Monday, May 22, 2017

Day 02 - L'Orignal (ON) to Laval (QC)

95.2 km - Total so far 198.20 



After a blissful night and a full breakfast we said good bye to Marcel, Sylvette, André and William and hit the road under a slight drizzle. Joining us for the ride today was our nemesis, the headwind. Not as bothersome as yesterday, but it certainly made it`s presence felt. By 9:00 am, we would be continuing our ride into Québec.

Bike path near Carillon, deep in the middle of mosquito country.
We stopped for lunch in St Andrews East and confirmed that Highway 344 was open. As we pedaled Highway 344, we saw how close the water was to the road. We assumed that cycling the bike path in the Oka/Pointe Calumet might be a problem and decided to go with the Plan B route. Past Saint-Placide on Hwy 344, we headed North and up Rang Saint-Étienne. This would take us to Saint-Eustache via the `Highlands`.

The church of Saint-Benoit and not a sand bag or pile of wet drywall to be seen.
Given that today is `La Journée Nationale des Patriotes` we decided to make a stop at l`Église de Saint-Eustache, site of a battle. The Battle of Saint-Eustache, fought on December 14, 1837, was a decisive battle in the Lower Canada Rebellion in which British forces defeated the principal remaining Patriotes camp at Saint-Eustache. Seventy Patriotes died and twelve of which are buried next to the church. 

Saint-Eustache Church with Daniel in yellow

Cannon ball damage upper left or door

I had not been to Saint-Eustache in years and I was amazed to see how much effort has been invested in bringing the past to life. Just to give you an idea of what is available have a look at the pictures below with links to the websites. The websites are in french only but that should not stop you from stopping in Saint-Eustache and spending the day. We plan on going back in the VW bus and the bikes on the rack.

The Patriotes Mural

Moulin Légaré, circa 1762

Weather forecast for tomorrow is sunny, 12 degrees and wait for it: winds from the West 19 km/h with gust to 30 km/h. Reacting with unmitigated excitement.

My mother, Thérèse Gamache, helped us edit and publish the blog. 

59.15 miles - Total so far 123.16 miles

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Day 01 - Ottawa to L'Orignal

103.0 km - Total so far 103.0 km -

This link will show you the route and terrain:

We are finally on the road. We had an early start and made it to Parliament Hill by 8 am to get the required start picture. We were surprised to see how many people were lined up across the street (Wellington Street) to get their free passes to visit Parliament.

The bicycles fully loaded and ready to hit the road

Eastward to "The Rock" official picture

We were a bit concerned about starting our trip in the rain but it held off until we were safe, secure and fully settled for the night in L'Orignal. Environment Canada might have been off on their rain forecast but they were spot on with the winds. We felt the 20 kp/h wind in our hair and face for the entire 103 kilometres. At times, we were overjoyed when the wind gusted to 40+ kp/h. Oh, we are so looking forward to those days when the wind will be to our back. 

Gotta stay sharp when on the road

Hélène rethinking this bicycling to Newfoundland deal
Tonight we are roughing it in L'Orignal at Marcel and Sylvette's (Hélène's brother and sister-in-law) home. To our surprise, the visit turned into a family event and many of Hélène's family including Simon and Réjeanne (Hélène's parents) were there. Let's hope we can resist the urge to have an early night as we usually do on bike trips.

We have just a few pictures and none include the Ottawa River as most people in the area have seen it over and over again in the news due to the floods on both sides (Québec and Ontario).

Speaking of floods, we have had to amend our intended route for tomorrow. Parts of the Quebec Route Verte (bike path) is still under water. More mileage might be required to get to Laval. A complete update tomorrow.

All in all we are ecstatic to finally be on the road!

Hélène working on the blog under challenging conditions.

64.00 miles - Total so far 64.00 miles

Saturday, May 20, 2017

1 Day to Departure

At last the big day is tomorrow. 

We had hoped for a cool day without rain but, alas, it will be wet with the possibility of precipitation being 30% according to Environment Canada or 80% according to the Weather Network. To add insult to injury, the wind forecast is for a 22 km/h headwind.

I took an extra week off from work to attend to what I thought would be small last-minute details.

Turns out that on Tuesday evening, I discovered that we had overlooked sewing Snatch-Tabs to the under side of our tarp. Without those Snatch-Tabs, it would have been impossible to suspend our Net-Tent to the tarp. A good thing we had some slack built into the schedule.

Hélène decided to modify her newly acquired 'Handle bar bag'. See the video below. 

I was also able to visit the Mountain Equipment Cooperative (MEC) without what Hélène refers too as "Adult Supervision". I took full advantage of that and brought home items that I consider to be essential for this and follow-on trips, namely a spare rear derailleur.  While not essential for this trip, it most certainly is for the Alaskan trip and thus part of the 'Experiment'.

Today, we are going to give the bicycles a final going over, clean and lubricate the chains, verify that we have everything and that it is distributed evenly amongst the panniers. 

Finally, we will have a quiet supper at the world-famous 'Elgin Street Dinner' and make it an early night.

