Saturday, November 19, 2011

Antarctic Preparations

A hundred years ago Mawson's men would have been busy on the Hobart waterfront making preparations for their ground breaking Antarctic expedition. Spring has sprung in Hobart and preparations are in full swing again for all those people heading south this summer, whether it be on cruise ships, icebreakers on resupply missions or flying into the bases. Some people have already left but for me it is another two weeks before I see the lines slipped.

Sunset from the Aurora Australis Helideck
This summer I am heading south on the icebreaker Aurora Australis to Australia's Casey Station. The plan is for the Aurora Australis to refuel and resupply the base. This year I will stay behind on the station to coordinate watercraft operations for the summer. I will also be wearing the hat of the "skiway bus driver" so it looks like I will be heading inland across the ice in a Coaster bus sporting tracks, which should be interesting. There is a lot of checking that we have everything we need, medical tests, briefings and training both on the water and ashore.

Dove has some new covers to keep the sun off her varnish and I fitted some extra anti-chafe to her mooring today. Ashore at Took-End I have been doing the rounds trying to eradicate holly and blackberries. The grass is growing at a rapid rate now that the weather has warmed up and I am hoping that there will be a day when I can mow just before departure.The absence of domestic animals at Took-End now has resulted in an abundance of animal life. A Long Nosed Potoroo hopped out of the undergrowth last night just on dusk which was a nice suprise. There is a family of Native Hens which have arrived this winter in addition to the Bennet Wallabies, Bandicoots, Possums, Cockatoos, Kookaburras and Fairy Wrens.

I am quite excited about this summer in Anatrctica which will present an opportunity to explore the coastline in the Casey region as well as heading inland to the plateau. Plans are already formulating in my mind for next year and at this stage I am keen to sail Dove north to the Great Barrier Reef for some beachcombing. This seems like the perfect compliment to a summer on ice.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Snug in St Helens

Following a blustery day hiding out behind Cape Barren we set sail at dawn. The wind was light in the anchorage but soon freshened as we entered Banks Strait. This strait is a thirty mile stretch that separates Cape Barren Island from Eddystone Point, Tasmania notorious for rough seas.The wind continued to build up to thirty knots during the day but luckily the direction shifted round to the north west to allow a comfortable ride. We reefed in the main and yankee and by the end there was just the staysail set and the wind vane steering did all the work as spray flew across the cockpit.
Eddystone Lighthouse on the starboard bow.
Binalong Bay was looking too exposed to anchor off so we opted for St Helens. The barred entrance is notorious so it was with some trepidation that we made the approach. The water was flat but there is not much water under the keel even near high tide. Brian had the job of navigating us through the maze of sand banks trying to match up the markers shown on the chart with what lay before our eyes.

It was a nice feeling to reach clear water at the end of the entrance channel and in the last hours of light we found the public wharf where we sized up the fishing boats to determine their suitability to tie up to. Extra points are awarded to boats that are clean, have good bollards and dont look like they are about to set to sea.
Alongside at St Helens
Settled in we explored the town. St Helens is a small town that services the sparcely populated north eastern corner of Tassie. We had debated whether it would be an IGA town or have gained a Woolworths/Coles supermarket, so it was with some amusement we found a "Super IGA". It is not big by any standard but seems to have everything you would need. We tinkered away on various boat projects and gave Dove a good clean.

Today was a day off and after a slow start fueled by servings of Brian's scrambled eggs with coffee we set off. A couple of bicycles had been procured and we headed for Binalong Bay. Lonely Tony had given this place high praise a few years ago awarding it "best wilderness destination in the world" or some such accolade. High praise indeed. The bikes were nothing flash and a far cry from the Long Haul Trucker I had been riding in North America. The frame was really too small, making me feel like a school aged hoon cruising the streets looking for trouble. Brian had not been on a bike for over twenty years but you know what they say about riding a bike, Once you have learnt you never forget. Having said that, it was hard work.

Add caption
It was about ten kilometeres to Binalong Bay over some gently undulating hills, where we found a cafe overlooking the beautiful beaches of the Bay of Fires. A long lunch, a read of the newspapers and then we hit the road again looping around the coast. A tiger snake basking on the road suprised me. It was pretty close by the time I saw it and I had this vision of running over it, getting it tangled up in the wheel and it snapping at my heels. Less dramatically some braking and swerving saw the snake slither off into the bush.

