19 August 2007

We've done it--we've finished cycling across Canada!

I quite enjoyed today's ride, knowing it was the last of the trip. The day was sunny, and the terrain was awesome--scattered with short, steep climbs and descents. I had loads of energy, and the ride seemed to go by quite quickly, despite having made a few wrong turns thanks to some poorly-marked highway junctions.

As we approached Halifax, we stopped at a visitor's centre to find out where the hostels were. Apparently, Halifax is very busy in the summer, and all of the hostels were booked solid. The lady at the info centre recommended we stay in the residence at Mount St. Vincent University, just outside of town. We rode the final 20 km of our trip, facing an extremely steep climb into the residence building, which was literally on top of a "mount".

So, now we're finished. And it feels... well, anticlimactic. I mean, we arrived at Mount St. Vincent, and it felt just like we'd finished another day of cycling; the only difference was that there are to be no more days of cycling after this. Perhaps if we'd gone down to the water to dip our tires (this didn't happen because the beach was out of our way, and it was getting late--we did it the next day), or had a crowd of people welcome us to the city (this didn't happen because... well, we're just not famous enough) it would have been different. But we were too tired to experience the emotions that I'd imagine many cross-Canada cyclists feel upon completion of their journey. We were too tired to feel excitement or a sense of accomplishmet, to party, to have a crazy night out. We went downtown and had an amazing meal at the Economy Shoe Box, a trendy little bar owned by the father of the drummer of the Trews. When we told our waiter what we had just fnished doing, he gave us two free pitchers of some excellent Nova Scotia beer. All in all, we had a good night and felt quite satisfied with ourselves.

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you to everyone who has been kind to us along the way. You have been so generous--opening your doors to us for a night or two, feeding us (no small feat!), offering anything of use. You have expressed such a keen interest in our trip, offered words of advice, shared your knowledge. You have made this trip worthwhile, and shown us that Canada is a beautiful country inhabited by amazing people.

Finally, thanks to all who have been following my blog. Your reading this makes my writing worthwhile and fun! Perhaps there will be more blogging to come!


18 August 2007

What a miserable day for cycling! It began with a light rain, which turned into a heavier downpour, and then a full-blown thunderstorm. We rode 10 km before stopping at a visitor's centre to warm up and hope for it to blow over. It didn't, so we visited the nearby library to use the computers for a while, and then sat in Tim Horton's and ate way too much food.

Finally, we forced ourselves to move. This ride wasn't going to be pleasant, but it had to be done; we were just too close to Halifax to spend too much time dilly-dallying. So, we toughed it out. We went outside, got on our bikes, and pedalled as hard as we could to warm up. Although our energy soon faded, we persevered, and took only one quick bathroom break for 60 km of riding.

By the time we were nearing Kentville, my whole body ached and I couldn't feel my feet. I was so looking forward to reaching some little restaurant or coffee shop that we could warm up in before pitching our tents, when I decided to ride over some tiny, sharp object that punctured my inner tube. As soon as we pulled over to change the tube, it started to really pour hard. Once we finished the repair, we decided to stop at the first restaurant we saw, which happened to be yet another Chinese-Canadian place.

A change of clothes, a few pots of tea and some dinner and dessert were just what we needed to feel better. We sat in the restaurant for quite a while, before deciding that it was really high time we sought out a camping spot. Luckily, we found a nearby field covered in long grasses that made for a cushy mattress. Tomorrow we finish our trip!


17 August 2007

Since we had camped outside the ferry docks last night, all we had to do this morning was get up, buy our tickets, pack up our stuff and get on board. The ferry left at 9:00, and we had a nice cruise across the Bay of Fundy into Digby, Nova Scotia. Once we reached Digby, we bought some more propane and made some pasta for lunch. Then, we bought our groceries for the evening and the following morning. By the time we actually got cycling, it was almost 4. The ride was so scenic, and we were dying to go for a swim, so we decided early on to take it easy and spend three days traveling the ~250 km into Halifax, rather than just two. We stopped at a nice rest area, went swimming, and had food. We pitched our tents there, and went to bed. In the middle of the night, we had visitors: a group of teenagers had decided to pull up, beam their headlights at our tent, and honk--loudly, and many times. Luckily, they were harmless, and left after a few minutes.


16 August 2007

I really began to feel how close we are to Halifax--our cross-Canada destination--today. We were aiming to get to St. John tonight in order to take the ferry to Digby, Nova Scotia in the morning. Then, we'll only have two cycling days left!

Today's cycle was a lot of fun--hilly, but fast, down a highway that was fairly busy, but smooth with a wide shoulder. We stopped at a brand new info centre about 25 km west of St. John for a snack, and then carried on towards the city. Although we had planned on reaching our destination before eating, we stopped at a rest area just outside and spent quite a while relaxing there before moving on.

We finally forced ourselves to mobilize, and rode down to the ferry docks. We were told it was OK to camp on the field outside, so we pitched our tent and had a poor "dinner" of bagels and leftover pasta sauce. We enter our eighth and final province tomorrow!


15 August 2007

It was raining when we woke up this morning, and I was especially slow to get ready. When we finally left, Dan and I really didn't feel like cycling (Naomi was in better spirits), so the ride felt long and slow. Luckily, we only had about 30 km until Fredericton, where we had planned to stop to use the internet and do laundry.

Just as we entered the city, Dan got his third flat of the trip. Naomi and I went downtown, while Dan repaired his tube. By the time the three of us met up again, we were starving. A Fredericton local told us about a restaurant called the Diplomat with amazing all day breakfast. We decided to give it a shot, and we weren't disappointed--our breakfast included two pancakes, hash browns, toast and baked beans. Everything was delicious, and we left feeling full and satisfied.

After spending way too much time on the computers in the library and doing our laundry, we weren't going to cycle any further. We got a residence room at the University of New Brunswick, went grocery shopping, and had a late pasta dinner.


14 August 2007

Although yesterday was fun, we decided it was time we had a bit of a more challenging day of cycling. So, we got up fairly early and just pounded it out to Woodstock, about 80 km away. The road was typically hilly, but quite scenic, and we were very pleased with our morning's ride.

In Woodstock, we went to a bike shop to get some new inner tubes for Naomi, and then had lunch at Timmy Ho's. I needed to make a phone call to get my flight changed, so I ended up sitting on the phone, mostly on hold, for at least an hour. The experience was frustrating, but the flight has been changed: I arrive in Toronto on the 23rd of August in the morning! Wow, I can't believe I'll be home so soon!

It was hard to get going after all of the waiting around, but once we did, the ride wasn't half bad. We made it to King's Landing, a small historical village just 30 km west of Fredericton, and camped out at the visitor information centre.


13 August 2007

The road into Perth-Andover was extremely hilly, and my alread-sore legs definitely took a bit of a beating. When we were just a few kilometres away, Naomi had yet another flat (#14 for her!), but told us to continue on to Perth-Andover, where she'd meet us. Perth-Andover was a lovely little town, where we took advantage of the internet in the library. After taking too many hours off, we decided we were too lazy to continue cycling, and this would be our day of rest. We went a bit crazy at the grocery store, buying loads of cookies and two litres of ice cream. We also bought some wine, and found a nice little spot by the water for our picnic dinner. Since it was lower than the road, we were partially hidden away, so we decided we'd pitch our tents there for the night, too.

We had a lovely little evening, with food, ice cream, wine and hair-braiding. Once we got through our first bottle of wine, we sent Dan out to get another. Dan was a bit irritated that we were being so girly, so I think he was glad to have a break from me and Naomi. At dusk, Naomi and I decided to go for a bit of a swim, in spite of the uncleanliness of the water; it felt amazing, and for the first time in a long time, I was comfortable and decidedly un-sticky in my sleeping bag that night.


12 August 2007

We started off the morning with a quick ride into Edmunston, where we did our laundry and ran a few random errands. It seems that New Brunswick is quite hilly, but a different kind of hilly than northern Ontario or BC: the hills here are usually pretty short, but very steep.

