Mark Tanner Home


The Great Canadian Bike Trek Diary Entries



Ride Time


Total Trip

Average Speed

Noon Temp

Last Town Visited






9° C

Burnaby, BC






6° C

Mission, BC






4° C

Harrison Hot Springs, BC






8° C

Hope, BC






-1° C

Manning Park, BC






-3° C

Princeton, BC






1° C

Hedley, BC






2° C

Osoyoos, BC






-1° C

Rock Creek, BC






6° C

Grand Forks, BC


R & R.







-2° C

Christina Lake, BC






-6° C

Nelson, BC






6° C

Wynndel, BC






-6° C

Creston, BC






-1° C

Cranbrook, BC






6° C

Cranbrook, BC






3° C

Fernie, BC






0° C

Lundbreck, AB






-1° C

Lethbridge, AB






-1° C

Medicine Hat, AB






4° C

Irvine, AB






-1° C

Tompkins, SK






-3° C

Swift Current, SK






1° C

Parkbeg, SK






7° C

Regina, SK


R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.







0° C

Balcarres, SK






-6° C

Noudorf, SK






-7° C

Esterhazy, SK






-3° C

Scoat Lake, MB






-6° C

Neepawa, MB






0° C

Portage la Prairie, MB






-5° C

Winnipeg, MB


R & R.







-10° C

Richer, MB






-6° C

Clearwater Bay, ON






-5° C

Kenora, ON






4° C

Dryden, ON






8° C

Ignace, ON






2° C

English River, ON






9° C

Upsala, ON






12° C

Shebiqua, ON






13° C

Thunder Bay, ON


R & R.







1° C

Dorion, ON






4° C

Nipigon, ON






-1° C

Schrieber, ON






-3° C

Terrace Bay, ON






7° C

Marathon, ON






3° C

White River, ON






6° C

Wawa, ON






2° C

Montreal River, ON






12° C

Sault Ste. Marie, ON


R & R.







0° C

Bruce Mines, ON






1° C

Spanish, ON






1° C

Sadbury, ON






0° C

Still River, ON






-4° C

Foots Bay, ON






-1° C

Barrie, ON






1° C

Toronto, ON


R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.







20° C

Bowmanville, ON






6° C

Brighton, ON






3° C

Kingston, ON






4° C

Smith Falls, ON






9° C

Ottawa, ON


R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.







6° C

Rockland, ON






10° C

Montreal, QU


R & R.



R & R.



R & R.







17° C

Boucherville, QU






14° C

Sorel, QU






17° C

Batiscan, QU






16° C

Quebec City, QU


R & R.



R & R.







20° C

Beaupré, QU






12° C

St-Irénée, QU






4° C

St-Siméon, QU






6° C

St-Fabièn, QU


R & R.







10° C

Rimouski, QU






7° C

Matane, QU






7° C

St-Anne Des Mont, QU






7° C

Grande-Vallée, QU






8° C

Cap-aux-Os, QU






14° C

Gaspé, QU






13° C

Douglastown, QU






10° C

Chandler, QU






12° C

Caplan, QU






16° C

Campbellton, NB






17° C

Bathurst, NB






13° C

Miramichi, NB






9° C

Astle, NB






13° C

Fredricton, NB






16° C

Annapolis Royal, NS






15° C

Kentville, NS






13° C

Windsor, NS






15° C

Halifax, NS


R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.



R & R.







21° C

Truro, NS






16° C

Antigonish, NS






8° C

Whycocomagh, NS






16° C

North Sydney, NS


R & R.







13° C

St. John's, NF

Total Trip = 8,390.2 kilometres / 5,243.9 miles.
About the same distance as Wellington - Singapore, New York - Istanbul or 1/50th of the way to the moon.
129 days away, 95 days cycling, 88.1km a day on average.
Shortest day: 6/2 - 20.2km. Longest day: 26/2 - 170.3km
491 hours and 38 minutes of riding, 5:11 average per day.
Shortest day: 18/5 - 1:21. Longest day: 26/2 - 9:19
Average trip speed : 17.0 km/h.
Slowest daily average: 6/2 - 9.7 km/h. Fastest daily average: 13/6 - 31.7 km/h. Highest speed: 19/5 - 73km/h
Average noon temperature: 5° C.
Lowest noon temp 15/3: -10° C. Highest noon temp 8/6: 21° C. Lowest temp 8/3: -26° C

C  O  M  M  E  N  T  R  Y

6/2 What a day! On the road at last, a day behind schedule, but as prepared as one could be. Due to last minute preparations taking longer than first thought, I finally had the bike packed and was riding at 2pm.  This wasn't your normal touring cyclist, my carrier was stacked up so high, that from behind, I could not be seen by fellow road users - just a random pile of bags, packs, sleeping bags, tents, bed rolls, boots and lights.  The ride to see Les and his friend Tony, who were accompanying me for the first leg of the journey, was a very slow one, with any slight variation in balance, totally throwing the bike into disarray.  The excessive weight on the tyre was playing funny tricks with the riding path over uneven surfaces and around corners. To make things worse, the bags were covering the back half of my seat, so I was riding on the skinny front part.  I had some bad thoughts about a bowel disfunction after riding 6,500-odd kms like that.

After taking a light fall and not being able to start again on a small suburban hill, I decided to take the advice from Tony's girlfriend, Roshene, and invest in a trailor. So after further delays at the bike store attaching the new addition to the great, blue bike, the bags were reloaded, and at 4pm, we set off again.

Although there was still a lot of weight to be pulled, it was much better dispersed than before and I was more comfortable, enjoying the full seat.  I still had no control when speeds of 30km/h were passed, but it was better than before.  I could make it up small hills, although they were very hard.  I wait with anticipation for the Rockies.

It was surprising how many people actually notice the traveling, 3-wheeled contraption, and they are generally pretty friendly, although it was just after leaving Vancouver city limits, riding 3-abreast, yet well over to the side, down a quiet residential street, when an angry, overweight, rough and dirty looking redneck in a beat up wagon, drove past us, abusing us, honking wildly and yelling obscenities at us, for about the next 50 metres after passing us.

We continued on, seemingly unfazed by this outburst of abuse, and then from the back of a deralict 2nd floor apartment above an old shop, our friend popped his ugly head out, and started hurling more abuse, "f-this, f-that, learn to ride, more f's".  We were rather humoured by the extremely loud yelling, but a couple of short toots from my airhorn fired him up even more, and sure enough, when we rode past his residence, he made his way to the front of the building and started yelling some more.  Obviously his medication had run-out, but it certainly reassured me that there are some nutters out there, who may have had a bad week and may not be to happy about sharing the road with a touring cyclist.

We journeyed on, through Vancouver's outlying city of Burnaby, finally stopping for McDonalds, for some greasy burgers.  I couldn't believe how exhausted I was after my first day.  The accountant who I worked with at Net Nanny, John Dumfries, who lives nearby, was kind enough to let me stay at his house, and use his computer.  Better prepared for the next big day of riding, I had a good night's rest and was ready to go.

7/2 Off to a much earlier start today.   Pedaling happily by 8am just in time for the morning commuters, slowly making their way from the suburbs to the city.  The night earlier had been strange when I finally put my head to pillow and closed my eyes, after having tried to balance my bike all day with any minor lapse of concentration throwing me off, I was still 'swaying' as I lay down to a rest.

Using my compass and the mountains as a reference point, I made my way back through suburbia, headed back to where I was yesterday, and then on the Louheed Highway, heading east.

I found riding much easier than yesterday, now I was getting used to lugging so much weight, yet it was still quite a hard trek. Road works along the way kept things interesting.

I finally left the built up areas and had my first taste of rural Canada with the mist covered, forest green coastal mountains in the distance (which I will riding over later), contrasting with the brown hay fields. My selected route took me along side the Fraser River, which provided a nice backdrop.

After only 2 days on the road, and 1 by myself, I think that I am already going crazy, because I have been riding along, singing loudly to myself. After realizing what a freak I was, I decided it could be time for some real tunes and selected Canadian rock legends, Tragically Hip, to start my ride off. At the end of the tape, I listened to a Vancouver radio station until I was out of frequency range, and then back onto the Hip for another revolution. The music was great!

Although I always said to myself that I wouldn't be seen dead in a pair of lycra pants, I can't believe how much I dig this slinky fabric, infact I wouldn't mind being buried in them.

I reached my destination, Mission, a small town bordering the Fraser River, where I was staying the night with Les's ex-girlfriend's parents, high up in the mountains. I was in KFC just before a downpour, ate, and then set off in the heavy rain to my accomodation. Trish and Graham, a very friendly and hospitable couple. Very interesting people with a big hovercraft-type thing on the front lawn. I was fortunate enough to time my stay with one of their socialist meetings, which was interesting for me as it is something that I have never really discussed before.

8/2 A day of rain, from dawn to dusk. After a hearty breakfast, I set off on my way, and with directions from an initially shocked old lady who I asked for instructions, I found myself back on the highway heading east.

Once riding, the rain wasn't too bad. The only problem was it was hard to be discrete in a bright yellow rain jacket when trying to relieve oneself on the side of the road.

The scenery was spectacular. The weather made the coastal mountains misty and mysterious. I played my first 'educational tunes' - some old fart comparing the Chinese culture to the American culture. I got through 2 sides, but I think the walkman and/or the tape got wet, so I couldn't get any more sound out of the contraption, and my education came to an abrupt end.

I met some interesting characters along the way, but probably the most memorable was a strange old dude walking around in the rain, who I saw at the foot of a hill. He looked at me and my monsterous load, looked at the hill and shook his head yelling out in a worried tone, "you've got a big haul ahead of you".

The hill wasn't too bad, and the reward at the top was a refill of my now empty drink bottles at the natural spring at the top, hearing the usual "you're crazy this time of the year" from a couple of others also replenishing their water supply. I put more air in more already fairly hard tyres, so they could handle the weight of my luggage and my hefty frame.

It was getting dark, so I stopped for dinner at a diner in Agassiz, a small red-neck town with some really nice old character buildings. I was in the middle of a conversation with the owner about riding her motorbike through Russia, when a friendly-looking, middle aged guy, John, came waltzing into the restaurant and asked me if it was my bike outside, as I probably had that 'I've been riding in the rain for hours' look all over me.

It turned out that John owned the Sasquatch Springs Holiday Camp in Harrison Hotsprings, about 7 clicks in the other direction, which was closed for winter. He offered me a free place to stay in his rec room where I could dry out my gear, "anyone riding their bike through BC in February deserves a free place to stay".

I made my way back through the dark wet night, quickly changed out of my wet clothes, and went with John, who shouted me to his weekly night Rotary dinner meeting, where he informed me I was a guest speaker. I gave a quick talk about my travels and preparations and ended up getting a few places along the way from other Rotarians.

I was during Bob's PowerPoint presentation about the Chilliwack leg of Rotary's project to build a herin santuary, when outside, lightning struck, with thunder very close behind, and then the rain came bucketing down. I was a very happy man that I was staying indoors that night.

9/2 After last night's torrential downpour, I was very happy to wake up and see dry, overcast weather outside.

After seeing no sign of John, I set off for Hope, looking forward to reaching the town for 4 reasons:
1) Before I really knew what riding a bike full of gear, I had planned to be there 2 days ago;
2) It was a psychological breakthrough as I was leaving the lower mainland;
3) It was at the foot of my first big hill and I was curious to see to see how I would cope; and
4) It was my scheduled lunch break.

I arrived in Hope, the chainsaw carving capital, just after midday. Before the entrance to the town, there was a large digital display above the road warning road users to look out for falling rocks and ice - I was eager to see what the road ahead had install for me.

After Dairy Queen for lunch and a half hour chat with a couple of ladies on their way to a spa-weekend-thing, I set off for my first uphill challenge up the almighty Hope-Princeton Highway. With snow now framing the side of the road, I was starting to see what I could expect for the next month or two.

The sweet scent of burning brake-pads gave me a good idea of what I was in for. I rode solidly for about 3 hours up the great incline, cruising between 5-7km/h, just enjoying the spectacular scenery around me.

I was surprised how well the climb went, raising 700m in altitude, although I was releived when I reached the top, where a friendly truckie took some snaps and then gave me the rundown on the road conditions ahead - mucky but fairly dry.

I set up camp just down from a service station, on one of very few flat areas of accessible snow that I saw on the roadside. I pitched my tent and had some delicious tinned chilli for dinner. My toes were pretty cold and numb from my snowboots which hadn't dried from yesterday's rain. Worried about frostbite, I put on two pairs of socks and wiggled my toes for almost an hour until I finally got feeling back in them.

10/2 I was warm and snug all night, and didn't sleep too bad considering I had pitched my tent just down from a truck rest area, whose roaring engines hummed bedtime lullabies all night.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, clear blue sky, with not a cloud in sight. The sub-zero temperatures didn't faze me, but unfortunately my bike didn't cope so well. Something that would be obvious to someone who had lived in Canada all of their life, but my drink bottles had frozen, as had my bike lock. I had a backup water supply in my water pack, and used a candle to thaw out the lock. The rear-derailer was frozen, so I was stuck in the easiest gear, which didn't really matter as the day's ride consisted almost entirely of uphill climbing.

The scenery was even more spectacular than the day before - Staligtites covering the roadside rocks with breathtaking snow-covered pine trees and mountains contrasting with the deep saphire-blue sky.

After 30kms of solid uphill climbing, the terrain finally took its tool. I started stopping more regularly, and by the time I nearly reached the top of the hill, I think I became slightly dillarious, thinking that a much flatter gradient uphill was actually downhill. I think it was because I was so used to the steep climb earlier. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't roll down without pedalling. I felt a similar sensation to what I had felt in the last 10kms of my marathon.

A couple of minutes later, and not a minute too soon, I reached the top of Allison Pass, at 1342m. After that, it was a cold downhill coast to the Manning Park Lodge, where I spent the night, dried my wet clothes and had the most incredible dinner and chocolate explosion cheesecake. I had worked up quite an appetite.

11/2 The thing I love about this is even when you absolutely stink of sweat and have frozen snot sticking to your face, everyone still talks to you. I spent my entire childhood trying to get passing truck drivers to honk their horns, with very little success, but now it is very regular. It is quite warming.

I left the lodge just after 8am, for my earliest start yet, fully kitted for the 15km downhill ride ahead of me. After that, it was up and down all day, on the part-mucky, and part-dusty roads. It was quite exhilirating after a long uphill, to ride down a fast windy downhill, around each bend revealing a panoramic view of the mountains.

Having more control of the bike, I was comfortably cruising at 40km/h down a lot of the hills through the fresh mountain air. I reached the Sunday Summit (1282m), just before midday, which was followed by a 3km, 8% decline, quite testing on the brakes.

My knees were giving me a bit of grief climbing up some of the hills, but other than that there were no problems today. My water was sensational - slightly frozen, tasting like a slurpy. As the mouthpiece was frozen, I had to open the nozzle to drink it.

I arrived in Princeton, a very friendly little town, and found a nice little diner with a salad bar and free refills of coke, which I took full advantage of. I ended up staying with a very nice couple, Neil and Sharron, who I met in the Internet Cafe, who had also riden across Canada, through New Zealand, to Aires rock in Australia from the coast, 20 countries in Europe, the US and just about everywhere - these people were pretty keen cyclists. That night we went to a fundraiser for the local figure skating team where I met some of the locals including the bike shop owner and his wife and Neil's dad who was a snow plow driver, who was a hoot.

12/2 Being cyclists themselves, Neil and Sharron knew how nice it was to have a good breakfast before a day of pedaling, so a good breakfast was what they gave me! A sensational real Canadian breakfast consisting of berry pancakes, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, apple sauce, all locally grown, bananas, maple syrup, pecan and whipped cream, an absolute feast. I stuffed as much as I could in before getting dropped off back in town by Neil, where my bike was being stored at the Internet cafe. I signed the log at the bike shop, the first for the year, and then set off on a side route that Neil had recommended, The Old Hedley Highway.

I followed the peaceful road along the path of the river, with mountains to my left and right. Since leaving Vancouver, me and my 3-wheeled contraption had been a prime target for every single neighbourhood dog to bark at, with only tall fences keeping them from chasing me to St. Johns, but here it was different. The lack of cars to share the road with on this rural route was counteracted with the frequency of loose dogs running around. I had my first experience when I had just reached the top of a rise, fairly tired from my small hill, I thought I would sit back and coast down the hill, when two full-grown, ferocious German Shepherds, came running at me, barking wildly. Fortunately as I was on a downhill I could ride relatively fast, and I pedalled as fast as my little legs could carry me to escape the angry canines. I was just catching my breath when a couple more littler dogs came yapping my way, so not wanting to have a mauling on my hands, I picked up the pace yet again and outran the savage muts. I went back to enjoying the prestine mountain scenery, fresh country air, when about 10 minutes later, a fairly large black mungruel came from nowhere, and started running along beside me, showing its full mouth of teeth and barking wildly, getting uncomfortably close to me ankles. Being a paperboy for years, I knew that dogs could sense fear, so I acted the opposite and putting on the meanest face I had, verbally abused the brutal animal with a few filthy words I had picked up in the playgrounds, and after running by my side for a bit, it retreated back to its home.

After that, there was no more, the odd bark or two, but all from behind secure fences.

I made my way to Hedley, a cute little mining town, with visible mines carved into the side of the mountain. I stopped for dinner at the Hitchin Post, a restaurant that Neil had recommended me because of its sizeable portions. The place lived up to its name and I was dished up a large pile of beef, which I enjoyed in the neat little restuarant cluttered with many tacky mining memorabilia, placed around it in a surprisingly tasteful way.

The meal seemed to give me a second wind, so I rode, well past sundown, I was in no mood to stop. The dusk air had an incredible ambience about it. I was in a spectactular valley, and the clear night air was exceptionally quiet except for the roar of my tires and the odd car passing ever couple of minutes.

I finally found a nice little spot on the side of the road where I pitched my tent and went straight to sleep.

13/2 I had an early rise, packed my things and set off down the road. It was less than 10kms down the road when I reached my first town for the day Keremees, or more appropriately, Fruitsville, BC. The sides of the highway were lined with Orchards and fruit stalls, which were unfortunately all closed for winter, so my desire for crisp apples was left unsatisfied.

I made my way past the next town, Cawston, and then along the breathtaking valley past more orchards, vineyards, cows and horse ranches.

A light flurry of snow fell, dropping from the sky weightlessly like fairies. I powered up the hill through Canada's only desert, and just over the summit, got a magnificent view of Osoyoos and the surrounding lake. It was downhill from there for more than 10kms, where I reached my top speed for the trip of 58.5km/h, in full control.

In Osoyoos, I was staying with Scott, a friend of my old roommate, Karen, who we had visited on the way to Nelson last summer. Scott showed me his photographs he took from his year in Africa, and then took me to the local Osoyoos Community dark room where he taught me the ins and outs of developing photographs. After the all-you-can-eat pasta special and a couple of the locally brewed ales at the local pub with him and his boarder, Dale, we returned home again, where I was ready for an early night.

Fahey and Les had driven all the way up to Osoyoos to surprise me, and saw me just before the last downhill into town, but when they tried to sneak up on me on their bicycles which they had carted all of the way up in the back of their truck, Fahey's front tyre blew out, and I, unknowingly, slipped off, never to be seen again. They drove around Osoyoos for hours looking for me, following a number of dud leeds, and unfortunately, their detective work was inadequate and we did not connect.

14/2 Today was the big day, it was the day of the Anarchist Mountain, which everyone had been warning me about since leaving Vancouver. I was pysched up for the occassion. Playing my most racey tunes, Tragically Hip, I reached the foot of the grand mountain, where I could see the early part of the road etching itself into the side of the great mountain. Without further delay, I started the almighty incline.

I set myself an easy pace and just rode casually up, enjoying the music and the view of the lake below, getting smaller and smaller as I rode to the heavens. I was little more than 2kms up, when a very friendly couple drove paste in their white wagon, with the camera out, ready to take a photo of me. Although I wasn't in my best photo-state, sweat covered, and probably looking a little exhausted, I posed for the photo. To my delight, the couple, still driving next to me, pulled out a bag containing a some nice looking cookies, of which looked too good to refuse, so I accepted the offer and attempted to grab them from the moving car. It took me 2 attempts, but I got hold of the nutricious snacks, although the excitement of the cookies caused me to loose balance, and I fell to the gravel road below for my first crash of the trip.

I think the couple felt pretty bad, so they immediately pulled over to help me up. I felt bad for making them feel bad, and as I was only going little more than 5km an hour, I didn't hurt myself at all. It turned out the the man in the relationship had done some cycling. In a nutshell, the couple were very nice and offered me a place to stay if I made it to Calgary.

I pulled myself together, and started the ride, saying goodbye to the friendly pair and soldiered on up the hill. Things started to chill and the light snow fall turned into a a denser fall, with little visibility at times. The road quickly became white, covered with a coating of snow. Each time I looked back, I could see my tracks in the snow, and I was surprised how much I was all over the road, the wobbly path I created gave a sign of my random route. It looked quite impressive, and sounded even better, as the noise my bike usually made was completely muted by the snow, as were passing vehicles including trucks. It created a peaceful presence.

