August 27th, 2007
It’s been a couple years since I was last in Kamloops. If memory serves me correctly, I had a difficult climb away from the city (which I had already completed half yesterday) followed by a bit of a plateau before descending into Merritt. The sun was shining and there was barely a breath of air blowing as I began the trek upward. I had just made the turn onto highway 5 when I finally saw a Vancouver distance sign. It was a great feeling having my first visual taste of the finish line.
The road continued to take me close and closer to the sky. After 20 km of steady climbing, my spirits began to sink. With every tiny stride towards the summit, my expectations of finding level ground drifted further behind. How could I have not known this climb was so long? The hill was unforgiving. My body was exhausting rapidly and I was being mentally drained at the same time. As if I wasn’t being punished enough, the winds began brushing across my face like a stream running the opposite direction.
It was a good 50 kilometers from where I started when I saw it. Surrey Lake Summit – 1444 meters. Finally! It was recommended that I tie a rope around my waist and attach it to the RV to slow myself down for the descent into Merritt. But after the rough morning, I was looking forward to holding a bit of speed. Sure enough, a sign indicated that the next 20 km were down hill with a 6% grade. Yup, this should be fun!
The breeze that had made an appearance picked up its intensity as I started downward. It felt like every foot closer to Merritt I got, the wind would blow an extra km/h harder. I wasn’t given an opportunity to enjoy a single minute of coasting. I was working equally hard as I had all morning during my climb. But now I was struggling to push my way through the currents down a steep hill! It just wasn’t fair. The winds were relentless and showed no signs of weakening. At one point, I stopped striding and the wind literally brought me to a stop.
In an evil twist of irony, I received an e-mail today from someone in Newfoundland. The irony was that he had stumbled across my site randomly and is a resident of the Wreckhouse area. If you don’t remember the Wreckhouse from my earlier journals, it is a section of highway which regularly records wind gusts up to 200 km/h. So here I am thinking to myself that the winds I’m facing right now rank among the top 3 or 4 worst that I have seen on my journey when I get reminded about the Wreckhouse. Ironic.
I rolled into Merritt, the Country Music Capital of Canada, and was fortunate to have Claybanks RV Park donate a site for us. Completely exhausted, I had to put on a smile and head over to Boston Pizza where newspaper and television reporters were waiting for an interview. But it wasn’t hard to put a smile on my face when I saw the reception this restaurant had organized. Even on short notice, Leanne had made sure all the staff was aware I would be arriving. She welcomed me in from the parking lot and made an incredible announcement to the patrons inside. To make things even better, Leanne told me that her store would be donating a percentage of the sales from this evening to my cause! It’s been a while since a BP offered this, so I was very impressed. I also had the chance to chat with a family sitting nearby who were from the Victoria area. It was a great conversation and I hope that we meet again when I reach the Island! My night was capped off with a very meaningful gesture from the Kitchen manager, Steve. He took special care in preparing our meals and then presented me with a bracelet to help me with endurance. Thanks, Steve! It may come in handy as I tackle the Coquihalla tomorrow!
It was a tough day with a good finish, but I had one final surprise waiting for me. We received a message from the Chilliwack Boston Pizza indicating they did not wish to accommodate me when I arrived. I was in shock! Boston Pizza has been supportive all across the country. And they continue to be a great help. I couldn’t believe that I was now in my home province and approaching the finale on the Lower Mainland, and this owner showed no sign of wanting to contribute in any way! I’m not terribly concerned because I know there are dozens of other restaurant owners who would be happy to provide a helping hand. For everyone in Chilliwack who wanted to come see me at BP, you can now either see me at Earls on Monday night, or in Abbotsford at Boston Pizza on Sumas on Tuesday. It’s not a far drive to Abbotsford.