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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day twenty-seven - Winnipeg


The Sunset, where we stayed last night and the best little motel west of Winnipeg. The proprietors are a couple from Seoul. He said he likes the peace and quiet. In this regard, geography is probably not adequate to measure the distance from Seoul to Portage la Prairie.


Main Street! Although the Trans Canada becomes Portage Avenue, the real Portage and Main is about 35 kms east of this intersection. Besides, it appears the comedians who put up this sign referred to the TCH as "Main Street".

A tediously straight road across dead flat terrain. A mild southeasterly to slow us down, make us work for it. Otherwise the ride today was ok. The sun shone. By noon we were in the Peg, the hometown of H. Allan, Gilbert, Fab George and Izzy, to name but a few of the many from these parts.

Soe Naing was on his way to the airport within 30 minutes, going home to spend a few days with his Than Than and Juno. The bikes are tucked away in the Corydon Cycle & Repair shop for a tune-up. My refuge in Winnipeg is the huge River Heights home of our dear friends: My, Mohammad, Sahand & Hanaa. My Adeline and Teresa arrive tomorrow.

The Just Ride 2011 is on pause until Sunday, the 3d.

Today: 87 kms. To date: 2,410 kms. Total "earned" per km pledges: $2,608.83.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day twenty-six - Portage la Prairie

Last night: the bright lights of Brandon will have to wait for our next visit, if there is one. Without a local guide, we had neither the energy nor the inclination to explore.

Today: enough of the Weather Channel morning fix! What a misallocation of resources it is. Its forecasts are utterly hopeless. Can we remember a single day the forecast was accurate? No. Instead of tuning in as part of our morning preparations, we could be doing something productive. Like watching cartoons.

This morning the weather channel forecast rain in the morning. Nope.

It forecast warm temperatures. Nope.

Most propitiously, it forecast northwest winds. Just what we needed for a reasonably long haul. And, for twenty minutes or so, that is what we got. Long enough to convince us that we'd have an easy ride to Portage la Prairie.

Then it turned into a north wind and, if anything, northeast wind. And it blew strong all day, mostly across our course but, when the road turned northeast, right into our faces. Not a gut-buster headwind most of the time but always a hindrance, a severe annoyance. We went from doing 30 kms/hr or more with a modicum of effort, to maintaining a 20km/hr pace with hard work and sometimes struggling to do more than 15 km/hr.

So it turned into a hard day. Five hours and forty minutes on the pedals to cover only 119 kms. But we made it and Soe Naing has booked a flight home tomorrow to celebrate his anniversary with Than Than and Juno. We have to get him to the Winnipeg airport by 1:30 at the latest. Subject to the winds, it shouldn't be a problem. Winnipeg is only 75 kms away.

Back to today's ride, there were two stretches without a paved shoulder. One was 12 or 14 kms long in the middle of the day, and the second a shorter distance as we approached Portage. Yoohoo Manitoba! Yoohoo Stephen! The signs say this is the Trans Canada Highway, for heaven's sake.

Light traffic on the first stretch allowed us to ride on the asphalt until we saw something coming. Heavy traffic on the second precluded any such approach. So we cycled in the gravel, with a grumble for each pedal stroke. What a pain.


The usual configuration for a five-minute break. We had a lot of them today.

Because I managed to misread the map, we passed up our only option for a cooked breakfast near Carberry. Then we had to take refuge in the village of Sydney a few kms later when the sky looked especially ominous. We found the Sydney General Store, which pretty much constitutes the village. No food was being served, but there was a room with a few tables where the local seniors, mostly men, gather for coffee. We've seen this type of social event in nearly every restaurant where we've had breakfast. A lot of men of a certain age sitting around enjoying coffee and a few laughs with their mates. Invariably, they've been curious and friendly. Today's group was especially interested and charming. 'Wish I'd taken a photo.

Today: 119 kms. To date: 2,323 kms. Total "earned" pledges @ $1.0825/km: $2,514.65.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day twenty-five - Brandon

Another good day.

The thunder storm didn't happen overnight. We did hear a storm of thumping base and bad music from the bar of the Elkhorn Motor Hotel until well into the morning hours, as the local kids celebrated their grad. And there was the prolonged din of several CPR trains thundering past our room. But I'm sure I would have been able to distinguish the sound of a thunder storm.

Nor was there any evidence of a thunder storm when we set out an hour earlier in the dawn than previously, it being our first morning on Central Time. In fact, the morning was brilliant, giving us pause to wonder if tomorrow had actually arrived. But it clouded over when we were having breakfast and posting yesterday's blog in Virden. It looked threatening enough to warrant the tiresome preparations for rain.

But we stayed dry and enjoyed a good ride to the northern skirts of Brandon, where we have found an above average cheap motel leaving us to figure out how to get downtown without having to cycle there and back.

We noticed what could have been modest hills as we approached Brandon. And we dipped into a couple of river valleys which required an uphill exit. A welcome change after the endless flatland for the last many days. One of the river valleys was the Assiniboine where highway exits were blocked and one washout could be seen below and beside the highway.

It will be a long day tomorrow to get to Portage La Prairie and then a short ride into Winnipeg on Tuesday. Subject to reasonably favourable weather of course.

Today: 106 kms. To date: 2,204 kms. Total "earned" pledges: $2,385.83 (in addition to donations quantified at https://donationrelayonline.com/JustAid/JustRide2011).

