Sue’s in the Soo – and the boys are too!

<- Read the previous post: A Superior Day

Day 37 June 13 Thursday

Montreal River Harbour to Sault Ste. Marie

Last night before bed, we all caught the sunset over the lake. And I discovered the damage that black flies can do, especially if they hang out in your long hair.

Black flies are nasty

Black flies are nasty

But I consider it a badge of honour, a war wound that you must have to say you truly experienced Northern Ontario. But I’d rather not get anymore……wishful thinking.

Today was sunny and warm, and we again took advantage of the extra distance Terry and Brian did. We shuttled to our revised start point in the Mother Ship (the new nickname for the RV), which skipped a lot of hilly terrain. We stopped for a while at a neat artisans market area so Bill could do his weekly interview with CJSR. We didn’t get too far beyond that before Bob and Brian stopped for breakfast #2, which they often did. This time, Bill and I joined them, however we treated it as early lunch instead. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Dave and John

Dave and John

And we had a chance to talk to some locals, Dave and John, about the ride and mental health, so it was a valuable stop. Any time we get a chance to spread the word is worth the stop.

The rest of the day was pretty nice, gently rolling hills except for “Mile Hill”, aptly named and not far from the KOA campground, our home for the next two nights.IMG_0397 It is a gorgeous spot with top notch facilities, lots of trees and gardens, and the owners Joan and Bill and their staff are so friendly and helpful. Brian and Terry did their now customary extra mileage, and checked out the bike shop for appointments the next day. We rented a car again for the next day, and Enterprise gave us a phenomenal deal,

stuffed in the trunk of a car

stuffed in the trunk of a car

but they only had one that seated five, and there are six of us. So lucky it was a hatchback, because that is where I rode to and from the restaurant that night, and to our ice cream stop for dessert. IMG_0402I just hoped no one saw me getting in or out!

Al and I went on a mosquito seek and destroy mission before bed. The mosquitoes were much rarer in this urban area, however we had imported quite a few with us from the night before and the trip today.  I hunted them down, and Al whacked them, with wet cloth in hand to clean up after those that had already feasted on us. I’m sure we killed over 30, and that is a conservative estimate. But it did mean we all had a much more peaceful sleep.

See more photos from day 37.

Day 38 June 14 Friday

Day off in Sault Ste. Marie

I’m not sure when anyone else got up, but I had a wonderful sleep-in this morning until 8:30. We got to work doing laundry, some cleaning and Bill and Terry whipped up a gourmet breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon. It is such a treat when we have time for a hearty, leisurely breakfast, we are usually busy trying to get out on the road and eating quickly.  Brian, Bob and I took a ride into town to drop off our bikes for various bits of work. We took the “scenic” route, which in bike terms usually means taking a longer route, and up and down hills, and this fit the bill.  But it was worth it, and we got to Velorution Cycle via lovely back roads, and ran into Derick there.  Bill picked us up, ran a few errands where we again came across Kaitlyn and Emily (this is getting spooky), and then came back to the campground to pick up Al and drop me off.

IMG_0406The boys went grocery shopping, Terry made chili and had a nap, and I took full advantage of the refreshing pool at the KOA. I felt like I was on a “real” vacation, you know, the kind where you rest and relax! It was the first day off where I really felt like I truly renewed myself. I even caught a little sun, to lighten the cyclist tan I have on my arms and legs.

IMG_0407The boys got back with a lunch of sorts – they stopped at a chip truck (surprise, surprise), so it was fries for everyone.

We needed to return our rental car and pick up our bikes from the shop, so we took the long way there to get a look at the International Bridge, and the waterfront near downtown. Again, one more location for the “come visit again” list, which is already looking like a three week trip, and I’m only half way across the country! At the bike shop, I was disappointed to find out that my bike computer is probably shot. I think it’s a wiring problem, so I’ll have to get a new wireless one once I get to Ottawa. I didn’t have time to get them to replace it here before we left.

IMG_0408We had a fantastic barbequed dinner tonight, including some steak and scampi from M&M meats, and salads and cheese bread. Brian even bought a bottle of red wine to share, so it felt like dinner out – and absolutely delicious, complete with brownies for dessert. We cleaned our plates without guilt, knowing we would burn it off in no time.

Bill had his Friday night interview with CKUA, which went well but the cell phone coverage was not great.  We had some choices for routes tomorrow, so after some discussion we made some decisions for an alternate route. It’s “on the road again”…….

Read the next post: Making our Way South ->

A Superior Day

<- Read the previous post: Attack of the Killer Flies

Day 36 June 12 Wednesday

Wawa to Montreal River Harbour


We had a great start this morning. There was still major fog to greet us as we shuttled forward. We were headed almost due south today, at times quite close to Lake Superior, in fact most of the day was spent cycling through Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Before the Hill

Before the Hill

After the Hill

After the Hill

For the first couple of hours, there was cold fog or low cloud, it could have been either. Then, very suddenly as we came up a hill, the mist disappeared and bright sunshine and blue skies appeared. It felt like the temperature changed about 15 degrees in the span of a minute. And after climbing we were all suddenly sweating like mad, and stopped to peel off some layers.

We were treated to spectacular views of Lake Superior, which is the largest lake in the world. It is so big it can create its own weather systems. There was one view point that was particularly breath-taking, because there was a misty cloud low over the water.

We arrived at the RV site at about 1:30 pm, ready for lunch. And we found the elusive “chip truck” that Al and Bill had been coveting for the last week at least. Every time they found one, it was either closed (permanently), or it was too early or too late to be open. And it was the only food place in Montreal River Harbour, which is essentially the Twilight Resort and RV park.

Randy, who was manning the park for his brother, told us that when Terry Fox was coming through Ontario, the hill right before the park was the one he was worried about being able to do as he crossed Ontario. We were very relieved to know that we only had to go down it, not up it.


Bill and Terry take in the view

Bill and Terry take in the view

Terry and Brian did more mileage again today, due to the unexpected fantastic weather, and to get a jump on tomorrow’s ride. They are now insisting they are “Stud Muffins” for doing the extra distance two days in a row, and want to be addressed as such.  I did some extra miles today too, but not as long as them. So maybe they’ll have to call me the “Stud Muffette”, instead of Princess, which rings of some diva-like qualities that I definitely don’t exhibit – I have not used a hair dryer for the whole trip, and make-up is futile.

IMG_0390We are having dinner in the RV tonight, out of necessity, unless we wanted more fries and hot dogs (can’t do that twice in one day). So we dug in the freezer and found a ready-made meal , thanks again to Terry, and will have a late dinner as we all wanted to walk on the beach while the sun was still up.

IMG_0388I offered a 15 min neck and shoulder massage to anyone who could fix my bike computer, as it has not been recording my speed or distance for several days now. I have fiddled with it to the limits of my ability. Bob took on the challenge, but was not able to fix it either, so I will continue to ride “blind” until I get to a Sault Ste. Marie bike shop. There is enough technology around between all of us that I can always find out where I am and how far I’ve gone.

It was a lovely evening, but we mostly sat inside because the little buzzers were lined up at the screen door waiting to jump us.

Let us in for dinner too!

Let us in for dinner too!

Notice I am using the double “z” instead of double “g” word to keep this at a family rating.