We took a nice, small highway with little traffic along the St. John River. We're so close to the end of our trip now that nothing really motivates us to do very long days. So, once we reach about 100 km, we feel as though we've covered respectable ground, and are allowed to stop. Today we started looking for a camping spot at just about this point, but found nothing until we hit a small bar and convenience store near a town called Limstone Siding. There was a nice field behind it that was surrounded by trees, and we were dying to go swimming in the river. We went into the store to inquire about the field. Brenda, who was working there, and also happened to be the owner's wife, told us that the field belonged to the lady next door. Instead, she offered us a small patch of grass behind the store, and told us we could even move one of the picnic tables onto the little 'site'. She advised against swimming in the St. John River, as it was extremely polluted, and instead offered us the use of the bathrooms to wash up a bit. We graciously accepted, pitched our tents, and washed the layers of grime off of ourselves. When we were finished, Brenda came outside and offered to cook us dinner. What a treat! We sat inside the bar and had beers--on the house!--while Brenda made us burgers and fries. We were starving, and this was just what we needed. When we finished, we sat inside and watched TV. I left my wet clothing in the bar to dry overnight, and Brenda offered to make us some breakfast before we left in the morning. We are ever so thankful for Brenda's New Brunswick hospitality!


11 August 2007

The morning's ride was tough today, with a staircase-like road that just seemed to go up and up. Luckily, though, it got a bit better later on. We finally crossed the border into New Brunswick today, and after Naomi finished fixing yet another flat, we carried on not too much further to a nice picnic table by the water to have dinner. The plan was to camp there somewhere, hidden away in the bush, but we couldn't find a suitable spot. We asked the advice of a local next to our picnic area, who told us about a park we could pitch our tent in. We had some amazing sundaes at a local ice cream shop, and then headed for this park. Although it was fairly close to the train tracks, we found a spot on the far side of a field that was partially sheilded by a steep embankment. That night, I was again awoken by rustling noises outside. It sounded like someone (or something!) pacing; I tried to make myself stop being paranoid, but it was hard to get to sleep. In the morning, I found out that it was only Naomi shifting about in her sleeping bag. Dan and Naomi had another good laugh, and I'm now determined to stop being such a chicken.


10 August 2007
We had quite the pleasant ride again today, with more beautiful Quebec scenery and friendly cyclists. We rode to the rest stop at the junction of highways 132 and 239, where we found a rest area to pitch our tents for the night. It was hard for me to get to sleep, and I lay awake, frustrated. When I finally did manage to fall asleep, I kept waking up. When I first started to hear noises outside the tent, I looked out, and it was only the dog from the house nearby; however, later into the night, there was defnitely something just outside the tent, walking around. I was terrified, as I wondered what it was and what it was trying to do. It was right near my head, too, and I lay awake for ages waiting for it to go away and praying that it wouldn't try to get in. Luckily, all was well, and Naomi and Dan had a good laugh about it in the morning.


9 August 2007

After a bit of a sleep-in and a delicious breakfast of freshly-baked croissants, we had quite a pleasant ride out of the city this morning. I just love riding in Quebec! It's so scenic and you encounter cyclists everywhere you go. We stopped in a town called Montmagny for a late lunch, and decided to be lazy and not go any further. Instead, we made use of the internet cafe for quite a while. Once we finished, Jean-Lucas, the owner of the cafe, told us he'd show us a good place to camp for the night. He and his father took us to a little park right beside the St. Lawrence River, and told us nobody would bother us there. We were quite happy, as it was a beautiful spot with picnic tables and shelters.

We set up our tents and had some dinner, and it was about 10:00 by the time we'd finished. We were almost ready to get to bed, when some cars pumping loud music pulled up right beside our campsite. A large group of local youths gathered, made a huge bonfire and had some beers. We thought we were in for a long night, when Jean-Sebastian came over to our table and invited us to join them. We gladly accepted, and hung out with them for a while. Although most of them only spoke French, Jean-Sebastian was very happy to practice his English with us, while Naomi spoke French with some of the others. A successful night in Montmagny!


8 August 2007

It rained all day today, making our ride quite miserable, though not as bad as it was with rain in the Rockies in June. We were happy to finally reach Quebec City, where we were staying with Naomi`s family. Naomi`s aunt, Guylaine, met us at the ferry docks and went across with us to Levis, where she lived. We had dinner with Guylaine, her husband Robert, and their son Raphael. It was nice to have showers and sleep in beds, yet again! Many thanks to Guylaine and Robert for their hospitality!


7 August 2007

Once again, Matt led us out of the city, and Dan and I were on the road again. The ride was quite nice. Again, we passed a lot of cyclists, and many of them were touring! It`s so great to see, although it seems we`ve sort of lost our celebrity status...

We took one of our breaks at a small fry stand, where we met Naomi. Naomi is a tree planter from Vancouver Island who started cycling across Canada with four guys, but decided they were too intense for her when they wanted to do 150-km+ days in 35 degree heat in the prairies. She took a bus from Moose Jaw to Ottawa, and was now continuing the trip on her own to Quebec City. She rode with us to Trois Rivieres, where we ended up camping on a grassy spot right next to a grocery store. It was fully lit by huge parking lights, so the middle of the night felt like day. Also, it was right next to a truck stop area, so trucks kept passing us in the night. One of them thought it would be funny to blow his horn at us. Ha ha. I invited Naomi to cycle with us to Halifax, so we`ll have a third rider with us for the rest of the trip.


6 August 2007

Today was quite the relaxing day, and we needed it--I could barely walk after the intensity of yesterday`s ride. After a relaxing morning of lounging around and watching tennis, we went downtown with Matt. We had some awesome Lebanese food, walked around, and went to see The Bourne Supremacy. Then, we walked around some more, had Chinese, and headed home. Many thanks to Matt and the Grubers for making our stay in Montreal so pleasant!


5 August 2007

Today's ride was absolutely amazing. We finally crossed the border into Quebec, and rode along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Quebec is filled with cyclists, which is so nice to see! We were taking a highway that followed the river to a town called Oka, where there was a ferry that would take us back to the south side. On the way to Oka, we ended up racing a group of cyclists on nice road bikes, carrying no weight, and we beat them! It was such a rush, and we felt quite pleased with ourselves.

On the other side of the river, we cycled for about 10 km and met up with Matt so he could lead us right into Montreal. Matt hadn`t taken this route before, and it was meant to be quite confusing. Luckily, as he was trying to figure out which way to go, two cyclists stopped to talk to us, and ended up leading us right through the confusing part into the city. Carol and Tina were both really excited that we were cycling across Canada, and were both so nice. Carol was a super athlete--she`d completed two Ironmans, and placed 10th in her first one! It was amazing to meet Carol and Tina, and they really simplified our ride into the city!

Montreal is an awesome place for cycling--it`s covered in kilometres of bike paths, and so many people use them. Toronto should follow its example! On the ride to Matt`s house in Westmont (in central Montreal), we had our first fall of the trip. Matt had unexpectedly slowed down, and I didn`t realise this until it was too late. I rode into Matt, and fell right over. Luckily, I fell on grass, and didn`t even get a scratch.

When we finally arrived at Matt`s house, we were thankful for the showers and the excellent feast that Matt`s mom, Janet, had prepared for us. There was chicken and potatoes and tabouleh and all sorts of wonderful salads--perfect for us hungry cyclists! Later on, Matt`s dad, Jim, drove Dan and I downtown and we checked out some of the outdoor festivals that were going on. We were exhausted after all the walking around and the hard bike ride, and we were happy to go to sleep in a bed, rather than our tent.


4 August 2007

We were relieved when we stepped outside this morning, and the air felt fresh and cool. The road out of Ottawa was beautiful, and perfect for riding. We encountered many cyclists, but two in particular really got us going. They passed us on their fast road bikes--not carrying any weight, of course--and it was race time. We managed to stay with them till the end of the nice road, and then took a break for water before moving on to the main highway.

Although we weren't yet in Quebec, it felt like we were--most people in the restaurant we had breakfast part two in were speaking French. The breakfast was great, and much cheaper than the rest of Ontario had been. There were some info pamphlets in the restaurant, and one of them happened to be a cycling guide for the region. We saw that there was an old railway bed that had been converted to a bike path just a few kilometres south of the main highway. The map indicated that this path was paved, so we decided to take a break from the traffic and give it a shot. However, little did we know that finding this path would be no mean feat. We rode about 5 km down one road before noticing that we had gone in the completely opposite direction. When we reinspected the map, we realised that it just didn't match the roads. After having some ice cream, we asked some locals and eventually reached this elusive path.

