Wednesday, June 29, 2011
describing the distance we've covered sounds absolutely ludicrous.
This morning we turned on our iphone and zoomed the map back far
enough to examine our route to date, start to finish. Seeing the line
we've travelled snake halfway across the country filled us both with a
mixed sense of awe and bewilderment. We've now travelled
approximately 2500 km to what geographically is roughly halfway across
the country. The irony is, with the route we've chosen, we still have
about two thirds of our distance to go.
Winnipeg like every place we've visited has been full of surprises.
We started our day with a visit to the Reh-Fit Centre where we held a
Q & A on our trip to date and were treated to a tour of the
facilities. Vanessa and I we're blown away by the facility itself,
but the careful thought that the staff and organizers put into their
rehab program was absoleutly inspiring. They have put a real emphasis
on creating a safe and pressure free environment where people can be
active, socialize and learn. The centre's focus on patient welfare
goes far enough to make a psychiatric assessment part of their
After my heart surgery I volunteered at the Toronto General Hospital
visiting patients before and after cardiac surgery through a
mentorship program. One of the things we were advised to stress and
bring attention to is the mental toll surgery takes on patients. Many
understandably suffer through depression, feelings of inadequacy or
worse, as a result of surgery. I personally spent a lot of time after
my surgery dwelling on the unfairness of the situation and the effect
it would have on my life for years to come. To see this centre tackle
this issue so directly really stresses why Vanessa and I see these
programs as such an important part of recovery. They provide more
than than just physical rehabilitation. They offer mental and social
supports that are absolutely critical post surgery.
After our visit Vanessa and I ventured into the city itself and spent
the afternoon exploring the downtown. Much of our day was spent in
"The Forks" a farmers and artists market in the south east end on the
core. There we picked up some fresh veggies for the evening (which
we've been lacking) and treated ourselves to some frozen yogurt.
Winnipeg, like so many cities, is a vibrant collection of
neighbourhoods. Yesterday, as we rode into town from the west, it
almost felt as if we passed through a series of distinct towns on our
way to the core. We only wish we had the time to explore them all.
This evening Vanessa and I have enjoyed a rare 'three pan' meal in our
suite in The Place Louis Riel Hotel. They were nice enough to let us
stay for two nights where we have a king size bed that far surpasses
our air mattresses. Vanessa and I would like to take this opportunity
to say thank you for helping us take a much needed rest.
Looking to the road ahead we still have a long way to go, but our
confidence has really grown since our early days in British Columbia.
By taking our days one by one we are inching our way across the map.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Because of these winds and our anticipation for arriving in Winnipeg, the kilometres we've cycled this week, have felt very, very long. Today it helped that we had a shorter distance to cover and that we'd reach Winnipeg by day's end. We kept our spirits up through the wind by singing the Weakerthans' 'One Great City', which has been playing in our heads for days (for those unfamiliar the song is an ode to Winnipeg). The city itself has been on our horizon for a month. It's technically the halfway point across Canada but because Ontario is so freakishly big, it isn't nearly halfway through our trip.
Regardless, we're both really excited to spend some time here and have a much needed break --again the mental rest is just as important as the physical. Both of those aspects will be nurtured during our stay here thanks to a two night sponsored stay at the Place Louis Riel in downtown Winnipeg! Our suite is gorgeous AND appointed with a full kitchen, which we've already made quick work on to prepare one of our rare and treasured home cooked meals. While camping, we eat one-pot pasta dinners everyday and use our fleeces for pillows so you can imagine how pleased we are to have this home base.
Tomorrow we have a visit with a Cardiac Rehab group in the morning and then an afternoon of meeting Winnipeg!
Monday, June 27, 2011
The day turned out to be more of a bicycle obstacle course, without the fun bits like goodie bags.
To start things out, we got nailed with a strong headwind for the majority of the day. This really did a number on our wrists as we tried to keep the bikes steady and it kept our speed around fifteen km/h on flats.
Slowing us down further was a train blocking the path into what we thought was the only town on route with a grocery store. We were afraid to go on without extra food, especially with the headwind and ended up waiting about forty minutes for the train to clear. It actually started to get a bit comical. About three or four times the train slowly advanced until the last car was halfway across the road, but then abruptly reversed and backed once again, over the road. Also, after spending a total of an hour detouring for overpriced food at a general store, we found a much more extensive grocery store just off the highway about twenty kilometers down the road.
The last challenge of the day was the roads themselves. For approximately twenty kilometers of the ride we were forced to ride in traffic due to a rough gravel shoulder. For the most part, this stretch of the ride has been quite nice but inexplicably the shoulder completely dropped off outside of Portage Au Prairie and earlier out of Brandon (our feelings toward the gravel are highlighted by Vanessa's thumbs down above).
Of course no day is all bad. Challenges are what a trip like this is all about. Also, the detours we took brought us into some pretty neat, small towns we would have totally missed otherwise. When all is said and done, we made it through fine and can be proud of that.
Regardless of what we hit tomorrow, the destination should be a lot of fun! Vanessa and I will be taking a rest day in Winnipeg and meeting with staff and past participants of a local rehab program.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I think we've alluded to some of the rules that we've established while cycling. One of them is to never pass up the chance to use a bathroom in the prairies. Although the landscape is changing as we get further into Manitoba, the settlement is still sparse enough to keep that rule in effect. However, as we are able to hit more towns enroute we've had the opportunity to develop a new policy: never pass up roadside fries and milkshakes. Generally our lunches consist of several wraps: sweet stuffed with peanut butter and granola, with or without banana; savoury stuffed with cheese and eggs (boiled in advance), sometimes livened up with cilantro or sprouts and mustard when we can scavenge up the elusive packets. We also do a 'granola top-up' after every meal and eat it constantly throughout the day. Even so, lately we've been missing that important grease factor so today we doubled up on fries and milkshakes --sometimes it is worth it to stray from groceries.
