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Beer and cheese tour

August 14th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 55: L’islet to Rivière du Loup

The day started with chatting to bikers Dave and Dave who were camped next door (flap?) to me. Dave 1 (who had about a 2:1 facial hair to head hair ratio) was very chatty in telling me about the adventure they had planned – leisurely touring around the Gaspe. Dave 2 (15:1 ratio due to thick beard and near baldness) had converted an old motorbike into a beer cooler on wheels. I enjoyed the rare chat in fluent English with these guys before it was time for us to hit the same road at different speeds.

Again i was treated a pushing tailwind. The sun shone, then it hid, then the clouds drizzle a bit but it was all quite liveable.

Uh-oh. Detour. Je n’aime pas le detour. I looked on my map (ie app on iPad) to see that there was a main highway running almost parallel. The road ahead was closed and looked to be so cut up that it would be impassable. I turned off the 132 towards to main highway. I was just approaching the highway when I thought… Oh, where is the slip road? Il n’y a pas de slip road. Assessing the steep descent I figured it was doable so unloaded a few panniers to carry them down the 45% gradient.

Some detours are for bikes only

Some detours are for bikes only

I pedalled on merrily. Passing through a small town I flagged down by a loud “bonjour!” and the sight of skinny, lycraed cyclists leaping into the road.

Here I met Alain, Eve and Claude. The panniers explained who was who. You can tell who is Canadian and who is European from the panniers. Alain had MEC panniers and thus was Canadian (plus he was clearly Quebecoise as spoke in a rapid, accented French that I barely understood.)Claude and Eve had Ortliebs so I knew they were European. It was only later that I noticed the two Belgian flags flapping from their bikes.

Alain, skinny and angular, was fashioning loopy bicycle shaped wire earrings. He and his bike were largely dressed in matching yellow.

Claude, a fit, nervous looking woman had taken off her helmet to reveal greying hair. Her helmet sported furry horns.

Eve, slightly more normal than the other two, spoke excellent English in a soft, relaxed manner. Her big green sunglasses swamped her moon-shaped face. The sticker attached to the front of her helmet instructed “bend and peel”. “Instructions,” she explained jokingly, “for what to do if you find me in a medical emergency.”

Eve and Claude were travelling together but had, it would appear, already flagged down the eccentric looking Alain to help them. Claude had a flat. I fact she’d had 4 flats in the last 2 days and I was called in to help.

I checked the tyre tread, it looked fine. I checked the beading, it looked fine. I checked the spokes, they were fine. I checked the rim, it was true. Hmm.

You know when you hear hooves beating you think unicorns because you assume that one of the other cyclists has already ruled out horses, right?

Alain was pulling the tyre apart, exclaiming that the tyre was the wrong size for the wheel. (It wasn’t, it was just baggy.) While I wandered over to chat with Eve about the joys of cycling around Europe, Alain was checking the tyre.

“A-ha!” He exclaimed, as Eve and I were midway around Denmark. He pointed to a gritty scrap of sharpness poking through the tyre.

The Belgians have swapped the inner tubes without finding the cause of the puncture. A school boy error. Hoof beats means horse.

Highly amused I said my Bon Voyages and pedalled off.

Eve: bend and peel

Eve: bend and peel

Shorty after lunch (yes, avocado and crackers) I found the micro-brasserie that the Wanderers had visited a few days ago. I recognised the place from Katie’s description of the chickens, cat and benches outside. Is it just cycling or was that not the most delicious beer had all year? The blonde, Belgian style beer was refreshingly and fruity. Sadly they do not export. I schlurped and i munched the accompanying cheese and bread while fantasising about a chocolate, cheese and beer cycling tour of Europe.

If only all cycling days were like today.

