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Sault Ste Marie

As Ontario hates me in many ways it chose to spite me as soon as I complained of the lack of internet and now provides it on a regular basis – typically when I’m in the middle of my day’s ride when I don’t want to stop, of course.

Still, it works to my advantage on days like today when I actually end in a city.  I’m now in Sault Ste Marie and camped out at the best bike shop in Canada – Vélorution.  Not only do they have the standard sets of high end equipment, but they also have a little biking trail on their grounds, a half pipe for BMX-ers and a campground dedicated to touring cyclists, plus their name makes me smile.

Cycling for 7-8 hours a day causes a lot of stress on your body as well as burning enormous amounts of calories, especially when you’re hauling some 25 kilograms or so behind you.  As a result, I’ve started paying much more attention to what I’m eating to maximize nutrition and caloric intake while minimizing volume and weight as much as possible.  This has lead to a lot of dietary experimenting, including many bar and beverage-form meals.  What follows is an open letter to the manufacturer of one such beverage:

To Jim McMahon, president and CEO of PVL Nutrients, or whichever of his secretaries on whom falls the unfortunate duty of reading his mail;

I am currently engaged in a trans-Canada bicycle ride, and as a consequence have put much effort into finding economical and effective means of carrying nutritious, low-volume meals, which led me to purchase a tub of your Veganique Complete Meal Replacement Powder (berry flavour.)  I regretted this purchase almost immediately since as far as I’m able to tell the only truthful portions of its lable are that it is both vegan (as far as once can tell from the ingredients list) and it is undisputably a powder.

The directions on the powder keg instruct one to mix the powder with water to produce a beverage, in which form one may supposedly ingest the stuff.  I cannot in good faith describe this mixture as a beverage – as far as I’m able to tell, Veganique is largely insoluble even in six times the suggested amount of water no matter whether one shakes or stirs it in, whether it’s mixed in slowly or dumped into the water all at once or whether the water it’s mixed with is hot or cold.  Regardless of method, it seems, the combination of your powder with water produces only a sludge with the texture of goat vomit and a corresponding green hue.

As for “Meal Replacement,” while your nutritional information certainly claims impressive values, these assume that the content of your powder can be absorbed by one’s digestive system.  As I’m not a chemist, I have no way of being certain, but I have observed that following the consumption of your ‘beverage’ my excrements are of the same consistency and colour noted above, leading me to believe that little of what was taken in actually remained with me.

Furthermore, I have a standing belief that meals should be palatable as well as nutritious, something which your product certainly is not.  Your claims of “berry flavour” only hold true if there is some berry I have yet to experience which has a flavour I imagine being akin to a piece of chalk found in the drainpipes of a sewage treatment plant.  I foolishly thought, based on my friends’ and my own vegetarian cooking, that ‘vegan’ was almost synonomous with ‘delicious’ – a fallacious mode of thought to be sure, but with the existance of such vegan health supplements as the ReBar, made by For Goodness Sakes, which is both delicious, vegan (if one ignores the traces of egg it may have come into contact with,) nutritious and organic.  Their ingredients list includes such oddities in what is essentially a seed-bar as bokchoy, beets and cauliflower, so I imagine a lot of thought and experimentation went into the recipie in order for it to taste as good as it does – you might consider following their example and doing either (preferably both) of those.  I can only assume that your Quality Assurance department, if indeed you have one, became so ill after ingesting Veganique that none of them were able to submit a proper report – if that is not the case, only gross negligence can explain the existance of your product on any store’s shelves.

In short, Veganique was so utterly repugnant to my every sense that I was forced to dispose of it as dead weight – I found that I would rather be hungry than consume it, and even my thrifty nature could not convince me to consume the stuff in an attempt to get some return on the money I spent on it.  I hope that when it is incinerated the result will be less vile to the environment than its current form is to any human being with functioning senses.  I understand that a refund is impossible now that I have nothing to return to you in exchange for it except this letter, but I would enjoy an apology for your having subjected me to such a miserable product.  There is no means through which one could sample it before purchasing, else I expect you would see very few sales.  Otherwise please do consider what you are producing in the future before any products begin shipping – it could well prevent such a miserable failure as Veganique.

