Saturday, 28 June 2014

Another Point Of Interest

White River is the origin of Winnie the Pooh. Apparently a Canadian soldier, Harry Coulbourne, bought a bear cub from a trapper at White River in 1885.  He called it 'Winnie' after his home town Winnipeg.  

The bear became a pet of the soldiers and when Harry was posted to France in 1914 he gave the bear to London Zoo to look after.  A frequent visitor to the zoo to see the bear was AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin Milne.  You can guess the rest. 

Right behind the Winnie the Pooh monument we set up camp in White River.


No camping site but there was a grassy area behind the tourist info building. The six Canadian girls, Bill, Susan and myself along with two other chaps from England. A busy makeshift campsite.

Thunder Bay to Wawa

Leaving Thunder Bay on Kings Highway 17, we cycled along the north shore of Lake Superior through Nipigon, Rossport, Jackfish and White River.  As this area is part of the Canadian Shield the road is just continuous hills. Indeed, many say that this area is more challenging to the cyclist than the Rockies - whereas the Rockies are long high mountains, the hills here are steeper and they follow one after another.  On this part of the journey we climb 2-3000 feet a day and it is tough going.

Doctor, Doctor 
Not only is the cycling very hard but Susan has an injury - it appears she has shin splints on her right leg. Whatever it is, it's really painful. 

Shin splints is not a common cycling injury but we do put a lot of pressure on the pedals to push the bike and all the gear up hills. Consequently, she has struggled to pedal but done marvellously well. 

As I have been on numerous management courses I know all the right motivational things to say - 'Man up', 'You'll be on the next Greyhound bus home' and the classic, that every man would use, 'I've got a sore ankle too, you know'.  I know my motivational phrases work because she doesn't speak to me for a few hours after just to concentrate on her pedalling. 

Nipigon to Wawa
After we passed through Nipigon we crossed a bridge that was washed out a day later.  It had been raining hard that day and apparently a large beaver dam high up the hill had burst resulting in a domino effect down other beaver dams down river.  When the torrent of water and wood hit the road bridge it put it out of action for two days. Bad day for the beavers, good day for cyclists who had a car free road. 

At Rossport we stayed at the Rossport Inn and rented a cabin. Ned and Sheila were wonderful hosts and let us use the kitchen in their house and Ned, a former US Phantom fighter pilot, entertained us with his stories. The cabin was 50 feet from the railroad and every 2 hours a huge freight train would rumble through with all horns sounding.  The cabin actually trembled .  Susan and I love the 'company' of the Canadian trains as they travel alongside the roads we cycle and so we didn't really mind.   However, it's not everyone who can put up with their bed shaking 4 times a night.

Our weather has been changeable. One day it's freezing and raining, the next its 30 degrees sun.  On the days it's clear the views over Lake Superior are stunning.  

As Susan's leg continued to be a real issue we cut our distance down to 60km a day for a few days.  However, the distances between communities are considerable and to ensure we have food and water we are now back up to 90-100km. 

It is tough and we are tired so on reaching Wawa we are having a rest day. Susan has her leg up with a cold towel on it and is not hungry anymore cause she takes so many pills.  However, she does get the chance to watch Brazil v Chile.  Things can't be that bad after all! 

4,087 km to date. 

More And More Cyclists

On our journey from Thunder Bay along the north shore of Lake Superior we met 6 Canadian girls on the same west-east route. As we were talking, Bill (who we met two a days ago) arrived followed by Mary and Melissa. Time for a group photo. 

A further 5km down the road we met Eric and Astrid who have sold up everything and are cycling the world.  Their leaflet said that one of their main goals was to travel and meet interesting people - well you won't get anyone more interesting than a trans Canada cyclist! 

13 of us at the same spot - this trans Canada cycling lark is quite popular.

Canadian Roadsigns

'Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore'.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

On The Same Path

Since Winnipeg we have cycled on roads that are generally used by other trans Canada cyclists. Consequently, we regularly meet others travelling on the same journey either west-east or east-west.  It's good to meet others with a common goal and share experiences.  

