Friday, July 17, 2009
But I do have a little bit of an excuse. A week after the end of my bike ride, I left to volunteer in Ghana for six months. I didn't have much time to see this blog to completion and decided that I would work on it there. Unfortunately, my laptop was stolen my first day there, thus I lost all of my mileage info and entries.
But there's no excuse.
So here it goes. After Montreal, the riding was beautiful. Quebec is one of the BEST provinces to cycle. End to end, border to border cycling trails. I stayed in hostels in Riviere de Loup and Trois Riviere, and had incredible times at both.
One hostel served everyone supper. It was so nice to sit down to a family dinner with a bunch of new, kind people. I had been on the road a while so this company nourished me as well as the food did. The gentle rolling hills and valleys of grass and blue skies are what I remember of Quebec.
New Brunswick was nice as well but what sticks to memory is long hills along busy highways with wide, well-paved shoulders. Campgrounds were less frequent, but this just meant that I'd cycle a few kilometers out of my way to get to one. A few times I remember it meant that I got to see some of the New Brunswick country side, parts of which I would not have seen.
My route was pretty straightforward. Crossed in to Edmundston, to Fredricton, to Saint John.
Saint John? Why there? Well... Saint John has a ferry going to Digby N.S. When I figured out that I would save a couple days riding by taking the ferry, and considering how late I was, I decided to cut that corner. Not sure if this was cheating, I was glad to cycle through a bit of the NS valley.
I don't remember much about NS other than being in Digby and eatting scallops and how friendly people were here and how I felt like I was home. I stayed in a campground next to a couple of guys who asked me to go out on the town with them. I declined since I had a long ride the next day into Kentville. I met my good friend Katie in Kentville the next evening at a campground. It was really great to see her and to be in the province. Too great. We celebrated by getting very drunk on good ol' Jost wine. It was a crazy night. In the morning, I was in no condition to cycle the 100 kms into Halifax. I was really hung over, but I had also come down with a cold from sleeping in a puddle in my tent all night.
So... it's hard to admit, but I got a ride in with Katie. But I figured, no worries, I'll get her to drive me out to Kentville so I can continue the last stretch of my tour into Newfoundland from there. Reasonable right? Well, it turns out my cold turned into a severe congestion. Also, time was running out and I was realizing that I wasn't going to be able to do half of the things I wanted to do in Halifax. It had been 8 months since I left my favourite city and I wasn't read to part with it. So I decided to end it there. I had my flight switched from St. John's to Halifax. I should have had Katie drive me out to Kentville so I could have finished the tour in good standing. I should have but I didn't. This tour remains to be unfinished. Lingering in Kentville, in a memory of drunken debauchery.
The conclusion to the ride was anticlimatic. With my laptop one morning, I switched my flight to leave from Halifax, and with that click of a button, I was finished. Not after a long day of riding, no sunset or crowds cheering my name, nothing. I was in my buddy's living room in my pjs. I felt like it degraded the entire experience but I didn't have much choice. I had to leave for Africa in a few days. I had ran out of time. And I was having such a great time in Halifax.
The ride was 7,000 kms long. 90 days, 30 of which were off days. I loved riding and in these past years, I've done relatively nothing. But I look back on the experience so positively that I often think about doing it again. Or at least ride from Kentville to St. John's to finish my intended trip.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
My time in Montreal is too limited so I will have to come back to live one day to make up for it. Mike has done an excellent job at convincing me why the city suits both my gastronomical needs (fresh bagels, smoked meat sandwiches and dark ales) and social needs (cafes, Jazz fest and the 'porch culture'). As always, hanging out with Mike is a great time - the kind that'll keep me laughing for a whole lotta days after I leave his company. I was also lucky enough to squeeze in some time with Phil, a buddy from out east, and Elisa, a friend from Costa Rica. Of course, the weather during my break has been perfect for riding, but I'm lucky the mild temperature will continue for a few days during my next chapter that will have me in Halifax for the 15th of August, hopefully.
My buddy asked me how I kept from going insane on the ride, or from getting into the defeatist mentality when things start getting rough. And I'll tell you, it's easy for it to happen. A few things go wrong like a flat tire and a swarm of lonely black flies - pairing that with the thought that I have thousands of kilometers left to cycle can easily become overwhelming. My philosophy is that I never think of the trip in whole, but break it up into parts, usually made up of major stops. Toronto to Montreal was a part. When I was in Toronto, I planned out how to get to Montreal and focused on that. I wanted to do 600 km in 4 days and planned accordingly. This next chapter, Montreal - Halifax is a large one: 1300 km. By thinking like this, the entire trip becomes a lot more manageable and it's worked. This idea was especially important out west when I had the most difficult time and the most road ahead of me. The minute I dwelt on the entirety, it was dangerous, so I focused on Vancouver - Calgary as if it was a trip in itself.
August 3, 2007. (Day 84) Distance: 149.8 km, Average speed: 20.8, Time: 7:11, Max speed: ?, Odometer: 5825 km
Cornwall, ON - Montreal, QC
I thought today was going to be a nice short little 110km ride into the city. I was totally wrong. Not only was I 40 clicks off (or two hours of pedaling) but it was hectic as well. I was duped into thinking that one of the bridges wasn't bike friendly, so I did a detour to the other bridge into the city, which was definitely non-bike friendly. Luckily I found a tourist office (where all of those question mark signs always lead) and an employee who knew all about cycling and getting over bridges. So, for those of you reading this blog for touring tips, here's a gem: take the highway 20 bridge into Montreal, but be warned that you can't ride on highway 20 before the bridge so you have to get there by other means.
Getting to Mike's place felt like a great accomplishment. Montreal itself was probably the longest ride into a city that I've done so far. It also has the most intricate bicycle trail system of any city I've ever been. Today was another crazy hot day and about 3 minutes before I reached his door, the clouds just opened up into a downpour. The ride from Toronto to Montreal was hardly challenging due to the mileage (600 km) but extremely challenging due to the heat. It's fitting that the heat broke today with the rain and my arrival at my buddy's door.
Mike and I celebrated my arrival by going out for some ribs and micro-brew. Good times at the Cock and Bull.