Day twenty-four - Elkhorn MB

The Weather Channel phenomenon - the weather is important to us. We have only a vague idea of what's going on in the world but we're on top of weather forecasts. Every morning we've been in Saskatchewan, the forecast has been the same: very problematic today for one reason or another but good weather starting tomorrow, which we have construed as another lesson that tomorrow never comes. And so it was today. The Weather Channel said rain stating in the mid-morning in Broadview and a threat of severe thunder storms in southern Manitoba, which was precisely our destination.

So we packed for rain and set out early with a grim resignation. But it never happened. High clouds. Not too hot but a lot of sunshine. The air was still all morning; nary a zephyr. A few breezes in the afternoon; no big deal. Expecting the predicted precip, we pedaled on to take advantage of the conditions while we could. Breakfast after 72 kms in Moosomin, where we hoped to meet Kevin Weedmark, who is the local newspaper. We couldn't connect with him so back on the bikes to beat the thunder storm to Manitoba. No problem. The locals here in Elkhorn say the storm is coming tonight. Perhaps it will be gone by the morning. Could we be so lucky?

All in all, a fine ride. What a difference a day makes, to coin a phrase. We're within striking distance of Winnipeg and, weather permitting, we'll have no trouble making our rendezvous with Adeline and Teresa on Wednesday.


One quarter of the downtown of Moosomin SK, including the office of the World-Spectator. It is the all-white building.


The scenery didn't change.

More information from a friendly local: for the first time in over fifty years, no crops have been seeded by the farmers around Elkhorn. The spring was simply too wet and it is now too late because the frost comes as early as mid to late August. Very sad.

The missed meeting with Mr. Weedmark bears comment. He is the Editor and Publisher of the Moosomin World-Spectator - what a great name for a newspaper! He's also a former student of Patricia Elliot at the U of Regina. Patrica had told him we were coming and he was willing to do a story. But we gave him such short notice there was never really a chance for us to meet. Complicated by the fact that today is Saturday, the real problem is we just never know how far we're going to get when we set out in the morning. The last three days are illustrative. First, the flooded highway slowed us down. Second, yesterday's adverse conditions wore us out prematurely. Then, today, brilliant conditions and a great ride.

We had the opportunity to spend the afternoon in Moosomin waiting for Kevin to finish his Saturday agenda. His invitation to chill at his place promised an enjoyable rest. But the conditions were right for a ride and we couldn't waste them. We got 38 kms closer to Winnipeg (and Halifax), which may prove valuable at some point down the road.

In sum, to all those calling for us to clarify our itinerary in advance, we have to say we're doing the best we can. We want more publicity (and the extra funds it may generate) and we understand that entails advance appointments with any media people we might be able to interest in our mission. But we have a destination to reach within a limited time. In order to make advance commitments, we would need to plan more time in our schedule for unexpected delays. If it turned out we did not need the time, we'd be waiting for an appointment instead of bicycling. In other words, we would have to allow more time in the itinerary, more than we have.

PS on Sunday, the 26th: communication is another problem, as the inadequate wifi of the Elkhorn Motor Hotel confirmed last night. After supporting a couple of emails, it shut down on us. Another form of unexpected delay.

Today: 110 kms. To date: 2,098 kms. Total "earned" pledges at $1.0825 / km: $2,271.09 (in addition to donations).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day twenty-three - Broadview SK

It did not rain last night. That part of the plan worked. We got by the flooded section of the TCH; only the westbound lanes remained under water. So that part of the plan also worked. Too bad we forgot to plan some decent weather.

Rain, of course. But, worse, that crosswind/headwind from the day before was blowing much stronger. As much as a tailwind enhances the joy of cycling, a headwind takes all the fun right out of it. You have two options. You can gear way down, try to relax and ignore the snail's pace at which you are 'progressing'. Or, you can gear down a few rings and dig deeper, pushing hard as long as you can and then take a rest. Either way, it is far too difficult to resemble anything called fun.

There was only another 25 kms or so to Whitewood when we stopped at Broadview. Whitewood has superior facilities according to the folks back in Grenfell where we had breakfast, and we had intended to get at least as far as Whitewood when we started. But we just didn't have it in us.


Just east of Sintaluta SK: the eastbound lanes - our road - are in the foreground. What you don't see beyond are the westbound lanes, still under a foot or two of water. I should have waited and snapped a truck heading west and throwing up a lot of water. But it was raining and I wanted to get a move on.

Today: 81 kms. To date: 1,988 kms. Total "earned" pledges: $2,152.01.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day twenty-two - Indian Head SK

Soe Naing and I were truly looked after yesterday in Regina. The material support: the Saskatchewan Friends of Burma booked us each a convenient motel room and then took us downtown for dinner at the Siam Restaurant. But it was much more than a delicious meal. We enjoyed the opportunity to network with Patricia Elliott of the U of Regina School of Journalism and the Sask FOB, Gord Barnes of Amnesty International Saskatchewan and Rachel who busks and whose ESL teaching has put her in touch with the reasonably large community of Karen refugees now settled in Regina. Patricia has written a biography of the wife of the first President of Burma whose daughter-in-law, Nu Nu, is well known and loved by those of us in the Pacific Burma Roundtable. Nu Nu and Patricia are good friends. The book is called "The White Umbrella".

Patricia then gave us a little tour of Regina, and its pervasive urban park which includes the pretty Wascana Lake. Very attractive. It is tempting to say “who knew?” but that would be too cute. For one thing, all of Regina knows. So must others even if we didn't.

We are immensely grateful to our hosts in Regina.

This morning’s ride was very pleasant despite being slowed by a bit of a headwind across our path. A second day of uninterrupted sunshine! Besides that, the shoulders were broad and smooth until the last few kms. A wonderful breakfast in the roadside “Diner” at Balgonie, featuring potato pancakes served with sour cream and green onions!

