Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 12th, 2007. Distance: 156, Odometer: 2303
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.
Regina, SK

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

June 4th, 2007. Distance: 95 km, Odometer: 1438
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
Calgary, AB

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.

Part 1

Part 2

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.

Monday, June 11, 2007

May 25, 2007. Distance: 104, Odometer 796
Kelowna, BC - Enderby, BC

Tired today and getting stiff in weird places like my right tricept, wrists and left shoulder blade. I attribute my low day today to my lousy sleep last night. I'm getting the impression that high-quality sleep for as many as 10 hours a night is essential for a good riding day. I buckled and turned into a campsite tonight and it's not to shabby! I'm clean and well-fed. I powered up the ol' iPod and I'm ready for another day tomorrow!

May 24, 2007. Distance: 102.3, Odometer 691.
Olalla, BC - Kelowna, BC

Woke up all crusty and stiff this morning, what without having a shower in a few days. The hills were back again this morning but things brightened up when an RV/Tent place let me use their showers. It took a little while of convincing and I even offered to pay but in the end they let me use their stuff... Showers do a heck of a lot to brighten a day, especially when I haven't had one in a while. I stopped in Penticton for lunch and did some good riding. It was easy with the beautiful scenery. Cycled along Okanagan Lake, the infamous home of the Ogopogo monster. AH! It's not hard to imagine why people from all around the world choose the Okanagan Valley as their vacationing spot. Tonight I'm stealth camping again. This time in a foresty spot outside of Kelowna. There are walking trails and ATV tracks, but I haven't heard or seen anyone since I arrived, so I'm sure it's safe. My usual tactic for these situations is to hang around the area for a good time, an hour or more, to see what the traffic is like. I don't want to be seen by many people, not for privacy, but for safety really. Tonight I tried sleeping on my mat and sleeping bag alone - no tent. It worked for a few hours, until the bugs woke me and kept me up well past midnight. I know I'm an expert camper now that I can set my tent up in the complete darkness. In the morning, I scared a couple of guys walking their dogs along the path. I wonder what they think of me: some crazy homeless guy? I've never had any problem, but I think if I had to prove my senility I may have trouble; well, that is if I didn't have a hat.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

May 23, 2007. Distance: 108. Odometer: 593

Outside Princton, BC - Outside Olalla, BC

Stopped in Princton today for supplies. First civilization I've seen in a few days and I'm excitingly sporting my new haircut. I meet with a cycle shop store owner who consoles me saying that the highway I took was ambitious and that I won't encounter anything that difficult again for a long time. That made me really happy. Like I graduated from bicycle touring school. He gave me the impression that I was hearty for making it out of there alive. It's good knowing that the difficulties that I encountered were acknowledged by someone else, justifying my thought that I wasn't a weakling, it was the damned route! I read in a touring book that when searching for a place to stay, asking a store owner about nearby campgrounds could trigger the idea of camping out in their front lawns, so I tried it tonight. It was a valiant effort, but Olalla is little more than a trailor park and the people I asked not only didn't know of any campsites but didn't have any lawn to lend, although they seemed genuinely disappointed at their inability to help out. No matter, I made my way down a few more kilometers and stealth camped again on the side of a hill. The view is beautiful, over looking a range of hills and watching the sun set on them and the town down below. Amazingly I have cell phone reception and call friends and family to end the evening underneath a sky full of stars brighter than I've ever thought possible.

May 22, 2007. Distance 65 km. Odometer: 484

Manning Provincial Park - Outside Princeton

Stopped riding today out of pure exhaustion. I climbed two harassing summits today - Allison's Pass (1300m elevation) and Sunday Pass (1250m elevation) for a grand total 2600m of climbing. I remember as a kid, riding a few kilometers on my bike was an accomplishment to brag to friends about. I never thought I'd do the same, but straight up with a bicycle that weighs similarly to a motorcycle with pedals. My exhaustion and complete isolation numbed that part of my brain that fires when I have a bad idea - you know, to stop me from carrying out the idea. Well, I decided on a whim that I should cut my hair off. But all I had was a small mirror and my camping knife. But that didn't stop me. So not only do I feel crazy, but now I look crazy too. It doesn't help that I'm so sore that when I roll over at night I wake myself up.

