Yesterday we rode out of British Columbia into Alberta. We spent over 1600 km in the province, all of it on two highways, 19 and 16. We can’t say we have seen a lot of
the province, really only a narrow strip, so it’s hard to make any firm pronoucements about the place, but there are some clear generalizations.
Southern BC is very full, the North is empty. This is true in most Canadian provinces, but somehow, I did not expect the Vancouver area to be as built up as it is. Places I had heard about in the past, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, and Langley, are just a huge continuation of Vancouver itself much like Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughn, and Oshawa are extensions of Toronto with few visible boundaries, at least to outsiders.
We enjoyed the north more. The scenery was stunning, the road generally in good condition, and in most cases, the traffic was manageable. For the last 400 km the highway was no busier than Donnybrook Line and the trucks were far more courteous. For almost the entire way we enjoyed a paved shoulder, sometimes with a bothersome rumblestrip between us and the travelled portion of the road. From time to time it would appear that the guy running the rumblestrip machine would become distracted and his line of neat gouges in the pavement would wander further into the shoulder making it hard to ride beside.
Compared to our roads in Huron County, the ones we have travelled have been very clean. While there is some litter, there is not much. I’ve written in the past about the frequency of beer bottles and cans in our ditches (10-15/km), while here we could bike for a whole day and not see ten. There might be a higher frequency of 500 ml bottles with a suspect yellow liquid in them, but we see those at home too.
The most frequent litter here, after pieces of truck tire, is tarp straps. We have driven around hundreds of them and other things meant to tie down loads. Some are neatly broken, but most are complete, some still sporting a price tag. I guess they are easy to lose. Ironically, the only thing we have lost, so far, is a tarp strap. I should just stop and pick up another one.
Of course, a trip is not about judging roads, or criticizing traffic patterns. It is about the people you meet along the way. We met a lot of great people in BC. Most of them seemed to have come from somewhere else, but all were friendly and helpful. Our unusual mode of travel and grand ultimate goal usually leads to conversation. Whether it has been at an art store, bike shop, restaurant, motel, bed and breakfast, or highway rest stop, it has been these interactions that have made the trip, so far, exciting. (Going just about 60 km/h down hill was exciting too)
Now we have nudged into Aberta and are looking forward to what we will find there as well. I don’t think we will miss the long climbs but we may miss the beauty of the mountains and the sound of water rushing down them.