Saturday, July 17, 2010

Acknowledgements

First and foremost, I would like to thank my companions on the road: Jocelyne, Dad, Aunt Trish, and Cathy. You MADE this trip - you made it fun and positive and possible - and it wouldn't have been the same without you! A big thank you to all of my friends and family (and in particular, a special thanks to my Mom) for all of the love and support - knowing you were rooting for me at home was a great source of encouragement. Thank you to our generous "Rest Day" hosts (Whitney, Jocelyne's grandparents - Mr. and Mrs. Sulavella, Laura and Aunt Wendy) for all of the pampering, hospitality, and cozy accommodations! Thank you to all of the kind strangers we met along the way - whether it was a smile, taking a moment to chat, offering to help by the side of the road, or even offering a place to pitch a tent, you always made us feel very safe, welcomed wherever we went, and proud to call ourselves fellow Canadians. Thanks to my supervisors, Drs Michael Tschakovsky and Kyra Pyke, for granting me time off from my PhD, with your blessing, to pursue this dream. Thank you to Dairy Farmers of Canada, Gay Lea Foods, and Frontenac County Dairy Producer Committee, for sponsoring this trip in part. And last but not least, thank YOU for following this blog - it's been wonderful being able to share this experience! So Thank You, Thank You, Thank You again to all, and just remember: when you dream it might come true... when you dream, Dream Big.

Peace, love and biking,
Veronica :)

V's Trip Statistics


Total mileage on bike: 6,565 km
Total time riding: 278 hours, 54 minutes
Total trip days: 44
Number of riding days: 40
Number of rest days: 4
Average mileage per day: 164 km
Average time riding per day: 7 hours

Epilogue

Day 45
"The Rest is Still Unwritten"

As I awaken, I can sense immediately that something is different, has shifted, although it takes me a moment before I remember that I'm in Halifax, at the end of the road, and that there will be no riding further east from here. My legs feel rested and eager to go, and it is strange, not needing to spring into action, getting a hustle on to get on the road. Today, we plan to go sea kayaking and see some of the local sights before embarking on the 17-some hour drive home, but for now, I enjoy the peaceful solitude and take some time to reflect on the journey that has reached its end.

I think about the simplicity of this time, with no appointments and meetings, no assignments and deadlines, an automated "I am away from my mail" response to e-mails, and my only real task being to pedal east for as long as I choose. I think about the simultaneous complexity, of staying focused on each day's goal, navigating through traffic, through cities, through exhaustion, dealing with whatever Mother Nature dished out, and staying healthy through it all. I think about the vastness of this great country, and about its varied and beautiful terrain: the mountains and valleys, prairies and rolling hills, lakes and rivers, wilderness and farmland, villages and cities, and about the people, who are the heart and soul of it all. As I stare at the ceiling of the tent, listening to the gentle rustle of the wind in the trees, I feel something that is hard to define. I feel Grateful and Blessed and Privileged to have had this opportunity. I feel disbelief, and a sense of unreality, that this has all really happened. I feel humble, and a private sense of accomplishment, exhilaration, empowerment, and joy. And yet I also feel a bit achy, and empty, and sad, to be leaving behind the adventure that has become my reality. Mostly, I feel happy and content. At peace. Satisfied with the knowledge that I will have these memories for all of my life.

I indulge in the warm softness of my down-filled sleeping bag a few moments more, before unzipping the tent and stepping out into the fresh, crisp air, salty from being so near to the ocean. I stand, and I stretch, from toes to fingertips, every muscle of the body with which I have become so attuned over the past 44 days. And I say, out loud, to no one in particular, "Hello, World. What's next?"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 44 - Wednesday July 14 - Hilden to Halifax (101 km)







"The end's not near, it's here"
We woke up this morning to a thick fog, giving the day a dreamlike quality. Dad had the cereal set out for breakfast, along with a birthday card for me (today is my 25th birthday, and I wanted to do something significant to make it a memorable one... reaching the Atlantic Ocean should suffice!). The ride to Halifax was magical. In a way, it was like every other day: just me, my bike, and the open road. And yet it was different - knowing it was the last leg of this journey, I savoured every kilometer, trying to memorize the feeling of soaring freedom that comes from living in the outdoors, rising with the sun, and propelling myself forward each day by sheer force of will (and a little muscle). The ride went smoothly all the way to Halifax - wooo-hoooo! Arriving at Point Pleasant, the Atlantic Ocean destination, felt very surreal. I walked across the sand and into the ocean, biking cleats, bike and all. I crouched down, and let the cool, salty water wash over my hands and feet, seeing, and not quite believing. In impeccable Mother-Nature-timing, the sky opened up and it started to pour, and we stood in the rain, grinning and laughing. Dad suggested that we pack up and go CE-LE-BRATE. I reluctantly loaded up my bike, and looked back as we drove away. Pacific to Atlantic. 44 days. I'm here. It hasn't sunk in yet!
P.S. We went back to the beach the next morning to get some of these pictures, sans rain! ;)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 43 – Tuesday July 13 – Wood Islands PEI to Hilden NS (144 km)




"Seizing the Day"
Looking over the map last night, we realized 2 things: 1) the day planned for today (to Truro NS) was really too short (70 km), and 2) there are mountains in Nova Scotia!! Just northwest of Truro! This solved #1 as, obviously, I had to ride the mountains! This morning the ferry fog horn woke us up at 4:30am, so we just got up and packed up camp. The view sure was different in the fog! We took the earliest ferry from PEI (6:30am) and I was riding by 8:30, the early-morning fog having lifted on the NS side. It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful sunny day. We went along the coast for a ways (Dad rode too for a bit) before heading south through the Cobequid Mountains (including Higgins Mountain and Folly Mountain). The views!! Oh, the views! Nova Scotia does not disappoint! And the small towns have such a friendly, homey feeling. We stopped for a snack in a small place called Tatamagouche, and people were out and about greeting one another on the street (seemed like everyone knew one another). Chatted with a few of the locals – so friendly! We stopped for lunch by the side of the road, and I couldn’t get over how many ants there were (100s). Then Dad discovered the source – a giant ant hill, about 1.5 feet tall, only about 20 feet away.. eeps! Tonight we’re camping in Hilden, just a short jaunt from Halifax – the final destination of this trip!

Day 42 – Monday July 12 – Borden-Carleton to Wood Islands (127 km)




“Island in the Sun”
The forecast for today was 80% chance of rain, and when we got up sure enough it was raining. BUT, by the time we got to the bridge to start riding it’d let up, and didn’t rain again all day! The ride across the island was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L. Huge rolling fields of hay, canola, and potatoes, with PEI’s famous red dirt peeking through between the rows, Acadian forest, red sand cliffs, and along the water sailboats, fishing boats, and soaring birds. I gave my puncture-resistant tires a test, riding across 5 km of construction (mud, gravel, and potholes... all red!), and made it through unscathed! This is truly some of the most incredible scenery of the trip so far, and I found myself stopping every few kilometres at times to try to capture it in pictures. Having slept in until 6:30 and getting on the road close to 8, we didn’t arrive at our campsite (Northumberland Provincial Park) until around 1:30. We set up camp directly atop a cliff overlooking the Northumberland Straight – unbelievable view!! There are steps to get down to the beach, and we could see the ferry making its crossing from Nova Scotia. After cleaning up, we drove north across the island to Cavendish to see the Anne of Green Gables National Historic Site! I Loved those books when I was younger, and read the entire boxed set many times over; it was so cool to see the real-life places that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery in her writing. We even got to go for a walk in the “Haunted Wood”! We went for a drive along the Gulf Shore Parkway for some awesome views of the cliffs and beaches on our way to yet another delicious lobster feast. So much to do and see, so little time!

