US/CA81: San Juan Island, WA — Vancouver, BC


Friday, August 5th

This will probably the last of these detailed daily updates for a while, as I’m not going to be riding my bike, at least in a touring sense, until I leave Amsterdam and take some kind of route back home.

I’m sure I will fill in the gaps with photos and some words over the next couple of weeks. But I have a months worth of words and photos to sort out and upload. Everything since I left Rapid City in South Dakota, which feels like a long time ago. A very long time.

Today I left America. 81 days after beginning my ride, and around 89 after arriving in New York from Tokyo. All I know was it was within an inch of when I was due out of the county, August 6th, which was 90 days after I landed on May 9th.

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I felt ready to go, I felt like that a week or more ago. But the time spent on the islands had been a nice way to wave goodbye and a way to forget about a few of the things which were wearing on me in mainland America.

I woke up before the sun had risen again. It was habit but there was also a reason. I had to get to the ferry dock for 8.30 to get a ticket for the 9.45 ferry which would take me to Sidney harbour, Canada. From there I’d take a second ferry to Vancouver – Tsawwassen, which was about 30 miles south of where I’d be staying in the city. I left things late as usual and all the hostels were full up. I contacted about 6 or 7 warm showers hosts. I was due to be camping in someone’s garden. This was less than ideal but the best I could get.

I took a route to the ferry port through the middle of the island. The park ranger had tried to talk me into a much longer route around the eastern side as it was safer, but the idea of an additional 8 miles at seven in the morning, so I took it easy on the more direct road. Traffic was almost non existent and the cool morning air made the climbs a little bit easier, a lot was downhill anyway.


A big queue formed in the tiny ticket office, stretching around a bench in the middle then out of the door and along the pier. Luckily I was close to the front. My passport was checked and I got my ticket, around $15 to BC.

The ferry was delayed so I went and bought doughnuts from he supermarket up the hill. I’d have to find a way to ween myself off the sugary treats my body was used to and still demanded.

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The crossing went quickly enough and before I knew it we docked in Canada. There were a number of cyclists. We waited at the border control and I faced the same questions I had at Niagara Falls and Detroit. Though it felt like the pressure was off now, not that I ever had a reason to worry.

I’d talked to a couple who lived in Victoria and I thought about biking along the waterfront and crossing into Vancouver the following day. I also thought about exploring the Gulf Islands, the Canadian version of the San Juan’s. But I felt i’d become too tired to appreciate anything.

My back wheel was buckled, the split in the rim having become bigger. I wanted to do everything, but also nothing. After coffee and walking around Sidney a little, the harbour town where the ferry docked, I decided I’d head to the ferry port to Vancouver, around 3 miles north of the city.

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It was a much larger port. Multiple lanes of cars and lorries queuing to cross either back to Vancouver city, or on to Salt Spring island. I had one last second thought but then just bought a ticket to Vancouver. I had a feeling that either way i’d regret the decision i’d made. Stay on the islands and miss out on seeing the city. Go to the city and feel too tired to explore them properly anyway.

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This regret was amplified when I arrived at my hosts house. After 30 so-so miles from the ferry port, most of which was spent wrestling with busy highways and enormous bridges which spanned islands on the approach to the city I found myself outside a place overgrown with grass and weeds. There was some kind of arched sculpture made of old bike wheels which had collapsed a long time ago. At least I knew I was in the right place.

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Frank came to the door after his housemate greeted me. He had a scruffy beard and was dressed in a dirty t-shirt and underpants. But he was very nice. The house was kept in a similar condition. I had planned to camp on their lawn. But was invited inside to a sofa and dragged my heavy bike down the backstairs to the basement.


I was of course grateful to have a roof over my head but it was not exactly how I envisioned ending the trip and looked into booking a hotel for at least one of the last two nights. I didn’t want my last memory to be of this sad sofa.

I went out as soon as I could and had some excellent pizza a mile or two down and up the road. It was a hilly city. Not quite like San Francisco but almost.


I returned to the basement, most people seemed to be out. I lay down in my sleeping bag on the sofa and was tired enough to forget where I was, or where else I could have been.