A Canadian Odd-Essay
Notes from a Madman's Diary
by Harold Bridge
spending much of the winter & early spring booking campsites
across the country by phone &/or computer I suffered a disappointment.
The Cross Canada Cycle Tour Society (CCCTS) had ordained that
our Trans Canada Tour was to start from Victoria, Vancouver Island,
on May 31. That meant I would not be able to complete a "Super
Randonneur" series as the first 600 would clash. "Madbridge"
maybe, but start a 4,700 mile tour the day after finishing a
600? Not at 76. With no 600 to do there was no sense in doing
the 400, especially as the route took the riders up & over
the 1244 metre summit of the Coquihalla Toll Road. I would be
climbing that as a tourist 2 weeks later.
a year's total "Ks" at 3,596 kms I started the randonneur
10: Vancouver Island 200. Had 3 flats before I found my brake
blocks had worn a groove through the side of the rear Continental
25mm tyre! Duh!
Outside limit at 50kms - quit. Rode the Mariposa.
17: Lower Mainland 200. A straight forward route I designed back
in the eighties. Good day, some rain. 10hrs 14 mins. Rode the
24: Kamloops 200. Driving the 350kms to the Interior City of
Kamloops gave me the opportunity to check the campsites &
route through town
for the TC Tour 5 weeks later.
"200" itself was good & it was a pleasant change
from the well worn grooves within a day's ride of Vancouver.
On the Tony Hoar again. 10:49.
Barnhartvale Road, that takes us back to the finish without using
Trans Canada Hwy, is a delightful romp down to about 1,000 metres.
But it has cattle grids & many pot holes. When I got home
I found the head bearings were about to fall apart!
1: Lower Mainland 300. Great day. But the route is mainly in
Washington State & some of the road surfaces leave a lot
to be desired. As I was preparing the Mariposa for the TC Tour
- "Shore to Shore 2004", I rode the Tony Hoar again.
I have resigned myself to the fact that probably sub 15 hour
300s are likely to be beyond me now & I set out planning
on 3 x 100 at 5 hours, 5:30 & 6:00 respectively. That worked
out well, except the last 100 (+ an extra 5.8 kms) took an extra
23 minutes - 16:53.
22: Fléche Pacifique. At this point I had recorded 5,248
This popular 24 hour team event has 3 trophies:
The main one is, of course, for the team that finishes at the
"Arrivee" with the greatest distance. (minimum to qualify:
The Veteran's trophy is awarded to the team whose members are
all over 40 & finishes with the greatest distance in that
category. Points are the product of average age x distance. Minimum
points are ofcourse 360 x 40 = 14400.
BC Heart & Lung Trophy is awarded to the team whose members
include a rider at least 55 years & one who is not yet 35.
I was co-opted onto the team along with 26 year old Sarah, triathlete,
PBP ancien ('03-80 hours) & health club trainer. A 50 year
age range made us a fairly safe bet, assuming we finished.
rescued the trophy from the Olympia team in Washington. We quite
enjoyed our 379 kms (236 miles). Having the "Arrivee"
at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel attracts a lot of American
teams to our event.
me, a "Devil Take the Hindmost" is an entertaining
& exciting race on the velodrome. Here is a story of a Trans
Canada "Devil Take the Hindmost":
"SHORE TO SHORE 2004"
days after finishing the Flèche I was off to Victoria
ready to start our Trans Canada Tour. It had taken me about 47
years to get round to doing it.
think it was an article by the late John Hathaway that drew my
attention to the endeavour. In a 1957 "CYCLING" he
wrote of his 24 day 13 hour unsupported record ride from Halifax
to Vancouver. (about 4,000 miles largely on gravel).
5,707 kms for the year recorded I rode to the "Mile Zero"
sign by Victoria's Beacon Hill Park on May 31. Here I met the
others who had also decided the official start from Fort Langley
was missing a bit. Getting to Fort Langley, British Columbia's
birthplace, amounted to 105 kms plus a pleasant ferry cruise
through Active Pass, separates Mayne & Pender Islands, enroute
to the Mainland.