Day 41 - Sunday July 11 - Hopewell Cape NB to Borden-Carleton PEI (133 km)


The nice part about these shorter days, besides having a chance to enjoy the sights along the way, is having fresh, ready-to-go legs every morning! As forecasted, it was pouring rain, but it was warmer than yesterday and the ride was awesome! Riding north to Moncton I could see across the Petitcodiac River, and the houses on the river bank in the fog looked like a model village in a snowglobe. We crossed the river at Moncton, and the tide was out, exposing impressive glistening red muddy banks. There was a bit of construction along the way today, and ~8km of graded pavement (ow!), but other than that it was smooth sailing to Confederation Bridge - the bridge to PEI and the longest bridge in the world (12.9km). There are "no biking" signs everywhere at the bridge, and I'd learned in advance that there's a shuttle that can take cyclists and pedestrians across. I decided to ask, anyway, juuuust in case exceptions were ever made (say, if I came across at 2am when there's probably no traffic on the bridge!). I ended up getting to go into the Bridge Control office, and chatted with Robbie, who was monitoring the bridge on several screens (so cool!). He'd seen me bike up earlier to take pictures... I almost wonder how far you'd get if you decided to make a run for it! So in the end, still not allowed to bike across for reasons of safety (nervous drivers on the bridge, narrow shoulders, strong winds etc), but at least I tried! It was really neat to see the Bridge Control area, and Robbie was a great guy. There was a lookout at the centre, and we climbed up to get a better view of the bridge - even in the fog, very impressive. Dad said, "Here, you drive across... Then at least you can say you drove it!" (So thoughtful; thanks pops!). In PEI (!!!) we went to the Visitor Centre and then checked into a motel for the night (so nice being able to get dry out of the rain!). Did some laundry, caught some of the Tour de France on TV, and then headed out for a famous New Glasgow lobster supper (delicious!). Hope to see lots more of PEI tomorrow!
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 40 – Saturday July 10 – Cambridge Narrows to Hopewell Cape (165 km)




“The Scenic Route”
When I was little, I thought that “the scenic route” directly translated to “the long way”. This was thanks to many long drives with my Dad, including once a 6-hour venture to find a Christmas tree. I still remember the “aha!” moment when I learned the true meaning of the phrase (embarrassingly, in grade 4!). A few months ago, when planning the logistics of this trip, I was faced with two choices for New Brunswick: biking straight across the north (i.e. the direct route), or coming south along the River Valley Drive and Hwy 114, a CAA designated “scenic byway” through Fundy National Park (i.e. the scenic route... and in this case, also “the long way”). I am so glad to have chosen the latter, as it has been a beautiful ride. This part of New Brunswick is very rugged and rural – it feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere – and the scenery is amazing!! This morning, however, was a rough ride. I wasn’t on the road for 5 minutes before it started to POUR, and the first 50km were, well, pretty miserable (rain, fog, rough pavement, strong headwind, 100% humidity, and little black bugs). I gave myself a pep talk, and kept trucking away. Some of the hills leading up to, and through, Fundy National Park are absolutely massive – Dad even had to down-shift in the car to get up them! They were pretty fun climbs actually, and I know I have to get back down to sea level at some point! Dad found some wild strawberries by the roadside; they were very sweet..mmm. By the time we arrived in Alma, just on the east side of Fundy, I was completely water-logged (think prune-y fingers post-bath x100 .. all over...). Dad said a word that was music to my ears: motel. We checked in, and after a long, warm shower I felt like a new person. We went to a diner across the street for some fresh, homemade seafood chowder (yum!), and then took an afternoon power nap. Rain or no rain, we both wanted to go hiking in Fundy National Park this afternoon (one of the reasons for taking this route!), and miraculously it stopped raining! We hiked the Kinney Brook Trail, and it felt SO GOOD! We even saw a beaver swimming in the brook – so cute! After the hike, I decided to ride a little farther while it wasn’t raining (and then drive back to our motel) to knock some mileage off of tomorrow’s ride (there’s a “severe rain warning” for this whole area, and apparently Fundy doesn’t have a dry season). The conditions were SO much better than this morning (when it took me almost 5.5 hours to go 120 km... i.e. slooooooooow.. versus less than an hour and 20 mins to go 45 km through the hills tonight!). We got chatting with our neighbours at the motel, and it turned out that they’re from PEI, so they gave us tips on what to do and see while we’re there. We went into some of the seafood shops, and the lobsters here are huge! The biggest ones were 15-16 lbs, with claws bigger than my hands – unreal. Of course, now Dad is excited for a lobster dinner in PEI. Alma is home of the highest tides in the world (rising up to 16m against the shoreline), and we could see the tide coming in and going out right from our motel. What a full day!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 39 - Friday July 9 - Woodstock to Cambridge Narrows (182 km)




"A Capital Ride Through the Capital"
It was another "I-just-don't-wanna-stop-riding" kinda day. Up at 4:30am, and on the road by 5:45 to beat the heat. Luckily, it was overcast! This never used to be cause for celebration, but during the heat wave it means that the scorching heat of the day is kept at bay for a greater length of time. Followed the highway along the St John river, continuing along the "River Valley Drive" from yesterday. There was so little traffic that it was like having my own private highway, and the countryside here is very lush. I had no idea New Brunswick was so hilly! The roadside is peppered with tons of wildflowers, including black-eyed susans, daisies, pinky-purple clover, and a variety of others for which I don't know the names. Passed through the capital city, and Fredericton seems like a really nice place - very clean, biker-friendly, lots of classy-looking houses and cars, and a great sense of community. Crossed over a number of bridges, and the views from these were incredible! Some had "no biking" signs (but there were no alternatives), and I could see why after riding across - the wind can be quite strong so high up over open water, making it a bit precarious. As forecasted, it got Hot. The campground proprietor saw me roll in on my bike and commented, "You must be on FIRE!" Mmhmm! But our campsite tonight is awesome - right on the water (Washademaoak Lake) with tons of shade and an amazing breeze!! Finished up dinner with some homemade apple crisp, sent by my Mom. Sigh. Life is good.
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 38 – Thursday July 8 - Saint-Leonard to Woodstock (151 km)


“The Stronger Wind, The Stronger Trees”
I slept through my 4:30am alarm this morning, waking up on my own at the usual 5:00 (whew!). Turned out to be just as well as the sun wasn’t even up yet (we’re Just into the Atlantic Time zone... so it’s like 3:30am at home). Still managed to be on the road by 6am though, and knocked off some mileage before the heat got tooo bad. Am I ever glad I planned for shorter days on this last leg of the trip! After riding through Grand Falls (Grand-Sault), we headed south on Hwy 105, which made for an awesome ride! It goes through a rural area, and is a secondary highway, so there was literally only about 1 car every 5 minutes or so. The road was also pretty narrow, and surrounded by trees on both sides, which meant shade! It felt SO much cooler than yesterday, and even the wind (a headwind, of course) felt cool. Highway 105 is part of the “River Valley Drive”, a designated scenic route, and it certainly lived up to its reputation (and the signs for it look like they’re straight out of Dr. Seuss!). Dad had to pick up some supplies in Grand Falls, so he met up with me again around the 90km mark. In Hartland, we made a short detour – 1,282 feet one-way to be exact – across the world’s longest covered bridge! Very cool! We had lunch at a picnic table in the shade by the river (so picturesque). After lunch we weren’t far from our campsite, so Dad went for a 10km spin on his bike before catching up with me with the car. Our campsite tonight is delightfully shaded, and now that I’m off my bike the hefty wind is greatly appreciated! Sometimes when I’m riding into a headwind, a verse from one of my favourite poems (by Douglas Malloch) gets stuck in my head, on repeat, in time with the cadence of my pedaling. It goes like this:

“The tree that never had to fight,
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain,
And always had its share of rain,
Never became a forest king,
But lived, and died, a scrubby thing.
Good timber does not grow with ease;
The stronger wind,
The stronger trees.”

I tuck my head down. And I ride.

Day 37 – Wednesday July 7 - Riviere-du-Loup QC to Saint-Leonard NB (162 km)




