It will be a long ride.
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 email@example.com.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Friday, July 22, 2011
After 46 days of cycling, I've lost my teammate. Soe Naing took me to dinner in the Bloor West Village last night. It was a terrific meal. He said it was to repay me for the dinners I have bought him but it was a great trade for me: in exchange for several mediocre meals, he footed the bill for an excellent feast. After dinner, he went to stay with an old friend in Scarborough. He's getting his bike packaged today so he can check it in on his flight home tomorrow. His vacation is spent. He has such a supportive workplace, he could get an extension. But it is time for him to get home to Than Than and Juno, for practical reasons as well as family needs.
I will see him tonight at the fundraiser, but yesterday was our last day of riding. Gone is the most agreeable, sturdy and helpful partner a cyclist could want, a man whose character is accurately reflected by a dazzling smile. I'm going to miss him, seriously miss him.
So it was something of a distraction to get on my bike and navigate my way across the big smoke. It proved a lot easier than expected. There is a wonderful bicycle path starting about where I turned onto Lakeshore Blvd. I had planned to follow a more downtown route to Scarborough, from which I can travel downtown reasonably conveniently tonight, but again I benefited from some sound local advice. I followed the path until it ended just east of the Beaches.
As I said, a day off. The 31 kms cycled today represent a day off at this point of the trek.
This shot of Toronto's Lakeshore bicycle path was taken on the west side of town. If you expand it enough, you'll be 'rewarded' with a glimpse of the most over-photographed structure in Canada: the CN Tower.
Here's the path in the Beaches area.
This is Pat, whom I met as I was looking for a motel on the Kingston Road in Scarborough. More good luck. Pat informed me of the Great Waterfront Trail, which promises a superb ride for much of the distance from here to Quebec. Many thanks Pat.
Today: 31 kms. To date: 4,457 kms. Total per km pledges "earned" at $1.0825 per km: $4,824.70 (in addition to the donations of $16,004.30 as of today).
Thursday, July 21, 2011
This was the countryside we were cycling about 9:30 this morning, a few kms before we reached Dundas. Within an hour we were on Main Street in Dundas and lost. Our map indicated a rail path toward Hamilton and the men at the tire store assured us we'd find it "at the end of the mall". They paused for some time when we asked if there were any streets we could take if the path wasn't suitable. We construed the puzzled expressions to mean we'd have to go back about 2 kms and start again. You know how much we like to go back.
Fortunately, we met Vanja and Ted. We would have been fortunate to meet them under any circumstances; they are plainly people of quality. But it was our immense good fortune to ask them for help as they bicycled by, on their way to their jobs at McMaster University. They explained the rail trail went the other direction, and they gave us impeccable directions to guide us to Hamilton and beyond on streets which did not require any backtracking.
Vanja and Ted with old what's his name on the left. We thank you, Vanja and Ted, for the assistance we needed so badly today. And we wish you the very best of everything, especially your bicycle adventures. If you're interested in a matching Brodie Elan, Ted, mine may be on the market in about three weeks.
So we eventually found Lakeshore. And it went on and on and on. Today was the hottest day of the year so we took great care to keep hydrated and as cool as we could. Eventually, we found our way to the big smoke, where we immediately found a bike shop to inquire about packaging Soe Naing's bike for his trip home and get an assessment of the condition of mine.
As a result of our careful research, we offer this advice: if you're ever in need of service related to your bicycle in Toronto, do not bother with Sweet Pete's on Bloor. They just didn't have time for us. Broadway Cycle, in the next block to the west, was far more helpful and far less bike culture snobbish. Go straight to Broadway Cycle.
This is Bloor Street, west of High Park, near where I'm staying in the basement of the home of Dick's Audrey. She's not here and I've never met her. She's obviously a brave and generous person. Cannot thank her enough.
Today: 109 kms. To date: 4,4216. Total per km pledges "earned": $4,791.14.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
For reasons unknown to me, I am blessed with some wonderful, interesting and talented friends. I am more than touched by the willingness of Julie and Bernie to drive all the way from Kingsville to London for a short but intensely sweet visit over breakfast at Mai’s. Both of them celebrated achievers in my field of work: academics, practitioners, teachers, published authors and, above all, excellent friends. Hope could not come with Julie and Bernie but we did get to see several great photos of all three “girls”, two of them now young women and each of them stunning.