See more photos in Al’s two updates on this day: (Photo set 1) (Photo set 2)

Read the next post: Sue’s in the Soo – and the boys are too! ->

Attack of the Killer Flies

<- Read the previous post: The Long and the Flat of it

Day 34 June 10 Monday

Ney’s Campground to White River

Today started with a drive into Marathon, to the Fountain Tire. They took care of us right away, and patched up our flat, so we were on the road in no time at all. We started cycling from Marathon, as Terry, Bill and Brian did an out and back at the end of the day yesterday to make up the missed mileage due to the RV mishap.

iphone 346We came across another more serious mishap. A truck had gone off the side of the road, and skidded on its side in some grass. We’re not sure why, because it was on a straight away, and the conditions were good. The police were just arriving, and no one was hurt, so we carried on. I’m sure the driver will have a difficult time explaining what happened.

Today marks the halfway point of the trip – 34 of 68 days done. It is flying by, and some days crawling by, depending on how you are feeling at the time. I know that at the end of the trip, there will definitely be mixed emotions about it ending.

Many people commented to me how barren the area would be, but I have not been finding it that way at all. When you have friends along with you, you’re never really alone. And there are little towns along the way, so there is always something to see. People have made little inukshuks all along the way, and they help me remember I’m on the right path. And there’s always the odd sign to make you chuckle.

You're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy!

You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy!

Can't make up your mind

Can’t make up your mind


Although our day was not that long (about 95 kms), it was pretty much uphill all day. A gentle grade mind you, but even what appeared to be flat or downhill was really still goingIMG_4583 up. There is nothing more disappointing than thinking you have a nice downhill coming up, and then end up having to pedal just to keep moving. There are often optical illusions of the grade of the road.

Weird cycling glove knuckle tan lines

Weird cycling glove knuckle tan lines

Today, we saw the Barrick Gold Mining operation, and Brian caught sight of a moose swimming across a lake. The moose was going so fast, he actually had a pretty good wake behind him. We didn’t stop for long at any of the sites, because the mosquitoes and the little black flies (THE dreaded Ontario black flies) were incredible. You didn’t really notice them while you were moving, but as soon as you stopped you were surrounded, and they wanted blood! They were just as bad, if not worse, in town as they have a lot of marshes around. When I was walking back to the RV after dinner, swatting and swearing with a cloud of about 50 flies following me, my savior, local resident Nancy, took pity on me and drove me the rest of the way. The back of my white shirt was red with blood-sucking bug splatter.

The birth place of Pooh?iphone 351

But we should remember White River not for flies, but its other claim to fame. It is the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh. I won’t go into the real story of the adopted bear as many of you know it, but you can look it up – interesting  background to the beloved storybook characters.

And I finally got a chance to have my first lake fish for dinner – pickerel. I know it wasn’t really local, but it was from Ontario, so it qualifies as local to me.

It was the warmest evening yet in the RV. We had to turn on the fan and open all the screens to cool things off, without letting in the army of flies. Brian and Bob took a motel room for the night, or be eaten alive. We appreciated that, as we used their shower and internet, as our RV site was not equipped with toilets or showers – pretty much a parking spot with power. A few of us actually got to watch some of the news on their TV. We really have been isolated from the happenings in the “real world” while on this trip, and I can’t say that is a bad thing.

See more photos from day 34

Day 35 June 11 Tuesday

White River to Wawa

Bill trying to block out the buzzing

Bill trying to block out the buzzing

Last night was a blood bath – blood splatters on the walls and sheets from the little buzzers who circled our heads all night and kept us awake. We survived the onslaught, but just barely.

iphone 357iphone 353

We started out cycling in drizzle this morning, which then changed to rain. It let up around 10:30, dried up and then turned to fog – and I mean  the pea-soup kind of fog. Funny when the inside of your glasses fog up more than the outside. And we are now over 1000 kms into Ontario.

We’re passing lots of provincial parks. Today it was White Lake PP and Obatange PP, and also lots of first nations reserve lands.

At one point I fell over on my bike while stopped on the road and looking behind me. iphone 356Keeping the rubber side down is easy when you’re moving, but clip-in pedals are notorious for not releasing when you are standing still. No damage, just bruises – one on my calf and one on my pride.

We spotted a family of three on a “surrey”, but they didn’t stop to talk, maybe thought we would hijack them to get some cover from the rain. It looks like great fun, but we heard the truckers weren’t too happy, as they are too big to fit on the shoulder and therefore could be in danger of causing an accident.iphone 352

It was still foggy later in day, and Terry and Brian did extra 40 kms to shorten our next days – and they say it’s pretty hilly. So we have that to look forward to. Barb, a reporter from the Algoma News weekly paper came out to the RV site for an interview, and we had to track Terry and Brian down at the Tim Horton’s (where else?) on the way back from their ride to get Terry in her photo. Spot always gives their location away.

Brian got his first flat just before the campsite. We’ll be getting a round of new tires in the Sault. Bill and Bob was his Nascar pit crew and had his tire fixed before he was out of the shower. And then the “chain cleaning” lecture began from Terry and Bill, who are purists when it comes to daily chain cleaning. Terry would wax his bike and chain if it was an option, and Brian had not cleaned his chain since he started the trip.

We drove back to Wawa for dinner, and made a trip to the Young’s General Store for treats afterwards.

Oh goody, goody, goody!

Oh goody, goody, goody!

Bill found some locally-made famous bag summer sausage, as well as hard ice cream, and he was as happy as a kid in a candy shop….wait, he IS a kid in a candy shop, just look at his face in the photo! I myself had some fudge and bought a few souvenirs of the area.  I had a good talk with the two young ladies in the store. One had a sister who had been hospitalized with depression, and the other felt new university students needed more support while they try to adjust to life away from home and with the stresses at school. iphone 359The conversations are happening, and it is refreshing to have them with the next generation. Maybe, with some encouragement, they will carry the conversation forward.

See more photos from day 35

Read the next post: A Superior Day ->

The Long and the Flat of it

<- Read the previous post: Hooray for Thunder Bay

Okay – I didn’t realize I would have to rotate the photos before I loaded them, so you’ll have to crank your head 90 degrees until (or if) I get a chance to fix them. Sorry bout that!
[Edit: Now fixed]

Day 32 June 8 Saturday

Thunder Bay to Rossport

We started to another sunny morning today. It was fairly cold overnight, but It quickly warmed up as the sun rose in the sky. It was the first morning in a very long time that I didn’t need leggings.

Distance markers to various cities - Thunder Bay International Hostel

Distance markers to various cities – Thunder Bay International Hostel

We found a lovely lakeshore road to take for the first 16 kms, before we had to jump back onto the Trans Canada.

Today was the day we had been waiting for. It was sunny all day, and we had our first taste of a tail wind in 3 weeks. It was light, and more of a cross-breeze, and we were more than happy to take it! It made the cycling quicker and easier than we had anticipated.

We met an interesting young man when we stopped for lunch.



Shawn is walking from Thunder Bay to St. John’s NL. He said he was inspired by an article on some women elders who were walking around the Great Lakes to raise awareness about water conservation. He also was intrigued by Jean Beliveau, a man from Quebec who walked around the world over an 11 year period. He joined us for lunch, as he said one of his goals was to accept any hospitality that was given to him by strangers.

We arrived very early to our RV stop near Nipigon because of the great conditions, IMG_4406and we knew we had long days coming up, so we decided to press forward, and take our chances finding another RV park. We stopped at a Timmy’s for some sustenance (one frozen lemonade for me now, one for the freezer to have at the end of the day!), and then continued onward.

IMG_4384One of the key features of this area was the beautiful red rock. Not only was it surrounding the highway, but also gave the lake rocks on the beaches a pink hue. And still the only wildlife for me (if you can call it that) was a dead moose on the side of the road.