Yours sincerly,

Paul Kohler.

The route so far.

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Terrace Bay

First off, please allow me to express my apologies for my neglect of the internet and this blog.  It isn’t entirely my fault though – Manitoba and northern Ontario are almost entirely uncivilized, or at least opposed to the idea of publicly available computers.  I also have to announce that it seems I’ll have to put the Maritimes on hold until next year – I’m a bit too short on cash to be able to comfortably do that leg of the trip and there’s been no news of my Employment Insurance cheques coming in, meaning I’ll have to work for my money, which would be a difficult task on the road.

I’ve got at least five fairly interesting posts composed in my head, but since it’s still early in the day I’m going to keep this as a short status update and post them all later (possibly not until after the trip itself is done…. not my first choice, but I was hoping to find places to update much more regularly than I actually have.)

Some people have asked about the photos – I’ve been taking plenty, much more in northern Ontario than most of the rest of the trip, party because I have trouble forcing myself to stop for anything (food, water, photography, etc.) and partly because there is such an abundance of natural beauty here that I cannot help myself.  I do however have some fairly excellent photos from all the legs of my trip, which will also be posted once I’m home and can properly sort through them all.

As for myself, I’m doing okay – cycling 8 hours a day every day is getting wearisome now that I’ve been at it for almost a month, and I feel as though I’m dragging a low pressure system behind me along with my trailer since no matter which direction the road turns it seems the wind is in my face.  Still, I have in my estimation only about 10 days to go until I get home, so I have no intention of giving up or letting my flagging feelings slow me down.  Conversely, it’s an entirely intruiging sensation to feel yourself develop perceptibly.  At the beginning of my trip an 80km ride had me feeling burned out, now I often do 100km or more before stopping for lunch, and then continue on from there.  It hasn’t been a sudden change, like the blossoming of a flower but rather the steady strengthening of a sapling becoming a tree, and I know that I’m not at my peak yet.  I sometimes wonder what heights I’ll be able to achieve, and the stories of unencumbered tour bikers averaging 300km a day no longer seem entirely fictitious to me.  I alternate between cheerful exuberance and fatigued depression quite often now, but on the whole I think most of the negative side is coming from all the new projects I’ve envisioned for myself and my eagerness to get started on them.

Before I go, here’s once again the route so far. I meant to give thanks and props to all the people I’ve met and visited along the way in this post, but that will have to wait until next time since I really do need to get on the road if I want to get anywhere today.  Thanks everyone for all the encoruagement you’ve given me in the comments on my previous entries – I definitely enjoy seeing that my friends and family care for me and are cheering me on.

Still cycling,

Paul

Maple Creek

I’ve now reached Maple Creek, SK.  Well, almost, anyways – I was actually in Walsh, AB when I called my aunt and uncle to tell them I’d be visiting the next day, when they drove out to my campsite and abducted me to stay for a couple days and visit.  Don’t worry, I’m not cheating – Uncle Wayne has agreed to drive me back out to where he found me so I can continue my journey from there.

The route so far.

Over the past several days I’ve come to realize that the world has almost entirely forgotten what may be the ultimate luxury: doing absolutely nothing.  Our daily lives are so full of every possible convenience, yet we’re consumed by an inherent dread of wasting any time at all as we’ve had the mantra, “time is money,” stuck in our heads on repeat since youth.  As a consequence, we’ve entirely lost the art of utterly wasting our own time, and are much worse off for it I fear.

Certainly there are those who are deemed as time wasters – typically those who chatter incessantly on inane subjects or whose chosen hobbies include absurd amounts of video-games or forum trolling, however such pursuits do in fact have discernible value in them: chatter, whether pertinent or not, helps develop social skills with wide applications in both the workplace and among one’s friends, games have been proven to enhance one’s fine motor functions and abilities to track the movements of several objects at once, while forums and blogs provide one an excellent venue for perfecting certain modes of written communication.

Even if they had no inherent value to them, such pursuits are generally taken up out of pleasure in the pursuit itself, not for the sole purpose of wasting time.

