Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Ojibwa, Native Americas-First Nations

24th July
Spanish to Little Current.
Packed tents, on bikes and ready for another eight hours on the saddle!! We stopped for a cold drink at a small shop at the road side. We met Carol who was very interested in two old grannies on their bikes. We chatted for a while and asked about camping in Little Current, our planned destination another 80k's or so down the road. "Well there is no camping but you are more than welcome to put your tents up in my friend, Jim's, garden! More hospitality! She phoned Jim and gave us instructions about how to get there. We arrived to find Jim was waiting for us. He showed us where to put the tents and told us what he would be cooking for supper. "To-night I am going to be cooking fresh white fish caught to-day with green tomato fritters and you may join us. Carol will be here later" They are First Nation Ojibwa and we listened to their stories of how they are re-claiming their land. Carol is also interested in setting up a Fitness Centre as there is a big obesity problem here, much as everywhere nowadays, and we saw a lot of it especially the young.,_Ontario

Bad Road

23rd July
Thessalon to Spanish
Cycling on very bad road surface which has been the norm for several days. Due to the harsh winters with ice and snow, the cracks are left on the roads which makes riding difficult with very little hard shoulder

Lake Huron

22nd July
Sault Ste. Marie to Thessalon.
We find Sheila's 'cottage by the sea' and are overcome by the generosity of the people we have met. A few days ago, we had never met Sylvana and her friends, and here we were sharing Sheila's lovely home. The cottage overlooks Lake Huron with a sandy beach in front. It would be lovely to spend a few days here but we are now a bit behind our schedule and must press on.

Canadian-Scottish Hospitaliy at its Very Best

20th July
Montreal River to Saulte Ste. Marie.
Babs and Dick had offered us their home in this town so we decided to have a day off as we hadn't had one for eight days and were pretty tired. We had been in the house for about 5 minutes when the phone rang. It was Dave and Christine, Scottish friends, inviting us round for supper. (No wonder the gaps between the bloggs get longer and longer) Dave picked us up and when we arrived the Scottish music was in full flow. We had a great night and Dave told us stories about his days in Glasgow as a welder at the docks and why he had made a new life in Canada.
21st July
Dave came round to take us shopping and took us on a tour of the town - with a population of 75,000, and a big steel making plant, quite a change from the past few stops. We really enjoyed our stay in Bab's and Dick's house and our time with Dave and Christine. I spent time answering e-mails but eventually too late to catch up to date with the blog-sorry!,_Ontario

Surprise Encounter

19th July
Wawa to Montreal River
Big cycling day (100km), big hills, camped at night. During the day a Moose with it's little baby crossed the road right in front of us. The camera was not at the ready for a photograph unfortunately and the locals don't hang about - better luck next time.

A Glimpse Into Canada's Industrial Past

17th July
We were back in the boat in the morning to carry on the ride. We had hoped to go further than Wawa but mist settled in and the cycling became dangerous. We decided to spend the night in Wawa, a town with a rich history of mining, forestry and fur trading but which now depends for its survival on tourism coming from the Trans Canada Highway. At The Tourist Office we met Sylvana a keen touring cyclist. I mentioned a camp site or very cheap motel for overnight accommodation to which she replied "Well why don't you girls come and stay in my house to-night" Can this get any better!!! The house was built by her husband with help from friends and is the most magnificent log cabin I have ever seen. Every log was brought down to the Lake(overlooks Lake Superior) by hand and it took four years to build. Friends arrived for drinks. They were all interested in the bike ride and Shirley offered her holiday home in Thessalon where we would be arriving in a couple of days. As I have already said, so often, it just goes on and on with kindness. It was so great to stay with Sylvana and to meet her friends but you always know that, in the morning, the bike is calling and you have to pack and head off for another day's mixture of pain from saddle sores and pleasure to know that you have covered well over half of Canada.,_Ontario

