Message from China 12/07/2010Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: china, holidays, winter
WordPress is banned in China so it may be a long time before I’m able to post a proper update. My stories will have to wait.
In the meantime, please know that I’m healthy and safe as I make my way towards the southeast coast. Winter has been tough, but I have wool socks and a bushy beard. I’ll make it.
I want to thank everyone for their kind words and encouragement over the past year. Whether you sent an e-mail or posted a quick comment, your support means more to me than I can possibly say.
You are what keeps me going. To each of you, I wish a wonderful holiday season and all the best in 2011. Bye for now!
p.s. Facebook is also banned in China. E-mail will have to do for now.
p.p.s. A BIG thank you to my sister Lisa for posting this message for me.
Freezing my festicles 12/17/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: bordeaux, camping, france, holidays, paris, winter
This is the first year that I could recall the exact moment when winter wrestled the sunshine from autumn. I was leaving Bellegarde, heading south, when a frosty gust of wind swept across the road and when I looked up, the blue skies went grey. And that’s the way they’ve stayed for the better part of a week.
Living on the road is an entirely different beast when the weather is difficult, and there have been times when this monster has roared. I’ve had frozen toes, icy food and so much frost on my tent that I’ve had to wiggle free like some kind of freakish Arctic worm. But I’ve also learned a lot – about myself and how to, y’know, not die – so the last few days have been uncomfortable but perfectly tolerable.
Thankfully, my bike is headed in the right direction and I’m nearly in Bordeaux, in the southwest corner of the country. Slowly but surely I’m making my way to Spain, the thought of which is what keeps me going when I’m climbing hill after hill with numb feet. I’m no meteorologist, but I’m certain that it must be warmer there.
It’s a pity that I’m forced to rush for the border because France has been incredible. Far from the snotty French I expected, the people are exceptionally warm and are not only happy, but excited to offer me assistance whenever possible. One couple even filled my water bottle with a litre of cabernet sauvignon – not the best frosty treat, though a nice gift all the same. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is that my French has gone from dismal to slightly coherent. I can’t exactly carry conversations, but I do manage to give them a good nudge. It’s a work in progress.
And what of Paris? Amazing. Biking down Avenue Charles de Gaulle, past the Arc de Triomphe, weaving in and out of the crush of traffic was an experience I will never forget. For awhile I forgot I was even riding my bike – I was just a part of an enormous metropolitan creature, an atom in an artery, and I simply arrived exactly where I was supposed to be. Time got away from me and all I wanted of the lights and flavours and sounds was more, so I criss-crossed the downtown streets until nearly midnight. Magic.
I don’t know when I’ll be near a computer again, so I want to take a quick moment to thank everyone for following my trip. It gets a bit lonely on the road sometimes, but all your kind words have kept me going over the past six months and 9,000 km. To each of you, I wish a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. All the best!
Saskatchewant 09/06/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: alberta, border, camping, holidays, saskatchewan, wind
I knew it, I knew God would break out the smiting stick as soon as I said cycling in Alberta was easy.
From the moment I left Sylvan Lake, my bike was tilted at a 45 degree angle as a south wind howled across the parched prairie. It kicked dust and salt across the road from dried, cracked ponds, and by the time I stopped in Castor, my eyes were blazing red slits.
There I met a Lebanese guy named Salam who owned the local gas station and had a million and one questions about my trip.
“You camp, and the gear, it all goes in those little bags?”
“And your food, where is that?”
“Mostly here,” I said, shoving a thumb at my stomach.
He laughed and pointed out a place in town where I could camp for free. Before I set off he also turned me on to a backroads shortcut to Saskatoon that I never would have thought of on my own. Not bad for a town where I only wanted to fill up my water bottles.
The shortcut covered a pile of rolling hills and the wind was fierce, so the next day I was only able to get to Provost, not far from the Saskatchewan border. Still, for all the time I spent panting in the shade of the ditch, I wasn’t all that disappointed with myself.
There was no doubt I was chomping at the bit to get going the next morning, though, and the timing was perfect. The wind tapped me on the shoulder and kicked my butt down the highway for 189 km, all the way to Biggar, Saskatchewan.
As I was calling my folks from a payphone, I had my bike inspected by three kids with nothing better to do than hang out at Chester Fried Chicken on a Friday night. One of them, a freckled short-round with a swelled chest, seemed to have sticky fingers around my gear, but I gave him a pretty heavy hint that I had no problem busting a 12-year-old’s head.
We came to an understanding, and in the end the trio marched me to the campground in the dark. Along the way I heard about their exploits in drinking Vex and tipping over ballpark outhouses. Part of me wanted to weep for the human race, but the fact is none of us were angels when we were kids. They’ll come around.
The coyotes yelped all night, but the camping spot was a good one and I slept like a baby. The trip to Saskatoon was hassle free and besides a two-hour tiptoe through a ceiling-stack bookstore in Perdue, I made good time into the city.
I met up with my friend Carrie and her boyfriend Kent, whose family was in town to check out the Labour Day weekend fireworks. The house was insane, a crazy circus of people coming and going in every direction, but I enjoyed every second.
And the fireworks were amazing! Thousands of people crowded the parks and bridges by the river, oohing and ahhing as the sky lit up. It was a bit of a sensory overload for me – traffic signals are “big lights” these days – but I had a blast.
Now I’m off. Two more days and I’ll be in Regina. Crazy.