The road became fairly slippery, but if I didn't do anything too sudden, I was seemingly unaffected by the conditions. I finally reached the top, after almost 4 solid hours of pedalling, at 1233m, almost 1000m up from Osoyoos way below.

I was looking for the town Rock Creek, which I had understood was close to the summit, so I rode on without putting anymore warm layers on. It turned out Rock Creek was at the foot of the Anarchist mountain on the other side, so by the time I reached it I was pretty cold, with a numb face, toes and fingers. I had slowed down the travels of 2 snow plows (probably the same plow, but 2 separate occasions) and numerous other vehicles. I did not take it too fast down the hill as my brakes were fairly unresponsive and it was pretty slippery in the conditions.

I reached the pub at Rock Creek, a nice wee establishment playing good music, where I lay everything out to dry, and had a burger and a beer, while all of my body parts thawed out.

Feeling a little warmer, with circulation now streaming freely around my body, I befriended the pub's owner and played a few games of pool. He didn't turn out to be a bad guy, and as the place seemed to have a warm and friendly atmosphere, I decided to maek it my bed for the night.

After putting my bike in a storage room in the pub, negotiating it and its trailor awkwardly through two skinny doorways, I returned to pub where I ended up spending the evening with a couple of brothers, Art and Doug. They referred to themselves as "the last of the Mohegans", as they were the last Indians in Rock Creek. I had a few beers with the guys, played a bit of pool, sparked up a few songs on the duke box, sung a little and altogether had an excellent night with my newfound friends. Not the traditional way to see in Valentines Day, but an experience.

15/2 I woke up in the hotel room. The big cheesy Japanese fan was still on the wall above the bed and the china ducks still flew south on the wall opposite, the hotel room fresh from the sixties wasn't some psychadelic dream, I was sleeping in a true peice of history. It turned out the pub/hotel, the Prospector Pub, was the longest continually operating pub in British Columbia. It still had all of its original charm including the decor, which may not have been bracing its walls since its erection in 1894, but certainly had been for a long time.

After breakfast I ventured outside, overjoyed that yesterday's storm had passed, and it was a clear blue day outside. The town of Rock Creek was pretty cute, it was an old mining town at the foot of the mountain, with turn of the century buildings dotting the two streets that made up the junction town.

I rode on in the sunshine, stopping for lunch at the railway museum (closed for winter), in Midway, for lunch. It was a nice break, I sat out and basked in the sun and the unseasonably warm conditions, where for the first time in a while, I could feel the sun cooking my bones. I savoured the delicious cookies that had so kindly been given to me the day before.

The next town, Greenwood, was neat as well. It was another historic mining town, probably the most grand of the towns I had been past, with a large brick water tower, and many character cottages randomly dotted on the hillside, their roofs covered with a thick layer of snow. The main street still had all of its original buildings, of course including a nice pub. I lay down on the ground to get the camera ready for a timer shot, when someone saw me, did a big turn in the middle of the highway and drove up next to me with a worried look on the passenger's face. They had seen me lying on the pavement, and had thought I was dead or dying. It was fairly entertaining.

There were no more towns until Grand Forks, but a few run down, wooden barns that looked like they were going to collapse under the weight of the snow that blanketed the roof lines of the rickety structures. The familiar aroma of horse and cow dung helped add to the atmosphere of the countryside.

It was downhill for about the last 20km into Grand Forks, a nice gradient, which was fast enough to compell me down the hill at a good pace, but not so ridiculously steep that I had to hold the brakes. I was much better clothed that yesterday, so I was much warmer.

I stopped at the Donut shop, where I met up with Carl, an lifelong friend of Dave, a friend of my old roommate Fahey. He was an absolutely great guy. It turned out he used to play a bit of rugby and spent a year down in Havelock North, New Zealand, picking apples.

Carl took me to his and his wife Isabels' home, for some incredible hospitality. The best meal I had consumed in a long time, a huge steak, mashed potatoes, salad, corn and chocolate cake and strawberries for dessert. It was a feast the I would have riden through the snow for a month for.

16/2 Up for an early breakfast of pancakes with Carl and his friend Ross, who was coming for us for a day in the snow, snowboarding at the local mountain, Red Mountain, about a one hour drive away.
I borrowed Ross's board and bindings, and another of Carl's friends, Rivot's, boots. As Carl was a certified snowboard instructor, he gave me a lesson and then left me on my own accord to get down the hill, back up again and so on. It was a glorious day, and the view from the top of the mountain of the mountain ranges all around was sensational.

The atmosphere on the mountain was pretty good, a lot of the people seemed to be local and it wasn't as commercialized as some of the other fields in British Columbia. There was a disproportionate number of New Zealanders sliding down the slopes, including one I sat next to on the lift from Te Puke, a small town of 3,000 people where my Grandpa used to live and we used to visit just about every Christmas.

I met Carl and Ross for lunch - a big plate of nachos and fries, and skied for a little more before making our way back to Grand Forks, indulging in Carl's homemade wine on the journey.

Carl went off to soccer practice and I had dinner with Isabel, before greasing my chain. Carl came home from soccer with one of his team mates, his wife and 7 week old baby. We all had chocolate cake before making our way outside to the hot tub, when we consumed more of Carl's wine.

The night got later and Carl's soccer mate had to go home, so we went to the local saloon with Ross and his two cousins visiting from Australia, for a few beers and a bit of pool.

It was awesome to have a day off and give the joints and muscles a bit of time to recover from the constant pounding that they had taken over the past week or so.

17/2 After saying my goodbyes to my unfaultable host Carl, I set off under crisp, clear blue skies. The chain greasing from yesterday was well worth while and the bike was running like a dream.

I made it to Christina Lake for lunch. Chistina Lake was in all her glory as she glistened in the sunlight, her glassy waters providing a near perfect reflection of the mountains that surrounded her.

The road around Christina lake was the last piece of flat highway that I was to see that day, as I left the low elevation to climb to the Paulson summit, the road which we had driven up on the way to skiing yesterday, so I already knew of the big climb ahead of me.

I slogged away up the mountain riding up some long straights where the corner at the end did not seem to be getting any closer. I chased the sun up the hill, stopping for a rest whenever it cast a ray of light through one of the valleys.

I stopped at a small clearing about 1km shy of the 1535m summit that Carl had suggested yesterday. It was about 300m from the highway and provided a nice setting, surrounded with pine trees, to pitch my tent.

I parked my bike and went for a walk to catch the last of the daylight before the sun set to behind the mountains. I waded through some snow up small hill which gave a surreal view of the magnificient mountains around me, elegantly rising above the forests below. The setting sun tinted the mountains with a pastel pink colour. The full moon now shone proudly above.

I returned to camp, where I pitched my tent and then cooked dinner, a tin of ravaloli, under the clear night sky.

The sky now a rich indigo, was lit up with the full moon, which projected a rich stream of light to land below. The clean, white snow all around glowed, with its contours now very obvious. The tall, thin pine trees provided spectacular silhouettes against the night sky, with the snow resting on its branches like blankets, glowing in the moonlight. Apart from the odd car or truck on the highway every few minutes, it was absolutely silent and still.

It was now a crisp -14° C and getting colder, so after dinner and cleaning my teeth with my frosen-bristelled toothbrush, I took refuge in my snug, down sleeping bag.

18/2 My breakfast which consisted of a tin of chilli, took about 30 minutes to cook, as it had frozen in its can and needed to be thawed on the element before I could spoon it out into the pot. It did taste very good and was well worth the considerable preparation.

I left, two tins lighter and rode the short distance to the summit, before a long downhill glide to the town of Castlegar for lunch.

Shortly after lunch the sun burnt away the high cloud, and I happily rode along the attractive Kootney river, past an old suspention bridge and then numerous dams, generating power for the province.

I made it to Nelson with about an hour left of sunlight, so casually rode around the cute small city, taking in its charming, well maintained, character buildings that lined the streets, which were buzzing with activity, in its impressive amphitheatre between the mountains.

Pulling into the busy hostel, I was immediately bombarded with interest from the other guests. After quite an impressive entry, I was dissappointed to discover that it was a long weekend in the United States and a bunch of them had come up and fulled the place. I called Bryn and Fahey in Vancouver hoping they could give me some names, and ended up staying the night with Bryn's friend Greg, better known as droopy. He lived right at the top of a steep street overlooking Nelson. His house was like a railway station, people coming and going all evening, popping in for a few drinks. I ended up sleeping the night in the lounge with two others sprawled out on the couches.

19/2 Today was longest day on the saddle and in kilometres, breaking the 100km in a day barrier for the first time since leaving Vancouver almost 2 weeks ago.

After a traditionally Nelson breakfast of scrambled tofu and tortilla, I left mid-morning. Through town and over the bright orange bridge, I headed east, enjoying the the local radio station BKR FM. I was about 10km past the bridge when a couple in a big pickup truck came driving past me yelling something out, of which I didn't hear a word of as booming in my ears was a George Michael rendition of Police's Roxanne. The truck stopped and the driver signalled for me to stop. I turned off my tunes and pulled over to hear what the man had to say. It turned out that he had seen the bright yellow flag that used to fly high from the side of my saddle bag on the side of the road back by the orange bridge. I was a very happy that he had stopped to tell me this, but at the same time, I was gutted that I would have to ride back to get it. But as yet another example of Canadian kindness, the man offered to drive back and get it, urging me to ride on and he would catch up to me.

I saw the couple about 20 minutes later with my flag, and thanking the couple profusely, I rode on. The sun was streaming down, and my ride along the side of Kootenay Lake was awe-inspiring. To one side of me the lake glistened, with golden sandy beaches, dotted with canoes, kayaks and mini catamarans, looking very summery, while on the other side of me was snow lining the side of the road, at the foot of tall, snow-capped mountains.

I arrived at the Kootenay Bay ferry, and had lunch in a pleasant snack bar, while I waited for the ferry to arrive. The ferry is the longest free ferry in North America, and I was given special treatment by the very friendly ferry staff. I was allowed on first, and then was taken up to wheel room, to enjoy the 40 minute ferry ride with the great guys working on it, with panoramic views of the Kootney Lake. Although the ride up to now had been through incredible scenery, today was the most spectacular day I had had. The locals described the area as mini Switzerland.

On the other side of the lake, the road winded around the coast, with grand snow covered mountains dropping into lake below, casting a silver tinting over the water.

There were a few cute little towns I passed through including the 'Metric Free' Gray Creek, a town that seemed to be proud of being backward by still using the imperial system. A pair of deer on the side of the road hopped away when they saw me.

The sun set and night came, the large moon lighting up the the mountains, whose reflection was even more clear and defined than that I had seen on Christina Lake just two days ago.

After about two hours of riding in the darkness, it started to take its toll. It took a lot of concentration to focus on the unlit highway, and my dim headlight did little to remedy the situation. Every couple of minutes when a car came by, with its headlights blinding me, it took a couple of seconds to readjust to the darkness.

I don't know if it was the long distance I had pedalled, the twilight riding, or a combination of them both, but I was pretty exhausted, so when I saw Bryn's father, Bob, in his truck about 5km outside of Wynndel, I was a pretty happy man. Bob took me to his and Margo's beautiful house on a strawberry farm, where I was spoilt with some fine hospitality.

20/2 It was hard to leave the Wyka's of Wynndel, because although I had only been there one night I was getting very used to the lovely residence, the impressive mountain views and Margo's baking which almost always consisted of a large portion of the finest Belgium chocolate.

After a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs, I spent the morning on the Internet updating the site and catching up on email. It conveniently took all morning and by chance, I happened to be there for lunch, tasty hot dogs with some weird, meaty, European sausage and more Belgium chocolate cookies. Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I finally left just before 4pm, packing a stack of cookies.

The day was yet again blue skies. I road down a quiet and scenic road that Bob had suggested all the way to Creston, up the hill, and past the famous Kokanee Brewery.

I wasn't too far out of town, and even though I was in a new time zone and had an extra hour of sunlight, it started getting dark and I was getting tired of the deceiving road that looked flat but was a gradual uphill, so I pulled over to a nice spot on the side of the road, and made camp for the night.

21/2 I awoke an hour later than usual as I was still adjusting to the new time zone. After repacking everything onto the bike, I set off up along the fairly gentle road, zig zagging back and fowards across the Moyie River.

I was only a couple of hours into my ride when I thought I heard a faint, yet familiar noise, far into the distance. I heard it again, this time louder, as I was closer to the source of the soothing tune. It was the solo baa from a woolly sheep, something I had not heard for a while, except for a few cheap imitations from people trying to hassle me because of my heritage. I looked down off the road where there was a small flock of my woolly friends, with a shaggy sheep dog proudly standing guard on a post above them. Another cry from a sheep, and then they all started, singing like a hamonic quior, with the shaggy dog adding to the symphony with a throaty bark. I don't know if they were acknowledging my sheepskin seat cover or just the vehicle I was pedalling, but whatever it was, it was a very special moment, and probably the highlight of today's ride.

I rode past Yahk and then onto Moyie, a neat little down on a lake, which had frozen over and was covered in snow. A character, wooden church stood elegantly above the town, with the rest of the structures dotting the landscape down to the lake. I stopped for lunch at what seemed to be the only food spot in town, a gas station/grocery store, where I savoured a couple of microwaved cheeseburgers and a banana.

After the leaving the scenic lake, the ride wasn't much longer to Cranbrook, where I was staying in a lovely little house with Cam and Sandy, and their three kids who had all just returned from Australia after a 1-year teaching exchange. After a great pasta dinner, carbo-loading for tomorrow and a play put on by the three young guys, Emma, Wynter and Madison, I finished up on the Internet and went to bed for a rest.

22/2 I was up with the kids early this morning for waffles and maple syrup and then onto the school Cam teaches at, Baker High School, for a presentation about cycling across Canada to a class of Grade 11 (Form 6) Social Studies students.

I returned back to Cam and Sandy Trueman's residence where I unloaded all of my gear except a warm sweater and rode free like I never had before. It was quite a different experience riding with no weight again, but it felt good to feel so light.

I rode out to the Three Bars Ranch, owned by some friends of the Trueman's. A magnificient property just outside of Cranbrook. When I finally arrived at cattle-grated entrance the estate, I realised that I still had a 3-km trek up the driveway to the main lodge.

The lodge itself was a grand oversized log cabin with a large shist chimney and a fine view of the Rockies, which were partially showing themselves through the clouds in the distance. I met the owner's son, Tyler, one of Cam's former students, who showed me the equally impressive interior to the main lodge, decorated with a large buffalo hyde and a large stag's head mounted above the pool table.

We played a round of pool, before Tyler's girlfriend, Jill, took me for a tour of the ranch including the old, character stables of which they had some authentic horse-stuff from a while ago. I knew that I wasn't that knowledgable about stallions and maires, but I was even more ignorant than I thought, having to ask questions after about everything that Jill had to say.

The next leg of the tour took us into the new stables - heated, very clean and new, nicer than the average suburban house, of which the horses bathed in the comforts of horse-med. The setup also consisted of a large indoor arena, where the horses were trained to do equestrian, in addition to many other little log-cabin styled buildings that were mostly accomodation for the predominantly East-Coast Americans that frequent the establishment.

I got a ride back into town with Tyler, where I went to the local computer store on 11th and 1st and scanned in the trip photos, and then returned to Trueman's house for yet another lovely dinner and very entertaining evening with my hosts and their friends Rod and Colleen and their two kids Jordan and Jasmine. Rod had ridden across Canada in May '76 on a thin-tyred ten speed with $400, from the East to the West, and gave an interesting perspective on things.

23/2 An early start to the day, on the road before 9am - I think the effects of the time change had warn off. I left Cranbrook and my very hospitable hosts and headed towards my first destination of Fort Steel.

Fort Steel was a blast from the past, an old town, seemingly unchanged from the boom years of the 1890s when the town thrived with gold miners. It looked like the scene from a western movie. I walked around the historic streets enjoying the old wooden buildings that had been lovingly restored, when an old guy in a pickup truck came driving up to me and offered me a coffee. I don't normally go with strangers, but he looked nice and I was keen to get out of the rain.

I joined the friendly old guy and all of the other people who were doing maintenance on the town for a warm cuppa in the Wasa hotel, the focal point of the town. They had some interesting stories about Fort Steel.

I left Fort Steel and my new friends and rode down the Bull River Highway. It was a very pretty road, running along at the foot of the Canadian Rockies, whose peaks were covered with the clouds that were raining on me as I rode. The highway proved to be very peaceful with only three cars overtaking me in the first hour of the road, with traffic becoming a bit more frequent as I got closer to Bull River.

Back on the main highway, the rain had passed, with the mountain peaks finding their way through the fluffy clouds. I had just riden through the town of Elko when a sign on the side of the road caught my eye. It was a sign with last year's road-kill count, with small posted number beside each animal, that reminded of a scores posted on the scoreboard at a cricket match. The sign read:
Road Kills
Wildlife killed by vehicles on Highway 3 between Elko and the Alberta border (about 80km away)
Bear 8
Bighorn Sheep 3
Elk 41
Deer 62
Moose 6

While I felt sorry for the animals, and the people who hit the moose, at the same time I knew that this was a sign of a lot of animals near the road that I was riding on. It was literally around the next corner when I saw a trio of bighorn sheep clambering up the side of the steep cliff, munching on clumps of grass. One of them heard me coming and scrambled for safety, sending a few rocks down the hill, starting a mini rock slide, some of which managed to make their way to the highway below.

I kept my eye out for more animals as I pedalled on, hoping to see a moose, but there were no signs of them.

The Rockies were awesome. More grand and rugged than any of the mountains that I had seen in the rest of British Columbia. Everywhere I looked could have quite easily been a postcard.

I was surrounded with mountains, a little worried about having to actually ride over one to reach Fernie, but the road kept winding its way through gulleys between the mountains and the road remained relatively flat.

I had just riden through a little tunnel, cut into the side of the mountain, when a heard a huge shatter. It sounded like a glass fish bowl being dropped onto concrete from a 1st storey window. It was my tyre - a blowout, my first flatty of the trip, which was ironic, as it was just last night that I had been boasting about no flats to Rod who had been plagued with flats in his trans Canada cycle.

I obviously had to unload everything, and then started to change the tube, which had blown a hole in the side of the tyre. A nice old guy with a thick Scottish accent stopped to help me out. He had just started his cycle training on his orange, 80's style racing bike, for the annual BC President's Games in August. The cycling veteran negotiated with the tube and the tyre and had it fixed in a time that would have made the pit crew at an indy race proud.

The rain had started again, I had gotten a little chilled when I stopped to change the tyre, but I rode on for about another hour to the town of Fernie. Fernie reminded me a lot of a little Banff, a town surrounded by mountains with a lot of young skiish looking people walking around. I stayed the night with Louisse and her family, who had also just returned from a teaching exchange in Australia.

24/2 Yesterday's rain had turned into today's snow, and boy it was coming down. I bought a new back tyre to replace the one wrecked in yesterday's blowout, and set off in a north-easterly direction.

The snowfall meant visibility was poor, so unfortunately I couldn't see the Rockies that were both sides of me, just the snow-coated, leafless trees framing the road.

I arrived in friendly Sparwood for lunch and to visit the world's biggest truck, a big green truck that had been decommissioned after a hard life in the mines.

The snowfall hadn't eased at all after lunch, and I found myself getting sprayed with the sludgy brown stuff that had accumulated in the middle of the road, which was sent my way when cars and trucks pulled out into the middle of the road to give me space. One side of me and my bike was wet, while the other side was completely covered in the sloppy brown stuff.

After a gradual climb, I reached the BC-Alberta border. It felt pretty good to have completed my first province.

I had barely ridden into the wild rose province, and just after having taken a cheesy photo of the 'Welcome to Alberta' sign, tragidy struck! I went to wheel my bike back onto the road, but it wouldn't move. After closer inspection I realised that one of the arms connecting my trailor to my bike had come out of its slot and was in the spokes of my back wheel. When I tried to put it back, I realised that the pin to hold it into place was nowhere to be found.

After a few swear words, I used a bit of ingenuity, and with my second smallest allen key, the chain link tool to bend it, and of course some trusty duct tape, I had a makeshift pin.

I set off again on my merry way, down the Alberta highway. The bad weather had passed and I now had commanding views of the grandiose Rockies around me.

I rode down through the Crows Nest Pass, of which I had been warned can be one of the windiest places in the world, but today, it was as calm as a 14 year old Saint Bernard.

In places the snow had melted, leaving bare, dry, hay-coloured fields, which contrasted awesomely with the dark green pine trees and the snowy mountains.

There were many little towns along the pass, although probably the most memorable one was one that isn't there anymore. Frank's Slide is the site of where a town used to be until the start of last century, when a huge rock slide buried the whole town. You could see the scar on the side of the mountain and the piles of boulders on both sides of the highway that smuthered the town.

