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Archive | July, 2013
July 31, 2013

Am I A Whack-A-Doo Too?

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Distance: 171km
Time: 6:45:21

I’m standing in the circle of eight of us listening quietly (some of you can’t believe it, but I’m actually very shy). The first guy, 21 from Toronto, is telling a story about a descent he took on his single-speed fixed gear bike he’s using to go across the country (west to east). The second guy, 28 from Victoria, knows better than to try to top the story so instead starts talking about something to do with his favourite porn star. The old guy, 57 from Halifax, tells me later that he has to get back to Halifax before October because he has a sea-kayak expedition to do. When asked about schedule all seven of them laugh it off, “No, I’m a free-spirit, I just get to where I end up.”

This is how I started my day, the collection of cross-Canada cyclists gathered together outside of Velorution bike shop. For most of the conversation, I’m thinking, “These people (two girls) are all whack-a-doo.” Then they ask me about my schedule, my daily goal, etc. In which three of them reply, “Wow, that’s crazy,” in unison. Hold on, I’m the crazy one?

As I rode today, on a beautiful day from Sault Ste Marie to Serpent River, the question keeps rippling through my mind, am I a whack-a-doo too? And I come to the realization that yeah, I am.

What follows are some of my thoughts today:

1. I’m not one to complain about pavement, however, going 20km on “grooved pavement” is crazy. Thank you to the Township of Tarbutt and Tarbutt Additional (seriously, this is the name of the township. I don’t even understand the additional part. It makes me die with laughter thinking they wouldn’t let the folks from Tarbutt Additional just be from Tarbutt, but I digress) for giving me that sacred hour of cycling.

2. I decided halfway through the ride that businesses that advertise how far they are by minutes (KFC – 10 minutes ahead) will no longer receive my patronage. I broke that rule when the campground I was headed for did it. The next campground is 30km away, give me a break.

3. I rode for an hour along Hwy 17B through Garden River and Echo Bay, thanks to a suggestion from a friend, and I was passed by a total of three cars, in an hour. For someone who has been riding the Trans-Canada for days, this was bliss.

4. I’m always interested in who gets recognized by a town on their sign. You know, Sault Ste Marie hometown of Roberta Bondar, Dryden howetown of Chris Pronger,
Marathon home of Kris Wirtz, but none have made me smile as much as the native community of Garden River hometown of Jordan Nolan of the LA Kings. Almost every house had a sign saying, “Go Jordan” or “#71 LA Kings”, almost all of which were sheets of plywood spray painted. So cool!

5. As impressed with Lake Superior as I was, Lake Huron is no slouch of a lake. It’s an easy place to stop for lunch.

Lake Huron for lunch.

Lake Huron for lunch.

I’m into and through Sudbury tomorrow, on my way to Ottawa for the weekend.

And so, it is my statement henceforth, that I realize and accept my whack-a-doo status.

Ride on.

July 30, 2013

Glory!

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Distance; 194km
Time: 7:17:43

When the rain stopped today, the world decided today was going to be a day for the bike riders. Beautiful blue sky, wonderful roads, and a nice little tailwind most of the way.

Starting my day in Lake Superior Provincial Park allowed me to be surrounded by the protected wonders of nature. Pure bliss, when the sun is shining on them. Some of the vistas almost take your breath away. Glory!

My, that lake is superior.

My, that lake is superior.

When I stopped at the Visitor’s Centre the attendants were excited to tell me all the real climbing was over and, “you get to go down a huge hill. I love telling cyclists that.” Glory! The descent, by the way, was worth the excitement.

I stopped for a break at the Agawa Indian Crafts stop just beside Pancake Bay Provincial Park. It was flush with little kids with ice cream over their faces, old men ‘stealing’ a bite from their loves cone, people galore asking me about my trip and a man whose father built a house a few doors down from mine (talk about a small world). Glory!

In fact, I was feeling like a bit of a celebrity with everyone so impressed by my adventure so far. That is, until a guy asked, “so what do you cover 300 – 400 kilometers a day?” When I answered, “oh no, maybe 160 or so.” He responded, “Oh, that’s it,” as he walked away. A nice little ego check for me. Glory!

An as"Sault on Ste. Marie

An as”Sault on Ste. Marie

Then, the piece de resistance, I pulled into Sault Ste. Marie and turn to go the bike shop for some extra tubes (always good to carry) and voila a small cove of cross-Canada cyclists who are encouraged to camp behind the shop. We have access to a shower, bathroom and all to encourage the community. Velorution opens their doors, literally, to all touring cyclists. All they ask, leave no garbage, sign the guestbook, and ride. Glory!

The cycling community continues to astound me.

The cycling community continues to astound me.

Then, to top it all off, the weather looks perfect for tomorrow. I am in my glory!

Ride on.

