Friday, 26 August 2011

August 20th: Edmunston to Plaster rock

    Any activity can get repetitive and boring if you do it enough. Every activity but a few, and I will let you figure out for yourself what those few activities that you can't get bored of are. However, biking is one of the activities that do tend to drag on after a certain amount of time.
   Lately, Downey and I had been cycling smaller amounts every day.It was more depressing seeing that with every cycle of the sun we fell farther and farther behind schedule. This was not due to our bodies breaking down,  but simply because the boredom we experience while cycling became unbearable. Both Downey and my Ipods were water damaged. I had no more books to read and Downey and I had had every conversation imaginable. Even the countryside looked repetitive an boring regardless of the majestic beauty it displayed. Miserable is how I would describe our duo. Our spirits were taking a beating and our spirits weren't putting up much of a fight.
   It got to the point where I would relish any kind of stop we could make. Any restaurant, gas station or McDonalds offered a chance to break the common monotony of cycling and gave us a change from biking, which had began to feel tedious. While Downey and I headed through a small town just within New Brunswick I spotted the golden arches and within minutes we had convinced each other that a break was just what we needed.

   "Can I have an Iced tea and two cheese burgers please?"

   It was the same order I have heard repeated time and time again. Downey and I got our food and drink and ate. While in the restaurant we did our best at grasping at what little offered itself for conversation and attempted to provoke some sort of interesting in a subject that could breed conversation, but to no avail. As we exited the restaurant I noticed something that caught my interrest.

   "Yo Downey, check it out!"

   There, next to our bikes, was another touring bicycle. It had all the gear you would normally find on a touring bike, and then some. My mind was racing with the possibility of exchanging stories with another cyclist and the possibility of a new riding partner moved the core of my being. Only one has to be careful who they cycle with. some cyclists out there are just wierd and crazy. After all, would you want to cycle with Downey and I?

   "Its and old dude... Look at all the gear. Only old people need that much comfort." Said Downey

   "Nah man, check out that big seat. Its a young girl trying to find herself and her rich dad just bought her all that stuff." I responded

   "The colour is brown. Only guys ride brown bikes.... Its going to be some old guy. First of all he is going to avoid us, and if he does talk to us its only going to be about the path he took and he will show us map after map. I guarantee you, this guy will be boring as hell."

    While Downey and I argued about the possible owner of the bike I looked into the McDonalds to see if I could spot the owner. That is when I saw one of the scariest, most unappealing things in my life. There was a woman, sitting at a table by her lonesome who was going to town on a big mac. Only it wasn't just a big mac. In front of her lay a plethora of empty Mcdonalds boxes. Her eyes looked into mine as Big Mac sauce ran down her chin. She cast off the empty burger box to join the boneyard of other empty boxes before her. I had found our cyclist. It was too late for Downey and I to escape, I only pondered what kind of a mistake I made by hanging around here for too long. Now that she had finished her food, she was ready to converse.

    "Well I saw your bikes out here on the way in, I was going to say hi but I needed food" She said.

   "I could tell" I responded

   "My name's Kate.... Kate something" (This isn't what she said, but I don't remember her last name so bear with me).

    Turns out Kate was heading out to Plaster Rock, the same place Downey and I were headed as well. We decided to cycle together because an extra cyclist really does help the pace of the group. Kate was a school teacher from Campbell river on Vancouver Island. She had undertaken the journey across Canada for herself and fit suprisingly well in the group, so much so that our merry band of three would stick together for the next five days.
   We made it to Plaster Rock in great spirits. Turns out an extra cyclist was all we needed. The only thing louder than the combined creaking of our old bikes was the laughter that expelled from our lungs. Downey and I were back to our normal selves. Thanks to the renewed love of biking, I didn't think our night was too bad even when we got a good dose of rain soaking us and our gear through and through. Like the Rolling Stones songs says: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need."

August 21: Plaster Rock to Miramichi

   I'm guessing you are in front of your computer right now. If you are, go to google maps and find Plaster rock, now find Miramichi. You'll probably notice there is a highway that runs between the two. The highway is the 108. Take a second and make a mental note here. Never ever travel that highway. Let this story be enough to show you why.