Dream Hide-Away by the Lake

16th July
White River to Wawa
We were cycling to-wards Wawa when a truck drew up across the highway. A blonde figure ran across and stopped me "Are you Penny or Mave" - Penny was way ahead as usual. I thought perhaps another reporter but no, this was Barbara a relation of a friend of penny's in Kincraig. They had been trying to contact us for a while, but with no signal from the blackberry all had been in vain. Penny had left a message on her answering machine at her home so she knew we were on that road, somewhere. A great stroke of luck - five minutes she would have missed us altogether. She said to me "About turn and go back to Halfway House. We'll catch Penny and meet you there". Dick (husband) and Babs would take us to their hide-away. We drove for a while then Dick left us to fetch the boat. We raced across the lake to their cabin and what a truly wonderful place we found. We had a great night with them, ate their food, drank their wine and regaled them with our stories!

Joys of Campling

15th July
Schreiber to White River.
Heavy rain during the night left the tent very wet to cap it all. It is so difficult in the morning when you don't have the time to dry the tent and it has to be packed up, soaking wet. You can imagine what we must have looked like, no filming needless to say. Much more to say about the logistics of it all but too tired now; you'll all have to wait for the book.........

Dreaded Black Fly & Other Ills

14th July
Nipigon to Schreiber.
Janice said in her book that the hills were big and they were. I was showing signs of wear and tear. My right shoulder was killing me and I was suffering from saddle sores. The black fly that we had been plagued by had left big lumps all over my neck, round my ears and my legs. I was a mess. We would cover up with our head gear, cover our arms and legs to avoid being attacked whilst putting up the tents. We met some cyclists at the camp site but it was impossible to have a sociable beer with them as the black fly would have eaten us alive. We camped that night near the railway town of Schreiber (,_Ontario). In my tent that night the little b-----s had managed to get in so half the night was spent slashing them to death. Oh, the joys of a long distance cyclist!!

Lake Superior

13th July
Thunder Bay to Nipigon.
We left the campus and cycled out of Thunder Bay. The road was dreicht and endless. At last there was a gap in the trees and I caught my first glimpse of Lake Superior ( and then the trees closed in again. The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful with some big hills. We set up camp near Nipigon (,_Ontario)but there was no sign of a shop for food. We managed to cook some spagetti and opened a can of chilli sauce for a treat.

Return of the Voyageurs

12th July, Thunder Bay.
To-day The Voyageurs arrive in Fort William after a marathon journey of 3,600kms in canoes. Some of the competitors have paddled the whole way starting on May 10th. The scene is emotional as they raise their paddles in the air. The cheers go up and the crowds roar with excitement. The event is in commemoration of David Thompson, an explorer and adventurer. We visited Fort William Historical Park and were taken back over 200 years ago to discover how The First Nation lived. We saw the fur stores and how they traded and visited the Doctors surgery and the medicines that were used then. We went back to Stan and MaryBeth's camp site and after a farewell drink and food we wave goodbye and cycle back to the university. I want to celebrate as this is midway. Regretably nothing much is happening in town so we settle for a beer by the river!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Thunder Bay at Last - Halfway Across Canada

Thursday 10th July
Kakabaeka Fallas to Thunder bay
The tents are dripping with rain and it is impossible to dry them out. Just then Stan and Mary Beth drive up to ask us to join them for breakfast in the village. We pack as quickly as possible, and cycle into Kakabeka falls. They are such a great couple and are so kind and helpful to us -Stan treats us to breakfast! We are looking forward to being with them on Sat at the finale of the Voyageurs. The run to Thunder Bay is not far but the roads are very busy with the big logging trucks. I feel good as, apart from the time when I was snowed in, I have now cycled half way across Canada officially. If we had planned to finish in Halifax that would be the case but due to finishing in St Johns, it is not quite so - pity! Thunder Bay used to be two towns, one was called Fort William and the other Port Arthur. The Neebring River divided the towns and it is only as recently as 1976 that the towns became one - Thunder Bay. We booked into The Confederation College in the Halls of Residence for 2 nights . We have a room each and the facilities are bang on The price is reasonable and the internet facilities are great. I am going to try to answer some of the back-log of emails I've got and again, sorry for the delay but as I have explained, it is not easy. When we arrived here we enquired at The Holiday Inn about hostels and camping. The assistant manageress was so kind,she even phoned around for us and managed to find this accommodation. We even had coffee with compliments of The Inn. It would have been great to have had a night there but totally outwith the budget. We fdid however find a friendly bike shop, had the bikes checked over and celebrated the official half way across Canada with a drop of vin rouge for me and vin blanc for Penny!!

