Montreal, Quebec City, and 9 – 10 days to Sydney, NS!

I’m in a diner grabbing a coffee and a bite before heading out for the long haul. I’ve done 25km this morning getting out of Quebec City proper, and I’m heading north before going south east to New Brunswick.

Quebec has had a lot of bike routes, including the Prescott-Russell trail and the Green Trail. Also excellent signage:

image

While biking along the waterfront into Montreal I went by just giant mansions on the water. I can’t imagine who lives in these giant buildings:

image

In Montreal I arrived at a hostel where I planned to spend the night, and when I got there I was told they had no rooms. I completely forgot it was the labour day weekend, so of course all the rooms were booked! Oops. I found a motel a couple blocks away and booked a room there. I went out and got a poutine and a bad smoked meat sandwich (later at night I went to a proper deli and had a fantastic smoked meat sandwich – I stood in line, which indicates how good the food is). I think the key to a good poutine is the gravy.

I had planned to stay in Montreal 2 days, but I had taken a day off in Ottawa and I couldn’t stay in the hostel, so I departed. I will absolutely be coming back to Montreal in the future. I had no idea where I would be staying that night after 110km of biking: I was out in the boonies. I came across some camping signs and luckily found a campsite. I made dinner and was eating in the dark. I decided in Montreal I need to start waking up earlier to get in bigger days (130-150km).

The second campsite I stayed at on my way to Quebec City was at camping paradise, right by the water. Here’s a picture taken 1o steps from my camping spot:

image

On my way out of Montreal I had asked directions from a couple guys who invited me for a beer! We went to a pub on the water and talked about biking, hosting travellers and Montreal. I wanted to get a photo with Stephan and Phat, and I asked an older cyclist to take the photo. This was his carefully taken photograph:

image

Sorry Stephan! I guess he thought I wanted Phat and only a portion of your body. Thanks for the beer & wings & conversation!

I met up with Marie, one of the bikers I met around Saskatchewan, who had planned to host me im Quebec City, but we had a miscommunication and she couldn’t, so I stayed with Marie-Jeannine, a friend of hers. She fed me and let me sleep in her bed while she took the floor, and then gave me breakfast. She had some friends over that night and it was nice chatting with people close to my age.

I’ll be following mostly highways on my way to Sydney, NS, and I don’t plan on taking any days off until St. Johns. I’ll tentatively be done by September 25th, and be back in Vancouver on the 1st or so.

Also – I think with the recent donations from the Coady complex, funds for Riverwoods via this trip have been around $2,000, which I am very happy about!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving Ottawa, going to Montreal!

It’s 10am in a Tim Hortons; done my coffee & bagel. I spent yesterday booting around Ottawa, trying to find a rack part, as one of the legs on my rack broke. This was my temporary fix:

image

While biking towards Perth I stopped at a restaurant built out of a bus with a couple small buildings attached as kitchen and washroom called Truly Canadian Chip Bus. I chatted with the owner Dawn and her young son Devon and she loaded me up with food! I got a burger, wrap, water, yoghurt and coffee. Thank you so much again for your generosity Dawn! I talked to Devon about working at the business and he told me he’s working in the summer to earn a snowmobile for the winter. How Canadian is that?

image

That night I was boiling water for the pasta I was craving all day and my fuel ran out. I was tired but went out with my fuel bottle to buy fuel from other campers. I met Paula and Alan, who I bought some propane from. I realized as I got back that the propane wouldn’t fit my stove and I wouldn’t get my pasta. After a couple minutes I see Paula coming with a plate: she brought me a plate of KD & my money for the propane! I got my pasta after all. I had a coffee and a nice chat with Paula in front of the lake before heading out to Ottawa, where I took this:

image

I arrived in Ottawa in the afternoon, where I was greeted by Karen from the Coady Coop, a member of the CHF who invited me to stay with her after receiving the newsletter about my ride. The next day I booted around Ottawa, which is a very bikable city. I took a bike path which had the parliament buildings in my righ and the River on my left. I grabbed a book, Adrian Mole: the cappuccino years at a thrift store for 50 cents, wrote some postcards at a bakery and headed back along the river to Carol’s for dinner before a coop gathering for me to meet some of the residents:

image

It’s a bit small – Karen is on the left of me in the white and Carol who made me dinner took the picture. Thank you all for your donations! I don’t have all the names in front of me, but members from the Coady coop all together donated $145 to the members of River Woods!

