J’aime Canada!

It is done. Whatever thoughts or dreams I had before the trip of how it would end have all been merged together with the reality that the journey is over but what a journey it was! In unpoetic terms it was damn hard, maybe the hardest thing I have ever done, although reading some old posts from Tibet seem to be the contrary to that statement(www.jeffglen.ca/jeffbikeschina). I had many moments of doubt along the way but nothing bit me harder than Northern Ontario. I was mentally done at that point but only half way across the country which segue-ways nicely into support I received.

Support is the heart of all great accomplishments!
I always say never underestimate the will power of an individual but I have learned to never underestimate the kindness of complete strangers. There were also a few old freinds along the way who took care of me. There are literally too many to mention but I must note a few which anyone following would have read about:

  • Nancy in Grand Forks BC gave me the keys to her place while she was at work. She had dinner waiting for me and later we had a great conversation.
  • David in Cranbrook saw me standing outside the winter homeless shelter (I wasn’t aware of that though) and invited me over for dinner and allowed me to camp out in his back yard. We shared his last beer!
  • My good friend Cassie’s brother Derek Leung (fellow Ironman) and Ashley Herrera put me up in Calgary. Ashley’s father Doug sponsored my flight home through his employer WestJet.
  • The Lawrence’s who I camped with by chance in Dinosaur park. They were so friendly and wouldn’t stop feeding me. I felt like their long lost nephew!
  • The Irvine’s in Lorrette near Winnipeg (George, Roberta, Reva and Harley) gave me a home base halfway across the country. They were so accommodating it was crazy! They also set me up to stay with their neighbors the Mann’s who had a cabin at the Lake of the woods.
  • The Mann’s at Lake of the woods (Craig, Willa, Kelsey, and Craig’s mom) were of the same kin as the Irvine’s and let me just chill out and do what I wanted. Their cottage is incredibly beautiful and I was so fortunate with the timing to be able to go there.
  • The Moorey’s Andrew and Nicole in Thunder Bay. Andrew runs Global Hydration with his brother which creates big and small water solutions for local and foreign projects such as in Haiti. Andrew gave me the grand tour of the town including the Terry Fox memorial which was quite moving for me.
  • The Evans crew at Kama Point Lake Superior (John & Yvonne, Tom and Margie) put me up in a very special place to help me forgot about the trials of North Ontario. They made sure I was well fed and hydrated before leaving.
  • The Prices in Sudbury are my actual relatives though I didn’t know them before the trip. Gwen deserves a lot of credit for organizing it all. Janice who I never met but put me up in her home I can’t thank enough. Grandpa Clayton Price (was married to my Grandma’s sister May which is the connection) made me meals. Gwen’s husband Rick was a big help and the day out at the river with Barrie and wife Diana was great where I also met Alan Price, his daughter and who could forget to mention Jahlyn and Austin!
  • The Shearer’s in Scarborough (Ian, Jen, Will and Jack) put me up for an extended period. Ian is an old friend for over 20 years and is a really down to earth great guy. Jen had to go to the Caymen – booo Jen!!!! But she deserved it really :)
  • Another friend in Toronto Bill Penton put me up but he is a poofter. More on that later!
  • The Reithmachers Craig and Carol put me up at another incredible Ontario lake, Big Cedar lake near Peterborough. I have known Craig for a number of years and felt right at home. I draw a lot of parallels between the cottage experience with my family and his. Craig’s father built the cabin years ago and they had captured that in a picture book. Tom and Shanon Hart were also up there and the group had a couple of awesome feasts up at the lake.
  • The Hamer’s (Colin and Misha) in Kanata which is near Ottawa were great hosts who put me up for a few days while I explored the capitol. They fed me like crazy and made sure I had cold beer at the ready!
  • My cousin Francois and his girlfriend Maria in Montreal put me up for a few days. It was good to see family and especially him since it had been a few years since we last saw each other. He’s all grown up now and I am proud of him for making a life for himself out on his own on the other side of the country.
  • The Tracy’s who were all related to my friend Ken. His sister Mylene in Trois Rivieres put me up along with his parents Jean-Claude and Marie Tracy in Saint Anselme which is about 18 kilometers from Levi which is directly across from Quebec City. What a playful family always making jokes with each other and about each other. We had some good laughs there!
  • Dan Anderson’s father Don Aikens and his wife Sheila put me up in Belledune New Brunswick. Dan’s family was there too and it made for a good couple of days to recharge my batteries. I was near one of those breaking points mentally and I really needed to see a familar face which I did. I had my first lobster and really got a great introduction to the Maritimes!
  • The Goddards in Charelottetown Tim, Sally and their daughter Kate whom I had rode with around parts of Lake Superior gave me a taste of PEI, a tiny island full of Canadian history. I had my second lobster dinner and lots of good discussion and debate about a number of topics along with a good laugh or two.
  • Not far from Charelottetown was Pictou Nova Scotia where the Brown’s Phil and Heather who took care of me and showed me the little town. Another relaxing place though a short stay. I was lucky enough to hear the singing of Amanda Hill! I had promised to come visit on my way back but I didn’t make it which means I will come another time!
  • I was put up St. Phillips/Portugal Cove about 15 kilometers out of St. Johns by Sue – sorry I can’t seem to find your last name – ugh! She wasn’t there but her daughter Jen and son Chris were who picked my limp body from the St. John’s harbour (Jen filmed it) and took me back to a palace of a home with a view of the ocean. They made sure I felt at home and had some Screech among other things!
  • As mentioned earlier Bill from Toronto helped out but really he is not a poofter and may have delivered one of the most unique and fun experiences of the entire trip. About 90 kilometers North East of Gander on the Atlantic ocean is Fogo Island. Both of Bill’s parents grew up there (Penton and Lynch families) and because of that I had a down home Newfie experience including cooked crab legs from a fire pit situated on the rocky shore of the ocean and Jig’s dinner. The island was beautiful and full of history while the family get-togethers resembled the Glen Christmas dinner.
  • And who could forget my final host Karl Lange who put me up in Halifax and took me out to see a Newfie band! Karl and I had endless conversations about you name it and I felt like a most welcome guest. I even gave him my recipe for butternut squash soup which is saying something!
  • Beyond that is my network of support right here at home
    My direct family of course sisters Sherry and Michele and my Mom Carol really worried about me the whole time. We were on the phone the whole way across – the one thing Bell did right was the Fab 10 – so I could call them anytime but I still hate Bell! My dad though he was concerned, was simply proud of his boy and kept me in the loop with e-mail. I am really the spitting image of him. My brother in laws Brent and Brett are like my older brothers and not just because they are older :) My grandma Weeks who was kept in the loop through my dad, she’s 94! The notorious Glen’s – Uncle Dave & Auntie Donna, cousins Andrea and Karen their husbands and daughters (thanks for making me lunch on my second ride Marissa!), the crazy Peacocks – Uncle Dan & Auntie Lori, cousins Trevor, Jordon and Katy, the Williams Dereck & Dorothy, cousins Gavin and Matthew who really make up such a wonderful family even though I was chastised for forgetting the plum pudding last Christmas, I mean who eats that stuff anyway!!!!

