June 7, 2008

6/7/08 Vancouver, BC - Canada

Didn't really sleep at all last night. Went to bed but my mind kept double and triple checking everything I had done to get ready. Was up by 5am. Mom was great as I waited for the airport van to arrive at 6:30. She can be a rock of gibraltar, steady even in a storm. I hope she has a good summer, even with me gone. [smile]

Listened to a girl from India talk on her cell phone in a mish-mash of English and Hindu for the whole ride out to the airport. It sure looked like a nice day here in Kansas City. We almost got caught behind the lines for a running race, with the police blocking various streets, but squeaked through.

Made all my flights without any problems. They didn't even charge me for the second bag like they said (to cover rising fuel prices). Sat next to a woman from St Louis who was headed for an Alaskan cruise with her husband for their 10th Anniversary. Seems like half the plane to Vancouver were 'cruise' folks.

I was kind of surprised that almost all the Canadian customs officials at arrival were women. The officer asked me a lot of questions but I couldn't tell if it was curiosity or official prudence. George later told me that after he went through customs, he got pulled out and had to go through all his gear again for the agents.

Sunny but a lot cooler in Vancouver, maybe 50 to 60 degrees. Ended up taking a cab (I had planned on putting the bike together at the airport but didn't) to the hostel on the University of British Columbia Campus. When he gave me change, I sort of got flustered in that I thought he had taken his tip because he only handed me a $5 and some change. Turns out, the $5 bill is the lowest paper denomination here in Canada, with the $2 'two-ny' and $1 'loony' as the next coins in the sequence.

Basically, the university uses the empty dorms as a hostel in the summer. Unfortunately for me, my room was on the 3rd floor but with no elevator. So I had to make several trips to get my bike bag (50lbs) and gear bag (>25lbs) up the stairs. Ran into George who already arrived from Sacramento and had a room down the hall. We spent time catching up while we waited for Mike to fly in from Australia. The last time I saw George was when the three of us biked the South Island of New Zealand in 2006.

Spent most of the afternoon devoted to putting the bike back together, not an easy task in a postage-stamp-size dorm room. But looks like the bike survived the flight and baggage handling without a scratch. I did find a note inside the bag telling me that security had opened it. I could tell they had tried to remove my bungee cords that were holding everything together, but they must have given up looking at the nightmarish puzzle of bike parts because they couldn't unhook part of the bungees.

When Mike arrived, we walked across campus to eat at a food-court recommended by the students. Most of the eating stalls were closed, probably because it is summer break, but the few open served good Asian food, cheap too. That was the shocker, prices here in Canada! We stopped by a small store on the way back to the hostel and for most items, the price was double what I would pay back home. For example, a 1-liter bottle of Coke was $2; a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream was $7. Ouch!!! So, might have to curb my sugar habit here in the north if I want to return home with even a little bit of savings.

It is surprising how full the hostel is, both with young and not so young people. There are a lot of athletes from Europe and Australia here for competitions. And spent some time talking to an older Environmental Engineer from New Zealand.

Got everything put-together and packed up as much as I could, so went to bed about 11pm. It's good to be on the 'road' again. I just wonder how the ride through Vancouver will be tomorrow.

Biking from Vancouver in the west to Halifax

For those of you who don't know I will be biking across Canada for about the next eleven weeks. I will be traveling with Mike, a good biking friend from Perth Australia. If all goes well, we hope to reach Halifax by the end of the summer. Joining us for two weeks is George, Mike's brother from Sacramento. As we get WiFi access, I hope to update the journals and pictures daily, so keep checking back.

Useful links:
Pacific Spirit Hostel on the UCB campus
AMS Bike Co-Op for/by UCB students
The Bike HUB & The Bike Kitchen on the UCB campus
Vancouver Cycling Maps & Guide at TransLink
Bicycle Routes & Maps by the city of Vancouver