Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Delays

Well, it's been forever since I've written. The library closes soon so I'll make it short.
Leaving Winnipeg I fought three days of killer head winds. I talked with one cyclists riding east who was breezing by at 35kph while I was struggling for 11kph. I guess the rumours I was warned of before I started really are true. One day I averaged 7mph-on the flats! Not much fun and it definitely was getting to my head.
A friend joined me for breakfast!

Really?

Canola fields everywhere
Mostly I've been traveling through agricultural land. Tons of canola, as well as wheat and hay. I can't say it's been too exciting. I did ride through Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. It was nice, lots of bears, wetlands, lakes, forest. It even had a good hill off the mountain down into Dauphin.

Riding Mountain National Park
Reaching Dauphin, I discovered that my rear rim was toast. Two of the spokes were pulling out badly and it was no longer ok to ride. This would turn out to be a much longer ordeal then hoped. Fortunately, my mom had met Gary on the train who lived in town and offered me a place to stay. I stayed for a full week. I was stuck which was frustrating as this is the first time that's happened to me. Gary exceeded anything I could have hoped for in a host though. He took care of all my needs, picked me up a sturdy rim in Winnipeg, worked on my bike, cooked, etc. He has an incredible bluegrass selection and a sound system my brother Scott would approve of, so we listened to tons of great music! There is all sorts of issues with getting the new wheel which I won't bother with, I'm just glad I was able to get it and had such a warm place to wait around. I really can't thank Gary enough for all he did for me. Once again, I'm just blown away by people's generosity!

No good


Gary

IN Dauphin, I also had the pleasure to met two other cyclists in town. Brain does some kayak guiding and invited me to go out and tag along with a group he was taking out in the National Park. It was so nice to be in a kayak and a beautiful, peaceful evening.

Kayaking in Riding Mt National Park

Brain
Once I'd gotten my wheel and my bike was back in riding shape, I was antsy to ride again. Since I've been back I've put in very long days, riding 'till 9pm each night. It's been tiring, but feels good. I've had some nice quiet roads as well. I crossed into Saskatchewan and have had some more interesting terrain. A little more rolling hills and nice forests.

Another storm, coming into Prince Albert, overlooking the North Saskatchewan River


With all of these thunder storms, I've had many nice rainbows.
So, now I have another day of strong head winds, my legs are drained from the last few days of pushing, but I've made peace with the wind for the moment and have accepted the slow miles. Tomorrow or the next day I'll be in Alberta. It's nice to finally make progress again after so much downtime in July.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Giving the Legs a Break

This past week I've let my legs relax a little and started to put my upper to work. The Kampen's have done countless canoe trip and gave my mom and I a great trip in the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario. So, borrowing all of their canoe equipment and truck (so generous of them!), we drove back to Ontario where our adventure began.

At the put-in, ready to paddle off

It's been a few years since I've done a long canoe trip, but it came back easily enough. We were only on lakes so didn't have any technical paddling. The trip began in a beautiful narrow lake full of lily pads and lined by rock and forest. We'd gotten a late start, so just had a short paddle that evening, including our first two portages. We had a good deal of stuff with us to make for a very comfortable trip, but that meant that we had to make two trips at each portage. Fortunately, the longest portages we had were maybe just one km long; we had between one and four portages on each day of our six day trip.

Our camp the first evening was nice, but not ideal. After a very brief rain, we were graced with a gorgeous rainbow, reflecting in the glassy water occupied by a pair of loons. It was pretty buggy so we just made a quick dinner and went to bed.



At camp the first night

The next day started off with a little swim in the warm lake, then we had a nice morning of paddling. In a bay right before the first portage we saw a snapping turtle, then two making a ruckus in the water. We paddled up to them when they'd relaxed to find the two intertwined, mating. Although the boat was right next to them they didn't seem to mind us; kind of crazy to see.


Mating snapping turtles



Getting ready to portage


Out at a bigger lake we faced some strong winds. It was very hard work at we didn't seem to be making any progress. The paddling was so hard that day that we didn't make much distance, making me a little nervous that we'd have time to finish the loop we had planned. The last portage of the day was super swampy; at times we were above our knees in the mud! After the difficult paddling I felt stiff and achy in my back and shoulders as I haven't used those muscles in way too long.


The rest of the trip the had better luck with the winds and were able to make the distances needed no problem. Our next day we got out to the largest lake of the trip and found a fantastic campsite on a rocky point. We were able to stop mid-afternoon so enjoyed time swimming, and reading out in the sun. I also was able to indulge in my first wild blueberries of the season! We also we treated to over 20 loons in a group right near us. I've never seen loons group up before so it was very neat.


Our favorite campsite, on Dryberry Lake


Some deep wading through both water and mud


We ate very well

Our next camp was on a little island on Teggau Lake which is 700 ft deep and beautifully clear. It was pretty windy on the island but an enjoyable camp. To celebrate my 25th birthday, my mom had brought pound cake my grandma made (it's a tradition that I've had for probably every birthday). It was wonderful and there were even berries on the island to add to it.

Beautiful lakes, lots of cliffs (I got to even out my tan lines a little)


Birthday cake with wild blueberries!


Yummy
Yet another beautiful day, we paddled alongside some large cliffs and into narrow lakes. There were some pictographs on one of the cliffs.



One of the portages had turned into the creek bed
One of the portages led us into a spectacular section winding through grasses out into the lake. The water was crystal clear, the floor covered in bright green grass. It was such a peaceful place.



