We woke up a little nervous, after all we were about to embark on something that 6 months ago was just something we casually talked about over the dinner table. Flying over Canada, and the many hours that it took, gave us an idea of how far 6500km actually is and truth be told it a little daunting.
Now the morning was here, May 1st, D-Day for our thighs and bottoms. We left our Airbnb, which was conveniently located 50m from the start of the Trans-Canada highway, pedalled to the sign, took a few pictures and then pushed on to McKenzie Beach, where Matt’s mother’s ashes were scattered and where officially we started our cycle.
It was a lovely morning on McKenzie Beach and when we arrived there was no one else about which was both special but a little sad. Obviously being a place that is very close to our hearts, it was emotional being there about to set off on this huge challenge in memory of Andrea. Both of us had a good old cry on the beach which is just what you need when you have a long day of cycling ahead...dehydrate and emotionally exhaust yourself before you’ve even gotten going.
Eventually we composed ourselves and Matt never being one to miss an opportunity to use his drone decided now was the perfect time. At that moment, a dog came running and barking down the beach, enraged at the flying object in the sky and attempting to scare it away. If the moment wasn’t ruined by Matt spinning round in circles attempting to calibrate the drone, it was ruined by the continual barking from the somewhat irate Labrador.
Camera equipment landed and away it was now 10am in the morning, two hours after our planned departure time; anyone who knows Matt will not be surprised by this. We looked at one another a bit confused as to what to do next, the obvious answer is cycle but it felt odd, all this build up and the start by comparison was fairly anticlimactic. Starting a 12 hour flight and a decent drive away from most of our friends and family this was always going to be the case, it just felt a little strange. The good luck messages coming in from home were lovely and let us know that everyone was there in spirit if not in body.
The first two hours of cycling were a little stressful, leaving later than planned meant that we had to rush to get 50km along the road as at midday they were shutting it for a bit for construction work. We had been warned about and seen the construction work zone on our drive to Tofino and it was suggested that we try and ask a pick up truck driver to stick our bikes in the back of their truck and drive us through it as it wasn’t an ideal place to be cycling a bike: it was a single lane, partially gravel bit of road where they were obviously blasting the rock at the side. It was also on one of the steepest hills we were going to do that day and it went on for 2km meaning that we would likely hold up all the traffic behind us. When we got to the construction zone, at 11.58am, the traffic on our side started moving and with no time to hitch a ride, we joined the traffic and cycled through it. With our briefing from one of the construction staff being “go quickly and please be safe” I think it’s probably save to say neither of us have ever cycled so fast up an 18% gradient before.
The effort we put in to get through the construction zone was however richly rewarded with two traffic free hours as they closed the road. Once cars started reappearing we stopped for a bite to eat pleased at the progress we were making and surprised that the hills we seemed to be constantly driving down on our way to Tofino, weren’t that bad cycling back up. That was however until we got 125km in and had a 10km relentless climb and another 18% gradient during it. Fuelled on a Tim Horton’s cinnamon bun (Hannah) and a maple dip donut (Matt) we slowly started to make our way up it. Hannah has been having trouble with her back tubeless tire all day, pumping it up every thirty minutes to an hour as it clearly hasn’t sealed properly, so after pumping it up at the bottom of the hill it required a further top up half way up and then at the top. These stops also provided rather convenient breaks for the legs and the lungs even if Hannah’s toys were about to come out of the pram as she pumped it up for the 8th time that day.
Ascent done, it was time for the descent. Whilst we might have been what felt like 1000 degrees climbing the hill, the long 5km descent certainly cooled us right down again.
Only an hour of so from our campsite, we started thinking about dinner. We had been warned there were not many eating options around Whiskey Creek, in fact there was only one option: a burger bar next to a petrol (or gas as they call it over here) station. Hannah has messaged them the day before to see if they would be open and check their opening times. The message back was that they would be open until 7pm so at 6.15pm we rock up really looking forward to burgers and fries. The place looks empty but the sign still said open so we went inside. Whilst they were indeed technically open they were no longer serving food as they had run out of beef. With no where else to eat we went next door to the patrol station and got the last remaining hot dog, which we shared, and a whole lot of snacks.
With the lure of being able to eat our petrol station snack when we got to the campsite, we headed the further 2km up the road to Whiskey Creek R.V. Site and Campground. The campground itself was fantastic and the owner was so lovely. After enquiring what we were doing she insisted on giving us our stay for free as her contribution towards our charity challenge: very kind of her indeed.
Pleased we had gotten day one under our belts, we set up the tent, had a shower, ate our snacks and Hannah ditched her tubeless system for a good old fashion trusty inner tube.
And after a long and emotional first day, we turned in for our first night in what would be our teenie tiny home for the best part of the next 2 months.