Numerologists say being alive in 2020 is special because it is the only year you are likely to live through wherein the first two digits will match the second two digits. Non-numerologists (!) found 2020 “special” in other ways – shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, bikes and skis, yeast and flour, travel and live music, fresh turkeys and live sports. And what about the over abundance of Netflix and masks, Zoom meetings and directional arrows, sweat pants and housecleaning. But really, can there ever be too many puppies?
And yet, there have been many bright spots for our family in 2020. Here are two of our favourite things of 2020.
We were able to donate two more bikes since our last blog this time last year, both from your generous donations. Meet Ethan and his parents.
Ethan was born with a congenital myopathy called Nemaline Myopathy (NM). It is a rare muscle disease and he is on the more severe end of the spectrum. It affects his skeletal muscles, resulting in low muscle tone all over. It significantly affects his breathing and swallowing muscles, so he has a tracheostomy and ventilator to support his breathing and a feeding tube. Despite his condition, he is capable of so much. He is a strong-willed, funny and curious little boy. He now has a bike to get around on, and we were thrilled to see his excitement (on Zoom) when he received it earlier this year.
Kenzie, 17 yrs old, was nominated to receive a bike by Peak Performance Health Center in Mirimachi New Brunswick, the clinic and staff that were so kind after my fall in August 2019. They have also been key supporters of Kenzie during her journey. Thank you so much Jason! Kenzie has always been a very active and passionate person, full of energy and dreams. She was a competitive cheerleader, avid skier and swimmer. In early December of 2018 Mackenzie was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Mackenzie’s dreams have now changed to a day she can live without pain and be able to walk again. We met her on Zoom and know she will make the most amazing recovery possible. If anyone can, Kenzie can.
That is 14 bikes donated across the country now! AND there will at least another 4 -5 bikes donated with the funds you have contributed. We continually watch for urgent need for bike donations.
The completion of our JoyRide in 2020 was delayed due to provincial travel restrictions. So, another one of our favourite things is to think about picking up where we left off and completing JoyRide in 2021 when provincial borders open. Or maybe we will do it again in reverse. Or maybe we’ll go from North to South. Or maybe…… One thing 2020 has taught us is to appreciate our favourite things even more – time with family and friends in person, an inside dinner party, unrestricted travel.
We hope you are able to find meaningful connections with family and friends, even if they can’t be in person yet. Wishing you and your families a healthy and happy balance of 2020 and a return to your favourite things in 2021.
Has it really been 19 weeks, 1 day, and 3 hours since we last wrote? I’m mostly rehabbed from the broken pelvis. We have well used crutches and a stylish cane available for sale, cheap. My doctor and I are besties. I have enjoyed the company of 3 different physios and am still looking for one that will support my unsubstantiated theory of rehabilitation with cardio and weight training. What happened to “Moving is Medicine”?
We’ve learned a few things along this rehab journey.
For instance, when this part of your pelvis breaks, it usually breaks in more than one place. As mine did. But we didn’t find that out until week 6. We also learned that there are vastly differing views on how best to recover from a broken pelvis – some say weight bear and circulation help heal, others say do mostly nothing and still others said “Listen to your body”. I went with the “listen to your body” view mostly. But my hearing is not great. We also learned that sometimes a body doesn’t like supplements meant to speed healing.
But ultimately, and reluctantly, we learned that time is the best healer. Well, time and friends; friends dropping in for visits, teaching me bridge, jabbing my butt with needles, keeping pace with and my crutches and driving me places. I’m still careful and don’t plan on falling for 12 months, but feeling great. Could have been so much worse, but really – avoid breaking your pelvis.
I have now biked (on smooth pavement), cross country skied (short loop), downhill skied (my now Ski Sentry Gear Guy tracking annoyingly close behind me), hiked in Banff with girlfriends (loved having 11 moms with me), hiked in Palm Desert with girlfriends (including shopping therapy), visited my mom in Winnipeg, enjoyed Broadway shows with my Jessie, and danced (in heels) at my son’s wedding. How lucky am I? Life is returning to its wonderful “normal”. I am grateful.
At our son’s wedding we compared marriage to our bike journey, we will share it here.
Everyday is fantastic, but some days are more fantastic than others.
Like a long bike trip, a long marriage is two people trying to ride together – but on two different bikes.
You sometimes get lost on a bike, (especially if Jay is navigating), but at least you are lost together.
Always stop in on friends and family. They really do want to see you, and feed you, and serve you beer and wine and do your laundry and help fix your bike.
Always cherish your biking partner in life but even more so if they crash and break their pelvis.
And hey, since our last blog update, we have added FIVE more bike deliveries to the JoyRide!