Herman and Ben

Herman and Ben

We met up with Herman and Ben, who drive a FedEx truck back and forth from Winnipeg to Toronto twice per week. As we spoke about mental health issues, Herman shared a heartbreaking story of his neighbor who lost both a daughter and a son to suicide.

It really is an epidemic.

We looked and looked, but didn’t come across a campground until Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, after Rossport. This made it our longest day – 178 kms, with a bunch of longer hills right near the end of the ride after about 140 kms. We didn’t get into camp until around 6:30 pm. It still wasn’t as hard as the Hope-Princeton day, because although some of the hills were steep, they weren’t near as endless.

We ate late, almost 7:00, and were really happy to have the chili that Terry had made on our day off in Thunder Bay. We had it frozen in case of a long day, and this definitely qualified. I scrambled to get a blog up, as I didn’t expect to have such a long day, and then deservedly hit the hay.

See Al’s photos from day 32

Day 33 June 9 Sunday

Rossport to Ney Provincial Campground

Today was a very eventful day. Weather was again great, minimal headwind, but it wasn’t the elements that got us today.

Now that's a flat!

Now that’s a flat!

Right about lunchtime, we stopped at the RV as it was pulled over at the side of the road for a rest break. I heard the familiar hissing sound of a tire going flat, but this time it wasn’t a bike tire. It was one of the inside tires on the RV’s double axle. And with my hand I could feel something about the size of my thumb impaled into the tread of the tire. After unsuccessfully trying to get cell coverage to our RV rental company, we asked a helpful trucker what he suggested. We ended up driving slowly, at about 60 km/hr, until we got to a place with phone service. After investigating several options, which were limited because it was a Sunday, we lucked out that Terry had RV coverage with AMA.

To the rescue!

To the rescue!

So someone came from Nipigon, over 2 hours away, to change the tire and put on our spare. We will take in the tire tomorrow to be fixed in Marathon.  We had a good conversation with Naomi, the mechanic’s girlfriend, and Elaine and her family, who were visiting from Winnipeg and were in our campground.

We had an early dinner at Ney’s Lunch, who stayed open until 6:00 pm for us, and had burgers which was the main staple of the menu. We met Danilita from the west coast, who had a brother who died of suicide 2 years ago. He had suffered from anxiety disorder since he was young, and had managed to work at a profession for many years before the breakdown of his marriage triggered a deep depression and he ended his life. I was glad to hear that her family could speak openly about it and support each other – that makes such a huge difference in the healing process.

And I finally saw my first live moose today, on the shoulder of the road. Before I could get a picture, he was scared away by a semi (luckily for him) and headed back to the bush.IMG_4507

We took an after-dinner walk along Lake Superior, Brian1to enjoy the beautiful views. To quote Forrest Gump, it was “hard to tell where heaven ended and earth began”. We’re gearing up for tomorrow, as the forecast says there is a chance of rain…….

See more photos from day 33

Read the next post: Attack of the Killer Flies ->

Hooray for Thunder Bay

<- Read the previous post: Rocks and Trees and Trees and Rocks and Water

Hi all, for the sake of getting this blog out, I am foregoing the photos until I get time to post them, hopefully in a few days. This will be a bit disjointed, but I will try to get my writeups back to normal as soon as I can catch up. Life is busy on the road.

Many of you have been sending us congratulations on our efforts to date, but we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Hillary’s Ride committee, who put in tons of work before we left and continue to today. Before the trip they were fundraising, arranaging concerts and other logistics, contacting charities, getting sponsorship, and organizing everything needed to be ready for launch.  They are still busy meeting, contacting media, updating the website, watching the budget, and the list goes on and on. Many of them are members of Bill’s family and long time friends. We’re here because of their hard work. I’d like to recognize all of them:

Betty jo Werthmann, Katie Chapman, Peter Chapman, Linda Werthmann, Heather Hanson, Bill and Sharon Taylor, Randy Zutter, Donna Wiznura, Cheryl Ann Orr, Rosalie Gelderman, Terry Heisler.

There are also many, many other volunteers who have helped with our fundraisers and concerts including Edmonton and Calgary, musicians who have donated their time and talents, media folks who have lent their support, businesses who have donated money and gifts in kind.  I couldn’t begin to list them all, and I know I would forget some due to the sheer volume. Please know that your efforts have made this project happen, and we love and appreciate each and every one of you.

Day 28 June 4 Tuesday

Dryden to Ignace

Our morning started cloudy today, but it wasn’t looking like rain, so we were pleased. We were camped just west of Dryden, so as we drove through town, we stopped to see their suspension bridge. The river was really raging, I wonder if it is only like this in spring.

We met 2 guys from France who were doing the cross-Canada trip at a neck-breaking speed, about 160-200 kms a day. They were plagued with flats (about 12), and we gave them a spare tube as they had run out.  To be honest, they weren’t very friendly or talkative, so they went on their way with much conversation.

Of note today:

We all met for lunch today – our 4, Derick, and Brian and Bob (now affectionately known as Brob). Because we have the RV, and can carry food, we are becoming the hosts of group get togethers and meals. It is really nice to be able to get to know our fellow cyclists better.

We ran across a lot of bridge construction, and several trucks with arms for wind generators – you don’t see that every day.

When we got into Ignace, we all stopped for ice cream, and met 3 sisters heading from Edmonton to Moncton – Janice, Donna and Valerie and their dog Ruby.  The one sister was moving back home, and the other two were picking her up. It was unusual to see a vehicle with Alberta plates.

Brian and Bob joined us for a fish dinner at the RV, Al went for an inaugural swim in the first campsite lake with a dock, and Kaitlyn and Emily joined us for hot chocolate and cookies when they arrived later in the evening.

See some of Al’s photos from day 28

Day 29 June 5 Wednesday

Ignace to Upsala

I’d like to report that the day was all bright and rosy for me, but I would be doing a disservice if I painted this journey as only upbeat and fun, because as with life in general, “the sun can’t shine every day”.

I woke up tired, and not feeling like getting on my bike.  Although it was a beautiful morning, it was breezy yet again, and it was coming out of the east. After more than three weeks of headwind, ranging from a steady breeze to a brick wall, I had just about had it. My positive outlook was wearing a bit thin, and I was feeling grumpy and sorry for myself.

My very caring and wise husband gave me a little statuette before he left for home from Lethbridge. It was Ganesha, who is a Hindu/Yoga deity with an elephant’s head, and is the “remover of obstacles”. I thought of him while I was slogging away against the wind, asking the universe to help me remove this obstacle. Not the wind, but my resistance to it. The Buddhists believe that the root cause of all human suffering is attachment – to a person, a thing, an idea, an expectation. I was getting pretty attached to the idea of a tailwind, and I was starting to feel weak and a bit defeated. And when you are out on the road day after day with hours to think, it is easy to sink into your thoughts and let the darker ones bring you down.

I was also disheartened a bit with the response, or lack of one, we had been getting recently from people we talked to. They were friendly and supportive, but seemed to want to talk more about the bike ride than hear about the cause. I had been surprised and encouraged at how open the mental health discussions had been at the beginning of the trip, but it seemed now that maybe the taboo or the shame was still strong, and that I was being naïve thinking things were changing. I started questioning whether it was I who had changed my approach to the conversations, or if it was because we were more off the beaten path. On and on the doubts went, and I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

We had decided to do 20 kms (10 kms out and back) at the end of the day, to make up some extra distance so we didn’t have a really long day the following day. Something got into me, and I felt like I needed to prove to myself (and the wind) that I was not going to give in to this “victim” feeling. Frustration is a remarkably good energy source, and I hammered it for the 10 kms. I still had pent up “venom” in me, so I continued on for another  5 km, just to burn it off.

