Saturday, May 31, 2008

Riding the wind into Brooks

As I've said before, one of the coolest things about this trip is the people you meet who say they've been inspired by what we're doing. In particular, a big thanks goes out to Nicole for a beautiful letter she wrote to us all before we left Calgary, and another goes to all the boys in the 4A class at SHS. Your words inspire us!

Today, we finally got what we were looking for, a good tailwind! It started out by coming across us in the morning, but as the road turned it got behind us and we just sailed. It was a fantastic feeling compared to grinding against the headwinds we'd seen previously.

Now that we're out of the mountains, the terrain is much flatter. It's not completely flat in these parts by any means, but features gently-rolling hills that do not really pose us any problems whatsoever, especially with the right wind. It will likely only get flatter as we continue as well, and hopefully the wind cooperates!

As you can imagine, almost all the land in these parts is devoted to some kind of farming, much of it livestock. Cows are not exactly the brightest bunch, and we have taken to mooing loudly at them as we pass the herds along the highway. Why do we do this? We do it because they have no idea what's going on, and when just one of them gets nervous and starts to head off in the opposite direction, the entire herd follows. It is really funny to see them all running off away from us, and amazing that all you need to do is get one chicken to flinch. It doesn't get old, either.

After a 140km day to Brooks, we've found a campsite in the city at the right price. Unfortunately, mosquitoes have started to make their appearance on the trip, so we have to be careful to close the tents! Once the sun starts to go, they like to make their appearance. Good training for when we hit Manitoba and Northern Ontario, where the blackflies will try to eat us alive.

Depending on the wind, we'll be close to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border by the end of the day. We'll see how things go for us.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Stupid mistake...

When I said that we could make it to Moose Jaw tomorrow, I meant Medicine my Prairie cities mixed up.

Mea culpa.
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A break in Cowtown and a group ride towards Strathmore

Calgary, with the exception of Vancouver, has been the biggest city we have been through thus far, and we were all looking forward to the day off and the opportunity to hit the town to do some partying.

Thanks to Pat's brother Colin, we got on the guestlist at Cowboys on Wednesday night, and had an unbelievable time. With our Goodwill-bought clothes, it was interesting for the guys who had never been out in Calgary before to see the scene there. Lots of cowboy hats and boots, and people ready to have a good time. We partied so late that we had to wait until the CTrain started up again in the morning to get back to Dave's place. We definitely made the most of it.

Once we were up and running in the afternoon, Dave had planned a bbq for friends and some Calgary donors. We were a small group, but a good one, and the food was delicious. One Calgary donor, Erik Nowers, arrived in his red Lotus Elise, so all of us checked it out, took turns sitting in the driver's seat, and snapped some photos with it. Nicole, who brought us some more baked goods, entertained everybody by playing the violin. She was pretty incredible. At the end of the evening, Deb Foster, the MDC Calgary Chapter President dropped by with Candisse and Angie McCormick, two people very involved with MDC. Candisse was the face of MDC as a kid. It was nice for all of us to meet. They were very appreciative of what we're doing, and we were able to give them the donations we had collected along the way, just over $700! They also brought us over some leftover pizza from a function they had come from, which made for a great breakfast this morning.

Before leaving Calgary, we were scheduled to be on Q107 Classic Rock this morning. They were on location at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino, and had a buffet breakfast and about 50 people there watching. When it was our time to get some air, show co-host Patty Lorange came and got everyone's name, and then I had the opportunity to get interviewed by host Terry Dimonte, whom I grew up listening to in Montreal. It was really exciting for me, and the guys haven't stopped making fun of me for it. Nevertheless, they were great to us and have offered to help with some media at later points in the ride.

When we were finally ready to get on the road in the early afternoon, we were joined by Dave, and two of his friends Joe and John. It was really helpful because they led us out of the city along the bike paths. Getting through the larger cities is a real pain because it's dangerous to be on the Transcanada with all the traffic. They rode with us until Chestermere, about 35km, before heading back, and we continued along to Strathmore, another 35km. The flat road is a nice change from the mountains, but the scenery was not nearly as exciting.

We made it to Strathmore in good time, but had nowhere to stay! We didn't really feel like biking anymore, and with a storm approaching and the hour getting late, wanted to find some shelter. Mike and I found a church and asked if we could camp out on the lawn. They had no problem with it and it was good timing, because the storm came right away. We just finished setting up when it started to pour on us, and we scrambled into the tents. The rain's finally stopped and the forecast is looking good for tomorrow!

We'll most likely be making our way to Brooks tomorrow, but it all depends on the wind. If it's strong enough in the right direction, we could probably make it all the way to Moose Jaw. We also hope everyone is enjoying the pictures that we finally got up.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Out of the Rockies and into Cowtown

It's been a long time coming, but we are finally out of the mountains! After leaving Jen and Dave's place, we stopped in at Christine Iversen's home two blocks down the road (a family friend from back home), for a quick chat, a picture, and some delicious cake!

We got out of Canmore and rode a nice tailwind past the Three Sisters in the morning. We have not really had any tailwinds thus far, and it was a treat. We were flying at 35-40km/hr with relative ease with the wind at our backs for about 30km, until the winds changed and once again we were fighting headwinds all the way into Calgary. Hopefully our fortunes change as we go across the Prairies, otherwise it will be miserable.

