(May 28 – written by Dave)
We are often asked by people we meet if we’ve had any problems or what was the scariest moment. The answer to this question is not at all what we expected it to be when we started off on our trip last year.
Back on June 20th, 2017, we wrote about our day riding from Kitwanga, BC to Terrace, BC. In that blog we talked about having an “unfortunate interaction” with a motorist. Today, we will tell the rest of the story. We’ve met so many nice people on this trip and had help from so many more, it is actually pretty cool that we only have one “bad” story. We’ll tell it here for completeness and to show that not every day is perfect.
To start with, I’ll recap a little from the week. Two days before we’d just finished riding the 800km, very narrow, shoulder-less and near traffic-free Cassiar Highway. The Cassiar ends at the much busier Yellowhead Highway. For the most part the Yellowhead has a shoulder and whole lot more traffic. On the 20th, we rose to grey skies and rain. In fact all day, we were riding in and out of rain showers. While the shoulder on the highway was wide, as often happens in rainy country, it was intermittently filled with dirt, garbage and debris, including stray pieces of wood from logging trucks.
We’d been riding the Yellowhead for about an hour when a car came up from behind us laying on the horn from way back, and all the way up until they were next to us. I was behind Nancy and before the car started honking, I was on the edge of the traffic lane, riding around some debris. I saw the car in my mirror and right away pulled out of the lane on to the shoulder, then all the honking started. I made a mental note of the car (maroon, Chrysler PT Cruiser) and wrote it off.
Neither of us gave it much thought really, these things happen to cyclists now and again. No point in letting someone else’s bad day ruin your good day. That was until about 5 hours later as we were getting close to Terrace. The highway was now even wider. There was a white line and a rumble strip between us and the traffic lane. Nancy was again on the front and both of us were on the shoulder well inside the rumble strip.
A car passed (without honking) and pulled over on the shoulder in front of us. Both of us thought it was one of those occasional nice people that stop to ask us if we need anything or even offer us water or other roadside treat. Then I remember the morning honking car – it was the same car. We pulled up further back than we might have otherwise not really sure what to expect but still thinking “it will be fine”.
The driver of the car was a small, older (long grey/black hair) First Nation woman and she was pissed off. All 5-‘3” of her got out of the car, slammed the door shut and stomped back to us with very aggressive body language. She yelled something to the affect that “twice today you almost made me run head-on into a logging truck”. She peppered this sentence with enough words starting with the letter “F” for us to know that she was very upset.
We’d stopped single file and Nancy was on the front. Yelling and stomping the woman came straight up to Nancy and pushed her as hard as she could with both hands. Nancy had both feet on the ground, straddling her bike but the push combined with the weight of a loaded touring caused her to tumble over the edge of the road into the ditch with her bike landing on top of her. I sort of stood there stunned. Nancy was not seriously hurt and had enough sense to yell at me to get the camera and take pictures. I laid my bike down and chased after the woman. I got photos of the car but for some reason didn’t get a photo of the woman. It all happened so fast. I remember yelling at her that she has assaulted my wife and that I wanted her name. We also told her we were going to call the police. She looked at me, probably decided that my raincoat made me look bigger than I really am and decided not to beat me up as well. She stomped her way back to the car, slammed the door and sped away.
By now, Nancy was up and pretty sure that she was not injured. The bike had a little damage but mostly mud and a crooked brake hood. As luck would have it, even though we were close to Terrace, we were in a blank spot for mobile coverage – we tried to call 911 but couldn’t get signal. We didn’t need an ambulance but would have felt better if the local police had known it happened and were aware of us trying to make the last 16k into town.
We dusted everything off and decided to ride to town. Boy were we on edge for those last 16k. We were concerned that the woman, being First Nation, meant she was local and may have had lots of friends. From there on, we kept a very close eye on every car that passed, watching for any strange behaviour. We had some friendly honks and waves but honestly, we were not good travellers at that point. We didn’t wave back (sorry nice people of the Terrace area who waved at us that day). We just didn’t know what might happen – if she was crazy enough to do what she did, would she call her friends, would they do the same thing…
As we wrote that day, we rode straight to the Royal Mounted Police office. The Mountie who took our statement was great. He was a cyclist and had ridden that same road the past weekend. He told us that we could press charges but that we’d have to be in town in a few months to identify the woman in a physical line-up and then again in about 2 years for a trial. We wanted to do something to help prevent this from happening to other cyclists but couldn’t re-jig our whole trip for these two dates.
The Mountie came up with an alternative plan. He would try to figure out who the woman was and he’d go have a “hard” word with her. He agreed to do this after we’d gotten on the ferry for Vancouver Island and were out of the woman’s “area”.
We sent him a note once we were on the ferry and learned that he had figured out who the woman was, that she’d been involved in another incident since ours and that the Mountie overseeing that incident had used our notes to help make the point to the woman. We don’t know if she ever saw a courtroom but we’re pretty sure that the two Mounties made her aware that charges could be coming and that she’d better straighten up. Will this help? I’m not sure, but at least we tried to do something…
As luck would have it we had intended to stay with a Warmshowers host in Terrace but because of a glitch in the Warmshowers email system we couldn’t connect and ended up in a hotel for a couple of nights. We eventually connected with Amy and met her for a drink one night. Her warm welcoming attitude and sympathy for our plight went a long way toward dispelling the somewhat negative feelings we had at that moment about the area and the people!
As I said above, we’ve had so many positive interactions on this trip that we’ve lost count. There are far, far more good people out there than there are bad. We started the trip fearful of bears and roadside bandits. We saw lots of the former and had no issues. We don’t know if we saw any of the later, but either way we had no issues. We certainly didn’t expect any trouble from a Canadian – normally the friendliest people in the world!
Nancy ended up with a pretty good bruise on her leg and we were both a bit shaken up. But we agreed that we wouldn’t let a crazy woman end or ruin our trip. If anything, she made us approach strangers with more “hellos”. We’ve learned that by building even a small relationship in the moment, people everywhere are more welcoming and friendly. A smile and a hola go a long way. And, the whole experience showed us that for every ‘bad’ person we might run into there are lots more good people out there.
And now you know the rest of the story from Terrace, BC Canada…