The railway-bed bike path was paved for about 30 m; after that, it was covered in hard-packed gravel, which slowed us down big time. We were annoyed that the map completely lied to us, but continued down the path anyway. Eventually, though, we got quite tired and just wanted to get to the nearest town as quickly as possible. Hawksbury was that town, but getting there was slow and tiring. We were both just so exhausted from our morning's race, and having to search for the bike path for so long. At one point, we got chased by a dog again; this one was only a poodle, but it came too close for comfort, and I didn't fancy getting bitten.

When we finally reached Hawksbury, we sat down at the nearest restaurant and had a huge meal and some beer. We got lucky, as the owner offered the field in the back, which was hidden from the street by trees, for us to pitch our tent. It was great not to have to ride any further, and not to have to pay for a campsite.


3 August 2007

It was a bit cooler in the morning than it had been in the past couple of days, and it was very nice not to have to cycle in such extreme heat. Although it warmed up later on, we made good time, and arrived in Ottawa by about 1:30. We stayed with my friend Lillian, who is living with her uncle right in the city. We hung out in her pool, barbequed some burgers and went to see a movie with her brother. Yay Lillian!


2 August 2007

We slept in a bit today, and by the time we left--at about 9--it was already hot and humid. Despite the weather, we had a really good ride, and decided to stop for breakfast part two in a small town called Portland. I had the best omelette of my life at Fast Freddy's, and Sharon, the owner, introduced us to all of her other customers. She gave us free ice cream, and refused to let us tip her.

It was only about 1 when we finished hanging out at Fast Freddy's, and we didn't have far to go to Smiths Falls, our destination for the day. We decided to go swimming at the small beach in Portland to cool down before heading off again. While hanging out on the floating dock, we met Joy and her kids, Felix and Leah. Joy lived in a town about 20 km away, and invited us to spend the night at her place. We graciously accepted, and cycled over to her house after spending a bit more time relaxing on the beach.

We had a delicious dinner of bean burritos with Joy and her husband, Brian. We watched three-year-old Felix ride his bike without training wheels, while Joy and Brian told us about teaching in Japan and their travels through India. Joy is also a cyclist, and had been bitten by dogs and hit by cars--scary stuff! We had some yummy raspberry pie for dessert, and went to bed in their cool basement.


1 August 2007

The alarm went off at 4:30 this morning, and we were out of bed by 5. I think the last time we got up so early was... Saskatchewan? It's definitely been a while since we'd been up before the sun. We managed to get things together fairly quickly, and hit the road by 6:20. This was a good call, as it made the first bit of our ride nice and cool. We had breakfast part two in Napanee, just over 90 km into our day.

We were glad to have cycled so much in the morning, as the afternoon was HOT. We were fortunate to meet a nice lady working in a convenience store just outside of Napanee, who gave us some ice cold bottled water for free. We made it to Kingston by 3:15! It's amazing to get to a place so early, and be able to relax. We're staying at Rhian's friend Ali's apartment tonight, which is really nice. Thanks to you both for hooking us up! We look forward to the frozen pizzas and wine that await us there.


31 July 2007

In spite of the fiasco in White Lake, where our cooler was taken out of the bathroom by a concerned camper, we decided last night that we'd store it in there again, along with our toiletry bags. That was a stupid decision, as we discovered that all of our stuff had been removed, yet again. This time we weren't as lucky as we had been in White Lake--we went to the office, and were told that nobody had brought in our stuff. So, we were forced to move on and buy new everything. It was a huuuuge pain--I especially lamented the loss of a half-full bottle of mustard and my salt and pepper shaker--but we managed.

We had spent half the day buying new food and toiletries, and cycling in the heat was rough. Luckily, Highway 2 is beautiful. We passed all kinds of lovely little towns, including Port Hope, where we had our breakfast part two. We had ice cream--Dutch apple pie flavour!--and then used the internet for a bit. While we were inside the library, somebody stole a water bottle off of my bike. What's with all of these thieves? And why steal a dirty old water bottle, of all things? Surely, they could have taken something more valuable, or at least useful.

Since we were having such a slow, hot ride, we decided to call it a day early and stop at a campground in Grafton. We went swimming in the pool, had our delicious Sidekicks dinner, and called it a night.


30 July 2007

It took a while to get everything sorted out this morning. Apparently, four days off just isn't enough to do everything there is to do. It was well after 1 by the time we finally set off, and pretty hot. We rode into Toronto to meet Alex, who hooked us up with a solar-powered iPod charger that he had put together for us. Thanks, Alex, you rock!

We continued down Highway 2 to Darlington Provincial Park, just outside Oshawa. Dan was excited because this park was named after his hometown in England, but his excitement didn't last--we payed a whopping $27.75 for our site, which had ground so hard that we couldn't even peg our tent down! But we made do, and ate the sandwiches my mother had made us for dinner before getting to bed.


29 July 2007

We had a nice, relaxing day sailing on my family's boat in Midland. There was no wind, so we motored out to Beausoleil Island. We went for a walk, a swim, and had some sandwiches and beer with my dad. The day was beautiful, and it was nice not to have to do anything and just relax. The wind picked up in the evening, so we put the sails up for the trip back to the marina.


28 July 2007

Nirvana, Dan and I went out for breakfast and cake to Futures, where I spend a lot of my regular, non-cycling life, mostly eating and hanging out, but also writing papers and marking tests. Dan and I went for a long walk around the city, stopping at the Moonbean in Kensington Market for some smoothies, before heading down to the CN Tower. We didn't feel like spending money or time to go up to the top, but we took some pictures from the bottom. We had sushi on Queen St., and then headed back to Mississauga.


27 July 2007

We went downtown today, and Dan hit up a library to update his blog, while I had coffee with my old roomie, Lauren. Later on, we went out to the Ferret and Firkin, and later the Madison, with a bunch of my friends from Mississauga and Toronto. I had an amazing time, and it was incredible to see everyone before we set off again, even though it was all much too brief for my liking. Thanks to all who came out! A special thank-you to my lovely Nirvana, with whom we spent the night.


26 July 2007

Today was the first of four days we'll be taking off in Mississauga and Toronto. Dan and I drove to Niagra Falls, took some pictures, and drove back. We had dinner with my parents, and then dessert with the Holmes family (Mike, Maureen and Rhian)--probably our biggest fans--and Laurlei, one of my best friends. Maureen made the most delicious blueberry pie I've ever had, and it was amazing to see everyone again!


25 July 2007

Knowing we had our biggest day yet ahead of us, we tried to set off early today, but didn't end up leaving Wiarton till 8:30ish. The ride was slow and hard. There were lots of hills, and not the fun kind, either: it seemed like we were climbing far more than we were descending, and the descents weren't as rewarding as they should've been. The traffic was heavy, and the roads really bad. All day, we took only two longish breaks for food, as well as a few shorter ones. We just didn't have the time to fanny about the way we normally do on breaks, so we didn't. The worst part was the head wind we had all day long, that wouldn't let us go any faster than 18 or 19 km/h most of the time.

We took Highway 1--Mississauga Road--all the way into Mississauga. We had planned on arriving before nightfall, but ended up riding in the dark for about an hour and a half. I was pretty terrified at first, since the northern country parts of Mississauga road don't have streetlights, and although we did have lights on our bikes, I was worried that we weren't visible enough. But, we made it, and arrived at my parents' house at about 10:15. They were waiting on the doorstep for us, armed with a camera and Canada flag. We had some yummy, homemade lasagna and apple crumble. Our legs are going to burn tomorrow.

[The picture was taken in Wiarton in the morning, just after we got up]


24 July 2007

Today we got to take the ferry across to Tobermory, placing us quite close to Mississauga and Toronto. We cycled across the Island in the morning, and hopped on the 1:30 ferry. The ferry ride was quite cool--we got to cut in front of all of the cars to load our bikes, and were the first ones off in Tobermory. We met Basil, a Trinidadian man who used to work in the same place as my dad. He was so full of life, and a pleasure to talk to.

As soon as we hit Tobermory, we were on the road again, big time. The plan is to hit Mississauga tomorrow, which means we'd have to get to Wiarton, or preferably even further, by tonight. We were exhausted by the time we finally hit this groundhog town, and just couldn't go any further.

