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Fuelled by maple syrup

July 18th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 38: Sault Ste. Marie to Blind River (134.5 km)

I haven’t eaten enough pancakes or maple syrup on this trip. In fact, before today I don’t think I’ve eaten any pancakes and only a small amount of maple syrup has entered my mouth, mounted on some other variety of wheat-based foodstuff.

This morning at the campground I met a nice man wearing a triathlon tshirt who, it turns out, has done no fewer than 3 ironman triathlons. And he is training for his 4th. I have by this point decided that doing an ironman shall be my next challenge. So it was good to chat to him and hear his tips.

Heading out of the Soo, I’d been advised by the folks at the bike store to take the scenic route off the main highway. I’d also heard that it was going to be “flat”.

It was not flat. Okay, there were patches of flat but the gravel road I was on managed to seek out every bump and hill and traverse them at the worst possible angle. For the first time since Vancouver I also had to – shock, horror – navigate. Usually I am on the same road for the entire day. Or entire week. The twists and turns (okay there were only about 6) had me reaching for the GPS which slowed me down.

Nonetheless it was the scenic route and in hindsight I’m glad I took it. I could enjoy the pastoral scenes as I passed through Mennonite country. The landscape had changed significantly since yesterday. Gone are the rocks and forests. The scene today was agricultural with views of wooden, red-painted barns surrounded by fields of fresh hay bales. Swallows dipped and dived over the crops while a flock of sparrows flew from the water tower. All day I saw road signs warning drivers of horses and carts (which also served to warn me and Monty of the house droppings on the road…) And here and there along the roadside were small stalls selling fresh eggs and maple syrup.

image

Maple syrup! How have I been in Canada for so long and not eaten more maple syrup? Thinking back I can only recall eating maple syrup on French toast back in Hope. That was over a month ago. Outraged by my lack of the sweet stuff when I rolled into town and saw Kat in a restaurant I decided to rectify the situation. And the maple pancakes tasted so good. Nom nom nom.

The Wanderers rolled into the restaurant a short while later and we rested for a a while from the heat of the day. The four of us set off together but soon our different speeds split us up. I was feeling good from the pancakes so kept riding. I have realised from the last few days of cycling by myself that if I feel good I should not stop. After all the pancakes (and a few energy gel sweets) I felt very good. So I kept going…

And going. And then I realised, rolling up and down the smooth undulating terrain, that I could do 50 kilometres without taking my feet of the pedals. So carried on. At this point I figured out how to swap round a third water bottle so I could carry on drinking while riding. And I kept pedalling,

I arrived at the campsite just outside of Blind River having cycled 67km without a break. Which I guess is about 3 hours of continuous exercise and thus some sort of personal record.

Kat and the Wanderers pulled into the campsite a little later. We hung around, eating dinner together. It was a nice end to very good day on the road.

This is Kat

This is Kat

Ps Kat’s blog is www.katstanbridge.wordpress.com
The Wanderers’ blog is www.wanderersonwheels.com

Vous etes des assassins

July 17th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Day 37: Lake Superior to Sault Ste. Marie (136km)

“Vous etes des assassins”

That’s what the Tour de France riders cried when the route organisers first plotted the tour’s route through the Pyrenees. The words are emblazoned on the front of the Rapha top that I have been wearing on most of the trip. And which I was wearing, quite fittingly, today as I climbed the steepest, most evil, hernia-inducing ascent so far.

This top was brand new and pure white when I left...

This top was brand new and pure white when I left…

I knew it was going to be a long day as my short(ish) day yesterday meant I had 140km to the Soo (aka Sault Ste Marie). The forecasted weather was hot with highs of 31 degrees. The predicted terrain was hilly with highs of… High.

So I set off at 8am from the campsite, enjoying the low glowing sun as it cast the westerly shadow of Monty and I pedalling. The wind was already beginning to pick up. A headwind, of course. As my average speed dropped lower and lower with each climb (down to 15km per hour at one point) I started getting concerned that I would not make it to the Soo before night fall.

Something needed to be done. I reached into my pouch and pulled out my “double latte” energy gel. Now normally I would not promote any specific item in my blog yet this Clif energy gel transformed me into a pro rider, like Popeye eating spinach. Within seconds my legs were pumping at twice the speed. I pedalled faster and faster. The hills slowly flattened out. Up ahead I saw the Wanderers (they had stayed at a different campsite 20km further ahead than me). I was gaining on them every second.

