Archive for June, 2008

A glitch …

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Freighter travel requires that you be completely flexible. After recieving our package in the mail, we became aware of a couple of additional glitches.

First, the freighter companies no longer accept packages for travellers. We had planned on receiving resupplies parcels as we arrived at each of our freighter trips. We now need to figure out how to receive packages within the cities of departure and manage picking them up.

Second, even though we specifically asked the question when we did our original immunizations, it was made clear that freighters that pass through either the Suez or Panama canals require Yellow Fever immunizations. Because our second trip requires a Suez transit, we needed to get the additional immunization. This isn’t a huge deal, just one more thing to add to the list of many other things that we need to do before we leave (theoretically on Friday!).

We are making progress packing up the house.

All our packages have arrived in Ogdensburg, so tomorrow I’ll be driving out to pick them up.

In all the craziness things are coming together … but I don’t yet feel 100% that a Friday departure is going to happen. Oh well, what happens happens :).

Freighter Update – Savannah to Gioia Tauro

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Things did seem like they were settled for a little while, but alas it was not to be. The boat we thought we were taking from Charleston to Antwerp is no longer running on that route. Our plan now is to take a boat (MSC Alessia) from Savannah, Georgia to Gioia Tauro, Italy. The boat leaves Savannah on or about October 2nd. That is a little later than we wanted to leave North America, but c’est la vie. The extra time will allow us to ride through a little more of Nova Scotia and part way to Savannah.Gioia Tauro Italy

Reflections

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

(format cribbed from Brian Huntley)

Statistics

Distance bicycled: 1204 km (753 miles).
Distance in truck due to shifter breakdown: 30 km (19 miles).
Time Bicycling: 77 hours, 37 minutes.
Riding days: 16
Non-riding days: 3
Average speed: 15.6 km/hr
Average day distance: 75.25 km
Average ride time in a day: 4 hours 51 minutes
Flat tires: None.
Nights camping in campgrounds or camping areas (locks,bridges): 5
Nights camping in people’s backyards: 3
Nights in motels: 7
Nights in people’s homes: 3
Average cost per day: $100 CAD

Things that surprised me:

  • How polite drivers were when passing us.
  • Coming back into Ottawa discovering just how impatient and bike-unfriendly drivers are here compared to everywhere else we cycled.
  • How friendly and curious people were about us and our weird bikes.

Becky says:

  • The lack of response when we waved or said hello to people on the Niagara-on-the-Lake bike path felt unfriendly – especially compared to the smiles and waves we always got in New York State.
  • How few places there were to get food / provisions along the route – especially the lack of places to get ice cream :( There were always places to get things, I just expected to have more choice about where to get lunch or groceries.

Things I’m glad I did:

  • The trip!
  • Took day 2 as a rest day. Even though it put us behind schedule, it was really necessary.

Becky says:

  • Re-adjusted the weight such that Scott was carrying more of the load after day 1.
  • Took lots of pictures from the bike while riding.
  • Blogged as we went.

Things I’d do differently:

  • Take more pictures of the people we met and the places we stopped.
  • Stuffing my camera in a pannier meant that I took very few pictures. I need to find another way to carry a camera so it’s easy to get at while on the bike for quick pictures.
  • Don’t use Arkel RT-40 panniers on the underseat rack of a StreetMachine. They’re fine for normal riding, but will drag around turns, and catch. (Although Becky’s idea of putting a strap around each bag worked well once she thought of it around day 14). They aren’t really intended for this, although Arkel is planning to add a plastic stiffener to the bottom of the bags.
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  • Make sure there’s enough time to take rest days when needed, especially early in the trip. There’s a great article in Adventure Cyclist this month called Liftoff, talking about the pull of gravity keeping you at home while you do the last few things getting ready for a trip. We were running like mad trying to get ready before leaving on this trip, and I’m sure it will be the same for the next one. Having a planned rest day on Day 2 or Day 3 allows us to get away and then decompress a bit.

