Still slightly jet-lagged, we rolled out of bed as late as possible - which was about 6am.
Our Trek America tour left from another hotel at 7:30am. Cleverly, I had declined to pack my bag up the night before and so a manic dash ensued. My favourite jumper was accidentally sacrificed to the rush.
We huddled sleepily in the airport shuttle. The morning was entirely grey, punctuated only by the golden beams of the traffic. Pre-trip nerves set in as we passed a series of hotel and fast-food chains; who were our fellow travellers and what would they be like?
In the weeks before the trip, I'd logged on to my Trek America account to see who else would be joining us on our road trip across Canada. All of the names were either female or gender-ambiguous and I wondered if Michele was going to be the only guy on the trip. Knowing him, this would probably have been fine but I didn't want him to feel out of his depth on the trip which, at 25 days, was rather long.
I needn't have worried; including our tour leader, Chad, there were four other guys. Most of the others were from the UK and taking advantage of the long summer break between finishing/starting uni. We bundled into the van and began to get to know each other.
The traffic out of Seattle was pretty slow. We didn't go into the city but watched it slide slowly past from afar whilst we chatted, played games and passed information sheets around. Our trip schedule laid the next 25 days out in front of us. We'd be climbing mountains in the National Parks, exploring the badlands in the prairies, strolling through cities in the East - and doing a lot of driving.
One activity in Vermont caught my eye - craft food stops. Now if there's one thing I know about Vermont, it's that a certain ice cream factory lives there. I'm possibly one of the biggest Ben and Jerry fans in the world (just ask my friends and an exasperated Michele). My dreams were possibly, finally, about to become a reality!
On the first gas station stop of many, we loaded up on American treats such as Hershey's Cookies and Cream, Birthday Cake M&Ms and lemon-flavoured crisps before crossing the border into Canada!
We drove straight to the campsite just outside of Vancouver where we pitched our tents in a shady corner and quickly discovered the proximity of the Trans Canadian railway which would, to the dismay of Sam in particular, run parallel to the entirety of our journey! There's nothing like the thunder of trains at 3am in the morning!
And our next stop? Vancouver of course!
(I've used both mine and Michele's photos which were taken with very different camera settings/quality/skill etc. so please excuse the sudden changes in colour!)
We drove through the very Instagrammable district of Gastown and out to Stanley Park to see the totem poles. It was such a beautiful spot with a view out over the bay to the rest of the city, all of the colours slowly condensing in the fading sun.
Afterwards, we were driven back into town and left to our own devices. We walked along the waterfront, breathing in the salty air and enjoying the golden light. People are much friendlier in Canada than in England with one old guy offering to take a photo of us all together in front of the beach and striking up a conversation with us.
At dinner, we split into two groups and I went for fish tacos and quesadillas with a few others in a bar just by the water. I'd ordered the quesadilla as a light snack with a mind to try out some poutine at the food trucks we'd been promised later on but it was huge! And so my current waistline and I parted ways. The tortillas were full of battered fish, aioli, lettuce, tomato and a healthy dose of cheddar oozing everywhere with a pot of sundried tomato salsa to dip into.
Rachel and I grabbed cupcakes from a sweet little shop next door and we all headed down to the beach to watch the sun go down with the rest of the city.
Our original plan had been to stay in the town for the evening, exploring the bars and slowly getting drunker - but jet lag had another idea for us all and we practically crawled back along the clifftops to the open air cinema. Michele and I stopped to watch a group of people creating huge bubbles in the twilight. Cyclists were stopping to watch the bubbles and then adults became children again as the community played together, trying to keep the iridescence afloat.