So much stuff



Coming back to the truck

On out sixth day of paddling we finished our loop and made it back to the truck. A very pleasant and fun trip. I did come down with a cold but otherwise everything went very smoothly. It was strange to be doing something so different then what I've been doing the rest of my trip, and yet it felt so much the same. It was still moving everyday, camping, eating the similar food, and just being outside all day. On the drive back to Winnipeg we got caught in a brief but incredibly strong thunder shower, then a few minutes later it was warm and sunshine again.

Crazy thunder shower on the drive back to Winnipeg. Sure glad I wasn't biking through this! All the cars were pulled to the shoulder since you couldn't see a thing.
Now my mom and I are back at the Kampen's in Winnipeg. We've been cleaning up, resting up, and getting ourselves organized for the next phases of our trips. We also got to watch the World Cup match yesterday which was fun, even if the game wasn't as exciting as everyone hoped. From here, my mom will take the Polar Bear Express train up to Churchill on the Hudson Bay and I will continue my journey west. I haven't been on my bike in over a week which feels way too long. This has been a wonderful break, great to spend time with my mom and the Kampen's, but I'm also looking froward to peddling again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thunder Bay, ON to Winnipeg, MB

Before riding out of Thunder Bay, Frank made sure to fit in some must-see/do things in town. We started out by visiting the Terry Fox memorial. Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. In 1980, after battling cancer and losing his leg, he starting running across Canada to raise money and awareness. His run ended in Thunder Bay when he became too sick to continue.


Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay

The next stop was downtown to Hoito's for some amazing Finnish pancakes. I'd been told all the way back in Barrie, ON that this was a must. They're a thin pancake and very good!

Frank took me out to have Finnish pancakes-a Thunder Bay tradition at Hoito

Then it was back to the road. I stopped in to see Kakabecka Falls and on the rolling roads ran into John again. I thought he'd be a day ahead, but turned out he needed a day off in town as well. The day was cold with passing thunder showers all day and good head winds, not exactly the most pleasant riding.


Kakabecka Falls



Stopping for a quick bite to eat at the boundary to the Arctic Watershed, Rudy Gillis came out and invited me in for the night. Being just mid-afternoon I wasn't sure I was ready to stop, but a few minutes later a heavy rain shower and sudden cold convinced me. I rode to Rudy's place just a minute away and met his wife, Anna. They took me in so generously, fed me a fabulous home cooked meal and were great company for the evening. It was a nice surprise to have such a enjoyable evening with the Gillis', this was also only the 4th random invite I've had my whole trip.


Rudy and Anna Gillis

The next day the sun shone the next day even if the winds didn't let up. I had a little excitement when I had to put my breaks on for a moose that ran just meters in front of me. Shortly after, what I believe was a cougar crossed the road ~100 meters ahead-I just wish I'd gotten a better look and could be sure.

Much of what I rode through
I also had the excitement of my first bear at my tent one evening. Every other cyclist I talk to is paranoid about black bear, or even terrified of them, but I tend not to worry. I haven't hung my food and even eat in my tent. Although I know that there are plenty of bears out here, from what I've seen they're all pretty small blacks. However, I heard something outside my tent this evening, I banged on the wall and yelled, then looked out the door to see a little ~200lb bear outside. I hurried out of the tent to yell at it and chase it away. Unfortunately it wasn't the least bit scared, just walked slowly, then turned to look at me. Once I finally got him to run off I gathered my food and hung it. I was sure he'd come back that evening so didn't get much sleep, but it didn't return.
On Canada Day I rode into Kenora, explored the town a bit, then met my couchsurfing host, Gail, for the night. The Kenora area is full of lakes both large and small. Just about every vehicle I saw in the last few days carried some sort of boat. Gail is an avid kayaker, so it was fun to learn about the area from her.

Huskey the Muskie in Kenora, ON with rotating art display in front
That evening we went to the neighboring town for the Canada celebration. They had events all day, good live music, and fireworks at night. A family country band played while we were there; Gail and I both called it a night before the fireworks started up.

Keewaiten Canada Day celebration


Gail
From Kenora I got the wind at my back and decided I could make it all the way into Winnipeg. It was my first day over 200 km and longest day by far at 131 miles! Right before crossing into Manitoba, I gathered a swarm of flies that stayed with me the whole day. They bit me often and were a huge pain. It was nice to finally have some choice in roads again, I was able to get on quite back roads and away from the traffic and noise. The terrain also quickly flattened out and likely will be dead flat from a long time.
I felt good even though the winds changed and the second half was filled with head and side winds. Having the motivating factors of getting to friends and seeing my mom made the day easy. I arrived at the Kampen's house and was able to settle in before they returned from their days outing. It was wonderful to see my mom and meet longtime friends of my parents.

Art, Nadine and their three children have been making us feel right at home and treating us so well. Art's been getting us ready for a canoe trip, supplying us with not only a route but nearly all the gear. Art and Nadine also took us on a great tour of Winnipeg. It's a beautiful city, full of huge parks and green space, culturally rich, and overall just very impressive. The only bad thing has been the heat. The day we arrived temps rose and the humidity made it nearly unbearable. Fortunately things are cooling down a little.

The Meeting Place at The Forks, a historical landmark in Winnipeg

This was a really neat thing at the Forks. If you stood in the middle you were surrounded by gun sight-type things that would point out a star on a certain day of the year, the stars and stories were described for each one.

Art, Nadine, and my mom


Sea monster in one of the gardens of Winnipeg

My mom and I are leaving this morning for a 5-6 day canoe trip-driving back to the Kenora area. It should be a great time!