Bicycle Field Notes 3: Our Route, Skipping Across North America

For a bird’s eye view of the route that Lothar and I travelled across North America (mostly by bike), I have Welican-the-Pelican’s reports.

This is another post for my young friends and for everyone else that’s interested in a sneak peek of the cross continent part of our bicycle journey.

We rode our bikes out of our driveway in late spring 2015 with the birds singing along with us. We crossed the Canada-U.S.A. border to head south along the U.S.A. eastern coast in early fall 2015 with frost nipping at our heels. All along our journey, I’ve been furiously writing in my journal and taking photographs. So I have lots and lots of thoughts and ideas for more blog posts to come.

 

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Smithers, British Columbia, is where Lothar and I live with around 5,500 other people. It’s a small town. Its our home town (the yellow star). I’m writing this post from Bay City, Texas (blue dot).

 

For now, I’ll just say that riding my bike across and down a continent is a busy adventure. There is so much to learn along the way. All kinds of interesting things pop up, change, or disappear as we travel along depending on what I’m noticing, experiencing (seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, or touching), thinking about, or talking to someone about.

I love looking at the world through different lenses, like putting on different colours of sunglasses. Maybe, I should try pink today. Or what about blue? How about green? I can look at the world around me in just one way or I can look at it in a rainbow of ways from paying attention to the physical geography, natural history (the plant, animal, and fungi species, and ecosystems that I see), human culture, human history and much more. It’s my choice whether I deeply experience something or I don’t. I also appreciate learning from the people we meet, experiencing how they live, and hearing about what they know and what they’re interested in. I try to connect with the people around me and our environment in lots of ways.

I feel very lucky to be doing a trip like this. I want to learn as much as I can. I hope that when you read about our journey, you’ll want to find your own way of adventuring and connecting with and understanding the world around you, whether its as mind boggling as a continent or as cozy as your favourite hiking trail. I think when people and communities feel more connected with each other and their environment, everyone lives better.

So kids, it’s time to drag out your atlases and blow the dust off them. I hope that you have fun following along our path across North America.

Note the distances that I have for each province are from me mapping our route on Google Maps so they’re just a rough estimate. I have the real distance that we rode from the odometer that Lothar has on his bike at the end of this post.

British Columbia

Date: 8 June to 22 June 2015

Distance we travelled: 720+ km by bike

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The sign says “Welcome to British Columbia. Canada. The Best Place on Earth.”

I’m deeply connected to British Columbia, my home province. I love the diversity (many types) of landscapes and ecosystems that I can enjoy in B.C., whether out on the water or out on the land. I can’t image wanting to live anywhere else. Even so, I have to say that I don’t think it’s very nice manners to call B.C. “the best place on earth.” I think there’s probably people that live in other places that think that where they live is pretty special too.

Our British Columbia Route
British Columbia: We set out on this journey from our driveway in Smithers, British Columbia and we rode our bikes all the way to the BC-Alberta Border, near Jasper, Alberta, and then we kept pedalling.

 

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When I was first learning to ride my new (to me) recumbent bike, a HP Velotechnik Street Machine, some of my young friends cheered me on every time I rode by their house. When I left Smithers, I was still so wobbly that I had to walk my bike to get across the Bulkley River bridge on the edge of town.

 

Alberta

Date: 22 June to 5 July 2015

Distances we traveled:

316+ km by bike

250+ km by hitch-biking (that what we call traveling in other peoples cars or trucks)

226+ km by bike

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We definitely smelled the wild roses of Alberta, in the mountains and on the prairie. I picked up Welican-the-Pelican, on my little orange flag, in Prince George. Now, he’s our official trip reporter.

 

 

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Alberta: We pedalled from the BC-Alberta border near Jasper to Banff, Alberta.

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We hitched a ride with Mike, my brother, and Monica to Drumheller and then we rode our bikes to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

Saskatchewan

Date: 5 July to 14 July

Distances we travelled:

615+ km by bike

463+ km by train

 

oo
I have a young friend who goes to Saskatchewan to visit relatives. I was disappointed that we didn’t make it as far north as she goes. We had forest fires, scorching hot days, and visions of winter to come that kept us heading a little more directly east.