While we were on our second bout of fries and milkshakes at the end of our ride, we met a lovely couple who offered to take us in for the night. We were incredibly touched by the offer but our fatigue clouded our judgement, as did the straight view of our campground across the street. We made a rash decision to stay by the highway for an early start. Now we're kicking ourselves for not taking the chance to visit with these warm and welcoming Brandonians. Next time we will know better.
ps- We welcome suggestions for pannier packable, cheap and energy-dense vegetarian lunches.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
decision we've ever made. Once again, thank you Harvey. Today we
enjoyed (mostly) wide shoulders and even had a bit of a tailwind help
us out later in the afternoon.
As we've found our way through Saskatchewan, the mosquitoes have been
steadily increasing in number. However, it seems as though a large
group of black flies was waiting behind the Manitoba border sign and
they've been dive-bombing us ever since.
We also have the both fun and unfortunate distinction of arriving in
Elkhorn on the evening of the town's high school graduation. It's fun
to see all the kids wandering around the campground in suits, however
the novelty may wear off when we start trying to sleep!
As we mentioned in an earlier post, we've been tracking our granola
consumption throughout the trip and we thought we'd bring you up to
In total, through BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan we have now consumed 233
Granola bars and 7 kg of loose granola. Chew on that.
Tomorrow will be our first full day of cycling in Manitoba. We can't
wait to see what's up the road.
We started the morning with a delicious breakfast prepared by Emily before saying goodbye to our fantastic hosts. Even as we started riding we were unsure of exactly where we would end up this evening and whether or not the roads we planned to take would be open. As anyone who has seen the news in the last month knows, the flooding experienced in Saskatchewan and Manitoba this year has been devastating. People have lost their homes or incurred significant damages, while farmers are struggling to sustain their livelihoods in the face of washed out fields. To a much lesser concern, this also means a number of local roads and highways have been closed due to flooding.
When we were in Moose Jaw we learned that highway 1 was closed for a portion between Regina and Winnipeg but we weren't certain of the start and end points. We weren't too concerned because we had already planned to get off highway 1 at Qu'Appelle to then head north to highway 16 and follow it eastward. This was mostly because the transcanada is well known to be horrendously bad for cyclists traveling through Winnipeg, at least until recently. Also in Moose Jaw, one of the CardiAction members told us the shoulders on highway 1 have recently been repaved through Manitoba. The news of improved pavement planted a seed: why not highway 1? But we remained set on our original plan.
About 60km into today's ride came the moment to decide our path for the next few days as we set into Qu'Appelle for lunch, fortuitously on the lawn of the town's info centre. While there, we met Harvey, possibly the most informative centre worker ever. He told us that highway 1 had been closed around Wolseley for five days but had just reopened this morning --and that if he were cycling he'd take highway 1. It turns out highway 35, which we would have been riding up to 16 has no shoulders and the route would add an extra day of travel. After some deliberation and chatting with Harvey we decided to go with our instincts and stick to highway 1. We came away with some great advice and he even donated $10 to the Cardiac Health Foundation. (See today's photo of the still partially submerged stretch of highway just west of Wolseley. All of the fields and campgrounds in the area are flooded as well.)
This route change also means we will be visiting different communities than planned. Tonight we're in Glenfell and tomorrow we will pass over into Manitoba to camp in Elkhorn, then Brandon, next Portage before arriving in Winnipeg on June 28. We've managed to bank some extra days in the schedule and we're thinking we'll divvy them up through north Ontario since the riding will get tougher and we'll have plenty of exciting events with Cardiac Rehab Centres.
In other exciting news, we have surpassed our 2000km mark and are a quarter-way through the trip. It feels great to have covered such a large stretch but hard to believe that we still have nearly 6000km to go!
Friday, June 24, 2011
It was hard to leave Moose Jaw this morning. A day and a half wasn't nearly enough to really get to know the city. However, knowing we had Emily here to welcome us in Regina made leaving a bit easier. We've had a great time catching up with Emily and she treated us to a delicious home cooked meal and drinks with some of her friends at a local pub.
Tomorrow we're pushing on to either Qu'Appelle or Melville depending on the severity of the storms they're calling for tomorrow.
Wish us Luck!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
However, our wonderful experience in Moose Jaw does not end there. This morning we attended a Cardiac Rehab "Cardiaction" program and it was a ton of fun to meet the more than 20 participants and volunteers. We even got some media coverage. Alex was interviewed yesterday for a radio segment that aired today and we were interviewed for the Moose Jaw Herald newspaper. We knew word was spreading when I was approached in a restroom by someone who had heard the radio segment and asked to give me a hug, I very happily obliged.
The people in Moose Jaw are warm and wonderful. We have been amazed and touched by the welcome and supports bestowed upon us. The top spot in this department definitely goes to Dawn Bohlken and Dot Hicks, the coordinators of the Moose Jaw Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs. They have gone way above and beyond to make sure we are well taken care of and entertained in this beautiful town. First they coordinated our sponsored stay at the Wakamow Heights Bed and Breakfast where we are now for the night. Everything about this property is absolutely gorgeous, from the grounds, structure, and carpentry to the intricate luxurious details adorning our suite. Our room comes complete with a large veranda that offers a panoramic view of downtown and we couldn't ask for sweeter hosts than Lois and John.
Dawn and Dot also arranged for us to receive bike tune-ups, courtesy of Boh's Cycle and Sporting Goods, which they provided promptly today. And to recharge our weary muscles, we had a donated visit to the Mineral Temple Spa where we were able to relax in the warm mineral pool. Still, our day wasn't complete without a little culture and yet another donated treat in the form of admission to the Moose Jaw Tunnels. We took part in the fortune tour, which builds a narrative and fictional characters around the racism and dehumanizing labour exploitation experienced by Chinese immigrants to Canada during the construction of the cross Canada railroad. This is a history that has been on our minds since passing the last spike back in BC. We're glad to see the acknowledgement of these contributions, as well as recognition of the torturous living and working conditions that Chinese immigrants have been forced to endure.
