Returning to a place for the second time on the same trip is the closest we get to the feeling of returning home. With the exceptional hospitality on offer at Jo’s place in Whistler, this experience was not going to be an exception to the rule. Our last visit to Whistler was all too rushed and this time there were a couple of things we wanted to achive from our stay.
Priority one was to meet up with a distant cousin of mine who is now based in Whistler. I was too young to even remember the last interaction I had with Jockey so I was a little nervous about not knowing perhaps as much as I really ought to about him and his family. It was time to enroll the help of my Old Chap. In no time at all, I had Jockeys last 5 years documented in a well presented email. After memorising what I could, I was good to go and arranged to meet up with Jockey and his two boys, Indy and Nate, the following day. Jockey spent many years in London and Tokyo in the Finance sector before knocking it all on the head and setting up base in Whistler. Anyone who has been there before will understand why he picked such a destination. In the winter he works as a ski instructor and the summer, as a downhill mountain bike guide. When I realised that was the case, I was confident we were going to get along just fine. Upon arrival at his place, the boys couldn’t contain their excitement at seeing the dirty DRz and within minutes I was taking them out for a quick ride around the block.
As I hoped it would, after a few minutes relaxing in Jockeys kitchen, it felt like I’d had known him for years and we were joking about shared family history. Before leaving him and the boys that evening we agreed to meet the following day after his shift in the hills at 3.30pm to fulfill Whistler priority number two; downhill mountain biking.
Realistically, the last thing we should be doing is throwing ourselves down a mountain at high-speed on bikes we are not familiar with wearing minimal protection. We still had over 10,000 miles to ride at that point and any broken bones would have had a major impact on this trip but people travel from all over the world to ride downhill here and the opportunity to try it for ourselves had landed in our lap. We were never going to say no.
As we sat at the bottom of the bike runs watching the pro’s pulling of jumps on the GLC drop, the day dragged on and on and I was searching for anything that could contain both my apprehension and excitement about boarding a lift and hitting the slopes. Knowing how competitive Jon and I can be against each other, I knew all too well wouldn’t be leaving that mountain without feeling like we really tested our ability of riding a downhill mountain bike.
Jockey didn’t let us down and right on time, he had us on the lift up to try out our first couple of runs. Our exposure to riding dirt bikes seemed to have got us off to a good start and by the end of the session, once the trails had quietened down, we decided it was time to hit what is known as the ‘A-line black run. It was easily one of the most exciting things I have ever done and we left the mountain that day eager to get back up there and do it all over again.
Time for me was regrettably too short in Whistler. We had by this stage agreed a date with Daryl back at Aurora Suzuki in Seattle for some more servicing for the bikes and before that I was keen to check out Vancouver and meet up with Krystle, a friend I met whilst on my first bike trip in India some 3 years ago. Jon was keen to stick with his friends in Whistler for as long as possible so I was packing up for a short solo ride down the 99 to get back to Vancouver. It’s a nice road and I was looking forward to a ride without him rabbiting on over the intercom. I was alone in Jo’s house when frantically trying to pack up to make it down there in good time for a drink that night when I accidentally picked up Jon’s top bag thinking it was mine. Immediately after realising it was his I put it back down when something fired out and hit me straight in the face. I had no idea what it was but whatever just hit me had my skin burning, my eyes watering and I was struggling to breath. It completely took me down. Gasping for air, my eyes were streaming so badly that I couldn’t even look back in the bag to see what the hell it was. I could only assume a bottle of chain lube or something equally as nasty had split and fired out at me. All I could do was sit on the floor, weeping like a lost child until the pain started to die down.
20 minutes or so later when my eyes finally started to dry out, it was all too clear what had happened. I was furious. To date he’s been a solid wingman on this trip and there has been little if any tension between us but I can confidently say if he was in the house at that point in time I would have smacked him. Jon’s paranoia of wildlife wasn’t left with the critters in Mongolia and after seeing numerous bears on the side of the road on our ride through northern Canada, he upped his game in the world of creature self-defense and bought himself a bottle of bear spray. Yeah, it was that bastard thing that had me in agony!
Despite my skin still burning an hour or so later, time was running short so I jumped on the bike and headed south bound. Upon arrival in Vancouver, I jumped straight in the shower to try to get the left overs of the spray off me. Little did I know that the water would re-activate the it and in addition to that, spread the freaking thing all over my body. Half an hour of lying flat on my bed trying not to move, I was ready to get out and after a lengthy dispute with a copper outside regarding the parking of my bike, I was finally en-route for a well deserved beer. This isn’t however the end to the bear spray carnage. For the rest of the story, I’ll invite Jon in to explain what then happened at his end.
After a spot of lunch in the village, Jo and I arrived back at her condo in the afternoon. Much to my surprise Pete had actually managed to pack up and was seemingly on a solo mission down to Vancouver. He had thoughtfully left me a departure note scribbled on the back of a piece of card.
The thought of him being taken down by the ‘dreaded bear spray’ made me almost wet myself. I could only imagine how angry he was at being hit in the face during a stressful pack up, blinded and rolling around the floor in his motorbike gear. Admittidely i was also a little annoyed he had been rummaging through my luggage, plus the fact he had wasted my new camping ammo! At this point I picked up my now empty bag and proceeded to wipe the inside with my hand and jumper. There was no trace of any spray remains, so I thought little more of the incident.
Before heading out for some downhill mountain biking I went to the bathroom for a quick pee, and what happened next was pretty distressing! Shortly after going to the toilet I began to feel an intense burning sensation around my crown jewels. No joke, the pain was excruciating! Washing myself didn’t seem to help either, and my agony just worsened. Not having linked this embarrassing problem to the bear spray accident, I tried my best to hide my distress and continued to catch a bus into town with Jo. Whilst on the bus Jo was nudging me and asking if I was excited about going biking, but all I could think about was whether I should jump off at the next stop and seek some kind of urgent medical assistance! As I wiped my eye my face began to sting, and at this point it suddenly occurred to me that i had become the latest victim of the ‘dreaded bear spray’. Ha, that little can of whoop-ass got us real bad.
Back to Pete…
By the time he came to meet me in Vancouver the following day, I’d had time to calm down and we laughed for hours about the whole situation before jumping on the bikes and heading south to cross the border back to the U.S. Canada had been one hell of an experience and I left there questioning why I would want to live anywhere else.
Before arriving back in Seattle to spend more time with the Suzuki boys, we made a quick one night de-tour to meet up with Miikka, a fellow adventure rider we first bumped in to in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. He was on his own mission at the time with his mate Janni on 2 BMW F800GS’s. They both fly planes and we often joked about how it must feel like they are back in the cockpit with the amount of mod-cons those posh BMW’s had on offer. These boys were so well equpped they made us look like a couple of travelling peasants. Have a read about their trip here:
Miikka is originally from Finland but has taken time off work to spend some time with his wife and two children in Bellingham his wife is originally from.
Another outstanding example of hospitality this time found us at his in-laws place in a luxury house on the side of a peacefull lake. Our time with Miikka in Mongolia was clearly sufficient for him to know how to keep us happy and we kicked back enjoying beers and home cooked goodness for an afternoon catch up with him and his family. A great guy who we genuinely hope to meet again one day soon.
Next stop; back to Seattle for some Suzuki TLC before riding the West Coast of the U.S. Home is on the bike and quite honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.