St. John’s Newfoundland – On account of the crash, we missed getting to St. John’s Newfoundland to meet Kai and his family, Mel, Sue, and Remi. But the bike delivery proceeded as planned with our friends from Freedom Concepts. Kai has limited head and trunk control requiring total support. His new bike allows him to move on his own – and he can teach his sister how to ride! We look forward to meeting Kai next spring in St. John’s.
Fernie, BC – Terry Fox Day was the perfect day to get on a new bike in our hometown. Lilianna and Liam participated in Terry Fox Day for the first time and completed multiple laps around the track (along with hundreds of other kids). Their smiles and energy were amazing! They even stopped the rain!
Minden, Ontario – Chris and Jocelyn experienced first hand the impact of a bike on a child and her family. Harper had a beautiful fall day to take her new bike for a spin. Angelman Syndome prohibits 6 year old Harper from moving independently, but she LOVES to feel the wind in her face. Thanks to Chris and Joc for making that happen.
Fredericton, NB – In our last blog we wrote about our great meeting with James over a couple of pints in Fredricton. James is amazing. And he received his custom bike this fall. Have a look.
Two of these bikes were from very generous donations. We will be donating another 5 or more bikes from your donations in the next year – yes that means a total of at least 17 bikes shared across Canada. We are overcome with gratitude for your support.
Our plan is to finish our JoyRide through PEI, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (a mere 1400 kms or so) in spring 2020. We will send you updates on those adventures and more bike giveaways as they happen. In the meantime, we wish you the very best of the holidays and health and happiness in 2020.
Deck the halls with bikes and chain lube Falalalalalalalabike Even the stockings are filled with bike tubes Falalalalalalalabike Ride a bike in snow or summer Falalalalalalalabike. Otherwise it’s just a bummer Falalalalalalalabike
“Hot day for boiking” the eldery gentleman waved to us as we passed by, just kilometers beyond the New Brunswick sign. Jay yelled back, “Never too hot a day for boiking. Or biking!”.
We detoured from Campbellton onto the Acadian Peninsula and the beautiful Chaleur Bay. The road was a little busier than we expected, but the shoulder was accommodating. Ended our day at the historic Hotel Paulin in Caraquet. Gerard and Karen are the third generation of the Paulin family to run the hotel. And what a marvellous hotel it is. Well worth the detour on its own. Gerard offered up a 2006 Beaujolais while sharing some history of the area, including the Acadian need to “fight for language and culture”, against movies, video games and TV. He also mentioned that the winter season was their busiest tourist season with snowmobilers coming from all over to explore their trails. This has also created a great quad business in the summer.
On GAIA there is a pathway all along the south east shore of the peninsula and we were keen to try it out the next morning. But just outside of Caraquet it quickly deteriorated into a quad only trail, with rocks and bumps and sand. So we resigned ourselves to go back out to the road towards Miramichi.
And then all this biking, fun, scenery and indeed our JoyRide came to a unceremonious, crashing end….
We were close to the end of a rather normal riding day, about 100 kms into the ride with less than 20 kms to go. We had just entered some harsh road conditions in a construction zone. I remember taking an angle to get up onto the shoulder, but apparently not enough of an angle and the tire skidded out and I went down. Nothing crazy, but hard, and I did feel groin pain immediately. As I write this we are back in Fernie, I have stopped the morphine and managing quite well. Now I would leave it here, but Gear Guy, now Medic Man, after considerable introspection he says, has more to say:
This was not typical road construction. There were large psychedelic cuts out of the pavement, leaving a sporadic steep and uneven 2 to 3 inch cut onto the remaining paved shoulder. There were also moats cut into the pavement every once in awhile, presumably to allow drainage from the construction area. But the moats were deep. You could hide a small child in them. This construction zone was nasty. The light was a little flat at times on account of partly cloudy skies. This combination of circumstances, in hindsight, all added up to a perilous cycling condition that neither of us tuned into in time. In an honest reflection, this could have happened to either one of us. I didn’t see Deb go down but I certainly heard her hit the deck. Hard. Behind us about 50 feet was Jason, who was out on a training ride. Jason it turns out, is an Iron Man and Triathlete.
I’m going to digress for a moment. So, we have now cycled almost 7,000 kms and not once have we come across another cyclist that was cycling with us or near us in the way that Jason was that day. He was right behind us at that exact moment.
And Jason bore witness to the fall. Besides being an Iron Man and Triathlete, Jason is also a health professional and a founder of a large Health Clinic in Miramichi staffed with Doctors, PTs, OTs, and MTs. His analysis at the time was that Deb took the brunt of the fall on her shoulder. That would explain the mostly destroyed long sleeve ice breaker shirt not to mention the rather impressive shoulder road rash. But he also mentioned that the right leg looked like it came out a bit, possible putting strain on limbs and joints. Deb’s sense at the time was that she didn’t feel bad, either in her head or her shoulder but her groin hurt “a bit”. Possibly a strained or torn groin muscle, Deb offered. In hindsight it is clear that Deb was in shock. A number of motorists stopped to offer assistance as the scene clearly looked like a casualty site.