Balgonie is where traffic heading east was being diverted and the Trans Canada was eerily quiet for the 44 kms from there to Indian Head. The detour was all the way to Yorkton, a two hour drive at the least, meaning an extra two day ride for us. Not a chance. We persuaded the nice gentlemen from Sask Highways that we would prefer to come to Indian Head and wait for the floods to recede. The plan is no rain tonight and we ford any water on the road to Broadview or maybe even Moosomin tomorrow.

One other adventure to report. We’d just checked into the local motel when I captured a creature crawling on me. We left immediately, informing the proprietor that we do not care to cohabit with bedbugs. We’d left the specimen under a glass and the proprietor tracked us down to prove it was a wood tick, not a bedbug. My first reaction was that I don’t care to spend the night with a tick either, but I should be apologizing because I could have brought the tick into the room. In any event, we are now ensconced in a fine rustic cabin at the KOA.

Indian Head, incidentally, is where they film a television show called "Little Mosque on the Prairies". I've never watched it.


Our abode in Indian Head.


This is it, Murray. Ever since you commented (Day twenty) that you thought you should move to Saskatchewan I have been keeping my eyes open and this looks like the perfect place. I’m not sure what that green stuff is between the sign and the buildings in the distance but I’m confident the field could be converted into an entirely satisfactory golf course. It is located on high ground between Balgonie and McLean so even in the time of the flooding - i.e., now - you won’t have to cope with much water hazard, whether intended or not.

Today: 75 kms. To date: 1,907 kms. Total “earned” pledges at $1.0825 / km: $2,064.33 (in addition to donations)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day twenty-one - Regina

Ok, how many knew that Gainer the Gopher is the mascot of the Saskatchewan Roughriders? Me neither. I had a suspicion; the clue was the Roughie flag draped over the roadside sign we saw yesterday about Gainer's home. I confirmed it in the Heritage Inn lounge last night.


An industrial site north of the highway, beyond waterlogged fields.

And now here we are, in Regina, the home of Canada's most revered football team. How revered? There was another sign more than 40 kms before we got here featuring a huge photo of Ron Lancaster dropping back to pass. Under the photo, a reference to his passing record, explaining the total yards he passed as a Roughie was the equivalent to the distance from the sign to Mosaic Stadium where the Rroughies play. As a Leos (& Seahawks & 49rs) fan, I won't be going out of my way to see Mosaic.

Fog. We can't tell you what the landscape out of Moose Jaw looks like, although we suspect it is not unlike either yesterday's scenery or what emerged from the gloom when the fog lifted at about 8:30. The best that can be said of the ride this morning is that it was short. Another granola bar breakfast. And, in addition to the fog, there were the bumps. Every few seconds a thump, as you cross a repaired crack in the road. But, it seems less attention is paid to the shoulders; the cracks often remain on the surface and the thumps are frequently a solid little jolt. It is not easy to relax when you're preparing for the next jolt. And when you take a peek at what's ahead, all you see is a straight road. Dead straight. Straight to the horizon, cutting through the soggy fields, many of them submerged in broad puddles reflecting Saskatchewan's "friendly skies".

We're taking the afternoon off. We need to catch up with some accounting of donations we've collected and we need a rest. We also need to ascertain what lies ahead for us. If the fields are soggy hereabouts, it is nothing compared to the flooding in the southeast of the Province. There are rumours that the Trans Canada Hwy is under water in places between here and the Manitoba border. The last thing we need is a long detour.


The all-too-common sign supplement (in brown).

Emanuel, the young man I met on the Sunday Summit on day 4, took the Okanagan and Rogers Pass route to Calgary, where he rested for 2 or 3 days. He's on his way home to Montreal so he's taking Hwy # 1 all the way, and we've seen him three or four times the last couple of days.

Today: 74 kms. To date: 1,832 kms. Total "earned" pledges to date: $1,983.14.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day twenty - Moose Jaw

Lone Eagle footnote - It turns out there was a screened window. I had blogged before checking the greasy plastic curtain across from the greasy plastic shower curtain. Apology duly tendered.

Speaking of screens, today was another conserve-the-sunscreen day. No rain most of the day but no sun. We knew we had 125 or so kms to cover so we didn't take a good rest until after 10:00 am. In a little over 3 hours, we'd done about 70 kms and we were feeling fine. Stopped at the side of the road near Parkbeg to have breakfast, consisting of granola bars. They were the best provisions we could find in Herbert to sustain us through another stretch of restaurant-free Trans Canada Highway.


The view from a former roadside attraction at Parkbeg SK, home of Gainer the Gopher. I kid you not.

A few minutes after getting back on the road, the skies opened up and we were drenched in a matter of seconds. Nowhere to hide; on we pedaled. When it finally petered out about 15 minutes later, the wind had turned on us. Not terribly strong but brisk and directly against us. Between drying out and the headwind, the last 45 or 50 kms today were a very tough slog. Now I know what Dennis was talking about.


A prairie vista.

We arrived in Moose Jaw completely exhausted and about a couple of hours later than we would have if the elements had not conspired. But not too late to take advantage of Tina's latest bulletin on message therapy services. Thanks Tina!

A big thanks to Hanne for upping the pledge rate, and for the philosophical words of encouragement.

Today: 126 kms. To date: 1,758 kms. Total "earned" pledges @ $1.0825 per km: $1,903.04.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day nineteen - Herbert SK

True to form, Dorothy brewed us an early coffee in the bar and scrounged 2 bananas from her sister. The ritual was therefore unbroken, despite the fact the grocery store in Tompkins is closed on Sundays and Mondays (and doesn't look like it carries bananas anyway). We've started every day with one or, more often, two bananas. The potassium prevents cramps, don't you know.