people were at Fort Langley as Dan had organized a 5 day "Hub
& Spoke". This is a centre tour type arrangement where
everyone camps at one place & goes out on day rides. They
were all there to cheer us on our way to Newfoundland. It was
here I had my introduction to camping, something I have never
been too keen on. The ravages of age, arthritis in particular,
only go to make camping even less attractive
a day learning to set up the cooking/eating canopy & getting
to know each other we set out on June 2 to ride to Hope at the
apex of the Fraser Valley. The only way out of Hope is up on
any of the 3 options. We were to use the newest, the Coquihalla
Toll Road opened in 1986. It would be a long day as we were going
right through to Merritt. The last tour camped at the summit
- 1244 metres & it snowed!
of Trans Canada through the British Columbia Mountains to the
Rockies is not bicycle friendly, although work is in progress
to deal with that. Thus Dan had routed us north through B.C.
on Highway 5 to Hwy 16 - the Yellowhead. The pass is a gentle
crossing of the Rockies with a decent shoulder. Provided, that
is, one looks out for the "rumble strips". Highway
#16 took us to Jasper for our first rest day in Whistler's Campground.
moose, bears, cougars, wolves etc all inhabit the National Park.
But although others saw bear & moose I was unlucky &
only managed a distant photo of a browsing elk.
the campsite & heading south required us to ride the spectacular
Icefields Parkway to the Icefields Chalet. Expensive accommodation,
but early June isn't the ideal time for camping at 6,000ft! We
learnt from the Club's previous experience. Just as well, it
was 1 degree C & raining heavily when we descended the south
side of Sunwapta Pass the following morning!
had been volunteered to be a leader of the group. Also I was,
I think, the most experienced with roadside repairs. As such
I felt it incumbent upon me to ride at the back so I could assist
with any bike problems. That was a good excuse for the first
3 or 4 weeks. But as I got older & slower so the others developed
into quite strong riders. My place at the back was secured!
across Alberta saw a gradual change from mountain scenery to
wide open prairie. Roads that go in a straight line for 80 kms
or more are quite intimidating &, frankly, downright boring.
But one doesn't set out to ride across Canada without being aware
of the downside of such an endeavour.
13, there was a glitch in the route instructions created by the
computer generated details not being accurate. We were to do
124 kms between Rocky Mountain House and Olds. But due to trying
to follow directions some of us did 155kms that day with most
of the extra being on gravel roads. We finally stayed on Hwy
587 to Bowden & then took 2A to Olds. It was along here I
nearly fell foul of the worst rumble strips I have ever seen.
Luckily, there was no passing traffic when I nearly fell into
Olds campground was flooded. Our persuasive administrator, Ken,
and & charming treasurer, Sandra, together worked their charm
on the Best Western's front desk clerk & got us all in there
at $25 a head!
June 14 we were to ride 131 kms from Olds to Drumheller where
we were to have our 2nd rest day. This was intended to give us
an opportunity to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum where, I am
told, there is an impressive display of stuff relating to the
dinosaur remains found in the Alberta Badlands close by.
ride was a wet one & quite exciting as some of us rode across
open prairie through thunder & lightening. I took shelter
in Orkney Church for a while, but as I was due on the cook team
that night I risked it & arrived in camp soaked. But then,
so was everyone else who preceded me. All were in high spirits
as they sheltered in the truck. Dave's bottle of Bushmills emptied
rapidly! We ate out that night!
a result the rest day was just that for most of us. The sun shone
& we spent time drying out tents & Thermorest mattresses.
Drumheller itself appeared to be quite a grotty town.
arrival at our next destination, Hanna, the front runners found
that the anticipated camp facility was useless and we finished
up at Fox Lake about 4kms away. With a decent field and a hut
in which to cook, this proved to be a good site. In fact, due
to the wind, several people pitched tent in the hut after supper.
Nancy enjoyed the company of a mouse that ran across her face
during the night! When treasurer Sandra asked the management
"How much?" they gave us the site for free. While standing
in the middle of the field about midnight doing what I had to
do, I had an impressive 360 degree view of the night sky's brilliant
had been clumsy & got an infected wound on the shin. On June
19 I told the others to press on from Kindersley, Saskatchewan
to that night's destination, Rosetown, 86 kms east. I went to
the hospital, got the wound dressed & collected an antibiotic
left the town at 10:00. My 88 inch top gear (47x14) was, for
this one & only time, way under requirement. But even so
I got the 86 kms done non-stop in 2:40.
following day was a totally different story. The 115 kms to Saskatoon
took 9 hours of which about one hour was off the bike. Riding
northeast with a cold north wind blowing was quite tedious.
planning was intended to avoid large urban areas. As a result
our 118kms from Dauphin, Manitoba on June 27 took us to Lake
Manitoba Narrows Lodge as a bypass of Winnipeg. We all got to
the Narrows before the truck, including me, the tailender. Everyone
was enjoying the sunshine on the dock & we rapidly absorbed
the store's stock of beer, if Budwieser can count as such. We
were all too merry to get upset with Wayne when the truck finally
It was a novelty to sleep in cabins that night.