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

Gourmet cycling

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

Day 54: Quebec City to L’islet (86km)

I don’t know what they are saying to me. It’s a sunny Sunday morning on a bike path hugging the side of the St Lawrence. The cyclists are out in force. Smiling couples, a peloton of club riders, a lone female cyclist headed to Halifax and MAMILs. Lots and lots of MAMILs sporting protruding middle age midriff wrapped in snazzy lycra jersey. They fly past me on their carbon forks, exclaiming… I don’t know. I imagine that they are saying:

“Wow, you’ve got a lot of stuff. Where are you headed?”
“Wow, you’ve got a lot of stuff. You must have strong legs!”
“Wow, you’ve got a lot of stuff. Are you carrying glass jars or something?”

I reply with a simple “bonjour” for fear of affirming or disaffirming whatever they have said. I pedal on.

Today has been brilliant. Absolutely smashing.

I didn’t realise what time it was and accidentally left the hostel an hour early. I had made good use of the hostel’s $5 breakfast by picking up: 2 bagels, 2 peanut butters, 2 jams, 2 margarines, 4 mini muffins, 2 glasses of orange juice, 2 sachets of porridge, 1 banana, 1 orange, 2 boiled eggs and 1 tea bag. No, I didn’t eat it all then and there but I figured if questioned by staff I could have.

I screeched down the near vertical streets of old Quebec to the clamour of church bells. The sun was already warm and the tourists had already started their guided walking tours of the cobbled side streets.

To continue my journey east I took the ferry over the river. On board there were a lot of cyclists. One MAMIL wandered over to chat. In very, very broken French I explained what I was doing. To be honest, one only needs to say “Victoria, Halifax” and people can tell from my tan lines and Monty exactly what I’m doing.

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On the other side of the river I followed the MAMILs along the route verte bike path. I passed a gazebo and my heart panged. That very gazebo. I remember it. The last time (and first time) I cycled alongside the river in Quebec was on a ride with the Millers 8 years ago. I ate a muffin in that gazebo while we waited for the ferry. Alas, that is the last familiar sight I will see for a month. But on the plus, I’ve been promised more muffins when I return to the Miller’s in Montreal so that is a reason to keep cycling.

Perhaps it was the memory of a Miller muffin but my stomach growled. So I stopped on one of the lounging chairs alongside the bike path and ate 2 x protein bars in quick succession. I set a new record for eating Second Breakfast after only 3km. Go me.

All the way along the bike path I was passed by fellow cyclists. I was approaching a road crossing. The bike path cut over a quiet residential street. And then it happen.

A car stopped for me. A car. Stopped. For me. I nearly fell off my bike in shock. It wasn’t until a 2km later that realised I was going the wrong way so turned back around.

Mr Ferry cycled past. “Halifax is that way!” He called as he saw me returning to the residential road.
“This is the first time in 5,500 kilometres that I have gone the wrong way and had to back track,” I explained. For little did he realise the effect of the car stopping.

Cycling with John around Montreal reminded me how deliciously icecream complements cycling. So when I saw a dairy bar touting homemade icecream I figured I should stop for a scoop or two. it is amazing I received anything given how appallingly badly I spoke French. Savouring maple and Nutella icecream outside in the sunshine though I reflected on my new finishing point.

Thanks to the crashed ferry I have saved myself a sweet $400 (ie £250) by ending in Halifax rather than St John’s. I decided that this money should be reinvested in my trip. So for the next 4 weeks I have a $10 per day beer, icecream and delicious items budget (BIDIB).

Food was clearly in my mind. I couldn’t resist stopping at one of the roadside stalls to buy freshly picked sweet corn and a box of strawberries. All day I pedalled past neat rows of strawberries, rhubarb and fields of corn lined in stripes leading down to the river. The sun warmed my back and wind blew behind me. I felt free and happy.

After lunch I went grocery shopping, with my newly formed BIDIB in mind. I have decided to go gourmet. I have basically existing on a diet of peanut butter, crackers, avocado and Kraft dinner for the last 2 months. So I bought some maple butter. I am, after all, in Canada and intend at some point to attempt pancakes. But, yes, that does mean I am now carrying a glass jar.