Clear skies! An early breakfast in Gull Lake because, of course, there is nothing between there and Swift Current.

Then to McDonald's in Swift Current to catch up with the blog. We'd been thinking about a little rest in Fast Creek but, again, the paucity of facilities down the road prevented it. Moose Jaw is 174 kms away, too much for one day. The only place with a motel and a restaurant between Swift Current and Moose Jaw is Herbert, another 45 kms down the road from Swift Current. Off we went, with no expectation of a wifi tonight.

Wrong again. After a pleasant cycle in the sunshine, we learn that the Lone Eagle Motel in Herbert does indeed have a wifi. The room has a great shower. And the proprietors are interesting. They found time to register us and give us a key while shearing their alpacas. I kid you not. But none of the above justifies the hefty increase in tariff over last night's charmer in Tompkins. What the room here at the Lone Eagle does not have is a door or a window with a screen. No fresh air without squadrons of mosquitoes and other flying creatures. Most unsatisfactory. Worse, the town doesn't have a drink; it's dry. Poor Herbert.

Today: 125 kms. To date: 1632 kms. Total "earned" pledges to date: $1,685.04.

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.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day seventeen - Medicine Hat

Bob's an early riser. So are we, but apparently not so early, as we learned when we opened the motel room door this morning. There he was, across the parking lot, practicing on his "lesser" Weissenborn. In case it may be necessary, a Weissenborn is an acoustic steel guitar and he has two, the other being of superior quality. Bob, who often plays with Andrea House in Edmonton, is preparing for a gig on Sunday, June 26. He will appear in Jeff Bradshaw's annual Canadian Steel Guitar Show in Caroline, AB. Too bad we can't take it in.


The Man and his Weissenborn

When we were ready for the road, Bob loaded all of our gear into his slick, black SUV and stayed behind to practice some more. Whether he was practicing law or on the Weissenborn, I'm not sure.

With no freight at all, our bikes felt weightless and the ride was "the best ever", as Soe Naing described it. After 39 minutes, we stopped for the first time; we'd travelled 20.5 kms. Yes, of course there was a tailwind. The nearest prospect for breakfast was 57 kms from Taber, in Bow Island. We were there in two hours.

Bob meanwhile had overtaken us and scouted the only restaurant in town. He parked, pulled his bike out and joined the Just Rider crew as we pulled up at the Rolling Pin, a bakery and restaurant with a distinctly Mennonite character and delicious food.

So Bob is the fifth Just Rider. To record the event, we asked a passing couple if one of them would take the mandatory photograph. The gent obliged and asked about our trek. When we explained, Kent Brown pulled $40 from his pocket and made a donation. The village of Bow Island proved to be a surprisingly positive experience on the road to Halifax.


Today's team: Bob, Soe Naing and old what's-his-name

Another 60 kms to Medicine Hat and more to the home of Elizabeth and Alan, Bob's sister and brother-in-law. Elizabeth and Alan have generously offered us shelter, a shower, a washing machine and dinner! We are spoiled!

Serious thanks to Eric and the CEP, Local 467 for the major boosts to the per km pledge rate!

Today: 121 kms. To date: 1,368 kms. Total "earned" pledges at $0.6825 per km: $1,412.46.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day sixteen - Taber AB

The Weather Channel at 6:45 am: today's POP for Lethbridge is 40% in the morning and 70% in the afternoon. Wrong, on both counts, thankfully. But there was no reason to doubt the forecast when we pulled out of Fort Macleod. The rain had just ceased and the sky was heavy with grey clouds.

Fort Macleod was good to us for two reasons. First, Ken Patel, the proprietor of the Fort Motel. He discounted his rate very substantially when he heard of our mission, and then he donated $10! Second, Kyaw Zaw Htun, who once belonged to the same student organization as Soe Naing. He is a good friend of Zaw Naing, our cordial host in Cranbrook, and when Zaw Naing called him about our trek, his calls and texts to us did not stop until we told him where we were. He drove down to visit us from his home in Lethbridge where he has been employed at Lethbridge College for 14 years. He explained that it is a cultural thing: we're in his neighbourhood so he wants to look after us in every possible way. Nice. The first way was to load most of our stuff in his car and transport it back to Lethbridge where we could pick it up after breakfast.

We detected the first rays of sunshine about an hour out of Fort Macleod. The wind was right and we were in Lethbridge by 9:30. But we paused at the intersection with Highway 23, which heads north. I was here with Adeline three years ago, when we went up #23 to find the field where my old papa rode in the saddle bronc contest at the Carmangay Stampede in 1917, a moment captured by the photograph which has hung in my home all my life. (Note to self: recover the blow-up from Enderby one of these days). In any event, this is as far from the coast as I've ever been by road; from here to Southern Ontario is all new to me.


The first rays of sunshine on the road to Lethbridge

After buying our breakfast, Kyaw Zaw Htun gave us a tour of Lethbridge. Very attractive. But the highlight for me was the family home - sadly now for sale - of my old friend Bob Blair, the multi-talented gentleman from Edmonton. As it happens, Bob had an arbitration in Calgary today and will join us tonight. Bob will be the star tomorrow.


Kyaw Zaw Htun, proudly by his car in front of his house

The afternoon ride to Taber was not quite so effortless. The wind or the road or both turned somehow. Instead of a tailwind, we had a crosswind and, at times, an unpleasant headwind. We arrived mid-afternoon, just ahead of Kway Zaw Htun who insisted on transporting our gear this further leg. And then, knowing we'll be assisted by Bob tomorrow, he demanded that if we have any trouble at all after we leave Medicine Hat, we only have to call him. What a guy; in our experience he's the best thing Lethbridge has going for it.