August 2, 2007. (Day 83) Distance: 124.5 km, Average speed: 21.6, Time: 5:45, Max speed 38.3, Odometer: 5675
Squirrels are like my brother Jonathan and it makes me laugh. If I leave my oatmeal or trail mix out on the picnic table it doesn’t take long for a squirrel to rip apart the bag run off with a snack. The funny thing is, when I put the food away (all the while with a shaking finger in the direction of the squirrel and a “No! This is my food.” [Yes, I do talk to squirrels]), they get really angry! They yell and chirp violently and shake and whatever, as if I was putting away their food or something. A squirrel I confronted today ran up a tree and after a huge tantrum proceeded to poo all over my maps which were also on the table, only a foot or two away from my head!! I couldn’t believe it! So, how does this relate to Jonathan? He loves to get his hands on my stuff and when I ask him about it, he gets angry, much like a squirrel – yelling and shaking and shitting from trees.
August 1, 2007 (Day 82) Distance: 126. 4, Average speed: 20.4, Time: 6:11, Odometer: 5550.7
July 31, 2007 (Day 81). Distance: 140.5, Avs 19.6 Tm 7:10 Mxs 47.4 Odo: 5424
July 30, 2007. Distance: 65 km, Odometer: ?
I feel like I’m still in
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Toronto, Ottawa, ON
I can't believe I've been off the saddle for a couple of weeks. I wouldn't recommend such a long break from the road because now I'm dreading the 2 or 3 days of stiffness that await me. I didn't intend on staying this long but it turned out that I needed to attend training in Toronto and Ottawa (took the train to Ottawa) for this contract I received that will have me working in Ghana in September. Because of this lengthy pause, the rest of my time will be underscored by a nervousness to get to St. John's Newfoundland by the 27th of August, when my flight leaves. According to Google Maps, I have about 2500 km left to go and less than a month to do it in. Throw in a couple days visiting in Montreal, Halifax, Arichat and St. John's and I'm pressed. I don't recommend this... Touring, I've learned, is all about flexibility and unpredictability. Trying to live by a schedule while on the bike is a lot like trying to ride a wild boar - it's sure to disappoint.
I don't like lumping all of my time in Toronto together, but because of time limitations I must. It was great to see old friends - Larry and Nat and Foad and Jack and Shannon and Cindy and Shon and to make some new ones - Shannon Boyd, Kalidah, Julianna,Will, Abdi and Teresa. One of the best nights on the town was when my Dad and cousin, Jennifer, were in and we were treated to a great meal. Thanks Dad! He said I needed to fatten up - I didn't agree but I didn't argue either! The best part about being in Toronto is the food. I've eaten Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Japanese and Ethiopian foods since I've arrived and it'll be rough going back to my invariable diet of pasta and canned meats. I'm anxious to get on the road again, to sleep in my tent and get back into shape.
I've been over-staying my welcome at Shannon's place but she's been a great host. A special Thank You for everything, Shannon... I'll miss you!
July 15th, 2007. Distance: 188 km, Odometer: 5219 km
London - Toronto, ON
Getting up with 4 hours sleep usually isn't too hard, but after a night of ale-consumption it's much more difficult. But it happened and I was on the bike early (8am) for the long ride into Toronto today. It was rough leaving Brooke, but all great things have to come to an end. The ride was pleasant and my lack of sleep was ignored because I had been relatively rested when I started out... You know, not sore or anything. I passed through a bunch of cute little towns on the way and it would have been nice to stop but I was pressed for time thinking that I had over 200km to do to get into the heart of downtown Toronto. I was also nervous about maneuvering in Toronto but it turns out the roads I chose were residential and not too rambunctious. I got to my destination by 7pm and was greeted by my friend Shannon. It's great to be here and I'm looking forward to the long break.
July 14th, 2007. Nothing
Today is Brooke's birthday and we're celebrating over a BBQ and some Mill St. Ale. Good times were had and it was great meeting Brooke's family and friends. It was great meeting Jessie and Nate and Brooke's Dad and to see Lara again! I thought there was a chance that I'd get to bed at a reasonable hour for the ride tomorrow but that didn't happen...
July 13th, 2007. Distance: 96.4 km, Odometer: 5031.2 km.
Sarnia - London, ON
I had the best ride today in a long time. The route was flat and well paved and the day was sunny yet cool and the scenery of fields and blue sky was complemented by the smell of farms. Usually coming into a city as big as London can be hectic, but surprisingly there was a bike route in the city and the traffic wasn't too bad for a Friday afternoon. I got in early (12:30) and spent the day walking around the city while my friend Brooke was at work. It seems like a good city and one that I wouldn't mind spending more time in. And of course, seeing Brooke was fantastic and wonderful and awesome.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
July 8th - 12th, 2007. Nothing.
More hanging out with the family - swimming and chilling out and relaxing. Yesssss. And of course, my aunt wouldn't let me leave without filling my feed bag full of goodies.
July 7th, 2007. Distance: 131 km, Odometer: 4935 km.
Goderich - Sarnia, ON
I underestimated the distance into the city today which had me in later than I expected, but it was alright since the ride was enjoyable and scenic with more wind mills and farm lands. More head-winds again today and I'll be glad to switch directions after Sarnia to finally get some tailwinds again. I am now visiting with my family in Sarnia and it's great to hang out with my uncle, aunt and cousins who are treating me like a king! I've never ate so well in my life and their hospitality is encouraging me to move in forever. It's been a long time since I've been here last so being here makes up well for the few hundred kilometer detour!
July 6th, 2007. Distance: 82 km. Odometer: 4804 km.
Port Elgin - Goderich, ON
Leaving the campground this afternoon wasn't easy. Sonja, the owner, kept telling me that I should stay a few more days, at least, Nick and Daniel (father and son) were doing yard work around their site, which I helped out with at first and would have loved to continue all day, and Martin (a guy my age) wanted me to stick around for a few morning beers. I did have a shot of brandy, though, early which the Croatians called an 'eyeopener'. It was difficult to leave and their generosity was difficult to take. When I was packing up, questions of 'Are you leaving?' sounded almost like I was insulting them, or that I was being hurtful. Lucy donated to the hospital and Dave gave me money "just for the trip" which I hated taking but his insistence pressed me to. What was I supposed to say when they asked "When are you coming back?" other than "I have no idea." I felt, honestly and sincerely, that I was leaving family and it startled me to thing that I had only met them 18 hours before. Of all the wonderful things I learned about CCroatia and if the people there are only a fraction as kind as the people I met yesterday and left today, then Croatia is the newest country to join my "top 5" place I have to visit.