Becky says:

  • Carry less food. We ended up returning home with most of the provisions we carried. Our riding diets are influenced by our needs and desires for a given day, so it is better to not carry so much and just adapt to circumstances (when communities and food are readily available – for Labrador, we will need to carry 2-3 days worth of food when we ride to Cartwright).
  • Not make coffee while camping. I’ll change my morning routine to involve a cup of tea rather than coffee and save coffee for when we eat out. Coffee while camping is messy and requires special equipment that just isn’t worth it.
  • Find some bike shorts. I rode most of this trip with capri pants, which are nice for casual rides but have chafing issues for long rides. I need to find some good biking shorts that don’t feel like diapers!
  • Not use the cell phone in the US. The cost of roaming is $1 per minute plus long distance. We’ll need to get setup on Skype.
  • Add sugar to the food list. We carry a non-sweetened sports drink powder which works well when added to Orange Juice; however, when OJ is not available and you need the hydration some sugar makes the drink more palatable and effective.

People we’d like to thank:

  • All the people who let us stay with them: Frank & Nancy, Sharon & Mike, Tim & Heidi, Judy & Jim, Johnny & Tina
  • Eric and Tracey for rescuing us when Becky’s shifter failed completely and it was getting dark
  • Mom & Dad Drennan for a joining us for wonderful picnic in Burlington (and bringing lots of food!)
  • Mike & Kathleen Hogue for taking us out to dinner in Oakville
  • Grandma Hogue and Tony for taking us out to dinner in Port Colburne

Another day another century

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Distance: 125 km, 6h 50 min.

Today was a long ride, but I was expecting it. We set an ambitious goal of riding to Merickville for lunch and then onto home. On our longer days, our lunch stop had been at about 1:00 or 1:30 pm, today, it we didn’t make it until 2:30 pm. We had ridden 70 km before lunch.
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On the open road towards home. Note that Becky’s head is not really tilted, her helmet is!

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Bikes taking a rest break on the side of the road.

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Becky stretching during our lunch break.

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A “Scare-bike” ??? West of Merickville.

The ride was pretty uneventful. We followed some less busy roads at first, but as we got closer to Ottawa the roads became busier. Our chosen route into the city turned out to be a not so good choice. We rode down Prince of Wales drive to Woodroffe, which was much busier that I would have liked and did not have a proper bicycle lane. To do it again, we would have taken Greenback up to Fallowfield, and then Fallowfield to Woodroffe where there is a nice bicycle path between Barhaven and Nepean. Oh well, we’ll know that for next time!

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The might Rideau River

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Tired Becky

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A familiar sign. Home is not far away (about 35 km). Prior to this trip, an overnight at Rideau River campground was our only self-supported touring experience.

By the time I pulled into the driveway, I could barely walk. Riding was OK, but my leg muscles were toast. It is amusing as I have discovered that when I am sore at the end of the day, I’m fine the next morning. I guess my muscles are starting learn this new “normal” behaviour that is bicycling all day.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is a rest day. We will try to do some stuff (like updating the blog), but put off the stresses of too much to do in too little time until Sunday or more likely Monday.

Scott says:

We were very disappointed by the drivers as we got closer to Ottawa. We had more close calls in our last two hours of riding than in the entire previous three weeks (including rush hour in Toronto). It was still a relatively small number of idiot drivers, but enough to annoy us in several cases.

The teenagers racing down First Line Road near Manotick at 100kph+ (in a 60 zone), honking at us, then driving back towards us with the driver hanging out the window yelling incoherently was the only one who really made me angry though. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a picture, and possibly get his license plate.

Serendipity

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Throughout this trip, we have had many instances of pure chance luck which I am putting down to serendipity. Several times rain has fallen just as we found a place for lunch and stopped by the time we got back on our bikes. This might sound planned, but the places to stop for lunch were few and far between, so would could not have planned it.

The thunderstorms that plagued our trip all, except the first day, occurred at night when we were either safely in our tent or in some other shelter. When we were staying at Tim and Heidi’s in Rochester, the thunderstorm occurred after we had packed up our stuff while we were visiting with Tim (inside the house).

