Tag Archives: storms

Excluding Greenland

19 Sep

We’ve cycled 9601 km in 114 days. Hard to believe, but this journey is over. In our minds we’re still labeling these as ‘rest days,’ but there is nowhere further east to go. We made it before Hurricane Leslie hit, and that’s a good thing.

After it passed we had a chance to explore the city. St John’s has a rich history. It is the oldest English founded city in North America. The city was destroyed by fires several times, so very few old buildings remain, but there are some scenic historical sites here. We visited Signal Hill, Fort Amherst, and of course Cape Spear – the easternmost point in North America, excluding Greenland. “Canada begins here — or ends, depending on your point of view,” reads a sign at Cape Spear.

For city people, Hurricane Leslie meant a school closure, a few power outages, and some toppled signs. But on the agricultural land surrounding the city, the hurricane’s aftermath had a more immediate effect. At the weekly farmer’s market (where Maria stocked up on souvenir jam), a couple was selling their last tomatoes for the season, salvaged from a toppled greenhouse.

Maria also had the opportunity to visit the Seed to Spoon Co-operative in Portugal Cove. Their farm had not been as damaged by the hurricane, with the decorative flowers being the most damaged of their crops. The co-operative is run by its 4 members, younger farmers who are passionate about what they do but who can’t (or would rather not) purchase farmland of their own at this stage. The land belongs to a lady who had her own organic farm there for 40 years before deciding to rent it out.

It seems that working collaboratively as Seed to Spoon does, there is a lot of energy and exchange of ideas going on. Sarah, one of the members, keeps bees, and the knowledge as well as the pollination gets passed around to everyone. The four members are signed up for their own weekly harvest box, experiencing their own produce the way their customers do. Maybe that’s why their vegetables are so tasty! Maria had an omelet made with duck eggs and vegetables from the farm when she was there, and can attest to the amazing taste qualities of all the ingredients. The journey finishes on a delicious note.

So what’s next?

We are making our way home, on motorized transport. Anya is off to Toronto (with some detours), and Maria is off to Vancouver. It’s a funny feeling, to see the speed difference in the return trip. At the same time, there is a feeling of power. The world has shrunk from an unfathomably large size where we are infinitesimally small in comparison. We can get anywhere on our own power, on a very tangible though extended time scale.

There are so many memories to sort through. In the immediate future, Maria will be putting together a slideshow, so stay tuned.

We’ve collected lots of sustainability stories. Though we’re done cycling, the journey is just beginning for these stories. We hope they’ve inspired you, and will continue to inspire others. And there are other stories waiting to be discovered all over the country.

Moose-ion: Impossible

5 Sep

In Vancouver, when you have a ferry reservation you need to show up a half hour before it leaves. In North Sydney, it’s two hours! We became aware of this minor difference 70 minutes before scheduled departure time and with 30 minutes of cycling still ahead of us. To add to the fun, our reservation was only for 1 bicycle. We had to go through a complicated cancellation and re-booking process while the attendant radioed to the ferry guys to wait for us. It all worked out in our favour, and although we love an epic tale for the blog, we’re happy that we weren’t delayed another unspecified number of days.

This is the final round: our 10th and last province. Let’s review the wildlife scores. Bear sightings are 4-2 with Anya taking the lead. Moose sightings are 2-0 with Anya again in the lead. Since Newfoundland is famous for its large moose population, Maria has a fighting chance to see one before she flies home. Though the scores will likely still be in Anya’s favour, Maria is on a mission to improve her moose sighting score from nil to at least one.

We’re moving fast, but the seasons are moving faster. Fall has arrived in Newfoundland: it’s colder, and the days are getting noticeably shorter. The cold is pleasant, for now. As for the daylight, we need to budget our time accordingly and leave on time in the mornings. Also, Newfoundland is on its own, special time zone. The time here is not an hour, but just a half an hour later than Nova Scotia.

With the ferry arriving an hour later than expected, we did not have a lot of daylight time to cycle. We camped in JT Cheeseman Provincial Park, just 10km off the ferry. In Ontario we would always avoid the provincial parks due to the insanely inflated prices. But we were pleasantly suprised: camping was only $15 a night, there was a hot shower, and each site has its own blue box for recycling!

The next day the forecast was not promising. We had breakfast at the beach and enjoyed the majestic view of stormy clouds. As we were leaving, the rain started coming down a bit. To our surprise, the storm never caught up to us. We cycled with the the wind blowing at our backs and did the 144km to the Barachois Pond Provincial Park with no problem.

The day after, though, the weather gods figured we needed a thorough wash. Perhaps they thought we needed a blow-dry as well, because we got massive headwind. Somebody should tell the weather gods that blow-drying is usually after, not during, a shower. We hadn’t used rain pants in a while and of course forgot to put them on at the relevant time. Cold, wet, hungry, and more tired than one might expect, we stopped at the first restaurant we came across. We had covered just over half of what we had to do in total that day.

