The one day we can sleep in till at least 9am, we can’t. We are wide awake at 6:30 am with nothing really to do. The restaurant, store and laundry do not open till 0800, and for the most part there is nothing on Canadian TV. In the middle of the night we had switched from one of the two queen beds in our room to the other as we kept finding ourselves rolling toward, and sinking into, the middle of the bed. It was like being on an uneven piece of real estate. We laughed as we had hiked all these miles, we finally finish and get to sleep in a real bed, and its almost more uncomfortable than sleeping on the ground. Luckily the other bed was not as well slept in. We should have known, seeing that the TV was at the end of the “well used” bed…things to remember for the future when traveling and “cowgirl camping”. We get up, make in-room coffee and prep the laundry. We expect that this will be the last time we will have to wear rain gear indoors. We try and add a few more posts to our blog, but the WiFi at the Lodge is actually “WeeFee” (barely works), and our phone has no signal, so we can’t call anyone and tell them we made it. The whole experience is a little anti-climactic. We dump our trash, which includes food wrappers, our sit pads, the 22 oz Schoolhouse beer bottles, water bottles and some super stiff/worn out socks. Our feet are sore and our shoes smell awful. We would have trashed those too, but we figure they may come in handy while in Vancouver. Until then, we will wear our Crocs. We shuffle downstairs to the lobby and registration desk and inquire about the laundry costs. We will need Canadian coins, “loonies and toonies”, What? These are one and two dollar coins. We convert our cash into “funny” money. It’s 7:50 am. As there are only two machines, we want to snag at least one, first thing. Our plan is to put our stuff in the wash then take a dip in their salt water pool and finish with a soak in the jacuzzi and spend some time in the steam room. Paul wants to hit the sauna as well, but I will pass as I’m pretty sure we walked in a sauna on more than one occasion. We would have done this last night but everything shut down by 10 pm. As we stand outside the locked laundry room door, a maintenance person comes by. “You need into the laundry room?” she asks gruffly, as we stand there in our rain gear and Crocs. We nod, affirmatively, and say that it’s not 8 o’clock yet. She looks at her watch and waves her hand dismissively at us saying, “oh, it’s close enough. I’ll open it up for you.” Paul decides to be daring and asks if she’ll open up the pool too. “Sure, why not?” is the response. Good thing we were there early, because no sooner did we load our clothes into the machine, two other hikers appeared with laundry on their minds. Phew. Good timing. The thought of a 4+ hour Greyhound bus ride in stinkyville clothing into the metropolis of Vancouver did not seem appealing for us nor I’m sure for the other passengers, that may or may not be through, thru-hikers. We mark our watches for turn around time. We need to have everything done so we can be on the 1010 bus to Vancouver. Into the pool building we go. We strip down to our last clean pair of Exofficio underwear. First a dip in the pool, then a soak in the jacuzzi. While the jets are strong, the water is not super hot, but it will do, and we do our best to reduce the soreness. On the last downhill to the lodge my left quadricep was doing its best to give up and seize on me (What is it with the left side of my body?) We knew it was going to be a long sedentary ride and we needed to get as much lactic acid worked out as possible. 68 miles in 2.5 days had reaked havoc on our bodies, but it was worth it. By 0930 we had everything done. This gave us time to get a coffee, a danish and something to eat for the bus ride. We also made sure we had some Coke to go with the 3/4 full bottle of Captain Morgans Spiced Rum we had left over from the night before. We had thought we would have drank more of it the night before, but we were just too exhausted. No worries, we’re retired and now officially on “vacation”…would you like anything with your cinnamon bun? just some rum thank you. The bus arrives and we gather with several other hikers who had finished yesterday as well.
We gather for a “class” photo before boarding the bus. Wow. We really did it. It seems weird not to be walking somewhere. It’s almost a little disconcerting to be separated from our packs as the bus driver barks at us to leave our packs outside by the cargo area. We all tentatively drop our packs as directed and board the bus.
We all seemingly instinctively walk to the back of the bus and take our seats, and laugh as there are plenty of seats up front. We share our disbelief that we are actually done,and how weird it feels to not have to walk, not that we were complaining or anything. We all talked about what was going through our minds the last two days. Ballhawk told us that his group had discussed hiker “awards”, like you would for the end of your senior year of high school. Their awards were like, ‘most likely to yo-yo’ (Seeds), ‘most social’ (Oozle and Thistle), ‘most bad-ass couple’ (OneSpeed and Just Paul)…hey that’s US! Apparently we were selected because we somehow always ended up where the Boys were and they were doing some crazy miles at times, and what sealed the deal was at a trailside cache in Washington, just before Snoqualmie. Ballhawk was seated near the cache, sipping a Coke, and it was cold and drizzly. We had at least another 1500 foot climb over 2 miles before we could even consider being done for the day and it was getting late. He watched as we opened one cooler. Sodas. We opened the other cooler and it was filled with Rainer Beer. BEER! we exclaimed, and promptly sucked one down and would have had another had the sign inside not asked us to only have one. Ballhawk watched in awe as he nursed his soda and sucked on his cancer stick. “That”, he said, “Is when you guys sealed the deal for that award.” He continued, “I was sipping a soda because I was thinking about the climb coming up, and you guys went (without hesitation) for the beer. Now that’s bad-ass.” We further inked our title and seriously confirmed the “award” they had bestowed upon us when we passed what was left of our rum bottle back to the boys, saying ‘finish it off, we’ve got all we need’, whilst holding up our soda bottle concoctions. “See. I told you these guys were Bad-Ass”, Ballhawk laughed as Rorchart accepted the bottle. Someone on the bus discovered there was free WiFi on the bus. We all signed up mostly using fictitious emails, to avoid “junk mail” in our in-boxes. We motor along and suddenly we have cell service. Then the