Monday, June 30, 2008

Through Manitoulin Island and across the ferry to Tobermory

Today was Jon's birthday, and while we wanted to do something for him, we made sure to not make a fuss about it in the morning, preferring to wait until later in the day. We got on the road from Whitefish Falls, crossing Great la Cloche Island before the bridge to Little Current, the gateway to Manitoulin Island. We were lucky to get there at the right time, as the bridge swings for boats on every hour, but we didn't have to wait at all.

Manitoulin Island was beautifully picturesque, highway 6 winding along the coast with views of Lake Huron and farmer's fields. We even had a bit of a tailwind. At a particularly nice rest stop, we met a Dutch cyclist doing the trip East-West, Antoine de Schipper. He started rollerblading in St. John's, until he eventually had to hitchhike all the way to Guelph to stay with family. He bought a bike there to continue his journey and was pushing some long days. He has previously done some trips in Europe and recommended it highly. You can read his blog at

We continued to South Baymouth to catch the Chi-Cheemaun ferry over to Tobermory. By this time, we had bought Jon a card and some strawberry-rhubarb pie with a full tub of Cool Whip. When we got to the other side, we found a restaurant to sit in, and brought out the pie and the whipped cream. We weren't too sure what to do about the whipped cream, so we just dumped the entire thing on top of the pie and ate it. Jon certainly appreciated the gesture, and the waiter even made him a special balloon hat!

Tomorrow we will make our way down the coast to one of the beaches. It will be Canada Day, so it promises to be a fun time wherever we end up!
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Rounding the corner to Whitefish Falls

Once again, due to a lack of cell reception in our area, you will get this on a delay.


We were pretty surprised that the front desk staff allowed us to set up our tents on the hospital lawns, but we didn't argue when we got the green light. The situation this morning was a little more awkward, as there was a new rotation on, and they had no idea who we were.

Once we had eaten and packed up, we took turns going to the bathroom inside, avoiding eye contact with the people hanging around the front desk as we went by. Four of us got away without any confrontation, but Brian wasn't so lucky. When he went in, one of the women gave him the fifth degree, first asking him if he needed medical attention, then telling him that it wasn't a rest area, and that he should leave. He tried to explain what we were doing, and was finally able to reassure her that we'd been given permission. After that, everyone was friendly, and they came out to talk to us before we left. Apparently there was also a bear living nearby to where we set up camp...good thing we didn't pick the wrong spot!

We had a good wind behind us along highway 17, and moved well 100km to Espanola. We turned South onto highway 6 at this point, and the pace slowed quite considerable. We stopped for an Iced Cap break at Tim Horton's before continuing past the city, where it got a lot hillier, and we only went another 20km to Whitefish Falls.

We were hoping to make it to Manitoulin Island today, but we'll have to do so tomorrow as we head to the ferry which will take us across to Tobermory.
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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cracking thunder, Golden Dragon as we make our way to Blind River

Pat has commented several times on the fact that most Chinese restaurants that we see are called "Golden something" or "something Dragon" and have a ridiculously cheap buffet. We've been waiting for our opportunity to eat at one, and when we saw the "Golden Dragon" restaurant across from our hotel with a $13.95 buffet, we knew it was meant to be. We went there for dinner last night, gorging ourselves until we couldn't eat anymore. The food wasn't exactly high quality, but it filled us up, although afterwards we didn't exactly feel 100%.

Heading out of Sault Ste. Marie, we hit some rain as a thunderstorm passed through the city, and the wind was directly in our faces. Despite only leaving the hotel at 11am, we made good time, making it 145km to Blind River. The road was fairly scenic once we passed Thessalon, passing by a number of lakes, and thankfully it was smooth and flat. The wind even changed direction for us later in the day, pushing us along.

Once in Blind River, we weren't too sure where we were going to stay, and it was getting late. We decided a good meal was pretty important, so we grabbed some Subway before heading out to look for a spot. Heading out of town and nearly in the dark, we figured that we would give the local hospital a shot, since it had a lot of surrounding greenspace. Seemingly the only person in the building, the guy working at the reception desk saw no problem with our pitching the tents on the lawn. Not too sure how much authority he had, but it was good enough for us!

Tomorrow we will head past Espanola, and will likely cross just onto Manitoulin Island by the end of the day.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

In the Soo, Lake Superior conquered!

After Wednesday's 120km day to Pancake Bay, we were left with a short 75km day to our stop in Sault Ste. Marie. We are now done with Lake Superior, and will cut through Lake Huron as we travel through Manitoulin Island to Southern Ontario.

The ride from Pancake Bay started out fairly chilly, with a misty fog rolling onto the highway from the lake. It warmed up later in the day, and we made good time to our accomodations at the Water Tower Inn, thanks to the Soo's EDC. They were kind enough to let us stay for two nights so that we could take a rest day today. It has been fantastic relaxing at the hotel.

Unbeknownst to us, on their way back from Thunder Bay, Mike's mother and sister got a room at the same hotel! We had breakfast with them this morning before they headed off to their cottage further East.

We've had very little to do while we've been here, so the pools and the TV have gotten good use. Tomorrow morning we will head out, as we bike towards Espanola, then down through Manitoulin Island and across the ferry over the next few days.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To the Soo, we're most of the way in Pancake Bay

From our campground in Lake Superior Park, we had a long way to go before we were going to see anything for lunch, nearly 80km to Montreal River. About 25km along, we met up with Mike's mother and sister, Polly and Mary, who were driving to Thunder Bay to get a look at Lakehead University, as Mary is thinking of taking one of their education programs there next year.

It was great for Mike to see them, and he got his younger brother's iPod out of it to use for the rest of the trip. We had had some problems getting it sent to Kenora earlier, so this worked out well. Polly brought us some Sunny Delight and cookies, and even had some lawnchairs for us to take a break on. Eventually, we had to move on, but it was really nice for everyone while it lasted.

We had heard about a great downhill into Montreal River when we were in Marathon, one that even the truckers talk about, and we were not disappointed when we got there. This baby was a 7% downhill grade for several kilometres, and we gathered a lot of speed on it, hitting around 70km/hr at the max. It had been a long time since we've flown down a stretch like that, so it was a lot of fun.

For the first time in a while, we had a fairly strong headwind on the 40km stretch remaining to Pancake Bay Provincial Park, but it was nice to cover it. We got set up a bit late, but managed to get a dip in Lake Superior right next to our site (it's not as cold as we thought...not exactly warm though), and the 120km day leaves us with only 80km into Sault Ste-Marie tomorrow. We will be staying at Algoma's Water Tower Inn, so we'll be able to get there fairly early, relax, and enjoy the stay. Thanks to the Soo's EDC for setting that up for us!
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A Tale of Two Parks - first Obatanga now Lake Superior

NOTE: Due to bad reception where we are, you may get this on a delay.