We decided to camp in a municipal park again, but this was not as simple as it was last night. The Wiarton park was crowded with people, and had a campground right next to it. We waited till after dark to set up our tent in its most remote corner.


23 July 2007

Since we had run out of food, we started the day off with a Timmy Ho's breakfast. We both had plenty of energy ofter our lazy day yesterday, making the cycyling fast and fun. We wanted to use the internet, so we stopped in a small town called Massey to find out whether the next town, where we wanted to have lunch, had a library. The tourist info centre in Massey was the best one yet--the people were super friendly, and treated us to some cheesecake and iced tea. They suggested an alternate route to the next town, which we were glad to try to get away from the traffic.

The back roads from Massey to Espanola took us through about 30 km of beautiful countryside with trees, rolling hills and pretty little farmhouses. I'd love to live in one of those houses one of these days. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures, but this little piece of country was one of my favourite yet.

The final 60 km into Little Current--the edge of Manitoulin Island--were quite tough. The roads were winding, terribly narrow, and mostly shoulderless. The hilliness was most unwelcome near the end of such a long day.

We finally arrived on the Island at about 8:30. We were pleased to see that the tourist info centre had a nice, grassy area and picnic tables--perfect for camping--but were disappointed when the young punk working there had the nerve to tell us to cycle an extra 10 km to the nearest campsite. Obviously, he didn't understand that we had neither the energy nor time to ride that much further. And, of course, we weren't about to pay money for a proper campsite.

Fortunately, the friendly staff in the ice cream shop next door directed us to a lovely municipal park nearby. Dan focused his energy on settend up our tent and starting dinner, while I washed in the lake. It was a lovely spot, and nobody seemed to mind that we were campling there. Success!


22 July 2007

We had a pleasant little wake-up call this morning--music blaring from the school's outdoor speakers. Apparently, people in Desbarats work on Sunday mornings, as workers had come in to remove asbestos from inside the school. Luckily, they didn't mind that we had camped, and even let us use the bathroom.

Early into our ride, we saw yet another bear crossing the road ahead of us. "How mundane," writes Dan. We cycled just 14 km into Bruce Mines, one of my favourite towns so far in all of Canada. It was small, but well-kept, and had a beautiful park right on the waterfront. We did laundry, had showers and ate a lovely breakfast part two. While Dan was in the shower, I met a really friendly couple from Sault Ste. Marie, who would have gladly had us stay at their place, had we not already passed through. Darn. The woman had cycled across Europe, and was really excited for us about our trip.

It was all downhill from Bruce Mines. And (unfortunately) I mean that figuratively, not literally. It got quite hot, and we just had no energy whatsoever to get moving. We stopped at a gas station and sat there for about an hour, before finally getting ourselves going again. Since our policy is not doing anything we don't feel like doing, we decided to call it quits early. We stopped in a lovely rest area on the Mississagi River, just outside of a town called Iron Bridge. Although camping is technically not allowed there, we were joined by two RVs and one other tent in this spot. We washed in the river with the new biodegradable soap we bought earlier this week, and had an unsatisfying dinner of KD and hot dogs. (We felt like we had to have KD at least once on this trip, and found it on sale for just 66 cents a box.)


21 July 2007

Camping wild last night was pretty awesome (and free!) so we decided that's what we'd try to do from now on. Today, we cycled through Sault Ste. Marie, where we hoped to find a laundromat and bike shop. We were quite disappointed--everything was so spread out and hard to find, and for a city that size, places closed really early on a Saturday. Needless to say, we didn't accomplish anything, and rode off disappointed. In the evening, we stopped to talk to Jukie Daly, who is walking across Canada for a women and children's shelter. Check out his story here.
As we were talking to Jukie, I glanced over to my left, and saw a bear charging across the road, right for us! I was shocked, and hardly knew how to respond. Luckily, as soon as he saw us, he went right around and into the forest. It was quite the encounter--if only we still had our camera out!

We stopped for the night on the grounds of a local high school in a small town called Desbarats. It was located on a quiet road off of the highway, and ideal for our purposes, as it had a nice field and picnic tables. Unfortunately,though, the lake was a distance away, so for the second night in a row, we didn't get to have showers. Surprisingly, we didn't smell so bad (at least we didn't think so), but there was definitely a thick layer of sunscreen, sweat and grime covering us, head to toe. It wasn't very pleasant sticking to those sleeping bags, but it's all the same once you fall asleep.


20 July 2007

Again, we woke up a bit late this morning, and slowly, but surely, got ready to start cycling again. Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as hard as we thought it would be--we had a nice breakfast, said our goodbyes to the guys, and before we knew it, we had cycled a quick 40 km. The weather was beautiful, and we just had ridiculous amounts of energy. We were riding through Lake Superior Provincial Park, one of my favourite spots in Canada so far. Because it was such a nice day and we were so unbelievably pumped, we cycled about 110 km before stopping for a sandwich break at around 7. It felt like nothing, and if it wasn't for the fact that it was eventually going to get dark, we would have kept going for miles and miles. But, it was getting dark, and we had to find a place to set up our tent for the night.

Finally, we got up the courage to skip the campsite and just camp where ever we please. After a few unsuccessful tries, we chose a beautiful spot just off the highway on a rocky beach. We got there just in time to watch the sun set, build a fire, and have an impromptu meal of fire-roasted hotdog bagels with tomato, mushroom and green pepper. Mmmmmmm....

We lay around by the fire looking up at the stars for a while before finally getting to bed. What an end to an amazing day!


19 July 2007

We slept in a bit after the late night we had yesterday. When we woke up, it was still raining outside, and it didn't look like it was going to let up anytime soon. Will easily persuaded us to take a day off in Wawa, and the five of us cross-country cyclists went out to breakfast to the same place we had dinner at last night. Our waitress, Jenny, had been there since 5 AM, even after we kept her there so late last night. What a woman!

After breakfast, I spent a few hours on the computer in the library, while the boys lounged around in the (bigger) hotel room we were going to spend the night in. Later on, we had another pizza and beer dinner at the restaurant, where Jenny pulled through for us yet again. It was awesome to have finally met some fun, young, like-minded cyclists. I was quite glad to have taken the day off.


18 July 2007

We wanted to get to Wawa at a decent time today, so we got up fairly early and started getting ready. We had placed our cooler in the women's washroom overnight, as we usually do, to avoid attracting wildlife; however, when I went inside to bring it back to our site this morning, it was gone! Dan and I were quite worried, as all of our food was in there, and the next town was still 40 km away. I posted a notice in the bathroom, hoping that someone could give us some info or return our cooler. Luckily, a woman came by and filled us in--she had found medication in the cooler (I'd been taking some for joint problems), and was worried that children might get into it, so she gave it to the park warden. Her concern was fair, and we will be sure to store that medicine elsewhere next time. We were just glad that we'd be able to get that cooler back!

The day was gloomy, and we had absolutely no energy riding into White River on empty stomachs. Breakfast part two was a godsend, and we managed to hit the road by 12:30. Not far from town, we encountered another cycle tourist on the side of the road. Matt is a student from Montreal, who spent a year in BC and was now cycling home. We cycled the rest of the way to Wawa with him, and spent our lunch break talking to yet another cycle tourist from Montreal, who was heading west to Vancouver.

When we arrived at the info centre in Wawa, we discovered that the grocery store was closed, and the nearest campsite was about 4 km west of town. We decided to just have dinner at Tim Hortons, and pitch our tent somewhere on a field or in a park after we finished. When we pulled into the Timmy Ho's parking lot, we saw two more cycle tourists, and talked to them for a while. Matt and Will are not your typical cyclists: we found them sitting on the curb, having coffee and smoking cigarettes. Neither was decked out in cycling gear, and both had Canadian Tire bikes with massive trailers. Matt's was adorned with a Canadian flag and a pirate flag, while Will's had an "Ocean to Ocean for MS" banner on the back. Will had started his journey in New Brunswick in the beginning of May, and picked Matt up in Kingston, where they're both from. They're cycling across to raise awareness and money for multiple sclerosis. Check out Will's website at

Will and Matt were mostly camping, but they were spending the night in a motel. They invited us over for showers, and then the five of us went out for pizza and beer. Will and Matt are the most laid back cyclists I've ever met. They work hard, but have a lot of fun--just the way a trip like this should be done! And they're doing it for a good cause.... which makes me regret not getting our act together and doing the same.