More Road to Thunder Bay

9th July
Shebandowan to Kakabeka Falls.
We awake to grey skies and another day of long hilly roads. The drearieness is overcome by the sight of a sign saying "Home Baking" We are greeted by Mary and son Dan. She ushers us into the large homely kitchen of her house. We eat the most fabulous breakfast and mary joins us with a cup of tea. She tells the story of how her granny came over from Finland many years ago. She had to travel alone as her husband had gone out to Canada earlier. Her granny had a baby and was expecting another. The boat was full of different nationalities and there was no one on the boat she could communicate with as they all spoke a different language. When she arrived her home was a shack in the hills with bears roaming around. She had several children of which one was Mary's mother. We listened to Mary's fascinating stories and then it was time to pedal again. We were sorting out the bill for the breakfast when Mary said "There is no charge for this!" More kindness. We are on our way to Kakabeka Falls which at one time had been a big Trading Post in exchange for furs. A silver truck draws alongside me "Are you Mave?" the voice says. I nod thinking this is probably another reporter. She stops ahead and says she is Becky's mum. This is great news. She says she has been looking out for us. She is here to support her husband,Stan - remember Stan came with Becky to help wth the filming several weeks ago - who is one of the Voyageurs on the Thomson Expedition. This is a journey following the rivers in big dug out canoes and started on the 10th of May in Rocky . 160 people are involved and work a relay system although a few have been canoeing from the start. The journey ends in Thunder Bay on Sat 12th July (More about Thomson later) We find the camp site where the voyageurs will be staying that night and later, after a meal out, we arrive back to find a note from Stan and Mary Beth. We find them in the group camp site and are invited to sit down and have a beer. The mosquitoes are busy and Stan is covering us up with all sorts of things to keep them away - makes us feel quite at home (midges). We enjoy a chat with some of the group and listen to their stories. It is raining when we make our way back to our tents. Our tents are soaking. It is not much fun climbing into a wet tent but what the Hell.

Still on the Road to Thunder Bay

Tuesday 8thJuly
Mars Perch Lodge to Shebandowan
The road offers no facilities and we are always looking out for a store. We are cycling well over 100kms a day. Again, we have no idea about night accommodation. In the early evening we find a store and filling station. We ask if we could camp in the adjoining field.We were told that would be fine but if a storm (which was expected) blew up during the night we could use the motel facilities. "Oh, there's a motel. How much would a room cost?" we asked. "Let me think, let's say $40 how about that" That works out at 10 pounds each so we took it. We managed to buy some wine from the store and cooked a pasta on our stoves outside on the pavement. Penny had a disturbed night as my snoring kept her awake. "It's not really snoring, it's just a sort of noise you make!" Just as well I live alone!

The Road to Thunder Bay

Monday 7th July
Fort Francis - Mars Perch Lodge
The roads are long and hilly and becoming quite monotonous. We are hoping to find somewhere to have a kind of breakfast. About 1-30pm we stop at a roadside store and have coffe and a cake. We have no idea about where we will camp to-night when a smart van draws up for "gaz" Printed along the side of the van it says "Sierre River Resort" "We are in luck" I call to Penny. I go out to speak to the driver but the window of the van remains shut. The driver and occupants are First Nation (Indians) I stand like an idiot, smiling and indicating I would like to talk. The window is lowered to 1inch. I ask about camping at the resort. An unsmiling face replies "No camping" and shuts the window. I go back to the store and the owner tells us of a place called Mars Perch Lodge which is 50kms along the road. He phones the Lodge and speaks to Lorna. We will be most welcome and a meal will be ready--what great news. When we arrived we were tired and the thought of pitching the tents with the mosquitoes biting was almost too much. Lorna and Tom (husband) offered us a small log cabin at a reasonable rate.When we opened the door the heat hit us. They had the heaters going full blast and within a few moments we were almost fast asleep. This was a fishing resort with boats tethered to the jetty outside the cabin. I would have loved to have had a day on the lake,fishing, but to-morrow was another long day of cycling.