    We were up early enough.  It was a rainy morning, but at least the night was over. It had poured during the night. So much so that water had soaked up from the ground and had gotten my bivy, sleeping bag and the contents of my sleeping bag, i.e. me, wet. Luckily, Downey and our new companion Kate found enough dry wood to start a fire and dry out our kit and warm our cold miserable bones. We made a big pot of porridge in the morning to eat. Everyone ate as much as they could because we would be travelling a barren stretch that apparently did not offer any rest stops along the way.
   When everyone was ready to leave we made sure to pack extra water and food for the journey. On a road sign leaving Plaster Rock it was written  "Miramichi 148" and a few kilometers after that was another sign displaying the picture of a gas pump with 139 written under it. This display was meant to show people that there would be no gas station for at least 139 kilometers.
   It was a sunday when we left. Therefore the highway was completly quiet. The logging trucks that usually dominate these roads and give this highway a purpose were few and far between on a Sunday. The ride was the quietest journey I have taken to date. The odd car would pass us, but it was such a rare occurence that we could take up all lanes of highway with little worry of being in danger.
   We did 70 km without seeing a house, a car, a soul. Nobody was around. This is one of the reasons we were so happy when we found a place called the Halfway Inn, halfway to our destination. It was just a small little shack and looked very unassuming. One man sat outside the Inn with a few empty beers before him.
   Downey, Kate and I figured this was as good of a place as any to take a break. We got off our bikes in front of the Inn, and that's when things got bizzare.
   Its funny, sometimes you get this feeling in the pit of your stomach that something isn't quite right. Something in your subcounscious says "Keep pedalling, don't stop here". Its a feeling you should listen to, but after riding for so long without chance for a rest you tend to ignore your gut feeling. That feeling was ringing the sirens withing me at full tilt when I approached the Halfway Inn, but I did not heed its call.
   All three of us were thirsty, we wanted water, maybe a place to sit. We had asumed that the man out the front was just a bar patron who had had too much to drink. Unfortunatly, he was the man who ran the establishment.
   Downey was the first one off his bike. He made the mistake of walking past the inebriated man and into the inn looking for service. That's when the man finally spoke to us. His speech was slurred at best, he smelled a combination of alcohol, marijuana, cigarette smoke and body odor.

    "What are you looking for? I'm the only one here if you want something, talk to me." said the scary man.

    "O... Ummm... Well we just cycled here and we were wondering if there is anything to eat or drink or something" Downey

   "You want beer? I got beer, you want a beer? You guys want a beer!"

   "O no its ok, I was wondering if you have iced tea or something else maybe.... Its ok tho don't worry about it."

   "Your going to turn down beer? A man offers you a beer you take it. You want a beer?"


   The creepy man hands Downey and I a beer. Than he looks at Kate and she firmly says no to the beer.

   "I can't drink beer, I have a ciliac alergy. I can't eat wheat" said Kate.

   Than, the creepy drunk guy looked at Kate up and down and said the most uncreepiest thing in the most possible creepy way. I don't know if he was trying to scare her, or if it was a feeble attempt at a pick up line, but picture the scariest person you know repeat this in a drunken attempt at fratenization.

    "O..... I bet you eat wheat.... I bet you eat wheat alot...." Said Creepy man

    We all just stood there silently. We had made our way in the inn before it had become obvious how precarious a situation we had gotten ourselves into. I kept on wondering when he would put on the Jason mask and bring out the chainsaw. This would have been the perfect spot for a horror flick-style group murder. 70 km from the nearest person, it the middle of nowhere, nobody would here us scream. By the speed in which Downey finished his beer I could tell he was thinking the same thing as me: "Lets get the hell out of here". I was attempting to finish my warm beer so we could get out and it was no easy task. First of all, warm beer was the last thing I wanted to drink in the middle of a hot day, and it was a budweiser. If it waren't for the fear of setting off our terrible host I would have simply left it on the counter untouched.
   So there we all were, looking for an out. Then, the worst Inn keeper in the world took out his marijuana pipe, lit up and expelled copious amounts of foul smelling smoke. That was only to be followed by a nonsensical ramble about how since the age of sixteen he had been fired from every job he has ever had. My counsciousness tuned him out when he started talking about a calf he had neglected in a ranch hand job in alberta and how his mistake led to the calf's ears freezing off during the winter.

    "Well we have to hit the old dusty trail. Thanks you for your hospitality" Said I.

    "You guys just got here, and your already leaving!"

   "We have a long way to cover, we never take long breaks"

   I said the most non-combatant thing I thought I could say. The last thing I wanted to do was tell this man about how every second I spent in his pressence made me feel uneasy and about how I was pretty sure he was wondering what the best way to dissembowel me would be. Lastly, even tho I was hungry, the idea of eating a plate of food prepared by him would only make me sick.
   "Anyways, you take care"

   With the last line I threw my beer can in the garbage and headed out the door.

   "What the hell are you doing?!" Said the crazy man "Do you even know that you can get a nickel for that can? I don't know what its like in Quebec where you're from, but you can get a nickel for that can out here. You put that can on the counter..."

    I was blown away by his freakout, I was also blown away from the fact he assumed that I was from Quebec. I placed his precious can on the counter and headed outside with the guys. Everyone got on their bikes and I could tell Downey and Kate were still making an attempt to politely nod their heads to the random things the man was saying. For me, I was far beyond that. In this mans inebriated state he had about as much common sense as a road kill skunk. Midway through his rant about the government and how golf is the worst sport in the world I started biking away, only to be slowly joined by Downey and Kate. His rant continued, if not a little louder so we could still here. As we biked off I could still hear him yelling off in the distance:

   "Sixteen Dollars! So I told him... Not worth it man. I could build a shed that holds all of it! Makes me sick!", he rambled.

    "Ok guys, that guy is insane lets get out of here"

   We all agreed the only thing of importance at the time would be creating distance between Mr. Crazy and ourselves. As we started re-hashing the last events and laughing, we heard a sound very similar to a chainsaw in the distance, only it was getting closer.

