Day 1 — Vancouver Airport to Birch Bay State Park

This is part of a series of posts written during my cycle from Vancouver, BC to Minneapolis, MN in June 2013. For the most part I followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s ‘Northern Tier’ Route, but deviated where I saw fit. It was a great experience, read on to find out more…

2013-06-10 18.41.38

Vancouver, BC

Well today was a long, long day. Up at 6.30, last minute admin, taxi to the airport, flight to Calgary, collect and recheck baggage, flight to Vancouver, cycle 45 miles to campsite. Sounds simple, right? Most of the day went incredibly smoothly. The flight to Calgary was fine, despite a crying baby, and I spent a lot of the time talking to a Native American tribal chief from Yellowknife. My bike made it safely and soon I was jetting off toward Vancouver — I didn’t even have to pay to get my bike on the second plane as the check in assistant didn’t know how to take a payment!

When I’d landed in Vancouver and collected my luggage I went through a ritual that I seem to observe at the start of every tour: becoming a tourist attraction as I build my bike in a public place. Despite gawking passers-by and questioning security guards I was on my way within half an hour. It was at this point that my day started to get eventful.

Bike path, Vancouver

Bike path, Vancouver

I had planned to cycle 45 miles south of Vancouver to Birch Bay State Park, just across the US border, and had mapped out a route that would get me there before I left home. However, what I hadn’t counted on in my planning was how complicated it is to navigate Vancouver by bike. Almost all the bridges out of the city require cyclists to ride on a segregated strip of pavement, separated from the road by a large fence. In order to access this lane cyclists have to use a network of bike paths that are completely separate from the road system – while this might sound like a great idea, to a tired Englishman in the city for the first time this spells one thing: navigational problems.

Without a map of the bike route network, and no signposts other than ‘bike route’, I was lost fairly quickly. In all it took me 2.5hrs to get out of the city proper – covering around 7 miles. In this time I’d helped a lost Canadian cyclist, to whom the bike paths were just as much of a mystery as they were to me, and been asked by some lost teens to identify whether a pile of rubbish was a dead tramp.

Having made it out of the city I made decent progress, crossing the US border just after dark and finally rolling into Birch Bay at around 11.20. The campsite office was empty so I found a vacant patch and set up camp, falling asleep almost immediately. Unsurprising as by that point I’d been awake for over 24hrs.

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