I arrived in Lunbreck, a town that looked like it had been built between the 1950s-1970s, with the cheapest materials possible. I was hoping to find a nice restaurant and get stuck into some famous Alberta beef. W hen I waltzed into the town's only restaurant, it completely stopped when they saw this alien wearing a bright yellow jacket, covered head to toe in road scum. Unfortunately they did not have any Alberta beef, so I ordered the special - a big plate of crumbed pork chops. The restaurant's patrons turned out to be very friendly, and I ended up having a good, yet fairly basic conversation with a local lass and a couple of truckies who drive down to Eureka, Montana and back twice a day.

After the big dinner, I found a nice grassy spot on the side of the road just down from the restaurant and pitched the tent for the night.

25/2 I stopped at the first town I passed for breakfast. The venue was a dimly lit gas station covered wall to wall with car parts. I sat down with the lady who worked there and watched a talkshow as I ate my breakfast and she sipped her coffee, I had to borrow the microwave to thaw out my drink bottles which had frozen solid overnight.

I rode past a windmill farm which looked pretty spectacular, a line of huge mills perched along a ridge with the backdrop of the Rockies.

As the sunny day progressed, the terrain got flatter, changing from small, infrequent hills, to very gradual ups and downs. I found that I could ride pretty fast, pretty easily, assisted with a stiff, chilli wind coming from the west.

The scenery couldn't be much more opposite from what I had seen in the previous days of the tour. There were no rugged mountains, no green trees or signs telling trucks to check their brakes, just hay-coloured paddocks for as far as the eye could see. In its own way, it was kind of pretty, perhaps because it was such a contrast. Even a simple train that ran by me, looked fairly neat in this particular setting. I could see its 96 carriages for a long time as it chugged away into the flat horizon.

I was on the home stretch of my journey to Lethbridge, riding down the steep dip before the city, cruising at a speed in excess of 50km/h, when my speedo cut out. I was curious to see how fast I was going, so I quickly pressed one of its buttons, hoping this may help. The slight movement totally through my bike and trailor into disarray, as I was going at a fairly quick clip, and I stared to swerve, with no control what-so-ever. I heard a truck coming up on my outside lane, which was confirmed when a quick glance into the rear vision mirror revealed the big grill of a big truck uncomfortably close behind. I was totally out of control and I was thinking that it may be a matter of seconds before I am run over by atleast 9 of the truck's wheels, so I aimed the bike to the side of the road and said my prayers. The fiasco came to an abrupt end when I rolled onto the soft dirt to the side of the road. The tyres sunk in after a couple of metres and threw me a few more metres. The bike had ended up perpendicular to the road, with a few peices of luggage scattered around it. I was worried there may be some serious damage, but when I quickly assessed it, I discovered that only the front bag had snapped off and the handle bars were temporarily bent.

A nice local guy who had seen my escapade while driving up the other side of the highway, came back to see if I was alright and helped me carry my bike back up to the road.

A little bit shooken up, I rode a little slower for the rest of the hill onto Daleen's house, a friend of the Trueman's from Cranbrook studying to be a nurse. She was very cool and cooked up a mean feast.

26/2 1 kilometre of the smooth, almost flat prairie highways is certainly a lot easier than 1 kilometre on British Columbia's roads. Today's mammoth trek went smoothly, not a cloud in the sky, passing through the flat wheat fields.

You can see a town coming in the Prairies more than 10km before you get there. Across the flat plains is a grouping of trees with the skyline generally being dominated by an elevator, a tall wooden, barn looking structure used to process wheat, usually painted red, green, cream or white with the town's name painted on the side of it. The bigger towns have all kinds of weird farming machinery for sale in a lot similar to a car lot.

Between the towns are large, fenced fields with long, metal apparartuses spanning the width of the field, used for irrigation.

My only major stop, as I was trying to reach Medicine Hat at a reasonable hour, was Grassy Lake, a small town with an elevator and a large, empty grocery store where I ate.

The most spectacular times of the day in the Prairies are sun rise and sun set. I wasn't up early enough for sun rise, but I was lucky enough to still be riding when the sun set.

The sun going down was quite a sight, as it got lower, it made longer and longer shadows. Even the pebbles on the road had long skinny shadows, and the ugly shadow of me riding gracefully stretched way off into the fields. Before the sun sunk into the horizon to the west, it cast a golden tinge over everything, making the wheat fields glow.

I was fairly close to Medicine Hat when it got dark. The twinkling lights of the city could be seen from afar, especially the lit up structure that I discovered was the world's largest tepee when I rode past it later.

I arrived in Medicine Hat, winner of the communities in bloom, 1999. I was absolutely pooped from my ride. I found the residence of Laura, a student in Medicine Hat, showered and went to Moxies, the restaurant where she works, and finally had some Alberta Beef, which lived up to its reputation.

27/2 Today started off farily late as I was still recovering from the effects of over 9 hours on the saddle yesterday. I finally got off just before noon and had just left the city limits when my tire went flat.

I could see that something had been rubbing on my tyre as there were a number of gashes on one side of it, and the tube had finally given way.

I unloaded everything but realised I couldn't take the trailor off as my makeshift pin was permanent, and if I removed it, I may not be able to replace it. I though that I would just take the trailor and rear wheel off and work on it like that, but when I tried to take the wheel off, I realised that the accident from a couple of days ago must have bent the slot for the wheel, as it would not budge. So I ended up fixing the puncture with the tyre still on the bike, using a couple of layers of duct tape to cover the gashes from the inside of the tyre.

I returned to Medicine Hat for lunch as I was hungry (suprisingly) and there was a good selection there and I didn't know how long it would be until the next food opportunity.

After lunch, I got back onto Highway 1, the Trans Canada, for the first time of the trip.

Past more wheat fields and the odd paddock of cows, who all stopped what they were doing and stared at me, without moving their bodies, just turning their heads from whatever direction they were facing.

It was getting dark, I was a little tired and there was a slight head wind, making the pedal quite a grind, so I found a nice spot just outside the town of Irving and pitched the tent.

28/2 I could hear the wind whistling outside my tent, and hoped the wind was going in an easterly direction.

I opened the tent door so the wind could funnel in and dry everything, so I wouldn't pack everything away damp with condensation, like I normally do. I changed my front tyre that had gone flat over night and hit the highway, very happy the wind was blowing in the same direction as I was headed - and it was blowing, assisting my travels immensely.

It wasn't long until I was at the Saskatchewan border, leaving the sleek, smooth, two-lane, grassy median strip highways of the oil-rich Alberta for the single lane, painted median of Saskatchewan.

After the first 10km-odd of hills, Saskatoon flattened out considerably, flatter with seemingly more open space than fellow Prairie province, Alberta. Instead of towns every 10-15km like in Alberta, they were now every 20-30km.

On top of a low, wind-swepted hill, there was a gas station, a diner and the Proud Prairie motel, with nothing around for miles. I stopped at the very reasonably priced restaurant, had the 3-course special and then set off back in the wind.

It was partially cloudy and some fields were soaked with sunshine, while others were emersed in shadow. It had quite a neat effect, as did an old pickup truck driving down a side road in the distance, with only the sky behind it.

The ride was going smoothly, easy pedalling and terrain, with a nice tail wind pushing me along, when my back tyre went flat again. I fixed it with the same performance as yesterday, but this time while being battered with bitterly cold winds, which I had to pull out the balaclava and many layers of fleece. I was about 3km down the road, when my substandard repair job was insufficient to hold in the air, and my tyre went flat again.

It was dusk, so I pulled over to fix it in a ditch protected somewhat from the wind. I decided as the flat back tyre was becoming a recurring theme, I would do my best to get the back wheel off so I could swap the front tyre with the back tyre, as the gash-ridden back tyre would perform better with less weight on the front, and if it went flat again, it would be easier to change.

I unscrewed everything that could be unscrewed on the back wheel and then tapped away at the axel for about 15 minutes, using my allen key set as a chisel, and my spanner as a hammer. The wheel finally popped out, and I bent the slot with the spanner so this wouldn't happen again, and changed the tyres over.

Very content that my bike was in much better shape than it had been an hour ago, I pitched my tent, ate my ravaloli, and then phoned my parents for my weekly check-in call. My belovered sister, Clare, was home, having returned from England via two months in Africa, so it was nice to talk to her again.

29/2 It was a good feeling to wake up knowing that yesterday's bike problems seemed to be fixed. The Trans Canada Highway took me through more of the same fields as yesterday, except without the assistance of a tail wind.

Half of me was looking forward to getting east of Winnipeg for a change in scenery, while the other half of me enjoyed the space and vastness of the almost flat terrain and the incredible skies. I found myself noticing things that would normally go unnoticed such as the dead-straight line of evenly spaced power poles spanning the side of the highway.

I arrived in Swift Current and talked to some very friendly and helpful people in the local municapility office who gave me a makeshift map of Swift Current and recommended a good value motel to stay.

I had spent the last couple of nights in a tent without showering and was a little self-conscious about absolutely stinking, so I was keen to find a place where I could clean up. I stopped at the Rainbow Motel, where I had a lovely soak in a warm bath, did some laundry, and then went for a walk around the town, stopping at Carol's Diner for yet another sensational Saskatchewan 3-course special.

1/3 Regenerated and fresh smelling I hit the saddle for another day. Unfortunately the wind couldn't have been blowing in a more painful direction - into my face. I suppose I deserved it as I had such a strong wind with me a couple of days ago.

But I was cursing the ghastly gusts, riding down the flat, straight road at a mere 10km an hour. It required the same energy to move as the passes I had experienced in British Columbia, without the same sense of achievement from reaching the summit.

I battled the chilly winds all morning before stopping at Herbert at a Greek-owned family restaurant, where I got the special. I had been thinking about savouring the taste of lunch since leaving Swift Current, and it was terrific to sit down in a warm and sheltered environment to be waited upon for about 30 minutes.

After lunch it was a completely different world outside. The winds had eased and the birds were singing. The Prairies are a completely different place when strong winds aren't battering your face. I rode past some frozen lakes and dodged field mice road kills, of which I saw at least half a dozen of the poor rodents. I watched another incredible sun set and then pitched my tent in the middle of a wheat field, where I was seranaded by the sound of wheat brushing against the side of my tent in the wind.

2/3 An easy day all around. Almost perfect conditions, not too much wind, sun and a temperature that allowed me to ride without a woolly hat under my helmet for the first time in a while.

The morning was trouble free, all the way to Moose Jaw, apparently where Al Capone and other crooks used to hang out. I was craving a traditional McDonalds combo as I had been overdoing the roadside diner specials since entering the province.

I sat down with my tray of goodies and almost before my bottom hit the seat, a 60-70 year old lady sitting at the next table starting talking to me, telling me how she still rides a bike at her age, between garage sales on Saturdays and Sundays. Then her joke telling session begun, joke after joke for the duration of lunch. I must admit she was pretty funny for an old girl and had a few one-liners that Seinfeld would be proud of.

The old lady and I left the restaurant together, and we saw a couple outside, obviously her friends, of a similar age. The old guy was absolutely fascinated with my setup, especially the trailor. My joke-telling friend gave me an apple pie that she didn't eat, and offered me a lot more food, which I had to refuse, and I set off again, giving the three a toot as I rode off, which I think gave them a bit of a thrill.

The 70km from Moose Jaw to Regina was almost entirely straight and the flattest leg that I have encounted on the journey to date.

From about 35kms out, I could see Regina's skyline peering over the prairies. I thought that I may nearly be there, but I rode a lot more highway before the buildings seemed to get any closer.

I got tired of listening to my educational tapes on the history of the United Nations, which I had listened to 10 in the last 2 days, so I tuned into a local weird, but soothing, folk music station, which seemed very fitting for the scenery. After too much of that I tuned into a local rock station, where I discovered that Regina was backing in 13° Celcius at 5pm. Not bad for a city known for its extremely cold winters.

I arrived in Regina, where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police started. Its population of about 180,000 made it the largest city that I had been to since leaving Vancouver. Convertibles with their tops town were cruising the streets as the sun beat down and I had some good music ringing in my ears.

I rode down the beautiful tree-lined Albert Street past the Provincial Parliament buildings and through downtown, onto a sports shop owned by Jay, a friend of Al who I was staying with, and got cleaned up. Al was your typical prairies guy, very friendly and hospitible, with an honest sense about him.

Al, Jay and myself went to a restaurant/pub they frequent regularly, and were joined by Al's girlfriend, Christa, and Jay's brother, Brad.

After dinner we went back to the town of Southey, about 60km North of Regina, were Al lives. Al took me to his car dealership, Southey Motors and showed me his awesome collection of Harley Davidsons and Muscle cars.

3/3 I spent the morning washing all of my clothes that were a little bit damp. I went with Al to his mother's place a great lunch and then was picked up by Al's friend Leroy to do a bit of ice-fishing. Like Al, Leroy was very friendly and hospitable and seemed to have the same honest and genuine feeling about him.

We drove out to Last Mountain Lake, reputedly one of the best places to ice fish around. We left the gravel roads and drove straight onto the frozen lake. It was an incredibly weird feeling driving across a lake in a big dodge truck.

There were a lot of other cars and trucks and even little portable cabins scattered across the huge lake, all with little holes in the ice, waiting for a jerk on the line.

We found a spot and drilled some holes, baited the lines and then dropped them through the 30cm thick ice, and sat, waiting for the fish. It was extremely relaxing, good company, pretty scenery, sunshine and flocks of geese flying overhead, on the migration north, apparently about 3-weeks earlier than normal. Although I have been enjoying pedalling away, it was a nice change from the saddle.

We moved around a few times and drilled a few holes, until we found not a bad little spot, where there were some fish biting. Leroy, the avid ice-fisherman, pulled up three fish, while I went home empty handed.

Back to Al's we drove, where Leroy gutted the fish and then cooked them up. They tasted pretty damn good.

At 8pm, we went down to the local ice-rink for the 4th game in the best of 5 semi finals, in which Southey were 2-1 down, so it was a must-win game for them. There must have been half of Southey's 700 population packed into the brand new arena, of which Al must have known just about every one of them.

Unfortunately Southey went down to the visitors, but it didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits as everyone migrated to the local Southey Hotel for a few brews and then onto another place to finish the night off.

4/3 Something that I wanted to do in Saskatchewan was visit a Hutterite Colony. Hutterites are similar to Amish people that you see in American movies, self sufficient people who do not have many influences from the outside world, living on a large farm with all of their own facilities, in their clothes they made themselves and eating food they produced themselves. Al, Leroy and myself packed into Al's Dodge and drove out the colony, stopping at one of Al's friend's private Harley museum on the way.

One of Al's friends knew one of the Hutterites, so he gave us the name for the colony. It was a very interesting place, with a population of 98, all of who which milked cows, cooked, built and all of the other things that you'd expect. We met Elias, the manager of the colony, who told us a little about the place, while we sipped the homemade wine.

Elias's son Phil, showed us around the property, of which I was very impressed to see that they had the latest agricultural technology and seemed to be pretty efficient, selling some of their surpluses to companies such as KFC. I expected to see a line of people sitting on stools milking cows, but the milking shed was a fully computerized system, with the suckers coming of the udder automatically after five minutes.

I didn't see any sign of it, but apparently these such collonies were looking for sperm donors to diversify the gene pool, but I think what happens now is people get married to people from other colonies.

We left the colony and went home via Regina Beach, apparently Regina's version of Muscle Beach in the summer.

It was into Regina for the night where we had dinner with Al's girlfriend Christa and her friends Candi and Tami, visiting from Saskatoon and Calgary.

5/3 As we were in Regina, Al took me around to see some of the attractions.

The tour started with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Barracks and Museum, where every single RCMP officer goes for 6 months to learn the ropes before they are admitted to the force.

Next on the agenda was the Saskatchewan Museum, which had some informative displays about the province and the native people who live here. We drove a little bit around the city, past the football stadium, agribition centre and university before taking a tour of the beautiful, marble interior of the Provincial Government buildings.

After the famous Western Pizza for lunch - a pizza staked atleast 2 inches high with toppings and undisputedly the best pizza that I have ever had, we went out to one of Al's friend's, Adair's brother-inlaw's buffalo farm. Apparently the great beasts used to run wild around these parts at the turn of the century, before they were slaughtered for their hides, with the rest of the animal was left (the meat, etc) to rot, and there are photos of huge piles of bones. There are now only 250,000 left in the world.

We took the adventurous way back to Adair's house, with the 4-wheel-drive on through paddocks and some pretty slippery and boggy tracks.

6/3 Today was probably the most rested day I've had since leaving.

I packed and then caught a ride with Adair to Regina to get some photos developed and use the Internet, before going back to Adair's for dinner with his family and to scan in the pics.

7/3 Four days of relaxing in Southey had finally caught up with me and I didn't wake up until midday. It was the last supper with Al and his roommate Craig, who had come home for lunch, before swinging by Southey Motors for final farewells and photographs.

I had really become attached to this town and its residents, which is why I ended up staying 5 nights after only planning to stay 1 or 2. I had seen a lot more of the prairies than just the Trans Canada perspective.

I pedalled out of town on a road that Al had recommended that had more towns and was more scenic than the main highway, with less traffic.

I thought I'd be adventurous and take a gravel road short cut, which ended up probably taking a bit longer, and being a little harder pedalling, but a nice change from the traditional surface.

After dinner in Balcarres, I road down the highway for a little bit in the dark until I found a nice little side road to pitch the tent.

8/3 It is amazing to me how the two thin sheets of faric of a tent and its fly can keep out so much cold or keep in so much warmth. I left my relatively warm, snug tent to discover a biting cold wind keeping things crispy outside.

I packed up as much as I could inside of the tent before braving the elements outside. The freezing wind was gusting in the exactly the opposite direction that I was going, right into my face. I had to stop early into the ride to bring out the balaclava as my nose and chin were starting to tingle.

Abernethy, the first town that I reached, a mere 14km from last night's camp site, was the designated lunch spot.

It was incredibly warming coming in from the bitter cold to see the smiling faces at the O'Brien's Cafe. I had a lovely lunch with the friendly staff and patrons, followed by a photo shoot with the owner, then back into the icey head-wind.

It was a very slow slog, and as I wasn't making much ground at all, I stopped for dinner a couple of towns along in Noudorf, at a family restaurant run by a very nice and inquisitive Chinese couple. I changed out of my cold clothes, each layer having droplets of ice on them from frozen perspiration. My balaclava was the most impressive with moisture from my breathing forming a large frozen clump on the front.

I had sweet and sour pork, a nice change from the predominantly Canadian delacacies that I had been living on, and then savoured a hot chocolate, procastenating going back out into the wind and also waiting for the blood to rush back to my stinging foot.

I planned to ride a little out of town before pitching the tent, as I still had about 30 minutes of daylight, but I saw an old gas station for sale which didn't look like it was in service, and after closer inspection revealed the calendar inside was still on September, I decided it would provide a good shelter to take refuge behind.

It was -13° C, but the windchill was making it much colder, so I pitched the tent as fast as I could and went to bed.

9/3 As I had gone to bed so early last night, I woke up pretty early. At 7:30am I got up to go to the toilet. It was -11° C inside the tent, but the chilling wind made it much colder outside, and I almost froze off something that I didn't want to freeze off.

I crawled back into my cosy sleeping bag, giving it a few hours to warm up, which it did slightly - yet still cold enough to freeze one's nose hairs.

I played the Bob Marley tape the Carl from Grand Forks had given me as it was summery and I hoped it would help me feel warm. But after 4 songs, my walkman wouldn't play anymore, I think because it was too cold.

With the light Arctic wind straight in my face, I rode to the small town of Grayson to have lunch at the local pub. I only planned it to be a quick bite, but the other pub goers were so friendly, I almost stayed for two hours.

It was pretty much staright to Esterhazy, where I ate dinner at a Chinese Smorgasboard that had been recommended to me in Grayson. The timid Chinese lady working there gave me stranger and stranger looks each time I walked past her with a pile of food stacked on my plate, I don't know if it was my consumption or it was due to the fact that my all of my clothes were sprawled out around my table drying, but whatever it was, she seemed awfully happy when I paid up and left, although I returned to fill my drink bottles and to give her a thrill.

I pedalled just out of town and found an inviting ditch to pitch the for another night in the cold.

10/3 It was past the biggest Potash mine in the world, just outside of Esterhazy, and then down the #22, the last road out to Manitoba.

The roads around here start to thaw out in spring, and get soft and foamy, and when heavy vehicles drive down them, they damage them. The final stretch of Saskatchewan had fallen victim to such treatment, and the final 12km of the province were rough as guts.

I hit Manitoba and was immediately welcomed by a scenic valley. There seemed to be more trees than Saskatchewan, but other than that, the scenery was pretty similar.

After lunch, I left the quiet highway for the well travelled Trans Canada 16 highway. Gone were the waving drivers and back again were the large trucks.

It was past a few little towns and through some light snow flurries before retiring for the evening at a motor inn in Scoat Lake, a nice little town centred around a nice little lake that was currently frozen.

11/3 I was kept awake for a good part of the night by a truck parked across from the motor inn. The truck was running, I assume to keep the heater on while the driver slept.

