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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

August 15, 2013

Staying Put For A Few Days


Distance: 104km
Time: 4:01:18

One of the more difficult parts of this adventure has been the 40 days of packing up home and moving it. Never staying in the same place. It is something I totally underestimated. But today, after a fisticuffs with the wind for 100 kilometers I arrived on Cranberry Lane in Prince Edward Island.

I did have to take the shuttle service to cross the Confederation Bridge, even though the guy did say people have ignored the no bikes on the bridge sign. He said it always ends with a “few hundred dollar fine, and they never get all the way across.” I think my choice was the right one.

A wee little bridge stood between me and province number eight.

A wee little bridge stood between me and province number eight.

With a nice view of the Northumberland Strait, I will be resident here for four nights. A lovely three day holiday. I’m so lucky that Laura is flying in and together we will have a little vacation.

Before I take my multi-day holiday I leave you with this question, why are all the moose in Canada acting so different? As you can see from the signs, in Ontario the moose are apparently quite pisssed off that they are charging at the cars, in Quebec, they have a more gingerly approach, some would say almost snooty, to traffic. In New Brunswick, the moose is stationary, but apparently they are twice the size of a car. Yet, between all three provinces, I saw many, many signs, yet only one decaying dead one. Let me tell you, I smelled it about a half kilometer before I saw it. I had to hold my breath as I passed it, it was so rancid. Now, time for dinner.

The moose is loose in the spruce. I had to Google Image rhe Ontario and Quebec signs, I made the observation only after the provinces and god knows I wasn't backtracking.

The moose is loose in the spruce.
I had to Google Image rhe Ontario and Quebec signs, I made the observation only after the provinces and god knows I wasn’t backtracking.

I’ll be back in the saddle on Sunday as I head for Nova Scotia. Just 600 kilometers and two provinces to go.

Ride on.

August 14, 2013

I Keep Telling Myself, “It’s not a race.”


Distance: 201km

People who know me, know that I’m naturally inclined in competition. I never care who wins or who loses, it’s all about having fun.

After biking about 2km from my lodging, I felt that sensation of forgetting my wallet. Being in my own world, I slowed down to check my panniers. Unbeknownst to me, there had been a guy, out for his morning ride in full kit, drafting me. I hadn’t signaled my slowing down, so he was startled and a bit perturbed by my immediate stopping. He dodged me and took off.

Once I confirmed I had my wallet, I was back pedaling. The “guy in the red jersey” gone ahead. It was a flat winding road, so I hadn’t anticipated seeing him again. But then, on a little straight away, I spotted that red jersey on the horizon. His pace was fair, so I thought, if I sped up, “just a little” I could close the gap. Now, you have to understand, after a month and a half of daily riding, my legs usual loosen up about 30km into the ride. Today I was asking my legs to get going a little sooner than normal. The stupid part of my brain also disregarded that I still had a 200km ride ahead.

Anyway, I started closing the gap. Sweet. Then on an ensuing straight away, he did the unthinkable. He looked behind him, saw me, then speeded up. Well, I know what most everyone would think, “it’s on.”

I started picking up my pace. Ok, that’s not true. I started hammering hard on the pedals. The competitive spirit was sparked. I was pushing way too hard this early in my ride, but I was closing the gap. This just kept me pushing.

Eventually, I got to that distance where I could blow past him. The problem, of course, if I got around him I’d have to maintain this speed. There could be nothing worse then getting re-passed by him. So, I slowed down and got in his draft. For 5km, I drafted him, recharged the legs and frankly, stopped breathing heavily. After 5km, I figured I had enough to get around him and stick, so I did. I never saw the “red jersey” again.

This time we were actually racing.

This time we were actually racing.

Why did I feel the need to chase him down in the first place? He had just his road bike and I had two full panniers and a tent. Later in the day, I again reminded myself, this is not a race, as my legs were burning.

From Fredericton, I got to Moncton, home of one of nature’s greatest wonders, Magnetic Hill. I remember going as a kid and have wanted to go back as an adult. Laura has refused to stop in each time we’ve been in Moncton, telling me, “It’s not as impressive as you remember it.” and sure enough, Laura is right again.

The third most popular natural wonder in Canada, can you name the top two?

The third most popular natural wonder in Canada, can you name the top two?

After Magnetic Hill, I pushed on to Shediac, home of Parlee beach. The site of the famous Parlee Ultimate tournament, a place that holds many great memories for Laura and I.