    Most of family above came out to my send off down at Jericho beach along with my cuz Jeanne Miller and the Skosiniks Joan and Jeff (daughters Laura and Katy who weren’t there sent their support through donations) who have have also followed the trip very closely and sent supporting message and e-mail along the way. That was a great send off and Lucy Chi captured some video of that which I am looking to repost soon.

    Besides family I wanted to mention a few friends

  • Chris “Bubba” Evans my old friend, former drummer of the greatest band that never made it and wrestling fodder to me. Huge morale support and the biggest donor.
  • Cassie Leung who is in some circles known as my “partner in crime” though some would agrue Mark Potter really is if I could only keep up with him. Cassie is not only a friend but she created all the logos, cards and was a sound board for my ideas. She had many great suggestions that I had never even thought of which helped me pull it all together before I left.
  • Michelle Sz who kept me grounded out there and reminded how lucky I was to be cycling across the country, something many people would never have the time or money to do. She is off on her own journey into the heart of India and I miss her dearly. I would recommend her blog to anyone who wants to learn about life in India. Click right here!
  • Colin “Koho” Morrison who couldn’t take me leaving and had to move to Fort Mac to feel better. Don’t stay up there too long brother, you might get frostbite on the Koho!
  • Scott and Anna who put up with my crap in ye ole scruffy house. They have always been supportive and enthusiastic about this endeavor.
  • Simone a relatively new friend and great supporter. I think she was more excited about the trip than me. She also made sure I got some good gear to keep me dry on the really nasty days out there.
  • Lucy Chi aka “little Chi” had so many questions and was second only to Simone in excitment around the trip.
  • Gail Blinkhorn who is a close family friend who followed the blog religiously. She definitely holds the record for number of most supportive e-mails!
  • Vivian Chi, my former fiancee but still my friend. There is a lot I have accomplished that led to this point because of her unwavering support.

