Thursday afternoon, I arrive into the Vancouver International Airport. I quickly call an Uber to take me to the family from Warm Showers that graciously agreed to host me for a few days while I put my bike together before starting my journey. Crispin, Natasja, and their 18-year-old son Ben welcome me like family. Even though I am a sleep-deprived zombie from having woken up at 3 AM, I manage to get enough energy to engage in some lovely conversation at dinner.
Over an amazing home-cooked vegan meal, Natasja and Crispin tell me all about their cycling adventures as a family. When Ben was just 9-years-old, they rode their bikes east across Canada. Crispin and Ben shared a tandem bike, while Natasja rode her own. Something about the way this family interacts shows how much connection and bond they have. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. They reflect fondly on memories of traveling together, and it’s clear they all care deeply about incorporating health and the outdoors into their daily lives.
I have been experiencing a weirdly high amount of anxiety leading up to this trip. Who am I to tackle cycling from Vancouver to Baja solo? I know I can and will do it and that it will be quite an adventure, but I also want to document this feeling here to look back at it in a few weeks and realize how silly the virtual realities we create in our heads can be sometimes.
After dinner, we share some more conversation over local blueberry wine. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the trip.
The following morning, I wake up refreshed and go to tackle the project of putting my bike together. I manage to get most everything just right, including breaking links off a new chain and adjusting that to fit and shift properly, something I have never done. My brake discs give me a lot of trouble. They are super warped and after fiddling with pliers for almost two hours, I resolve to take my bike to Flat Fix, a local bike shop, to straighten out the discs and swap out the brake pads while they’re at it. The woman working asks me where I’ll be going on my bikepacking trip.
She responds surprised, “Ohhh!”
Natasja tells me that I will get used to all the people asking me throughout my journey, “You cycled here from where?”
The next day, I explore downtown Vancouver a bit before picking up my bike. I go to the hipster Gastown District, full of specialty coffee roasters. One of which is Nemesis Coffee. I saw that their green buying team went to Brazil recently and met up with Rafa of CafeArq, a friend of mine who I spent a week with cupping coffees and learning from all his expertise. It’s a small world!
I order a wine-like Kenyan coffee with notes of sour cherry and grab a bag of a Colombian coffee to bring with me on my travels. After that, I walk around through the city a bit more before returning home and putting all the bags on my bike.
Waking up Sunday morning, I finish packing and somehow already manage to misplace my rear blinking bike light… something super important to stand out to cars. Great!
I search as much as possible then head to downtown Vancouver to pass the day with two Brazilian friends that recently moved to the city, Bea and Felipe. They take me on a tour hiking through Stanley Park and to meet their friends at a brewery in North Vancouver.
They share a lot of similar interests of mine. We toss around ideas of starting an airbnb together in the forests of Canada, exploring the northern part of the country by van at some point, and kayaking among many other things. I make tentative plans to bring my van back soon!
But for now, I must start this trip. I could easily get stuck in Vancouver, and it seems like an incredible city to do that. Maybe later.
As for now – I am ready to start my journey south. Fully energized and feeling great, any anxiety I had before has turned into pure excitement. I got a taste of riding my bike today 30 minutes into the city, and I was all smiles. Tomorrow it all begins!