“Hellllloooooo!” I called, as I screamed past, “I’ve just eaten a caffeine gel and I can’t stop!!”

The scenery today was absolutely stunning. The road followed the shoreline of Superior. This is a place for adventure. Cars drive past carrying canoes and sea kayaks, hunting for adventure, chased by laden motorbike tourers. In the bay the black outline of a group of swimmers splashed around. The water is so clear that I could see the pebbles at the bottom of the lake from the roadside.

I really enjoyed today’s ride although I wish I could have stopped more, but with so many miles to do and keen to arrive at the bike shop before it closed, I kept pedalling. My only big stop of the day was at a picnic bench next to a signpost declaring that I had reached the halfway point of the Trans-Canada (oh so maybe I wasn’t halfway two days ago..) In the afternoon the heat intensified. All was still going well but then I met…

The Hill.

I have seen skateboard ramps that are more gently sloped. I have heard of ski jumps which are not as steep. Indeed, I have known chunky blocks of cheese that have a lesser gradient.

Oh. My. Legs.

Oh. My. Legs.

Ahead of me the road pitched up into the sky. For reference, the bit of road in the photo that looks flat is actually still uphill (or so my legs were telling me.)

Canadian road builders: vous etes des assassins.

By the time I met the Cheese Wedge of Doom I had already cycled a cheerful 116km. I slipped into my lowest gear (which is actually very very low since Monty has mountain bike gears). I had to keep pedalling to save falling off, rolling backwards and to stop Monty’s front wheel peeling off the near vertical ascent. Yet each pedal stroke felt like I was sitting on one of those leg press machines at the gym – doing the maximum weight possible. My heart was pounding. I was sweating so much that salt was visibly clinging to my skin. My head was sweating so much underneath my helmet that it felt like my head was crawling with lice. Yikes. I am actually going to collapse. Just before I was about to pass out I pulled over into some shade and poured a bottle of water over my head (thankfully remembering to first take my iPod off). But my water bottles were now all tepid.

The ascent continued for another 2 kilometres. Vous. Etes. Des. Assissins. I huffed, and I puffed and, finally, I conquered the hill.

There were still another 18km or so to the Soo. Just as well as I couldn’t have managed much more. I arrived at the Velorution bike shop, an awesome place that offers free camping for cyclists. Here I met Bryan (who I cycled with back in the Rockies) and Kat (whose blog I have been reading for weeks). Kat already had some beer chilling under a bag of ice. Just what I needed.

If I don’t have to do another hill like that again in Canada it will be too soon.

Marathon through Marathon

July 15th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 34: Schreiber to White Lake (154 km)

“I think I’ll enjoy it, but I’ll be in pain,” Katie Wanderer responded when I asked her this morning what she was expecting from today’s ride.

Pain unfortunately seems to have become a feature of this trip. Mostly it is knee pain or back pain. But there is a plethora of pain that I am experiencing that is quite distracting from the joy of cycling through Ontario.

I felt apprehensive about the day ahead. And not entirely convinced that I would make it to White Lake, especially given my wonky pain and yesterday’s pitiful run. As I set off this morning I tried to focus outwardly on the beautiful scenery. The north shore of Lake Superior has a quiet majesty about it. Early morning the road was almost empty of traffic save for a heron flying over head. The frequent steep ascents allow you to steal glances of the lakes over the top of the forest. The side of the road was decorated with wild flowers, buzzing with life. Yellow and black striped butterflies flapped across the road. I noticed a very beautiful bee collecting pollen at lunchtime. It was orangeish and looked a bit like a hummingbird.

There’s a distinctive bird call which I often hear as I cycle along. It’s made of four sharp, long whistles. I think it’s a white throated sparrow although the melody of its call reminds me of lazy afternoons lying in the grass in England listening to the cooing of a wood pigeon.

The wildlife highlight of the day was seeing a black bear. It was happily munching at the roadside when I zoomed past. First my heart skipped a beat as it turned round but then it sort of shrugged and just carried on munching. I guess I should have stopped to take a photo but I am still quite scared so was happy to use the downhill as an excuse not to stop.

I needed all the nature I could get to distract me from today’s epic ride: 154km on tired, old legs. I had to stop every 30km or so to pull out my half yoga mat and do an entire stretching routine to loosen my knotted muscles. I would respray Deep Freeze on whatever body part was complaining the most. Then pop another painkiller (I need to give up painkillers tomorrow as I now have indigestion.)