Here is Bill, a proud Canadian who emigrated from the Netherlands in the seventies.  He still had a strong Dutch accent and was interested in our tandem which was manufactured in the Netherlands. 

Twenty minutes later we met Melissa and Mary overlooking Lake Superior. 

They are riding across Canada in support of a worthwhile cause, Mercy For Animals Canada (  

Others we met that day included a Canadian from Montreal who was on a tight schedule and covering 180km a day.  He was a very fit young guy.  However, even he was outdone by a chap from Cumbernauld with the St Andrews Cross on his bike.  His aim was to cross Canada twice in 10 weeks.  Well done the Scots, still the best in the world. Oh did I forget to mention he was riding a BMW 1100!  

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Not Just Another Trans Canada Cyclist

On our last day into Thunder Bay we were passed by Clara Hughes who is an Olympian and pretty famous in Canada.  She is on a 100 day 12,000 km cycle across Canada to raise awareness of mental health issues.  Google her name and just see all what she has achieved. Impressive. 

Susan and I crested a hill to see one of her support vehicles a few hundred yards parked on the road shoulder ahead of us. Note: our only support vehicle is the trailer we haul along behind us.  

They might want to interview us I thought, maybe on TV.   Thinking fast as we cycled up to them I asked Susan the important question - 'do I have any breakfast still on my face'. 'No' she replied.  Good, thank goodness I didn't have any tomato sauce then.  'But you do look unshaven' she said (two days camping).  'That's okay' I replied, 'unshaven is a popular look'.  'Not for you, you just look like an old man who can't look after himself anymore'! 

Kelly from the support team didn't seem to mind my appearance and we all had a good chat about really interesting cycling stuff as well as bananas and mosquitos.  Unfortunately, the camera crew wasn't there. Then Clara arrived and cycled past.

'Where's our tailwind' she shouted.  Exactly what we were thinking Clara! 

I thought about cycling and catching up but by the time we got on the bike I couldn't see that far ahead.  So Susan and I settled down to our own personal battle against the hills and the wind.  

Trans Canada Rush Hour

On our cycle from Kenora to Ignace, Susan and I stopped at the top a hill for some rest and refreshment.  Within a couple of minutes we were joined by a chap from Montreal who was cycling from east to west.   As we chatted another group of three plus one arrived travelling east.  Oh we swapped trans Canada cycling stories. You wouldn't believe how interesting it was :)


What a nice bunch they were.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Thunder Road

Leaving Kenora we started our 4 day journey on Highway 17 to Thunder Bay on the western shore of Lake Superior.

It's said the best laid plans don't survive first contact with the enemy and this was the case here. The plan was in disarray within two hours and the enemy was the weather.  It rained hard rain like it shouldn't rain at this time of the year and the swirling winds appeared to hit from every direction.  

Riding a recumbent bicycle presents particular issues in this type of weather.  As one lies back there is no way to put your head down.  So the rain hits you full face and when the sleet hits your eyes it's blinking sore.  So I cycled with one eye shut and one eye half shut - this was marginally better than trying fogged up sunglasses. Secondly, as one lies back all the rain blows up your rain jacket and you get soaked from the inside. Consequently, I have a new business venture when I return home - I am going to manufacture rain proof onesies.  Nice idea for recumbent cyclists!  

By lunchtime we were soaked through for the second time and as we don't have another change of clothing and we were 80km from our destination we called it a day.  By now the wind was forcing us to a slow pace and so it was another night of camping in the wild.  We were carrying dehydrated food as emergency rations but the Himalayan rice and lentils didn't taste like they should.  

Thankfully because it rained heavily all day and night the bugs were hiding.  We were bear aware and took the necessary precautions regarding food etc.  Apparently these forests don't just have bears but also wolves and, in the morning, it wasn't long before we cycled past one wandering by the side of the road.  As soon as he saw us, however, he was off -  I think it was the smell from my damp socks in my bag. 