The true, luxuriant time-waster is able to set aside work, hobbies, passions, necessities and will just sit still and do completely nothing, will not get bored and will simply amuse himself in regarding the flow of time and people around him.  It seems simple, yet very few people are able to resist occupying themselves with something, as we’re so used to being busy that no one can remember the feeling of taking repose. It is at best an extremely underrated activity, if the absence of activity can be termed as such, and at worst a forgotten luxury which could be of great benefit to those suffering from stress (currently almost everyone, if the latest surveys are to be believed.)  I feel overjoyed that this trip of mine has afforded me ample opportunity, on breaks from my cycling, to savor and revive the art of doing nothing in my own life.

Also, I biked 210km the other day.  I’ve got to say, I’m feeling pretty badass about that.

Calgary

I am now in Calgary, visiting with my friend, Tracy.  I’m exhausted from pushing more than 130km per day the last few days, which have also included the largest climbs of my trip, so I’m taking a rest day and going to the Stampede as it’s coincidentally going on while I’m here.  Should be fun.  I’m planning on reaching Maple Creek by Friday to visit with my aunt/uncle/cousins there.

As usual, the route so far.

Golden

Heyo from Golden, B.C.

Rather than bore those reading this with more details of my day-to-day journey, here is a quick list of some things I have done recently:

  1. Biked up and down untold numbers of hills.
  2. Deemed that the Gatineau Hills are unworthy of their name and shall henceforth be referred to as the Gatineau Lumps.
  3. Screamed various gibberish or internet meme references while careening downhill at 70km/h (examples: “I am the cowboy massssteerrrr,” “Power level over nine thousannnnnnnd,” “mudddddkipppppp.”  Note that biking very quickly through the city you might be going 25km/h, just so you’ve got an idea how ridiculously fast I was.)
  4. Seen signs for the Deadman’s Creek Rodeo.
  5. Considered joining the Deadman’s Creek Rodeo.
  6. Decided against joining the Deadman’s Creek Rodeo.
  7. Regretted that decision immediately.
  8. Sang “I Will Survive” while biking through various hick towns.
  9. Been honked at by truckers, RV-ers, and other motorists in a friendly manner.
  10. Formed an impromptu powow with other cyclists on the road.
  11. Raced other cyclists on the road (being careful about traffic, don’t worry!)

One of the things about tour biking is that you’ve got a lot of time for thinking. While doing this, I’ve realized that I will probably never be able to fully appreciate stream-of-consciousness poetry or prose, largely because my own stream of consciousness works in a rather different format.  These are my thoughts, as verbatim as I can translate into language, from a few days ago:

  • Damn, this road is nothing but hills.  This is really wearing me out.
  • If I’m having this much trouble biking the road it must’ve been absolutely devastating for Terry Fox when he ran the course with just one leg and cancer.
  • Man, Terry Fox was badass.
  • You know, Lance Armstrong bikes even more hardcore than I do, and he’s got cancer too.
  • Cancer must give athletes some kind of superpowers.
  • Sunburns can cause cancer, right?
  • My shoulders are sunburned
  • I hope I get wings or regeneration or something.[
  • I’m really hungry.
  • Maybe being able to photosynthesize energy would be a better power – not quite as flashy, but gods is that sun bright.

This is noticeably different than the writings of Virgina Woolf, and may be why my appreciation for her work is somewhat more limited than some scholars seem to feel it should be.

That being all I can think of to say right now, here is a google map of my progress so far.

Cheers!

Cache Creek

It’s now day five of my travels and I’ve finally found a place with public computers that have internet access.  I’m slightly behind on my planned travel (I’ve only totalled 350km instead of my targeted 500km) but I’m not feeling too bad about that since there have been a few complications that’ve slowed me down considerably.

The first part of my trip went fairly smooth – I got off the plane, got a map of BC and a camper’s guide, took a cab to Crusty’s Bike Shop and geared up there.  I opted to go for a nice, two-wheeled trailer instead of strapping everything onto a panier rack since it keeps a lower wind profile, doesn’t throw my balance off as much and is far easier to load and unload every day.  I also went with SPD peddles/shoes, which basically clip my feet in place so I’m always in the optimal peddling position as well as allowing me to lift my feet to propell the bike rather than pushing down, which is nice later in the day as I tire out.

Then I spent four hours lost in Vancouver.

