Tuesday, September 21, 2021

My Ancestors from the Azores

Gordon: Manoel “Emmanuel” Tavare de Miranda was born on the island of Graciosa, a few kilometres from where we are staying, in 1648. He was my seventh great-grandfather.

According to the genealogical records that Ruth has researched, Manoel became a sailor and left the island of his birth as a young man for the bright lights of 17th century Quebec. Records show that in the New World he was unlucky, but persistent, in love. At the age of 22 he contracted for marriage with a “fille du Roi”, but it was subsequently cancelled. Five years later he was “keeping company” with another woman, but she was ordered by the city authorities at Quebec “to clear out of this city and its outskirts within three days, owing to her bad reputation”. Manoel apparently cleared out as well, though not with his recent lover. He appeared again four years later in Nova Scotia, where he married an Acadian widow, Marguerite Bourgeois, my seventh great-grandmother. Manoel settled down to a life of farming and family, eventually having nine children, as well as 18 cattle, 8 sheep and 30 hogs on 25 arpents of land. I don’t know if anyone in my family has been as successful since.

A couple of days ago Ruth and I cycled through Guadalupe, the parish where Manoel was born. A woman gardening by the road waved us down and peppered us with the usual questions. After a few minutes I disclosed my distant familial connection with the island. The local woman, Maria, was dismissive until Ruth pulled out the family tree she had developed for Manoel. His great-grandfather, Captain Domingos Pires da Covilhã, was an important figure in the early history of Graciosa. Sometime near the end of the sixteenth century O Capitão brought an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Island from Mexico. This was housed in a church in Guadalupe that he founded.

Maria became quite excited when she realized that I was a descendant of Captain Covilhã. She insisted we come to the house museum on Monday morning, telling us she had a local history book we should review.

This morning we cycled to the house museum at the agreed time, but found the museum closed. Calling the contact number posted in the window, I immediately realized that I was speaking with Maria. She drove up in a few minutes and gave us a complete, private tour of the museum. It is located in a late-18th century house crammed full of artifacts. The main floor was a general store, at one time the only one on the island, and the upstairs was the home of a successful local businessman and his family. Maria followed us around, provided non-stop commentary and documented our movements with a large number of photos. We were treated to homemade cookies and candies, and two types of local liquor.

Eventually emerging into the street, Maria insisted that we follow her to other sites relevant to my forebears. We visited the location of the church founded by my ancestor, now in ruins, as well as the site of a house that had been occupied by the priest at the church. There was a final trip to the municipal office to photocopy the family tree developed by Ruth, an exchange of addresses, and the verbal assurance that we would see each other around town in the week we are remaining on the Island.

Don’t you love a place that treats you like a prodigal son after an absence of 350 years?

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Slow Return on the Mystery Tour

August 4, 2021

Killy General Store, Harrison Mills

Hope to Mission: 91 kms
Our ride back from Hope to Mission was completely different from our trip out. The smoke from the fires at the north end of Harrison Lake filled the valley with a thick smoke. It felt like a weird twilight rather than the middle of the day. The barn we had passed before was now much less sharp. I decided to paint the view of it in the sun instead of in the smoke.

Mission to Vancouver: 72kms
Ok, sometimes Pocket Earth gets it wrong. The best route into Vancouver to my sister’s house is not to the top of Burnaby Mountain!!!  I didn’t catch it because Vancouver is such a grid and the roads looked straight on the map. They were straight but not flat! Wowee! Fortunately we were feeling pretty strong and we made it in one piece. 
It was great to have some time with my sister Joan. 

Vancouver to Victoria: 83 Kms.  Total for trip:  717 kms.
Just enjoy the ride, I kept telling myself, but it still made me mad. Cyclists have to travel 20 kms further than cars to get to the ferry.  The backtrack to New Westminster was lovely and we are now old hands at crossing the Alex Fraser bridge. 

We were keen to get an early ferry so we decided to take highway 17. Lots of traffic, but nice big shoulders. After a few kilometres we heard a bang and watched as a car spun and rolled and a truck became airborne after fishtailing and hitting its own trailer. We were sure there would be fatalities, but fortunately everyone exited their vehicles. Next time I’ll take the country roads!

While it would have been interesting to cycle across B.C. and perhaps the Prairies, our cat assured us that we made the right decision.  It was wonderful to be back on the bikes seeing new places, if only for 11 days.  And there is still the possibility of a bike trip in Europe in the Fall…

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Back to Allison Summit in a Ford

July 31, 2021

Today: 68 Kms mostly down   

Valerie, Perry, Dave and Kari have been friends since they were in grade school in the 60’s.  We were warned that a ride in their truck might be entertaining, and it was. We were in Dave and Kari’s truck, but the banter between the two vehicles over walkie-talkies was constant. Parry would let us know when he spotted a deer or any other wildlife.  Behind the wheel of his Ford F-350 Dave would tease Parry about whether or not he could keep up in his Chevy truck.  When we made it to Allison Pass in Manning Park, we asked to be dropped off. Kari got onto the walkie talkie and said, “We’re getting sick and tired of these two so we’re going to dump them out at the next pull out.”  Kari then looked back at us with a great big smile. 

