Archive for July, 2010

Who are all these cyclists?

Theo left for work a bit late so that we could talk in the morning, and actually say bye. It was nice of him. As I was getting ready to leave I got a message from my father saying that he had a weird stopover in ottawa (he was flying from montreal to PEI, so we don’t know why it turned back to ottawa, planes are so weird). Unfortunately by the time i would get my bike all loaded up and on the road then get to the airport he would have been long gone, we’ll just have to wait another week to meet up. Theo had mentioned that his friend was the master-brewer at a local craft brewery, so i headed out hoping to meet up and learn a bit more about making your own beer (I make my own beer. Well, i cheat and use kits, but i want to learn how to make it from scratch). To leave Ottawa I used the cycle paths, which were super nice. I met a couple of people cycling who were planning on traveling to PEI this summer, so I gave them some hints of where to visit, they seemed really nice. when I got back on the road I realized that i wouldn’t be able to make it to the brewery before it would be five pm (which is when i presume Theo’s friend would be off work) so I looked again at the map to figure out where i should go. I then noticed that my uncle who lives in Oka wasn’t that far away, so i decided to see if i could make it to his place for the night. I gave him a call but no one answered, but i kept going since it was still early in the day, he could be out and be back later. Crossing over into Quebec is really obvious, a huge blue sign greets you, then you bike past three stripe-bars a sex-shop and a depanneur, all within one intersection. I took a small road to avoid the highway (its illigal for cyclists to ride on the highway in quebec), and i started to get some weird looks, at first i thought that it was because i was cycling. but, there were plenty of other cyclists out and about. I then realised that i was wearing my team Canada jersey. Ah! Well, the rest of the ride to Oka was pretty normal, when i got close to Oka i stopped at a casse-croute (canteen) to get a drink. While i was there i met two cyclists heading to Ottawa, they offered to grab a campsite together at a nearby campground. So i gave my uncle one last call and then took them up on their offer. When we got to the campsite the attendent gave us a weird look, we thought that it was because we were on bikes, but it turns out that this ‘Campground’ doesn’t have tent camping lots. So they placed us on the common area. So, while we were setting up our tent and eating supper people kept on coming to our site and making a lot of noise (we hopped that it wouldn’t happen all night, our hope was in vain). At one point someone even came over to our site and releaved himself over the railing (we were right beside the river), it was pretty gross, especially since i was still eating. We stayed up late talking about our bike trips, and giving each other suggestions of where the other should go next.

In the morning we made breakfast and parted ways, them off to the waterslides and me to see if my uncle was home. On my way to Oka you have to pass into a reserve (yup, the famous Oka reserve). It seemed that every ten meters there was a store selling cigarrettes, seriously i think there were about fifty between the campsite and the town of Oka. when i got near the town of Oka i rode over some glass and got a flat, stupid glass. i just puumped it up and kept ridding, figuring i’d fix it once i got to my uncle’s place. When i got to Oka itself it turned out to be a maze, the street that my uncle lives on starts and stops a dozen times, does ‘S’ turns and seems to dissapear and reapear suddenly, but i finally found his place. I knocked and luckily my cousin was awake, but he didn’t recognize me (has it been that long? i’m blaming the beard). Apparently my uncle and his familly had been on their boat and just got home at two in the morning, so good thing i went to the campsite. I had planned to only spend a couple of hours at his place, then move onto Laval where the rest of my family lived. But, we had crepes for brunch, and I love crepes so obviously i had to stick around, seriously who can say no to crepes. After a while i notocied that i was getting late so I got my stuff together and headed off to Laval, the bike path between Oka and Laval was really nice, it would make for a nice commute or sunday family bike ride (it was part of the Route Verte bike path found throughout Quebec). I made it to Laval in under two and a half hours, and two kilometers from my families house i rolled over some glass and got another flat (twice in one day! that hasn’t happened since BC, actually i think that the flats today were the first since BC!). When I finally got to my families place I spent a good couple of hours in their pool, the pool was so warm it was like swimming in a bathtub. We had invited my grandmother without telling her that i had arrived (she thought that i would be arriving only next week), so when she did arrive she was surprised (i hope happily surprised). I had a good evening with my uncles, aunts, cousins and grandmother chilling and eating. And since its my french family we obviously stayed up way too late. It was fun to see them again (I haven’t seen them in a while since last year we didn’t go to montreal for christmas).