“Beware the Wild Parsnip...”
We got up an extra 1/2hr earlier (4:30) to beat the heat today... but it was already hot. It went up to FORTY THREE DEGREES!! I never thought it’d clear 40 – almost unbelievable! News reports warn people to “avoid strenuous activity” in these conditions – bah! After being frozen like an ice cube for 2 weeks in the west with Joce, I vowed not to complain when the inevitable summer heat hit, and I am making a valiant effort! Pretty amazing how the weather can change from needing to wear-so-many-clothes-it’s-difficult-to-pedal to needing to wear-as-few-clothes-as-decency-permits in such a short span of time! This heat definitely requires some serious attention so as to avoid heat stroke: early starts (to avoid the worst of the heat), LOTS to drink, breaks in the shade where it’s marginally cooler, and potentially sitting out the mid-day heat to finish up the day’s ride later on. It still hasn’t cooled off much as I write this now though (10:30pm), and the forecast for the morning tomorrow is 29, so the strategy might just be plain ‘ole “get ‘er done”! I left camp shortly before 6 this morning, after saying goodbye to Aunt Trish (so sad!). Every time I saw a truck camper go by I perked up expectantly, half-thinking it was her. There were no doors swinging open or towels flying off of any of them though... (Again Aunt Trish, Thank You So Much for being such a defining part of this experience! Love you!). About 40km in, it was time for a bathroom break. Having seen tons of wild parsnip in the area (nasty stuff if you touch it!), I’ve been avoiding the ‘ole pop-a-squat roadside-style, in favour of gas stations and the like. There didn’t seem to be anything immediately off of the highway though, until I saw a sign for the tourism information centre at Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! (and no, that’s not a typo – that’s the real name of the place). Thinking I was in luck, I took the next exit... which, long-story-short, turned into a 6km detour involving very steep hills and the use of a bathroom that I’m not convinced was public. Finally getting back on the highway after this roundabout route, I discovered that the small town wasn’t St-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! At all, but was some outskirts village before it. The Ha! Ha! on the sign seemed to mock me as I passed. We crossed into New Brunswick (woo!) just before Edmundston, and had lunch by the roadside. We were much in need of shade, so Dad cleverly found a patch by the tree line just up from the highway. He also bought some ice cream, which on a day like today serves the dual purpose of cooling down the core and getting calories in (it’s hard to eat when it’s this warm). Oh, and it’s also tasty! The secondary highways were pretty rough, so we hopped back on hwy 2, the TransCanada. Excellent pavement (with heat radiating from it), wide shoulder, and HILLS (big and long); good riding overall, and fabulous views. We crossed the time zone line coming into NB, so we lost an hour again. Our campsite tonight is on a wide stream, so we cooled off in it upon arrival (I sat on a lawn chair with my feet in... Dad sat right in it). There’s a pool here as well, and we had time for one core-cooling dunk before it closed (wonderful!). The rest of our evening was spent pouring over maps... Because we’re still a little more than a day ahead of schedule, we might try to make it to PEI as well before heading to Halifax (barring major storms etc of course... wish us luck!!). Back in the tents again tonight, and we can hear our stream flowing rapidly by outside.

Day 36 - Tuesday July 6 - Montmagny to Riviere-du-Loup (154 km)

"Westerlies, eh?"
Well, you know what they say: the only predictable thing about the weather is that it's unpredictable. The forecast for today was calling for hot, sunny, and a tailwind. Instead, when we got up it was cold, foggy/rainy, with a blasted headwind! It was a tough ride to be sure (I've never used my drop-down bars so much), although the scenery here makes up for it. Another gorgeous ride! The route was mainly flat, and meandered along the river (looking rolly and green and very much like the sea today), before heading a bit inland (flat farmland with mountainous rock-faces jutting up randomly). We ate lunch in the truck camper (with the roof down) to stay warm. Hard to believe after the heat of yesterday! Around noon the sun came out, and by 1pm the scorching forecasted-heat had arrived - a little of everything today! Fortunately we didn't have far to go, and we arrived at our campsite, just east of Riviere-du-Loup around 2:30. We had stopped at the Tourism Information building to ask about campsites, and Aunt Trish hung her towel on the back of the bike rack to dry a little during the break. Hitting the road again, I teased her, "Don't forget your lawn chair! Don't forget your towel!" And lo and behold, 2km down the road when Aunt Trish passed me, there was her towel, whipping in the breeze but miraculously hanging on! I waved frantically at her, to no avail, and figured I'd keep an eye out for it on the road. About 5km later I saw a van backing up on the opposite shoulder, and a man got out and ran across the highway to pick something up - Aunt Trish's towel! I waved both arms at him, but he tossed it in his van and drove away (weird!!). Aunt Trish says, "Ah well, I can use a dish towel. What are you going to do for entertainment without me?!" Tonight is Aunt Trish's last night. :( (I'm going to miss her!!!). My Dad is meeting us here tonight, and will accompany me the rest of the way to Halifax. Aunt Trish went for a ride on some of the off-road trails near our campsite this afternoon. She said they're great, and even have places to fill up your water bottles! We sucked on some freezies to cool off before cooking our dinner. Holy heat wave!
P.S. The achilles is nearly as good as new - woohoo!! :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 35 - Monday July 5 - Champlain to Montmagny (180 km)

"Prairie Butt and Mountain Legs"
There's something so peaceful about rising with the sun and getting on the road before the inhabitants of the houses that line it are awake. It's almost like time has stopped, and if it wasn't for the slight breeze ruffling the grasses and leaves I could almost believe that I was moving along while the rest of the world was on "pause". Aunt Trish and I got a hustle on this morning to hit the road early to try to beat the heat. Even at 6am, it didn't take long for the first beads of sweat to form, and by 20km I had a nice, slick, full-body sweat on (leg drips and all!). It went up to FORTY DEGREES here today - hot weather for sitting, let alone biking. But nonetheless, it was a GREAT ride, and I didn't want to stop when we arrived at camp around 2:30pm. Fellow cyclists, the verdict on cycling in Quebec: it's amazing - do it! One day, I plan to come back, mountain bike in tow, to check out the tons of trails that I'm seeing signs for. If it's anywhere near as good as the road riding... This morning the road was very flat, leaving me with that restless shifting in the saddle, reminiscent of the prairies. And then this afternoon, out of nowhere, were some hills that would rival the Kicking Horse Pass in BC! No word of a lie, one hill was so steep I thought I might "pop-a-wheelie", and I was glad for the extra weight on the front of my bike afforded by the handlebar bag. After a few doozies, the terrain changed to gently-rolling, and through all - flats, hills, rolling terrain - the scenery was unparalleled. I'm amazed at the uniqueness of this province, which is difficult to describe other than to say that it's different. We followed the river for most of the day, first on the west side and then crossing over a bridge (crazy!) to the east side at Levis, and there's a great mixture of lush farmland, colourful residential areas, and untouched wilderness. We ate our lunch in the shade of the truck camper, while I melted a ziplock bag of ice on my wrists, and Aunt Trish kept me well supplied with water and ice-cold gatorade (I lost count of how many litres of liquid I drank!). Our campsite has a pool, so we went for a refreshing dip after cleaning up, setting up camp, and eating dinner. It's supposed to be another scorcher tomorrow, so early-to-bed and early-to-rise it shall be!
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 34 - Sunday July 4 - Saint-Sulpice to Champlain (116 km)

"Hot Hot Heat"
A short day today, which was actually great as it's blistering hot (38 degrees!). The roads were great, and the traffic much more courteous than yesterday (even a young, cherub-faced boy gave me a timid smile and waved me by, though he had the right of way!). Aunt Trish stopped at a market and picked up some fresh fruits and veggies, including watermelon - a genius roadside snack on a day like today. Tossing the rinds into a wide-open ditch, Aunt Trish managed to accidentally nail the lone billboard with one of hers (whack - "oops"). We should've guessed that getting through Trois-Rivieres together would be tough... But at least we met up again on the other side! At one point, I was waiting for Aunt Trish by the side of the road, and a middle-aged gentleman pulled up to make sure I was alright. After I assured him I was fine, he gave me some freshly-picked strawberries before heading on his way (so kind!). There are TONS of people out cycling here, although I've only seen one loaded with gear so far! We passed a basilica in Cap-de-la-Madeleine where my parents go annually on a pilgrimage, and it's neat as is architecture is designed to look like a maple leaf. Actually, a lot of the architecture here is really unique and interesting. We arrived at our campsite around noon for lunch! After a quick bite and shower, we both had a snooze in the camper; last night a crying baby in the campsite next to us had made sleep pretty minimal. It's nice to have the afternoon free; it's like 1/2 a rest day! We read our books by the river, walked to a little store down the way, and before we knew it it was dinner time. We finished odd the leftovers from Aunt Wendy (still sooo good!), and are enjoying a quiet night by the river.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 33 - Saturday July 3 - Rockland ON to Saint-Sulpice (207 km)

"Parlez-vous francais?"
Well, we've finally left Ontario behind. It is lucky that most everyone speaks English here in Quebec, as my knowledge of the French language is sadly quite dismal. I only took French in school until grade 9, and never gained conversational mastery of the language. Then in grade 11, I went to China for 4 months on exchange and developed a working usage of Mandarin (just enough to get around). Now, years later, I can speak neither language with any degree of fluency. In fact, if I try, I often end up combining the two, such as in "ni you yi ge pomme?" for "do you have an apple?". I feel sort of ashamed that on this trek across the country I can't speak Canada's other official language. Maybe I'll have to add that to the bucket list... On a similar note, listening to Aunt Trish try to pronounce French names, that moreover she is trying to read without her reading glasses, has been a constant source of hilarity. No doubt why the young man on the street couldn't tell her where "Pritchard Street" was ("er, Aunt Trish, I think it says "Rue Louis-P-Picard"). There has been lots of giddy laughter today, and I think it has something to do with the HEAT! It's been a real scorcher for sure. We had an early start, as per usual, although we had to drive to where we'd left off in Rockland (about 45 mins). We were on the road from there by 7:15am, and took the old hwy 17 along the Ottawa River (gorgeous). I've been to Quebec before (Montreal and Quebec City), although I've never had the opportunity to travel through it in a leisurely manner like this. From my first impression today, I'd say I'm going to have a love-hate relationship with the province...