After about 90km I reached the town of Marathon (an apt name for today’s ordeal). Pulling in at a gas station I met a hipster duo of cyclists who were headed east. I was chatting to Hipster 1 when Hipster 2 arrived. He immediately chucked his bike on the ground and kicked at the trailer he was pulling. “It’s a piece of junk,” he complained, “I was just given it for free a couple of days ago but I want to get rid of it.” He then opened the lid of his trailer to reveal a guitar and what looked to be a pair of old cowboy boots. He pulled out a pack of tobacco and started rolling a cigarette. I later discovered (when i went down it) that he had just cycled up a ridiculously steep 3km long hill. And he was celebrating with a smoke.

These guys sleep in hammocks. They haven’t paid for a single night at a campsite yet. They seemed to be carrying very minimal gear (guitar and cowboy boots excepted) but I’m sure this is because they didn’t have stuff rather than because they had the super-compact ultra-lightweight technical gear (see Mr Triathlon from yesterday.)

Later on today I saw two other cyclists coming the opposite way. We waved cheerful to each other. They looked retro: he bare chested in small, blue shorts, her in a neon top and buggy sunglasses.

The bike and gear are undetachable from the cyclists. I don’t mean this in a materialistic way. Rather I mean what stuff they pack, how much they carry and how’s it’s loaded onto their choice of bike inextricably reflects their personality. I figure that by seeing a cyclist on the road with all their gear you can instantly get a feel for what they are like. I guess it’s the same as having a snoop round someone’s house. After all, our bikes are our homes for the summer.

After lunch at Marathon and the enjoyable, swooping 3km descent, the hills began to flatten out. The wind had been blowing against or across me off the lake all morning, but as a headed inland towards White Lake it seemed to swing round to my back and push me along for the last 50km. My speed gradually picked up as I started to believe that, yes, I would actually make it to White River.

I swung into my forest clearing of a campsite after a memorable 8 hours and 1 minute of cycling. It was 7pm. This was the longest day of cycling I have done in my life. I called my Dad from the only available pay phone to inform him that I was still alive. Relief swept over me: I’ve made another day.

Exhausted, achey and pathetic

July 14th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 33: Nipigon to Schrieber

What a glorious, easy and relaxing days cycling.

My legs felt fresh from four days of cycling on the trot. The spasms in my lower back beautifully complemented my bloated day-one period feeling. I felt as bouncy and joyous as a spring lamb as I leapt up the steepening hills into the relentless headwind.

Hmff.

Katie Wanderer commented the other day that my blog posts are always so positive. No matter how exhausted, achey and pathetic we have felt my blog post would gush with how wonderful cycling across Canada is.

Today was my most pathetic day yet. In fact, it’s the first time on the trip that I haven’t reached my intended destination. That made me feel a little crushed.

Don’t get my wrong: cycling across Canada is wonderful. But today I felt entirely exhausted, achey and pathetic.

The aches and pain meant we had a slow start to the day – in fact we didn’t get out the campground until 11.30am. We had cycled just under 20km before we stopped by a perfectly located portaloo by the side of the road. (It does not cease to amaze me how many public toilets there are in Canada. And the impressive availability of toilet paper in the Middle of Nowhere. France take note.)

We were lounging outside aforementioned portaloo when another cyclist pulled up. Ross looked like he had just pedalled here from a stage of the Tour de France. He was wearing full Lycra labelled garb and riding a lightweight road bike. “This isn’t actually my bike,” he explained, “it’s my Dad’s. my bike is a triathlon time trial bike but we swapped bikes for the summer. My Dad wanted to do a triathlon so it’s worked out pretty well.”

Ross didn’t have much gear on his bike, confessing to only having one pair of shorts and no rain jacket. He was clearly doing much, much longer days than us. Once on the road he quickly sped off with the easy grace that super-lightweight triathletes have.

Less than 5km later and two other cyclists caught up with us as we waited at a construction stop sign. The two girls were both riding Trek Madone bikes. “They are designed for the Paris-Roubaix,” one of the girls explained, pointing at the suspension in the seat post, “so this really helps on the bumps.”

They had a support van so were carrying less than most people take on a Sunday jolly. They had water, an energy gel, and smiley, tanned faces that looked liked they’d be cut out the billboard for low-fat greek yoghurt.

