Friday, August 19, 2011

We can smell the Atlantic!

Ahoy there!

Well, it's official, we have made it to the east coast and can smell (and taste) the lovely salty atlantic ocean.

Here's proof of us entering Canada's only official bilingual province...

We're currently in Miramichi, NB and are working our way south towards PEI. We're at 6472 km and have only another 9 days of biking and 3 more provinces before we reach St. John's!

We've been blown away by the spirit and the warmth of people across Canada, but more over the last two weeks than ever we have been spoiled time and time again by people offering directions, advice, food, lawns, showers, beds and best of all stories! Andrew is best at asking the hard, uncomfortably questions that lead to the best conversations (during many of which I've had to do simultaneous translations!), and as a result we've learnt about the fate of Catholicism in Quebec, perceptions of francophones with regards to anglophones, the expulsion of the acadians, and most importantly "where the really strong east coast accents start."

Acadia celebrates national Acadia day every aug 15 so houses all over NB are decorated right now with red white and blue flags and streamers, stars and banner with the names of some of the original Acadian families.

It's really hard to imagine that this trip is coming to an end and that in less than two weeks Andrew and I will no longer be professional vagabonds/cyclists/hippies... That said we're both getting so excited about being back at school and seeing people other than each other every day!

Mel xo

P.s. Meant to post this yesterday morning... See next post for latest update!

Monday, August 8, 2011

La belle province!

Bonjour les amis! Nous sommes finalement rendu a Quebec! Au revoir Ontario la grande!

We have made it to la belle province and are currently in Montreal staying with fellow bike tourers Jessie and Jackie!

About to go have some Montreal smoked meat at Swartz, poutine and maybe a crepe for dessert?


Location:Rue Saint-Jacques,Montreal,Canada

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Photos!

It seems as though we've been getting a little behind on updating our photos (last upload was in Calgary.. and now we're in Ottawa...)  I just put 88 more up on flickr though, so enjoy!

Mel and Andrew's Photo Journal

Home to me

Inspired by Andrew's post about home, I've decided to put my thoughts about the concept into words.
Less than a week into the trip I wrote a short entry about how I was feeling about home at that point.  It's stayed true and been proven time and time again throughout the trip...

Home is wherever you make it- wherever you want it to be.  The idea of choosing a single place, an address, a piece of land, is frightening.  How can I possibly establish roots when there's inviting soil everwhere?   Why not just bring home with me wherever I go?

Home is whatever you make it - it doesn't need a fixed place in space and time, just your knowledge that it is there with you.  What makes somewhere home to me requires nothing more than what I could carry with me... it's about the people, the fun, the interactions and the feeling of fulfilment. 

Coldwater Road, Roche Lake, Site 1 at a campsite in Kelowna (and now) the Rockies (all of them!), a wheat field, Montreal River, Huntsville, the Ottawa Valley... These places are just as much home as anywhere I've lived.  I'm sure the list will grow!

I have found "homes" all across Canada.  I'm not yet sure if this will make it much harder or easier to feel at home in one given place... I guess time will tell!

What is home to you? Where do you feel at home and what/who makes you feel that way?  Leave comments below if you like :)

Mel xo

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Home Is

For a traveller, the conundrum remains: where is Home?

Biking towards Home, I (Andrew) would say that I've had different emotions than someone who is biking away from home (Melanie). As I have just arrived back in my hometown, Huntsville ON, after 6 weeks of making different pockets of Canada my Home,I feel strange about the real thing. My emotions are in a stir and could possibly go emo.

My Home is something that I've been working for and looking forward to for the duration of the trip. It's already surpassed expectations after one night of food, a bed, family, and guests (2 guys we met cycling across for ALS). Will I cycle as hard away from Huntsville as I did towards it? Will I want to cycle at all? A trip from Victoria to Huntsville is still pretty good right? What do I have to prove?

This: I was recently told by a few bikers that cycling away from home was "the hardest thing they've done all trip" and that it was very taxing emotionally. They continued to say that they "were just getting to the end and wanted it to be over soon so they could get back Home". I was told this as I was about 50 km from Huntsville. Absolutely terrified, I continued to think about and dissect this conversation for peace of mind.

We all want to return to Home often. We want to return Home when we are uncomfortable, challenged, and vulnerable. This is because Home is comfortable- it is consistent, it is what we love through prediction. What makes me feel at Home anywhere is being able to predict that I will be comfortable.

So will I want to continue biking away from Huntsville?

Ab Sa &$@#ing Lutely : this trip is about vulnerability, it's about feeling like crap and loving it anyway. I am a professional Lemonade maker. Packing some stuff in a red and white poke-a-dot blanket, fastening it to a stick and throwing it over my shoulder is what this is about- if it wasn't, I would have stayed in my Home all summer so I could predict my happiness for the only two months I have to actually live. I would then buy a house in the suburbs.