The ride today was peaceful once I tuned into CBC radio. Before then, the crappy shoulders and traffic were getting unbearable. But the scenery is beautiful with corn fields, wind mills and small dainty towns everywhere. And there are campgrounds all over - great for touring. I'm in Point Farms Provincial Park tonight, right on Lake Huron. The park is full with families and kids running around and I love it. It reminded me of all the campgrounds I stayed at that were completely empty and I enjoy them this way much better. I went to the beach and sat on a rock, still emitting heat from the day's sun, reading my book until the sun set over the the lake.
July 5th, 2007. Distance: 122 km, Odometer: 4723 km.
South Baymouth - Port Elgin
Got on the ferry early this morning and met a few nice people also into cycling. It isn't everyday that a guy climbs into the huge boat on only his bike, so I guess people noticed and a few approached me. The highway at first wasn't any good, with a lousy shoulder and pairing that with heavy traffic, I rode along potholes all afternoon which quickly made my bum sore. Luckily, I found a series of side roads that go along Lake Huron which were quiet, peaceful and recently paved - a cyclist's dream. Another cyclist's dream occurred when I rolled into the New Fairview Campgrounds, outside Port Elgin...
The owner, Sonja and I chatted while we were working out my accommodations for the evening and when she learned what I was doing and how I was fundraising she was sincerely impressed and refused all payment for the site. Sweet! I thought. A few hours later, after setting up my tent and eating, Sonja visited me with some dessert. Turns out she's Croatian and this dessert was something I've never tried before and it was tasty. She and I chatted about her life and how she was met with fantastic hospitality when she first arrived to Canada with a new-born in her arms. She told me how she couldn't believe that there were such nice people in the world and she told herself that she's want to do the same to other people and that I was her chance. I was flattered. She then toured me around the grounds while introducing me to all of her friends and family who were staying there. Her family was just as impressed with my endeavour as Sonja was and they invited me to stay with them for the evening, which was filled with Croatian food, Croatian music and stories around the campfire. They never let my bottle of beer be empty for more than a few moments and we stayed up into the night talking about their home country. To these people, it was just another night around the campfire with their family - aunts, uncles, cousins. But for me, because it was completely unexpected and completely from the generosity of the owner I was overwhelmed with the great time we were having.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Espanola - South Baymouth, ON
Rolling out of tent this morning took all I had. Last night, my neighbours' campfire sounded like crunching branches, the sound approaching bears make right before they eat you, so adrenaline kept me up for a few extra hours. I finally got on the road for 11:30am and I was making good time coming into Little Current, the first town I reached on Manitoulin Island. I hopped off the bike to check out their tourist office and was skipping back to it when I found out that I had enough time to make the ferry on the other side of the Island with 45 minutes to spare. For the next hour I rode strong, my mind lost in thought and at one point I think I remember singing - you know, really enjoying the day, until... Until I reach a town named Birch Island. This occurred to me as strange since I was in a town called Birch Island earlier this morning. At first I thought it was very peculiar that an Island would name two of its towns by the same name. After checking the map and my compass I realised the truth - that for the past hour I had been riding backwards, on the highway that I had just come in on. Yep, I rode over the SAME bridge, past the SAME signs and houses. Everything was the SAME for an entire hour, yet these obvious displays of my stupidity didn't become apparent to me. So, I turned around and cycled the same route, for the third time that day, for another hour, the whole while cursing and yelling and, quite possibly, concerning nearby traffic. Well, I thought, any chance of catching the ferry today is lost. I thought for a few minutes about thumbing it, you know, just to gain back the hour, but I didn't out of principle. I made the error, I'll deal with it. So I spent the rest of the day cycling to the other side of Manitoulin Island...
Which is beautiful, in a farm-landy, big blue sky-y kinda way. I was expecting hills but there was just one, which they call 10 mile point. It was scenic up there but the slight fog made it less appreciable. But the ride across the Island was one of the most pleasant I've had in a long time. Because of the set back, I was riding late - until 8pm - and the highway was empty and the sun was great and the wind was co-operative. It was just great. I felt like I had the entire Island to myself. Then the camp ground I stayed at in South Baymouth was spectacular with campsites right on the great lake and long beaches and wonderful sites right outside my tent.
Today was a lesson in learning. I did something stupid and hated myself for it for most of the day. Then, when I realised that my mistake forced me to spend the evening on the Island, which meant staying at one of the nicest campsites I've been to yet, I realised that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I was secretly setting myself up for failure so that I could stay longer. Yeah, that's it... I guess that's kinda like saying a kid funked school because he loved it so much. hmmm.
July 3rd, 2007. Distance: 104 km, Odometer: 4459 km.
Algoma Mills - Espanola, ON
start to become 'exciting'.
Sault Ste. Marie - Algoma Mills, ON
My best ride for as long as I can remember. I was positive and felt strong and great on my bike. I find when I'm tired during riding, I go "to the darkside" and start to think negatively... I have to avoid that. The shoulders could have been better, but I'm not complaining. I'm staying at a campsite tonight on a lake and there's an old guy fishing off a dock, the sun is setting, there isn't a fly to speak of and I'm clean and sated. Life is rough, but someone has to do it.
July 1st, 2007. Nothing
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Tried to make the most of my relaxation today and my body thanks me for it. After doing some grocery shopping, I checked out the harbour front which was crowded with people eager to see the Canada Day fireworks. There was live music and the usual festivities. It was nice to see hundreds of people celebrating a place I've been exploring intimately for the past 51 days and it made me wonder if they had any idea how much appreciation the country deserves.
June 30th, 2007. Distance: 133 km, Odometer: 4201 km.
Lake Superior Provincial Park - Sault Ste. Marie, ON
I really need this break. I kept thinking on the ride today of how I only have a days' rest here and how I have another 750 km to Sarnia to visit my Uncle. The ride today should have been wonderful, beautiful and made me feel great to be alive, but instead I was just tired. A type of tired that doesn't go away with sleep, but only goes away by doing something else completely. Some of the views today were incredible. At a few points, the views of the greenish-blue waters, long beaches and Islands reminded me of Thailand (minus the palms). I really don't like being in this frame of mind and I want to figure out the source of the problem to avoid it again. I'm in a hostel tonight in S.S.M and the city seems nice enough.