Despite all of the activities throughout the day, we still managed to pay a good visit to Moose Jaw's beautifully preserved downtown and enjoy some gastronomic splendor. For lunch, Dawn and Dot treated us to thai food of unparalleled quality at Nit's Thai. We've heard people drive the 2.5 hours from Saskatoon to eat there, and after trying it we are not surprised! While there, the owners brought us a $60 donation for the foundation along with one of the best meals we've had in a long time. Dot's husband David, who is also a Cardiac Rehab volunteer, joined us for lunch as well. During our meal, we mentioned we had left our provincial maps in Vancouver and that we would need to pick up new ones to hep us navigate the flood induced road closures between Regina and Winnipeg. About an hour later, David flagged us down on Main Street to pass maps for our remaining provinces out his car window --such a great help, thanks David!
We topped off our remarkable day with one more meal (of deep dish pizza) shared with Kim before she made her way out of town and we rode up to enjoy our immaculate suite at the Wakamow. Every moment spent in Moose Jaw has skyrocketed far beyond our expectations and we are incredibly appreciative of the innumerable caring encounters we've experienced. A wonderful day, place, and people!
quick ride into Moose Jaw. Tonight We're staying with a great friend,
Kim, who by chance is working in the city this week.
Tomorrow is another big day. At 8:30 We'll be visiting a Rehab Class
run through the Moose Jaw Union Hospital - Five Hills Health Region -
Cardiac Rehabilitation & Cadiaction Program. The remainder of the day
will be spent doing what we love to do. Exploring a new place.
Monday, June 20, 2011
While not battling a headwind or trying to cover as much ground as possible via tailwind, we were able to embrace the subtle charm of Saskatchewan. I'm reluctant to admit this, but I was dreading our cycle through the prairies for more than just the wind. I thought they would be banal, barren, and boring to ride across; I was completely wrong. Although we've been surrounded by fields since heading east out of Calgary, the landscape has been incredibly varied and also stunning. Dotted with grain elevators, train tracks, and lakes reflecting the water fowl nesting beside them, the rolling landscape in Saskatchewan has left us awestruck. This has resulted in many occasions of one of us yelling, "STOP, I need to take a picture!"
The towns tucked away from the highway look tiny and sparse on approach but we have found them to be full of vibrant charm. Today we stopped for lunch in the small town of Morse. With a population hovering around 300 people it has one main road and a few residential streets. Packed into that short corridor we saw: a theatre, town hall, community centre, cafe, market, bowling hall, post office, cultural centre, and museum. One thing that we love about the small prairie towns is that because they are not growth-oriented or clamouring for investment and tourists, the culture and resources are really supportive of those who live there.
The community ties are tangible by just passing through Morse. We perched on a bench for lunch and acquainted a few local residents who suggested we camp in town (if only we had known enough to head there yesterday instead of stopping in Swift Current). By the time we rolled back toward the highway an hour later, more people we had not yet spoken with knew about our trip and waved us on as we passed, calling out "have a good trip, it's a long way to go."
Sunday, June 19, 2011
After yesterday's absolutely crazy tail winds that pushed us to speeds as high as 41 kmh up a hill (this is not an exaggeration, although it also wasn't the norm for hills), today was shortened to a 59 km pedal into Swift Current.
The great thing about being ahead in distance is that you have a lot of time to take pictures and explore. For example, Vanessa and I found an empty truck weigh station at lunch and determined that we weigh 80 kg and 110 kg on our bikes respectively plus or minus 20 pounds.
This evening Vanessa and I have found our way onto the town exhibition grounds where we were instructed we would find a campground. Along with a few campsites, we have also discovered a period piece mennonite village including an old time saloon, which we are camped beside, rodeo corral and a small tea shop which seems to be the only part of the grounds with people in it.
Currently we're the only people on the campground and we're looking forward to an evening of relaxation and taking ridiculously posed pictures in the empty fairgrounds.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Saskatchewan! Our third province of the trip greeted us with our very first solid tailwind. We hope this becomes a trend! After some goading about not completing a century from Alex's father on our Bassano to Medicine Hat comment section, we decided to take up the challenge and go ten over to complete 170km today.
Our day started late out of Medicine Hat since we thought we 'only' had 90km ahead of us. The morning dumped gallons of rain on us and we were a soggy mess by the time we reached Walsh for lunch under a gas station awning.
The rain eased off when we passed the provincial border but the wind continued to have our backs. We cruised along enjoying our new found support and the spectacular views. There were many more rolling hills today on both the road and the fields, which has shortened the sightline and created an impossibly beautiful landscape.
When we reached our intended destination for the evening, Eagle Valley Campground, we knew better than to let our emphatic 25 kmh tailwind go to waste. After a quick check of tomorrow's weather forecast predicting afternoon thunderstorms and southerly winds, I was able to persuade Alex to ride another 54km to Tompkins and the next campground. I think the wind had grown even stronger while we were deliberating at Eagle Valley because that was the fastest 54km we have ever rode!
We were full of adrenalin when we reached Tompkins and Alex said, "well, it's only 24km to Gull Lake..."
Me: "Let's do it!"
We kept flying toward Gull Lake and probably would have tried to push into Swift Current tonight if we hadn't of started so late this morning (this might be one of those "for the best" moments). So now we are drying out at the Gull Lake campground after shaving 78km off tomorrow's ride. This means we will have more time to check out Swift Current and that we saved $8 by camping here instead. Good Day!
Friday, June 17, 2011
knowledge of the province was limited to what I could garner from news
networks and word of mouth. What we've discovered over the last six
days is a dynamic landscape, full of incredibly friendly and helpful
people. Every city we've visited has been a real surprise and
Medicine Hat is no exception.
