Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Riding a Bike from the San Juan Islands to Vancouver, Canada : p.s. BC Hydro Sucks

On August 27th I rode my bike 125 miles (200 kilometers) from Lopez Village to the University of British Columbia Point Grey Campus. Before leaving for this trip I repeatedly search online for routes taken by other cyclists and had little luck. Some cyclists (most seemingly riding from Vancouver to the United States) explained their routes in rough terms, but actual route maps, or the gold standard for serious cyclists— Strava or Ride with GPS downloadable data— was missing. Eventually I had to piece together ideas from various sources and headed out on my trip. Fortunately on the ferry ride I met a woman who was on a bike heading back to a place East of Bellingham, and she gave me some good pointers. My entire ride from the United to the border with Canada is something you can follow with confidence (Strava link to the ride data).

I am already planning how I can ride part of the US route again. I didn't ride that fast because I kept stopping to take photos, and because I was unsure of the route, and I'd like to go back and get all the QOM.

I started from Lopez Village and took the first ferry:

The one part of the trip outside Anacortes and before Edison that you might be confused about is "do I have to ride on the margin of Route 20"? Yes, so far as I know, you do. I rode against traffic on 20, on the far side of the breakdown lane, and it was a little scary but only about two miles (from leaving March Point Road next to the reservation gas station and casino, over the bridge (there is a separate pedestrian/bike lane on the bridge) until you turn onto the road that goes past Padilla Bay to Edison. If you rode on the correct shoulder of 20 you would have to cross 20 to get onto the road to Edison.

View from the Bridge:

Riding on Chuckanut drive without much of a shoulder with a cliff on one side and sharp drop off on the other was also a bit sketchy, but people there are used to cyclists and all the signs tell the drivers to share the road. Although I was worried about Chuckanut before riding it, it's actually only about eight miles that is sketchy.

Much of the US part of the ride looked like this (view towards Chuckanut):

Or this- outside Ferndale:

I stopped at the Community Food Co-op (Co-op Café) in Bellingham for a late breakfast (I had an early one of food I brought with me on the ferry), coffee, and excellent lunch to go that I ate in White Rock (BC) in front of City Hall. At the Co-op they let me take my bike inside and were very welcoming. The food was perfect, too. I would definitely recommend patronizing the Food Co-op if you pass through Bellingham. There are a couple small places (a restaurant, a diner, and a bakery at least) in Edison right next to the road, and at least one of them looked like outside seating next to your bike would be possible—however, none were open on a Saturday morning at the time I went through.

mmmm lunch (with a Bosko rose):

Downtown Edison: 

After Bellingham there are several routes you can take, the route I chose worked very well, but I think you could safely deviate from it and have the same experience. Basically there is a lot of farmland, and some forests, it's mostly but not all flat, the roads usually have a wide shoulder and they are pretty wide. There isn't a whole lot of traffic.

I crossed the border in the NEXUS lane (got my card Friday), but they told me next time to use the special bike/walker lane next to the building.

After the border things got not so perfect. If I do this ride again, I will have to figure out some alternative route, or do what many people seem to do- hop on a bus in B.C. My route worked. You could follow it. Certainly from the time I got on River Road in Richmond until UBC it was ideal (this part I scouted out in advance). However, in Surrey it got pretty dicey and I thought I was going to die under the wheels of an obscenely larger than necessary pick-up truck.

Crossing the bridge from Richmond to Vancouver:

So, what did I do to celebrate this long ride? Ahhh, I was dreaming of the food I was going to cook up and I had already given myself permission to mostly chill out for the rest of the day. BUT as soon as I walked into my apartment it was obvious that the power was off. I called the emergency number and eventually they sent someone, but it turned out that BC Hydro (the power company) had turned it off. Why? Because the previous tenant moved out in July sometime and BC Hydro was feeling unloved that there wasn't a new name on the account and it was already end of August. Of course when I moved in the building supervisor told me that I could wait a couple of weeks to do it, just tell them the date I moved in. With all the hundreds of details to take care of with completing an international move and getting my Canadian paperwork, university paperwork, buying my little truck, finding groceries, etc. I was relieved to have one thing I could put aside for a few days. But by this time it was Saturday at 4:45. I called them, and they were able to take my details to set up the account, but needed my lease agreement which I could not send because no power=no modem=no internet connection. And while I was talking to the woman it went past 5 pm, when the office was closing.

The temperature in my fridge had equalized with the outside temp, so it must have already been off for almost the entire time I was gone. Most of my food (but not all) was still okay, though, since the door had been closed and it had just slowly warmed. I called Kimberly and although she and Toshi were at a party on a beach, at least it was close by. They picked me up on their way home, with changes of clothes and papers for class prep and a bag of the salvageable food. I spent the rest of the weekend at their house (thanks be for good friends!).

Of course I had sent BC Hydro the lease agreement as soon as I arrived there, but it turned out mine didn't have the signature of the property management company on it, and while I was on the bus going home (hoping that I'd open my door and everything would be on again) they left me a message to call them. Finally getting them on the line (an hour and a half later), they explained the problem. Even though I'd given them the phone number and name of the woman at the property mgmt company in charge of my building, they hadn't called her to ask about the lease agreement. So then they did, and she sent it. And BC Hydro said "we're going to turn your power on remotely. We'll try for 90 minutes. If it doesn't work we'll try another 90 minutes. If it still doesn't work, we'll send a technician. That might not be until tomorrow, but in my experience it's always the same day."

The second 90 minutes expired at 3 pm. I still don't have power, and it's the following morning. I charged my computer and phone in the hallway. I don't have internet, so I can't research the things I need to do today like getting my vehicle insured and getting a BC driver's license (where is the DMV? which insurance company should I go to? where is the closest office?). Last night I had a night ride (bike ride) with a group of guys, got home around 9, and asked my lovely Korean neighbors for a light for my candles. A few minutes later a knock on my door announced the arrival of a whole plate of food (some did not have meat) and a giant thermos of hot water, tea bags, and coffee mix sticks. Totally touched, I went to sleep happy.

I had to use flash to take the photo:

I did this same ride again in April, 2017. Although I took a couple wrong turns (no map. I wrote down the directions of where to turn and then lost that paper immediately), this route, particularly inside Canada is much better (but stay on 82nd, until you hit a sort of bike path that leads to Nordel Way). So here's the Strava link so you can follow in my footsteps.

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