Trans Canada cycle tourists, intimidated by the dreadful reputation
of the Trans Canada Highway through Northern Ontario, choose
to head into the USA & go round the south side of the Great
Lakes. We, however, didn't. We endured the Canadian route with
its constant stream of big trucks on our left & broken pavement
where a shoulder should have been on our right. Sandra, a tiny
57 year old with a gymnast's figure, was constantly in danger
of being blown off her bike.
Kenora, our first contact with Ontario, we headed south to Fort
Frances that sits right on the American border. It was rumoured
to be a somewhat better road than the direct route through Dryden.
However, when driving the 1 ton support truck back to Vancouver
we found that stretch of road to be quite good. But the desolation
of the area might have proved tedious.
the time I got to Fort Frances I had suffered a lot of pain for
a few days. Tendonitis or siatica down my left leg was the problem
& the next day was to be our longest, 150 kms to Atikokan.
I endured 105 kms of it & finally had to retire to the truck.
Upon arrival at Atikokan's Bunell Park we were told that Town
manager Wayne was giving us the site for free.
had a Chinese therapist traveling with us, one of the rider's
wives. She did her therapy thing on my leg & recommended
a couple of days in the truck. That would get us to Thunder Bay
where we were due for a rest day. Having 3 days off the bike
seemed to cure the problem & it didn't return. As a Port
Coquitlam resident it was incumbent upon me to visit the Terry
Fox Memorial about halfway between Thunder Bay and the KOA we
were using. Mary & David Helt, Irene & I taxied from
Down Town Thunder Bay to the imposing monument & had quite
a long walk from there back to KOA campsite
the rest day I decided it was time to install the new chain &
new rear tyre. The chain gauge indicated the chain was 75% worn
& too much use beyond that point starts to hook the sprocket
left Thunder Bay on July 9, my 77th birthday & Mary's 63rd.
We had candles to blow out that evening! At Nipigon the Stillwater
Tent and Trailer Park had a sign out front welcoming us. A group
photo by the sign was mandatory.
from Thunder Bay at the Lakehead to Sault Ste Marie at the eastern
end of Lake Superior took 7 day and just about 700kms.
week's ride took us in a big arc round the edge of this large
body of fresh water. We were lucky along this stretch, very pleasant
& sunny weather allowed us to think we were riding alongside
the ocean, not an inland lake.
final stop before Sault Ste Marie was to be at Montreal River
Despite the mosquito annoyance it was a pleasant spot with some
tents planted on a cliff edge overlooking the Lake. As the name
suggests it is in a dip in the landscape so that getting there
used brake blocks & leaving there used leg muscles &
since a tumble just outside Jasper I had been nursing a pedal
problem. Somewhere in the Prairies I took the pedal apart to
remove a piece of grit that had been causing an annoying "click-click".
Unfortunately, due to a worn lock washer, I wasn't successful
in getting the pedal back together very well. By the time I had
climbed the hill out of Montreal River Harbour the pedal cage
was about to fall off the spindle. Luckily Wayne had yet to drive
the truck by & so I lost another day's cycling when he stopped
for me & I climbed in.
Sault Ste Marie bike shop had a cheap pair of toeclip type pedals
he sold me for $20 & I managed to complete the tour on those.
In 2003 CCCTS member Marion Orser cycle camped from Prince Rupert
on BC's northern coast right through to Halifax. In the Sault
she found the Algonquin Hotel, a heritage building that now operates
as a Youth Hostel for youths of all ages. It was on her recommendation
that we booked this facility for 2 nights for our 5th rest day.
Another couple of nights we didn't have to camp!
plan was Highway 17 all the way from the Sault (the Soo) to Iron
Bridge, a distance of 120 kms. However, some local advice was
to turn off at Echo Bay & take the back road. On the map
it didn't look any longer than staying on the main road. But
it added about 14 kms to the distance as well as some brutal
hills. Worse still, the back road's surface left a lot to be
desired whereas those who stayed on the main road had a brand
new surface on a wide shoulder. But even so, the 30 or 40 kms
we did on a quiet back road was a pleasant change.