After a pleasant 86km of riding I arrived at campground at the sweetly early hour of 3.30pm. I devoured a block of fudge and a beer. I set up my tent with great difficulty in the strongly gusting wind.

What now? Alas yesterday I discovered that my kindle has died. I followed instructions on the amazon website in an attempt to resurrect it but to no avail. I began to lament the lack of decent paperbacks for paperbacks do not have problems with the frozen screen of death. Then I realised I could download the Kindle app on iPad. Joy of joys. I continued reading Victoria Pendleton’s biography on iPad app and forgot about the demise of paperbacks.

A happy day indeed.

Lost in Quebecois

August 7th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 50: Brownsburg-Chatham to Montreal (85 km)

Once upon a time I studied French. In fact I studied French at school for 6 years. Cycling around Languedoc and Provence the French have understood my mangled requests for un cafe, jus d’orange, pain au chocolat etc. And I have understood them.

Not so in Québéc.

Today after a morning flying along at a silly 25km per hour, I bonked quite badly. So I decided to stop at Tims to pep up my energy levels.

I have done this. I have done this countless times before in Canada. It’s simple: just ask for a coffee and a doughnut. The man at the counter could apparently understand what I was saying but alas I could not, for love, money nor doughnut, figure out what on earth he was saying in reply. I believe our conversation was as follows:

Tim man: Bonjour!
Moi: Bonjour! Je prend une cafe et une doughnut Boston au chocolat, s’il vous plait.
Tim: Vous le voulez comment, madam?
Moi: [blank stare] Ici.
Tim: Vous le prenez ici?
Moi: [encore du blank stare] Noir, merci.
Tim: Vous ne comprenez pas ce que je dis, n’est pas?
Moi: Oui. [handing over $5 note]. Merci.

I really need to figure out this accent because currently I am lost. There are lots of Ukrainians in Canada. The first wave of Ukranians immigrated here in the 1890s and settled in the prairies. Many times I have been sitting in a cafe or at a campsite and overheard a Ukrainian family chatting away. My ears prick at the sound… What are they saying? Even though my Russian is now very rusty and half forgotten I can still make out words and usually understand the topic of conversation. With Québécois I am lost without GPS.

Refuelled by doughnut and coffee I recommenced my journey into Montreal. At the outskirts of the city sprawl I hopped onto the bike path that weaved its way around the quieter suburban streets, through parks, over bridges, under highways and alongside the river. At first I enjoyed the novelty of navigating. But it was hard work to sustain for 30km as I checked my iPad map on the move while swerving to avoid another pothole in the rain.

I read the lines of street names. The city was a book of famous names. Rue de Gandhi, Gauguin, Dion (presumably Celine), Avenue Christophe Columb. And Rue de Brian. Who is Brian? I wonder.

Finally I arrived at the Millers’ house. The Millers are family friends who I haven’t seen in a long 8 years. As soon as I was offered, “beer, orange juice or tea?” I felt immediately at home. It is so lovely to see them again that I will take a few days off the bike to catch up with them.

Ottawa!

August 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 48: Shawville to Ottawa (96.6 km)

Famous last words: “I’ve never had a day of continuous rain.”

Last night I met Tina at the campground. She’s biking around Ontario and we stayed up late (ie 10.30pm!) chatting, barely visible to each other in the dull light of a single orange glow stick. She asked me how my tour had been so far.

“What’s the weather been like?” She asked.

Note to self: do not tempt fate by saying silly things like “I’ve never had a day of continuous day.”

In the night I was woken up by rain. The flaps of my tent were already flapped down so I just rolled over and was lulled back to sleep by the pat-pattering of rain on canvas.

In the morning I was woken up by the rain again. The pat-pattering had become louder. I peeked out through the zip. Oh. The sky was a bleak sea of grey. I dug out my waterproofs and crawled out. If ever there was a reason to get out of “bed” and step into the rain it was this: maple syrup and pancakes. Did I not tweet my wish for maple syrup and pancakes yesterday? God is clearly on twitter.