Fort Francis

Sunday 6th July
Sioux Narrows - Fort Frances
Penny and I had a good run to Fort Frances and pitched the tents in a camp site looking across the bay to America. We are 5 mins from the border. Along from us sat Dave drinking beer beside his tent. He came over to chat and when we told him we were making our way toThunder Bay he said "No kidding" He told us he lived there and we could have his house as it was empty apart from his 4 kittens. He was working as an electrician and contracted to work in Fort Frances for a month. Instead of staying in hotels he decided to camp each week and drove home at the weekends to Thunder Bay. He said he would phone his landlord to let him know about the 2 Scottish cyclists who would be coming to stay and to get in plenty of beers!!We were looking forward to that and again thinking how kind people have been. A couple of days later Penny phoned the contact number of the landlord to be told he knew nothing of the cycling grannies and the apartment was not at all suitable because of the kittens!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Skinny dipping

Thursday 3rd July
Elmo -
Penny could not resist the temptation of an early morning dip in the river so in she went in her birthday suit. I managed to get the camera so it is all there. Carol was calling from the house to come for breakfast. It never stops. I'll never forget the kind and friendly Canadians. I had been told how friendly they are but this is unbelievable. Just one sad bit - my backpack has never turned up. Maybe it just got misplaced and is waiting for me somewhere. I find it hard to believe anyone over here would actually take it to keep.

On the road with Penny

Wednesday 2nd July
Becky was leaving us to-day. I was sad as we had such a lot of fun. She is a great girl and I hope she will be back to film again. She gave us a lift out of Winnipeg, did a farewell interview and then she was gone. Penny was cycling well and feeling good and said she felt her health was as good as ever. We arrived at a hamlet called Elme. There was nothing apart from a shop which was closed! We cycled out and I spotted what looked like a golf course. I cycled along a dirt track road hoping to find a club house, instead it was a private house. As I approached, a couple came out. "We were looking for somewhere to stay" I said. "You are very welcome to stay here". "You can put your tents up down by the river which is our garden" Well, what do you know! After we had pitched our tents and made supper John and Carol (owners) called us up to for a coffee and a chat.

Winnipeg - Canada Day

Tuesday 1st July
Penny said she hadn't slept a wink and she thought she might just take the bus across Canada and to Hell with the bike. She was so tired plus the jet lag. She was shattered. To-day was Canada Day and we thought we might celebrate. So down town we went (Penny on 2nd wind) We bought all the souveniers, Canadian Flag umbrellas on our heads and really joining in the fun!! We were staying in a Backpacker that night and the owner had invited us to a BarBQ in the garden. We went down town again to watch the firework display and then back for a good night's sleep. Penny had gone to bed earlier as she was so tired but happy.

Winnipeg at last

Monday 30th June
Hayward to Winnipeg
I was up early and had a walk around the cemetry which was beside our tents. There was a cafe that would be opening at 7am so we decided to have breakfast there. A few locals were in and we got chatting as usual. Becky picked up the daily paper and called over to me. "There is very bad news and I don't know whether to tell you or not " I read "Two charity cyclists had been killed on route 1. My God, I think I met them in a place called Carlyle" I was stunned. Later I saw a photograph of them and it wasn't the guys I had met, thank goodness, but dreadful news nevertheless - We would be on that very same route in a couple of days. We had a huge breakfast and when one of the locals left to pay for his coffee he called over "Your breakfast has been paid girls" It just goes on and on, the kindness. We were on our way to Winnipeg. Several days ago in Weyburn I asked how far it was to Winnipeg and was told it was 500miles and here I was, almost there. We were going to the airport to meet Penny off the plane and I was excited about seeing her again. The plane was on time and there was Penny looking as fitter than ever. We had a celebration meal and then it was off to a camp site for the night. Penny was tired. The site was full of noisy RV's and it was difficult to sleep and not just because of the noise....