In the morning I had another interview with Radio-Canada (I don’t remember if i mentioned that I was interviewed back in Portage-La-Prairie as well). Today I spent relaxing, swimming, talking to my grandmother and napping. It was a good thing that I took the day off since it was pouring buckets outside. In the evening my aunt, uncle and cousin came over and we looked at some of my pictures. I didn’t realise how many pictures i’ve taken until it took over two hours to view. Tomorrow i’m biking with my uncle and cousin to Quebec, so I went to bed right after they had left. I would have liked to spend another day with my grandmother, but the opportunity of cycling with the group was too much to pass.

I met my cousin Marc at my uncles place to pick up his Camelback (a backpack/water bottle) since he had forgotten it in the morning. We then headed down towards the olympic stadium, me on my bike (obviously) and him on roller-blades. Since we didn’t raise any money for the fundraising we were not allowed to join the mass start of the group, instead we waited on the side of the road until we found Claude. Because of the size of the peleton we had a bit of difficuly to meet up, so we waited for the peleton to thin out, which took a while since there were over 2000 cyclists participating (i was told more and less by some people). After biking on my own for almost two months biking with that many cyclists was really fun. Everyone seemed so surprised that i was going to be keeping up with them with the panniers on my bike (everyone else had the barebones on their bikes). But, even with the extra weight I kept up a good pace with the group, thats what two months on cycling does to your legs. I should start introducing myself as Justin ‘Legs of Steel’ Belanger, I wonder if it will catch on? Eventually word started filtering through the group that the crazy guy with the panniers was biking across the country, so people started to refer to me as mr. Vancouver or mr. PEI, everyone else had name cards on their bikes so you could talk to them by name. Most people in the group were really nice and wanted to talk as they rode, but others were taking it way too seriously and wouldn’t respond when you said ‘Hi’ or ‘Bonjour’ (The mix of french and english was about equal, so it was fun trying to figure out what language I should speak in). The route was laid out that there was a rest station about every thirty or fourty kilometers, they were well set up with tons of washrooms, food for the participants, medical personnel on site (and obviously on the route in case of emergencies) and lots of water. Since we didn’t raise any money Marc and I didn’t eat any of the food, but we did fill our bottles at the water stations. Unfortunately for Marc, once we left the city the roads became really bumpy and terrible for roller-blading and he had to pull out when we stopped for lunch. I felt bad for him, but the roads actually deteriorated even more after lunch, it would have been torture. I was surprised with how many accidents there were and how often an ambulance had to be called, people must be pushing themselves too much, or havent been training enough for the route (if you haven’t been training properly 150kms is a really far bike ride), also people must not be drinking enough liquids for the heat, the amount of people i saw with IV’s hooked up during lunch was impressive. Remember people, you can’t just jump onto a long stage and think you can do it, you need to train up to it. Claude and I did the route at a reasonable pace (there was no need to go fast, so we just enjoyed the scenery and talked), but even then we were around the middle of the pack. When we started to get close to Trois Riviere I started to recognize the area. Then, looking over to the left I recognized a house, and then I noticed that there were two people on the balcony that I knew! So I pedaled on over and said hi, they didn’t recognize me since I haven’t seen them in a while and i was wearing sunglasses (i normally never wear sunglasses) and a helmet. It was Line and Leo and they invited me up for supper, they also offered to let me camp on their lawn (they had to leave for work at some god-aweful hour in the morning). So, i rushed to tell Claude (this worked out especially well since i wasn’t allowed to pitch my tent with the other tents) and then came back to eat and chat with L&L. It was nice to have a relaxing evening talking with people I haven’t seen in a while, plus supper was really good.

Having people cheer when you are passing by was an amazing experience, its giving me the desire to try racing once i’m done this tour. Maybe ill look into buying a racing bike (yeah, i know what you’re thinking ‘Justin, your addicted!’)

When I woke up I found a sandwich and some raspberries on my bicycle, thanks for lunch! You know, the world is full of really nice people. I met up with Claude, and we headed off for Quebec. Apparently a lot of the other cyclists were pretty giddy in the morning and had worken really early and so had left super early, so even though we were meeting when they were supposed to start in the morning, most of the people had already gone. But there was no need to rush so we went at our own pace, and caught up with people. Today the route was a bit more hilly than yesterday (though compared to Ontario it would be considered flat). At one of the rest-stops Claude recognized one of the medics (a friend of his sons wife). When we got close to Quebec city a car drove by with someone screaming out the window, it was my cousin taking pictures of us. Soon after we saw her with my aunt parked at an intersection cheering us on, its fun to see people that you recognize. When we finally got to the destination in Quebec it was full of people cheering everyone on, congratulating everyone. It was great. Unfortunately Claude and family had to hit the road to get back to montreal for supper, we figured that since we were at an outdoors facility there would be a campground too. but we were wrong, I was pretty pissed. I asked the attendent and she had no idea where the nearest one would be. So i asked a man walking by, and he said that i could pitch my tent in his back yard, people are nice. he said he would be at the park for an hour or so. So i took my time to get to his place (by that i mean i got lost). When i got to his place, he let me into the yard, i set up my tent and made some food. He let me take a shower, and then i crashed and fell asleep really quickly.


