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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The second day after - Halifax, officially


The official arrival event, on August 9th. I am welcomed to Halifax on the steps of the Dalhousie Law School, now known as the Schulich School of Law. This is an excellent photo, courtesy of Dalhousie University staff photographer Nick Pearce. Click on it for an enlargement.

So now the ride is formally over, although a final, reunion blog is still due.

To my great delight, in the center at the back on the photo: W. Andrew MacKay, Q.C. Andy was Dean when I started and later the President of Dalhousie. I had the opportunity to thank him personally for some profoundly good advice he gave me in 1970.

In the white jacket at the front of my bike: John A.L. Yogis, Q.C. John was a relatively new member of faculty when I started and he is still on faculty; he has ascended to the lofty status of Professor Emeritus. He was not the only representative of the law school to attend; I was honoured by the presence of Professor Steve Coughlan, Associate Dean Graduate Studies, Schulich School of Law, on behalf of the Dean. But John certainly provided continuity from the days when. He also kindly presented me with a card and produced some refreshment appropriate for the occasion.

To John's right: Tin Maung Htoo, the Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Burma. Tin came down from Ottawa for the event.

In the crowd, to my immense joy, several classmates: 'Black' Bob Covert, Bill Piercey, Barrie Black, Class of '71 President Brian Crocker, Don Clark, Bob Wright.

Also present, the parents of a friend at home: Sheila and Barry Moore. Sheila and Barry have already been extremely good to me here in Halifax, which is probably related to the quality of my friend Jason.

Others: Senator Terry Mercer; John McKay, MP; Howard Epstein, MLA, on behalf of the Premier; Lindsay Loomer, Communications Officer Schulich School of Law; Karen Kavanaugh, Director of Alumni Relations & Development Schulich School of Law; Professor Archie Kaiser, Schulich School of Law; and, Ian Robinson who worked tirelessly to put the event together. Present but inexplicably missing from the photo: Professor Moira McConnell, Schulich School of Law.


Andy MacKay, with John Yogis, Tin Maung Htoo and Brian Crocker, gives me his hand of welcome on the steps of the law school.

Here's the text of a written message from the Mayor, which Ian read to the gathering:

Greetings from the Mayor

On behalf of Halifax Regional Council, it gives me great pleasure to extend warm greetings and a special welcome to Rod Germaine and Soe Naing to Halifax Regional Municipality.

Your journey across the country to raise awareness of the situation in Burma and funds vital for refugee and migrant children on the Thai-Burma border is extraordinary. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge, with gratitude, Just Aid Foundation, for the compassion and assistance in improving the living conditions of the Burmese people.

You are to be commended for your commitment, dedication and perseverance in pursuit of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees.

On behalf of the citizens of Halifax Regional Municipality - Thank you for going the extra mile!

Respectfully, I remain
Peter Kelly, Mayor

Monday, August 8, 2011

The first day after - fun with numbers etc.

The number is 6,049 kms (3,759 miles). That is the distance cycled from the North Vancouver Seabus terminal to the Dalhousie Law School building.

There is another number to be explained: 6,288 kms (3,907 miles).

The odometer installed on my bike the day before I left home kept track of the total kms cycled. I re-set it every morning to measure the distance of the day's ride. But this did not interfere with the devise keeping the cumulative total of kms traveled on the bike from the beginning.

I never expected the odometer to continue to function the entire trip, on one battery and through the rain storms and many punishing bumps. Amazingly, it did; it functioned flawlessly. The cumulative total when I stopped yesterday was actually 6,290 kms, but there were 2 kms on it when Dan led Soe Naing and me out of the Seabus terminal on June 2nd.

The upshot is that since June 2nd, I have cycled a total of 239 kms (6,288 less 6,049) which were not en route and could not be claimed as kms traveled from point to point.

In other words, the total distance of unnecessary cycling was 239 kms. In the context of the 6,049 kms traveled, it does not seem a lot. And this, in turn, provides the context for all my whining about how much I detested doubling back to go to a restaurant at which we should have stopped earlier, or cycling around to pick up the next segment of a bike trail, or cycling off route to find a motel. It was, I must now admit, overdone.

