Archive for February, 2008

Freighter frustration

Friday, February 29th, 2008

I have been trying for over a month now, rather unsuccessfully thus far, to book a freighter. We want to take a freighter from somewhere on the north east coast of North America (Montreal, New York, Newark, or Philadelphia) to somewhere in Europe (ideally Italy, but we would settle for pretty much anywhere on the continent at this point). I’ve tried 5 different listings to no avail!

My experience so far has been that everything that is posted is “going out of charter” or “changing routes” such that what I ask for is not available :(.

I also tried to book a freighter from Italy to Malaysia. There was one group (NSB Ever Champion etc.) that looked very good and ran very regularly (weekly). When I made the request, the information that came back was that the company is now running from England to Malaysia. Unfortunately, we’ll be on the other side of Europe, so England would be a bit of a stretch.

At this time, I am working on patience. I think I may be taking some of the wrong advice and trying to book too early. I have my fingers crossed that as our departure date gets closer, the boat schedules will firm up and more cruises will be available.

Cross your fingers for us!

Current Plans

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

As of today, our journey looks something like this:

July 4, 2008 – Depart Ottawa and ride towards Newfoundland. We are hoping to follow the North shore of Quebec until we run out of road, and then catch ferries to Newfoundland. We’ll spend the month of August cycling around Newfoundland, and then take a ferry to Nova Scotia. If the timing is right, we’ll meet up with the folks from Atlantic Canada Cycling for their Labour Day Cabot Trail Tour. From there, we’ll have a couple of weeks or so to visit Scott’s sister and family in Fredericton and get back to Montreal (unfortunately, the freighters taking passengers leaving from Halifax don’t go to the Mediterranean).

September 21st,2008 (or there abouts) – Take a freighter from Charleston, North Carolina to Antwerp Belgium.

October 2008 – January 2009 – Ride (and take ferries) from Italy to Jordan via Croatia, Greece, Turkey, and Syria. We’ll need to find our way back to Italy in time to catch our boat.

February 1st, 2009 (or there abouts) – We have tentatively booked a freighter from Naples Italy to Port Kelang (right near Kuala Lumpur) Malaysia. The freighter will stop in Le Spezia Italy and Barcelona, Spain prior to transiting the Suez Canal and going to Port Kelang (about 21 days). We are excited for the opportunity to see Barcelona, as we would not otherwise have been able to visit it. The two stops before the long transit will give us an opportunity to scope out the food on-board ship and stock up on what we want prior to the long passage. We will also be able to stock up on some good red wine in both Le Spezia and Barcelona!

March – April 2009 – Explore South-East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) by bicycle.

May 2009 – Bike up to Shanghai, China.

June 2009 – Take a freighter from Shanghai, China to Vancouver, Canada.

June / July 2009 – Ride up Vancouver Island, take a ferry to Prince Rupert, BC. Ride across Northern BC to Prince George, then head south to Kamloops, then east to Calgary.

August and September 2009 – Make our way east until we reach Ottawa.

All that being said, our boats have not yet been booked, so our itinerary is still rather fluid.

Trip to the travel doctor

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Today, we paid a visit to the travel doctor. I’m of mixed feelings about the visit. I found that I trusted the Doctor’s advise, and that he really knew about the various things; but I also felt that he didn’t do a good enough job informing me about medications and shots. If I hadn’t done a bunch of advance reading and research, I think I would have been completely lost. He did provide two comprehensive handouts though, which we are still digesting.

I’m going to have to do a little more research and be prepared with questions for my second visit.

I decided to document his recommendations and other information I’ve found in my research, but IANAD (I am not a doctor). Please consult your family doctor or local travel medicine clinic for recommendations before using any of the information below. (more…)

Scott and Becky are Going East!

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

When we tell people we are going on a 15 month bicycle tour, the first question we are asked is “Where are you going?” The simplest answer to the question is, “we are going east.”

When we first talked about this trip in September 2007, it was only 4 months and involved cycling across Canada from Vancouver to St. John’s. However, I wasn’t so sure about cycling long distances with a regular touring bike. My experience last summer cycling in PEI was an indicator that with anything longer than 80km per day my neck and wrists were not happy. I wanted to try out the idea of long distance cycling on a recumbent. Unfortunately, it was too late in the season to buy a new bike, learn how to ride it, and be ready for a cross-Canada tour by mid-May. So, we decide to start in August and extend the trip to include parts of Europe and Southeast Asia — always, “going east” until we got back to Ottawa.

The adventure has changed a little since then. We now have plans to concentrate on cycling across Canada, around the Middle East, and around the Far East. We are also hoping to accomplish this entire journey without an airplane flight.

Our itinerary keeps changing, and likely wont be solid until the trip is complete! Click here for the latest plan.

