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Another day in Canada

July 11th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 31: Kashabowie to Thunder Bay (126km)

Another day I wake up when my alarm goes off and get up when the sun heats up my little tent so that I begin to wilt like a pot plant in a polythene bag. Another morning I stretch during breakfast. Ooh that feels stiff ( pirisformis, quads and hamstrings). I worry that my back is becoming increasingly wonky due – my old back injury is flaring up again.

Another day I pack up, shuffling around drinking the dregs of the coffee while waiting for the fly of my tent to dry out as it blows from a nearby tree branch.

Another morning we are about to set off and then are interrupted by “The Conversation”. You know how it goes…

“Where you ladies headed to?”

We all look round at each other. Who’s going to do it this time? Then “and where did you start? Where you headed to today?” A few exclamations of surprise, followed by comments on the road ahead and other cyclists seen in last 2 weeks, polished off with well wishes and a goodbye. Don’t get me wrong, I like telling people about the trip. I just wish the selection of questions asked could be mixed up a bit.

Another day we set off to pedal 30km before devouring protein bars for Second Breakfast.

More cycling. More sunshine. More water sipped on the move. More photos snapped

Another time zone crossed. Whoop whoop. Another merge onto a highway. More trucks, fewer rocks. Still the same deep green forest all around. The verge is lined with wildflowers: orange, yellow and white speckles like flecks of acrylic paint.

Another wildlife spot – two wolves (or where they coyotes?) run across the road. Minutes later they run back the other way in quick pursuit of some unseen prey. Another unrecognisable species of grouse sits, still as a statue, by the roadside, its body well camouflaged amongst the tall grasses. A fox runs across the road.

Another day we see bikes stopped on the shoulder ahead of us. It’s Stan and Shirley again. We hadn’t seen them since Swift Current and stop to hear their tales of the road (Stan has crashed twice due to trucks not giving them enough space on the main highway- I am so, so glad we took highway 71)

Another day the darkening clouds gather, threatening rain and thunder. We can hear before we stop the ferocious crash of water: the rusty water of Kakabeka Falls crashes violently over the rocks. The noise is as impressive as it is daunting. The clouds grow darker.

Another day we cycle 33km non stop in pouring rain. We are overtaken by lumber trucks, smelling the wet wood as it splashes past. Another day of wet socks, wet cleats. Water dripping down the neck of my jacket. Tanned thighs covered in rain drops. Another day we cycle through construction (translation: road works) and swear out loud at the idiot who squeezes past us dangerously close only to meet us again at the red light.

Another day we roll into a bike shop. More talk of gears, brake pads, tyres, cables. More protein bars purchased. More food greedily devoured after another 100km on the road.

And in the darkening fog we cycle to the campground. It’s closed. So we park in nearby park. Rain. Darkness. Slapping canvas of the tent, trees buffeted by the wind. Rain. Ache. Sleep.

Tomorrow it begins again.

Another day in Canada.

Campfires etc

July 11th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 30: Atikokan to Kashabowie (98.5 km)

“Do you ladies need a hand?”

Clearly.

A large man, with larger-than-my-thighs biceps bulging through his tshirt, was strolling over from his RV. Usually I do not like this whole macho “do you ladies need a hand” thing. Yet on this occasion my post-feminist self (and the two Wanderers) were proving to be mildly ineffective at chopping the firewood.

I only learnt how to chop wood with an axe back in BC. Chopping it vertically with the grain is one thing. Chopping it horizontally quite another. The axe that Sofi was welding was just as liking to slice her leg in two as it was to successfully chop the humongous log lying on the grass.

Sofi Wanderer vs. log

Sofi Wanderer vs. log

“We’re from the city,” Katie said, by way of explanation.

City or no, we didn’t have so much trouble starting the fire using my usual trick of Vaseline and a tampon. We had enjoyed our day off in Atikokan by hanging out in the laundromat for six hours. There we washed our clothes, Sofi cleaned her bike, we stretched, we ate, we blogged, we danced. It was joyous. To top off the day we needed to have a campfire.

A kind man camping nearby had given me some coals which helped the create wonderful glowing embers, perfect for toasting our marshmallows and making s’mores. S’mores, for those who haven’t tried them, are made by squishing a toasted marshmallow and some gooey melted chocolate between two biscuits. Nom nom nom.

After the Wanderers headed to their tent I stayed by the fire. It was a cloudy, dark and moonless night. The fire hissed softly from the wet birch wood, emitted the fragrance of the forest. I watched the flames expire into the darkness, the embers brightening and cooling with each breath of wind. I lay down on my mat to stretch. I saw first one, then another flash of greenish light: the first fireflies I’ve ever seen.