The severest of the weather was always on the other side of us. As we road west out of Rochester, everything east of Rochester was under a tornado warning. The day we left Scarborough, Toronto was hit by hail (we missed almost all the rain that day, and what we did get was spitting rather than down-pouring).

More serendipity occurred when we stopped at the Port Darlington Marina Motel. Scott was reading the wrong listing and thought there were several hotels in the area; fortunately, we got a good rate and decided to stay there. Moments after questioning stopping early, I discovered my lost Croc, and we had time to go on a croc hunt before the thunderstorms hit — and we found the missing croc!

Finally, I lost a screw in my shoe cleat. You may ask, “how is that serendipity”. If I had not lost the screw, then we would not have gone searching for a bike shop in Napanee. When Scott looked up bike shops in Napanee, we discovered one just up the street (maybe 500 m) from the motel we were staying at. We decided to stop by in the morning.

This morning, on our way to Kingston, we stopped by Gerry’s Bike Shop in Napanee (on highway 2). I asked Gerry if he had a spare screw for my cleat, and he went into the back room and dug a couple out. He tightened up all the screws in my shoes and even gave me a spare in case I lost another one. I was good to go.

Scott pulled up to the bike shop and discovered that he was starting to experience the same shifter problem I was. His shifter was not as locked as mine, but it was definitely getting difficult to twist. He pulled it apart and Gerry suggested adding some “magic lube” . This particular lubricant apparently does not damage nylon or rubber, so that eased our concern with using it. We gave it a try and presto .. the shifter loosened up. Scott then applied some to my gears, and presto, I too could shift again! What a wonderful experience after days of wrenching the shifter around :)

Scott says:

The “magic lube” was ELA-lube, formerly Spray&Play, a molybdenum disulfide-based lubricant from Elevator Oil (who no longer seem to exist, at least on the web – the link is to the Wayback Machine at archive.org). Also, I don’t know about “presto”, I had to do a fair amount of working in to get the shifters to move again (and have a blister on my hand to prove it).

Earlier this morning we received a call back from Rohloff in Germany about our shifting problem. Impressive customer service – we got the call less than 12 hours after sending an email, and maybe 1 hour after forwarding them our phone number. Stuart was impressed that I had actually followed the troubleshooting steps in their manual, and included detailed comments in the email – must be the engineer in me :) Anyway, in short order we determined that this was not a stock Rohloff shifter, and had been modified by HP Velotechnik for use on a recumbent. He gave a few additional suggestions, but couldn’t help much, since he’d never seen the modified shifter. [Aside: The Rohloff shifter is designed for an upright bike, and needs to be mounted vertically for a recumbent with under seat steering. This means using your pinky and ring finger to rotate the shifter, rather than thumb and forefinger as originally intended. What HP-Velo (and apparently Hase) have done is to modify the shifter, adding an additional tube so the entire grip rotates, not just the shifter. Great concept, but it seems to have been poor execution in this case. We’re following up with HP Velo via Bicycleman to figure out what caused the problem]

Now that the bikes were back in working order, we decided to head from Napanee to Ottawa (rather than going through Kingston). This would allow us to get home within 2 days. We also wanted to check out the Cataraqui Trail (a trail between Napanee and Smiths Falls). Our projected stopping place for the night was Chaffey’s Lock (Smith’s Falls was too far).

We left Gerry’s bike shop after noon, so it was going to be a long days riding. The Cataraqui trail proved to be amusing for a little while. The track was quite level, but had a many dips and soft spots which made it treacherous on a loaded touring bike. In some places it was rather overgrown and we were pushing aside tall grass as we rode.
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Scott on the Cataraqui trail. Notice how overgrown it is at this point.
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One of the nicer spots on the Cataraqui Trail.

It soon became clear that this track was more intended for those on snowmobiles or mountain bikes, rather than fully loaded recumbents, so after 10 km of entertainment, we decided to find the smooth roads and make a little more progress towards home. We got on the trail at Newburgh, and jumped off just before Yarker, and continued to cross it as we rode – looked like more of the same.