Over the next three days we cycled through stops at Dryden, Ignace and Upsala. The weather was fine but the roads were very hilly.  Each day we cycled over 100km and climbed up to 2000 feet.  It was a tiring few days.  To be honest, it was a very very tiring few days.  

When we arrived at Upsala the local motel was full and so was another night rough camping although the spot was a local park by a lake where camping was permitted.

We started cycling before 7am on our last day into Thunder Bay.  We managed to get a marvellous breakfast of bacon and eggs a few kilometres down the road and then set off for Thunder Bay.  

All through the Prairies the tailwinds were a great friend but today was some payback.  The wind blew from the north east, hit us front and side and we struggled all day.  The only high point was some homemade wild blueberry pie we had bought at the breakfast motel.  Best pie in the world.  Unquestionably.  Susan does say her 'mam's' pie was just as good but today this was the best.

We did have another 'moose' encounter and this time I got a picture!  I was off the bike with my camera before Susan could stop me.  The moose wasn't hanging about though and dodged back into the forest before giving me one last look.

As you can see he wasn't a big moose - about half the size of the first one and no horns.  

Eventually we reached Thunder Bay and checked into a motel - 134km and 2400 feet ascent later.  Our room smells like a zoo with all the damp clothing but as long as we don't let the chambermaid in nobody else knows. 

We have rested a day in Thunder Bay and changed the tyres on the bike.  The tyres we had didn't get to the expected duration for a Schwalbe Big Apple tyre but that's probably due to the weight and the recumbent steering.  Our front wheel was through the rubber to the puncture protection layer and on the rear the tyre wall was coming away.  As a result, on the road into Thunder Bay we had steep downhills and scary wobbling.  However, we were too tired to care and slow down really.  Well Susan actually does care but I'm more of the hold on and hope type of person.  

3580km to date.

Next stage of our journey takes us round the north shore of Lake Superior.  We hear the hills are steeper than the Rockies.  Oh we can't wait! 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Kenora - Lake Of The Woods

After two days and 235km cycling from Winnipeg, we reached Kenora.  Our cycle took us through Whiteshell Provincial Park and lovely quiet roads. 

That said, the Prairies are but a memory as we have hit the hills again.  Or the Canadian Shield as it's called.  It's not the Rockies but our day of cycling into Kenora was 116km and 2000ft of climbing. 

Kenora is a very pleasant town, reminiscent of somewhere in the English Lakes.

Over the next four days our aim is to make it to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior.  Many hills to come but nobody said it was going to be easy. 

Ontario - 'Yours To Discover'

Another day another Province another photo.


Not So Famous Rennie

The locals at Rennie have a definite sense of humour.  As we pass through every small town in Canada their 'Welcome to ...'  sign proudly proclaims famous 'sons and daughters'.  Usually they are famous sports stars from hockey, baseball, the Olympics etc etc. 

Here is the Rennie sign:

A Night At Bug Hotel

We left the west side of Winnipeg at 8am and headed through the city centre towards Kenora.  Locals warned us that Winnipeg was not cycle friendly and our progress was slow and difficult through the traffic. It was not until late morning that we reached the city limits and here the main highway 44 became a narrow single carriageway with no hard shoulder.  It's hard to believe that this was a main route heading east. 

Huge trucks and cars gave us cause for concern but thankfully most of the drivers were very considerate. I do, however, find myself cycling at least 30% of the time looking in the rear view mirror.  It's only when you are in such a vulnerable position that you realise that so many drivers are in such a hurry, driving too fast and much too close together.  Yes I know that's what a cyclist would say but what's the rush?

Anyway, we eventually reached a better road but struggled with a very strong northerly crosswind all day. As it was getting late and after 120km we decided to rough camp just outside Elma.