I wandered over to Tina’s picnic bench with my French press (translation: cafetière). While Tina rustled up some of Aunt Jemima’s finest, I cut open a new bag of fresh coffee. We may be in a public park, we may not have washed in days, it may be pouring with rain but we can still eat breakfast like it’s Christmas morning.*

Tina making pancakes

Tina making pancakes

It was still raining. In fact, the rain seemed to have got wetter. I wandered back to my tent to discover, uh-oh, I had left one of my bike shoes poking out the tent all night. It was now soaked. Well, I guess they will both be that wet soon, I thought, wringing out the drenched sock which had resided in the shoe overnight.

I rolled up half a pond of water in my tent, clipped on my panniers and merrily cycled off with splashing tyres. It might be raining, but I had 95 kilometres of bike path to look forward to. The route verte (green route) is a huge bike trail that stretches all the way across Quebec. I would join it only a few hundred metres from my campground and only have to leave the bike trails again for a few hundred metres in Ottawa. After all this time cycling on highways it was bliss. Even the strengthening rain couldn’t dampen my spirits.

By 2pm I reached the outskirts of Gatineau and stopped by the beach for lunch. The beach was deserted save for a lone seagull eyeing me suspiciously. The snack kiosk was empty of customers. The only people in sight were a laughing group playing on the Ottawa river. Some were in motor boats, a few were on windsurfers, the majority were in kayaks and a few were out of their kayaks and squealing in the water. I imagine those in the water were equally as dry as those on it.

I watched the water folk splashing around while I munched my daily allowance of avocado and crackers. Munching cracker number one I could see the buildings on the far side of the river. But by cracker four the clouds rolled in again. Ontario disappeared in a damp, grey fog as the river met directly with the sky.

Back on the trail I enjoyed a wonderful final 30km to Ottawa. The bike trail was smooth, clean, signposted and surprisingly empty except for a handful of very keen folks skating along with ski poles (off season cross country skiers, I assume.) I couldn’t stop smiling as the familiar view of Ottawa rolled into view. Parliament! The Rideau canal! Yes, i was soaked like a drowned rat but I was dreaming of the hot shower and warm bed that awaited me.

Glorious bike path to the capital. Note roof of Parliament poking through the trees.

Glorious bike path to the capital. Note roof of Parliament poking through the trees.

On cue, as I rolled into downtown Ottawa, the clouds parted to reveal a warm blue sky. The sun warmed my prune-like, waterlogged skin and dried my drenched clothes.

Ottawa!

Ottawa!

I still had time to nip to Byward Market to get some beavertail. Beavertail is what you might call a local delicacy, although it is anything but delicate. It is deep fat fried cake-like pastry smeared in any number of artery-blocking toppings. I ordered one and demolished it. The dripping butter tasted so, so good. So I ordered another. I was tempted to go for a third but figured it might ruin my dinner.

Maple butter beavertail. A Canada delicacy.

Maple butter beavertail. A Canada delicacy.

Fuelled by beavertail, I pedalled alongside the Rideau canal to the house of my lovely hosts, Dale and Natalie. The sun was now shining enough that I needed to peel off my wet jacket and stick on my silly sunglasses. Because, after all, it never rains continuously for a whole day.

*in the Rock house we eat Canadian pancakes for breakfast on Christmas morning.

Bear in area

July 31st, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 45: Huntsville to Mew Lake (75 km)

“Bear in area”

The a-frame sign was propped up outside the campsite office entrance.

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This wasn’t the species of mammal I saw hoping to encounter today. I’ve spent all day peering in the bushes, scanning the trees, and peaking under the rocks in the hope of seeing a moose.

But alas, no moose.

O where art thou moose?

O where art thou moose?

There was one exciting spectacle to liven up my otherwise usual day’s jaunt cycling past the forest, rocks, lakes etc etc of northern Ontario. There was I merrily swooping around the corner of a nice descent when what should fly across the road in front of me but…

A plane.

