Mudslides & Mama Z
We leave the Cassiar Highway of British Columbia with heavy hearts. Good old #37 has been just what we needed when we needed it, even if we didn’t ask for it. Small miracles define our days. We ride too quickly and often overlook their occurrence. Yet like our shadows they are never far, and when the days grow old they remind us to reflect and to talk.
Some days we finished with no energy left to speak into an audio recorder. Ever been high up on a patch of cold highway asphalt in the Cassiar Mountains, chilled to the bone with the sun on a long vacation, and holding a hot plate of rotini and Campbell’s Prime Rib in your hands? You praise God for your good fortune, wolf down your food, and figure that it is best to pass out quickly in your sleeping bag before a bear comes along to change your luck. At least that is how I rationalize all of this fun to myself.
It is fun, after all. There are the difficult parts to contend with. Drying off a tent on a cold wet morning is one of them. I still have not mastered the Sleeping Bag Arts so as to not overheat as I fall asleep or freeze my toes by 6AM. Heavy bikes get heavier when the hills get steeper. I smell bad and look questionable, which makes our efforts at spreading goodwill and attracting support a dubious endeavor at times.
Yet to quote George Santayana, this difficult world of ours is “shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.” Riding our first day on the Cassiar Highway, we passed up a pleasant campground to fight the dying light and move another 25 (or so we thought?) kilometers to Jade City. We finished our ride in the pitch black of the mountains, headlamps as our only light, looking like ghosts on some twisted family vacation. Through the bright lights of oncoming big rigs and the real or imagined sounds of large animals beside us and the snow flurries, we made it. You dig deep inside of yourself and lean on your brothers in a profound way after a day like that. Small miracles, like shadows, weren’t even recognizable to us until the day after.
The family and owners of the Jade Store took us in from our cold tent the next morning. We dodged torrential rains the next day and were given the gift of goulash and potatoes and meatloaf and rhubarb cake and love, all of it thick enough to cut with a knife. We left dry, warm, and well fed only to be cold and hungry once more on the doorstep of Dease Lake. I stopped a man outside of the grocery store in the rain for information; he happened to be a chef at the restaurant just down the street.
Before we knew it, we had a tenting spot out of the rain on the back porch of Mama Z’s Jade Boulder Cafe. Zora is the name of the owner of the establishment, and she is a spectacular woman. The chef at Mama Z’s is a man by the name of Chris, who happened to share David’s love of music. Chris has tremendous talent as a chef, and we miss his creations dearly. Chris and Zora were so generous and kind and we cannot thank them enough for giving us a place to stay for a time. We will pay their generosity forward and hope it returns to them tenfold. Torrential rains continued to plague the Cassiar Mountains, and Highway 37 was closed to all cyclists and vehicles alike for a time. We rode on past the highway barriers and closure signs, trusting that we would figure things out when we got there…wherever “there” was. And we did.
We rode all but the 35k of the Cassiar Highway that a Ministry of Transportation truck evicted us from. Kindness continued to come from unexpected places, like a campground that placed us in an unbelievable cabin after one of our hardest days of headwinds and climbing. The rest was unforgettable. We tented on questionably bear-ridden rest areas in the freezing cold. We camped inside deserted old logging camp trailers. We consumed disturbing amounts of peanut butter, Oreos and some awfully discolored water. Things could not be better, except perhaps our laundry situation. And maybe that is what keeps us going, why we leave each morning for a new patch of earth to pitch our tent. There is more road before us. David just finished On The Road by Kerouac and found a particular quotation that we would like to share:
It was no longer east-west but magic SOUTH. We saw a vision of the entire Western Hemisphere rock-ribbing clear down to Tierra del Fuego and us flying down the curve of the world into other tropics and other worlds.
Something deep inside me feels left behind here on the Cassiar, bound to be picked up again on another ride or drive through these mountains. It’s that feeling that there is too much we didn’t get to see, too many conversations that we didn’t get to have because we’re bound south with such haste. There was time to talk just as there is now time to pause and think and write and hope for a day when we can come back. I hope we have enough of our hearts left in Argentina when we gladly leave so much of them behind.