South Baymouth at the south end of Manitoulin Island we were
to board a Ferry to Tobermory at the north end of the Bruce Peninsula,
this pastoral scene divides Lake Huron from Georgian Bay.
into southern Ontario we were made aware of the proximity of
Toronto & I was happy to get to Ottawa, But on the way we
had a short day into Kingston & this allowed us time to view
this historic & attractive city.
had booked 2 rest days in the capital & we were met by the
Ottawa branch of the CCCTS. They led us along the Rideau Canal
into the university residence where we were to sleep in real
beds for 3 nights. We arrived soon after noon only to find that
we couldn't be registered until 16:00. I took the opportunity
to ride out of town to the National Aeronautical Museum that
I had long wanted to visit. An impressive display of aircraft
of all sorts. Badly overcrowded as the building is, it was good
to see an additional hangar is under construction.
crossed the Ottawa River from Hawkesbury into Quebec in very
miserable weather. Worse still the road to our campsite at Lachute
was in an awful state & I was feeling very anti-Quebec.
beyond there Quebec roads were very good. It was enroute from
Lachute to Joliette we suffered our first serious accident. Irene,
from Edmonton, Alberta, somehow flipped & broke her elbow
& pelvis. With Mary to comfort her she spent a long time
in the hospital waiting room before being seen to & eventually
being flown home.
hadn't been to Quebec City since living in Montreal during the
sixties. It is a wonderful town. We were also quite lucky with
the weather & our rest day there was a good opportunity to
get re-quainted with the French aspects of Canadian culture.
getting out of Quebec City & onto the south shore of the
St Lawrence River involved combating very bicycle unfriendly
facilities on the Bridge & a tedious traffic laden ride through
several kilometres of urban sprawl on the South side of the St
that, St Jean Port Jolie was a delight with its concentration
of artists displaying their crafts along the road and with wide
views NE across the River. Leaving Rivere du Loup on Saturday
August 7 involved a monster climb away from the river & toward
New Brunswick. We entered New Brunswick with about 6,200 kms
behind us. Partly due to no choice & partly due to time constraints
we were spending a lot of time on main roads. In NB that wasn't
too bad, the Province had finally convinced the Federal Government
that the accident rate on NB roads was unacceptable and warranted
a major rebuild. New Brunswick roads were the best we got to
August 11 I left Harrt Island campground on the western edge
of Fredriction by myself. I found my way through town okay but
got hopelessly lost upon leaving town. I wandered around some
back roads for an age before someone, a mailman I think, got
me on the right track.
August 12, In Moncton, I got a glimpse of George leading Mary
& David the "wrong way" & in wondering where
they were going I found I was heading out of town in the wrong
direction. Once on the right road it was a straight forward ride
to Shediac. Upon leaving the campsite the following morning I
found my rear tyre to be flat. But I didn't have a puncture to
wreak my record. Instead the valve stem had split from the tube
were due for a short day on the bikes. My computer indicated
65kms to the shuttle bus that was to take us across the 13 km
long Confederation Bridge onto Prince Edward Island. Fortunately,
the weather was decent so the long wait was only made uncomfortable
by the lack of shade from the hot sun!
on PEI I endured quite a wet ride & ate my lunch at Cavendish
Beach in the rain. Apart from George appearing out of nowhere
while approaching Charlottetown I spent our token PEI ride alone.
storage at the University was a problem and Frank's bike was
stolen whilst parked outside the dormitory. But Wayne the driver
had his bike with him for the occasional ride & he came to
the rescue by loaning Frank his bike.
Maritime Provinces deserve better. Perhaps as the majority of
the riders were from the west coast it might have been more profitable
to start in St Johns rather than finish there. As it was, by
the time we left Quebec there was an aura of; "Lets get
this over with" It is a long way to ride a bicycle.
given the time constraints and the fact the whole operation was
aimed at riding across the country we did what we needed to do
in the time available. But riding point to point isn't necessarily
touring in the true sense.
I think those of us who hadn't been east of Quebec before had
our appetites whetted for returning to the Maritimes for a closer
Charlottetown we saw the building where, in 1867, the guy pulled
the letters of the alphabet from a hat and said: "C eh,
N eh, D eh" & thus created Canada. (He didn't? eh?).