After the construction, the road steeped quickly to a near vertical ascent reminiscent of the south of France. The Madone girls leapt up the hills like spring lambs. I continued to creep at the speed of an encumbered tortoise with a broken foot. Urg.

These super fit, blonde, lightweight speedy cyclists were accentuating my misery as I considered how laden, fat and pathetic I must look. Yes, I do triathlon. But when I “do” triathlon, I stomp round trying not to collapse before the end (and collecting as many free energy gels as possible en route.)

When I get home I am (if I have any money left!) going to buy a road bike. Ruth has got a new road bike. Other #cyclewithdino folks also logged miles on road bikes. I’m sorry for poor Monty, my dear and trusty steed, because today I wished, for the miles that I slogged and felt annoyed by my slowness, that I too was on a road bike

All day there were long, hard hills (ie 7% gradient). Monty and I fought with all the power we had. By 8pm we had not yet done 100km. It was still another 14km to go to the town of Terrace Bay, our intended destination

The Wanderers and I pulled into a gas station to decide what to do. Looking round at our tired, watery faces it was clear that we were all flagging. At any moment I felt like I might yell in angry or burst into tears.

The woman at the gas station advised us that there was no campground in Terrace Bay. The stretch of highway was also known to be a hotspot for black bears. I didn’t feel comfortably wild camping in bear country. I doubt I would sleep if I knew they were prowling round my tent, sniffing out the forgotten protein bar left in my jersey pocket. So with some glumness we decided to stay in Schreiber and camp at the mosquito-infested RV park. Yes, it was a wise decision but not a fun one.

The Wanderers went to get pizza. I was too tired to move any further.

Whenever part of your body is exhausted, achey and pathetic there are few things that will save you. But this was one: a new pair of merino socks. I slipped them on over my mosquito bitten feet and fell asleep.

The people you meet

June 25th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Day 20: Moose Jaw to Regina (79.5 km)

“Oh, I would have thought you would have cycled further than this,” the man said by way of introduction. I gave him a blank stare. Apparently he’d seen us in the bike shop in Swift Current two days ago. Further than this? We biked 173km yesterday.

“Do you have a pump I can use?” He asked. He’d flagged us down just as we were headed about 10km outside of Moose Jaw. He had been sitting on the verge with his bike strewn around him. He didn’t look like a tourer because he only had one small pack on his road bike. It was already mid-morning as we’d taken a leisurely breakfast at Timmy’s in order to catch up on blogs and drink a coffee that doesn’t taste like every other camp meal we’d eaten.

“Schrader or presta?” I asked.

“Huh?” He looked at us like we were stupid.

“Skinny or fat valve.” Sofi translated pointing at the difference between the tubes in her wheel and mine.

“Oh, skinny. I should cancel my taxi.”

Taxi? I dug into my pannier for the pump. The guy started talking to the wanderers. The usual conversation: where did you start, where are you going etc. Oddly this guy told us he was biking across Canada (albeit in stages) and was headed to Winnipeg. That’s 700km away I thought, overhearing the conversation. Would you not take a pump on a 700km bike ride?

The guy was clearly rich. A plastic tourer with a much greater credit card limit to pannier bag ratio than we have. Who else pulls out their cellphone in the middle of nowhere and calls a cab? Who else DOESN’T CARRY A PUMP WHILE CYCLING ACROSS CANADA?

The wanderers and I shared a glance: what a twat

Thankfully just as I was pulling out my pump a taxi pulled up and the guy decided he would head back to town. I would have thought he’d have got further than this… If only he carried a pump.

After meeting The Rich Twat With No Pump we merrily pedalled on in the sunshine. We passed through the Queen Elizabeth trees. Apparently, when Queen Elizabeth came to visit Saskatchewan in 1959 the powers that be decided to plant a corridor of trees on the road from Moose Jaw to Regina so that Her Majesty wouldn’t be bored by the endless, boring prairie view.

These are Her Majesty's trees

These are Her Majesty’s trees

The cycling today wasn’t too challenging but nor was it particularly exciting so Katie and I played Top 5, 20 questions and our own home brewed version of Sporkle to entertain us while Sofi focused on the pain of her chafing inner thigh hinge (!)

When we arrived at Regina we stopped at a bike shop so Sofi could fork out a small but worthwhile fortune on a shiny new Brooks saddle (it’s brown so it matches her handlebar tape).