Picking a suitable spot we moved back off the main highway to discover the 'old highway'. This road is now categorised in Manitoba as 'historic highway 1'.  I was actually thinking of writing to the local government to suggest they re-open this road as it's of better quality than some of the roads we have been cycling along :)

So we unpacked and began pitching the tent only to be plagued by every kind of flying bug you could imagine. There are tiny black flies that swarm, huge 'bulldog' flies that attack and, of course, the ever present mosquito.  And don't forget, this is Manitoba and the mosquitos are the size of small birds. Dragonflies are everywhere but they don't bother us apart from a loud buzz.  That's just some of the flying stuff - then there are all sorts of things crawling on the ground.  Honestly it was like camping in an Insectarium. 

We covered up and, thankfully, we had mosquito nets with us.  If it wasn't for the nets over our head we would have 'bugged' out :) So looking like a pair of bee keepers we kind of got the tent up.  You can see from the picture that it's all a bit loose because the pegs are not properly fixed to the tarmac.

It was only in the morning after we were back on the road did we see the following sign 1/2 mile down the road.

Bears!! Bl**dy bears!! Nobody said there were bears in Manitoba!!

We were so concerned about the bugs and we didn't realise that they were the least of our problems. We even slept with all our food in the tent and that's absolutely something you just don't do in bear country. 

After a 26km hill we reached Rennie where there was a garage, a shop and a hotel.  Time for breakfast  and bacon and eggs.  We got talking to the old locals and told them of our night of camping.  They were a friendly bunch but they wanted to pass on their experience to us 'Europeans' 'Ohhhh be careful with the bears. Ohhhh never sleep with food in the tent. Ohhhh be careful of this bug and that bug.  Ohh the bulldog flies will take a chunk out of you.  Ohh and the ticks and lymes disease'.  

Then a lady came over to me with a picture of an arm with two red circles. 'If you get the red bullseye go straight to the doctor,  if it's a black circle it's okay'.  What are the symptoms of lymes disease I enquired?  Susan quickly changed the subject knowing fine well that if I knew the symptoms then it's pretty likely I would have developed them before the end of the day. The locals then told us about the road ahead. 'Up and down all the way, like being back in the mountains' they said.  They were laughing! 

We finished our breakfast and said goodbye to the Rennie Motivational Breakfast Club. The sun shone but we were filled with trepidation for the road ahead.  As we sat on the bike, one lady leaned out the door and smiled. 'We just heard that a huge wolf has been seen just up the road'. 

I'm quite sure as we cycled away they all laughed and laughed at the fun they had with the 'Europeans'.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Friendly Winnipeg

Cycling for 7 straight days and 800km we arrived in Winnipeg.  After having a lovely time 'holidaying' in the Rockies it was time to get some kilometres done.  It's been a reasonably tiring 1500km from Calgary with only a couple of rest days in Drumheller and Saskatoon.  

At least the prevailing winds have been in our favour coming from the west or north west.  On two days the winds swirled around us and, at times, hit us head on making cycling dreadfully hard.  It's easy to hate the wind when it's not in your favour.

The picture is taken in Forks Park, Winnipeg, a historical Canadian site where two rivers meet.  It has been a place of settlement, fur trading, railways and immigration to the Prairies. Today it is a very pleasant park.  In the background is the new Canadian Museum of Human Rights which opens later this year.  The tent in the foreground has been erected for annual Treaty Annuity Payments to First Nation Indians that have signed historic treaties with the Crown.  When travelling through Canada we cycle past many First Nation communities and two days ago we passed through this wonderfully named town: 

On our journey we meet many people with family connections to Europe.  Often they have Scottish grandparent who emigrated to Canada .  It highlights that whilst the history of Canada can often seem relatively recent we should always remember who lived here first.  Okay that's enough of the politics. 

Well it's not really.  Here's some more politics of a sort - the state of the Canadian roads is very poor. That's being polite. Oh I know severe winters affect the roads but that's an excuse and certainly not the whole story.  Firstly, the roads have not been constructed to deal with the huge trucks that are commonplace today and, secondly, the maintenance repairs are laughable.  Remember the guys that used to come round and offer to Tarmac your drive for a bargain price only for it to break up after a couple of weeks?  Ever wonder why they don't knock on your door anymore.  Well I can tell you that they are all over here repairing the roads!  