The situation with the flies was just as bad this morning when we got up in Obatanga Park. It has definitely been our worst experience to date, mosquitoes and blackflies just swarming around us constantly. In the morning, they were covering the inside of the flies on our tents, but thankfully relatively few ever made it inside, not even any "no-see-ems," tiny flies that you can barely see, but that pack a mean bite. MEC Apollo and Wanderer 2 in case you happen to be in the market.

We had our first real headwind today as we lunched in Wawa and settled down in Lake Superior National Park. The park covers 83km of highway, so we'll be in it for quite a while. We were a bit slow, so we decided to stop earlier than usual, about a 90km day, as we weren't too ken on going another 56km on windy hilly road to the next campground on the other side of the park. It was a pretty nice feeling getting into camp!

The girl working at the office was a bit surprised when we asked for a "windy" campsite. We wanted anything we could get to help keep the bugs away. Fortunately, this park is way less secluded than Obatanga was, so it was windy almost everywhere, but we spent most of our time at a neighbouring site that was on the water without a bug to be found. It was phenomenal, as was the dip in the lake. It's not actually Lake Superior, so the water was warm enough to comfortably swim in. Amazingly that's our first swim of the trip!

Tomorrow we'll make our way out of Lake Superior Park and will be heading into the Soo tomorrow.
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Monday, June 23, 2008

Buggy in Obatanga Provincial Park

We were lucky to get out of Manitoba with relatively few problems with flies, but Northern Ontario is making up for it. We're getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and blackflies, and it only gets worse in camp when the sun goes down.

Indeed, as we had been told, the road out of Marathon was flatter for us, and we did fairly well to make it 130km along to Obatanga Provincial Park, about 40km past the town of White River. The flies here are absolutely brutal, but it will be a while before we can say goodbye to them (almost) entirely. They did, however, drive a big bull moose out of the woods for us to see before it ran back.

A big thanks once again goes to Joe and Larry for driving us out this morning along the gravel road into town. The people we met in Marathon were really fantastic, and we really appreciated their hosting us for two nights so that we could take a day off.

Tomorrow we'll go through Wawa, after which Highway 17 will get hilly once more on our way to the Soo.
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Winding along Lake Superior's hills and plateaus to Marathon

I have to apologize for the last few days. I've been a bit lax in posting, having been sick for a few days and having gone out Saturday night once we got to Marathon. So, here's two days' worth for you.

Part 1: Dorion to Rossport

We had been told by people we'd met that the stretch between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste-Marie would be one of the most scenic on the trip. At the same time, however, the continuous up and down on the hills would pose a challenge. We didn't really encounter any tough terrain on our way to Dorion, but the effort level certainly ramped up on our 110km ride to Rossport.

It was the mountains all over again, for sure. The hills in Ontario might be smaller than BC's mountains, but they're just as much work, steep and winding. An initial tough climb is followed by long rolling stretches up on the plateaus, before descending back down to the level of Lake Superior, usually to a new town. In the sun, the climbs are hot, but the cool air coming off of Lake Superior makes the descents absolutely frigid. It makes it tough to decide what to wear during the rides.

Our first stop was lunch in Nipigon. Nipigon is at the crossroads of Canada, as all highway and railway traffic has to pass through it going east-west. We were sitting down to lunch when were approached by Levina Collins. She was pretty excited to see five young cyclists making a stop in her town, and brought some Nipigon pins before inviting us to a barbeque for a new business opening. Their mill burned down a few years ago, nearby Red Rock's closed, and a lot of people have been leaving the area, particularly young people, so this was an exciting event. We were more than happy to meet some new people and have a few burgers, so we took her up on the invite.

The grand opening of Epic Adventures was a fun affair. There were plenty of burgers, pop, and cake and people were dropping in and out wishing the owner, Mike, good luck with his venture. Levina is known as Mrs. Nipigon, and we got to meet the man known as Mr. Nipigon, both of whom act as ambassadors for the area. The mayor came by as did their head of economic development. Epic Adventures will provide guided outdoor adventure tours of all kinds, and you can learn more at their website, We wish them the best of luck!

After the usual up and down throughout the day, we arrived in Rossport and set up camp at a playground. There were loads of kayakers and we got to talk to a number of them. There was a basketball net and a ball, so we shot some hoops before getting some rest before the next day.

Part 2: Rossport to Marathon

The coffee drinkers finally have gotten a percolator and some joe for the mornings, and they've started a rotation for making it. Saturday morning was Brian's turn. It makes 9 'cups' according to the box it came in, but realistically only makes enough for three, perfect for Mike, Pat, and Brian, and definitely helps with getting up in the morning. Jon and I are not java fanatics, but the option is always there if we need an extra lift to get going!

The 110km stretch to Marathon was more of the same, with a chilly breeze coming off of the Lake. It was cold enough to see your breath in the middle of a perfectly sunny day on some stretches, and there was some fog just off the shore in places. People here must be used to it, because they were walking around in shorts and t-shirts while we ate lunch in jackets, arm warmers, and leg warmers.

Once we got to Marathon, we were picked up by Larry and Joe at the road into town, which is completely gravel due to repaving work. They brought us to Pearl's place in town, where various people from the area had gathered. We enjoyed a few burgers and some beers before getting settled at Larry and his wife Carol's place down ths street.

As we were taking a day off today, we wanted to head out. Some local bands, Six Pak and Wooly and the Mammoths, were playing at the Canadian Legion branch, so we headed there to have some drinks. We definitely stood out in the small town bar, but we met a few people and played some pool and darts before calling it a night. On our day off, we took it easy after sleeping in, taking care of what we needed to before settling into the hot tub and enjoying a nice dinner.

Tomorrow we'll continue on as we head towards Sault Ste-Marie over the next few days. It should be fairly flat for us to Wawa, so that will be a nice change.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Whitewood Herald Article

Articles on MMR

Thunder Bay Tourism Partners Article Here

Keith forgot to mention that we decked our bikes out with sweet streamers, and disney windmill spiral things. They're pink, and pretty sweet, so you had better watch out when we come to your town. We figure we had been riding these puppies for a month now, and it was about time for a little customization!
Yep. we get a lot of weird looks now from passing cars, not knowing what to think of us, wearing sweet specialized gear, and pink streamers flying off the handlebars.

We'll try and update all the pictures in marathon as well, if we can find a computer.

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A visit with Terry Fox en route to Dorion

Today we came face-to-face with a Canadian legend, a man whom we all admire very much, Terry Fox. His Marathon of Hope was cut short just East of Thunder Bay, due to his cancer struggles. A monument in his name was erected just outside the city, close to where he was forced to abandon his dream of crossing the country, running 26.2 miles every day (the length of a marathon). Slightly further East, and surprisingly unimpressive considering the paramount importance of the location, is the actual spot along the highway where he stopped. A small plaque commemorates it, indicating the number of miles he had completed. His courage and spirit brought the nation together, so it was amazing for us to share at least a part of history while we were there.

