I’m on the Thompson Valley section of Highway 1, somewhere between Spences Bridge and Lytton. Doug has run out of gas. Again.
I met Doug back at a scenic lookout in the Nicola Valley. A lanky, semi-retired forester, Doug was riding an older Virago bike packed like the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck.
A tent still in the box, a sleeping bag still in a store bag, a duffel bag, a leather case—all were strapped to the rear area of his seat with 6 or 7 black rubber bungee cords. He had asked if he could ride with me and I said sure so long as he didn’t mind going 60 kilometres an hour.
Back on Highway 1, I realize he’s no longer behind me. I double back and find him looking forlorn as trucks blast past. I have a spare can of gas strapped to the front of my bike, so I add enough fuel to his tank that he can make it to nearby Skihist Provincial Park.
At the park, I pitch my tent, pour myself a mug of wine, grab my camp chair, and take in the great view of the Thompson River, the CN train tracks, and the setting sun…
When I return to camp, Doug is still trying to assemble his tent. He has the pieces all laid out like a Meccano set. The instructions are in his hand, and the box is nearby.
“How are doing?” I ask. “Do you need a hand?” I take a look at the box. “Did you know this tent is a beach tent?”
I show him the photo of the tall, open-walled tent on the package—it says Sun Shade. “It’s the kind you would use on the beach.”
“Oh really? I picked it because it’s long. It should fit my new sleeping bag.” He pulls one of a plastic Canadian Tire bag. His other gear is scattered around him as if the Virago had belched it from his back seat.
“I used to be a Boy Scout you know,” he says, “A long time ago. I’m not familiar with these new kinds of tents, so it’s taking a while…”
Over the next few hours I offer Doug support, wine, and a hot dinner and as he continues to organize his gear…
He’s from Penticton, BC, and spontaneously decided to take his ’83 Virago for a road trip to Barkerville.
He’s run out of gas twice in three days because he doesn’t have an oil filter. He’s piled gear on the seat because the bike doesn’t have a rack. And he’s only just bought some camping gear that day because a motel stay in Merritt was “too pricey.” And—with exception of two boiled eggs in a plastic carton—he doesn’t have food, a stove, or utensils.
“How can I thank you for that gas top-up earlier?” he asks after dinner. “I could have been at the side of the highway for a long time if you didn’t turn around.”
“How about a hot cup of coffee delivered to my tent in the morning?” I joke. “I’d call it even after that!”
The next morning, I hear Doug try to start his Virago. He turns the key, the bike sputters, and then there is silence except for the sound of the bike silently rolling away from the camp site in neutral gear. Then I hear the bike sputter again, further away. This repeats for about 30 minutes, until the bike is far away enough that I can’t say if the bike has started or not.
Forty five minutes later Doug motors into camp.
“Did you find a gas station nearby to fill up your tank?” I query.
“Yep,” he replies, “There’s one about 15 kilometres from here. And I’ve got your coffee.”
He reaches inside his thick leather jacket and pulls out one, then another cup. “At the gas station we figured a soda cup would be stronger than the Styrofoam ones—if one of those busts, well, that could be a disaster.”
We bring our coffees into a clearing where the morning sun warms a comfortable-looking log. I tell Doug that many times a “Travel Angel” had helped me in my own adventures. “Thanks,” I say, toasting him. “For allowing me be an travel angel this time.”