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, July 11, 2011

Day thirty-six - Neillsville WI

Some days are better than others. And some days are hard to beat, which is how I would describe today. The heat and humidity scaled back a notch. Still very sticky by Vancouver standards, but we noticed the difference.

If you read his comments yesterday, you'll know that Kevin, our friend from the Twin Cities, urged us to turn due south at Elk Mound and then due east when we got to US Hwy 10 at Mondovi. Given my rant about the bumpy Hwy 12 shoulder yesterday, Kevin was proposing relief. But I think his primary concern was to give us further guidance. Hwy 12, as he pointed out, heads southeast around the bottom of Lake Michigan, and he knows we're going more east and less south to Manitowoc, to catch a ferry. He needn't have worried. We've had our eye on Hwy 10 since we arrived in WI. When I mentioned Hwy 12 yesterday, I should have said we planned to take it only as far as Hwy 10. I guess I did not expect anyone would notice. Obviously, I did not anticipate Kevin's knowledgeable scrutiny. [Hey Kevin, how about an email address? Send it to info@justaid.ca.]

So, at about 8:00 am this morning, we had to decide whether to take Kevin's advice. Among the reasons we did not is that the shoulder on Hwy 12 improved very considerably; the bumps ended at Menomonie. Second, going due south and then due east would have added a kilometer or two to our day; Hwy 12 angles toward Hwy 10 in a southeasterly direction. Third, the wind was blowing from the west; it would have been a shame to waste it by heading due south.

As a result, we connected with Hwy 10 in Fairchild, about 35 miles east of Mondovi. So we know not what Kevin meant by the "Driftless Area" of WI. But we are content with our choice of route. The wind was with us all the way. We flew, getting into Neillsville at 3:00 pm.

Just east of Elk Mound, with almost no traffic on the road,a doe White-tailed deer and two fawns bounded across the road just in front of us. They disappeared into a field of reasonably high corn, except for the tails popping up with each leap. And we encountered many Amish people in horse-drawn carts and three sitting on a fence.



Of course the County H road from Elk Mound to Mondovi might have been equally interesting, we don't know. But we do know that if we had taken it, we would not have had breakfast at the Altoona Family Restaurant a little south of Eau Claire. The food was great but the people were better. The very pleasant lady who seemed to be presiding over the serving staff asked about our trek. She interrupted our reply to ask if we were raising money. A few minutes after our explanation, our server advised that our bill was "covered" by the restaurant. And shortly after that, an envelope containing a 10 dollar donation arrived at our table. We expressed our thanks to the staff but, regrettably, the woman who we suspect was responsible for the surprising and generous treatment we received had left. Outside the restaurant, two local men informed us the proprietors of the Altoona Family Restaurant give generously in their community. No surprise to us. We record our heartfelt thanks. We left a Just Aid card with the website address but the probability that they will find this blog? Slim and none, my definition of "slim" being about five per cent.


Here's a look at the best, repeat the best, restaurant we've experienced in 36 days on the road: the Altoona Family Restaurant. To repay the kindness we received, all I can do is urge you, if you're ever in the neighbourhood, to stop in and spend some of your savings.

US Hwy 10, when we got there, had no better shoulder than US Hwy 12. And the last 30 or so kms from Fairchild were unlike any we've seen in WI: bush, no cultivation and no habitation, nothing but bush. Maybe that's why we arrived just in time to take the last room at the Super 8. Apparently there's a farmers' event in the next town of Marshfield and the attendees are desperate for a room.

Today: 129 kms. To date: 3,413 kms. Total per km pledges now "earned": $3,694.57.

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