We forgot to mention that coming into Thunder Bay yesterday, about 70km out, someone had written "GO MUSCLES MOVING GO" in white paint on the shoulder. The paint was still wet! Whoever it was, we really appreciate the gesture, and hope you let us know who you are so that we can thank you.

We got a pretty late start today, taking advantage of the hotel, and first having breakfast with Judy Bouchard and her daughter Jessica. They took us to a fantastic Finnish Hoito restaurant, which had absolutely incredible pancakes and french toast, very reasonable priced. Jessica then took us on a quick sightseeing tour of a lookout before heading back to the hotel and getting on the road.

The weather is getting hotter and we started right in the middle of the heat. The terrain is getting a bit hillier, but not overwhelmingly so, but we crawled along the under-construction highway to Dorion. The traffic and the road quality were pretty brutal, and there were a lot of numb hands from the vibration of the bikes as they went over all the potholes. We'll need to get used to it, because apparently most Ontario roads aren't so great.

Tomorrow we'll make our way somewhere between here and Marathon, arriving in the latter on Saturday.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A hot day to Thunder Bay

Weather certainly changes moods.

All through the Prairies, the rainy, windy weather got us a bit dejected. It made for some short days and some miserable mornings getting out of bed. It's been a completely different story in Northern Ontario, as we've had sunny weather with winds at our backs all the way through. As a result, the last three days we've pushed 145km, 160km, and 200km, capping off our push to Thunder Bay with a 140km day today. It's been a really nice change, and a really nice feeling.

As we get further into the province, the terrain is starting to get hillier and hillier. We started to encounter some pretty steep climbs up Ontario's hills just short of Thunder Bay, and from what we've heard the terrain is here to stay until Sault Ste-Marie. It's been nearly three weeks since we've encountered anything close to the mountain climbs we had, so we'll have to get back into climbing shape! The weather is also starting to heat up tremendously, as this was our hottest day since the Fraser Canyon, and it will only get worse as we get closer to Southern Ontario, renowned for its hot and humid weather.

Once in Thunder Bay, we were set up in the Valhalla Inn, courtesy of the city, and particularly thanks to the work of Steve Demmings and Paul Pepe. We grabbed some dinner at a nearby Boston Pizza before heading back to our rooms at the hotel. They gave us three double rooms! Steve came to meet us later on in the evening at the Valhalla, buying us some beers and nachos. He was really keen on the ride, being a cyclist himself, and has been all across the country (in a car). We then retired for the night to our queen-size beds on the second floor.

Tomorrow we will be treated to breakfast before we head out on the road. We have three days to make it to Marathon for a rest day, so we will likely take our time in the morning, taking care of some errands before heading out of town.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A milestone to Upsula

"May the wind be at your back, and the sun on your face."
-Irish proverb

When he learned of the trip, friend Ben Spencer in Montreal hand-delivered a card to my house, wishing us luck. He signed off with this saying, and it has stuck with me. If there was ever a day where this proverb came to life, it was today.

The morning started with Bruce making us all coffee. He had been up since 4:15am, and seemingly waited all morning for us to get up just so he could do so. Mike, Pat, and Brian absolutely loved it, and are now more determined than ever to find something similar to what he used. He left shortly after, and we never saw him again during the ride.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the wind was right behind us as we left camp. Our first order of business was finding water. There are fewer towns in Northern Ontario than there were in the Prairies, and the water here has a boil advisory, so we were running really low. We had to bite the bullet and buy water for the first time so far, because we weren't finding any along the way that we could drink. Thankfully, jugs of water aren't overly expensive, but we certainly won't be making a habit of it.

We made good time as we cruised over 25km/hr. We saw Lisa again over the course of the day, always just a bit ahead of us, and funnily we seemed to stop for breaks at the same spots. The scenery is beautiful: lakes, rivers, streams, and trees line the highway. We even saw some wildlife today. Mike saw the most with 4 moose and a black bear. It's amazing to see a moose up close. They are enormous animals, yet graceful at the same time. They run away as soon as they see you, even if you're far away from them. We will be seeing plenty more of them all through Ontario.

We had originally expected to take three days from Dryden to Thunder Bay, but it became apparent during the day that we could do better, and decided to do it in two. We had been waiting for weather like this to push long days, and we now had our opportunity to really cover a lot of ground.

We didn't realize just how much ground we would cover. We had to go 165km to get halfway, but about 140km in, we figured we should try to push for 200km. Upsula was ideally situated for it, so we decided to go for it. The sun got low and the shadows got very long, but we managed to do it! It's a pretty big milestone, and who knows if we'll do it again. We may not get another opportunity! It also leaves us with a relatively short 135km into Thunder Bay tomorrow, which is ideal as we will be switching time zones (it didn't switch at the border as we previously thought).

Funnily enough, near the end of the ride we saw a Blind Bay Road, the same as when we were in Sorrento and stayed at the community centre. Ironically, we are staying on the lawn of the Upsula community centre tonight. The bugs are out in full force, as mosquitoes and blackflies like to make dinner of us. They won't get much better as we progress, unfortunately!

When we get to Thunder Bay, we will have complimentary rooms at the Valhalla Hotel. We're really looking forward to the bed and the shower. Friends have been great to set that up for us! A big thanks to Steve Demmings and Paul Pepe.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Meeting other cyclists on our way to Dryden

Throughout the trip, we haven't met too many other cyclists doing the trip across, and those that we have, we have not seen again. So far, we have met Ryan in Rogers Pass, some of the riders of the Kids Cancer Tour, the Japanese kid on our way to Brandon, and another Ryan, the bartender at Earl's who's starting his trip within the next week or so.

We riders of the Moving Muscles Ride ask that you check out if you have a few minutes. It is the website for Ryan the bartender's initiative, as he raises money for the David Suzuki Foundation. We wish him the best of luck on his own journey!

On our ride from Kenora, we met some fellow cyclists making the trip across the country. We first met Lisa as we pulled in to a picnic rest area on the side of the highway. We invited her to eat with us, and found out she is also from London, Ontario, and graduated from Bishop's University last year. She's doing the trip alone. We then met Bruce as he was leaving the same rest area, who's doing his third big touring trip on his own. He lives on Cortez Island in BC, and left Vancouver on May 28, so you can imagine that he is just flying. We ended up catching him after lunch, helping him fix a flat and lending him a spare tire after his had some problems. Amazingly both he and Lisa have only had one flat apiece. Does that say something about us? Probably that the original tires we had had worn out, because we haven't had any flats wince the switch.

We all rode together throughout the afternoon, talking about our trips. They were both impressed with our group's dynamic and by how much money we have raised to date. It was nice for us to have someone new to ride with, and it was nice for them to have anyone to ride with at all! Lisa confessed to us that she never would have made it to Dryden if she hadn't met us. Turns out she was pretty low on motivation in the morning, but it's amazing how seeing some new faces can give you energy. It sure helped us today as well.

