Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Toronto to Kingston

After our break in Florida it's not been so easy to get back into the daily cycling routine. Thankfully, Susan's shin splints are fine now and she is able to pedal much better.  I can feel a real difference especially on the hills. That said, we have been taking it easy over the last few days with a low daily average of 60km to get us back into the groove.  

We are not taking the short route across Canada so after dropping down to Toronto we are now heading up towards Ottawa then Montreal and Quebec. Today we reached Kingston where the St Lawrence river flows out of Lake Ontario

When we left Toronto we were in touch with Paul and Jill who we met in Victoria back in April.  It was Paul who took our picture at the start of our cycle at the Mile 0 marker. 

As we cycled into Cobourg, Paul met us on his cycle and took us on a tour of the harbour and beach areas. What a really lovely place it is. We then had a few drinks before heading to the local pub for dinner and beer. 

In the morning it was raining as we set off.

Paul set us off on the Waterfront Trail along the shores of Lake Ontario. Nice quiet roads and so we thoroughly enjoyed our cycle. Paul is a member if a local cycling club and has given us lots of good advice and information on cycle routes up to Ottawa so we are looking forward to the next two days cycling.

5,250km to date.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Ganin Yem

As we cycled east from Toronto there was a slight familiarity with the place names.  Susan remarked from the back of the bike 'haddaway man, this is just like ganin yem'.  'Wey aye man' I replied just to make the point that I was bilingual. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Back To Work

We had a fantastic short break in Florida with my sister Karen, her three children, Hamani, Hala and Mimi and my mum.  It was hard work, of course, walking for miles around theme parks but it was lots of fun.

Here is a pic of Hamani, Mimi and Hala standing outside our summer Florida apartment.

The journey back to Toronto was a marathon courtesy of US Airways. Flying from Orlando at 10am we had a connecting flight in Washington at 3pm. However, we arrived at Washington to find our flight cancelled due to 'air traffic congestion'.  When I enquired at the US Airways desk about a later flight they said they had rebooked us on the 7am (next day) flight from New York over 200 miles away. Absolutely unbelievable!  Who on earth in US Airways thinks that is a suitable alternative?  The lady at the desk was apologetic that she couldn't magic new planes out the sky and the supervisor was completely indifferent. Anyway to cut a long story short we managed to get our flight transferred to Air Canada leaving at 6pm. I can be very persuasive sometimes :) Unfortunately that plane was delayed by weather but we eventually arrived at our Toronto hotel at 2am. 

Today we walked to several bike shops in Toronto looking for an oil change kit for the Rohloff gears. Should be an easy buy I thought in a big city like Toronto.  However, there are so many bike shops nowadays that really are nothing more than bike 'fashion shops'. They really don't know much about bikes but they can sell you the latest bike or this seasons' fashion. It's not just in Toronto we have found this - Jasper was worse.  You can't beat your local bike shop with staff who know their stuff. Thankfully we eventually found a local bike co-op and bought the oil, break pads and new Schwalbe tyres. So tomorrow we will pick up the bike from storage and do the necessary maintenance. 

Then it's back off on our journey to St John's. 2000+ km to go. Should be easy shouldn't it?

Friday, 11 July 2014


After 9 days straight cycling we reached 'tronno' and a break for 14 days. This break has played on our minds and affected our cycling over the last few days.  Usually it's just eat, sleep and cycle, day after day. For three months now there hasn't been anything else.  Even a rest day is preparation for the next day's cycling. 

This metronomic existence helps keep us going and the 'pause' whilst we go to Florida doesn't help. It's like the body 'relaxing' and leaving us with lower energy levels.  It's hard to explain but rather than feeling elated we are deflated.  Now that will fit right in with the thought that many of my friends have had for years - that I'm just a big balloon! :)

In many ways it's better to just keep the head down and keep going to the end.  That said, we are looking forward to Florida and it will give Susan's leg some time to heal properly.  She has also promised to find time to write a bit for the blog on how she has found it to date.  

So we arrived at Toronto yesterday and negotiated the potholes. Some couldn't really be classed as potholes - subterranean caves is probably more appropriate. I think I even saw a couple of signs saying Arne Saknussemm, the great Victorian explorer, had been this way. 

We made it to the west of the city and put the bike into storage with most of our cycling clothes. The girls at All Canadian Self Storage were marvellous and helpful. They did, however, insist that we place a bio hazard label on the locker door when we left two pairs of cycling shoes. 

We then took a walk downtown and went out for a nice curry last night to a top rated Indian on trip advisor.  Food was good but when I ordered my customary chapati I was told they had run out. How on earth does an Indian restaurant run out of chapatis? Flour and water and five minutes is all it takes. 

Much of Toronto has changed in the 15 or so years since we were last here. It's more built up and when we revisited the CN Tower and found that it now fights for its tall status amongst an increasing number of tall buildings - it's no longer the only big guy on the block.

4,942km.  Probably about two thirds done.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

You Should Have Seen Me In My Prime

Must have been a looker in its day. Weren't we all :)

Chen Guan Ming

Just when you think you're having a hard time pedalling your bike, along comes someone who puts it into perspective.  Meet Chen Guan Ming.