Mai must be mentioned here as well. Her story, which is also the story of her sister My with whom we stayed in Winnipeg, is extraordinary. And she is a marvelous hostess. She helped us yesterday afternoon to find a local bike shop to get some ideas about our route to Toronto and looked after our every need. Thank you so much Mai.
To top it off, Bernie paid us the ultimate compliment. He joined the ride and set the pace from London to Ingersoll. Bernie thus became the fifth additional Just Rider and his style was instructive. We salute you, Bernie, for honouring our ride with your participation. Serious thanks.
Here they are: Bernie, Julie and Mai.
The whole gang this morning.
Mahn Kyaw Swe, on the left, is a leader of the Karen community in London. The two gents on the other side of Soe Naing are recent Karen refugees whom he helped today by translating for them while they took a driver’s test.
Today’s team: Bernie, the codger and Soe Naing.
Our stop in London might be called a cycloholic’s day off. We did not ride for nearly 24 hours, but our break was from midday to midday; we did not deprive ourselves of a ride each day.
At noon today, after an unfortunately short meeting with Mahn Kyaw Swe and his friends, we set out from Mai’s in the direction of Woodstock. Now there’s another name that resonates with those of us of a certain age, but couldn't think of a credible way to incorporate it into a line about London to Paris. Bernie got us going so well that, even when Julie showed up in their van at Ingersoll to trade our panniers and gear for her man and his bike, we felt we could make more kms than Woodstock. It was hot but the wind was blowing from the west and, once we got past a few reasonably steep hills around Woodstock, we sailed into Paris in no time.
Trev, you were on my mind while I was cycling through and driving around London yesterday. Everywhere I looked, I thought you probably dropped a fare off around here somewhere during your cabbie phase. Thanks for your encouraging words and sorry about the early phone call this morning – sorry only that I woke up Joy instead of you!
Today: 78 kms. To date: 4,317 kms. Total per km pledges “earned”: $4,673.15.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
This is how it looked at 6:45 am this morning on London Line, Route 22 to London. At that point, we expected the sun to burn off the fog in a few minutes. But the fog settled in and the sun disappeared for a couple of hours. It was cool to ride in but we got nearly as wet as we would have had it rained. We turned on our taillights and pedaled on. Fortunately, the traffic was very light but, still, it got a little tense when the paved shoulder disappeared altogether. We kept our eyes on our mirrors, ready to bail off onto the gravel shoulder if traffic from both directions converged anywhere near us. It only happened a couple of times.
The sun was high and the traffic much heavier when we arrived at the outskirts of London after cycling less than 70 kms. We stopped at a Starbucks to borrow the wifi and get a fix on Mai's home. The next 16 or 17 kms were the toughest of the day because we'd arrived at the NW corner of London and Mai lives in the SE corner. We found only a few kms of the bicycle routes and coped with the city traffic the rest of the way.
But Mai was there to welcome us when we found her place. We are going to take an afternoon and morning off, and maybe get some advice on the best route from here to the Big Smoke.
Today: 86 kms. To date: 4,239 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $4,588.72 (in addition to the $15,354.30 in donations as of today).
Monday, July 18, 2011
In Port Huron the “Bridge to Canada detour” signs took us on a convoluted route to a structure formally known as the Blue Water Toll Bridge. We approached the toll booth apprehensively. We’d been told that bicycles are not allowed on the bridge and our Michigan map stated: “Sidewalk Currently Closed”. The nearest alternative is a ferry more than 20 kms south of Port Huron and no less out of our way.
We need not have worried. The nicest toll booth attendant in the world stepped out of her booth to greet us. She told us to put our bikes in the back of a nearby pickup and we’d be transported across for free. Not even a toll! And the Canadian Customs and Immigration officer on the other side was equally pleasant. We were through in far less time than it took us to load and unload our bikes and bags. Another member of the Customs and Immigration staff directed us to the nearby Ontario Travel Centre and, in short order, we had more maps and information than we probably need.
