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.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day eighteen - Tompkins SK

First up, our sincere thanks to Elizabeth and Alan for their warm and rejuvenating hospitality in Medicine Hat. It was so comprehensive that it included valuable consultation with regard to our planned route and preliminary research on our new route.

New route? Yes. When I laid out our route from Medicine Hat to Winnipeg in February, it seemed sensible to avoid the Trans Canada. The traffic, the huge rigs: who needs it? So I charted a course south of Medicine Hat and south of Hwy No. 1, along secondary highways (515 in AB, 724 in SK and 13 in MB) through a succession of small prairie hamlets. I vetted it with Patrick, the man from Melfort SK, and was satisfied. But then I read about small hamlets in SK emptying out and virtually closing down. Our experience on No. 3 from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat reinforced my apprehensions. Though the names were intriguing – Coaldale, Barnwell, Purple Springs, Grassy Lake, Bow Island, Seven Persons, etc. – tourist amenities were either limited or nil. The clincher was the flooding in SE SK. The amenities we need should be more common on the Trans Canada, the road should be more reliable if the flooding continues and the shoulders should be more dependable. So we’re on No. 1 from here to Winnipeg.

Today’s ride re-imposed the reality of our panniers and camping gear. But another day with the wind behind us precludes any winging about the weight of the bikes or a few drops of rain. And a few drops was all, a little before breakfast and then a little at the end of the day. Traffic not a problem, although it was of course Sunday. Tomorrow may be different. Along the way, we scored another jurisdiction. We are now in the Province of Saskatchewan!



Satisfying our food and shelter needs proved a little challenging, as if to confirm the wisdom of our route change. The first option for breakfast was Walsh, 46 kms from Medicine Hat. But the Trailside, the only restaurant in Walsh, is closed on weekends, and the next restaurant another 40 kms down the road. At that point, Geoff Shoesmith, the Trailside’s proprietor, took pity on us. He opened his restaurant and cooked us a delicious breakfast. Thank you Geoff.

The next issue presented itself 42 kms later, at the intersection of the road to Maple Creek. Lots of facilities in Maple Creek for us, but it is 8 to 10 kms off the highway, meaning we’d have to bicycle as much as 20 unnecessary kms. No way. The motel at the intersection looked completely uninhabitable. The next hotel, we were told, is 40 kms down the road but there is no restaurant in Tompkins. Solution: we get the nearby restaurant to pack a sandwich for us and set out for Tompkins. It probably wouldn’t have made any difference but Tompkins was another 50 kms down the road, not 40. We’re tired.

If we have this trouble on Hwy No. 1, how would we have fared on 515/724?


The Tompkins Hotel: it is incredible what you can get when you’re prepared to pay, in this instance a room for $20. They are well worth it too. Nevertheless, we found a gem in the bar. Dorothy Hundt was watching Rory wrap up his US Open when we entered, which was the first indication of her fine character. She was friendly and interested. She prescribed and then gave me two Advils. When she heard about our mission, she refused any gratuity and donated $20 to the cause!

Today: 139 kms. To date: 1,507 kms. Total “earned” pledges at $1.0325 per km: $1,555.98.

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