August 25

August 27th, 2007

Of my entire 10,000 km journey across Canada, I knew that the Coquihalla would be one of the toughest sections. It was about 115 km from Merritt to Hope, and the first 70 km would be uphill. Looking at the forecast, I knew the Weather Gods weren’t going to offer any support either. I got up earlier than normal so I could begin the climb before the winds and rain hit. Well, at least it wasn’t raining yet. But even at 6 am, the winds were already howling.


Before I even reached the highway, donations had begun to pour in. One man had excitedly honked his horn as I rolled past him at a gas station in town. A few minutes later, he came barreling up the road and pulled over in front of me. He was so happy to meet me and donate. I wish everyone could share his early morning enthusiasm.


Let the fight begin. The Coquihalla was physically demanding and exhausting, but I was more mentally prepared today. Even though this climb was tougher than yesterday, I was expecting this. I tried to focus on my music and take one small stride at a time. During my first break, there was a knock at the door. I looked out the back window to see the flashing lights of a Police cruiser. We weren’t sure if I’d actually be allowed on the Coquihalla on rollerblades, but we had been seeing signs that it is a bike route. So we felt confident that it wouldn’t be an issue. It turned out that the officer had received a call saying that our flashing lights were not functioning. But the policeman laughed a little as he came up to our door, because it was obvious that the complainee wasn’t paying attention. Our lights had been on the entire time and the officer had even seen us on his way into work this morning. He wished us well and sent us on our way.


Another expected obstacle in my way was a short construction zone. Traffic was reduced to one lane in either direction while crews were repairing a couple of bridges. Since the oncoming lanes were closed to traffic at this point, I hopped over and enjoyed the freedom of two large lanes to myself. When I reached the first bridge, the construction was apparently finished, but the surface of the bridge was fresh concrete. I analyzed the situation and could only see 2 alternatives. One – go back to the traffic and carefully cross the bridge on a narrow shoulder with cars and trucks speeding past. Two – tip toe across the fresh concrete. Fortunately, the new concrete had been covered with a strange, wet cloth material. I stayed close to the edge and held most of my weight off the surface by pulling myself along the rail with my hands. I wouldn’t be so lucky to have a choice at the next bridge. Construction on this one was in full force. I had to cut back across traffic and sprint across the overpass when I felt it was safe enough. Let me tell you, sprinting on skates in gail-force winds is not an easy task.


It seemed like a good time to stop for another break. As I was gather my gear and getting ready to head back out on the road, I saw a little red car pull over in front of us. It took me only a second to realize it was Shawn and Melissa, the friends who had come out to see me in Calgary! They were on their way back to Vancouver and stopped to see how I was doing. Don’t take this the wrong way, Shawn, but you guys never should have stopped! When they got back in their car to leave, the engine wouldn’t start. We tried everything to get it running again, but it just wouldn’t go. I felt bad having to leave them there, but CAA was on the way. We later found out that it was the starter and Shawn and Melissa were forced to spend a night in Merritt so the car could be repaired. Look on the bright side, guys. You made my journal again!


I kept pushing hard through the swirling wind and up the tormenting hills. The rain had held off until a mere 2 kilometers before reaching the toll booth near the summit. A quick skate change and I was back at it. I can only imagine what the toll booth operator was thinking as I skated up to him in the pouring rain. He didn’t seem to care too much, though. We asked politely if they would donate the $10 pass for the highway. His only response was “Nope. This is B.C……Bring Cash.” I was in no mood to argue, so we paid the money and parted ways.


Just as we pulled away from the booth, my mom told me that we needed to stop to let the dog out for a break. I was just about to get in the RV when I heard a voice behind me. “Hey! Can I make a donation?” a girl’s voice said. I turned with a smile intending to accept the donation happily. But my smile quickly changed to confusion, and then awe. My jaw dropped as Crystal came running towards me and leaped into my arms! Four months. I haven’t seen her in four months and she managed to work with my parents to surprise me here. WEll, it worked. I was clueless. I never expected to see her until I was at least in the Lower Mainland. It was a teary, emotional reunion as we embraced and kissed in the rain.


My plans for the rest of the day took a sudden change. Instead of rolling into Hope today, we were now going to drive down and come back to the booth tomorrow to carry on. Holiday Motel and RV Resort in Hope donated a site and a room to us for the night. I’m not usually an easy person to surprise, but Crystal pulled one over on me good today. It couldn’t have come at a better time, either. I was prepared to skate another 50 km to Hope, but realistically, my body was battered and beat from climbing the Coquihalla Pass.

Posted in Daily Journal | 1 Comment »


One Response to “August 25”

  1. Robert Werner Says:

    Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, you deserve such a surprise, Rich!!!

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