Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Day 38: Bikes, Trains and Border Runs!

August 22: I had decided to take a zero day today. No hiking! It hardly seemed like I had been roughing it. But still, Oroville was the last trail town I'd be enjoying for the next two weeks and I felt I needed at least one rest day before continuing the march to the Pacific Ocean.

The Canadian border was so close, I had to drop by!

I knew I was close to the Canadian border--the entire Pacific Northwest Trail was close to the border!--but I hadn't realized exactly how close it was until I ran a Google search for places to eat in Oroville and it showed a McDonalds 7 miles away. I'm not a huge fan of McDonalds, but the result was surprising. Why is there a McDonalds in the middle of nowhere? Oroville was the big city in this area--if there was a McDonalds, why wasn't it in Oroville? The location for the restaurant was listed as Osoyoos--a town I had never even heard of but was apparently only seven miles away? How could there be a town big enough for a McDonalds only seven miles away that I had never heard of?

So I had it list show the route from Oroville to Osoyoos which is when I realized it was over the border. In Canada. There's a town over there! I didn't know about it because it was in another country!

The Canadian border was a mere 4 miles away, and I had a sudden urge to spend the afternoon going to the McDonalds in Canada just to say I did! OMG--that would be so funny to blog about! If I can hike 20+ miles a day with a full pack, I could easily make a quick 7-mile jaunt to the Canadian McDonalds with no pack and another 7 miles back. Even better, I knew I didn't have to walk it. I could ride a bike! When I checked into the motel, Clyde showed me two bikes that were available for thru-hikers to use to get around town. He never suggested I could use it to bike to Canada--but probably only because he never imagined a thru-hiker would want to bike to Canada in the first place!

And then I discovered something else: a brochure in the front office. Those racks of things to see and do in the area included a brochure for the "Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad" attraction with 45+ running trains. That sounded cool! So I googled information about where it was and it was another mile or so past the McDonalds. That was totally doable. I could check out the model train museum, stop for lunch, then head back to my motel in Oroville. On bike! It would be an adventure!

The main highlight I planned to hit in Osoyoos was the Desert Model Railroad attraction.

I'd also be biking into Canada's only desert! Yep, Canada has a desert, and this was it. I was going to ride a bike into the Canadian desert to see a model train set and get lunch at McDonalds. It would be fun. I can't make this stuff up! I'd been carrying my passport this whole trip just in case I wanted to dip into Canada at some point. It's finally time I used my passport!

I went into the front office where I chatted with Clyde a bit and told him of my idea and he said he might have something for me to use. He came back with an electric bike. It was his bike which normally thru-hikers didn't get to use, but he thought it might be more comfortable for the longer ride into Canada than around town like most thru-hikers do. I wasn't sure how I felt about an electric bike because I had never used one before, so Clyde explained how it worked and told me to take a quick ride around town to give it a try and see if I'd want to use it for the ride into Canada.

So I did. I rode it around the block a couple of times and could really feel the power kick up with each push of the pedals. Wow! This was fun! I was sold. I'd ride the e-bike into Canada!

He said the tires were a little low and suggested stopping at Les Schwab to fill them up with air, so that's what I did.

Then I started peddling my way to Canada!

9mph was a pretty good speed for me going up a slight hill and against the wind. I waited for a break in the traffic before I took this photo because I was afraid I'd crash the bike trying to ride with one hand and take a photo with the other and preferred not having cars nearby that would hit me if I careened into the middle of the highway.
The route wasn't great. It was along busy Highway 97 and there was a lot of fast-moving traffic, and I didn't have a helmet to wear which I found even more unnerving. If I were on foot, I'd call the route flat and easy, but on a bike there was a definite uphill to the peddling! Even worse, the wind was going against me so even though the electric bike was helping, I still had to put a lot of effort and power into the peddling to push against the wind and uphill climb. My speed almost never broke 10 mph at the fastest--but it would have been even slower on a regular bike or (gasp!) on foot! It was a lot of work! I quickly learned that electric bikes (at least this one) doesn't do the work for you--it just helps.

When I reached the border, I stopped briefly to take photos of the US-Canadian border. I hoped that photos weren't breaking any rules. I didn't see anything that said no photography was allowed, but the powers-that-be often don't like photographs at security-enhanced areas. But without definitive signs prohibiting them, I took photos.

I looked for signs or something that might direct pedestrians or bicyclists through a separate area from the cars but saw nothing and pulled up with my bike behind a car whose driver was being interrogated by a border patrol agent.

I waited for all of about 30 seconds before the car drove off and I peddled to the agent asking if this was the right place for bicyclists. I was surrounded by vehicles and probably stuck out like a sore thumb being the only person on a bike.