What's a trip to the East coast without a stop in Shediac?

What’s a trip to the East coast without a stop in Shediac?

Tomorrow, I leave New Brunswick and hit the Island. Another province will be behind me.

Ride on.

P.S. I can’t thank everyone enough for the comments and support you’ve shown me on this trip. It has been very cool to feel so supported.

August 13, 2013

There Is Something About A Bike


Distance: 165km
Time: 7:15:14

Barefeet, no shirt, and pedaling as hard as his legs could down a gravel road. That was the first kid I rolled past today.

The second was a little boy practicing skidding on the gravel driveway. He’d tear down one way, then slammed the pedals backwards as he whipped the handlebars to a side. He’d throw out his leg to help the skid get distance. Then he’d fly off in the opposite direction.

The third boy was biking around his driveway making motorcycle sounds with his mouth. He was lost in his world of his imagination. He could probably feel the wind in his hair.

The last boy had taken his bike, made his way to the local corner store, Wilson’s in Millville, bought himself a bag of chips and rode around town. Up curbs, around rocks, trying to bounce over potholes.

There is something about a bike. It’s the speed, the power, the freedom, the possibility. I’ve biked 6000km this summer, so far, and there is still something about the bike.

Rural New Brunswick was wondrous today. Tough hills, a hot sun, some potholes, yet there was something about being on my bike and watching the world go by. I can’t count how many front porch waves or farmer nods I got today, but quiet country roads will do that to you.

I also got lucky today and the timing worked out that RoseMarie Davis, the Cameron Heights librarian, and family were traveling home from their summer vacation in Nova Scotia. We were able to meet up at the foot of the Hartland Bridge, the longest covered bridge in the world. Why make a covered bridge you ask? Because before steel was used for bridge trusses, wood was used. The roof of the bridge was to protect the wood truss from rain and prevent rotting.

The Davis family and I standing next to a world record.

The Davis family and I standing next to a world record.

Tomorrow, I get to saddle up again and ride some up and down terrain to Moncton, New Brunswick where I hope to camp beside Magnetic Hill. Now, I should tell you, I’ve invented a new cycling term today, a brunswick. A “brunswick” is a hill no longer than 200 meters that rises at 11 or more percent. Steep enough to require severe gear changes and by the time you change gears, you’re at the top. For instance, today was a 19 brunswick day. At the end of a high brunswick day, the legs are tired.

Here’s hoping tomorrow will be aa low brunswick day.

Ride on.

August 12, 2013

These Days Are For The Riders


Saturday (Montmagny – Pohenegamook)
Distance: 162km
Time: 5:48:23

Sunday (Pohenegamook – Perth-Andover, NB)
Distance: 204km
Time: 7:12:14

If you were driving in your car this weekend through Quebec or New Brunswick, you probably didn’t notice it. Sure, you may have noticed the beautiful blue cloudless skies and the just-right temperature, but the subtlety of these two days was left to the riders.

From the get go both days a nice, cooling forceful wind blew me east. When you stopped, you could barely see it, but as you rolled down the wonderfully maintained, bike-friendly roads it was easy. Pedaling was easy. I stayed in the big ring all day, just turning over the feet getting closer to the ultimate goal.

The flag flapping and pointing me In my direction. Sweet!

The flag flapping and pointing me In my direction. Sweet!

Generally, when I camp I get the opportunity to meet people. They’ll see me with my bike and ask questions and the like. When I pulled into the campground in Pohenegamook, it was empty.On a Saturday night. Not one person around, at dusk. When I text Laura to say where I am and tell her this, her response, “It’s like the start of a horror movie.” Great, now I’m a little on edge. There is no running water, no electricity. Nothing. Sites are numbered, picnic tables at each site, but just me. Luckily, later on another cyclist showed up. Or was it lucky…duh, duh, duh, duh.

There is something unsettling about a vacant campground. I know what you did last summer?

There is something unsettling about a vacant campground. I know what you did last summer?

On Sunday, I crossed into New Brunswick. Without a doubt, Quebec has had the most consistent bike friendly roads, I will miss that. I won’t miss trying to communicate in my broken, it should be better, French.

Province #7. Starting to feel accomplished now.

Province #7. Starting to feel accomplished now.

But alas, New Brunswick, a quick trip through it and the reality of this epic trip’s end become’s closer to reality.

Ride on.

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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