As we neared Calgary, we were greeted by Brian's father Dave, with a reporter from Global! He asked us some questions and took some shots, and hopefully it will air. We've just been watching the 5pm news, and nothing came up, but hopefully we'll make the 11 o'clock news.

When we got off the highway, we were greeted by Dave and friends with signs and some unbelievably delicious cookies when we arrived at his place, thanks to Nicole. Double chocolate chunk, amazing. The beers that greeted us were very welcome as well.

We're taking a day off tomorrow, and we're finally heading out tonight, downtown Calgary. We'll have a barbeque tommorow evening at Dave's place, and Friday morning we'll be on Q107 with Terry Dimonte, on location at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino 8-9am local time! Hopefully he and "Peppermint" Patti Lorange can come to Dave's tomorrow. I personally grew up listening to them in Montreal, following Terry from station to station.

We don't have any clothes tonight, so we've just gone to a thrift store to find anything to wear. Looking forward to the well-deserved night out tonight and a sleep-in tomorrow!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hungry birds and an elk to a bike camp in Canmore

When you get a room at the Chateau, you might as well live it up a little while you're there. For us, that meant a wake-up call at 8am after making use of the hot tubs and the flat screens the night before.

Before leaving, we made sure to get some pictures next to Lake Louise. It's still partially frozen, but the view of the mountains in the backdrop of the blue-green glacier water is pretty surreal. When we finally get pictures up, you'll be able to see it for yourself! (We're working on it in Calgary...)

We weren't paying Chateau prices for breakfast, so we stopped a few kilometres down the road from the hotel to eat our own food at a picnic area. Granola and bananas in the cold...delicious. Apparently some birds thought so too, and decided to hang around our table. To get one away, Jon threw a pinecone, and as luck would have it, a park ranger just happened to be driving by. He wasn't too impressed, but didn't give us too hard of a time thankfully, amd we went on our way.

The 85km road to Canmore was very flat...a nice change from yesterday. As I've said, we're starting to get lucky with wildlife, and we can check 'elk' off the list today. As we were drafting, we passed by a big male with an enormous rack just grazing on the side of the highway, but somehow noone saw it until we were right close. They're not exactly animals you want to get close to, but he just ran back into the forest. Couldn't snap a picture unfortunately...he was pretty magnificent to see.

Once in Canmore, we had a place to stay at friends in town, Jennifer and Dave. They own Unlimited snowboard and skate shops in Canmore and Banff, and have young sons Keir and Tait. While we were doing some maintenance, Jen's godfather Bruce stopped by and dropped off a bottle of wine for dinner in appreciation. Fantastic!

Dave instructs for an under-9s mountain biking camp in town, and had offered to have us come up and talk to the kids after they were done. This was a really cool experience. We had the chance to talk to and answer questions from about 50 kids and their parents, and we and they alike all really enjoyed it...the kids' questions were fantastic, and we got to tell them all about what we're doing. They were really excited! Afterwards we got to take a picture with all of the kids at the camp for the local newspaper, which was great. It was really a special feeling. (We'll try and get that one up soon, too...)

After a nice dinner and a few beers at Dave and Jen's place, we're getting ready for the last stretch into Calgary tomorrow, where Global should catch us coming in to town, and hopefully some other stations as well! We'll also be on Q107 Friday morning with Terry Dimonte, a man I grew up with listening to the radio in Montreal. They'll be on location at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino, so hopefully there will be a lot of people and we get some good airtime! We'll kep everyone posted.

PS: The guys would like everyone to know that I accidentally took someone else's 4L of milk when we were in the grocery store in Golden. It was sitting right there, and I just figured it was ours. Mea culpa.
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Monday, May 26, 2008

Up the Kicking Horse Pass to a stay at the Chateau

You can tell right away when you hit the Rocky Mountains.

The Rockies shoot out of the ground, sharp, jagged, and steep. Through the Kicking Horse Pass from Golden to Lake Louise, they surround the highway and are an impressive sight. Just as impressive is the emerald blue-green glacier water that runs in the rivers. There are really no words to describe how beautiful it is.

We've also been snake-bitten with the wildlife scenery.

Until today, we had not really seen any interesting wildlife (other than some ospreys and eagles through the Fraser Canyon, which were actually pretty cool). Right out of Golden, we saw several mountain goats relaxing next to the highway. Their horns were something else, and realistically we probably shouldn't have stuck around so close to them, but they were really calm so it didn't seem like a problem. And FINALLY we saw a black bear. He was seemingly grazing for food just off the railroad tracks, it was too bad we couldn't have seen him (a bit) closer up. We couldn't believe it took this long to finally see one.

The Kicking Horse Pass was much like Rogers Pass, a straight up climb about 800m the whole way. What made it particularly hard were the headwinds we fought all day, and after passing through our FIRST provincial border, we finally made it 85km to Lake Louise. When we got there in the late afternoon, we assumed we would find a campsite. They were all closed, and the nearest one was 27km away.