I have 197km to Montreal, one of the cities I’ve been most looking forward to visiting. I don’t know if I’ll take a full day off, but I’m hoping to pull a big day today to have at least half a day in the city. From there I’ll be heading to Quebec City, where I’ll be staying with Marie, one of the girls I met who was bike touring from Vancouver island to Winnipeg!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Made it to Toronto!

I rode from Orangeville to Toronto yesterday. I didn’t realize the sheer number of highways going into Toronto – after getting into Chicago without any trouble along 2 and 4 lane highways, I thought Toronto would have similar roads. I ended up going along big highways before finding a bike trail for the last 15 – 20km:

image

I think the provincial government of Ontario bought out a brick company’s stock and gave subsidies to builders who used them as material: there is so much brick here!

image

My cousin Sam has a new puppy named Bing, who’s super energetic:

image

All for now:  going to spend my time addressing the postcards I’ve been carrying for a month, getting a piece of rack that fell off my bike, finding some warmer clothes for the coming gross weather and checking out Toronto neighbourhoods.

A few weeks ago my mom designed & shipped out these business cards for me :

image

These have been really helpful for connecting people to the blog – while Sam and I were at the dog park last night, a man named John asked about my get up and I told him about the ride & gave him a business card – he donated $200!  So great.

Some donation thank yous:

Tony I & Linda H

Gail & Mac B

John

Katherine C

Right now donations are just under $2000, which to me is a big success. Thank you to everyone who has donated towards my campaign. There have been some updates on the fundrazr page that construction has begun on the damaged units, which is great to hear.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back in Canada, Mennonites & the FamJam

I arrived back in Canada on August 22nd from port Huron – the toll collectors on the U.S. Side put me and my bike in a truck and we drove over the bridge to the Canadian border. It was quick getting over, and I made my way to Exeter, past some very vacationer heavy spots, where I met Ray and Bill. Ray is driving across Canada, fishing along the way with an RV, and he fed me dinner & some beers! Super nice guy. Bill is retired and has been walking across countries for the past five years. He told me he walks between 20 -25 km/day, less when it’s up hills. He’s spent the last 6 months walking across Canada, starting in Vancouver. ‘I’ve got nowhere to be and all the time in the world to get there’ he says.

I made it to Fergus, Ontario, a small town where my mom grew up. I had only been here once when I was 8, but I remembered it vividly. I stayed with family friends Mac & Gail who were so good to me. Gail took me to my late uncle’s house for one last look and to my cousin Eleanor for a visit. Here’s me with Mac and Gail:

image

I was picked up by my cousin Brad and stayed a night at his farm North of Fergus:

image

While biking from Exeter to Fergus I went through several Amish and Mennonite communities, where they have signs like his:

image

On my last night in the U.S. I stayed at a KOA, which is a chain of campsites catered to families. That one was the largest with over 450 sites, a covered dance area, an arcade, shop, snack shop, bicycle rentals, batting cage, and several playgrounds amongst other things. The staff was fantastic and very generous: they only had RV spots left, but they let me put my tent up next to the staff house for $10. I did a bit of bicycle maintenance: cleaned the chain, adjusted the seat height (you were right Susan), added another screw to my rack: one of the mount holes is stripped unfortunately.

Tonight I went to a family dinner of my Ontario relatives: some I had never met, others I had met 15 years ago! This trip has introduced & reintroduced me to a lot of my extended family out East:

image

I’m heading to Toronto tomorow to visit my cousin Samantha before continuing on to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. I had a look on google maps and it looks like I have around 3000km to go! I’m hoping to finish before it gets too cold/windy/rainy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The last couple days in the States

I’ve gone about 200km since Chicago (70km yesterday and 130km today), and it’s nice to get back to smaller towns and country highways. I’m going up the east side of Lake Michigan and it’s gorgeous here. I’m staying at the Heritage Manor Inn, about 30km south of Holland, MI.