July 29, 2013

What’s a little rain to a goose?

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Distance: 121km
Time: 4:28:07

Every town has got theirs. The reason you should stop and check it out. White River, where I started the day, is “famous” because that’s where the original Winnie the Pooh was sold to a Lieutenant by a trapper. The black bear named “Winnipeg” was brought overseas with the platoon and caught the fancy of A.A Milne. Thus, you need to stop in White River, to see where it all began.

This is where the myth began.

This is where the myth began.

And 90km later today, I came into Wawa. The sight of the “infamous” Canada goose that overlooks the Trans-Canada and symbolizes the “toughest stretch of Trans-canada built east of the Rockies.” The Wawa goose is looking worse for wear, that’s why they are fundraising for a new one, but it calls out for you to stop and check it out.

The goose that can't fly.

The goose that can’t fly.

Now I know I’ve done a little bit about these before, the tallest teepee in the world, but I it caught my interest and my thoughts again today.

Also, isn’t there something special when a day when you start riding in the rain and you ride for 85km in it, suddenly stops and turns beautiful. That’s what happened today. Just magic.

Then I got to Rabbit Blanket campground (don’t even get me started on why a rabbit would ever need a blanket) to a dry tent, met wonderful people, many who were curious about me, then stayed dry in our nightly rainfall.

All in all, a nice day to set me up for a great day of riding into the Soo.

Ride on.

July 28, 2013

I Get Knocked Down…But I Get Up Again

I Get Knocked Down…But I Get Up Again

Friday
Distance: 157km
Time: 7:46:47

Saturday
Distance: 125km
Time: 5:01:17

Dear Northern Ontario,

Up to this point you had been fair to me. You gave me reasonable roads, nice weather and friendly drivers. I have seen and met more cyclists among your scattered towns then the rest of my trip. I was starting to think you weren’t all that tough.

Sure, I had that day where my head wasn’t in it. You had something to do with it, but mainly that was just a ‘me’ thing. Then yesterday, you thought it about time to knock some Northern Ontario sense into me. I had become too cocky on your roads. Yeah, my plan was to ride 180km from Nipigon to Marathon. In fact, I had to get to Marathon because my mother was waiting to show me around on her first visit to her hometown since she left in Grade eight.

You started the day with a nice steady drizzle. Get me damp, but not soaked. Cool me down, without freezing me. You left that drizzle in the sky just to wake me up, because I left especially early to be in Marathon early. Smart play. After about 30km of reasonable riding you started up the north winds. You decided I needed to be knocked around a bit so you added gusts around 40km/h, but I persisted.

The road construction for 30km was like a reminder from home. There’s always construction in the summer, why would you be different.

Northern Ontario, you weren’t satisfied were you? So, you turned down the thermostat like my Dad used to. Down towards 7 degrees, you kept the drizzle and the winds. Then I rolled into your secret weapon, hills. Not little rollers for you either, nice 2km climbs often at a 6% pitch, but sometimes blasting up to 9 or 10%. Really giving the legs a punishment. Good on you. But like a boxer in the late rounds I kept swinging.

That’s about the time I left Terrace Bay, cold, wet yet still smiling having just run into some other cross-Canada cyclists an just 80km from Marathon. Thunder, lighting and a downpour that had me questioning my brain capacity were your last little trick.

Needless to say, you won. I threw in the white towel, twenty-five kilometers from Marathon I knew I wasn’t going to make it before dark. The two hours of shivering while pedaling despite throwing layers on, the toes I was convinced might get frostbitten all little pieces of my decision. I stopped at Neys Provincial Park. I wasn’t going to make it Marathon by bike, so I called my mom for a ride into town.

But then you showed the welcoming side of you Northern Ontario, the people. Mae and Chaz Chesnick from Marathon, who had been friends with my grandparents over 50 years ago, opened their door to me, soaked and freezing. They had started the woodstove, cooked a meal and brought colour back into my hands and toes. You showed me that the people of Northern Ontario are some of the best.

Me, Mom, Chaz and Mae

Me, Mom, Chaz and Mae

After a good night sleep, a warm breakfast and a trip down memory lane with my Mom, I was driven back to Neys Provincial Park to rejoin my journey from where. I left off.

Northern Ontario, you gave me a little fog and twelve degree weather to start but I had earned your respect as the last forty kilometers into White River you even gave me a nice partially sunny welcome.

You’ve earned my respect, Northern Ontario. I won’t take your distances or weather or terrain for granted. I will spend the rest of my time here recognizing your rugged beauty and peaceful isolation. Most importantly, I will take with me how great the people are.

Sincerely,
Scott

Ride on.

P.S. To the bus load of kids who all hung out the windows in the rain on Friday to cheer me on as you rode past, thanks, you warmed me up when I needed it.

