Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bikes, bears and heroin junkies

There’s a fine line between fun adventures and crazy adventures. Sometimes fun adventures unintentionally turn crazy. Like the bike ride we went on two days ago.

It started out innocently enough. Seven of us decided to ride 100 kilometres from Pitt Meadows to the Hatzic Valley on Monday. My friend Paul described it as a scenic ride that would take us over rolling hills, through picturesque farmlands and along quiet back roads. There would even be a leisurely stop for lunch at a quaint cafe. Sounds fun, right?

Wrong! The "rolling hills" turned out to be steep climbs and sharp descents. It felt like we were riding up one side of the CN Tower and down the other. Over and over and over again. This is me on a relatively flat section of the ride.

Now, take these hills and multiply them by 100 (in size and number) and you’ll get a sense of the kind of thigh-burning terrain we covered.

The hills weren’t our only enemy. Farm dogs constantly raced out onto the road to attack us. It was pretty terrifying to be lunged at and chased by a pack of wild dogs while riding a bike. Luckily, Sony’s girly screams scared them away.

But it gets worse. Much worse. What could be worse than snarling dogs on the side of the road? A snarling BEAR! At least the bear had the good sense not to attack us. However, no one was brave enough to stop and take pictures of the bear so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than the dogs and the bear was the heroin junkie shooting up in the gas station washroom. About an hour into the ride, we stopped at a gas station for a pee break. But someone was already in the washroom. So we waited. And waited. And waited. About 15 minutes went by before one of the gas station employees banged on the door to make sure the guy was still alive. We heard a muffled response. A few seconds later, the door opened and a sketchy looking guy walked out of the bathroom with a syringe in his hand.

I was too scared to go into the bathroom, thinking the walls would be splattered with blood and the toilet rimmed with feces. So I made Paul inspect it. The washroom turned out to be fine (or at least as fine as a gas station washroom can be).

Now, at this point, I haven’t even mentioned the weather. You name it, we got it. Sun, rain, clouds, wind and even a hailstorm. Actually, the hailstorm was kind of exciting. It was the first time I experienced hailstones pinging off my helmet.

We reached our turnaround point at the 60-kilometre mark, just as the storm was reaching its peak. By now, golf-ball-size hailstones were falling out of the sky and littering the ground.

So we took refuge at the roadside cafe in the Hatzic Valley and tucked into soup and sandwiches.

When I found out the "washroom" at the cafe was an outhouse in middle of the parking lot, I actually found myself longing for that gas station washroom.

We decided to hit the road after about an hour. By this point, everyone was feeling tired and no one wanted to go back the way we came. There was a long debate over whether or not we should just ride back to Pitt Meadows on the highway, which was shorter, flatter and more direct.

Some people (me) wanted to go back the same way we came, while others (everyone else) just wanted to get the hell home as quickly and painlessly as possible. So we compromised and decided to ride the highway to Mission and then hop on the back roads to our starting point in Pitt Meadows.

This seemingly bright idea did nothing but add an extra 10 kilometres onto our already epic ride. And we still ended up riding up and down almost all of the same hills. What was supposed to be a 100-km ride turned into a 130-km ride.

To add insult to injury, we were swarmed by a pack of kids on dirt bikes that kept trying to race us. We were so tired we just let them trash-talk us. They grew bored after a while and sped ahead of us.

It was a fitting end to the day when we drove back to Vancouver in Paul’s beat-up pick-up truck, listening to the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack. As for the next adventure, I just hope it’s less crazy and more fun.

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