If you're familiar with southern Ontario the city has a very similar
feel to the city of Peterborough. Its downtown is filled with small
cafes, unique local organizations and a welcoming feel. Also, for a
city in the prairies, the landscape is quite varied. The residential
streets are full of tall trees and homes with a turn of the century
feel. The city itself is nestled in a valley lining both sides of the
When we started this trip, Vanessa and I decided to pick up a small
found object from each province that holds some relevance to the
region. From British Columbia we picked up a purple shell off a beach
in Stanley park. Choosing something for Alberta has not been so
simple. Its a far more complex place than I expected and I wish we
had more time to explore it. This however is not the case. Tomorrow
we'll be moving onto Saskatchewan and the next stretch of our trip.
Alberta has been both wonderful and eye opening. Hopefully its just a
taste of the variance and complexity of the landscape in front of us.
We've been finding the vistas incredible since dropping into the badlands. Although the road isn't as flat as you might imagine, the endless fields play tricks on your visual assessment of distance. Any large object, like a single tree or tower, rises tall against the flatlands and can be seen from more than fifty kilometres away. While we find this fascinating to marvel at, it can also be discouraging when you can see the only settlement for miles but have no idea how long it will take to reach it. We now consciously avoid looking too far ahead so we can focus more on our immediate surroundings. Our favorite sight so far has been the prairie dogs. We are completely enamored. We always see them standing on their hinds at the edge of the highway, watching us approach until we're within ten feet. At that point they scurry forward for another few metres before finally diving into the long grass at the side of the road. It doesn't strike me as a particularly effective survival instinct but it sure is cute.
We also had a few other characteristic 'prairie moments' throughout the day. We started from Bassano with some early storm warning signs carried by a heavy headwind and stinging rain. We had an early 'first lunch' in Brooks, where we had intended to camp when we plotted our route months ago. When we got back on the road the wind had died down and we were able to stow our rain gear so we decided to embark on the extra 100+km to Medicine Hat. Around 90km into the ride we could see a dark, ominous cloud enveloping the road and landscape in front of us. Contrary to Ontario where the sky simply opens up and storms crash down across whole regions, here it is very localized. You can distinctly see where storm clouds begin and end against a blue backdrop. So we could see a massive billowing cloud and lightening heading toward us but had nowhere to go but forward, wondering how far it was and when it would hit. It took about twenty kilometres of watching the cloud swell down the road before an eruption of machine gun like rain pelleted us while the wind tried to force us backwards to BC. We slogged along trying not to look at the endless expanse of road ahead of us before we would arrive at any form of shelter. Eventually we passed through it and came out to blue skies on the other side as we finished our ride to 'The Hat'.
The sparse settlement out here means there is literally nothing between towns (no gas stations, campgrounds, or food service). Our original trip plan had cut today and yesterday into four shorter days as we had no idea how we would handle the prairie winds or how strong we'd be feeling at this point in the trip. Because on both days we had hit our planned destinations before lunchtime, it just didn't make sense to hang around a rainy campground for an entire day. We didn't exactly want to cycle over 155km, but it was either that or 50km and another day of riding with predicted thunderstorms. Now that we have completed these two double days we are ahead of schedule. As a result we have settled into Medicine Hat and will take a day to check it out tomorrow. We are already thrilled with this decision after our delicious dinner and pint at 'The Local' pub. Our short walk has shown us a really cool city that we're happy to have the chance to visit. We will also be using one of these new free days in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to visit with our favorite Kim and meet with a Cardiac Rehab Group.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
can see from the photo above, we have now truly left the mountains
behind and are in the thick of the prairies. Secondly, Vanessa and I
decided to push it a bit and finished two planned days in one go, for
a total distance of 140 km.
Despite our little accomplishment today there are still challenges to
this stretch of road. The distances between food and settlements are
growing. Erratic winds can either be your best friend, when at your
back, or your worst enemy, when in your face. Also the landscape
gives such long views that a tree on the horizon can take as much as
half an hour to reach once it comes into sight.
Something Vanessa and I are going to try to do in the weeks to come is
add more stories and descriptions of the people we meet to the blog.
Although the day to day details of the ride are fascinating to us we
don't want to bore people too much with the standard format of "today
we biked, it was difficult and here's why." Some of the best parts of
the trip occur thorough chance encounters in campgrounds and quick
conversations on the road. Tonight for example we're camped with
three other bicyclists making the cross country trek, all with stories
of their own to tell.
Our campground this evening is in the small town of Bassano, Alberta.
It's one of those neat towns where everyone knows each others names
and strangers stick out like a sore thumb. We had a great moment in
the grocery store where a man asked us where we were from. When we
said Toronto, he looked at us with genuine confusion and replied "What
on earth are you doing here?" Our campground itself is quirky and
lovely. The town is small enough that the park we're staying in is
nestled right onto the main street. It's a unique experience to walk
out of your tent and be moments from the grocery store, pharmacy, and
a few small restaurants and pubs.
Before I leave this I should give one last shout out to our Calgary
host Mikey. You truly know how to make people feel at home. We also
got to touch base with our good friend Lauren Castle, and new friend
Kelsey who joined us at Mikey's for some wonderful home cooked
enchiladas. Once again, thank you Mikey!
Sent from my iPhone
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Taking a rest day at the end of this two week ride and junction between the mountains and the prairies also allows us to hit the reset button and gear up for another 'two week trip'. The challenges of riding in the mountains are so definitive: steep, unrelenting grades; rough roads; wild, desolate stretches; and unpredictable weather. The prairies will hold their own unique obstacles, where the long stretches between towns will be unsheltered by tree cover and the speed and enjoyability of our riding will be entirely contingent on the direction and force of the wind. At the same time, we're both really anticipating the chance to get to know this part of the country a little bit better. So far we have seen an increased presence of First Nations' communities since descending from the mountains. Wherever possible we try to support First Nation run businesses and campgrounds in recognition of their rightful title to the land we're travelling and living upon. We've also had some very inspiring and reflective conversations with members of these communities. We hope the one constant throughout our trip will be the opportunity to meet and share conversations with people in all of the places we visit.
