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 24, 2009

The Arid Interior

Who would expect while standing in Arizona’s Sonora Desert, that it extends northward up the east side of the Rockies, through Oregon and Washington, all the way into British Colombia, and that I would be traversing it on a bicycle shortly after pedaling through lush, mossy forest. Lytton, where I slept last night, marks the beginning of Canada’s Arid Interior, and my passage today was through desert.

The churning Thompson River, which carries snowmelt into the Frasier River, which I have parallel these past four days, does not know that desert rivers are supposed to be dry except after downpours. So it boils and splashes a massive quantity of melted snow through the sagebrush.

I was up early on Sunday, sailing the sagebrush ocean, spiked with an occasional tree, shadowed under teetering rock formations and tilted cliffs. Suddenly without expectation, at twenty-five kilometers and eight o’clock, a building shimmered, then took shape and became Shaw Springs Café. No cars rested in front, but I tried the door anyway, hoping. I met the owner who had just opened. Right behind me came two men in a car. One said, “I know what I want.” The other said, “Do you have tea with half a lemon?” The owner said she had no lemons, and without much of a goodbye, the two men left.

I sat with coffee and breakfast, talking with the owner, or rather listening. She ranted for a good ten minutes on how impolite those men were, that she has the only place open on Sunday until they reach Hope, the town where I slept two nights ago. I categorized her as a complainer and one who should learn to bend with the wind like I do. But then it seemed that I had judged her based on labels. If someone is ungrateful and you tell him he’s ungrateful, you have called him a name, but you have not solved anything. When you look at an insane man all you see is a reflection of your own knowledge that he is insane. So I asked her about life out here on the desert, running a café and RV park by herself, vulnerable to the unabated whims of passers-by. She has held on here for thirty years, through hot summers and frigid winters and figures it beats the frustrations of society. And occasionally she talks to interesting people.

Of course this struck home to one who left society just to be in such places, and on a bicycle what’s more. About then, she pointed out the window, “Wind is from the south. See it in the tree?” She knew I was headed north to Cache Creek and figured I’d like to know that.

I pulled into Cache Creek after eight-five kilometers and tried two motels. They cost around eighty dollars, which translates to about sixty US. Then I tried the Sundowner Motel and asked how much. The owner, Michael Davidson, looked at me, all sweaty, tired and dirty. Then he looked out the window at the loaded bicycle. “Is that the way you travel?” “Yes,” I said. “Forty dollars,” he said. “It’s usually eighty, but I like your style.” So here I sit in a clean room with wireless internet. I paid him for two nights, figuring after four days of riding I need a rest. And besides, he’s a single man from the US who moved here two years ago just to own a small motel in a small Canadian town.


  1. Wonderful post, I love this rest stop for you! And love your style too, he's a smart man to give you half off! Please continue... Adventures at the Sundowner"! I am writing to you from the Frankfurt airport, all my blogspot log-in instructions were in German, but I managed to know who I am, anyway. We were both passing through arid desert a couple of days ago, one side of the world and the other. We were telling our host's son, Ehsan, about you and your travels yesterday, he was very impressed and maybe you will hear from him here. He is hoping to get his visa to continue his studies in architecture in Montreal. He took us all over Tehran on our last day there, that's how we found some flutes! Such beautiful country you are passing through. I wonder if you will ever be tempted to stop and stay somewhere? I love the mix of storytelling and philosophical musings in your writing here, as well as natural detail. The lush and arid landscapes seem almost too beautiful to hold in ones heart at once...Love the photo of you! now we are on to Paris. It's nice to collaborate, connect here... our simultaneous traveling, so different and yet...

  2. The desert does really blow us away because you don't expect it. For some reason, eastern slopes of large mountain ranges in the western part of the America's, both north and south america are dry and arid. Must be a combination of high altitude and eastern slope. I drove up the eastern side of the Sierra's this Memorial Day weekend and landed in Bishop. Could not believe how dry the eastern side of the Sierra's are. But then again, you see the same thing in New Mexico, and also of all places Mendoza, Argentina. The eastern side of the Andes are high and dry. Sounds like you found a nice place to stay for two nights. Glad to know that the hard mountains climbs might be behind you -- or maybe you have one more coming up. In either case -- what a life !