June 29th, 2007. Distance: 109 km, Odometer: 4068 km.
Wawa - Lake Superior Provincial Park, ON
How do I put today's rides into words? It was miserable: cold, constant head-winds, hills and I had problems with my front racks. That, plus I had a coffee at Tim Horton's, which I never drink, but wanted to warm up, and it made me stop every 20 minutes to pee. Very annoying. The campsite tonight was no better. I had to drop to money for the site into a box because no one ran the park. I paid before realising that the park didn't have showers. There was a pond which the campsites were around, so I thought I'd go for a swim to clean up. Within a few steps I found the lake-floor to be muddy up to my ankles and the water smelt like dead minnows and after a few moments of inspection I spotted the evidence - floating, headless dead minnows. I'm pretty sure I came out dirtier than I went in. There were signs saying around the park that the water from the manual water pump wasn't treated, but I thought since I was only using it to boil some pasta, that I could use it. Well, the pump was completely broken and once I figured out how to maneuver around its failings, it took a long time and a lot of energy to squeeze out a litre of water that looked and smelt like amoebic dysentery. I boiled the heck out of it for a long time and crossed my fingers and I'm still alive at the time of writing.
With all that said, I made myself a tasty supper and am now enjoying the view of the pond from my tent. The sky is pink and the pond is covering itself with a light fog. I can see beavers swimming and I hear frogs, birds and, I think, the call of a moose on the other side. I'm thinking that this almost makes up for the miserable day I had.
June 28th, 2007. Distance: 129 km, Odometer: 3959 km.
White Lake - Wawa, ON
It was fricken cold this morning at 6am when I woke up. I thought for a second that I could get on the road early, but the cold did a fantastic job of persuading me to fall back asleep until 8am. Head winds again today and they were cold. I can honestly say that I was bored today. I didn't feel like listening to music but did anyway. Coming into Wawa, the winds off of Lake Superior were really cold and I had to thaw out in a warm shower. The campsite was expensive and when I expressed this to the owner through facial expression, as if to justify it she said, "You can also use the pool." Verbally, I said "Ok, thanks..." but through facial expression I said "nice try lady, but it's effing freezing outside."
June 27th, 2007. Distance: 143 km, Odometer: 3831 km.
Terrace Bay - White Lake, ON
For part of the day I rode with an American family that I met last night at the campground. I realised how un-enjoyable riding with other people can be. Not that it had anything to do with this family, they were nice people, but I was always thinking about my pace relative to theirs... Am I going too fast? Too slow? Are they waiting for me to catch up and should I stop with they break? Cycling together didn't last long and we decided to meet up at a site at the end of the day. I realised how important cycling at my natural pace is and I realized how specific this pace is. At this pace, my mind can wander and I don't have to be as present. I'm sure I could get used to riding with a partner, but in the mean time, I'm enjoying going it alone. Again, the landscape is very hilly - one after another, but by the end of the day I can see that the hills are becoming less frequent.
June 26th, 2007. Distance: 111 km, Odometer: 3688 km.
Nipigon - Terrace Bay, ON
I've been told that this stretch of road is as challenging as the rockies by a number of different people. It's hilly, that's for sure, but it's nothing compared to the long, gradient hills in the west. I figure that reputation was created by people who A) have travelled from the east and hit the rockies when they were in better shape or B) have travelled from the west and become lazy in the prairies what with the flatness and tailwinds. Met Steve from Holland who is saving money by sleeping on the side of the highway and when I saw him, hadn't showered in 5 days. I don't know how he does it. I also met Brad who was cycling with his girlfriend from St. John's, Newfoundland. Looking at our bicycle computers, the odometer read nearly the exact same mileage so we congratulated each other on reaching half way and wished there was a pub near by to celebrate officially. Their adventures are published at http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/cross-canada---07/.
June 25th, 2007. Distance: 99km, Odometer: 3577 km.
Thunder Bay - Nipigon, ON
I wasn't going to stay in Nipigon, but I was told there wasn't another campsite for quite a while and while I was sitting at a picnic table in the town, I was approached by a nice woman, curious to know about how I can come to be in Nipigon. It turned out she was a reporter for the local paper and she recommended that I stay at a nearby campground for the evening. A few minutes later, another gentleman introduced himself and spoke highly of the town and said I should stay for a few days at least, to check out the hiking trails and other attractions. Turned out this guy was the mayor of Nipigon. It was great to talk to someone who sincerely loved their town. It showed and I stayed and I'm glad because it's a cute place and I'm glad that I could help out business in my own small way.
I also met a group of people who are supporting Robert Bertolas who is spending 6 months travelling 10,500 kms across Canada by bicycle, rollerblades and by foot to raise money and awareness for MS. He's had the disease for over 20 years. For news and donations, visit http://www.crossingbridgesinc.com/
June 23rd, 24th, 2007. Nothing
Thunder Bay, ON
Unfortunately my Aunt and cousin had to leave for the weekend but the house was being watched by Brian, my cousin's boyfriend, who took it upon himself to show me a great time while I was here. He and his buddy, Dan, showed me some of the sites like the Terry Fox monument, the marina and a wake boarding competition. We went swimming and cliff jumping in a near by river and finished the day with a get-together and a visit to a dance club. It was an eventful weekend and again, I'm surprised by the unexpected great times I've had in Thunder Bay. Thanks Brian, Dan and my family for getting my bum off the saddle and having a good time!
June 22nd, 2007. Distance: 140 km, Odometer: 3477 km.
Upsala - Thunder Bay, ON
Head winds made the ride today feel 200km long. The hills are getting taller but the scenery makes up for them. There are lakes everywhere and I'm surprised I haven't come across wildlife yet. I'm visiting with my Aunt Gisele while in the Bay and her hospitality was greatly appreciated. It was great to sit down to a home cooked meal, chat about life, watch a movie and sleep in a real bed. It's great that I appreciate these things now.
June 21st, 2007. Distance: 113 km, Odometer: 3338 km.