Just as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, a massive storm began. There was thunder, lightning, and hailstones the size of golf balls. I've never seen anything like it! We still hadn't set up tents, so Will and Matt invited us to spend the night in their motel room. The five of us walked back in the rain, and managed to all squeeze into the tiny room for the night.


17 July 2007

Today was a really long, painful day. We set off later than planned, and had bad luck finding a place for breakfast part two--one gas station restaurant was too expensive (defeating the whole purpose of breakfast part two) and the next was closed down. We were forced to ride into Marathon, almost 5 km out of our way down a big hill. After eating, we lazed around for quite a while, falling asleep a few times on a picnic bench, before finally forcing ourselves to get back on the road.

We arrived in White Lake Provincial Park at around 8:30, and we were absolutely exhausted. Dan talked to a man from Montreal who was cycling across the country with his son on a tandem, and we passed out in our tent.


16 July 2007

Today was potentially the most relaxed riding day we've had yet, and definitely one of the most beautiful. After a cold morning, we got off to a late start, but we didn't mind; we enjoyed the coziness of our sleeping bags, as well as our small but delicious breakfast part one. We stopped for breakfast part two at a tiny motel restaurant, and then continued on to Rossport, a small village on the coast of Lake Superior. There, we had the best desserts of our trip--I had a coffee-flavoured ice cream cake with an amazing chocolate crust, and Dan a raspberry flan with loads of whipped cream.

Riding along Lake Superior was spectacular. Its waters are crystal clear and Caribbean blue, and in some places you can see for miles into the distance. We stopped at one lookout point, and talked to a nice couple riding across the country in their motor home. Then, as we were about to set off, a huge posse (as we like to call them) of motorcycles pulled in. Dan and I have encountered many motorcycle tourists on our trip, and we mostly just laugh at them--they're always decked out in full leather attire, and they emanate a teenaged look-at-me-'cause-I'm-so-cool attitude. But these bikers were really nice to us. Many of them (there must have been about thirty of them all together) approached us to chat, and were impressed that we were using leg power, rather than engines. One of them commended what we were doing, but said it broke his personal motto: "If it doesn't burn fossil fuel, I ain't ridin' it". It's a shame that people have that kind of attitude; but, all the same, they were great people with a journey of their own. This little encounter definitely changed our conceptions of bikers.

The extreme Ontario hilliness really started today--we'd have long, steep climbs, followed by massive descents--but we didn't mind. The climbs really give you a sense of accomplishment, and the drops are amazingly fun. I love pedaling as fast as I can down them, and trying to beat my own speed personal bests. Currently, my record is 64.4 km/h; we'll see if I have the guts and leg power to beat it.


15 July 2007

We set off a bit late today, and the morning's ride was stressful, at least for me. We had gotten new tires and chains at the bike shop in Thunder Bay, and were charged a whopping $25 each for labour. I realised not long into the ride that my gears were completely out of tune, and it put me in a really bad mood. We stopped at the Terry Fox memorial lookout, where we met two men who had both cycled across Canada before.

Breakfast part two--which we devoured at a truck stop restaurant--really cheered me up, especially since we had pie and ice cream for dessert. The remainder of the ride was fairly mundane, but went by quickly.


14 July 2007

We did some laundry today, and took the bikes into the shop. We both got new tires and chains, so hopefully bike problems will be minimal for a while. Now we have spent hours on the computers at the college, since we have free internet access. Updating blogs is a time-consuming and mind-numbing process. I'm glad that I (mostly) remember to write things down on paper before transfering them to the blog, because otherwise it would literally take the whole day to remember things and get the entries written.

After we pick our bikes up from the shop, we might just go and see a movie. It's been a while since we've done that.


13 July 2007

We set off just slightly late this morning, and had a pleasant, sunny ride into Kakabeka Falls, about 60 km east of Shebandowan. We had the best breakfast part two of our trip there--it included bacon AND sausage, as well as grilled mushrooms and tomatoes! We were feeling lazy, so we also had some ice cream, before finally heading off. The weather had worsened, and we were having bike problems again. This time, though, Dan had yet another flat! I gloated as he changed the tire, and we cycled the rest of the way into the city.

It turned out that the info centre that, according to our map of Ontario, Thunder Bay was supposed to have, didn't exist. We had to cycle around for a while to figure that out, and eventually went to city hall and got some help there. We ended up staying in a residence in Confederation College, for only $15 a night! We got there around 4, were exhausted, and still had lots to deal with. We decided that this called for a day off in Thunder Bay, so we paid for an extra night and went to bed after grocery shopping and dinner.


12 July 2007

Today everything that could have gone wrong, did. Well, almost everything. We set off with the ambitious goal of cycling the 200+ km to Thunder Bay today. Since the area between Atikoken and Thunder Bay has few places to stop for a rest, we had decided to skip breakfast part one (we had some snacks instead) and hit the road right away, and then have a real breakfast in a restaurant in Quetico North, a mere 40 km away. We thought the morning's ride would be a breeze--it tends to be--but we could not have been more wrong. It was cold, windy and rainy, and the cycling was tough.

Our breakfast was delicious, and since it was still raining, we sat around for a while willing the rain away. We had the best pie of our trip--a huge slice of apple crumble with two (!) scoops of ice cream--and relaxed for quite some time. It was still raining when we decided to hit the road, but we sucked it up and left. But before getting going, we had to make a quick stop at the camping store across the street. We went inside, and were greeted by Doug Chapman, another one of those positive people who love life. He owns the store, as well as an outdoor education centre in Thunder Bay. We really enjoyed talking to him, and told him about our situation with propane: the stove we have only works with a certain type of propane can, one that you can only really get in cities with ultra-specialized camping stores. Miraculously, Doug had a few in stock. But when we realised just how much we were spending on these cans, and talked to him about how frustrating it was not to be able to get them anywhere, he had just the solution. He gave us a brand new (used) burner, that works with the standard propane bottles that you can get absolutely anywhere! AND he gave us a bottle of propane with it! What a lifesaver--Dan and I were contemplating getting a new burner, but now we didn't have to. The best part about it all was that giving us the stove made him just as happy as it made us, if not more.

Needless to say, we didn't make it all the way to Thunder Bay. In fact, we were lucky to even make it to Shebandowan. The weather kept changing on us, and it seemed like we were constantly having to stop for something. First, I got a puncture--nothing surprising there. But this wasn't any old puncture--I must have really run over something big and sharp, as there was a giant hole in the middle of my back tire! I repaired the tire with a few patches, and hoped that it would get me to Thunder Bay.

Not very long after that, I got another puncture--number eight--this time in the front. Again, we pulled over to change the tire. I also decided that it would be best to switch the front tire with the back, since the back was much more worn out from all the weight I've been carrying on it. What an ordeal it all was!

We made it as far as Shebandowan, after a grueling twelve-hour day. Tomorrow we will have a half-day ride into Thunder Bay, and take the rest of the day off.


11 July 2007

We had a late start again this morning, since we didn't get around to laundry last night, and still needed to get some more spare inner tubes from the bike shop. We only hit the road around noonish. The area between Fort Frances and Atikoken is very remote, with nothing but a small convenience store and gas station in Mine Centre. It started to rain down on us just as we approached this little store, and we were thankful for the makeshift seating area and microwave inside. We cooked ourselves some chili, and it managed to stop raining when we were ready to set off again.

The latter 80 km of our ride were brutally painful. We just wanted to get there, eat food, and sleep. We approached Atikoken in the late evening, first stopping in at the info centre located just next to the highway. Tamara, who was working there, was very helpful, and even drove us to our campsite when it started to pour again! No, we didn't cheat--the campsite was 3 km off of our route, and we will pick up where we left off tomorrow morning.


We woke up this morning to pouring rain. We'd been having such good weather lately, so we'd forgotten that it's not always bright and sunny when you're cycling across the country. The morning was absolutely miserable. After sleeping in till well after 9, we forced ourselves out of the tent and moved all of our stuff into the nearby picnic shelter. We had a meager breakfast, and then took forever to get all of our stuff together and hit the road. When we finally did, the weather wasn't as bad as we expected. We cycled over 60 km in about two hours, with a nice tail wind to help us along. After a breakfast part two in Emo that really dragged on, we cycled the rest of the way to Fort Frances, the geographical half-way point of Canada!