There have been some serious thunder storms here lately. At my campsite last night my neighbour told me there was a thunderstorm coming that night, so I set my tarp up just in case. I’ve carried my tarp around for 45 days and only used it a couple times and it was absolutely worth it last night! Lots of rain, some big thunderclaps. My backpack is slowly getting more and more ragged: I had it up a tree and it was mauled by raccoons in the night. That’s raccoons and dogs that have eaten it so far.

image

I rode the #12 today and the highway was stacked with small business food joints selling hotdogs and Italian beefs, ice cream, etc., loads of antique shops, and cafes. This is what the side of the roads looked like for miles:

image

Ive decided to move to the U.S. To buy a house on this road:

image

A couple more days and I’ll be in Ontario to visit family, I’m in the second half of my trip!

Ben

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving Chicago!l

It’s 930 am and I’m departing Chicago this morning towards Grand Rapids in Michigan. Chicago is a great city – good food, interesting architecture; my neighbourhood consists of 3-storey red brick apartment buildings – it’s a bit like San Francisco, but grittier. I’ve spent 5 days here, and I could spend more. It’s been nice to settle somewhere for a bit. Today I’m heading towards Grand Rapids, and the route is a bit confusing. I miss the simplicity of going east on Highway 1!

I had deep dish pizza, which was very good:

image

This is is one of the trails coming from Milwaukee to Chicago:

image

Chicago, like Vancouver, has big goofy public art:

image

This is from Grand Forks: my mechanic Jamie fixing up my bike! So thrilled to not have an unending number of flats!

image

This is Jamie and Sue Moe. I was asking people in the bike shop about a good restaurant, and Sue asked where I was staying that night. I told her I didn’t have a place yet. She says, ‘I think we can do one better. My brother’s making gumbo, and we can get you a bed’. We loaded my gear into Sue’s car and I stayed the night at her parents place, who happen to be Warm Showers hosts! Her brother Jim is a great guy and an excellent cook – the way he talks about steak makes me want to perfect cooking it! I had a great time with Sue’s family: it was nice to spend time with friendly people after several days of dealing with breaking gear.

image

Biking from Milwaukee to Chicago was my longest day of biking: 9.5 hours of cycling. I ended up having to catch a cab to my airbnb. I did the lakefront trail yesterday, this is a view near the aquarium:

image

All for now! Hoping I don’t get lost on my way to Grand Rapids. Shipping a bunch of excess gear home, which will lighten my load significantly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On the Road #7: Days 21-30

I need to update this more. I made it into Minnesota today! I`m in Bronson Lake, which the town sign says has a population of 229 people.

I`m losing track of the days: I usually finish riding by about 6, setting up camp, cooking & cleaning takes a couple hours, and then I go to bed around 8-8:30.

REGINA – 2 days

I stayed with my Warmshowers host Gordon for two nights. Gordon has done bike tours in Nepal as well as Canada & the US & Europe. The first night he also hosted two Korean bikers, Jay and Kyle. These guys were ripping from Toronto- they had done 28 days from Toronto to Regina!

Kyle ate butter off a plate with his finger and scared teenagers away from his tent by poking his head out from his tent and going `YEAH, THAT`S RIGHT`. Kyle is a coooooool guy.

I went to the RCMP heritage museum and did a tour of the grounds – it was graduation day and there were loads of people around in their red serge & stetsons. I also got to meet up with Joseph, who told me about his first week at Depot.

One of the first police cars looks like the 1966 batmobile, making an already cool car even cooler:
image

30km just outside Regina – 2 days

There was a big storm hitting Regina as I was leaving – that`s when I got interviewed on the side of the road. I had left that day around 11:30 am after a huge dump of rain. The headwinds were really strong; I was happy to be going 11km an hour (typically I go between 18-20km/hour). I opted for a cabin where I bunkered down for two nights to let the storm pass. I did some reading, got some postcards written, did some studying. I was happy to get going once the storm passed.

image

 

image

There were lots of small towns in Eastern Saskatchewan, and lots of bakeries. At the first one I went into in Indian Head I had a nice conversation with a girl who wanted to be a police officer. I stopped in a couple more small towns and mailed some postcards – I still have some from Calgary I need to write!