Regardless of whether or not I find out if I was tenting in a rattlesnake reserve the morning after, I'm looking forward to my adventure to St Johns. It's great to be Home, but leaving it is going to be one of the hardest and most rewarding things I've done.

I can't wait.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


As roadside repairs are inevitable and tentside adjustments are frequent, I can't help but think: am I becoming one with my bicycle?
I would like to dedicate this post to sharing our bike maintenance happenings and the feelings that accompany them.

It all starts of course with the feeling of excitement upon purchasing of the bike of your dreams, the bike that's going to take you places you've always dreamed of and places you've never dreamt of. For me, my lovely 28 pound KHS touring bike is perfect.

From there the feeling of unity with my bike grew as I repaired the crap out of it. Extrapolation below.
Every 3 days, tighten all of your bolts and screws and add a few drops of lube!

...It has been all to often Melanie and I have looked around to find the source of some rattling, or pondered why the entire back rack with 3 loaded bags on it is dragging behind the bike at 35 km/hr.

The source of course has been due to missing bolts and screws. Tighten these little dudes often to prevent the terror of your bike imploding down a hill at 60 km/hr.
Of course, like anything, when the squeaking sets in you need to wipe that puppy down then lube that puppy up. Three drops every day or two should do, and apply after rain.

As you learn which bolts need tightening and which take the most stress, you are one step closer to becoming one with your bike.

Every 2000 km check your chain for stretch and break pads for wear. You may want to replace both.

...Being able to see the damage I did to my bike over thousands of km was very satisfying. The thought "I just peddled so much I'm wearing out metal" had crossed my mind around Regina SK, and has only gotten more supporting evidence since then.

As the good people in Algonquin Outfitters in my hometown Huntsville Ontario once told me: "Your chain is the cheapest part on your bike. Replacing it more frequently than not will ensure your bikes longevity. It will also be financially beneficial when you don't have to replace your expensive components because of an old chain."

Replacing the chain and break pads every so often costs about $50 every 2000 km, but the satisfaction described above is well worth it.

At around 4000 km, you want to switch your front and back tires. The back tire takes a lot more wear than the front tire.

My back tire has more weight over it and is where my acceleration is coming from, so it undergoes more wear. I switched them to maintain balance between the tires.

Balance is a key element of feeling one with your bike. From tires to pannier weight, from front-to-back to side-to-side; if balance is always maintained then it becomes much easier to feel when something is off on your bike or is damaged. This has two great benefits: it can lead to sooner repairs for your bike and ensures less stress on one side of your body (ie. Less chance of injury).

Ps. The only good tire for bike touring is the "Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tire" - don't think about it, just buy them for your trip. I have heard countless accounts of bikers riding across Canada without a single flat. Melanie and I are on our way there as neither of us have had one yet. Everyone that we have seen along the way that has toured before and knows what they are doing has these exact tires.

Get your wheel 'trued' every 2000 km minimum, especially if your carrying at least 50 lbs on the back of your bike.

... On the side of the road in a heat wave with little water about 400 km from Thunder Bay, I heard a loud pop and my back wheel was rubbing on the breaks and wobbly. A spoke was broken upon further investigation. Learning how to true my wheel by replacing and tightening my spokes was the most satisfying thing I've done with my bike this trip. I used my breaks to true my wheel in a matter of a few minutes, learning as I used the spoke tool for the first time ever. When I rolled into Thunder Bay 3 days later, I told my bike I loved it for the first time. It responded with a shimmer and a bell ding similar to ending of a Sleep Country Canada commercial.

Road side repairs and tentside adjustments should not be feared just as foreplay with your partner should not be feared: they are both leading to something great.

And now, it's time to bike.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:The Soo

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hello hills! We forgot about you...

Well, it's been about a week since we crossed the border into Ontario. Proof:

We've long since passed the longitudinal halfway point of Canada (just east of Winnipeg) but we're only just about at the halfway point in our trip thanks to the hilly windy roads of the east that we're just beginning to experience. The past week has been the hardest of the trip for me both mentally and physically. Headwinds, 8% and steeper hills, 35 degree heat with 80-100% humidity, storms with fork lightning, torrential rain and wind strong enough to rip the roof off of part of the thunder bay airport... It's been interesting!

We had an awesome rest day in Thunder bay to recover a little bit. We got picked up by a group of cool locals who fed us, gave us beer, let us sleep on their couch and provided awesome company. We also made time to watch the last hp movie (I feel like my childhood is over) and get Andrew's bike all fixed up... He'll be writing a post soon about a series of events leading to him having a new wheel built.

We're now on our way to "the sault" (sault saint marie) and should be there in a few days as we wind out way along the north shore of lake Superior. So far this route is constantly taking my breath away - it's beautiful and so so so hilly!

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday - the messages and calls were lovely. Missing everyone back home and sending lots of love!