Sharon Hawley has finished her bicycle trip in Canada for this summer. She hopes to complete the adventure in another year. Please follow her winter adventure at

Route Map

Route Map

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Canadian Outback

I was warm, even at six in the morning, riding on a wide shoulder in another day of beautiful country. The North Thompson River is no longer the placid companion it has been these past several days. It splashes and roars, no longer the place mothers set their children on rafts, pat them on the head and say, “I’ll see you in Little Fort,” as excited kids float away, gently on the river. Now it is the playground for whitewater rafters, so I am told, but have seen none.

My internet research yielded a café at Vavenby, twenty-four km out, and a perfect distance for breakfast. But the café does not exist. So, a bit disappointed, I proceeded toward Avola, another forty-three km, where a motel and three restaurants are listed.

Soon a breeze began from the southwest, the way breezes are supposed blow. If I ride at ten to fifteen km/h, I seem to be not moving, not through the air at least. This part of Canada is temporarily peaceful, weatherwise, enjoying a high pressure reprieve while Ontario suffers thunderstorms and the prairie swelters.

I came to Avola and pulled into the motel just as a man was coming out the office. “We are going fishing,” he said. “I’m looking for a meal and a room,” I said with bewilderment, thinking he might be the manager. “There is nothing between here and Blue River,” he said, “And the only motel there costs $129.” He said he was leaving in ten minutes but would rent me a room. So here I am in a small room at a low price, wondering where I would be sleeping tonight if I had come ten minutes later.

I walked down the hill to the pub, the only eatery in Avola, (the other two are closed) and ordered a hamburger because that’s all they serve. “It takes twenty-five minutes to cook it,” said the barmaid, which gave me plenty of time to read the sign over the bar: “This is not Burger King. You can’t have it your way. You can have it our way or do without the damn thing.”
“Did you see the bears? I saw three coming to work,” she said while cooking, “A grizzly and her two cubs are in the area; several people have seen them.” I was glad to be ensconced in the only room within a hundred kilometers, taking into account the fishing diversion of its manager. Somehow, camping in these woods feels uninviting.

I bought some cookies at the store and came back to my room to write this. Of course there is no internet in Avola, but my rundown room has 100 channels of satellite television.

The next morning I started riding on the first cold day, just above freezing, and happy to find a hill to climb for its warmth of exertion. The country is becoming mountainous, as the North Thompson River steepens, no longer the massive wide current of the past ten days.

And there on the side of the road I saw my first bear. It did not see me, and I tried to be quiet getting out the camera. But it turned abruptly and looked me in the eye, then ran the other way. It was at least twice my size, and I had startled it, exactly the wrong way to meet a bear. It’s best if they see you from a comfortable distance; then they feel less threatened. But a bicycle is silent, and unlike a car, it can sneak up on bears.

I came into Blue River, already knowing the motel manager in Avola had given me a line. I rode into town hungry and stopped at the Sandman for a huge breakfast. Than I rode to the Blue River Motel, where I’d called the night before to reserve a room for fifty dollars.

The snow is lower on the mountains now, not really lower, but I am higher and the air is cool. The weather forecast calls for near freezing mornings, warming to comfortable afternoons. I look foreword to crossing the mountains into Alberta and biking the famous Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff.


  1. This is getting too exciting. You obviously survived the bear photo, but did you take it? Or did the look in its eye freeze your finger? Even a hamburger is exciting around there. Love that sign... "This is not..." Glad your timing was SO good, that you managed to have a good rest and then a good breakfast, even though you had to ride too long to get it! Meanwhile I am calmly reading my poems about women and the moon accompanied by xiao. What a difference. I'll think of you and tell ganesha about removing your obstacles today. Miss you, but cheer you on in your endeavors!

  2. So here I am in a small room at a low price, wondering where I would be sleeping tonight if I had come ten minutes later.

    Whew! I'm glad you mad it Sharon. Your post had me laughing out loud today too. Really needed after a stressful day. I'm getting addicted to your journey! Lois

  3. I just spent the last few minutes reading all you have posted so far (a great way to start the week). Wow! "Adventure" doesn't seem to be enough of a word to capture what you are doing. So many of us would like to be up there with you, but maybe not pedaling. Your posts make us feel like we ARE taking the trip with you... so thank you for that! (I smell a book in this; I hope that's what you are planning.)
    I am enjoying the views, the people stories, and little tidbits like the ingenuity of the steamed dugout canoes.
    Stay safe!!

  4. This is such a lovely part of the world. I remember cruising around the Canadian Rockies back in the summer of 1990 with very fond memories. Seeing bears is a magical moment in our lives. I am glad to know that they are healthy, happy, and hopefully not too hungry this time of year. Lots of fish for them to eat.

  5. Thanks, Kathabela, Lois, Asuncion, and Michael. I'm happy to see you enjoying my journey and know you would all be here riding with me were it not for the world and all. Still, there's lots more to come if that map you see at the top of this blog is actually something we can do. I am glad to have you riding with me in this way.

  6. I'm so glad I finally found your blogspot. I hungrily devoured all stories of your adventures from day one and will continue to do so. Love your photographs as well, such beauty for you to enjoy. Yes indeed, this HAS to be a book someday. Stay well and strong!