   "What the hell is that... Is that a chainsaw?" Said Downey

   "O god no... Its that guy! He is coming over here." Said Kate.

   It was no chainsaw that we heard, rather it was a small racing quad which crazy man had mounted to continue his rant. After all, what is a rant without an audience.
   For the next two hours our small band of travellers were in constant fear because Mr. Crazy would zoom by us in his racing quad within feet of our bikes, and on occasion he would stop and ramble about something new:

    "So they wanted me to be part owner and I said: No Man, I don't need this!"

    Finally, either the crazy man passed out or crashed because he did not return. Everyone in our group was relieved not to hear the chainsaw-like sound of his quad and we could finally laugh about this peculiar situation.

   As the day wound to an end we found a small campsite near Miramichi. There was a little bar or Saloon where a live band was playing. My friends and I set up our gear, made friends with some other campers from P.E.I who happened to be in the same campsite and then as a group we headed towards the live music.
   I loved the music. The bar was chaotic but I just danced by myself to the beat of the drum and was happy another day, and another 140 km was behind me. I knew the story about the crazy guy would be great to repeat, but I wondered how many more stories like this awaited us on our trek.

   A relaxing fire blazed by my sleeping bag that night. Seeing as the night was beautiful, I just slept under the stars. Even though some of the days are more bizzare than anything I might have ever imagined, I wouldn't take one day back. There is no freedom like the kind I experience on the road.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

July 28: Gogama to Rattle Snake reserve

   Downey and I enjoyed our free breakfast at the Stardust Motel, then jumped on our bicycles and started our day. The biggest problem about riding these days was not exhaustion or dangerous traffic. Nor was it a sore behind, or even the fact that we were falling behind schedule. Lately the biggest problem for both Downey and I was boredom.
   We would cycle next to each other for hours at a time and say nothing, not because we no longer liked each other, but rather because we had exhausted every topic of conversation we could imagine. The problem of boredom was compounded by the fact that both Downey and I no longer had working Ipods due to water damage incurred in the many bouts of rain.
    When we arrived in Sudbury we saw a way to temporarily relieve our boredom in the form of a shopping mall and movie theatre. The day was hot and we used that as an excuse to enter the mall and watch a movie. If we were lucky enough we would be able to remember enough of the story line to recite to movie to each other later.
    The movie was a new Pirates of the Caribbean. It was ok, but didn't seem long enough. Our boredom was back, but as we left Sudbury we found something more valuable than anything we had seen for a while: other cyclists.
   Downey and I saw them at a touristic information booth on the way out of town. We swooped in like hawks at fresh road kill and desperatly grasped to make new friends.
   There were two of them, Andrew and Mel. They were riding for an organisation called Doctors for Doctors and were headed in the same direction as us. That was good enough for me, they were like family now and we carried on as such. It is my belief that both Mel and Andrew were as desperate as Downey and I for conversation. We talked for hours..
   At the end of the night, we found a relatively secluded area to sleep in. It was barracaded by a fence but in the midnight darkness Downey, Mel, Andrew and I just threw our gear over the fence and drifted off to sleep.

August 22: Maramichi to Charlolettetown

   We woke up really early. Around six thirty am. Now the first thing I wanted to do in the morning is wake myself up. Coffee was never an option, but there was a washroom and shower not too far so I figured I'd go brush my teeth and throw some water in my face to get the day started right.
   As I looked at my bleary red eyes in the mirror of the washroom, a janitor walked into the room with a garden hose. No big deal, I thought and continued on my business. That is when it happened. I heard a bit of pressurized water escape from the hose followed by a couple of swear words.

  What's going on there? I thought.

    The janitor then lost control of the hose, and dropped it so that now it was spraying cold water in every direction. As he struggled to get hold of the rogue hose, I found myself getting intermittently sprayed. I looked for an exit but none was easily available. I was at the wrong end of the narrow corridor leading to the sink, and I felt like a target at the wrong end of a firing range.

   "Son of a Gun!" Screamed the Janitor.

    At this point the hose got a life of it's own. It moved like a belly dancer and snaked itself in every direction spraying down the entire washroom. I tried to cover as much of myself as possible, but it being so early in the morning, I did not have the mental capacity to really understand what was happening. Therefore, I just stood there, most likely with a stupid stunned look on my face while I tried to figure out whether I should be mad, laugh or feel sorry for myself.


   The janitor pounced violently grasped the hose and tried to bring it under control. The only problem was that now instead of spraying down the room equally, the evil hose of death was concentrating on soaking me entirely.

   "Arrrggh!" I screamed like a pre-pubescent boy at a backstreet boys concert.

    The hose was finally turned off. The janitor turned to me and said:

   "I'm so sorry about that. Are you ok"

   I looked at him. The bright side of the situation was that I was now awake. I didn't have to splash water in my face anymorem, and I had had a shower, in a sense. The bad part was that not only was I now soaked with cold water, but that now Michael was aware of the situation and made sure to laugh at my expense.