As soon as we arrived at the campsite, Dan got his first puncture of the trip! For once it was his bike, and not mine, that had the flat. After changing Dan's tube and eating dinner, it turned out to be quite a late night for us.


9 July 2007

I really enjoyed today's ride, particularly in the morning. Northern Ontario is quite scenic--you're always riding through vast forests, alongside jagged cliffs and between sparkling lakes. And the number of wildlife you encounter is astounding: this morning alone we saw five deer, two foxes, and even a bear! Neither Dan nor I had ever seen a bear before, and both of us have been quite paranoid about running into one. But it wasn't bad at all--we rode right by it as it was meandering in the ditch on the side of the road; when we looked behind us, it was walking across. What a sight!

Caliper Lake was absolutely amazing. We had the best campsite of our trip--right on the lake and surrounded by huge trees. We walked ten feet to the beach, went swimming, and were just perfectly content.


8 July 2007

After the beast of a day we had yesterday, a day off was much needed and well deserved. Everytime we have a day off, we always try to get everything we need to get done sorted out in the morning, so we can relax in the afternoon; but we always fail, and end up spending all day doing laundry, groceries, dealing with bikes, etc. Today was no different. We had completely forgotten it was a Sunday (you really don't need to keep track of days of the week when you're cycling across the country!), and that things tend to be closed or only open for a limited time on Sundays. When we arrived in town at about 10, we discovered that most things didn't open till about noon. So we wandered about for a little bit, and then dealt with our stuff.

At the local bike shop, Dan finally got some solid advice about his headset (the part just below the handlebars)--which had been creaking really loudly for a while--and I got a really good pair of gloves for cheap. But the best part was the words of wisdom we received when we asked about a certain chaffage problem caused by too many hours on a bike seat. We'd both been experiencing this problem for a while now, but it hadn't gotten bad until just recently. For me especially it made yesterday's ride almost unbearable. The mechanic at the shop told us we could buy some expensive, specialized creams, but there was something that would work just as well, at a fraction of the cost: diaper cream. I was willing to give anything a shot, so we went to the drug store and bought some. I sure am glad that we did! What a relief!

After finishing the rest of our chorse, we relaxed on the beach for a bit, made dinner, and headed to bed.
Oh, and yes, Geuvdjelian, I copied you with that picture.... but one of my Flickr contacts did it first!


7 July 2007

We had an early, but slow, start this morning. The winds just weren't on our side, and the ride seemed to drag on and on. About 70 km before the Ontario border, the forests and hills began. With the forests came flies--lots of them. At first, they didn't really bother me. But as we rode deeper into the forest, both their number and annoyingness increased drastically. They'd swarm around your head, often hitting you in the face, and bite you in the ass. At one point, I just couldn't take it anymore, they were driving me absolutely insane. I picked up the pace, and we booted it as fast as we could to a general store about 10 km away, where we bought some bug spray (ours had run out). I think this was one of the most horrible parts of the trip, and definitely where I did my hardest pedaling.

We took our lunch break in Whitehawk Lake, just before the Ontario-Manitoba border. Outside the restaurant, we met a guy from Selkirk, a town just outside of Winnipeg, who was really into cycling. Inside, he came over to out table and introduced us to his wife. Both were very impressed by out trip, and bought us our lunch!

We took a long time to hit the road again after lunch, and once we did, it got really hot. As we entered Ontario, the landscape became increasingly hilly, which was fun, but tough. At one point, after we had climbed a hill with a construction zone at the end, a car had pulled over. A woman got out, walked over to us, and handed me a bag of frozen strawberries. She had tears in her eyes, and said, "Here are some frozen strawberries. My father's going the other way. I don't know why I'm crying" and then walked straight to her car. I was dumbfounded, and barely managed to thank her. It's amazing how kind so many people are. This woman was obviously upset about something, yet she still took the time to stop and give us those berries. They were quite refreshing--pretty key on such a hot day.

The ride into Kenora was the longest and toughest of our trip. My feet and ass were aching, and we just didn't want to move on. It was a relief to finally reach Kenora, on Lake of the Woods, and go swimming.


6 July 2007

Today's ride was meant to be under 160 km, but got lengthened because our route incorrectly led us down a gravel road, which we followed for 3 or 4 km before realizing it was the wrong one. Our lunch was the latest we've had yet--95 km into our ride! Getting going again after lunch was tough, as the temperature had risen to 32 degrees Celsius. The sun was beating down on us, and those long, straight prairie stretches were quite challenging. To make matters worse, I was beginning to get really, really sleepy. There's nothing worse than riding in extreme heat when you feel like you're about to fall asleep. After a quick break in an air-conditioned convenience store, I had much more energy, and we raced all the way to Beausejour with few breaks. Our campsite there had the most mosquitos we've experienced yet, but made up for it with a river and a beach. We went swimming, had showers, and then cooked ourselves a delicious meal to finish off the day.


5 July 2007

We stopped in a town called Gladstone for breakfast part two today. We ate in the local hotel/motel, where we talked to our waiter and the manager for a while. They were quite impressed with our trip, so when we went to pay for our meal, the manager told us not to worry about it. Free breakfast + poor, hungry cyclists = AWESOME. part from that highlight, the ride into Portage was rather uneventful, but peaceful and scenic. I've decided that I quite like Manitoba--it's much more colourful and interesting than Saskatchewan, and there are more trees.

There wasn't much to see in Portage itself, but we had a great time there. We stayed in a campgroud that was basically just a big field scattered with some trees and the odd picnic table. When we arrived there at around 3, there were only two other tents set up. We soon found out that both belonged to cycle tourists, one a guy who was traveling west on a recumbent bicycle, and the other an Australian couple also cycling across Canada from west to east.

Ever since my bike fell over a few days ago, the gears just havent been in proper working order, so I was glad to find out that there was a bike shop in town, and a good one at that. Mike's Bike Shop was located in a residential neighbourhood and run out of a small garage. The mechanic there--grandson of the one and only Mike--fixed my gears quickly and easily. Dan and I had some fun trying out some of his cruiser bikes, and I got another spare inner tube. When we were ready to leave, I had my wallet out to pay for the inner tube and labour, but the mechanic didn't charge me! Instead, he gave me a souvenir--dust caps (for my inner tubes) shaped like bullets! Manitobans rock!


4 July 2007

For some reason, we had insane amounts of energy this morning--we cycled the 64 km into Minnedosa in little over two hours! Going so fast for such a long time was so much fun. I was riding directly behind Dan, and in my head we were racing in the Tour de France. Because we had a few things to take care of in town, we decided to call it a day and set up tent in Minnedosa, rather than going any further.


3 July 2007

Again, another solid day of cycling. We finally crossed the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, again on a small, quiet country road. So far, I'm really enjoying Manitoba. Its slogan is "Friendly Manitoba," and its people have been living up to it--everyone's always smiling, waving and saying hello. The countryside is beautiful--much greener and less flat than Saskatchewan, with a number of deep valleys. I realized today how much stronger I've become since having started this trip--the climbs up and out of the valleys were challenging, but not impossibly so. I had a much harder time with similar climbs in BC.

Our campsite in Shoal Lake was the cheapest yet--$12! It was such a nice, calm campground, on a small lake (in which I went for a dip) and free firewood. What more you you ask?


2 July 2007

Today was the first solid cycling day we've had in a while, and it felt really good to get back into the swing of things. It was hot, but bearable, and we had a pleasant ride down small country roads with very little traffic. Our campsite in Esterhazy was well-maintained and cheap--just $13 a night, a steal of deal!


1 July 2007

The plan for this morning was to take off as late as possible, taking advantage of our hotel, a pollen-free zone. We had the best breakfast of our trip so far at the hotel, checked out, and then did some laundry and cleaned our bikes in town. By the time we had finished doing all of those things and (yet again) having ice cream, it was quite late; we were feeling much too lazy to get going again, so we decided to spend the night at the local campsite (Dan's allergies were acting up a bit less now), and really get going again tomorrow.

The campsite was the place to be on Canada Day--the local radio station was broadcasting from there, and fireworks were scheduled for later in the evening--so it was packed with people. Nevertheless, the site manager found a spot for us, hidden away in the bush, where it was to be much quiter at night than the rest of the site. Since it didn't include a picnic table, he gave it to us for free.