Tail Wind For A Welcome Change

Sunday 29th June
Cypress Hills to Hayward.
We had booked into Jim's for B&B and after a fabulous breakfast we said how much we had enjoyed our visit and asked for the bill. "There will be no bill" said Jim with a smile. What a really great person - hopefully he must have enjoyed having us as much as we enjoyed being there. We were off and, believe it or not, I actually had a tail wind and I was flying. That was only the 2nd tail I had had in all the time I was cycling the praries! Becky said "Slow down, I can't keep up with you" She did a lot of filming and at night we camped in the local park in Hayward. As ever we met lots of people who were offering us all sorts of things from a bed for the night, showers in the morning and a meal.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Leaving Glenboro

June 28th
It was sad to leave Ian and Carol. They had been so kind to us and it would have been so easy to stay a little longer before finally making the effort to get back in the saddle. After waving good-bye we were off to Kevin's in Glenboro. Kevin is head master at the local school and the school had just closed for the summer holidays. He checked my Dawes Karakum supplied by Dawes Cycles of Birmingham, who contributed to the ride with a very generous discount, and was impressed "This is a very good bike and everthing seems ok--spokes are fine and it is in very good condition. I thanked him very much and off we went. There was a fierce North wind blowing and it was increasingly difficult staying on the bike. I lost my balance several times and eventually decided to push. I was horizontal. Becky was trying to film some of the drama and it was even hard for her to stay upright. We came to a small town called Cypress Hills and I told becky I'd had enough. She understood and we headed for The Cypress Motor Inn. We entered the restaurant and immediately we were made welcome. Jim Cassels, the proprietor, said he had read about me in The Brandon Sun where I had been spread across page three!! "What can I get you girls" he asked " A large brandy would be nice" I joked. "No", I said, "I think a nice pot of tea and a look at the menu, please". "Sure" said Jim and off he went. Next thing a large bottle of brandy appeared at the table" Say when" said Jim. Becky and I giggled like school kids. "I was joking about the brandy, honestly" I said "Say when" said Jim removing the cap from the bottle. I think he realised what hell I had gone through out on the praries so we relented and thoroughly enjoyed the treat. We were then whisked off in Jim's truck to look at a church that had been bought by a couple and moved 7 miles to where they live. It is now a thriving B&B with large function room where the pews were. We admired the church and the amount of work that had gone into moving the church."Want to go horse riding out on the praries, or you can have a ride in a horse drawn wagon" Jim asked "Sounds brilliant " we said. Becky thought she could film me from her horse as I rode along in the wagon. We arrived at the ranch to find two 16 hand horses saddled up. Becky is an experienced horse rider, I am not. "I thought I was going in the wagon" I muttered "Well, no" called Carol, the owner of the ranch "We're not going out in the wagon to-day". So with no further ado Becky and I were up in the saddle. Carol had her horse running along side mine and with one big jump she was up bareback riding. I was nervous at first but began to relax and enjoy the hills we were going up and over. Katy (Eventing daughter) would have been proud to see me up there, or I think or she might have had a fit!! The day ended with a delightful evening chatting with all the locals in the bar allbeit a bit saddle sore in a few different spots!!

Exta Day at Glen Abbey

June 27th June
Glen Abbey
Ian and Carol decided that Becky and I must spend another day with them. We didn't need much persuasion as they have such a fabulous place and we felt so much at home with them. Carol went off to work at the Glenboro newspaper office and later Ian took us in to meet the staff there. Carol had organised an interview with the paper and after that she took us to meet most of the people who work in Glenboro. Becky did some filming and more of me cycling back to Glen Abbey. At night we went into town for a meal and Carol and Ian took us for a run to show us the countryside. Later Carol phoned Kevin, a friend who is a bike fanatic to ask if he would give my bike a quick service in the am before moving on. It is such a lovely community with everyone doing little turns for each other.