Monday, June 18, 2012

Shhhh don't wake the giant

The sleeping giant of Snæfellsnes

Benoit and I set out on our world tour by bicycle, leaving Canada in May 2010 and starting in Iceland. The Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in March after some two hundred years of dormancy. Two months later, when we arrived, the volcano was silent yet still reminded us of its presence. I kept a daily journal full of details like where we camped and how much it cost. The stuff that Benoit calls that boring shit that no-one wants to read. An excerpt:

This was the day of the "black rain". Ash particles from the volcano fell with the raindrops leaving everything with a muddy gray layer. A man stopped me to recommend that we cycle with masks to avoid breathing in the muck. The masks we bought were costly (about $20 Canadian for 5) and annoying to wear, but I kept thinking that this would be good practice for cycling at higher altitudes where you can't breathe as well. By the time we arrived in Þingvellir, we were covered in gritty dirt. Nevertheless, the isolated road was so tranquil. I kept losing myself to the surroundings.

In case you're interested in all the boring shit, the links below will take you there, in pdf version on

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Do you speak Danish?

Benoit and I set out on our world tour by bicycle, leaving Canada in May 2010. Denmark was our second country on the tour. Our friend David, whom we first met back in 2007 at the Havana airport in Cuba, came to meet us for some cycling in Denmark. I kept a daily journal of our travels: where we stayed, how much it cost, and more of what Benoit likes to call my boring details that no-one wants to read. However, in case you are interested in these boring details, here is an excerpt:

David is all about drinking coke and eating ice cream while cycling, so of course we had to stop at a quaint little coastal town that was selling cones at the beach. David went for his ice cream fix; Benoit went in search of a toilet. I waited for them, squeezed between a Danish couple sitting on a bench. The woman spoke to me, but no word she said was familiar. I realized suddenly that I had not prepared my usual communication basics to carry with me before arriving in Denmark. I tried, Do you speak english? Head shake no. Parlez-vous français? Again, no. Hablan Usted espagnol? No. Sprechen Sie Deutch? Still no. I had run out of languages! Even with no language in common, I got out my map of Denmark and we gestured and mimed out a conversation. I found out that they are from Lemvig and that they are cycling around for the day. They pointed to their bikes, the classic sit straight up on the seat style with a basket on the handlebar and a kickstand that matches in colour. The boys returned, missions accomplished, and we were back on the road.

For the whole shebang, I have made pdf versions of my bicycle logs and put them on
Denmark, Part 1 of 2: 5 pages, 117 Kb: DenmarkBlogPart1.pdf
Denmark, Part 2 of 2: 5 pages, 117 Kb: DenmarkBlogPart2.pdf
Clicking on one of the links above will take you to a web page that says that the file has been shared with you. Click on download and enjoy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

At the end of the road, the Burgeo ferry

In the summer of 2009, Benoit and I put our bicycles on the plane to Newfoundland for seven weeks. It was a practice trip for our world tour by bicycle: planned departure date May 2010. We tested new equipment and tested ourselves at wild camping. Near the end of our stay in Newfoundland, we cycled the Burgeo Road. One hundred and fifty kilometres of not much out there. At the end of that road was a passenger ferry to towns with no cars.


Back at the ferry dock, we found out that we were to load our luggage into a big metal container that would be hoisted into the hold of the boat. We passed our bikes down by hand, then Benoit tied them to the railing. On the dock, we met Bryan, who said it was a shame that we were planning to go to LaPoile instead of stopping overnight in Grand Bruit, a much nicer community (so he said). We had wanted to stop in Grand Bruit but decided against it because there isn’t a store there and we didn’t have any food for dinner or breakfast. These communities have no road access – you can only get there by ferry – I was intrigued to see the towns with only sidewalks and no cars. Bryan approached us again as soon as the ferry left the dock to say that he and his wife Barbara were inviting us for dinner at their place in Grand Bruit so that we could stay the night there. He informed us that the ferry goes on to LaPoile today, but then doubles back in the morning to Grand Bruit, before going again to LaPoile and finally on to Rose Blanche. The Grand Bruit route was about three hours by boat – almost immediately I could feel myself fighting back the nausea as the boat swayed side to side in the swells. I thought that the waves were huge, but one guy aboard scoffed, “Ha, this is nothing!”. I spent the entire ride on the outside deck with the sea spray in my face, trying to keep my gaze fixed on the view ahead, which unfortunately was almost completely blanketed in fog. Only a short time before, I was putting on extra sunscreen just as we were boarding the boat – it was that hot and sunny in Burgeo. But right after we started sailing east, only fog. I asked Bryan where the life preservers were. He told me that they were under the seats, but “they’re not good for much... except picking up the bodies.” I had a shocked look on my face as he went on to explain, “The water is VERY cold.”

For all the details, even more that you could care to know, are in my bicycle log on
Clicking on the link above will take you to a web page that says that the file has been shared with you. Click on download and enjoy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ignore the roar of traffic

Anything to get away from traffic

The second bicycle trip that Benoit and I took together was to the Gaspé peninsula in Quebec in the summer of 2008. The province of Quebec has a network of bicycle paths called La Route Verte. It wasn't all pieced together in Gaspésie, which we found out much to our dismay. Hopefully it will improve soon. I wrote far too many boring details of our journey. However, they might still be of interest to those wanting to cycle in the area.