All good. But here’s the thing: how will I be able to assert that I’ve bicycled every inch of road from coast to coast? The ride over the bridge represents a 2 km gap in the pedal powered progression. But wait, perhaps with a little more creativity, the conundrum can be cracked. The St. Clair River is a body of water we had to cross. The pickup was essentially a wheeled ferry, transporting us over the water and providing us with a great view of Lake Huron and, in turn, explained the name of the bridge. Naturally, the 2 kms will not be included in the kms we cycled today any more than the width of Lake Michigan was. On this view of the crossing, no gap. I adopt it.
We cycled another 25 kms toward London before stopping in Reece’s Corner at the Country View Motel and RV Resort, a name which puts some strain on the word “resort” shall we say. No wifi in sight. On the bright side, dear friend Dick is on his way to take us to dinner in Wyoming. I kid you not.
Today: 87 kms. To date: 4,153 kms. Total per km pledges “earned”: $4,495.62.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Thankfully, it was Sunday morning so the volume of traffic was not a problem. We crossed the Saginaw River too close to downtown to see any evidence of the fishing industry Lefty sang about. Perhaps it is no longer with us either. The downtown, it must be said, looked a little tired.
But we missed our turn. We wanted to take US Hwy 46 and head due east. It is a major road so we are baffled by the miss. Our theory is that we were concentrating too hard on avoiding the potholes.
By the time we figured it out, we were a few miles south of #46. Go back? Out of the question. So we struck out on a local road, thinking we'd work our way to Lake Huron a little south of #46. Couldn't do it. The roads kept pushing us south. So tonight, instead of being 60 kms north of Port Huron (from which we'll cross into Canada at Sarnia), we are about 60 kms west of Port Huron. So much for the shores of Lake Huron.
We spent the entire day on a labyrinth of local roads but, with some luck and directions from folks we approached for help, we did not have to backtrack more than a few hundred meters. Some of the roads were sublime: smooth and devoid of traffic. Some were frustratingly bumpy and too busy. We lucked out at breakfast in Millington when we learned of another Rails to Trails ride: ten miles of smooth, recently paved cycling euphoria.
The weather turned much hotter, creeping into the 90s, and more humid. We were relieved to see our motel at about 3:30.
Lamentably missed photo op #1: yesterday morning before breakfast we cycled by a roadside stand. The sign said "Bake Sale". Two Amish women were sitting beside the stand. Why didn't I stop? The reason, in truth, is that we were really flying at that point, but it is not good enough. Lost a photo and, probably, an excellent chance to spoil our appetites.
Lamentably missed photo op #2: this morning, on flat terrain SE of Saginaw, we breezed by dozens of beautiful old farms. Grand and stately old homes in great condition. Some fine large barns, with a variety of machinery parked neatly around them. Fields of hay and corn and other vegetables we are too citified to identify. Some lovely scenes I might have been able to capture.
Photo op unaccountably not missed. Only a cyclist would think it worthwhile to have another of these images. What can I say?
Today: 117 kms. To date: 4,066 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $4,403.61.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Michigan review #2: Our stop last night, Big Rapids, is about 55 miles north of Grand Rapids. As far as the size of rapids is concerned, I know not how "big" relates to "grand". But in terms of population, "grand" is much larger than "big" in Michigan. Big Rapids, however, is the location of Ferris State University. If Big Rapids has nothing else, it is doing alright. The campus is impressive. However, a Google search tells me there is another campus in Grand Rapids. As I've never seen it, I am unable to discuss its size compared to the campus in Big Rapids.
The new time zone makes 7:00 am shortly after dawn. So when we set out at our customary hour this morning, the air was fresh and clean. We wanted to test the shoulders on US Hwy 20 East and, because we'd ridden beyond it yesterday afternoon, we decided to follow some local roads to re-connect. We had a little difficulty finding the roads but the ride was great when we did: very little traffic on rustic but paved roads through some small farms and orchards but mostly just country homes of all descriptions. In the middle of our exploration of this out-of-the-way part of Michigan, we happened on an upscale rural acreage development called "Canadian Lakes". Complete with fishing on lakes and a nearby golf course.
Now these lakes - they are misplaced.
