Past days seem like from a novel. Like it was supposed to happen as it happened.
We left Cora and Jim’s farm from warmshowers in pouring rain. The plan was to stock up in Nanaimo and head to the west coast to see the gems of Vancouver Island – Tofino and Ucluelet. We followed the cycling trail first but then it threw us onto a highway. The cycling route on the highway – it’s quite a usual practice here :-). Within 5 minutes we got slapped in the face by the strong head wind. There’s a good hard shoulder but the cars are swinging around and it’s really uncomfortable. So we decided to take longer road via the Nanoose Bay just to be off busy traffic.
Suddenly a pick-up with a lawnmower on the trailer pulls to the side. “Which country flag is that?” a girl is walking towards us. “Slovakia.” “Tak dobry den.” She’s clearly ours. We meet her mum who is getting off the car. “Do you have anywhere to sleep?” And within seconds we’re dropping our plan to go and find a place for wild camping and getting directions to their house. We’re feeling literally at home with Petra and Dasa. They’ve been living here for 30 years when Dasa and her husband emigrated from communist Czechoslovakia with baby Petra so we’re switching from Slovak to English and back while we speak. Great evening, other daughter Veronica comes from work, talking about everything, getting tips for upcoming Ucluelet and Tofino and Sunshine Coast. We end up going to sleep at 2.30am so the plans for early start at 6 are all gone.
Morning is slow so it’s 11 when we’re finally pushing the bikes out of the garage. There’s a big hill to Port Alberni in front of us so Petra suggested she would give us a lift so we can make up for the time we lost in the morning. We want to be brave so we decline. “You will get a flat tyre on the way down to the highway and she will have to drive you anyway,” Dasa laughs. I’m pushing my bike out of the garage when I notice something weird about the movement. I’ve got a flat tyre on my front wheel! Dasa swears she didn’t set up nails in the garage :). That’s my first flat EVER! We lost another hour by the time we repaired the tyre. At the end we thankfully agree to a little cheat and Petra drives us to Port Alberni. She left us at the mall parking lot where we want to buy dogs’ and our food.
When riding from the pet store to the supermarket I notice something weird about the front wheel. It’s like it was bouncing on the road. So we stop at the the supermarket and start checking the wheel. It looks like something is wrong with the tyre but it’s not flat. So we take the new tube out again and suspect there must be something wrong with it as the wheel rim seems ok. Tom replaces it with the old repaired one, but the problem isn’t solved yet. It’s nearly 5pm already so we start checking google maps for a bike shop. There are two of them in town so we cycle to the closest one that’s closing in 30 minutes. We get there at 5:15 but it’s closed already. In the meantime I’ve realised I must have left my charging cable somewhere and the phone battery is dead. So we went into the Sushi restaurant nearby asking if they’ve got an iphone charger. They didn’t but they had wifi so Tom was able to find directions to the other shop on his phone. When we arrived it’d been closed again but a young guy was sitting in front of the shop. We had a close look together and it looked like part of the tyre is deeper in the rim than another and that’s the cause of weird bumping. He advised us to use some soap to make the tyre edge smoother and easier to manipulate. So we parked the bikes at another supermarket and went onto re-doing it again. We managed to buy a new cable as well :).
7:30 pm and the bikes are ready. We were planning to be at the Sproat Lake by this time. Well, we’re in the middle of Port Alberni and need to find a place for the camp quickly. Google maps helped again and we found a forest in the middle of the town. There are even picnic tables. So we start unpacking and setting up for the dinner cooking. Suddenly, we see a guy crossing the parking lot towards us.
“Hey, I’ve seen you some time ago south of Nanaimo on the highway. Is this the Slovak flag?”
He told us his parents come from Slovenia and the flags are very similar, that’s why it was so familiar to him. He asked about our day and plans, so we told him it hadn’t been very good day because of the tyre issues. And that we wanted to be somewhere else already.
“Do you have ten minutes?”
“I can give you a lift to the Sproat Lake, I even know a nice place to camp but need to unload stuff from the pick-up first so you can fit in.”
We can’t believe it. Things start coming together. Today/yesterday evening is a mess and complete luck at the same time. If there wasn’t such a busy traffic on the highway, we would never turn to the side road where Petra and Dasa met us. If we didn’t have the flag, they would never know we’re from the same country. If we didn’t have a flat tyre at their place, we would be much behind the schedule as we had to tackle the hill to Port Alberni by bikes. If Petra dropped us further than the town, we would never know about the trick with the soap and it would take us hours to make the tyre right. And if we didn’t have the flag again, Edward (the guy’s name) would never stop by.