Skeleton Cove. Arrgh!
The view down the coast revealed pretty calm condition out at sea, which is encouraging for tomorrow. It looks like the winds will be light but moving into the north for a couple of days which should be just enough to get us into Hobart. We are both feeling pretty tuckered out this evening. There is a curry simmering away on the stove and I suspect we will be having an early night so we can catch the tide for the bar crossing in the morning.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Roaring Forties

We reached the shelter of Cape Barren in the Furneaux Islands under strong moonlight last night and the anchor chain ran free. So much so that that the bitter end shot out of the spurling pipe to my surprise and I was quickly grateful for the nylon warp splicing it to the mast step, otherwise it could have been one of those embarrasing moments.

Wind Vane Self Steering at work.

It was the end of a good passage that started in Sydney about three and half days before in light and variable conditions. We had motored gently south out to the continental shelf and found a pod of Humpback Whales and regularly saw Shy Albatross on the first day.

A light easterly sprang up in the evening and this built up to about 15 knots the next day and eased round to the northeast. We ran with twin poled out headsails and a reefed main which the wind vane self steering gear worked well with. It was great to see the wind vane do all the steering while we sat back and attended to other bibs and bobs around the boat.

Brian at work in the galley
Initially we were aiming for Eden but the weather looked like holding so we pressed on, in a race to our new target, Flinders Island which we hoped to reach, before a cold front swept over us. The current around the NSW/Victorian border was especially strong and gave us an extra two knots which whisked us into Bass Strait but I didnt think we would quite make shelter before the cold front.

The 3G mobile booster aerial came into its own, with us able to access the internet even forty miles offshore. The Bureau of Metorology website was the favourite and gave us the reprieve that we needed. The cold front had slowed down and gave us an extra 18 hours which allowed us to sail gently into Cape Barren under strong moonlight last night. We rolled away at anchor as the wind died but by this morning the front had passed over flattening the sea out and leaving us with that cosy feeling that only comes from being securely at anchor during a gale. We could think of the rough conditions offshore from the warmth of the cabin with a fresh coffee in hand.

The wind may ease this afternoon and then a trip ashore is on the cards. Tomorrow we plan to sail south to Binalong Bay. It is only fifty miles south across Banks Strait on the east coast of Tasmania so it should be a brisk day sail.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dove - Setting Sail

It was a blustery westerly that blew Dove out of Middle Harbour this morning, for what felt like her first proper sail. I set the staysail and a small mainsail, which balanced well for the beat up Sydney harbour to Blackwattle Bay, in the heart of the city. Anchored here under the gaze of the skyscrapers is a far cry from where I hope to be next week, heading south toward Hobart.



The tanks are full, the lockers loaded with provisions and all the onboard systems functioning. The past week has been a period of steady activity onboard cleaning, chart checks, varnishing, wiring, de-wiring, checking systems and hiking to the supermarket for provisions. The best bit has been seeing the windvane self steering work for the first time. It is mermerising watching it react to changes and make adjustments and I know it will take a lot of the workload off Brian and I.

Brian is due to join me on the weekend fresh from his STCW Sea Safety Training. It will be great to have him onboard.

The weather in October is coming out of the winter pattern and can deliver westerly rather than southerly cold fronts which is an advantage. It is sure to still be cold and we have enough time tucked up our sleeves to wait out unfavourable conditions in a sheltered anchorage. Initially the weather is unfavourable so we will wait it out in Sydney and take the opportunity to visit the Festival of Dangerous Ideas over the weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

City Wanderings

Waking up in New York City there was a strange feeling associated with there not being any more riding. This should have tempted me to sleep in but the huge pulsing metropolis of New York awaited. I wandered around the corner where I found a cafe with a good selection of pastries for breakfast on Bleeker Street. Yep this was the Bleeker Street of Simon & Garfunkel fame.

Jobs first, I headed off to track down a bicycle shop where I secured a box for the bike. I thought this might have proved a challenge but the first shop promptly brought out a good box gratis. Hauling it home I found a hardware store for some gaffer tape and a stationary shop for a big fat marker pen. Everything I needed to pack up everything, for the flight home.