Welcome to Quebec


Thats a lot of cyclists


Claude and I


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Ottawa bound

Ben and dean left early in the morning, but I didn’t have to meet Vic till later so I took my time to wake up and get ready, unfortunately I realized I had a flat, and so I headed towards the shop to fix my bike while I waited for Vic, at the bike shop I met two people from England riding from halifax to vancouver (they had driven across newfoundland). When Vic got to the shop we and one of his friends went for breakfast at a local greasy spoon (that is the most common type of restaurant that i’ve visited this trip). We had a good chat talking about traveling, the world cup and obviously cycling. After breakfast I left Sudbury to continue on my way to Ottawa. Because of the heat and similar terrain the next couple of days kind of blended in together. actually it got so hot that I was drinking on average 10 litres of water a day, TEN BLOODY LITERS! The first day out of Sudbury i couldn’t make it as far as i had planned, i wanted to get to North Bay, but i ended up camping at a rest stop after sturgeon falls when the locals told me no one really cared. (Oh! while i was in sturgeon Falls i met a guy from france traveling around canada trying to find all historic french locations, apparently the route that i was on was a route the original french voyageurs used when heading out west to trade with the aboriginal populations. He seemed very surprised that anyone would want to bike across the country).

After breaking camp I headed towards North Bay to find second breakfast (I think i’ve turned into a hobbit, i’ll have to see if my feet have become hairy). Unfortunately since it was so hot yesterday I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, so I will not be making Ottawa as early as I had planned. The route today was nice and calm, not as hilly as its been early in Ontario, actually now that i think of it its been pretty flat since the Soo. I camped earlier in the day than I had planned at a private campground near stonecliffe, but they had a beach and access to the ottawa river! So, yes I went for a swim, especially after the heat of the day. Man it felt good.

On my way east heading towards Deep River i met two people riding west, they had a dog in a child trailer. Aparently they carry the dog in the trailer, but when they climb hills the dog gets out and walks alongside of them. Soon after seeing the two cyclists I met another cyclist traveling from east to west then down to LA, she was traveling from england, a lot of people out cycling today. I had a huge lunch while in Deep River (to get out of the heat for a bit). after Deep River you pass through Chalk River, I was thinking of  going to visit the nuclear power plan, but people wern’t sure if I could get a tour, so i decided to avoid the extra kilometers off route. After Chalk River is the Petawawa army base (is it safe to have an army base practicing beside a nuclear power plan?) then onto the the Petawawa sample forest plot (the thing is huge, its in the throusands of acres) they do tests to see what the optimal distance from one tree to another in a plantation is, what effect on wildlife clearcutting has. this test plot has been in effect for decades, if i remember correctly i think it started before the second world war! I found a camping ground near Cobden (really far off the road!), i was allowed to stay for free, sweet!