The day cycling to Kashabowie was rather uneventful. Needless to say we cycled 100km through beautiful Ontario.

image

We arrived at a lakeside to have another campfire. This campfire we used to cook dinner on. The menu for the evening: beans and spider dogs.

Beans bubbling on the campfire

Beans bubbling on the campfire

Spider dogs. Not to be confused with a cocker spaniel with 8 legs.

Spider dogs. Not to be confused with a cocker spaniel with 8 legs.

After dinner I went for a swim. The water was calm. The sun had dipped behind the forest on the far shore. I had the surface of the lake entirely to myself, save for the Dragonflies darting over the water. My swimmer’s strokes distorted the rippling reflection of late evening sky. The mauve clouds in the horizon became bands of pastel colour in the otherwise calm water. All I could hear was the sound of my breath, and the slow ripples of the water.

That evening I lay on my back again by the campfire and watched the stars appear. One, then two, fireflies joined the stars, flashing like beacons in the dark. As I fell asleep I heard the lone cry calling from the Canadian wild.

“That was a loon!” Sofi called from her tent, just to check I haven’t missed it.

Goodnight Ontario.

How to be Canadian

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 8: Kelowna to Enderby (87.5 km)

“Country club!?” I exclaimed, swivelling round from the front seat, “I thought we were going to a pub.”

It’s 10pm the night before an 88km ride. Usually by this time I would have followed the setting sun to bed and be deeply dreaming about Monty and mountains. No so in Kelowna.

Courtney and Danica had arranged to cycle with me to Kelowna but first they, and their gathered friends, had to teach me the important Canadian lesson of how to two-step. So here I found myself in a club with more cowboy hats than a Clint Eastwood movie. I was scared of the dancing. But even more scared when, during a quick break from spinning round the dance floor, Danica told me that they furthest she’d ever cycled was only 45km.

My worries were allayed the following morning when we set off in the sunshine, joined for the first 20km by Courtney’s dad.

A small peloton

A small peloton

The kilometres slipped by easily and the girls had to wait for me and Monty at the top of the climbs. They had cunningly arranged to have a Support Van (sorry, “truck”) follow us to the campsite later, laden with beer, firewood and a BBQ – all the ingredients for a good night’s camping.

But we could start the campfire we needed to chop the wood! And so commenced my second lesson in being Canadian…

Aim. Chop. Fling. Chop. Sorted.

Aim. Chop. Fling. Chop. Sorted.

The evening was spent gathered around the campfire toasting (and burning) marshmallows. I charged the gathered Canadians to compete for the accolade of “best British accent” (the prize was a toasted marshmallows) and amused them by rattling off a Raffi song in my newly acquired Canadian.

image

What a wonderful day. It’s not fair to make sweeping generalisations about an entire people yet all the Canadians I have met so far have been awesome, kind and magnanimous people.

Thank you to Courtney, Danica, Amanda and Kate for teaching me how to be Canadian.

Crossing cycle paths

June 6th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Day 6: Princeton to Penticton (105 km)

Crossing bike pathsYou would have thought that there aren’t all that many folks cycling across Canada right?

Back in Victoria John and Kumiko (who cycled across Canada in 2007) told me that one day in Ontario they stopped for breakfast with not one, not two but a gathering of eight trans-Canada cyclists. It seems pretty incredulous that so many cyclists would congregate at the very same spot at the very same time. Not so.

Today my cycle path crossed with another 7 cyclists all headed for the East coast.

Firstly, Nic, the guy from Quebec who I have cycled with since Mission, is headed to Nova Scotia. We parted ways this morning as he is following highway 3 to the crows nest pass whereas I am headed for the northern route towards Lake Louise, Banff and other tourist traps.

I stopped outside a snack shop with 2 cyclists outside. Stan and Shirley had stopped to get the best beef jerky for miles around inside the store. They are both headed for the east coast. Amusing they describe their trip as “one woman’s dream, one man’s nightmare!” But on a sunny day with only rolling hills and beef jerky en route I doubt it was too hellish for Stan. They too are taking the southern route via highway 3.

At lunchtime I was happily munching through my fourth Ryvita and Gouda slice when Chase and Erica pulled up. Their trip is slightly different because they are cycling for a month, then have to return home to work for a month, but will they fly out to where they left to carry on their ride. If they don’t finish it in 2 months then they’ll complete their cycle ride next year. I love their dedication.