For purposes of soliciting pledges, I estimated the total distance would be 5,800 to 5,900 kms. The estimate, it seems, was about 200 kms less than the final number. Again, in context, the margin of error is not that much.

But, to acknowledge the error and keep things simple, I intend to work with the nice round number of 6,000 when I prepare notices of the amounts due.

To return to the daily distance numbers, I have to give myself a little credit for remembering to re-set the odometer every morning. I can recall forgetting this ritual only once, and I came to my senses soon enough that morning to recognize we had cycled only a km. So I added that km at the end of the day. I also monitored the odometer every time we went off route, so I could deduct unnecessary cycling from the end-of-the-day total of the distance traveled. The point being, to put it bluntly, the number 6,049 is a reliable and accurate measure of the distance of the ride.

When it comes to giving credit, I have yet to mention the contribution of Fraser and the rest of the gang at Obsession Bikes in Lolo, North Vancouver. James worked with me one morning to make adjustments so my bike was a good fit. He also helped me equip the bike. But it is Fraser who gets the bulk of this overdue credit. He gave me some tutorials on bike repair and maintenance, a preparation to which I attribute the absence of any breakdowns during the entire trip. Fraser also gave me valuable advise on the equipment I needed, particularly the tires. Almost everybody I talk to is incredulous that I did not require new tires at some point. In fact, the same tires carried me all the way and the only issue was one slow leak (although I may now have another). And it was Fraser who installed the odometer so effectively a day or two before we started. So this is a huge shout out to Fraser. Hearty thanks to you, Fraser, for the excellent foundation for a successful tour.

"Lolo", I should perhaps add, stands for Lower Lonsdale, the area of North Vancouver closest to the Seabus terminal.

The official arrival event tomorrow evening may warrant one last blog.

I will also be given the opportunity to plug the cause at my class reunion dinner on Friday night.

Thanks everybody.
rg 8.8.11





Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day sixty-three - DONE!

A low grey sky hung over the last ride this morning. Contrary to my expectation, however, it did not rain. I had the old #1 highway pretty much to myself over the hump from Windsor to Sackville. I arrived much too early for my rendezvous with classmates at the law school so I took a long breakfast in Bedford.


Then a leisurely ride along the Bedford Highway, from which I took this shot of the working end of the Bedford Basin. The A. Murray MacKay toll bridge from Dartmouth to the Halifax north end is in the background, but you'll need to expand the photo to discern it.

Despite the dawdling, I arrived at the law school about an hour too soon. I had to go straight to the school to ensure I had an accurate measure of the distance of this final ride.


So I took this photo to confirm I'd reached my destination, and cycled around some old haunts for a while.


Sunday afternoon activities and responsibilities did not prevent these considerate and lovable classmates from greeting me on my return: Don Clark, Bob Wright and 'Black' Bob Covert. Bob (Wright's) Marjorie was there to take photos. Perhaps I will be able include one or two in a wrap-up blog in the next day or two.

A wrap-up or two is required. The total kms is about 200 more than my original estimate. Perhaps in a couple of days I will decide whether to apologize or, alternatively, assert the margin of error is not bad. I also need to revisit the matter of the total kms I put on my bike versus the total distance from the Seabus Terminal in North Vancouver to the Dalhousie Law School. And maybe the formal 'arrival event' on Tuesday will warrant some report. Meantime, the bottom line:

Today; 68 kms. Total distance of the trek: 6,049 kms. Total per km pledges now earned: $6,548.04.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day sixty-two - Windsor NS

Hold your collective breath faithful readers. The everyday riding will end tomorrow. The route is depicted on the last fold of my last map.

And I sincerely hope it is a ride like today's. Clear and sunny but not hot, barely warm enough for a tee shirt. Wind not a factor. Perfect weather in other words. Light traffic until after breakfast and then not a big deal either. A little hump or two from Wolfville to Windsor, but nothing serious. All in all, a good ride. With a superb interlude.