Love:
Crossing over the Ottawa River into Quebec was, you guessed it, beautiful (sun sparkling on clean, deep blue-green water, people out boating, green-lined banks). Across the bridge, we turned onto hwy 344, and headed east on part of "La Route Verte", a system of bike trails purported to be some of the best in the world. The route consisted of nice wide bike lanes lined by trees which provided a cooling shade out of the beaming sun, and in some places a paved "road" entirely separate from the highway. There was barely any traffic, and I rode along in my own little private world, enjoying the scenery and the ease of the flat, tailwind-assisted ride. We had a fantastic lunch (Thank You for the sandwiches Aunt Wendy, and the cupcakes Abbie!!).

Hate:
After lunch, the highway began to loop through small towns, and I have never seen so many stop signs in my life! Aunt Trish guesses that there were 1,000 stop signs, but I think this may be a Slight exaggeration. All of that stopping and starting gets tiring after a while, and it really congests the traffic too (at times, Aunt Trish and I went at basically the same rate because I'd catch up at red lights and backed-up stop signs). Ridiculous! Furthermore, traffic was crazy. We saw the wrecked-car remains from one accident, and I saw a car turn left on a red while oncoming traffic laid on the horns and narrowly avoided a collision. I also had my first real close encounter with a vehicle (a van), and it left me shaky and rattled for a little while. (I've never made my tires squeal like that before, or done a 90 degree skid!). To top it off, the road signs were brutal! Aunt Trish and I both took a wrong turn (we think at the same place). I turned around after going about a km in the wrong direction and found the right way, while Aunt Trish, after asking 3 people for direction without luck (although maybe this isn't surprising, considering earlier comments), said to heck with it and went another way. She called me to tell me (I didn't hear my phone ring), and then "lost" her phone in the truck. Anyway, we made it! In our defense, the "highway" changed its name approximately one billion times.

We'd planned to camp in Terrebonne, but all of the campgrounds were full. We knew it'd be crazy because of the long weekend, but it's hard to make reservations in advance as circumstances can change pretty quickly to determine where we end up regardless of the plan. So, we're a day ahead od schedule, and there are a bunch of shorter days planned for the next little bit, which should be relaxing. Tonight we're overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, and there's a nice cool breeze. We're heating up some gourmet leftovers for dinner (Thank You Aunt Wendy!) And are going to have a nice relaxing evening.. ahhhh. Who knows what this province has in store for us tomorrow!
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J's Trip Statistics

I'd held off posting J's trip stats since we were both hoping that she could join for a day of riding around the Ottawa area. Unfortunately, J had van trouble this morning, and was therefore unable to make it out. (So sorry you couldn't make it!! Miss you J!!!) So in the end, J's trip stats stand as follows:

Total mileage on bike: 1,884 km
Total hours of riding: 97
Total trip days: 18
Total laughs: innumerable :)
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 32 - Friday July 2 - Rest Day in Stittsville!


"Healing Time at the Sanctuary"

Everybody should have an Aunt Wendy and an Aunt Trish and a Mom like mine. We (+ Leif) had a great, restful day, enjoying delicious meals, looking at pictures, and just relaxing. Lots of ice and heat for the 'ole achilles today. I debated taking an extra rest day to help it to heal (walking all over Ottawa in flip-flops last night probably didn't help!) but in the end I think an extra day probably wouldn't make a significant difference, and I'll just try to keep it at bay. Aunt Wendy is sending us tomorrow with so much food that our fridge is packed to the hilt (mmm). Just a grand 'ole R&R day, and now I'm sitting here catching up on the blog on a 42-inch screen (I'm not exaggerating... only at the sanctuary!). I won't go into more detail, because my Aunt Wendy says, "Everything that happens here is restricted." ;)

Day 31 - Thursday July 1 - Renfrew to Rockland via Ottawa (147 km)





"Oh Canada, Our Home"


Today was a beautiful day for a ride! It was sunny, a bit on the cooler side, and with a tailwind for the most part. WE went east via Hwy 1 (vs Hwy 17) to enjoy the view along the Ottawa River, and Aunt Trish stopped at a store to pick up some Canadian flags in celebration of Canada Day! She hung one on the side of the truck camper, and stuck the other in my handlebar bag where it could billow freely. Such an amazing feeling of Canadian pride to be biking across the country, through the nation's capital, on Canada Day!
As we were passing through the small town of Carp, we met up with my sister Amanda and brother-in-law Bob on the road! They were driving to Emo Ontario to visit Bob's family, and we'd coordinated routes so as to catch each other on the road. SO awesome to see them! Amanda is pregnant (due in August) and has changed so much in the month since I last saw her (you look fabulous!). We had a great roadside visit before going our separate ways. (Thanks again for the visit and chocolate milk you two! Have a great trip, be safe, and have fun!). Aunt Trish and I continued on, through Kanata and then Ottawa. As exciting as it was to be going through Ottawa on Canada Day, I was also a bit apprehensive as this was likely to mean much more traffic. In actuality, the ride was great - our chosen route was far enough away from the downtown festivities to avoid excessive traffic, the roads were great, and many of the streets had actual bike lanes (awesome!). Everywhere, people were decked out in red and white and were toting flags. Aunt Trish and I stopped at a shawarma place for lunch (just for you Ruth!) and it was great. The goal was to make it through the city today so that we can have a quicker get-away post-rest day tomorrow, and the kilometers seemed to fly by despite the numerous stops for red lights. We made it to the highway and then to Rockland by 2:30, loaded up Foxy, and drove back to my Aunt Wendy's in Stittsville where we'll be staying for the next two nights. Pulling into her subdivision we saw that familiar red and white flutter of waving flags - Aunt Wendy and my Mom greeting us on the road! (My Mom came out from Napanee for a visit since we'll be here for a bit - it's like a mini family reunion today!). Inside were even more Canada decorations - a map of Canada with the riding route highlighted and captioned "Dreaming Big 2010", flanked by flags (so nice!). I hadn't looked at a map of the country as a whole since starting out, and seeing it with the route highlighted I can't believe how far it looks from Vancouver to Ottawa! My Aunt Wendy is the Queen of pampering, and before long Aunt Trish and I were cleaned up and our laundry was done. We had a delicious dinner - one of Aunt Wendy's specialties (Hunan Orange Turkey with Kismis Plump Raisin Rice), and my Mom's homemade Queen Elizabeth Cake to celebrate the holiday and the Queen's visit to Canada. Aunt Wendy's is an absolute sanctuary. Heading out shortly with some friends to see the fireworks at Parliament Hill.... Happy Canada Day Everyone!!!

Day 30 - Wednesday June 30 - Furnace Falls to Renfrew (201 km)


"Variety, the Spice of Life"
Had a slow start this morning for two reasons: 1) achilles (tight and sore...ugh), 2) slugs (left my bike on the ground last night, and it was covered with slugs - including in the gear shifter - ewwwwww!). It was cool enough to need pants as Cathy and I started out. It's quite hilly here, and we tend to get hot on the ups and then freeze on the downs! About 20 km from Bancroft we spotted some people waving flags and both assumed it was a road crew. On getting closer however, we realized it wasn't a road crew, but OUR crew: Charlotte (long-time friend of Aunt Trish's and the whole family), Uncle Bill (Aunt Trish's husband), and their friends, Gilles and Claudine. They were waving flags and cheering - wow. Hugs all around. 10 km later, there they were again! And again in Bancroft, joined by a group of others (Ruth, Kim, Sue, Ella and Bob). Thanks to everyone for coming out and showing your support - I was absolutely blown away! Heading out of Bancroft, Ruth joined on her bike as well. The four of us (Aunt Trish, Cathy, Ruth and I) stopped for lunch by a river at a beautiful bed and breakfast ("Dreamer's Rock" - thank you for the hospitality!). Cathy and Ruth rode as far as Denbigh and got picked up there by Ruth's husband Michael. Thanks so much for everything girls - it was great riding with you!! Leaving Denbigh, there was a sign pointing to Napanee, 115 km away. It felt weird being on the road only a few hours ride from home and just passing on by. Aunt Trish and I had planned to camp in Griffith, just past Denbigh, but when we got there the campsite was full (uh oh). Decided to keep riding, and before we knew it we were in Renfrew pulling into a KOA campground (yay for tailwinds!). As soon as we loaded my bike onto the truck it started to pour. Talk about timing! Aunt Trish and I are enjoying a leisurely evening out of the rain in the truck camper!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 29 - Tuesday June 29 - Craigleith to Furnace Falls (184 km)