Serious thanks to Eric & Nancy, Marianne and Martin for the boost to the pledge rate.

Today: 102 kms. To date: 1,247 kms. Total "earned" pledges at $0.6825 per km: $851.08.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day fifteen - Fort Macleod

So farewell, then, British Columbia. We got to know you all too well: your ups and downs, the shoulders (if any) of your southern highways, your travellers' motels, your southern mountain passes and your frequent rain storms.

For the benefit of my family in Singapore, allow me to say that bidding goodbye to BC means we are over the big mountains. The Coast Range and the Rockies are behind us. There will be many hills but no more mountain passes.

Alberta! It is about time. We're about 4 days behind the schedule I created so innocently back in February. We're not half way to Winnipeg but we're half way through the time I expected to take to get there. But things should be different now. Not only are we out of the mountains, our legs (and backsides) are stronger. As long as we get some weather, we should be able to make up some time. As we demonstrated today.

Nothing but rain in the forecasts when we left Sparwood but we suffered no more than sprinkles until the afternoon. The more pressing problem was the cold. With the windchill factor in Crowsnest Pass, it was harsh. There was no lingering after the obligatory photo at the border. A stop at the Crowsnest Visitors Centre to warm up. And then a fast ride down into the foothills, interrupted only by a pause at the Frank Slide. The strong westerly pushed us down the hills, past the rows of wind turbines and into cowboy country. Suddenly we were at Pincher Creek, our intended destination for the day at 82 kms. It was only 11:45, and the Creek was 3 kms off the highway. Hmmm, that would mean 6 unnecessary kms and if we pedaled those kms on Highway No. 3, Fort Macleod would be only 42 kms away. What the hell! Of course it started to rain 10 minutes later, but there was no turning back into that wind.

So hello Alberta. We love your broad, clean shoulders (so far) and your tailwinds (keep it up). And your rain is nothing new to us.


Me and the Sparwood tourist attraction


Yes!

Two leftovers.

First, the website address for Susan Dancer's previous documentary is http://riim.metropolis.net/research_policy-dissemination_output.html, at which you click on the image of the young girl.

Second, for those with the stomach for it, here is the website address of the Cranbrook Townsman story on us yesterday:
http://www.dailytownsman.com/article/20110615/CRANBROOK0101/306159995/a-trip-to-help-the-invisible.

Today: 130 kms. To date: 1,145 kms. "Earned" per km pledges to date: $701.31.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day fourteen - Sparwood

Rivers: I was glad to hear an item on the radio to the effect that most flood warnings in BC have been rescinded. But I wonder. The Elk, like every river we've cycled beside or near since Hope, is swollen and looking more than a little menacing.

HST: We've seen many a blue "Vote YES to extinguish the HST" signs but not a single sign of any colour advocating the contrary.

Today: We had a good day of cycling despite the weather. We were lightly dusted by a shower just past Elko and it started to come down pretty hard as we arrived at Sparwood. But we dodged an icy downpour by a timely visit at the Powder Mountain Lodge on the main drag through Fernie. We borrowed the hotel's wifi to file yesterday's blog (a wifi was the only thing missing at the Loon Bay B&B, which was not a bad thing at all). And the hotel staff kindly permitted us to stay on, shooting 8-ball free of charge, while the storm blew itself out. Then, with the wind behind us for a change, we sailed up to Sparwood in no time at all.

What's going on in Sparwood? Not a room in either the Motel or the Hotel. Curiously, the hotel formerly known as the Black Nugget - the venue of many a LRB and arbitration hearing in this so-called career - is now the Causeway Bay Hotel. The contrast between it and the Causeway Bay with which I'm familiar in Hong Kong could not be greater. Fortunately, we located the last room at the Blue Collar B&B not far from the hotel where we'll doubtless watch some of Game 7.

We've seen Barry Coulter's story in today's Cranbrook Townsman. Soe Naing wishes he'd got the name Kwantlen Polytechnic University right but, on a quick glance, we like it. I'll try to get a website address.

Thanks a bunch to Mike & Tereena for the boost to the per km pledge rate.

Today: 78 kms. To date: 1,015 kms. Total pledges "earned" at $0.6125 per km: $621.89.

Day thirteen - Jaffray

Ok, I’m a whiner. When I ride, I want favourable conditions. But the headwind this sunny afternoon does not explain our short ride. We had people to meet in the morning.

Zaw Naing, our generous host, led us to the coffee shop where we gathered with Bygee, Susan, Shauna and Barry Coulter, Editor of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.

Soe Naing and Bygee, who copes with medical challenges, met in a refugee camp in Thailand in the early 90s. Shauna had thoughtfully collected him for the get-together so we could extend the short visit we paid him the previous evening. As Shauna said, it is not every day that a man from Burma comes to town.

Barry interviewed us for a story, patiently assimilating the Burma and Just Aid stories, and relating them to the local residents from Burma. (The fantasy: his excellent piece in the Townsman is picked up by the wire services and the money starts to flow).

Then we watched Susan’s moving documentary on the refugee experience, based on the several people whom local and Calgary groups have sponsored, among them Zaw Naing who is a remarkable success story in Cranbrook. Called “Run For Your Life”, the film is not the first documentary she has made. To see her previous film, go to http://riim.metropolis.net/research_policy-dissemination_output.html and click on the beautiful image of the young Ku Jay. “Run For Your Life” will be available at this internet location later this year. For more information, contact Susan Dancer: dsdancer@telus.net.

