GLOBAL CYCLE EVENT

In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

5000 kilometres down 2000kms to go.



A special hello to my Russian readers. What's the cycling like there?
O' and to my 1. Canadian follower , I'll be back soon.


Day 42.

Kalkaska Mi, where zombies run camping grounds.

 The day was pretty run of the mill, woke up, cycled 100km in the drizzle passing through the pretty town of Petoskey Mi, and then stopping in Kalkaska due to the dearth of camping grounds in this part of Michigan.

 

It all sounds pretty Polish around here and when you don’t have a choice of camping grounds you have to take what’s on offer. The Polish may be fair skinned but I don’t think that explains the appearance of the camp ground owners. Extremely fair skinned, skinny to the point of malnutritioned and with dark rings under their eyes. Either druggies or zombies I’d be thinking. I’m opting for the later and was trapped when Adi accepted the agreement of $15 per night with a hot shower in the zombie den thrown in. This is one time I was tempting her with a motel, but she didn’t take the bait. Like a lamb to the slaughter she chose our campsite and then went off to get her shower. I will pass up the shower tonight.  She took my advice of not taking any valuables to the shower den, which will cover her if my guess is wrong and they are just common old druggies. If she doesn’t come back I’m hightailing it out of here before dark.

Ironic really that we should go from Michigan’s top rated camp ground to surely one of the worst. Well Adi is back from her shower with no obvious damage and I am still alive to write about it. It’s still 3 hours before sun set. The mossies’ don’t seem to be biting. They probably OD on what’s available around here.

On the brighter side there are no obnoxious teenies wandering around or bawling babies. In fact everything is pretty peaceful. There are no motorised golf carts guiding monstrous RV’s to their hook up sites. It stated ‘New Owners’ on the gate. I wonder what happened to the old owners?

Zombies lack basic coordination skills I know that so I shouldn’t need to lock the bike. I don’t think they can ride a bike. God why didn’t I take more notice of the Walking Dead movie when it was on!

I’ll lock my bike anyway. Adi has a bit of a cold and thinks she may need to take something to help her sleep. I suggested that she see the camp owners, I’m sure they’ll have something in their drug cabinet to help her sleep.

Day 43.

The poor old Michiganians. The weather in this part of the world could certainly be better. I have seen pictures of what these chaps and chapesses have to go through in the winter and I would be telling myself that this snow and sleet might be bad, and I know that I don’t have any feeling in the wee fella all winter, but at least I can look forward to a nice hot summer and a Budweiser on the deck. But low and behold its summer, Niel the wheel   has rolled into town with his trusty side kick Adi and the weather is crap. We cycled to Cadillac Mi today in light rain interspersed with heavy rain and with the Mercian temp gauge rarely getting above 13C. I would probably have expected a similar days cycled back home in the winter.

So I think I should be excused for firstly, choosing to stop at a McD’s for lunch even though I had no blog to post. And secondly for giving Prudence Prescott, Miss Michigan 2011, the brush off while leaving McD to get on the road again. Pru got the brush off not because she wasn’t a looker. No she was a perfect  cheerleader but because I was cold. Getting on the bike and pumping out some miles was the quickest way I could see of warming up.

Pru also made the fatal mistake of rushing over , getting between me and my bike, and uttering those now very familiar words that I have come to hate here in the US. The same sort of words  constantly utter to me in Vietnam last year, (‘Hello, what your name?). …Rambo, piss off. 

Pru simply asked “Where ya cumin from, where ya goin? NOOooo not another where ya cumin  from.

It’s not that I don’t mind telling people what I’m up to. I realise that they probably don’t get out much, but my upbringing has taught me to just get on with my own thing, don’t trust strangers and mind your own business.  So I kind of get my back up when people cut me off and want to know my itinerary for the next month.

Adding to this is the timing. Timing is critical when you want to know someone else’s business. Ask them once they have had a few rums around the campfire and I’m sure they will tell you their life history but  asking them when they are just leaving camp as they are cleated into their pedals, or as in the case of Miss twin Mt Michigan’s when I’m freezing and want to go, and you will get a short reply.

Later that day I had Mr wobbly Trek complete with badged h/bar bag and helmet mirror ask me from the other side of the road as he wobbled West and I cycled East ,” where ya cumin, were ya goin?” I put my head down and pedalled harder. Adi reckoned he had crossed the traffic and was chasing us, but I didn’t look around and by sun down there was no sign of him.

That evening we checked into a $38 roadside motel festooned on the inside and out with ‘God Loves America’ and ‘The paint Never Fades on the Red White and Blue’. But the price was right, and it was a welcome little establishment where no campgrounds were on offer.

A knock on the door in the morning, ‘were ya cumin from, were ya going”

Piss off.

Day 44.

A 50km dawdle along the cycle way to Midland Mi in lovely sunny weather and then a flat stretch through the countryside to Bay City where we knew there was a State camp ground, with all the amenities, on the banks of Lake Huron. What could be easier than that?

But in true cycle touring style things can always turn to puss. We get to the outskirts of Bay City and for reasons that I can’t fathom now we start our approach to the centre of town before ascertaining exactly where the camp ground is.  Seeing a small derelict shop masquerading as a hardware store I go in to try to buy some Kerosene for ‘Ken’ the cooker.  Not surprisingly they don’t have any although the owner reckons they may have had a bottle in 1952. After mounting the Mercian empty handed, and answering the ‘where ya cumin from, where ya goin?’  he told me we had cycled past the camp ground and it was 10kms back the way we had come.**8!