   "I'm fine, I guess" I responded to the janitor. This must have been too much for him because at this point he joined Michael in laughing at me. The misery that I had experienced in the morning made the day of the people around me.

   I got on my bike, ready to start the day. Honestly, at this point I just wanted to start biking to start warming up and drying out my clothes. As I made my way out of the campground with our cycling crew my rear derailer cable snapped, which means I was now stuck in the hardest gear for the rest of the day. My day couldn't get any worse.... seemingly.

   As I struggled up hills in hard gear I focused on the sad state of my bike. Both my front and back tire were kept intact by duck tape, I had four broken rear spokes, I had a broken gear cable, I couldn't use my front break and I was wet. Please God, just make one thing work out well in my day!

    Bleep Bleep!

   I looked over to Downey, his phone made the common sound of him receiving a text. He reached into his back pocket and retrieved his phone. Then, still peddling with both hands off his handle bars, he began to read his message. God must have heard my earlier pleas because not long after Downey had grabbed his phone, his bike's front tire turned sharply to the left, in essence stopping him dead his tracks. I watched Downeys eyes look into mine as his body was thrown up and over the handle bars and onto the hard concrete bellow. His feet remained clipped into his bike as momentum threw him like a rag doll falling down the stairs. Suprisingly and impressively, he still held his cell phone. As his shoulder made contact with the ground his bike's momentum continued to move over his head and brought him for a second round of tumbling pain. I laughed internally as I unclipped to see if my friend was alright. Turns out he was. He just dusted himself off and said he was good to go. At this point I laughed in his face, good friends can do this.

   "Well since we're stopped, I'm just going to go take a pee" I said as Michael rubbed his sore shoulder.

   I made my way to a small pasture fence and stared to pee on one of the wooden poles. Its funny but I always feel the need to pee on something, almost just like aiming at a target. I looked about me, there were a few cows in the pasture. This is one beautiful province I thought. New Brunswick, just breathe in the clean air. That's when I felt it. A crack of pain right in my kidneys. My whole body convulsed and and I got light headed in a second.

    What the hell just happened? I thought.

   Maybe in the excitment of Michael's crash, or maybe because we had been getting barely any sleep in the atlantic rainy season, I had neglected to notice the little metal wire that ran down the lenght of the wooden pole I was peeing on. I didn't notice the little wire that carried enough of an electric current to keep a full grown cow from pushing the boundaries of the pasture. I learned about it the hard way, as usual.
   For a couple of minutes I stood there inspecting myself, making sure there would be no permanent damage to "myself". I did not even scream when I got shocked so I figured nobody would notice. This is not something you want to be known for. I quietly walked back to the group.

   "Why are you so pale?" Asked Downey

   "Nothing, I mean no reason" I replied

   "Are you ok?" Downey asked

   "No I'm not. This day sucks. First I get sprayed by a janitor, then my gears, and now I just peed on an electric fence. This isn't my day man."

   Downey looked concerned, he went and looked at the fence. Then looked at me clutching my lower stomach with my head in my knees and then started to laugh.

   "Man, you have to put this in the blog! Thats so funny" Downey said.

   After Downey laughed at me for a few kilometers with no end in sight promised him I would put my incident in the blog only if he shut up about it. This made him content and he cycled with a smile on his face for the rest of the day. We finally arrived at the Confederation Bridge. I was happy that New Brunswick was coming to and end. There was a free shuttle bus to get accross the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians so we jumped on board.
   The island of PEI was beautiful. We cycled towards Charlolettetown and the sky opened up. The rain fell heavy and cold. It would not have been too bad, i'm used to the rain by now, but the wind picked up as well and it blew right in our faces. It was 50k to town, and with every kilometer it got more difficult. Not only did we get two flat tires on the way to town, but we were also stopped by a police officer.

    "If you have helmets, put them on" we heard from a cruise car megaphone.

   The officer pulled along side of us and rolled his window down.

   "Officer, we do not have helmets with us. We haven't had them for a few thousand kilometers now. We are just trying to get to Charlolettetown."

    "You know its a $120 minimum fine in PEI not to have a helmet?"

   "No officer, honestly I did not know that. We just arrived in the province about an hour ago. All I know is that this has not been an easy day. If you could leave us with a warning instead I would really appreciate it."

   "Oh I'm not going to give you guys a ticket or a warning. The rain is really intense and I'm not getting wet over something like this. You guys just be careful, and good luck"

    And with that the officer let us be. What a nice guy, I thought. He must have seen the look of exasperation on our faces.

    An hour later we rolled into Charlolettetown. We met up with an ALS PEI member who had a hotel lined up for us for the night. Relief came over me when I found out we'd be staying indoors tonight. Downey and I had been living a life withought luxuries for a while now and we really didn't have the spare funds for anything that was not absolutly neccesary, not even bike repairs (duct tape is much cheaper). The thought of a heated room made me really happy. The ALS PEI member and I discussed what we could do for the media and things the next day and I was happy to get in the swing of things once again.

July 29th: Rattlesnake reserve to Huntsville

   "You guys should get out of there!"