All of which, it seems, revolves around Shauna Jimenez. Although we hardly know her, I’m confident she will not approve of this characterization of her role. She lives at Wasa Lake, north of Cranbrook, when her work does not take her to Calgary for a good part of each year. How is she so pivotal? She devotes her energy after work to organizing groups to sponsor refugees. It started with Cambodians and more recently various groups in the Kootenays and in Calgary have sponsored refugees from Colombia, Eritrea and Burma. This is how Bygee, Zaw Naing and his family, as well as another, have come to live in Cranbrook. It is how a large Karen family and others (twelve in total) now live in Kimberly where Susan lives. And this is only a fraction of the full picture. Shauna clearly has a talent and calling; she is an articulate advocate for refugees. Her care for the individual was evident in her concern for Bygee.

Soe Naing and I feel privileged to have met all of these people. We salute Susan and Shauna. We express our immense admiration for their willingness to work in their own communities to provide genuine, practical assistance to people whose need is desperate.

Incredibly, this group - the East Kootenay Friends of Burma, which needs money for its sponsoring activities and never spends a penny on administration - had collected something like a $100 to donate to our Just Ride 2011. We donated it right back. Fond farewell to all.


Shauna, Susan, Soe Naing and I in front of Cranbrook's worthy Starbucks.

Knowing we would only have the afternoon to ride and that accommodation between Cranbrook and Fernie is thin, I'd made a reservation with the Loon Bay B&B in Jaffray. It is 5 kms off the highway but Roy, the very considerate host at Loon Bay, drove to the highway in his pickup and transported us to his secluded and tranquil facility. It was reasonably spectacular, with a view of Tie Lake from the common area which we had all to ourselves. Deer everywhere. We enjoyed a quiet, restful night. Jan packed us a delicious breakfast and Roy gave us a ride back out to the highway this morning. Thank you very much Jan and Roy.


Loon Bay B&B, from the road which is not visible in the view of Tie Lake from the house.

Today: 47 kms. To date: 937 kms. Total "earned" pledges: $545.80 (in addition to donations).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day twelve - Cranbrook

It was drizzling when we set out and it remained that way most of the day, except when it actually rained. It dried up eventually, as we sailed into Cranbrook where we were greeted by Zaw Naing, a man from Burma whom Soe Naing met in Thailand. In fact, Zaw Naing and his wife, Soe Soe, came to Canada on the same plane as Soe Naing's Than Than. Small world. And it was only because of Shauna that we knew Zaw Naing was in Cranbrook. Speaking of small: the Burmese community in Cranbrook consists of Zaw Naing, Soe Soe, their three kids and a total of two others. We are hosted tonight by Zaw Naing and Soe Soe, and we've enjoyed a fabulous Burmese meal which almost wholly compensated for the Canucks' performance.

Misjudgment of the day: we passed a restaurant on the way into Yahk, thinking we'd have breakfast in Yahk itself. But the only restaurant was closed today so we had to backtrack. It is difficult to express how annoying it is to cycle 8 extra kms - kms you didn't have to ride to get to your destination.

Three at a time (the way things always happen my mother said): I do not expect to see another majestic wild creature approach the road as if to cross it right in front of me, and then change its mind and retreat. There was the bear on day three. And today, in short order, there was a deer and then a coyote. We so frightened the deer that it tried to jump a fence too high. Twice it banged its head against the yellow-covered top wire and then was briefly entangled in the fence.

Enough of the preliminaries: this blog is about bike touring characters. We're not yet a fifth of the way into this trek and we've come across several. Doubtless there will be many more, but to give you a flavour, in chronological order:

- we met Carl and Gill in Hope on day two and encountered them several times over the next three days. Middle-aged, loaded down (Gill towing a trailer) and steady. Last seen in Keremeos.

- Nikko was going the other direction as I approached the Allison Pass ascent on day three. A young man from Leeds, heading to Mexico, his website is www.longwaysomewhere.com. We've got to check it out.

- there was the Germanic blond, slightly rotund man, on an overloaded recumbent I talked to at Manning Park, after seeing his bike in front of the supermarket in Hope the evening before and spotting him behind me on the Allison Pass ascent.

- Emmanuel, a young man from Montreal, was going home via the Rogers Pass. On a loaded bike and towing a trailer, he passed me on the Sunday Summit ascent on day four. My bike was light, no panniers, and I couldn't keep up. We had breakfast at the summit: he scraped his peanut butter out of the jar with questionable bread while I munched my trail mix.

- Carmen and Jean-Ann breezed through Princeton late on Day four, while I was assessing my various aches and pains. Young Asian women from Edmonton, they said they were on their way to Halifax. They looked like veterans. Why they were in southern BC en route to Halifax from Edmonton, I failed to ask. Maybe they just liked the mountains. We've not seen any sign of them since and must conclude they're way ahead of us.

- out of the order I promised, we met Michael today. Young and strong, he said his pace was slow today but he had no trouble passing us. He's going north to Fairmont, Golden and the national parks tomorrow so we won't see him again, at least not for a while. He may be the first we've seen who is not over-packed. He is well prepared, with all necessary equipment except a mirror. His website: www.crazymikeonabike.blogspot.com.