Once I turned around, and had the tailwind behind me, I was flying at almost 40 km/h without even breaking a sweat. It dawned on me how hard I had been working for days, and that none of this had been coming easily for us, and all of a sudden I was just so aware of what we had accomplished over these last few weeks. I also realized that not everyone was going to open up, but maybe we had planted some seeds of acceptance and understanding. The doubt melted away, and I got back to the campsite renewed and feeling stronger. It was just what the doctor had ordered.

Of course this was just my experience for the day. We all have our own personal struggles and demons, and I can only imagine what Bill, Terry and Al face inside on a daily basis. I think we are all learning more and more to have compassion for each other and our inner world. This is a journey on so many different levels.

Everyone had moose sightings today except me. I found my elephant instead.

See Al’s photos from Day 29

Day 30 June 6 Thursday

Upsala to Thunder Bay

We woke up to mist on the lake, it was so still and peaceful by the water, early in the morning.

More animal sightings today – moose, badgers, a big turtle, even a black bear in the distance. I have still not seen any of these. Maybe I should lift my head up from the road a bit more often……

And we passed the point where all streams now flow to the Atlantic – so we must be half way to the end, right?

We met another cross country cyclist, this time heading west from Michigan to Seattle.  Aaron said his friends all told him he was going the wrong way, but he has ended up having the wind on his side (or should I say his back), so who is laughing now? We are finding an entire bicyclist community that tours across the country, and I feel like I am part of some well hidden secret club. At any given time there are people on great adventures all around us, and we don’t have a clue. Makes you look at strangers differently, wondering what their stories and journeys are.

We had a climb up to the KOA campground we were staying at, but at the top was treated to our first amazing view of the vast Lake Superior, and the “Sleeping Giant”, a peninsula that looks like, well, just that.

We decided to rent a minivan for our day off, as we are trying to save gas and mileage costs on the RV. Bill rode his bike to Enterprise to pick up the van, and then we all dropped off our bikes off at Rollin’ Thunder bike shop, for another safety check up. Thanks to Dan for his expertise and time – all gratis!!

We went to Boston Pizza again for dinner. We like it because it has a diverse menu, for all our different tastes. And the management again gave us a discount – thank you BP Thunder Bay! After dinner, we took the scenic route home along the lakeshore, and stopped at the cascades, backlit by the setting sun. Across the road, there was some remote car racing going on – perfect after dinner free entertainment. Wow, can those things go.

See Al’s photos from day 30

Day 31 June 7 Friday

Day off in Thunder Bay

I think we were all really glad to have a break. After a morning of laundry, we all piled into the minivan to be actual tourists. We left finding a restaurant for breakfast a little late, thinking we would find one in Thunder Bay quite easily. But not so. I was ready to gnaw on someone’s arm, as was everyone else, so we stopped to ask a local the best place to go. She recommended Tiffany’s just down the street – and then of course we were all singing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to take our minds off our hunger, while Bill found it on the GPS and started heading there. Turns out Tiffany’s was closed down, so we went to Tina’s instead. It was not just down the street, so by the time we got there we were about ready to go in the back and take the cook hostage. It ended up being worth the wait because it was really good.

We then headed to Kakadeka Falls, about 20 mins out of town. Impressive falls, met up with Kaitlyn and Emily and the friends they were staying with. The sun was bright, it was a great day for touring.

Then massages was in order, and we all got in at 2:00 to see different therapists. Then groceries.  On the way home, we stopped at a monument that is very meaningful for all of us – the Terry Fox Lookout. It is the area where he ended his Marathon of Hope due to return of his cancer. We all reflected on his courage and how he inspired his fellow Canadians, including all of us, to challenge personal limits and be of service. There we met another trio of cyclists making their way across Canada – 3 gals from Victoria. How’s this for an unbelievable coincidence… they were cycling for Need2, the charity in Victoria who put on our wonderful kick-off concert.  They had left on April 27th, and it was just by luck (or divine luck) that they met up with us at that time.

We got home later than planned, so had to hurry back to the car rental place. We were going to have them drop us off at the bike shop, so we could pick up our trusty steeds and cycle back home. I took a chance and asked our driver Mallory if she would let us load our bikes and drive us back to the RV site. I really didn’t want to ride on my day off, and get all sweaty again, and get home later for our BBQ dinner. She was happy to, which was wonderful as we had a great conversation with her about mental health issues – she is taking psychology at university, and emphasized how important it is to go out to the schools to talk about these issues with students. This will help increase understanding, and also help peers recognize signs of depression or other illnesses in their classmates and friends, so they can help rather than ostracize others for behaving differently.

We had a great barbecue of hamburgers and hot dogs (thanks for doing the flippin’ Brian) back at the RV, and finished in time for Bill to do his phone interview with Andy Donnelly on CKUA. He had been trying to do it for 5 weeks now, so we were happy when the planets lined up and cell phone reception cooperated to make it happen. We all crowded around the laptop to listen to the Celtic Show stream, as Bill walked in a nearby field as he chatted with Andy.

So, another rest day come and gone quickly. Onto the next leg of our journey.

See Al’s photos from day 31

Read the next post: The Long and the Flat of it ->

Rocks and Trees and Trees and Rocks and Water

<- Read the previous post: On the cusp of Ontario and June

Day 26 June 2 Sunday

Falcon Lake to Kenora

Finally – a genuine sunny day – all day! The peasants rejoiced – Hazzah!! It was so energizing to get up and see sunshine this morning, after almost forgetting what it felt like. There was a frost warning last night, so it was pretty cool, about 3C, but the brightness overrode any thoughts of that.

Poplar "snow"

Poplar “snow”

We thought we saw snow or frost on the side of the road, but it was just poplar fuzz. It is so heavy, it looked like it was snowing last night – really quite stunning as the sun was setting.

Poplar "frost"

Poplar “frost”

Al alerted us that he found a tick crawling on his leg last night just before bed. He chased him around and squished him with the back of a spoon. He saved it to show us, they are bigger and more plentiful than back home. He then found another one on his head early this morning, which fell off luckily, and which he was also able to track down. This has earned him a new nickname – “Tick Magnet”. I’ve been checking myself at every shower, and get itchy every time I think about it. So far, so good!

We crossed the border into Ontario quite early – four provinces down, and the prairies are behind us. The end of the prairies became evident very quickly, as rolling hills started almost immediately. IMG_3746Sue2 173At least they aren’t the monster climbs that go on forever like in BC. Well, not yet, but that is coming. No use looking ahead at this point. One of my goals for this trip is to focus on the present and experience it fully, whether comfortable or not. It is a challenge sometimes.

I was so looking forward to seeing this area, and it has not disappointed me. There are lakes everywhere, and I mean clean, clear lakes with islands, surrounded by cottages – not the ponds we have back home in Alberta. It is incredibly rugged and rocky, and I’m sure it’s what a lot of visitors imagine when they think of Canada. I don’t know if it’s just my sunglasses, as I actually do have rose-coloured glasses, but all the colours are so vibrant – the green forests, the deep blue-black lakes, the infinite azure sky. It’s a delight for all the senses, as I breathe in cool air, smell the moisture, and listen to the birds and the wind.