With a slight wind at our backs, we all cruised easily to Dryden, eventually setting up at Aaron Provincial Park 160km past Kenora. Lisa parted ways after we all stopped for some groceries, but Bruce stuck with us to camp for the night. We shared some of our food with him (we had lots), including our dessert of macaroons and slowpokes. He's promised Pat, Mike, and Brian some espresso in the morning, as he has a small personal percolator that he carries with him. They've been looking for something similar for a while. We may catch up to Lisa tomorrow, but she gets up a bit earlier than us, so we'll see how the day goes.

With shelter from the wind, the riding in Northwestern Ontario has been pretty smooth to date, so hopefully we can keep it up. We'll see where we get tomorrow.
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

A mix of weather to Kenora

We could start getting used to the weather we had this morning.

We were surrounded by blue sky and a hot sun, but the air was cool. Once again, we had a west wind pushing us along; it's just too bad they weren't more frequent across the Prairies.

Over the last day and a half, the scenery has completely changed as we move into the Canadian Shield. There are trees all around, lakes, and grey rock faces lining the Transcanada as it slowly winds around the easy-rolling hills into Ontario. All of us passed the 3000km mark today.

Our first stop was scenic Falcon Lake near the provincial border. It is beautiful cottage country, and we took a longer-than-usual lunch to enjoy the weather and some ice cream from a local shop. Many people stopped to talk to us, and one man even heard one of yesterday's radio interviews.

Unfortunately, as typical East weather goes, the sunshine quickly faded into rain just as we were leaving. We seemed to get out of it for a while, but after we crossed the border into Ontario and got closer to Kenora, it just got worse, escalating to a full-out rainstorm. It might rain often in Pat's home province of British Columbia, especially in Vancouver, but the rain is misty at best most of the time. In Ontario and Quebec, the home provinces of us other four, when it rains it pours, and the skies just opened up on us we passed Lake of the Woods along the highway. Mike, Jon, Brian, and I loved it, no matter how hard it came down, but naturally it didn't last very long. It eventually it turned into sunshine, and back to rain once more, before clearing up again for the evening. Classic lake weather.

After our 120km day to Kenora, we are now set up in Brian's stepsister Heather's house along the Winnipeg River. Her husband Tony works for the Ontario Provincial Police, and they have two young children, Tyler and Emma, 15 months and 3 years old, respectively. Once they got over their initial shyness at having 4 strangers in the house, it was fun watching them compete for our attention. Even though he can't speak, Tyler understands what the garbage is, and his 'trick' was to take ours and put it in there. Emma did a song and dance, and there was defintely some competition between them.

Tomorrow we'll take a day off, taking care of some errands during the day, and watching some movies at night, trying to do as little as possible to rest up as much as we can before we continue on through Northern Ontario.
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Smooth sailing out of Winnipeg

It was nice to finally sleep in this morning after a nice dinner last night. But can we really call an 8am wakeup sleeping in? We'll just have to take it.

We had some errands to run this morning before heading out of town, trying to get as much done in a big city like Winnipeg while we have the opportunity. Jon and I finally got our chains fixed, although it took until late this morning to get them back. Brian went to see a physiotherapist, and I had two radio interviews in town, and a third over the phone in Calgary. We also took the opportunity to meet with the MDC staff in Winnipeg. There are only three of them - Kathy, Angelina, and Michelle - but they were kind enough to take us out to breakfast at Stella's Cafe. They were really glad to have the opportunity to meet us, and we threw out the idea of them coming for the big celebration in Newfoundland. Why not? We had a lot of fun and the food was great. We were able to give Kathy the donations we have picked up in the Prairies, and there is even a chance she will pass us on the road in Ontario.

It was getting to be late morning after breakfast, so we headed out from our apartment at the Mennonite University over to Andrea's place to have some lunch and get our bikes ready to go. We have now replaced all of our tires, as our old ones had been getting worn, and we have had a number of flats recently. Andrea was really helpful in sourcing supplies for us, and was absolutely amazing to us while we were there. We got some pictures with them before taking off, including some really good ones of Jon wearing a Viagra Nascar racing jacket that her husband Steve received for his 50th birthday. It is a gem, and you can credit Andrea's brother for the gift idea.

Heading out fairly late around 2:30pm, we felt that something wasn't quite the same. It happened to be Friday the 13th, and there was something different about the day. Was it the late start? The tornado warnings? The exhaustion from the late night at Earl's?

Maybe it had something to do with the roaring west wind we had pushing us.

We have been waiting for one of those all across the Prairies, and it just happened to come when we were only going to be able to use it for a half-day. The feeling was incredible. We flew at 30+km/hr, barely turning the pedals. Mike even managed to get up to 59km/hr, on completely flat ground. Thankfully we had it, because it allowed us to make a lot of progress towards Kenora despite the late start. Seeing the flags we passed all blowing in the right direction was a fantastic sight, and we made it 105km to a campsite outside of the city in short time. It looks like it's with us to stay for now, as we seem to have it tomorrow.

We can also start to notice the changing landscape. Heading out of the city, there have been far more trees as we move out of the Prairies. Tomorrow we will cross another provincial border and a new time zone as we head to Kenora to take a day off with Brian's sister-in-law's family.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

A long leg to the 'Peg

After yesterday's demoralizing struggle to Carberry, we got up early this morning to give ourselves a shot at making Winnipeg today. We didn't know what to expect from the weather, and the 160km day ahead of us would be our longest yet regardless. After only 60km yesterday in the blowing wind though, we figured we had to try.

To our surprise, when we got on the road, we had a slight tailwind, only the fourth day we have had a tailwind for any length of time. Heading back to the Transcanada along the 351 highway, we stopped to stretch (as we do every morning) outside a farm along the road. As we were loosening up, the husband Gary came out and started chatting with us. He was retired, having worked over 40 years in a plant nearby. He owns some horses, drives Polaris snowmobiles (thus suggesting we should change the Bombardier logo on our jackets), and talked about the high prices of gas and flour and how they were taking a toll on him. Unfortunately, we only understood about one-third of what he was saying! He was a character for sure.

The tailwinds made us feel like we were riding on a different planet. Instead of crawling along like yesterday, we were cruising at 25+km/hr down the highway, making great time. By the time we hit Portage la Prairie for lunch, we had already gone 80km relatively easily, and knew we could make it the rest of the way to Winnipeg. After lunch, we were still making great time, but all of a sudden the winds switched on us, and once again we were fighting with 60km still to go into town. We had flashbacks of yesterday's ride, but continued to grind it out knowing we could make it.

The last 20km were painful. All of us were running on completely empty tanks, just willing ourselves to get through the last stretch into Winnipeg. Once we got in, we headed to Andrea and Steve Leblanc's house. Andrea has been absolutely amazing, setting up accomodations for us, sourcing bike stores, and buying repair supplies before we got into town. We had a few beers at their place before they took us to our evening accomodations at the local Mennonite University. We got ready quickly, and she drove us to a nearby Earl's restaurant where we had reservations.

