a video!

Long time no post (five months, really?!). Here’s a music video Annie made for Dr.How and the Reasons to Live using my GoPro footage. Ready for a roller coaster bike ride across Canada?!

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arrival at the pacific – vancouver to tofino

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the zigzagging continues – hope to vancouver

In Hope I was only one cycling day away from Vancouver, but I felt like I wasn’t ready yet to go down there so I decided to do some extra kilometers. In fact I wasn’t planning on going to Vancouver at all before exploring Vancouver Island. But my trusted Brooks saddle broke on the way to Squamish, so ended up going to Vancouver after all to get a new saddle. More about that on the Camera/Bicycle Wanderings Facebook page, your place for updates in between blog posts :).  I’m on Vancouver Island now and I’ll be in Ucluelet tomorrow. Coast-to-coast, Atlantic to Pacific, Trans Canada, check!

making plans in hope: a little detour to vancouver :)

making plans in hope: a little detour to vancouver :)

valleys and passes: crowsnest highway – radium hot springs to hope

There’s once more so much to write about. But the perfectionist in me hates half told stories. So I’ll keep some blog post ideas in the back of my head for now and continue down the path of photo blogging. Valleys and Passes is what the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3) is all about as it zigzags along the US border. The road follows a valley untill youSchermafbeelding (141) get close to that border, which then means you have to go over a pass to get away from it. The river on the other side of the pass of course flows South as well, so the game continues… Some of the climbs in British Columbia are definitely more challenging than in the rest of Canada. But beautiful is that same old word again to describe all this. Photo blogs are so much more fun :).

flying through the prairies – winnipeg to saskatoon to edmonton to jasper

The inevitable moment has come: I’m falling horribly behind on my blog. I’m having a rest day in Lake Louise now in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. The past few days I biked from Jasper to here on the Icefield Parkway. I just don’t know which words to use to describe it, what an incredible ride was that!

But first things first: The Prairies. I flew through it: I did 1800 kilometers in ten cycling days. There’s so many topics to write about: the good winds, the bad winds, the horrible winds and how to deal with it, the flatlands and about how that’s a stupid word because there’s actually hills in the plains, that crazy day I biked 315 kilometers to Saskatoon, WarmShowers hosts who had a solar oven and others who were making an alcohol camping stove, another bear in a field right in  front of me (who doesn’t like oats?), endless canola and wheat fields, the meaning of that word endless,…

Sadly enough I don’t have the time for it all, maybe I’ll do some specials later when my tour has come to an end. Which it slowly is, I’m getting terribly close to Vancouver when I fold open that map of Canada. But first there’s many more mountains and passes to enjoy, This trip is seriously getting better every day. Yes, I’m in a bit of a euphoric mood right now after a hike to the top of Fairview Mountain earlier today (short video here), maybe I need some more oxygen? Or maybe I just love the mountains, who doesn’t?!

I selected what I think are sixteen representative pictures. I want to stress out that in contrary to what most people say, I don’t think the prairies are monotonous, boring or anything like that. If you make an effort to get off the major highways like I did there’s lots of beautiful places to discover in the plains of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, I had  great time cycling through it!

toronto to sault ste. marie

I’m on my second rest day in Sault Ste. Marie, time for a quick update. I moved 786 km up Northwest in six days after leaving Toronto. I guess the short days are over, by the time I get to the Prairies I’ll be ready to beat that record of 232-km-in-one-day in Kansas last year. My route through the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island was very quiet and beautiful (yes, there’s that same old word again). After cycling about 2900 km trans Canada the moment came in Massey that I couldn’t escape anymore from the Trans-Canada Highway. The shoulders were very small and there were quite a bit of trucks but all in all it wasn’t too bad. Being afraid the whole time doesn’t help, just put some music in your ears, give your mirror a glimpse every few seconds, stick to the white line and enjoy the landscape. That would be my advise right now, but I still have a lot of that highway to cover in the next weeks so I probably shouldn’t speak too early. Obviously I’ll continue trying to avoid the Trans-Canada whenever possible, just like I did between Thessalon and Sault Ste. Marie two days ago. That morning I biked for about 40 km on a logging gravel road through the forest. It was slow and hilly, but there was no traffic whatsoever and it was great to be really inside the woods instead of kinda next to it on the highway with all the trucks zooming by (click here for a twenty-second video of that ride).

