Day 32 – Atikokan to Shabaqua – Total distanced traveled – 3297kms

Folks, first I have a confession to make, and it’s not easy for me to say this, but I’ve lost sight of why I’m doing this. It wasn’t supposed to be a race, buy lately it feels like one. I’m pushing hard to complete this journey within the 6 weeks I allotted for this trip. But I’ve been pushing so hard I’ve forgotten to smell the roses.

And what roses they’ve been! Today I pedaled through incredible wilderness, shining blue lakes around every bend, eagles flying overhead. Fresh moose tracks on the shoulder.

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I’m glad to get to the top of that hill. It’s at least 50kms of plateau afterwards.

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Lakes like this one around every corner

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Ontario really knows how to do a rest area. I sun tanned at this one.

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Something really neat happened today too, besides entering the Eastern Standard Time Zone, I reached the Atlantic Watershed. That means that all waterways from here on in flow to the Atlantic Ocean. So in a way it’s all downhill from here.

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The Atlantic Watershed

So where does the water flow to the west of that point? Believe it or not, to the Arctic Ocean, via Hudson’s Bay, everywhere this side of the Rockies that is. When the Hudson’s Bay Company claimed “all lands which drain into the Hudson’s Bay” they really knew what they were doing.

On the other hand, you could say the French grabbed all the best parts first: The St. Lawrence River, The Great Lakes, and all the waters that flow into the Atlantic. They also grabbed the Mississippi all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but that’s a story for another day.

My objective today was to reach Thunder Bay, or if not Thunder Bay than at least Kakabuka Falls. But I didn’t make it. I’m in Shabaqua, 60kms from TB, exhausted. I’ve cycled 143kms today over many hills and in hot weather. After over 100kms of no where to buy a bottle of water, or get an ice cream, I’ve never been so happy to see the Timberland Hotel and Restaurant (with an LCBO to boot). Note: there is an outfitters 40km east of Atikokan that sells basic groceries.

In front of me from Shabaqua are 20kms of the busiest stretch of highway in Canada, and then due to the highway being washed out by heavy rains last week, I’ll likely have another 30kms over a crumby highway 102.

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All highways from the east and from the west converge over this 20km stretch of highway

I’ve always wanted to see Thunder Bay. For me there’s always been something alluring about it. So far from the eastern Ontario where I live, but amazingly in the same province. Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay has a Finnish heritage. Even Porter flies to Thunder Bay.

But back to the purpose of this trip: it’s to see this Canada it in slow motion, by bicycle, and to meet the interesting people that make this country so diverse and so special.

So I’m going to slow down a little bit. If I make it I make it. If not, who cares? I’ll be close, that’s for sure. But right now I want to explore all the towns I’m about to go through, take a swim in Lake Superior, see some sights and meet some people. I still plan to avoid the bears, but I digress.

Stats
Distance traveled today – 143 kms
Moving time – 7 hours and 33 minutes
Moving avg – 19.0 kms/hour
Elevation – 510kms at highest point

Giving

Don’t forget that I am raising money for the United Way of Toronto. I’m still a long ways off from my goal of $1 for every kilometre cycled, or $4500.

The United Way is about helping others in our community to have a better life. I hope that my journey will serve as inspiration for others, that if you sent your goals big and overcome challenges you can do great things. The United Way gives people in our community the support they need to overcome their challenges.

Please consider making a donation here. FYI, all the donations are collected through an organization called CanadaHelps through a feature called GivingPages, which enables people to raise money online for the charities they support, such as the United Way of Toronto.

Day 5 – Kamloops – Rest day

The upper part of Kamloops looks like pretty much every Canadian city: there’s a Staples, Costco, Walmart, Canadian Tire, Starbucks, Chapters. Big box stores and malls abound.

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Kamloops from above

But as you climb down the steep hill on Columbia St. Kamloops begins to take on its character: hill lined streets, cafe’s and restaurants, and an expansive Riverside park.

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Victoria Street

I don’t like bears, and Harley’s, apologies to the bears

It’s not that I don’t like Harley drivers, they’re perfectly fine, it’s the bikes that annoy me: way too loud.

About the bears. Several people along the way have suggested I should have bear spray. As I was walking down the hill into town I passed an outdoor store. This was my chance. I asked the lady in the camping section if she thought was a good idea, she replied “hell yes, I’d bring my gun too!”. Yes, this is a different part if the country that I’m used to.

