Friday, May 30, 2008

May 29 and 30, Day 23 and 24: Playing tag with the prairie winds, rain, and sun

May 29: 86km from Shaunavaun to Ponteix, Saskatchew

Today dawned clear and sunny and we saw the standard prairie summer
weather - patchy clouds materialized in the morning, the heat came on
about lunchtime, and in the late afternoon a few rainstorms appeared
and rampaged around (thankfully missing us, and we were in camp by
then). We went north for 10km and turned east on Hwy 13 and went due
east for the rest of the day, passing through Scotsguard, Admiral, the
ghost town of Crichton, lunch in the tiny crossroads town of Cadillac,
and then finishing off in the francophone town of Ponteix - complete
with a dual-towered monstrous francophone Catholic church visible for
about 8km away. The road was very low traffic and passed through
beautiful countryside all day long, rolling terrain moving away from
the Cypress Hills, and we saw tons of wildlife - before lunchtime, I
saw 10 antelope, a big hare, a nice bull snake, a great horned owl,
some deer, various hawks, lots of interesting birds, a swarm of
swallows... I think that's it.

The tiny town of Ponteix has a small campground. A boil water order
was in effect, so no drinking from the taps. Unfortunately, the
showers only had cold water! Lucky it was a very hot afternoon. The
campground was full of birds -- red-winged black birds swallows, a
lovely bird with a dull-yellow belly (grossbeak?) I have been trying
to get the perfect picture of a red-wing, and I came close when out of
a stroll before sunset.

Prairie sunsets are wonderful things, the hour before the actual sun set is full of golden light, and the sunset itself lights up the sky. At night the prairie sky is full of stars -- not a lot of light down here from big cities.

May 30, Playing tag with rainstorms on the Prairies
Ponteix to Assininboia on Highway 13
118 kms
average speed approx 20 km/hr
What a great day -- finally, a western wind! We were blown almost all the way from Ponteix to Assiniboia. Lots to see when you are spinning along, but today's new sighting was of a badger trundling through the fields. We also had a fine pronghorn antelope bound across the highway in front of us. Amazing how much there is to see on the Prairies -- and certainly you can see the weather!
After a lunch stop at Lafleche we spent the afternoon playing dodgeball with great rain cells. Mike and I took shelter at an old grain elevator and Mark, who was ahead, was able to dodge the raindrops by way of quick riding.
Tomorrow, if the winds are good, we'll try a "century" (ride of 100 miles) -- here to Wayburn. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 28 (Day 22?) - 38km to Shaunavon

Today we spent the morning in Eastend - slept in, then visited the T. Rex Discovery Centre, which is very good, except that I was kind of hoping there would be a full-sized t-rex skeleton to see, which there isn't. But a great tour and very nice centre on the hillside overlooking Eastend. After lunch at Jack's we headed out of town - I saw a fox crossing the road very close to us just outside of Eastend - we were out on the empty prairie again for a few hours to bring us into Shaunavon, so we'll camp here (as the next camping is 50km down the road). Good news - the winds have shifted to the south, and tomorrow will be north-westerlies!


Eastend was a wonderful town, very small and extremely friendly. Everyone in town knew we were visitors, and most recognized us as "the bikers coming down the hill south of town", even when they didn't see us with our bikes. If you do get to Eastend, take advantage of both the T.Rex Discovery Centre and the town museum. The museum is run by some of the most helpful and friendly staff around, and it is simply stuffed with interesting artifacts, photos, and historic structures.

A closing word about spring on the praries (as we are experiencing it): expect the unexpected! Last night it got so cold that that ice formed on the inside of the tent fly. When I got up at 5:00 am and opened the tent, ice tinkled down into my boots. We have spent the last few days bundled up. But, tomorrow we expect to rocket up to 22 degrees. I'll believe it when I feel it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May 26, 27: Cypress Hills and South to the Red Coat Trail

May 26: Eagle Valley Campground to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (Centre Block)
52 km
4:22 on the bike

Don't let the 52 km fool you, today was hard, hard, hard. The wind continued to be our problem, although Mark notes that climbing into the Cypress Hills (about 300+ metres) was also a big part of it. The wind blew from the east - north east, and we had to ride due east for a few kms at the start of the day. Then it was mostly south/south east.

The country side, however, didn't disappoint. The Cypress Hills are quite high, and we were in the highest part (1300 metres). Our camp was in the midst of lodgepole pines, and at 1300 metres this was our highest camp.

We did a little hike at the Cypress Hills park. Lodgepole pines, white spruce, and wildflowers just starting to show. A few views completed the walk. It was nice to get off the bike and work different muscles.

We had a very quit campsite -- no one else was in the place.


May 27: Cypress Hills (Centre Block) to Eastend
96 km
7 hrs on the bike

Another physically and mentally difficulty day. The wind was against us for almost 86 of the 96 kms. For 40 km it was a full-on head wind. We suspect it was around 20 to 30 km/hr. Also, there was no place to stop for the entire day, save the side of the road. However, the views were wonderful. This part of south western Saskatchewan is full of buttes and hills. This is a land of ranching and farming -- the farm land has no fences, the ranch land has fences, cattle, and horses.

We have now become blaise about Pronghorn antelopes. We have seen dozens of them now, with their huge white butts heading off across the plains. Lots of great birds, and coyotes too.

Cycling across the prairies really gives you a feeling of space and moving across the land - in BC it is all about the trees and water, whereas in the prairies the vast sky and land visible for kilometres in every direction - you can pick a point on the horizon and then spend the next few hours tracking your progress as you move past it. Whereas in BC our eastward progress was often quite difficult to detect, here we really feel like we are (ever so slowly) actually picking our way across this vast vast country. All of the country we were in today is quite empty - with the exception of one near-ghost town (Robsart) all we saw were farms, mostly very far off, all day, to Eastend.

Mary + Mark

Monday, May 26, 2008

May 25, Day 19 - We are in Saskatchewan! 2 down and 8 to go.

Medicine Hat to Eagle Valley, west of Maple Creek Sask.
98 km
5:48 in the saddle

We woke up in Medicine Hat to a cloudy day that promised rain and sun -- but, we had NO WIND as we left town after a bit of an exploration. Medicine Hat is on the South Saskatchewan River and has some lovely old residential areas. The city is full of trees and greenery -- probably helps a lot in the hot summers that are common here.

We left Medicine Hat, bound for Walsh and the Saskatchewan border, but we arrived at Walsh with plenty of time to spare so decided to push on to Eagle Park, about 40 km into Saskatchewan. Those 40 k took a lot of time and effort as the wind had now moved to full-on north east (and our direction was east).

At Walsh we were treated to a fitting end to our Alberta tour -- a HUGE rainstorm complete with hail. We missed it by staying in the Alberta Visitor's Centre, but Mark was riding ahead. He caught only a corner.

The day had lots and lots of amazing views. We saw antelope (Mark got a great shot), we saw coyotes, and even one stalking an antelope. This area of Sask, just at the western border on the Transcanada is a bit hilly, but after the huge rains of late is green and lush. We are still amazed at the bird life -- wish we knew our birds better!

Today it is off to Cypress Hills.

More later.

Day 17 & 18, May 23 & 24: The Taber Pancake Breakfast is Saved, and other stories

Day 17 - Taber to Bow Island
61 km
4:57 on the bike
12.4 km / hr
After promising ourselves we'd stay in Taber, we woke to clearing skies in the east and a reduced wind, so we headed out of town eastwards - so we won't be visiting the pancake breakfast Saturday morning in Taber after all: lucky for them. The clearer skies held almost until Grassy Lake, which we arrived at almost at noon and headed in to the Dew Drop In cafe, staffed by Mennonites - the menu is English/Spanish because many of the local Mennonites, including our server, come originally from Mexico, from a group that went down there 50 years ago from Manitoba. We were planning on camping at Grassy Lake due to the inclement weather, but Mike and Mary explored the town for a while and we hung around the cafe drinking tea until 3:30, when the wind had died and the rain somewhat dropped and we headed east again into the wind. Asides from a real downpour just a few kilometres before Bow Island - with the town in sight, no less - we arrived at Bow Island relatively un-rained-on and camped in the municipal campground. After dinner we went across the highway to downtown Bow Island (such as it exists) and checked out the local bar. One fellow there was from Victoria and knew Heather Graham at UVic, and one other lady had passed us on the road during the rain and thought we were nuts. We had great fun chatting with the folks there - they gave Mike a T-shirt and all of us candy - and they wished us well on our trip.

Day 18 - Bow Island to Medicine Hat
Up at 6ish as usual to cloudy skies threatening rain and the stiff easterly winds that have accompanied us all across Alberta as we trudge along through this weather system. It was clear enough to convince us to pack up and leave, though we visited the bakery in town - staffed by Mennonites - for another tea/coffee and a dozen doughnuts for the road, which should last us a few days if we're lucky. We got to Seven Persons, 34 km down the road, for lunch with the rain mostly holding off all morning and the wind gradually increasing in strength - we later found out it was up to 24km/h gusting to 34, mostly right towards us. At Seven Persons Highway 3 turns northeast, still pretty much straight into the wind for us. Mike and Mary got some homemade sausages at the sausage factory at Seven Persons and we headed for Medicine Hat, which we got to around 3. A fairly tough day, going into the wind all day, so the early finish is appreciated. We camped at the Gas City Campground - Medicine Hat is known for natural gas.; we did laundry at the very well-equipped campground and I went into town to Safeway for groceries. This weather system is forcasted to give us easterly winds for the next several days; tomorrow we plan another shortish day to Walsh, 50km away at the provincial border, and at Maple Creek after that we plan on turning south to cross the Cypress Hills.


PS - no pictures for this post as we are working off a satellite link and it is slowwwwww.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Day 16, May 22: Who has Seen the Wind... and rain, and cold?

Trip stats:
Raymond to Taber, Alberta
73 km
6 hrs on the bike.

W.O. Mitchell has a classic book about prarie life called "Who has Seen the Wind". I always thought this title was a bit of prarie mysticism, but today I did indeed see the wind and I can descibe him: He is a crotchety, contrary, old geezer who delights in making everyone dance to his tune. For example, today's melody included turning from a strong west-south west wind to an easterly one. Of course, we were hoping to go east -- silly us! Instead we ended up going north along the 36 from Wrentham to Taber instead of keeping east on the 61 from Raymond to Foremost.

Oh, did I mention the rain and the cold? It seems that southern Alberta is sitting under a stalled low pressure system coming up from Montana. We dodged the rain, for the most part, in Alberta up until now, but today was a real soaker -- wind driven rain from morning until night. Indeed, it rained so much that we decided to take a motel room in Taber to dry out our selves and all our gear. The room is festooned with wet socks, cycling shorts, jackes, gloves, toques, jackets, and pack -- the humidity in the room is just shy of tropical.

Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to follow through with our Cypress Hill cycle plans. Initially, we hoped to stay east on the 61 to Manyberries, and then travel on dirt roads to the western edge of the Cypress Hills park. From here we wanted to ride the Trans Canada Trail through the park to Fort Walsh. But, the dirt roads and trails are now a sea of mud and the weather system promises 30 km/h eastern winds tomorrow, with lots of rain and cold temperatures. So, we are probably going to take a rest day in Taber tomorrow. But. on Saturday, just before we leave Taber, the town is having a pancake breakfast. We are going to set Mike loose on the buffet -- I hope Taber has LOTS of pancake batter and sausages!

But, our hopes for Cypress Hills and Grasslands are not totally dead. Although we are back again on the #3 (Crowsnest), we can drop down to the East Block of Cypress Hills in a few days if the weather allows.

But, as I often say, the worst day on a bike is better than the finest day in the office, and this one, although wet, cold, and annoying, was no different. We had an interesting stop at Stirling, a Mormon village laid out on the "Plat of Zion" plan. We stopped at heritage creamery and had a late breakfast. As well, there is nothing like a bit of rain to bring out the colour in the countryside.

More later

Day 15, May 20 - Foothills to Prairie

Today we went from true Alberta foothills to true prairie. We left camp after 8 and spent two slow hours going south on Highway 800 straight towards Chief Mountain - slow because of the WSW winds, but tolerable because of the mountain views. After hitting highway 5, which we were on for most of the rest of the day, we turned East and passed through Mountain View and into Cardston, where we had a look at the giant Mormon temple, which appears to be built in a variant of Stalinist style. After lunch we continued with our backs to the wind NE through Magrath and turned east onto highway 52 to Raymond, which appears to be a bedroom community for Lethbridge, where we found the Perret Park campground at the edge of town backing onto prairie and featuring lots of mud (though thankfully avoidable). Today was our highest mileage so far, at 123km, even though the first 25km were very slow due to the winds. I believe we had our last view of the mountains at some point in the afternoon, though it may just be because they are clouded in - we had clouds and a few spots of drizzle throughout the day. Hello prairie! now the roads have almost totally flattened out, except for the occasional dip for a river or creek crossing, and from now on we will be heading due east to the Cypress Hills!

We are all now getting used to the constant questions and comments from people - once they see our loaded up bikes, lots of random strangers want to chat us up and wish us well. It is interesting to talk to other distance cyclists, if even briefly - a guy in the grocery store in Cardston mentioned his bike trip from Vancouver to San Jose, and said that, like us, he had the wind behind him most of the time!


Days 13 and 14, May 19 and 20: Goodbye BC, Hello Alberta

May 19 Fernie to Blairmore Alberta: 72 km

Ian and Elaine were such wonderful hosts we didn't want to leave their house in Fernie. We slept late, had a huge breakfast of Elaine's special pancakes and Ian's stiff coffee, took our time packing our bags, and snapped lots of pictures – but we finally got on the bikes and took off for the Crowsnest Pass (our last BC pass).

May 19 was a holiday and everyone was on the road returning to Alberta from their May long weekend getaways. This was the only time the #3 highway has been busy. Still, we had a fine ride, and the views of the Rockies were supurb – something new around every turn. We also saw “the world's biggest truck” in Sparwood.

At about 3:20 in the afternoon we crossed the BC – Alberta border. At this point we ridden over 1100 km in BC. Coming down from the Crowsnest we finally saw why it was called “Crowsnest” as the mountain of the same name hove into view when we rounded our last corner in BC.

We rocketted along through the Crowsnest municapalities and we crossed the train tracks in Blairmore at 4:30 and headed for the Lost Lemon campsite. While we were relaxing in the hot-tub (yeah, its a hard life!) we got an invitation to have dinner with two families vacationing in the area. One of the families was from Calgary, the other from Athabasca. We went to bed full that night.

May 20 Blairmore to a wilderness campground on Waterton Reservoir (the 505): 90 km

We got up early and hit the road with the biker's friend – a strong tailwind. We visited the Frank Slide Centre (closed for renos) and did the interpretive walk. The slide was amazing, I can't imagine what it must have sounded like for a kilometre of rock to fall off a mountain.

From Frank Slide we stayed on the #3 until Pincher Creek, then it was into the wind south down the #6. Needless to say, I was cranky as soon as we turned into the wind, but the scenery soon took my mind off the wind (well, at least a bit). About 25 km down the #6 we hit the 505 and headed east to a “wilderness” campsite by the Waterton reservoir. The wind was blowing as it always does in SW Alberta, and it looked like rain, but the evening cleared off and we had fine views of the Rockies down into Waterton Park.

We caught our first glimpses of the flat prarie today. When we were up in the foothills above Pincher Creek we could look out to the east, and there was nothing but Canadian prarie as far as the eye could see. It was here that I really got the feeling that Canada is HUGE and we have a very, very long way to go. In the mountains your view is always a bit constrained, something new around every corner, but in the prarie your path lies clearly in front of you and extends to the horizon.

The day's ride also featured lots of wildflowers. I recognized a number (pasqueflower, shooting star), but most of them were new to me. We saw young elk, a coyote, and some amazing birds – the most surprising looked like a big backbird, except it had a bright yellow head, it looked quite exotic and really stood out.

Enough for now – its time for bed, even though the sun is nowhere near setting.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day 12 (? I think) - Fernie

Day 12 we passed 1000km and did 104 km to Fernie. After a fine breakfast and getting a new back tire for me we left Cranbrook around 10:30am and headed to the mountains. Much of the day was spent cycling along wondering when we would get to Elko (for the next stop? for lunch? where the hell is Elko anyways?) and after Elko we entered the BOSOM OF THE MOUNTAINS and came up the Elk River into the Rockies. We saw three youngish mountain goats at the side of the road in the Elk canyon. Arrived in Fernie in good time having averaged 18km/hr for the day (!) thanks to tailwinds and quite flat roads... we stayed with Ian Hogg and Elaine and companions Mona, Tobius, Nick. Thanks supremely for the awesome feast and breakfast too!
Today - over the Crowsnest, the continental divide, and on to the next province!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day 11 - Cranbrook

Tip for everyone: ticks are yucky, avoid them if possible.

Today we did a very handsome 108km to Cranbrook with nice tailwinds and a very flat road from Creston through Yahk and Moyie to the home of Brian and Sally Passey, family friends who have showered us with kindness and food and hospitality - they live on Jim Smith Lake southwest of Cranbrook (unfortunately up a steeply hilled road - not nice after cycling 108km!) and are wonderful folks. Thank you Brian and Sally!! And thanks to Kate and Ivan and the redheads, who we met in Creston and phoned the Passeys for us, and then cheered us on from the road!

Days 9 and 10: A Classic Kootenay Adventure

Day 9, May 15, 2008

Trip Stats:
56 km
3:47 in the saddle
14.4 km/hr average

We woke up to coffee, tea, and pancakes – what a huge treat (thank you Rebecca for making the goodies, and to Everest for suggesting pancakes!). We did a slow pack and got on the road sometime around 9:30. At Owen's suggestion we took the rail grade down from Rossland to Trail – we came out at the top of a mondo hill heading down into Trail.

The day was beautiful – clear blue skies and warm weather – even Trail (which sometimes looks a bit down on its luck) looked lovely. We crossed the Columbia and hit the 8% grade up to Montrose. This was a bit of a surprise as today was supposed to be an “easy” day. But, we managed and had fine views of the Columbia River as it left Canada and headed down into the States.

We rolled along through Fruitvale and pulled up at a named “Stop of Interest” -- it turned out to be the Park Siding School. As we were just finishing our lunch on the grass in front of the old log cabin schoolhouse when Jack Bell, the fellow that restored the school, came by to give us the full tour. His Grandmother taught in the little one room place. Jack was also full of stories about the local area – especially the old railways, mining, and logging in the area.

After lunch we continued on down the Beaver Valley, all along the 3B highway. A few kilometres outside of Salmo we joined back up to the main highway 3, and rocketed down to Salmo. We got in to Salmo around 4:00. We pulled into the municiple campground and proceeded to set up for the night. After dinner in camp (bean stew over rice) we stopped in to the Salmo Hotel for a drink. It is quite a colourful establishment – more than a few of the patrons were well into their cups and the talk was all around logging and long distance trucking.

Early to bed for an early morning start - tomorrow we hit the Kootenay Pass.

Day 10, May 16, 2008: The Kootenay Pass Adventure

Trip stats:
87 km
1100 metres climbing
6:19 hours on the bike

This is it, K-Day. We were on the road at 7:30, looking for the Salmo Fire Hall so we could pay for our camping – but we never found it (we'll send the money later, with the suggestion to include better instructions for finding the Fire Hall). From here it is off to the Kootenay Pass.

The first 16 km rolled along very nicely, then we hit the base of the pass. The road got steeper and the views got better. We got a lot of the lower part of the pass done in the relative cool of the morning, but as we got higher the sun seemed to beat down harder than ever. In the the upper reaches of the pass the snow provided extra reflection and Mike got quite a sunburn on his face and legs. Mark was covered up, and I was slopping the sunscreen on regularly.

The push to the summit (1774 metres) was 23 km, and 8 km of those were at 8% grades, the rest were at 6 and 7%. Given that we started at 663 metres at Salmo, this was one of our most physically taxing days yet. However, the views were stellar – there is nothing like the blue of skies of the Kootenays!

We reached the summit in about 4 hours of cycling from the base of the pass. Coming down took a few hours as well, since we had a strong headwind and lots of heat (30 degrees + in Creston). But, we made Creston in good time, pulling in at about 4:00 to Scottie's Campground. At the campground we spent a half hour lying on the grass and looking up through the maple trees at the perfect Kootenay blue sky, then it was out for dinner and a good night's sleep.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day 8 – Wed 14, 2008: Christina Lake to Owen and Rebecca's in Rossland

It rained all night, stopping sometime around 4:00 am, but we were cozy in our tents under the tarp. Even though the clouds were hanging low over Christina Lake we decided to pack up and try a two pass day(Paulson summit: 1538 metres and Nancy Green Summit: 1576 metres). Are we ever glad we did because when we rolled into Rossland and parked on the main street, Owen walked by, asked where we were going, and promptly invited us to stay at with him, Rebecca, and their daughter Everest. OUR LUCKY DAY!!! What kindness – totally appreciated!

Leaving Christina Lake and heading up to the Paulson bridge (about 15 km from Christina Lake) seemed fairly straightforward – maybe 5% grades. Then the grade started, 7 and 8% up to Paulson summit – and cold too. We decided this equalled the drag up out of Hope. with Christina Lake at about 500 metres and the Paulson summit at 1538, this part of the day had us climb 1000 metres in about 30 km. Then it was down, down, down to the junction of 3 and 3B. We turned down the 3B to Rossland, and started to climb the Nancy Green summit – only an additional 300 metres (prep for the Kootenay Pass in two days time). Lots of snow at the NG summit.

The roll down to Rossland was spectacular, 15 km of downhill on a quiet road. Also, the sun came out as we raced by Red Mountain, just outside of Rossland. We rolled into town and met Owen. Right now I'm sitting in a comfy living room, having just had a wonderful barbeque chicken dinner and chocolate cake, writing this blog – life is good!!

Tomorrow will be an easy day – about 40 km to Salmo – and it is going to be that much easier for having spent the night at Rebeca and Owen's


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Christina Lake

Hi all, today we did a fairly tame 80km to Christina Lake, mostly in a light rain (it's raining harder now, apparently today is the second day of rain they've had in a month). Everyone we talk to agrees the weather has sucked royally this spring. Today we came from Midway through Greenwood - a very nice heritage town - over the Eholt Summit (1100m, but a very mellow climb up to it) and descended into Grand Forks. After tea we carried on to the campground here. Tomorrow we go up our second-last big pass in BC - the Blueberry Paulson summit towards Trail. There may well be snow at the top!

My knee is bothering me a little bit more today than usual, hopefully in three days once we're over the last of the big passes it will recover - no more big passes, at least until Ontario... (the Crowsnest Pass out of BC is not a big steep one).

Mary is heading off into town to shop and see if there is a decent pizza place for dinner - we don't much feel like cooking in the rain, though we have a very nice tarp setup in camp here. Mike is busily setting up camp while I blog this in the picnic shelter.

'till next time, Mark

Day 6 - May 12 - Osoyoos to Midway

72 km today
5.31 hrs on the bike
12.9 km/hr average

We stayed up late on Sunday night (at the Sage Pub) talking with Al. Sunday's push up Richter's Pass outside of Osoyoos was giving him second thoughts about continuing his ride through BC. He decided to spend today (May 12) in Osoyoos resting up and going over his options. So, after breakfast we said good bye to Al.

Then it was on to the Anarchist Summit – this road towers over the eastern approaches to Osoyoos and was right behind our campsite – we spent a lot of time looking at it and (for me at least) dreading the trip up. Surprisingly, the face over Osoyoos was not too difficult, 6 and 7% grades for the most part. And the views were STUNNING! The weather was lovely and we could see the lake stretched out north to south below us. To the west we got another look at the snow-capped mountains that flanked us on our ride down the Similkameen the previous day. However, the summit is nowhere in sight when you finish the 10 km to the top of the face and look down on the town – for the summit you have to keep asending for another 20 km. We kept saying “where is the xx##@@ summit”!

Finally we came to it (1233 metres – up from 277 metres at Osoyoos – no wonder the day was such a hard one!) and Mike got flat #3. A quick pump up and we started our descent down into the wide and gentle Kettle River Valley. Our first stop was Rock Creek and a burger at the Gold Pan Cafe, then on down the valley to Midway and the excellent municiple campground right on grassy banks of the Kettle River. Serving the Kettle Valley Railway bike trail as it does, this campground is perfect for cyclists – our site even has a covered picnic table, so no need to tarp up tonight.

The Kettle Valley is old stomping ground for the three of us because we were through this way on the KVR trail in 2002. This time, with our vantage point from the highway, we are getting a different feel for the place – a kind of a macro view, as opposed to the more micro view we had on the trail itself.

Besides the wonderful views, hightlights for today include marmots galore – these furry butterballs are all over, piping us on our way. Bird life was also impressive today, we need Alan and Jan to give us the full picture, but we saw lots of buff-coloured small sparrow-like hawks, Redtailed hawks creaming away overhead, and we even got fine pictures of a Cooper's hawk (at least I think it was a Cooper's ). Another highlight bird was the Mountain Bluebird. This bird, with its piercingly sky-blue feathers is so easy to recognize that even novices like us can pick this beauty out.



Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Rainy Day in the Similkameen

Today is Sunday,May 1 and we are in Hedley at the Hitching Post having an second breakfast. Two days ago we made it over the Allison Pass in Manning Park. What a hump that was!! It took us 7.5 hours to go 63 kms -- and we guerilla camped at the Cold Spring campground just past the summit.

Highlights so far: A great tail wind every day so far;
Several bear sightings; Dave's Dinner at the East Gate to Manning Park;
Bromley Rock Provincial Park; two Aussies (Vikki and Greg) heading to Toronto; and Al, heading to Burlington (we have been doing a bit of riding with Al when our times overlap).

Today we are trying for Osoyoos -- but might not get there -- we'll see how kind the road is to us all. The Similkameen valley is alive with birds and deer, and the cycling is fairly easy (after Allison EVERYTHING is easy!).

More later.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dipping the wheels
Originally uploaded by Bigadore
We are on the road!! Here we are dipping our wheels in the Pacific (actually the Juan de Fuca ) at Fonyo Beach, just below Mile 0 in Victoria, B.C.

Starting out stats:
Mike's bike weight: 99 lbs
Mark's bike weight: 100 lbs
Mary's bike weight: 94 lbs

We had a fine breakfast at Beacon Bill's with Cathy, Jan, Alan, Joanna, Robert, Lisa, John, Eoin, Claudio, LillAnne, Gemma, Bill, Anne, Jon, Emma, and Jennie. Bill Turner, from the Land Conservancy, came out as well to take pictures of us at Mile 0. Ken Wong picked us up on the way to the Blue Bridge -- THANK YOU EVERYONE!!