"To Camp or Not to Camp at Furnace Falls"
Today started off with a delicious addition to our oatmeal concoction: french vanilla yogurt. Aunt Trish tried some, and when I asked her if she'd ever make it again she said, "well, if I ever need a high-calorie breakfast!" It was cool starting out, but I had to get rid of the jacket about 3 km in. The first part of the day was awesome with the view of the bay and sun peeking through the clouds, and going through Collingwood was great. Hwy 26 was busy with traffic and not much of a shoulder, but past Stayner it smoothed out. Cathy joined at around 60 km at Midhurst, and rode with me for the rest of the day (awesome!). We had our first "detour" of the trip, turning right instead of left on a small road in Midhurst, because we got chatting and because Cathy wanted a tailwind. Luckily Mabel (Aunt T's GPS) said to turn left, and we only ended up going about 300m out of the way. Of course, this meant we turned directly into a headwind. It started to rain shortly thereafter, lasting just long enough to soak our shoes and shorts and then blowing over. We stopped in Sebright for lunch, and Aunt Trish had set up the card table and lawn chairs and put out a spread! Cathy and I chugged some chocolate milk, which has become a regular component of our trip dare, and I love it! Aunt Trish forgot the camper door open after lunch, and Cathy and I rode madly after her waving in the opposite lane (so she could see us if she looked) but she just kept on driving! 10 kms later, she stopped at a Tims, and it had closed on its own; miraculously nothing was lost - not even the crackers and cheese from right inside the door! The afternoon was great, cycling through lots of small towns, including Rugby, Orillia, Uphill, Norland, and Kinmount - Aunt Trish dubbed it a "community tour". For the most part the highway was new, smooth pavement and at times we had a tailwind (booking it along at 40 km/hr). It was cool as well, so it felt good to keep moving - not too hot, not too cold... great weather for riding. There wasn't much traffic either, so in lots of places Cathy and I could ride side by side. We arrived at Furnace Falls, where we're camping (not a real campground.. oops!) around 4pm. We went for a dip in the river to "shower" at the base of the falls, and it was FREEZING! It was worth it to feel refreshed and clean though, and we layered up afterward. We had a snack (nachos) while preparing dinner (burgers, potatoes with onion, spices, and butter on the bbq, and butter tarts that Aunt Trish picked up fresh today). The mosquitoes were getting pretty bad, so we ate inside the camper to escape them. Another walk by the falls, and again the evening has escaped us... This trip is going by way too fast...
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Day 28 - Monday June 28 - Tobermory to Craigleith (162 km)

"3 Girls and a Truck Camper"
We were pretty snappy this morning, with the alarm going off at 5 and hitting the road by 7, having had breakfast, broken camp, and driven back to the ferry to resume riding where we'd left off. It was quite foggy again, and we could hear the fog horn for quite a distance from the ferry! Cathy started out riding today, and rode for most of the day. It was FABULOUS having company on the road, and we buzzed along, making it to Owen Sound for lunch before noon. The day really heated up, and it was great to be able to stop to snack without getting cold. There was lots of rough pavement again today, and with our road tires (pumped up to 100-120 psi) the shock reverberates through our entire bodies - quite uncomfortable! Cathy calls this kind of riding the "pum-pums" because as we ride there is a continual pum-pum, pum-pum, pum-pum... At 126 km Cathy decided to hop in the truck with Aunt Trish so as not to overdue it on day 1, and since she'll be in an 8 hour mountain bike relay race this coming weekend. I tell you, these women are pretty darn incredible! My Aunt Trish has been a role model for me for as long as I can remember. A retired phys ed teacher, she is a vibrant example of what it means to live a healthy, active, balanced lifestyle: she's active all year round, partaking in everything from canoe-tripping and skiing (downhill and cross-country), to biking, hockey, snowshoeing, and swimming; she plays flute, guitar, and piano, and sings in the local choir; she paints and knits; she knows how to chop wood, and use a cross-cut saw, and do a whole lotta other useful things, some of which she taught my sisters and I, like how to make bannock over a campfire, and marshmallow toffee; at weddings, she starts the party on the dance floor (or really, anywhere else that dancing is permitted!), and can get the attention of a crowd instantly with her piercing whistle; she decided she wanted to learn more about photography, so she bought a camera and joined a club! She takes life by storm, and has always included us, her nieces, in it. In fact, my first experience with what could be categorized as "bicycle touring" was with my Aunt Trish. As a high school phys ed teacher, Aunt Trish organized a field trip called the "Bike 'n Hike" and invited my older sister and I (then in grades 4 and 7) along. I remember it was a Great time! Anyway, I could go on, and on, and on, but the point is: you can imagine how excited I am to be on the road with my Aunt Trish! Back to today... We were making good time, and debating how far to go for the day, when some storm clouds blew in... fast. I was riding along, blissfully unaware as the thunder just sounded like trucks on the bumpy road. But when I pulled up to the truck alongside the highway, Aunt Trish said, "Look behind you!" - black clouds and thunder, moving in FAST. We were not even 1/2 a km away from Craigleith Provincial Park, so the decision to stop there was easy. We didn't quite make it before the downpour started, and boy, did it POUR! We waited out the worst of it, and then set up camp in the drizzle. About 45 minutes after the storm hit, it stopped, just as abruptly as it'd started, and the sun came out again! Nonetheless, it's been nice to have stopped here, and hitting camp by 3pm is a definite recors for this trip. While Cathy and I took nice hot showers and I threw some laundry on, Aunt Trish set out on her mountain bike to explore the Georgian Trail, which runs all the way from Meaford to Collingwood (she says it's awesome!). We dug out some nachos, salsa, and cheese, and brought our lawn chairs down to the beach on Notawasaga Bay, just a stones throw from our campsite. What a life! The girls left me on the beach to catch up on the blog while they started supper. The 'ole Achilles is still bothering me today, but at least it doesn't seem to be getting any worse... fingers crossed! After dinner (which was completed with a piece of homemade cherry cheesecake SENT BY MY MOM - Mom, you're the best!) we had a campfire, and Aunt Trish and I went for a walk on the beach to enjoy the sunset. Now we're all cozy in the camper, listening to the surf... it's like we're by the ocean.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 27 - Sunday June 27 - Espanola to Tobermory (95 km + a ferry ride!)

Today started off cool and foggy. Dad and I had our oatmeal breakfast for the last time (for this leg of the trip), and then I hit the road while he broke camp. It was hilly for the first little while, but then flattened out, looking much like southern Ontario. I've learned to take the locals' word about the roads with a huge grain of salt, as (unless they are cyclists) they often provide well-meaning although incorrect info. For instance, the owner of the campsite told me that after a few hills today it'd be downhill to the ferry, whereas another man at a rest stop told me that it'd be an upwards grade all the way there. In actual fact, "rolling" would probably be an accurate descriptor, as with most of Ontario so far. The roads were actually pretty crummy (small shoulder and Rough pavement), making me homesick for the Trans-Canada! Dad drove ahead to the ferry to make sure we got a spot on the 1:30 boat, and then biked back to ride with me for the last 15 km. We arrived at the ferry just before noon and had a chance to get cleaned up and to walk around and explore the area (with a stop at a bakery, of course) before the ferry. The ride was just shy of 2 hours to get across, so we dozed, walked around the deck, had a brewskie, and played some cards; it seemed to go by really fast. Today was my Dad's last day for this leg of the trip - it's gone by so fast! On the other side of the ferry we met up with my Aunt Trish and her good friend Cathy, who have brought along a small camper and will be joining the trip for the next week (Cathy for 3-4 days). So great to see them! We all went to our campsite on Cypress Lake, set up the camper and tarp, and had our first campfire of the trip! I went for a "shower" in the lake (because there are no shower facilities here.. hooray for biodegradable soap!), and then Cathy cooked us one of her specialties: pasta with shrimp, white wine, olive oil, jalapenos, parsley, lemon, and parmesan cheese, with garlic bread - delicious! Dad left after dinner (around 6:30) for the ~6 hour drive home. (It's been awesome sharing this experience with you Dad, and I'll see you soon for the last leg of the trip!). After dinner, things got eventful again... Aunt Trish: "uh oh, how long have the lights been on?" The truck battery was dead. (Not much luck with vehicle batteries on this trip!). A nice couple from another campsite came across to give us a boost, and it turned out that Andrew is a kinesiology prof at Waterloo and had just visited Queen's for a conference and checked out our new facility - small world! Their tiny car was too small to boost the truck, so Aunt Trish and I went on a mission to find someone with a larger vehicle. A man and his daughter came over with their truck, and we were back in business (Thanks to All!). Now everything is organized for the morning, and we're ready for bed... Around 10pm again! An eventful day!
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Day 26 - Saturday June 26 - Sault Ste. Marie(-ish) to south of Espanola (214 km)