P.P.S. Just as a side note, I walked into the little restaurant in town tonight in White River and ran into Karen, who I had last seen in Vermilion Bay. I said, “Wow, I’m so surprised to see you here. I’ve been doing some big distances and you’ve kept up. Good on ya!” She replied, “Oh, I’ve gotten picked up and driven every day it’s rained, so that’s been helping me keep up.” Needless to say, we had dinner together like old friends. Anyone who rides a bike is a friend of mine.

July 26, 2013

Suck It Up Princess!

Suck It Up Princess!

Distance: 131km
Time: 5:52:32

It started tough. Less than 5km into the ride my rear wheel flats. A kilometer later, I realize I didn’t fix it right which makes me have to do it all over again. Then about six kilometers after that a cop pulls up beside me and tells me to get off the Trans-Canada, as through Thunder Bay it is a restricted highway. I begrudgingly do and spend my first hour on the bike dodging cars, stop lights and trying to go in the most direct route.

A little while later after getting directions from a guy on the street I found out I had gone too far and had missed the Terry Fox monument. I had to backtrack. I hate backtracking. Not to mention, I had to go on the restricted highway (it is restricted because it has no shoulders). After all that, I arrived at the Terry Fox monument.

To say I was moved would an understatement. It is something else. I wish every Canadian could visit it. I think it is profound to stand and admire the man, to think of his legacy and to be part of the epic story of Canadians who believed.

The Terry Fox monument, make a point of visiting it if you can.

The Terry Fox monument, make a point of visiting it if you can.

Not far up the highway, another reminder of Terry Fox, the place where the Marathon of Hope ended.

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All of this inspired me. How could it not?

However, today was a real hard day in the saddle. I’m usually very quick to shake negative feelings. I try to recognize the wonder of what’s around me. Today, I couldn’t do it. The headwind, the cold, wet temperature, all affected my mood. As I told Laura, “It’s a good thing we don’t have a helicopter, because I would have called asked for you to chopper me out.” to which she replied, “You know for sure, I would have never sent it.”

Needless to say, I got to Nipigon today. It sets me up for a long day into Marathon, where I’m meeting my Mom (it’s her birthplace) and she’ll be seeing it for the first time since she was little kid. I’m looking forward to sharing that with her tomorrow.

It’s time for me to suck it up, recognize that I’ve been given this opportunity to see Canada.

Ride on.

July 26, 2013

Thunder..Na na na na na na na… Thunder Bay!

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I had to go and check out Kakabeka Falls.

I had to go and check out Kakabeka Falls.

Distance: 204km
Time: 7:23:14

Leaving English River I had Thunder Bay in my crosshairs. It was a third straight 200+ km day but I had a beautiful tailwind, nice overcast day and very little traffic. I was flying!

To imagine what happened next, you’d think I was making it up. You’d think I studied the quest tale and imagined the archetypes of a journey. You know, the early thirties clad in spandex pushing the pedals as hard as possible (that’s me), the young university grad who just broke up with her boyfriend, the retired Brit who lost his wife five years ago and the mid-twenties drfiter with dreadlocks, sandals and no helmet, one by one each ventured into the tiny Northern Ontario town of Shabaqua on their way east.

At the same time, as I rolled in, the four of us meeting for the first time under the awning of the only gas station for miles. Then not ten minutes later, a total downpour. Each of us safe and dry. One by one we each left and that was that. Each of them had started on the west coast at different times and met in that moment.

As I was the last one to arrive and the last one to leave, I met them all later on the road as I passed them.

To meet others on this journey let me share and learn from their experiences. It also was interesting all the different stories that take people onto the bike and onto the road.

Ride on.

July 24, 2013

Every Road Has a Story

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Distance: 205km

Time: 7:29:13

It’s quite something to bike through this rugged landscape. It stretches out and encloses on you. For stretches of time, I’m the only person around. Today, the traffic was light, the road was smooth and the weather begged to be enjoyed.

As alone as I was at times, there are stories being whispered through the lands. The most obvious, the hundreds of inukshuks perched on the rocky outcrops. Each one delicately placed there by someone. Who stops their car in the middle of nowhere to climb a rocky cliff and make a pile of rocks? What story does each inukshuk hold?

After seeing so many and thinking about each story, I decided to add my own story to the highway. I climbed up, not too high, and built my little inukshuk from the rocks I could find. It becomes an anonymous part of the larger story.

My story added to the tale of the road.

My story added to the tale of the road.

The other part of the story of the road is the 15-20 crosses within the 200km I rode today. Each one calls out the story of someone lost. As I pedaled past I couldn’t help but feel the story whispered in the trees. It’s a lonely stretch of road, but these stories keep you company.

Alas, I ride on, reflecting on the stories of the past and imagining all the stories yet to be captured.