Jason directed traffic around us while we sat for a bit and decided on next steps. In the meantime, Jason took things into his own hands advising, “I am going to ride into town and get my truck and come back for you.” Strangely, the bike suffered only minor damage – another bent derailer hanger (our 4th). Deb decided to try to ride on. One of us wanted to ride on, one of us didn’t think that was such a good idea. So we rode on. Road conditions changed. They got worse. We continued for about 5 kms over a body jarring trenches and through scattered rocks and construction shrapnel. Deb was riding with what we now know was a broken pelvis. Think about that.
In the meantime, our amazing Jason returned as promised with his truck just as we finished the jarring construction area. Deb, still in shock, was insisting to ride on. But Jason with the wisdom of a seasoned athlete and health professional and the diplomacy of Ghandi, convinced Deb to get in the truck, and he transported us both safely to a hotel. At this point Deb was convinced that the injury was a groin tear only. However, after the excruciating “long” distance walk down the hall to the restaurant, it became clear, even to her, it was more than that.
True to form, Jason contacted us early the next morning with an appointment for Deb at his clinic, Peak Performance, for an exam. We promptly attended after renting a vehicle and getting ready for, well, anything. Deb could not weight bear at all at this point. At Peak Performance Doctor David conducted a thorough exam and ushered us off to the hospital for X-rays. As we attempted to pay for their services, not only would they not accept any payment, they promptly stuffed cheques and cash into our pockets in support of our JoyRide. Words cannot express how amazing Jason and the folks at the Peak Performance Health Center were. We are eternally grateful.
At the hospital, we were accompanied by a letter from Doctor David that seemingly got us quicker than usual access to X-rays in Emerg. That and Deb’s pain level now was a “9” and the triage nurse was looking concerned. I guess a broken pelvis can be a very bad thing. So, the initial x-rays were confirmed by the Emerg Doc that Deb’s pelvis was broken. CT scans thereafter and a visit with an Orthopedic Doc concurred – broken pelvis. That was the bad news. The good news was no surgery. The Doctors were great, all totally understanding about Deb’s commitment to our ride, and were gentle in advising, “It is not days, it is not weeks, it is likely months before you should take on a ride like this again”. We took the drug prescriptions, shed a few tears, and went to buy crutches.
But I can’t stop without some commentary on the Emerg that day. People were coming and going. Some sicker than others. But there was this one man in his 30’s who, the way he was holding his arm and clenching his shoulder in raging pain, must have had a dislocated shoulder. There were several patients in the waiting room. Deb was in a wheel chair and I was standing. An elderly lady got out of her chair and offered the man a seat, which he took! And I mean this poor old lady looked like she could kick the bucket like any second. And then he skipped the line to get attended to first, which was on a first come first serve basis but also according to the emergency. And as this guy is entering the exam room he turns to the nurse who asked if he hurt his shoulder, the guy says, “No, sunburn”. Huh? Sunburn?? Are you kidding me? You go to Emerg with sunburn and take a dying old lady’s seat?? Thankfully, the don’t mess with me triage nurse punted his sorry ass out of the exam room and Emerg faster than a Darwinian finch. There was applause in everyone’s head. Hug a nurse today.
The Doctor’s advice was to get crutches and keep moving – slowly and with caution, but keep moving. No bike riding. Stay medicated.
So we continued with our scheduled JoyRide bike event stops in Fredricton and Halifax. But by rental car, not bike.
In Fredricton, we met James. James is an amazing guy. Articulate and engaging, we originally thought we could meet for an hour or so because we wanted to be in Halifax that evening to prepare for our next bike event and for the trip back home. But instead, we chatted with James for over 3 hours over a few cold draft at a local craft brewery. James’ bike is not manufactured yet, being quite complicated to engineer, but James has big plans for his bike, and his future. We look forward to keeping in touch with him and learning about all his future successes. James made our day.
Next stop – Halifax where we had a delightful and enormous sushi dinner with Fernie friend Julia. The next day, we started our day with a fun radio interview at Halifax’s Q104 who established The Children’s Trust Fund, the charity we are working with for our next recipient’s bike.
Then we met our 8th bike recipient, another James. This James is 5, and has cerebral palsy and autism, and he is the cutest little guy. His close relationship with his mom, Stephanie, was heartwarming. He has used a similar Freedom bike in his recreational therapy at school. Now he has his own bike to use at home and at school. Go get ‘em James!
Our flight back was mercifully uneventful and I was well medicated.