- and, finally, there is Matt. We met him approaching the top of the hill before Osoyoos, flying flags like a ship in a foreign port and working hard on a fully loaded bike. If a 37-year old is a lad, he is a strapping lad from down under. A good man, with plans to participate in the "RAGBRAI", a massive bike event sponsored by the Des Moine Register. The acronym is for the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. But the Matt story is really about his approach to touring. As the photo below shows, his bike prevents him from speeding. More precisely, he is slow on the slopes. I passed him going up the Anarchist Hill and we wondered what happened to him when the thunder and lightning descended. I bumped into him in Creston last night and learned he just kept on cycling. While we bailed that day and the next because of the rain, he just kept on keeping on. Slow but relentless. He promised to comment on this blog so we can stay in touch. I sincerely hope he does.


Matt and bike, outside Broasters in Creston

So tonight I'm in the town where I visited my brother Trev and his family while on a visit home after first year law in 1969. Speaking of whom, a big shout out to my family on the Sunshine Coast: JT, Joy, Scott, Darryl, Catherine & Sophia May. 'Thinking of you, Joy.

Today: 105 kms (not including annoying extra and unnecessary kms). To date: 890 kms. Total "earned" pledges @ $0.5825 per km: $518.43 (in addition to donations)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day eleven - Creston

We really have no complaint.

First, we enjoyed a splendid evening with Tina, Dave, Josh and Megan. In addition to a free meal, Tina offered to speak to her BCNU colleagues to line up some massage therapy for us along our route. Even though she is one of the busiest people I know, I was unable to resist the offer.

Second, we did not have to climb the Salmo-Creston "Skyway".

Third, it did not rain. It threatened. We could see the rain across the Lake, and we worried. But it did not rain.

And it started very promisingly, in bright clear sunshine as we boarded the ferry. The light Sunday morning traffic made for a pleasant ride down the east shore of Kootenay Lake until the wind came up. I know there will be days (hopefully soon) when we wish it were cooler, but it was a cold wind today and it was in our faces. And the twisty road was fine except for the frequent little hills. Little but steep. Put it this way, we used all our gears today. Many times. Ooops, this could be construed as a complaint.

Since the Creston Visitors' Information Centre was closed (it's Sunday!), we had to rely on the alternative to ascertain whether we could expect to find a motel a few kms closer to Cranbrook. The alternative is called Jimmy's Pub & Grill. Relying on the information so obtained, we're parked at the Bavarian Orchard Motel just east of Creston, hoping any wind tomorrow blows in the so-called "prevailing" direction.

Looking up Kootenay Lake, from Boswell

Today: 84 kms. To Date: 785 kms. Total "earned" pledges: $457.26.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day ten - Balfour

Except for the rain with which Nelson greeted us, the ride was good and the day was productive. We met Shauna, who phoned us on Day 1 when she received the CFOB release. Again, our timing is less than perfect; we missed her function in Castlegar two nights ago and we'll miss another in Creston tonight. More about Shauna in a couple of days.

The mechanic in Nelson greased the wheels on Soe Naing's bike and pronounced them fit, despite the noises we'd not been enjoying. A little provisioning and a visit to the laundromat while in the groovy town. The rain then abated long enough for our ride along the Lake to Balfour. We waved at Harrop for Mike on the way by. We're ensconced in a cabin only steps from the ferry we will catch at 6:30 in the morning, and we have a dinner date with Tina and her man at the Dock & Duck in an hour.

Today: 77 kms. To date: 701 kms. Total "earned" pledges @ $0.5825/km: $408.33 (in addition to donations)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day nine - Castlegar

The full night of rain stopped just in time for us to get started on our last huge ascent. This time, with no angel or good samaritan in sight, both bikes were fully loaded. Happily, until the last few kms, the gradient was not as steep as I'd encountered on the Hope-Princeton or the Anarchist hills. Four and a half hours later, about a third of which was spent off bike catching our breath and allowing the heart rate to settle, we struggled up to the Paulson Summit. The sign conveniently offered something an answer to the unasked question: why are summits signed in feet on the Hope-Princeton and meters on the Anarchist? It provided the elevation of the Paulson Summit in both measurements: 1536 m and 5036 ft.

Why is this man happy?

Exhausted but elated, we made a dubious video for tomorrow - Saturday - night's Burma Night for the Lady (which you should attend if you're free: a Burmese meal, a performance by the talented T. Nile and much more - it is at the Oakridge Centre Auditorium, 6:30 to 10:30, and tickets are available at the door).

Back to the ride: pretty much all downhill for 40 kms from the summit but all thoughts of pressing on to Nelson today were washed away by heavy rain starting 17 kms from Castlegar. So we're tucked into the Flamingo Motel where our hostess, Deborah, kindly contributed to the cause when we negotiated the tariff. The Black Rooster, a most suitable venue for watching Game 5, is a five minute walk.

Dan's comment on yesterday's blog demands appropriate recognition for his participation in the ride on Day One. His point is irrefutable; it got a mention in the first blog but it was not adequate. He was the first associate Just Rider, and we extend our gratitude and admiration to him for getting out there with us on such an ugly morning. No change will be made to the Keremeos blog but Rob was the second guest Just Rider. We pay tribute to both.

Dan the Man on Day One, preparing to launch the ride

Today: 71 kms. To date: 624 kms. Total "earned" pledges: $363.48 (in addition to donations)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day eight - Christina Lake

Tomorrow's long uphill haul was on our minds when we set out in an uncomfortably cold grey morning. I was thinking about the treat I'd given myself the previous evening when, instead of risking the second period of game 4, I looked up the numbers of old friends at Eholt, a few kms east of Greenwood. I don't think I've talked to any of them since the early 80s, but Faye answered the phone and her report was all good. She and Paul have raised the kids, both of whom are thriving. Maggie and Dennis still live nearby. All in good health. It seemed about perfect. A pickup going in the other direction startled me out of my reverie. The driver shouted greetings; it was Paul on his way to work! A minute later, a car stopped and out stepped Faye herself. A hug and a brief exchange, with reliable Soe Naing wielding a timely shutter. It was wonderful to renew contact, if only momentarily. May you all continue to be well.

