The mood around the campsite this morning is a mix of excitement, anticipation and apprehension as we take down our tents and gather what we need for the day’s ride.
After a quick breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, we meet up at the historic Fort Langley train station for a group photo. A light rain has started by this time and it lingers for the first 10 km on flat country roads.
Just 4 km later we come to the toughest hill of the day. With a 20 percent grade, I have to stand on the pedals for the vast majority of the 1.5 km. I can only maintain a speed of 6.5 km/h as the bike slowly moves side to side and my throat burns from the hard effort in combination with the humidity. Each pedal stroke is a single unit of accomplishment for me as I pass a number of people who have dismounted and are walking their bikes up.
Given my tendency to do everything to its fullest extent, not for a moment do I consider letting this hill get the best of me. The main reason being that it would bother me to know that the hill won. That I couldn’t handle the first hill on the first day, even if it is regarded by many past participants as the most difficult hill on the whole trip.
A fast, well-deserved descent brings us back to flat country roads with a few effortless hills. Steve and I ride into Mission at a comfortable pace, and from there we follow Highway 7 and can finally put away the maps. Then I spot a roadside strawberry stand outside of Dewdney that looks too delicious to pass up. I chat with the owner for a few minutes and meet her dog, Spiker.
Throughout the day I ride a few sections with David from Toronto, Steve from Sudbury and Fred from North Vancouver. Since we all left at the same time this morning on account of the group photo, it makes it easier to drift around and get to know one another. And since we all share a passion for cycling, there’s always plenty to talk about.
Another quick break at the 60 km mark fuels us the rest of the way to Agassiz.
It starts raining just as we enter the campground and rains intermittently through the afternoon and evening. A hot shower and a hot meal work their magic as we prepare for a much more challenging ride tomorrow.