Ignace - Upsala, ON
Great ride today - hotter than usual but supplemented with a wind that rarely directed itself head-on to me. The landscape is hilly but nothing that I couldn't tackle without hesitation. I would have cycled further today but something that I'm realizing is that Northern Ontario is pretty desolate so when I come across a campsite I'll really have to think about whether I can make the next one in time. The camp tonight is ran by a gas station. At first I was sceptical but it turned out to be really nice, with a couple of beaches. I went swimming today for the first time on my trip - fitting for the first day of summer. It's funny, the gas station is also a restaurant, bakery and grocery store for the town. I treated myself to a gigantic burger and slept wonderfully in my tent in the middle of the empty grounds.
June 20th, 2007. Distance: 105 km, Odometer: 3225 km.
Wabigoon - Ignace, ON
Today is why I love cycling solo. I got to bed early last night and was woken up at 1:30am by rain. It stopped quickly but I was wide awake. By 3am, I thought, heck I'm going to hit the road and I did! Packed everything up in the dark under a clear sky and stars and hit the road for 4am. The sun was rising and the air was cold but brisk with a fog over the creeks and meadows I cycled by. It was cold but energetic and I was really glad to be on the road at that time. The highway was empty and completely mine. By noon, I had cycled 100 km and the short sleep last night was catching up with me so I pulled over into a park and enjoyed the rest of the day reading and doing a once-over on my bicycle.
June 19th, 2007. Distance: 119km, Odometer: 3121 km.
Willard Lake - Wabigoon, ON.
This morning was horrible because of the psycho bugs and their efficient strategies to bite every inch of my exposed skin. I didn't even have breakfast and just packed up frantically. Someone watching me would have seen me folding up my tent while dancing about and constantly waving at perceivably nothing. This set the mood for the rest of the day. I guess that it didn't help that I woke up damp and cold, along with all my stuff, and it didn't shake off for the day. The scenery is really nice though and it shows that I'm in Ontario - it's so rocky and there are trees now and hills. There is no wonder that people love to cottage out here. I would want to. In Dryden I picked up a portable radio player so I can hear about what's going on in the world.
June 18th, 2007. Distance: 207 km, Odometer: 3002 km.
Not too much farther outside of Winnipeg, MB - Willard Lake, ON
Lots of mileage today from a sweeeeeeeet tailwind. Early this morning, I was passed by two cyclists riding fancy Devinci road bikes. Since Devinci is the same brand of my bike I called to them saying that I liked their rides. We stopped and one of the guys says, "Really? I make them." Turns out, I was speaking with the Founder and CEO of Devinci bicycles, Felix from Quebec. I couldn't believe it. He treated me to a set of Devinci water bottles and told me to visit the factory in Quebec when I pass through. It was nice that he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say about the bike concerning how it was running and holding up during this arduous trip. Considering my bike is their newest version (2007) of touring bike, who knows, maybe there isn't another with as many kilometers on it so I'd be the expert! Anyway, I was giddy like a school girl to meet this guy and shake his hand and I'm going to make sure to swing by the shop when I'm in Quebec.
I also met up with a guy, Fred, also cycling across Canada. He's a scout leader and is promoting awareness of Scouting Canada. We rode together for a few hours and his account can be seen at http://www.veloscout.ca/. It was nice to chat with him, especially since it brought back my memories of being with the scouts, which I hold in high regard. It was nice to tell him that.
No campsites around so I pulled over into a deserted dirt-road. The blackflies were so dense that at one point, before I put in tent pegs, they started off with my tent. Luckily I had a small bat (for self-defense, of course) and beat the swarm into a viscous bug jam. I managed to bathe in a small creek near by, which was FREEZING but I was more concerned about my nakedness being exposed to the nearby highway. I wonder what the reaction would be by a driver to see a random naked dude standing in an ankle-high creek in the middle of nowhere. Oh well.
June 17th, 2007. Distance: 55 km, Odometer: 2765 km.
Winnipeg - Not too much farther outside of Winnipeg, MB
Today was a poopy day altogether. Sorry for the language, but I have to express myself. Leaving the hostel was rough, not physically, but it was hard saying goodbye to about the dozen friends I've made to hit the road again, alone (poor me). Mainly because I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked hanging out with some of these people. It was great to chat with Ben and Bethany from Halifax and it would have been awesome to hang out longer but the road was calling. The head winds today were gruesome and highly annoying. There's something about cycling at the incredible slow speed of 12 - 14 km/hr while sweating over the pedals that plays havoc with my generally positive demeanour. To top off this 'wonderful' day, I pull over into the first campsite I see thinking, heck, I've only pedalled 50 kms, but I don't care. Turns out, the campsite was more of a Kids Resort, with water slides and mini putt and wave pool. The site that I got cost me more than twice as much as I usually pay, which I told them, and they justified by telling me that I had a day pass to all of these wonderful attractions. I tried telling them that I have no care for waterslides and cotton candy... I just want to set up my tent and go to bed... But it fell on deaf ears. So I spent the night listening to whining and crying and skipping about. My bike and I in the middle of Happy World Land and a million kids. Usually I love kids, but today is a different story.
June 16th, 2007. Nothing
Slept in and enjoyed relaxing around the hostel. There's something about a full hostel that has a good energy to it. Good people from all over the world just hanging out. I checked out Winnipeg this afternoon and I'm thoroughly surprised. It's beautiful here! The parks are huge and there are a bunch of things to do in the city. Next week is the jazz festival which is being attended by The Dave Brubeck Quartet and Herbie Hancock! I completely didn't expect Winnipeg's liveliness and I'm thinking it's the most under-rated city in Canada... It gets a bad rap because there's nothing else out in Manitoba, but it's uncalled for. Winnipeg will definitely be a highlight of my trip, but another highlight is how all of these places that I didn't have much hope for turned out to be great places to visit - Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg. Great times.
June 15th, 2007. Distance: 150 km, Odometer: 2740 km.
Sidney - Winnipeg, MB
Got into Winnipeg early today because of a generous tail-wind giving me my highest average speed yet (28.6km/hr). Winnipeg seems nice and I'm staying at a hostel that is filled with people from all around the world - UK, France, Switzerland, Australia, and Halifax. Steve (a Londoner) and I thought it would be a great idea to celebrate the Friday at a nearby pub and proceeded to convince the rest of the hostel to do the same. I guess they thought it was a good idea because by the end of the night, we had the pub filled with people from the hostel, even Ashely, a girl who works the front desk came out to celebrate. It was a great time... Especially for me since until Winnipeg I've stayed mostly in empty campgrounds. Thanks Steve from London, Ben and Bethany from Halifax, Manny and Nicola from the UK, Sophie from France, and Kathleen and Felicity from Australia for the memories.