August 16 we rode 74 kms to the Wood Islands ferry for a sail
back to the Mainland, docking at Pictou in Nova Scotia. As the
ferry charged by the vehicle all the bikes went in the truck
& all bodies went in the truck or "ChanVan"
Saved a bundle there. Arriving at the Harbour Light Campground
we received a very courteous welcome in the form of cheese and
meat plates, fruit & bottled water.
17 was very wet, but with only 81 kms to do even I arrived in
camp, Antigonish, at 14:00. This ride was mainly on Hwy 104 &
we continued on it on the 18th to cross the unshouldered Causeway
onto Cape Breton Island. While descending the hill toward the
Causeway Frank suffered a flat back tyre. We struggled to get
the very slack tyre to stay on the rim. Finally I gave him my
spare, a 20mm Michelin Hilite foldable. It looked most out of
place on that mountain bike, but it saved the day.
original plan to go to Louisbourg was dropped due to time distance
& weather & arrangements were made to stay near Sydney,
or so we thought. But the KOA's mailing address has no relationship
to their actual location. That was the other side of the Seal
Island Bridge. Not realizing how far away it was I turned off
the main road and during a 135 km day got to tour Big Bras d'Or.
As a result I was in camp very late. The Camp sign I saw referred
to some other facility. Of course, I was supposed to be on the
cook team that night as well!
the Seal Island Bridge was a similar experience to the Rosedale
Bridge across the Fraser River south of Agassiz; you just hope
no big trucks come across while you are on it.
following day there was just 30 kms to do into North Sydney before
boarding the ferry to Argentia. We had a decent day to spend
in North Sydney with me chasing around trying to find more slide
film. "Slide film? What's that?"
After a placid crossing on the night of August 20/21 we docked
at Argentia in wet, cold, foggy conditions which did not encourage
us to mess about with a sight seeing detour to Cape Spear. It
was decided we would plough straight on to St John's & get
there a day early. The final stretch on a near freeway was tedious
& it was here that Nancy had her first flat, a km or 2 from
following day was bright & very breezy. Getting blown off
Signal Hill was a possibility. But we hung onto our hats, got
some photos & enjoyed the attractive and historic views.
A visit to Trapper John's to get "screeched" &
kiss the puffin's arse converted us into Honorary Newfies.
Sunday we did manage to get everyone together for photos at St
John's "Mile Zero". For me it was Mile "4,594"
For most others it would be
about "Mile 4,800" With that done it was time to go
home. But it was another 3 days before camp was completely dissolved.
Then Dave & I drove the truck back to Vancouver.
the camping, cooking or cycling I don't know, but I lost between
10 and 15 lbs during the tour. I certainly climb hills better
now. Let's see if I can maintain this weight (165/169 lbs) &
put it to good use next year when I plan some serious cycling.
started writing this on the last day of summer, September 21.
The day after was my re-introduction to working for a living.
I retired at the end of 2000. Why it has taken the company almost
4 years to realize I am indispensable I don't know.
from my antipathy toward camping, one of the problems that came
to light was the fact that campsites are usually out of town
& it is nice to be in town in the evening. Perhaps a B&B
tour might be better from that POV.
was one more event, in mid September. An off road 200km randonnee
in the Cariboo. A disaster! Unmade roads, some snow among the
rain, hands too cold to change gear. Brake blocks worn to uselessness
& fingers unable to adjust the brake cables. A Good Samaritan
drove me back to my truck at Hills. My right middle finger is
just now coming back to life after 7 weeks!
a result of all the cycling I have done this year, what with
a busy spring followed by riding across Canada I have recorded
15,172 kms (9428 miles) so far (November 8). I feel, therefore,
I should make an attempt at 10,000 miles (16,093 kms) for the
year 2004. It would be the first such distance since emigrating
from UK in 1964. But this going back to work business might make
that aim difficult & so I feel I should take every opportunity
to stack in some "Ks".
that I am a good deal fitter post Trans Canada than pre-TC, it
is a great pity I was unable to get my 14th "Super Randonneur"
medal from Audax Club Parisien. Joining *C-KAP* 2 years ago has
given me an incentive to keep stacking in the kilometres &
perhaps I can start next season in better shape than in past
Kilometre Achiever Program* (firstname.lastname@example.org)