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August 28, 2013

Dear Canada

Dear Canada


Dear Canada,

Over the last 55 days, I have had the privilege of riding your roads, seeing your landscape and meeting your people. I have been in awe every day since I embarked on this journey. For not one day did I not experience love, pride and respect.

From the majestic mountains to the expansive prairies, from the rugged Canadian Shield to the memorable Maritimes, each region in Canada offered something different, yet wonderfully similar. You are an amazing country that challenged me physically and emotionally. Yet, I loved every climb as much as every descent, as I try to embrace that what challenges me.

Over the course of these two months, you showed me how simple acts of generosity and kindness can have profound impact on even the most self-assured amongst us. I felt this continuously with every front porch wave, toot of a passing car, and every curious customer in a convenience store. I rode solo, but I was never alone. When climbing up a steep hill outside of Nipigon, Ontario in the cold rain, a group of kids returning from camp all hung out the windows of their bus and cheered me on, when grinding up Sunday Summit Pass in the Rocky Mountains a lady driving by rolled down her window and offered me water and cookies. I could tell story after story of simple acts performed by Canadians that offered me a glimpse of the fabric of people in this country. Being on the bike, the act of a car, transport, or pickup truck hauling a boat swinging wide, crossing the centre line to give me space was an act of kindness I never took for granted. And everyone did it.

Canada, it is easy to write up a list of exotic locales around the world that offer intrigue and mystery, however, you populated my list with places, towns, parks and monuments to visit. I will encourage everyone to visit Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the most easterly point in North America, if for no other reason to feel like you’ve reached the end of the world. I will insist that every Canadian make it to see the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay and then the road sign indicating his Marathon of Hope’s end and share the goosebumps with them. I will explain the cathedral presence of grain elevators breaking the endless horizon in the prairies and implore people to witness them firsthand. And of course, I will return to the laid back attitude of Prince Edward Island and the breathtaking Rocky Mountains and cajole others to join me.

The landscape and the people are each integral parts of your whole. Each piece connected to the other, influencing the other and shaping how we understand ourselves. Once I finished the mountains, I thought the hard stuff was behind me, however, with the winds in the prairies, the weather in Ontario and the hills in the Maritimes, each region taught me that this wasn’t an easy task. It meant something to make it through. It humbled me when I took distance for granted. It reminded me that you earn accomplishment. It isn’t given away.

I spent many days in awe; this country gave me a literal understanding of awesome. Some days my legs got me to my destination and I didn’t remember pedaling. I had time to think, reflect, and live in wonder about the lives of the people and places I passed. I was witness to the industrious habits of many as they worked towards common goals. Road construction is a unifying summer Canadian experience.

Thank you Canada for showing me that life in a rural small town is as rich as one in a metropolitan centre. For this country is populated by more small towns than I ever imagined and each place exhibited a power of its people. I eavesdropped on a group of old men sitting around the town diner in Gull Lake, Alberta and neighbours chatting at the general store in Crapaud, Prince Edward Island and their conversations around the role of the Senate reminded me that Canadians, everywhere, genuinely care about Canada despite what our politicians may suggest.

I can’t capture the feelings of being on a bike and experiencing this country. It’s something you have to do to fully grasp. All I know for sure is that Canada; you are in my blood thicker now than before. I will cheer louder for your grand achievements and for all your subtle ones too. You are more than arbitrary borders on a landmass, more than a vast collection of trees and rocks, and more than a figurative mosaic of cultures, for over the course of 6,734 kilometres I came to understand that you are home.

With love, respect and pride,
Scott Kemp

June 28, 2013

Packed And Ready

The stuff, the stuff, two months with just this stuff.

The stuff, the stuff, two months with just this stuff.

Many people have asked me, what will I be bringing with me. Seeing that I need everything to fit on my bike and not be ridiculously heavy, I’ve had to be scrupulous.

