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August 28, 2013

Dear Canada

Dear Canada

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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 19, 2013

The Final Chapter Begins

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Distance: 114km
Time: 4:13:21

I took three days off and cottaged. I rode my bike only once to the corner store and back to get more food. I did what any self-respecting cottager would do and eat, eat and eat some more. Getting on my bike this morning was a rude awakening. Leaving Laura once again was incredibly difficult. I have to say, I’m tired of having to say goodbye to her. But this journey still has two provinces and about 600 kilometers.

Laura, queen of the corn.

Laura, queen of the corn.

My biking on PEI had been minimal. Today was only my second day of biking and I was headed to the ferry. Two things will strike you if you cycle the island: 1) It’s freakin’ hilly. 2)You’ve got to watch the road because you may have to dodge a potato or two. (There were about a dozen on the road all told.)

Getting on the ferry with a bike is a dream because you get to roll right past all the other cars and be one of the first on, thus procuring the best seating.

Shoving off the island headed back for the mainland.

Shoving off the island headed back for the mainland.

The ferry was quick. I spent most of it reading and playing hide and seek with the little boy who was sitting by me as he’d tuck his head behind the chair and peek up and when he did I’d make an expression and he’d duck back down. Between those things, I was in Nova Scotia before I knew it.

Good ol' New Scotland, province number nine.

Good ol’ New Scotland, province number nine.

Luckily for me, I was able to stay in the quaint little town of Pictou for the night with my aunt and uncle. They put me up, served me a great dinner and we wandered down to the pier where they have live music. We heard a few fiddling reels as the sunset over the water. A truly gorgeous night.

On the wharf in Pictou enjoying a few reels on the fiddle.

On the wharf in Pictou enjoying a few reels on the fiddle.

Tomorrow, I roll through Nova Scotia on my way to Port Hawkesbury, perfectly halfway to the ferry to Newfoundland. By Wednesday morning, I’ll have made it 10/10. As of today, 9/10. As a teacher, I’d say 90% ain’t bad.

Ride on.m

August 15, 2013

Staying Put For A Few Days

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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.

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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