  • The trials and tribulations of your friend!
    Well it wouldn’t be an adventure without some great days and some really shitty ones.Thankfully there were way more great days but without further adieu the crappy ones.

    It does rain a lot in parts of BC but I had the brunt of it leaving Vancouver and it didn’t seem to stop for their entire ride through BC. Combined with the mountains it made for tough riding. Riding out of hope was especially hard since I wasn’t quite in shape yet and it never seemed to level out much, it just kept going up, up and up to coin Berril Perks comments. I remember having no gas and trying to make it to some camp ground with drinkable water in Manning park. I was tired cold and frustrated by the time I pulled into the Manning Park Lodge but to my surprise there were two other cyclists there riding for MS. A third member was on his way home after crashing on the downhill near the lodge and the other two were heading across Canada just like me. I swear I saw only one of them ride by in Charlottetown and I heard of one reaching Bulls Bay in Newfoundland near St. John’s but who knows if they were all the same guys.

    The first night I camped is a classic in some circles. My tent was missing the water cover, the stove wouldn’t work and the only food not requiring cooking was power bars and ciders. So I cut up a plastic bags and tapped them to the outside of the tent while I drank 4 strongbow and ate two power bars. I then proceeded to freeze my ass off even though I wore two layers of clothing.

    The Castlegar to Creston ride stands out as one of the hardest physical rides of the journey. There was really no wind just two huge climbs with varying grades up to 8%. It was like riding up Cypress Mtn. twice in the same day with a lot of kilometers in between
    Check out the elevation gains and grades, there is an 18km 5.6% average grade in there!

    This was a hellish ride that broke me in the last few kilometers before the second summit.

    There were other mountains but too many to mention so the next real challenge was the prairie winds. And let me state one thing for the record: the prairies are not flat! But beyond the undulation of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba is the winds. When they go your way it is euphoric but it is down right nasty when their not and unlike the past the winds did not typically go West to East which meant I rode into a wind most days. The day the wind really put me into a mental arm bar was leaving Medicine Hat. I had even met a nice lady who suggested that I not ride that day and if I changed my mind part way out she could send her husband out to get me. Unfortunately when my mind is set on something I have my blinders on. I went out into the gusting wind which would not allow me to get over 15 kilometers an hour even on flat terrain. I think I made about 60 kilometers that day and had quite a few meltdowns with me swearing at the wind! There was always a silver lining though. When a big storm came the wind usually switched direction and probably one of the most epic rides for me ever was riding into Regina where I covered 195 kilometers in 6.5 hours. Literally when I hopped on the bike there was an invisible hand that pushed me up to 20 kilometers an hour before I even started to pedal. I remember holding 46 kilometers an hour for around 5 minutes straight.

    Riding 60 kilometers East of Winnipeg was an incredible emotional roller coaster of emotions. The shoulder on the Trans Canada highway gave way to a rumble strip and deep loose gravel which meant I had to ride on actual highway with the big rigs and cars zooming by. I have been on highways in China, Tibet and India but this was scarier. That being said the drivers of the big rigs were more than accommodating to little me, see the Truckers of Canada for more. Here’s where the contradiction of emotions came: the Whiteshell Provincial Park which borders Ontario is beautiful with Pine, I think Spruce interspersed with birch lining the highway. Finally seeing evergreen trees again brought me back home to British Columbia but I couldn’t full enjoy it with the danger of the highway. That day ended with a stop on the Lake Of the Woods where I stayed with the Mann’s on their lake cottage. It reminded me of my families own cabin at Sakinaw Lake North of Sechelt.