Even without the much needed lift, running into this group of friends was such a lucky break. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and hope to reconnect in Victoria. 

There is a new fire burning in Manning Park and the clear skies we previously had at the summit were replaced with thick smoke. A health hazard for sure, but on a downhill run, manageable. We flew down the road and were back in Hope in 3.5 hours. Unfortunately, the smoke came with us. 

I must say bike trips in BC are great for food. After our long coast down we returned to our motel to bathe and then set off for another wonderful curry dinner at the Indian/Italian restaurant.  I love seeing signs for all the interesting combo restaurants, including “Sushi and Fried Chicken”, “Chinese and Canadian”, and “Greek, Italian and Indian”.  While these are all impressive in the breadth of their offerings, in Mission this afternoon we kept it simple and had a delicious meal at a restaurant offering only Indian cuisine.

Manning to Hedley: BC is Burning

July 30, 2020

Today 68km. 

Forestry Camp Sight on Old Hadley Road before the smoke. 


5:00 PM

Gord and I are sitting in our camping chairs watching the orange glow of the sun as small flakes of ash drift down around us. Many are needle shaped - but all ash. Our solar charger is barely charging because the sun is so shrouded by smoke. 

I just looked up again and the sun has completely disappeared. In spite of this,  it’s still stinking hot. We are continually getting into the river to cool off. Apparently this is smoke from a fire just over the ridge on the American side of the border. 

The Similkameen River has always been one of my favourite rivers and it doesn’t disappoint up close. The water is cool and clear with beautiful polished bolders. We are camped in a Forestry Campground on the Old Hedley road. Our neighbors in the campground are also from Victoria and they generously shared beer and peaches with us.  Valerie, Perry, Dave and Karry just want to go home after three weeks of smoke. Getting back to the island, however is challenging. Apparently the Ferries are completely beyond capacity and for the first time ever they have shut the road to cars without a reservation. 

There are turning points in many vacations and we have had a few today. We left Manning Park a day earlier because it looked like we could make it past East Gate and the fire without too much smoke. Eastgate was fine but just as the climb began the smoke became much thicker. I put on my mask and started pedaling for a few kms when a guy from Calgary turned around on the highway and came back for us. He had a bike rack!!!  He took us to the summit when there was less smoke and we sailed down into Princeton.

Our second turning point happened this afternoon when Dave mentioned that a big piece of ash came down still smouldering. Then he said, you know we have room for your bikes in the trailer. In an instant I had agreed for the both of us that a ride heading west was our best option. This mystery ride was turning West.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Sunshine Valley to Manning Park Lodge

July 29, 2021 
56 kms
We had a great ride up to Allison Pass from Sunshine Valley. Our knees were fine and although the climb was hot we both felt strong. We treated ourselves to a room in the Lodge and enjoyed a gluttonous dinner in the restaurant. 

If Gord has been a tad over optimistic in his predictions about our abilities to skirt the fires and smoke, I have been Chicken Little. In my defence (spoiler alert) the sky will actually start falling. I have been endlessly trying to plan contingencies in case the smoke is too much for me. Do we go on? Do we head back? Is there a taxi in Princeton? Could we buy a car? The last was a definite NO from an exasperated Gordon. Manning seemed to be a decision point to either turn back or continue on. The fires and smoke forecast even for the park do not look good. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Hope to Sunshine Valley( Formerly the Tashme Internment Camp)

July 28, 2021

The Hope Slide, the high point on today’s ride.

Today’s ride: 25 kms (but 850 metres of climbing)

Trip total: 255 kms

Ruth: Well, the mystery tour carries on, but the jury is still out on whether or not we will be able to continue. The Garrison Lake fire is raging a few kilometres away from the highway between Manning Park and Princeton. Air quality plummeted through that corridor today and it is very possible Manning will have to be a turn around point. Gord has informed me that this is contrary to his magical thinking about unicorns, rainbows and clear skies through BC. I think he may have suffered a stroke. 

We are camping at the RV park in Sunshine Valley after a short but hard day of climbing. The owners kindly told us that there is a bear in the area and suggested we:

  1. Put our food in a cooler?!$#*! 
  2. And bring it into our tent **#%$&?!!!!  

I guess that’s how they feed their wildlife. 

Sunshine Valley was “home” to BC’s largest Japanese internet camp, Tashme. More than 2,000 people in more than three hundred shacks survived four cold winters in this valley. The population was largely made up of women, children and the elderly. The men had already been separated from their families and sent to build three of BC’s highways,  including the highway between Hope and Princeton. Our tent is sitting in a field where rows and rows of tar paper shacks once stood.

There is a wonderful little museum here that was opened on our request. It’s really worth a visit. The owner and curator, Ryan Ellen, gave us a tour and shared a lot of his knowledge of the Tashme camp. Less reliable was the NFB film made at the time.  It continued to refer to Tashme as a town rather than an internment camp and suggested that the Japanese became healthier once they were relocated.