My father has been touring the Unites States, Canada, and even parts of Europe by bicycle, over the last 30 years.
His latest adventure finds him biking across Canada, starting in Vancouver (west coast), headed for home in New Jersey...and we have been following his progress here at nj1015.com!
His latest e-mail starts with Dryden (which he talked about in last Sunday's installment, click here to read the article), but gives more detail. Again, please excuse some typos...
Don't recall what I last sent. Because of approaching dark clouds last night, I sought some kind of indoor shelter. The closest, (100) yards, was a vehicle repair business. The manager was just closing, so could not provide shelter. The nearby house was rented, and he hesitated allowing me to lean my bike against the house (to gain protection) from the wind & rain. I noticed another barn across a field, but difficult to drag my bike there.
Looking at the approaching rain cells, I could see rain touching down from 2 of 4 cells of updrafts, giving me maybe 15 min to stay dry.
Picked up my bike from shoulder, spun my bike around, walked in the vehicle lane maybe 100 yards to a steep dirt entrance/driveway. Pushing my bike into the cluster of trees revealed a couple more barns but no house. But, there was a somewhat open barn if no one home. I always ask permission to occupy someone's property where possible. Over the slight hill I could see a house.. I still had some time to find shelter from the approaching storm. Knock on which door? Both no answer, nor at a smaller house!
As I was going back to pick up my bike, a 50ish man strode into view. "Boy am I glad to see you." I explained my predicament and his answer was no problem with him, but he wanted to ask his wife. I then brought my bike to his back door.
I introduced myself, and after (talking for) maybe 10 minutes, I was treated like family. My dirty shoes had been left near the back door noting the clue of seeing shoes placed there, and remembering Korean & Asian cultures doing the same. Upon being invited in to the neat living room I said I couldn't sit on their chairs without a towel, because my clothes were so dirty/smelly, etc. I had lived in my clothes 24 hours a day for 27 days. That included my sleeping bag.
I was also somewhat unshaven, as my 2 razors were broken. I threw away the first broken razor and shaved with just the blade stub 5-7 days before. You can imagine my appearance!
I was treated like family. During their travels in the US and Europe, they were similarly treated by strangers. I was offered a hot shower / shaved and put on my spare brown shorts and bright and highly visible yellow shirt, and walked around barefoot. Since they had not eaten supper I was invited to join them. We enjoyed our conversations, and I even saw their favorite TV news show before going to sleep. This was only the 2d time watching TV sine starting.
(About) the storm: several storm cells crossed the area with winds bending trees, lightning and thunder, and heavy rain drops pelleting the windows, so we could not really see out the windows.
Upon waking, Ken asked if I heard the heavy storm roll through. I guess I was too tired, and also said the house must be well insulated. That brought up the fact that many winter days, the temperature dips to -40 metric degrees, which is the same as our US degrees, and stays there for several weeks. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Several years ago the temp, plus 4 feet of snow had killed off 80% of the deer population. Hunting by locals, US, and Europeans is an important part of the local economy.
Looking out the window did not bode well for the upcoming day, as rain was predicted until noon. By the time I had some coffee, toast with home canned raspberry jam, the sky started to clear. I left for Dryden around 10 am.
Directions penciled on my map to Dryden included - after a straight stretch of road, pass the cemetery where the road will bend to the left at a traffic light - turn right at the light-go under the railroad tracks- along a small river into town - go 3 streets turn right - go 1 block and there's the library. I pounded the 7 km over some gently rolling road, finally spying the cemetery just before the curve at the end of a fast downhill dip of maybe a quarter mile and up a steep huff and puff hill before reaching town in an hour. Under the railroad bridge was another steep drop (for a bike) to river level, presenting a neat scene of a dam, falls, & pulp mill. Now, I know why I began to see some logging trucks again. The pulp mill is another strong piece of the local economy.
I wanted a heavy, nutritious meal before the noon price and menu changes, and (was) advised the hotel was the only place other than fast foods, which I did not want.
Afterwards I easily found the library, and sent the previous jumbled notes." Those were the basis of last week's nj1015.com article (gain, you may click here).
"I left the library and museum around 3 PM. Around 6pm, I was tired and saw a rest area with a picnic table covered by a roof. The sign indicated no overnight camping, but what the heck. The cement picnic table area was near a scenic rushing river just east of Dinorwic. The cover worked to keep dew off my sleeping bag. Distance for the day only about 34 km, and a relatively good night sleep.
Next Morning, (I woke up at) 4:45. (It was) 50 degrees, and I was off by 5:30. Scarfed down an apple, an energy bar and made sure a couple energy bars in my pocket. Ground fog and very light traffic plus relatively easy rolling surface. Activated my little rear blinker to help make me visible as I went through various pockets of limited vision. Steady pumping for maybe 20 Km, before arriving (in) Ignace. (Stopped at a) restaurant for a heavy, full breakfast and 2.5 cups of coffee.
(I had) High energy and a wishful goal of Upsala, with only 1 small dot on the map of English River, and maybe a a convenience store in between. Where I sustained the energy for the day I don't know. Slight cross tail wind. I just kept going and going. I thought I remembered camp grounds near my goal." My father did this piece of the trip, biking east to west last summer, you may recall.
"As dusk was closing in, some on coming trucks were blinking me to get off the road. Trucks behind could see my blinker, and gave wide breath. Several times I pushed ahead because I remembered 3 camp grounds, Not seeing camps or rest areas, I finally said the next spot is it for the day.