The ride on Hwy 20 was excellent. Just short of optimum, a term I reserve for riding with a following wind. We breezed along and were in Midland, having cycled over 110 kms, by about 2:00 pm. We decided to push it a little. We were assured by a customer in the bike shop where Soe Naing stopped to get his tires pumped that we'd find a motel in Freeland, which made sense because it is indicated on the map with the yellow colour of an urban centre. But the advice was inaccurate; it was out by 15 or 20 kms. So we did a little more today than we planned. If we have another day like it tomorrow, we'll be on the shores of Lake Huron.
Eric, R U following? We're in Saginaw, Michigan. I'll take a look around for Lefty although I think he may no longer be with us.
Today: 145 kms. To date: 3,951 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $4,276.96.
Friday, July 15, 2011
The 50 or 60 kms after Ludington finally petered out was all forest. A few homes, mostly modest and surrounded by trees. The cultivated rolling hills and dairy farms of WI were replaced by a cycle through the MI woods. Much of it looking like this:
Some farms appeared when we arrived at Reed City and turned south. We did not see a lot of them because we enjoyed - and I really mean enjoyed - a remarkable ride to Big Rapids on an old railway right-of-way which was mostly screened from any view by foliage, like this:
For one brief stretch, the path crossed some fields and looked like this:
We were fortunate to learn of this path at a gas station in Reed City. It is part of a larger MI program called "Rails to Trails". The surface was generally smooth, the grades were railroad gentle and there was hardly anyone on the trail. We saw maybe half a dozen others in nearly 20 kms. No traffic to worry about and no traffic noise. It was a glorious ride.
Tomorrow: east or south, depending on what the wind is doing.
Today: 102 kms. To date: 3,806 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $4,119.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
The positive feature of the ride was the roads. Instead of the busy Hwy 10, with its intermittently adequate shoulder, we cycled a series of quiet county roads. If the occasional zigzag added a km or two to the length of the trip, it was worth it. These roads were a picturesque tour of farms and small towns. They are deserving of more colourful or locally significant names than "County PP" and "County JJ". We are very grateful to Dan 'Banjo' Janssen for helping us find them. We met Banjo about one minute after we left our motel; he was out for a ride to nearby High Cliff park on his recumbent. He said it is a beautiful park. Sorry, Banjo, that we didn't have the time to check it out; we had a ferry to catch.
The Codger poses for a possible story in his law school journal. This could have been a perfectly good photograph of the SS Badger.
The SS Badger departed Manitowoc WI 2:00 pm CDT and arrived in Ludington MI at 7:00 EDT. It is a 60 mile (96.6 km) voyage across Lake Michigan from what appears to be a hardscrabble port to a harbour of yachts and a well preserved and attractive little town.
Meet 'Badger' (I kid you not) and Fuzz, two friendly guys who are off to play some golf with their buds in northern MI. They represent the only evidence I can cite for my conclusion that ferry company staff loaded all vehicles aboard the vessel. I wasn't paying much attention at the time, but Badger and Fuzz walked on with us and then passed us in a black Escalade when we got to Ludington. If I'm correct, don't tell BC Ferries. By the way, thanks guys for the beer.
The team assumes the posture most appropriate for a July cruise.
Today: 80 kms. To date: 3,704 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $4,009.58.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A pleasant breakfast at the Pine Cafe in Weyauwega. We hope you found this blog, Louise. Our sincere thanks to Marge and the kitchen for the good food, and to you and your friends for the warm welcome and advice.
Highway 10 turned into a very busy highway as we approached Appleton and the shoulder degenerated into something worse than what we started the day on. Having fought the easterly for nearly an hour, things got a little tense until we could escape to the comfort of a McDonald's vanilla milkshake.
Then we endured a bit of a fiasco finding a motel. My odometer says we biked 124 kms, but I know we only covered a distance of only 115. The extra nine kms being the dreaded and detested unnecessary off-course cycling required to locate a Super 8. Which only shows to go that the advice of strangers consulted in McDonalds or auto dealerships is not necessarily helpful (twice) or accurate (once).