A brother of family friends, Mark Tooley, heard of our trip and generously gave us a $300 gift card to use at Earl's while we were in town. We have never even met him, but wherever you are, Mark, thank you so much! We ate to our heart's content and sampled their drink menu at will. The staff was great, and one of the bartenders, Ryan, is preparing for his own cross-country trip starting July 1st from Victoria. He is doing a run-bike-blade across the country, raising money for the David Suzuki Foundation. He has been training for a few years, and will run 20km a day and bike 100km a day, on average. When he gets the opportunity, he will strap on the rollerblades. I can't remember the website, but will get it up soon so that you can check it out. We wish him the best of luck!

Amazingly, we only ate and drank $270 at Earl's, but we used the balance and then some to tip our waitress, who was a lot of fun, and really interested in our trip. A bunch of the staff were heading out afterwards, and although we would have loved to join them, we were way too exhausted after the long day, so we've come back to our apartment at the University to crash for the night.

Tomorrow we need to wait for Jon and I's bikes to get fixed before we hit the road. The poorly installed chains both broke on us in the last two days, so we are having them looked at (thanks Boh's Cycle in Moose Jaw for that mishap). In the meantime, we will have breakfast with some MDC people in the morning, and will have a radio spot on Power 97 at 8:35am local time. Beforehand, at 8:10am local time, I will also do an interview with Q107 in Calgary as a follow-up to the one we did when we were there a few weeks ago. Hope you can listen in!

After all that is taken care of, we'll take off in Kenora's direction over the next two days, where we will take a day off.

PS: The SPOT device we use to track ourselves has had a tough time finding satellite signals at our last few stops, including today's. Unfortunately, that means you can't see our location! Sorry for the inconvenience, and we'll try and do better for you in the future.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Caught in Carberry

After a nice stay in the Mennies' winnebago, we were treated to a fantastic breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast, and some fantastic hashbrowns. Barb even did some of our laundry for us, so that we had clean clothes to go on the road with. Lloyd drove us out along the gravel road from their place, and took lots of pictures as we got ready to go. It was amazing to see how happy THEY were to take US in for the night. We have been incredibly fortunate to have so many incredible people take us in. They don't even know us, but they treat us like family. We are five very lucky guys!

Lloyd had called the Brandon tv station, and as he drove to work, he stopped to let us know. They met us just as we went out of town. We didn't see it, but apparently we made the newscast! Pretty good considering the Federal Government was apologizing today for the scandal over residential schools, likely taking up quite a bit of airtime across the country.

Once we got outside, we knew today was going to be terrible. The wind was blowing due East in our faces, and it was chilly. A quick check of the weather online showed the winds were blowing at 40km/hr, with gusts up to 55km/hr. We were travelling at an average just over 12km/hr into it, over flat terrain no less, by far our lowest average day of the trip. It was tiring and demoralizing, and just seemed to get worse over the course of the day.

It got bad enough that we had to get off of the Transcanada onto the smaller highway 351 because we weren't sure what we were going to get to, and we needed food for dinner. We got a bit more shelter from the wind, but not much in the end, and the road was worse. We made it to Carberry, about 60km outside of Brandon. The closest campsite was another 20+km back on the Transcanada, and in an effort to make it to Winnipeg tomorrow, we were willing to do it after some dinner at a restaurant.

Well, unfortunately for us, it only got worse. It started to rain, got colder, and the wind was still blowing strong in the wrong direction. None of us wanted to bike to the campsite. We would have gotten soaking wet, we would have been miserable, we would have gotten in late to the campsite, and would have had to set up our tents in the pouring rain. We have now gotten a hotel for the night. There's nothing we can do about the weather, and we have to remind ourselves that this is a bad stretch. We've gotten some of the worst weather the Prairies have seen in a number of years.

Tomorrow we'll get up early and see if we get lucky. We'll try and make it to Winnipeg, but otherwise will go as far as possible. The weather's supposed to clear up later in the week, with better winds, so hopefully we can make up some ground then.

Until then, we'll just have to tough out this bad stretch, and wait for it to end.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A new friend on our way to Brandon

With the time change at the border, we were losing an hour, so we decided to switch over the next day. We still need our sleep! The Visitor's Centre made for a great campsite, and funnily enough, as we were eating breakfast this morning, one of the workers showed up, and we weren't too sure what to expect. Luckily for us, she had no problems, and was just happy to hear that we weren't too cold the night before.

Mike, Pat, and Brian are big coffee drinkers, and love to get a cuppa joe when one is available, so it was a nice surprise to find that they served complimentary coffee inside (albeit a tad weak). As they sat enjoying it, they found a cyclist's guest book which had been signed by a number of people, including many charity rides. Almost every entry mentioned how great the Prairies were, how great the winds were, and how much they loved it. You can imagine that ours was the complete opposite! The Prairies have been a really tough stretch for us, and today was no different.

We got on the road to another headwind, blowing at about 20km/hr in our faces the 105km to Brandon. Making things worse, our tires have started to wear, so we are popping quite a number of tubes on a daily basis, slowing us down. We'll be getting that remedied in Winnipeg, and hopefully we can spend more time riding on our tires than changing them!

The roads in Saskatchewan were not the greatest, but Manitoba has one-upped them, as we now have no paved shoulder to ride on. All the shoulders are gravel, completely inconvenient for us. Thankfully cars are good about pulling out for us, but when we're trying to draft, it makes it tough when it's out on the side. We can't go on the shoulder, nor do we want to go out too far on the highway!

On our travels, we saw a cyclist loaded down with a lot of gear ahead of us. Once we caught up to him, it turned out to be a Japanese guy biking across Canada and the United States. He was carrying a TON of gear. He even had a generator running off his back tire to power his front lights! He was super friendly, so we got some pictures with him and wished him well.

Coming just West of Brandon, we were met by Lloyd Mennie, who was taking us in for the night at his place. We loaded our bikes and gear into his horse trailer and truck so that we didn't have to go down the dirt road to he and his wife Barb's place. Their son Mark was there, his girlfriend Erica, and their son Dallas' girlfriend Lacie. We're not too sure how I came into contact with him and exactly who knew who and where the degrees of separation were, but he was happy to have us and treated us to a fantastic rib dinner and some beers. We are big fans of red meat and hops, so it's always a treat!

Sitting around the dinner table, one of the guests, Drew, made some calls to try and get us some media on the radio the next morning. Well, sure enough the Japanese guy we passed earlier on had been on the radio that afternoon, and the mayor had presented him with a key to the city! At the right place at the right time I guess. We may pass him tomorrow, so we'll have to ask him about it.