As we accept our forced postponement of JoyRide, we think about what an amazing journey this has been. Almost 7,000 kms of cycling joy across Canada, coast to coast on back roads and isolated trails and pathways. We think about the friends and family that have helped us along the way. We think about the characters we’ve met. We have had JoyRide bike events in Surrey, BC; Calgary, AB; Radville, SK; Winnipeg, MB; Thunder Bay and Ottawa, Ont.; Fredricton, NB; and Halifax, NS. We have another planned in St John’s NL and in Fernie, BC. And we have three or four more bikes in the planning stages thanks to generous donations. We will continue to accept donations towards special needs bikes.
This has been a humbling and magical experience. So yes, we believe in magic. Thank you for coming along for the ride.
Cycle Day #66 Quebec to St Jean Port Joli – 99 kms
Cycle Day #67 St Jean Port Joli to Riviere du Loup – 98 kms
Cycle Day #68 Riviere du Loup to Rimouski – 111 kms
Cycle Day #69 Rimouski to Val Brillant – 111 kms
Cycle Day #70 Val Brillant to Campbellton New Brunswick. -118 kms
From Quebec City up the south shore of the St Lawrence. Marvellous.
In Ottawa we had lunch with Mike and Cheryl. But we forgot to take a photo. They stalked us all the way to Rimouski so we wanted to get their picture in.
Through Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Satin Aubert, Saint Louise, Saint-Philippe-de-Neri, Saint Pascal, Saint-Germain, Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, Saint Antonin all within 100kms. Seems to be a lot of saints here. Saint Luce was one of our favourite towns in the area. Touristy perhaps, but lovely homes, restaurants, and a beautiful beach.
The last stretch leaving Quebec continued to knock us out with it’s beauty!
Following la Fleuve St Laurent became seductive, watching it widen, enjoying the breeze and the beauty, so after considerable analysis we continued past two turn off points, Riviere-du-Loup and Mont Jolie to venture into the unknown of The Gaspe Peninsula. But we aborted after 20kms because of the increasing long weekend traffic. Once again our impeccable non-planning has us heading into a tourist area on a long weekend AND during Quebec’s Construction Vacances, apparently the busiest two weeks in Quebec for vacationing. So we will return to Gaspe, but perhaps in June or September.
I surmised that getting breakfast in delightful Amqui was going to be difficult when they didn’t understand my request for orange juice. REALLY? With my impeccable Frespanglish accent? In a panic they searched for anyone who could speak English – no one. We worked it out with a bit of pantomime, and everyone enjoyed correcting my mispronounciations.
Meet Ted from Colorado. Ted oozed that easy going manner required for his around the world adventure – Ireland, Europe, China, Turkey… I suspect his wife is understandingly stoic. He is carrying a lot of gear, including a drone for photos. The only drone that we would carry is one that carries us.
Jay got a look in his eyes…and stealing the foreshadowing words of Gord O, “I had a sense that while I boarded a plane home he might continue on past St John’s. By Christmas, after checking off “cycling across Canada” from my bucket list, I might muse, “I wonder what ever happened to what’s his name?”
Cycle Day #63. Repentigny to Trois Riviere. 117 kms
Cycle Day #64. Trois Rivière to Donnacona. 94 kms
Cycle Day #65. Donnacona to Quebec City. 50 kms
Cycle Day 62
The Route Verte is fantastic. Quebec loves cyclists. We thought the bike paths through Vancouver were great, but in Montreal we sauntered west to east for 70 kms along the St Lawrence, through parks, on streets of Old Montreal, beside Atwater Market, and watched people surfing, rowing and sailing on the river. It was perfectly grand until Gear Guy started singing April Wine songs like Oowatanite and I’m On Fire for you Baby. For me, how about Lady Run Lady Hide?
Seemed like the entire city of Montreal is on vacation during “Construction Vacation” when all construction is supposed to stop the last two weeks of every July. This seems a bit arcane given the short construction window in our country, but hey, everyone looked happy!
Quebec drivers have been astonishingly polite to us – waiting behind us on roads, waving us on at intersections, even backing up when they were blocking the path!
But the cyclists are crazy aggressive. It’s like Rambo meets the Tour de France. We laughed out loud at some ridiculous antics by cyclists. But maybe it’s us that aren’t on the program. So we started running red lights and stop signs. Just to fit in.
Cycle Day 63
Weather continues to be hot and sunny. Route Verte continues to deliver. Rolling through Quebec farmland is, well, wonderful.
Trois Rivieres is a city with only deux rivieres, but explorers mistook an island separation as an extra river, and the name defiantly stands.
Cycle Day #64 and #65
The mileage signs in Quebec are a bit of a moving target. So is GPS. Don’t know what the deal is there but our days seem to grow from an initial estimate of one number and end up that number +X. Strange. Aiming for Quebec City for example, our distance estimate somehow grew from an expected 117 kms to an actual of 154 kms. Gear Guy blames the GPS, I blame GPS user. Despite being another amazing ride, with the 31 degree heat, we stopped short of Quebec at 100 kms and stayed in Donnacona, of course – sister city to Transcona, where we were lucky to find the only rental place had only one room.