We really didn’t want to go back out and face the elements but the restaurant had no wi-fi and we needed to post. (Be grateful as you peruse our writings from the warm comfort of your favourite armchair.) Besides, we had a couchsurf set up for that evening and needed to make the distance. This time we used our rain pants — an improvement, although not total relief. “Waterproof breathable” is an oxymoron.

Wi-fi was available just 15 km further, in Corner Brook. We drank gallons of warm beverages at Brewed Awakening, the coffee shop beside a bike shop. By the time our blog was posted, it was really time to get moving. Just then, the clouds parted and the rain stopped.

How glad were we about couchsurfing that evening? Words can hardly express it. We were staying with Bridget, although we had originally contacted her daughter through Couchsurfing. Bridget’s daughter was out camping, so Bridget offered to take us in.

After eating a hearty dinner, Maria had the audacity to mention that she’s on a mission not only to see a moose but also to taste one. In Ontario, we were told that it tastes really good. Bridget happened to have some at her house! So that’s what we ended up eating for breakfast. It tastes very similar to beef.

The moose that we tried at Bridget’s had been given to her daughter by a friend who hunted the moose. Hunting moose is neither easy nor cheap. First, you have to win the license lottery and purchase a license. Then, you need to shoot a moose and transport it out of your area. And finally, you need to have the moose butchered, which usually costs money. Last year, Bridget says, moose hunting was allowed in the parks as well, but nobody wanted that license because you were not allowed to use a truck to pick up your dead moose: just muscle power!

Bridget said that her daughter only eats organic meat or non-farmed fish. Thanks to her daughter, Bridget has switched to a pescetarian diet herself, and avoids eating farmed fish because of the health risks of eating a fish brought up on an unnatural diet. But you won’t find Atlantic wild salmon in the supermarket: commercial fishing for salmon is not allowed here anymore because the stocks have been depleted. A personal fishing license only allows the holder to catch 6 salmon a year. With that kind of limitation, people tend to ration out their salmon for special occasions like holidays or birthdays, instead of mindlessly munching on it daily.

Salmon are not the only over-fished species: trout and cod stocks are also low. Bridget said that the cod stocks were depleted because of insufficient regulations as well as too much foreign fishing in the nearby waters. For many people here, cod fishing was their livelihood. But before you rush to ship parcels of food to your Atlantic friends, don’t worry! There are new iconic Newfoundland foods: moose and unique local berries.

Mmmm. Bakeapple cheesecake — delicious and unique local flavour.

Farming in the Wind

21 Jun

According to statistics, about half of Canada’s farmland is in Saskatchewan.  Sure enough, most towns along the railway have a grain elevator.

Through Couchsurfing, we had the opportunity to stay with Henry and Vivian, who live on a farm. They grow most of their food on a tennis court sized piece of land: potatoes, rhubarb, gooseberries, cilantro, squash, onions, and lots more. When they visit their children in the city, they are surprised at each other’s grocery bills. Henry and Vivian eat mostly what they grow; their kids might pay as much in a day as they do in a month.

Henry took us to see the lake near their property. The lake is home to many birds, first and foremost to Saskatchewan’s provincial bird, the mosquito. However there are also pelicans, gulls, curlews, blackbirds, and more. Henry and Vivian are surrounded by lovely scenery: “On a long weekend, people will rush to a park for camping, but we have the best camping in the world right here,” Henry says. Judge for yourself:

 

From the lake, you can see a big wind farm, Centennial Wind Power Facility. There are about 80 wind turbines on that farm and each turbine can power a town the size of Swift Current. We asked Henry why there aren’t more of them, and he said another one of even bigger capacity is planned to be built nearby, in Chaplin. With the amount of wind in the flat lands, it is really a no brainer for Saskatchewan. Check out this windstorm that we were lucky enough to sit out in a cafe:

Exploring Alberta Along the Trans Canada

17 Jun

On our way through the flatlands of Alberta, we caught up with Frank, a lone cyclist with his belongings stashed in four panniers on an extended rear rack. Frank is from Salmon Arm, BC, but cycles east every summer for work, living on the cheap out of a tent. This time he was cycling to Medicine Hat. How’s that for a work commute?!

We stopped in Bassano for lunch at a place called Bakafe (a bakery and a café, see?). Rose, the owner, was ultra nice to us and we talked for a while. At her café, Rose serves fresh, homemade products with no preservatives whenever possible. And it’s delicious!

Rose was surprised that we had taken the detour into the town. In the 1980s, before the Trans-Canada was re-routed 2km north, Bassano was directly on the highway. Back then, a lot more visitors would come through; nowadays business is slow, except on rodeo days. Rose talked about the challenges of keeping the younger crowd busy in such a small, remote town: some are very active in the community, but others turn to drinking for entertainment. The Bakafe is one of the only places in town that does not serve alcohol.

Heading further east the next day we noticed a darker patch of sky behind us. We hoped it would go away, but it kept getting closer and making thundery noises. In this sparsely-populated region with towns at least 30km apart, and considering half the towns don’t even have a café, we were very lucky. We reached Suffield only 10 minutes before the rain started, and waited out the worst of the storm in the town’s only diner, adjacent to the town’s only gas station. Here we ran into two cool crazy guys from Quebec: a rollerblader and a longboarder, making their way east on their own wheels and by hitch-hiking.