   O no. Its the last think you want to hear first thing in the morning. Michael, Andrew, Mel and I were only in the most early stages of waking up when we heard these words yelled at us from a bearded man not far from the place which we were staying.

   "O we will move right away. We didn't know it was private property. Sorry about that" responded our newly found friend Andrew.

   "Its not private property, that is a rattlesnake reserve. Didn't you guys see the signs?"

   Nobody had seen the signs. We had arrived very late at night and come to think of it we did have to jump a barrier to find our camping spot. The idea that we were on a piece of land specifically designated for the deadly noisy snakes woke me up more effectively than coffee and red bull combined. With a bit of extra drive in my step I quickly disassembled all of my bivy, threw everything in my paniers and then helped the others do the same, all the while keeping an eye out for the belly crawling critters who would swallow me whole in a second. It was not the most relaxing morning we've had.
   I couldn't help but find some humour in our situation. When we had everyone back to the safe side of the fence and out of harm's way, a quick look at the fence confirmed that there were in fact plenty of warning signs saying in detail what was waiting on the other side. Signs marked with "Warning: Rattlesnake Reserve:" and "Do not Enter: Rattlesnakes" were clearly posted everywhere. It is a marvel that not one from our traveling gypsy caravan saw any of these warnings. I suppose when we had stopped for the night we were all very tired and honestly, I didn't even know we had rattlesnakes in Canada! This is a lesson I would have been happy to learn by reading it or being told, rather than by experience.
    The four of us stopped by the nearest restaurant, which was owned by the bearded man who had warned us about the snakes in the first place. A nice coffee in the morning along with a few eggs goes a long way. A good breakfast, with the fact that I was not suffering from a poisonous snake bite gave me the impression that we had a nice day in ahead of us.
   When we set out on the road the sun was still coming up. We had to make it to a town that was about 180 km away and Andrew and Mel had taken to waking up early every morning, not something that Downey and I did on a regular basis. We were awake much earlier than usual and were on our bikes and making great time like we had not done in weeks.
   The destination for the day was Huntsville, Ontario. It was the hometown of Andrew, our new friend and he along with his partner Mel felt compelled to invite Downey and I over for a meal and a place to sleep. Andrew explained to me that over the course of his journey he had been invited time and time again into different peoples homes and showered with charity and now he felt that it was his turn. Downey and I did not find his offer of a warm bed and meal hard to accept, and so our destination was slightly changed.
   Not surprisingly, the day offered it's share of obstacles. The sun was hot, our tires went flat from time to time, we became hungry now and again. When we had to eat we ate, when we had to drink we drank, and when we had to go, we went. An interesting side note on the last point: Andrew explained to me that with a slight downhill you can actually shift your body into a position where you can urinate and continue biking all at once. Since I consider myself a student of the life I had to learn this new maneuver. It is something I would learn to perfect with time, but easier said than done at first. If there is any advice I can give to anyone who is trying to pee and bike at the same time it's this: First, you need to be a male for this to work. Secondly, make sure your slight downhill is actually a slight downhill and not a flat. There is nothing worse than having to start peddling while peeing. Take my word for it, it is not recommended.
   Huntsvillle is a huge vacation town. The town can be compared to Tofino on Vancouver Island. It is bustling with tourists and party goers. When we first arrived we wasted no time in jumping in the lake and cooling off. Andrew's step-father owned a outdoors shop right near the docks we were jumping off of and came out to meet us. It was nice to see the reunion of families. It made me think of my own family and how I had been greeted by them back in Winnipeg. Andrew's step-father was very happy to have Downey and I over for supper at their house that night and told us to leave our bikes at his shop so he and his team could repair them and insure us a successful trip. Downey and I accepted the offer and then went to Andrew's house for supper.
    We had a great time. This family especially could sympathize with what we were going through. Their own son had been gone for a good amount of time and they were more than willing to do anything to make our stay enjoyable. If there was any comfort they could afford us they would. I slept on the floor of the living room and felt at home. Not that I normally sleep on the floor of my own house....

Sunday, 21 August 2011

July 27: Timmins to Gogama

  My wallet was gone and I had accepted it. What I was finding harder and harder to accept was the fact that there was a possibility that I would be refused a plane ride back home for lack of identification. That kept me unsettled for some time.
   Downey and I had set out south from Timmins on highway 144 and made our way down to the epically named town of Gogama. The towns name made you think of a super villain you would find in Lord of the Rings, but in reality is was nothing more than a small little railroad community. It was a nice place however when we arrived there was nothing open and no one around. The tavern and restaurants were closed and we unfortunately did not find any place where we could refill our depleted water bottles. That being the case, we countinued south on the 144 until we found an open motel/restaurant.
   We walked inside the restaurant and asked to fill our bottles. It always piques peoples interest when two outsiders bike into a community, so in no time Downey and i were being questioned by the proprietor of the restaurant along with half of the clientel.

   "So are you guys biking during the nigbt?" someone asked

   "Probably just a few kilometers south of here" answered Downey.

   "This is the last motel for a while, where are you going to sleep?"

   "Outside some place" Said I.

   "Its bear country out here, are you sure you want to do that?" Said another customer.

