Richard has not only cycled a lot, he is known for having written numerous popular children’s books, some together with his wife Magee. He is a great storyteller and still goes everywhere to capture audiences, though they live in Prince George, the crossing of the Yellowhead Highway, Cariboo Highway and the Fraser River.
Maggee teaches and her kids (she brings them home every now and then) seem to love her, but not as much as Richard does, as he is absolutely crazy about her!
Together they are one of the few households in Prince George that does not own or use a car for transportation. They are incredibly hospitable and wonderful people, have introduced us to their friends and family, helped out with medical problems and took us into their family.
Oh, and take a look here at Romke’s blog to see how happy his kids Kira & Jelte were when they received two autographed books!
15th September 2008: Stewart to Bonus Lake, 81km
We could not resist George’s offer to bring us back to the Meziadin junction. Though the ride from Stewart is beautiful, loosing a day –of which half would be uphill non-stop- cycling a stretch we had already done did not appeal. George was happy to get put of town and spend some more time with us, so we put the bikes in the back of the pick-up and 50 minutes later we got dropped off at the exact same spot where we had left the Cassiar Highway a few days before. Back to business!
After all the bear-less hours in Hyder, we got a pleasant surprise. I stopped to pick up CAD $3 in change from the shoulder: our total is now up to about 9 dollars in change found along the road, somehow people literally throw money away… Ivana came up to me and asked if I had stopped for the bear. Bear? Which bear? I looked ahead and saw a large black spot on the side of the road. Damn, she was right, a huge black bear was strolling in the grass. We filmed a bit and tried to warn a passing car, but he did not decease any speed and nearly hit the poor bear as he was crossing the road…
We had planned to stop for lunch and a few minutes ahead we rested near a so-called ‘bear-container’. No it does not contain bears, though that would be funny (funny/interesting and funny/haha), but it is a strong trash container. These are useful in more ways than one: the lids cannot be opened by pear paws so bears cannot get to the trash and will not get used to human food remains. As the sticker on it says: ‘be bear aware, a fed bear is a dead bear’ as once a bear is used to human food, it will no longer be afraid of humans and will have to be hunted down.
The containers have another very useful feature: the backside can be opened and campers can place their food bag inside, next to the hanging plastic bags hat are inside as well. So the supplies are safe from bears and other scavengers, but outside the actual trashbag, so everything stays clean. The availability of a bear container was one of the most important reasons for us to stop at certain places along the highways of Canada & Alaska; even though most are on ‘no overnight camping’ rest areas, we rather be breaking a non-enforced law than attract and feed bears…
It was clear that we were getting into the last and warmer part of the Cassiar Highway. Not only were the glaciated and snowy peaks disappearing out of sight, but we also encountered new types of animals: small yellow and black-striped suicidal caterpillars (even though only a few cars pass the Cassiar per hour, it takes the critters longer to cross it) and some small garden snakes, though mostly in the flat and/or dead variety.
Ivana and I always use to joke that we are collecting airmiles when we are climbing yet another hill and Newton would probably kinda agree as basically we are gathering gravitational energy. The long sweet downhills we always refer to as ‘free miles’ , even though we were riding in Canada, which is a metric country. It was nice to see that after a day of collecting airmiles, we not only cashed in our accrued miles for some free miles, but we ended up at the aptly named hidden but beautiful ‘Bonus Lake’ rest area to top it off. Read more
Shannon & Travis Himmelright are travellers themselves and took us in for the night. Shannon’s sister Kyle was visiting, but also their parents were there (only mother Wendy is in the picture, father Les had already left the house). Unfortunately not just to visit, but as a necessity, as their house had just burned down.
In Canada, many places are outside a fire protection district and the old house, in which the entire family had grown up, burned down to the ground after the old trusty woodstove suddenly was not so trusty anymore…
(Ivana is getting mesmerized by the newest member of the optimistic and wonderful Himmelrights family!)
Jo and Paul have been cycling together basically since she was born. Paul actively gathers cyclists and other travellers from the road to offer them shelter and a warm bed as well as a great meal, if you are in need of a warm shower, ask for Paul! He has been taking his family on trips for 30 years, but loves his motorcycle as well.
Abover they are holding the Kettle Valley Railway memento, one of the great trips together..
Oepie was born in the Netherlands and had worked in the dark dusty mines of Southern Limburg. He had a hard time getting used to Canada, but now he feels it is his home, even though half the town he lives in is either Dutch or has Dutch parents. But he was very happy, he could show off his Dutch ‘uniform’ for my picture.
He has a great diner and service station, just outside Smithers, stop by and say Hi!
Rita and Willie Hofsink live outside of busy Smithers, in a great house in the fields, overlooking a great mountain. As many people in this area, they have a Dutch background. The entire family loves to hunt, but they teach their children, not to shoot more than they can eat…
For the First Peoples, the land is the source of Life- a Gift from the Creator. “Mother Earth” is the center of their universe, the core of their culture , the origin of their identity as a people, the provider of their material needs.
“The land cannot be given or taken away, we belong to the Land; our birth does not sever the cord of life which comes from the Land, our spirituality, our culture, and our social life depend on it”.
Respect for all life – animals, insects, plans, mountains, rivers, skies & seas are inseparably interconnected. First peoples do not consider the land merely an economic resource. Their land depends on lives, and in relationship to the environment around them. They know that the land is to be shared. If you misuse the land, you are killing yourself. Remember the earth will survive long after you’re gone.
Traditional people think the land is there for everyone to use, the way our hand is there, the grass, the trees and animals are our flesh. nature is our religion, thank the Creator for what he has given us all.”
Roger A. Johnson, 30 august 1991.
‘Nii t’am lax ooks by’, is Roger’s original Gitxsan name, meaning ‘care for the people’ as well as describing ‘a frog on a lily pad’. His generation was influenced by residential schools, church and government, making them loose their mother tongue and culture. Roger still speaks the old language and works as a interpreter in discussions and court cases between government, mining companies and the First Nation elders.
Nowadays the Gitxsan youth is depressed and suicide rate is very high.
“We can’t cry over spilt milk! We must maintain our culture and our language. We need a huge cultural center to teach our culture and language to young and old.”
While we were talking with Roger, a car drove up. A very conservatively woman stepped out and gave Roger a booklet and drove off again. The others in her car did not come out. The cover of the booklet depicted a nice drawing of a traditional Indian sky burial. But the rest of it basically said that that was nice in the old days, but against the bible and all First Nations should switch to ‘modern’ Christian values and culture…
“I remember my Grandparents often saying to me, ‘You are my cane, You are my sunshine, You are my flower”.
Roger gave me a Gitxsan First nation flag, which has been on my bike since. Then he waved us goodbye from the stairs leading up to his frontdoor. ‘Do not forget to wake up every morning, and shout to the world: Good Morning Canada!’.
(Sources: our meeting with Roger; Partly quoted from the local article ‘Wisdom of the Elders’ by Zanna Ove; Speech of Roger A Johnson transcribed by Julian Burge)