It will be a long ride.

Rod Germaine
On the steps of his law school in Halifax (Nick Pearce photo, courtesy of Dalhousie University)

The Codger has done it. His crazy journey ended on August 7.

This is the blog of Rod Germaine’s bicycle ride across the continent in 2011. Accompanied by his good friend, Soe Naing, Rodger the Codger left North Vancouver on June 2nd. He did not stop until he got to Halifax where he attended his class reunion. It was the 40th anniversary reunion of the Dalhousie Law School class of ‘71.

Among other things, the ride was a fundraiser for the Just Aid Foundation: www.justaid.ca. The total raised was close to $35,000. Germaine is genuinely grateful to all who donated so generously.

It is worth mentioning that none of the donated funds were used to pay expenses. Germaine paid for the ride with his own money. And the long succession of cheap motels and mostly mediocre meals cost some real money. He did not keep track but a member of his family did; the cumulative total was well over $8,000. Soe Naing was more frugal but he also spent a few thousand dollars of his own money by the time they got to Toronto. Covering the costs out of their pockets was consistent with the policy and practice of the Just Aid Foundation. It is maintained by volunteers; expenses are limited to accounting fees, a modest honourarium for the bookkeeper and the charges imposed by online service providers and credit card companies. Subject to these unavoidable costs, all funds raised by the Foundation are used to support the Mae Tao Clinic (www.maetaoclinic.com) and the Back Pack Health Worker Team (www.backpackteam.org).

Germaine extends his thanks for all the support he received from friends and family, from new friends he made along the way, and from Burma activists in many towns he visited. Four individuals deserve very special thanks:

  -Soe Naing, without whose company and assistance he may not have made it to Toronto;
  -Bob Blair who cheered the team, carried the gear and guided the ride through Southern Alberta;
  -Murray Clemens, whose company and assistance through the Province of Quebec must have cost him a small fortune but was immensely appreciated because it was especially timely and great fun; and
  -last but most certainly not least, his angel Adeline, who transported his gear up the first big hills on the Hope Princeton so he could cycle on a light bike, and who worried constantly but patiently tolerated and even supported a project she considered completely crazy.

The daily blogs follow in reverse chronological order. The blog on the top was posted only recently and it is the last. Earlier blogs are accessible by clicking on “Older Posts” at the bottom of this page. You can contact Germaine at info@justaid.ca.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reunion BlogWrap

It is time to put the final wrap on this account of my ride.

The class reunion was a fine event. It began with a reception and dinner at St. Mary’s Boat Club on the Northwest Arm on Friday evening, the 12th of August, followed by an outing to Lunenburg the next day, with a boat cruise for those with the stomach for it. Then, on the Saturday evening, a spectacular barbeque at the nearby country gentleman’s farm of one Mick Ryan. The photos will convey the cheerful enjoyment of the 45 or so classmates and partners.


Gerry Scott and Dave Wallace on the left. Peter Milliken and Tom Boyne on the right, with Tom's wife Deborah Conrad - also a lawyer but not a member of the class - between them.


Barrie Black surrounded as usual by attractive folks, in this case by the spouses of his classmates, from the left: Ginny Clark (Don); Sandra Ryan (Mick); and on his left, Judy Kline ('Blond' Bob Covert)


Don Clark and Jim Axler, with Jim's wife Christine

Due entirely to mode of travel to the event, the organizing committee invited me to address the dinner on Friday evening. I was honoured to be one of only three who were so invited. But I insisted on being the first to speak; I was not interested in following the acts of either Peter Milliken, who was a member of the class for one year, or the beloved Eric Rice.

I managed to get off a couple of lines but mostly I made a shameless pitch for Just Aid. My classmates responded generously. They were largely responsible for the final bump in donations which pushed the total raised over the $30,000 mark and, in fact, pretty close to $35,000. Heartfelt thanks to them all.

After my speech, the erstwhile speaker of the House did his thing. Most regrettably, Eric Rice was unable to attend. But the major attraction throughout the entire evening was the MC: Doug Moores, aka the Plumduff. He was predictably superb. Over the years, I think, we classmates have collectively elevated our skill at deciphering his enigmatic dialogue. Indeed, I am confident that most of us comprehended at least half of what he said. And we could not have loved his performance any more.


The one and only Doug Moores, MC Plumduff.

On the Saturday, knowing my stomach, I declined the risk of a boat ride and, instead, spent the afternoon with a man I revere: Veryan Haysom, of the class of '72. I had visited him and Val two days earlier at their charming and gracious home in Mahone Bay. It was truly wonderful to see them both and to spend a little more time with Veryan on the Saturday. I deeply regret my failure to take even a single photo.


Don Clark, Barrie Black, Mick Ryan, Don MacKimmie and Bob Wright. If you were to remove Don MacKimmie from this aggregation and insert 'Black' Bob Covert, Brian Crocker and Bruce Outhouse, you would have the reunion organizing committee: good work you guys!


Classmates all, from the left: Don MacKimmie, Pat Caldwell, Doug Moores, 'Blond' Bob Covert, Ken Delehanty, honourary class member Derek Wells, and Leroy Lenethen.

So, now, the end. Six weeks later and I’m still enjoying my recollections of the people and the sensations. These days I tend to capsulize it this way: no injuries, no breakdowns and certainly no regrets. I had to do it and it feels good to have done it. But, assuming I'm still around, I won't be cycling to the 50th anniversary reunion unless in the meantime I've moved to Sackville.