    The beauty of the Lake of the Woods was short lived though. After Kenora it gets pretty ugly with stunted Black Spruce and swampy lakes for hundreds of kilometers. This is one of the parts that drained me mentally, it is hard riding my folks and 38 degree heat didn’t help much. Eventually the beauty came back at Lake Superior but the riding became very difficult. I had always joked about the “mountains of Ontario” well it turns out the joke was on me. Though short they are very steep with very few switchbacks and they are constant with rarely a flat section. You were climbing or descending most of the day in the hot sun. I was fortunate enough to meet Kate and Robyn who were riding from Calgary to Ottawa to complete the third leg of their Canadian bike tours. They really helped me more than they know and eventually I stayed with Kate’s parents in Charlottetown which was also a highlight.

    Though tired from Ontario cycling, Quebec was a dream for me and cyclists in general. There is definitely a bike culture here and even certain highways are slated for cyclists. There are also many local cyclist doing shorter 3 – 5 day trips all along the St. Lawrence who I met and received encouragement from. Though there was some difficult riding there the scenery was also up to the challenge and I really enjoyed cycling from the Gaspe to New Brunswick.

    New Brunswick and PEI didn’t have too many hard days but they are such tiny provinces it was more of a blur to me. Plus I was in the Maritimes which is so friendly and beautiful. In addition the feeling of being in the oldest parts of Canada wasn’t lost on me. Finally reaching the Atlantic ocean was at first very anti-climatic but once I patted my self on the back a bit I realized what an accomplishment it was. I stayed with a good friend Dan Anderson and his family where I enjoyed some relaxation and my first lobster! From there the red earth of PEI and the government house really re-energized along with a good break in Charlottetown with the Goddard’s.

    Nova Scotia really connected me to my Scottish roots. There was some hard riding in them hills but there was some spectacular beauty as well. The Cabot trail winds along the coastline snaking up and down the mountainsides then disappears into the clouds. It was hard cycling especially on North Mountain which had 13% grade for 4 kilometers. I was out to prove something that day and refused to stop and cranked out the gear over the top. No matter how weary, dehydrated and physically tired you get, there is always a monster lurking deep down inside you that comes out when faced with such a challenge. I sweated gallons and left a part of me along that climb but the time was right to bring out some of the anger and frustration from previous hardships. Of course I don’t have much anger to really draw on, no my monster is really an overwhelming determination that boils up deep inside of me.

    Newfoundland was the final trial with rugged beauty, sparse civilization and hard riding. There are winds in all directions and ocean currents circling the massive island that never cease. What kept me going was the friendliness of the Newfoundlanders and a desire to finish no matter the cost. People have been here for centuries but all of the settlements are on the coastlines away from the highway which was built only in the last century. Not unlike Northern Ontario the hills were constant and the feeling of remoteness made it difficult. I put in some huge days back to back to back and was running on empty for this last 1000 kilometers of riding. The last 20 kilometers into Saint John’s was another story however. I got some tailwind and made my way back down to sea level. There were shouts of joy, childlike excitement and a little melancholy especially the final descent into the city where I could see the boats in the harbour. I couldn’t believe it, I had done it!

    The Truckers of Canada
    Without a doubt the truckers of Canada made an incredible effort to give me what space they could even venturing into oncoming traffic when there was only a single lane. After passing me their trailer would sway from side to side as they tried to straighten out their load as they rambled down the highway. There is no doubt in my mind that many put themselves in jeopardy on my behalf. When there were two lanes heading my direction they would get in the left lane since driving close to me would create a vacuum and drag me into traffic. I really can’t say enough, seriously 99% of them made an effort to make the highways safe for me and all traffic and I don’t think they get enough credit for the excellent skills they have and the long, long hours they put in just to make a living.

    “We’re not so different you and I” – Doctor Evil
    The real Canada, not the one the politicians envision or speak of, is strong and full of character. The supposed bickering we hear is drummed up by political parties hoping to divide us in order to secure a enough votes for a majority of the seats in Parliament. I am not merely picking on the current government either, typically more people vote for other parties than the party that forms government yet they act like they have some sort of mandate from the people.
    Elections Canada results 2011
    Conservative Party of Canada (government): 5.835,270
    All other parties combined: 8,888,710
    In reality there are always “have not” provinces which become political fodder in this divisiveness. However one time “have” provinces can quickly become “have not” as resources and industries blossom or die in the Canadian landscape making them the goat of transfer payments.

