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After 3 days of rest in Vancouver, it was time to move on. My favourite thing about Vancouver had been the system of bike paths that they have in Vancouver proper. There are residential roads that are basically for cyclists only. Drivers seemed to be more aware of our presence and it made for great cycling. The mountains being visible north of the city reminded me of my time back in Seoul. Vancouver had the bonus of also having beaches, but also more expensive Korean food. We would be saying goodbye to Canada for the last time and have our last border crossing together. The main hope was that we would get our visas extended and so not have a rush down the west coast.

It was US Open men’s semifinal day so Mary had her day planned out, having baked us a big batch of brownies, she would sit down and watch the tennis and maybe do some chores. I would have liked to watch too, but we had to roll. Having been able to look at Google Maps with some knowledge of Vancouver, I could better understand the way we were meant to go. We would be going back the way I had tried to lead us along, at least across the 3 bridges.

Going over the 3 bridges proved much easier this time. My main problem last time had been finding my way on to the Alex Fraser bridge, but it turned out to be much easier coming from downtown Vancouver. Even so, I missed the bike path that runs along it and rode over the highway. I was faster than C & Seth, who had got on the intended route, but that might have been because I was motivated by the motorists beeping at me every 20 seconds. I’m not sure if what I did was illegal or just a bad idea, but either way I wouldn’t recommend it.

On the other side of the Alex Fraser bridge I found a bike sign that lead us the way we wanted to go and we ended up in on a rails-to-trails greenway. It was bizarre to be going from a big busy highway to biking through a wooded path.

About 20 minutes down the path I stopped to confirm that we were going the right way and Seth looked down in horror. His camera wasn’t in the open side pocket of his bag where he had put it. He checked his other bags to make sure that he hadn’t placed it elsewhere, but couldn’t find it. I offered to stay where we were and look after his and C’s bags while they rode off to look for it.

An hour or so later they turned up and Seth had a big grin on his face, I knew he had found it. It turned out that about 6 miles back his camera had jumped out of his bag when we were going over some bumpy roads and hit the floor. A guy in an SUV had seen it, picked it up and hung around waiting for us to come back. When Seth & C rode through the area he asked them if they’d lost something and explained what had happened to them. He had been about to head over to McDonald’s to see if we were there. The timing and Seth’s good fortune in getting the camera back are simply phenomenal.

The rest of the ride to the border was fairly standard. We were basically doubling back on roads that we had been on coming up to Vancouver. We got to the border and felt lucky when we saw the cyclist sign pointing to a building. I figured it’d be like going into Vancouver and we’d be through in 5 minutes. I was wrong.

We put our bikes against the door and walked in to find a fair amount of people queued up. We were directed towards queue B where we were actually at the front, even though I thought it was the wrong one. 30 minutes later and we hadn’t moved. A couple of people with Nexus passes had been fast-tracked ahead of us and I could hear comments about immigration officials being miserable around me. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t look happy, but I’m not going to be saying that before I go and speak to them when they have such massive power. My thought process was that if I complained and the guy that processed us heard me, he might take offence and not grant me an extension. As all I really cared about was getting an extension, I could keep any comments in pretty easily. Also, I have a respect for their position. It’s incredibly difficult to have to judge people coming across the border. Yes, many of them are like us and doing nothing wrong, but there are plenty of people trying to con the system and it’s their job to minimise that, especially being the day before the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the world trade centre.

After waiting for about an hour or so and seeing a shift change, we got called to the front. I walked up with my documents in hand and Seth & C followed. I was well prepared having looked at the requirements and printed out 10+ pages about me to show things such as having sufficient savings, a plan to leave the country and my planned route. The guy we spoke to was very pleasant and understanding of our situation. He asked me how long an extension I was asking for and I explained how 3 months would be wonderful, but the more time I was granted the safer I can ensure my passage in to Mexico will be considering the border situation. He said that he could extend our 6 months to a year and we thanked him profusely. C & I paid $6 each for a new I-94 and left with big smiles on our faces.

For C, the extended visa is not going to mean more time on the bike. By Phoenix she’ll have had enough of that. She’s not decided on the future, but there’s a definite pull of finding somewhere to spend a good amount of time in the mountains and skiing. Jackson, Wyoming, just south of the Grand Tetons is high on her list of possible destinations. Superb skiing, beautiful mountains and people she got close to up there are all pulling her that way.

For me, it means a more relaxed route down to and after Phoenix. After Phoenix, I’m pretty undecided. If I’m going to head in to Mexico by bike, then it makes most sense to go back to the coast and LA and enter Mexico through Baja California. If I don’t mind flying, then I can head east to explore New Mexico and Texas. I’ve got the next couple of months to think about what I’m going to do and I’m sure there’ll be future blog posts about it.

The highlight of the ride down to Bellingham was getting to see Mt Baker to our east. It’s a beautiful mountain and being 11,000ft is still snow-capped. It’s also isolated making it really easy to spot. Seth was eager to take the scenic way back, but having spent so much time at immigration I was eager to just get to Bellingham where we were going to meet up again with Chris.

When we got to Bellingham, I called Chris and arranged for him to come over. We used the time he took to drive over to sort our things out at Seth’s friends place. When he arrived we went out to a pub for a delicious dinner followed by ice-cream at Mallards which you have to go to if you’re in town. The staff are phenomenal and the selection is just amazing, including some bizarre sounding yet yummy ones like Basil & Mint.

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