Wow!

This plane was literally flying across the road. If you’d been driving a truck or wearing stilts when it passed you’d have been knocked over. It swooped gloriously by, all buzzing blades and shiny yellow paintwork. As I approached the bottom of the hill, I squealed on Monty’s brakes and swivelled around to see the lake. On the dock stood the outline of two figures and a stack of crates and bags. The plane was now floating on the lake and skirting around to meet the dock. Like any good tourist I jumped over the “no trespassing” sign in order to take a better photo without the limb of a tree in the way (regret: I took the photos on my actual camera not my iPad so cannot share it with you).

I then continued to cycle past more forest, rocks, lakes etc etc. Until at a pleasantly mid-afternoonish I pulled off the highway towards the campground. To welcome me was the warning sign: Bear in Area.

Inside the office, the staff informed me that there was a Zero Tolerance policy in operation. Perhaps more scary than the the threat of seeing a bear was the fact that if a park ranger found you had left out a crumb of food or a smudge of toothpaste you would be fined $150 on the spot. Eek!

I decided to try my luck hanging up my food using my rope. After a few throws, I successfully had my rope hanging over a high branch. With a bit of fiddling I attached one food-laden pannier. And heaved. And heaved. The friction of branch to rope wasn’t helping me. I finally succeeded in heaving my pannier up by poking it up with a stick with one hand while simultaneously pulling down with the other. Despite the tallness of the branch, my bag was now only up at the height of me + arm + stick. I stood back. Hmm.. What to do? There were no tall people strolling past.

I wanted to leave at dawn tomorrow so that I could get on the road during the wildlife window of the day (ie between dawn and human breakfast). The office staff had informed me I could get a bear locker but in order to get my deposit back in the morning I’d have to wait until the office was open and thus miss the wildlife window. I looked up again at my pannier dangling only a metre from my head. I estimated the height of a bear on tip toes.

Off I wandered to get the keys to my bear locker.

This is a bear locker.

This is a bear locker.

On reflection, this was probably the sensible choice as when I went to retrieve my pannier from its tree the branch broke as I yanked the string down. Oops.

Having stashed my food away I went to gather firewood. I was happily gathering from a cache of dried bark when a man’s voice boomed through the trees.

“If a warden catches you doing that you’ll be fined!” The man yelled.

Eh?

“Warden. The police. Banned. Illegal.” He shot words at me in an angry tone.

Yikes. I put down the firewood. And, in my clearest English accent, explained
I haven’t seen a sign, didn’t know it was banned, and thank you very much for telling me.

I’m sure there is some sort of explanation for the ban on collecting firewood (eg leave the wood to rot so it can provide a home to numerous varieties of fungi etc) but I would like to know what it is and not just be yelled at. At least the guy did save me from a potential fine. But having spent the day entirely alone a small bit of human contact can really swing your mood. His angry tone had put me on edge and made me feel quite alone.

And because bad stuff comes in 3s I then encountered the water tap. The first water tap had a sign up indicating in pictorial form that one is not allowed to wash dishes under the tap. Fair enough. But then the sink in the washroom had the same sign. And then the industrial looking sink in the laundry room had the same sign. Hmmf. And where is one supposed to wash the residue of one’s tomato gnocchi off one’s folding bowl? There was no indication.

Are bears not going to be attracted to the smell of my unwashed hot chocolate cup and a sticky bowl? I was not impressed and decided, warden or no warden, to wash my dishes.

So yes, the evening was quite frustrating. I can’t collect my own firewood, I can’t wash my dishes in the sink and now I have to stomp up the road for 5 minutes to retrieve any smelly item from my bear lock. Now – yes, now – I understand why so many of you good people choose to stay in hotels. You don’t have to put up with this nonsense.

I now have only 3 more days of cycling until I reach Ottawa and civilisation. I will be pleased to be out of the woods and in a place without so many rules on dishes, firewood, bears etc. But not before I have seen a moose.