We were looking at our options when I remembered I had asked my parents to try and get us a stay at the Chateau Lake Louise. You just never know! I hadn't checked my Blackberry all day, so I figured it was worth it.

Well thank goodness I did.

I had voicemails and emails telling us we had a free stay at Banff Springs. Not much good to us in Lake Louise, but after a quick call, the Chateau was willing to do the same for us.

After a gruelling 4km trip up there, we got into our rooms and hit the hot tubs right away. It is an absolutely beautiful hotel, and our rooms overlook beautiful Lake Louise. We are incredibly lucky to have the opportunities we've been afforded to date.

Tomorrow we'll go to Canmore to stay with family friends before stopping in Calgary the next day for a day off. It looks like we'll be getting some media as well!
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Down the hill to Golden

The last few days have brought about several firsts,

Yesterday, we reached 1000km for the trip. Today, we crossed our first time zone. Tomorrow, we will cross our first provincial border into Alberta.

Our ride to Golden was pretty much the exact opposite of yesterday's ride. In the mountains, what goes up must come down, so after a long 900m climb over 70km to the Rogers Pass summit, we were rewarded today with 80km of almost pure downhill. We probably could have done it yesterday it was so easy, but didn't realize it.

The highway between Revelstoke and Golden has been closed several times over the past few weeks due to mudslides, and the snow sheds that protect the roads have been covered in snow, not allowing us to walk around them as cyclists normally would. As a result, Darryl, a Parks Canada employee, blocked off the highway for us as we went through the snowsheds, then escorted us past the area where the mudslides have been occuring recently. Thanks Darryl!

The scenery was absolutely incredible. On either side of the highway, there were huge snowy peaks, the Purcell mountains according to a map. We couldn't help but stare as we went along the highway, it was pretty breathtaking.

Once in Golden, we found the Kicking Horse Hostel just off the highway, and got a reduced rate for camping outside with use of the indoor facilities. There weren't too many people around, so we decided to watch one of the movies available. Mike got to choose after winning a game of straws, and decided on "Conan the Destroyer" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was definitely low-budget because they sure didn't pay much for storywriters or screenplay was absolutely terrible. You know a movie is bad when the guy who chose it falls asleep 30 minutes in, but some of the scenes were so incredibly ridiculous that we got some good laughs out of it.

Tomorrow we'll cross into Alberta, making our way to beautiful Lake Louise on our way to Calgary.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Climbing out of Revelstoke to the Rogers Pass Summit

Some have commented on the fact that references to the local geography haven't been particularly accurate, mostly in relation to the number of mountain ranges in BC. I had always assumed that they were ALL the Rockies, but that is not the case at all. Here are some facts and corrections.

Through Vancouver Island, we passed through the Vancouver Island Ranges. As we left Hope, up until around Kamloops, we were travelling in the Cascade Mountains. Up until Revelstoke, we were in the Monashee Mountains.

After Revelstoke, the next city to speak about is Golden, through Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park, into the Selkirk Mountains. It's a long way to go for one day's ride, so today we went halfway to the Rogers Pass Summit.

It was pretty incredible. We were surrounded on all sides by huge mountains covered in glaciers. All through the day we could hear and see water running down the mountainside as the snow melts with the coming spring, creating streams that connect with one another and continue down.

Unfortunately for us, it was essentially a 70km day straight up, with few flats or downhills to speak of. The summit of Rogers Pass is at an altitude of 1330m. We climbed about 900m of that today alone! It was an absolute grind.

Along the way, we met another cyclist making his way across the country. His name was Ryan, works in real estate marketing in Calgary, and was doing the trip alone. Moreover, he was pulling a trailer like ours, except with the 90L drysack COMPLETELY full of gear, plus his tent on top. He was carrying three days' worth of food, and about 9L of water. It was pretty crazy, as he was trying to make it all the way to Golden in one shot...for a 9-10pm arrival time. We have a feeling we'll be seeing him later on in the trip.

Once done for the day, Barb set us up to have the bikes locked up in a warehouse at the summit, and drove us back to her place for the night. Tomorrow morning we'll pick up where we left off, and head into Golden.
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Friday, May 23, 2008

High in the sky in Revelstoke

After 10 straight days of cycling without a break (not exactly recommended practise by any means), it was nice to finally get a day off today in Revelstoke. It allowed us to recover and regain some strength for the remaining mountain passes to come.

While this was a "rest" day, we still had quite a lot to take care of. First things first, we got on the air at one of the local radio stations. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully we got the word out to a lot of people in the area. A few guys got checked out by a chiropractor friend of Barb's for some pains they had noticed, and no serious problems to report. We got our bikes back from tuneups, and they're all in top shape, no major mechanical problems. We even met with a reporter from the Revelstoke Times Review!

But this was all boring housekeeping for us. The best part of the day was the helicopter ride we got to take just after lunch!

A friend of Barb's flies helicopters out of Revelstoke airport, and had agreed to take us up for a spin. The first major step was deciding who got what seats. At lunch, Mike and Brian lost out on our makeshift "pick the joker" game, and were relegated to the middle seats away from the windows. Once arrived at the airport, it was down to Pat, Jon, and I for the co-pilot's seat, prime viewing location. Jonno lost out on a game of 'even or odd,' so it was down to Pat and I in a best-of-three rock-paper-scissors showdown. Pat took the first one, but I made a valiant comeback to claim the prized spot! I was pretty psyched about it, and Barb's got some photo evidence to prove it.