The past nights I’ve been camping behind the Vélorution Bike Shop. They provide free camping (with showers!) for the many touring cyclists that come through Sault Ste. Marie. Just like the Newton Bike Shop in Kansas it’s a great place to relax for a couple of days, clean your bike and get it tuned up for the next stretch of your trip. Whereas last year in Kansas I was fine with just a new chain after cycling about 3000 km, this time I had to change the cassette as well. Apparently the Canadian gravel roads have done more damage than I expected. My bicycle looks brand new now. I’m ready for the trek around Lake Superior to Thunder Bay in the next few days. Guess what: it’s supposed to be b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. :)

montreal to ottawa to toronto – farmlands, lakes & rail trails

Leaving Montreal also meant leaving Quebec. I’m in Ontario now and will be for quite a while, it’s a long way to Saskatchewan. I’ll be leaving Toronto tomorrow, heading North through the Bruce Peninsula. While falling asleep telling that boring Bixi story in my last blog post I completely forgot to mention how much I loved Montreal. It’s joining a long list of cities I’ve had a crush on. Before Montreal there was Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin, Istanbul, Milan, Portland, San Francisco and many other medium-sized cities such as Gent. Other than Ottawa and Toronto, Montreal is a real cyclists city, the biking infrastructure is supreme. It’s also a sort of a mixture between a European and North-American city which is very appealing to me. Montreal for example has everything I like about Portland, but on top of that there’s a more lively sense of history.

Thank you to Marjolaine & Jean Luc, Myka & Dax, Kris & Gord, Kt & the Bloomfield Bicycle Shop, Judith & Bart and Kate & Andrew. You’re all part of my ever-growing list of great Warmshowers stays! And Reece, thank you for selling me your old GoPro, I probably won’t have the time now to do much with the footage but it’s staying on bike for the rest of my trip!

le p’tit train du nord & montreal – quebec, part three

For some reason I didn’t take a single picture on the P’tit Train du Nord bike route. You’ll just have to believe me when I say this rail trail is beautiful. And it has a great surface: Annie had no problems biking it with her race tyres. It’s also a very popular trail, the day we biked to Montreal (Saturday) we saw more bicycles than cars, not kidding.

After a fun night out at the Terrasse St.-Ambroise with our WS host Héloïse and two of her friends Annie and I both felt a bit hungover the next day. Luckily the Atwater market was close by. This covered public market was the ideal place to wake up a bit before we2014-07-08_2726_internet started exploring the city on our Bixi bikes. By using this public bike system we didn’t have to worry about our bikes getting stolen and it also gave us more freedom because we didn’t always have to walk back to where we left our bikes. Apparently it’s costing the city of Montreal a lot of money to keep the whole Bixi project running. It even went bankrupt earlier this year, but it’s saved for this summer. Some people want to shut the whole project down in the future, but I think that would be a shame. It’s a great public service. It just shouldn’t be seen as a profit-making company. I’ve used similar public bike systems before in Paris and Brussels and it’s an incredible way to explore any big city. That being said I have to admit that we had a problem with our Bixi bikes. The first day Héloïse and her sister Andrea gave us their 2014-07-06_2678_internetyear pass keys to use (thanks again!) and everything went smooth. On out third day in Montreal we bought a 7$ day pass. At some point during the day we wanted to get two new bikes after a walk down at the Old Port. But the terminal said that our previous bikes weren’t registered as returned although we were 100% sure they had been properly locked into the system. Obviously we didn’t want to pay the 250$ deposit per bike they put on your credit card in case you’d be thinking of stealing one of the bikes. So I called the phone number on the terminal. Long story, but we found the two specific bikes at the station, locked but not registered as such, and the person on the phone couldn’t do something before a technician would come and check if the bikes were actually there, which could be at any time during the afternoon. So that would be the end of our Bixi story, but just as I hung up the phone, a technician coincidentally arrived at our station. So he helped us out and another fifteen minutes later we were biking again while he was closing down the whole Bixi station because of a problem in the computer of the terminal. To sum it all up: even though we clearly had some bad luck I still love the Bixi bikes!

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In the evening it was time to pack Annie’s bicycle and after another sad airport goodbye the next morning I started cycling across Canada on my own again towards Ontario. Annie, thank you so much for flying to Quebec and biking with me for two weeks. It meant a lot to me and I think you’ll agree with me that it was gorgeous and unforgettable. See you!