He said I was in the right place and asked me the standard questions about where I was going, how long I'd be in Canada and the last time I had been in Canada. Off the top of my head, I couldn't remember exactly when I had been in Canada last. "March or so?" I answered. "I flew into Toronto earlier this year, but I don't remember exactly which month it was."

Then he waved me through and I was in Canada! I did it! I rode a bike into Canada! I had now traveled into Canada on foot (at the end of my PCT hike), by car (a couple of times), by boat (for my West Coast Trail hike), by plane (when I flew into Toronto) and now by bicycle! I'm pretty sure I've entered Canada using more modes of transportation than almost anyone else on Earth! Just need to check off riding in on a train, horse, submarine and spacecraft and all the boxes will be checked. =)

It was official: I made it into Canada!

I now traveled through Canada's only desert to the train museum at the west edge of town. I locked the bike to a gate and entered the facility which felt slightly busy. I paid for a ticket and entered the rooms with the miniature worlds which were absolutely amazing! The level of detail was incredible and dozens of trains were running throughout the exhibit. I spent over an hour looking at all of the animations and trying to figure out how to get photos that really captured the essence of the place. The photos don't really do it justice, of course--they never do--but it was particularly difficult here because the lights weren't the brightest and there was a panel of glass (or maybe plastic) that separated the exhibits from the people so all of my photos tended to have low lights reflected in the glass.

The model train sets were absolutely amazing!

The trains ran through all sorts of terrain. Through mountains, past a circus, movie theaters, wildfires, and even past a nude beach that gave me a laugh when I realized it was actually a nude beach. At first glance, I thought it was a regular beach. =) Absolutely a wonderful place, though!

On my way out, I bought a few postcards of the trains then headed off to lunch. I altered my original idea of going to McDonalds, though, since I was never a big fan of it and instead passed the McDonalds to stop at the nearby A&W restaurant. I couldn't remember the last time I had eaten at one of those--perhaps 30 years ago? I wasn't really sure how I'd like their food, but at the very least I couldn't go wrong with A&W root beer! =)

So I ordered and enjoyed my meal, glad I chose it over McDonalds. Then I stuck around to write some of the postcards I had just purchased at the at the model train place. I really wanted to mail them from Canada as well so I got on the wi-fi connection at the restaurant and looked up where there was a Canadian post office. Just a 5 or 10 minute ride down the road. I could do that!

Lunch at A&W! Yeah.... I would do that again. *nodding* =)

So I biked to the post office, purchased stamps and mailed the postcards. And... that was that. I did everything I planned to do (and then some). Time to go back to Oroville!

I peddled back. The traffic lined up to get through the border station was a lot longer on my way back and three or four cars were in each lane of traffic. I picked a lane with three cars and waited my turn. Again, I was the only person not in a vehicle and I sensed everyone else looking at me wondering who this freak was that was riding a bicycle.

Eventually I got my turn with the border patrol agent and he asked me the usual questions about where I'd been, what I had been doing and where I was going. He asked me what I had in my pack (it was mostly empty, but I carried anything I considered valuable that I didn't want to leave at the motel like my laptop, camera, journal, etc.) and I offered to open it up and show him but he said that that wasn't necessary--just tell me what's in it. So I did and he eventually waved me through.

See the border cleared in the distance all the way up the mountain? It's faint from this far away and in the dry grass, there was nothing to clear so you can't really distinguish the border there, but it's still deforested all this way!

The ride back to Oroville went a lot faster than the ride out since now both gravity and the wind were going in my direction. I raced down the road, often at speeds at up to 25 mph and almost never below 15. Clyde told me that the e-bike will turn off at speeds above 20 mph so when I hit 25 mph, that was purely on my own with no assistance from the bike.

I arrived back in Oroville about a half hour after leaving the post office. It was an exhilarating day! One of my favorite zero days ever!

Back in town, I went on with my usual preparations. I did laundry, then grocery shopping and arranged a permit for getting through the North Cascades. I didn't get exactly the schedule I had planned out last night, but now my plan to hike non-stop from here to the town of Concrete over the course of 15 nights and 16 days of hiking. I dreaded how much food I was going to have to carry, but was glad I sent a maildrop from Eureka, MT, so at least I had 4 days of food waiting for me at Ross Lake Resort. I just had to carry food for 12 days! But still... ugh.

For dinner, I headed to a Mexican restaurant near the motel which I enjoyed quite a bit then called it a night. Tomorrow... back to the trail!

I enjoyed the decor of the Mexican restaurant
And more of the model trains because I took a lot of photos there!


Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

You'd like the model train setup at MSI. It has Chicago at one end and Seattle at the other, and has a lot of fun things hidden throughout it. If you're ever in Chicago and have time to go to the museum, let me know!

Ryan said...

I would definitely let you know! That's the first thing on my Chicago checklist: lookup Trekkie Gal.... =)

-- Ryan