We’ve spent the evening staying with a very friendly guy called Ron, a keen cyclist who has converted his basement into a bike workshop. After stuffing our bellies with turkey, strawberries and cookies we played bike mechanic with Ron. We all learnt a few things from Ron, clearly an expert, as he checked over our bikes. I was relieved that he wasn’t worried about the miscellaneous bump on my front tyre and chuffed that he approved of my true back wheel.

One of the greatest aspects of this trip is meeting people on the way: from friendly bike mechanic hosts to idiots without a pump. They all add a brushstroke to this expanding picture of Canada by bicycle.

Slumbering bear

June 16th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 13 Lake Louise to Canmore (89 km)

Chateau Lake Louise is pretty impressive. Seriously if you’ve not heard of it you should look it up. The wanderers had a spare bed in their €750 a night room so had invited me (and Monty) to stay with them. I’ve not been sleeping much in Canada and was looking forward to a decent night’s kip.

There was a moment wandering around the sixth floor hunting for room 6923 and still (after about an hour) unable to find the wanderers when I was beginning to wonder if it was just a big wind up. There weren’t any rooms with four digit numbers. I’d been told to find the East elevator and was hopelessly trying to take a bearing from the sun in order to work out which way was East. To no avail. Eventually Sofi Wanderer found me sitting in the lobby. I was trying my best to look inconspicuous in a five star hotel whilst wearing trail running shoes, shorts and a bright red waterproof. We picked up Monty and whisked him inside on the elevator without anyone noticing.

The view from the view was impressive.

Room with a view

Room with a view

Oddly I had the worst night’s sleep. The bed was so soft and squidgy that I constantly felt like I was sinking. I woke up again and again. At 3am I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was very tempted to blow up my thermarest and sleep on that but worried that noise of inflating it would wake up the Wanderers. Eventually I did get to sleep by lying upside down on the bed with a pillow between my legs.

6.30am – time to go swimming.
There is only going to be one morning in our lives when we have the opportunity to swim in the crystal glacier-fed waters of Lake Louise and then sink into a hot tub: this was that morning. The water was so cold that “if you threw an ice cube in the water it would stay there”. We crawled in like Golum over the wet rocks, swam about 10m and then Golumed out again. We padded down the carpeted corridors wrapped in towels trying to find our way through the labyrinth to the hot tub.

I'm going to start a list of lakes in the world I've swum in. Lake Louise joins Lake Baikal.

I’m going to start a list of lakes in the world I’ve swum in. Lake Louise joins Lake Baikal.

8:15am – breakfast
The cheapest breakfast on the hotel menu was €18. But we are but humble cycle tourists. The girls had only beef jerky and one protein bar in stock so I shared out all that I had. We were limited to 3 crackers, one third of a spoon on peanut butter scrapped as thinly as possible, two thirds of a banana each and a mug of coffee. We ate like peasants in a palace.

11am – actually doing some biking.
Our cycling route to Canmore was supposed to be ‘all downhill’. Katie Wanderer was looking forward to an entire day of coasting. She had absolutely no intention of pedalling if it could be helped. It was disappointing then for us to find hills en route. The route had been described as downhill and mostly flat.
Indeed, encouraging people had on multiple occasions described the approaching terrain as “Oh, mostly downhill and flat compared to what you guys have biked already.”
As Katie pointed out, what we’ve biked already are several Rocky Mountain passes. “I want you to compare flat with flat, not flat with Allison’s Pass.”
Fair point.

Cycling along highway 1a to Banff we saw three peletons of cyclist, an elk and a black bear. I’m particularly pleased about seeing the bear as we were almost out of bear country.

Photo credit: Katie Wanderer. Yes, we were that close.

Photo credit: Katie Wanderer. Yes, we were that close.

Talking of bears, it turns out that I’ve nearly seen a bear twice. Firstly Nic and I cycled straight past a bear on our way up Allisons Pass and didn’t realise. But the Wanderers (who stayed an extra day at the campsite in Canyon Hot Springs) found out that the next morning that a bear had been wandering around our campsite, indeed was right outside our tents in the night. We (wanderers and I) had stashed all our food in the laundry room, far from our tents. Bryan (being arrogant/ stupid?) had left all of it outside his tent, neatly packed in a bag just a few yards from our canvas abodes. The wanderers discovered all this when the saw the wardens setting up traps the next morning. Needless to say, I’m glad I found out about this a safe 200+km away.