Except for Mike, none of us had ever been up in a helicopter before. It was something else. After a quick briefing, we were up and away, flying around the mountains around Revelstoke. It was surreal. Our pilot, Matt, took us around a nearby dam before taking a dive down towards the forest, which took us quite by surprise but was a really cool feeling. He then took us around Mount Begbie, high up into the glacier. It was so close you felt like you could touch it...and then he took another steep dive down the mountainside before heading back in. Eighteen minutes of pure exhileration. Thanks to Barb for setting it up for us, and thanks to Matt for taking us up! It was the experience of a lifetime.

To end our stay, Barb treated us to dinner. She's been wonderful to us, and it won't end here. Tomorrow we'll scale Roger's Pass before locking all of our gear up in a shed and getting driven back to stay at her place before continuing on to Golden the next day once she takes us back to our gear. There is absolutely nothing between here and Golden, so this is our safest option, and we really appreciate it!


PS: For those who have commented about the lack of photos recently...we know. It's hard for us to find time to load them up to our site, but we've got loads and we'll try and get them on there as soon as possible for everyone to check out. Good things come to those who wait, I guess, but we appreciate that you want to see them so badly!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

An easy ride to our first rest day in Revelstoke

After spending a great day in Sicamous with the Thomsens, we had what was probably our best night of sleep since the trip started on one of their houseboats. We got a later start than usual, but still got in a few pictures with Knud on the docks before taking off. I still can't believe we were on a houseboat.

Right as we left town, we stopped for breakfast at Tim Horton's. All of us are big fans, and the previous evening, Paul, a friend of Marianne and Knud's, stopped in at dinner to give us a $100 gift card. What a gift! We ate well and headed off for Revelstoke. Just as we did, we were stopped by a woman pulled over on the side of the road who asked if she had seen us on TV. Tracy (hope I didn't get that wrong) was very appreciative of what we are doing, and said that although she didn't have a lot of money, she wanted to contribute. It was quite a moving encounter, so I hope she's reading!

To our surprise, the road there was relatively flat, so we made great time. With only a 76km day ahead of us and quite a bit to see, we made a number of quick stops. The first was at a museum commemorating the driving of the last spike in the CP Railway. They had a mural set up and we took a picture. Later on, we tried to get to a suspension bridge along the highway, but figured it wasn't worth the $9 just for a picture.

For lunch, we stopped in Three Valley Gap, but were expecting to grab a quick snack before heading off. That is, until Russ, one of the employees, came out and asked us what we were doing. When we told him, he went inside, later returning to tell us we could come in and get a soup and sandwich on the house! We even got a donation out of it, and were able to get some good pictures outside. It was a pretty touristy day for the group.

After getting into Revelstoke, we brought our bikes into a shop and got into Pat's aunt Barb's place. She had set us up with free passes to the aquatic centre in town to recover. Tomorrow we will take a day off, but will still be busy. We have a spot on the local radio in the morning, a helicopter ride, and a meet-and-greet in the afternoon outside of the bike shop. Should be fun!

And you heard right, a helicopter ride!

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Moving Muscles trek makes short Salt Spring pit stop

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Houseboating in Sicamous

We all knew that at points during the trip, we would meet some amazing people and have some great experiences, completely out of the blue.

Today was certainly one of those days. We knew we were getting set up on a houseboat upon our arrival in Sicamous, but had no idea what to expect. We had been told that the owners were wonderful people, but what would that really mean?

Today's ride was a short 60km trip to Sicamous. Nothing very special happened, although lunch in Salmon Arm was interesting. After picking up some groceries, we proceeded to set up shop inside the local mall. We had gotten cold cuts and some salads, and broke out our sporks and bowls to eat at one of the tables inside. As this sight probably looked absolutely ridiculous to most people, lots came up to talk to us. One woman from the local media called up one of their reporters, so we got to take some pictures and chat with him before moving on to Sicamous.

Let's get serious, though. Who cares about today's ride? Today was definitely about the two wonderful people we got to meet, and the incredible generosity they extended to us.

When we arrived in Sicamous, we had been told to call Knud and Marianne Thomsen, who we had been told ran a houseboat company in town, Twin Anchors. We did as we were told, and Knud came to meet us and lead us to their marina on the Shuswap. Once there, we met Marianne, and they invited us in to have lunch on them, and we all got to talking about their lives, and how their company, Twin Anchors, came to be.

Knud had an incredible story. He immigrated from Denmark about 45 years ago in his mid-20s, as a bricklayer in search of work. There wasn't much in the field at the time, so to make more dough he "moved into the bush" and worked as a logger. Over time, he and his brother bought land, acquiring 880 acres which they logged themselves. At first they just sold it, but later processed it as well to make more money.

Knud had been looking to buy land near the Shuswap area, and one night while having a drink with the owner of the marina they now own, the then owner suggested that he buy the property off of him. He was sold on the idea, and has built Twin Anchor Houseboats into what it is today.