Heading uptown on 5th Avenue it was easy to realise that the main reason people come to new York is for the shopping. Two big clothing outlets had even restricted numbers and formed a que for shopppers on red carpet, cordened off on the sidewalk with thick tassled rope. They had hired modelesque doormen to manage the crowd or act as bait, depending on how you look at it.

I was headed for the legendary Explorers Club where adventurers had been dreaming up grand expeditions for over a hundred years. It was housed in a classic old building with big wooden doors. I rang the bell and was greeted by a young lady who appeared to be the only person in the building. I blurted out an attempt at credentials and to her credit she took me in and gave me a complete tour of the building. The Explorers Club is a classic gentlemens clubhouse furnished with big comfortable leather chairs and decorated with items brought back from expeditions. There were stuffed bears, tiger skins, indiginous relics and flags including one that had been to the moon.
The Explorer's Club
One of the highlights for me was the beautiful globe which was used by Thor Hyerdahl to trace the Kon-Tiki's course in its 1950s documentary.
The Globe that Thor Hyerdahl traced the route of the Kon-Tiki
In Toronto I had picked up a book called Garbageland by Elizabeth Royte which chronicles her investigation into where her domestic garbage in New York goes. It is a fascinating book and in tracing her compost she ended up at the Lower East Side Ecology Centre. It sounded an interesting place and I tracked it down for a course on composting worm farms. It was held in a community garden on the west side and was very informative.

One of the Community Gardens
I was to stumble over several of these community gardens in my wanderings. They were located wherever some open space could be secured between buildings or indeed on top of them. They were very well cared for and I could see that they were highly valued spaces.

Peking Clipper Ship
I wandered down to the waterfront one morning and to my surprise came face to face with the famous clipper ship Peking. A mere ten dollars got me complete access to wander the deck and check the cabins. It was a pretty special experience and alonside was the Ambrose lightship which had been an important mark on the trans Atlantic record course.
Ambrose Lightship
If it is not the shopping, then museums rank highly on the attractions of New York. They are numerous, loaded with interesting stuff and are often free. Riding through the Great Lakes I had started to realise that the First Nation people would have been able to have had a pretty good life travelling extenively by canoes across the lakes and along the rivers. The teepees were excellent structures that they could have moved easily, to cater for changing seasons. The American Indian Museum gave a good insight into the various cultures that existed on the North American continent prior to European settlement.

The Museum of Modern Art was worth a visit and its influence on the MOMA in Hobart was clear to see. Wow we are lucky to have that.

New York was interesting and I think I could make a little nitch for myself there, but I was keen to get home to Hobart. I am drawn away by adventures but always return to Hobart with a sense of coming home to a place that I relate to and that I really value.

Last night was my first night home and I awoke to the wind roaring through the tree tops. Going outside I was greeted by a clear starry night and a possum that stretched out his hand to meet my first (clenched realising that the possoms bite is greater than their bark) Ah Great to be home!
Eventually my time ran out and

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New York! New York!

The day of the last post the chain had started jumping when I applied even the mildest of pressure so I looked up the bicycle shop in Albany and paid them a visit. We took a closer look and were suprised that the chain had only started jumping as there wasnt much of the gear teeth left especially on the middle ring. I wasnt at all suprised and had been planning to replace the gears and chain when I got home so now the question was whether we could fix it there and then. The good news, after much rooting around the workshop was a definite yes and in quick time the bike was ready to go again. I rolled out of Albany just before lunch with the Trucker feeling more like a Ferrari with a new cassette, rings and chain.

Highway 9, a relative back road to New York, split into options east and west of the Hudson River which I would now follow all the way into town. I opted for the east side on advice that there was more history there and my own deduction that it may be a little flatter more importantly. It wasn't long before the rain set it but the riding was easy and took me through a very leafy forested part of the world dotted with old houses and was decidedly undeveloped.
The Never Ending Garage Sale
I have been noticing alot of garage and barn sales along the way as people try to get rid of stuff that they have accululated and dont use. I dont know whether it is a sign of tough financial times or just then need to make way for more stuff from Wal-Mart. When I passed this house I began to think that the garage sale has been around for a while. I have this image of an old lady who died in the house before she was able to sell the goods. There is still crockery laid out on the table and furniture being over grown by the grass.