I am guessing the driver was parked where he was hoping that someone in the motel would complain. That someone happened to be me, after midnight and more than two hours of the constant growl of the motor, I thought as I was paying for a night, I could atleast be free from the sounds that seranaded me each night when I slept by the roadside in my tent, and I thought I may be in for a free breakfast for the inconvenience.

I think the truckie was pretty cunning, as he was not on the motor inn's land, there wasn't much that they could do except offer him a bed, which is what they did, in the room right next to mine, and I heard him thumping around, draining his fluids, just as you'd imagine a half-asleep truckie to sound.

The motel didn't have any laundry facilities, and the catty clerk at the front desk hadn't let me throw my dirty clothes in with the sheets, so I hung everything up over night to air out and spent a small part of the morning perfuming them with aftershave.

After watching the weather forecast, I left the motel and had a solid, non-stop ride through light snow to the town Minnedosa, a pretty little town in a valley, about 60km east of the day's starting point.

I stopped at the first diner I saw, a drive-in, the type with rollar skating babes delivering meals to the customers, except there were no rollar skates or babes, just a solo lady inside, who was probably a fox about 20 years ago.

It was the first day of business for the year, but as it was mid-afternoon, it was fairly quiet, just an old lady sipping her free refill of coffee and a father and his daughter. A radio playing country was ringing through the speakers, which provided a nice ambience as I ate.

The ride to Neepawa was very flat once I got out of the valley, and as the skies had cleared, I got another magic prairie sunset.

I ate dinner in town - pizza at a family chicken restaurant that smelt like the chicken barn at the Hutterite community, and then rode on for a few more clicks before finding a nice spot on a bed of hay to pitch the tent.

12/3 French lessons started today in preparation for communicating with the Quebecans, just two provinces away. After listening to lesson 1 three times, I was afraid that I would fall asleep and ride into the ditch, or even worse still, into oncoming traffic, so I ceased all audio activity temporarily.

Lunch was at Gladstone. The town had some good pickings on the the restaurant front, as the highway billboards clearly illustrated. Upon entering the town, my eyes were drawn to a chicken restaurant, as its carpark was absolutely chocka.

Within seconds of walking through the door of the restaurant, I realised what was responsible for its unmatched popularity - a smorgasboard. I couldn't belive my luck, all of the chicken, ham, pizza, fries, salads, roasted potatoes and perogies that I could eat.

I had chosen my table badly and it was getting embarrassing walking past the front counter on the numerous trips to the food line-up.

After finishing my meal, I got talking to a friendly extended family of farmers who had come over from Germany 20 years ago because "you can get a bigger farm over here". They were in traditional costume for the family outing, and I think they were having the times of their lives. The Granddad guy needed his questions translated, but seemed to understand my responses.

Completely bloated, I waddled out to my bike, pulled myself onto my woolly seat and started to pedal in the direction of Winnipeg.

One thing that keeps me happy when the scenery gets monotenous is music. As the sky was grey and the flat fields around me had been dug up and were brown, I decided it was a good time tune in the radio. I could only find one station on the FM frequency. I listened for a while, to country songs and then the Sunday religious special, but once the Canadian leg of some Israeli-British group came on for a scheduled 30 minutes of talking, I had had enough.

I stopped and tried the AM channel, hoping for a better line up, and was overwhealmed to find Winnipeg's only oldies station, which kept me rocking for the rest of the day's riding, perhaps the best tunes that I'd had all trip, or maybe they just sounded good after the previous station.

I pulled into a gas station and was having a little stretch when a couple gave me some tips about pressure points and assured me I would feel like a new man.

I was still fill from the lunch I had eaten almost 4 hours of riding ago, which was unprecedented, so I settled for some strawberry milk and a chocolate bar to keep me going until the morning.

I pitched my tent next to a tree just off the highway, as there wasn't really anywhere else sheltered. I was all unpacked, into my warm clothes and safely in my sleeping bag when I started to hear the pitter-patter of snow on the tent. I was a happy man that I hadn't been trying to pitch the tent 30 minutes later in the snow.

13/3 Last night's snow had hidden my bungy cords, and made good work of trying to find them. Then taking down the tent was harder than normal, as the joins in the poles seemed to be frozen together and required a lot of brute force to seperate them, on the bright side, the snow lightened up the scenery, covering the endless fields of dirt with the the virgin white snow.

I arrived in Winnipeg, in time for lunch. With a population of 650,000, it was quite a large city, but had a similar feel to it as Regina, just on a grander scale. On the Manitoba vehicle's license plates, the motto is 'friendly Manitoba'. My first impression of Winnipeg lived up to this - very friendly indeed, the kind of place where the whole room would say "Bless You", if someone sneezes.

I rode out to the a Christine's place, a girl I met in 1998 when I first arrived in Canada, where I was staying for the next couple of nights with her and her roommates Mike, a budding entrepreneur finishing off his degree at the University of Manitoba and Igor, a talkative Brazilian in Canada to improve his English. It was a case of cleaning everything that needed to be cleaned and drying everything out.

14/3 I took the day to look around Manitoba's provincial capital. The day started down at the Forks, where Winnipeg's two rivers meet. In the last 12 or so years, the area has been rejuvenated, with the old warehouses being converted into a lively market and other buildings such as a children's museum, theatre, etc, errected, with some nice landscaping on the river bank to compliment the development.

I moved onto Winnipeg's financial district for a quick look around, with my main reason for going to go to the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street, reputedly the coldest corner in Canada. I've seen colder corners in my travels, but the light wind did make things a little chilly.

It was to the impressive Portage Place, the city's largest shopping centre to take a look around. The centre was a tell-tale sign of Winnipeg's cold winters, as the mall was spread over a series of city blocks all linked by enclosed bridges above the streets. If someone wanted to they could see the hundreds of shops in Winnipeg's downtown area without stepping outside. The bus stops were another sign of how the city's weather conditions can be freezing, fully enclosed, with doors to block out the chill. But today the sun was shining and the city was basking in a temperature of not too far below zero, so people were out and about enjoying the heat.

I left the city centre to visit the aviation museum out by the airport. I am fascinated by aeroplanes, but my main reason for going was because my Great Uncle Bayly, who my father was named after in 1943 was stationed to Winnipeg under the Empire Training Scheme, so there was some historical significance for me there.

I don't know if its because I have a strange accent, but I cannot get over the friendliness and helpfulness of the people of Winnipeg, a very cosmopolitan city, with a bit of culture from almost everywhere in the world.

I met Christine and went to her AIESEC awards dinner and then out for a few beers.

15/3 I left Winnipeg, but not before lunch at McDonalds, storing up on the greasy burgers just as a camel does with water, as I knew it may be the last time I saw the golden arches until Thunder Bay, over 700km away.

As I rode further east, I noticed the scenery start to change. It started with leafless trees, lining the sides of the highway, with the odd evergreen starting to appear, with some rises and dips in the road starting.

As I pedalled on the trees all became evergreens, with roadside rocks appearing randomly. It was a sad moment, but I think this was officially the end of the prairies.

The prairies had put on a beautiful day for their last showing, so I was left with good memories of a wide span of blue sky, with a magic sunset, as red as the #3 pool ball.

With so many trees, there was an abundance of excellent camping spots, so I found a nice clearing amongst the bushes, out of view from the road for a change so I wouldn't get the high beams of passing motorists lighting up my tent.

16/3 An early start meant I was at Falcon Lake by lunch time. Falcon Lake is a resort town in a provincial forest, where Winnipegers play during the warm months of May-October. Since March doesn't fit into this spell, the town was empty, so just about all of the shops, including the eateries, were closed. For my last meal in Manitoba, I had the Shell Station or a bakery to pick from.

I chose the bakery, but as it was out of season, all they had were cinnimon buns and apple turnovers, of which I sampled both, but still not completely satisfied that I would be leaving the province without a full stomach, I went to the Shell shop for more, in which the very nice lady gave me a complimentry hot chocolate.

It wasn't long until I was in Ontario. The road was a very smooth tarseal surface that wound its way through the gorgeous scenery. Rock faces were frequent on the side of the road, looking like they had been chipped away to make way for the highway.

There were many lakes, dotted with little cottages around the perimeter. The lakes which were frozen, were covered in snow which had partly melted, revealing some of the ice underneath, which made some fanastic patterns.

Pine trees were the prevailing species of trees, but numerous silver birches added a bit of variety as did the fluffy topped toy-toys.

It got dark, so I pulled over and found a nice wee camp spot amongst the trees that looked like something from the Blair Witch Project, pitched the tent, and lay down for a rest.

17/3 I slept in a little longer this morning as I could hear the wind gusting outside and I wasn't in a hurry to get into it.

I took a short detour to Kenora for lunch. Kenora is a small resort city, built on the shores of the lake of the woods, a large lake sporting 14,000 islands I am told. The town seemed to have a bit of history as there were a lot of charming old brick buildings.

It was more of the same scenery of forests, lakes and bare rocks which came in an array of colous including blue, red, orange, pink, grey and charcoal, often with small, frozen waterfalls stepping down the metamorphic faces. Although there didn't seem to be many towns around, every now and then there would be a sign of people in the area, as they had put their mark on the rocks with spray paint, often couples expressing their feelings for one another.

In the late afternoon, as the forecasters had predicted, it started to snow, and as I wasn't near any towns, I pulled over and set up camp, to save getting wet and cold for the sake of another hours riding.

18/3 It was gloriously sunny and warm, the first day in the positives for a while and the first day my water bottle wasn't frozen.

I was less than an hour into the days riding, enjoying a light tail wind and blue skies, when I thought I better pull over and put some air into my tyre, as the weight of my luggage in addition to my mass was damaging the rubber.

I stopped in a nice spot by a lake and decided as it was so warm, I might as well fix my tyre properly, and swap the damaged back tyre with the near-new front tyre, and while I was doing that, I bent the rear forks back so the derailer ran straight. I also changed the brake pads and greased the chain. It was nice to sit out in the sunshine in a pretty setting.

After the two hour running-repair job, I left on the smooth King's Highway with not a worry in the world. Just as I was starting to feel hungry, I saw a restaurant, which around here is rare, especially ones that are open this time of the year.

After a few more hours of rocks, lakes and forests, the scenery changed slightly to rolling hills, cleared fo farming, it reminded me of parts of the North Island back home, especially the town of Minnitaki, which almost sounded like a Maori name and also housed Emlo's wool and sheepskin shop, complete with a large sheep statue out front.

The blue above started to dissappear as the skies clouded over, giving a fantastic sky show, complete with very dark black and royal blue clouds, and after it started to rain, the full arc of a vivid rainbow. To complete the extravagnza, when the sun went down, it tinted the remaining cloud hovering over the eastern horizon a bright pink, creating a scene that looked like something out of a 70's Mars movie.

I rolled into Dryden, found a cheap motel to wash and clean my clothes and then ate at the motel's restaurant, where I was served by the lovely, yet no BS, Elvira.

19/3 It was so sunny and warm outside, that I decided to share my strapping figure with the world, and ride with no top on. It was a great sensation to feel the warm air against my bare skin after having warn so many layers for the past month.

By late morning the winds picked up and it got a little chilly to be bare-backed, but the feeling of my near-nude experience kept a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

After a truck stop for lunch, it was road construction in progress all the way to Ignace, 75km away. As it was Sunday, there were no workers leaning on spades, holding stop/go signs and steering large machinery, yet there were no shoulders, as there never seems to be in construction areas, which did get a little hairy when there were two large semis going either direction trying to share the roadway with a loaded cyclist.

After a delicious dinner in Ignace, another small town by a lake, I pitched the tent right in the middle of some pine trees where the sweet pine scent was as strong as I had ever smelt.

20/3 I left my bumpy campsite, thinking I could have an early lunch, as my breakfast hadn't quite filled me up, and I always seem to ride better on a full stomach.

But an early lunch I did not have. I rode almost four and a half hours into headwinds before I saw my first restaurant. It is amazing how tired I became having only seen forests, a few lakes and rocks and a closed holiday camp all day. But I was given a new lease of life when I saw the tall, proud sign for the English River Motel and Restaurant, and rolled in one happy man.

The nice thing about travelling in the off season is that the people are relaxed and laid back. The lady in the restaurant was no exception, a friendly gal who had just baked a fresh batch of raison pie and butter tarts, both of which I had to sample and was thoroughly impressed.

The day's headwinds and anticipation for a restaurant had taken it out of me, so I rode a little further before finding a nice sie to pitch the tent.

21/3 It was bound to happen sooner or later - all of the unhealthy food I have been consuming in addition to the pounding that my body has taken, sometimes in fairly frosty conditions. One minute before midnight I awoke with a churning stomach and an ailing feeling that made me get outside as quick as I could as I knew I would soon have less bodily fluids inside of me than before.

The procedure was repeated all night, the frantic unzipping of the sleeping bag, the tent and fly doors, putting on my sneakers and rushing outside.

By morning, I was all cleaned out, but in no shape to ride, so I just lay in the tent feeling sorry for myself. I would have been happy lying there all day, watching the pine trees sway in the wind through the flapping tent entrance, listening to the strange sounds of the forest birds as they communicated with one another, but I had to get to Upsala, the next town up the road, to phone Mrs. Speak in Thunder Bay, to let her know I was arriving.

Weakened from my activities, I left the campsite, freshly decorated with my outputs.

I arrived in Upsala, a small town which wasn't much more than a stop on the highway. I ate a light dinner as my apetite still wasn't back to its noble self, and then tried to phone Mrs. Speak. Unfortunately the phone was busy. After the same result later on, I accepted defeat, found a grassy verge to pitch the tent on and went to bed.

22/3 Country music certainly is alive and strong in these parts. All three little spots I stopped at today had the tunes blasting.

Still not feeling 100%, I got a good day's ride in under clear, blue skies. I got in touch with Mrs. Speak, which made me feel better as I knew she was expecting a call from me.

Shortly after the time zone change plaque, as it was so warm, I stopped for some icecream at a small cafe along the way and was informed tha there was a Maori family from New Zealand living 20km down the road on the way to Thunder Bay. Lynn, the lady at the cafe, phoned ahead to let them know that I would be popping in, but unfortunately, when I arrived noone was home, just two dogs barking feverishly at me.

A little dissappointed, I pedalled on through the scenery that had improved as the day progressed, with rivers, hilly backdrops and old barns now commonplace.

Like most nights, I found an isolated spot to pitch the tent as the sun went down, but this time, I was confronted by a lady walking her toy-dog. I think she was a bit shocked at first, because I had a feeling I may have been unknowingly on the outskirts of her land, but after a bit of chit chat, she came around, and went on her with her walk.

23/3 It was a gradual downhill almost the whole way to Thunder Bay. From the top of the hill, I could see he sleeping giant, a landmark in the area, as it resembles a big man lying down, kind of watching over the city.

I missed a turn somewhere and had a little detour past the paper mill, but after phonecall to clarify directions, I arrived as the Sylvia and Ron Speaks', Aunty and Uncle of Shelly Hulko, lawyer/sports commentator extrordineer. My timing was right on to catch the tail end of the girls from the church meeting organising the fashion show fundraiser.

Mrs. Speak cooked a sensational dinner, a fine cut of roast beef with all the trimmings, and an equally superb Irish surprise dessert to match.

We spent the final hours of the day's sunlight having a look around Thunder Bay, down past the huge elevators on the lake front, where a lot of the grain from the prairies is railed to, and then through the downtowns of the two areas that make up Thunder Bay, Fort William and Port Arthur, down by the city's pretty man-made lake and park, university and a few other spots.

24/3 I was one happy man that I wasn't riding today as the heavens had opened and it was raining solidly all day.

Today was dedicated to do all those things that have been waiting to be done for a while. It was down to the bike shop first, to give the little blue racer a long overdue tune. The talkative Iranian bike mechanic, a purist who took a bike care fairly seriously, freaked when he looked at my my bike, and spent a few minutes talking about all of the parts of the bike that could do with a little or a lot of work. The only thing giving me any real grief has been my gears which have been slipping and jumping everywhere, and getting worse over the past few days, so they were the only thing I had fixed.

The mechanic worked, as he yacked, with the precision of a brain surgeon, obviously hurting as he looked at the poor bike, covered in salt and road muck. The finished product was a brand new rear derailer, new front and rear chain rings, cables, shifter, cranks and straightened things that used to be bent. Almost everything was shiny and new, and I had gained 3 extra speeds. The bike was now purring like a cat, and I was looking forward to test it out on a big hill.

A short walk down the road in the rain took me to the hospital, where I thought that I would pay a visit as one of the ladies organising the fashion show yesterday had been talking about some old lady she knew who had stubbed her toe, and was too stubborn to do anything about it, and ended up getting gangrene and needed her leg amputated. My fingers had been a little numb for a few weeks, and although they weren't bothering me much, I didn't want to fall into the same trap as the old lady, and have frostbite, and end up getting my arms cut off.

After the usual waits at the clinic, I had my inspection, covered by BC Medical, where a knowledgeable doctor originally from Quebec let me know that the numbness was due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or RSI, from gripping onto the handle bars for so long. It gave me peace of mind, and was nice to know that the chances of having all of my fingers in St. Johns were still good.

The hair was getting a little shaggy, so I went for a clip and then onto the grocery store to restock on my supply of Kraft dinners and tins.

It was back to the exceptionally hospitable Sylvia and Rons', who after another terrific dinner took me out to see the Terry Fox memorial, just out of town, as I wouldn't be riding past it because I was taking a lakeside ride out of town. Terry Fox is a legend in Canada, and quite rightfully so. When he was in his early 20's, he ran a marathon every day, with one prosthectic leg, across Canada, starting from Newfoundland, to raise money for cancer research. He made it as far as the memorial, before the gastly disease got into his lungs and he could not run any further. He was flown back to Vancouver, where he died shortly after, but the legend still lives on.

25/3 It was a fantastic send off that included a well-cooked bacon and egg breakfast. I left the Speaks with a packed lunch, some new maps and a big smile on my face as it had been such a nice place to stay.

There was a brief breather at a computer shop to update my web site, before leaving Thunder Bay on the road that Ron had recommended as it was more scenic with less traffic than the highway. It was nice, and although it was as wet as a baby's bed, with driving rain almost horizontal due to the Westerly wind, I still got some nice view points of the great Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world.

I got back onto the highway which took me through canyon country, and although the area the Trans Canada went through wasn't quite like the Grand Canyon, it still was pretty.

The thing I love about riding in the rain is that it makes you feel like some brave warrior, unaffected by any conditions and ready to take on anything. The thing that I don't like about the rain is that at the end of the day, you are soaking wet, which is a bit of a nuisense when you're sleeping in a tent, but once everything was up, I got into some dry clothes and was none the worse for it.

26/3 Today was one of those days where the scenery crossed back over the line to spectacular. I was in awe of my surroundings as I rode past some magnificient rock faces, some that stood a couple of hundred metres high, many with waterfalls, given a new lease of life by yesterday's rain, cascading down the rocks.

From atop of some of the hills, there were commanding views of the Lake Superior amd some of her many islands. There was one spot where I could look back and see Thunder Bay, more than a 150km ride away, and the smoking mills and Sleeping Giant.

As beautiful as the scenery was, I'd say the best time of the year to visit this part of Canada would be during Autumn when the many deciduous trees are changing colour before they loose their leaves. Apparently in the summer time the place is overrun with black flies, and these are meant to have gone by fall.

27/3 Today was the kind of day to snuggle up next to a warm fireplace and sink into a good book or movie. Huddling up next to the gas cooker while I cooked my maple syruped baked beans was about as close as I got.

Outside where I had pitched my tent last night in an open field with a sandy surface was now completely covered in a couple of inches of snow, with the only area to still be sand, a 2m x 3m hexagonal shape where my tent once stood.

I packed everything away soaking wet as the perimeter of the tent where most of my luggage was, hadn't been protected by the fly.

The scenery was again magnificent, not really tarnished by the thick, wet snow falling horizontally from the strong winds. It was quite a thrill coasting down the hills between high walls of rock - now with each ledge lit up with snow, with views of lakes and islands in the distance.

I pulled into Rossport, a small town with a pretty little jetty overlooking a scenic harbour and islands. I was hoping to grab a bite to eat, but all but one of the town's restaurants that I had seen billboards on the highway for, were closed until May, and the only one opened in the winter was closed on Mondays.

Weakened by famine, I pushed on till the next the next town, Schrieber. I must have chosen a classy joint to stop for lunch because sitting at the table next to me was Bob Krause, the town's mayor. Bob seemed pretty happy that I had stopped in his town for lunch, and gave me a souvenier pin with a bit history - in a nutshell, the town began as a railway town when the railway was built across Canada in 1885.

I had the standard burger and fries order in addition to a couple of persians for dessert. The sweet bread with icing, best served toasted, can apparently only be bought in Northern Ontario. After a little more riding in the conditions that seemed to be getting even worse, I stopped to set up camp. It must have been the hardest tent pitch I have had since leaving due to the six inches of snow under foot, the fat, moist snow flakes falling from the sky and the 70km/h winds that made the tent more like the sail in a tall ship. But I eventually got it up and got inside where it was relatively dry and warm.

28/3 Since arriving in Ontario, almost all of the locals had been warning me about the road around Lake Superior and its hills which are "as big as the Rockies","some go straight up for 10 kilometres!", and so on.