I decided to have second breakfast in Renfrew. While at the Tim Hortons i saw an elderly lady sitting by herself, she looked lost or lonely, so i went over and started to talk to her. Norma was super nice, she talked about her kids, her husband and her travels. so my five minute breakfast ended up taking over an hour, but i didn’t mind, when i left Norma was super happy. From Renfrew i made my way to Arnprior, this is where the 17 turns into the 417 and cyclists are not allowed on four hundred series roads. but i had asked three separate information centres who didn’t know any other way to get into Ottawa, and i even asked a police officer, and he told me to keep going. alright. they are dumb. for about twenty kilometers the highway was great with a five foot shoulder, but all of a sudden it totally dissapears, with loose gravel beside the pavement, and cars and trucks wizzing past at an alarming speed. At one point i decided to take a rest under an overpass, this is when an OPP officer turns on his lights and calls me over! apparently a couple of drivers have called in about me (were they driving when they called?) the officer told me i had to get off the highway right away, i asked if i could bike back four kilomers to the overpass with the on ramps, but he told me i had to climp the embankment, frig that was hard, then i had to lift my bike over the guardrail (i have wear arms and my bike is bloody heavy!) during all of this the officer stayed at the bottom of the embankment watching me, making sure i didnt turn around and start biking on the highway again, he didn’t even offer to help, jerk. i found my way into the township of Carp (just outside of Ottawa) and found a pub. i just wanted to ask for directions but my belly started to grumble when i smelled the food. as i was heading into the pub a group of elders came out and we had a good chat, two of them offered me a place to stay (how nice) and they gave me maps of ottawa and quebec (sweet, i’ll be needing this. people can be really nice when they want to). When i finally got into the pub i ordered food, and broke down and got a pint (sure its early in the day, but the world cup was on!) after the game i made my way into ottawa, eventually finding my way onto the bike paths (ottawa has some of the most beautiful bike paths, and they are really well used). people were super friendly, when i stopped to look at the map i’d have people stop and ask if i needed help or directions. a couple people even offered me a place to stay! while i was biking with the map out someone told me to follow him since he was going in the same direction and some of the path was blocked due to the bluesfest. on our way he showed me the national training grounds for river kayaking, its pretty cool. I finally found Theo (Theo was one of my PL’s when i was in Katimavik). After i had a shower we went out for supper then went to the bluesfest, for some reason Iron Maiden was the big opening act of the festival (if you ask me, Iron Maiden wasn’t really that bluesy). I had a good time visiting with Theo, unfortunately I wanted to make it to montreal to surprise my grandmother, so we didnt’ get to visit for too long. but he did have an extra bed at his nice place, and man was it comfy, you miss beds when you are always sleeping on a thermorest sleeping pad.

Big Joe

Big Joe


Cyclists love to see this sign


Katimavik is Inuit for 'meeting place'


Rock statues on the shores of the Ottawa river

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Canada day drafting

Happy Canada day!

Because I didn’t feel well last night I didn’t set an alarm for the morning, so I slowly woke up around nine. I slowly got ready, used the wi-fi and talked to the hosts again for a bit. So, I didn’t get onto the road and on my way until about noon. I didn’t hop directly into the 17 (the number of the TCH) instead I took the 17W, they have a ton of different highway 17’s leaving the Soo, they all eventually reconnect. The W passed through a reserve and so the road was slightly broken up, but there was almost no traffic, so I didn’t mind. The road passed prettyclose to the lake so I had a nice view for most of the day. At one town there was a ton of people slowly moving around and talking, it was at this point that I remembered that it was Canada day. I met a cyclist traveling from montreal to Vancouver making a documentary of his trip (so he had about a hundred pounds of camera equipment on his bike!). We were told that the hall was serving huge plates of spagetti, but I had just eaten so I kept on moving. I saw a strawberry Upick and decided to stop and pick some (what better way to celebrate Canada day than with fresh fruit and fireworks), so at the next convenience store I bought some cream (all I needed now was maple syrup). I kept peddaling until I got to blind river, I couldn’t find a campground so I went to the church and asked the priest, who said it would be fine. Before I set up my tent I went for a quick walk to figure out where the fireworks would be. While walking two people started yelling at me (not in an angry way, but to get my attention). They thought that I was someone else (ended up they thought that I was one of the three cyclists I had been biking with), we started talking and they offered to key me crash on the floor of their motel room (they were cyling around the perimeter of lake Huron). So I said goodbye to the priest and went with them to their motel. I made supper on their balcony and watched the fireworks with dean while eating fresh strawberries and cream (yum!).

Ben and Dean let me tag along with them since we were heading in the same direction of Sudbury. Ben and dean have experience riding in groups, so when they ride together they are always drafting one another (well, Ben is always pulling and dean was drafting) so they showed me how to draft. They were nice to slow down a bit for me so I could keep up (they had almost nothing on their bikes), you can go so much faster while drafting, in the morning our average speed was over 30kms/hr! Before we stopped for lunch we met a couple of Amish sellig some baked goods, so we picked up some oatmeal cookies (very yummy!). When we stopped for lunch we met two cyclists riding from Halifax to Vancouver. We kept on our way to sudbury at a quick pace, but every once in a while we would take a secondary road (having dean’s GPS was great). We stopped and took a picture at a small church for dean and bens group ride members. When we finnaly made it Sudbury we got our picture take by the giant nickel before heading into the city proper. While Ben was looking for a motel I went to ‘the outside shop’ (the shop that Vic told me about). I asked them if they knew Vic and they gave him a call. While I waited for Vic to arrive I finally got my drivetrain cleaned out again. Unfortunately when Vic got there Ben had found a spot so we had to go, so Vic and I will be meeting in the morning for breakfast.


Acrobatic Cows



Big Nickel

Me, Dean, and Ben

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