To prove the Codger actually participated: that's me on the left in black. Behind me, over my right shoulder, is prominent Nova Scotia lawyer Marjorie Hickey, not a member of the class but married to one Bob Wright. Class President Brian Crocker on the right, Bill Sutherland and Leroy Lenethen to his right. Leroy's Pat in the middle between Brian and me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The second day after - Halifax, officially


The official arrival event, on August 9th. I am welcomed to Halifax on the steps of the Dalhousie Law School, now known as the Schulich School of Law. This is an excellent photo, courtesy of Dalhousie University staff photographer Nick Pearce. Click on it for an enlargement.

So now the ride is formally over, although a final, reunion blog is still due.

To my great delight, in the center at the back on the photo: W. Andrew MacKay, Q.C. Andy was Dean when I started and later the President of Dalhousie. I had the opportunity to thank him personally for some profoundly good advice he gave me in 1970.

In the white jacket at the front of my bike: John A.L. Yogis, Q.C. John was a relatively new member of faculty when I started and he is still on faculty; he has ascended to the lofty status of Professor Emeritus. He was not the only representative of the law school to attend; I was honoured by the presence of Professor Steve Coughlan, Associate Dean Graduate Studies, Schulich School of Law, on behalf of the Dean. But John certainly provided continuity from the days when. He also kindly presented me with a card and produced some refreshment appropriate for the occasion.

To John's right: Tin Maung Htoo, the Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Burma. Tin came down from Ottawa for the event.

In the crowd, to my immense joy, several classmates: 'Black' Bob Covert, Bill Piercey, Barrie Black, Class of '71 President Brian Crocker, Don Clark, Bob Wright.

Also present, the parents of a friend at home: Sheila and Barry Moore. Sheila and Barry have already been extremely good to me here in Halifax, which is probably related to the quality of my friend Jason.

Others: Senator Terry Mercer; John McKay, MP; Howard Epstein, MLA, on behalf of the Premier; Lindsay Loomer, Communications Officer Schulich School of Law; Karen Kavanaugh, Director of Alumni Relations & Development Schulich School of Law; Professor Archie Kaiser, Schulich School of Law; and, Ian Robinson who worked tirelessly to put the event together. Present but inexplicably missing from the photo: Professor Moira McConnell, Schulich School of Law.


Andy MacKay, with John Yogis, Tin Maung Htoo and Brian Crocker, gives me his hand of welcome on the steps of the law school.

Here's the text of a written message from the Mayor, which Ian read to the gathering:

Greetings from the Mayor

On behalf of Halifax Regional Council, it gives me great pleasure to extend warm greetings and a special welcome to Rod Germaine and Soe Naing to Halifax Regional Municipality.

Your journey across the country to raise awareness of the situation in Burma and funds vital for refugee and migrant children on the Thai-Burma border is extraordinary. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge, with gratitude, Just Aid Foundation, for the compassion and assistance in improving the living conditions of the Burmese people.

You are to be commended for your commitment, dedication and perseverance in pursuit of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees.

On behalf of the citizens of Halifax Regional Municipality - Thank you for going the extra mile!

Respectfully, I remain
Peter Kelly, Mayor

Monday, August 8, 2011

The first day after - fun with numbers etc.

The number is 6,049 kms (3,759 miles). That is the distance cycled from the North Vancouver Seabus terminal to the Dalhousie Law School building.

There is another number to be explained: 6,288 kms (3,907 miles).

The odometer installed on my bike the day before I left home kept track of the total kms cycled. I re-set it every morning to measure the distance of the day's ride. But this did not interfere with the devise keeping the cumulative total of kms traveled on the bike from the beginning.

I never expected the odometer to continue to function the entire trip, on one battery and through the rain storms and many punishing bumps. Amazingly, it did; it functioned flawlessly. The cumulative total when I stopped yesterday was actually 6,290 kms, but there were 2 kms on it when Dan led Soe Naing and me out of the Seabus terminal on June 2nd.

The upshot is that since June 2nd, I have cycled a total of 239 kms (6,288 less 6,049) which were not en route and could not be claimed as kms traveled from point to point.

In other words, the total distance of unnecessary cycling was 239 kms. In the context of the 6,049 kms traveled, it does not seem a lot. And this, in turn, provides the context for all my whining about how much I detested doubling back to go to a restaurant at which we should have stopped earlier, or cycling around to pick up the next segment of a bike trail, or cycling off route to find a motel. It was, I must now admit, overdone.

For purposes of soliciting pledges, I estimated the total distance would be 5,800 to 5,900 kms. The estimate, it seems, was about 200 kms less than the final number. Again, in context, the margin of error is not that much.

But, to acknowledge the error and keep things simple, I intend to work with the nice round number of 6,000 when I prepare notices of the amounts due.

To return to the daily distance numbers, I have to give myself a little credit for remembering to re-set the odometer every morning. I can recall forgetting this ritual only once, and I came to my senses soon enough that morning to recognize we had cycled only a km. So I added that km at the end of the day. I also monitored the odometer every time we went off route, so I could deduct unnecessary cycling from the end-of-the-day total of the distance traveled. The point being, to put it bluntly, the number 6,049 is a reliable and accurate measure of the distance of the ride.