Out of season signs are funny:

image

Keep your snowmobile off my grass!

After having a bit to eat, I ran into Marie & Chloe, a couple of Quebecers who started in Vancouver Island. It was nice to have some bikers to share stories with. These two are hardcore. Neither of them have waterproof panniers and were absolutely ripping. I was doing 27km/hour with a tailwind, they were doing 34km/hour! Crazy. Hoping to meet up with them in Quebec City.

image

I did my longest day ever; 205km over just over 7 hours. I knocked on the door of a house just off the highway and Dwight gave me some water and let me sleep on his lawn. Although, it`s not a lawn-lawn; more of a piece of land with big bushes next to his house (the shade was really nice after a day of 30 degree weather).

image

I woke up around 5:30 am and was off. After about 20km I stopped for breakfast at the Country Square Inn in Moosomin and one of the owners Liz gave me my breakfast for free! So nice of her to fuel me up!  Such good food.

image

I passed by a rest stop with a gas station, an auto dealership, and something that caught my eye: a vintage car museum. I smooth talked my way in to look around for a couple minutes while I took a break and, although there were a lot of cool cars, this badboy caught my eye. This trailer is made of formed wood. I don`t know the year, but it`s gotta be real old.  Along with the RV from 1936 (mighta been 1944), there was a bit of long distance travelling by auto years and years ago!

image

a million sunflowers:

 

image

About 30km East of Brandon (about a 185km riding day) I started banging on doors to camp in someone’s yard. I found Arthur building a flower stand for his girl Nicki, and he let me stay in his yard & gave me some beers. Even caught me some dinner!

image

You`re a good guy Arthur. Thanks for the drinks, food & hospitality.

 

On my way to Arthur’s, I got my first flat.  It was late and getting dark and I wanted to get to a house to camp for the night, so I swapped the tubes quickly (without checking the tire & patching the punctured tube).

The next day after about 40km, I got another flat. I only had one spare tube and the one tube I did have was punctured and not patched. I stopped at the side of the road, patched the tube, put it in, and was on my way.  After another 5km, I got to a roadstop, had a bite to eat, checked the tire:  flat. I tried putting air in it but the nipple was broken, so I put the other tube in the tire and was on the road for maybe a minute and it went flat.

It was a frustrating experience. I was at the side of the road about 130km West of Winnipeg without an unpunctured tube. Thankfully, a black truck stopped and the driver, Chris, asked `everything alright? I`m going to Winnipeg, want a lift?`

Yes!

Chris gave me a lift into Winnipeg. I met up with Cheyne, a buddy of mine from home who`s living in Winnipeg and was letting me stay with him. We went to MEC and I replaced my air mattress (no more sleeping on the ground) and got three tubes.

Winnipeg was fabulous. Cheyne showed me around the city: on Saturday we went to a Goldeyes baseball game, where I got to sit next to Dancing Gabe:

image

Dancing Gabe has been going to sporting events in Winnipeg for 40 years and dancing. He`s Winnipeg’s Greenmen.

While Cheyne and I went to the Forks where I had a blueberry canoli  (need to try to make these when I`m home) we met Doug, who has a serious touring rig:

 

image

This thing was heavy duty!  The back rack could hold 4 pannier bags and there were two shelves mounted alongside the back wheel, which Doug told us he had moved lumber with. Doug doesn`t change gears on his bike, but he just treks around Manitoba, which is generally flat. The bike was spraypainted an army green. Doug you`re a beast.

I also busted a clip on my pedal coming into Winnipeg, so I stopped at a bike store and got some replacement pedals.