After 70 km, we saw the sign to Chaffey’s Lock (Chaffey’s Lock road). It didn’t include a distance marker, but Scott’s GPS gave us the “as-the-crow-flies” distance of about 16 km. We were on Perth Road at the time, so traffic was fairly heavy, so the turn to a quiet road was welcome. The road was a back country road, nicely paved, and kind of fun for a while. Then the crazy hills hit. There were two brutal inclines (and after 70 km, our legs were not completely happy when we came upon them). Personally, I was amused that my lungs were less happy than my legs. The hills definitely showed us how much stronger we were now compared to when we tackled the hills near Oswego two weeks ago. We pulled into Chaffey’s with enough time to get an ice cream at the Opinicon resort (at Chaffey’s Lock). That certainly made me a happy camper :).
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Camping at Chaffey’s Lock

One pedal stroke at a time

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

60 km, 3 hr 15 min

When we left Trenton this morning, the sun was shining. There were a few scary clouds in the sky promising rain later in the day. There was a Hercules airplane flying overhead. It was going in circles and occasionally coming rather low. When we were close to the base it felt like it was doing a low altitude flyby to check out our bikes! I suspect they were doing some kind of pilot training, practicing touch downs and take offs.

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Plane flying over Trenton and some scary clouds.

The ride time today wasn’t long and the route not very exciting (chosen for its directness not the scenery), but by the time we pulled into Napanee I was definitely ready to not be on my bike. It was disappointing because the road was mostly flat or slightly downhill. I was strong when we started out this morning, so it would have been an excellent day. Unfortunately, with effectively one gear, I tire quickly. I am forced to power up hills, often leaving Scott behind. This may seem good, but it puts a lot of strain on the knees and quads, so I must be extra careful not to injure myself.

To add to the pain of the day, the weather didn’t cooperate. It rained a couple of times, such that we were happy to have decent rain gear. The biggest challenge with riding in the rain is keeping cool. Our raingear keeps us dry (mostly) but then also keeps us warm, which isn’t really necessary when it is 18 deg outside. The temperature was just wrong, such that if you didn’t have wet weather gear, you got too cold, but with it you cooked.

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See the scary clouds!

Adding insult to injury, after about 30 km, we discovered that I had lost a screw for my cleat. This means that I can’t safely “click-in” to my pedal. Fortunately I have pedals that have one side flat, so I can use them without cleats. This makes me slightly less effecient uphills. It is just good that todays ride didn’t involve many hills!

All that being said, I’m actually have a good time. We stopped at the second hotel we passed. It was cheap, has Internet, and we have a covered patio where we could cook dinner. It turns out the nearest bicycle shop is only about 500 m (if that) away. There is some hope that they will have a screw for my cleat :).

Scott is disassembling the shifter this evening, so see if he can figure out what is wrong. We are looking into requesting that we get replacement “stock” Roloff shifters.

Tomorrow we plan to ride 40 km into Kingston. From there, one of us will take a bus or train home to pick up the car and bike rack and return to Kingston.

Scott says:

Unfortunately the more I look at the shifter, the more I differences I see from the stock Rohloff shifter. There’s no c-clip holding the twist shift on as far as I can tell, and to disassemble it completely looks to require disconnecting both cables from the cable box on the External gear mech down at the hub. Without spare cables to replace them with, and with no information (yet) from HP Velo, I’m very hesitant to pull things apart. At least at this point Becky can still shift with difficulty…

Becky thought the road was flat or downhill, but I think that’s because she’s getting stronger. I looked on toporoute.com and we ended the day slightly above where we started, with a number of hills in between. I’m using Toporoute for this because I don’t trust my GPS altimeter in weather like we had today, since it measures altitude using barometric pressure. When we stopped for lunch, the altimeter read -40m, and changed to +60m while we were eating. Given the nasty weather, I’m not surprised by the shift in barometric pressure, but it does seem to play havoc with the GPS measurements.