Here is an excerpt:

This supposed bike route is along the very busy highway 132. For the first 4 kilometres out of Mont Joli, there was no shoulder at all and the road itself was quite narrow. Even at 7:00 in the morning, when we left the VIA train station, the highway was filled with a stampede of transports, RVs and cars, all merrily speeding along in the rain and fog. We were forced to ride on the soggy gravel for a white-knuckle ride until we finally gave up to wait out the weather. Benoît, despite wearing his bright red jacket criss-crossed with reflective stripes, was disappearing into the fog only a few metres ahead of me. For certain, if I couldn't see him, then the hurried drivers would not see us. We definitely got the impression that they weren't happy sharing the road with cyclists, nor expecting us to be there on the road at all. Once back in the saddle at 10:00, it was slightly more pleasant. The rain had stopped, the road was dry and the fog had lifted enough to give us the view of our next hill, still on gravel. I tried to take in my surroundings and appreciate the view while ignoring the roar of traffic. It might be a good idea to return to this area when there is a real gas crisis; you know, when the gas prices are so impossibly high that there are only a few stubborn drivers left.

I have added a link below where you can download the pdf version of my bicycle log from Clicking on the link above will take you to a web page that says that the file has been shared with you. Click on download and enjoy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A big hand at our backs

Happy to be halfway up

The first bicycle trip that Benoit and I took was to tour the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island. It's a loop of about three hundred kilometres and lots of hills. Cycling hills was a brand new experience for me and a scary one at that. One of the mountains we had to climb was called Smokey. I wrote all about our trip in a daily journal.

Here is an excerpt:

I was watching cars struggling to begin the climb of Smokey and the more I watched, the more I began to panic. I started thinking that I didn’t have it in me to climb Smokey. It looked steep, wayyyyy too steep. (Going counterclockwise, you climb the steep side of Smokey for about 2 km and then have a long and gentle descent for about 6 km on the other side.) Travelling the Cabot Trail counterclockwise, you ascend the steep side of Cape Smokey (the grade on some sections is rated at 17%). My heart started to race and I felt like I couldn’t get a proper breath. B suggested that we do like the climbers of Everest – just set small goals, such as “let’s make it up to the first bend in the road”. So that’s how we did it. One little steep climb at a time with lots of breaks. At one point, the wind pushed us up a very steep section. It was like having a big hand at our backs.

All the details of this Cape Breton bicycle trip are in the pdf version of my blog (bicycle log) at
Clicking on the link above will take you to a web page that says that the file has been shared with you. Click on download and enjoy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trial run of my solar-powered bike light

For a three-week cycling trip to Gaspésie with Benoît, I brought a solar-powered bike light that you can see charging on my left-side of my handlebars in the photo. Since we didn't do any riding at night on that trip, I didn't really use my light as it was meant to be used. Instead, I would charge the light as I rode during the day, and I would use it as a flashlight/reading light in the tent at night. For such tent use, I'd love to have a head-strap accessory for it, so that I could wear it as a head lamp instead of having to tuck it under my chin.

I also brought a compass that I slipped inside my map holder. The compass came in very handy once -- when the Route Verte signs got very confusing and left us wondering if we were still heading south.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pedalling in darkness - New Year's Eve in Cuba

David (skull hat), me (little head), Benoit (big head) The following is an excerpt from the "blog" that I wrote during a bicycle journey through western Cuba with Benoît. Along the way, we met David, a cyclist from Winnipeg. The accompanying photo shows the three of us, all smiles and in broad daylight, at a later date in Cuba having survived the petrifying night ride.

The excerpt...

Our next challenge was cycling in the fading light. It was getting dark very quickly and there were no lights on the road. Before leaving for Cuba, our Cuban friend Roberto had advised us never to ride our bikes at night. We were expecting to follow his advice, but thankfully at the last minute I packed some little LED bike lights, just in case! So we all had front flashy LED lights, and David and I had the red rear LED lights. Benoit rode in the middle since he didn't have a rear light. With the lights and our reflective panniers, we were somewhat visible. Still, it was very scary. There was total darkness around us. It was almost impossible to see the road. And there were some extremely drunk people about, it being New Year's Eve and all.

It was a strange sort of sensory deprivation trying to cycle in complete darkness. I could feel the bumps in the road but I couldn't see when they were coming. My front light just barely picked up Benoit cycling ahead of me. I had to ask him to warn me if he was going to slow down or stop - if he didn't tell me, then by the time I saw that he had stopped, I'd have crashed into him. The only way I got through my fear was to concentrate on pedalling. I also kept reassuring myself that bicycles are inherently stable (who was that British physicist that published articles about his URB, the unrideable bicycle that he tried to design but in fact was still kind of rideable?).

[Comment: I looked up that physicist reference later ... David E. H. Jones, "The stability of the bicycle", Physics Today, 1970]

For all the nitty gritty of our bicycle trip to Cuba, you can read my bicycle log on Clicking on the link above will take you to a web page that says that the file has been shared with you. Click on download and enjoy.