 

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Saskatchewan: We pedalled our bikes from the Alberta-Saskatchewan border to Melville, Saskatchewan, and then we took the Via Rail Train to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Welican found a new friend on a windy day at the train station in Melville. If this is you, send me a note. I am sorry but forgot your name. I would love to thank you here!

 

Manitoba

Date: 14 July to 19 July 2015

Distances:

See Saskatchewan for our total distance by train.

210+ km by bike

 

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No, the bugs in Manitoba were not almost as big as buffalo. In fact, we only had two days when the bugs got a bit nasty on our ride across North America. Both of those days were in British Columbia.

 

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Manitoba: We got off the Via Rail train in Winnipeg. We had a wonderful visit there. Then we rode our bikes south to the Manitoba-Minnesota border where we crossed at Sprague.

 

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Lothar’s been doing a great job of organizing the safe loading and unloading of the bikes. So far so good.

 

Minnesota

Date: 19 July to 24 July 2015

Distance:

456+ km by bike

 

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We started seeing coniferous (evergreen) forest in Manitoba again and I was happy to find it in Minnesota. Finally, we had some shade to rest in.

 

 

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Minnesota: We decided to ride around the south side of Lake Superior, through the U.S.A., because we thought it would be easier and safer than riding on the north side through Canada.

 

Wisconsin

Date: 24 to 28 July 2015

Distance:

253+ km by bike

 

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I think this was the hardest day for me of the whole trip so for. It was so hot!

 

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Wisconsin: I clawed my way around the corner of Lake Superior. But when we finally got around it, I was happy to be heading east again. Yippee. I did it.

Michigan

Dates:

28 July to 5 August 2015

Distance:

517+ km by bike

 

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Finally, when we got to Michigan I had the time and energy to focus more on learning the names of so many plant species that I was getting to know, starting with the trees.

 

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Michigan: We rode our bicycles from the Wisconsin-Michigan border to the Michigan-Ontario border. Michigan has two parts that are connected by a bridge, the upper peninsula that borders on Lake Superior, which we rode through, and the lower peninsula that borders on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

 

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Weli insisted on a break at Christmas in Michigan.

 

Ontario

Dates:

5 August to 18 August, 2015

Distances:

58+ km by bike

184+ km by hitch biking

145+ km by bike

40+ km by ferry

118+ km by bike

851+ km by hitch biking

27+ km by bike

Whew, we were busy!

 

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We crossed from Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, to Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario.

 

When we got to Ontario, we started thinking more about our need to be further south before the snow flies in the north. Lothar and I have both spent time in Ontario, so we decided that we wanted to spend more of our time in Quebec and the maritime provinces where neither of us have spent much time. We’re learning that we can’t do everything, even though we want to.

 

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Ontario: We rode our bikes some of the way and then hitched a couple rides in northern Ontario. Then we rode down Mantoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. Mike, my brother, and Monica picked us up again, taking us down to Niagara Falls and then back up to Ottawa.

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When we crossed the Michigan-Ontario border and got onto the Trans Canada Highway, it was scary riding for me, too many big trucks and no paved shoulder to ride on.

 

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So I asked some people at a restaurant for a piece of card board and a big, fat felt pen and made a sign. Before long we had a ride to a safer section of highway and another short hitch bike. I was happy!

 

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We took a ferry from Manitoulin Island to the Bruce Peninsula.

 

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We stopped to meet Wiarton Willie, the ground hog that announces if spring is coming early or not on Ground Hog Day (February 2).

Quebec

Dates:

18 August to 24 September, 2015

Distances:

1,433+ km by bike

245+ km by ferry

 

Je t'aime (I love you) Quebec!
Je t’aime (I love you) for being you Quebec!

 

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Quebec: Just like we planned back home, we spent quite a lot of time riding our bicycles through Quebec. We took a ferry to Îles-de-la-Madeleine, also in Quebec, and then rode the lengths of these islands. We didn’t know it then but this is the furthest east we got on our journey.

 

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Weli and Lothar wait patiently while I mail my young friends their post cards, one for each province, state and country, as often as I can find them without making too big a detour.