Bear Mountain Bridge - just outside New York

This was the theme right down the Hudson River and even when within 40km of Manhatten Island it was a picture of lush forests wherever I looked. The last night before arriving in New York I was camped in a forest where the only sound was birds. This took a sharp transition at Yonkers to a cityscape but somehow I seemed to miss the in between suburban strip malls and blandness.

I clung to Highway 9 with determination as it transitioned into Broadway which took me right into New York City. The traffic was chaotic with people double parking but this seemed to be a good thing for me. It settled the traffic speed down and all those double parked vehicles made a sheltered bicycle lane.
Times Square

My geography of NYC is not strong so I was a little suprised when I ended up in Time Square surrounded by huge screens, ticket hawkers, performers and watchers. I absorbed it all for a while and then pushed on down the peninsula to the Bowery where I had secured some lodgings online.

I never prebook accomodation but about a week before arriving in New York I thought I should line something up. I went online and trawled through the options filling in reservation forms which fielded consistent "Not Available" responses. Then suddenly I found a hotel in an interesting part of town close to lots of interesting stuff that not only could accomodate me but was really quite cheap.

Knowing that it was probably to good to be true I prepared myself for a run down building with flaking paint, dodgy plumbing and a bathroom down the corridor. On arrival I checked in and the rate was actually reduced which was great so I wheeled the bike to the stairwell and wrestled it up to the third floor. The good thing about a third floor in America is that it is really only on what I am used to being the second floor. Good news as carrying the fully loaded bike up the stairs was hard graft. (unloading the panniers and ferrying gear just plain boring). I found my room and it all fell into place. The room was clean and just long enough for the bed and about as wide as one and half beds. It was closer to a cupboard really and then I realised that it wasnt much smaller than home. It was the hotel version of micro-housing. It is micro-hotelling!

It is my first day in New York and I have secured a good box for the bike and managed to pack it in. I have a list of things to do here and the next four days should be fun. I have really enjoyed the journey and look forward to reflecting on it over the next week. In the words of Forest Gump "I am tired and want to go home now". Thankls for taking an interest and following the journey.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Crossing over to the lower 48

Riding out of Toronto in ever increasing rain past the enormous McVities Choc Chip Cookie factory had me wondering whether another day in Toronto might have been a good idea. I really enjoyed my couple of days there but the map indicated that there was plenty to be had just down the road.

Starting off on beautiful bicycle paths in Toronto the first day ended on a major highway where bicycles were prohibited. The rain cleared in the afternoon and all in all it was a mixed bag. I found a campground in the afternoon and prepared for the next days ride which would take me to Niagra Falls. A tailwind helped me along and by lunch I reached the glittering Las Vegas style shopping strip of Niagra Falls. If there was ever to be a Canadian Hangover film it would be set in Niagra Falls. The falls themselves were immune from all this and roared away like nothing I have ever seen. The volume of water pouring over the edge and atomising into cloads of mist was truly amazing and all the tourists and glitter could not detract from this natural marvel.

Niagra Falls

Niagra Falls - see the boat!
I chatted with some touring cyclists and then headed off to cross the border. As I was about to head over the bridge I stopped at a pedestrian crossing and the French cyclist who I first met on the prairie popped up. He was without any gear and out on a day ride from Toronto. We exchanged notes, bid farewell and I headed over the bridge to enter the lower 48 states of America. The state in particular was New York state which made me feel like I had almost made it.

US Border Crossing
The USA didn't go in for tourist information centres, that give out free maps like Canada, so I bought a map and started cooking up a plan to get across the final miles. Firstly I headed down the shores of Lake Eirie to the city of Buffalo just because it was such a nice ride along the waters edge. Reaching Buffalo at the end of the day I was keen to set up camp but instead I found myself in an edgy town with no obvious camping options. I have since found that 26% of the people of Buffalo live below the poverty line. I saw a road heading east with purpose and followed it. Eventually the city fell away and I pulled up for a rest.

Heading off the next day the westerly was still strong and it drove me on across the flat Niagra Plateau. I had been advised to avoid heading directly to New York City which was a very hilly route and instead head east to the Hudson River and then follow it down to the coast. New York state proved to be a real mixed bag that changed quickly from the poverty of Buffalo to orchards, vineyards, rural farm land and busy little weekend holiday spots. I never knew what to expect of towns noted on the map and was often suprised at what they amounted to and sometimes they didnt seem to exist at all.

