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!



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I left my heart in the Prairies...

Bon Iver said it, and I feel it - somewhere baby it's part of me apart from me. When I learn and grow in a place I feel a lasting connection to it. It feels amazing to have been able to experience so much growth and to be able to pinpoint a time and a place and people who were there. And whether these are with me or apart from me they will always be a part of me.

So what were these lessons, and what was this growth? I'm learning to trust people at their word and to believe that when someone offers you something, they really want you to have it, and that accepting it is the best thing you can do for yourself and for them, that the locals know the way better than my iPhone, but sometimes it's a really good idea to get lost, that things and places don't really matter at all - all that matters is the people and the feelings, that when you think a place is boring and flat and all the same, you're missing the real beauty, and that people really underestimate the prairies. I'm living by the mantra "be you, be happy, be free." and this is how I'm growing. I brought no make up, I eat when I'm hungry, I nap in the midday sun, I have dirt under my nails, between my toes and on my face, I have redefined productivity, I sleep when I can (after the last adventure and before the next), I laugh at silly jokes and tell plenty in return, I make friends with everyone and cherish every word of advice, wisdom and support, and I let the wind take me where it wants to go. Every day I live those 6 words I grow and I become the person I want to be.

We made it to Manitoba about 5 days ago. Here's proof:

And we'll be in Ontario in a few hours. The scenery is already very shieldy and the black flies have appeared.

It feels so strange to be leaving the prairies behind already. We've met so many incredible people and have been treated like daughter and son and sister and brother. I definitely have not had my fill of this wonderful place - I'll be back to witness the fields in bloom and to take up offers I didn't have time to accept. Rolling across this country I'm discovering how much more there is to discover that I never knew existed - the more you know, the more you know you don't know!

Location:Green Ave,Falcon Beach,Canada

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2 provinces down!

Made it into Sask today! A brand new province for both of us and we're stoked! Happy Canada Day !

Location:Alsask, Saskatchewan

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Pictures and Videos!

Still in Calgary, and we're just about to head off to bed, but before we do, here are some pictures and videos for you!

Enjoy! xo

Goodbye Mountains... Hello Headwinds!

Well, here we are - Calgary, AB. Staying in the lovely abode of Andrew's friend Thomas and family and having a fantastically relaxing and well deserved rest day after 6 days straight on the road. We made it from Victoria to Calgary in 11 spectacular days. There have been lots of ups and downs (both in altitude and emotions), but every pedal of the way has been awesome - from the endless climbs and harrowing descents of the mountain ranges to the brutal headwinds facing us on the other side, I wouldn't change a single detail nor ever wish to be anywhere else doing anything else.

Here are some stats for our trip so far...

Total Distance - 1132 km
Total Time - 67 hours

Here's how are bodies are doing...

Andrew Wilson

Height - 6'1" - unchanged
Weight - 80kg (175 lbs) - unchanged

Waist circumference - 81.5 cm (down .4 cm)
Hip circumference - 101.8 cm (down .1 cm)
Waist to Hip Ratio - 0.800

Muscle Girth
Thigh circumference - L: 41.5 cm (down 3 cm) R: 43.2 cm (down 2.3 cm)
Calve circumference - L: 35.9 cm (down 2.1 cm) R: 35.8 cm (down 1.2 cm)
Biceps circumference - L: 28 cm (down 1.5 cm) R: 28.5 cm (down .6cm)
Forearm circumference - L: 29 cm (up .9 cm) R: 29.1 (up .3 cm)

Melanie van Soeren

Height - 5'3" - unchanged
Weight - 49 kg (108 lbs) - up 3 pounds!

Waist circumference - 66.0 cm (down 1 cm)
Hip circumference - 90.8 cm (up 3.2 cm!) Andrew says I'm becoming bootylicious - I guess I know where that 3 lbs went
Waist to Hip Ratio - 0.727

Muscle Girth
Thigh circumference - L: 37.56 cm (up .1 cm) R: 37.3 cm (up .3 cm)
Calve circumference - L: 30.7 cm (down .8 cm) R: 30.7 cm (down .8 cm) .... starting to question validity
Biceps circumference - L: 23.6 cm (up .1 cm) R: 23.7 cm (down .1 cm)
Forearm circumference - L: 20.5 cm (up .1 cm) R: 20.4 cm (down .3 cm)

*all measurements were taken using the professional standard - a flexy measuring tape and some fingers.

Additionally, we have a cumulative 3 bunk knees, 1 exceptionally sore butt, and 4 moderately sore quads (Andrew, Thomas and family can attest to my elegant waddling all last night)

All of the above taken into consideration, we're feeling absolutely incredible. I can quite honestly say that I have never felt this good in my life. Every day so far has brought a new adventure, new challenges and lessons, and amazing surprises. I'm a big fan of lists, so I've started making lists to try to keep track of everything that's been happening. Some of the lists I have on the go at the moment include - amazing people who have helped us along the way, questions people ask us, advice we get, crazy coincidences, food that I'm craving, favourite places and things that I've learned. Stay tuned for blog posts full of fun lists!