Skating away

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Tuesday, we didn’t ski. We each had a complimentary Thai Yoga massage, which felt wonderful. The weather wasn’t conducive to skiing on a lake (it rained and warmed right up), so we spent the day relaxing. I discovered that it was glorious to turn the steam on in the steam shower, and then compliment it with a cool shower. The steam ensuring you didn’t get too cold and the cool water ensuring you didn’t overheat :).

Wednesday was a day for skate skiing. With my toe not being 100% happy, I wasn’t willing to try classic skiing.

Scott skied: 3 hr 20 min, 20 km
Becky skied: 2 hr 35 min, 14 km

So, you see the stats and ask yourself, how is it that Scott skied 6km and 45 minutes longer than Becky? Well, by the time we reached the cabin, I was pooped. I felt I needed a break before tackling the skate back. So I hung around the cabin while Scott skied a lopped.

I had a bit of an adventure trying to get the fire started. I wasn’t about to sit in the cabin and get cold, so I lit a first in the wood stove. The problem was, that some smoke seemed to be entering the cabin. I lit the fire with the door open and the windows open, so that it didn’t get too smoke filled. I figured that once the fire was going the smoke would start to go through the chimney. At one point, I blew on the fire to get it going better and ended up with a face full of smoke (oops). When I thought things were going better, I closed the door … the cabin filled up pretty quickly. Eventually, I clued in that there might be a flu on chimney. I saw a ring sticking out, so I giggled it a bit and to my surprise, the ring moved up, just like it was releasing a flu! The smoked started to flow nicely out the chimney and the fire started burning better. Oh well, lesson learned.

The fire didn’t keep me very warm, but it did stop me from getting too cold. I was pretty much ready to leave again when Scott arrived. He took about a 15 minute break, and then we were back on our skis heading back to the resort.

It was a beautiful day skiing. I was surprised at how well I could skate ski, and the conditions were not too terrible. Having gotten cold overnight, we were able to ski over-top of the frozen snow (for the most part).

Another good day on vacation :).

A day in the classic tracks

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Scott skied: 3 hr 45 min, 21.5 km
Becky skied: 3 hr, 15.5 km

Today, we headed out to try some classic skiing. We have spent most of our time this year on our skate skis, so this was a nice change of pace.

For the first part of our journey, we headed out across Galeairy Lake towards the Algonquin Park Leaf Lake trail system. It was a glorious day, the sun shining, but a little bit warm, hovering just above 0 degrees celcius.

The tracks across the Lake were set in some places, but not in others. Mostly, you just made your way across the flat surface. It was pretty easy going and quite pleasant.

We entered the park trails at Q and skied that narrow up and down trail to the trestle; the same path we skied yesterday on our skate skis. It was much easier with the classic skis.

Midway along the trail, I paused to smell the air and listen. It was uncannily quiet. You didn’t hear any birds chirping, or snowmobiles growling. The only sound was the wind moving through the colourless trees. I snapped a picture of Scott. His bright orange jacket making him appear like a flower in a sea of dark green and bright white.

On one of the downhills, I felt that my balance points were a little off. I am usually cautious on downhills, but always ski with a feeling of control. Today, I felt that I wasn’t as in control as I’d like to be.

We entered the trestle, then skied west to join with the David Thompson trail. We followed the trail from S to N to L. When we arrived at L (6.86 km), I stopped at the cabin to make lunch. Scott dropped off his backpack (which had lunch in it) and went for a bit more of a ski along the Fraser Lake loop.

Upon arrival at the cabin there was a gentleman from Barry’s Bay enjoying a sandwich. We shared some pleasantries and he continued with his ski while I prepared lunch.

I prepared lunch on a little alcohol stove that I recently acquired. Lunch was a bit of an experiment. I had chicken soup mix and a dry mixture of basmati rice, red lentils, and green lentils. I boiled some water, mixed it all up, and let it simmer.

While making lunch, I enjoyed the company of at least two pairs of Whiskey Jacks and several chickadees that were not at all shy. I found some sunflower seed in the cabin, and placed them on the railings. The birds quickly came by to pick some up, testing how close they could come to me. The chickadees flew right over my head, such that I could hear the flutter of their wings.

I popped into the cabin to grab some more fuel for the stove and heard my phone ring. That is an odd sound, a cell phone in the middle of the woods. Scott called wanting to know if he should head back. I said yes. Later, I found out that he wanted to know whether it was closer to finish the loop or turn back. It turns out that if he continued on the loop, it would have been shorter than turning back. Oops!

After a nice warm lunch, we decided to take the Old David Thompson trail. This trail was packed but not track set. With each stride, we would sink into the heavy wet snow an inch or two. It was surprising that we were still able to get a decent amount of glide. It was quiet and peaceful, with the only sounds being our skis crunching through the snow.