Marianne was Knud's cleaning supervisor, and as she said herself, Knud figured "it was cheaper to marry her than to pay her." They have 6 children and 16 grandchildren together, and couldn't be more proud about it. Their son Greg now runs the family business.

After lunch we were set up in our boat, and this thing was something else. Hot tub, kitchen, TV, multiple bedrooms, and two floors. Unreal. We got familiar with it for a few hours before Knud picked us up for a tour of the office and their manufacturing plant. This was amazing. Knud took us around the plant floor where new houseboats were being built, and some of them were stunning. Three levels, multiple waterslides, flatscreen TVs, you name it they had a boat with it. Everybody was friendly with us and it was quite something to see how they were built. It also helps when the owner is showing you around, because nobody's going to tell him where he can and can't go...even if the tour guests are wearing their flip-flops on a shop floor.

From there, we went on to a barbeque dinner at their place, and we got to meet Marianne a bit more. She regaled us with stories of her children, grandchildren, various paintings, and pieces of art while we gorged on cheeseburgers, potato salad, and baked beans, with ice cream for dessert. Over a few beers Knud told some jokes and we heard all about the Vasa, the Swedish warship built in the 1600s which capsized in the harbour on its maiden voyage, and was subsequently salvaged and restored through the second half of the 20th century. They were absolutely incredible to us, and Marianne gave us their personal numbers so that we could give them a call for anything we needed...even reservations for a houseboat next summer.

As I said, this day was all about the people, and we met two of the great ones in Marianne and Knud. I'm sure we'll be seeing them in the near future, perched on one of their beautiful houseboats on Shuswap Lake.

Tomorrow we have a short ride to Revelstoke to stay with Pat's Aunt Barb, where we'll take a day to rest before making our way through the Rocky Mountains, but we'll never forget the kindness and pure generosity that Marianne and Knud offered us today.
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On the Shuswap in Sorrento

As I've said, we've been keeping a pretty torrid pace to date, considering we're inexperienced cyclists on our first touring trip. Our ride today was expected to be one of our easiest, a relatively flat road out of Kamloops past Chase and into Sorrento.

We spent a great night at Daryl and Anne Schimpf's place. They have been moving their children in and out of their home, and were gracious enough to clear out their living room so we could sleep there. After a good night's rest (for me anyways...apparently I sounded like a truck downshifting on the highway), we were woken to breakfast and coffee. They had some of the best cinnamon buns I have had in a long time.

Once we were ready to go, Daryl got out his motorcycle and drove out of town with us, following for about 40km. It was fun having him as an escort, and he got us away from the dangerous section of the Transcanada through town, further away from the city. Thanks Daryl!

We got to Chase after 60km of riding and stopped for lunch. There was a big hill out, and Jon became the proud owner of the trip's first broken spoke. Thankfully we have all the repair we need to fix just about anything, but unfortunately the spokes we were sold were just slightly too short to replace the broken one. We had no choice but to do without, and adjusted some of the other spokes to settle the resulting wobbly wheel. We switched Jon's trailer to another bike, and kept on going.

Unfortunately it started to rain as we progressed to Sorrento. Worse was the lack of campgrounds for us once we got there. We passed one closeby on our way there, but backtracking is a waste. The other ones in the right direction wouldn't take tenters, and we didn't want to press on. What to do?

Make your own campsite is what you do.

Brian and Jon found a great location for us along Blind Bay Road. It had shelter, it was dry, had lots of seating, room for our bikes and gear, and space for cooking our food and drying our clothes. Lots of greenspace, not out of the way at all, and with a great view of Shuswap Lake. Best of all, it was the right price! What was this location, you ask?

The Blind Bay Community Hall.

It was our best option, so we started setting up. As a courtesy, we made a call to their number and left a message letting them know what we were doing. Right now we're eating delicious hamburgers as we cook on one of the ramps around the back, and plan to sleep on one of the porches. It might get a bit cold, but we'll dress for it and we have fantastic sleeping bags, so it shouldn't be a problem.

As long as this dog that keeps hanging around goes away and doesn't blow our cover, we'll sleep here before making our way on a short ride to Sicamous for a night in a house-boat! Should be more comfortable than tonight's lodgings.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Fighting headwinds to Kamloops

Ashcroft sits downhill from the Transcanada, along the Thompson River. After a longer-than-expected day yesterday, the climb out of Ashcroft was tough on stiff, tired legs.

We've been keeping a hard pace, a bit too hard for the start of the trip, and were expecting a relatively easy day to Kamloops. Everyone we had talked to didn't mention any difficult road, and it was less than 100km away.

The winds decided to change things up on us.

Battling a headwind is like trying to scale an escalator in the wrong direction. Sure you'll make some progress, but you have to work hard for it. You feel like you're expending energy for nothing, but you have no choice but to keep going. It's a defeating feeling, and completely drains you.

We were also told the road was relatively flat.

While the climbs were not very steep, they were long grades, especially against the wind. Our highest climb was up to 731m just short of Kamloops. We were met by Dave Sprague who was heading back towards Calgary, and headed downhill into town.

