The Zebra Cake is an obscure measure of distance. It is equal to 85.3 miles or 137.3 kilometers. On a motorcycle, one should endeavor to travel around 5-6 Zebra Cakes per day. Anything beyond 8 Zebra Cakes of travel is rash and reckless.
This was a full day, so much so that this post will contain very little media. It looks like I will have to try to carry it with my writing…..uh oh.
I really wanted to get to Vancouver. In fact, I think I dreamed of being there. I would have a place to stay. I would have a choice of shops for repairs. I would be (presumably) safe from bears. I began my day at a distance of 10 Zebra Cakes from my goal.
The plan for the day:
An early start was vital to keep hope of reaching my destination alive. Rain was still falling on the tent at 4:30, so I snoozed until 5:15. I popped a caffeine pill and started packing up at 5:45. I decided to save my inspection for the first gas stop and was on the road by 6:30.
My first stop was in Kitwanga. Along with my normal inspection, I decided I needed to clean my chain. It was caked with dust and grime from the day before. This led me to another unfortunate discovery: I was missing the clip for my master link. This is the little piece of metal that ensures the master link stays together.
The dark thingy:
I debated using baling wire to secure it, but thought that doing so might do more harm than good. I remembered that this link had been a real pain to install, so I thought it had a good chance of holding on. (That’s what I told myself, at least) In fact, I think the only reason I lost the clip was because there was no outward pressure from the spacer.
There were lots of questionable decisions on the day. Foremost has to be the decision to try to make it to Vancouver in one day with my current mechanical issues. Coming in a close second was what I decided to eat. As I was waiting to pay for my gas at the first stop, I noticed a box of Zebra Cakes. These treats are a high fructose confection, lying somewhere on the spectrum between pastry and plastic. They were only $3, they slide down the throat quickly and this box would contain all of the requisite calories to keep my engine running for the day.
I was trying to make my mileage for the day seem more paletable, so I did some quick mental calculating. I thought I could cover the distance with just 5 stops for gas. If I ate 2 Zebra Cakes at each stop, I would arrive shortly after I finished them. I told myself that I did not need to ride 850 miles. I merely needed to eat 10 Zebra Cakes. A difficult task, but definitely more manageable.
Thus, my daily tasks were arranged into an easy to follow pattern:
1. Ride for 2-3 hours
2. While riding, pray for the wheel bearing and master link with prayers biased about 60-40 in favor of the bearing.
3. When close to empty, stop
4. Fill tank
5. Eat a Zebra Cake
6. Drink some water
7. Use the “washroom” (Canadians look at you funny if you say “bathroom”)
8. Inspect the rear wheel and master link
9. Tell Annie, “I know it hurts. It will all be over soon.”
10. Feel immense sadness.
11. Attempt to quell grief by eating a second Zebra Cake.
12. Wash bugs off of helmet visor
13. Contemplate existence.
14. Saddle up and ride off.
2 Zebra Cakes: Kitwanga, BC
Started with some early sprinkles, which cleared quickly. The roads were still hilly and relatively narrow.
Around Smithers, the scenery finally flattened out. There was even some pastureland and I saw my first cow in over a week. I now felt that I was out of the wilderness and back in to civilization. There are benefits to this: Cheaper gas, better maintained roads. But now I had to contend with lots of Rvs and log trucks clogging the road, plentiful construction zones, as well as slowing to 50km/hr through each little dot on the map. On a day when max mileage was the goal, these were unwelcome additions.
4 Zebra Cakes: Burns Lake, BC
At one construction zone, I had a flagger point at me and direct me up to the front of the line to “keep me out of the dust” (you have no idea how nice this is). He is the owner of a 1986 CB550, an eventual descendant of my other bike, a 1971 CB350 named Meiling. It was a great conversation and helped allay some of my impatience at the delay. I had two navigational choices for entering Vancouver and he strongly recommended that I take the scenic route, highway 99, even though it takes a bit longer.
6 Zebra Cakes: Williams Lake, BC
As the day wore on and Zebra Cakes added up, the day grew warmer. I had to make an unplanned stop into a restroom to quickly peel off my thermal under layers. It had been a long time since I had a riding day without wearing them.
It’s hard to explain the effect that sitting on a bike all day has, but it can be quite grueling. My butt, knees, upper back and neck were especially sore by this point in the day. I tried lots of things to keep my mind off of the discomfort: Praying, singing, mentally composing dramatic blog posts. Additionally, the task of keeping one’s mind fully engaged in the task of riding safely requires a lot of energy. Good thing I had plenty of sugar coursing through my veins.
8 Prince George
My first big decision of the day came as I reached the city of Prince George. This was the first place I had passed through where I could definitely replace my bearings. I tried to run each possible scenario through my mind of how this would work. The one that frightened me the most was punching out the bearings to correctly identify the part, but then being required to wait days since it was not in stock anywhere in town. The problem was getting no worse, so I decided to pass on through town. I hoped the decision would not be a fateful one.
At this stop I asked a guy riding a Harley what route he would recommend. Being that it was around 5pm, he advised that I take the quicker path, route 1. He had come from Vancouver and informed me that it was really hot that way. He said some abstract Celsius number and I reacted like I knew what it meant.
9 Zebra Cakes: Clinton, BC
(Had to make an extra stop for half of a tank of fuel. I skipped the “sadness quelling” Zebra Cake.)
This stop was my final decision point on which path into Vancouver I would choose. I consulted with the guy behind the counter and he strongly recommended taking the faster route. He mentioned that it was the Thursday before Canada Day, so the more scenic route could be even more congested than normal. There will not be many times during this trip when I choose the quick way over the scenic way, but that was the decision this day.
I thought the route I had chosen would be boring 4-lane freeway. I was wrong! The road was a twisty, exciting route that dipped in and out of a deep river-formed canyon. Though I was not making as rapid progress as I would have preferred, the scenery was great. I could only image what the actual scenic route was like.
10 Zebra Cakes: Hope, BC
My final stop. Daylight was fading fast. Whether Annie carried me or I carried Annie, we were making it to Vancouver. After this fill up, the road was now 4-lane freeway. My first of the day. As I drew nearer to the city, traffic began to thicken. As I dipped and ducked my way into the lanes that seemed safest, I could not help but think of how remotely my day began. A lot can change in 10 Zebra Cakes.
I didn’t have real-time navigation since my phone mount had snapped on the way up to the Salmon Glacier the previous day. One stop and phone call to my Sister got me re-routed and I found their building without much difficulty, stopping at 11pm.
It was goooooood to see my sister, Elise and her husband, Brad! I wound Annie down the floors of the subterranean parking garage, ending four floors below the surface. Brad moved out his Subaru to give her a nice spot to rest.
The day totaled 854 miles, a new daily motorcycle record for me. I had spend 16.5 consecutive hours in the saddle and made only 7 stops, none of which were longer than 15 minutes. The road conditions limited my average speed 51.8 mph. I fully expect that this will be my longest riding day of the whole trip. It is not how I prefer to travel, but it’s nice to know I can do it if I have to.
I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishment until my sister received a text. I learned, to my amazement, that I was not even the most well traveled Anderson of the day. My parents, driving back to Nebraska from Vancouver, had covered 1,008 miles. I guess they are still more hardcore than I am. (Though I would note that they had access to 80mph freeways throughout the majority of Wyoming and South Dakota 🙂 )
So I guess only one question remains: Which feat is more impressive? The amount of miles or the amount of Zebra Cakes?
Stay sugary, my friends.