We cycled to Banff and stopped for a prolonged break, trying to wait for the rain to stop (it didn’t).

Sarcastic signpost on the way to Canmore.

Sarcastic signpost on the way to Canmore.

The last 24km to Canmore were delightfully along bike path. The wanderers were staying with a family friend so just out of town they phoned them to get directions.
“Erm… We also have a third cyclists with us. Could she camp in your garden?”
Well, it turned out Betti and Ric live in a condo but were more than happy to let me unroll my thermarest in their living room. After a wonderful evening with them (featuring great food, private Irish folk music performance and lots of laughter) I lay down on my thermarest on the floor of their living room and had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in Canada.

Day 11: Canyon Hot Springs to Golden
(118 km)

48, 49, 50…
The seconds ticked down as I lifted out the saddle, gave out a roar and sprinted towards the finish.
58, 59…
Bang on 2 hours, 15 minutes and 0 seconds I slammed on the brakes and jumped off Monty, diving off the road and onto the verge where the signpost stood.

Did you see the Giro d’Italia stage this year where Visconti climbed up the Galibier in the snow? He impressively clung on and won the stage in epic style. That was me today

Here I am at the top of Roger’s Pass. I’d ascended the pass non-stop since the campsite, a solid 34km of steep climbing. I was desperate to reach the top in the fastest time possible- I’d been busting a gut trying to keep my average speed above 16km per hour.

No Wanderers to cycle with today hence awful selfie pic

No Wanderers to cycle with today hence awful selfie pic

At the top I was greeted by a tour guide and a horde of English tourists. They were trying to ask questions about my trip, where I was from, oh yes I know Oxford etc. but now I know why tour riders go straight for the team truck before they talk to the media. “Sorry, I don’t wish to be rude but I need to go now before my legs seize up,” I said jumped back on Monty.

Despite my epic ascent I still had 80km to ride.

To begin with there was a fast descent slowed only by tunnels and construction works. One tunnel was so dark that you couldn’t see the ground which was fun. The downhill felt short lived for then I began climbing again.

At 60km I stopped for lunch. I was so pumped with energy that I could only eat a few forkfuls of my pasta. I wanted to get back on the road. I stood up and looked at the road climbing up the hill ahead. And there I saw it…

The black outline hovering on the hard shoulder. Was it moving? Yes, it was moving. The bear was wandering up along the road, exactly on the hard shoulder where I wanted to cycle. My heart started pounding. I looked at an RV that was parked nearby, the woman inside looked completely unaware of the danger.

I took the monoscope out my pannier to get a better look.

Oh. It was Bryan. The guy whose recumbent bike I had tried out for size the previous evening. You will be amazed how much a recumbent bicycle looks like a bear.

This is Bryan

This is Bryan

I jumped back on my bike and continued up the hill. I cycled across a time zone. My legs were bursting with energy, pumping like pistons as I charged up the hill getting faster and faster. Now I was no longer in the Giro d’Italia but doing the bike leg of an Ironman. I ripped open an energy gel with my teeth and leapt out the saddle, pushing up my speed.

You know you've cycled far when you cross a time zone

You know you’ve cycled far when you cross a time zone

My legs were spinning out the kilometres faster and faster. As if I was in some sort of trance. I couldn’t stop, I didn’t stop. I just kept on racing to the finishing line.

At 100km out of nowhere three cyclists appeared on the road coming towards me. Three men. They all had thick beards and heavily loaded panniers. They cheerer, waving their arms in the arm, roaring me on. I have no idea if they were a hallucination. By this point I couldn’t tell what was uphill, what was downhill. There were only legs. Energy. Water. And scenery so sublime that I forgot at every stroke about the lactic acid in legs. I was going to win.

As I approached Golden I counted down the kilometres one by one. At each rise of the road I got out the saddle and fiercely hunted down the hills. I was getting faster and faster. I saw Bryan the bear in the distance again. I chased him down and sped past. Less than 10km to go.

Finally I skidded into the Tim Hortons at Golden to wait for Bryan. I didn’t matter that I’d beaten him (although nice that I had beaten a 34 year old man on a recumbent). I had beaten myself. My average speed we 19.3km per hour- that is faster than I usually cycle to work – and today I had cycled 118km over two mountain passes.

Sir Edmund Hillary once said “It’s not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves.”