After stopping at a Tim Horton's, we began looking at our options. There were few campsites close to town, and were in no mood to travel any great distance to settle down. We tried phoning hotels pretending to be "assistants" looking for a discounted rate, with no luck.

Finally we called Ian Schimpf, a friend of the Vancouver boys, who we knew lived in Kamloops. While he wasn't in Kamloops, he talked to his parents who have taken us in for the night. Furthermore, they have set us up in a house-boat Wednesday night in Sicamous after a phone call to a friend of theirs. Amazing!

Given our exhaustion, we are taking three days to our rest day in Revelstoke instead of two. Tomorrow we will have a shorter day to Sorrento, then to Sicamous for the house-boat stay, and finally into Revelstoke to rest at Pat's aunt's.
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Through the drylands to Ashcroft

The mountains play tricks with the eyes.

False flats are stretches of road that appear perfectly straight, but are actually climbs, sometimes steep. The highway in these parts is full of them, and the only way you can really see them is by looking backwards. Your only hope is to grind it out until you're done. The downhills are never as downhill as you hoped, the straights are uphill, and the climbs are long and arduous. It's a mind game.

Today we left the Blue Bay campground back down the steep hill, and took off down the Transcanada. After a quick stop in Lytton, we pressed on until we finally pulled in to an RV camp to fill up on water and ask about the road ahead. Here we met Don, the owner, who entertained us with stories, gave us some cold Pepsi in iced mason jar glasses, and offered insight on the road as we rested up and refuelled. He was something else.

He told us we could find groceries in a small convenience store behind a cafe in Spence's Bridge. The cafe itself was fantastic. It had a great atmosphere with a folk band playing, and beautiful hardwood floors that we were afraid to walk on with our cycling shoes for fear of damaging it. Thankfully they were very accomodating and filled us up with water before going on our way with some groceries for the next few meals.

As I believe I've said before, this area is remote. We lost cell phone coverage for about a day and a half, the towns are small and spaced apart, and there are few good campsites. It's essentially a desert. Because of this, we had to push on in the heat, all the way to Ashcroft for a 110km up and down day. Thankfully we've been maintaining a manageable pace, so we're not tiring ourselves out too much.

Right now, we're resting at a random campsite in town, along the Thompson River. Unfortunately the currents are too strong to swim in, but we've got some shade and some grass, so have done pretty well given the circumstances.

Tomorrow we'll move on to the Kamloops area, before hitting Salmon Arm on our way to Revelstoke where we'll take our first rest day of the trip, at Pat's aunt's place. It will be well-deserved indeed.
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I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...all the way to Boston Bar


Unfortunately, you the reader will get this latest post on a bit of a delay. Our location has no cellular signal, so this will come through at the next opportunity.

It's also long. Brace yourself.


As engineering physics majors go, we tend to think we're the cream of the engineering crop. Studying quantum mechanics sometimes inflates your ego (insert your own joke about that here). We particularly like to rag on civil engineers.

Well, I've discovered a newfound respect for them.

The road out of Hope is a slow-winding highway through the Rocky Mountains, along the valley cut out by the Fraser River as it flows through central British Columbia. It's full of slow-rolling ups and downs as we climb our way into the Rockies along the Transcanada. What was most amazing was the work that must have gone into building the highway itself. It's chiseled right into the mountainside, sometimes even through it. Even more amazing were the railroad lines that run along the highway closer to the river. Pulling thousands and thousands of tonnes of weight, they can only handle the slightest grades, slowly making their way through the Fraser River Valley.

The ride today reminded me of those trains. The Rockies will be unforgiving, so we have to take our time, pacing ourselves appropriately so that we don't completely burn out. Being self-sufficient, we're carrying quite a lot of gear with us in trailers behind three of the five bikes, just like a train carries its cargo. The trains eventually reach their destination, as will we, but we will be unable to keep up the mileage we have covered on a daily basis thus far.

Today we took things as they came on an 85km ride to Boston Bar, which sits high above the Fraser Canyon. We kept a steady pace through the first 50km, feeling out the mountains and conserving our strength for later days. I was our first casualty of the trip, just catching a road sign at slow speed as we came out of a tunnel. Realistically, I should have gotten off my bike, but instead ate a fistful of dirt and got some good scrapes. No big deal, we just cleaned it up later.

After taking a picture outside of an Elvis-themed restaurant in the middle of nowhere, we headed into Boston Bar to pick up some groceries. We found out about a campsite about 15km past the town, and pushed on.

Let me tell you this, just getting to this campsite was the most physically challenging part of the day.

Once we got there, we had to get off the bikes and climb up a 1km dirt road, pushing everything up a steep hill to Blue Lake campground. Pat put his front brakes on by accident, and slid downhill, it was so bad. It was torture in the heat, after a day of climbing through the mountains. Thankfully, once we got there we were treated to a dip in the lake, and a nice meal in a nice quiet site.

Tomorrow we'll do more of the same, feeling out the road as we climb along the Transcanada.

...and the civil engineers can rest easy. I won't be making fun of them anymore.
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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

A long trek to Hope

After a nice half-day of rest in North Delta, we took off along the Lougheed Highway, destination Hope, our gateway to the Rockies.