June 14th, 2007. Distance: 132 km, Odometer: 2590 km.
Oak Lake - Sidney, MB
Today I'd like to write about shoulders, only because the ride was completely ruined from a lack of them. Actually, not only did the highway not have shoulders, but it was full of cracks, potholes and other inconsistencies. I was really surprised to see this, for one because the highway has been immaculate until Manitoba, and for another, because it's the trans Canada highway! I thought it was a source of national pride but in some parts I thought to myself that I couldn't tell if I was in Canada or in India - the conditions were that bad. At one point during the day, a minivan whizzed by me. I'm not kidding when I say that when the van went by I felt it's heat against my legs and I thought I heard it brush against my panniers. It's a two lane road and in the far lane was a transport truck and the van was closest to me. I can't understand why some people refuse to slow down, as if the max speed is their right and slowing down would be an inconvenience so severe that it justifies jeopardizing my life. Most drivers are great and will get into the other lane, but a few have tried to squeeze by without even an attempt to give me some room. I guess they don't understand how the many inconsistencies in the road, or the wind, or stones makes it impossible for me to cycle in a perfectly straight line. This is why paved shoulders are important and I think it would be great if the Trans Canada Highway was paved from one end to the other. Of course, I'm biased, what with me on a bike, but I'm sure it's a lot safer for drivers as well... Otherwise, why would they do it in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Anyway, that's my shoulder rant for now.
June 13th, 2007. Distance: 155 km, Odometer: 2458 km.
Broadview, SK - Oak Lake, MB
Today was a fantastic day to ride. The highway was flat and the wind was at my back - so much so that my average speed for the day was 27 km/hr when normally it's around 20. The only bad part is that the shoulder left me today. I heard that Manitoba's highways are dreadful and I think I'm going to have to deal with them for the next few days. To help with safety, I've put on my pannier covers with are bright yellow, since I have to cycle on the highway itself and vehicles have to go around. I'm at a nice campground tonight which is completely empty except for a few retired people in large RVs. One day, the campsites will start having kids my own age and it'll be less quiet and I'm looking forward to it.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Regina - Broadview, SK
I'm learning that leaving the city early in the morning is key. City riding is the worst what with the lack of shoulders and people confused about the rules of the road and how they apply to cyclists with 110lbs bikes. The worst is that a lot of people in Regina cycle on the sidewalks, which is a big no no. It gives drivers the wrong impression. Anyway, getting out of the city today was stress free and my time at the hostel left me well rested, well fed and well ... just well! I pushed hard today and had lots of energy. There was a little wind which was nice. I didn't even listen to music at all today - my thoughts alone carried the day away. I thought about Ghana and my buddy Michel out in Halifax, and what a time I'm going to have when I get there. These are the sorts of things I think about. Like how I want to volunteer in a hospital in Ghana while I'm there to check things out or when and how I'm going to teach myself to speak French, an important goal of mine. You know, things like that. Today was a day that made it easy for my thoughts to roam around the pastures that are my brain, and I liked it.
The best thing happened to me today. At around 5 pm I was stopped on the highway by a guy who pulled over on the shoulder. He had honked at me a few hundred meters before, but I thought he was honking 'hello' to someone else. Turns out this guy's name is Perry and he's a fellow cyclist and when he saw me cycle past his motel he want me to stay at his place as a guest. Motels are out of my budget but I'm completely open to philanthropy. He and I chatted about his family and previous cycling experiences and he put me up in his "Sweet Dreams Motel" in Broadview. It's a great little spot and with the money I saved on lodging for the night, I treated myself to a restaurant meal next door which was tasty. Meeting Perry made me feel great and made me want to be in the position to help out people like he has. Thanks a lot Perry and thanks for the post cards!
June 11th, 2007. Nothing.
Slept in and hit the town. Read and relax. GOT THE JOB IN GHANA! Will leave for Accra September 15th. Can't wait. Doing research on health care worker migration. Anyway, it's a great day and I'm really loving Regina. I'm not sure why I didn't have high hopes of this place, but, as I've said, I'm pleasantly surprised. The hostel is still pretty much empty but I met a girl passing through from Japan. It was nice speaking to her about her country because I really want to go there some day, maybe to teach English but I'm apprehensive to go for a number of reasons and we spoke of them. One day I'll go there. I promise, Ayumi!
June 10th, 2007. Distance: 82 km, Odometer: 2137
Moose Jaw - Regina, SK
Today was probably the most difficult day yet. I thought difficult days were left in BC, but it turns out that the wind is a formidible opponent. It was head-on today at 25km/hr which made my average speed the worst of any day (15km/hr), even when climbing mountains. The deal with cycling into the wind is that it's relentless. This may seem obvious, but for every up hill, there is a down hill which provides a temporary break from cycling hard. There are no breaks with a head-on wind, and what's worse, the faster you ride, the stronger the force is against you. It's very psychologically difficult - demoralizing, really. Usually in situations like these, I'll listen to music to keep my brain busy, but as if in an attempt to add insult to injury, the sound of wind in my ears made the music inaudible. Dealing with this while chugging along at 15 km/hr on a bike acting more like a sail than anything else, all while the site of Regina is sloooooooooowly creeping up to meet me. It was neat to see Regina's buildings and trees from miles and miles away, but having to look at it for hours without reaching it is another story.
I'm surprised by Regina. Saskachewan is relatively empty until you reach this city, filled with people and tall buildings, parks and trees everywhere. It really seems like it would be a fun place to live at least for a while. I'm staying at a Hostel International (HI), which is a network of hostels throughout Canada and the world, of which I'm now a member. They're fairly cheap ($20-$30/night) and allow me to cook meals in a kitchen and be in the middle of the city. Just as with all the campsites I've been to, the hostel is completely empty and even the staff leave the house at 10pm, which left the entire place to me. I figured out that I've ridden 800 km in the past 7 days without a day off so I'll spend another night here to get some blogging done and check out the city.