And again, we'd like to thank you all for reading and sending your encouragement! We've had 270 views on the blog so far today. You have no idea how much it boosts us up to know we have so many supporters. Thanks everyone and we hope to see many of you soon!
Our field of vision changed from a kilomere at most in the mountains, to long rolling vistas as the terrain shifted to flat farm and pasture land.
It's a great feeling to be in Calgary. We've now completed our first province and reached our first major centre past Vancouver. Now two weeks in, Vanessa and I are really starting to settle into a rhythm. We're setting and leaving camp faster (with the exception of our late departures today and yesterday) and the distances are becoming more and more manageable.
It's late tonight, but tomrrow we'll be exploring Calgary, a city Vanessa and I both have very little experience with. So far we've found the people charming, especially our hosts Mikey and Emily who are putting us up for our stay, and have noted an impressive amount of green space and bike paths.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Once we broke camp we treated ourselves to a bakery breakfast to avoid cooking in the wet cold. This luxury meant a late start to our ride but it didn't matter now that we're finished with extreme mountain climbs. Even the heavy rain and headwinds of the morning couldn't put a damper on the day as we enjoyed the flat and rolling ride to Banff where we stopped for a long pannier lunch. Alex had never been to Banff before so he remarked it would be nice to stay there 'if we had tons of money' -we don't.
Instead we carried on to camp in Canmore and wow, did we ever have a great ride here from Banff! There is a smooth, bike path that parallels the highway all the way between the two towns. It is remarkable! The only traffic on it was bicycles, with a good mix of competitive athletes and recreational users. By the time we were finished in Banff the weather had cleared so we were able to speed between 30-40 kph along the slight downgrade. It felt so rewarding to ride unencumbered by traffic and shoulder debris. Actually, while I'm thinking of debris, we have seen some strange things on the side of the road. While we're accustomed to dodging metal bits, glass, and car parts we've been taken aback by the number of soiled diapers on the side of the road. Is drive-by baby-changing a common practice out west?
Back from that tangent, I am now sitting at a campsite in Canmore where we have both had the chance to shower and do laundry (!) on account of our early arrival despite the late start this morning. I think we could get used to riding flats!
However, in true form, the province didn't go down without a fight.
Kicking Horse Pass turned out to be a much more formidable challenge
than Rogers and led us up steep climbs at the start and finish of the
eighty-five kilometer ride, climbing over 1000m to our highest
altitude yet at 1500+ metres.
It's late, but on the advice of my father, Vanessa and I have been
keeping some odd tallies over the last two weeks of travel. In order
to travel from one end of BC to the other we ate 135 granola bars, 3
kg of bulk granola and eight Power Bars. This is either gross or
awesome depending on your perspective. Lately Vanessa and I have
started going as far as to put granola in lunch wraps with peanut
butter. We figure at this rate we'll find a way to include it in our
pasta dinners by the end of the prairies (we joke... we think).
It's bittersweet leaving BC behind. Vanessa and I have certainly had
our fill of mountain climbing, but we will miss the spectacular
scenery, people and wildlife. In the last eighty-five kilometres we
were treated to close encounters with a small group of elk and roughly
10 mountain goats, one perched on a ledge so precarious, it boggles
the mind to think how it got there.
After coasting through Banff tomorrow, we will have a new landscape
developing as we descend into the prairies. We're also looking
forward to seeing friends in Calgary. By the way, for any of those
Calgary friends reading, we should be in town Monday night and all day
Friday, June 10, 2011
We've also been reunited with another cyclist we met back in Mission, BC. He smartly took the route out of Hope through the Fraser Canyon, rather than climbing Allison Pass (in Mission he told Alex he rode the pass years ago and it nearly killed him). He's debating whether to cycle 'only' to Calgary or push all the way east, so it is likely that we'll see him a few more times.
We've met two other sets of people riding from Vancouver to Toronto and one cyclist riding alone to St. John's. It's always interesting to compare notes and routes, there seems to be a huge difference in approach people take to it. One way, is to push through and try to cover as much ground as possible everyday. This makes sense given how much time it takes to cycle the thousands of kilometres it takes to get across the country. While I can't imagine when we'll have this much time again, I am definitely glad that we have given ourselves three months to do this. For one, we'd be exhausted and likely miserable if we were spending ten hours in the saddle everyday. Second, this is also a trip across Canada, not just a bike trip. It's important for us to be able to visit different towns and meet people along the way. So far our time balance has leaned toward the bikes but we're making efforts to explore during our many food and bathroom breaks. Plus, the eight flexible days we added to our schedule allows for an extra rest day to be allocated each week. This will allow for more thorough visiting and much needed breaks from riding and weather exposure.
Tomorrow is fittingly our last major climb and our last day in BC, which we'll end at about 1500 metres in Lake Louise, AB. We're a little bit sad to leave BC behind and the climb out of Golden looks fierce enough to make a cyclist camp here forever, but we're also excited to go forward. The forecast is calling for thunderstorms tomorrow, let's hope we get a free pass on that one!
a near total descent over half a kilometer in elevation from Rogers
Pass into Golden BC. If we learned anything from Rogers Pass, it's
that expectations can really set the tone of the day. Yesterday we
were expecting a terrible climb and were pleasantly surprised. Today
we were looking forward to a gentle descent and forgot that up or
down, you still have to pedal.
Nestled in the middle of the drop was a 350m climb up some steep
terrain. Also as you can see from the shot above, Vanessa and I hit
some pretty serious construction that in the course of about thirty
seconds converted our shiny red bikes into muddy, brown messes (I'm
really glad I was wearing rain pants... Vanessa was not so lucky).