First moose sighting a few minutes later as we neared the Eholt Summit (1028 m).

We unfortunately missed Paula's mother in Grand Forks. Our timing was bad. She had generously offered us her hospitality but not today. She was attending her granddaughter's graduation. So we thawed out over breakfast at a cafe downtown and departed Walter's Grand Forks, where I first met Secretary Orders.

The sun finally emerged and we enjoyed a relaxed ride to Christina Lake where we have settled into an old cabin at Camp Beverly Hills. I kid you not. Our host, Sheldon, has been helping us prepare for our assault on the Paulson-Blueberry Summit tomorrow. He's a kind man; he saved us a trip to the cold beer and wine store.

Faye and I a few kms east of Greenwood.

Today: 65 kms. To date: 553 kms. Total "earned" pledges: $322.12

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day seven - Greenwood

Driven off the road by cold rain. There's always tomorrow, we hope.

Today: 50 km. To date: 488 km. Total "earned" pledges: $284.26.

Day six - Bridesville

Over the hump to Osoyoos for breakfast. And then the assistance of a genuine Good Samaritan: thanks to Paula, Soe Naing's colleague at work, her uncle Paul from Osoyoos transported our bags up the Anarchist ascent. He also transported Soe Naing and his bike - no need to stress the knee. I then pedaled up the 28 kms or so from Osoyoos (elev 277 m) to the Anarchist Summit (elev 1233 m) just in time to save Soe Naing from terminal boredom. And in time to pack our bikes for the thunder storm. A few kms in the cold rain convinced us we needed shelter immediately. No motel for miles and no B&B in site. The hay barns looked inviting. So we took the only refuge available: the entrance to the Bridesville Cummunity Club!

Serious thanks to Paula, Paul and his Donna!


Worth at least a thousand words.

Today: 83 kms. To date: 438 kms.

Another accumulating total worth mentioning is the amount of donations pledged per km. Some are conditional on the ride continuing to Halifax. Some are converted from per mile amounts and one is converted from a Pound Sterling pledge! Others will be paid whether or not we make it to the destination. Lumping all of these together, as of 2 days ago the total pledged per km is C$0.5825. Which means that to date the total "earned" is $255.14, which is in addition to the total indicated on the donation page link from this blog site.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day five - Keremeos and another Just Rider

Here's to Rob Hewitt! He drove down from Kelowna this morning and honoured us by riding with us and transporting our panniers from Hedley to Keremeos. It was great to see him. He is the first additional Just Rider and we pay tribute to him.

Soe Naing back on his bike today: "I'm good to go, coach" he asserts. We had an easy flat ride from Princeton to Keremeos, a lot like a day off after the Hope - Princeton, on which I climbed to 4,402 feet on Saturday (the Allison Pass) and 4,215 feet on Sunday (suitably, the Sunday Pass).

The plan for today was Osoyoos. The first deviation, but plans are made to be modified. The part of the plan about 'riding into condition' is taking perhaps a tad longer than anticipated.

Many thanks for the supportive comments: Bob B, Jimmy Mac, and Al & Maryann. Great to hear from you A&M!


Today's team: Soe Naing, Rob and I, about 10 kms from Keremeos.

Today: 68 kms. To date: 355.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day four - Princeton

Another solo ride, mostly downhill in the sun. Only 4 days in and I'm thinking I need a rest!

Today: 67 kms. To date: 287 kms.

Day three - Manning Park Lodge

Only 66 kms in beautiful sunshine. But it was mostly uphill and much of it into the wind. Four hours and 48 minutes of pedaling and it would have been a lot worse with panniers. What, no panniers? This is only one of the reasons she's an angel. Adeline transported them for me in her car. I might still be out there groaning if she had not.

One moment of terror approaching Manning Park. A big black bear started to cross the road not more than 100 feet ahead of me. It then saw me and paused. I freaked. It then bolted back into the bushes, and ran along the side of the road a short distance. I clocked downhill speed until safely away.

video
This video was taken from Adeline's car by Soe Naing whose knee prevented him from riding. Happily, it does not reveal how utterly bagged I was.

Today: 66 kms. To date: 220 kms.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day two. There is still Hope

Hope, BC, that is. A dry day and an uneventful ride up the north side of the Fraser.

Uneventful except for the fact it was the second full day on the road and at least one of us did not train that often. This blog won't be about physical ailments. Suffice it to say there are some. But it is the early afternoon and we don't have to be ready for the road until early tomorrow morning. Adeline, the angel, will be here soon.



On the road near Agassiz.

Today: 80 kms. Total ride to date: 154 km.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day one - Mission accomplished!

Mission, BC, that is. Only another 50 or 60 days to go. Having spent ALL my cycling life avoiding riding in the rain, today I learned it can be done.

Thanks to Tin Maung Htoo's release for Canadian Friends of Burma, we were called by the BBC World Service Burma Section. We think it was the first time a patron of the Mission Springs Pub, where we were having lunch, has ever been interviewed by the BBC.


This is the send-off at 8:00 am at the North Vancouver Seabus terminal. Soe Naing partially cut off on the left, Warren & Brenda, Adeline, Deanna behind my right shoulder, Murray, Mike and Dan, who led us across the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge. Thanks to all for coming out. Including Jane who came too late to make the photo.

Day One: 74 wet kms.

A big shout out to Ross who is lonely in the West End. 'Luv you man.