Here it is, the things I’ll be taking with me:

First off: The Bike

Last week, I had my bike taken apart, boxed up and shipped off. Yesterday, I got a call from Simon’s Cycles in downtown Vancouver telling me my bike was ready and waiting for me. It was sitting in Vancouver, relaxing knowing full well, I was on my way.

My Trek 1.2 road bike will be my travelling companion for the next 52 days. I’m hoping that if I treat it well, it will treat me well. Just in case, I have thrown in some fix-up gear:

  • Three tubes
  • Tire thread
  • Hand pump
  • Tire levers
  • Patch kit
  • Multi-tool
  • Chain Lube
  • Aerobars

I’m hoping that should be able to get me out of any precarious situation on the side of a deserted Northern Ontario road.

Of course, I am also packing my helmet, three waterbottles, bike shoes and bike lock. Not to mention, body glide so I have nipples at the end of this adventure and some chamois butter that makes sitting on a bike for 50 straight days almost enjoyable.

Second Course: The Clothes

I’ve tried to pack as minimally as possible while still being prepared for all possible weather conditions.

For biking I’ve brought two bike jerseys, two pairs of bike shorts, socks, tights, warm weather arm bands, cool weather arm bands, UV skull cap, vest and a jacket.

While off the bike, I have four quick-dry t-shirts, a quick-dry long sleeve, two pairs of shorts, one light hooded sweatshirt, underwear, flip flops and a pair of Merrell minimalist running shoes.

Not too much, but I figure my stench on the bike will keep the wild animals away.

Third Helping: Camping Gear

The plan is to camp most nights. I’ll hopefully find campsites along the way, but I may need to set up camp wherever I am. Luckily, Laura and I do some backcountry hiking and so lots of the gear is small and lightweight and meant to be carried easily.

The tent is a small one/two person tent. It’s not a tent you’d want to share with just anyone. With it, I’ve got a single lightweight Thermarest and a mummy sleeping bag. The trio of items sits perfectly on top of the pannier rack. I’ve also got a small pillowcase (throwing clothes in it makes a perfect pillow) and a small chamois towel.

For breakfasts and dinners, I have a single-burner camp stove with fuel, a small pot, collapsible bowl and utensils. Easy to cook and clean and throw back in to my panniers.

While off the bike I have thrown in a head lamp which will help navigate the camp terrain.

Fourth Heap: Odds and Ends

The last of it doesn’t fit nicely into a category. I’m bringing toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel, deodorant, chapstick, moisturizer). I’ve thrown in some initial food, waffles, Honey Stinger chews, some eCaps and salt tablets.

And of course, the most obvious item, sunscreen. It’s in the ginger genetic code to remember the “value pack” of 60 SPF.

I’m also bringing my Blackberry Q10, where I’ll be staying in touch and writing this blog, and a Kobo e-reader because I try not to go anywhere without my books. Seeing that these are the electronics, I’ll also be bringing three charging cords.

All of this equipment fits neatly into four MEC panniers (two rear panniers and two front panniers). I’ve got rain covers for all of them, just in case.

That’s it. That’s the stuff that is packed up and ready to fly to Vancouver with me tomorrow morning. I can’t wait.

I’m all geared up.

June 11, 2013

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

When I was 12 years old, after having read about John Goddard in Chicken Soup for the Soul, I sat down and wrote a list of 50 Things To Do Before I Die.

In my twelve years of infinite wisdom, I wrote all manner of things. I wrote meet Oprah, visit Australia, and own a pet monkey. Some things stand out as foolish imaginings and some have found themselves festering in the back of my mind.

The idea of biking across Canada has been scrawled in my twelve-year old penmanship on that tattered piece of lined paper for twenty years. As other things have been completed and achieved, that one lies untested.

Until this year.

On July 1st, I start the adventure that stretches out for 7,200 kilometres.

Starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, I ride until my final destination of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

I hope to document my trip here. I’ll blog as often as possible and with as much insight as I can muster.

By all means, ask questions, provide comments, let me know if there are things I can’t miss.

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