The heat is something we've really struggled with as well. Dropping
from snow covered peaks to hot summer temperatures in the course of a
few hours really shocks the system.
All that being said, we're now camped at the edge of a river and rail
line on the outskirts of Golden and roasting marshmallows and veggie
dogs over an open fire so we really have no right to complain! (Don't
worry, we ate way more than this for dinner!)
Tomorrow we've decided to take a rest day and enjoy the town of
Golden. We surprised ourselves when looking ahead at our maps today.
Our next ride, which will take us up Kicking Horse Pass, will be our
last in BC. At the 70 km mark we will hit the Alberta border and move
into the next section of our ride. We figure that if this is our last
look at the mountains of BC we might as well rest a moment and take it
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
In the past few days we had heard from a couple of people that Rogers would be worse than Allison and we couldn't believe it. Nevertheless, we woke up terrified this morning, expecting 70 km of agonizing climbing. This was not the case.
We blasted up the first twenty, then thirty and more kilometres, wondering with anxiety when it was going to get hard. Afraid to speak too soon, we both resisted uttering aloud that, as a climb, Rogers Pass might be, well, easy. We kept going up without much difficulty as the grades were mild enough to keep a good pace without draining our legs --I actually only had to granny down a few times during the day. The road only tilted to an unbearable angle once midway and again in the last stretch before the summit. We also had a full shoulder for the whole day with no precarious drop-offs beside us.
When we reached the summit marker for the pass, at 1330 metres, we were delighted and relieved. This had been another ride we had been dreading in our long trek across the country and it was a huge confidence boost to climb it painlessly. After this landmark day we're feeling good and ready to take on the Rockies.
The one hair-raising part of the Rogers Pass climb and descent, however, are the avalanche tunnels. Because of the heavy snowfall in this area, avalanches are a constant threat. In 'danger areas' there are tunnels over the highway to preserve passage and prevent vehicles from being swept off the road. Our picture post is of Alex as we approached one of them. We hit a few of these tunnels today and will have to pass through a number of them tomorrow. They are terrifying! The tunnels are the one place where the shoulder disappears and there is limited room for a bicycle and car to share the single, narrow lane. We try to find a gap in traffic and fly through as fast as possible, I just hope we don't end up in one with a semi coming up behind us, yikes!
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
spot where the final piece of the CNR was laid binding the country
from one side to the other. Strangly, more so than any city we've
reached, this milestone gave me the sense that we're really starting
to cover some ground. Today we inched close to a marker of our own.
Two kilometers into tomorrow's ride we will hit a total of 700 km on
our trip odometer. This is further than Vanessa and I have ever
traveled on a bike trip and we've covered the distance in about half
the time we have in the past.
Tomorrow will bring us to another landmark on our trek across the
country. Once we ascend out of Revelstoke we will begin the climb up
Roger's Pass. This should by all accounts be the largest barrier
remaining between us and Newfoundland. I should mention here that
cell reception is spotty and it will likely take us two days to reach
Golden, the next major centre, and it may be a day or two before we
can post or make contact.
Although we still have some distance to go, BC has been an incredible
experience. We've hit everything from scorching heat to freezing
cold, peaceful farmland to harsh mountainous terrain. Through all
this, one of our biggest challenges has been to make sure we never
lose sight of the fact that this is not just a physical challenge, but
a experience to be enjoyed. With this in mind Vanessa and I have
started some trip traditions. One is that we never let an opportunity
to eat chocolate lava cake pass us by. The other is when we hit a
place that interests us we make sure we take some time to get to know
it. Golden is the next place we may take a rest day. Nestled between
the Selkirk and the Rocky mountain ranges it should be an interesting
place to visit.
Tomorrow is calling for rain, but the forecast has eased down from
thunderstorms in the last twenty-four hours. Hopefully we will wake
up tomorrow to, at worst, a smattering of rain for the climb out of
with an advanced cardiac rehabilitation program. We had a great time
chatting with the vibrant participants and their well wishes
helped encourage us for the ride ahead. Thanks to program
leader Kerry and the entire group for inviting us in, we loved meeting
all of you!
We had a very satisfying ride today. The route Peter designed
for us was perfect and kept us off the highway for a good 50+km
stretch --Thanks Peter! Instead of four lanes of heavy traffic and
broken shoulders we were able to enjoy riding past farm land and
forests on calm country roads. It was again scorching hot in the
Okanagan and we had a headwind so we were extra appreciative of the
tree cover the backroads offered. It was a beautiful day.
When we rejoined the highway it took us around Mara lake and up to
Sicamous where we grabbed some groceries and connected with highway
one. Highway one will now become our unofficial home for the next two
months. It's strange to think we'll be spending more time on a
highway than anywhere else. Life has changed a lot in the last nine
days! For instance, we now have no qualms about eating food that has
fallen on the ground. We no longer converse while we're eating, since
dining has regressed to a frenzied shoveling of food into our mouths.
Also, domestic comforts, like pillows and indoor plumbing are a really
big deal (those were two other highlights of our Vernon stay).
Now we're sitting in the Yard Creek Provincial Park and hoping to make
it an early night. We're out of reception range again, so you'll see
this during our tomorrow when we get into Revelstoke.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
For years Vanessa has been singing the praises of Vernon, British Columbia. Talking about the scenery, the outdoor life and the people that live there. After two nights in this town, I completely understand why. We have had so many people step up and help us recover after the long ride though the first leg of our trip.