If you are ever looking for a place to stay near Quebec City, call up Lise and Jean at Gite aux Deux Pignons. Beautiful home, great pool, delicious breakfast and cold beer. Doesn’t get better.
Short 50 km cycle into Quebec City.
Traffic on the Route Verte today was busy – cyclist traffic – young and old, fast and slow, everyone was out. Though, with Gear Guy still singing, this time Leonard Cohen songs, most tried to avoid us.
There is a tremendous number of the strangely shaped 3 wheel Can Am motorcycles on the road. Built by Quebecois Bombardier, there must be some kind of rebate if you have a Quebec address. Interesting how the driving audience has expanded with these more stable machines. I’m sure we saw an elderly Beagle driving one.
Quebec so far has been day after day of superb riding, fun and friendly people, and tremendous food. And you can buy cold beer, like, anywhere. Then it got better! We rolled up to friends Cendrine and Jim’s amazing condo in downtown Quebec City. Endless people watching opportunities, restaurants everywhere and the best ice cream store ever. All this while being entertained by world class buskers. Think we’ll stay and hang out till the fall maybe?
We walked around the Plains of Abraham and the museum, trying to make chronological sense of the victors of the multiple wars and skirmishes. Next day tour guide extraordinaire Francois gave a group of us a lesson on “being confused in Quebec history”. Indeed, by the time we left we had lessons in history, architecture, sociology, art, medical system, religion, food and a bunch of other stuff.
Did you know that the statues of Cartier and Champlain bare no actual likeness to them? They are just conceived as products of imagination, along with much of their attire, which in some cases wasn’t even the fashion of the age. Disappointing, as Champlain the statue is quite dashing in his Musketeer outfit.
Our francais is improving and folks are very polite and patient when we try. Google translate has been helpful but not perfect, especially with menus. I couldn’t order “moules a la savour” which translated to “mold with flavour” even after I was assured it was mussels. Gear Guy’s initial vocabulary seems to be limited to “Oui”, “Biere”, “Merci”, “Je suis desole”, but it’s building. He took French all through through High School but he readily admits that he and his buddies only did that because the French teacher was hot.
We followed Ottawa’s extensive bike path system right across the bridge into Gatineau, Quebec.
No welcome sign at the border into Quebec, but an impressive statue of Rocket Richard – very Canadian.
Not long into our Quebecois experience, I heard the distinctive clang of a piece of metal being kicked out from under my back tire. The consequences were swift. I immediately and instinctively searched for the Backroads support van to give me M&M’s while they replaced the tire. Fortunately, Gear Guy put on his cape and plugged the hole with a tire plug. And then 4 more. The size of the hole resulted in all the tire sealant goo squirting and spraying out when the tire was pumped up. Gear Guy instructed me to hold my finger on it, while he googled a temporary solution, looking a little like Basil on Faulty Towers.
We limped to the second nearest motel (we were warned away from the first one as a place of prostitution), and got out of the 41 degree humidex heat. While checking into our 1.5 star motel, I felt inspired to practise my French as so far the only words that have come out of my mouth are “Si” and “Gracias”. I took some time to practice my lines so they were flawless: “I was born in Quebec, but have lived out west for over 45 years, so my French is…” here I hesitated only for a second to make sure I had the correct pronounciation of “poor”, and the hotel clerk who previously couldn’t speak a word of English, jumped in and said in English, “Your French is gone.”
Cycle Day #60 Gatineau to Hudson 147 kms
With the tire still holding air in the morning Gear Guy was running around like Superman. It would have been less painful if the plugs had not held. Next was Gear Guy’s redundant and annoying instruction to “Try not to go over any bumps so the plugs don’t wiggle loose” and then his glaring looks every time he heard me go over a pebble or twig, led to a lengthy, animated dialogue.
We had the option of following the Route Verte along a peninsula for a few kilometers and decided that despite it being longer and gravel, we should do that. We were quickly stopped by an attentive park warden who told us we need a pass to enter the National Park (which is what Quebec calls their provincial parks – don’t get me going). We asked how much it was, and she clearly stated in English $7.15. Well for that, we might as well continue and pay up. So we handed over $20.15. “Non Non. FIFTEEN” she repeated to our simple anglophone ears, and she took 50 cents as Jay held out his change out like a kid with paper route pennies. She then gave us $3 change. “I thought it was $7?” “Non Non. SEVENTEEN.” Not wanting to reverse the transaction, we left uncertain whether we had just been conned. We cycled slowly on the 1.5 kilometres to get our money’s worth (and to avoid the pebbles and twigs on a gravel path took me longer.)