The cause of the interlude: Mike Forse, one of my favourite classmates. Mike practices in Kentville at which I arrived shortly after 9:00 am. I haven't talked to him since 1978, the last time I was in Halifax. Mike met me on short notice and bought me a great breakfast. I'm not referring to the food; it could have been good too but the opportunity to catch up was exceptional and excellent. We covered a lot of ground in less than two hours. I hope I persuaded him to attend the opening event of the reunion.


In Wolfville, I had a brief rest at the entrance to Acadia University where Jessie and Becky go to school.


Like the Acadia photo, the distant detail is lost. This shot was taken from a bridge just east of Wolfville, and it was supposed to portray a lovely farm on the hill as well as the muddy tidal banks of the stream below, feature of rivers and streams draining into the Bay of Fundy. Could be the shortcomings of the iPhone camera, and it could be the photographer.

Today: 84 kms. To date: 5,981 kms. Total per km pledges now almost entirely "earned": $6,474.43.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day sixty-one - Kingston NS

Up the wonderfully picturesque Annapolis Valley I continue to chug, undaunted by the headwind. My pace has slowed but my focus remains fixed on my destination. If all goes well, two more relatively light rides and I will be very close. But don't tell anyone because the arrival event is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:00 pm. That is when I will arrive, officially.

Today was Debbie and Bruce day. I've alluded to my immense good fortune to have so many talented and interesting friends. Here are two more.

They treated me to a fine dinner in Annapolis Royal last evening. Susan and Nat joined us to make the evening even more enjoyable. It was great to see Bruce looking well and behaving as feisty as ever. His 'never back down' strategy in any argument remains intact. Eric, who dubbed him "Lefty" many years ago in London, will be delighted to hear it.

A short ride this morning to Debbie and Bruce's farm in Paradise NS, where Bruce showed me around their 23 room, 9 bedroom farmhouse. Bruce then cooked me a delicious omelet breakfast. We caught up over that breakfast and, when Debbie had returned from an errand, they gave me tour of their spread. Over a hundred acres on both sides of Hwy 201, running up the South Mountain where Robbie's Rock is plainly visible from the front yard (Paul's Pond and Kendra's Cave are also on the property because the children are treated equitably in all respects). Robbie's Rock is notable because it provides a view of the valley as a reward for those who ascend to its location and it is kept clear for that reason.

The extent to which Debbie and Bruce construct additions and modifications is truly impressive. They've just finished building a second stable for the horses, closer to the house to make it easier in the winter. On my inspection, they do excellent work. Bruce, who has all the tools a handyman could want and more in his sprawling shop, is also busy with some renos in the kitchen.

The grounds are extensively landscaped, trees (including a majestic row of beautiful old elms - I think I recall that correctly - and fruit trees), bushes, flowers, fences (including incredible stone fencing along the highway), etc. Have I mentioned the swimming pool, tennis/basketball/road hockey court and horses?

Some views of D&B and their place:





It is comforting to know where your friends are when they come to mind. After way too many years, I now have that sense of Debbie and Bruce, along with a sense of awe at the work they've done and must continue to do to maintain and develop their home in the manner they wish. I am compelled to forgive you, Bruce, for all the puns involving "Paradise". You're entitled to them. May the both of you continue to be rewarded by the array of benefits and pleasures you derive from your amazing home. And I reiterate by sincere gratitude for your ample generosity last night and today. Best wishes always.

Here are two more residents of the Valley:

Mya and Aylissa were shouting "get your water and stuffies here" to every vehicle that passed them on the eastern outskirts Middleton. The "stuffies" consisted of stuffed teddy bears, their castoffs I suspect. I was their first customer of the day, gladly paying 25 cents for a glass of water even though the water bottles on my bike were far from empty. What else could I do?

Today: 58 kms. To date: 5,897 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $6,383.50.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day sixty - Annapolis Royal NS


Jim Colby introduced himself while we were waiting to board the Princess of Acadia in Saint John. He tours on his bicycle so he was interested in my trek. That makes him an exception lately. Very few in Quebec, Maine or New Brunswick have been interested, but then Jim is from Picton ON so he's not really an exception at all. Jim was on his way to Halifax to give some training in meditation. It was a pleasure to meet you, Jim; all the best.