Shaw interview

Shaw interview

Bob and Brian

Bob and Brian

Today was supposed to be a very short day, about 60 kms, so we decided to go some extra clicks to shorten our day into Dryden, which would have been about 138 kms. We took the bypass route, Hwy 17A, to go north around Kenora, then met up with Hwy 17 again and back-tracked west into Kenora and our RV site. It was a bit of a scramble as we had a filmed interview with the local Shaw station booked for 3:30 pm, and we had no idea what the bypass route would be like. It was hilly, but we still made it in plenty of time. And we were very happy to run across Bob and Brian again, as they were staying in the same campground with us.
The six of us had dinner out on the patio of an Italian restaurant called Borrelli’s, which recently moved to a primo location by the lake. They gave us a discount, as many of the restaurants have along the way. Business owners are certainly generous, and support their communities in ways that many of us will never know. I had mussels, and they were delicious. I know it’s crazy to have ocean seafood in the middle of the forest, but I just couldn’t wait until the Maritimes.

After dinner, we had a long walk back to the campground, but not without stopping at the local ice cream shop. That is, after accosting a couple in a van who were enjoying their cones and asking them where they got them. It was great to talk with Bob and Brian, who are really nice guys, and who could commiserate with us about the wind and rain battles of the prairies.

Pelicans, not geese

Pelicans, not geese

And we were all surprised to see a flock of pelicans fly over in perfect “V” formation. We could definitely take drafting lessons from them!

Kenora is a cool little city, if you ever get the chance I recommend a visit. It has lots of old historic buildings, and many of the downtown buildings have impressive murals outlining the history of settlers and aboriginals from the area. There are also lots of unique, renovated homes. Another town added to my “must return” list.IMG_3841Sue2 197IMG_3844

I was pretty exhausted when we got back, my legs felt like they got a double work out. I hit the bed hard.

See more photos from day 26

Day 27 June 3 Monday

Kenora to Dryden

We were treated to another beautiful day today. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I hope it’s a trend. Because we did the extra miles yesterday, we were able to shuttle out of town in the RV to make our day a bit shorter. We passed our buddies Bob, Brian and Derick on the way out. They head out even earlier then we do, they are all real troopers and very strong.

Bill, Sue and Al in a giant Adirondack chair

Bill, Sue and Al in a giant Adirondack chair

I felt like I was dragging my butt all morning, and then discovered I actually was dragging my butt – I had a slow leak in my back tire. Drat! The guys were sent ahead while I changed my flat. It was another piece of wire from a radial tire, just like my first flat. It seems pretty ironic to me that the remnants of one tire are the cause of flats in another tire. I think some inventive cyclist should create a truck tire that doesn’t shed wire, and we will all salute you. And Cam, if you are reading this, thank you thank you for figuring out the best tires for this trip, ones I can easily change without breaking tire irons and my fingers.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of tools, bungee cords, and other paraphernalia we see on the side of the road. We could start a hardware store if we picked up everything we saw. Hmmmm…. possible retirement scheme? I digress. I am very pleased to report that the shoulders have been mighty fine since we got into Ontario. Many of the roads look newly paved, hopefully that continues as we move eastward.

We got to our RV site in good time, even with the hills and the wind.

Look how high the water levels are - no drought here

Look how high the water levels are – no drought here

Yes, we still don’t have that elusive tailwind we’ve all been waiting for. Believe me, this winter I will not shed a tear when the weather person blames a cold snap in the east on an Alberta Clipper. Payback time!

Bill had a phone interview with the local radio station in Dryden, we got groceries, and had what has been rare up to this point – an outdoor barbeque, complete with pork chops, corn on the cob and roasted potatoes, courtesy of Bill. He showed us a very cool way to cook corn so that the husks and the silk come off easily at the end. Bill is just full of lots of tricks he’s picked up over time. Google “corn with husk in microwave” if you want to learn the technique.

As I write this blog, I am sitting outside with my laptop, watching the pink sunset and listening to the frogs in the distance. Another great day to be alive is coming to an end. And another one to come tomorrow. Sometimes I can’t believe how fortunate I am.

More photos from day 27

Read the next post: Hooray for Thunder Bay ->

On the cusp of Ontario and June

<- Read previous post: Now Touring Manitoba: The Soggy Bottom Gang!

Day 22 May 29 Wednesday

Minnedosa to Portage la Prairie

There isn’t much to tell about our ride towards Portage la Prairie. All I can comment on is that there was a continuation of lovely birds, marshes and really loud frogs, there were still really bad shoulders at times, and we still had wind. The nicest part of the day is that it didn’t rain. Well, it did mist, but not to the extent where you have to don full gear from head to toe.

IMG_3530We are still shocked that a major Canadian highway can still have gravel shoulders for kilometers at a time. That caused us to abandon the TransCanada, hop into the RV just west of Portage, and drive to Creekside Campground 13 kms east of town. It was either that or become hood ornaments.

With all the dampness the last few days, most of our cycling gear was either damp or absolutely wet. And if you want to start your day out on a low note, try climbing into cold, wet clothes that smell unpleasant (and I’m being kind with that description), and know you have to be in them, sweating some more, for the next 8 hours.

doorknob - 0, bungee - 1

doorknob – 0, bungee – 1

So after nice warm showers, which can be the highlight of our days sometimes, we headed back to Portage to do loads of laundry. We also had to pick up a new door knob for the bathroom in the RV, as the old one kept locking up and couldn’t be repaired by our “handymen”. The last thing we want on the road when you are desperate for the biffy is to have it locked. The boys can discreetly do their business elsewhere if necessary, but I choose not to bare all by the side of the highway. Have I mentioned how few trees there are by the side of the road?  Anyway, they did get the new one installed with only a bit of discussion back and forth, and some minor hemming and hawing.

We went to a very inexpensive buffet for dinner, and met two other cross-Canada cyclists from Naniamo, Bob and Brian.  These two are doing the trip self-support, and they are not young whipper-snappers, much like us. Bob had been sick for the last few days, and we felt really sorry for him as he had missed several days of cycling and had to catch rides hitch-hiking or with friendly B&B operators to catch up with Brian. They are both cycling for different causes  – Bob for Alzheimer’s care (Nanaimo Travellers Lodge) in honour of a close friend, and Brian for the Children’s Miracle Network, which is strongly supported by Re/Max where he works. We had a great discussion about the trials and tribulations of prairie cycling with the weather conditions we had – it’s good to talk to others who’ve been there, done that. And we felt really thankful that we got to climb into our luxurious RV that night rather than a tick-invaded tent.

Day 23 May 30 Thursday

Portage la Prairie to Winnipeg

Same weather – rainy, wet, crazy Northeast wind at 40 km/hr. We got an early start this morning, hoping to make up some extra miles after Winnipeg, to shorten our upcoming trek to Falcon Lake/West Hawk Lake.IMG_3555 It started out challenging, but working as a team we managed to knock off about 55 kms. But that is where it went a bit wonky. The guys decided that rather than continue east to Winnipeg, we would drive north of the Peg to go with the wind instead of against it. In the process, we learned a few things. Lesson 1 – Don’t rely on Google maps, as there is no way to tell what kind of roads you’ll get if there isn’t a camera. Lesson 2 – bike trails aren’t necessarily for road bikes. Lesson 3 – if the Trans Canada has no shoulders, don’t expect rural roads to be paved. IMG_3569Once I heard the guys making their plans, I decided to bail and spend the afternoon with Al in the RV instead as I was already cold and wet, and I can guarantee you I was really happy I made that call. As I was not out there, I won’t comment further than that, however, you may want to check out Spot to see the not so direct route that was taken.  And the boys had to hose themselves and the bikes down before getting in the RV – gravel roads in the rain can be very messy.