Andrew and I have also adopted fun stream of consciousness writing styles for our journals - his turn into amazing poems, mine have been jumbles of words. But here area couple exerts we decided to share...

This is beautiful, this is what I came for, what I yearned for.
It's what I didn't know that brought me out,
It's what I'm here to find out

Rolling hills, rolling clouds, rolling emotions.
Where are we?!

This desert, this lake, this stare from cows at passers by,
I wonder if they'll remember us like we remember them.

One last climb before rest, this is beaut...

One last climb before rest, that was beautiful,
what I came for, what I yearn for. I coast.

To Kamloops


Haunting beauty
melancholic whispers through trees,
rejuvenating, uplifting winds on high outlooks
yoga on the cliff top, lakeside, roadside
wild horses galloping in pace

Ascents, descends, winding, curving roads,
lumbering lumber trucks, loads unbalanced, roads shared,
banana peels on the shoulder, the only trace of other bikers

Screaming legs; shut up legs!
Lost and then found again around the next turn,
Listen to Canada - jumping fish, rustling, neighing, mooooing,
Breath in deeply, taste the air

I came for what I didn't know existed.


Every day I try to put what I see and experience into words or capture it in a photo - but I've come to realize it really can't be done - and I guess that's why we're on this trip. We're experiencing our country in a totally organic, full body way that can't be recorded. There's nothing better than breathing in the air, earning the views by climbing the hills, propelling yourself (with the help of gravity and your 100+ pound bike/gear) down mountains at 70km/hr feeling perfectly safe yet totally on edge, finding yourself frozen in place, speechless staring out at hauntingly beautiful forests, fields, mountains, rivers, lakes, sunsets... Throughout this trip we'll share our stories and pictures, but here's the caveat - nothing can possibly accurately describe or express our experiences. If you find any of what your read or see here even remotely appealing (which I'm assuming you do or you would have stopped reading a long time ago), get on a bike, in a canoe, put on your hiking boots, snowshoes or teles and get out into the amazing wilderness that is Canada (or wherever you are for that matter!). This world has so much to offer, and it's not in cities, on the computer your staring at or even (dare I say it, the bookworm that I am) in a book.

Alright, that's my attempt at and inspirational kick in the butt out the door and into this amazing world of ours!

Check out our updated pictures on flickr and Andrew's awesome videos to get a taste of our adventure. Also leave us some comments/send us e-mails - tell us about what you're up to, ask us questions, compare experiences, etc... We'll read and reply, we promise (although we also promise it will not be in a timely manner - when you're doing what we're doing sitting in front of a computer is a pretty unappealing prospect - but we'll do it for you because we love you!)



Friday, June 17, 2011

Mel and Andrew's Cross Canada Photos

The first few pictures from the trip: pre-departure test ride and a shameless photo shoot!

From Victoria. June 17th 2011

With our bags packed and our bodies ready, Mel and I (Andrew) can't help but think of the changes we are about to undergo. I can at least speak for myself when I say my body will suffer through more changes in the next 2.5 months than it did through 8 years of awkward puberty. Mel and I are both endurance athletes and live on endorphins, but this trip is going to push us in a very different way than we're used to. We know that pushing our bodies like we are used to while cycling will eventually result in injury and halt our trip across Canada. We know that we will need to go steady, and somehow not get carried away and start averaging over 25km/h on our 125 lb bikes.

Since this is the first post, and we have bets being placed on our weight loss and muscle gain, let me hit you with some knowledge:

Andrew Wilson
(Born in Scarborough ON)

Height - 6'1"
Weight - 80kg (175 lbs)

Waist circumference -  81.9 cm
Hip circumference - 101.9 cm
Waist to Hip Ratio - 0.804

Muscle Girth
Thigh circumference - L: 44.5 cm   R: 44.5 cm

Calve circumference - L: 38.0 cm   R: 37.0 cm

Biceps circumference - L: 29.5 cm   R: 29.1 cm
Forearm circumference - L: 28.1 cm   R: 28.9 cm

Melanie van Soereen
(Born in Vancouver BC)

Height - 5'3"
Weight - 48 kg (105 lbs)


Waist circumference -  67.0 cm
Hip circumference - 87.5 cm

Waist to Hip Ratio - 0.766

Muscle Girth
Thigh circumference - L: 37.5 cm   R: 37.0 cm

Calve circumference - L: 31.5 cm   R: 31.5 cm

Biceps circumference - L: 23.5 cm   R: 23.8 cm

Forearm circumference - L: 20.4 cm   R: 20.7 cm

*all measurements were taken using the professional standard - a flexy measuring tape and some fingers.

So place your bets! We want to know how much weight you think we will lose, and how much muscle you think we will gain. There will be a prize for the closest bet! (Send all email guesses to

We we are off to bed now. We need to arise at 5am to start the journey of our lives. Night night, sleep tight.