The Canadians are pasionate flag wavers and the same can be said of those in New York. American flags are displayed from many houses and sometimes they seem to be flown wherever the opportunity exists. Nationalist ferver is strong and this has been extended to the concept of "Supporting the Troops". Support the Troops signs in front gardens and stickers on cars reflect this patriotism that makes it hard for people to question involvement in these wars even when they are found to have been launched on the basis of fabricated intelligence and to have had no justification. Questioning the war is plain unpatriotic and for an American that is one of the biggest slurs.
Rifle Case - essential acessorie for your ATV
The gun culture is alive and thriving with gun shops and Rod& Gun Clubs to be seen regularly along the road. This ATV caught my eye with its rifle case.

Inn at Cazenovia
One evening I rode into a beautiful town called Cazenovia set on a finger lake. It was a town that had resisted the strip mall franchises and retained its character. This was paying dividends for it now as people flocked there on the weekends from nearby Rochester. I loved this town and splashed out on a room at this Inn which cooked up a mean New York Strip Steak. It was so nice to sink into that bed full to the brim.

Route 20 Diner
Heading east from Cazenovia along Route 20 it was about second breakfast time when I reached a small town hosting an antiques fair. It was the first day of a week long event so some stall holders were just setting up but there was some real treasures there. I still wonder whether I should have got the old pair of snow shoes for $25 and lashed them to the back of the bike.

Amish folk stopping at the ice creamery for sundaes
Cazenovuia had also marked the end of the flat ride and the start of a consistant up and down affair. The consequence of this was that progress slowed and I was even more willing to stop at any opportunity. At one stop I pulled up near these Amish folk outside an Ice Cream Sundae shop. It was interesting to see how they had held onto some old ways such as not having electricity, not using internal combustion engines, using braces rather than belts and then adopting modern ways such as buying plastic toys and strollers. They could drive other peoples machinery for work and now allowed themselves telephones but the phone could not be in the house. Another buggy pulled up for ice creams too and they were all friendly people. Heading out of town I noticed that they waved to everyone and were well recieved. I liked their way and while I am not about to take up the Amish lifestyle I would prefer it to many options.
Camped out by a corn field

Fracking - No ones favourite neighbour
There is obviously a bit of a battle going on between residents of the Catskill region and Frackers not unlike many other parts of the world. As we become more desperate to secure energy resources to keep what many would argue as an unsustainable lifestyle afloat, there is sure to be increased tension. We need to work out how much energy we want and what we are prepared to forsake to have it. This sign was on the lawn of a house with two oversized SUVs. The oil companies are pouring considerable money into convincing Americans and Canadians that the oil sands projects in Alberta are clean and will provide energy security. Again they tap into that patriotism offering a "home grown" oil source so that they will not have to buy oil from the "enemy" (OPEC)

This afternoon under a darkening sky I reached Albany on the shore of the Hudson River. The chain has started jumping which is no suprise after about 9000km of use, so tomorrow I will seek out the local bike shop and see what we can do. I hope that the hills may be behind me and look forward to the last couple of days down to New York City.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pooh Bear

White River - The Home of Winnie the Pooh
The northern shore of Lake Superior was an up and down affair and the road rarely touched the coast. I struggled in the heat to make miles but on leaving Marathon I was pleasantly suprised to see the road flatten out as it headed inland. The rain set in but I had heard that a train departed White River every second day for Sudbury through the Chapleau Game Preserve.

White River turned out to be the home of Winnie the Pooh. Canadian soldiers had bought the cub from a trapper when they stopped at White River on the train to the coast in 1914. They took the bear to England as their mascot and when they were deployed into Europe they gave the bear to the London Zoo where the author found the bear and wrote the stories. It all started in little old White River that holds a Winnie the Pooh Festival every year to celebrate.

Plugging along I came across a deer by the road which pranced down the road about 100 metres before stopping. I then caught up and it would bolt off again. We repeated this again and again for nearly a kilometre. It was a magnificent fit healthy animal and quite a thrill to ride with.