After putting up our tent, we went swimming in Echo Lake, where Dan managed to cut his foot on a sharp rock. Luckily, we've each been carrying first aid kits, and they came in handy. Dan's cut was on the ball of his foot in a place he couldn't see, right below his pinky toe; so, it became my job to clean it out for him. Normally, I'm not grossed out by the sight of blood. But having to clean this cut was truly a challenge. It was a few millimetres deep, and filled with tiny rocks and grains of sand that were embedded well inside. At first, the idea of having to really dig into the wound to get all of those bits out was highly unappealing. But soon enough, I became increasingly able to forget that it was blood that I was touching, rather than, say, the filling of a cherry pie. It helped to realize that it really wasn't hurting Dan all that much, and I got the hang of it. It was actually quite rewarding to pry out those bits, one by one. Hooray for Dr. Agnes!

Once I had bandaged Dan's foot up, we decided to head into town for some dinner. Not far from our campsite was the Bistro on Boundary, serving French-Canadian cuisine. Michaelle Jean once ate there, and Monique, the owner, was quite proud of that. We had the best meal of our trip at the Bistro--turkey dinner and wine follwed by saskatoon berry pie for dessert. We felt quite classy eating such good food and sipping our wine, but our class wasn't reflected in the price--only $9 for the dinner (just the turkey part)!

After our meal, we just couldn't be bothered to watch fireworks with the masses, so we listened to them from our tent instead.


30 June 2007

When we woke up this morning at 5:30, there was a massive thunderstorm going on outside. We stayed in our tent to let it pass, so we left a bit later than expected. About 3 km into our ride, Dan realized that one of his pedals, which had been coming loose since yesterday, needed fixing. We backtradcked, heading back into Regina, to the bike shop where I had gotten my bike repaired yesterday. By the time we had finished with the shop, we were already hungry. So, a mere 20 km into our ride, we stopped for breakfast part 2, at a Chinese-Canadian restaurant in Pilot Butte.

Small towns in Canada tend only to have one restaurant. And, three times out of four, it is a restaurant just like the one in Pilot Butte: "serving Chinese and Canadian cuisine." These restaurants are great--they are always run by a friendly Chinese couple, who usually have kids that run around in the back, or sit at a table and colour. You can order anything from a burger and fries to chop suey and chicken fried rice. And you only get chopsticks if you ask for them; these restaurants definitely cater to the rural, Western crowd.

After lunch, we had some ice cream, and by the time we finished, it was already 2. We were feeling quite lazy, but somehow managed to get ourselves moving. The ride into Fort Qu'Appelle was not pleasant. About 20 km east of our destination, Dan had an extreme allergic reaction, a "hay fever attack," as he put it. To make matters worse, my back tire decided to slowly release all of its air. Rather than waste time changing the inner tube, we stopped every 5 km or so to pump it up. But just as we were descending into the Qu'Appelle Valley--yes, Saskatchewan has valleys!--Dan had had enough of his allergies. His eyes were so itchy that he was going kinda crazy (I was quite worried), and even his nose was swollen! I told him to ride ahead to the nearest campsite to splash cold water on his face, while I walked my bike into the valley. It turned out that the nearest campsite was actually just an RV park, and Dan's condition was only worsening. We went to the nearest inn, where Dan could have some refuge from the evil pollen, and spent the night.


29 June 2007

Having two days off just makes one lazy and slow. We slept in till (gasp!) 7, had some eggs, and kind of lounged around in our hostel. We were on the road by 10. A few blocks away from the hostel, one of my front racks had broken off. Actually, what had happened was the bolt holding it to the fork snapped, and there was no way to replace it with a new one. So, we headed to a bike shop to get it fixed. What an ordeal it all was! They told us they'd be able to remove it if we went to a hardware store and got them the appropriate drill bit (they didn't have the right size on hand). So off we went, to Home Hardware, the nearest store. They didn't have what we wanted, and so we moved on to Home Depot, where we met Steve, an employee who used to be a pro cyclist. Apparently cycling is as dirty as they say: Steve had to quit because he was addicted to steroids.

The drill bits in Home Depot were quite expensive, and we were told that we could go to Sport Check across the street to get it fixed. So, off we went. But, again, the staff at Sport Check didn't have the tools to help us out. We were starving, and frustrated. We decided to have some pancakes and waffles at a pancake and waffle house, and moved on. We went to a different bike shop where, after two younger mechanics tried what they could, the older, more experienced owner of the shop showed them how it's done. It took him five minutes, and my rack was back up. When he finished, he said, "why don't you give me $5 and we'll call it even." That's it, just as if it was nothing. According to Dan, that guy was a real man. Indeed, he was.

So, this day was not all that exciting. In the end, we decided not to even try going anywhere, as it was 4 by the time we finished with all that, and the wind was an easterly one, blowing at speeds of 40 km/h. We were not about to battle that this late. To save some money, we checked into a campsite just outside Regina, where we'll be spending the night.


28 June 2007

Today was quite uneventful, but relaxing. We went to a library to update our blogs, and then an internet cafe when the library wouldn't let us use their computers for more than an hour. Exciting stuff.


27 June 2007

This day off started out quite stressfully. Our first order of business was getting my derailleur fixed, so we walked downtown in search of a bike shop. We thought that since we were in a city, it wouldn't be too hard to find. It was nice out, and we didn't mind wandering the streets. Regina is a cool city with a lot of character. It is clean and filled with parks and trees, and not as big and overwhelming as many cities tend to be. The people there just seemed really relaxed, and we just got a good vibe from the place on the whole.

However, after a while, walking in circles can get a bit tedious. It wasn't as easy as we thought to find a bike shop, and eventually someone directed us to one that was quite a distance away. We dropped off the bike, and then walked around in circles some more while Dan tried to get money out of his British account, with limited success. Eventually, we got everything sorted out, and felt like we deserved some good food. We had delicious Vietnamese at Lang's Cafe, and then some excellent (and cheap!) ice cream. Dan went back to the hostel, and I trekked over to the bike shop to pick up Margarethe.

In the evening, we went to a park on Wascana Lake, which was right near our hostel. This small park was having a little multicultural festival, with a steel drum band and free hot dogs and burgers. The band was really good, and it was so relaxing to eat free food in a nice park on a pleasant evening and watch them. Afterwards, we walked along Lake Wascana and visited the Regina rowing club, which was really nice!

Tomorrow, we'll be taking another day here, since we still haven't gotten everything done, and Regina rocks.


26 June 2007

We slept in this morning, had breakfast and did laundry. The wind was strong and westerly, so we got ready as quickly as possible and left for Regina just after 1. Once we started riding, it was hard to stop, even for quick water breaks. Because my bike had been blown over earlier in the day, my rear derailleur was bent, and so I didn't have use of my highest gear. Nevertheless, we were cruising at 30-35 km, my legs spinning as fast as they could in my highest functional gear and still not working very hard. We had lunch in a Subway where one of the convenience store workers could not stop squeezing our legs and calling us superman and superwoman (I was especially superwoman, he said). He gave us each a bottle of water and we continued towards Regina.

We arrived in the evening and checked into our hostel. We met a Japanese guy there who was also cycling across Canada, but going east to west. He had his bike stolen in Thunder Bay, along with all of his panniers. He bought a cheap commuter bike, and has been riding it since!

We went out for dinner and drinks with some people from the hostel, and went to bed.


25 June 2007

Today we were meant to go to Craik, another 30 km east of Davidson. But the wind just wasn't on our side. After having a rather long breakfast part 1 in the restaurant in Outlook (we usually make our own, but we were straight out of food), we finally hit the road. My legs were absolutely beat from the past several days of cycling, and the morning's ride was slow. The last 15 km into Kenaston was a huge struggle. The head wind was so strong that we were only going about 13 km/h, despite pushing as hard as we possibly could. Breakfast part 2 never tasted so good, as we were both so hungry and tired. We ended up sitting in the restaurant for quite a while. We were joined by a guy who had hitchhiked to Kenaston--where he had just sold his house--today to check his mail. Apparently he's in the process of publishing an autobiography about his recovery from alcoholism.