Monday, May 15, 2017

6 Days to Departure

Only six days to departure. Training rides have continued but have not been as numerous as expected. The weather has just been horrible. On the trip, we will pedal rain or shine but at home, we prefer the rain-free rides.

On the 12th of May, we chose to play tourists and wandered to Gatineau, Chelsea and back to Ottawa. On the way back from lunch in Chelsea, we tackled a small climb in Gatineau Park just to warm the legs, then on to Gatineau where we had to make an about turn due to the ever-present flood waters. Back in Ottawa, we followed the Rideau Canal to Landsdowne Park(see video below). We took pictures and chatted with curious Ottawans  and tourists. We were mistaken for "Les 10 Pieds sur Terre"  a Quebec family that is travelling around the world. This goes to show you that cycling is good for you as it keeps you young looking. The Mom and Dad of '10 Pieds sur Terre are in their late 30s.

A new way to display our rides: Relive one of our training rides where we played tourists

The next five days will be pretty relaxed with not much activity. Our next update will be on the day before we leave and about the last minute scrambling. See you in six days! (20 May)

Ottawa in May - Tulips along Rideau canal, complete 
with cyclists, pedestrians and tourist boat!

Lovely flowers but we don't think they are tulips
(Helen D.?)

Landsdowne Park - Tulip festival

Map of Canada - Daniel standing at Cape Spear, Newfoundland

Map of Canada and the bikes fully loaded except for Hélène's AWOL bag. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

12 Days to Departure

We have been pretty busy over the last two weeks. We bought our plane tickets and made our first AirBnB booking in St-John's. We will be spending 3 lovely nights in a 1 bedroom apartment on Water St. 

Training rides continue and we had our first flat on April 26th. It was our very first late evening flat on a fully loaded touring bike. Under the glow of our headlamps, it would have been romantic had it not been for the mosquitoes.

We continue to chat with people and give away travel cards. We even had an offer for dinner and a place to sleep in Chelsea, QC (see map below). We surprised many of the road cyclists when we rode up to Pink Lake Lookout in Gatineau Park. Towing trailers, we managed to pass a few cyclists while going up hill. 😉 (Hélène strongly encouraged me to add the following: "The cyclists we passed were stopped on the side of the road in order to take our picture.")

We got a complete overhaul of the bikes as we did for the first trip. New chain for Hélène's bikes and new break pads for the both of us. 

Like most people we watched the television coverage of the floods in Gatineau and Rockland in areas that we have cycled to and through often. The Day 25 video was filmed on rue Jacques Cartier, in Gatineau, that is now mostly under water. 

On May 7th, we took a walk to the Rideau Canal, Lock #1 to see how high was the Ottawa River. You can see from the images below just how high the river is and it is expected to rise even more by tomorrow. At this time of year, the Ottawa Water Level (WL) is normally 42 meter above sea level and on May 7th, it is 45 meter and rising.

As excited as we are about starting our trip, it is impossible not to feel saddened by the hardships that thousands of people are now experiencing in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. As I worked on this post, Hélène read to me the latest Facebook entry from her brother in Rockland, Ontario.

We hope that the waters peak soon and that affected people everywhere can begin to look forward to the end of this tragedy.  

We have updated the Experiment Page by adding a map of our future Alaska/Yukon/BC trip in 2019. 

Lock # 1 in summer
Lock #1 with Ottawa River almost level with top of gates

Madame Mallard nesting in a tree by the Ottawa River
The Ottawa River has risen almost to the top of the railing 
Apr 29th on rue Jacques Cartier

Mosaicanada 150/Gatineau 2017 setting up in Jacques Cartier Park

Train station being assembled at Jacques Cartier Park and to be completely covered with plants 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

25 Days to Departure

How time flies. We are now 25 days away from leaving for Newfoundland.

TrainingWe started riding our bicycles loaded with the panniers on April 8th (4 days sooner than on our first trip in 2015). We were not gifted with nice weekend weather this time around and we had to squeeze in short rides (50 km) after work during the week. We got a chance to test our dynamo powered lights a lot. We got a solid workout on each outing and spiced things up by pushing our bikes through snow-covered NCC bike paths. On a few of the weekends, we headed out under cloudy conditions to get our long rides in. We were once again reminded that in the rain, keep pedalling to stay warm. 

We were told the bicycle path was clear of snow. Glad the trailers were still at home!

Found much needed packing foam while on the road. It saved us a trip to Canadian Tire.
Reduce - Recycle - Reuse 
By the 21st of April we finally had our food sorted, packed in panniers and ready to be attached to the trailers. For that first outing with the trailers, we kept it simple: flat terrain and 100 km. We headed SOUTH of Ottawa to the Loughlin's Country Store in Hallville (training ride #13 on the map below). The rumour that we went there just for the delicious homemade butter tarts is just that 'a rumour'. It was tough getting around Ottawa with all that stop and start while pulling 50+ pounds of trailer. As a friend said: "Once you get going, you don't really feel the weight'. He should have added "... and on a country road, ..."

Bikes and trailers parked outside store in Hallville, ON


Trailers: The experience we had last summer with our Extrawheel trailers was very positive. This time round, we discovered that when heavily loaded (44 lbs +), the trailer can start to oscillate at speeds greater than 22 kph. A good thing that our first trailer ride was on relatively flat terrain. Since Hélène, with a bit less weight in her panniers, had not experienced the same problem it was decided (actually I was ordered to :-) ) that we should reduce the weight in my panniers and move some of the food to my duffel bag, This cheap and cheerful solution enabled me the next day to hit 38 kph heading down hill away from Chelsea. Problem temporarily solved. I started reading online about trailer oscillation and tongue weight, so there may be a Part II to this.

Those trailers are a powerful addition to our equipment. With just your run of the mill panniers, folks start asking questions when you stop near them. When stopped with the trailers, people literally cross the street to chat and ask to take pictures. We also noticed that they cause pedestrians that we pass to turn around a have a double take, We have also observed the same from drivers heading from the opposite direction. This should lead to interesting encounters during the trip.

Electronics: We got ourselves a small 35 mm DSLR camera and a small tripod to increase our picture/video taking capabilities. We have also been trying our hand at taking and editing videos. As you might have expected, this is turning out to be a lot more difficult and time consuming than we had anticipated. Nevertheless, we will keep at it! 

Now that we have a USB connection to our dynamo, we have used it to charge one of our cell phones. Next test, is to charge a small storage battery. This will give us more autonomy for up coming trips.

Food: Planning our food menu for 14 days turned out to be a bit more involved than we had anticipated. We opted for ready-made freeze-dried food instead of assembling meals from bulk foods for our 2-week trial. We figure, it would have taken us many many hours to research recipes, assemble the meal, try it and again look for more recipes, as required. We start each day with a hot breakfast and a hot meal after the day's ride. In between, we eat snacks lots of snacks to reach the estimated daily caloric needs. We used a spreadsheet to help us arrive a daily menu that is both palatable and nutritious. The food on the table is one week's worth for two people. 

The really fun part was trying to fit all that food into 4 panniers. The main purpose of the original packaging is to help preserve the food for 30 years and provide a container to reheat it in. I don't think making it easy to pack was high on the list. In the original packaging, I could only fit 6 days of food in one pannier. Using medium sized freezer bags, we were able to save enough space to fit all 7 days inside the pannier. We use insulated cozies with the food in the original packaging for winter camping and will have to make smaller ones to work with the freezer bags. What they don't say in the instructions (when you follow the link) is that once you fold the longer piece over the shorter piece away from you, at 1/2 in from the fold, fold the top piece back on itself. Do the same for the bottom piece. This will enable you to spread the bottom of the assembled cozy (like the packaging below) and create a flat bottom so that you can stand the cozy. 

Daniel's food packing challenge

Hélène pannier with plenty of room for a few
butter tarts. 

In Hélène's case, we were able to fit the week's worth of food (original package) in her pannier. But as shown below, doing away with the original packaging also made a substantial difference (right pannier).

We are very close to ready. The to do list is now so much shorter and we can almost pretend and make believe that we are en-route to Newfoundland when on training rides.

The routes have been firmed up, the travel cards printed, the tarp is finished but has yet to be waterproofed. More on this subject at a later date. 

Hélène has put much effort in adding more features to the blog and making it easier for you to track our progress (or lack thereof). She is also the team "video/moviemaker" and is getting first-hand experience at how difficult and time consuming it is to assemble a 4-minute video with music. 

To the "In Training" signs we had on the rear of the bikes in 2015, we decided to do the same for the front of the bicycles. Having a "In Training - Ottawa/St-John's" saves us from having to respond to the the often asked: "Do you need directions!", "Where are you from?" and my favourite "Are you lost?". I just don't know how they know :-) 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

49 Days to Departure

Finally, the blog is public and we are well on our way to do the second leg of our Cross Canada trip.

The 2017 trip is summarized in a short presentation (click here to view the presentation).

We are continuing our ramp up (montée en puissance) for our departure in 49 days. We have been out cycling on the mountain bikes and last week, we managed two back-to-back 50 km rides after work. Our kilometres to date outside on bikes is higher than what we had in 2015 for our first trip. We got ourselves some serious headlamps so we are not afraid to finish our ride well after sunset.

Our touring bikes are at Phat Moose, getting our new Busch and Mueller front and rear lamps installed. We still have a bit of sewing to do on our Net-Tent but we our making progress. 

This coming week, we will continue our evening rides on the mountain bikes. Next weekend, we hope to be out riding with our bikes loaded with the panniers. We have not yet completely sorted out our food stuff, so we won't be taking the trailers out until we do. 

The training routine will be out 3 times during the work week with panniers only on the bikes and on the weekend, longer rides with panniers and trailers. We are aiming for 1,000 km towing trailers before we head off towards "The Rock".

Our next update will be at 25 days prior to departure.

Hélène et Daniel

Back country skiing in Gatineau Park (near Camp Fortune), March 2017