The worst stretch of all was supposedly the leg that I conquered today, Terrace Bay to Marathon, which I was only 10km short of reaching.

Yes, the scenery was similar to the Rockies, with its many rock faces and cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, creeks and trees - it was spectacular wilderness, but its hills were just that, mere foothills compared to the majestic range a couple of thousand clicks west.

No uphills lasted longer than 15 minutes, with an accompanying, thrilling downhill to help you forget the climb. The road with its ups, downs and arounds was a pleasure to ride.

29/3 Rule #1 when camping on the side of the highway: Never camp near a hill!

It wasn't that the site was unlevel, because it was. The site that I had to clamber down over rocks and trees looked great, it was flat and one of few places I saw not covered in snow. But being right next to a hill means you hear trucks crunching through the gears with high revs trying to get up, and trucks going the other way, using their engines to slow down.

I didn't have the best night's sleep, but an early lunch quickly made that irrelevant. The diner which served exceptional desserts, was also the same place I got talking to Pete, who sells Toshiba equipment to the mills in Manitoba and Northern Ontario. A great guy who seemed to have it together, offered me a place to stay in Sadbury, between Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto, if I was there on a weekend, as he is on the road during the week.

I left Marathon and the shores of Lake Superior and headed inland. Although I couldn't see the great lake, there were still plenty of littler lakes to keep things visually pleasing.

For the last 10kms of the day's ride, the trees on both sides of the road had been burnt to a crisp, with just the remains of charcoaled trunks standing. It was kind of airy that for as far as the eye could see, just about everything was dead.

I found an excellent, dry camping site, away from the burnt wood, in an oasis with trees that had obviously been spared by the fire.

As the night was so mild and the winds had died down, I sat outside for dinner for a change, while I hung the tent, bed roll, sleeping bag, etc out to dry, as they had been put away wet for the last few days.

It was nice to feel like the great outdoors, even with a little camp fire, burning my dinner packets, to make me smell like camping.

30/3 The 20 kilometres before White River was the same as the ride had ended yesterday, with the burnt tree corpses standing where lush, green vegetation once stood.

I am told that the fire started last May when sparks from a railway worker's welder caught alight. The fire burned solidly for a month covering 35,000 acres. The only reason White River wasn't burnt to a crisp was because the winds had been favourable, but the town did loose power for three days during the ordeal due to power poles lost in the inferno, and on other days there was only enough power to run essential things like fridges and freezers. Even the Trans Canada highway was shut down with traffic backed up for 8 miles. But what the local who was telling me this seemed most upset about was that the fishing season had started a month later, in June.

White River's claim to fame, other than the fire, was the fact that in the 1930's, the temperature dropped to -72°F, a strange thing to be proud of, but there was a large thermometer commemorating this.

I was lucky that I had eaten such a hearty lunch in the town because there was nowhere to buy food for another 80km. Although a chocy bar would have been a nice break in the day, the weather more than made up for the lack of feasting facilities. It was such a picture-perfect day, I even bared my chest for the good part of it, in a cause to get rid of the farmer's tan that I am now sporting and ended up getting shoulders that were a little sun burnt.

31/3 It was only a short ride to the turnoff for Wawa, but it took a while as the bearings in my trailor were shot, which made the wheel rub against the guard causing the tyre to puncture. Putting it simply, I was towing a trailor with a flat tyre on a wheel that didn't go around properly, pretty much a sack of bricks.

The only store that sold bikes in town was the hardware store. It wasn't hard to find, on the main drag opposite the post office. I was directed to the 'bike guy', who took me downstairs to the workshop, where he fumbled around for about two hours, still without a fix. In the end, when he left me to talk to some customers, I made a makeshift solution with some of his parts, that would easily get me to Sault Ste. Marie, and set off not wanting to waste any more of the beautiful day outside.

Wawa seemed like a friendly town, one drunken local on his way to the pub offered me a hand and another guy on his bike stopped me for a chat as he was interesting in doing some touring.

I left the town past the large, fake goose, and headed for Lake Superior Provincial Park.

The park seemed so much less disturbed that the previous spots in Ontario, with the only sign of humans being the smooth road winding its way through the tremendous scenery.

I pulled over early in order to find a good campsite where I planned to take my camping to the next level and make a big fire and roast some sausages on sticks.

I'm not a terrific firemaker at the best of times, but with the damp wood, I didn't have a chance, so I had to resort to another night of using the pot and butane cooker.

Dinner did turn out very good though, better than the usual lineup of Kraft dinner with a bit of tuna for flavour, I had a 3-course meal of truly international standards. It was Italian styled tomatoes to start followed by Polish sausages in Texas cut bread smothered in thick, red ketchup made in French Canada, with Hunts Swirls Pudding, of which I am not sure of its origin as its packet was one of the few things that did burn in pile of wet sticks in front of me.

1/4 Most of day was spent riding through the provincial park which braced both sides of the Trans Canada Highway for 83km.

The majority of the park took me through rugged forested terrain past small lakes and over rivers, but every now and then the road would venture out to the shoreline of the great Lake Superior for panoramic views of its golden sandy beaches, often dotted with keen anglers, spending their weekends hoping to fill their buckets with fish of the fresh-water variety.

When I think of my ride around the lake, what I will have the fondest memories of is hooning down the smooth, fast hills, while lying in front of me, a fantastic vista of tall, abrupt, granite cliffs and sandy horse shoe bays arising from the saphire-blue lake.

Within 10kms of leaving the park, the relief became gentler and the road started to hug the coastline. The wind had gone and most of the clouds were gone.

The smaller lakes and creeks off to the side of the road lay perfectly still, giving an immaculate inverted reflection of the trees framing them and the white, puffy clouds above.

I rode until the sun sunk into Lake Superior to the west, and used the little light that dusk had left to pitch the tent in a sandy clearing.

2/4 The road continued along the shore side. With the sun beating down, the sandy beaches and the smell of smoke from cottage owners with bon fires burning winter growth made the place feel very summery.

It was fairly flat with only one big hill before Sault Ste. Marie, where I followed directions to Bob Shea's sister and brother inlaw, the Chaput's, lovely family home in a ring road with oak trees growing in a park at its centre and kids running around, looking just like a neighbourhood from TV. As I had been sleeping in a tent for over a week, I hadn't had the luxury of a shower or shave, the longest spell I've ever had since before puberty, and I don't think the daily soaking of aftershave and deoderant to nuetralize the smell helped too much.

My hosts were very friendly and Audrey cooked up a superb roast beef of the barbi, followed by dessert, a deliciously rich family recipe from Gerry. Gerry was an engineer on Ontario's roads, so knew the routes like the back of his hand and gave me a helpful run-down about the province's remaining roads, routes and towns.

3/4 I rose early to drop Gerry off at the airport to fly to Thunder Bay for work. It was a convenient trip because waiting for me at the terminal was a slick sign that Les had kindly had made for me to tie to the side of my trailor to promote my web site.

Gerry and Audrey had generously let me borrow their car for the day and it was a nice change from pedalling along at 20km/h with a hard lump of plastic between the legs.

The Buick proved to be very helpful, and I buzzed around town, first to the bike store to fix the trailor wheel that couldn't be fixed in Wawa. The next stop was the supermarket who had a fine selection of gourmet rations that would keep me from starving until Toronto.

I drove around to orientate myself with the city, down to the revamped waterfront, which for a section provided a nice area with parks, a large open tent for concerts and farmer's markets in the summertime, and an old boat full of character, all with views to the other side of the river which was the USA, another city called Sault Ste. Marie, linked by a bridge.

I found an Internet cafe to update my web site and reply to emails and then returned the car back to its rightful owners, the Chaputs.

4/4 I was in no hurry to rise from the exceptionally comfortable bed that I had slept in for the last couple of nights, which had been a far cry from the usual self-inflating bed roll with a rubbish bag full of clothes for a pillow.

I had breakfast, repacked my clean laundry, and said all the good-byes and photographs, before setting off east in the blustery winds.

Sault Ste. Marie is the most eastern part of Lake Superior, and after that is a new great lake, Lake Huron. Because the city is on a river which is the axis point between the two great lakes, there are locks where anything from huge freighters to personal speedboats can go from level of water to the other.

It is still hard for me, a small New Zealand boy, to contemplate that I didn't even ride half way around Lake Superior, but the distance that I did travel is further than the trip from Wellington to Auckland.

5/4 It felt like it was going to a good day of riding today, right from the first pedal rotation. Clear, blue skies and a brisk wind pushing me along made riding a pleasure, while I dreamt away.

The scenery was nothing to write home about, but one good thing was the frequency of towns, now seeming to be about every 10km.

6/4 I thought that I had warn the snowboots for the last time and was getting quite used to showing off my bare legs in shorts, but when I woke up at first light, I discovered that there had been a big dumping of snow overnight and it was still coming down.

The gauntlet of branches around the tent now all looked very pretty with a topping of snow, looking like icing on cake. The scenery in general was given a new lease of life with the fresh white snow.

I tuned into the local radio station that I had seen advertised on the highway to listen what the weather was doing and heard that there had been four separate accidents in an hour near where I was, and to stay off the road unless it was completely necessary.

I rode on to the town of Massey with no problems, and stopped for a bite, with the snowfall having stopped by the time I had finished.

Because the shoulders on the roads around Northern Ontario can often be pretty thin or even non-existent, I have my little yellow flag flapping in the wind at about a 45° angle, about half a metre from the bike to ensure other vehicles give me plenty of space. It was a good thing today because on my 2-month anniversary of sitting on my wool-covered bike seat pedalling east, I came the closest to being run off the road by a passing motorist since leaving. A large truck carrying beef burger patties, without any traffic coming the other way, thought he or she would test their judgement and passed so close to me that they whipped the flag, giving me a pretty good view of the underside of the trailor, a bit of a shock to the system, which I felt warranted my first birdie flipped to another vehicle.

It wasn't much longer until I could see the two huge, rather felic, stacks from Sadbury's nickel mines pumping pollution high above the city. Apparently the bigger of the two is the tallest in the world.

As my timing was out to stay with the guy that I met in Marathon, I rode past the turnoff for the city, looking for a good campsite, but I noticed that just about all of the trees in the area were very short and bare - very unhelpful when trying to discretely camp. But I did find a grouping of evergreens to camp amongst, which required a little trudging through the snow, but it was well worth it when I reached the spot.

7/4 I lay in until lunch time as I could hear the snow outside, the tent was awfully comfortable and the switch to daylight savings has given me more flexibility as to when I can and can't ride.

I was happy to see another exit for Sadbury off the highway, so I took it knowing that the sizeable metropolis would have a good selection of places to eat. I was right, and I felt all tingly inside again when I saw a Chinese buffet, which was my obvious selection.

Sadbury was a bizarre place. Its landscape seemed very bare, almost lunar, with dwarf trees being the only break from what I am guessing lava-flow landscape.

Shortly after leaving Sadbury, I left highway 17, which I had been on since crossing into Ontario, and headed south on the King 69, a big psychological achievement for me.

The scenery soon became lush with trees and lakes, leaving behind the strange, lifeless surroundings of Sadbury. I was flagged down by a passing car with two familiar faces who I had talked to just outside of Thunder Bay, it was a funny coincidence to see the couple from Toronto again.

8/4 I met a guy about a week ago at my first stop after Lake Superior Provincial Park. He was buying liquor at the general store/restaurant that I was dining at. The alcohol was for the only night of the year which he drinks, to celebrate the end of the season as he was a snow plow driver and that meant he didn't have to show up for work anymore, or so he thought...

The snow plow drivers, many of them still hungover I'm sure, were kept up all night with heavy snowfall. When I awoke in the morning it was still coming down, with the odd large plow keeping the roads driveable.

It seems that the ugly weather brings out the best in people because when I stopped at the Nobel Wendys/Tim Hortons for lunch, I was in the restroom drying my tops, hat and gloves with the hot air drier and having a small makeshift bathe with the sweet smelling industrial hand soap from the stainless steel dispenser, and literally everyone who came into the little boys' room had a chat. I felt a little awkward standing there half-naked while talking to some stranger with his thingy in his hand, but no one seemed to mind my cleaning routine, I think they understood as they seen my bike parked outside.

After a long lunch, I headed a short way down the road before turning off to Parry Sound, a sweet little town built around an inlet on Lake Huron. The town had a lot of big beautiful old wooden homes and the downtown streetscape had been improved with nice street lamps, among other things. I went down to the waterfront where the 30,000 island cruises leave from, but there wasn't too much going on as it was still off season.

Back on the 69 south, I started to see signs of 'cottage country, the area where a lot of mainly Torontonites have summer cottages on the lakes. Some were fine residences, more than your typical ply-wood bungalow, but grand homes with satellite dishes, jetties and gazebos - a very appropriate neighbourhood for me to pitch my tent in so I did.

9/4 For the first half hour I was very happy to see large, clear signs on the side of the highway warning motorists to look out for cyclists on the shoulders.

Without warning, the highway changed from a two-lane road to a four-lane expressway, complete with a median strip and fly-overs, and from nowhere, no cycling signs popped up at every on-ramp.

Generally expressways are accompanied with alternative routes with plenty of warning, but in this case, I saw no other roads, just plenty of lakes and swamps, so I just kept riding.

I normally see plenty of police patrol cars on the road, keeping the province free from crime, but today they were strangely scarce. One flew past me at about lunch time, looking like he was chasing something, but it wasn't again until about 10km before Barrie when I saw the next boys in blue.

An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) car drove past me and then pulled over to the gravel shoulder. A finger signalling for me to stop appeared from the slightly ajar window, so I slammed on the brakes for a spectacular stop.

It was my first encounter with the law since leaving, and shortly after stopping another officer arrived, backup I presume.

The cops were friendly chaps, just doing their jobs, but they took down my details and informed me of the road's rules and advised me of an alternative route through Barrie.

Barrie was a nice town, built around the corner of a lake with a redeveloped waterfront and newly cobbled streets. There were many lovely, old brick homes. There seemed to be a positive vibe through the city on this sunny Sunday afternoon.

I stopped for dinner at McDonalds, drawn in by some pretty good specials. A friendly bloke in his late-teens or early-20's sitting across from me started to chat, telling me about Barrie, which he informed me with its 100,000+ residents, was the fastest growing city in North America, with Toronto only 80km away, people choose to live there for its quality of life and lower cost housing and commute to the big smoke, your typical satellite town. The guy could not believe that I hadn't heard about the town's growth.

My friend left, but soon returned with a local newspaper, the Barrie Examiner, for me to take away as a souvenir.

South of McDonalds I could see signs of the city's growth, with subdivision after subdivision, each row of lego-houses looking like their neighbour.

I was looking for a place to pitch the tent, but unfortunately there were only empty paddocks and new subdivisions for miles. I finally found a grouping of trees, fairly near a house, but well enough hidden for a peaceful night's sleep.

With every branch I stepped on, plastic bag I ruffled and velcro I ripped, the little dog in the nearby house would go crazy barking. I finally got everything up and the yapping and yelping ended.

10/4 Big city Toronto!

From Barrie, it was all strip malls and new subdivisions, with each town blending into one another. The new homes, generally brick, would look nice on their own, but as there are hundreds that look identical, they kind of loose their charm.

More than 32 clicks from the city, I got my first glimpse of the city's skyline, including the dominating CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the world.

With 5 million people, Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the fifth largest city in North America behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, and it felt like it. The downtown area was buzzing with activity, as I rode down Yonge Street, one of the main drags in town.

A fellow on also on a bike, rode up next to me at the lights. He turned out to be an interesting character, living on the islands just off downtown, with 750 others and no cars. While I was busy yacking to him, I missed my turnoff, and continued riding down Yonge.

Just before the waterfront I realised that I had gone too far, and had to backtrack, but it was a good thing as there was so much to look around at including people of just about every race imaginable, bright lights and noise. It was such a change from the emptiness of Northern Ontario.

I found my turnoff and rode to Greektown, just outside of downtown, where I was staying with Shelly Hulko's friend from way-back and Lover-Boy-Les's ex-girlfriend, Jackie, a forensic accountant and her boyfriend, Matt, a Politics Lecturer at Queens University 200km away in Kingston.

11/4 Straight to the subway after breakfast for my first experience with Toronto's efficient transit system. It was a fascinating ride, with faces of every size, colour and expression, representing the great mix of people in the city.

The train stopped a short stroll from the central bus station where I caught a bus destined for Niagara Falls. The bus ride itself was interesting as it was my first experience on the city's rat race highways of many lanes, of which Gerry Chaput, the roading engineer I stayed with in Sault Ste. Marie, had told me had the busiest stretch of Freeway in North America.

More than half of all manufactured goods are made in Ontario, of which a large portion come from the area I was being driven through called the Golden Horseshoe, spanning from Toronto to Niagara, so it was interesting to see.

Niagara Falls itself was entertaining. The two sets of waterfalls, the American Falls and the more famous, horseshoe-shaped Niagara Falls were an impressive spectacle, and it was hard not to be impressed by the sheer volume of water flowing over the ledges and crashing onto the water below, creating a layer of mist rising around the falls.

Niagara Falls is the premier tourist attraction in Canada, attracting more than 12 million tourists a year. There were signs of this with the large casino and hotels, in addition to the Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood cafes, but the most obvious sign of catering for the mostly American tourists, was the fun, but tacky street of Clifton Hill.

Clifton Hill was a cross between the circus and Disneyland, having everything from Jurassic mini-golf to wax, Ripleys, Guiness World Records, celebrities and criminal museums to the Daredevil Hall of Fame and at least four haunted houses. After lunch in the street, as I had always loved the ghost trains at the school holiday fairs when I was a youngster, I decided to be brave and visit the House of Frankenstein, a walkaround house that would probably scare little children.

The is just about every way imaginable to view the falls themselves, from the numerous platforms and viewing towers, to tunnels that go behind the falls (apparently not that exciting), but I chose to see them from the water below on the Maid of the Mist. The Maid of the Mist is a boat that sails right into the horseshoe of the falls, where everyone on board gets a very close perspective of the world wonder. Each tourist is provided with a blue, souvenir raincoat, as there is a lot of spray up that close. The rocking ride right in the currents was a fantastic ride and is well worth while.

After a walk down through the nicely manicured parkland on the shores of the river I had some unlucky attempts on the casino's pokie machines, before catching the bus again.

I must have been a little tired, because as soon as I sat down on the bus I fell asleep. When I awoke, the bus was completely empty and stationary in a bus stop that didn't look familiar. What had woken me was the driver coming back in to get his jacket. He almost jumped out of his skin, when he heard me call out to him and seemed awfully confused as to how I had got on.

Apparently the bus load had transferred to another bus in the township of Niagara, about 10 minutes away from the falls, but I must have slept right through it, including the bustling of the passengers leaving.

The bus driver recommended a Chinese restaurant that he frequents, where I had dinner until the next bus left.

It probably wasn't such a bad thing missing the transfer as it meant that I was travelling back in the dark, so I got the full effect of the vast collection of neon-billboards and huge TV-screens dotting every spare area beside the expressway, bombarding Torontonites with all kinds of advertising. But the highlight of the light show was the downtown area, where the skyscrapers were complimented with the bluely-lit SkyDome, and the spotlights from the Air Canada centre, where Toronto's national hockey and basketball league teams play.

12/4 Back in 1997, my great aunty Ismay had her 80th birthday, which a lot of the extended family attended. One of the attendees was Jim Paterson and his wife Donna, from Toronto. Jim had a keen interest in genealogy and had come out to New Zealand to meet his distant relatives, with my father being his third cousin.

I thought that I might pay him in visit while in Toronto, so I caught the bus out to their house in the suburb of Branford for lunch. They were as nice as I remember them, and I also had the please of meeting their neighbour and their son Ian, who is my fourth cousin, about as closely related to me as the queen of Sweden.

Coincidently, also out in Branford is the Nortel head office, where Trev worked. Trev is an old rugby buddy of one of the old Net Nanniers, Lance Craven, and I met him a couple of times when he came out to Vancouver to see Lance.

Trev knocked off early from work and took me for a tour of the huge, extremely flash Nortel headquarters, which were complete with just about everything imaginable to make the office environment enjoyable for the staff, right down to the treadmill/climbing wall cross and the massage chair room - a bit of a change from the Net Nanny offices on Seymour.

Trev then drove us to the enormous CN tower, where we caught the glass elevators to the world's highest observation deck at 447m up, and then we went down a bit to walk on the glass floor and take a gander in the fresh air on the outdoor deck. The views were amazing and allowed one to get an appreciation of the size of the sprawling city of Toronto.

Back down on ground-level, we went to a nearby pub, Smokeless Joes, a cosy, friendly little pub with over 175 beers from all around the world (not Australia) to choose from. To add to the international flavour, all but one of the bar-people were foreigners, including two kiwis, who are always good to see.

A little bit tiddly, we caught a flick and then went to a nice Greek restaurant in Greektown for dinner.

13/4 It was a glorious day, perfect to take the short ferry ride out to the Toronto Islands, a small grouping of islands just out from the downtown area. After the closet thing that I was going to get to a harbour cruise that I was going to get, I arrived on the islands.