Here’s the Toporoute plot:Elevation profile from Trenton to Napanee from toporoute.com

Charts from the GPS, including an insane elevation chart due to barometric pressure swings and a speed chart which isn’t quite right either – courtesy of dead batteries just before we stopped.

Elevation Profile
Speed Profile

Partdistance Parttime Partspeed Distance Time Speed
0.000 km 0s 0.000 km 0s
10.022 km 1h 04m 27s 9.33 km/h 10.022 km 1h 04m 27s 9.33 km/h
10.003 km 36m 51s 16.29 km/h 20.024 km 1h 41m 18s 11.86 km/h
10.053 km 2h 04m 10s 4.86 km/h 30.078 km 3h 45m 28s 8.00 km/h
9.942 km 36m 47s 16.22 km/h 40.020 km 4h 22m 15s 9.16 km/h
10.018 km 45m 09s 13.31 km/h 50.038 km 5h 07m 24s 9.77 km/h
7.326 km 43m 42s 10.06 km/h 57.364 km 5h 51m 06s 9.80 km/h

Trenton to Napanee

Hobbling along to Napanee

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

We have heard from Roloff regarding the shifter; unfortunately, it is not a stock Roloff shifter, such that we need to be contacting HP Velo. We are also concerned that Scott’s shifter might be showing signs of the same problem mine has. Before we can do any further examination, we need to get a torx wrench/screwdriver, since that is required to remove the parts.

Since the hotel we are in is expensive, we are going to hobble along to Napanee and camp tonight (possibly hotel if necessary), and then hobble along to Kingston tomorrow. Once we are in Kingston, renting a car to go home is much less painful .. plus, we will have successfully circumnavigated Lake Ontario, so there will be some closure to this trip – it would feel less like giving up.

We will try to check email during the day. We may not have Internet tonight. Our cell phone is on, so that folks can reach us if necessary.

We are having technical difficulties… please stand by

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

On our way from Port Darlington to Presqu’ile provincial park (about 6 km outside of Colborne) my gear shifter decided to seize up. I had been having intermitting issues with it getting difficult to shift, which we thought was related to the breaking-in of the new Roloff Hubs. Unfortunately, I’m now in a position where I can only just change gears. I must stop the bike and force a change of one or two gears. This isn’t really workable.

Scott made an attempt to fix things, but we didn’t have a torx screwdriver with us. When we arrived in Colborne the hardware store was closed. We stopped by the library and asked about accomodations for the night. Unfortunately, the B&B that was in town had closed, so the nearest accomodation was 16 km away in Brighton. So, we preparted for the slog to Brighten .. as we were leaving town, I notice a man in his garage cleaning a motorcycle. I figured someone with two motorbikes must have the necessary torx screwdriver, so I sent Scott over to ask. Fortunately, Eric had one.

Scott tried to figure out what was wrong, read the manual, and discovered that there was nothing else he could do without additional parts. The problem appears to be in the twisth shifter itself – a part that is not user serviceable :( … Eric offered us a ride into Brighton (he has a nice pickup truck), which we decided to accept – it was already 7:30 pm and I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a malfunctioning bike. Once we reach Brighton, we realized the hotel was busy and likely did not have Internet. Also, Brighton was still in the middle of nowhere. When Tracey (Eric’s wife) offered to take us to Trenton instead, I accepted. Trenton is likely to have a rental car place (if necessary). So, Eric and Tracey dropped us off at the Comfort Inn in Trenton near the 401. Thank-you ever so much Eric and Tracey – your help is greatly appreciated.

Scott says:

Perhaps life-savers would be a bit of an exaggeration, but the rescue from Eric and Tracey was a bright spot in a day which was getting progressively more frustrating.  Thanks guys!

Scott has now contacted Keith, the bike mechanic at Bicycle Man (where we bought the bikes), but unfortunately, he has not seen this problem before. So, we are now in the process of contacting Roloff. Since it is night there, we’ll get the letter off to them tonight and hopefully have an answer by the morning. I’m hoping there is something we can do that will allow us to continue our trip. If not, we will rent a truck and head home to await parts (no point in waiting 3 days for parts here, when we are so close to home).