Once the storm quieted down a bit, we set out for Medicine Hat, where we had a couchsurf set up.

The Couchsurfing scene in Medicine Hat is awesome! We were slightly overwhelmed by the amazing response to our surfing requests. Nicole, the host who won us over, told us that she really has to be on the ball to snatch couchsurfers coming through town. There is a fierce competition between the hosts in town to get surfers on their couches.

Alberta Blows Us Away

8 Jun

We reached the Wild Rose Country! Yay! (Technically they are still part of Canada.)

In the morning, we were well-rested and the sun was out. Everything seemed great, and we were cycling at a solid pace. Turning onto Highway 22 we saw this sign, and poked fun at it by taking silly pictures.

Little did we know what the weather gods had in store for us. Also, Maria’s rear tire was partially deflated and we had to pump it up. We assumed that was the end of it.

At first we were confronted with massive side- and headwind. Our pace slowed noticeably. For the first time during our trip, we had to cycle close together such that the person in front would block the wind for the person in the back. By this point we realized Maria’s back tire had a slow leak, as we had to pump it up again. Our ambitions of getting to Black Diamond (a 140km day) crumbled.

Around 5pm the rain started up. By this point in the trip we knew a rain-bringing cloud when we saw one, so we quickly put on our rain gear – and not a minute too soon. But unlike previous downpours, this one just kept going and going. In addition, we started seeing some lightning and hearing thunder, although it was still far away.

The particular stretch of highway we were cycling along is interesting because from the turn-off onto it and until Black Diamond, a 130-km stretch, there is literally nothing. No gas stations, no corner stores, no campgrounds: just fields with grazing cows. We knew this in advance, too, because there was a sign. So we were slowly making peace with the idea that we would camp on the grass beside the highway.

Our spirits were low when we had to stop a third time to inflate Maria’s tire. It was already 8pm, and our waterproof-breathable jackets were soaking through. We got going again, but the lightning was getting closer (we were counting the time between the lightning and thunder). After cycling another ten minutes we both had the idea to just stop for the night already.

Within a few minutes we were lucky enough to discover a bridge. So we did the hobo thing, and set up camp right there.

In the morning, we finally cobbled together enough enthusiasm to change the tube in Maria’s tire. It was still cold and wet, though it was not thundering anymore.

 

Grudgingly we started out, in full rain gear, preparing ourselves for a half-day of cycling followed by warming up in the nearest B&B. But within an hour the sun caught up with us!

We stopped at Bar U Ranch for breakfast/lunch and ate the most delicious, largest brunch in the world: soup, burgers, chicken wings, and dessert. The attendants there told us there had been 2 tornadoes that touched down near Medicine Hat the day before.

Change is in the Air

3 Jun

On day 14, we awoke to the pitter-patter of rain on the tent, and I thought:

…well, that was useless.

After that it turned sunny for a while, and we pleasantly pedaled in the sunshine, but around 7pm it suddently started pouring. Within 10 minutes it went from sunshine to heavy rain to hail. Then the lightning and thunder rolled in. Luckily a rest area was conveniently around the bend where we waited out the storm. And in this part of town (or country), you don’t need to wait very long for the weather to change.

Speaking of time, we actually crossed into the mountain time zone:

Also we passed our millennium mark – 1000km. We deal in metric here, not like these people:

Rain, Snow, Hills, and Bears

23 May

In our silly culture we have this idea of ‘conquering’ mountains, nature, and so on. That is total bunk. One can’t ‘conquer’ nature; one can only be spared. In the past few days the BC wilderness has been reminding us of this fact nonstop.

How rainy did it get? Well, on Day 2 it was so wet that Maria’s leather saddle transferred its protective coating to Maria’s waterproof pants. 19 mm of rain came down that day.

Yeah, that’s right. We were lucky to get a great couchsurf at Nat’s place in Hope for that evening. Nat, who used to work at the Visitor Info Centre, advised against cycling the Kettle Valley trail out of Hope, for two reasons: there might be snow at the 1340m high point, and the trail has not been maintained since winter, so washouts were possible. Therefore, we would take Hwy 3 to Manning Park on Day 3, and continue down to Princeton on Day 4.

So on Day 3 we hit our first Big Hill Climb: from Hope (elevation 42m) to Allison Pass (elevation 1342m). Our average speed that day dropped to 10km/h. After the first hill of the day (a 7% grade) we thought we were tired, but then we had to redefine ‘tired’ for ourselves as the day wore on. We had a late start — 12:30pm — and only reached the summit of Allison Pass by 7:30pm. At that point we had a little party and got moving because, man, it was getting cold, and sure enough there were snow patches all over.

Allison Pass Party!

Oh, we also saw some bears, just off the road. Here’s the first one:

Passing cars started warning us well in advance. First they warned about a bear in the middle of the road, then a bear to the side, and then a long silence — we thought he was gone. But eventually we climbed the hill all the way to the bear.

It’s not all bad: that evening, when we finally reached Manning Park Resort, we soaked in the hot tub — a well deserved rest.

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