As the macadam reached the dirt road, up a short steep incline, I missed my appropriate (turnoff), and with no inertia, toppled over in a heap. lt was troublesome, embarrassing, and funny! I lay on my back a few minutes collecting my thoughts. I couldn't get up due to the weight of my "Camelbak" of water, straps, and hi vision vest. Just then a car full of high school kids rolled up. One girl had seen me thrashing about, and thought I was hurt and calling for help, and the driver turned around. 3 Girls and 2 guitars in the back and 2 guys in front. They inquired if (I was) hurt and (if they) could help.
I finally said things were under control, and that the spill was just embarrassing to me. They talked about helping me into Upsala, just a couple Km away. Twenty minutes later, cam back with an offer (of how) to get me to town. I thanked them profusely and declined...but if it had been raining I would have hugged them all.
MILEAGE FOR THE DAY 5:30 AM TO 8 PM: 176 Km OR 107 US MILES. FABULOUS !!!
Next morning, (I was awake at ) 5am. It took a little longer to pick up my gear and remove some of the heavy dew from bed roll, and gravel from my tarp. Biked maybe 6 miles to Upsala, and (had) another big eggs, ham, fries and toast restaurant breakfast, and more coffee. I also used a spoon and emptied all their peanut butter in the jam dish while waiting for my order.
Leaving town I passed their magnificent local camp ground! Unfortunately, the kids did not mention the camping area...I would have taken their (offer of) help had I known. The table was even covered, to prevent heavy dew.
Good road conditions and energy today. Reached Shabaqua, 40 Km away by noon. Pushed on toward Thunder Bay where I would pick up Hgwy # 11."
At this point, conditions for my father changed rapidly.
"Yikes! I picked up a heavy head wind and some really big hills which surprised me.
Those conditions took a long time to negotiate and really sapped my energy. I (had) hoped to get near Thunder Bay, and go into a motel to stay overnight and rest and think.
(I was taking a break along the side of the road, thinking about I am likely to run into) on the route # 11. (Mostly) sparsely populated tiny towns (Populations 10 to maybe 200 people).
My thinking was disrupted when a pick up truck turned around, and offered me a ride into Thunder Bay. There I was shown motels (that were) conveniently located near the airport.
Bad decision! I took a flight home through Toronto and Newark airports."
My dad tells me that if he had just gone into a motel room where he had planned, and had not been near the airport, he probably would have decided to push ahead, after a good night's rest. Being near the airport, seeing the airport, just made it too easy to decide to head for the comforts of New Jersey.
The first words out of my father's mouth, as I pulled up to the arrival area at Newark airport was: "I'm sorry to disappoint you."
Back to his e-mail, that he is sending to his many new Canadian friends that helped him along his journey: "Will people consider me a quitter? I hope not.
With my prior attempt in 2013, I have biked Vancouver to Ottawa to home in New Jersey just outside New York City, missing only the equivalent of maybe 300 Km (180 US miles) through very sparsely inhabited Northern Ontario.
I just forgot my calculation that I could reach Nipigon in a day and half if the rain prediction came true, and (then) stay in a motel to see what the next day would bring
I forgot to think (that) I (had) just biked 197 miles in 2 days!
(On the other hand,) did I need to experience (just) Trees and water, Trees and water? Beautiful, (but I have seen many) forests in my visits to all 7 continents.
(Plus I was getting tired of the ever-present) Mosquitoes and black flies! As the bike rider from Toronto said: "They have saber saws, and will just go right through clothing."
I hate rain when there is no possible protection. My older biking gear is not truly water proof. I HATE RAIN! The Farmers Almanac predicted t-storms every 2-3 days. I guess I could have survived...I have in the past.
My panniers (bike "saddle bags") were already loaded with canned food for the next major town of Nipigon,115 Km away. I was led to believe that it was quite hilly for the next 320 Km, (but) would then flatten out.
Observations by drivers scooting along at 50 to 80 mph just don't see road and shoulder surfaces the same as bikers do."
My dad says that what seems like a nice, smooth road, or a wide shoulder to a person riding in a car, is not necessarily the case for a person on a bike riding at 7 miles per hour. My biking experience over the years says the same.
"While my real goal was to brag to the Newspapers (or whatever) "81 YEAR OLD FROM HILLSBOROUGH NEW JERSEY BICYCLES SOLO ACROSS CANADA FROM VANCOUVER TO OTTAWA AND HOME JUST OUTSIDE NYC"
Additionally, in order to complete his adventure, he was not concerned with tourist attractions but talking (to) and experiencing (the) life (of) Canadians. He also wanted to convey his depth of respect to Canadians, when his parents took him to Banff in 1948, at the age of 15. (Then, he) found them so friendly, courteous, and sharing And, they still are, reflecting their frontier spirit and values."
Am I "disappointed" in my father?
What he has accomplished is amazing, especially for a man of his age.
As seen above, I enjoyed biking cross country with him when I was in college (prior to that, we biked New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania together when I was in junior high and high school).
As I told him while putting his disassembled bike in the back of the car: Between last year's east to west attempt, and this year's west to east odyssey, he covered his entire route. From Vancouver, to his driveway in New Jersey!
I only wish that I could have gone along with him...
My father thanks you for your support, your kind words, and your prayers for his safe journey!