text messages from our respective carriers start coming in, reminding us we are no longer in the US of A and that we are subject to ridiculously expensive roaming and data fees…contact your carrier for more information. Holy crap! That’s right. We’re in another country that, visually, really looks no different than the one we just walked out of. We stop at another bus station. It is here that we need to get off temporarily and buy our tickets to Vancouver. We consider getting additional snacks from the vending machines inside, but change our minds once we see that they are filled with trail mix, pop tarts, cliff bars, dried fruit and other assorted “snacks” we’ve more than had our fill of. What we don’t realize or rather piece together, is the line of people waiting in the cue at the bus station plan on boarding our bus. Before we finish buying our tickets, these people board and many of them take our seats. WTF? Paul and I are lucky as no one absconded with our seats. While at the station, I call our cell provider and inquire as to whether there is a plan we can switch to temporarily during our short stay here in Canada, and thus avoid the equivalent of a new car payment just to be able to make a phone call and/or send/receive texts. “Why of course we can help you with that”, the woman on the other end of the line offers in a sweet southern accent. For $15 additional dollars we can have 1000 minutes and unlimited texts, no data roaming…too expensive. With data roaming off, and search for free WiFi on, we accept the temporary fix. We re-board the bus and begin our search for a hotel. Sugar had recommended the Sylvia Hotel at English Bay in the West End area. We call and see what they’re availability is. They have a room, but it seems pretty pricey to us. We tell them we will call back in a few minutes as we want to do a little more research. We do a hotel search. We call Best Western (we have points) and a few other hotels. Most are booked fully for the weekend, or if they have a room it’s nearly (or IS) $400 a night! Call the Sylvia Hotel back, for they truly were the cheapest. Sorry we are all full up for tonight. Crap! They do, however, have a room available for the next two nights. We’ll take it, we say. We arrive at the bus station in Vancouver. We feel seriously displaced. We are NOT going to stay at the Hiker Hostel and Pub, across the street. We’ll find something, We hail a cab and have him take us downtown to a “moderately” priced hotel. He stops at a Best Western. They have a room. Yeah! It’s $350 for the night. Boo!. They point us to the Quality Inn, up two blocks. We walk in, wearing our packs, smelling fresh mind you. We ask if they have any rooms. They tell us they do, but the price is waay out of our comfort zone. The manager apologizes. He asks if we have looked on-line for any specials. We explain that we have a room at the Sylvia Hotel for the next two nights, but don’t have one for tonight and we can’t access the internet without free WiFi as we are from the States and would rather avoid incurring anymore costs than we all ready have. He asks us where we are going. We explain that we have already “been” and had just finished hiking the entirety of the PCT from Mexico to Manning Park and are in Vancouver to take in the sights, and buy some clothes that fit, before we head home. “You hiked the whole way?”, he asks in near disbelief. “Wow. you must have seen some neat things”. That we did, we reply. He apologizes again for not having a room in our price range, but gives us their password to access the internet and tells us we can use the lobby, “take your time”. After a while, he asks if we have found anything. Paul has found one hotel in our price range,and asks the manager where that particular hotel would be,and whether it was a good place/area to stay. The manager shows us on the map where would be in relation to our current location. Not that far of a walk. He then excuses himself, and goes behind the registration counter. He asks if we have booked the room yet. We were just about to select “Buy” , and tell him, not yet. “Good”, he says. “I’ll give you a room for that price. I think you’ve earned it. Anybody who walks that far on purpose deserves a break.” Thank You So Much, we gush. He then explains it’s not a spacious room, but it has a queen bed, our own bathroom w/ shower/tub and a big screen TV. We’ve slept in a small tent for the last four months (since we stopped cowboy camping), anything bigger than that will be deemed “spacious”. He hands us our room key, gives us a few pointers on where to shop and eat and things we should not miss while in Vancouver. We thank him again for his generosity, and head up the elevator. Divine intervention once again. People are innately good. We arrive at our room. When he said it wasn’t “spacious”, he wasn’t kidding. I was practically a closet…a walk-in closet, but it had everything we needed and for that we were grateful. Now for something else to wear.
Shopping time. We wander through downtown Vancouver. It is a bustling metropolis. Herds of people scurry about, most with earplugs in and a cell phone surgically attached to their hand, but they are polite and will smile at you, provided they take the time to look up from their phones. A sad drunken man, “sleeps it off” on a street corner, half in the gutter. Glittering high rise apartment buildings tower above us. This is a whole new type of “wilderness”. The purchasing of new attire takes longer than expected,as we don’t really know what size we are anymore. The salespersons are puzzled when we ask if they can cut off the tags, as we will be wearing our recently purchased clothing out of the store. Paul gets a long overdue haircut at a bustling barber shop, and mine will have to wait for another day. Now for dinner. The Cactus Club came highly recommended, so we dine there. We are not disappointed. After dinner, we stroll through the downtown, mesmerized by the glowing neon lights and entertained by street performers hawking their craft. Just before returning to our hotel, we slip in to an “all night” sandwich and custard shop for something sweet. The custard is dreamy, and we decide once back home our ice cream days are over. Not because we won’t be able to afford the calories, but because custard is sooo much better. We reckon if you’re going to have something frozen cold and sweet, better to have a little bit of custard rather than waste your occasional “treat” calories on grocery store ice cream. We waddle back to our hotel, wide awake from the sugar blast, and get our TV fix. 100 channels and nothing to watch. Good to know nothing has really changed in that area. Now for the sugar “crash” and we are out. Zzzzzzzz.