Adi’s suggestion was that we should get a motel. *%!

How Most People live in Bay City.
Not happy I cycled to the centre of town thinking that the rundown neighbourhood that we were in would not support even a biker’s motel. Unfortunately the centre of town was having trouble supporting a central business district let alone a motel and the only one I could see seemed to house anorexic people who peered out at us from behind torn and faded curtains.

More annoyed than ever and now in an uncontrollable ‘I’m just going to get the F.. out of here’ I cycle East in the hope that the outskirts might have a normal roadside motel.

How they used to Live in Bay City when the Cars were Selling.
Wrong….. By the time I had calmed down we were certainly East of town and not entirely sure of anything else. I told Adi, who was a mite annoyed by this stage that the nice gas station girl will point us in the direction of the nearest motel.

‘Where ya cumin from, where ya goin’

‘I don’t know, you tell me.’

She told us that there were no motels in these parts and that we would have to go back to Bay City and find the camping ground which was now 25kms away!

It’s a nice camp ground but Adi is not in the best of sprits. I don’t know if it was the extra 50kms of cycling today, turning what was a 110km day into a 160kms  or whether it was the sight of the tent again.

Day 45.

Today we zig zagged through wind farms along pleasant country lanes. The sun was shining and at the half way point we even found a cafeteria that sold nice food. I settled for a steak sandwich which didn’t touch the sides and Adi had a very healthy blueberry pie and ice-cream. Taking it in turn we fielded ‘The Question’ a few times and then filled out the cyclist’s visitor book. The highlight of the day for me though would have to be the teams of girls toiling in the fields complete with their porta loo on the back of the Ute trailer. Sugar plant horticultural research.

Sugar Babes        

Day 46.

The Michigan summer is back. It’s hosing down so we are sitting it out in a camping ground that gives cyclists discount , has Wi fi and shelters  due to the fact that it rains all the time. It’s not all gloom and boredom though. We have chubby buggy people to watch as they head off to the toilets or laundry in their motorised carts or big ass utes. We make regular forridges down to the camp store for our fine food and I got to rotate Adi’s tyres about an hour ago.

Hey, we Eat like Kings on our days Off.   Breakfast.



Lunch.





Dinner.
5000 kms pedalled,  and 2000kms to go.

 

 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Kellogg's Fruit Loops Everywhere but no Nescafe to Drink.


Day 39.
Lake Michigan & Bikes.

A nice leisurely ride around the shore of Lake Michigan. The terrain around the Lake would appear to be quite un challenging. Roads are very gently sloping and I struggled to get the bike out of top gear. Compounding this non calorific amble was a cooler than normal tail wind. My new cluster being a 7 speed is slightly wider than the 5 speed I started with so ever so slightly touches the rear drop-out. Every so often it touches and makes a slight scraping sound. Adi thought this was her bike rubbing and asked what the noise was. I told her not to be concerned as the noise was coming from my rear Schnaken torque washer and would self-correct in a few hundred kilometres. She was quite happy with this and it was more entertaining for me than trying to describe what the real problem was. I quite simply can’t be bothered adjusting the rear axle cones and spacers and then re-dishing the rim, an operation that I could perform at the next campsite but would get me very greasy and eat into my personal grooming time. In four weeks that cluster and chain will be in the bin anyway after the trip.

It is nice to have a comparatively smooth running system again although I am conscious of the chain only just holding onto the much reduced teeth of the big chain wheel.  A limited slip Chain wheel situation.

The highlight for the day was an impromptu visit to the Old Cooks Historic Cemetery down a sandy Dead End road. It was well worth the push (the bike not handling the loose sand at all well).  From a look at the gravestones it appears that the American’s love for abbreviation goes way back, but even today I think putting’ Laugh out loud’ on someone’s tombstone might be considered very bad taste.

Day 40.

Brevort Mi, and I find myself in a roadside diner hunting for something edible on the menu. I settle for bacon, lettuce and tomato wrap with a large cup of coffee. The pretty waitress sees my New Zealand top and says “Are you from New Zealand” thinking that the day was about to get better I said that I was. “I have friends that live there” she stated.  O jolly good I thought.

“They live in the Isle Of Man, is that near there?”

Silly girl. I think she needed to spend less time on Facebook when she was at school. The wrap was nice though, and the rest of the day…. Uneventful.

It’s not that cycle touring is totally boring. It’s just boring for extended periods when the weather is good, the terrain unchallenging and when the scenery predictable. When you have cycled challenging and tough terrain it’s lovely to chill out for a time and stamp out some easy kilometres. But that time has passed. Bring on some decent hills and get me away from the great lakes. I want to start the final chapter to the East coast. I have two cats at home who are forgetting who I am. One of them ‘Ken’ was just a mite when we left and he will need his Dad. Henry wasn’t much older and has taken little Ken’s care all on himself.  Ad’s 3 legged Bob will be missing her too. We tell ourselves that in about 4 weeks we should have knocked the bugger off and back with our adopted family of moggies.