Lloyd and Barb have set us up in their winnebago outside the house for the night, and tomorrow we'll have breakfast with them before heading out of Brandon. We'd like to get as far as possible, maybe Portage, leaving us a short day into Winnipeg the next day.
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Calgary's Q107 FM Interview

Big Dog 92.7 Interview

Monday, June 9, 2008

Finally out of Saskatchewan and into Manitoba

It will come as no surprise to hear that Saskatchewan has been our most hated province so far in terms of riding. We had nothing but headwinds and rain, and the scenery rarely changed. Despite this, the people have been incredible friendly. We get all sorts of honks from cars and trucks as they pass us by...even the trains let out a horn for us every once in a while. The people we meet are always interested in what we're doing and seem to really enjoy life for what it is.

Today was really quite a drab, unexciting one for the most part. No real weather to speak of, little wind, not even any flat tires until later in the day. We biked until we had lunch in Whitewood. When Mike and Pat went in to the grocery store they talked to the mayor about our ride; it just so happens that he doubles as the store's butcher. He called the Whitewood Herald next door, and they came out to ask some questions and get some photos. Totally out of the blue for us! We continued to Moosomin, where we stopped for some Dairy Queen - we can eat ANYTHING we want - and some more groceries for dinner.

The only exciting part of our day was finally getting out of Saskatchewan and into Manitoba. We've had a tough go of it in this province, and we hope that this brings about some new fortunes. We stopped for some photos, and took a great video of us "paddling a canoe" before breaking into our Manitoba Man-Dance. You'll have to wait until we post the videos to see it, and we also took the opportunity to give Saskatchewan the full moon before we rode out. We won't be looking back!

About 5km from the border, Mike and I went into a hotel, and they told us about the Manitoba Visitor's Centre, which is making for quite a camping spot. It's essentially a trucker's stop and a rest area, so it's got picnic tables set up and lots of green space. We wonder if they'll find us in the morning, but what will they tell us to do? Leave? The joke will be on them if they do, but I don't think it will be a big problem for us.

Tomorrow we'll be battling some pretty heavy East winds as we head to Brandon. Guess we'll have to wait and see if Manitoba treats us better!
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Storms to Grenfell

Apparently there has not been any rain in Regina at all in the last month, and for years the Prairies have been fairly dry.

Well, we must be just what they've been looking for, because it hasn't stopped raining since we've hit Saskatchewan.

It was pouring down as we left Regina, and continued all morning. For a brief while, it seemed to stop and clear up for us, but the dark clouds kept coming in waves. Being Sunday, stores in the smaller towns weren't open, so we decided to wait 65km to hit Indian Head for some lunch. Pat got a flat just outside of town, so Mike and I headed in ahead of them. Just a few kilometres out, we could sense we were heading right into a storm. We were cruising along at ~30km/hr when all of a sudden the wind picked up from the South, and we slowed to about 10km/hr. It pushed me halfway into the highway as I tried to turn back into it, and we were fighting hard. Then came the hail, hitting us like sharp pellets from a gun. We had to get indoors, and found shelter in a restaurant while we waited for the others to get in. They finally made it, and we sat down to a hot meal to wait out the wind and hail.

The flash storm subsided, and we got back on the road to calmer conditions. It only lasted about 30km though, because 20km outside of Grenfell another set of dark clouds loomed and the wind picked up. Amazingly, the winds blew everywhere from due south to due north, but never helped us at all. Some luck! We had to battle into town, and after a day like that with more rain on the way tonight and tomorrow, we ditched the thought of camping and crammed everyone into a motel for the night. It's pretty sleazy, made of trailers connected together and with a nasty funk to it, but it's better than the alternative.

Tomorrow we'll likely cross into Manitoba, and we may get some good winds finally! At least the forecast says so.
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Storms to Grenfell

Apparently there has not been any rain in Regina at all in the last month, and for years the Prairies have been fairly dry.

Well, we must be just what they've been looking for, because it hasn't stopped raining since we've hit Saskatchewan.

It was pouring down as we left Regina, and continued all morning. For a brief while, it seemed to stop and clear up for us, but the dark clouds kept coming in waves. Being Sunday, stores in the smaller towns weren't open, so we decided to wait 65km to hit Indian Head for some lunch. Pat got a flat just outside of town, so Mike and I headed in ahead of them. Just a few kilometres out, we could sense we were heading right into a storm. We were cruising along at ~30km/hr when all of a sudden the wind picked up from the South, and we slowed to about 10km/hr. It pushed me halfway into the highway as I tried to turn back into it, and we were fighting hard. Then came the hail, hitting us like sharp pellets from a gun. We had to get indoors, and found shelter in a restaurant while we waited for the others to get in. They finally made it, and we sat down to a hot meal to wait out the wind and hail.

The flash storm subsided, and we got back on the road to calmer conditions. It only lasted about 30km though, because 20km outside of Grenfell another set of dark clouds loomed and the wind picked up. Amazingly, the winds blew everywhere from due south to due north, but never helped us at all. Some luck! We had to battle into town, and after a day like that with more rain on the way tonight and tomorrow, we ditched the thought of camping and crammed everyone into a motel for the night. It's pretty sleazy, made of trailers connected together and with a nasty funk to it, but it's better than the alternative.

Tomorrow we'll likely cross into Manitoba, and we may get some good winds finally! At least the forecast says so.
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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Blessings from Caronport and into Regina

After a good night's rest in one of Briercrest's dorms, we were treated to a free breakfast (great cinnamon buns, in particular) in the morning. Tracy joined us, and Debbie did as well. They both made our stay there possible, and it was much appreciated!

After breakfast, we were to talk to two of the high school classes before leaving to Regina. Our first was Mr. Appleby's class of grade 12s (Ron to us). It's been a long time since high school for us, but the kids were really receptive to what we had to say, and seemed to really enjoy having us there. Ron was particularly enthused, as he loves bicycles in general, and according to Tracy practically supplies all of Caronport with them. He also thought that having us in could be a great way to inspire the young minds in his classroom; he would have made an amazing high school teacher for any of us, as you could really sense his passion for teaching. Before we left for the second class, we played a 'current events game' with the rest of the students. Ron had taken bits and pieces from the world news, complete with a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" list of multiple-choice questions ranging in difficulty from $100 to $1,000,000 (even three lifelines). He chose Mike to represent the class, and considering we've led a pretty sheltered life on the road, he answered every one correctly (he did have to use his lifelines, though). Pretty impressive, and he got to take home a wooden carving of a car as a prize!

Afterwards, we went upstairs to a grade 9 class. They were fun, as they asked a lot more questions, making it easier on us. Brian had a funny moment when he started talking about our time with the grade 12 class, using Ron's first name instead of 'Mr. Appleby.' As I said, it's been a while for us, so we've forgotten things like these. Mike even had to remind all of us to take our MMR hats off inside the building. Wouldn't want to be breaking the school's rules! When we were done talking, one of the teachers said a prayer wishing us well on our journey, and asking for better winds. Nice to know we have them looking out for us and thinking of us as we go. We got pictures with both grades before hitting the road to the bike store in Moose Jaw.