Terry Lehrke's story has appeared in the Morrison County Record. She misunderstood me in one respect; I did not say there are four million "misplaced" Burmese. But the story is otherwise great. See for yourself: http://mcrecord.com/archives/489348/cyclists-get-a-taste-of-lf-hospitality/.
I was thinking today about my grand nieces, wondering whether they're back from their travels and how their summer is going. Meghan and Cierra are grand in more ways than one. A huge loving shout out to them, and to their mom, Wendy, and her man, Jason (whose parents in Nova Scotia have inquired about our progress), and to their aunt, Terrie, and her man, Gary. Hope you are all well and enjoying your "summer" (we get reports).
Today: 115 kms. To date: 3,624 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $3,922.98.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
We arrived in Stevens Point around 1:00 pm and, following the helpful directions of Andrea who served us at the Neillsville Country Club Bar & Grill last night, we proceeded to the east side of town where we stopped to re-balance our electrolytes at the Hilltop Pub & Grill. Farron, the young woman at the bar, was interested in our trek. Without even being told it is a fundraiser, she advised the beer was on the house.
Then we went next door to book a room at the La Quinta. I gave my usual pitch for a discounted rate. I was asked for some document to confirm our fundraising mission. The press release Mike prepared back in May proved sufficient. The room was comped! Entirely free!
So I reiterate yesterday's injunction: in order to repay the kindness of these generous businesses, all we can do is urge you to patronize them. To enjoy the Altoona Family Restaurant or the Hilltop Pub & Grill, you'll need to visit central WI. But you can stay at a La Quinta Inns & Suites just about anywhere.
Today's ride was enjoyable enough. The weather much cooler and less humid. Rolling hills, extensive cultivation, many fine earthy aromas.
Today: 96 kms. To date: 3,509 kms. Total per km pledges "earned" to date: $3,798.49.
Monday, July 11, 2011
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Kevin told us yesterday that we were not permitted to cycle on an Interstate highway. But Interstate 94 was our only option for crossing Lake St. Croix. The alternatives were much too far north or south, so I-94 was always our plan. And we did not take any chances that the last possible intersecting road might not have an interchange; we got on it about five miles before the bridge. To our horror, we discovered the shoulder of the approach lane was essentially bicycle proof. There were two- to three-inch grooves across the shoulder every 50 or 60 feet. The groves were built into the concrete slabs and left one no choice but to ride on the approach lane rather than the shoulder.
I was considering how to turn around when I got to the highway itself and learned that most of the grooves had been filled with asphalt. Our theory: the grooves were designed to discourage cyclists from riding on the Interstate and then filled when it was discovered they only forced cyclists off the shoulder, and onto the road with the traffic.
So we managed to cross Lake St. Croix on I-94. Only a few honks from outraged motorists. Then we needed local advice to find the beginning of US Hwy 12 which our map research indicated was our best bet for heading east. After cycling around the town of Hudson for while, we eventually located it and I'm not at all pleased we did. The shoulder is narrow but adequate in view of the light traffic flow. However, much too much of it is bumpy; the un-repaired cracks are no better on the road surface than on the shoulder. A most unpleasant ride. I'm not sure the bikes can take another four days of this type of surface and I'm pretty sure my behind cannot!
The mandatory new jurisdiction photo. The sign says: "Welcome to Hudson, Gateway to Wisconsin".
The Wisconsin countryside could almost be Ireland, give or take a few ancient villages (and perhaps some other discrepancies). My point is that for the first several miles on Hwy 12 it was intensely green and cultivated. There were also some reasonably significant hills, which we haven't seen in weeks. We soon learned we were out of practice.
This is Erin in front of her lovely 110 year old house in the pleasant village of Hammond WI. Gracious and welcoming, Erin invited us to sit in her yard when we pulled up nearby for a rest. A village councilor who, like her husband, commutes 40 miles to the twin cities for work, Erin was interested in our trek. One thing we learned from her is that US Hwy 12 is the "Yellowstone Trail", one of the first, if not the very first, automobile road across America: http://www.yellowstonetrail.org/.
There was time for more cycling when we got to Menomonie but the humid mid-nineties sunshine persuaded us to push it tomorrow.
Today: 97 kms. To date: 3,284 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $3,554.93.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
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.