I eventually worked my way out of the city, ending somewhere near Mission after approx 8 hours of biking and the last of the sunlight.  It was exhausting, but I at least made some progress.

The next day I was too exhausted to go very far (plus I flatted my first tube) and finished off in Kent, and spent the evening chatting with a tourbiking couple from Walkerton, On.

My third day was a bit more eventful – I pushed all the way up to Boston Bar, playing tag with a biker from Michigan who was aiming to reach Kamloops by the end of the day.  I spotted a juvenile Grizzly bear during one of my water breaks, but it ran away before I could get my camera out – probably for the best, since I didn’t want a run-in with momma bear either.

On Canada day I did almost nothing – the road ahead of me was closed because Jackass Mountain (yes, that is its real name) is on fire, burning the roots of the trees and causing avalanches. Turning back would’ve meant at least a three-day detour, so I camped and waited it out.  Hung out with an older tour biker from Quebec City who was stuck just the same as me, did laundry, took photos.  Nothing terribly interesting, and I was anxious to be on my way again.

Today I took off first thing in the morning, managed to get past the road closure during a quiter time and finally reached Cache Creek.  I was pretty taken aback by the sudden change of scenery around Spences Bridge – within a kilometer my surroundings changed from lush forests and creeks to barren desert (though of course still fraught with obnoxiously steep hills.)  I’m hoping that there’ll be more life in the land again once I get past Kamloops, if only for want of shade during my rest breaks.

Still, all things considered I’m doing pretty well.  I’m not dead yet, I’m making decent progress when I’m not blocked by natural disaster and I can feel my strength and endurance improving each day, so it should get easier from here on out.

For those of you who are curious, this is the route that I’ve taken so far.

Well, after a long wait period I finally have all the equipment I need to make my trip and ought to be flying out for Vancouver on Saturday, June 28th early in the morning. I’ll buy the bike setup I’ll be riding there and then head out, hopefully the next day.

In terms of a plan, I decided not to have one; at the very least I won’t have a very detailed one. I’m aiming to travel an average of 100-125km per day, heading generally east. I’m going to pick and choose my route as I go based on which roads look the prettiest, although I do hope to follow the trans-canada trail as much as possible since that should be the most scenic anyways. There are a few friends and family members who live along the way who I hope to visit as well. This is the route I am going to (very loosely) follow – it should be pretty accurate across the praries anyways since there is really only one way to cross them.

In the mean time, here is my equipment list:

  • 70 liter kayaker’s backpack. Everything fits in it, it’s waterproof, I can easily carry it myself when I’m away from my bike and it’s bright yellow and ought to add to my visibility on the road. Pretty awesome all around.
  • Clothes:
    – 2 pairs of padded biker’s shorts. These things will keep me from getting very uncomfortable blisters.
    – 3 close-fitting biker’s shirts. Not really necessary I guess, but normal t-shirts look weird with the spandex shorts.
    – 1 pair jeans, 1 pair normal shorts. For days when I’m not biking as much or when I’m exploring around town.
    – 3 t-shirts. Same as with the jeans
    – 1 pair running shoes for biking in
    – 1 pair sandals for the rest of the time
    – underwear and socks. Hygienic goodness!
  • Bicycle repair kit. (you know it’s going to break at some point)
    – set of hexagonal allen keys
    – air pump
    – 2 spare inner tubes
    – tire levers
    – chain tool (don’t know it there’s another name for them, but they let you take the rivets out so you can replace the gear-chain)
    – spare chain
  • Ablutions kit.
    – soap
    – shampoo
    – toothbrush/toothpaste
    – sunscreen
    – bug spray
  • First aid/survival kit
    – bandaids
    – snake bite kit
    – bear spray
    – big knife
  • Camping gear
    – 2-man tent
    – air mattress
    – sleeping bag
    – stool
    – pots, pans, cutlery
    – camping stove and fuel
  • Camera plus hard, waterproof camera case
  • Miscellaneous
    – food
    – cellphone/charger
    – headlamp
    – maps
    – sketchbook and pencils
    – books to read when I’m rained out.
    – glasses and sunglasses

I think that’s everything. I’ll edit as necessary if I remember anything else.