After the hilly passages through Vancouver Island, the relatively flat road to Hope was a nice change. There's only one problem: Hope is pretty far away from Vancouver, a solid 140km day. After an easy ride through North Delta and Surrey, across the Albion ferry, and along the Lougheed to Mission, we were met there for an early lunch by Jon's uncle John, aunt Mary Ann (Jon gave me the spelling...blame him if it's wrong), and cousin Lando. The best part was the huge banner they had along the side of the highway: "Jonathan go home." We took a picture with it and headed in to eat at the nearby ABC Country restaurant. We were hungry, so the food didn't last too long. The owner even gave us a donation! Out of gratitude we took a picture with their staff outside.

After lunch, we were scheduled to do some media with CTV. We were really excited because they're coast-to-coast. We spent a long time with them taking different shots. It's interesting to see how choreographed the footage is. They took shots of us getting ready, interviewed us all, then came out on the road with us to get some bike footage. They got some great shots of us, and we were on the air for the 6pm news. Everyone has told us it was really well done. Thanks CTV!

Despite how much fun the media was, it did set us back a bit. Thankfully the road to Hope is easy-going, because this was our first day with intense sun and heat. We had to stop frequently to hydrate and were constantly applying sunscreen. Despite this, it was a really nice change from the wet we weather we had been going through on the Island. We'll take it every time.

In the baking sun, the distance adding up, and the hour getting (relatively) late, we were determined to push on to Hope. The road seemed to go on forever, and the last 10km got really hard. When we finally arrived, we were hungry, and headed to the first thing we saw: Subway. We ordered 8 footlong subs and almost ate them all. Several people came by to talk to us, and we even got a donation out of it. Several people have been giving us donations randomly, and love talking with us. It's a great feeling.

After gorging on food, we have now settled in to the Coquihala Campground for the evening, and will be going to bed early tonight. We even have visitors! Friends of Mike, Pat, and I - Cam McCormack and Aria Kashefi - have stopped by to say hello on their way to Cam's cottage. We're going to head back to them now...wouldn't want to be rude hosts!

Given our hard pace the first few days, were going to tone it down through the Rockies. The next week or so will be a pure climb into the mountains, so we won't be able to span a lot of mileage, especially with all of our gear weighing us down. We'll take things as they come tomorrow and see how we feel.
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Across the water to Vancouver

After two long, hard days on the Island, we decided that the best option was to get to Vancouver for a half day's rest at Pat's house in North Delta. Our big decision the night before was what ferry to take off Saltspring the next day. We were exhausted, but had to get some repairs done in the city, buy a new pump (the one I had sucked and was the cause of a few broken pins), and rest and relax at Pat's place. There was also a chance of meeting CTV for some media, so we decided that earlier was better and went on little sleep to the 6am ferry to Tsawwassen.

The ride to Pat's from the ferry was a short 30km ride, a nice warmup before resting for the day. We took the time to stretch out, eat, and make use of a complimentary pass to the Sungod Aquatic Centre near Pat's place. It was phenomenal. We're not going to get anything like this for a long time, as we climb through the mountains towards Calgary, so we're taking advantage. I'd love to talk more, but there's steak and wine waiting for us in the kitchen. Tomorrow we keep on to Hope, where we'll start rising into the Rockies along the Transcanada.

Like I said, we're taking advantage of the Cuthberts hospitality while we can. We won't see a nice bed and good food like we're having for quite a while.
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A trying day to Saltspring

After a tough first day to Port Alberni, we assumed that the trip to Saltspring Island would be significantly easier, despite the 140km distance.

Boy were we wrong.

The road might have been easier, but problems throughout the day delayed us significantly. We were expecting to catch the 4:30pm ferry out of Crofton and have a nice relaxing evening at Brian's grandparents. Instead, we scrambled to catch the latest ferry out at 8:10pm, making it in the nick of time, and avoiding having to knock on doors to beg for lawnspace.

We got on the road at 7:30am, after a good stay in Port Alberni. Our first problems started when we took a few minutes to check our tire pressure. Some of them were a bit low, but it shouldn't take long, right? Wrong. I ended up snapping a pin and had to replace the tube entirely. It was a sign of things to come.

Following a 411m climb out of Port Alberni, we proceeded to use up about 8-9 tubes over the course of the day. Mike burned through all but two of them, obviously something wrong with his bike, but we had no choice with no bike shops around (we're getting it checked out tomorrow). This forced us to continually push back our expected ferry arrival...and we thought the last ferry out of Crofton was at 7:10.

It came to a point where we had to push really hard for about 60 km trying to catch the 7:10 ferry. When we were finally on the road there, still with about 15km to go, we realized that we would need to have our strongest legs gun it all the way there, trying to plead to stall the ferry so that the others could get on when they caught up. Having not carried a trailer thus far in the two days and feeling up to it, I took off and sped away, all but sprinting full out to get there.

I told myself that I would keep the hard pace up until 7:15pm, hoping to catch some good fortune. Despite my best efforts, the ferry was not marked, so I completely blew past the turn, going about 5km past Crofton. Exhausted, and realizing I was in the completely wrong spot, I called the others to discover they were at the ferry...and that the last one was actually at 8:10!