June 9th, 2007. Distance: 179 km, Odometer: 2055 km
Swift Current - Moose Jaw, SK
The scenery is pretty much the same as the past couple of days: flat, tree-less, lots of grass and few turns in the highway. A turn in the highway is more like a point of interest around here. But, unlike the warning of many people I've encountered, I wasn't any more bored than on previous rides. People driving through are always saying these parts are boring, but they're just sitting there, barely moving the steering wheel. I'm actually doing something which makes a difference I think. And I'm realising that I don't get bored easily. My thoughts can amuse me to no end. For example, I was thinking about what it would be like to raise children in this part of the country - the part where there are only flat, grasslands everywhere you look, and I came up with this dialogue between a father and his young daughter from Saskachewan:
"What's a tree like, Daddy?"
"It's like grass but taller and with bark."
"Like a dog?"
"No, not like a dog. Like wood. Now it's bedtime, go to bed."
"... Daddy? What's a hill like?"
"It's just ground that slopes up and down. Now go to bed."
"... Daddy? Do hills grow on trees? Or is it the other way around?"
"Go to bed!!"
When I thought of this, I laughed to myself for a good half hour. Probably longer, but I won't admit it since it seems strange enough as it is. I really mean it when I say I can amuse myself to no end. Between listening to music, singing to myself and coming up with crazy stuff like the dialogue above, my day gets pretty busy. Sometimes I even have to schedule lunch so I don't miss it. Just kidding.
The crazy distance I did today was the result of my goal of reaching Moose Jaw. I left at 9am and 8 hous of riding later I completed that goal and am now staying in a cool campsite that has free internet. One of the nicest things about riding solo is that my pace and how long I ride for is completely up to me, which may not sound like a big deal, but when all I do is ride, day in, day out, it's a big deal. Like today I knew if I pushed it I could make Moose Jaw. If my partner was less optimistic or fit, we wouldn't have made it. On this trek, it's like everyday there's a goal to complete, a campsite to reach or a distance to cover and since it's only me, I set the terms to reach that goal. There are no compromises that need to be made. And no let downs if I don't make the goal, because it's only my fault. I really like that. I like knowing that every step of the way is completely my responsibility and my doing. And I'm totally free to push as much or as little as I like. And lately, I feel like pushing a lot. So I will. And I am.
June 8th, 2007. Distance: 136 km, Odometer: 1877 km
Maple Creek - Swift Current, SK
I had a great day today which started off with me kicking ass on my Ghanian telephone interview which I took while at the campsite. I had to explain to the gentlemen that the sounds of birds and wind were from me being in a campsite, which lead me to explain my circumstance. They were impressed which started the conversation on the right foot. My Dad's going to kill me though, since he's been picking up the tab on the cell phone bills and incoming calls from Ghana I'm sure aren't cheap. I'll get it reimburced, I'm sure. The best part about the contract is that I can leave whenever, giving me the time to complete the tour in a way that isn't rushed or amputated. The ride today was great as well. The roads are straight and flat and there are only farms everywhere the eye can see. There was a sexy tail wind that had me finish riding in 5 hours with a distance of 136km. I figured I'd pick my daily distance up a notch since I've been inspired by Marcelle and I feel great. I also met a physics student from Dalhousie named Messkie. We rode for a while together but his faster pace had him shooting for Moose Jaw today. He said he heard about me in Medicine Hat - a guy with yellow panniers... That's me. I guess I'm getting famous. Now I'm at a campsite, showered and in clean clothes and ravenous for supper.
June 7th, 2007. Distance: 97 km, Odometer: 1741
Medicine Hat, AB - Maple Creek, SK
I had the perfect day today. I got up early despite having slept poorly (rude motel neighbours) and cycled to the grocery store - $70 and several kilograms later, I returned with a ton of food and headed out for the library to work on the blog and doing to urgent emailing. I applied for an internship with the UN and had an interview in Calgary for it, but today I found out I didn't get the position, which is fine because I also found out that I have another interview for another internship in Ghana. The ride from Medicine Hat was amazing. There was an awesome tail-wind which gave me a great average speed for the day - about 100 km in under 4 hours. When I got to a campground, I wasn't nearly tired but stopped to enjoy the day. The Eagle Valley Campground is by far the nicest I've been to, with nice washrooms, a lagune-type pool and even a tiki-bar playing salsa music - too bad it's empty which as been par for the course lately - only me and a few retired folks. Great times. Tonight I met my first trans-Canada cyclist. His name is Marcelle, a french guy from Gatineau, QC. He's recently retired at the age of 64 and is doing the same ride I am, solo, but at a blistering pace - something like 200 km a day. I felt lazy when he went through his travel diary with me. He's riding really light too. So light that I felt like a glutonous slob with my 110+lb bike, two-man tent and enough food to last me a week. He had a one-man tent and was eating the only food he had - a can of stew that he picked up today. Anyway, I'm glad to have met Marcelle. He's done a bunch of amazing things in his life (like walked 160 km without stop or cycled 1000km in 48 hours) and I'd love to be doing something similar what he's doing when I'm his age. I think anyone old and crazy inspires me.
June 6th, 2007. Distance: 100 km, Odometer: 1644 km
Brooks - Medicine Hat, AB
Soggy would be an understatement. The entire day was me cycling through rain that didn't let up and a side wind strong enough to push me off the highway. It was so bad that when trucks flew by, a wave of water would push me down the highway a couple km/hr faster. A few times I thought about pulling over and pitching my tent for the night but I sucked it up and made it into the city. My waterproof gloves met their match and by the time I stopped riding for the day my hands were very wrinkled and a new colour (purplish, whitish, dead-skinnish colour) I'd never seen in them before. Yum. I just wanted to get the ride over with so I barely had lunch also. It was rough. I was wet, hungry, cold and miserable but what got me through was the idea that when I got into Medicine Hat, I'd get a motel room (since the thought of putting up my tent in a storm all cold and wet disgusted me) and order in supper. I chose The Rancho Motel since it seemed to fit my budget. The room looked and smelted like the 50s. I enjoyed it though. I used a stand-up fan to dry all my stuff and the weather network is calling for a great day tomorrow, so I'm stoked for another day of riding. I'm beginning to realise how important it is for me to treat myself after I go through something like what I did today. YOu know, like take a rest or whatever. There's no point in being overly uncomfortable and in return, tomorrow I can ride like champion again. I'm also realising my appetite is getting out of hand. I polished off an entire medium pizza and side order of breadsticks tonight. Crazy.
