After riding around the backcountry for a week, it is understood that a shower comes with a room in which you can sleep for the night. At $69 Canadian, it’s a deal for hot water, clean towels and a coin-op washer. The bed is a free extra which the lodge owners could charge for, if they only knew…
Two nights before rolling into Quesnel, British Columbia I took a quick bath in Big Lake near which we were camped. Yes, the name of the lake was Big Lake. In an area where they named some of the other lakes Chilko, Taseko and Konni, I’m not sure who’s bright idea it was to assign “big” to this one. Especially when it’s the smallest lake around. Perhaps even that’s the joke. So, after getting in the water to about my knees I realized that there were little organisms in the water that were attracted to me. I hastily ended the bath which had not even really begun, did a quick scrub with my towel and hoped that I hadn’t just put an end to my trip by catching some odd virus, worm, or disease. Those things in the water did look like worms, didn’t they?
The following morning my feet began to itch a bit, associated with some little red dots. While not enough to put a stop to the trip, this was definitely going to add a new twist to the ride. The important parts of my body were all still working well and that was the most important. I could clutch, shift, and stop my dual-sport well. I could even see where I was going. Some people might think that breathing and stuff might be the most important, but we were coming up on 1000 miles from my riding buddy’s house and we got here the long way on our thumpers, taking the roads that didn’t have pavement and didn’t go straight. Getting back to his place from here would be no easy task, nor would it be quick. Later on, down the road at the tax-free gas station on the Nemaiah Reservation I read a sign that some of the lakes were infected with “swimmers itch.”
A flyer posted on the wall of the double-wide trailer come general store and laundromat assured me that it was harmless. Something about snails, flatworms, and eggs. Great! Now I’m a bona-fide carrier of the itch. Wait, what’s this? The small print at the bottom says what? It dies immediately. The itching is an immune response. It goes away in a week. Wow, at that rate I may even forget this happened by the time we get home! Let’s ride!
The itching only got worse over the next few days and some little red welts came up, spattered around my feet and calves like someone stomped in a puddle of red right next to me. For the most part I could ignore the itching even though it was always there. Well, except for the several daily occasions when it would flare inside my hot boots, and nightly episodes inside my mummy bag.
By the time we reached the motel in Quesnel I’d stomped my feet on the foot pegs by day and scratched my legs to the point of bleeding by night. It was two days down and I had about 5 days to go before this was going away. When I hadn’t been busy dodging cattle, horses, bears, and overloaded logging trucks on the back roads I’d figured out the details of this itchy leg stuff. Not the good details, but the bad ones. 5 days is 120 hours. It’s 7,200 minutes. That’s 432,000 seconds or so, and at times, I was aware of each an every one of them. This swimmers itch business was pretty much cementing my thoughts about never getting into another body of water that wasn’t overly chlorinated again.
Strolling into the lobby vaguely smelling like a weeks worth of dust, sweat, and bug repellent, I was keenly looking forward to the shower. I had some strange idea that a hot shower would not only wash away a weeks worth of stink, but the irritation that was slowly driving me crazy. Having rid myself of the detritus from many miles of dirt roads and sleeping on the ground, I was now clean as a whistle- as the Irish Spring guy would say. However, the itching didn’t go away until I bought a tube of cortisone the next morning at the pharmacy and slathered it on my welts.