The first is the Prestige Inn on highway 97 (shown above). When Vanessa and I were told that Prestige had donated a stay in their hotel we were expecting a warm shower and a place to keep our bikes, both of which we would have made us perfectly content. When we arrived we were surprised to learn that we would be staying in one of the nicest rooms they had available. That description does not do justice to the room we received. Vanessa and I have never seen a room this nice, let alone stayed in one. The staff has been so kind, going beyond just the room and even providing extras like free detergent for the laundry that we sorely needed to do. Tonight Vanessa and I have enjoyed a home cooked meal in the full kitchen supplied in the room, and will settle in for some ice cream and a movie on a 42 inch flat screen. Absolutely amazing.
Next is Peter Dorey and the staff at Olympia Cycle and Ski. As is often the case, the flight to Vancouver from Toronto did some damage to our bikes. The tires on both bikes were out of true and Vanessa's shifters were skipping, which was becoming a real problem especially in the mountain passes. On top of these new problems, Vanessa and I have had our bikes since 2009 and they've had some nagging problems that I had no idea could even be fixed. We dropped off our bikes at noon for a tune up, donated by Olympia, and by five they were running better than they have been since their initial purchase, including a new chain and break pads on Vanessa's bike and a replacement cable for my rear derailure. On top of the tune, Peter took the time to redesign tomorrow's route allowing us to get off the highway, for the first time in days, and onto what we've been told are some beautiful backroads. Thank you Peter and we can't wait to try out the route.
Lastly we have to give one more shout out to Sandra. Sandra coordinated all of the help we have received in Vernon, acted as an impromptu tour guide and showed us more kindness than we can put into words. As wonderful as this trip has been, it's also been hard, mentally and physically.
Sandra, the kindness you've shown us in the last two days has totally rejuvenated us and made us feel like we're ready to take on the road that lies ahead. I truly don't know where we would be without the kindness and absolute selflessness you've shown.
For a number of reasons tomorrow is a big day. At 8:15 tomorrow Vanessa and I will be meeting with a cardiac rehhibilitation class, that is run through the Vernon BC, Jubilee Hospital health network. One of the main things Vanessa and I hope to do with this trip is to show that health limitations, no matter how difficult, do not have to mean the end of leading an active life or following your dreams. Meeting with people who have recently gone through something as traumatic as heart surgery is a big part of that goal.
Through this trip we're raising money in two ways. We are collecting money for the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, which helps fund centres like the one we will visit tomorrow in Vernon. It also works to spread awareness about issues surrounding recovery and fund scholarships aimed at advancing research into Cardiac Rehabilitation. We are also giving people the option to donate directly to their local rehabilitation centre. If you choose to donate to the Vernon BC, Jubilee Hospital Health Network, 50% of those funds will go directly to that centre, while the other 50%, goes to the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada and their efforts across the country.
We will talk more about the class visit tomorrow, but tonight we'll finish by showing you the edible bouquet Sandra so ingeniously gifted us this morning.
Sandra I'm not exaggerating when I say this, below is the bouquet as we received it:
This is it three minutes later.
Needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed it!
Our morning consisted of a beautiful ride alongside Lake Okanagan on our way to Kelowna. As seems to be the standard here, we had a big climb leading up to town and a rapid descent into it. We took a detour through Kelowna to grocery shop and scout out a shady curb for gorging.
Riding out of Kelowna we lost the lake and our paved shoulder for much of the ride --which was pretty unnerving on the busy highway 97. Finally, they both reappeared closer to Vernon and before the steep climb into town. Aside from the traffic and broken concrete the route was absolutely gorgeous.
We were greeted in Vernon by the lovely and wonderful Sandra Humphreys, who came bearing sandwiches, water, and a campsite reservation --she even led the way in her car and made sure to choose a location that wouldn't involve any extra hills. Thank you Sandy, for the campsite and the fantastic welcome!
Tomorrow we have a scheduled rest day in Vernon and we are ready for it. For Sunday evening, we have a hotel stay sponsored by the Prestige Inn (and coordinated by Sandra). Also, Olympia Cycles, here in Vernon, has graciously offered us free bike tunes, which couldn't come at a better time! Other than that we are looking forward to resting and checking out the town.
As incredible as the scenery has been on our ride, we have chosen perhaps the most incredulous sight of the day for our daily picture. We'll be able to share more pictures of our surroundings when we can upload our camera pics to a computer.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
marker for Vanessa and I as it was not only the furthest we've
travelled in a day by bicycle this season, but also the furthest we've
ever gone with packs!
Today also had some of the most varied terrain we've seen so far. We
started the day in rolling pastures surrounded by mountains, climbed a
summit after lunch and following the longest and fastest descent we've
ever done, we found ourselves in Penticton looking at a landscape that
seemed more Californian than British Columbian. From there we cruised
along the shores of Lake Okanagan enjoying a slight but steady
downhill with the exception of a quick but brutal climb into
Summerland. The highway had brutal traffic, but thankfully wide
The weather today was a delightful change. After being bogged down in
fleeces and rain gear for the majority of the trip Vanessa and I
finally got to don our jerseys and bike shorts and bask in the
We saw so many beautiful things today, but the image Vanessa and I
choose to leave you with is a warning sign we found outside of
Keremeos. Not sure if it's encouraging or discouraging the activity.
The driver seems pretty into it...
Friday, June 3, 2011
Today was a bit of a roller coaster. We started the day with some major descending to do after our Allison Pass climb but the Cascades weren't finished with us yet. We only reached about 950 metres before we were climbing again, this time to Sunday Summit. It kind of felt like a kick in the knees to climb a summit in the middle of a descent but at least we weren't starting from sea level.
The first few kilometres up were really, really steep and we were not happy. Flashbacks to our Allison Pass experience evoked our worst fears that Sunday Summit would be more of the same. Thankfully, it was not. The grade mellowed out and became, not exactly enjoyable, but doable. We reached the summit with relative ease and couldn't believe that the wonderful summit sign appeared so early. After the summit there were still a few shorter climbs to cover but we started to refer to them as "baby hills" (I think this is only because we knew a descent was coming up).