We like to complain about the state of British roads and the potholes.  Well have a look at Canada's roads and you wouldn't complain again.  Thank goodness our bike wheels are robust.  Every day we travel across sections where the cracks make it like cycling along railway sleepers.  We also hit many potholes that send a spine crunching jolt through your body.  As an old Chinese proverb says 'don't cycle in Canada with your tongue between your teeth'.

Now we are in Winnipeg we have left the Prairies and what a wonderful place it was.  Vast areas of open space and big skies.  That said we have realised something is amiss with this rambling blog.  Despite all the pictures we have not posted a pic of a grain elevator!  I mean there are millions of them in the Prairies. So here is a picture of a grain elevator in Saltcoats owned by Macdonald Farms. It's almost like being home!

2,850km to date.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Swing Time

Cycling through Langenburg we came across Goliath.  Constructed of parts from old farmyard implements it is claimed to be the largest swing in the world.  The seats are from horse drawn carriages and the swing pivots are from two chev car diffs.  So for all you big swingers here is Goliath.


On Saturday we cycled into our fourth Canadian province. Cue a picture with a sign. 

I know you are not wondering why the sign is a strange shape but I will explain anyway - that's the shape of Manitoba!  

Saturday, 7 June 2014

When Cars Had Style

On our journey we passed a field filled with scrap cars.  Amongst all the non descript cars from the last 30 years were some absolute gems with style and flair. Where did it go all wrong?

Saskatoon to Yorkton

Leaving Saskatoon we travelled to Lanigan (128km), followed by Foam Lake (113km) and Yorkton (92km). A reasonable 333km in 3 days. Thankfully, however, we have had a little help from our friend Mr Tailwind.  Over the last three days the wind has been constantly at our backs and it's been great. The bike still requires a lot of pedalling but a little bit of assistance is appreciated. 

 When we are cycling we have good days when everything is strong and not so good days when it feels like your body is a big blancmange.  One such 'blancmange' day was yesterday and it was particularly felt when we were 50km away from Foam Lake.   When eating Mars Bars doesn't work then you know you are in some difficulty.  One Mars Bar is usually good for 20km at Warp 2 (cruising speed on the USS Enterprise NCC-1701). Today, however, we were stuck at Impulse speed.  

Then the wind picked up and, according to the weather channel, it was gusting at Gale Force.  Oh it was just wonderful as we accelerated to Warp 6 (maximum safe speed).  Before we knew it we had docked at the Foam Lake Campground.  To make the day even more unbelievably good, we were chosen by the Foam Lake Tourist Office as their 'tourists of the week' and had our picture taken. Now you may laugh but have you ever been a tourist of the week?  Exactly!

This is how we like to see our flags flying!

Feeling Kinda Cool
As we cycled slowly out of Saskatoon in the sunshine we were feeling relaxed and looking forward to the day ahead.  As we approached traffic lights a young chap shouted over to me 'yo homeboy, nice ride'.  Now I don't know what 'homeboy' means and I have no idea why I replied with a 'yo'.  It just happened - a quick interchange on the street corner between two guys.  So off we pedalled and for ten seconds I was feelin kinda cool.  Then Susan shouted from behind 'did he just call you old boy'!  My bubble of cool was burst!!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


After five days cycling and 500 kilometres from Drumheller, we reached Saskatoon.  On the way we passed through Hanna, Oyen, Rosetown and Kindersley and, with a last day cycle of 118km, reached Saskatoon late afternoon on Monday 2nd June.

The Prairies have proved quite a different challenge from the Rockies.  First of all they are certainly not flat and we experience long rolling hills.  The weather is quite changeable and as we cycle in the sun we can see thunderstorms moving across the plains all around us.  Twice we have been caught and each time the claps of thunder were truly deafening and the forks of lightning too close for comfort.  We can see the storms approaching and have time to find shelter - once we found an an old gravediggers hut and, on another day, an abandoned barn.  Both were welcome refuges for 20 minutes until the storm passed and we could cycle in the sun again. 