"Achilles Heel"
We slept in 'till 6am because of our late night last night, packed up, said goodbye to Laura (thanks again for everything!), and headed out to pick up where we'd left off biking pre-rest day. En route, we saw some buffalo! They were on a farm, but still - I can't believe we crossed the prairies and didn't see any only to find some outside of Sault Ste. Marie! It was a cold morning, so I started off with lots of layers, and my Achilles was still really tight despite the rest day, icing, elevation, stretching and rest. Unfortunately, looks like that tendon is my Achilles Heel this trip. I'm just hoping it doesn't get any worse! As the day wore on, the sun came out, making it much more pleasant for riding. Dad rode a total of 71 km today, keeping me company for half of that. He also helps to break the wind for me for a bit to give me a bit of a break, being careful to offer to "break THE wind" as opposed to "breaking wind" (oh, Dad). It's lots of fun to ride together. The highway got progressively busier as the day wore on; I guess the farther south we get the busier we can expect it to be. We turned off the Trans-Canada onto Hwy 16 to head south past Espanola. The area here is Beautiful - huge rock faces and waterfalls and giant hills with breathtaking views of sweeping valleys. Dad gave a hitchhiker a lift along the way (thanks for paying it forward pops!). About a kilometer leading up to the turn-off to our campsite (Bearskin Lodge) was a corridor carved out of rock on both sides, winding up a hill - incredible! Our campsite is great as well, and for the first time this trip it was warm enough to swim, so after pitching our tents we jumped in. WOW - does that ever feel good on the joints! The lake is made up of 2 long, skinny lakes, connected by a channel, and was actually quite warm (well... refreshing anyway!). After dinner we drove up to the lookout at the top of the hill (mountain?) From the way in to get cell reception to make a few calls, and Dad discovered that he could make sparks by banging rocks together (of a certain type). (How did he discover this? No idea - I was on the phone... but how cool is that?!). We're both pretty sleepy now, and will probably pass out in 2 seconds!
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 25 - Rest Day in Sault Ste. Marie!


Slept in until almost 8am this morning and just caught Laura on her way out the door to work. Dad and I have had a busy day, but we just sort of plodded along at an easy pace getting things done: drying out the tents and tarp, laundry, groceries, trip to the bike store (pedal problems again!), and relaxing. Dad went out first thing in the morning to get doughnuts from a bakery (they're HUGE!). Laura got home from work at shortly after 4 and we relaxed until our reservation at Giovanni's, an Italian restaurant with homemade pasta for some delicious carb loading. Lots of ice and elevation for the 'ole achilles today, so hoping it'll be better tomorrow! Just relaxing back at Laura's now, and wishing there was more time to hang out and catch up! Thanks for the awesome visit Laura... next time it's your turn! ;)
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 24 - Thursday June 24 - Wawa to east of Sault Ste. Marie (241 km)




"What Goes Up Must Come Down"
Started off the day with another foggy morning, but at least it wasn't raining! It'd poured in the middle of the night, and we were ecstatic that it'd let up. I was on the road around 7:10, ahead of Dad again, although he followed shortly after. The car wouldn't start (again!), but he'd purposefully parked on a hill in case he needed to start it by turning the key, coasting, and letting the clutch out (pretty cool!). Lake Superior Provincial Park is just over 80 km long, and it was an absolutely beautiful ride. Dad rode with me for a while and we stopped at the visitor centre at Agawa Bay to see the sights. The day went from foggy to sunny off and on, with large accompanying temperature changes, making for many stops to add or take off layers. Coming around Batchawana Bay was absolutely incredible; we took a walk break at the beach, and Dad discovered some quicksand by stepping in it! I know I overuse the word "beautiful" in describing the scenery of this trip, but really there's no other way to say it - sometimes I feel the overwhelming vastness and greatness and beauty of this country so acutely that it makes me want to cry (or maybe that's just the delirium from overexposure to the elements). I'm glad that I decided to take Hwy 17 instead of the more-direct Hwy 11 as it's certainly living up to its reputation: hilly, but gorgeous! Some of the hill-climbing is pretty intense, but the ups are matched by downs that lend themselves to wicked-fast speeds (so fun!). I think part of the reason our butts were so sore in the prairies was because there was never an occasion to need to get out of the saddle. Mid-day, Dad went ahead to Sault Ste. Marie and went to a Volkswagen dealer to get a new battery for the car (so lucky they have one here!) and he brought back some cookies and milk for a snack. Coming into Sault Ste. Marie the sun came out and a nice tailwind blew in, so we decided to take advantage of the conditions and ride a bit past the city. We're staying with my fabulous friend and undergrad-housemate Laura in the Sault tonight, so we just circled back by car and will start up again where we left off. We arrived at Laura's around 8,and it's really great to see her stomping grounds; Laura went to college here after undergrad, and recently moved back for work. We had wings and beer (Dad's treat because tomorrow is a Rest Day!!!), and we've stayed up late getting caught up (though Laura has to work tomorrow and I'm pretty wiped!). An all-around awesome day, and I'm looking forward to resting tomorrow!

Day 23 - Wednesday June 23 - west of Marathon to south of Wawa (240 km)





"Mosquitoes and Black Flies and Sand Flies, Oh My!"
We are officially in the buggy part of the country - mosquitoes, black flies and sandflies in the morning and evening at camp, and horse and deer flies during the day at our roadside stops. Apparently this isn't too bad a year for them, so I can only imagine what it must be like! It had rained pretty hard in the night, but let up by the time we got up this morning. It was foggy again, and cooler, and as I biked I got covered with a fine layer of mist (each hair outlined, and my tights looked grey instead of black). The car wouldn't start again for Dad, but Tammy, the proprietor of "Neys Lunch & Campground", was happy to give him a boost. I met some older gentlemen on the road this morning, both of whom had started in Vancouver and were heading east. I was glad J and I hadn't left earlier when I heard they'd been through some snow storms! We also met another rider, Robin, who has been on the road for nine months! She started in Seattle, went across the southern US, crossed at Niagara Falls, and was heading west towards home through Canada. Such a long time to be on the road alone, but she seemed very independent. We stopped for lunch today before White River across from a place where there had been a huge forest fire in 1999 (36,000 hectare). A lot of greenery has grown back, but sticks are still all that remain of the trees that were once there. There are signs all along the highway warning people to make sure they put their fires out and not to burn if it's windy. Land is really cheap up here as well, I guess because it's so remote; Dad saw a 140 acre plot of land for sale for $20,000! He also saw a fox and a bear today and got some great pictures. There are some entertaining names up here, with "Deadhorse Road" and "Desolate Lake" (not at all desolate) being some of my favourites. Tonight we're camping in Lake Superior Provincial Park on Rabbit Blanket Lake and we've got a fantastic site - right on the water, lined with cedar chips, and surrounded by trees. We had a great dinner (veggie stir fry with meatballs, cheese bread, chocolate milk and brownies) and went for a walk around the park. The wind has completely died down and the lake is like glass.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 22 - Tuesday June 22 - Nipigon to west of Marathon (166 km)