Back to the bear spray. You have to sign a waiver that basically says your not going to go around spraying people in the face, or cute little puppies that annoy you. $50 later I was equipped with bear spray and holster. Now I have to think of a neat place to mount it on my bike, like some sort of gun rack thingy but for bicycles. Yah, that’s the ticket.

I really think it’s highly unlikely I’ll need the stuff. I’ll be in the highway for goodness sakes, and there’s lots if traffic and noise. But, what the heck. Besides, it’s bear spray. That’s cool!

A magical history tour

I went to the local museum and learned that Kamloops is a Secwepemc word for “the meeting of the rivers”. Specifically, the Upper Thompson and the main Thompson. What put Kamloops “on the map” was the fur trade. This period of time amazes me. The power the Hudson’s Bay Company had over everything and everyone was astounding. It’s hard to believe that felt hats is the main reason Canada was explored.

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Even after the area was all “beavered out”, the HBC retained a fort at Kamloops as this was where the fur trains passed through on the way to the Okanogan. Apparently these “fur trains” we’re a sight to see. Up to 300 horses each carrying two 80lb stacks of beaver pelts. They required a lot of men too: 1 man for every 15 horses.

Bu the way, I found out where the phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from. The process of converting the beaver wool into felt required the use of mercury. Many “hatters” acquired mercury poisoning and slowly went insane.

A new look

I took the time to get my haircut today. Yesterday the wind was whipping hair in my eyes and my face and annoying the heck out of me. After passing over a number of spots I stopped in at a barber shop, complete with the candy striped twirly thing, and somehow I felt this was the right one. The woman who cut my hair was so excited to have someone with long hair I think she used tweezers to style it. She gave me the best cut I’ve ever had. Something she called a “lawyers cut”. Hey, works for me.

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Before

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After

With my new look I checked out the local Chinese Buffet and enjoyed some traditional Kamloopian (?) cuisine. The server didn’t even say anything about my new hairstyle, sigh.

Stats
Distance travelled: 0 (you haven’t been paying attention have you?)

Day 1 – Vancouver International Airport to Fort Langley BC

My flight landed on time at 9:30 am PST. I picked up my bike and other equipment at the special baggage claim and found a nice empty spot on the floor to start the assembly process.

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By 11:30am I was changed and ready to go with a fully assembled and loaded bicycle. I stopped off at the Travelers Assistance desk and bought a map of BC and a map of Canada. The very friendly gentleman behind the desk helped me find the safest route out of the airport.

I found it quite amusing walking about the airport with my bicycle. No one really seemed to take notice. It was like it was an everyday event. Well, it is Vancouver after all.

The best route out of the airport is to follow the cycling lane (duh!). It takes you to Grant McConachie Way and north to Marine Drive. At that point I wished I had spent a little more time mapping out a route to Langley. I discovered Vancouver has a ton of rivers and bridges to cross and it’s not that easy to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

I also discovered that my GPS routing sucks. Although there’s a bicycle setting it doesn’t actually optimize the routing for bikes and it made some pretty poor choices. Regardless, by about 3pm I reached Edward’s house in Fort Langley.

The climate’s very different in Vancouver compared to Ottawa. The fruit trees are in bloom, the trees have leaves and the flowers are out. It’s very refreshing after the cold spring we’ve had in Ottawa.

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Edward and Pat were great hosts. Edward chauffeured me around Langley to pick up spare spokes, fuel for my stove, and some packages of dehydrated food. Then he showed me different parts of Langley including the old town. Later we had dinner at a great Sushi restaurant.

Fort Langley is a fascinating mix of country farms, golf courses, pastures, big box stores, and the historic village. Fort Langley was originally a part of a network of trading posts established by the Hudson’s Bay Company on the Pacific Slope in the early nineteenth century. And yes, there is a fort. In fact it’s part of Canada’s National Park system. It’s a pretty little town and I’d like to take Vicki back here again one day.

By the way, the dehydrated food packages were in limited supply apparently because people are stocking up since, you all know, that the year 2012 marks the end of the world. At the cash the clerk explained to me that the packages were not returnable. With a straight face I asked if that was because of the “end of the world thing”? I don’t think she really heard me. She replied “no, it’s just that we don’t want people tampering with the packages”.

All-in-all it was a great first day. I faced a few hills, enjoyed the wonderful West Coast hospitality, and I’m raring to head out on my way to Hope BC tomorrow morning.

PS – After writing this post I realized that I didn’t sleep in and that it’s not 6:30 in the morning and that it’s actually 3:30am, and I better change the time zone on my iPad. The bright side is that I can sleep for a few more hours!