I rest tonight in English River, one big push tomorrow to Chippewa Park just outside Thunder Bay. I hope the road, the weather and the riding is as good as today.

Ride on.

July 23, 2013

The Goliath

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Distance: 207 km
Time: 8:03:12

When this thing got started, I always told people, “I’m not afraid of the mountains, the prairies or the east coast, what scares me the most, Northern Ontario.” I’ve heard of the bad shoulders to ride on, the tough Canadian shield and of course, the size.

I find myself 4 provinces down and now into Ontario, better known by me as, The Goliath.

The beginning of The Goliath.

The beginning of The Goliath.

As I crossed the border from Manitoba today, the landscape changed dramatically. Gone were the flat forests and fields, instead trees and rocks. Not to mention the presence of mini inukshuks along the road. The landscape suggested I had entered a more rugged land, something unforgiving.

I had been told of the highway of no shoulder. So far, that hasn’t been my experience, but I’ve still got almost 12 days of it, so only time will tell.

I got a chance to ride through the quaint town of Kenora and find myself in the village of Vermilion Bay. Along the way, another flat.

Often when I flat out, it almost seems a mystery what caused it. Not today, the culprit was too slow in leaving the scene of the crime. By the picture below, could you solve the mystery of the flat tire?

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

About 80km away from my destination, I was told there was a woman who was also biking about an hour in front of me. That was enough motivation for me to drop the hammer. I had to chase the breakaway, it had to be done.

With 50km to go, I caught her and rode with her right into Vermilion Bay. I got a chance to meet Karen. From BC she is making her way across the country partly as her form of protest to the Keystone Pipeline. She is most definitely an environmentalist, but also a teacher (who else has the time to do this). We spent our time riding together talking about our experiences biking, our teaching, and writing (she hopes to write an environmentalist book about this trip). It was a smooth ride where the final kilometers just melted away. Another cool interaction with a stranger on the road.

Another adventurer, Karen.

Another adventurer, Karen.

Ride on.

July 22, 2013

On The Road Again…

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Distance: 111km

Time: 4:18:15

After two days of rest, food and Laura, I found myself having to swing a rejuvenated leg over the top bar again. It was tough leaving Laura because we had such an awesome weekend in Winnipeg.

Before I got on the bike, Laura had convinced me to take part in the “Color Me Rad” 5km run that happened This morning. The idea of the run is every kilometer you get “bombed” with a paint-tinted corn starch. Thus starting out in all-white, you become a cornucopia of colour by the end. Sure enough, I tied on the old running shoes and Laura, my mom and I all participated. To say that running was foreign to these old legs is an understatement.

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At the end of the run, it looks like a paint factory blew up on you.

At the end of the run, it looks like a paint factory blew up on you.

After having run and showered, we also took part in a Winnipeg tradition the brunch buffet at the Fort Garry Hotel. To say I fueled up for my ride is an understatement.

And so, around 2pm I was on the road again. I pedaled, loosened the legs and soon enough had missed my turn for the Trans-Canada. After a little bit of figuring (Google Maps) I only went a few kilometers out of my way.

Today I hit the longitudinal center of Canada. I’m officially longitudinally halfway done. The reality is the Northern Ontario segment of the trip looms large. It will take me about 2 weeks to reach Ottawa from here. So I settle in.

I'm halfway there, longitudinally speaking.

I’m halfway there, longitudinally speaking.

Along the way, I was caught by another cyclist Greg who was going for a ride on the Trans-Canada. We rode together for 15km before he had to turn back around. He was a nice guy and we chatted mainly about the ultra-marathons he does.

And as he left around the 45km mark of my ride, the rain started. It followed me all the way to Prawda. Tomorrow, I cross into Ontario.

Ride on.

July 19, 2013

Into Winnipeg

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Distance: 147km
Time: 5:24:15

As the rain fell last night, the forecast told of a wet, rainy ride into Winnipeg, but as has been my luck the rain stopped just a few minutes before I left the campground. I rode the day in beautiful overcast weather that kept it from being too hot.

The ride itself was excellent. A nice, steady pace on even pavement.

Go Jets Go, I guess.

Go Jets Go, I guess.

All day I was excited to get to Winnipeg, and more importantly to see Laura. All day I was thinking about how lucky I am to be able to experience this adventure. I have an exuberance about the life I lead and this has been an energizing experience.

In no time, I was into Winnipeg. Rather than sleeping on the ground in a little tent, Laura and I are living it up at the Fort Garry Hotel, a national historic site built in 1913 to accommodate all the socialites traveling by train. Needless to say, an upgrade for a few nights.

The Fort Garry Hotel, living like we live in 1913.

The Fort Garry Hotel, living like we live in 1913.

On Sunday, I continue on, but until then I live it up in Winnipeg with my girl on my arm.

Ride on.

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