I also narrowly missed (by 10 minutes apparently) the 2 “wanderers on wheels”. The wanderers also have a very amusing blog which I greatly enjoy reading; certainly they make me feel like less of a nutter for making this trip. I did actually met these girls briefly at Manning Park. In fact, I met all the above guys at Manning park!

If you think about it… There are only so many months in the summer when Canada is fun to cycle through. And you need most if not all of them to cycle coast to coast at an enjoyable pace. I hope to bump into these guys again, and meet any other folks who are also making the trip.

Anyway, aside from meeting loads of friendly cyclists, today I cycled 105km with swoopy hills. One hill was so swoopy it swooped for about 10k (or so it felt) and I hit a max speed of 57.7km/h (that’s v fast for a fully loaded tourer like Monty)

My favourite moment of the day though was seeing a signpost that read: Similkameen Taxidermy. Emergency and out of hours call: 350-123-000

I will leave that for you to ponder.

Mind mapping

May 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

It’s difficult to focus in stuff like brand, development, restructures etc when an adventure is hanging on the horizon. Or indeed the office wall.

2pm yesterday – I was sat in a team meeting at work. A huge map of the world was pinned on the wall. Try as I might to focus, my eyes wandered over to the smudgy brown relief of the Rockies.

Today – on the request of my boss, I printed off an A2 Google map of my route and pinned it onto our noticeboard. Given my colleagues keen interest in the wildlife of Canada I added “Here Be Bears” at the appropriate sections. Tomorrow (my last day at work) I may draw on moose, whales and eagles.

I love a good map.
A map is adventure on paper. You don’t even need to leave the house. You can just pull out a good map out, trace a route with your finger and start imagining…

A map isn’t just a picture of the world. It’s a picture of our minds, and a reflection of the way we think about and have acted upon the world. We draw neat lines, boxes, smooth edges and neat corners upon a rugged and tangled world.

Just look at a map of Canada – those dead-straight lines along the provincial borders are the products of history, not geology. Recently I’ve been reading a interesting book about Canadian history. The book points out that having two nations running in horizontal stripes west to east across the North American continent is pretty odd because the physical geography runs more vertically like this:

So over the next 3 and a half months I will be cycling across a single country. But this map shows I’ll also be cycling across 7 different physiographic provinces. What will it be like to witness the transition from the Rockies and the interior highlands to the great plains and Canadian shield?

I can’t wait to watch, at the speed of a bicycle, the slow and majestic unfolding of the riotous colours, vegetations, smells, storms, squawking wildlife spectacles, rock formations and sandy shores that Canada has to show.

I can’t wait to turn my imaginations into memories.

And through the ceaseless tapping of my pedals, I can’t wait to turn the neatly plotted line on the map into my own meadering path across this great and varied continent.

Sunshine and peanut butter

May 20th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada - (1 Comments)

When you imagine living on a boat isn’t the sun always shining?

You picture chugging up and down the leafy waterways of timeless rural landscapes, waving your straw hat in greeting to passing boats, licking ice lollies and lolling on the desk applying sun cream every hour. Bliss.

Cycling across Canada will obviously be a lot like that. Just replace the ice lollies with a peanut butter and jam sandwich, the straw hat with a nodding bike helmet, and the leafy waterways with the Trans Canada Highway and that is exactly what I am expecting.

Sunshine
I have just checked the weather forecast for Vancouver. Next Monday the sun should be out to greet me as I pedal out the airport.

I can hardly believe that I am only 1 small week away from my trip. I’ve spent 8 years dreaming about this. 8 years! What were you doing 8 years ago? I was getting excited about going to Canada for the first time*: packing my bag, emailing friends in Canada, checking my passport for the third time that day to check it hadn’t magically expired since breakfast.

Algonquin park Summer 2005. This isn't instagrammed. It's just a photo taken on a film. Remember those?

Algonquin park Summer 2005. This isn’t instagrammed. It’s just a photo taken on a film. Remember those?

Peanut butter
So not much has changed in eight years then? Nope. I am still me: a Dino is search of adventure and on a mission to discover the land of my birth. Even though I rightly know from my Oxfordian vowels, my inability to ice skate smoothly and the fact that I say ‘alright’ rather than ‘for sure’ that, yes, I am a Brit. However, I do love a good peanut butter sandwich made with jam. I love a good adventure. And I love this sign post:

I took this photo along 8 years ago. Note: perfect blue sky.

I took this photo along 8 years ago. Note: perfect blue sky.

So next week I will adventure** in search of sunshine, peanut butter, and a piece of Canada all to myself.

*I’m not including “being born” in first time.
** ‘adventure’ can be a verb