My sister and brother-in-law were patiently waiting for us in Montreal, and they saved the day by finding the exact replacement tire for my bike. Apparently a Montreal bike shop happened to have “Just one of these tires, because no one ever asks for them.” Perfect, we need just one. However, while I dodged more rocks and ruts, there was time for more animated dialogue on why Gear Guy would choose tires that no one apparently stocks.
It was awesome to have Heather and Terry surprise us on the road, just west of Oka, bringing ice water!
Cycling through the Marijuana Mecca that is Oka there is an unmistakable powerful fragrance, so crossing the ferry to Hudson (yes, I counted the 2km on the ferry in my 147 kms day count) and checking into the well known and spectacular Willow Inn, we seemed to have a little buzz high going.
Cycle Day #61 Hudson to Montreal 34 kms
Followed Route Verte onto the island of Montreal and made mandatory stop for cake and coffee in Ste Anne de Bellevue, one of the oldest and most quaint parts of Montreal. We couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a lively conversation beside us. All four people randomly and repeatedly flipping mid sentence from English to French to English to French – no hesitation, no accent, nothing. Despite my continued attempts at using my poor French, everyone we have spoken with so far has flipped to English to spare listening to me.
The manager was intrigued by our ride and as we were leaving came out on the street to shake our hands and wish us a “Bon Voyage”. “Gracias” I replied.
Spent a day with Heather and Terry, where they fed us, dined us, washed our stinky clothes, (you know the usual routine), and toured us around their hometown.
Got the bike tire changed and bought a significant supply of relationship saving tire plugs.
Terry is a rabid Pete Seeger fan. You should watch Pete Seeger – The Power of Song. Long before it was popular to do so, Pete persuasively and peacefully protested many causes including human rights and environmental concerns. The movie is moving, inspirational, surprising and entertaining. That put us in the mood for more cycling down the Route Verte – Turn, Turn, Turn……
Arrived in our nation’s capital for a few days. What a wonderful city – brimming with powerful monuments, historical statues and amazing museums.
We saw some sites including the changing of the Guard (very cool, made us feel patriotic), the night lights at Parliament Hill (also cool) and Justin busking on the lawn (not true but wouldn’t that have been hilarious?).
Pomp and ceremony at its best. Not sure their attire was best suited for the 35 degree heat.
We visited cousins Gord and Lizanne and were treated to a delicious home cooked Quebecois dinner. Caught up and laughed with Aunt Myrtle and her clan. Lunch with our friends Cheryl, Mike and Beer was a fantastic way to spend a hot afternoon. We will return to Ottawa for all the museums.
Our sixth bike was given to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Children’s Treatment Center. The bike will stay in the facility for all patients to use. Lovely Olivia and her dad came in to show us how well the bike worked. We were so happy to have Gabrielle from Freedom Concepts join us for the presentation as well.
Olivia is 8, had spine surgery 3 months ago in Toronto to improve her movement, affected by Cerebral Palsy. She will continue her rehab at the CHEO Children’s Treatment Center, which is close to home. Olivia is amazing – chatty, energetic, full of smiles and VERY determined. Olivia is a speedster. Sandy, the physiotherapist, kept reminding Olivia to use the brake when she peddled that fast. And when Olivia high fives you, she swings back and just about takes off your arm! Ride on Olivia!
Behold Fairmont Barry’s Bay! It took some convincing, but the manager eventually found us a room.
Cycle Day # 54. Lake Joseph to Huntsville. 63 kms
Cycle Day # 55. Huntsville to Whitney. 110 kms
Cycle Day # 56. Whitney to Barry’s Bay. 68 kms
Cycle Day # 57. Barry’s Bay to Renfrew. 108 kms
Cycle Day # 58. Renfrew to Ottawa. 100 kms
Paved shoulders, back roads and low traffic – Oh my! Crossing the famous Algonquin Park, what can you say? The relatively flat route was flanked by dense forest hiding the lakes for which the park is famous. Signs for canoe routes are frequent and tempting – if we had the right equipment.
Chris and Joc joined us on the bike ride into Barry’s Bay, but guided us on a route that was on no map – Chris likes epic, and apparently felt we were not working hard enough. Now I like turtles as much as the next person, but the detour around their habitat took us off the trail which wasn’t a trail already, and led me bike hiking up steep hills for a grim 17 extra kms. All this would have been tolerated if the deer flies had not been so hungry – as if we haven’t already donated enough to their species.
Fortunately, we returned to the Fairmont Barry’s Bay with enough time before dark to have a swim and go out for dinner with some close lake friends. The journey to the restaurant was a big part of the evening as Jay coveted the Chris Craft we travelled in.