When we got into the Jaw, we found Boh's Cycle Shop. Unfortunately, we were only able to get new chains for three of the bikes (apparently 10-speed bikes are not common in this area), and we had to wait a few hours, but what could we do? We got some KFC while we were waiting, and as we left, we saw a big group biking across Canada as well, the Kids Cancer Ride. They had about 60 people relaying in two groups, with tons of support vehicles and trucks with them. It was quite a sight, and good to talk with them. They were excited for us, and it's too bad that we weren't able to join them out of town. Good luck to them!

When we got about 10km out of town, Jon and I started noticing some problems with our newly-replaced chains, as they were skipping on us. We took a look, and the pins keeping them together had been poorly inserted by the mechanic who worked on them at Boh's. We were really incensed, called them to let them know, and had to fix it ourselves. We're pretty sure that their rookie mechanic did the job, because Pat's was fine. Our only consolation is that they did the fix without charging us for labour, but it wouldn't have mattered if something had gone really wrong out on the road. Luckily nothing did, and they'll just have to be more careful next time.

Once we had the problem fixed, it was 4pm, and we still had 60km to go into Regina to make for a 100km day. We also ran into our good friend the headwind, so we simply put our heads down and grinded it out all the way there, stopping only to eat a quick dinner. When we got there, we had been set up with a place to stay by Philip Price, a former cornerback for the Montreal Alouettes in the 60s and 70s, friends with a family friend of mine from Montreal who played with him, Ron Perowne. He was out of this world. He was fun, funny, and really appreciated what we were doing. Little did we know he had set us up to stay in his Pentecostal Church for the night! One of the other members, Tom, was with him, showed us where we could sleep, and gave us keys to the building. After we were settled in, we left the building to get some beers at nearby Bonzzini's Brew Pub, which we had passed along the way. We were planning to take a rest day, so we got a bunch of pitchers, some nachos, and some other fried appies which didn't last long in front of us. By 11-12pm though, we were completely out of steam, and headed back to sleep.

When we woke up this morning, we were treated to an incredible breakfast prepared for us by Phil and Tom, as well as members Neil and Ira. It was absolutely delicious. Eggs, sausage, baked beans, potatoes, and some great cheese biscuits courtesy of Tom's 'special recipe,' complete with coffee and orange juice. Tom said grace, also wishing us well on the trip, so now we have more people looking out for us. We swapped stories with them and snapped a picture before heading just out of town about 10km to a campsite, not wanting to overstay our welcome! They were all really great people, and we really appreciated their taking us in and treating us so well.

Tomorrow we'll head out of Regina, and our next major city will be Winnipeg in about 5 days. With our experience from the last 3-4 weeks in hand, we went over the rest of our route, and have set August 5th as our arrival date in St. John's, so put it in your calendars!
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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Climbing flat mountains to Caronport

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
-Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind"

So, how quickly can a group of cross-Canada cyclists make it across the Prairies?

Well, the answer is blowin' in the wind. With tailwinds, you never really have to work very hard to make great time, so it's easy to push a lot of distance. Of course, we would know nothing about that, and the headwinds we've encountered are slowing us down and making us earn every click on the odometer.

The night on top of the birdwatching tower was pretty fantastic. It was a perfectly clear night, and with no big urban areas nearby, the stars were out in full force. It was really beautiful to see, and the first time we've been able to see them that well so far on this trip. It was, however, quite cold with little protection, so we had to bundle up in our sleeping bags. Even as we woke to a perfectly sunny sky it was chilly, but it warmed up quickly and we got on our way.

Today we experienced probably the worst winds to date, 25+mph right in our face all 95km to Caronport. It held us to a pace comparable to our days climbing through the mountains, even though we were on flat ground. Worse, winds like that are really draining because we have to work to stay stable in it, making for a tough ride today.

Along the way, we stopped in Chaplin to pick up some lunch. The Prairies are full of small towns, and it has been a real eye-opener for the five us to see how few big cities there are in Canada. "Real" Canada lies in the small towns where everyone knows everybody else. Everyone is really friendly to us, asking us where we're going, where we're coming from, what we're raising money for, etc. One guy today in Chaplin went on and on about land he used to own near Tofino, which he leased out to the big mining companies. He also worked in Vancouver and was approached by an Englishman who laid out twenty $100 bills to get him to talk about making a deal for the land. We don't know how much of it was true, but he was sure willing to tell us all about it. Apparently about 5 groups come through every week in these parts making the cross-Canada trek. We will soon pass a group who are WALKING across. Might take them awhile.

After our long day, we finally made it to Caronport, and were met at Briercrest by Tracy. She gave us a tour of the buildings, and showed us to our dorm rooms. We got a free Subway dinner and any drink from Starbucks, and tomorrow we'll enjoy a free breakfast from their cafeteria before talking to two groups of their high school students in the morning. Should be an interesting experience! We should also be getting a phone interview with Regina's Big Dog 92.7FM afterwards, which they'll air later on. Unfortunately we will be busy during their morning show.

Tomorrow we'll head into Moose Jaw to get some new chains, before heading into Regina later in the day, but the winds are supposed to be bad once again, unfortunately for us! We'll take our next rest day there before continuing on.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Roadkill on the way to a birdwatching tower in...Somewhere, SK

Saskatchewan is flat, and we knew there would be wind (unfortunately for us in the wrong direction), but we never expected to see the amount of roadkill that we have on the highway thus far.

Prairie dogs live all around the fields, and their holes lie along the highway. They seemingly love to come out to look around and play, but they're obviously not too careful around cars. Other casualties today have included a few porcupines, a mallard duck, a coyote, and a red-winged blackbird. It gets to the point where you have to swerve to avoid them as they litter the shoulder. Awful? Yes, but it's part of our life on the road (sorry to the faint of heart for the description).

We got to sleep in this morning, waiting for Swift Current's only bike shop to open at 10am. We all need new chains at this point, as we've ridden over 2000km and they've stretched. If they stretch past 1/8", the cassette will start to wear badly, but it's best to switch them around 1/16", which we've all pretty much reached. Unfortunately, the shop didn't have any for us, but the owner was really great, and despite his busy schedule took time to fix Pat's bike, which had some problems with both derailleurs which we couldn't fix. He also thought that we had all broken 5-6 broken cogs on our cassettes, and thought we were really strong riders, but we're pretty sure it's a feature on them to help the chain switch gears, so the jury is still out on how much he knew about our bikes.

With the stop at the shop, we only got on the road at noon after getting groceries. We have beds and food at a Christian school in Caronport, Briarcrest College and Seminary (~150km away), but with 20-25mph headwinds and a late start we weren't making it today. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to rough it in between. Moving along slowly, Lady Luck smiled on us. Just off the highway, 55km out of Swift Current, Mike and Jon spotted a birdwatching tower, and we went to check it out.