The descent took us through some of the most gorgeous scenery that we've traversed yet. We're happy to report that our wildlife encounters today were strictly deer and none of them seemed interested in eating us.
The descent itself was fairly treacherous, on single, narrow lanes with no shoulder or one so washed out we couldn't ride it above 20km/hour. Unfortunately we had to hold the brakes tightly the whole way down so we could be prepared to skid off the road every time one of the many vehicles whizzed past.
It wasn't until we approached the valley that we were able to enjoy some smooth riding on a less intense down grade. We pretty much coasted right into Princeton, picked up some groceries, and sailed out to our campsite. The cycling became infinitely more enjoyable once we reached the lower elevation, both because we finally had some warmer temperatures and because we no longer had to fear being edged off a cliff.
The mountain riding brought out all kinds of emotions in us and was a serious physical and mental challenge. All of your encouraging comments and blog visits have boosted our spirits, knowing you're out there following along and supporting us. Thank you everyone!
We've been finding it fascinating that within a day of riding we can see so much variation in landscape and ways of life. We can't wait to ride through our next leg through the Okanagan valley.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Yesterday as Vanessa wrote the last post, I fell asleep in an armchair in the lobby. I then got up, proceeded to the hotel room and fell asleep on top of the sheets for about twenty minutes. Lastly I managed to lurch under the covers and slept heavily for the remainder of the evening. This pattern of behavior is pretty much a microcosm of our rest day at manning lodge.
So far today we have managed to eat roughly our weight in bread and granola, there is no such thing as being full on a trip like this. Our big exertion was to slump into a hot tub where we spent a lot of time experimenting with how to get the jets to massage our calves.
As Vanessa wrote yesterday, the ride from Hope to Manning Park Lodge was easily the most physically and mentally tiring thing we've ever done. Between staring down both a grizzly and a black bear, to almost losing a pedal half way up the mountain, it was an incredibly difficult day. The pedal fell out halfway up a climb. They're countersunk, I still have no idea how this happened. That being said the views we experienced and the sheer feeling of joy when we reached the top more than outweigh the hardships. There's something absolutely bizarre and magical about starting a day in the sun and biking into the clouds till you're in three feet of snow.
Above are a few of our favorite photos from Vanessa's point and shoot. The lower two shots were taken on the ascent and summit of Allison pass. The graffiti was found in about the steepest part of the ascent and really lifted our spirits. The snow covered service building is a taste of what we saw at the top of the pass. The first pic is our favorite photo of the trip, taken west of Mission. BC has the best roadsigns ever.
TODAY. WAS. HARD. We fought for every metre of road today and Allison Pass didn't give it up easily. We knew that the climb today was supposed to be the worst of the trip, and WOW. Do we ever hope that's true!
We hit the road by 8am but meandered around Hope for half an hour, delaying the inevitable. The 18km climb out of Hope is steep and brutal, at many points we found ourselves travelling at a whooping 6km an hour! It didn't help that we were carrying what we thought would be an extra three days worth of food, although it turned out to be food for just this one!
Just when we were about ready to throw our bikes off the mountain and walk up, the road levelled out around the Hope Slides and we enjoyed a short reprieve from intense ascending. This allowed us to recover some kilometres but more than anything we think that without this 'break' we wouldn't have mustered the fortitude to keep going.
We started climbing slowly and steeply again around 32km and the rising altitude brought us the characteristically chaotic weather of the mountains with rain on and off, in between sunshine and hail. When slogging through a grueling climb it is very demoralizing to look down at your odometre and see you 'only have 25km left to go' but realize it could take you four hours --and it did.
There are also some other things you don't want to see on such climbs, and that would be bears. At one point a driver coming from the opposing direction stopped to alert us that there were five(!) bears around the road up ahead. We sat and contemplated for a few moments before riding to peek around the bend to gauge the risk level, and there was one right on our side of the road. We had to flag down a car to ride beside us, serving as a shield between us and an enormous bear. By then it had made its way about twenty feet away from the road but was still far too close for comfort. It stared right at us and followed with its gaze as we rode by --we swear we saw it contemplate charging us if not for our amazing escorts who may have saved our lives. Needless to say we did not stop for a photo. Later in the climb we actually saw another bear, this time a grizzly! This one was up on a ledge but still very close to the road so we weren't taking any chances, or pictures!
The middle section of the Allison Pass climb was a marginally milder grade and we began to think it wasn't that bad but by about the 50km mark it veered up relentlessly. Knowing that the summit would be at the 59km point of the ride didn't help much when we had no idea what the road would throw at us next. Aside from the extreme elevation we also met heavy winds, sharp turns, and single narrow lanes with no shoulder next to precarious cliff drops, all while heavy trucks were zooming by threatening to blow us off the road. In that last stretch before the summit we were seriously questioning our ability to reach it despite the 'short' distance. We ended up walking for about three kilometres because my knees were shot and Alex was depleted. I cannot describe how elated we were to see that summit sign, 'Allison Pass 1342 metres', which marked the end of our misery.
We're now comfortably housed at the Manning Park Lodge, which is a few quick kilometres down from the summit. (The campgrounds in the park are closed until June because it is still covered in snow up here.) We had already anticipated we would take one of our extra rest days here so we are staying for two nights to recover and repair our relationship with the bikes ;-).
What a day! Aside from the tortuous ride the route is spectacularly beautiful. We took a lot of pictures due to frequent short breaks on the rough stuff. With the iphone we can only post photos taken on the phone, of which we only do a couple for the blog. We're out of range for the iphone here so we can't post any photos tonight but tomorrow we'll see if we can use the lodge computer to upload photos from the camera.
For now, it is time to start the resting phase. Goodnight!
ps- The blog is still on eastern standard time just because it would be too onerous to change it for every time zone. So while it looks like this was posted on June 1st, in BC it is still May 31st with the three hour time difference.