A British cycle courier spent a few nights close to Williams Lake this week while en route from Anchorage, Alaska to Seattle, Washington, a trip she described as a continuation of a plan to eventually cycle around the entire globe.
“I set out to cycle across the world a few years ago,” Emily Chappell, 32, said during a telephone interview from the home of Diane Dunaway in Soda Creek. “I cycled across Asia and when I finished that it was my plan to start again in Alaska and ride all the way to Argentina.”
Realizing that trek would probably take several years, she decided to do the Anchorage to Seattle trip first. She departed from Anchorage at the end of January.
Chappell loves cycling in the winter months, something she discovered while doing a few “cold bits” in Asia between Turkey and Iran.
She chose the Alaska to Washington trip because she wanted to tackle something a bit harder, colder and longer.
The beauty of winter is the main draw, she said.
“I love the brilliant white snow and the blue skies. It’s simple, stark and striking. And I like having the whole place to myself because I know around here in the summer you get loads of cyclists coming through.”
Chuckling she admitted she also gets along better in colder climates.
“I also like the challenge of riding in the winter. When life is hard it’s boiled down to the very basics. You’ve got to eat, sleep, stay warm and stop worrying about all the other stuff in life that would normally be on your mind.”
It’s a nice escape, she added.
The coldest day so far on the trip has been -35 C and it has dipped down to -40 C a few times while she’s been camping.
To help her survive the cold she wears warm winter boots while riding, although admittedly her feet did get slightly chilly a few times.
One of the main problems with the colder temperatures is that some of her plastic equipment became brittle and snapped off.
While in Stewart, she borrowed a seat post because hers had snapped.
It held her over until she could get to a bike shop in the next town.
Normally Chappell cycles from 7 a.m. until sunset each day, and then pitches her tent just before night fall.
She likes to camp in the open where people will notice her too because if they don’t see anyone stirring by morning then hopefully someone will check up on her.
“I’m not worried about people attacking me in Canada. I think they’d be more interested in helping me.”
Back home in Wales, her father Mark is monitoring the trip via a satellite tracker.
“I called home the other day and found out he is obsessed and checks in on me every few hours to find out where I am and how fast I’m moving.”
Chappell has been a bike messenger for six years.
When she graduated with her second degree from university, the recession was hitting, and it was one of the only jobs she could find.
She thought she would do it for a little while, and six years later realized she was “happily stuck.”
While there are fewer bike messengers now than there were when she started out, and it’s harder to make a decent living, one of the things she loves is the fact there is an international brotherhood of bike messengers.
On this trip Chappell has been connecting with some of the people in that network, putting faces to names for the very first time.
“There’s one bike messenger in Anchorage and I’d been saying for years I was going to go there and meet him. Finally I did and it was great. It was like meeting a lost brother.”
When she arrives in Vancouver, hopefully this coming Monday, and eventually Seattle, she will stay with some other cyclists she’s been in touch with for years.
“I anticipate it will be like meeting up with long lost friends,” she said.
Along the way people have put her in touch with someone down the road to stay with so she’s developed a long chain of friends and been hosted in many homes.
Dunaway said she was contacted by a friend and asked if Chappell could stay with her and has subsequently hooked her up with other friends along the way.
“Emily told us she needs to eat about 6,000 calories a day,” Dunaway chuckled. “She said not everybody understands that.”
As for animal sightings, Emily saw some wolves eating a dead moose, some foxes, and one moose hiding in the trees.
“I did see several caribou, which was a bonus because my bike is a Genesis Caribou,” she said enthusiastically.
Chappell has a blog and is writing a book about being a cycle courier that should be out in 2016.