Canadian winds prevail from the west or southwest. Such was the knowledge I brought here, and on which I hung most of the weighty decision to begin on the west coast, rather than the east.
I knew it would be a long mountainous journey today from Cache Creek to Kamloops. So I set the alarm for four-thirty to ride before traffic, to pull as many hills as possible before midday heat, and to reach Kamloops in early afternoon and before the uncertainties of late afternoon weather and traffic.
I awoke as dawn began. Opening the motel room door, I tested the air, deciding what to wear. It was warmer than yesterday morning with a strong rustle in the trees. I would need only biking shorts, bright yellow shirt, jacket and gloves. No need for leg warming full-length tights or the added warmth of either bogan or outer rain jacket. In this north country, day begins at four-thirty and does not dim into night before nine-thirty. I figured I’d reach Kamloops around one in the afternoon and have the rest of the day to explore the town.
That rustle in the trees only encouraged me; it represented west wind, and I was headed east. The first turn out of the driveway proved how wrong that assumption was. Wind hit me in the face with deafening, bike-swaying force, like a mother’s hand slap saying I cannot continue in the direction of my foolishness. But I went belligerently on, though at half of normal speed with twice normal effort. I considered my speed and calculated the hours it would take to reach Kamloops, and the discouragement of that number only sucked away determination and with it a little more from my speed. After an hour with no change in the strong east wind, I assessed my energy and the likelihood of reaching Kamloops. I came up wanting. I could turn back or I could camp somewhere on this open Arid Interior of Canada and wait out the wind. I might try to find shelter in the little midway town of Savona, but no motels are listed there.
As I considered alternatives, with thirteen kilometers behind and seventy ahead, the wind stopped. Stopped dead. I figured it temporary and kept riding to gain a little easy distance, but it stayed stopped for half an hour. Then it started again, but from the west. That fierce resistance I had been fighting for an hour turned into a gentle push on my back, like a father’s hand saying I’m doing all right.
Normally, I look at the clouds, of which there were many on this overcast day, and judge the prevailing wind from the cloud direction. But these clouds did not move. Now I had a luscious tailwind driving me with little effort to Savona. But a few kilometers before reaching town it changed again, and again I struggled into strong headwind. These winds were not obeying the American wind laws. These were rogue, fickle Canadian winds and very strong.
Savona is strung out along the shore of Lake Kamloops and best seen by turning off of the main highway just after crossing the Thompson River and taking the slow road along the shore. After about five kilometers, it joins the main road at Roadhouse Café. I stopped there for breakfast and to assess the wind. But after an hour the wind was still blowing from the east.
I started off again, ascending a summit and pushing air, but wind under these conditions is not nearly as offensive as it is on flatland or gentle slopes. So I kept pushing grade and wind, hoping for another change by the time I crested.
And it did change, became tail. But within an hour it stopped or changed to east. Such wind is uncanny and disconcerting, like having no knowledge or understanding of the basic forces around me, like feeling gravity act in capricious ways.
So it was that I came to the outskirts of the largest town since Vancouver. I looked down on it and then fell out of the mountains and dropped like a stone. Kamloops is a treacherous city of eighty-four thousand people and steep streets. They must kill a hundred people a day in the winter when ice and snow cover these steep roads. Today it was just too crowded with cars.
When you look at where Kamloops is on the map at the top of this blog, and see how little of the entire mouthful I have swallowed, it seems ridiculous that I even started.
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 http://sharonswinter.blogspot.com/