Vancouver to the us border is a string of smaller towns/cities that make navigating especially time consuming. One town, whose name escapes me, was predominantly Sikh and Muslim populated. Indian/Middle East grocers lined the road and the smell of curry was fresh in the air. When I eventually return to Vancouver I will be sure to spend some time here. Some steep hills, in combination with not leaving till 2pm or so, put me at the border just before dark. I was not tired at all, probably due to my new sleep schedule, and road for a couple of hours in the dark! The small amounts of traffic made me feel comfortable doing this and I was able to hammer out the 65 or so miles I needed to do in order to get to Seattle in 3 days.
The route included a lot of time in beautiful forests early on, and then also some coastal roads/paths and some back roads through farm communities. I am following a lonely planet book that gives directions/maps for the coastal ride from Vancouver to San Diego and they have picked the scenic over the direct route. Before I got to Seattle I had taken two quick ferry rides and had ridden across numerous islands in the pungent sound. When I got to Seattle I called a bmx friend of friend, Seth Holten, who hooked me up. Ride from the ferry (it had poured on me all 60 miles I had pedaled), own room in his house, ride to his work in the morning to build boxes to get my bike on the plane. love it. BMX has produced some amazing kids. Approx 200 miles ridden from Vancouver, pulling about 70 pounds of gear in my trailer. nice.
Today is my 10th day in Vancouver and I feel like I have done so much, yet at the same time feel that I have done so little. This is from an email I sent to someone earlier in the week–> ‘I have fallen into such a routine. wake up around 11-12, eat some food, head to the library, check email, hang out at sweet cheribum (cafe, veg restaurant, Indian grocer all in one), and drink coffee and eat vegan sweets then mill around Commerical Ave (the Haight of Vancouver) till I run into someone I know. Then go to the Sikh temple for free dinner, hang out at the house afterwards doing various random things, read, discuss, etc, then go dumpster diving. In bed around 3am or so.’
It’s definitely fun, but I am always thinking I should be doing something better. I guess thats the story of my life. Over the weekend we snuck into a movie and took a midnight bike ride through this huge park. Pulled an all-nighter at Kinko’s helping with a zine. Oh, and on Friday there was a ‘squeegee kid’ protest. In Canada it is common for the poor and street kids to squeegee cars at intersections for change. In a time of increased unemployment and decreased social programs in Canada it is a way of survival. Anyway, police have been harassing the squeegee kids sometimes resorting to physical intimidation. Friday was a protest to draw attention to the situation. A bunch of us from the house cooked enough food for 75+ people and distributed to everyone in the area. It was so much fun. None of the participants in the protest would speak with the media due to the decision from the IWW squeegee council (yes, it exists) so I talked to them as a supporter. It was fun! I did 3 camera interviews and talked about the situation. I wonder if they knew I was not Canadian!?
Despite not mountain biking much, the main reason I came here, I have had a wonderful experience. Everyone at the house is so busy. There are always groups of people going off to do various things. Someone is always cooking (free) food. The dishes always get done. People are always playing music or reading. This is a house of 15 or so people, almost all of them under 21 and with very little money. It has motivated me considerably. Sure, there have been a couple shows at the house where destroyer punks came and were all drunk and obnoxious, but no one at the house is like that. I have spent individual time with almost everyone there and have learned from each of them. My stories pale in comparison to kids who have spent the last couple years of their lives traveling by train hopping, eating by dumpstering and living by squatting.
Tomorrow I am leaving for the 200-mile trip to Seattle. The route I am taking links together islands in the bay instead of just riding along the coast. I am looking forward to being on my bike again, but hopefully the weather improves. I have a lot to think about from this trip so far; the contrast between the doctor I stayed with in Alaska and the punks I am staying with in Vancouver pulls me in two opposite directions. But are they that different? At both places food was shared freely and bikes were a theme. In both places people are doing what they think is best to help the most people. I am lucky to sit in between the extreme of the two ways and have my life influenced by both.