Mark and Sue are the owners of this beautiful boat, named “Mary C” after Sue’s Mom. Mark’s Dad, Janus Zurakowski, was an RCAF pilot who test flew one of three Canadian Avro Arrows ever built. The plane held the promise of Mach 2 speeds at altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet (15,000 m).
However, on February 20, 1959, Prime Minister of Canada John Diefenbaker abruptly halted the development of the Arrow and its Iroquois engines. Two months later, the assembly line, tooling, plans and existing airframes and engines were ordered to be destroyed. The cancellation was the topic of considerable political controversy at the time, and the subsequent destruction of the aircraft in production remains a topic for debate among historians and industry pundits. Mystery and intrigue brought to Barry’s Bay with the family connection. Coincidently, the following article was recently published on this very topic. Check it out.
Leaving Renfrew we stumbled on a rails to trails route towards Ottawa. A bicyclist definitely prepared this surface – although it was not paved it was hard packed and AMAZING! So great in fact, that we assumed it was heading right into Ottawa – I mean where else would a train head but to the nearest city? With this assumption in mind and the smooth surface under our wheels, we continued until we had gone 25kms out of our way.
The good news is that we had an delicious lunch stop in the lovely town of Almonte.
The bad news is this will cost Nav Guy a hotel upgrade at our next stop – Ottawa.
What would you do if we rolled up at noon? Would you let us both in for a pee? Our stink and our smell cannot make you feel well Can we wash our dirty clothes here, for free?
Cycle day #51 Sudbury to Sturgeon Falls. 98 kms
We have figured out that the TCT is at best variable in Ontario. Clearly there are mixed standards from province to province on what can be classified as TCT. In Ontario practically anything is the answer. From water ways to crumbling, busy, truck laden roads with zero paved shoulder and frighteningly steep sharp gravel convex shoulders which lead to certain painful peril to wonderful rails to trails with nary a soul to be found. To be clear, there is plenty of the former and none of the latter until you get to North Bay and go south.
So we shouldn’t have been surprised when just outside Sudbury, we found ourselves on the designated TCT but it was on the TransCanada Highway with no paved shoulder and a perilous gravel side cut. No alternate routes. Made 98 stressful kms to Sturgeon Falls where we had our well earned cold beer, and another.
Cycle day #52 Sturgeon Falls to Callandar. 68 kms
If you look at the map below of the TCT from North Bay, you can understand why we were looking forward to this leg – a long stretch off busy 4 lane highway 11 into Huntsville on the TCT.
But then……the guys at the neighbourhood bike shop in North Bay advised that “the route is impassable” except in winter and by dog sled only. Hmmmm. North Bay has a curiously unappealing feel to add to the route trauma we were experiencing. We left in search of a beautiful spot on a lake to re-think our next step. Found an acceptable (available – it being July and all) cabin and had a lovely dinner and sunset view of Lake Nipissing from the dock.
Cycle day #53 Callandar to Huntsville. 111 kms
All the breakfast regulars inside Roger Rabbit cafe in Powassan eagerly weighed in on our bike route options to Huntsville. But there was one common theme, the TCT would be through deep and impassable bog and not recommended. Google gladly routed us down Highway 11, but the entrance to the highway bears a “no bikes allowed” sign. Fortunately, Gaia came through with a perfect paved route that zig zagged back and forth across in total avoidance of riding highway 11. But then…. the route ended and we had no choice for the next 8 kms but to route on the aforementioned formidable TCT. How bad can the TCT be? This bad:
The only further description needed in addition to the pictures, is that there were relentless swarms of venomous mosquitoes and deer flies that were salivating at our arrival due to the apparent lack of traffic in the area. We were bleeding from almost everywhere when Super Woman, Annica, magically arrived at the end of the worst 2 hour, 8 km bike hike we’ve had yet. She scooped us in her van, applied bandages to our bug bites (some needed stitches) and slapped a road beer in our shaking hands for a ride to refuge to their family cottage on Lake Muskoka. We swam, we ate, we drank, and soon all was forgotten.
Mike drove us to Lake Joseph the next day to see our friends Tony and Janet. On the way we stopped at the world famous Kee to Bala. Although only called The Kee since 1963, it has been an institution since it opened in 1929 and continues today. Aerosmith, The Dorsey Brothers, Guy Lombardo, Burton Cummings, April Wine, Drake and Tragically Hip are among the many big names who have played here over the years. The Kee is legend.
We thought Manitoba had a lot of lakes, but this area is infinitely populated with spectacular, cottage encircled lakes. The whole Muskoka area is beautiful. This called for a day off to enjoy more lake time, dinner time and wine time with Tony and Janet in their beautiful home.
We toured their acres of endless gardens, and were mesmerized by their beauty. Ruth would never leave, despite all the weeding that is inevitably required.
Guess we should get biking…..