I had dinner with my cousin Jim Townsend on Sunday night and got to hear family stories I had never heard before. My grandfather was a photographer, and he was once hired for a wedding in which he forgot to take the lens cap off his camera. The bride and groom put their clothes on for replacement pictures, but the rest were botched.

While leaving Winnipeg, I tried going through side roads to avoid big highways and ended up on unpaved roads for a bit. As a result, I ended up with another flat. When I realized I had another flat, I did a thousand-yard stare and questioned why I`m doing this trip.

I started changing the bike, and again, a man with long hair in a black truck stopped to help me, and we loaded my bike into his truck and went to his placed maybe 30 meters away. I don`t like to look a gifthorse in the mouth, but although he was trying to help me, I think he wrecked my tire by excessively sanding it down & putting the patch on poorly. He told me he had had a few beers (this is around 2pm), and was on the way to the bar, so there’s a chance he was a bit drunk.

After I got a new tube in the tire, I made my way along side roads. The countryside is neat because people have airplanes in their front yards:

image

I made it to Steinbach, about 74km. I would typically have knocked on someone’s door to to ask to camp on their lawn, but after the 4th flat over 3 riding days, I was demoralized and didn`t want to attempt it, so I camped in the local campground.

I had a good chat with Yves who told me `you know, you asked for this`. He`s right: I didn`t expect this trip to be a cakewalk. What I`m finding, the longer I`m on the road, is that this isn`t fun in the normal sense of something fun, and the day to day it isn`t satisfying. Biking is fun, but there is nearly complete vulnerability while travelling by bike. I can lock my bike up, but people can take my bags if I`m in a restaurant for 45 minutes. I sleep with the anxiety that someone might take my stuff or attack me in the middle of the night.

What this trip is doing is teaching resilience. I`m becoming comfortable with being anxious when I go to sleep. I trust that someone will let me sleep on their lawn. I`m cautious but hopeful that people will not touch my bags when I run into a store. I know things will go wrong with my bike and, although it`s frustrating, these things can be solved. It`s not fun, but there is a thin line of satisfaction. I think the full satisfaction will be once I hit the Atlantic.

In Steinbach I was invited by the campground host to use the wood leftover by other guests to make a fire. I like making fires, but don`t make them often. Usually there is someone eager to make a fire, and I`m happy to let them do so. It was really fun to make my own:

image

From Steinbach I headed for the border, stopping after 22km at this corner store with interesting decor. Also – you could buy booze and ammunition in the same store.

image

At ~73km I made it to the border!  Minnesota baby!

image

 

I passed through Lancaster, which I thought had a tiny population (I really like that the US posts their populations on their town signs), then I got to Lake Bronson (pop. 229).

image

I asked a couple guys if they knew if I could camp at the state park, and Eddie very kindly offered to let me stay in his trailer (after asking if I was a criminal or if I was dangerous). Eddie owns a 1955 trailer he`s restoring – so cool! he also has a cat named 6-pack (named after his 6-pack) and a tiny white kitten:

image image

I went to the Cennex to see if they had wifi, and they have a fun milkshake machine! You pick a flavor, stick the cup in the side and it turns hard ice cream into a milkshake. And the mascot is a wizard.

image

Lake Bronson:

 

image

Eddie`s been playing guitar for years, and before going to bed we jammed.

image

Hoping to make it to Thief Lake Falls today.

Donations are over $1,500 now! Wow. Big shoutouts & thank yous to:

Susan T

Mark & Mimi D
Jacob W
& the anonymous donators!

Also going to give a shoutout to Jacob Ward. Jacob has been volunteering with Parkgate Youth Services for going on 3 years. He volunteers for the drop-in nights, he is the head of the Youth Action Committee, and represents youth interests on the Parkgate board of directors. Jacob is an incredibly generous guy and Parkgate is very fortunate to have him on board. Jacob is raising money for his ride to conquor cancer, a bike ride from Vancouver to Seattle. Jacob`s goal is to raise $2,500, and he has said he`ll shave off his head of golden locks if his goal is raised (and who doesn`t want to see this guy get his head shaved?). Have a look at Jacobs message here:  http://www.conquercancer.ca/goto/jacobward

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments