Newsletter - 2004 Archive

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A Canadian Odd-Essay
Notes from a Madman's Diary

by Harold Bridge

          After 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.

          With a year's total "Ks" at 3,596 kms I started the randonneur season:
          April 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.
          April 17: Lower Mainland 200. A straight forward route I designed back in the eighties. Good day, some rain. 10hrs 14 mins. Rode the Tony Hoar.
          April 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.
          The "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.
          The 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!
          May 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.
          May 22: Fléche Pacifique. At this point I had recorded 5,248 kms.
This popular 24 hour team event has 3 trophies:
1:           The main one is, of course, for the team that finishes at the "Arrivee" with the greatest distance. (minimum to qualify: 360 kms)
2:           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.
3:           The 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.
          We 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.

          To 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":


          Six 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.
          I 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).
          With 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.
          Many 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
          After 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!
          Much 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.
          Elk, 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.
          Leaving 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!
          I 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!
          Heading 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.
          June 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 the road.
          The 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!
          Monday 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.
          The 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!
          As 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.
          On 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 star show.
          I 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 prescription.
          I 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.
          The 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.
          Route 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 appeared.
It was a novelty to sleep in cabins that night.
          Many 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.
          From 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.
          By 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.
          We 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
          During 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 teeth.
          We 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.
          Getting from Thunder Bay at the Lakehead to Sault Ste Marie at the eastern end of Lake Superior took 7 day and just about 700kms.
          This 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.
          Our final stop before Sault Ste Marie was to be at Montreal River Harbour.
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 & low gears.
          Ever 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.
          The 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!
          The 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.
          From 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.
          Once 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.
          We 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.
          We 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.
          However, 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.
          I 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.
          But 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 Lawrence River.
          After 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 ride on.
          On 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.
          On 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
          We 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!
          But 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.
          Bike 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.
          The 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.
          But 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.
          However, 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 look.
          In 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?).
          On 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.
          August 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.
          The 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!
          Crossing 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.
          The 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 the campsite
          The 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.
          On 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.
          Whether 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.
          I 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.
          Apart 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.
          There 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!
          As 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".
          Given 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 years.
          *Canadian Kilometre Achiever Program* (

November, 2004