They were a magical place, with one side of the island offering compelling views of the palacial skyscrapers of downtown Toronto and the other side feeling like a world away with sandy beaches leading into Lake Ontario, with nothing to break the peacefulness except the sound of birds singing.

I wandered past the cute cottages and through the parklands of the almost car-less islands and caught the ferry from the other end almost 6km away.

Back on the mainland, I walked up for a tour of the SkyDome, via the redeveloped waterfront. The SkyDome is the stadium where the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball team play in addition to many other events. The dome was an engineering feat, with the world's fully retractable roof, that can open or close in 20 minutes. The American owned facility has a hotel and four restaurants where people can view the event from.

I stopped at the grandiose headquarter of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company), where I tagged along on a tour with a class of high school media studies students. My cover was blown when my cell-phone rang and I lost the tour party, and upon the guide's return, I was given a stern lecture about it being a private tour with public tours costing $7, etc, etc...

I wandered through downtown back home for a pleasant dinner with Jackie.

14/4 The first stop on the agenda was Casa Loma, a grand castle on a hill overlooking downtown Toronto. I took an audio tour through the magnificent establishment which in 1911, took 300 men nearly 3 years to built and cost $3.5m at the time.

A neat thing about Toronto is that there are many neighbourhoods, each with their own unique character including Greektown, China town, Little Italy, Little India, Little Portugal, Cabbage Town and many more.

As I was craving Italian food, I went to Little Italy for a delicious lunch, then onto the provincial parliament buildings and the lovely old brick buildings of the University of Toronto. I then had a look around the city's gay neighbourhood and then went to Cabbage Town, a part of town of extremes, where the bankers and lawyers rub shoulders with the unemployed and refuges live next to yuppies.

Aiesec, the organisation who I got the job at Net Nanny through, have their national committee in Toronto, in a well located office in the heart of town. I stopped for a visit and a couple of beers before going to watch the Blue Jays baseball at the SkyDome, that I was inspired by yesterday, with Aaron and Brenda who were on the committee. The Blue Jays who won the World Series in '92 and '93, went down to Seattle 11-9, after being down 9-0 after 2 innings.

I finished off the balmy evening meeting Jackie and her friends Nia and Phil for a good beer in a nice little pub in GreekTown.

15/4 It was a perfect sendoff to what had been an awesome stay in the big smoke. A pancake breakfast, eaten outside, basking in the 20° C sunshine.

After breakfast, which would be hard to beat, I packed everything up which had been in a large untidy pile for the last 5 days, said my good-byes to Jackie and, in sandals for the first time, rode down a route recommended by Jackie, past the beaches on the provided bike trails.

It was a beautiful spot and the weather was perfect, with a lot of people out in the sunshine enjoying the sand, enhanced with the irresistible smell of smoking barbecues.

I got a couple of flat tyres shortly after getting onto the highway east, due to a worn tyre, but a routine front-back tyre swap seemed to alleviate the problem.

There were a lot of traffic lights to stop at to stop at in the suburban sprawl. I finally got out into the country and as it was starting to get dark, I found a spot to camp.

The weather was exceptional and I sat outside and ate dinner with a T-shirt, but the warm air had marked the first signs of the mosquitoes, which were making a nuisance of themselves, until I pulled out some repellant which I had fortunately been sporting since Vancouver.

16/4 The last couple of days of sensational weather had been short lived as I woke today to chilly winds and drizzle.

The first leg of the journey was nothing special, but after about 20km, the road I was travelling on, crossed over the 401 expressway and headed east fairly close to the shores of Lake Ontario.

The scenery was low, rolling hills of a rural nature, with the odd barn and farm house dotting the landscape, with the most gorgeous, little towns, dating back long ago, appearing every now and then.

I had lunch at Port Hope, which was a town settled in the late 1700's which had many lovely old brick homes and buildings. There were a lot were a lot of similar towns further along, built in the same era, and to put the icing on the cake, the area was a fruit growing spot with a lot of little orchards along the way.

The weather had cleared by the time I had reached Prince Edward County, which was similar to the previous spots, but even more rural with less traffic.

It was that beautiful time of the day when the sun is setting, and I found an excellent site to pitch my tent on the fine, white sandy beach of North Beach Provincial Park. The setting for dinner was great with the waves lapping on the shore.

17/4 The pounding of waves just metres away was a sensational rhythm to wake up to was, sand through absolutely everything was a little less agreeable.

It was a slow day's slog as the wind was blowing in an unfavourable direction, but there were a lot of nice old little towns to pass through which helped a lot.

The township of Wellington entertained me for lunch at the Wellington Grill. The town of 1,700 shared the same name as my beloved home-town, but other than the fact it was by the water, there were a lot of nice old wooden houses and a few businesses shared the same names, there were few other similarities.

Just like Wellington, NZ, Wellington, ON was close to a quaint town called Picton. Picton, ON is the main city in the Prince Edward County, so is the most lively, with a lot of nice old buildings converted into restaurants and craft shops to cater for the tourists.

After Picton, I rode around part of Lake on the Mountain, a lake nestled on top of a hill, apparently fascinating as there are no run-in areas.

The short ride down the hill led to me to a free 10-minute ferry ride across a choppy channel.

The lake front road wound its way around Lake Ontario taking me to Kingston, birthplace of Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and ice hockey.

Breaking the stretch of strip malls and fast food joints leading into town was a beautiful, large, limestone castle that resembled the magic kingdom at Disneyland. I genuinely thought that it was a fun park, but when I got closer and could see the tall stone walls either side of it, blanketed with barbed wire, I realised that it was one of the city's many prisons. I stayed with Marc, a ceramic artist and friend of the Chaputs of Sault Ste. Marie. Marc's house was downtown, so it was a short walk to look at his gallery and some of the spots around it including a church with gravestones dating back to the 1600's, and then we went for a bite and a beer at one of the pubs downtown.

18/4 Kingston has had an interesting history and even had a stint as the capital of Canada from 1841-1844. It is easy to see why 3 million tourists a year are attracted to the city of just over 100,000, by taking a look around at all of the handsome old limestone buildings.

I took the route that Marc had mapped out for me to leave town, weaving its way around the historic section of Kingston, starting at a couple more prisons. Although the prisons weren't as grand as the palace that I had passed yesterday, they would still leave most places' city halls for dead. If I was the victim of a dastardly crime, or the police or lawyers that put the crook away, I would be annoyed if they ended up at any of the stunning correctional facilities that I passed, they were almost an incentive to be naughty.

The road down the lake side took me past some magnificent mansions, then the reputable Queens University and through downtown, notably city hall and numerous churches, all seemingly built in the same era - long ago.

Over the causeway was the Royal Military College and a historic Fort, so there was a lot to see.

The ride north, leaving the Great Lakes, was similar to the rural setting I have ridden through in the last couple of days, with a few rocks like the ones in Northern Ontario. So with a few nice old towns chucked in, and no headwind like yesterday, it was quite a pleasant ride, topped off by a golden find of a grassy paddock surrounded by trees to camp in.

19/4 It wasn't much of a ride until I reached the outskirts of the Canada's Federal Capital, Ottawa.

The city has a reputation of being bike-friendly, which is nice to know when you're pedalling yourself. I took the well marked out bike trail along the Ottawa River, which took me over 15km into the heart of downtown Ottawa.

The Canadian Government has obviously spent a lot of money keeping the Nation's house of Government spick 'n' span, with the area around the parliament buildings being very well maintained. The area had the nicest collection of spectacular old buildings that I have seen in Canada so far.

I was staying with Michael Foucher (Foosh), in what I am guessing is the most studly apartment in Ottawa, right across the road from the National Art Gallery and the new American Embassy with its $2m steps.

20/4 My obvious start for the grand tour of Ottawa was the parliament buildings, the most predominant landmark in this city of a million, proudly perched on parliament hill overlooking the Ottawa River. The buildings were quite a sight, with the large, centre block and its tall peace tower, being the focal point of them. To the left and right of the grand building were two more buildings, almost as dignified, with towers and fine masonary work as well. The three buildings together formed a 'U' shape, with a pleasant grassy patch in the centre.

The tour took me around the important spots including the House of Commons, the Senate, the library and a few other halls. Some of the detail in the buildings walls and ceilings was superb, with stories being told in many of the carved stone. As impressive as the parliament buildings were, I didn't think they had too much on the Provincial Parliament buildings that I had seen in Regina.

After the guided visit, I sat out on the parliament steps and rested my feet for a short time and soaked up the atmosphere, enjoying the warm afternoon and the music booming to the grassy area out front, including everything from First Nations music, to French, to classical to some familiar bag-pipe tunes. I looked around town, which included a stop-off at the New Zealand High Commission, which had closed early for the easter weekend. There still was a guy working some overtime, who I had a good yarn with, before taking a quick squiz at the Dominion, the morning paper from back home.

Foosh finished work, and after a quick tour of some of the grand homes in Ottawa along the river, including the Prime Minister's residence and a few embassies, we picked up his friend Ingrid, who had just finished her last exam for the university year, and went out for a few beers in the downtown, which was alive and kicking as there was a public holiday the next day.

21/4 - 23/4 Foosh's friend Nicole had organised a weekend away with about 30 of their friends and offspring staying in two chalets in Mount Tremblant, Quebec's premier ski resort, about a two-hour drive from Ottawa. The town itself recently had a lot of money spent on it developing it and looked cool, but a little bit plasticy, very similar to Whistler, which was no surprise, as Intrawest, the company that owns Whistler, owns Mount Tremblant as well.

The chalet we stayed in was a beautiful old, gabled, timber-interiored home overlooking a lake. It seemed to be the central meeting place, and was always the hive of activity, with an abundant supply of alcohol and very well cooked food. I was in heaven as I was able to eat or drink whenever I felt like it.

The weekend was incredibly relaxing, playing with the kids, watching cheesy 80's videos, playing board games, attending a 9 year-old's birthday, and general socialising, with the most exercise in the three days being a 30-minute hike down to the river. It was such a good break, as I find even when I have stopped in a town in the past, I have been busy trying to see the sites, so this was the best rest I had had in a long time.

It was also great to be in Quebec. Ottawa is neat city as there are a lot of people speaking French as well as English, but in Quebec, everyone speaks French. Just going into a cruddy liquor store was fun as it felt like an artsy-fartsy french restaurant as the server greets you with 'Bonjour'. The drive home was one big French lesson from Foosh, where he kindly told me a lot of the basic words that it would help to know in this part of the world, and then patiently listened to me trying to pronounce the language of love with my thick kiwi accent.

24/4 As relaxing as the weekend was, we must have both still been pretty tired because we both slept in until almost midday. With half the day gone, we went for a drive in the suburbs, stopping at a nice Italian restaurant in Gleeb for brunch, and then went to the architecturely-impressive National Art Gallery of Canada.

The gallery had some incredible works from artists such as van Gough, Picasso and Monet and the uniquely Canadian Group of Seven, who painted some interesting impressions of Canada, but the highlight of gallery for me was the large collection of Inuit art - comical, yet tasteful, carvings, generally of greenstone. It almost tempted me to change my course and ride to the far North to see more of this work.

I only had 20 minutes at the war museum before close, so I had a quick look around the exhibiton on the Canadian contribution to the Boer War. Across the road was the Notre Dame cathedral, with its two silver steeples and stunning interior.

25/4 The first stop for the day was the post office, where I was happy to send a 10kg box containing my hopefully redundant snow boots and extra clothes out east, which should lighten the load a little. I rode down to the Governer General's house, which I wasn't allowed inside, but got a look from the outside, which wasn't anything too special.

The road took me over the Ottawa river to the Quebec city of Hull, home to the Canadian Museum of Civilisation. I had been told that this was a must see attraction while in Ottawa, which after looking through it, was very justified. All of the exhibits were nice, but the Canada Hall was what really rung my bells. The display, which covered a whole floor and a mezanine level, illustrated the last 1,000 years of Canadian history, with walk-through buildings symbolising the era. It would have been great to see for anybody, but it was special to me as it explained the history of a lot of the places that I had visited on my bike including the elevators of the prairies and the Canadian Pacific Railroad out to Vancouver.

During the 2km ride back to Foosh's, a spoke on my rear wheel broke. It was ironic because I had no luggage, and therefore not too much weight on the bike. So I made a quick stop at the bike shop, where they fixed it straight away and gave the chain a bit of a lube.

26/4 Leaving Ottawa was just as picturesque as arriving, down the smooth bike trails through the parklands on the banks of the Ottawa River.

Fortunately I was passed by one of Ottawa`s many bicycle commuters, who I drafted, which helped trivialize the light headwind. The fellow cyclist turned out quite a friendly fellow and helpfully recommended and gave me directions to the old highway 17, a scenic route continuing along the river with next to no traffic.

Although I was still in Ontario, I was well into French territory, with a lot of the farm houses having the distinctive Quebecan cancaved roofs for the snow, and people walking along the roadside enjoying the pleasant evening were using French as their chosen form of communication.

I got good mileage out of the 10 or so French words I know when I stopped for dinner, with my pronounciation being a clear giveaway that I was a tourist so people were understanding of my lack of vocabulary.

27/4 I awoke early, even before the sun had started its journey from east to west in this part of the world. A warm serving of beans started me off well for the day and unlike the usual sleep-in until 10 or 11, I was on the road before 7am - the earliest departure of the trip to date. It was a nice time to ride, the calmness and lack of traffic made the conditions almost perfect for my last stretch in Ontario, where I had been for the last 40 days, apart from the few days Mount Tremblant.

I crossed the bridge in Hawkesbury to the Quebec side of the river at mid-morning, and my mini tour du France (Canada) began. I ended up talking to a friendly local for about ten minutes, while he precisely described every possible route to Montreal. I took the longest road as it had the least vehicles and wound its way through along the river through the most towns.

The roadside was dotted with old, stone farm-homes which were complimented by the green grass and the glistening river, of which every now and then, little towns would appear on the other side, every one of them dominated by an old church steeple.

In Montreal, I arrived at Gille`s apartment, Shelly Hulko`s ex-boyfriend. I was immediately bombarded with fine French hospitality, which included some exceptional beers from Gille`s extensive home-brewing operation. Gille and his friend Michel then whipped up some delicious French cuisine, washed down with home-made wine, some Spanish wine, followed by the traditionally French, wine and cheese, with a few glasses of port. I knew at that moment that I was going to like Quebec a lot!

28/4 Last night`s hospitality had been a bit too good as I spent a good part of the gloriously sunny day, lying on the couch nursing a nasty hangover. I finally felt well enough to get out into the fresh air, which did me a world of good.

I spent the sunny Friday afternoon cycling around the metropolis of Montreal. The place was alive with activity, with the city`s cafe patios spilling out onto the street, fill of stylish people, not the sneaker and jean types found in a lot of North America.

Although I didn`t really know where I was going I rode around the city aimlessly and just soaked up the atmosphere. I liked the mix of buildings that the city had - beautiful, old concrete buildings, built as early as the 1600`s, contrasting superbly with the modern, sleek, glass towers.

As the sun set, I made it back to Gille`s, so we could go out to a pub with some of his friends.

29/4 As Gille had to help his mother move house, I spent the day with his friend`s Michel and Beaugie, who being locals, obviously knew the city very well, and I got a real appreciation for the place, and how different it is from the rest of Canada that I had seen.

Each province I had visited had been different from the last, with their own unique charms, but Quebec so far felt the most different of all, almost like another country. There was the obvious language dissimilarities, and subtle things such as the faucet taps and street signs, but the deviation from the rest of Canada seemed much deeper than that. I am told that the Quebec provincial Government is more socialist that the rest of Canada, making education and health more accessable and cheaper. The civil law system is based on the continental Europe system rather than the English one like the rest of Canada. The people seem less conservative than elsewhere, and almost less constrained by rules. Liquor laws are much more lenient, with alcohol sold in corner stores. The list goes on. One difference I liked was the lack of a bicycle-helmet law. I am a great believer in wearing a skid-lid, and may even be dead of a vegetable if I hadn`t warn one in the past, but it was great to relive my helmet-free childhood years and feel the wind in my hair again.

Michel, Beaugie and myself rode around Montreal, in the warm sunshine. Our journey took us through the Mount Royal park, a large reserve on the edge of the downtown, built on a hill, overlooking the island of Montreal. It was a good place to be pointed out some of the city landmarks and other places that we would be visiting.

We coasted down St. Catherines, the main street in the city, which was bustling with activity. Through Chinatown en route to Old Montreal, where we had a quick peep at the spectacular Notre Dame, and then we temporarily retired the bikes to walk around through the thin, cobblestoned streets, and then out to the waterfront.

To finish off the great day, we went to a pub with four levels of patios, and enjoyed a few beers out in the sun. A little tiddly, we wheeled the bikes onto the metro, and trained it back to Michel`s for dinner, with a few more drinks when Gille turned up, then a few at Beaugie`s and then to a salsa pub fill of beautiful women.

30/4 Brunch was at a neighbourhood diner and then Gille, Michel and I went back to Mount Royal, where a large grouping of people had gathered in the sun, to listen to the crowd of tam-tam players, beating tunes at the base of a tall monument. It was a happening spot, with a lot of interesting people around. There were craft stalls, jugglers, plenty of dogs running around and a couple of old men doing flips and other acrobatic manoeuvres.

After some famous Quebec poutine (fries, gravy and weird cheese) for lunch, we went for a look around the 1976 Olympic stadium grounds, which Montreal still owes millions on, and has been plagued with problems since opening such as the retactable roof not working, and the roof caving in from too much snow. It was an interesting design though.

1/5 Montreal people can be fairly vocal, so when I rode through the city on my way out of town, fully packed up with my pile of gear and clanging beer bottles that Gille had given me from his home brew collection, it was no surprise that there were a few people yelling things out.

What they were yelling out, I do not know, it could have been abusive blaspheming to the dorky looking guy on the bike, or it could have been them telling me what a cool dude I was. If they were shouting out that my bags had fallen off my trailor 100 metres back, I wouldn`t have known. It really made me appreciate how hard it must be for immigrants who come to a country that speak a different language and actually having to live there day to day rather than clowning around on a bicycle during a 3-day stopover.

I didn`t see the rows of strip malls and indentical houses for miles like I had seen on the outskirts of Toronto - it wasn`t long after leaving the densely built up city that I was out in the open.

A warm rainfall started. It was nice to feel and smell the warm moist air, unlike the bitterly cold rain that had pelted me in the past, but I didn`t want to get everything soaking wet, so I found a park on the outskirts of Boucherville and quickly pitched the tent and crawled into my dry place for the evening.

2/5 I spent a good part of the morning learning a few new French words in the tent. Just listening to my tapes didn`t seem too effective, so I decided to use the flip-card technique that had worked wonders during my school years.

I didn`t set my sights too high, but was keen to learn one or two words that would be helpful to order food as this was a fairly common form of contact with the Francophones.

Eager to try out my new words, I stopped at the first restaurant I saw and flung a few words from the language of love at the lovely waitress. She seemed to appreciate my effort, but fortunately spoke enough English to get my order correct.

Most of the towns I rode through had bike paths through them, which were filled with everything from small kids on little bikes to old men on bikes of a similar age. The towns, much like the others I had passed in Quebec, with grand silver steepled churches dominating the streetscape and religious statues. But there was the odd large, rundown factory or powerplant dotted randomly along the river`s edge, contrasting from the fairly quaint villages.

3/5 It was an absolute pearler of a day, every cyclist`s dream weather to ride. I lay in the sun before rising, ate at a nice restaurant in Sorel, bought a new tyre for my bike and then set off to the Ferry, on the edge of town.

The ferry ride was very pleasent indeed, to the northern banks of the great St. Lawrence River, with the water shining like jewel in the sunshine.

My squeaky old blue bike seemed to generate a lot of interest from the friendly Quebecans also riding on the ferry, and fortunately there was a bi-lingual local to translate the questions and answers back and forth. I felt like a South American contestant in the Miss Universe pageant, although not as pretty, with the translator to ask questions.

The road took me through farming towns to Trois-Rivières, the main city in the area. The city seemed fairly industrial, but there were some nice pockets of historic buildings, a few cafes with bustling patios and a large bridge across the St. Lawrence that had an almost identical design to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I arrived in Batiscan where Foosh`s grandfather, Luey, was out on the street to greet me. He was a very interesting character and had written a book about his life. Luey`s wife, Anne-Marie, was a very sweet lady and a great cook, but unfortunately she only spoke French, so it was more of the Miss Universe translation thing for us.

4/5 Breakfast was a healthy portion of porridge and some eggs, which as Luey put it, was Ęgood fuelĘ.

The terrain started to get hillier along the river bank and added to the cute villages dotting highway 138. Old gabled homes built right up on the side of the road clustered closely next to one another.

It was so nice to feel the sunshine really warming me up, and when I stopped I lay out in the sun, I kept beautifully warm, unlike in the past when breaks entailed putting on an extra couple of layers as soon as possible to keep from freezing.