    But we Canadians are fair people who survive all sorts of challenges coast to coast. We have the same Canadian values: we work hard, expect a decent wage and want to raise our families in a fair society. The generosity of Canadians in every province is infectious and heart warming too. People who have nothing still give what they can especially when they heard I was raising money for Haiti. Canadians are quietly proud and show great humility compared with other nations who boast of their greatness. Opposite of how the media and politicians portray immigrants as people taking advantage of the system new immigrants actually feel fortunate to be Canadians and love their new country. I am a proud Canadian!

    Sea to shining sea
    I was born and raised in British Columbia and feel fortunate to live in such a beautiful province but I never knew the beauty of the rest of Canada. Some people laugh when I comment how beautiful the pairies are but anyone who saw pictures from this blog know that the rolling green landscape, the fields of Rape seed, lavender and wheat underneath the beautiful blue sky. The rivers that wind through the ravines and the many lakes that dot the countryside are worth the visit. Ontario might have been the biggest surprise: Lake of the Woods was my favourite followed by Big Cedar lake but the Great lakes which I expected to be ugly and dirty were serene, light aqua blue and endless. So much so one would think they are on the ocean and not lake Superior. Quebec was where the trees started getting large again and St. Lawrence seaway followed by Gaspe are spectacular for scenery and sea life. New Brunswick is rugged and hilly at first with thick forested areas but the coastline has a calming effect to those who take the time to watch. The red earth of PEI is almost the colour of the dirt in Hawaii. The farms here are enclosed by forests in the rolling hills above the red sandy beaches. Nova Scotia gets a little rugged with waves smashing the coastline in all directions. Some shorelines are rugged boulders like on the Cabot trail but the South shores near Peggy’s Cove are smooth granite scraped by the last ice age. The tides are the largest in the world and there is an incredible array of sea life including the largest known creature to ever exist, the blue whale. Finally there is Newfoundland appropriately name “the Rock”! It is pure rugged beauty from rocky shorelines to mountains soaring off the ocean. There are many bird islands where the Puffin reins supreme, except when they have eaten too much fish and can’t seem to take flight flapping madly against the ocean (had to mention that one last time). The island is thrashed with weather and ocean year round making the deep coves all the more important for protection.

    What’s next?
    Good question. I am still the same person now as when I started but I know I need to do more in life. The reasons I made the trip are also the things I need to incorporate into my life now: connecting with people, doing something with a purpose, making the world a better place. What I have learned is I have a powerful and generous network of friends who can help me do that. Besides, I am all about exploitation of the ones around me. I have this investment idea, don’t worry you just pay me once and then you get five friends to pay you what you paid me. It’s really a foolproof plan.

    All kidding aside learned I can inspire people in small ways. This has the most meaning for me. To know that my actions may have somehow spurred someone else to do something is deeply rewarding. I can’t think of a better way to know if I did the right thing. Whether it is the people of Haiti or your next door neighbour we can make a difference in peoples lives and they in turn can do the same. A pyramid turned upside-down if you will. Rather than many benefiting one it is the community that benefits and grows from each other.

    Thank you everyone for your support and generosity I couldn’t have done it without you!

    Your friend,
    Jeff

    Oh yeah, here are the stats for those interested
    Vancouver to St. Johns: 8,451 kilometers in 89 days (65 ride days and 24 rest days)
    Total Distance: 9019 kilometers!
    Daily Average: 120.81
    Longest Day: 235 (Day 30 Regina to Moosomin)
    Shortest Day: 38 (Day 100 Havre Boucher to Antigonish (last day riding))
    Accommodation breakdown:
    – Friends – 51
    – Hotels – 31
    – Camping – 27
    Cycling distance breakdown for the entire 9,019 kilometers:
    – Days over 200km – 3
    – Days over 150km – 15
    – Days over 100km – 38
    – Days under 100km – 16
    – Days off – 28