The last of its kind.


Today's team, from the left: Kieren Whelan; you-know-who, Susan Tileston and Nat Tileston. Nat delivered Kieren and Susan to the Digby ferry terminal in his "truck" and then returned to Annapolis Royal, with my panniers and gear I'm pleased to say, where he unpacked his bike and rode down to meet us as we huffed up Hwy No. 1 against the wind. So all three rode with me, which was a tremendous compliment and sincerely appreciated.

Susan and Nat are familiar with the Thai-Burma border. They learned about my project from the Canadian Friends of Burma, and wanted to show their support. I was truly honoured to enjoy their company on the ride. Susan, Nat and Kieren are the seventh, eighth and ninth Just Riders, including Honourary Rider Murray.

More about Susan and Nat. They are avid cyclists, and so is Kieren which is why he joined us today. But Susan and Nat live in Mae Sot six months a year where they also cycle and administer a fascinating project called "MY STORY Photo Project Association", which is a registered Canadian charity.

Started in Mexico, the MSPPA has focused on the Thai-Burma border for several years. It gives digital cameras and photo training to small groups of refugees from Burma. Photographers themselves, Susan and Nat work with the Karen Youth Organization and other NGOs. By last year had trained 164 students and teacher/trainers, and mounted exhibits in Thailand, Canada, Mexico and the US. As its brochure says, the project "gives participants a means of creative expression and a new skill in an otherwise bleak environment". Check it out: www.msppa.org and mystoryphotoproject.blogspot.com.

My sincere congratulations to Susan and Nat for this innovative initiative, and of course for devising a sound reason to live in a pleasant climate every winter!

Today: 47 kms. To date: 5,839 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $6,320.72.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day fifty-nine - Saint John NB


I missed the "Welcome to New Brunswick" sign when I crossed the bridge from Calais, but this photo offers a welcome of a different sort. It is the mouth of the St. Croix River, from a riverside park in St. Stephen NB. The St. Croix is tidal and, if you can expand the photo, you'll see the tide is low. Which means the speck in the water, which is a boat, is anchored in salt water. The Atlantic! Hello there saltchuck - 'haven't seen ya since Port Moody BC.

I struggled down the coast from St. Stephen toward Saint John. Today it was the wind, which has diabolically been blowing in my face for three days. Not too much of a factor the last two days although I thought the elements were 'piling on' when a gust hit me as I crested a hill. But today it was a nuisance. Another one of these days when it felt like an uphill cycle all day.

The woman at the St. Stephen tourist information centre gave me good advice about using secondary roads whenever possible. I understood from our conversation that I would find lots of motels as I approached Saint John. If that is what she said, I should have asked for better directions. Perhaps I got caught on a new highway instead of the older coastal road but there were no motels. As a result, I cycled far further than I intended today. Into the wind, or did I mention that? The first motel was just inside the city limits of Saint John.

So I don't have far to go to catch the noon ferry to Digby tomorrow. Eight or nine kms maybe.

At one point during the day, I noticed some islands in the Bay of Fundy. They would be, roughly speaking, counterparts to the Gulf Islands. Which put me in mind of my family on one of those islands in the Salish Sea. My nephew Daren, his mate Maija and his mom Carol, who may or may not be there at the moment because she gets around. But at this time of year there is at least a chance she will be in residence, unlike the winter when my astute sister-in-law is always in sunnier climes. My love to you all. I trust all is well, but that goes without saying on Hornby Island doesn't it?

Day 57 mystery solved! The structure is a windmill, now obviously out of service. Hanne supplied proof in the form of a photo from her native Denmark. Irrefutable. How could I have failed to consider this possibility?

Today: 116 kms. To date: 5,792 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $6,269.84.

Day fifty-eight - Baileyville ME

[Day 58 was August 2nd. The blog was posted a day late due to the absence of any internet connection at my motel.]