   "You guys got a free room here and a free breakfast if you stay, I have had a friend pass away from Lou Gherrigs disease." said the proprietor.

   And with that Downey and I had another warm room and dry bed to stay at. Our sincerest thanks to the staff and management at the stardust motel.

July 26: Timmins

   I used the first part of the day in Timmins to call the media and found myself in luck because a reporter with the Timmins paper was more than willing to come out that afternoon and meet Downey and I.
   With the media portion of our duties out of the way for a little while, we proceeded to take care of our kit. Our sleeping bags needed to be washed and dried because they smelled quite rank and were becoming terrible to sleep in. There was also enough time to relax and explore the town, which certainly did not disappoint. Timmins was welcoming, warm and clean. It was worth the journey North and my wallet-less spirit managed to find happiness in this nice place.
   In the afternoon we met with the reporter from the Timmins tribune and did our best to explain what it is we were doing and what we hoped to accomplish. We were in our biking clothes which had become the usual for media events and had a number of pictures taken. In an hour we were done. We thanked the reporter and were once again free to venture out and to enjoy the town.


Michael and I woke up to the great pleasure of our own beds in a warm cottage. We had many kilometres to catch up on. We set off bright and early as we had a large task ahead of us. The road was long and empty, as was the usual for these Ontario roads. But we made great progress for the first part of the day. Things became progressively harder as the sun rose in the sky.
   Our progress was impeded by the intense heat, but we struggled through. I prepared lunch by the side of the road while Michael took a breather as heat exhaustion was a frightening thought for the both of us. We were back on the road in no time but it was not long before the heat was getting to us again. We cycled to the next restaurant to take shelter in a cool air conditioned room and enjoy a couple iced teas.
   As we pulled into the parking lot, Michael ran in to the restaurant to place our order. My heart rate rose to a speeding panic as I reached my hand into my bag to grab my wallet, and only come up empty. I searched all my pockets but was equally disappointed with each one. My wallet was lost. That along with all my fun money, about 150$ for food and all my identification. Michael still had some money so he offered to pay for me.
   Our iced teas and sandwiches tasted bland for the only thoughts occupying my mind were regarding the wallet that was no longer in my possession. After a hurried meal i returned to my bicycle to search my kit once again. When all my bags lay open and all my kit was scattered among the ground, almost on cue, the sky came crashing down in a torrential downpour of rain. The rain helped to wash away some of the dirt from my face and hands, but it could not wash away the feelings of disappointment and resentment i had towards myself for losing such an irreplaceable piece of kit.
   Downey helped me gather my kit and move it under the nearby restaurant roof where we sat waiting for the rain to let up. After an hour of waiting in the wet air it became clear to us that the rain would be here to stay for a while, therefore we chose to just get showered on for the next 50 kms knowing we'd be well received in Timmins. Downey did his best to console me, but my mood was bad and the weather only made it worse.
   We finally arrived at the Comfort Inn in Timmins around 1am. We had a room reserved for us thanks to the manager Don Paley who heard about what we were doing. Don had suffered directly at the hands of ALS when a family member of his passed away from it years ago and this was a way for him to repay us for our efforts.
   Back at the hotel i took a long hot shower, then watched some television and was off to sleep in no time.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Nowhere to just outside of Timmins

   Up early at the side of the road, we headed east towards Timmins. Our spirits were a little low this morning. Not because we hadn't slept well, somehow we had managed that, but rather because we had to ration our food out for the day. Our problem was that there where no convenience stores anywhere on the highway. There was no easy way to replenish our stores. For that reason it wad PB and J sandwiches for a while.
   The other factor that turnued up the level of suck is that the rain started again. It would rain just long enough for you to want to put your rain jacket on, and the stop as soon as you had it on.
   Our food supplies were near Zero when we came across a cabin outfitters service called The Cute Couples Cabins, or something like that. Downey and I ventured inside to see if they sold food there as well.

  "Do you guys sell any food here?" Downey asked.

   "No sorry" nice lady

   "How much for a room?" Joel

   "for you guys.., 50$"

   " Do you mind if we take some time to talk about it?"

   Downey and I went outside to decide whether or not we could afford to pay the fifty dollars. the food budget was already low, but we still had 150$ donated to us by the Calgary ALS Society office that we hadn't touched.

   "Do you boys have no food at all?"

   it turns out the lady who owned the outfitters office heard us talkinbg about our situation and upon hearing what we were discussing decided not only to give us a cabin for the night for free, but also some of her own food to eat. It was very kind and generous of her.

  That night we slept in nice warm beds, a far cry from the hard cold roads we were starting to get used to.