 

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Weli with Lothar as we sail into Îles-de-la-Madeleine on the ferry.

 

Prince Edward Island

Dates:

24 to 29 September 2015

Distances:

210+ km by bike

118+ km by ferry

 

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When we arrived on Prince Edward Island, many of the campgrounds and other tourist facilities had just closed. From here, we tracked recently closed campgrounds all the way down through Maine.

 

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Prince Edward Island: We took the ferry from Îles-de-la-Madeleine to Prince Edward Island and then we rode our bicycles along just over half of the length of the island.

 

New Brunswick

Dates:

29 September to 30 September, 2015

Distances:

17+ km by bus

50+ km by bike

 

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From Prince Edward Island, we dipped our toes into New Brunswick, knowing we’ll be back again soon, and then headed on to Nova Scotia.

 

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New Brunswick: We rode our bikes from the end of the Confederation Bridge from Cape Jourimain National Wildlife Area to Tidnish River bridge where we crossed into Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia

Dates:

29 September to 14 October, 2015

Distances:

312+ km by bike

800+ km by hitch-bike

 

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Weli! Where are you! How could I let you down like this? There wasn’t a border crossing sign where we crossed the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border. Sadly, the day that I did find a Nova Scotia sign, Weli was stuck in a hotel room.

 

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Nova Scotia: We spent lots of time wandering on our bikes across Nova Scotia. Our friends, Rick and Oly, drove us up to Cape Breton Island for Thanksgiving weekend and then Rick drove us to the ferry in Digby.

 

New Brunswick

Dates:

15 October to 17 October 2015

Distances:

81+ km by ferry

118+ km by bike

 

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New Bruswick:  We took the ferry from Digby, Nova Scotia to St. John, New Brunswick. Then we rode our bicycles on to cross the border between Canada and the U.S.A. from Saint Stephen, Nova Scotia to Calais, Maine.

 

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October 17, 2015: The day after my birthday and two days after Lothar’s birthday, we woke up to our first heavy frost. We knew then that it was definitely time to be heading south. Now, where’s Weli?

 

Looking back on our route:

When we were planning our trip, we wanted to ride north to the Yukon and then west. I was a bit sad when we decided that we didn’t have time to ride north because I think of Alaska and the Yukon as being in my backyard. As it turned out, we barely got across North America in time to head south to stay ahead of the snow. We definitely made the right decision but I hope that one day we can ride north and west from home and beyond.

Sadly, we missed visiting Labrador and Newfoundland. I think letting go of our dreams to experience these areas was hard for both of us. Given our decision to drive less and fly less, we probably won’t make our way this far east again. Even so, I greatly appreciate and I am deeply grateful for the many colourful experiences we did have.

We’re learning that we need to find a balance between moving slow enough to experience the places and people we meet and fast enough to avoid challenges like winter. Plus, I want to make my way back home before my young friends grow up so much that I don’t recognize them or they forget who I am! I do miss my family, friends, and community. I feel lucky to be able to call northwestern British Columbia my home.

And the grand totals for this leg of our adventure are…

6,720 km by bike (by bike odometer. I have 5,784 km based on mapping plus details missed in mapping and side trips etc.)

2,565 km by train, bus, hitch-bike

518 km by ferry

9,803 km total distance

 

Just to give you an idea of how much we wandered around, the shortest route across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax is 5,794 km and from Victoria to St. Johns is 7,463 km

 

Now I can say, “Oh Canada, you are a big country!” And Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, U.S.A., I’m happy that you share beautiful Lake Superior with Canada.

I’m thrilled to report that we made it and that we both had a most rewarding and remarkable adventure. I’m so glad we did it!

 

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O.K. kids: How many of these Canadian flags do you know?

 

Stay posted for my next posts!

I have two posts that tell the stories of all of the many people that have helped us along the way across North America and down the eastern coast and Gulf of Mexico in the U.S.A.

I also have a summary of our bicycle route south along the east coast of the U.S.A. and then west along the gulf coast into Texas where we’ll cross into Mexico. We’re just a few days from completing the eastern and southeastern U.S.A. parts of our journey…

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