My friend Dennis cycled from Vancouver to Halifax sometime in the 70s. He was accompanied by our mutual and missing friend, Peter. When they arrived in these parts, they did the sensible thing: they took the ferry from Bar Harbor ME to Yarmouth NS. That required a relatively short ride south from Bangor and, presto, they were delivered to NS. I would too if I could. But the ferry they took no longer operates. The nearest facsimile is the one I’m going to catch in a day or two in St. John. It lands me a little closer to Halifax but requires a much longer cycle to the ferry, including the ride I did today.

Hwy 9 from Bangor to Calais where I will cross into New Brunswick tomorrow is known as the Airline Road. Some say that is because it is the shortest distance from Calais to Bangor, but I have a different theory about the label. In any event, I always knew I would take this route. What I did not know or anticipate is how bereft it is of amenities.

Google told me it is 102 miles (164 kms) from Bangor to Calais. Then Google told me not to expect any motels along the route. So I had to gear up for my longest ride of the journey. Fortunately, it has a good shoulder or, as they say hereabouts, “emergency pull-out lane”. It also has an endless series of hills, some long, some steep and some both. It is to these hills that I attribute the “Airline” brand.

Nevertheless, my progress was good all morning. I had clocked 80 kms by 12:30; I was halfway there. Then the mist turned into rain and then the rain got heavy. I was soaked and cold by the time I heard the familiar sound of distant thunder, with nowhere to run or hide. Before too long I came to Crawford, home of the Hilltop Café & Deli, one of the very few restaurants on the Airline Road and the only business I could detect in all of Crawflord. Since there was no sign on the highway, I learned I was in Crawford from the locals in the Hilltop, and that name will explain why I was also out of breath when I arrived.

Contrary to the alarming prediction of the locals, the rain eventually let up and I got back on the road. But I abandoned my objective. Exhausted by the soaking, the chill and the Airline Road, I took refuge at the first motel I encountered. I’m told that I’m five miles short of Calais.


The view from one of my rest stops - before the rain.

Who said numbers don’t lie? It appears my estimate of the total kms I will travel was a little shy of accuracy. I suspect the calculations leading to the original estimate used the number of miles in Maine without adjustment. We’ll see, but I still have to cycle an indeterminate number of kms to St. John and the estimated 210 kms from Digby to Halifax. Btw, all of the figures are the distance from place to place, and exclude the additional kms I’ve cycled for one reason or another, like doubling back to a restaurant, cycling off route to a motel or to buy bananas. More about this in my final blog.

Today: 146 kms. To date: 5,676 kms. Total per km pledges “earned” to date: $6,144.27.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day fifty-seven - Bangor ME

Yesterday's omissions #1: I should have mentioned that yesterday's ride passed through the Sugarloaf area, featuring Sugarloaf Mountain which represents that it is the largest ski resort east of the Rockies.

#2: It is remarkable that, after cycling 56 of the previous 60 days, yesterday's ride was good fun. When the conditions are right, it is still an enjoyable activity. Even on day 56.

Today was productive if nothing else. The forecast thunder and lightning storms did not materialize. The scenery changed a little; a few farms emerged but not many. I was fascinated by a structure beside the road on one of them:


It is unclear to me whether it is intended to be a silo or a lighthouse, or a combination? If a lighthouse, the only relevant body of water is the Carrabassett River across the road. It is pretty but not really big enough to warrant the vigil.

There were hills, lots of them. Thinking again of Lynn and Michel's warning, they were not mountains. But even if not more than hills, some were reasonably long and a few were pretty steep. I had to work.

A curious thing happened to the road toward the end of the day. No complaint about the roads early on; the surface was generally smooth and the shoulder at least adequate. But as I approached Bangor, the road deteriorated. The last 35 or 40 kms were the worst I can remember. The asphalt was either in crumbles, or cracked and patched, pitted and potholed. It was so bad, I frequently opted to cycle on the unpaved shoulder. No fun in that.

Today: 135 kms. To date: 5,530 kms. Total per km pledges "earned": $5,986.33.