We came upon a hill, that was signed with a warning. I remember the hill from a few years ago, from the first time we attempted this trail. I attacked it pretty quickly, and ran into some trouble right after the first turn. My snow plow turned out to be ineffective in the heavy snow, and I fell – laughing as it occurred, although I was a little bit shaken. I had a long way down to go yet. I dug myself up and prepared to tackle the rest of the hill. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very far. After about 20 feet, I fell again, this time rather spectacularly. My left ski ended up upside-down underneath me. My left two was at a very unhealthy angle. My right ski was also stuck in the heavy snow and such an angle as I could not move. Any attempt at motion caused pain in either my hips/abductors or my toe. I called for Scott to come and unclip me from my skis. I couldn’t reach either of them. I can’t imagine the mess I would have been in if I was skiing alone!

Scott made his way down to rescue me. I was afraid that he would lose control and plow into me, which would not end well! However, he was suitably careful and made his way below me to unclip my right ski. Once that was out, I could move my hips to a more comfortable position, and then figure out how to extract my left ski from under me in a manner that didn’t further injure my toe. Through great contortions, I was able to straighten out my ski. At that point, I decided that we had had enough of the Old Thompson Trail. We were in about 1 km, and the ungroomed trail was 7km in length. With an uncertain toe and other potentially sore body parts, I figured it was wiser to turn around and head for safer ground. I unclipped my left ski and walked up the hill.

Once on flat ground, I put my skis back on. It wasn’t until then that it occurred to me that the reason for my issues on the hills was my backpack. This was my first trip out this year with a loaded backpack. The load (although not that heavy) was causing me to adjust my balance inappropriately. I wasn’t lowering my center of gravity correctly. Add to that, that my classic boots don’t provide the same level of support as my skate boots (and I’ve done a lot more skate this year than classic).

The remainder of the ski home was pretty uneventful. I tried to take it easy as much as possible, so as not to hurt. I found I was really nursing the toe and not skiing with that great of form, but I was able to ski without too much discomfort.

When we got in, I got a chance to check out my toe. It was a little swollen, but not in too bad shape. I could still walk on it, with only mild discomfort. So, all-in-all a nice day of skiing and only a little mis-hap.

A beautiful winter Sunday

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

We are up at the Couples Resort up in Whitney Ontario (on highway 60 at the south east board of Algonquin park).

This is actually our third time at the Couples Resort, previously known as the Bear Trail. We like to venture up here in the winter and spend a week cross country skiing. The resort is far from roughing it. Every room has a jacuzzi tub, and included with your room is a gourmet 4-course dinner and breakfast. In the summer, it is expensive, but in the winter they have week-day 50% off rates that make it all pretty reasonable.

This year we chose to say in a Spa Villa. In the past, we have stayed in a Bridle Suite and a smaller room. We found the smaller room to be too small. It appears that we were not the only ones, as they don’t have those as rooms anymore. Our experience there was that the extra $200 was worth it for the larger room (that is, $200 for 5 nights). The Spa Villa is huge in comparison to the suites. It has a bonus funky steam shower with two stations, so you can shower together without getting cold!

We arrived early today, at about 1:30 pm. That meant that we had lots of time for a ski before our room was ready.

We strapped on our skate skis and headed out across the lake. The snow was a little soft and the grooming was rather sparse compared to Gatineau park. We were reminded just how spoiled we are at home. The track was slow but we were delighted to discover that the last two years of lessons had made a huge difference. Last time we were skate skiing here, we struggled to ski 1 or 2 km. Today, we skied just under 6km without much struggle.

Our total for today was 5.86 km in 1h 12 min. That doesn’t sound great, but 1km of it was over a classic trail that involved a fair bit of hill climbing. The narrow trail made it a challenge.

We found ourselves skiing across the lake and into the trail system by memory. We realized after we got across the lake that we forgot to pick up a trail map (oops). We stuck to familiar areas, specially since we had our skate skis on. They just aren’t as versatile as classic skis.

Entering the classic trail posed a challenged, but once we were in up in the hills, surrounded by nature it was pure bliss. That is pure bliss and a fair bit of laughing at what we got ourselves into. I took a picture with my cell phone camera. Scott was an amazing site of bright orange in a field of dark green and gray. The wilderness looks black and white with it lack of colour, so Scott’s jacket made him stand out like the colourized red rose in one of those artistic photos.

Skate skis are quite useless on a purely classic trail. You are limited to doing the haring bone to climb hills and double polling when it is anything close to flat.

Once we escaped from the trail, we skied along a rail line trestle for a bit. It as just wide enough to allow us to get reasonable glide. When the trestle trail ended, we headed back out over the lake. This was an interested experience. We found ourselves skate skiing over ungroomed powder across the lake. I was surprised at how easy it was to get pretty reasonable glide. I expected it to be much more work.

We eventually found our way back to the ski-do trail and then to the groomed trail. It was a wonderful day for a ski.