We eventually made our way into Winnipeg to stay with Uncle Phil, an old neighbor of Bill’s. When we first arrived, Bill went to greet Phil, who was just coming out of the house. We all thought this must be Phil’s son, because he was so young (or at least young like us). But alas, Uncle Phil is not an uncle at all – it’s an interesting story, but you would have to ask Bill about that. And Patrick sent me a care package that was waiting for me there – Tamari almonds to last me til the end of the trip. He is sooooo sweet – that’s why I married him!

We had dinner out at Boston Pizza again, and again the wonderful manager (in this case Nathan), gave us a discount on our meal. We always ask, to keep expenses down as much as possible. After dinner, it was pretty much bedtime, which comes early for our geriatric biking crowd.

See more photos from day 23

Day 24 May 31 Friday

Day off in Winnipeg

I woke up early today, about 6:00 am, and it was raining pretty hard. So I thought, I’ll go back to bed until it stops. I woke up a dozen times, and the rain just continued. So I finally dragged myself out of bed by 10:00 am. No early plans today, so no harm done. In fact, the cabana boys made me breakfast to order, as they had all eaten earlier – bacon, eggs “facing the sun”, toast and Ethel’s famous jam. Delish! There are other advantages to sleeping in, including having your laundry done (thanks Terry!).

Bill and Phil made a trip to MEC for Bill to pick up some merino wool articles, as he discovered it keeps him warm whether it is wet or dry, and he can wear it several days in a row and it doesn’t smell – bonus for all of us! The only downside is you have to take a second mortgage out on the house to be able to afford it, even when it’s on sale.  He also saw Brian cycling, one of the gentlemen we met in Portage a couple of days ago.

IMG_3593For the afternoon, Al and Terry hung out with Phil as he made us strawberry-rhubarb pie (rhubarb was “borrowed” from his neighbor), including the pastry. I accompanied Bill to an open house at Marianne’s, who worked as a teacher with Katie, Bill’s daughter, years ago. She invited over several moms and their kids from the neighborhood. We didn’t get the turnout we would have hoped for, as the rain and naps kept other attendees at home. We did have a good conversation about the ride and depression with the moms who came, and less attendees meant more fresh-baked cookies for us!! Sue2 158Bill sang “Puff the Magic Dragon” for Benjamin and Isabelle, Marianne’s little ones. Benjamin thought it was pretty cool that Bill was playing his dad’s guitar, and so did Bill considering it was a really nice Martin.Sue2 155

Sue2 153When we arrived home, we were treated to home-made pizza’s by Phil and friend Rachel. They had the best crust I have had for a very long time. Phil kept us in stitches the whole weekend. He has a deprecating sense of humour, but he picks on everyone equally, so he can get away with comments no one else could. IMG_3592And it doesn’t hurt that he is a really sweet guy, though he would never admit he is a softy at heart, despite his threats to skewer all the squirrels in his yard and eat them for dinner. He completely denies that he left a ceramic gnome in Bill and Betty jo’s  car when he moved, but Betty jo sent photo evidence, which Phil is saying proves nothing. IMG_3588Anyway, the group of us had a great after dinner conversation, Rachel shared her experiences as an archeologist, and we again had a pretty early night. If you ever want to stay at a great B&B, give Phil a call – just don’t tell him we sent you.

See more photos from day 24

Day 25 June 1 Saturday

I was so excited, we awoke to SUNSHINE this morning!! It is amazing what a little sun can do for the spririt. It was still chilly and windy, but we will gladly take what we can get. After farewells with Phil, IMG_3606we headed east out of Winnipeg to check out the roads. We ended up taking the Trans Canada again, which had acceptable-width shoulders, and because it was twinned the weekend traffic of boats and trailers could give us lots of room by moving to the far lane. As soon as we got on our bikes, there was no sun to be had, we were completely socked in. Oh well, we know sunshine still exists somewhere above the clouds, and we have to see it sometime. And the wind is a crosswind today, so that is a relief.

We stopped for a rest at Sandy’s Darn Good Food Sandy in the backfor a look at her menu. You could get the Adirondack burger special for $249.00 (it includes the chair). Shortly after our stop, Al was spotted with the RCMP on the side of the road. RCMP stop 3 speedersWe thought maybe he had dined and dashed after getting his milkshake, but the officer was just wishing us well.

We came across another cross-country cyclist, IMG_3644Jacques from Switzerland. He is cycling to promote physical activities for both intellectually and physically disabled people in Quebec City, and gave each of us armbands to wear. IMG_3654You can learn more at Everyone we meet is cycling for a reason beyond themselves, which is great, because there are a lot of good causes that need support and champions to make things happen. He is puttling in very long days and is towing a trailer behind him, and he is 60 years old! So many inspiring people…

We stopped for lunch at Prawda, as we needed some hot chocolate to warm our fingers and toes. You get a bit of a psychological boost when you can take a slightly later lunch, late enough to pass the half way point as far as distance goes, so that’s what we try to do. We gave out a few book marks, chatted with a few weekend vacationers, and got a couple of donations. After lunch, there was actually some sunny breaks for about 4 seconds at a time. Each one was greeted by a “whoop” from me, or at least a chorus of “Halleluiah”. I know that sun is trying to show its’ face.

See the little spot of blue? I call this photo "Hope"

See the little spot of blue? I call this photo “Hope”

The landscape is starting to change to lots of trees and lots of rock. Some of us discussed earlier how we learn about the Canadian Shield in junior high social studies, but I have never seen it with my own eyes. So I’m pretty excited for the coming days and weeks. We’ll be in Ontario tomorrow, and for most of June.IMG_3670

It felt like a quick 100 kms today, and we are camping at Falcon Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park. The name comes from the stones that the aboriginal peoples in the area placed into animal designs like turtles and snakes, which can only be seen from the air. Very interesting, I wish we had time to see more and take in the interpretive talks, but the road is always calling us. I guess it has to go on the list of places to return to – and that list is getting pretty long.Sue2 163

There was a bit of a mix-up with the campsite, which they thought was booked for yesterday. But after a few phone calls and a visit from someone in the main office, we managed to get our spot, and rewarded the staff with a ju-jube – hey, we’re on a budget!

The evening cleared up, blue sky appeared, and we went for a peaceful walk along the lake. I bet this place is jam-packed in the summer, it is beautifully developed. But right now it’s pretty quiet. I hope we find more places like this to visit as we venture into lake country.

See more photos from day 25

Read the next post: Rocks and Trees and Trees and Rocks and Water ->

Now Touring Manitoba: The Soggy Bottom Gang!

<- Read the previous post: Yahoo for Yorkton!

Day 20 May 27 Monday

Yorkton to Binscarth

Sorry if everyone is totally confused, but we have had some route changes, as I’m sure anyone following “Spot” has noticed.  We are now taking the Yellowhead to Portage la Prairie, rather than Hwy 1. We are finding the truck traffic much quieter, as it is not twinned, at least not where we have been cycling. The shoulders are also pretty good. In my last blog I said our next rest day was in Thunder Bay, but it is actually in Winnipeg, so we don’t have to cover Manitoba without a stop. My whoops!! But first, we had to bid a fond farewell to our dearest Ethel.IMG_3567IMG_3565

We had rain today almost all day, and our “friend” the southeasterly headwind was back, although not as strong as it had been. Although we were drenched, it was not too cold out, so as long as we were moving we were warm. And it gave us all a chance to try out our rain gear, and I’m happy to report that our identical MEC shoe covers are keeping our feet dry, and we are all so fashionable and matchy-matchy! Terry is stunning in his neon “nuclear accident” decontamination suit, Bill in his “Bob the Builder” construction vest with way too much Velcro, and I in my rain bonnet that makes me look like a giant insect. We make quite the statement out on the highway.IMG_3439IMG_3508

We took the same route that we had on Saturday, but we headed east instead of west. Let me tell you, it looks a lot different going the other way when it is raining and your glasses are fogging up. This time, we passed over the border into Manitoba – yay, another province under our belts!