May 21st, 2007. Distance 72 km, Odometer: 419
Outside Hope - Manning Provincial Park

Basically completely uphill today. I was told that this highway (hwy 3) from Hope to Princeton would be 'scenic' and 'beautiful' which I now know are code words when applied to highways for 'treacherous' and 'idiotic to attempt on bicycle, loaded or not'. Looks like this highway is an old logging road used mainly by truckers. I haven't seen a gas station or town or person since I got on here. Just mountains and steep uphills. I think the road engineers decided while designing this road that they'd challenge themselves by tackling the highest mountains in the areas... you know, to tell their buddies about. Little did they know that a hundred years later, I'd be attempting it on bicycle, cursing their names if I knew them, but cursing their existence regardless. Tonight I'm stealth camping again. I found a bank by a huge river underneath a bridge to set up camp. The river was too cold to bathe in since it was fed from the melting of the iced-capped mountains. I dipped my foot in and it's never been the same since. So to clean up, I warmed up some water with my camping stove. It's awesome being by this river. I can't hear anything but it's rapids, not even the highway only 50 meters away. The only problem is that rivers are the favourite feeding spots of animals so hopefully they won't think of me as dessert.

May 20th, 2007. Distance: 114 km, Odometer: 348

Burnaby, BC - Outside Hope, BC

Couldn't find a campsite tonight, so I biked as far as my little stick-legs could pedal me, and then I found a nice, plot of non-private land (or, at least I thought it was non-private land) to settle on for the evening. It was nice. Well, it was by the railroad tracks which provided a wonderful soundtrack for the evening. At one point during the night, I mistook the rumblings and thunderous roars of a passing train for a pack of ravenous grizzlies that had surrounded my tent. I'm lucky that my brain corrected the mistake before I scared myself into a sleepless night. This form of camping, stealth camping (named so because you're not supposed to leave a trace when you depart) had me feeling good about myself - something about being able to avoid paying the relatively steep price of $20-$25 for a plot of dirt at a campsite without much of an inconvenience - something about complete freedom. It rained all day today and it was fine. I like knowing that my rain gear held up and only a few things on my cycle dampened. Note to future tourists: panniers need to be lined by plastic bags on the inside AS WELL AS pannier covers. If they aren't waterproof the covers will still let in a minute amount of water.

May 19th, 2007.

More touristing in Vancouver, including sampling Dim Sum with Peggy's family, checking out China town and North Vancouver by ferry and Peggy's favourite sushi place for supper. Good food and company. Not too much to complain about, fir shure.

May 18th, 2007. Distance 39.4 km, Odometer 233.6

White Rock - Burnaby, BC

Riding in the city is stressful for me. I mean, normally, it's no big deal because I know and follow traffic rules and I'm used to it. When I'm fully-loaded and there are cars zooming by, I feel like the slightest misjudgement of a driver can send me hurtling. Bridges are the worst. In Vancouver, there are a few of them, and of course the people who live there know which ones are cycle-friendly. This vital information wasn't on my map and, as luck has it, I chose the least accomodating route. The bridge was quite long and highway-like, without even an inch of shoulder. I wasn't surprised that I had a few honks and disgruntled looks from drivers, but, hey, what could I do? Burnaby is the home to my good friend Peggy, who I met on exchange to Costa Rica. She was an EXCELLENT host and guide, showing me the hot spots in Vancouver. We went out with another friend from the exchange, Bess, to a Tapas bar where we watched flamenco dancing while sipping on local microbrew. Great times. These are the sort of friends that, even though we haven't seen each other for 7 years, after a few moments, it's like we never left each other to live separate lives. Meeting up with these girls, I realised that great friends are definitively like that: time independent. We hung out just like we did years ago, without skipping a beat. And it was wonderful.