I arrived in Quebec's provincial capital, Quebec city in the early afternoon. The city was nothing special in the outter suburbs, but the heart of the town was beautiful, full of lovely old buildings. I met Anne, a criminal lawyer who I had met in Mount Tremblant over easter, at one of the sprawling cafe patios in the city for a couple of beers.

After quenching our thirst, we made it back to her apartment - an old, converted church, right on the outside of the historic part of the city.

I don't know what it is about these Frenchies, but they all seem to know how to cook very well, with Anne being the pinacle of it, serving a sensational steak cooked the in a fine French style.

5/5 Vieux-Quebec (Old Quebec) is the only city in North America to still have a wall surrounding it, giving it an even more historic feel.

After wandering by the attractive provincial parliament buildings, I ventured behind the walls to visit Vieus-Quebec. The place was incredible, with it's mainly 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings making it feel like a museum, with the addition of people still living there and going about there day to day business.

The grandest of all buildings was the Chateau Frontenac, a majestic brick hotel, located in a picturesque setting, right on the edge of the hill overlooking the St. Lawrence river and beyond. Apparently it is one of the most photographed buildings in the world, so I added to the statistics and snapped a few shots.

I explored the narrow streets, filled with buskers doing wierd things and alleys cluttered with painters exhibiting their work. It must have been a good couple of hours before I conceded to lunch on a nice patio. In restaurants in other cities I have visited, they sometimes have paintings of Europe, trying to give the place some more atmosphere, the neat thing about Quebec City is all of the paintings are of Quebec City itself, although it does look like Europe.

After lunch, I visited the Musée (museum) de la Civilisation, which gave me an interesting perspective of Quebec.

Dinner was out in the country at Anne's parents' place, who lived up to Quebec's reputation for fine food and hospitality

6/5 Anne used to be a tour guide when she was at university, so she was quite a good lady to be shown around by. She took me back through part of Vieux-Quebec, pointing out some of the history that I didn't discover yesterday.

We left the city and drove around the island of Orleans, just out from the city, but with a lovely rural feel, with its historic villages.

A gondala ride next to the Chute Montmorency (waterfalls) followed. The falls and surrounding area were spectacular, one and a half times the height of the Niagara Falls, although not nearly as wide.

7/5 My stay finished at Anne's with breakfast of the same high standard that I had been spoilt with since arriving.

Anne rollarbladed a bit of the way with me on the well maintained bike route, and then I set off on my own.

On the outskirts of the city were some large hills that got the pulse rate going, but once I was on the plateau, the view was impressive. Fields of different colours with small groupings of trees and villages dominated the foreground, whereas on the horizon, lay many hazy layers of mountain ranges.

It was kind of uncanny, but in the sake of 10 minutes, the blue sky turned to a dark grey. Like some creepy movie, the wind chilled, and all of a sudden my tyre blew out.

I pulled over and unpacked everything to change the tube when the heavens opened. I was completely soaked from the heavy rainfall, which was accompanied by fork-lightening and loud crashing thunder, very close to each other indicating the storm was pretty close.

I took refuge behind an old barn, which slightly sheltered me from the downpour. Just as everything was fixed and repacked, the storm stopped as fast as it had begun. weird.

8/5 It wasn't long into the ride that I reached the steep 6km downhill into the town of Baie-St. Paul, a pictureque town, nestled between the mountains and the St.Lawrence River, looking just like some of the paintings I had seen in galleries in Quebec City.

The town was the hive of activity with the skinny streets lined with colourful, colonial buildings, mostly converted into botique restaurants and art galleries.

I left town after lunch and headed east along route 362, an AAA designated scenic byway, and that it was! The road twisted around the rugged terrain of the mountainous banks of the North Shore of the St. Lawrence, past little French Villages on cliffs, high above the river, each with their own large catholic church, dominating the view.

It wasn't all blissful though, the road, as pretty as it was, twisted and turned over the largest hills that I come across since British Columbia, but far steeper, some that even the Morris Minor couldn't make it up.

I think if I had left for my ride in the spring time, it would have taken a lot longer as I was finding myself taking long rests, just sitting in the sun, enjoying the views.

The spot I stopped for the night was equally as impressive as any of my rest areas, looking down on the St. Lawrence river, now over 15km wide, but far below.

9/5 Just as I was rejoicing the warm weather that spring had bought, I woke with a chill, which was now surprise, as there were snow flurries outside.

The weather had taken a turn for the worst, and the beautiful spot that I had had seen last night basking in the warm glow of the sunset, was now grey and gloomy.

I had a ferry to catch, so I packed everything up wet and headed off, right into a horrific headwind.

The scenery was spectacular, more of the same, steep winding roads, but the wind helped spoil the moment.

I arrived in St-Simèon, where the ferry departs from. As I was early, I stopped for a bite at a restaurant overlooking the bay, and ended up talking to an interesting Dutch guy, Ronald, who was also waiting to cross the river.

During slice 3 of my house-special pizza, the waitress made an announcement, and as French was one of the 5 languages my Dutch friend could speak, he translated it for me - "the ferry has been cancelled due to the gusty winds and big waves".

As the next ferry was at 9:30am tomorrow, I rode up to the dense forest behind the town and found a camp site that was only a short ride down the ferry terminal in the morning. I spent the rest of the night learning a few new French words.

10/5 It was an early rising to have everything packed to be down at the ferry for the morning sailing.

Winter had rared its ugly head again, my breath was smokie and there were a couple of inches of fresh snow underfoot. The virgin-white snow decorating the trees' branches was pretty, but it was a nuisence having to rummage around in the bottom of my pack to find my winter woollies, and I was liking the smell of sunscreen.

I arrived at the ferry dock with time to spare and saw Ronald from yesterday, waiting in the lineup.

I ate breakfast and chatted with Ronald at the long, zig-zagging table in the ship's cafeteria, so the hour trip seemed to pass very fast.

I looked around Rivière du Loup, where the shipped docked on the South shore and then set off on the much flatter terrain.

For a while I could see the mountains of the North Shore and the islands we had sailed past, but then the road took me inland through a valley of rolling farmland framed by jagged hills.

I stopped to phone the Internet Cafe in Rimouski, the next city, to see what their hours of operation were so I could plan when to be there. Noone in the establishment could speak English, and my attempt at French using my soggy Berlitz French dictionary wasn't comprehended.

I went into the gas station close by and asked the lady, who hardly spoke any English, to phone them for me. A lot of body language and two phone calls later, I finally discovered that they were open 7am-11pm, so I didn't have to plan around it.

I pedalled on and found a beautiful park to camp in, a large grassy field, sheltered on all sides by forested hills. As everything was soaking wet from last night, I laid them out to dry, but no sooner had I just unrolled my sleeping bag, it started to rain...

11/5 The rain that started last night, hadn't stopped when I awoke in the morning. It was coming down in Torrents, and as I was dry and snug in my tent, I stayed in my tent, listening to the rain pitter-patter all day, reading a good book and watching the puddle in the bottom righthand side of the tent slowly grow.

As my food rashions were running low, all I had to eat all day was rice and granola (muesli) bars, but it was a pleasant break.

12/5 Joyous I was when I awoke to find all signs of percepitation had disappeared, even the puddle in the tent had reduced itself to a mere damp spot.

To Rimouski I rode, past the inlets and islands, over the small hills. The town had all I needed from an Internet cafe, or a cafe with a computer connected to the Internet, a supermarket, so I wouldn`t be on a stable diet of rice for the next 40 days, and a casse croute (snack bar) from which I bought poutine (fries, gravy & weird cheese) as I was told Rimouski had the best in the world. I would normally give poutine about a 6 out of 10, but the large helping of Italian poutine, although it felt like a brick digesting, was exceptional.

The town was so friendly, I lost count of the number of people who came up to chat and having to apologise for not speaking French. The odd person did speak English including an interesting character who was walking 140 miles from New Brunswick to somewhere in Quebec, and felt a connection with me as I was also on a trek.

13/5 Seabirds were perched out on the rocks amongst the waves. The squawking from the seagulls was a sign that soon I would be out by the ocean.

Small villages dotted the side of the road, squeezed between the rocky shoreline and the winding concrete thoroughfare. The villages looked poor judging by the small residences, often decorated with retro garden decorations with little peices that moved in the wind. As poor as the coastal communities looked, each settlement still had its own extravangently constructed church.

The afternoon turned ugly as heavy winds set in. I struggled to get 10km/h out of my little blue bike on the flat, exposed road. Even the power-generating windmills on the hill had been stopped as it was blowing too much. Anything that wasn`t fully secured down, such as flags, hanging letterboxes and real estate signs, were flapping wildly.

I put my head down and grinded, making slow progress for the day.

14/5 I hadn`t showered for a while, and was again smelling of the cocktail of deoderant, aftershave and sweat. The lady in the restaurant yesterday was awfully short with me, I`m not sure if it was because she was nasty or because of my fragrence - I think it was the latter.

So when it started to pour in the middle of the night, I decided to take my practice of using nature as my bathroom one step further. I felt like an African Tribesman, dancing around naked in the rain in the dark, soap in hand, but it felt good, and even better to smell pretty again.

The headwind from yesterday was still present, yet not nearly as unforgiving. To add to the wind, there was a low layer of fog, covering the hilly scenery like a cotton wool blanket, which finally burnt off in the early evening.

15/5 Almost immediately after leaving St-Anne Des Mont, the tree-covered mountains became steeper and edged their way to the coastline.

The abrupt cliffs fell dramatically to the sea, a perfect environment for the many waterfalls tumbling down their faces, some large enough to cover the road with their mist.

The mountain faces themselves, were layers of sedimentary rocks that had been buckled and twistered for millions of years creating spectacular patterns.

The road was flat, straddling the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the mountains towering high above it. Every now and then, there would be a small break in the jutting faces of rock, as the mountains temporarily retreated back from the sea, and these gaps were filled by small clusterings of wooden homes.

The later part of the day took me away from the coast, high up in the mountains, well above the snow line, up and down excessively steep hills, exhausting me, which led to me taking an early night.

16/5 I was up and down today like a couple of newly weds. Over each hill was a seaside settlement, with small wooden bungalows dotted around a bay, the larger ones having a church and shops, with the odd lighthouse on a cliff.

Near the end of the day`s ride, I reached the tip of the Gaspé peninsula, a spectacular scene where the mountain ranges that had been the backbone of the peninsula, ended in the ocean. The majority of the area was covered by Forillon National Park, which contained within its boundaries the best of the scenery. Fortunately the road went through the park. Other vehicles were sparse and wildlife seemed to be abundant judging by the `Don`t feed the Animals` signs, rustling I heard amongst the foliage and two cute porcupines I saw scuttling amongst the shrubbery.

The final stint in the park was to the top of the hill, revealing the spectacular inlet below. I rode through Cap-aux-Os and found a nice clearing amongst the trees that was about an as good campsite as one could get. I had just unloaded everything off my bike when a local on a 4-wheeler motorbike joined me in my spot and signalled to me that I could not stay there, so I reloaded everything and found another spot, not quite as nice, just down the road.

17/5 Right from the first revolution, something seemed to be up, and with each kilometre, my back wheel started wobbling worse and worse. By the time I reached the downhill leading into Gaspé, I was wobbling all over the road with very little control.

At first I thought I had buckled my back wheel, but after seeing how random the wobbles were, I thought it was my bearings and then, one by one, my spokes break off from around the rim.

The condition of my bike was so bad that I could not ride anymore, so I wheeled it into town, where I got directions from some workmen fixing the roof of a motel to the local bike shop.

As the wheel's wobbling got worse, it even became hard to push, but I made it over the bridge to the sports store where fortunately the repair man could speak English.

After closer inspection, the autopsy of the wheel revealed that the rim had finally given way under the weight and the spokes had broken though the rim. Although I obviously wasn't happy about the damage, I could not believe that it had happened so close to the bike store, as the last town that may have had one was St-Anne Des Mont, over 250km and many hills back.

Fortunately Gaspé was a lovely little town to take a break in, set on an attractive harbour with very friendly people, a lot of whom spoke English, some for their first language.

I spent the day doing all of those overdue chores such as a shower, laundry, a haircut, a buffet lunch, and using the free Internet in a nice little cafe, before retiring for the night in the residences of the local college.

18/5 After breakfast, I walked back over the bridge with my bag fill of clean clothes, the the Gaspé Adventure, the sports store where my bike was being fixed.

Patrick, the ace mechanic, was working diligently on rebuilding the rim. The fact that Gaspé Adventure was owner-operated, not some sporting chain store, meant the service was second to none. Murray one of the owners, and Patrick both spoke prefect English, so we had a good chat while they got my bike back into road-worthy shape. It was good to have a proper conversation with someone, rather than the one-two word communication I had been having as of late.

With some great souveniers to leave with including a Gaspé Adventure key chain, T-shirt and two fresh new water-bottles, I left, with all of the rattling and squeaking that had plagued my journey for the last while gone, all of my gears working and brakes that could slow me down on steep hills. It was like a new sport, riding my fixed bike.

As it had taken a lot of the day to get the bike into prestine shape, I didn't get too far, but found a camping spot in a fermé (closed) rest area right by the bay, where I watched the tumbling waves crash on the sandy beach below.

19/5 If there was one day that I wanted blue skies, it was today, as I was about 50km away from Percé, where the famous hole in the rock stands just off shore.

Under bright blue skies, the ride to Percé was pretty, winding along the coastline. There was a bit of a climb just before the town, past some spectacular red rock faces, before the decent into the town, a steep 14% gradient hill at 73km/h, overlooking the surreal natural formation.

The rock itself was one of the most impressive sights that I have seen on my trip to dates, with its limestone cliffs on all sides, dropping down to the ocean below, with a small hole at one end where the moody Atlantic aggressively passed through. My timing was such that as the tide was low, I could walk out to the rock along the small rocky bar that connected it to the mainland. I ate lunch in the sunshine, sitting on a solid, wooden swinging bench, overlooking the rock in the newly-developed waterfront park.

The highlight of the rest of the day was finding a camping store that sold gas bottles for my cooker, as my last one had run out last night, which had caused me to worry a little all day that I would be having a cold dinner.

20/5 For the first time in a while, it really felt like spring, it was lovely and warm and the sun was shining undisturbed as there wasn't a single cloud in the sky.

And what a place to spend such a day, on the gentle rolling hills of southern shores of the Gaspé peninsula with a gentle tail wind at back, with each little town having the standard church and at least one rich, salmon-coloured sandy beach.

I had been making many stops all day, but it was early evening when my blissfulness ended with the sound of escaping air as the small tyre on my trailor had gone flat. The tyre had worn right through to the tube, which caused the hole.

A spare tube I did possess, so after lining the tyre with a couple of layers of duct tape, I had a hard tyre again - for about 2 minutes, when I heard a loud bang, a sign to me that my tyre was stuffed.

About a minute after wondering what on earth I was going to do to get my trailor running again, it struck me that there were fields of grass all around me. So I began to pick, like someone looking to feed a farm animal, and I picked and picked, stuffing as much as I could inside the worn tyre, and when I thought I could fit no more, I stuffed another clump in, and there she was, a semi-hard wheel, not something that would put the free-air people out of business, but something that would atleast get me to the next town that was bound to have a bike store, about 20km away.

So I thudded along slowly, thinking about what a long 20km it would be, when a friendly fellow in a late model honda pulled up and introduced himself as Marc, and I knew from then that I was going to like this guy.

He had seen me on his way to dinner with his girlfriend, dropped her off and then turned around to come and offer me a place to stay at his home, which happened to be exactly where he caught back up to me.

He quickly showed me round his charming, rustic, 2-storey, 100 year old home, with views of the ocean to one side and rolling farmland to the other. He showed me the nice drift-wood art that he makes before leaving to go back to his dinner.

21/5 I saw Marc again in the morning, the first time that I had seen him since he rushed out to dinner last night.

Marc shouted me an incredible Gaspésie style breakfast at the little cafe down the road that had just opened for summer, before taking me to get a new tyre for my trailor at the general/bike store down the road. As it was a Sunday, the store happened to be closed, but fortunately, as Marc kind of knew the shopkeeper, we went his house just behind the store, and caught him just before he was about to leave for his cabin, and we got a new tyre.

As it was a beautiful day, Marc sat out on his deck and played his guitar, which provided excellent backgroud music to fix my puncture to.

Before I left Marc wanted to have a ride on my bike, so he set off down the thin dirt road running to the back of his property. I did not realise how funny the bike looks all loaded up with someone pedalling it.

I said my goodbyes to Marc and his neighbours and took off, again with a brisk tail wind.

I was more of the same as yesterday, before darting inland through a picturesque valley, every now and then seeing the water, but what I liked most were the trees, which had finally sprouted some fresh, green leaves, contrasting beautifully with the darker shades of the evergreens on the hillside.

I crossed the spearmint-green bridge into a new time-zone and Campbellton, New Brunswick, which represented the of of my Quebec leg of the journey, an emotional time, knowing a few more French words that I did 3 weeks ago, but not too many more.

22/5 As nice as was for a little of something different to have everything in French for a while, it certainly was good to be understood again. New Brunswick is a bilingual province, which was obvious just by looking at the street-signs, just about all of which were in both French and English. The people were truly bilingual as well, and I saw on many occassions, people switching from perfect English to perfect French (or at least it sounded like it to me, not that I would know any better).

I was no longer stumbling over menu items, questions ask to me or questions I asked, it was a bit strange, and I even said "bon jour" instead of "hello" to some people as I was so used to saying it.

New Brunswick was not as built up as Quebec. The road was alongside the Baie des Chaleurs (the body of water between the Gaspé peninsula and New Brunswick) for most of the day, overlooking the rugged hills of Gaspé peninsula. The scenery combined with the great weather and fresh leaves made it a nice days riding.

23/5 I don't know what it is, but for the last week, no matter which direction I have been heading - east, west or south, I have had a tail wind helping me on my way, making riding a breeze (pardon the pun).

The road today took me inland through the forests of silver birches, pines and maples, which seemed to be getting fuller and greener every day.

Miramichi was the only real location on the map that I passed, which seemed to be an attractive, quaint city with tree-lined streets of old wooden homes and another Sydney-harbour look-a-like which crossed the river.

Each town I did pass through looked like the residents had been busy spring cleaning over the long weekend as there were piles of everything from old couches to TVs sitting at the entrance to each driveway. For a while, I was following behind the guy who must have owner the 2nd hand store, because he was stopping at each pile and studying it, loading goods into his truck every now and then.

I stopped for a picnic lunch and fortunately had some insect repellant with me as the sandflies were swarming me like teenage girls to a rockstar.

It was the same again when I stopped for the night with more of the little pests, so I was in the tent all sipped up as soon as it was up.

24/5 I had a slightly embarrassing start this morning, after I had pulled into the first gas station I saw to rejuvenate my water supply which had run dry. I was just beaten to the mens' room by an old guy, and knowing of the potential waterworks delays that senior citizens commonly encounter, I opted for the little girls room instead of waiting.

The process of filling up my collection of water bottles can sometimes be fairly time consuming, especially when the sink is too small for most of the cannisters, so I have to fill the smaller ones and transfer from there. I was partway through this delicate operation when I heard the door rattle and then a knock, which I politely answered "yes" to in the most feminine voice that I could deliver.

I hurried the process as much as I could, knowing there was someone waiting, splashing water around on the transfer. When I finally finished, with an arm fill of plastic bottles, I exited the room to see a lineup of school girls on a school trip, some red in the face and cross-legged, waiting for me to finish from where I shouldn't have been in the first place.

A giggle or two from the van-load of school girls helped ease the situation a little, but I didn't hang around too much longer.

I only passed through small towns today, but attractive towns, surrounded with trees, with the main roads lined with stately, wooden residences from the turn of the century and older.

As the areas that I had seen of New Brunswick so far seem to have logging as a large part of their economy, I decided to check out the Central New Brunwick Woodmen's Museum in Boiestown. It was quite neat, with an old lumber settlement with about 15 buildings being converted into a museum, with everything on show from the old sleeping and eating quarters to a wedding dress and even a commode chair.

25/5 The scenery in the ride to Fredricton in the morning looked like it would be right at home in a car commercial - a smooth, winding road making its way through a forested valley with trees exploding with blooms coloured every shade of green you can imagine, running alongside a gently flowing river, with the odd grassy field and over fields covered in daisies.

Fredricton itself was just like the other quaint towns along the way, only bigger. Settled alongside the river amongst tree-covered hills was a beautiful setting for the city filled with grand old wooden homes and buildings.

With only 50,000 people, the town wasn't too bustling, but was a nice spot to have lunch, which I sat outside in the park surrounding the soldier's barracks, a grouping of historic buildings, some still used by the military.

Some old guy who rode across Canada in 1988 saw my touring-looking bike and immediately came over and shared his story for about an hour while I happily munched my food.

I rode around the elm-lined streets, past the cute provincial parliament buildings and up through the beautiful Univerity of New Brunswick campus, finished my brief visit in the town before I headed south on the highway in the pouring rain.