We then dipped the wheels at Fonyo Beach, and did photos at Mile 0. Jan, Alan, Jennie, and John rode out with us towards the ferry -- John and Alan went with us all the way.

Over on the mainland we had a fine ride along the boundary bay dike road and through Delta, Surrey, and finally into Fort Langley - a nice flat road with a tailwind all the way, and we got to Fort Langley at 5:00. We've just been chatting with two cross Canada cyclists -- Vikki and Greg -- who are here from Australia for a ride.

We are just about to settle down for the night -- more later!!

It begins!

Off we go - I'm heading out the door in five minutes, off to Mile Zero! Wish us luck!

Note: blog posts will be much less frequent, starting now...


Monday, May 5, 2008

The Test-Pack and Ride

Monday, May 05, 2008
We did a test pack today and took the steeds out for a spin. The unofficial weights:
Mike's Antler: approx 97 lbs
Mary's Miyata: approx 90 lbs
Mark's Sapphire: approx 97 lbs

These are all unofficial weights -- the real weights will be done on Wed morning, just before we take off.

We do have a little celebration planned for Wed morning -- Mike and I will join Mark for the weigh-in. Then it is off to Beacon Bill's (close to Mile 0 in Victoria) for a 7:00am breakfast. We'll close off with a wheel-dip in the Pacific, and photos at Mile 0 , under the Terry Fox statue. We're going to be channeling Terry for this ride!!!

As we will be traveling through many diverse natural habitats and historically significant areas, Bill Turner and the good folks from The Land Conservancy will be out to take photos for the upcoming TLC newsletter.

Cathy will come out for breakfast as will Jan and Alan. Lisa and John will stop in too. Alan and Jan will ride with us for a few kms, and John will stay with us out to the ferry.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Three Days to Go!!! Aauuuggh!

We are planning on heading out of town Wednesday morning, May 7, departing from of course Mile Zero at the end of Douglas Street downtown. Anybody who wants to see three antsy cyclists off can come down there at 8am to take a picture of us in front of the Terry Fox statue (or perhaps dipping our wheels in the ocean?).

Currently we're all the in the "last-minute-packing-decisions" stage - I spent about half an hour today figuring out which of two camp mugs to pack (the plastic one won). At the beginning of a trip, everybody agonizes over every extra gram of weight, whereas at the end of the trip everybody's probably carrying 5kg of junk, garbage, interesting stuff they've picked up off the side of the road, souvenir rubbish, etc etc etc (at the end of our BC trip Mike had about 15kg of railroad spikes, plates, etc in his front panniers).

For a (somewhat) related photo: the picture shows my bike (Sapphire) in France all loaded up with some unconventional luggage: a baguette.

Email list!

Welcome to the 21st century everybody - we have an email list set up so that whenever we post to the blog, you get the post emailed straight to your door. No fuss, no muss with RSS (though if you are tech-savvy of course you can do it with an RSS feed). ... and this post is the test of that, I've added everybody who was interested to the email list and hopefully you're all getting this post now as an email.
Just a note: if you want to comment on the blog post, don't reply to this email (as we won't see it): you have to go to the blog page (at and click the link below the blog post. That way we and everyone who looks at the blog will be able to see it.
If you want to be on the email list and aren't yet, email me, Mary or Mike and we'll add you.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Summer Reading List

Mary and I have finally, after much discussion and back-and-forthing, settled upon the summer reading list: between the two of us we selected a few books to take which a) are quintessentially Canadian, b) we haven't read, and c) (perhaps most importantly) are nice lightweight paperbacks. Without further ado:

  • Roses Don't Do Well Here - W.O. Mitchell
  • Who Has Seen the Wind - W.O. Mitchell
  • The Deafening - Francis Itani
  • David and Other Poems - Earle Birney (if we can find a small copy!)
  • The Shooting of Dan McGrew and other poems - Robert Service
  • The Stone Angel - Margaret Laurence
  • Fifth Business - Roberston Davies
.... that should keep us well tided over for four months.