Rolling into the Grist Mill Campground on a blistering 30-plus day after a 76-Km day on our bikes, we were ready find a place to cool down, camp for the night and rest with a light dinner and a few cold ones.
As we have quickly learned on this trip, the serendipity soon begins.
The campground just on the edge of town in Keremeos is adorable as campgrounds go, set alongside a fast moving river amid the trees, a beautiful perennial garden and an historic grist mill onsite. Chris Mathieson, the facility manager greeted us and chatted us up, wanting to know what we were doing loaded down with all that gear. We told him about ConnecTour and what we’re all about – riding at the speed of life and meeting everyday Canadians along the way.
Across our campsite sat a tall, gangly young man named Scott. It turned out Scott had been homeless for 10 years and was trying to find some sense of normalcy after a life of hardship, drug addiction and other obstacles life had thrown at him. He wore his heart on the sleeve of what he called his “wizard” jacket. He was working for the campground to pay for his site. He and the manager, Chris, had worked out a deal. Scott ambled over to say hi and talk with us. His “war” stories from being homeless and addicted on the streets of East Vancouver came up.
Our fellow rider, Andrew Hawes who signed on to do the whole distance with us across Canada, identified and bonded with Scott instantly. They had a lot in common, but also were worlds apart in terms of where they were in life at the moment.
Scott it seemed had few belongings to his name, save his meagre camping gear and his “rock fridge” on the bank of the river to keep his food cold. Andrew, embarking on his first-ever bike-packing tour, met us with a a kitted out bike weighing above 250 pounds. We marvelled how he made it through his first day under a searing sun. It quickly became apparent Andrew would need to unload a hefty amount of gear if he wanted to enjoy (and survive) the first of many hilly terrains to come on our 110-day journey. We were to begin our next multi-climb leg into Osoyoos – never mind the prediction of a scorching 38 C day.
Over a beverage at the picnic table, it was decided that Andrew could hand off his multiple t-shirts, heavy hiking boots, a massive tarp, a super-long and heavy laundry line, a headlamp and a classic Stanley mug – among the ultimately 30 lbs-plus of gear to our campsite neighbour Scott.
The handoff began, as Andrew began making the hard decisions of what gear to give up so that he could ride joyfully.
“It reminded me that it’s better to give than to receive. It felt good. His life on the streets taught him how to use all these things.”
“Scott was like ‘wow’, “ says Andrew. In particular he appreciate the tarp for sun protection, which went up immediately.
As we packed up early the next morning, Scott sat and watched us go and we said our goodbyes. We have no idea what he was thinking about this serendipitous moment and coming away with a stash of new-found necessities.
What I was thinking is something about the delightful lightness of being. Travelling on a bike – effectively our mobile home for the summer – and giving and receiving serendipitous gifts.