Now exhausted, out of water and snacks, and stiffening up after the stop, I had 35 minutes to backtrack, take the correct turnoff, and continue to the ferry. It was excruciating, but I managed to make it with 10 minutes to spare and we got on. Thank goodness the boys had some snacks and chocolate milk waiting...lifesaver.

We're heading into Vancouver tomorrow, a short ride, with a stay at Pat's house for the night. Hopefully it's less eventful than today was!
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wet and wild first day to Port Alberni

Hey everyone,

We knew the road from Tofino to Port Alberni was going to be a killer, but we're happy to report that we came away with a solid time for our first day, on a REALLY tough road.

It was an emotional morning for us and our families as we set off. We first went to the docks where A-Channel took some video and did some interviews. They also followed us for the morning, and we'll be on the news at 6:30, so watch if you can! The firefighters escorted us out of town, and people were honking in support the whole way along. It ws great, and thanks to Dave Sprague for following us along through the tough stretches I'll describe.

There was an absolutely BRUTAL 40km stretch once we got past the Tofino-Ucluelet junction. 8-9% grade climb after 8-9% grade climb on a narrow winding road, with rain pouring down on us, huge trucks whiing by, and our optics completely fogged up. The worst was Hydro Hill. It was an unbelievably steep 80m climb that none of us made it up without walking at the end (though we tried hard). The steepest sections were 18%!!! Ridiculous. All the while, the videographer from A-Channel caught it on video...even when I lost my balance after unclipping to walk, and fell straight into a stream running alongside the road from all the rain. Everyone had a good laugh at that (hopefully he doesn't use that footage).

Following that brutal 40km stretch, even the longer climbs we had later seemed like (almost) nothing. We've all been told that stretch is one of the worst we'll see across the country, so it's nice to get through it so well on our first day. Loaded down with our gear and extra water and plenty of food due to the remoteness of the highway, we averaged 20km\hr on the day to log 115km...not too shabby at all.

Because we were wet, we thought about a hotel to dry everything out...but it was way too expensive and they wouldn't give us a deal. What more, this weirdo on drugs came up to us outside the hotel, talking complete gibberish, so we kept on going for another 5km to Sproat Lake Campground, where we've set up camp for the night, 15km short of Port Alberni (it was the closest campground around here). Tomorrow we'll be up early again for a long day to Saltspring Island to stay with Brian's grandparents, about a 140km day for us.

We're on our way!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

It begins


We just got back from a great dinner at Shelter Restaurant in Tofino, loading up for the ride tomorrow. It's been a great few days with family and friends in Tofino, and we've got a big day ahead of us tomorrow. We're up early for an interview with A-Channel and another local paper before we take off from the Village Green in Tofino, with the fire truck leading us out of town! Thanks to Chris Ledger for doing us that favour.

May the wind be at our backs and the sun on our faces all the way to St. John's.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chilling in Tofino

Hey everyone!

Since Friday, Mike, Brian, Jon, and I have been in Tofino getting ready for the big day. Pat will be joining us on Monday. We stayed two nights in Green Point campground, and are now kicking our feet up at the Middle Beach Lodge in an unreal lodge overlooking the beach, thanks to a reduced rate they gave us. It is absolutely amazing!

A bunch of our family is here, and we owe a big thanks to Brian's Dad Dave and his grandparents John and Lois for shuttling us over here with all of our bikes and gear. My Mum brought all of our bike gear with the logos printed, and it all looks amazing. We will be the most stylish group of riders doing the trip this summer, no doubt.

We also got our hands on our Blackberries from Bell, and have not been able to put them down. These are Brian and Jon's first cell phones ever, and we're all pretty blown away by their capabilities. They will allow us to update our blog from anywhere!

The big day is coming and we're all nervous and excited to get on the road. We've got a tough first day to Port Alberni, but we'll be well-rested and ready for it. The Tofino firefighters will be escorting us out of town Tuesday morning when we leave, with our family there to watch! It's great having them here to share this with us.

Our webmaster is away right now, so the fundraising total won't be updated for a little while. We're up over $85,000!!! It's absolutely unreal.

We'll keep you updated, so keep on checking back!


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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Almost ready to go!

Hi Everyone,

Brian and Jon arrived safely in Vancouver on Sunday and we have been busy gathering gear and getting prepared since the moment they arrived. We have been WAY busier then we were expecting to be; which could be a good thing since we are far too busy to be nervous. After three days of shopping, I think we finally have all of our equipment and gear...there are only a few errands left to do before we leave for Tofino on Friday morning. We are all looking forward to beginning our journey!

Last Saturday, Keith and I biked to Stanley Park to meet another group of cross-Canada cyclists who started their trip a few days earlier in Port Renfrew. They have called their ride the Typically Canadian Tibute Tour ( and are raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society while honoring "typical Canadians" who have struggled with Cancer. We are both following a similar route and timeline throughout the trip, but there is a chance we will cross paths or even meet up in St. John's. I love the idea behind their ride and wish them all the best as they make their way across the country!

Until next time,