Now I am going to go get some sweets. yum.
Flew into Vancouver Friday. Since I had the BOB trailer I had no choice but to put my bike in a full size bike box-way oversized-and prepare to pay the $50. I get to the ticket counter and the people in front have bikes and shell out their cash. The women says to me when it’s my turn, ‘That’s a bike, right?’ Just to give it a go I say ‘No, camping equipment’. She should of charged for an oversized box but she didn’t. Love it! Batting a 1000 for not paying for my bike on airlines. So I land in Vancouver and get grilled by immigration and customs-apparently coming to BC just to mountain bike did not seem like a valid reason. I get through and set-up outside building my bike and packing my trailer. I set off to ride the 13 kilometers to east Vancouver and the unknown house I have directions for.
I make my way to ‘The house formerly known as the ALF-house’ and it is the way all punk houses should be- crowded with friendly kids. My connection was weak; I had a number of a friend of a friend of a friend, but it didn’t matter. I was offered food and a place to put my stuff. Love it. The house is pretty big, but I counted last night and 16 people were sleeping there. I swear not a scrap of food goes wasted from any produce store or health food store in this city. It all ends up in the kitchen. Meals for a dozen people are cooked regularly of solely free food. Canadian Chocolate soymilk is killer as are Nanaimo bars-these vegan treats found at a little gem called sweet cherubum. I ran into a friend from Portland on the street and it turns out his friends know my new friends. Today I have already run into 2 people (free coffee!) whom I have just met yesterday. It’s unbelievable.
My first full day I had to check out the ‘North Shore’ mountain biking. It is internationally known for its style of trails. I made my way to a few bike shops for some maps and new tires then started climbing up the local mountain to hit some trails. I picked an ‘intro to north shore’ trail. It was getting dark and I had a big pack on, but regardless I think I would of walked down most of the trail. I way overestimated my riding ability! The stuff here is sick-tons of ladders(old trees of various length that are placed horizontly as part of the trail-they have boards of various widths nailed to them to make sort of a bridge). These vary from two ft wide and 6 inches off the ground to half a foot wide and 3 feet off the ground. The trail was filled with berms, drops and obstacles all the way down. Maybe it was extra intimidating because no one was around, but it was so hard for me to do. This week I am going to hit up some ‘regular’ trails and then get back to the north shore stuff. Hopefully find some locals to ride with. Most of them have full suspension bikes with 7 inches of travel and full body armor. I would love to spend a summer and learn a completely new style of riding.
Plans from here? I have to be in Seattle next Wednesday the 15th to fly to PA on the 16th. I will probably spend most of that time in Vancouver, hopefully with a weekend trip to the mountain bike park in Whistler, 175 kilometers north. My cell phone is roaming, so I am not using it. Plus I would lose tons of punk points for using it here. I told everyone that most punks in LA have cell phones and they laughed at me! Ha. I should be able to check messages, so call if you need. Lastly, I have to say that I love my friends-new and old-so much when I travel. I receive so many love filled emails and have so many wonderful interactions with people who barely know me, but offer what they can to help me in my trip. If I could only offer back half as much it would take me years! This is one of my favorite things about traveling, something everyone should experience. Peace!
My last week in Alaska has been productive, but not in Alaska sense. A lot of time just chillin in the apartment I am staying in and A LOT of time in the library. Its been good though, time to take care of things I didn’t do before I left and things I need to do for the next leg of my trip. Still, I have gone mountain biking almost every day this week, despite poor weather. Mountain biking is amazing in the city of Anchorage due to all of the parks and cross-country ski trails. There is even a small ski mountain within the city.
Tonight we are going to an ‘extreme Thursday’ at a local bar after we go riding. Tomorrow I fly to Vancouver, where I have finally secured a place to stay and I have a couple of leads on places to ride but no firm contacts. I think I’ll work something out. I’m not sure if my cell phone will work, but I will be able to check messages on it either way. Email as well. Really looking fwd to riding the north shore stuff down there. Peace!