Published: May 23rd 2011May 16th 2011
Is that really a solar panel behind your bike?
I could not have imagined a better icebreaker than a bike trailer with a solar panel. In fact, even if it weren't connected to anything at all, it would still be worth dragging the darned thing up the Fraser Valley as I have been doing for the past 5 days.
The answer is of course, yes
, that is indeed a solar panel that I've hauled the 440-odd kilometres to Hope, British Columbia.
Starting in Victoria, the panel faithfully followed me up the Saanich Peninsula, over the ferry and past the farms of Salt Spring Island, then back across to Vancouver Island, bounced its way along logging roads to Nanaimo, sat patiently on the ferry to mainland Vancouver, rocketed around Stanley Park, and weaved its way through the labyrinth of country trails, mountain bike routes, dikes, farming roads and highway shoulders of the Fraser Valley.
The Trans Canada Trail is puzzle-like in this part of the country; with so many roads and pathways, it's not always obvious where the route goes. My GPS system has guided me with absolute precision, powered completely by batteries charged from the sun. This being the "Fire Adventure", it seems fitting that
Salt Spring Island
Where the hippies roam..
the element of fire itself can take credit for getting me this far.
Admittedly, for most of the journey so far the solar panel has barely met this critical minimum requirement as the sun has hardly made a serious appearance. The rain has poured down for endless hours, providing very little electricity to spare.
Still, what makes it all worthwhile is enjoying the look on people's faces when they see the panel. They politely smile as they see me coming their way, and just as I whiz by, that odd contraption following behind suddenly captures their attention. I always
sneak a peek in my rear view mirror and catch the person with their head turned back to me doing a double-take, often with their jaw agape. I can usually catch a voice saying to their friend or to noone in particular, "..a solar panel?!" before fading in the wind blasting down from the mountains. When I stop for a snack, usually at least one person approaches and starts a conversation - but judging by where they are looking, I'm never sure if they're talking to me, or to the trailer!
As I weave my way up the
Salt Spring Oddities
Good stuff for all the druids out there
valley through the towns of Abbotsford and Chilliwack, the water in the Fraser River begins to speed up; it appears that the relatively flat valley is beginning to run out and soon my route will begin to climb skyward. That point is in Hope where I now find myself, surrounded on all sides by huge mountains, with the rain coming down so hard I wonder if it would be possible for this bowl to fill up and drown the whole city and me along with it.
The tourist office says it was snowing on the Coquihalla Pass earlier in the day which is where I'm headed for the next leg. I decide I've done well to get this far and it wouldn't hurt to take a rest day and wait for better weather.
It has been a beautiful, but at times demoralizing and painful first leg of the journey across Canada, but I have met some amazing people who have provided a warm meal or bed, including a nice family in Fort Langley who bought me lunch with a spare Groupon, which helped me get through this bumpy start of the adventure on a full belly at the
I awake on Day 6 to see the sun peaking out from behind the clouds. The weather band says there's a break in the weather; I look towards the trail winding its way into the mountains and decide this is no time to rest - it could start snowing again tomorrow. I pack up camp and hit the road. The shakedown ride is over and I begin pedaling upwards.. with the solar panel faithfully following along, of course!
There are more photos below