Today I conquered both.

Rocky Mountain High Part 1

June 12th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 10: Revelstoke to Canyon Hot Springs (38 km)

Short doesn’t always mean sweet.

Today was the shortest day of the trip at a mere 38k. But I wasn’t feeling great and the steep grade didn’t help as I slugged up towards the Rockies at my slowest speed yet.

Even though the muscles in my legs actually feel fine I was in a sore achy pain from my mid back all the way to my feet (lethal combo of period pain, old back problems and many miles of uphill). The back of my left knee twinged uncomfortably as I hit hard on the pedals.

The only relief from the pain was the gorgeous views: huge mountains all around peaked over the thick forests like chunks of frozen toblerone. Veins of melted snow tricked down the crevices in the mountain tops and reappeared as foaming creeks at the roadside. Today it was hot – almost too hot – as we ascended to Canyon Hot Springs.

Rocky and Monty start ascending the Rocky Mountains

Rocky and Monty start ascending the Rocky Mountains

The campsite here is a bit of a joke. Everything is so expensive. After a hot days cycling I was annoyed to find that the showers were $3, especially having just forked out all my change to do some laundry. So in protest I decided to wash in a large sink (a talent I picked up in the good old days of cycling to college) and rather than spend $4 on a dryer I hung up my soggy socks and undies on the signpost.

Yes that means I have actually washed my one and only cycling jersey

Yes that means I have actually washed my one and only cycling jersey

After popping painkillers today, feeling literally weak at the knees and the daunting summit of Rogers Pass on the horizon I am feeling a bit apprehensive about tomorrow’s ride. There are also some tunnels ahead on the way to Golden that other cyclists have reported as very scary. But who said cycling across Canada was going to be easy?!

Random addendum
Best bit of the day: having a go on Bryan’s recumbent (who’s Bryan? Guy who is cycling across Canada and back who rocked up at the campground later afternoon)
Worst bit of the day: watching Katie Wanderer slow-mo crash into a bed of poison oak. Ouch.

That's actually a neck rest above my head. I'm just that short.

That’s actually a neck rest above my head. I’m just that short.

Into the Mountains

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

Day 9: Enderby to Revelstoke (112 km)

Thunderstorms and cycling do not mix. The rain began to patter down on my tent as I stirred for breakfast. My mood was a gloomy as the low cloud when I checked the weather forecast to find thunder storms predicted for the 112km of cycling that way ahead.

Today I was cycling with the two Wanderers. These two had always turned up at the campground many hours later than I had on previous parts of the trip. But this was most certainly not because they cycled slower. They flew out the Enderby campground at a stonking pace (24km per hour!) and didn’t stop until 40km later.

Feeling slightly the worse for wear after yesterday’s revelries, when we stopped I collapsed on a coffee and cookies. We didn’t move from the comfy cookie-eating coffee-drinking position for over an hour.

With extra caffeine in me, I led the mini-peloton for the next 25km. It’s here that I joined the Trans-Canada highway for the first time on my trip. I smiled, knowing I would be following this road for more of less a month.

Then the heavens opened. The rain quickly soaked my windproof jacket and I could feel the water seeping slowly down the collar and into my socks. The wanderers both had waterproof covers for their shoes. With the threat of more rain in the next few days I vowed to buy the nicest, most waterproof pair I come across.

And yet it was glorious. For by now we were cycling into the mountains. Gone are the dusty, ochre-hued rocks of the Okanagan. Here the looming clouds cast shifting lines of darker green on the billowing, ascending pine forests. The mountains disappeared into puffs of white cloud. We cycled through noise and solitude. First the howling rumble of articulated trucks, zooming motorbikes, the earth-shaking rumble of a passing freight train and the lively, gushing creeks. Then the ceasing traffic noise would amplify the quiet sounds of cycling in the forest: the water trickling through the rocks, the wind in your ears, the slick watery hiss of your tyres on wet tarmac and one bodyless bird reciting melodies from above the forest.

Wandering into the Rockies

Wandering into the Rockies

The thunderstorm never materalised. Nor any hard climbs. With less than 2 miles to go Sofi Wanderer had a flat tyre easily fixed at the road side. But as we finally freewheeled our way to the campground the sky cleared and the snowy peaks of the Rockies were illuminated by the glowing evening sun.

Tomorrow it begins: the ascent of Rogers Pass and my route through the Rocky Mountains.

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.