June 5th, 2007. Distance: 105 km, Odometer: 1544
Gleichen - Brooks, AB
I find riding a lot more enjoyable when I'm clean and the clothes I'm wearing are clean. Today I was dirty and felt that way since last night I stayed in a free campsite without showers. I felt better after visiting a gas station and freshening up. There's dis-ease starting out a day without a shower because there's always a chance that I won't be able to find a campsite with showers again tonight, then I'll really be in the stink. I ate lunch today in a farmer's field so big that after a few minutes walk I couldn't see anything else in every direction. Just field and sky. Tonight I'm staying in Tillebrook Provincial Park and enjoying it's emptiness. The trees in the park are filled with birds and it seems like everyone of them is on a caffine high - talking a mile a minute. I can hear owls hooting too. Oops, correction: a few bird-watching ladies told me they're summer doves, and they are coo-ing, not hoot-ing. I appologized to them for my ignorance... I don't speak bird. But I'd like to get into bird-watching though, some day. Oh, and there are gophers everywhere here. They got into my bag of trailmix so I'm going to have to tie my food in a tree. They're cute though. But deadly.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Calgary, AB - Gleichen, AB
Leaving Calgary this morning wasn't easy. It was just so fun and comfortable but the road was beckoning and I can already feel that the few days that I had off has pushed me back a few steps fitness-wise. The ride was mostly flat but I was uncomfortable on the bike - a lot like when I first started out. Today's head winds were annoying as well making my average speed for the day one of the lowest. It's weird to think that wind could be a more formidable opponent than mountains, but it's completely true.
May 31st - June 3rd. Nothing
My time in Calgary was filled with throwing around the Frisbee, partying it up with Brad's friends and his mom, hanging out at the park, Foosball games and generally checking out Calgary. We stepped into Canada's largest bicycle shop and my knees let go. It was awesome. One evening I spent visiting with my aunt Susan who spoiled me with supper and conversation of our family's history. It was great hanging out with her - I'm glad I got too because one of the main personal reasons for the trip is to visit with people I've lost touch with and aunt Susan was definitely on the list.
Thanks Aunt Susan, Brad, Kathy and all of Brad's friends for making Calgary awesome.
May 30th, 2007. Distance: 101 km, Odometer: 1325
Canmore - Calgary, AB
Again, mostly downhill today but I really feel like I need a break. It's like I'm tired of pedalling, without being tired at all. Just tired of it, you know? Oh, I saw a dead wolf on the side of the highway! It looked like it was sleeping and I had never seen one before. Scared the poop out of me. The mountains are slowly leaving me and the terrain is getting flatter and flatter. I'm not complaining, that's for sure. Calgary seems like a fun city. I get to visit my great buddy, Brad, from school and finally take a break, the first day off since Vancouver - 13 days ago. Brad's mom was visiting him as well, so I scored an excellent home-cooked meal and got sloppy on some cocktails. It's great to spend time with Brad this way because we both feel that it's cause for celebration, what with me arriving alive and just for visiting since we haven't seen each other since Halifax.
May 29th, 2007. Distance: 80 km, Odometer: 1224
Lake Louise, AB - Canmore, AB
Easiest 80 km of my life, yet also the most strenuous. It was all down hill, but because of my lack of sleep last night in the hostel, everything in my body was especially ache-y which made the ride seem really long and arduous. So far, Alberta seems like a continuation of BC with many rocky mountain ranges. Of course, that makes complete sense and I don't know why I was half expecting some sort of change when I entered the new province. I'm staying at a campsite tonight that only cost me $10. It has communal showers and weekly 'resident meetings' so they can share their thoughts on how the campsite should be ran. I thought that was interesting and commune-like. Canmore seems like a nice town. I also noticed that it is filled with beautiful women. Maybe I'm only thinking this because I haven't really seen people in a long time. It's a nice place, regardless.
May 28th, 2007. Distance: 110, Odometer: 1145
Golden, BC - Lake Louise, AB
Today was difficult but completely manageable. Outside of Golden there were a bunch of steep climbs and again outside of Field - larger than yesterday. The latter climb was through Kicking Horse Pass which is also on the BC - AB border. There were a few plaques up talking about the difficulties the trains used to have in the area because of the gradients of the hills. After a number of derailments, engineers designed spiral tunnels through the mountains to lessen the grade. Neat stuff. Of course, there were no spiral tunnels for poor ol' me and I took the route head on. And in the end, I was the victor. At least, that's how I felt when I crossed the border. I can't believe that I cycled completely across British Columbia. Wow. Into Alberta was a joy ride - all down hill straight to Lake Louise. I'm splurging tonight and have accommodation in a hostel. I'm roommates with a couple from Quebec and another from Switzerland. It seems like everyone here is young and pumped and doing exciting things. It's a great environment and I'm thinking I won't shy from future hostels when I get a chance.
May 27th, 2007. Distance: 132, Odometer: 1035
Revelstoke, BC - Golden, BC
I made 1000 km today and flew threw Roger's Pass. There was a neat display there about the official opening of the Trans Canada Highway. The climb today wasn't nearly as difficult as the ones I encountered in between Hope and Princeton. Maybe they weren't as steep. Maybe I'm slowly getting fitter. I don't know. But it was a great feeling reaching the summit. There were a few people stopped at the top that spoke with me - mostly in wonder, I guess. I mean being up there with my bike makes me seem really ... misplaced. Like a penguin in New York, just completely lost and probably with a few screws loose. It was awesome being up there though. The air was cold but energetic and the sun was out.
May 26th, 2007. Distance: 107.0, Odometer: 903.41
Enderby, BC - Revelstoke, BC
I had a great day today and I owe it all to Alexandre Dumas, the author of 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. I forgot that I had this audiobook on my iPod and, when I started listening, my mind stopped wandering about the pain in my legs or discomfort in my wrists or how many hills I'd have to climb today, and instead stuck to the story. I've listened to audiobooks on mp3 before, but while cycling I find the story much more colourful and vivid - probably because I have so little else to concentration on. I'm in a campsite again tonight and it's beautiful... I'm looking out of my tent door and all I can see is this gigantic snow-capped mountain. The wind is crisp but not chilly and I feel great after today's ride. Not exhausted - energized. The owner of the grounds is a wonderful french guy who was really interested in hearing my story. Checked out my bike and everything. I like that I can inspire interest in people. It's a good feeling.