We made it to Manitoba!

We made it to Manitoba!

We didn’t do our Saskatchewan decal application until later in the evening, or else they would have slid down off our helmets, down our backs and into our cycling shorts, never to be seen again.

We want to thank a few people we met today. First, all the road workers, for giving us new shoulders to ride on. They make all the difference in the world – smooth sailing and much safer. Sue 001And we all know there are just two seasons in Canada, right? Winter and road construction. Then there was Ken Wiens, of the Old West Lodge just outside of Langenburg, who let us park under the porch to keep our bikes from getting completely waterlogged. IMG_3434And Rita at the Binscarth Centennial Park Campground, for getting us out of the rain and providing us with a gratis RV spot. Both Ken and Rita gave us donations too – generous people who understand the importance of talking about mental health.

Crossing the border means putting our clocks ahead, so we are going to bed early tonight in order to adjust to an earlier morning tomorrow.  And prepare for more of the wet stuff.

See more photos from day 20

Day 21 May 28 Tuesday

Binscarth to Minnedosa

Today was another rainy, wet day. We got a late start this morning, for a few reasons. The time change meant we moved our clocks ahead, but more significantly, we woke up to the pitter-patter-splatter of rain drops on the RV. I think we all just snuggled down into our beds when we heard that, hoping it would lighten up, which it did – a little bit.

Bill had a tube issue I have never seen before – his valve stem broke off half way up. Remarkably, it didn’t leak all day yesterday, but he decided not to tempt fate and changed it this morning before starting. Over breakfast, we all discussed how he could best flatten his tire to get the tube out – that’s not a conversation many cyclists have.

Today was damp, damp, damp. There is a real trick to dressing for rain – you need to layer enough to stay warm and dry(ish), but not so much that you sweat to death going up a hill. In Terry’s words, we all looked like dorks today, but we were happy as we pedaled along. IMG_3410The only not so great thing was that  for about 60 kms or so today, we had absolutely no shoulder, unless you count soft gravel as a shoulder. This made for some tense cycling when big rigs passed, as there was limited visibility with the spray from vehicles, but as usual the truckers mostly gave us lots of room, and many of them slowed down as they passed. I have to say I’m surprised at the quality of the roads since we got into Manitoba, but hopefully that will improve as we get closer to some larger centres.

Because of the bad shoulders, we did leap-frog a bit today, and because we finished up earlier than we might have otherwise, Bill did an extra 20 kms past Minnedosa.IMG_3519 I think Bill is part human, part rubber ducky, as he was just loving the drizzle and rain today, since there was little wind involved. While he was doing that, Sarah from the Minnedosa Tribune came to interview us, as she heard we were coming through and was following us on Spot. We got groceries, went to the bakery (yummy!!), and then headed to the Minnedosa Campground, which is right on Lake Minnedosa. Lovely area, lots of nice lakefront  “cabins” on the other side. The sun even broke through the clouds for a while in the evening, to tease us.

There is a big soccer field by our campground, and Bill went out to talk to the coaches of two girls teams that were practicing in the evening. We were treated to a great game between the U18 Minnedosa Girls (coach Brad Ross) and the Hamiota Heat (coach Tom Mollard).

We’ve certainly had some daunting days, but I’d like to quote Burt Bacharach……

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red
Crying’s not for me
Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’
Because I’m free
Nothing’s worrying me.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a turning point, but if not, we’ll just keep swimming. That is what faith is – knowing that there will be sunnier days, and just hanging in until that happens.

See more photos from day 21



Read the next update: On the cusp of Ontario and June ->

Yahoo for Yorkton!

<- Read the previous update: When Life Gives you Lemons…..

Day 18: May 25 Saturday

Today, we did a revised ride, to make up some kilometers, after heading to Yorkton a day early. We all got a chance to ride another great western Canadian highway, the Yellowhead. We drove out east to almost the Manitoba border (within about 50 metres – no cheating by crossing over before we properly completed Saskatchewan).

Not quite Manitoba

Not quite Manitoba

The weather was looking tentative to start, it was totally overcast and the clouds were kind of gray. But we ended up having an absolutely fantastic ride, I am thrilled to report.  We had a mild tailwind, and there was  absolutely no rain, just a little mist. This was the prairies I had remembered. Long, straight highway, no hills to speak of, peaceful and quiet. In between the rail tracks and the highway, which run parallel to each other, were lots of reeds, ponds and marshland. The birds were incredible, chirping and chattering, swooping  and gliding. Traffic was really light, so we could hear them serenade us all morning.






I think everyone should find time alone out in nature, where you can get fresh air and clear your mind. No to do lists, no meetings, no  pressing  issues – just spin, spin, spin. And on a day like this, your legs really go on autopilot. For me, it was actually a melancholy day, but in the sweetest, simplest way. I am finding this is one of the great gifts of this ride – to just be.

We’ve passed through many small towns, there is one about every 10 miles, settled during the time the railway was being built. Each has their own personality and claim to fame. Churchbridge, for instance, is home of Ruth, who created the winning design for the Canada 125th year loonie. Langenburg, SKIn Langenburg, they were setting up for a hotdog fundraiser and swimming registration.  We made a deal that we would donate $10,000 to them, if they donated it to us right back. No one had a cheque, so Al ended up buying a “future” hotdog (they weren’t ready yet). We also visited a serene little cemetery just outside Insinger, with gravestones going back to 1907. It was sad how many were for children, it reminds me how far we really have come with healthcare – thanks Tommy Douglas.IMG_3379IMG_3287

We managed to do over 130 kms, and were still done by 4:00ish for the drive back to Yorkton, feeling pretty refreshed. Amazing the time you can make when the elements are on your side.

Staying at Ethel’s has been pretty special for me. All my grandparents had either passed away, or lived outside the country when I was born, so I never really had the grandma experience. I’m pretty certain I’m getting it now. IMG_3557I’m sleeping in the childhood room of Vicki, Terry’s wife, and imagining what it was like being a teen in Yorkton then. And Ethel is amazing. She is 91 (and a half – don’t forget the half!), still lives at home on her own, and is sharp as a tack. She is sending us on our way with homemade jams, and she made a delicious dinner tonight of ham and scalloped potatoes, and homemade banana cream pie. Another great home-cooked meal!  Did I mention we also had bacon and eggs for breakfast? We are really getting the royal treatment!

I also want to acknowledge the generous offer we received from the White Bear First Nations. They invited us to stay at the Bear Claw Hotel and Casino on our day off for rest and recuperation. Since we were already staying in Yorkton, we had to decline, but we really appreciated their kindness. Thank you Brennan!

We’re all looking forward to tomorrow’s rest day – we won’t have another one until Thunderbay, so we need to stock up on energy for all of Manitoba!

See more photos from support driver Al

Day 19: May 26 Sunday

We had a lovely, sleepy day off. Lots of laundry, and each of the cyclists went for a massage again, which was delightful. The spa we went to is normally closed on Sunday’s, but when the massage therapist heard what the cause was for (her great uncle recently died of suicide), she gave up her day off to take care of us. Thanks C!