"Wildlife and the Wild Life"
Today was a high-on-life kind of day. We slept in until 7 since we didn't get to bed until around 12:30, and the rain had stopped so we enjoyed breakfast by the stream. We put some laundry on, and I hit the road ahead of Dad around 9am. There was construction, and about 7km of graded pavement (which makes for rough riding), but after that the roads improved markedly. I got chatting with one of the construction workers, and she told me that she was 60 years old. I'd have sworn she was 40, and she told me that the secret was "keeping active... and eating well, of course" - amen sista! I caught up with Debbie (the fellow rider from our campsite) and we rode together for an hour and shared our stories - so fun. By this point it had started to rain again and it was quite foggy, but it was relatively warm (compared to how it's been when it's rained), and as long as I kept moving I didn't need extra layers or rain pants. The fog sort of obscured the view of Lake Superior, but this served to bring the immediate roadside details into sharper focus: the rusty red rock faces (cut away to make room for the road), wild strawberry plants, and sprinklings of wildflowers in vibrant yellow, orange, purple, and white. I met another cyclist, Brett, on the road around 11:00. Brett is my age, is from the US, and is doing a large bicycle tour including parts of both countries. His love of travel, cycling, and family were immediately apparent, and his excitement and enthusiasm were so contagious. Parting ways (he was heading west) he dinged his bell and whooped as he rode down the hill. It's so exciting and inspiring to meet others on the road! Shortly thereafter I met my Dad for lunch. He'd had quite the morning - the battery in the car was dead (from leaving the cooler plugged in and having plugged in the computer last night to update the blog - whoops!). Luckily, the owner of the campsite had a charger, and he was soon on the road again (after folding the laundry and putting away the tents that is!). After lunch we rode together for a while, and then Dad backtracked to get the car while I continued on. At times, visibility was less than 100 feet with the fog, but it seemed to change a lot throughout the day (this may have been due to us going up and down into and out of it rather than it actually clearing or thickening). We saw lots of wildlife today too - a deer, a bunny, a heron, and... I was about 20 km from camp (Dad had gone ahead to check in) when I came around the bend at the top of a particularly twisty hill and came face to face with a bear! Ok, well, maybe not face to face with it - it was about 20 feet away across the ditch - but it was most definitely too close for comfort. I hesitated for a moment and almost reached for my camera, but survival instinct won and I booked it, hoping that it was more interested in the plant it was eating and/or didn't see me. Safely away... that was SO COOL to see! We arrived at our campsite around 7, got cleaned up and made dinner. Now we're just relaxing in the restaurant/general store at this campsite to use the internet, and are looking forward to going to bed at a decent hour!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 21 - Monday June 21 - Kakabeka Falls to Nipigon (146 km)

"Fixing Foxy"
Today had a rough start - I woke up feeling woozy, but felt better after eating breakfast (I actually don't think the approx 6,000 calories I consumed yesterday were enough - unreal!). Dad and I went down to check out the falls again and to walk around and enjoy the park a bit - beautiful. I left ahead of Dad around 9:00 to ride to the cyclepath (bike store) in Thunder Bay. It was a beautiful morning for a ride, and I stopped to take some pictures en route. At the bike shop, Foxy had quite the make-over. ("Foxy" is my bike, aptly named by my older sister Amanda, because: 1. foxes are fast, 2. "foxy" is sexy, and my bike is pretty good lookin', and 3. Terry Fox ran across Canada - Amanda is the queen of naming things!). Anyway, almost $400 later, I walked out with new pedals, a new tire, new derailleur components, straightened handlebars, and with the rack removed! It is Fabulous to have functional pedals again and to not have to worry about that back tire! We stopped at the Terry Fox memorial and lookout just outside of Thunder Bay - so inspirational...wow. Dad rode with me for about 15 km after that, and it sure is nice to have company on the road. Got chatting with some guys riding motorcycles from Quebec to Vancouver (super friendly) and Dad surprised me with a Big Mac meal (third time having McDonalds on this trip, and a nice change from the usual lunch of bagel with pb). We arrived at our campsite (Stillwater Valley) at around 6:30, and chatted with another touring cyclist camping here (she retired last year and is fulfilling a life-long dream). It's so neat to talk to people who are doing similar trips and to hear their stories. After showering, we hopped in the car to head back to Thunder Bay for dinner. My Dad went to this restaurant called "The Prospector" last summer when he was driving through and has been talking about it ever since, so he really wanted for us to be able to go there. The drive was nice, and we saw a bear cub by the side of the highway! The Prospector definitely lived up to its reputation (prime rib never tasted so good, and they sent us home with a bag of 18 homemade buns on the house!). The casino is just down the street, so we went in to check it out (I got ID'd.. but Dad was good). It was raining by this point, and we drove back to our campsite around 11. There's a creek running right behind our tents and it's very picturesque and a nice sound change from train tracks. Just taking advantage of the internet at this campground, and then bed!

Day 20 - Sunday June 20 - Wabigoon to Kakabeka Falls (309 km)


"Going for the Goal"
One of my goals for this trip was to have one day where I rode 300 km. We'd (J and I) hoped to take advantage of the flatness of the prairies for this, but the opportunity never arose, and I was starting to think I'd missed my chance. But last night we checked the weather from our campsite, and the forecast looked promising: winds coming from the west (5 km/hr), high of 24 degrees, and sunny with cloudy periods. I thought it might be a good day to try for 300 km, and decided to play it by ear. We got up at 4:30 am to jump-start the day, and I was on the road by 5:45 while Dad took down the tents and washed our oatmeal dishes (talk about spoiled right!). The first 20 kms were absolutely beautiful - last remaining wisps of a pink sunrise, mist rising off of the lakes disappearing as the sun peeked through, and cool but comfortable. By 20 kms, I was committed: today was going to be the 300 km day. The style of riding in bicycle touring is much different from biking at home. For example, at home when there is a hill, I usually like to attack it: pick up speed, out of the saddle, riding aggressively and downshifting only as necessary. Breathless at the top? Good - keep going through it - it's a great training stimulus! It's different on trip though, because you have to ride all day - avoiding that breathless lactate threshold is key to being able to maintain a steady pace all day. Today however, I knew I'd need to ride like I was at home (slow and steady probably wouldn't do the trick). So, I set small goals as I went: 100 km before 10am, 150 km before noon, and then smaller goals as the day wore on (15 km before next snack). The day was beautiful, and though the tailwind was slight I was grateful for it. Dad rode for 50 km today on his mountain bike and we road together for part of that which was nice. I had one flat tire (not TOO bad for a Canadian Tire tire I suppose!), but the two of us changed it and we were on the road again in no time. A girl on the back of a motorcycle gave me a "WOO-OOO!" and a fist-pump; Dad brought me an ice-cream bar mid-day; and we sat on actual lawn chairs at lunch (a most definite improvement over the gravel shoulder!). The last 80 km of the day were very hilly, and I must admit I was tiring, but I was buoyed by the thought that I was going to reach the goal. Dad drove ahead of me to Kakabeka Falls and met me in the parking lot with a high five and a grin when I rode in around 7pm (or I guess, technically, 8pm as we crossed the time zone line today!). What an awesome feeling - glowing satisfaction. [By special request (Mom) the trip stats were: 309.06 km, 10 hrs 41 mins, 28.92 km/hr]. We got cleaned up and then walked around the falls (pretty spectacular). We went to town to get groceries for dinner (by car) and are heading to bed around 11. Where do the days go?! I'm feeling very content, and glad I can check that one off the list!

Day 19 - Saturday June 19 - Kenora to Wabigoon (162 km)


"Hills, Flat Tires, and... Dad?!?!"
It took an enormous amount of willpower to drag myself from the cozy bedcovers and mountains of pillows when the alarm went off this morning at 5:30am, but as usual I wanted to start out at a decent hour and I needed to re-pack all of the gear that I'd hung up to dry. I had breakfast at the hotel (complimentary), and then typed out last night's blog entry with the free WiFi (although I later found out that it didn't send!). Checking out of the hotel I got chatting with a man who'd done a bike trip across Western Canada years ago, although he did it the "hard way" from east to west (I had a private chuckle and managed to refrain from mentioning the fact that we'd had one decent tailwind in 18 days). The roads out of Kenora were pretty brutal - lots of potholes and gravel places where I had to get off and walk, so the going was slow. Around 10:00, something felt off, so I got off to check my tires. The back was a little too soft, but the front seemed low too, so I thought/hoped that maybe they both just needed air and I pumped them up with the hand pump. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and about 5 km down the road the back tire was back to the same degree of softness, and I grimly accepted the fact that I had my first flat. I unloaded the tent and poles, paniers, handlebar bag and watter bottles, and turned my bike upside down, when a car pulled up ... it was my Dad!!! I knew he was coming, but I wasn't expecting him until late in the evening or early the next day (he left home on Friday around 11:30am, and it's a >20 hour drive!). SO EXCITING!!!! He'd driven pretty much straight through, with only two short naps - crazy! After a rib-creaking hug, and a few minutes of excited-interrupting talking, we loaded all of my stuff in the car and changed the tire together (talk about timing!). We got back on the road shortly thereafter, and my Dad rode his mountain bike as well to stretch out from the drive. We met a few other touring cyclists from Quebec, and played leapfrog with them a bit today. My Dad (henceforth "Dad" as opposed to "my Dad") brought a 12 V cooler to plug in to the car, stocked with deliciousness (Ivanhoe cheese, chocolate milk, cherries, yogurt etc), and my little sister Abbie sent delicious baking (lemon poppyseed muffins and oatmeal chocolate cranberry cookies..mmm - thanks Abbie!), so we ate well today! I had a second flat tire mid-day; the back tire was completely worn down to the threads on the side where the rack has been rubbing, so it doesn't take much. This time, Dad went ahead to Dryden to buy a tube and tire (no bike shop, so $15 Canadian Tire tire it is!). If I'd been on my own... it probably would've been another hitchhike day as that was my last tube! Eeeps! While he was gone, I walked on with my bike, and a middle-aged man with twinkly blue eyes stopped to see if I was ok ("I saw you walkin' and thought you might be tired o' ridin'"). So kind. We arrived at our campsite around 6:30, set up, showered, and made hamburgers for dinner (delish!). Went for a short walk to explore the area, and checked the weather for tomorrow (lookin' good!). Getting ready for bed now, and I'm feeling very pampered as Dad brought me a pillow and my full-length Thermarest (no more of this sleeping-pad-that-reaches-from-shoulders-to-knees-nonsense). Can't get enough hugs. Isn't family awesome!??!?!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 18 - Friday June 18 - Winnipeg to Kenora (224 km)