Generally, the winds have been favourable to us.  We are glad to be travelling west to east and a slight tailwind is always welcome.  However, that doesn't mean to say the wind is predictable and, especially, across the Prairies, the wind can whip up from any direction.  

On our last 30km to Oyen there was a strong headwind and we struggled to make progress, arriving at our motel late in the day absolutely shattered.  The following morning the wind was again behind us and we set off confidently.  In fact for the first 2km I was surprised at how easy we were pedalling.  This is good I thought, no hangover from yesterday.  We tackled the first hill.  Wow this is smooth and we are in a higher gear than normal.  On we pedalled and cycling felt good again.  Another km later and I thought something's just not right.  No idea what it was but something felt different.  That's when it came to me and I quickly stopped the bike and turned around.  Where's the bl**dy trailer?

Yes we had left our room as usual, packed up the bike and positioned the trailer at the rear of the bike.  I thought Susan had hooked it up and she thought I had.  So when we pedalled off the trailer just sat there in the car park.  Honestly, if anyone was looking it must have looked like Laurel and Hardy. 

So we quickly turned around, cycled back and, fortunately, the trailer was still in the same place in the car park.  Thank goodness!  So we hooked up and set off again.  Immediately there was more strain on our pedalling, our legs were tired and that same hill took ages.  It didn't seem to matter though - we were glad to be back with our trailer.  

From Saskatoon we aim to push onto Winniepeg, a distance of 800km over the next week or so.  It will, however, be weather dependent as further storms are forecast in the region.

To date 2106 km.

Saskatchewan - Land Of The Living Skies

On our journey from Drumheller to Saskatoon we left Alberta and entered Saskatchewan, our third Canadian province.


Saskatchewan is known for its agriculture (mainly wheat), oil and mining (largest exporter of potash in the world).  Much of the farming is now done by large corporations that have bought over the smaller family farms.  This consolidation has changed the pattern of local communities and there is evidence of closed schools and abandoned buildings all over the Prairies.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A Point Of Interest

Traveling through the Prairies is interesting to a point. It's great to be able to cycle through a region that we all studied during Geography lessons at school. It's wonderful to see the rolling fields and the huge skies that go on for ever. Last Saturday, for example, as we had lunch, I lay back and thought 'Saturday afternoon in the Prairies'- how good is that!  So much better than a 'usual' Saturday afternoon shopping or watching the football scores come in on television. 

That said, there is a limit to how interesting the Prairies can be when you are travelling at bicycle speed.  I mean a field is a field.  Susan, however, likes to see the subtle differences and is a great observer of the detail.  For Susan, every field is different and she is perfectly content with the never changing landscape.  Or as Susan would say 'the ever changing landscape'.  

I'm a bit more of a person who has to be entertained all the time.  So whenever I see a sign on the highway marked 'Point of Interest' I am delighted.  Unfortunately, when we stop at the relevant lay-by the point of interest is missing.  It is apparent that there once was a sign that has since been removed.  Obviously it was not that interesting in the first place!  We do gaze around looking for what it might have been but all we can see are fields.

Fortunately we did come across a 'real' point of interest that was mildly interesting and as we have no pictures of the magnificent Rockies for this part of the cycle we thought we would share a picture of a boulder.

Now this is no ordinary boulder - it is a 'buffalo' boulder! 

Susan is standing by a boulder that was brought to the Prairies thousands of years ago by a glacier.  When herds of buffalo freely roamed the Prairies these buffalo used this boulder as a scratching stone. What the photo can't really show is that the boulder is smooth from all the rubbing and it sits at the bottom of a 6 foot deep circular trench worn by the buffalo.  There used to be many such boulders across the Prairies but they have since been removed for farming.  The buffalo have long since disappeared too.  This boulder is a nice 'symbol' of how things were before the first settlers came to Canada. 

Now this is not the most interesting story but we are in the Prairies after all.  I'm sure that during your day you will encounter much more interesting things.  If you don't then you should be a little worried :)