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.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day thirty-four - Saint Paul MN

About the Pizza Ranch: those of you familiar with it, please enjoy another laugh at my expense and skip to the next paragraph. I hope some will continue to read; I'd hate to be the last to know that Pizza Ranch is, in fact, an extensive chain of restaurants with franchises throughout the Midwest. I found the operational concept rather astonishing. One price for each adult, paid upfront before you are seated: $10.25. Once you're at your table, you are free to eat as much as you want. There's a salad bar, a pizza table, a deep fried table (chicken and other unidentifiable stuff) and a desert table where candied pastries have icing. You can also drink as much soft drinks or coffee as you want. No alcohol. The staff seats the customers, replenishes the food and clean tables. You can imagine what a chaotic zoo the place is. A multitude of aggressive kids and only slightly more courteous adults. And you can also imagine the quality of the pizzas. A thought: to offset the soaring costs of the health care system, a tax on everyone who patronizes the Pizza Ranch. We could call it the OD Tax, for Obesity/Diabetes of course.

The course we followed into Minneapolis was ideal, except for the headwind we had to fight. As we approached, we encountered the wonderfully extensive bike path system and helpful local cyclists who directed us downtown with a minimum of fuss. The only trouble was that we somehow managed to select a 60 km route without one restaurant. Can't be many such 60 kms stretches so close to a big city in America. So we dined at Key's on 9th in downtown Minny, surrounded by some impressively large office buildings.

We encountered Kevin on Washington Ave S when we started to make our way to Saint Paul. He guided us over the Mississippi on a former rail crossing now restricted to bikes and pedestrians, showed us the U of Minnesota campus including the Frank Gehry building which presaged his Balboa triumph, bought me a beer and directed us to ride to Saint Paul on Summit Avenue. It was a generous gift of local info. I grumbled that Summit Avenue was off our optimum (shortest) route, but he was right: it is certainly the longest aggregation of superb Victorian homes I've ever seen. And the street led us to the Cathedral of St. Paul, as well as the State Capitol building. By which time we'd had enough, and found a motel on the eastern skirts of Saint Paul. Early tomorrow: Wisconsin.


On the river crossing in Minneapolis, St. Anthony Falls in the background.


Kevin is very knowledgeable about and passionately proud of his home cities and state. We learned much from him. But, Kevin, as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on the matter of whether Summit Avenue is the most beautiful street in America.


The Cathedral of St. Paul in Saint Paul


The State Capitol building. As you probably know, the Minnesota state government has been "shut down" for several days due to a budget standoff. A nice building in which to do nothing.

Today: 92 kms. To date: 3,184 kms. Total per km pledges "earned" to date: $3,449.93.

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