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.

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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

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.

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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.

Am I hallucinating?

June 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 18: Eagle Valley Campground to Swift Current (137.2 km)

Is this happening? Or is this just a dream?

As previously mentioned, the prairies could drive you crazy. Today I began to wonder whether I was hallucinating in the heat – in a good way. It’s been that sort of day.

I was fired up for our epic 137km of riding today. It would be the longest ride I’d ever done so to energies I drank a litre of coffee. We all plugged in our iPods to listen to some tunes to make the ride more enjoyable.The surrounding hills all look like an endless… Golf course. Undulating slopes. No trees. Green, green freshly mown grass. You need a few tunes to make the five hours of cycling through an monotonous golf course just that bit more interesting.

Mid morning Sofi got a flat. We swapped the tube and no sooner had Sofi said “the worse but of getting a flat is pumping up with this thing” when a man pulls up in a car (bikes on the roof.)

“Hey, do you wanna borrow a track pump?”

Yes, this really happened. We had a flat in the Middle of Nowhere and a track pump turns up.

A few kilometres later we are still in the Middle of Nowhere (theme emerging) when we swing round a rare bend in the road to find..

Ice cream oasis in the Middle of Nowhere

Ice cream oasis in the Middle of Nowhere

Are you serious? An icecream stall with 20 flavours of delicious and colourful calories lovely piled into a waffle cone? You’d be lucky to find Kalua Chocolate Fudge icecream in the centre of Oxford and here it is in the Middle of Nowhere.

As we were tucking into our cones an RV (translation: caravan) turns up with 9 men looking like leprechauns dressed as Tiger Woods. Eh? In turned out these guys were doing a mini gold tour of southern Saskatchewan. The whole get up of these guys seemed very Hunter S. Thompson. We witnessed the grim sight of one of these guys (the one who’d lost the last golf game) being cajoled by his mates into eating an icecream decorated with their choice of toppings.

“Wait, lemme get some dead bugs off the windshield,” one of them called. Returning a few minutes later he added his toppings to the collection of dried grass and dandelions already on the vanilla scoop. They filmed as this guy munched the icecream. Eew.

There was a lot of cycling today. 137.5km in the end. So please imagine 3 hours of cycling through a golf course…

Photo credit: Sofi (taken while riding- kudos to you)

Photo credit: Sofi (taken while riding- kudos to you)

Finally we arrived in Swift Current. Luckily we are staying with a baker. As soon as she opened the door to greet us a warm smell of fresh bread waffled out the hallway. We merrily munched away at the still-hot cheese and jalapeño scones we were given, pleased to have completed our longest bike ride ever. A sweet end to the dream of a day’s cycling.

This is what a bakers front room looks like the evening before market day

This is what a bakers front room looks like the evening before market day

Food glorious food

June 5th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 5: Manning park to Princeton

Today I mostly whizzed downhill. There was one big uphill. lots of beautiful scenery etc…

But I’m guessing from the last 2 days of blogging that you’ve got the picture. So today instead of cycling you have a photo blog of “everything the hungry cyclis ate today.”

I calculated I will need to eat 4,500 calories on average per day while cycling. Here is what I managed today…

Breakfast: 1x fresh orange, some black coffee and peanut butter on a roll/one slice of ryvita
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Snacks on the bike: 1 x banana, a few dried apricots, a handful of jellybeans
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Lunch: avocado on 4 x slices of ryvita (which does taste like cardboard but does also travel well), 1x fresh tomato, 1x apple
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Lunch dessert: a scoopful (or 4) of chocolate trail mix. Next best thing to peanut m&ms. Nom nom nom.
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Post-bike refuel snack: blueberry muffin. Swallowed whole. Good for repairing muscles etc etc.
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Dinner: noodles (with donated remnant of spring onion added) and 1 x local craft beer
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Dessert: fresh strawberries
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Plus loads of water cuz it was a hot day.

Whatcha reckon? Pretty tasty stuff, eh?