Bud Car Train - Middle of Nowhere Stop
Luckily I persisted with the rain, as the "Bud Car" train left the following morning. It was a two car affair, one car for cargo such as bicycles, canoes and building materials for cabins while the second car had seating for passengers. The Bud Car's route took in a series of stops that serviced cabins and fishing spots unserviced by roads. People would hail down the train, it would stop seemingly in the middle of nowhere while all manner of gear was loaded and unloaded.
Boat Dock at one stop that services the cabins
The train was a great distraction from the road and a welcome break for the chafe that had started to strike from riding in the rain the day before. That afternoon the train pulled into the mining town of Sudbury. The train had placed me a little to the east of my intended path so the next day I headed west 65 km to the town of Espanola. Heading west didn't feel quite right given I was meant to be heading east but it was the absence of a shoulder on the road and the increased intensity of traffic that made me glad to pull off the main road onto the Manitoulin Peninsula. I picked up a box of peaches for just $2.59 in Espanola which I lashed to the rear pannier rack. The day was hot but I offset that by reaching over and picking out a juicy peach to quench the thirst as required.
Little Current Swinging Bridge
When I reached Little Current the swinging bridge was opening to let some yachts through. Sailing had never looked so good and I dreamt of setting sail again as I knocked off another peach.
First Nation Teepees - Manitoulin Peninsula
The next day, a morning of riding brought me to the end of the Manitoulin Peninsula where I ran into my French friend I had last seen out on the Prairies of Manitoba. We both caught the ferry after lunch and headed for Tubormay at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
Touring Cyclists mixing it with our roughty toughty biker brothers in the ferry hold
Riding off the ferry onto the Bruce Peninsula in the afternoon I could sense that things were getting a little more sophisticated with a better standard of pasteries but they were still served up on polystyrene platters. Didn't they get the memo? The next day I reached the base of the Bruce Peninsula and civilisation had returned for sure with expresso coffee, tasty food, book shops and no polystyrene. By this stage I was just a day and halfs riding from Toronto.
Alternate Transport - Quaker, Mennonite or forward thinking dude??
The approach down the Bruce Peninsula had meant that I missed alot of the traffic but there was no way to immunise myself from the traffic for the last 100km. The temperature was forecast to reach 30 degrees C but this morning there was mist that developed into light rain. It was like a gift to make the final ride into Toronto in comfortable temperature but without the rain developing to the point of making it too sketchy. Breaking through the middle ground of the surrounding suburbs and industrial parks I reached the bicycle lanes and cycleways that lead me comfortably into Toronto.
I got the big map out to get a handle on progress.
It feels great to be here and almost surreal that New York is less than 500 miles down the road. I am getting tired and it will be great to reach New York but it is hard to believe.  People ask me where I have come from and when I tell them Anchorage there is this stunned response, which is getting uncomfortable. I am starting to be super careful like it is tempting fate to reach the coast. Then as I worry about my fate I see on BBC World News that a polar bear attacked an expedition in the Arctic. One person killed and another, Spike Reid, who I met at the Royal Geographical Society in 2008, injured after shooting the bear. At least there are no polar bears on the road to New York.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Goodbye Prairie, Hello Lakes

Centre of Canada - French and English of course.
Heading out of Brandon for the last time was without a hint of regret. Despite having found some lovely spots I felt generally underwhelmed by Manitoba. I headed east on a mission to find something new and so skipped through Portage au Prairie and Winnipeg only to be pleasantly suprised, on the verge of crossing the border, by a place called Falcon Lake. It was a small village on the shores of a granite fringed lake surrounded by forest. Falcon Lake marked the end of the prairie and it wasnt much further east that I crossed the border into Ontario. Ontario was a whole new ball game with forests, hills and even curves in the roads.
Paul in his crazy machine!!
It wasn't long after crossing the border that I spied a bike, no a contraption, coming the other way. It was like a bike but had the proportions of a car. I had passed it by the time I took it all in and circled back and caught up with an Englishman by the name of Paul. He had built the machine and started from the east end of Canada a couple of months ago heading west. A crazy and inspiring adventure. Check him out on http://www.going-solo.co.uk/.

View from the Dryden supermarket - The ash from the chimneys covered the tables people eat from.
 One morning I made it to a small town called Dryden where I resupplied at the local supermarket. The whole town had this pungent rotting chemical smell that originated from the pulp mill located almost in the centre of the town. I couldnt help but cringe at the thought of a pulp mill going in in the Tamar Valley. What health issues were there in Dryden and who would want to live with the smell even if it turned out to be benign?