GEAR GUY ON GAIA FLAW
Okay, it’s becoming apparent that GAIA has a flaw. GAIA does not identify rails to trails in Ontario. They just don’t appear. Which is unfortunate because there are several if not many options. I will be writing GAIA with my complaint. Or perhaps it’s the fault of Ontario. The trails website in Ontario is perhaps the most user unfriendly site on the internet next to the Garmin app site. So maybe GAIA has tried but threw up their hands in defeat as I have with the Ontario trails web site. So to hit on a rails to trails is by luck only, at least at this point.
Neil Young, in writing Helpless, apparently referred to “more of a feeling rather than any specific town” in his lyrics. And it was that feeling, that vibe, that we certainly felt on this leg of our journey. The people were extraordinarily friendly, and we were approached by many as we rambled like the Littlest Hobo from town to town. Towns with unique names like Echo Bay, Thessalon, Iron Bridge, Spanish, and Espanola.
Cycle Day # 48 Sault Ste Marie to Iron Bridge 134 kms
Cycle Day #49 Iron Bridge to Massey 109 kms
Cycle Day #50 Massey to Sudbury 102 kms
The impressive Hub Trail in the “Soo” meanders along the waterfront of St Mary’s River where the locks are. The St Mary’s at Sault Ste. Marie is the only water exit from the Big Lake and the water narrows into rapids and heads to Huron on onwards. There are locks on the Canadian and American side. The Canadian lock is used for recreational and tour boats; major shipping traffic uses the U.S. locks. The International Bridge connects Sault US to Sault Canada. This city was split in two after the War of 1812 and both cities liked their name so much they both kept it.
We followed the TCT and had perhaps one of our favourite riding days of the trip! Quiet, mainly gravel roads with many stops for all things Amish.
There were small Amish markets randomly here and there, stocked with crazy good strawberries and cinnamon buns. But the main attraction (at least for us Westerners who do not see Amish regularly) was the continually appearing horse and buggies, with occupants in their traditional attire from farm clothes to more formal, “going to town”, clothing. It was straight out of a movie set. Sorry, no photos. The folks here like the old ways and “Would prefer no pictures are taken.” We honoured that.
We waved at every horse buggy and hard working gardener and all waved back, some frantically. Maybe because we were on bikes? But it certainly added to the special vibe we felt in this area. In the markets, many were keenly interested in our trip and how far we would ride each day, appearing to be impressed that we liked to ride on gravel roads, just like them in their horse and buggies. It was a fascinating and memorable part of the journey. Jay now wants to grow a beard. His hair is already suitably long enough.
We ran into this crazy group of Sault cyclists that called themselves “The Wednesdays”, or whatever day it happened to be that they all were riding together. Great back road riding around the Sault. Definitely bring a bike here and ride.
Musical trivia by Jay for 70’s musical fans: This leg also took us through Blind River, the Ontario town in the song Long May you Run by Neil Young, as pointed out to us by Terry and Steve, among others. It is told that Neil was driving a hearse which he had taken to LA and met Steven Stills on the street. Steven Stills was so impressed with the hearse that he and Neil started playing together forming Buffalo Springfield. The hearse broke down and died years later in none other than Blind River, Ontario – ergo… “Well it was back in Blind River in 1962 when I last saw you alive….”
Another tiny town, Echo Bay claims to have the world’s largest loonie, and it is said that it is valued at 20X the Sudbury nickel. But for me the unrivaled attraction in Echo Bay was the clean, road side public washroom.
Our second day east of the Sault on the Trans Canada Trail was disappointing as we were back on the Trans Canada Highway for most of the day – and all of it with the now familiar fickle Ontario shoulder. We detoured from the trail in order to douse our legs with gasoline – an old Zammit trick that is supposed to remove poison ivy oil if done quickly enough. We have our fingers crossed.
Next day into Sudbury was much better, but still with some time on the highway that I thought we said farewell to in Sault. The TCT in Ontario appears to be variable at best and a little like Forest Gump and his box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.
Food has been great. Fantastic budda bowl lunch at Copper Bean in Bruce Mines and a surprise fine dining experience at the Red Top Restaurant and Motel in Iron Bridge where we stayed. The biggest surprise was that they let us in as we still retained a faint eau de gasoline. The weather has been wonderful, if slightly warm – over 30 degrees everyday.
A special time in Sudbury was spent visiting my nephew Jason and his family in Sudbury. Toured the sites including the impressive Big Nickle at 13,000 kilograms and 9 meters.
Young Cam tried to sell us on the virtues of youtuber sensation DanTDM, unsuccessfully. 21 million people follow this guy who films himself playing videos. Huh? We did appreciate his musical recommendation of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. Added it to our playlist.
Had some bike maintenance done by Kiwi Hunter at Adventure 365.