Chen, a farmer from Eastern China, set off cycling when China was awarded the Olympics. He was inspired to take the Olympic message of goodwill to every major Chinese city.  Then in 2010 he cycled to the London Olympics 2012 through 18 countries and is now heading to the Brazil Olympics 2016.

He was heading north to Manitoulin Island when we met and pedalling against a headwind.  A headwind versus a rickshaw - how does he do it?

What a truly wonderful journey by a farmer from China.  Be inspired. 

A Point Of Interest - Wiarton Willie

When we arrived at Wiarton we looked up the internet and decided to stay overnight at Wiarton Willie's Inn. We arrived and followed signs for Wiarton Willie. After getting a bit lost I asked a local lady 'I'm looking for Wiarton Willie's'. 'Well, he used to live over there' she pointed 'but now he lives over there' she pointed across to the local park. 'But I've only seen willie out twice this year'. 

We didn't know what to say. Didn't even know the next question to clarify. We just had to say thanks and walk away confused. 'What willie was she talking about'? Susan asked. 'Oh don't you start too'! 

So we pitched the tent and went to find something to eat. Through the park we walked and there it was - Willie's home. Willie was a Canadian Groundhog! 

It turns out Wiarton Willie predicts whether there will be an early spring on Groundhog Day (February 2nd).  It all depends whether he spots his shadow when he leaves his den - if he sees his shadow it signals another 6 weeks of bad weather. 

Groundhog Day is a popular local festival attended by up to 10,000 people. 

It's also worth mentioning the Wiarton Willie scandal. The first Willie was found dead two days before Groundhog Day and it was too late to find a replacement.  So the organisers marked Groundhog Day by revealing Willie in a coffin.  He was dressed in a tuxedo, had coins over his eyes and a carrot in his paws!  It caused an uproar!  

Wouldn't you just love to have been at the meeting where they came up with that idea!

Manitoulin Island Southwards

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater Island in the world. We left our motel in Little Current and headed south on Highway 6 to South Baymouth. On route we passed by some nice views of the coastline but, unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to fully explore the Island.

At South Baymouth we took the Chi-Cheemaun ferry for the 1hr 45min crossing to Tobermory. There was thick fog during the crossing. All the Great Lakes are still cold after a very hard winter and when the warm summer wind blows across the fog ensues.

From Tobermory we started our southwards journey to Toronto. We still don't have a paved hard shoulder but we have less traffic and more courteous drivers on this Highway compared to Highway 17. 

We stopped for the night to camp at Wiarton and although the two beer shops had closed at 6pm, one of our fellow campers kindly provided Susan and I with a couple of bottles of beer. All through Canada, people have been interested in our cycle and very kind and helpful to us. Our camp on the shores of Lake Huron was lovely and peaceful.

We also had some lovely views of the lake that night and the following morning.

From Wiarton we set off early knowing the forecast was for thunderstorms and rain. The forecasts were right.

A hard rains a gonna fall. And so it did. We got soaked through to our pants but once you're soaked to your pants you can't get soaked anymore. It's the most soaked you can get. So we continued cycling for a bit until we reached Chatsworth. No, not the famous house but a small town in Ontario. 

4,781km to date. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Canadian Roadsigns

It's obviously a handy place for something.


Where Are The Romans When You Need Them?

We have now reached Little Current on Manitoulin Island and are heading in a southerly direction towards Toronto. It's not the most direct east west route across Canada but this trip has never been about taking the shortest distance. To date we have covered 4601km. 

From Saulte Ste Marie we have travelled on Highway 17 which is essentially the main road east-west through Canada and that's hard to believe. For a country that relies on road transport for an increasingly mobile population and huge, huge trucks to transport goods, a single carriageway with no paved shoulder is increadibly poor.  

The shoulder on the left is a gravel and so the poor cyclist :( has no option to cycle on the road.  This picture was taken on a quiet early morning and soon after we were constantly passed by trucks, vehicles towing overly wide trailers, motorhomes and cars.  This road is totally unsuitable for this type of traffic and, to be honest, it's no place for bicycles.  However, this is Canada and there is no alternative to cycling this road. 

Furthermore, in every country we have people just shouldn't drive.  In Scotland we call them 'eejits' (English translation 'idiots'). They drive too fast with little care and attention for road conditions or other users. What do they do when they get wherever they are going two minutes earlier by driving like an eejit?  

As we are in Canada we will call these people 'moose heads'.  Well Highway 17 has it's fair share of 'moose heads'.  Nowhere in Canada, to date, have we witnessed such bad driving and discourtesy.  Time after time cars came too close and on three occasions we were so nearly side swiped. I have now learned to jump up and down, throwing my arms about, gesticulating, whilst continuing to cycle.

We also had 20km road works where they have stripped the surface of the road.  The contra flow is controlled by an individual at either end with a stop/go sign. They are supposed to communicate over the radio to let the other know the last car/bicycle through.  At one such contra flow we found the oncoming traffic had been given the green go whilst we were still not through.  We were met with ongoing trucks. 