… please stand by …

Going on a croc hunt …

Monday, June 16th, 2008

77 km, 5 hr – Scarborough to Port Darlington

Today began with an early start. Both John and Tina needed to be places, so we got up, packed up and headed out to MacDonalds (across the street) for breakfast. We were on the road by 7:30 am.

The weather finally felt nice. It was a nice temperature (about 20 deg) and sunny.

Our ride began with 18 km of busy city streets. Although the streets were busy and often 4 or 6 lanes, it was always quite comfortable to be on a bicycle. There was always an extra lane so that vehicles could pass you with a full lane. The only time cars came close was when they wanted to make a right-turn. So, it made for a pleasant and comparatively fast ride.

Once we were out of Scarborough, the lakeside paths recommenced. The paths through Ajax, Oshawa, and Whitby are very nice. The waterfront is mostly park land.

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Occasionally, the waterfront trail presents you with some stairs. Not too fun with a loaded bike.

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A remote part of the waterfront trail.

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One of the many nice pathways.

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Scott approaching on one of the bridges.

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Birds taking a nap near Whitby.

We stopped in Whitby for lunch at the A&P grocery store. There is a new store / strip mall right along the waterfront trail (where the trail heads out to Victoria Road). We picked up some food from the “fresh 2 go” section. Not long after arriving, we were invited to use the staff picnic table for lunch. We sat down and chatted with several people while enjoying our lunch. One lady even invited us to stay in her basement in Oshawa. Unfortunately, we had to decline, as we really needed to put on more miles. Oshawa was just too close, such that stopping there would mean a need to ride over 100 km the next day.

Throughout the day, I was aware of the changing weather. When we left lunch, there was a very dark cloud over top us. With the cloud came cooler temperatures, to the point where we considered putting on jackets. Fortunately, that cloud passed over us without releasing any rain, and the sun was soon with us again.

A few km down the road, my gears started acting up. I’ve found that my shifter can sometimes get very hard to shift. I was told this was normal break-in for the Roloff, but it really didn’t feel right, and it was almost impossible to shift. Scott gave it a try and agreed. He removed the cable from the hub, and we noticed that it was still difficult to shift. The problem appears to be in the cable, not the hub itself. Not able to do much else with it, Scott put it back together. It seems to be working better now. This has been an intermittent problem, so it is unclear how much longer it will remain better.

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Darling power plant.

When we reached Darlington Provincial Park we discovered that the park store was closed Monday through Thursdays. It appears the parks are not running in full swing yet. Summer hasn’t really begun. We had only gone 60 km and didn’t really want to do a century (100+km) tomorrow, so we decided to move along to Port Darlington, where there were several motel options. Not long after leaving the park, a few large raindrops hit me. I totally panicked and freaked out. I wanted to get the tarp out and get under cover; and yet, the clouds were separating and the sun beginning to shine. All these crazy thunderstorms lately have definitely made me oversensitive to rain. Scott managed to calm me down and made me realize that we really didn’t even need rain gear. The short spattering of rain didn’t even wet the pavement before it stopped. We only had 6 km to go to Port Darlington, so even if it did rain, it wouldn’t be long before we were indoors.

Just before Port Darlington, we turned off into a single track lane that went under the high power lines. The paths got a little more interesting, in that they were no longer paved bike paths, rather packed gravel or dirt single track.

I had a little fall on the way to the path (large bump on a bad angle, meant the loaded bike didn’t land flat! – oops). The folks in the hydro truck watching must have been amused. The driver gave a small honk to let Scott know to wait for me.

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Single track just before Port Darlington.

We soon arrived at the Port Darlington Marina Motel. Scott negotiated a reasonable rate ($87 for ground floor room), so we decided to stay. The clouds were promising to throw a storm at us yet. Shortly after arriving, I discovered that I had lost one of my crocs :(. Scott had warned me that my attachment mechanism wasn’t secure. I knew that it couldn’t be that far away, since it was on my bike when I put my rain jacket on the back after my little weather craziness. I hypothesized that it fell off when I fell entering the track (only about 1.5 km away).

