Sunday, August 05, 2007

August 4, 5, 2007. Nothing
Montreal, QC

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
GananaqueCornwall, ON

The best thing that I did today was jump in a river, mid-day. I was still sweat-encrusted and yucky from the ride yesterday since I slept in the woods and today the temperature and humidity was even worse. I was trying to figure out how many liters of sweat my clothes had absorbed over the past couple of days but I gave up because it was making me sick. Today I cycled along the St. Lawrence and my knees gave way thinking how awesome it would be to take a dip so when the opportunity presented itself, I did. I found this beautiful willow-like tree hanging over the water, giving necessary shade and privacy from the highway and I dove in with all my clothes on. It was so nice that I thought “Why the heck didn’t I do this earlier?” I’ll never know.

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
WellingtonGananaque, ON

Today was interesting to say the least. I left the company of my godparents which was difficult but necessary if I wanted to reach Montreal for Friday (for reasons why, stay tuned). Just outside of Glenora is a 5 minute ferry taking people off of the island called Prince Edward County which harbours the town of Wellington. Anyway, the ferry was nice but on the other side was a fellow biker who seemed interested in what I was doing and where I was going which is par for the course when your bike is laden with panniers. We conversed, all the while thinking he was waiting for the next ferry to take him the opposite direction I had come. Turns out Marty cycles out to the ferry and back 3 times a week from Kingston (about 100km run) and he was just resting when we met, so we cycled into Kingston together. The best part of the day happened when a ‘click’ developed in my right pedal. Marty, a family man, a devout cyclist and bicycle tourist (he cycled around Europe for a year when he was my age) was most importantly an electrician and handy man and invited me to his house in Kingston so we could take a look at the pedal, grab some lunch and swim in his pool. He seemed like a cool guy so I accepted. While working over my bike he found a couple of other disasters-in-waiting making me that must more appreciative. Plus I got to go for a dip during one of the most hot and humid-y days of my life… well, in Canada

Marty then told me of a campground about 40 km outside Kingston in Gananaque and suggested I stay there tonight. Well, when I rolled past the spot he described, all I saw was a giant RV trailer sales lot. Thanks a LOT Marty, but I still forgive you. Since it was late, I found a cozy little spot in the forest to set up my tent. It’s strange to be stealth camping with an Apple iBook G4 laptop. It’s seems kinda… out of place. Anyway, stealth camping isn’t too bad once a good and safe spot is found. The flies are really bad, but hey, life could be worse. I could be Moe.

Why do I have to make into Montreal for Friday? Well, my buddy Mike, who I’ll be staying with, is driving up from his cottage in Vermont to meet me. On top of that, my buddy Michel is driving in on Friday from Halifax to hang out with Mike and I. I’m committed and I can barely wait to see these guys.

July 31, 2007 (Day 81). Distance: 140.5, Avs 19.6 Tm 7:10 Mxs 47.4 Odo: 5424

The heat, I can tell, is going to be a formidable opponent for the next little while if I’m lucky, or for the rest of the trip if I’m not. I’ve dealt with challengers before who called themselves by different names: The Rockies or The Prairie Winds or The Black Flies of Northern Ontario. Today I was on the road at 7am to try and beat the heat but since I didn’t get into Wellington until 3ish I still had a fair bit of sweatiness and at times, light-headedness to contend with. I’m cycling to Wellington specifically to visit with my godparents whom I used to visit a lot as a kid but have fallen out of touch and this motivation drove me on. Two things occupied my mind during the ride: my iPod and memories of my visits to Wellington - kit flying and working on a nearby farm and the smell of mushroom growing plants. These are the kind of memories that I find myself smiling at. I was a lucky kid.

Being back here is great. I wonder why it’s taken me so long to come visit and feel crappy that I haven’t. I hope my means of visiting also serves as a subtle apology for my distance. On the other hand, I feel like it’s also a type of ice-breaker so that I won’t feel as inhibited to visit in the future. I like that especially since these people played a gigantic role in my life as a kid – role models – and continue to do so.

Tomorrow there are heat and humidex warnings all over. I hope I survive.

July 30, 2007. Distance: 65 km, Odometer: ?

Today was a lesson in learning. It was my first ride in a couple of weeks but I’m not sure that this is to blame. The day was difficult, partly because of the sprawling pavement that never seems to end, east of Toronto, but also because it was really, really hot out. The land of pavement was annoying because it accompanied heavy traffic, heavy exhaust and a heavy incidence of Toyota car dealerships and Dollaramas and Pizza Pizzas. The heat could have been managed but wasn’t. Fluids are important but sometimes the amount of fluids necessary is difficult to determine – that’s why the pee test is essential. If I’m getting enough water, then I’m peeing every couple of hours or more frequently. In retrospect, I needed to pee when I left Shannon’s house in Toronto but the sensation didn’t return until 4 hours later when I was finished riding for the day and at my campsite. I was dehydrated and because of it, I’ve felt crappy since I got here with a headache and a lack of appetite.

I feel like I’m still in Toronto since, even though I traveled 65 km, I never really left a city. Even now, I’m staying at a provincial park yet all I can hear is the hum of the 401 and the occasional horn blast of a passing train. Down the lake a little ways is a nuclear power plant – talk about camping!! I suspect that I’ll have to get used to this population density until east of Quebec.