When I reached the chap with the sign he was eating his sandwiches holding the sign. We had a one sided conversation and I'm sure his colleague with the other sign a kilometre away also heard my thoughts.

So we looked forward to the town of Massey where we could take the Lee Valley Road to Espanola, our destination. When we left the 17 we celebrated with two ice creams and set off the 24km down a quiet country road.  However, after 15km the Tarmac disappeared to be replaced by gravel for a kilometre. Gravel that you can't cycle on! 

Come on, even the Romans built better roads than that! 

What's it all about? 15km Tarmac, 1km gravel, 8km Tarmac!  We also know from other cyclists that this isn't just a temporary situation.  It's the permanent situation! 

So bring back the Romans and tell them there's plenty of country over here just waiting on some good straight roads. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Hello Lake Huron

As we travel east on Highway 17 we leave Lake Superior and cycle along the shores of Lake Huron.

Big Things Come To Those That Cycle

Here is the biggest Loonie in the world.

Note: the 'Loonie' is the name the Canadians give to their 1 dollar coin. Named after the bird on the front, the common loon. 

Then we have the big chair that the bears left in the woods.  Who's been sitting in my chair howled Papa bear!!  

'She, she made me do it and she made me eat porridge every day'!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie

Leaving Wawa before 7am we headed for the local Tim Hortons for breakfast.  We said goodbye to the Wawa Goose (town mascot) and headed south on Highway 17.

The weather forecast was for rain but it held and we only had the southerly headwind to deal with. The road was incredibly hilly and just went up and down and up and down and up.... Suffice to say that cycling around Lake Superior is just as challenging as cycling in the Rockies. 

By mid morning it began to rain.  We were lucky and managed to stop at a lakeside beauty spot and find shelter.  When it rains in Canada it can come down in torrents and so for an hour we didn't move. Then our luck changed, for the worse. The rain stopped and thick fog drifted in from Lake Superior - it was a real pea souper. 

We made our way back to the highway and debated whether it was safe to cycle.  This was a single carriageway road with no paved shoulder with cars and trucks passing every few minutes.  Of course there wasn't much of a debate because it actually wasn't safe to cycle. Regardless, we decided to push on as we were in the middle of nowhere. So with the bike lights on we listened for approaching vehicles and pulled over to the side each time. Our pace was tortuously slow. 

Thankfully, after an hour we cycled up a hill and on the other side found we had left the fog behind. Our spirits lifted.  As we took a quick break, and a chocolate biscuit or two, we looked behind.  It was like the scene out of a movie - the fog started rolling over the hill towards us. We quickly jumped on the bike and pedalled as we were chased by the fog.  Honestly, I think if we had been caught then we would never have been seen again.  However, we then crested another hill and that's the last we saw of it. I think even the fog got tired going up and down these bl**dy hills! 

Later, as we approached our destination at Montreal River we encountered some massively steep hills. At the top we let the bike go flying down. Susan has stopped shutting her eyes and has got used to the benefits of fast downhill to get a start on the next uphill. By this time the batteries on my Garmin GPS had failed so I don't know how quick it was.  However, twenty inlets later we arrived at the campsite to be greeted by a couple of motor cyclists. 'Man you were really truckin it down that hill' the guy said. 'I was doing a ton ten and not really making much headway on you'!

Susan didn't say anything though next morning as we went down other steep hills she gave me some advice back seat driver advice. I couldn't really hear her but I did pick up the words 'no gung ho' several times. 

That evening we camped and our dinner consisted of uncle bens rice, packet of knorr dried soup and tin of salmon all in the same pot.  Sound nice?  Well it is, kind of, but only in the world of cycle camping.  

After dinner we sat on a swing bench and chatted through the day - 108km and 3,300 feet of climbing. Susan, as always, looked beautiful as we sat in the sunset overlooking Lake Superior.

The following day we cycled to Sault Ste. Marie (Soo).  It was a tortuous day in the heat and humidity as we covered 116km and 2,800 feet ascent. Susan got the chance to paddle in Lake Superior to add to her list of places in the world she has paddled.  Some people collect stamps, coins, ornaments etc. Susan collects 'paddles'. 

Oh and Susan's leg is feeling slightly better after resting in Wawa. Still taking ibuprofens like they were sweeties but we are hopeful it's not getting worse. She is desperate to get the bandage off as it's playing havoc with her sun tan! 

From 'Soo' we now leave Lake Superior and head towards Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island. Our plan is to get to Toronto by July 12th and fly to Florida to join my sister and the kids for 10 days. This was always in our plan if we could get to Toronto on time and, as it stands just now, it looks achievable. Fingers crossed for the week ahead!

Lake Superior

For the last couple of weeks we have been cycling east along the north shore and then south down the east shore of Lake Superior. This lake is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and is so large you really feel like you are at the edge of an ocean.  Appropriately, the Ojibwe (Canadian First Nation) called the lake 'gichigami' meaning 'great sea'.

Happy Canada Day