When it comes to giving credit, I have yet to mention the contribution of Fraser and the rest of the gang at Obsession Bikes in Lolo, North Vancouver. James worked with me one morning to make adjustments so my bike was a good fit. He also helped me equip the bike. But it is Fraser who gets the bulk of this overdue credit. He gave me some tutorials on bike repair and maintenance, a preparation to which I attribute the absence of any breakdowns during the entire trip. Fraser also gave me valuable advise on the equipment I needed, particularly the tires. Almost everybody I talk to is incredulous that I did not require new tires at some point. In fact, the same tires carried me all the way and the only issue was one slow leak (although I may now have another). And it was Fraser who installed the odometer so effectively a day or two before we started. So this is a huge shout out to Fraser. Hearty thanks to you, Fraser, for the excellent foundation for a successful tour.

"Lolo", I should perhaps add, stands for Lower Lonsdale, the area of North Vancouver closest to the Seabus terminal.

The official arrival event tomorrow evening may warrant one last blog.

I will also be given the opportunity to plug the cause at my class reunion dinner on Friday night.

Thanks everybody.
rg 8.8.11





Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day sixty-three - DONE!

A low grey sky hung over the last ride this morning. Contrary to my expectation, however, it did not rain. I had the old #1 highway pretty much to myself over the hump from Windsor to Sackville. I arrived much too early for my rendezvous with classmates at the law school so I took a long breakfast in Bedford.


Then a leisurely ride along the Bedford Highway, from which I took this shot of the working end of the Bedford Basin. The A. Murray MacKay toll bridge from Dartmouth to the Halifax north end is in the background, but you'll need to expand the photo to discern it.

Despite the dawdling, I arrived at the law school about an hour too soon. I had to go straight to the school to ensure I had an accurate measure of the distance of this final ride.


So I took this photo to confirm I'd reached my destination, and cycled around some old haunts for a while.


Sunday afternoon activities and responsibilities did not prevent these considerate and lovable classmates from greeting me on my return: Don Clark, Bob Wright and 'Black' Bob Covert. Bob (Wright's) Marjorie was there to take photos. Perhaps I will be able include one or two in a wrap-up blog in the next day or two.

A wrap-up or two is required. The total kms is about 200 more than my original estimate. Perhaps in a couple of days I will decide whether to apologize or, alternatively, assert the margin of error is not bad. I also need to revisit the matter of the total kms I put on my bike versus the total distance from the Seabus Terminal in North Vancouver to the Dalhousie Law School. And maybe the formal 'arrival event' on Tuesday will warrant some report. Meantime, the bottom line:

Today; 68 kms. Total distance of the trek: 6,049 kms. Total per km pledges now earned: $6,548.04.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day sixty-two - Windsor NS

Hold your collective breath faithful readers. The everyday riding will end tomorrow. The route is depicted on the last fold of my last map.

And I sincerely hope it is a ride like today's. Clear and sunny but not hot, barely warm enough for a tee shirt. Wind not a factor. Perfect weather in other words. Light traffic until after breakfast and then not a big deal either. A little hump or two from Wolfville to Windsor, but nothing serious. All in all, a good ride. With a superb interlude.


The cause of the interlude: Mike Forse, one of my favourite classmates. Mike practices in Kentville at which I arrived shortly after 9:00 am. I haven't talked to him since 1978, the last time I was in Halifax. Mike met me on short notice and bought me a great breakfast. I'm not referring to the food; it could have been good too but the opportunity to catch up was exceptional and excellent. We covered a lot of ground in less than two hours. I hope I persuaded him to attend the opening event of the reunion.


In Wolfville, I had a brief rest at the entrance to Acadia University where Jessie and Becky go to school.


Like the Acadia photo, the distant detail is lost. This shot was taken from a bridge just east of Wolfville, and it was supposed to portray a lovely farm on the hill as well as the muddy tidal banks of the stream below, feature of rivers and streams draining into the Bay of Fundy. Could be the shortcomings of the iPhone camera, and it could be the photographer.

Today: 84 kms. To date: 5,981 kms. Total per km pledges now almost entirely "earned": $6,474.43.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day sixty-one - Kingston NS

Up the wonderfully picturesque Annapolis Valley I continue to chug, undaunted by the headwind. My pace has slowed but my focus remains fixed on my destination. If all goes well, two more relatively light rides and I will be very close. But don't tell anyone because the arrival event is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:00 pm. That is when I will arrive, officially.

Today was Debbie and Bruce day. I've alluded to my immense good fortune to have so many talented and interesting friends. Here are two more.

They treated me to a fine dinner in Annapolis Royal last evening. Susan and Nat joined us to make the evening even more enjoyable. It was great to see Bruce looking well and behaving as feisty as ever. His 'never back down' strategy in any argument remains intact. Eric, who dubbed him "Lefty" many years ago in London, will be delighted to hear it.

A short ride this morning to Debbie and Bruce's farm in Paradise NS, where Bruce showed me around their 23 room, 9 bedroom farmhouse. Bruce then cooked me a delicious omelet breakfast. We caught up over that breakfast and, when Debbie had returned from an errand, they gave me tour of their spread. Over a hundred acres on both sides of Hwy 201, running up the South Mountain where Robbie's Rock is plainly visible from the front yard (Paul's Pond and Kendra's Cave are also on the property because the children are treated equitably in all respects). Robbie's Rock is notable because it provides a view of the valley as a reward for those who ascend to its location and it is kept clear for that reason.