While I was sleeping in, Al and Terry cleaned the motorhome from top to bottom! What a treat to have a clean start tomorrow. Terry is making a stew tonight, so we have some more ready-made meals on our long days. You get to know people a lot better once you live with them in a 31 foot RV, and I’ve definitely learned that Terry likes to be on the go, and has the energy to do it! If he’s not cooking pancakes, he’s doing laundry or getting  groceries. I want to start calling him “the Flash”, but that could have too many alternate meanings, so I’ll keep searching for a nickname for him.

After another yummy dinner, we cleaned our bikes, and started preparing for our next stretch on the bike. Plans will depend on the weather. Stay tuned.

See more photos from their rest day

Read the next post: Now Touring Manitoba: The Soggy Bottom Gang! ->

When Life Gives you Lemons…..

<- Read the previous post: Into our third province – already!

Day 16 Thursday May 22

Swift Current to Moose Jaw

You know how weather forecasts never seem to be on target? Well, the one time we want them to be wrong, they are right on the money. Another head wind day (sob).IMG_3137

Faced with another exhausting day of 169 kms, we decided to try a different strategy. Terry was raring to go early in the morning, as the wind is usually lighter at that time.  He left at 6:30 am (yes, you’re reading that correctly), and knocked off 45 km. He didn’t plan to be going that far, but the rest of us were late departing due to a plugged sewage line on the RV. I’ll spare you the photos (you’re welcome). Then, our 8:00 am grocery run was delayed as Safeway wasn’t open that early. We had to resort to going to a Big Box Store, which Bill despises and shall remain nameless. I do need to report, though, that besides the necessities we needed, Bill actually purchased sunglasses there. The sacrilege! The hypocrisy!  Bill insists that since there is no photo evidence and he paid with cash, it never happened. And I’ve also discovered that Al has impulsive junk food shopping tendencies. I think we should escort him for groceries from now on, or we’ll all gain weight and lose our teeth across Canada.

The bright side to this diversion was that we met Leanne, who saw our cycling attire and asked us about what we were doing.  We had a good discussion about schizophrenia, as she has an ex-husband who dealt with the challenges of that, and we mentioned that Bill will be connecting with the Schizophrenia Society tomorrow in Regina.

IMG_3231Once we caught up with Terry, we started leap-frogging. We took turns riding in 10 – 20 km stints, either alone or in pairs, with the RV in hot pursuit. Together we covered 115 kms, which is pretty commendable considering the conditions.

We want to acknowledge the truckers we have encountered along the Trans Canada Hwy. IMG_3507Most have been very professional and safety-conscious – giving us a wide berth, tooting their horns to alert us or just to support us, and some even wave. We so appreciate that they respectfully share the road with us!

The weirdest thing today was going through the salt flats in Chaplin SK. With the heavy winds, the air looked smoky at first, then like snow. Once we cycled through what seemed like a sand storm, my entire body was covered in fine white dust. IMG_3218I’m glad it was just salt, and not something more “sinister”, as I’m sure I inhaled a lot. On the plus side, we don’t need a spa treatment now that our faces have been “salt-blasted”. Laundry was definitely in order tonight.

We had a nice walk to dinner, even with the wind, and guess what? Bill made a trip to yet another not to be named Big Box Store and purchased a bathing suit. We’re not listening to his corporate rants anymore, as we know he has come to the dark side.

Have you seen Al’s photos from Day 16?

Day 17 May 24 Wednesday

Moose Jaw to Regina (kind of)

So if any of you were tracking our route today, you are probably scratching your head trying to figure out what the heck we did. The day started out similarly to the day before. Terry got an early start, about 7:20 am, and the rest of us in the RV caught up with him soon after, as no toilet malfunctions today. The wind was nastier than ever, and Terry only got about 4.5 kms in 45 mins. He was totally bushed from his efforts, and the wind gusts had threatened to blow him off his bike several times

Terry was quickly consoled by Miss Karma, the loving border collie who bounded into our RV to welcome us, and of course get her tummy scratched. IMG_3241She belonged to Jessie, the kind manager of the Esso.just east of Moose Jaw, who had heard about us on the radio this morning, and was waiting for us to come past. He offered to fill our cooler with ice, which we gladly accepted, let us get our fill of fur therapy, and then we were on our way.Terry 013


We re-evaluated yet again, and decided on another new strategy – make our own tailwind! We shuttled about 70 kms to the east of Regina, and got on our bikes heading west. Riding with the wind for a change seemed like such a novel concept. Instead of moving at 7 km/hr, we were zooming along at over 40 km/hr – what a treat! And for those of you who don’t cycle, let me explain why it can be very eerie riding in a strong tail wind. All around you the trees and grass are madly swaying, the flags are flapping, but you hear COMPLETE silence, except for any passing traffic. It is like you are in a vacuum, you can hear your breathing, a slight hum of your wheels, but that is it. Utter peace spinning at top speed, even uphill. It’s every cyclists dream. One of the riders said it was even better than sex – I won’t say who to protect the spouses.

Our elation was short-lived, as the rain started about an hour later. First light, then heavier, then the wind changed direction and started gusting. We were going to soldier though and get back to the RV site for lunch, but the gusts got gustier, the rain got rainier, and the final straw was when two semi trucks passed in close succession and Bill and I wobbled like weebles who actually might fall down. I might start believing in conspiracy theories, with the weather luck we have been having. So we again packed it in.

The silver lining – and remember that there always is one – is that we could attend the Schizophrenia Awareness Day open house at the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan in downtown Regina. Terry 020We had a chance to meet with Anita and Ann and all the other staff and volunteers, and learn about the interesting programs they have. They have a stand up comedy class organized by and set up for individuals with mental illness, that runs every Tuesday. A few times a year, they rent out a space and put on a comedy show for the public. They have even made a short movie together. It’s great to hear about such innovative ideas to engage creativity and build an inclusive environment among their clients. The also have a partner program where they send out a team that includes a person with mental illness, one of their family members, and a mental health professional. Together they educate others on what mental illness is, what it is like for the person and their families experiencing it, and in the process remove the stigma veil that hangs over the topic. Kudos to you all at the Regina Schizophrenia Society, both the staff and their clients, we had some very interesting and eye-opening conversations.

Bill also received a phone call from Brenda, a suicide prevention counsellor who was unable to attend, but wanted to send us prayers, and would do a smudge for us. We are so blessed to have so many people enveloping us with good vibes.

After the open house, we did a few errands, ate lunch/dinner, and had another team huddle about what we would do for the next few days, as the forecast still is not looking promising. After some bantering about, and a tie-breaking decision made by our lovely server Chenise, we are now on our way to Yorkton, a day early, to stay with Terry’s mother-in-law Ethel for our rest day. We are hoping to have more flexibility on which day to rest, and have more options for where to ride tomorrow, where the wind maybe isn’t so devious. Maybe “somewhere over the rainbow…” Imagine me in ruby shoes, the tune will come to you.

Tonight we will all have real beds in our own rooms. You have to appreciate the simple pleasures of life! Thank you for all the wonderful comments you’ve been sending, it buoys us up on the tough days. I’m glad to know so many are following our journey. To help us meet our goals, we request that you spread the news and start a conversation about mental health. Listen to the stories that come up – sometimes it is the first time that someone has felt safe enough to talk about their experiences. And that is a humbling thought.

Have you seen Al’s photos from day 17?

Love and Hugs, Sue

Read the next update: Yahoo for Yorkton! ->