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...

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!!).

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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