The extent to which Debbie and Bruce construct additions and modifications is truly impressive. They've just finished building a second stable for the horses, closer to the house to make it easier in the winter. On my inspection, they do excellent work. Bruce, who has all the tools a handyman could want and more in his sprawling shop, is also busy with some renos in the kitchen.

The grounds are extensively landscaped, trees (including a majestic row of beautiful old elms - I think I recall that correctly - and fruit trees), bushes, flowers, fences (including incredible stone fencing along the highway), etc. Have I mentioned the swimming pool, tennis/basketball/road hockey court and horses?

Some views of D&B and their place:





It is comforting to know where your friends are when they come to mind. After way too many years, I now have that sense of Debbie and Bruce, along with a sense of awe at the work they've done and must continue to do to maintain and develop their home in the manner they wish. I am compelled to forgive you, Bruce, for all the puns involving "Paradise". You're entitled to them. May the both of you continue to be rewarded by the array of benefits and pleasures you derive from your amazing home. And I reiterate by sincere gratitude for your ample generosity last night and today. Best wishes always.

Here are two more residents of the Valley:

Mya and Aylissa were shouting "get your water and stuffies here" to every vehicle that passed them on the eastern outskirts Middleton. The "stuffies" consisted of stuffed teddy bears, their castoffs I suspect. I was their first customer of the day, gladly paying 25 cents for a glass of water even though the water bottles on my bike were far from empty. What else could I do?

Today: 58 kms. To date: 5,897 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $6,383.50.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day sixty - Annapolis Royal NS


Jim Colby introduced himself while we were waiting to board the Princess of Acadia in Saint John. He tours on his bicycle so he was interested in my trek. That makes him an exception lately. Very few in Quebec, Maine or New Brunswick have been interested, but then Jim is from Picton ON so he's not really an exception at all. Jim was on his way to Halifax to give some training in meditation. It was a pleasure to meet you, Jim; all the best.


The last of its kind.


Today's team, from the left: Kieren Whelan; you-know-who, Susan Tileston and Nat Tileston. Nat delivered Kieren and Susan to the Digby ferry terminal in his "truck" and then returned to Annapolis Royal, with my panniers and gear I'm pleased to say, where he unpacked his bike and rode down to meet us as we huffed up Hwy No. 1 against the wind. So all three rode with me, which was a tremendous compliment and sincerely appreciated.

Susan and Nat are familiar with the Thai-Burma border. They learned about my project from the Canadian Friends of Burma, and wanted to show their support. I was truly honoured to enjoy their company on the ride. Susan, Nat and Kieren are the seventh, eighth and ninth Just Riders, including Honourary Rider Murray.

More about Susan and Nat. They are avid cyclists, and so is Kieren which is why he joined us today. But Susan and Nat live in Mae Sot six months a year where they also cycle and administer a fascinating project called "MY STORY Photo Project Association", which is a registered Canadian charity.

Started in Mexico, the MSPPA has focused on the Thai-Burma border for several years. It gives digital cameras and photo training to small groups of refugees from Burma. Photographers themselves, Susan and Nat work with the Karen Youth Organization and other NGOs. By last year had trained 164 students and teacher/trainers, and mounted exhibits in Thailand, Canada, Mexico and the US. As its brochure says, the project "gives participants a means of creative expression and a new skill in an otherwise bleak environment". Check it out: www.msppa.org and mystoryphotoproject.blogspot.com.

My sincere congratulations to Susan and Nat for this innovative initiative, and of course for devising a sound reason to live in a pleasant climate every winter!

Today: 47 kms. To date: 5,839 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $6,320.72.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day fifty-nine - Saint John NB


I missed the "Welcome to New Brunswick" sign when I crossed the bridge from Calais, but this photo offers a welcome of a different sort. It is the mouth of the St. Croix River, from a riverside park in St. Stephen NB. The St. Croix is tidal and, if you can expand the photo, you'll see the tide is low. Which means the speck in the water, which is a boat, is anchored in salt water. The Atlantic! Hello there saltchuck - 'haven't seen ya since Port Moody BC.

I struggled down the coast from St. Stephen toward Saint John. Today it was the wind, which has diabolically been blowing in my face for three days. Not too much of a factor the last two days although I thought the elements were 'piling on' when a gust hit me as I crested a hill. But today it was a nuisance. Another one of these days when it felt like an uphill cycle all day.

The woman at the St. Stephen tourist information centre gave me good advice about using secondary roads whenever possible. I understood from our conversation that I would find lots of motels as I approached Saint John. If that is what she said, I should have asked for better directions. Perhaps I got caught on a new highway instead of the older coastal road but there were no motels. As a result, I cycled far further than I intended today. Into the wind, or did I mention that? The first motel was just inside the city limits of Saint John.

So I don't have far to go to catch the noon ferry to Digby tomorrow. Eight or nine kms maybe.

At one point during the day, I noticed some islands in the Bay of Fundy. They would be, roughly speaking, counterparts to the Gulf Islands. Which put me in mind of my family on one of those islands in the Salish Sea. My nephew Daren, his mate Maija and his mom Carol, who may or may not be there at the moment because she gets around. But at this time of year there is at least a chance she will be in residence, unlike the winter when my astute sister-in-law is always in sunnier climes. My love to you all. I trust all is well, but that goes without saying on Hornby Island doesn't it?

Day 57 mystery solved! The structure is a windmill, now obviously out of service. Hanne supplied proof in the form of a photo from her native Denmark. Irrefutable. How could I have failed to consider this possibility?

Today: 116 kms. To date: 5,792 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $6,269.84.

Day fifty-eight - Baileyville ME

[Day 58 was August 2nd. The blog was posted a day late due to the absence of any internet connection at my motel.]

My friend Dennis cycled from Vancouver to Halifax sometime in the 70s. He was accompanied by our mutual and missing friend, Peter. When they arrived in these parts, they did the sensible thing: they took the ferry from Bar Harbor ME to Yarmouth NS. That required a relatively short ride south from Bangor and, presto, they were delivered to NS. I would too if I could. But the ferry they took no longer operates. The nearest facsimile is the one I’m going to catch in a day or two in St. John. It lands me a little closer to Halifax but requires a much longer cycle to the ferry, including the ride I did today.

Hwy 9 from Bangor to Calais where I will cross into New Brunswick tomorrow is known as the Airline Road. Some say that is because it is the shortest distance from Calais to Bangor, but I have a different theory about the label. In any event, I always knew I would take this route. What I did not know or anticipate is how bereft it is of amenities.

Google told me it is 102 miles (164 kms) from Bangor to Calais. Then Google told me not to expect any motels along the route. So I had to gear up for my longest ride of the journey. Fortunately, it has a good shoulder or, as they say hereabouts, “emergency pull-out lane”. It also has an endless series of hills, some long, some steep and some both. It is to these hills that I attribute the “Airline” brand.

Nevertheless, my progress was good all morning. I had clocked 80 kms by 12:30; I was halfway there. Then the mist turned into rain and then the rain got heavy. I was soaked and cold by the time I heard the familiar sound of distant thunder, with nowhere to run or hide. Before too long I came to Crawford, home of the Hilltop Café & Deli, one of the very few restaurants on the Airline Road and the only business I could detect in all of Crawflord. Since there was no sign on the highway, I learned I was in Crawford from the locals in the Hilltop, and that name will explain why I was also out of breath when I arrived.

Contrary to the alarming prediction of the locals, the rain eventually let up and I got back on the road. But I abandoned my objective. Exhausted by the soaking, the chill and the Airline Road, I took refuge at the first motel I encountered. I’m told that I’m five miles short of Calais.


The view from one of my rest stops - before the rain.

Who said numbers don’t lie? It appears my estimate of the total kms I will travel was a little shy of accuracy. I suspect the calculations leading to the original estimate used the number of miles in Maine without adjustment. We’ll see, but I still have to cycle an indeterminate number of kms to St. John and the estimated 210 kms from Digby to Halifax. Btw, all of the figures are the distance from place to place, and exclude the additional kms I’ve cycled for one reason or another, like doubling back to a restaurant, cycling off route to a motel or to buy bananas. More about this in my final blog.

Today: 146 kms. To date: 5,676 kms. Total per km pledges “earned” to date: $6,144.27.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day fifty-seven - Bangor ME

Yesterday's omissions #1: I should have mentioned that yesterday's ride passed through the Sugarloaf area, featuring Sugarloaf Mountain which represents that it is the largest ski resort east of the Rockies.

#2: It is remarkable that, after cycling 56 of the previous 60 days, yesterday's ride was good fun. When the conditions are right, it is still an enjoyable activity. Even on day 56.

Today was productive if nothing else. The forecast thunder and lightning storms did not materialize. The scenery changed a little; a few farms emerged but not many. I was fascinated by a structure beside the road on one of them:


It is unclear to me whether it is intended to be a silo or a lighthouse, or a combination? If a lighthouse, the only relevant body of water is the Carrabassett River across the road. It is pretty but not really big enough to warrant the vigil.

There were hills, lots of them. Thinking again of Lynn and Michel's warning, they were not mountains. But even if not more than hills, some were reasonably long and a few were pretty steep. I had to work.

A curious thing happened to the road toward the end of the day. No complaint about the roads early on; the surface was generally smooth and the shoulder at least adequate. But as I approached Bangor, the road deteriorated. The last 35 or 40 kms were the worst I can remember. The asphalt was either in crumbles, or cracked and patched, pitted and potholed. It was so bad, I frequently opted to cycle on the unpaved shoulder. No fun in that.

Today: 135 kms. To date: 5,530 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,986.33.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day fifty-six - Kingfield ME


Not another one! Yes, and you knew it was coming. Not many more.

"The north woods of Maine" seems a familiar phrase. A partial line from a bad novel? A soundbite from a mediocre horror movie? Whatever. I had a delightful cycle in those woods this morning.

It was clear and sunny but cool this morning. No humidity. The road's shoulder was smooth and broad enough. Wind light but at my back. The traffic was also light and, in contrast with Quebec, the drivers were courteous. But most of all, the gradient was generally, mostly downhill, following a river valley for more than 80 kms.

No sign of the mountains Lynn and Michel, Deanna's friends in Sherbrooke, warned me about. Perhaps tomorrow on my way to Bangor. Or maybe they were talking about yesterday's sommets.


And little sign of any habitation for over 30 kms. Just a downhill road through the north woods of Maine. Sweet.

Murray delivered my gear to the Herbert Grand Hotel, a charming old structure built in 1916. It is being restored and they're pretty serious about an authentic look. The light bulbs in the lobby are Edison replicas. My bathroom is about the size of my room in last night's motel in Saint Augustin de Woburn.

Today: 83 kms. To date: 5,395 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,840.09.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day fifty-five - Saint-Augustin-de-Woburn QC

Unlike yesterday, there was little zigzagging today. I started heading a little to the north and then due east. Straight east. East, I believe, of the Eastern Townships, up and down some respectable hills or, if you prefer, sommets:


As I said, straight:


In fact, I did not stop at Saint-Augustin-de-Woburn. I continued the 4 kms to the Maine border for a photo op. Murray's photo will soon 'grace' the home page.

Speaking of Murray: the man is the definition of a truly supportive friend. He flew from Vancouver to Montreal, rented a car to join me and he's been my Quebec "concierge", by which I do not mean doorman - I mean incredibly helpful facilitator. He's transported my panniers and camping equipment, which became especially meaningful today as I grunted up some steep inclines. He's found our breakfast cafes, our motels and our beer suppliers. He's even talking about transporting my stuff to Kingfield ME where I will stop tomorrow before he heads back to Montreal for his flight home. I could not wish for a more helpful and supportive buddy.

And, for John McConchie, he also posed for a photograph beside a motor scooter belonging to a stranger. John has no idea why.

The man to whom I am immensely grateful and who is hereby awarded honourary Just Rider status:


Today: 88 kms. To date: 5,312 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,750.24.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day fifty-four - Lennoxville QC

The grey lines on my Shell station map have all been paved roads. Until today. Fortunately, a road crew explained it was gravel ahead before I got very far along. As a result, I was unable to follow the most direct roads; my progress east was a zigzag pattern: south, north, south and finally north again.

Beautiful countryside of rolling hills (not all of which were gentle), farms, old houses and attractive lakes. Stopped for breakfast in Magog and captured about half of the downtown high street with this:


I've been talking about turning south from Magog for so long that I forced myself to concentrate when I left. I went east and north to connect with a bike path I learned about from the tourist information centre in Magog. I was trying to decide whether to take the path from North Hatley or simply stay on Hwy 108 for a direct route to Lennoxville but in the end I had no choice. This spring's floods washed out a bridge on 108 so it is closed.

Then I missed the turnoff to the path and wasted a couple of kms cycling. Here's a fine piece of machinery on the farm where I had to turn around after missing the path:


When I found it, the path was not paved but superb nevertheless. Hard clay with a few small pebbles, and the ride was great. Another old railroad right-of-way judging by the grades. 'Looked like this:


Then I missed Lennoxville. I assumed I was to keep going after the path, but it seems the path ended on the north side of the town. I continued cycling, looking for Lennoxville and wound up in Sherbrooke. So I really cycled 88 kms today, but cannot claim to have traveled that far. I will depart from Lennoxville tomorrow, after Murray has kindly transported me back to about where I emerged from the path.

Today: 80 kms. To date: 5,224 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,654.98.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day fifty-three - Lac-Brome (Knowlton) QC

When I entered Quebec yesterday, I traveled east and north to rendezvous with Murray. But we agreed the traffic around Montreal was too much and a tad too aggressive. So today I turned east and south. My elaborate plan for escaping the heavy traffic was blown up when I missed the first turn and encountered a massive road construction project. But I managed to pick up the route and it was well signed so I avoided any wrong turns. Murray found a fine little restaurant for breakfast in Napierville and later met me with refreshments in Venise-en-Quebec on Lac Chaplain.

Tonight, we're in something of a resort on Lac-Brome.

Murray's given me some much needed research help with my route from here to Bangor Maine. As a result, I've changed my route. I'm going to go through Lennoxville and due east from there.

Some visual highlights of the day:


The centre span of a bridge over Riviere Richeliau turns to allow a boat to pass. This shot taken from the top of another bridge over the river.


You can take the man out of the office but... etc.: Murray logs some billable time after our picnic at Venise-en-Quebec.


One of many charming stone houses passed today, too many alongside unattractive recent development.

Today: 145 kms. To date: 5,144 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,568.38.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day fifty-two - Chateauguay QC

After passing under the "Bridge to USA", it was a pretty ride out of Cornwall. First, the bridge:


Then a very pleasant cycling path beside the river, like this:


The path continued about 15 kms and brought me to a satisfactory shoulder beside Hwy 2. It lasted about 30 of the 45 kms to Quebec where, of course, another photograph was required:


About the time I'd packed away the iPhone after taking this shot, I noticed a car backing out of a driveway a couple of houses away. I approached and asked the nice little old lady at the wheel for directions to the nearest Quebec tourist/travel information centre. There had to be one nearby; I'd just entered Quebec on a road parallel to the highway, which was the 401 in Ontario and #20 in Quebec. The nice lady wanted to know where I came from and she was thrilled with the story. She assured me the information centre was nearby but she said I had to get on the highway "for a little way".

So off I went. The #20 was very busy but the shoulder was at least 15 feet wide and I stayed on the right edge of it, a long way from the vehicles. Not far enough for the initially officious representative of the Highways Department. He pulled over ahead of me in his pickup and turned on numerous flashing lights. I told him I didn't want to be there but I was following directions to the travel information centre. He said he had no choice but to call the police and he did. We then waited about 20 minutes, his lights causing trucks and cars to squeeze into the inside lane in a manner that looked a little dangerous to me. Much more dangerous than allowing me to cycle to the next exit which could be seen about half a km down the road. I would have included a photo of the man with the biggest biceps I've ever seen, but the proposal provoked an aggressive "Non, don't ever do that" from him.

The police apparently had more important things to do (shine their cars?) and the fellow finally realized he wasn't going to be able to turn me in. But he insisted on putting my bike in his pickup and driving me down the road, past the next exit to the second one going east. Suddenly he was friendly, giving me directions to where he was certain I should go. He dropped me at a Shell station where I bought a map. I will never know if there is a tourist/travel information centre anywhere in the vicinity. I do know that I then went back to the parallel road on which I'd entered Quebec and cycled west to a spot opposite the place on the freeway where I'd been picked up. Only then did I turn around to continue my journey east. Never let it be said I did not cycle all the way.

The day got better. A few kms from Chateauguay, here was my buddy Murray to transport my panniers:


Murray had just arrived on a red-eye from Vancouver. I'm a lucky old codger. He's going to travel with me the next four days. My bike will be light even if I don't get the usual amount of sleep.

Today: 108 kms. To date: 4,999 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,411.42.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day fifty-one - Cornwall ON

Toronto revisited - here are two taken after the function last Friday evening:


Once again, thank you one and all.

And here are two photos intended to depict the fabled 1,000 Island Parkway and bike path. They don't do a good job of it, but they are all I have. I stood in the same place to take both, facing west. The first shows the parkway and, poorly, the bike path to the right. The second shows the parkway and, presumably, some of the 1,000 islands.


Note to Apple: the pixels are ample, but how about one wide angle and one telephoto option next time?

The bike path is impressively long, that much must be said. About 40 kms. But it is bumpy. You can avoid the serious bumps but not the general lumpiness. Lumpy is still uncomfortable and it makes it difficult to maintain speed. The trail is also on the wrong side of the road, often on a lower level so the road obscures the view. Not that you can afford to take you eye off the trail anyway. The relatively short portions which are newer and smoother were a good ride.

I had a new tube installed in my back wheel while I was enjoying breakfast in Brockville. I've been dealing with a slow leak since Little Falls MN, which has lately necessitated bumping the tire up once or twice a day. Turns out a staple had penetrated the almost indestructible Schwalbe tire and poked a little hole in the tube. The hole was obviously getting bigger. Incredibly, that was the only tire repair on the entire trip (he said, touching wood).

I happened to be resting near the strip mall in Iroquois when the sky turned ugly and the wind kicked up. I just made it to Mother Clucker's in the mall before a vicious downpour. When I'd finished my beer, the storm was gone. Meantime, I'd enjoyed my visit with some of the regulars:

Tammy, who was tending the bar at Mother Clucker's, and her customers: James, Stephanie and Bunny. Thanks for the warm Iroquois welcome friends.

Today: 147 kms. To date: 4,891 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,294.51 (in addition to the donations of $17,191.30 at this point).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day fifty - Gananoque ON

Last night: this trek has introduced me to many super people. The latest: brothers Jim and Sam Patel who operate a spic 'n span motel in Napanee called the Fox Motor Inn. Here it is in the rain this morning:


Jim and Sam were suitably impressed with my ride and its purpose. They gave me a good rate and considerately accommodated my needs. For example, when I said I wanted coffee earlier than they serve it in their common lounge, they delivered a coffee machine to my room. When I asked how far I'd have to go to get a banana, they gave me one. And they made a donation! There was more, for all of which I say serious thanks. Needless to say, if you're ever in Napanee, there's only one place to stay: the Fox Motor Inn!

I have had a long spell of dry weather. It came to an end this morning. Not only was it raining when I set out, thunder rolled in the distance. "The distance", I said to myself, "no problem". Within half an hour the lightning was flashing nearby. I really wanted to keep going, knowing I would get cold if I stopped. But I promised the one who is more important to me than anything in this world that I would get off the road if I encountered lightning. So I took cover in what I could find, which was the entrance to a dilapidated barn beside the road, where I amused myself with this admittedly mundane shot:


When the thunder receded, I returned to the road despite the rain. I took an unusually early breakfast in a place called Odessa. When I got to Kingston, the sun was out. But I wasted it. I was so engrossed in liaising with some folks in Ottawa that I failed to notice either a penitentiary or a university. All I saw was the extensive CFB Kingston which, it seems to me, has more than enough land to create at least one golf course and probably more. (No apology to Stephen for this casual regard for our military.)

The ride to Gananoque was uneventful. I was looking forward to the 1,000 Island Parkway bicycle path which starts in Gananoque. Nancy in Calgary emailed me about it, saying she was confident I'd done my research but wanted to be sure I did not miss it. This forced me to admit the source of my knowledge of this pathway was not good research. A wild man on an old bicycle told me the route to Quebec was "Hwy 2 all the way but make sure you take the great bicycle path from Gananoque to Brockville". I met him on Queen's Quay West in Toronto, where he cadged $5 from me.

So I approached the pathway with much anticipation. As I did, the skies opened up again. I took cover in a motel entrance and heard the distant roll of thunder. "Distant", I said to myself, "better not take any chances". A good decision; it has been pouring but, as a result, a regrettably short ride on the day.

Today: 72 kms. To date: 4,744 kms. The total per km pledges "earned" to date(re-adjusted after consultation with a kind soul and very generous supporter): $5,135.38.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day forty-nine - Napanee ON

The ride that might have been: the air was clean and fresh from rain overnight when I set out this morning. The sun was going to shine, and it did, but it was not terribly hot. The humidity was way down. And no more searching for the next section of the trail; I was committed to Hwy 2 East. The Sunday morning traffic was light and the shoulder pretty good most of the way. Only one snag: the wind. What a glorious ride it would have been if the wind had been with me.

Instead, it blew from the east with enough force to slow me down more than a little. No sustained, wind-assisted stretches of 30 km/hr or more today (Gawd, I love 'em). I had a few spurts of 30 km/hr going downhill, but mostly I was working to keep my speed at or near 20 km/hr. I struggled against it all morning. It laid down quite a bit in the afternoon; only coming up occasionally to remind me there was work to be done.

But the conditions were otherwise so good that it was a pretty good day. The highlight was to bump into the Lusk family when I stopped for lunch in Trenton. They were having a Sunday lunch and invited me to join them. We quickly established we had a common friend: John Brewin. They wouldn't hear of me contributing to the bill.


The Lusks beside my bike: Brian in the middle, with Joyce and their son, Wayne. Thanks so much for the enjoyable lunch my friends.

I noticed the Canadian Forces Base Trenton when I cycled by. I believe it was the commander of CFB Trenton who recently descended into inconceivable infamy.

Today: 108 kms. To date: 4,672 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,016.54.

Day forty-eight - Cobourg ON

[Day 48 was yesterday, July 23. The blog could not be posted until this morning because of the absence of any internet connection at my motel, which shall remain unidentified. I was lucky to get any room because all respectable motels in Cobourg were full.]

Last night’s function was a reception I suppose. The Toronto community of people from Burma and friends of Burma wanted to welcome us to their city, and celebrate our sustained effort to raise funds for a Burma-related cause. And welcome us they did.

The venue was the Motherhome Myanmar Cuisine restaurant at 1194 Bloor Street West. More than 25 attended for a delicious meal and to offer many kind, encouraging words. Soe Naing knew two or three of these people from his days on the border. I knew only Tin Maung Htoo who was down from Ottawa. So both of us met many interesting and supportive people.

Collectively, this little crowd blew me away with a practical gesture we did not expect. They paid for their dinner which was generously provided at a discount by Htay Tint who operates the restaurant with his wife, Thida Khine. Then the hat was passed around so to speak. Htay Tint made a donation which probably eliminated any profit on the evening. Others made very generous donations. No one wanted a tax receipt. The total donated? $1,072!

Not exactly the constituency I had in mind when I conceived of this ride as a fundraiser. The plan was to secure donations from affluent Canadians and Americans who might learn something of Burma from our ride. But these people know the worth of the Mae Tao Clinic and Back Pack Health Worker Team. We are genuinely touched by this donation, and extend our humble and sincere thanks to everyone, including: Aung Tin, Aung Moe, Si Thu, Lwan Thu, Myo Thein, Kyaw Zaw Wai, Maung, Mo, KoKo, Than Htike, Timothy Zaw Zaw, San San Mo, Cho, Coady, Maggie, Linda, San Lwin, Trev, Kristen, Kyaw Kyaw Han, Soe, Tim, Ye Yint, Louis Zaw Win, Karen Harrison, Tin Maung Htoo and Shah. I beg forgiveness for names omitted or misspelled.

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the event, although many were taken. Perhaps I will be able to include one in a future blog. But, before I forget, let me say that when in Toronto you should try to get to the Motherhome for a meal. The most clever of the guests last night ordered Mohinga and it looked great. You can enjoy a real taste of Burma at the Motherhome.

Mention was made during the evening that some wanted to ride with me today. When I said that anyone at the Kingston Road and Lawrence in Scarborough at 7:00 am would be welcome, I expected that would be the end of it. But no, when I returned to my room with a coffee at 6:45 this morning, there was Si Thu in the parking lot, delivering his friend, Kyaw Win and bike. Kyaw Win could not attend last night but his wife and daughter, KoKo and Darlene, did.

So I had company for most of the day today and Kyaw Win performed incredibly well for a guy who has not been riding for hours every day and whose mountain bike is not built for the road. He was assisted by our start on the Waterfront Trail, which is scenic but slow.

The prettiest little lakeside village we encountered was Pickering Beach, situated in the shadow of the Pickering Nuclear Power plant. It was when we cycled the trail around the plant that we started looking for straighter routes. But we sometimes returned to the trail when the alternative straight route was too far to the north.

The signing of the Trail is sometimes confusing or absent. That and a wrong assumption on my part toward the end of the day resulted in way too many infernal backtrack kms. But the Lakeshore Road into Port Hope made up for all of the day’s frustrations. A rolling country road with Lake Ontario views, cutting through cultivated fields and past country estates. Kyaw Win struggled a little on this stretch but he’d pedaled 100 kms when Si Thu, accompanied by KoKo and Darlene, picked him up in Port Hope.


The team today. Kyaw Win is the sixth Just Rider in addition to Soe Naing and I. Thanks so much for honouring our ride, Kway Win, and well done!


Here’s a view as we approached Port Hope, Lake Ontario in the distance.

Today: 107 kms. To date: 4,564 kms. After adjustments necessitated by the absence of Soe Naing, the total per km pledges “earned” to date: $4,910.13.