Nowhere to Nowhere (timmins journey)

  I hate alarm clocks. I find them extremely irritating. Hate everything about them. However I do have to admit that I would rather wake up to my alarm than the way I was woken up on this day.
   My deep slumber and my marvelous dreams were broken apart by an oncoming transport who, when seeing Downey and I camping just off the road, laid on his horn as he passed right next to us. Needless to say we were up and surprisingly ready to go.
   The day was a boring one. Very few small towns on the road, a couple of rest spots that were nice and some wildlife along the way (a lot of moose).
   The main problem with this part of the bike ride was not the heat (although that was very uncomfortable) but rather it was boredom. Downey and I could not cycle next to each other due to the small shoulders and heavy traffic, nor would we have anything to say to each other if we could. Nothing against Downey, I love the guy, just know him too well.
   Once again we found ourselves crashing just off the highway really late. No nice campsite anywhere near. It truly felt like sleeping in the middle of nowhere. The stars were brighter than I'd ever seen in my life and I felt strangely comfortable outdoors. In a life where the only constant is change, a starry sky is like sleeping under your roof.

Thundar bay to Nowhere

Downey and I were up as soon as the sun was up. Our hosts had woken up and invited us in for coffee. After our cup of Java, we got to packing up all of our things and start heading toward Timmins.
   It was a little unsettling how hot the day had started, it wouldn't be a comfortable day. We would be constantly covered in sweat surely, but at least it didn't look like we'd be seeing any rain.
   It seemed like most of the major roads leaving Thunder Bay had some major construction or had some sort of bicycle restriction, forcing Downey and I to find alternative ways to leave Thunder Bay (or T-Bay as some call it).
   At around 12pm Downey and I found a small hostel that was willing to let us stay for a couple of hours while the sun was at its peak. The hostel owner had a dvd player, a tv, and the movie Grand Torino, so we made the most of it and watched Clint Eastwood do what he does best, rock everything.
   At 3:30pm we hit the road again. By the time the clock read 1am we had covered about 120 Km and were ready to crash. Our "camp" was set a mere few feet fom the road and we camped "a la belle etoile", under the stars. Despite being completely exhausted, it takes a long time to fall asleep.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

July 21: Upsala to Thunder Bay

  There are three kind of people on this earth, those who can count and those who can't. If you have been keeping a tally of the miles we do in a day you'll see our forward momentum was brought to a grinding halt when we hit the Ontario boarder. With each passing day my stomach would go in knots as Downey and I would time and time again fall hopelessly behind schedule. This is a fact that did not escape our attention but rather was at the forefront of our minds. The truth was that if we were not cycling through lightning storms, we would be cycling through humid heat that was nothing short of suffocating.
   Let me give you an example. During the heatwave that passed through Ontario during this time I could drink 8 to 10 750ml bottles of water in a day and only urinate once. If the threat of dehydration was not enough, keep in mind our perfuse sweating affects more than just our water retention. It would also get in our eyes hindering visibility as well as soak our shirt and shorts, which lead to rashes and a ride so painful that we would be uable to sit for a day or two.
   when we woke up in upsala it was going to be another day hotter than the pits of hell itself. That, along with the fact it was extra humid from the previous day's rain made the ride a difficult one. Luckily, Thunder Bay was not far away and the day's discomforts stayed relatively minor.

   Downey and I desperatly craved a shower and a room with air conditioning. The idea of a motel seemed like a good investment, even on our tightest of budgets, if it meant a night of unbroken sleep. When we arrived in T-bay (as the locals call it) I wasted no time in locating cheap hotels.

   "Excuse me Officer" I said to a police person. "Where is the part of town where no one wants to go? Like where there are hookers and crack dealers and such?"

   "Are you looking for hookers and crack? Because I should not be the one to ask" He replied

   "No, we're looking for the cheapest motel or hotel" Said I.

   "Well you'll be in the right side of town, but trust me... you do not want to go there"

   "We've covered that"

   We headed to the rough part of T-bay which I will take the liberty to call T-bag. Downey said it best when he mentioned that as the road conditions deteriorated, so did the people. After some time we found ourselves in the core of vice city. The cop was right, we did not want to be here.
   We pulled up to a hotel. A cop car and a white van waited outside one of the rooms while some officers stood watch and other officers entered and exited in white coveralls.

   "O right on, the police are here. Now we know it's safe" Explained Downey, in a sarcastic tone.

    "We're biking across Canada for charity, were looking for a cheap room." Said I to the proprietor of the motel.

    "72 bucks, plus tax" He replied.

    "Can you come down on that price at all?"

   "Nope" He replied.

   I left in frustration and walked over to the police officers and asked where the cheapest hotel was. The officers looked suprised. One said:

   "This place must be cheap, like fifty bucks. Go ask this guy"

   "We already did, its 72 plus tax"

   "What? No man, this place is way cheaper than that. At least it should be. And I know for a fact there is at least one room free, after we clean up here."

   I did not wait to see what "clean up here" entailed, although my imagination painted a fairly vivid picture. We checked out more hotels in the area, all were booked or out of our price range. Finally we left the neighborhood. We still had not located a place to sleep.

   "I'm just going to ask at some random house, I am desperate"

   I cycled up to a home with a camper. I figured if they have a camper they must know some of the hardships we face. The doorbell was answered by the barking of two small dogs. Not a bad sign, I thought. The owner at least cares enough to give these dogs a decent life. A woman answered the door.

   "Can I help you?"

