Sidebar: Letters from home

One of my biggest fears when I embarked upon this journey was that I would be lonely. But there have been very few times that I’ve had that feeling of loneliness. I’ve met really interesting people along the way and I’ve always felt that I’m in close touch with my friends and loved ones. With cell phones, Facetime, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and my blog there are many ways to stay in touch.

Most people are shy about leaving comments on a blog. Don’t be shy. It’s the interactive aspect of blogs that make them so popular.

I’ve also received a lot of emails and they’re really appreciated.

I’ve received emails from my brother out West letting me know that his family reads my blog every day and he keeps me updated on his family. Perry sent me the lovely art work from my neice Hannah. She’s so talented.

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Artist: Hannah Schmitt (use only with permission)

My brother Cliff in Pickering sends me notes of encouragement and promised to cook Bison for me (he’s a great cook.

I’ve received emails from our friends Ray and Elaine, and Cecile and Brian telling me how much they are enjoying my blog and encouraging me to continue. Vicki forwarded me a message from my cousin Brigitte in Germany informing us that her niece Sandra won a gold medal in the special Olympics. Fantastic!

I also received many emails from colleagues at work. Viviane’s mom offered me a place to stay over night in Ignace. Anthony gave me great recommendations on places to stay. Donna told me about Fort William in Thunder Bay. And there are many more.

But my favourite emails are from my Vicki, love letters really, telling me about her experiences while she was on a cruise with her mom in the Mediterranean. There was a pretty massive 10 hour time difference between us. I would fire off an email in the evening and I couldn’t wait to wake up to her reply early the next morning.

Vicki would regale me with the sights and sounds of such places as Santorini and Mykonos. Meanwhile I would tell her about climbing the Rogers Pass, Revelstoke, Golden and the fantasticaly interesting people I’ve met along the way. One thing we always had in common wasn’t the water or the rocks or the trees or the historic buildings but rather the amazing people we met along the way.

When I get back I plan to pull out everyone of those letters because they keep me pedalling day after day and they have come to form the colour and fabric of this journey.

The answer to Day 23 Quiz

Remember my skill testing question on Day 23?

It’s easy to figure out. You remember SOHCAHTOA from school right?

Use Sin() = Opposite over Hypotenuse:

Sin(120-45) = opposite/25
Opposite = Sin(75) x 25 = 24.1

However, we need the length of the adjacent side of the triangle, therefore the pythagorean theorem comes in handy:

Hypotenuse(squared) = opposite(squared) + adjacent(squared)
25(squared)= 24.1(squared) + adjacent(squared)
Adjacent = square root of 44 = approximately 6.6kms/hour

According to my calculations, I was facing a relative headwind of only 6.6kms/hour. No wonder why biking was so easy that day (at least until the storm hit)!

If I calculated this all wrong, please let me know, but it sounds about right anyway.

Why I like Bicycle Touring

Bicycle touring allows you to experience things that you would otherwise never experience in a vehicle. You can stop whenever you like to observe your surroundings, read a plaque, or just “smell the roses”, and you meet all sorts of interesting people.

The best way I can illustrate what it’s like is by telling you about one of my experiences while training for this trip.

My regular training run takes me to a small town southeast of Ottawa called Vars. Vars is the halfway point and I always stop at this small park on the edge of town. Situated in the park is the memorial pictured below.

The memorial is for soldiers that lost their lives in World Wars I and II. Look closely and you’ll see that 10 young men lost their lives in the Great War. Now Vars isn’t exactly a big town – maybe it had a larger population in 1914 – but 10 men! What a devastating loss it must have been to this small town.

Surrounding the monument are posts with lazer etched photographs of each of these men in the prime of their life. Each plaque describes what company they were with, where they lost their lives and at what age. The youngest was 18 – the same age as my youngest son.

I can just imagine at the beginning of the war, the town waving goodbye to the soldiers as they left on their “brief” stint across the ocean to settle this “disturbance”. I doubt any of them knew at the time how terrible the war would be.

I think about my little adventure: 6 weeks cycling across Canada. What a joke, compared to the sacrifices these men made.

Anyway, those are the kinds of things you think about on a bicycle tour. You would never have these kinds of experiences flying by in car at 100kms/hour.

Of course there not all morbid like that. You meet fantastic people allow the way too. On one trip in Germany, Vicki and I were flagged down by a gentleman excitedly waving his arms as we passed by. It turned out he had a cousin back in the US and upon seeing our Canadian flags he wanted to talk to us. He invited as back to his simple but beautifully maintained farm (no electricty!) and I helped him translate a letter he had received. Later he drove us to the top of a mountain to show us the valley below and where we were headed.

I’ve had countless experiences like this. Generally, people are intrigued and fascinated by the sight of a bike and rider packed with gear. I believe conjures up dreams of adventure in everyone.

So that’s a small taste of what bicycle touring is like. Do you have similar experience to share?