The location was perfect. It was two-leveled, so we could sleep on the top level, and cook and eat on the lower one, storing our bikes and trailers on ground level. It sits about 1000ft from Reed Lake, and we were hoping to walk out to it to have a swim.

We never guessed that it would be a long walk on ground I can only describe as 'scorched mud.' The ground was badly cracked, obviously from the dry climate, but was soggy from the rain we had yesterday. It was fine for about the first 400ft, until it got pretty spongy. Then it just got downright muddy. Jon and Pat started sinking into it about 100ft from the lake (Pat lost his flip-flops in the episode), and we realized we would not be able to get there, much less swim in it. We returned to our temporary home dissappointed and muddy, and cleaned it off as best we could before making dinner and relaxing as the sun slowly set over the flat horizon.

We've set up our tarp and the groundsheets along the railing to protect us from the wind as we sleep tonight, but it will get cold. Tomorrow we'll make our way to Briarcrest in Caronport, where they offered us room and board for tomorrow night. In return, we will talk to their high school students about the trip during chapel the next morning.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Singing in the rain to Swift Current

When we started on this trip, we knew we would be doing lots of camping. All of us had varying levels of camping experience, but certainly none of us had done anything of this magnitude, essentially camping for 2.5 months.

Well allow me to tell you something: camping in the rain sucks. A lot.

The tents get soaked and you have to put them away wet, which can make them moldy if you're not careful, so you have to dry them out. Your gear and clothes get damp, as do you. It's not fun, and it makes it that much harder to get up in the morning when you hear the rain hitting the tent's fly, because you know you have to go out and bike in it.

That was our situation this morning as we left Maple Creek. Rain was coming down steadily and it was cold. Our only solace was the fact that we had a tailwind to start, a veritable rarity for us so far. Nevertheless, we got absolutely drenched, and the cold was enough for us to want to stay ON the bikes just to keep warm.

When we stopped for lunch in Tompkins, we were about to go into the grocery store, when the owner of a restaurant across the street started talking to us. We figured that warm food and some shelter would be better for us than making cold sandwiches out in the rain, so we went in. It was fantastic. The soup, sandwiches, and fries we shared were just what we needed to keep us going.

Unfortunately, when we got back out, our tailwind had turned on us, but thankfully was not too strong. Unfortunately again, however, it got stronger and stronger as we got closer to Swift Current, even as the rain cleared up for us. The last 30km were just a brutal struggle into the wind, bringing us in to town for a 140km day.

Tomorrow we'll start late, as we need to get the chains on our bikes checked out (they're all pretty close to done). The wind is supposed to be blowing right at us hard (~15-25mph, same as the last 30km today), so we're not sure how far we'll make it. The winds are your boss in the Prairies!
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Monday, June 2, 2008

A late start, a new province

We've had a few more flats than normal since Calgary (if you leave that day to Saltspring out), and some of our tires have gotten worn, so we needed to get to a bike shop before leaving Medicine Hat.

We had breakfast at a nearby Tim Horton's (we don't get coffee very often, or hot chocolate for Jon and I, so it's a treat), and had to wait until 9:30 before we could get to a cycle shop near there. We discovered Google Maps for the Blackberry, which will be very useful to us, and helped find it. When we got there, they didn't have any tubes or tires, but we were able to pick up some chain lubricant and, ahem, medicated vaseline (don't ask). We were in a bit of a bind, but the store owner was a super nice guy, phoned a different sports shop nearby, and they were able to get us what we needed. We could have been in big trouble if we had needed a tire or had popped a lot of tubes!

Fortunately, we needed neither today as we rode 90km to Maple Creek. The 11am start and continuing headwinds limited our progress, but we did hit Saskatchewan! When we got to Alberta, there was a huge sign and we took several pictures, but unbelievably there was nothing like that for Saskatchewan. We had to make do with a random sign that happened to have the name "Saskatchewan" on it, but we made up for it by doing a hat dance in front of it and getting it on video (our parents can rest assured that we got one 'normal' photo of us).

Saskatchewan is known for being flat, but ironically, as we crossed the border, there was actually a climb, albeit nothing compared to what we saw before Calgary. Along the way, we ran into Stefan Pincente, a friend of Pat, Mike, and I whom we know through our Fraternity back at UBC, Sigma Chi. He had passed us and stopped to say hello, which was really cool (he's driving to Toronto). He came back to the campsite with us, where AMAZINGLY they had a TV and we were able to watch the hockey game! We're all Pittsburgh bandwagon fans, so were pretty happy that they pulled it out in the third OT.

Tomorrow, we hope to make it to Swift Current, but the headwinds are making it tough to cover a lot of ground. If it's like today, we should be able to do it, but we'll take things as they come.
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Sunday, June 1, 2008

The wind turns against us to Medicine Hat

Althouigh it's a bit late, we have seen some flocks of geese still moving North for the Summer. Their flights back and forth from the South are absolutely incredible. They fly thousands of miles in their trademark V-formation in search of warm weather and food.

What's so special about the V-formation? It happens to be an incredibly efficient way to travel over long distances, as the geese draft off of one another in the process. The lead flyers do most of the work to break the wind, while the ones in back get a breather. You see them switch every once in a while to share the load, and if one happens to get out of formation, then he's got to work his tail off to make it back, fighting the wind alone all the way.

This is pretty much the exact same way we feel when we're fighting a headwind as we were today. The guys without trailers break wind (literally...and sometimes figuratively unfortunately) for the guys carrying the trailers so that their job is just a little bit easier. Once you find the draft, life is pretty good, but be sure to not get outside of it or you'll be fighting your way back. In a headwind, or when you're travelling at high speeds, you have to try to stay 6-12 inches behind the front man's back tire for greatest effect. If there's a crosswind, you have to move to the side to find the draft, but the effect is the same, and it results in a considerable reduction in effort.

Battling the headwind today was hard work, but not without its rewards. As we travelled 105km to Medicine Hat, we passed a whole herd of Prairie antelope. As we cycled along, four of them ran essentially beside us, allowing Brian to get some unbelievable video. We'll try and get it up soon for you to see (whenever we can get to a computer anyways).

We also got to learn a bit about the area. Alberta is known for its oil and gas, and even just off the Transcanada, there were some pumps working in the fields. Along the way, we passed a sign which gave some insight on the history of Medicine Hat. In the late 1800's, the CP Rail struck natural gas while drilling a well. Realizing the potential for power production, it drilled in several other locations with similar results. The abundance in this area gave Medicine Hat its nickname as the "Gas City," and prompted Rudyard Kipling to proclaim that it had "hell for a basement."

After a meal and some ice cream, we're now in a campground in the city along the Transcanada. Tomorrow we'll hit our second provincial border as we head into Saskatchewan (hopefully with better winds).
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Selwyn House School Article

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Judy's Radio Interview

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