In the last week we seem to have cycled out of mossie central and I can type this on the computer in the evening without losing a cup of blood. I do however have to put up with this abomination of a coffee that Adi picked up for me at the supermarket. I will tell you now what it is so none of you have to endure the loathsome taste in your mouths. It is Folgers coffee. I don’t know how they can call it coffee. The stuff comes in a coffee bag like a tea bag. That in itself is very disturbing. What on earth do you need a bag for when talking instant coffee! It tastes like tea filtered through a dirty sock. I’ve tried everywhere, and can I find instant Nescafe or Greggs? Obviously not.

This has become my challenge lately, to find drinkable instant coffee. (I do like the little cube sugars over here though. Very user friendly).

Day 41.

The quest continues. Another day and another Lake. Today we were forced from our bicycles. Told to dismount and to load the treadlies into the Ute. Or flat bed, or flat deck, or into this stupid big over-kill of a truck. We had reached the Mackinaw Bridge  spanning Lake Huron / Michigan and the State Police fella wouldn’t let us ride across on account of the fact that we might fall over the side, and the Mercian and I can’t swim.


I protested and said that I had achieved my Aqua Bear One certificate and could therefore float on my back for at least 10minutes. He wasn’t convinced. And I was conscious of the fact that clipped into the Mercian my chances of making the far bank would be slim.

Adi had already the night before decided to go in the Ute without a fight. She doesn’t like high bridges or deep water. We both left the Firth of Forth bridge in Scotland quite a few years ago shaking in our cleats and the poor girl has never fully recovered.

No Nescafe today.

We have arrived at another KOA campground. For anyone who hasn’t experienced the American family man’s camping dream and others camping hell, you must try a KOA (Campground of America). Here you will find the flagships of RV’s. RV’s so large that they have to escort them to their selected site with little golf carts. The driver’s family then get out and direct him as he tries to back the apartment on wheels into his spot. This is enormously entertaining as they usually manage to rearrange the back of the vehicle or the neighbour’s garden gnomes or other furniture. Angry discussions and pensive faces ensure as the driver extricates himself from the cab and examines the damage.

The rest of the camp activities are as equally entertaining. Teenagers strutting their stuff while babies bawl their eyes out because their parents can’t get the same brand of breakfast cereal that they have at home. Talking of breakfast cereals look at this;

 


Sweets in a box for kids to eat for brecky. Now don’t get me wrong, I love this stuff. And you can substitute the milk for Fanta and it’s a sugar blast from heaven.

But I’d only eat this stuff on tour. Fancy feeding your kids it! Kellogg’s shame on you. Don’t you know that the average parent is brain dead and that the kid is making the decisions in the family? Or maybe you do know. Shame on you.

No Nescafe today, maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Motel Bliss at the 4300km Mark


Day 38.

We have made it further East to Escanaba Michigan. This town of no real interest, is on Lake Michigan and we have a day off here to look around and in my case do a bit of maintenance that I have decided not to put off. In the last few days we have increased our distance a bit and have made up another day. A bonus day is great, like money in the bank that we can use when we please.
Adi Trying to Save Me From Roadside Finds.

Anyway Adi convinced me since we had a day off here to get another cheap motel. I didn’t need much convincing as I have decided to not only rotate my tires here but to also replace my freewheel and chain. I was hoping that my cheap 5 speed freewheel would manage to get across Canada but in the last few days it has been running increasingly roughly and since there is a bike shop in town where I can buy another cluster and chain, and since I have a motel room in which to clean and play with the Mercian, I may as well  tune it up. Adi’s bike with its more advanced cassette system and Schwalbe tyres needs no attention.

A New Chain & Cluster. Now Back to the Motel.
Adi has added up our kilometres and it appears that we have completed about 4300km of the expected 6500km. So I suppose that I shouldn’t feel too displeased that I need a new transmission. My chain wheel although in most peoples books dead long ago, is still functioning adequately, so should make the distance.

Rotate the Tyres & a Good Clean.
In the last few days we have bumped into a number of cycle tourists travelling across the US and are beginning to meet people who live in Nova Scotia so our destination of Halifax must be on the radar.

Michigan must be doing it tough in the recession as yesterday hanging out for lunch we constantly passed through towns with food outlets that had gone belly up so to speak. Once again I was reminded of our previous trip to the US in 2010 when owners of food places would shut up shop but forget to take the signs in or in any other way let the public know that they were no longer in business. And conversely premises that looked like they had died years ago, where on closer inspection, found to be still struggling on. If it wasn’t for the little electric open signs in the window I swear you often couldn’t tell the difference between a dead business and an operating one!

Open or Long Dead? Your Guess.
I think I would be dead if I had to stay in the US and Canada eating the junk food for another couple of months. We try to cook and buy decent food along the way but it’s tough. And that’s coming from someone like me who doesn’t mind eating a fair amount of rubbish food.

Biscuits Never Last Long with Adi. "Take the Wrapper Off First!"
The only problem with our motel room is that it does not have coffee making facilities. This is always a risky business when you can’t do a brew the legal way. It means that I have to fire ‘Ken’ up in the bathroom. I must ensure that I am well away from the smoke and heat detectors and that I do not over prime or over pressurise the fuel tank. So far so good although I still have dinner to prepare as Adi went out and got us a couple of steaks. Adi likes to occupy her time washing clothes and finding ways to dry them. Since we don’t have a motor , our car park can be used for more productive work.

Motel Operation Area.


