I knew it was time to find a doctor when I saw the blood. It was 3 o'clock in the morning.
I somehow got up the strength to stagger out of the restroom before collapsing at the
picnic table just beyond the door. A light misty rain covered me in a glowing dew as I sat
with my head between my knees waiting, but the energy for the walk to the tent would not
Nearly a week before we
had crossed onto
Vancouver Island, Canada
on the Victoria Clipper
ferry and a friendly freckle
faced young customs
inspector asked all the
right questions. "Do you
have any fruits or
"Ahem, eh, nope." I
answered while glancing
at Amanda's back rack
and the plastic bag stuffed
full of bananas, spinach,
broccoli, and apples. He
followed my gaze but
continued to smile.
Looking toward our
handlebar bags he asked,
"Anything for protection
like mace or pepper spray
or bear repellant?"
Somehow guessing the
"No, no mace." Amanda
blurted a little too quickly
I thought he was going to
probe a bit deeper into
our evasive answers but
he simple smiled his Opie
grin and said, "Have a
Just beyond the
immigration checkpoint we
found a small grocery
store to replenish our
stock of oatmeal,
sunflower seeds and
pasta. Amanda stayed
with the bikes in the
parking lot while I did a
quick spin through the
isles. With a few moments
to spare she began to
reorganize her rear
panniers when a robust
women with a thick
Canadian accent and wild
curly blond hair stopped
to ask about our bike trip.
The women was so
enthusiastic, "Where are
you cycling from?" When
Amanda told her she burst
out, "Oh, this is a dream!
This is what people wish
they could do. You
should be on television."
Hands full of groceries I
greeted the woman and
she said to us, "Wait here,
Iâ€™m going to get you
something." As we
packed the purchases into
our panniers she rushed
from her car and handed
Amanda a little bear of
honey, "I supply the honey
to the market." As she
packed the honey into our
food pannier Amanda
showed me the face of the
bear. It had been colored
by a child with red and
green and blue magic
Leaving the market we found the Lochside Regional Bicycle trail that runs for twenty
unbroken miles to the center of Victoria. The trail was teeming with many hundreds
of spandex clad cyclists of every size and shape participating in Bike to Work
Week. Dinging their bells to pass many commented on our overloaded bikes.
Ravenous from the long day of cycling we wolfed down our evening meal at the
picnic table before setting up camp in a grassy field at the Fort Victoria Campsite.
Wrapped in our warm cocoons we spent the entire night listening to the familiar
"plop, plop, plop" of rain bouncing off of the tent. Up early the next morning we
gobbled bowls full of fresh fruit, oatmeal, and seeds before pedaling the six miles of
bike trail into beautiful downtown Victoria.
Half way to town I began to feel a bit queasy. Sitting at the waterfront enjoying the
first true sunny day since the beginning of our trip, a fever started to spread
through my body. Pedaling slowly back to the campsite that evening the diarrhea
Amanda organized the packs and said, "It will pass. Let's rest tomorrow and it will
go away. Confident that my body could fight whatever was plaguing my insides I
collapsed inside the tent.
The next few days the symptoms intensified. Rarely more than an hour passed
without a visit to the campground restroom. I felt guilty that I was unable to pedal,
unable to pack up and go. All the while I tried to eat gentle foods, oatmeal,
bananas, bread and soup.
After four unpleasant days I decided that my body was not winning this battle and I
needed some help. We peddled to a nearby drug store and waited our turn to
speak with the clerk behind the counter. The cheerily plump young woman listened
to my symptoms then stepped back away from the counter and said, "Yeah, there's
been an outbreak of the Norwalk virus. You may want to get yourself to a doctor."
"The Norwalk, huh, what was that?", I ask. But a kind faced Indian woman
interrupted politely and said, "Im the pharmacist. How may I help you?" She
listened very carefully and asked a few questions.
In response to her inquiry about the food we had eaten Amanda said
matter-of-factly, "We have eaten the exact same things for a few weeks now so it
can't be the food."
The pharmacist recommending a course of treatment that involved rehydration
packets and an over-the-counter medication. A simple problem, it seemed, with a
But after another two days the symptoms continued to worsen. Finally I saw the
blood, lots of it, and I knew we would have to find a doctor. But it was 3:00 o'clock in
the morning. I was delirious, sitting in the rain at a picnic table in a campground in
Canada with no energy to stand or move or even get myself the few steps back to
the tent. I knew Canada had a government run healthcare program. Could an
American just wander in off the street and get help at a government health clinic
with no travel health insurance? How did this happen in Canada of all places, after
spending years in Latin America, Africa and Asia? Canada! I haven't been sick in
years. How did this happen? I felt terribly guilty that I had kept us from moving for
nearly a full week. I felt weak, tired, just plain terrible.
Staggering back to the tent I shook her sleeping bag, knowing she was curled up in
there among the piles of down, "Amanda, Amanda, I'm going to need your help," I
She poked her head out of the opening, pulled out her earplugs, tugged at her
eyecover and looked at me bewildered. "What? What? What's wrong?"
"I need to go to a doctor in the morning," I said. I'm sick. Really sick and I need
your help. We have to find a doctor and somehow get me there."
At 9:00 a.m. we were the first patients at the private clinic in the strip mall about a
mile from the campsite. The nurse charged about $80 to our credit card for the visit
then ushered us in to see the doctor immediately. The kind young woman listened
patiently to my symptoms. When she asked about what I had eaten Amanda said,
don't understand it. We are together 24 hours a day and we eat the exact same
things every day. The doctor proscribed the antibiotic Cipro and pointed us to a
pharmacy a few doors down.
I expected to symptoms to disappear immediately but they didn't. In fact, they were
no better than before the visit to the doctor. On the second morning after the visit
Amanda unpacked the contents of our breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, nuts and raisins.
After squeezing a blob of honey onto my oatmeal I handed the colorful bear to
Amanda. With her mouth half full she said, "Um, Um, I don't eat honey."
"You what?" I blurted.
"You know I don't eat honey." She said without look up.
"Never, not once?" I yelled. "You haven't eaten any of this honey?" I asked as I held
up the half empty bear.
She looked at me as if I were crazy and said, "Ricardo, you know I don't" Then it hit
her. She burst out laughing. "The honey. I haven't eaten any honey."