Although the weather was still horrible, we hit the road. However, my leg started bugging me a few kilometres into the ride, so we decided to just call it a day at the next decent town. That town was Davidson, and it was really quite nice. We arrived there soaking wet, as it had started to pour about 15 km before our arrival. We immediately went to the local restaurant, half hoping that someone would maybe invite us to spend the night in a warm house. That didn't happen, but we did get lucky--we met Elmer, an elderly organic farmer who had many interesting things to tell us. Apparently very few farmers in Saskatchewan are willing to go organic, so Elmer started a farm where he shows farmers how it's done, and conducts agricultural research. Elmer also writes for the local paper, and said he'd put our little story in! When he was leaving, he gave us $20 to pay for our meal. What a pleasure to have met him!

We had decided that we'd stay in a motel when the weather was still really bad; although it had cleared up by the time we left the restaurant, we stayed in an inn anyway, since we had our minds set on it. It was nice to have some proper showers and just relax and watch TV for once. Tomorrow, we'll be doing some laundry in the morning, and then heading for Regina, if the winds are on our side.


24 June 2007

After such a smooth ride into Kindersley, we figured getting to Outlook would be a breeze. Were we ever wrong! Again, we got up at 4:30 and left by around 6, but this time the conditions weren't so favourable. We had a bit of a headwind, and Saskatchewan hadn't quite flattened out yet. The riding was slow and hard, and it felt like there was always a slight upward slope. Everyone kept telling us how flat Saskatchewan is, saying that it's like a table top, you could watch your dog run away for two weeks, etc. But it's all a lie. Saskatchewan has been fairly flat, but there's always some kind of upward or downward slope, which makes it very challenging if you don't have the wind at your back.

Getting to our rest stop was painful; but the ride afterwards was even worse. The road was really quiet, and the landscape, monotonous. The lack of sleep was really catching up to me, and I was almost falling asleep at the handlebars! It was cloudy, and the gloom made the ride almost unbearable.

Often, when we're 10 to 20 km away from a destination, I start the "finish" of my ride--another rowing parallel--and go as fast as I possibly can, pretending I'm in a race. This time, though, I really needed to force that finish out of myself. The only thing I had left for motivation was finishing the long, miserable ride.

I was absolutely exhausted by the time we reached Outlook, a nice town with a long, red walking bridge overlooking the South Saskatchewan River. Having no propane (still! It's so hard to find the right container), we ate at the town's restaurant and called it a night.


23 June 2007

Today was the fastest, easiest and most fun cycling day of the trip so far. We had decided to get up at 4:30 to get an even earlier start than yesterday. I just love having an excuse to get up at such an early hour--cycling, rowing, anything! We had set off before 6, and ridden 50 km in less than two hours. We were feeling good about ourselves, and decided we'd have a breakfast part 2 in Alsask, an aptly-named town on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The ride from the 50-km mark to Alsask was ridiculously fast. We had a tail wind, and although we were riding over rolling hills, I'm fairly sure it was mostly downhill. We spent a sizeable amount of time traveling at speeds of 40-50 km/h, and it was amazingly fun! We arrived in the town on Kindersley, SK at just 1:30!

After an unsuccessful search for a proper can of propane and a new pair of gloves (I had stupidly left mine behind in Drumheller), Dan and I searched for a place to eat. We checked out the Red Lion Pub, which we found out didn't serve food. We had some beers there, anyway, and met Erika, her aunt (whose name I can't remember!) and Denille. Erika lives in Toronto in Little Italy, and works in theatre. She offered to get us a pair of tickets to the show she's been working on in the Harbourfront Centre. Yay!

Dan and I grabbed some dinner at another place, and headed for bed. The sun was still shining at 8:30, and a group of teenaged grils right outside of our tent kept us awake with their loud music and gossip. Oh well... we managed to get to sleep, eventually.


22 June 2007

We got up at 5 today in order to set off early and beat the afternoon heat. The morning's ride was beautiful--calm, quiet and cool--but I was quickly becoming bored of the monotonous prairie landscape. We stopped in Hanna for lunch, and it was hot by the time we set off again.

We arrive in Youngstown in the early evening. With a population of 170, Youngstown is the smallest town we've been to on this trip. Its main street consists of a gas station, a run-down hotel, and a general store and laundromat. Across the street from the store was a small field with a few picnic tables, a bathroom and a cooking shelter; it vaguely resembled a campsite. We went into the store to ask about this, and were greeted by Greta, who was working there, as well as Betty and a few other locals who were having coffee inside. Everyone was extremely friendly, and really wanted to make our stay a pleasant one. Since the campsite didn't have showers, Betty offered to take us to her place to get cleaned up. The washing machines in the laundromat were all full when we were there. Not a problem: Greta took our dirty clothing and told us she'd do our laundry and bring it by our campsite when it was finished. We hadn't been grocery shopping in ages, so we bought a few items from the store, and good ol' Greta threw in a free bag of peanuts for us. Such nice people!

We went over to Betty's and had our showers. Betty told us a bit about herself. She had grown up on a farm, moved to Youngstown as a teenager, and lived there since. Her husband of 30 years had passed away only two years ago, and she was grateful for the support of her friends and the Youngstown community.

After our showers, we had some dinner at the local (Chinese) restaurant, as it turned out that we had bought the wrong can of propane in Drumheller, so we couldn't cook. We set up our tent, and went to bed before dark.


21 June 2007

We were off to a slow start this morning, getting up after 8 and not leaving our campsite till about 10. The plan was to go to the museum, and then head straight to Youngstown, our next destination; but we realized that we had a few more things to do before going, like getting more propane for our stove and some groceries for the day. We went to Canadian Tire first and bought the propane. We went back to our bikes, which were parked just outside, and I placed the new bottle in the cooler on the back of my bike. Moments later, we heard a POP! followed by a hisssss: flat tire #4. This delayed everything--after changing the inner tube, we had to find a bike shop in town to buy some more inner tubes. In time, we realized there was no way we'd make it to Youngstown, or even Hanna--a biggish town about 30 km west of Youngstown--by nightfall. We decided we'd spend an extra night in Drumheller.

Since the Tyrell Museum was about 6 km away from our campsite, and we try to make a point of staying off our bikes on days off, we started walking. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we managed to hitch a ride with a family from Toronto. On the way back, another family from Regina, SK drove us to our campsite. It's amazing how many half empty cars pass by before someone finally stops to give you a ride. We were clearly just a pair of you tourists, and I know we don't look threatening or anything. People need to lighten up!

The museum was absolutely amazing. There was a wide variety of fossils on display, as well as some live animals and very informative exhibits. We must have spend about 3 hours going through it all.

After the museum, we went for a swim in the public pool, had some dinner, and went to bed. The extra day in Drumheller was well worth it!


20 June 2007

This day turned out to be much longer than we expected! We got up at 5, and Basia and Leszek got up with us to help us get ready. Basia made us delicious crepes with ice cream, and Leszek cycled with us to the bike path we had decided to take out of Calgary. We were glad to have taken the path rather than the roads, as the traffic was horrible.

We had made it to a small town called Beiseker about 80 km away before noon, and devoured the sandwiches that Leszek and Basia had made for us. Dan called his parents, I took a power nap, and before we knew it, it was already 2:30. We hit the road again. It had gotten quite hot, and we had a bit of a head wind. Alberta wasn't quite as flat in this part as we would have liked. The cycling was slow and tedious, and just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, we hit a 19 km-long construction zone, where the roads were mostly gravel.

It was very rewarding to finally hit Drumheller, the badlands of Canada. We had planned on going to the Royal Tyrell Museum, a huge paleontological museum and research station, but arrived in Drumheller too late for that. At our campground, we met Jim and Corey, a couple who had also cycled across Canada a few years ago, and were now driving across in a VW camper van wth their sons. They invited us over for some wine, gave us a bit of touring advice, and insisted we take $20 for admission to the museum tomorrow. We thank them for their generosity, and will check out that museum as soon as it opens!


19 June 2007

Despite having gone to bed around midnight last night, Dan and I couldn't manage to sleep in and were awake by around 7. We lounged around and had some tea with Monika. As soon as Basia woke up, she made us an amazing breakfast of crepes with fruit and yogurt, and then took us downtown. We spent the day there--Dan got his bike looked at while Basia and I had some delicious tea at Oolong Tea House and just strolled around the city. Afterwards, we had some huge slices of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Cafe, and then headed home for dinner. We figured out a safe route out of the city for tomorrow, and headed to bed.