Ian at the Time Zone - Fifth and Final Timezone for me
Heading on from Dryden that afternoon I ran across another touring cyclist by the name of Ian and we began riding together. It was great to have some company on the road especially for the section through to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior. These were miles to be covered not savored. Ian is an interesting guy and had bought his bicycle at a garage sale for ten dollars before refitting it himself for his ride across Canada.

Ian came up with the idea of getting the trains to honk their horns for us which was great fun. A connection between two otherwise insulated worlds. Another distraction was the time zone transition. It was satisfyinmg to look at the map and see all the time zones I had passed through and realise that this was my fifth and final time zone. I was now on New York time!

Arctic Watershed
Another good distraction and excuse for a break was the Arctic watershed marking the point where waters either ran north into the Arctic or east to the Atlantic. It made me think back to the creek that split in two near Lake Louise in the Rocky Mountains.

Well after many more breaks, for no reason more than the need to break, Ian and I made it into Thunder Bay on the shore of Lake Superior, on the last of our energy as the sun set on Saturday night. Ian had a warm shower arranged and I found a hotel to shower and sleep the sleep of the dead.

Terry Fox Memorial
Heading out the next day I stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial overlooking the lake. Terry Fox had lost his leg to cancer at the age of 18. He then set off to run across Canada raising awareness and money for cancer research. Unfortunately near Thunder Bay had to abandon his quest as cancer overtook him. His story of tenacity gripped the nation and the charity run by his mother after his death continues to raise money for cancer.


Cycling around the top of Lake Superior was not the lakeside stroll that I had envisioned. The road went up and down like a yoyo and the temperature hovered around the 30 mark. In the end I struggled all day and made just 130km but ended at what was perhaps my best campsite. Alongside a river I cooked diner, washed myself and after only a few pages of the book fell asleep for a beautiful sleep. Waking this morning a hare poked its face against the flyscreen of the tent and got a bit of a fright when it saw me. A late start this morning but I am persisting and making a few meager miles. I saw a few touring cyclists heading west but they were all at a standstill and was pleasantly suprised when Ian turned up again as I was taking a break on the shore of the lake. I hope for a cold front to chill down the temperature and blow me along the road but in the meantime I am slowly covering miles that need to be covered.

Schrieber Real Estate on Lake Superior
If you are horrified by house prices at the moment you might be heartened to know that a house on Lake Superior can be purchased for just $18900. Tell him he's dreamin!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Going Bush

I started to feel comfortable with my mile covering capacity and this week opted for a diversion to the Mount Riding National Park about 100km north of the path. It offered the chance to see a wild herd of Bison but best of all some trees that are almost non existent on the prairie.
Flood Levy in Brandon
Heading out of Brandon the levy walls were still in place along the road  after the recent floods. The people of Brandon had known since the record snow falls to the north last winter that there would be a flood and had prepared well. A different story to the floods in Australia that always seem to take us by suprise.
I bypassed Justice but know where it is if I ever need it.

A storm cuaght up with me almost as soon as I had left the edge of town and buffeted me with wind and torrents of rain. I couldnt help but think of Chay Blythe's encouraging words about the Southern Ocean, "Its only wind and water". He was right and within an hour it had died down. The road north was a narrow two lane road of broken bitumen and I was glad i wouldnt be on it long.

I reached the town of Erickson after just 95km but with the wind on the nose and a belief in tomorrow I settled into this small Viking community. The Trans Canada Trail popped its head up in Erikson too and I used it the following day for an hour or so to get out of town.
Wasagaming on Clear Lake
The national park turned up with its forest of trees by mid morning and just inside its boundary was the Banff style village of Wasagaming. It didnt have the hotel towers or the bus loads of tourists, just the leafy streets of cabins set along the lake shore. A small store was selling freshly baked cinnamon buns and I asked for one. The baker lifted the still warm bun off the rack onto a polystyrene tray and then proceeded to cling wrap it in plastic. In a few moments he had taken a fresh bun wafting cinnamon to a piece of plastic wrap but I had committed to the purchase by then and so dutifully handed over the cash. This happened later in the week when I returned to Wasagaming at another bakery but I was prepared and had to explain how this practice of polystyrene cling wrapping was not in line with the values of the product and damaging its credibility. The baker seemed understanding but I wonder how long before the practice changes.
Whirlpool Lake
The next stop was Whirlpool Lake and over the week I wandered slowly around the park from one campsite to another. Some days doing as little as 17km. The storm had brought a cool change to the air and the wind while it lasted kept the mosquitos at bay.
Log Cabin at Wasagaming with a warm fire and mantelpiece stacked with books.
Returning to Wasagaming at the end of my park tour there was a cold wind blowing from the north so I luckily found a log cabin with a fire burning in the hearth coutesy of Parks Canada. A row of books sat on the mantle piece and I enjoyed an afternoon of reading in front of the fire. This was the pace of the week and while I never saw those bison I did see a Racoon loping through the grass, a deer, more squirells and a garter snake (first snake i had seen in North America) I heard that a lynx had been seen on the track an hour after I passed so just missed out on that.