   "Yeah, I could not find a crack den motel cheap enough to stay in. Can I stay at your house, grab a shower maybe?" Ok, that's not actually what I told her, but it would not have been a lie if I did. Instead I decided to take the charmer aproach.

   "My friend and I are cycling across Canada for charity. We wanted to know if we could sleep in your back yard." I prayed she would not be repulsed by the desperation in my voice.

   After a brief pause she replied:

   "Do you guys want a shower too? Maybe a beer?"

   Hallelujia! We did, and that was exactly what we had.

July 20: Ignace to Upsala

   I woke up early and emerged from my womb-like sleeping shelter ready to face another day under a boiling sun and at the mercy of a ferocious and tempermental mother nature that seems to have no love for my friend and I. Downey and I packed our things quickly and moved out. The day started out like any other, we made a little something to eat (sandwich and granola bars) and were cycling on schedule and making good time.
   The heat had subsided for the day and the sky darkened to a frightening shade, to the point where you had to ask yourself whether it was later than it really was. There was very little suprise when the sky broke into a violent lightning storm. The only way I could descride to you the amount of water that started to come down would be in buckets.
   Usually Downey and I would simply put on rain gear and continue, but this storm was not simply a minor inconvinience to us, but a hinderance to the visibility of the drivers we shared the road with. I had witnessed a moose get hit by a semi the night before and did not wish to put myself in same predicament as that sorry animal. Downey and I passed by a restaurant in the middle of nowhere called the English River and decided to see if we could get any kind of shelter.
    When we rolled up it became obvious the restaurant was closed. Downey insisted on knocking on the door to see if anyone was home (as it was a fishing resort as well). A middle aged lady opened the door and had a brief conversation with Downey..

    "OK Joe, there is a shack we can get shelter from the rain in the back, and she said she would make us lunch"

   "Right on!" I said

   When we arrived at the back of the complex I found myself somewhat distraught as the only shack in which to find protetion was the fish gutting shack. It wreaked of fish guts, was small, and had walls of mosquito netting, and therefore afforded no protetion from the howling winds.
   within minutes of being in the dead fish shack we were soaked. the mosquito netting did not offer any protection and we were chilled to the bone. The lady did make us two sandwhiches, and Downey and I hurried to grab the food. As I grabbed the tray with the two tiny sandwiches the lady said:

   "That will be twelve bucks"

   I only stared at the two sandwhiches and decided to remain silent as I could not muster anything positive to say. Downey picked up on this and paid the lady. We then returned to the foul shack for our dead fish snack. How fitting it was.
   When the rain subsided I wanted to do nothing more than put several hundred miles between me and the bad experience of English River. However, mother nature had a different plan for us and it did not entail making much progress. We found ourselves hours later trapped in a typhoon like lightening storm and chose to camp out in a place called Upsala. A campground was located in town and they graciously allowed us to camp at no cost. When the rain let up, the power went out, therefore the warm showers were off and, desperate to be clean, we bathed in the lake. At night the skies cleared enough to have a small fire and look out over the lake nearby at the endless tangle of trees and wilderness that still stretched out in front of us.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

July 19: Vermillion Bay to Ignace

  It's always tricky sleeping on public property. You're always worried that you won't wake up on time and a family will walk up to your bivy bag and wonder what it is until you let out a fantastic fart that scares the whole lot of them away. You may have never had this problem, but when your only private space is about as big as a sleeping bag, it becomes a real concern.
   luckily I woke up early enough to avoid the awkward "trying to get out of my sleeping bag and put on some clothes without offending the eyes of a passer-by" scenario. What I was not expecting was the surprise that awaited me just next to my bivy bag.
   when I emerged from my nylon sleeping cocoon, I found a box next to me. What was in this box you ask? Well I'm about to tell you. Within the mystery box was brownies, muffins and orange juice along with a note.

   "Don't know where you guys are going, but breakfast is on me."

   So there I was, just woken up and staring at this box of wonders. It baffled me that someone just gave us food. No name or anything. I like to think it was the same guy who drops staples along the highway trying to make amends, Downey seems to think it was a grandmother who took pity on us. The possibilities are endless. Regardless, it was a great start to a great day.

   the day was hot, but enjoyable. We stopped in a DQ for a cold ice snack and passed Dryden. When the sky darkened our water bottles were empty and we were looking for a place to camp. The traffic never fully subsides on the number one highway and as we biked into the night we got a visit from the police.

    "you guys should pack it in," said the officer.

    i looked around at the endless rocky wilderness and tried to ponder where we should pack it in. The jagged rock piles didn't exactly look like a comfortable place to sleep.

   "Actually officer we were hoping to make it to Ignace, is that a far ways?" Said Downey.

   "Its about 8 kilometers" said the officer, then he added "Your visibility is poor."

    "We're poor." replied Downey."You wouldn't happen to have any water would yoy?"

     "Nope" And the officer drove off into the night.

    Igace had no 24 hour gas station and therefore no place to easily find water. We did however find a coke machine and therefore had a nice healthy pop before bed. Downey and I found a small patch of grass near the edge of town on which we could set up our bivy's out of sight.