We have both lost weight although I haven’t lost my sweet tooth and Adi still can’t t put a biscuit down. I have decided that to keep the weight off I will need to do a bit of regular bike racing when I get home and regular sit ups. I can’t quite work out which of these would be more boring but it needs to be done. I think I will build up one of my retro steel racing frames with an 11speed Dura Race group set and mix it up in the C grade. Nothing too serious but regular exercise none the less.

Like everywhere petrol is going up over here. But unlike in some countries the advise given to Americans to save on fuel costs is to get your thirsty dinosaur tuned and pump up the tyres. No mention of trading it in on something more fuel efficient, or God forbid to use it less!

I have to say that I am looking forward at this stage to polishing off the final 2500kms and heading home to good ol New Zealand.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The High School Reunion 1961.


Day 31.

Today is hot once again. I find myself cycling along through State Park land which is rather boring with just Spruce type trees on all sides. The terrain is flat and we have 150kms to go to get to our destination of Rapid Falls Minnesota.  The only mildly exciting thing is that we are being chased by a pretty dark thunderstorm. Dark enough to produce a drenching. Adi says she would find this pleasant in the 30C temps. I on the other hand find that following a good drenching my bike runs like crap as all the oil has been washed out of it.

The drenching in the end doesn’t materialise and the baking temperatures continue. The heat and nothing special landscape start me thinking that only a cycle tourist can look forward to the next town with real anticipation. Surely an inactive person seated in a motor vehicle doesn’t scan each new length of road for signs of a settlement up ahead. Only if the petrol gauge is on empty would a motorist be that concerned. But all long distance cyclists know the signs to look out for when you are parched, tired or hungry and you start dreaming about how nice that next drink will be. Or in some cases it may be getting dark and you are still not on the outskirts of anywhere.

When I cycled across Australia and South America the sign of a town or roadhouse was always the tall cell phone or radio mast. These structures sticking up above the forest of trees were such a welcome sign. In Minnesota the sign is always a water tank with the town’s name on it. When Adi and I cycled across the US last time we were often looking for hills where the locals had spelt the town’s name out with rocks. In some countries roadside litter is indicative of approaching eateries and drinkeries.  McD has a customer base that can be relied on the world over to dump their litter 10-20kms from the junk food outlet. Then the hungry cyclist just has to work out from what side of the road the litter emerged from the vehicle to ascertain whether the McD outlet is still coming up or whether he has passed it.

On this particular day having quenched my thirst and filled my stomach with a horrible American hot dog, I downed a root beer float or spider as I prefer to call it and head out with Adi onto the road again. It’s not long before my mind starts to wander though as the going is no more interesting. I’m thinking about all the stuff I have passed up along the side of the road that people have lost this trip. On my last US trip I came home with cycling caps, multi tools, pliers and various other tools I couldn’t turn down. This trip however I have been good and have only so far stopped for the awesome clear sunglasses that I found in British Columbia. These appeared just as the nose piece on my Rudy Projects broke. Today I found a Harley Davidson bandana but only kept it long enough for the photo. If it’s not cycle specific it goes back where I found it. With the exception of money of course. Anonymous donations from motorists are always accepted.

Day 32.

We had to stay last night in one of those cheap and Smokey biker’s motels frequently seen on the outskirts of towns. After cycling around in circles trying to find the camping ground I finally had to admit defeat and Adi got her way of a motel for the night. Sometimes the odds are stacked against you when they put camping signs along roads with no further directions indicating the distance to the campground, or anything else for that matter. Apparently the particular campground that I was trying to find was 18 miles away!  A biker’s motel in the US can be had for $50 so it’s not so bad. All you have to do is put up with the smell of smoke in the unit, the sound of petrol heads parking their motors outside your window and the occasional wall thumping ritual in the morning.

But the day’s bike riding was good and this evening we have made it to Duluth. Duluth is on Lake Superior’s western most edge.

Tomorrow we will see the mighty lake properly as we cycle further East along its shore.

Day 33.

Lake Superior!

A good ride around the lake with a brisk tailwind to Ashlands Wisconsin. The only drama being a quick left turn off the Interstate to avoid the highway patrol as we were not allowed on this section of road but I couldn’t be bothered trying to find the alternate route.

Lake Superior!
Then it was into the Ashlands Camping ground and town park where we spent the evening camping while the 1961 High School reunion was on. Wouldn’t that be great. You could turn up and feel soo happy that you never hooked up with Tammy Bo the hot cheer leader , because look at her now! And my, look at Mary Lou with all those kids! Billy Jo can’t be pregnant at this age can she??

Anyway we woke up in Wisconsin and we will be going to bed in Wakefield  Michigan.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

You Don't Leave the Table Until You Have Eaten Your Gloop.


Day 29.    Day Off in the US of A.

We’re here.

To all those people who I do not deserve, who follow my blog from the US, yes they let us in and now you are stuck with us for about 3 weeks as we move south eastwards to negotiate Lake Superior.

Howdy.
We have jumped the border and are now in International Falls Minnesota. The nice customs man said “come on into the land of conspicuous consumption and leave those nasty bitey flies behind”.

He was wrong. The mossies are still biting, but a tad less I feel. The big horse flies have stayed in Fort Francis Ontario for now though.

Customs man was not so welcoming when I took a photo of the Customs Offices. You would have thought I was taking a picture of the Chinese Intelligence Agency. He said delete that photo or I will put you on a one way footpath back to Canada. And there you will suffer a slow death by blood sucking insect! I decided to comply with the request as I will need three weeks of chips, burgers and T bone steaks to replenish what the Canadian black fly has taken from me.

In 2010 Adi and I cycled for 12weeks across the US and lucky for you guys I could not blog about it as I did not then know how to use a computer.

Thanks for letting me in I promise to be good.

Day 30.

A strong and hot headwind today, piss bum. I stopped at morning tea time in Pellan Minnesota for two chocolate cookies, a coffee, and a Gatorade for Adi. She nicked one of my chocolate cookies but that was ok because they were monster ones. It was also ok because everything was so cheap. I’d forgotten how reasonably priced food is in the US compared to good old, lets rip everyone off New Zealand.  I opened my wallet to pay for the cookies, chocolate and drinks and only had a fist full of 20’s and a $5. My disbelief was obvious when she said the total was $3.80 and I got change from the $5 note.

After 80kms of never relenting strong headwind up my nostrils and a temperature of 33C I told Adi I’d had enough and she could keep up with her own schedule. She wanted to go another 80kms but since we had arrived in Big Falls Minnesota during the annual Budweiser River Festival when the river runs amber, I felt it was a good time to stop.

Free to Drink as Much as You Like.
After playing among the frothy rapids it was getting on for dinner time. Big Falls Minnesota is not a big place so we had prepared by packing what would become a dinner of one pot billy gloop.

Billy gloop is that sort of a meal that only real cycle tourers can say they have partaken of.  So far this trip we have had spaghetti meatballs & mossie gloop. We have had my favourite which is cheese lasagne, bacon with mossie gloop and tonight’s is seafood chowder with mossies on the side gloop.

You prepare your gloop carefully outside on the picnic table trying to not get too many mossies in. Mossies aren’t nice in your gloop, the manufacturers don’t recommend them. Once the gloop has been prepared there are three ways to eat it. You can eat it in the tent away from the insects. But eating really hot gloop in a hot tent tends to set you off into a sweat which removes your insect spray. You can eat your gloop on the run briskly walking or running about the camp site while spooning gloop into your mouth all the while being chased by flies. Or finally the really hard boys just eat their billy stodge at the picnic table while being eaten alive.

My Compliments to the Cook.
It’s actually best to eat it in the dark that way you can’t see what’s in it. The cover of darkness also helps you to get rid of the remainder which has solidified in the bottom of the billy. My preferred option here is just to scrape it out and throw it in the bushes. This is the New Zealand way. Unfortunately in countries where there are wild animals about this can be a problem because before your nearby homeless man has finished it off the bears may have arrived. Throwing your gloop in the bushes also gets the park rangerettes in a real tizz as you are not practising your ‘Bear Aware ‘protocols.

‘A fed bear is a dead bear’. A gloop fed bear is a very dangerous bear.

 

 

 

 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Flies Glorious Flies.


Day 24.

We are two days ride west of Winnipeg. For the life of me I can’t think of anything more to report.  Weathers good and the wind is blowing up our arse so what more could you need than that. I suppose if I was to be greedy I could ask for some more interesting terrain. But at 150km a day it can’t take long before we find some.

"You Should Come Inside Away from the Flies, You Silly Cycle Fella"'
What I would like to ask the poor buggers on cycle touring bikes that we pass going in the opposite direction is , “what possessed you to cycle across Canada, the world’s second largest country, against the prevailing wind!?” They must be nuts.

Adi has just come in to the camp laundry where I am writing this and she is being chased by at least three mossies’. They are viscous in this part of the world. If I survive I don’t want to go anywhere in New Zealand this coming summer where there are biting things. Actually I will have to work all summer to help pay for this trip.

Day 25.

Those poor bastards cycling the other way had big grins on their faces today as they sailed along and I fought a gale force headwind. We didn’t make it to our proposed camp ground north of Winnipeg so we will suffer tomorrow by having to do an even bigger day. The camp ground we did make it too has everything we need but like the days riding is nothing to write home about. That’s a nice saying, and I will take note and say no more about a blau day on the bike.

When I got back to the tent after doing my ablutions the tent fairy had washed dried and folded all my laundry!

Day 26. Winnipeg. (About ½ Way Across!)

We woke up and although it wasn’t raining when we left the camping ground it certainly was an hour later as we took the ring road around Winnipeg southwards. The cities Fathers must be expecting Winnipeg to get a lot bigger than it currently is because the loop road not only took us in a 60km circuit around the outskirts of the city but it did so so, far out that we saw nothing of the city itself. So no photo opportunities there. By the time we got to the west side of the city we were soaking from the rain and hungry from our romp in the rural out blocks.

Out of the mist appeared a Subway sign and we were in for an early lunch. I have little patience for the Canadian and US tendency for a thousand choices of everything so Subway nearly did my head in! After overhearing the 101 questions that Adi was put through just to get her sandwich I decided to cut the crap straightaway by just telling the serving wench to make a sandwich just the way she would like it and that would be fine. I could then concentrate on answering the usual questions asked by other lunchtime customers. All cycle tourers know what I mean. The where are you cycling from and where are you going questions. Follower by the where do you stay type questions.

My sandwich was good although I don’t especially like onions but ‘There You Go’.

Then it was back on the bikes in the rain and westwards. It wasn’t long before I had identified two cycle tourists’ tracks in the wet gravel road shoulder. Careful examination of these as we moved along showed that there were two loaded cyclists up the road. The tracks suggested that they were maybe 2 to 3 hours ahead , riding Surly's with Swalbe Marathon Plus tyres and due to the amount of zig zaging one of the riders was either light headed or hungry. Sure enough a further 40kms on we caught up with Jacky and Jesse at a restaurant diner. And that evening we all camped for free at the Rennie Camping Ground and that evening we had a good old chin wag in the insect proof picnic table enclosure.

After the long day of 180km and the socialising we didn’t get to bed until after midnight!

Day 27.

I am not an early morning person and Adi does a good job getting my lazy arse up by 7.30am and we were all gone by 9am. We are finally off the prairies and the cycling is once again visually interesting with rocky outcrops, trees and lakes. Apparently we are also back in bear country but we didn’t see any.

Jackie and Jessie Were Ready to Go. 'Niel the Wheel' is not a Morning Person.
Today was most notable not only for the improved scenery but also for our crossing into Ontario Provence and for a mileage of only 34kms by 1pm! I hold Jackie and Jesse personally responsible for this since by following their tracks we were lured into a roadside restaurant stop well before we had burned the calories from the canned fruit and yogurt that we had had for breakfast.

At Points the Road Got a Bit Sketchy
By the end of the day we had completed only 120km and not made our expected target.  Checking into a Provincial campground involves always a myriad of stupid questions asked of you by a pretty young park ranger your looks like she is on a summer holiday job. Even though you turn up on a bicycle with the full kit on you get asked among many other things, your make of motor vehicle, licence plate no., size of trailer, whether you have additional vehicles to park and whether you need power for your big screen TV. While I’m answering all these questions from the brain dead student a fat couple next door are arguing with the other brain dead ranger about how their RV won’t fit the space provided and how they are too far from the shower block?

At this point I would like to explain to New Zealanders how the Provincial Park Camping grounds seem to be designed in Canada.

At the gate to the park you have the registration office. From there you move into the central area where you have the main shower and toilet blocks, restaurant, shops and other service shops. In this area are located the humongous sites for accommodating the mega RVs and all the toys attached to them. From these mother ships emerge the chubby round people who expect to not have to walk more than a few paces in order to reach their next feeding site or watering hole. I would assume that the park service needs a small power station to light up these sites and power up all those big screen TVs and beer fridges.

Generally from this point on you cycle for what seems like an eternity into the depths of the park passing smaller and smaller sites until you hit the gravel road and you eventually find your un powered tent sight. Which I might add you have paid a premium price for. (Generally double the price of a tent site in a town RV / tent campground).  Here you put up your tent next to the picnic table and then prepare to cycle all the way back to the nearest shower block.

The brain dead Park Rangerettes will quite often ask you at check in if you want to check your site before paying for it! That would be great if you had a ½ day to ride there and back!

We have now learnt not to use Provincial Park campgrounds unless there are no towns with normal campgrounds nearby.

Day 28.  To Fort Francis, Ontario. 180km

Flies, flies, flies. There seems to be nowhere in Canada that is free of flying, biting things. And if they are not biting then they are buzzing your head or trying to get up your nose!!!

They almost broke me today. I think I am going to have to say that the flies in Canada are worse than those in Australia. And that is saying something. Today we were in a region called the ‘Lake of the Woods’, I think it should have been called ‘Flies of the Lakes Will Bite You’.

Lovely Lake Country where Man and Biting Insects like to Vacation.
In the morning we had the normal mossies’ all wanting a bit of you until you got on your bike. Then once we started cycling we had the horse flies just doing laps around you until you felt dizzy with it all. Meanwhile the normal little flies are trying to bite you on your hands and legs!

Generally while I cycled across Aussie I was safe until I stopped my bike and the little shits could catch up with me. With the exception of a few nasty horse flies life while cycling was pretty ok. You just stayed on your bike and rode all day until you got where you were going. But in Canada the little shits will buzz you and bite you all day. And you can spray gallons of insecticide onto your skin but it will only slow them up temporarily.

There goes my theory that a cold winter kills the nasty biting insects. I thought the Aussies were inflicted with them because of their mild climate. I don’t know what the Canadians did to deserve those little bastards after having to put up with what most people would admit is a pretty nippy winter.

The scenery was nice today however and we are heading south so that we can cross the border into the US. We need to get around the Great Lakes and have decided to do it on the south side in the US.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Dwanye gets the Girl.


Day 20.

It rained overnight so we left the Chaplin campground with heavier bikes as the tent and some other equipment had soaked up quite a bit of water.

No worries though because we had a strong tailwind. This was our first true tailwind with the gusts blowing us directly from astern. After 50kms I was hungry and hanging out for the town of Mortach. Two kms before this Adi gets a puncture! A coffee shop virtually in sight and it’s either take all the gear off and fix it or pump the bloody thing up and get there. I opted for pumping it up. When we finally drag ourselves into town with Adi virtually on the rim we find out that it is Saturday market day or as they were calling it berry day. Avoiding all the wandering people across the road and the multitude of pram pushing parents we make it to the only café in town to be told that they aren’t doing food as it is berry day! But if we wanted to wait until 7pm they could do us a special three course meal. We did get a coffee and a chocolate bar but further scouting around town (if you could call it that) showed no café food or in fact any food on offer. I have to say that with the exception of a jam stall I couldn’t find any berries either???

Yet again I fixed Adi’s puncture and we headed off to Moose Jaw a proper town 40kms on. There we stopped in at the Pizza Hut for lunch. This was Adi’s choice and one I wasn’t that keen on as I know that the Pizza Hut chain in NZ has such poor customer service and food for that matter that it has virtually gone belly up so to speak. These pizzas Hut was virtually empty and let’s just say that the same demise awaits it in Canada I think.

Back on the bike with 80kms down and 90kms to go. The strong tail wind was with us so no problems although I kept hurrying Adi along worried that if the wind changed it could be tough going on boring roads. The terrain was quite similar to the southern Canterbury area without the view of the Sothern Alps to break the monotony.  Just when we had Regina, Saskatchewan’s capital in sight Adi’s bike decides to puncture again. Now I know what you’re thinking, that I didn’t fix the last puncture properly but that’s not the case as each puncture has been caused by bits of wire (steel belt car tyre breakdown) or glass, and has been removed.

Adi was advised at this point by the mug fixing all the punctures (so far 11on Adi’s bike and 0 on Niel the wheels) that before we leave Regina her bike will be re fitted with proper touring tyres and tubes.

Day 21.

Thanks for the Tent Pegs Boy Racer's , the Shoes were the Wrong Size.
Boy racers at the campground next to us. They were quiet enough but I couldn’t help but laugh when they all got their skateboards out of the boy racer car. I wonder if their Mums gave them each a packed lunch to take away with them. They are differently one up on NZ boy racers though as they could all speak fluent French. But like boy racers everywhere they had trouble picking up after themselves and on leaving one of them forgot his shoes.

I wasn’t optimistic about getting Adi really good touring tyres but low and behold we found what can only be described as a great bike shop in town that sold among a multitude of other things Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres! I will be extremely surprised if in the next 5000kms Adi gets another puncture.

This bike shop even sold Downhill gear. I asked them about the extent of down hilling in Saskatchewan and he said there wasn’t any! Go figure?

He did also advise that Manitoba is more visually challenged than Saskatchewan so I might have to break out the mp3 player on tomorrows ride.

Day 22.

Well what can I say? A fine day, little wind and we covered 150km of what only can be described as boring flat farm land. If you can picture the Manawatu area around Himatangi, you’d have it. But unlike the New Zealand Himatangi area the road had a sealed shoulder of easily 3metres so we didn’t have to dice with death every time a truck driver came past. We could comfortably ride two abreast without annoying motorists.

Due to the change of tyres on Adi’s bike I had no punctures to fix today so had some time for a few artistic shots of my bike surrounded by Saskatchewan grass.  And an even more exciting shot of my sun glasses.

I missed my main photo of the day, which would have been one of a buffalo rubbing stone as Adi wanted me in a photo of a big Indian head. These were the two major attractions in Indian Head. I gave the buffalo rubbing stone my full attention after poising under the Indian head but could find no evidence of a buffalo ever rubbing his arse on it. But there you go some things you just have to take on face value.

Another free night in a rural camp ground without a shower and currently being bitten alive by mossies’.

Adi's Indian Head.
Good night all.

Day 23.

Another day and another 140kms cycling. We could have gone further if Adi hadn’t had been still suffering from the cold I had a week ago. She has been taking so much Sudafed that she has been virtually falling asleep at the handlebars. If it hadn’t been for me pointing it out she would have missed the ‘point of interest ‘along the road today. The last ‘point of interest ‘in Saskatchewan before we crossed the border into Manitoba.

The ‘point of interest ‘ plaque declared that at this site back in 1862 Dwayne Grant and his men were finally run down by Chief White Feather and is band of sixty braves. Dwayne had 7 days hence abducted Chief white Feather’s daughter  Chipmunk Lips from the tribes nearby summer grounds. He had with his cowboy mates taken after a fierce gun battle Chipmuck lips and three of the tribes thoroughbred war ponies. The point where I was now standing was where the final confrontation occurred all those years earlier. The cowboys about to be massacred were as surprised as everyone when Chipmunk Lips declared   unrequited love for Dwayne and his shinny spurs.

The rest, as the plaque states, is history. The chief in his grief fell on his arrow and since he had no son to inherit what is now East Saskatchewan the Hudson Tobacco and Shipping firm claimed it as their own. Finally being on sold to the Provincial Government in 1890 for the sole rights to the yet to be discovered Northwest Passage.

I think if you read the plaque, that’s about the guts of it. We then crossed into Manitoba where Adi thinks the gardens are tidier. Manitoban’s are tidier gardeners who have to date not discovered the use of old vehicles as replacements for garden gnomes. 

 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Coffee at the Coop.


Day 19.

Just when you thought that Saskatchewan couldn’t get any more interesting right on morning tea time you find a coop store that sells of all things farming supplies and plumbing equipment. Can you believe that? At the counter arranged neatly were a range of chocolate bars. Doesn’t that just blow you away?

When I asked if they would sell me a coffee they replied that they didn’t but that we could help ourselves to one out the back in the staff room and use the table and chairs. So there you go. There was even a copy of the local paper out there that informed us that the tics were about. (Watch out Tammy, private joke). If I see a tic, which incidentally we don’t have in NZ, I must remove it in an anti clockwise direction while pulling a funny face.

Once we were finished at the coop we cycled down the road to the local scrap yard for a photo session before heading to the crèche at McD to post yesterdays blog. The kids are behind the netting but still to close for comfort , and the din!

My Adi just said she’s going bloody good so far on this trip and she’s no spring chic. She advised of this tonight I think because she feels proud of another 145km day followed by a night in a shonky un official campground in Chaplin SK with no shower and the gall to ask for $10 at the honesty box.

We would have stayed in the local Hotel but it looked from the outside like it could be injurious to ones health to stay the night. I’ll go with the tics and give the bed bugs a miss.

We saw a buffalo an otter and what Adi is calling an eagle. Go on someone burst our bubble and tell us there are no eagles in Canada. Adi reckons there are tics in NZ , but I’ve never seen one.

Oh had to fix a couple more of Adi’s punctures today. Her free fix flats vouchers have just about run out with me.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Little Dears at McD


Day 17.

A sunny day with light winds. It didn’t lift my mood though. My low mood was due to the backcountry road that we were on. I just knew that we would find ourselves in nowhere land for lunch and yet on leaving , what one can only describe as the dumpy little town of Eston, we didn’t bother buying a lunch to take with us.

Big Country.
Sure enough come 1pm we found ourselves outside the most substantial building in the most substantial town we had come across. It happened to be the once church , just up from the once corner store in the main street. Just next to the church there looked like there had been at least two other residences but both the vehicles parked outside and the buildings themselves looked like they where well past there useby date.

While billying up at the church so that I could at least have a hot coffee with my emergency sweeties the last surviving resident of the town turned up for a chat and to tell us that Lacedona had once been a town of 200 people. I don’t think in my lifetime though. He was a Minogue and related to Kylie. Apparently all the Minogue’s are related to Kylie. He asked me if there were Minogue’s in New Zealand and I told him that there weren’t any , that we’d sent them all packing.

My spirits greatly improved after lunch when we were finally re-united with a more main road that actually had food places on it and that you could ride a cycle on without sinking up to the rims in the soft asphalt.

A Happier Me After Some Food in Saskatchewan.
Tonight we are at a Provincial Park campground and tomorrow we may even get lunch and see other people as we cycle along. Saskatchewan is pretty quiet on the beaten track so I don’t think I will be wanting to take any more detours.
I hope you all appreciate that I have to put up with not only bad McD food but worst still the kids section of the McD to post these comments for you. The kids are meshed off but you can still hardly hear yourself think. Agh............................

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Roads Swollowing me Up.


Day 16.

I could hear the tent being blown around last night as I tried to sleep. Since it had been a headwind yesterday I was reasonably confident that the wind had come up and that we would have a tough days cycling to Oyen. We had to make the 145km day regardless of the weather as we have got slightly behind schedule. Sure enough after having had breakfast at the local diner in Delia we headed out into a strong crosswind that got more head windy with every right hand bend that the road took. The temperature rose from 25C to 36C at lunchtime. With the constant wind and high temp it was a hard day.

Espresso Gauge Nudging 38C
 
The terrain was that of gently sloping pasture land with numerous ponds where we saw ducks and ducklings. In all honesty though today was just a hard grovel in the heat with plenty of crap soft drinks consumed. (And the ever present mossies).

The highlight was getting to camp and the wind has finally dropped. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I do know that I have an unconsumed blueberry muffin to have for breakfast with my coffee. Adi ate hers today so she is out of luck.

Blueberry muffins don’t go off do they?

Alberta
Day 17.

Once again we awoke to a strong wind. But this time it’s blowing from the North so it’s a pleasant 23C. With expectations high for an easier day in the saddle we set off. A check of the route last night reinforced thoughts that although it was another 145km day we had a cross to tail wind and we were headed into Saskatchewan which to all intense  and purposes means no hills. We had a small in- tent brecky and at the 60km mark we stopped at a diner on the border for a coffee. 

That was the last sustenance that passed our lips until 6pm!

Nothing is ever as it seems when cycle touring in foreign lands. Shortly after that coffee, which in retrospect should have been downed with a cooked breakfast as only the North Americans know how to put away, we went into big sky country with no services of any kind and then hit gravel roads with no signs anywhere! No traffic anywhere and no people anywhere. If it wasn’t for my compass I might have thought that we were totally lost.  I kept us on track but no thanks to the guide book we were following. Adi got blown off the gravel road twice in the crosswind but my extra panniers, weight and wider tyres kept me pretty grounded.

Coffee, Muffin , Cookie.... Anything! There's Got to be a Gopher I can Eat.
By 3pm we had re-joined a sealed road but due to lack of road maintenance, the recent hot weather and heavy trucks the seal was like porridge to cycle through. Even last year in Bolivia I hadn’t encountered such stuffed sealed roads.

By 6pm we had reached our destination of Eston Sk. I felt sorry for Adi as she has gone like a Trojan and today should have been easy so we got a motel. I can’t believe that in a dumpy town like this the motels are still $80!

It’s a bit early to tell but this area of Saskatchewan seems pretty run down. I’ve seen derelict towns on the West Coast of NZ, with better roads and more paint on the dwellings, than I’m seeing at the moment. It’s all a bit reminiscent of our US tour across Nevada where you have to search for the ‘Yes We’re Open ‘sign in the window to distinguish between the derelict buildings and the still functioning ones.

A Lick of Paint Might be Needed Soon.