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the land of the saints – quebec, part two

We had two weeks to spend together, so instead of going straight to Montreal along the river we went more inland to explore Québec a bit more.2014-07-01_3792_internet We biked through a region that is known as the Laurentides. Further up North this mountain range has some real mountains, but the part that we were in consisted more of a series of steep but short hills. Together with the warm and humid weather these rollercoaster hills made us both think of our passage through the Ozark mountains in Missouri last summer. It was also the land of the Saints: Saint-Paulin, Saint-Gabriel, Saint-Donat, St.-Faustin-Lac-Carré,… Yes, nearly all the village names here start with Saint. The most original one we biked through was Sainte-Émilie-de-l’Énergie. Still not as cool though as that place called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! I biked through on my first day in Québec, you can’t beat that.

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In Saint-Jean-de-Matha we were welcomed by Alain & Véronique. We had a great time together and it was a pleasure to talk with Alain about bicycle touring, cycling and lots of other things.  I recognized my own passion in him and I think we could have easily talked for two more days. Right now they’re on their own bicycle trip with their son and a friend of his along the Pacific Coast from Portland to San Francisco.I wish them a great trip, which it undoubtedly will be, the Oregon and Californian coasts are beautiful.

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We mostly biked on quiet roads. The hills and the heat were persistent, but the lush and green landscape made up for that. Between Saint-Donat and Lac Supérieur we basically had the road to ourselves on the Chemin du Nordet, a 40 km route highly appreciated amongst cyclists with some views on the higher Laurentian mountains further up North.

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2014-07-02_2659_internetIn Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carré it was time for a well deserved rest day after five days of cycling. The Camping Domaine Desjardins must be one of my favorite camprounds. Over the past years I’ve stayed at a couple of hundred campgrounds while bicycle touring, so that says a lot. At 24$ per night with cyclists reduction it’s still a bit expensive. But their camp spaces for cyclists are gorgeous. In fact the whole campground is set up with respect for nature and it basically feels like you’re camping in the woods, but with all the amenities of a normal campground. Luckily they also had a shelter where we could cook on our first night while the rain kept on pouring down with heavy force.

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After this rest day we were ready to head down South in direction of Montréal for the next two days…

la nouvelle-france – quebec, part one

More than two weeks without a real update… where should I begin? Maybe I’ll start with the why. My route between Halifax and Quebec was planned in such a way that I would arrive in Quebec on June 25th. Annie flew over from Colorado to bike with me to Montreal in the past two weeks. When you’re having a great time together it’s just no fun to be behind your computer. And a great time is for sure what we had.

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But let’s take up where I left off. When I explored Rivière-du-Loup more than two weeks 2014-06-24_3749_internetago now, I really felt that I was “somewhere different” compared to the days before in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Or compared to my time in the US last summer. Obviously Quebec isn’t France, it’s recognizably Canadian or North-American on a larger scale. But the French influence, history, cultural baggage, identity or however you want to call it is much more visible and alive than I thought it would be. It’s more than just the language. I definitely experienced this on Saint Jean Baptiste Day or the Quebec National Holiday on the 24th. My Warmshowers guests in Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies invited me to a local event for Quebec day. Everyone had brought some food, a band was playing music, there was a play area and popcorn for the children, plenty of Quebec balloons and flags. There was even a passionate speech about these flags and the national identity of the people of Quebec by an older guy who clearly wanted to inspire the many children that were present.

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Between Rivière-du-Loup and Quebec I biked along the Saint Lawrence River on the Route Verte.  The river is about 20 km wide here and it feels more like you’re cycling along the coast. The mountains on the other side of the river were screaming at me to take a ferry across and start biking & hiking there.

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But I resisted and I arrived on time at a campground about 3 km away from the airport. A few hours later I met Annie in the airport. It was obviously great to meet again, but there was one problem…

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I was ready to help Annie to re-assemble her bicycle, but it appeared to be still in Toronto! Even though she had two connecting flights with Air Canada, she apparently still had to declare the bike at customs in Toronto. All we could do was go to the campground after a promise that the bike would be in Quebec the next day. And so it was. Even better: they delivered it for free at the campground.

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After a relocation from the not too special campground to a hotel closer downtown to visit the city for two days we were ready to start cycling in direction of Montreal. Touring together again for the first time since September last year when we finished the TransAm on the Oregon coast.

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The first two days were still along the Sant Lawrence River. On the other side this time, on a part of the Route Verte that is called Le Chemin du Roy. When we reached Trois-Rivières it was time to head up more North: the Laurentian Mountains awaited us…

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