O Canada, 2010

A friend of mine just finished a drive through Canada on the way to her new home. It got me thinking about my own adventure exactly two years ago…

It’s the punch-line of a lot of jokes, but Canada is a great place.

I’ve always known bears are more afraid of us than we are of them. It’s an awesome example of complete absurdity that works in our favor, but until Saturday I had no tangible evidence of this other than I had never been ambushed.
I was three campsites, two guest beds, four lost fish, one landed fish, three states, two countries, a 5 am walk in 36 degree weather and who knows how many cups of coffee and liters of fuel in to my trip home – right on schedule.
Seeking the feel of Smithers, British Columbia, I managed to find a place where you could order steelhead flies to go with your burger and fries. Seriously, there was a case near the bar with 14 different patterns meant to trick the popular fish on the world-famous Skeena and Bulkley Rivers. When prompted, the waitress started in on a 4,209 word, two-breathed what-to-do oration including info on a Black Sabbath cover band led by a blonde chick in a nun outfit that was performing Saturday night, and where the high end furniture could be found. She was sweet, genuine, and thorough to a degree I had not previously experienced.
I left, and entered one of the five sporting good stores on the same street. A dude named James gave me a map and short synopsis of the bike trails that snaked through the slopes behind town. I had my plan for Saturday, so I set up camp, walked back in to town and returned to the steelhead and fries place have dinner, and saw James.
Apparently he worked four days a week at the sporting goods store, and was dating the waitress I had earlier.
We talked fishing politics, oil, forestry, and education. He was rocking an Irish-Canadian accent. It was sweet.
“They’r foyn-lee realizin’ they need vo-cay-shunul core-sez for keds, and core-sez that keep ‘em en school. How ‘boat them trails tomorra, eh?”
“I’m excited.”
I polished off dinner, returned to camp and slept well.
The mountain trails were about five kilometers up an easy trail from my tent by the river, so I was good and warm before I encountered a gap in the system that was a set of railroad tracks with no overpass, underpass, or pathway to the trail head. It wasn’t until I saw a guy carry his bike over that I felt I wouldn’t be detained in some underground Royal Canadian Mounted Police holding center where I would be tied to a chair and forced to drink maple syrup for crossing them. I found the trailhead and a bus that looked like something that used to be owned by Fairbanks Transit.

Runs Great!!! Make Offer!!!!

I crossed a little stream and pedaled hard out of the turn when the trail became obstructed by a SmartCar-sized black ball. I squeezed both breaks and uttered an “Ohooo…” Not the ‘Oh” that is used to set up a vulgar reference to fecal matter, but more the one people would use when watching this impending mauling on Youtube.
Thankfully Boris ran off as fast as I could stop. I waited a few moments and I cautiously moved up the trail a bit more, checking out the torn up ground he covered as he sped off. Between the paw prints there was another distinct trail – a trail of urine. I had made Boris the bear pee himself. I felt as though I had landed the Iron Lotus or defeated Dark Helmet without the power of the Schwartz.
Not wanting to press this luck, I retraced the trail and found another one that led up a steep collection of loose rock that turned my hamstrings and calves into guitar strings half a turn from snapping.
The view was great, but my legs were wasted.

Smithers

I had just enough stability to get down the steep uneven grade, through the muddy cutes safely…then go over the handlebars on the last little creek crossing before the train tracks. If I knew what exactly happened, I would tell you. What I know is this, my back tire hit me in the head, my front reflector broke off, my right knee still hurts, left thigh remains tenderized and I ended up with my leg over the handle bars. Both the bike and I were now facing the wrong direction down there in the mud. If Boris saw and laughed, its okay, at least I didn’t pee myself.

 This column originally appeared in the June 9, 2010 edition of the Manteca Bulletin.

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