When I was 12 years old, my family moved from Burnaby (a suburb adjacent to Vancouver) to Mission, BC, which is way up the Fraser valley from Vancouver (about an hour drive away.)
I had to leave all my friends behind and because it was long distance, I couldn't even phone them. I did write a couple of letters, but it just wasn't the same.
After two years in Mission, I remember one day when I was 14, deciding that I would ride my bike to Burnaby and visit my best friend Steve Jensen.
It wasn't a snap decision, actually. Mission is built on the side of the valley. I lived on Cedar Valley Street, and it was quite a hill. Ride anywhere in Mission on a bike and you either walked the bike or got strong legs.
I had strong legs and knew it. So I figured I was up to the ride.
Now, at 14, I was still a bit hesitant about this, but after some agonizing, I finally made up my mind one day that I would do this. I made the decision about 9:30 and headed off down the road. Fortunately, I bumped into my sister with her boyfriend and they asked what I was up to, and I told them. This turned out to be a good thing later on.
So off I went. I probably should have left earlier. I mentioned above that Mission was an hour drive from Vancouver. Well that's by car, on the Lougheed highway. I was on a old, girl's CCM bike that I inherited from my sisters. It was old when they got it, but being an old CCM it was nearly indestructable.
So I rode through Ruskin, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, past the old Essendale, through Port Coquitlam, New Westminster, then up the hill to Rumble and along Rumble to Royal Oak. My friend's house was up there.
I had a few misgivings. I was getting tired as I passed Fraser Mills in Coquitlam, and I knew I still had a ways to go. Also, it was feeling really industrial, and I was getting tired of all the trucks wizzing past, and the wind from them messing with my riding. But I had a quality that stands me in good stead when dealing with difficult software issues. Once I get an idea in my head, I'm nearly impossible to stop! I hate quitting!
The last part was the hill from the river in New Westminster up to Rumble street. That nearly finished me off. I was not one to get off the bike and walk it, but I nearly succumbed on that hill.
When I got to Steve's place I was REALLY LUCKY that he was there. Being 14, and it being long distance, and not being able to get permission beforehand (I kind of knew I wouldn't get it), I didn't have a chance to phone first and clear it with Steve, but there he was!
So, with rubbery legs, I walked up to his front door and rang the doorbell. Actually, I had never been to that house. He had lived on Jubilee street when I last lived in Burnaby, but I had his new address, so I knew where to find him.
His mom and dad were really glad to see me (I think they always liked me - they were really, really sweet people), and his dad actually offered me a glass of wine, which I accepted.
I only spent about an hour, because I knew I had one terrific ride home. Having done the ride one way, I had a pretty good sense of what I was up against. So I told Steve a reluctant goodbye and headed on my way.
Well, the return ride started off nice. I got to go downhill to New Westminster. But once I got to Maple Ridge, things weren't so good. It was 7:00 and the sun was on it's way to the horizon. I hoped my sister would have told my parents where I was so they wouldn't worry too much (she had - phew!) I was still only in Maple Ridge with lots of hills to do, and I was spent!
I stopped at a service station and asked permission to leave my bike there for a few days, which they granted. Then I walked onto the highway and stuck my 14-year-old thumb out. Now, this was a lot less unusual back then. Plenty of kids would thumb a ride. Good kids like me less often, but I kind of needed to get home. I was pretty seriously worried about what my parents would do to me, and so with that nervous nawing in my middle, I stuck out my thumb and hoped for a good ride.
After a few minutes, this young guy with a pickup truck stopped and picked me up. As we drove I told him what I'd done. As soon as he heard about my bike, he turned around and went back for it. He drove me right to my house, which I'm sure was out of his way, and dropped me off with my bike.
I kind of neglected to tell them about the hitch-hiking, but my parents declared me grounded anyways (but they didn't really follow through with it - I wasn't usually one to misbehave).
And that's the story of my marathon bike ride from Mission to Burnaby and back, to see my best friend!