Downloading emails in Wasagaming I learnt that the Australian Government was taking action to take David Hick's profits on his book which just appauled me. I have been asked what I thought about when I was cycling and I have to say that since Friday my mind has been a tumble dryer of thoughts over this matter. If you are interested and would like to get involved go to http://www.thejusticecampaign.org/

The week ahead looks like a return to the old mile busting form and a transition from prairie to lakes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Good Stuff!!

Shadows on the prairie.
I am ever conscious of all the good stuff going on at home and around the world as I bimble across North America, reminded by the connectivity of the electronic world. There are emails about bushcare working bees, policy review questionaires, peak oil lectures, Getup petitions and the peaceful protests of the "Save the Kimberley" and "Pulp the Mill" Campaigns but two things hit me hard as I gulped down big glasses of iced coffee in Regina after a 200km day across the prairies.

The first was yet another amazing example of philanthropy by Jan Cameron, the founder of Kathmandu and Graeme Wood, the creator of Wotif. Together they purchased from Gunns the Woodchip Mill at Triabunna on the east coast of Tasmania with plans to turn it into a tourist operation in the long term. Unlike offers from logging companies it does not seem to have been achieved with any government support and the ten million dollar price tag it seems came out of Jan and Graeme's own selfless pockets. Thankyou both.

The second is the exposure by the Gaurdian newspaper of the corruption and pressure that Rupert Murdoch has applied to politics in the UK. This has the potential to turn the tide on the media monopoly that his media empire has developed and has encouraged Avaaz.org to take up the campaign to extend this exposure globally. This will be a very interesting campaign to watch.

Regina itself is a great town set around a lake with cool leafy streets which is just what you want on a hot day. Heading out the next day the sun was strong and the sky clear. I hoped for a thunderstorm to develop to no avail and ended up surrendering to the Sweet Dreams Motel.

The next day was much the same and I took breaks where the opportunities presented themselves. One such opportunity was a detour into a small rural town for supplies. The streets were almost deserted but a lady appeared across the street and approached me outside the general store. She asked me where I was heading and I replied New York. She thought about it and then confessed she had not heard of this place and asked whether it was in Quebec. I replied that it was just a bit to the south of Quebec. She was off to a wedding later that day and I wondered how many people didnt know where New York was. I also wondered whether my life might be simpler if I had never heard of it too.
The town where New York doesnt matter.
Not long after lunch I stopped in Fleming near the border between Sasketchikan and Manitoba where I found a few shady trees for a banana break. Settling into my break I noticed another bicycle with panniers just down the road. Wandering over to say hello I found its rider asleep on the grass and that made me adopt a new strategy for the hot days. I took a siesta until three oclock in the afternoon when the heat felt like abating and then rode until it got dark. This also got round the fact that if you pitch the tent at five it gets so hot as to be uninhabitable anyway. This was a watershed moment and I enjoyed a beautiful ride as the temperature dropped and the sun sank in the sky, making the light so much softer on the landscape. It was nine oclock as it got dark and I stopped, having scored a 215km day. This strategy was looking good.
A shady spot for a siesta
The sleeping rider who provided the catalyst for this plan had riden off by the time I woke but I saw her ride past me that afternoon as I took an ice cream break. She had a milk crate lashed to her back racks, appeared to ride in jeans which seemed an odd choice and wore a light flowing blouse. Clearly an interesting person and a striking figure on the prairie.
Sunset on the way into Brandon
In addition I have made another guideline and that is if I get a 200km day then I earn a rest day. I can really take a rest day anyday but I like the work / reward scenario.

Go to xpdnews.com for some great adventure blogs.