Vernon residents James Nicholls (left) and François Harbec get ready to leave Vernon to make their  5

Vernon residents James Nicholls (left) and François Harbec get ready to leave Vernon to make their 5

Bikes and the city

Vernon cyclists embark on a trip of more than 5,000 km from Vernon to New York City

If you can make it to New York you can make it anywhere.

James Nicholls and friends made a 44-day, 5,874-km bicycle trip from Vernon to New York City in the summer and Nicholls has already started planning his next adventure.

“I was thinking about going across Canada and my friend, François Harbec, who had already done that trip, suggested the United States,” said Nicholls, a dental lab assistant who started cycling in 2007.

“I was overweight and my hobby was music so I wasn’t getting much exercise. I started slowly and worked up to one-week trips. There are great places to cycle around the area. Last year, I did more than 7,000 kilometres in the season.”

Nicholls, Harbec, Jim Bremer and Trevor Bolze planned their route, pleased to find a lot of cycling trails along the way they wanted to go. They left Vernon July 4 for Vancouver, via Merritt to pick up Bremer, then back to Tonasket, Wash. to meet Bolze. Another friend, Carl Greenwood, also did part of the trip as did Harbec and Bremer, and Nicholls and Bolze were on their own after Minneapolis.

“The guys completed the parts of the trip they had planned on and they were pleased to make their goals,” said Nicholls, who rode his old touring bike,  a Devinci Madrid.

“We did 150 to 160 kilometres most days and didn’t know where we would find a motel each night. Everything was new and interesting. One thing I noticed was the further east we got, the older the houses were, from wood to brick to stone. The people we met were the highlight. They could see we were Canadian from our shirts and they were friendly and interested in what we were doing and that we were going to New York.”

Nicholls also noticed a different lifestyle.

“We went into a bike shop and there was a wall of guns, everything from hand guns to what I think must have been machine guns — I’ve never seen one before except in movies. There was also an abundance of fast food, much of it in gas stations. We’d go into a gas station and there would be a whole aisle of different kinds of doughnuts. You could tell that religion was very important there with an abundance of billboards featuring God and Jesus.”

There were many highlights.

“One day at the beginning of the trip in Washington, it was a hot day and we were at 2,300 metres elevation, we did 178 kilometres that day. We were really pushing. We came to a rest stop and there was a motorhome stopped there. A woman came out with a big plate of cold raspberries for us and that was the best thing we ate on the whole trip. Another thing we were really pleased with was the paved bike trails, which we could see were well used. There were also many small towns geared to people who were cycling,” he said.

“When we finally came to Jersey City, near the New York ferry, we came around a building and there was the New York skyline. That’s an image I’ll always remember. It didn’t seem real to me until then. I knew my wife, Alison, and our daughters, Jackson, 14, and Jamie, 12, were waiting for me in Battery Park. This was the longest I had ever been away from them. I could never have done this trip without their support and encouragement. We bike a lot as a family so they understood what I wanted to do.

“I’m pleased with this accomplishment. It was one of those things I thought about and now I know I can do it.”

The family spent time in New York, staying in a brownstone house and getting the feel of the neighbourhood and the city.

Nicholls and his wife are already planning another bike trip, maybe to the French Riviera to revisit some places where they spent their honeymoon.

For more information about the trip and photos and blogs from all the participants, see