"Crossroads"
Despite not making it to bed until past midnight, I opted for a 4:30am wake-up in the hopes of beating the traffic on the way out of town. J got up around 5 to help me with the last-minute stuff (bless her heart), and helped me bring the gear to the parking garage and to load up my bike. I was on the road by 5:45, but hadn't gone 2 km when it started to mist, so I stopped to put on my rain jacket. A few kilometers later it started to rain harder, so I stopped to put on my booties. A few kilometers later it started to POUR; I pulled off the main road under the overhang for a drive-through bank machine and dug out the trusty old rain pants. Back on the road again, I found I couldn't clip in with my left foot. Another quick stop and inspection revealed that the spring mechanism inside the pedal had come apart, rendering the ability to clip in impossible. It looked like it was going to be a looong ride. I made it out of the city, and the rain virtually stopped, turning it into a perfect day for riding... IF one were to be riding northwest. Of course, I was riding east/southeast, and the ferocious crosswind/headwind can only be described as: "I'd never ride in this at home." There was one small blessing: I got into what we have termed a "butt groove." This highly technical term denotes an almost euphoric state in which the bike seat inexplicably feels comfortable, eliminating the need to shift one's weight or stand every few pedal revolutions. Bliss! This groove continued almost until I stopped for a second breakfast break around 9:30am. As I was leaving, the rain started again, and it didn't let up for the rest of the day. The road leading out of Winnipeg was absolutely pin straight and flat for a solid 50-60km (just as J's Dad told us it would be), and at ~80 km in the surrounding terrain changed abruptly from open fields to tree lines and forests which helped to dampen the wind considerably. I stopped for lunch at a gas station so I could sit under another overhang out of the wind and rain, and then again at the Ontario border to get info on the usual 3 things: bike shops, grocery stores, and accommodations. Getting close to Ontario the roads became hilly again, and crossing the border felt like coming home! As I rode into Ontario, a guy getting out of his car shouted "Bienvenue a l'Ontario!" and gave a fist-pump - woo! The scenery very much reminds me of the Perth/Westport area (rolling hills, outcropping of rocks, mosaic forests, and deep blue lakes), although it's strange to think I'm still so far from home - I'll be in Ontario for 1/3 to 1/2 of this trip! I couldn't stop grinning, and made it to the outskirts of Kenora by around 5:45, and to the bike store by...6:30. Closed! Guess I'll have to ride with the broken pedal for another day - I'm hoping Dryden has a bike shop! I made my way to the grocery store to pick up the usual supper fare, and then to the main strip of motels. I'd planned to stay in a motel tonight since I'm without a bike lock (it was J's) and since I'm alone, and I was very glad of this decision given the rain (by this point I was completely soaked through - I guess GoreTex can only shed water for so long). Long story short: I ended up passing over 2 places before finding one that had a room available and for ~$100. By this point it was 7:00, and in truth after riding for over 10 hours I would've paid a great deal of money to be able to get out of my wet clothes and shoes. After paying for the room I went back out to get my bike, and an older gentleman held the doors for me, saying, "we saw you come in and thought, 'oh, I hope she gets a room!'". Very kind. I'm all cozy now, with gear strewn about everywhere to dry (I actually had to pour water out of the paniers!) and my bike taken care of (cleaned and lubed up). It was quite a day, and so strange to be on the road without J (I missed your improvised songs about the rain!). Bed is calling...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 17 - Thursday June 17 - Rest Day in Winnipeg!

"A Rest for the Weary"
After being blissfully unconscious for 8-9 hours we woke up to a breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon and fruit - a nice change from our normal regime. J had gotten gung-ho in the night, continuing the laundry we'd started so that everything was clean for today (wowza!). We use the term "rest day" pretty liberally with respect to this trip as these days are so packed - they'd be better termed "days not biking". After breakfast we cleaned up a little, and ran some errands (pharmacy and grocery store) while J's grandparents were out. Came back and had a nice lunch, after which we went out for a tour of Winnipeg (a beautiful city!) And to explore the route out of the city for V tomorrow. When we came home, we all had a nap, grandparents included, for about 1.5 hours (ok, so there fortunately is SOME rest on a rest day). We both have headaches today, and figure it's probably a combination of sleep-deprivation, dehydration, and not being used to sleeping with pillows (assimilating back into normal life is gonna be tough!). Post-nap we had a delicious dinner, and V re-organized and packed for tomorrow. Now we're enjoying the view of the city, from the 9th floor panorama, munching on some popcorn, and are feeling very reminiscent as we write our last blog entry together. It's amazing how fast 17 days can go by. With all of the comical set-backs along the way (some of them not so comical at the time), we're arrived at the end of the road for J, one day ahead of schedule. At this 1/3 mark for V, we'd like to just say Thanks Again so much to all of the friendly, generous strangers who opened their hearts to us along the way. It's been an amazing experience and we're not looking forward to parting ways tomorrow. Next planned extended duo bike trip: Freedom 55!
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Day 16 - Wednesday June 16 - Douglas to Winnipeg (191 km)

"The Last Ride Together... Of This Trip"
We woke up early, had the tent down by 6, and wrote a note to our friendly host, Ted, as we didn't want to wake him up. He heard our cleats on the sidewalk and poked his head out as we were leaving, and invited us in to use his facilities one last time. (Thanks again for everything Ted, it was a memorable last night!). We biked off, but about 2 km later our tummies stopped us for breakfast (which was unbelievable considering how late we'd eaten dinner!). For the first little while it was smooth sailing. There was some construction, but we were able to ride on the new smooth pavement, away from traffic. The day heated up fast (we started in our tank tops) adding a new and foreign challenge to our day. At 27 degrees celsius, and in the direct sunlight with a headwind, it was like being in a convection oven. It's amazing how much the heat saps our energy, and the contrast between this and 5 degrees with pelting rain, within such a short period of time, was enormous. At the western entrance to Portage-la-Prairie, we spotted a lone tree and hobbled 10 m across the ditch to sit in its shade (V passed out instantly for a 5 minute nap). After this brief break, we made our way to the Dairy Queen where we loitered out of the sun for an hour, and put our feet up... J, a little too far up, forgetting she was in civilization (V: "put your feet down!" J: "oops! Thank you.."). J called her grandparents to tell them where we were at, as we're staying with them tonight, and warned them that we "might" smell a little - a gross under-exaggeration. When we started out again, it was thankfully a little bit cooler. At the 66 km to Winnipeg sign we gave a cheer and did a victory dance (destination in sight... And we've been needing a rest day for days!). It was the funniest but slowest leg of the trip... "We'll be there in 2 hours... Well, maybe 3 hours... Well... Tonight". The headwinds picked up (as we'd been warned they often do in the prairies), slowing our progress, and our bodies entered into malfunction mode. We can handle a sore ankle, or a sore knee, or a sore wrist, or a sore bum... But when they all hurt at once, the comparatively short remaining kilometers seem like an eternity. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the last leg of our ride, laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. Once we hit the city limits our spirits and speed picked up, and we enjoyed the flat terrain very much. We arrived at J's grandparents' around 9:15 and drove right into the parking garage, where J's Grandpa (who'd been watching from the window) greeted us with a hug and a smile, despite our layers of sunscreen, sweat and grime). We took much-anticipated showers ans enjoyed delicious vegetable soup that J's Grandma made. It's now around 11:30 and we're getting ready to pass out... For longer than 5 to 6 hours!
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