So, we unloaded our bikes and headed out on a croc hunt. As we re-entered the single track, the clouds were looking rather dark. It appeared that two different storm clouds were going to intersect with one another. Meanwhile, we are riding along single track underneath high power lines. At one point, Scott asked “how badly do you want your Croc?”. I figured that we really did not have that much further to go to get to where I fell. We could see the beginning of the path (about 1 km max). Fortunately, my croc wasn’t that far away. Within 200 m of Scott making the comment, my Croc appeared, so we turned around and headed back. We were off the trail and just outside the hotel, when we stopped to talk to a couple walking their dog. They were quite curious about our bikes and how we managed to stop and sit up on them. We had a few minutes to discuss the bikes before the thunder reminded us that the weather was about to hit, so we parted ways. We made it back to the motel dry.

Scott demonstrated how to get started riding the bike to the curious folks sitting outside their hotel rooms. Once we were settled in the room, the storm began, giving us the all too familiar thunder, lightning, and rain. It didn’t last too long, and now we have a lovely evening. Hopefully tomorrow will be as nice :).

When I checked the weather channel in the morning, I discovered that Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto had hail and wicked storms. We seem to always be on the right side of the severe weather. When we left Rochester, all points east had tornado warnings – fortunately, we were going west.

A rest day and visit to Toronto First

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

We decided to take today off of our bikes. A much needed rest day!

We headed into Toronto in the morning to attend the church service at the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. It again seemed that the minister picked a sermon just for us. His sermon was about “improv” and how life was really about improvising. It truly seemed like it was directed at us and the changes our lives will take over the next year. Thanks Shawn!

After church we walked around Kensington Market and Scott found a place for a $4 hair cut. I was tempted to get my hair cut, but didn’t really find a style that I wanted. I am looking forward to getting back to Ottawa and getting my hair chopped off then. It is much too long for this kind of touring!

After the haircut we went out for lunch, and then headed to the Urbane Cyclists to look at panniers. We still haven’t made our pannier decision, so we wanted to see what alternatives they had in stock. They had a very good selection of Ortlieb bags, and a bunch of Arkels as well, so it was helpful to compare.

We noticed on the walk over to the shop that the sky was looking rather threatening, but luckily, we found the store before the heavens opened up (yet again). So far, we have been pretty lucky in avoiding being caught out in the rain.

We are now back at Johnny and Tina’s, preparing for an early start tomorrow. We need to leave by 8 am, and we are hoping to get to a campground somewhere around Darlington or Cobourg before the “severe thunderstorms” forecast for tomorrow afternoon arrive. I think we may need to rename this trip from “Going Around” to Tour-de-Thunderstorm!

We do not expect to have much access to Internet for the next 2 or 3 days, so you may not see any updates until we get to Kingston (projected on Thursday).

Scott says:

I enjoyed riding the TTC around town – since it was Sunday, nothing was too busy, and we’re a short bus ride from both Warden and Kennedy subway stations, so it was very easy to get around.  I found myself comfortable navigating the TTC, which surprised me, since I haven’t spent much time in Toronto, and virtually none on the TTC, especially in the last decade.  Hopefully this sense of direction will translate into similar comfort in other cities I’m even less familiar with.

It was fun to attend a worship service with a different congregation, and see what was the same and what was different. I too was struck by the sermon, as well as the reading Shawn used as a basis.  It was a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, which I’ve reproduced below.  The thoughts about improvisation in the poem and in Shawn’s sermon struck me, since much of the next 16 months will be about improvisation, and I’ve spend much of my life arranging things so I’m in a happy quiet rut, without much need to improvise outside my comfort zone.  This trip will definitely be scary at times, but certainly an opportunity to stretch myself.

Life While-You-Wait
– Wislawa Szymborska

Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run –
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).

You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.