26/5 It was only about 30km of riding before I reached the ferry terminal in Saint John, with ferries sailing to Digby, Nova Scotia. I had hoped to have a quick look around Saint John, New Brunswick's largest city with 100,000 people, but as bicycles were not allowed on the bridge to the city and the guy in the toll booth told me it was over 30 minutes going around the long way, by the time I got there and back, I would probably have missed the boat, so I went back to the terminal on the Bay of Fundy, where at that particular spot, the tide fluctuations could vary 6m, which was relatively small compared to 16m further up.

I met some interesting people on the 3-hour ferry ride including a few friendly Americans, a girl who had lived in Australia for 3 years and a couple of cyclists who were going south for the Apple blossum festival on this weekend.

Shortly after arrival, when I stopped to have a late lunch, I met my first exceptionally friendly, almost Scotish sounding, Nova Scotian, who was looking for trout bait in a small lake. He told me of a nice spot for picnicing in the centre of Digby, which was where I headed and ate my sandwiches in the sun on the waterfront overlooking the fishing boats sailing in and out of port.

After lunch I rode along the scenic number 1 highway over many a blind crests and through some little towns, with most of the lovely wooden homes having beautiful gardens in full bloom, giving the sweetest scent of pollen in the air.

I rode through Annapolis Royal, on of the oldest towns in North America, established 1605, over the tidal power generator and then to Les's old university roommate, JL's family lot, where all of his family each have there own caravan on a peaceful spot by the river.

JL's parents, John and Maria, owned the cottage they were renovating just up the blue slate road, where I went for dinner before retiring to one of the caravans for the night.

27/5 After a marvelleous breakfast back at John and Marias', I was back on highway 1, the Evangelist Trail through the Annapolis Valley.

It was quite a sight with most of the apple trees in this apple growing region, covered in flowers. The sunny Saturday afternoon also provided perfect conditions for the many garage sales and home-made furniture stalls lining the streets in the small towns.

I arrived in Kentville just before the start of the 68th Annual Apple blossum parade, where the main street of the small town was filled with 8km kilometres of floats with everything from bag-pipe bands, to minature horses to each town in the areas' princess, a girl in her late teens in a princess gown who had obviously won the local beauty paegent.

28/5 I only passed the town of Wolfville before reaching Windsor, where I stayed with JL. I had arrived a little earlier than anticipated, and JL and his girlfriend Rachel were out, but he had left a sign on the door telling me there were some drinks around the back and I could sit out on the sun chairs and enjoy them.

I rested for about half an hour, sipping the beer and apple juice provided when JL arrived.

After a long overdue shower, I had some lunch went for a short walk around town, had fantastic lasagna for dinner before going for a walk on the the dikes with JL on the outskirts of town.

29/5 There was a lot of gear to air out and ripe-smelling clothes to wash before I left JL's for Halifax. As always, it took a little longer that I thought it would, and I was left with just over three hours for the 85km trek to the Halifax airport to meet Shelley Hulko who was coming out for a week to tour around the Maritimes with me.

Fortunately the load was lighter as I had stored some stuff at JLs for the week and the wind was in my favour, so red-faced and pooped, I reached the airport with barely a minute to spare.

I met Shelley shortly after the terminal intercom bleared requesting the "owner or rider of the bicycle in the middle of the terminal please remove the bike" that I had left for Shelley to see just in case I missed her.

It was to the car rental shop where we took possession of the dark green Oldsmobile Alero, which would be the mode of transport for the week-long Maritimes tour that followed, with the bike and trailor, in parts in the boot (trunk) having a break before the final stretch to Newfoundland.

With only a blurry idea about where we were going, we aimed the car in an easterly direction and drove.

It wasn't until after 9pm until we arrived in Sheet Harbour, but as the fishing-town seemed such a lovely place to spend the night, we started to look for places to lay our tired heads.

We cruised the main drag a number of times looking for anywhere that offered lodgings, but the town's two motels were not answering to the knocks and all of the lights were out at the Bed & Breakfast, so we were drawn to the Irvings gas station, a guaranteed source of information about the area, who we caught just before closure. A very helpful attendant phoned around, and within minutes, we had a cabin by a lake to stay at about 11km out of town accompanied by a weird set of instructions to get there.

As thriving as you'd expect a small, Atlantic fishing town to be after 10pm on a Monday night, the only places open that were offering any type of nourishment were the two competing pizzarias. We chose the restaurant where we could sit down, owned by a friendly Lebanese man and painted in with colours that would have even looked bad in the 70's and had awful pepperoni pizza and exceptional icecream before going driving out to the cabin.

30/5 After a short trip to Sheet Harbour's bustling supermarket to stock up for the picnic lunches and camp-fire dinners that would follow, we continued the trip east for Cape Breton Island.

A few hills and windy roads later, we drove over the Canso causeway to the Port Hastings on Cape Breton Island, where we were overloaded with tourist maps and places to see from the helpful Darlene at the tourist information centre, before purchasing a collection of cheap compulation CDs that would act as tour tunes for the proceeding week.

Darlene had marked out a route around the island that we used as a rough guide, but took any coast-hugging dirt-road detour that we could find on the rugged island. After a fantastic 'Hulko family picnic lunch' on a beach by a lighthouse, we pressed on over the winding, hilly roads of the Cavot trail up the island.

It was on the North-Western tip of the island, when we were starting to look for a place to camp, when a large wild animal ran out from the trees. IT WAS A MOOSE! A MOOSE! I had wanted to see a moose since arriving in Canada over a year and a half ago, so I was a very happy man.

Unfortunately it moved to fast and I too slow for a photo opportunity of the huge animal, but that didn't really dampen the spirits.

To make things even better, about five minutes later, down the end of a dirt road where we had just found the perfect campsite overlooking the ocean and rugged cliffs, we saw another moose. This one was also fast and upon seeing us quickly darted into the trees and up the hill, stopping for a brief toilet break before dissappearing into the bush.

31/5 The early part of the day consisted of more paved and dirt roads, some that were so rugged that even the robust Oldsmobile couldn't negotiate them.

We parked by a pretty little fishing village and went for a hike. The route started with a smooth track over shrub-covered, coastline, dotted with white, granite rocks scattered over the landscape, but soon the trail became merely a pile of boulders which we scambled over, through uncharted bush and then down a steep cliff to an isolated beach, covered in smooth, round boulders, where we had lunch.

After the climb back out, covered in fresh scratches and cuts from the hike, we drove on until we found a nice restaurant with a deck overlooking the bay for a few beers, before pushing on to a campsite by a gushing stream.

1/6 On the Southeastern side of Cape Breton Island is Louisbourg. Louisbourg is a coastal fortress that was constructed by the French in the the early 1700's, but was flattened after a series of wars between the French and English.

The Canadian Government funded the rebuilt of about one third of the fort (about 50 buildings) to look exactly how it did almost 300 years ago, and have made the area a national historic site and park.

The site is now a very well done tourist attraction where there are guides in traditional costume acting out and talking about the way it was in the 18th century, including musket demonstrations and canon firing.

It was the first day of operation for the summer of 2000, so all of the guides were enthusiastic and fresh, and were very friendly, educational and entertaining, which made the spot one of the best tourist attractions that I had seen in Canada.

After leaving Louisbourg, we made our way to Iona where we stayed in a nice motel and had a fairly average Atlantic seafood dinner at the motel's restaurant.

2/6 Right next to the motel where we spent the night was the highland village. It was similar to the French fortress of Louisbourg with costumed guides talking about how it was, but instead of one era, it had a walk that took us through the different times of highlander history on Cape Breton Island, who make up a large portion of the island's population.

The walk started with a stone hut with 6-foot thick stone walls and a grassy roof which would have been representative of the kind of house the Scots would have lived in the highlands before emmigrating to Cape Breton Island. The rest of the buildings stepped through the time from landing on the shores, like Louisbourg it was very well done and most enjoyable.

After learning all there was to know about the island's Scottish Heritage, we drove back through Nova Scotia to Pictou, where we caught the ferry to another island, Prince Edward Island (PEI), famous for potatoes, which I love, and Anne of Green Gables.

PEI was so picturesque, the whole island looked like a well manicured golf course. We drove to one of the island's many beautiful beaches where we pitched the tent and had camp fire, which turned out to be a raging inferno due to the dry drift wood and Shelley's Girl Guide learnt fire building skills.

3/6 The howling winds and pouring rain that were battering the tent on the exposed beach made the battle of taking down the tent an exciting experience. Once we got everything packed away we made our way down to Charlottetown, PEI's provincial capital.

Charlottetown was a dear little city of only 30,000 people, and had many grand wooden homes and buildings built on the tree lined streets and around the pretty waterfront. Charlottetown promotes itself as the cradle of confederation as it was the venue of the first meeting between the different parts of what is today Canada in 1864 to discuss the confederation, which was apparently just a big drunken party.

We tagged along with some media from the other Maritime provinces on a private tour by a girl in traditional costume which detailed the buildings in the Great George Street precinct and its colourful history.

It was to the beach after Charlottetown for a short swim amongst the waves in the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Although the water was pretty chilly, and the dip was short, it certainly felt good to swim in the ocean and feel the salt water all around.

After drying off, we went to the drive-in movie theatre at Brackley Beach, which is something that I have never done but always wanted to since the days of old American movies that we used to get back home, and was as fun as I thought it would be.

The two movies finished fairly late and we made our way back to the beach for another night on the sand.

4/6 No trip to PEI would be complete without visiting the site that inspired Lucy Montgomery when she wrote Anne of Green Gables and other books, now a National Park.

The site included the house and barn in the book and some other spots that Lucy had written about including the Haunted Forest and Lover's Lane. The spot was nice, perhaps a little overdone.

We drove through the surrounding area, past the tacky touristy spots which used Anne of Green Gables in any way that they possibly could to promote the stores and attractions, and drove on around the island past many lighthouses, all painted in their own unique style. Anne Montgomery perfectly described PEI as having emerald-green grass, ruby-red soil and saphire-blue ocean. It's sweeping country side of gently rolling hills leading down to the sandy beaches certainly were nice.

After finishing our lap of the Island, we drove over the Confederation Bridge, a 13km long bridge linking the island to the mainland, which certainly was a sight.

Back in Nova Scotia we stopped for dinner at a friendly Italian restaurant before finding a camp site on the Bay of Fundy.

5/6 On the shoreline just down from our campsite, the tides can vary 16m, and can go from low tide to high tide in 6 hours (going up or down about 2mm every 3 seconds).

At the pier was a fishing boat that was resting in the mud as the tides were so slow. We sat for a while and watched the tide as it made its slow journey to the high tide line. As fast as it was moving, it was still about as exciting to watch as paint drying. Fortunately the show was interupted by some lobster and scallop fishermen, who were exceptionally friendly even by Nova Scotian standards. So friendly they were that they took us for a 20 minute ride in the fishing boat while they dropped off a container of lobsters, and on the way gave us an educational lesson of lobster fishing in the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy.

By the time we returned back to the dock, the tide was almost at a high, and the boat that had been lying in the mud was now floating proudly in the water.

We made our way over to Lunenburg on the south shore of the province. The town is a world heritage site because of its large collection of heritage buildings dating back to when the town was founded in the mid 1700's and has been labelled Canada's prettiest town, due to the colourfully painted wooden buildings stepping up the hill from the fishing port.

The drive close to the coast took us through Mahone Bay, which I thought was just as pretty as Lunenburg with its three churches.

After sunset, we hiked down past the closed gates of a provincial park and camped there.

6/6 After rising at close to midday most mornings, for some strange reason we were in the Oldsmobile and driving by 6:15am, which was a good thing as we had a lot to see or our last day of the Maritime tour.

We drove down past the Swiss Air 111 memorial which went down close by on the gastly day of September 2nd, 1998, and then made our way to Halifax, Nova Scotia's provincial capital and the largest city in the Maritimes with a population of over 300,000. We started our city tour with a quick walk around the city's citadel on the hill directly behind the city which was built hundreds of years ago to protect the city against any potential attacks and which also acted as a great place to get our bearings because of its location above the city, although its viewpoints were limited and we were given a stern telling off by the first unfriendly Nova Scotian that we had encountered for climbing on the surrounding wall.

We walked down George Street to the bustling waterfront. Halifax's waterfront is one of the nicest ones I have seen with the old buildings clustered around the area restored to their former glory, with many of them playing host to restaurants with patios stretching out to the dock side, where there were tall ships and fishing boats were tied up. Halifax's harbour is the 2nd largest natural harbour in the world and it plays a large part in its history and economy. The waterfront tastefully reflected this maritime theme.

We caught a short ride on the bubble-shaped ferry, the oldest continually running commuter ferry in North America, to Dartmouth and back which gave us a nice view of the city.

Lunch was on the waterfront and then after a failed attempt to visit the historic Alexander Keith Brewery (1820), which was opening at the end of the week, we visited the city's Maritime museum which was a good showed of good representation of Halifax's colourful maritime past including a detailed exhibition on the Titanic, in which Halifax was the closest large port to where it went down, and the 1917 Halifax explosion, which occurred when a couple of boats collided in the harbour, one of which was carrying explosives that exploded in the largest human-caused explosion before Hiroshima, killing over 2,000 onlookers and people in the area and leveling an entire suburb of the city in addition to throwing shrapnel all over the city including a 500kg peice of an anchor 4km away and a peice of wood into a downtown church, which is still lodged in the wall (we had look).

After finishing of our brief stay in the pretty Halifax with a few beers at one of the city's many pubs, we drove back to JL's in Windsor, where Les was staying to ride the final leg of the journey, after having rode the first leg.

I said my hellos to Les and my goodbyes to Shelley. As keen as I was to get back pedalling, it was kind of sad to see the Oldsmobile drive off, coated with mud from dirt roads of every place we visited.

7/6 Today was meant to be spent sorting everything out for the rest of the ride, but we didn't really do too much of that.

JL had taken the day off work, so Les, JL and I hung out for the day, meeting Rachel for lunch at a nice cafe in a town a little bit up the line, and then a barbecue dinner with a couple of Rachel's friends Anne and Lynn followed by a few beers at the local pub.

8/6 After the longest absence from the saddle in four months, it was back to pedalling after pussy footing around until early afternoon with JL and Anne.

With Les in some of the sexiest cycling getup that I had ever seen, and me in my worn costume, we set off, riding once again side by side just as we had on the first day of the trek.

As Les was on a super fast racing bike with two small saddle bags and flash pedals, he had to slow down to my pace, my ususal slow crawl, lugging the trailor full of all sorts of goodies up and down the hilly terrain. The road was peaceful but didn't offer any spectacular scenery, trees and farmland, but probably the most exciting part of the ride were the many dogs of all shapes and sizes who viciously chased our pedalling convoy.

McDonalds Truro was the venue for dinner, a reminiscent time for Les as he had eaten in that very restaurant in the summer of 98.

By dinner's end the wind had picked up and there was a chill in the air, so we found a camp site behind a cemetary which was conveniently just down the road.

9/6 I was awoken at 5:50am by some weird, loud noise outside my tent coming from Les. He was pretty excited about the big day's ride ahead of him, and indicated this with his strange yelping.

Les had been given a false sense of security yesterday with perfect conditions - blue sky and a tail wind, with the only grief coming from a few barking dogs and bug bites. Today was a little different right from word go.

The commonly believed superstition of bad luck coming in threes came around twice for Les. First was a couple of hours of heavy rain, which soaked us to the bone, then came his heart burn from the tomato sauce which gave our pasta breakfast its flavour, an agonisingly sore knee that plagued him all day, a flat tyre with 5 holes to repair, a fall after hitting a rock, but the most grandiose incident in this day of difficulties was just before lunch time about 2km outside of New Glascow on a section of the highway where there was roadworks. A large motorhome from Massachussets, part of a 12-RV convoy, missed me by centermetres, blowing me off the road into the pot-holed gravel shoulder. Les wasn't so lucky, as the old man driving didn't seem to know the dimensions of his vehicle and knocked Les from his bike in a spectacular crash that sent Les, in his flowing yellow waterproof cape, somersaulting through the air, only coming to a stop when his helmet hit the pavement.

Poor Les had come out for a peaceful cycling holiday, but in a matter of hours, his vacation had turned into a state of dissarray.

The weather cleared and we found a nice campground with some interesting live-in residents including a mining disaster survivor, who I think helped ease Les's frustrations from his disasterous 2nd day of touring, as he realized that there were people who were much worse off than him.

10/6 Les's run of dilemas seemed to be over, with the breakage of his sunglasses being his only misfortune. After about 60km and a few hills, we crossed over the Canso Causeway to Cape Breton Island, having ridden on Canada's mainland for the last time.

Lunch was at Smittys in Port Hastings, the first town on Cape Breton after the causeway and were treated to some fine hospitality by a native Cape Bretoner, a unique breed of some of the friendliest people around.

A campground in Whycocmagh was our stop for the night where there were a few other cyclists staying including an Austrian who had just started his cross Canada bike trek, from the Newfoundland to the west coast, and had been battered with a headwind since starting, the poor bugger. We met a few more of the friendly locals when we went and bought dinner at the local convenience store, one of who was kind enough to give us a ride back to the campgound when it started to rain.

11/6 The last day in Nova Scotia turned out to be one of the most spectactular days of riding in the province. We took a scenic detour off the highway through the town of Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell spent his summers and later years.

Baddeck capitalised on the famous inventor of the telephone, gramaphone and hydrofoil among many other things, who had chosen the picturesque lakeside town to spend so much of his time and had built an interesting museum celebrating his colourful life and achievements which we lost a couple of hours looking around.

Up and over large hills looking out over the ocean dominated the rest of the days cycle to North Sydney where we stopped at 'Lick a Chick', a fastfood chicken restaurant, for dinner. We were originally attracted to the roadside diner which had been operating since 1967 because of its name, but it turned out the place had fantastic food, notably the foot-long whistle dogs. After 'Lick a Treat', the dessert bar next door for a banana split, it was only a couple of kilometres in the dark down to the Newfoundland ferry terminal where we sailed on the overnighter to 'The Rock'.

12/6 We arrived on the windswept island at 7:00am the next morning, taking into account the 30 minute time change. We had rented a car to look around the large island province and came across some rather different people in the small depressed towns, some who I think were overwhelmed by our out-of-town attitudes.

Lunch was at 'Freak's Family Restaurant' which we had been recommended by a lady we had met earlier, but it turned out to be a disgusting feed in a restaurant where the other patrons and staff were acting as if someone had just died, so Les's and my loudness didn't go down too well.

The same lady that recommended the bad eating spot had also said that we could see icebergs in the town of Twillingate, so we detoured for about 1 hour to the gorgeous fishing town, but were disappointed to find not a single block of ice, although we did meet a very friendly old guy, Wilson, who was hosing his drive when we asked him for directions, and ended up talking to us for about half an hour, giving us the full rundown on 'clonkers', the name the locals use when referring to huge icebergs. He was sad to see us go, but we still had a fair drive left past Dildo Run Provincial Park, through some heavily populated moose habitats (we didn't see or hit any) to the town of Comebychance where we camped.

13/6 I was well rested for my final ride of the trek, the home straight from the ferry terminal in Argentia to St. John's, Newfoundland's largest city and provincial capital.

I was keen to make the last day's ride a big one, and as Les was driving the rental, I borrowed his cycling shoes and racing bike, the same bike which was used by the American who won the Tour de France last year, instead of hauling the mountain bike over the hills in sandles.

It was a completely different experience altogether riding the weightless road bike after pulling along over 100 pounds of luggage for so long, but it certainly felt good and was a high note to end on.

I drafted Les in the rental for a stint, but once we made it onto the main highway, it wasn't appropriate, so I left Les, vowing to meet him further up the line.

Les and I met again and agreed to meet at the end of the Trans Canada Highway.

I had reached St. John's, and was only one turnoff from the end of the highway when one of the fragile tires went flat. The heavy rain that had started about an hour ago meant that the tube was too wet for the patch to stick onto the tube, so I wheeled the bike to a gas station just off the highway and called for a cab to take me to the end of the highway.

I couldn't see any sign of Les and the highway didn't end in any clear spot so I got the taxi driver to take me down to the 'Trapper John's' pub, which I knew Les would come to as it was only landmark that we both knew in the town and we had planned to go there that night. As I had no money, I left the bike in the taxi as security and clunked into the pub in Les's bike shoes, soaking wet from head to toe.

I used the restroom's hand dryer to dry my clothes to a damp consistency and then sat in the bar for about an hour talking to the friendly locals in very high spirits as I had just ridden from Vancouver to the city I was in.

As predicted, Les came waltzing in, and within 2 minutes of his arrival we were being filmed by three lovely ladies from the local university as part of their school project. We had a couple of beers with them and before they guided us to the taxi driver's house to pick up Les's bike, before driving to Molly and Phil's house, where we were staying for the next couple of nights.

Molly, Phil and their son Malcom turned out to be very interesting people, having lived in some obscure parts of Canada over the years, and had many interesting tales to tell.

St. John's turned out to be such a fun place to end the journey in, and we made our way back to Trapper John's to be screeched in. Being screeched in makes one an honoury Newfoundlander (or 'Newfy' as they are commonly refered to as) and involves singing a tune in Newfounese, drinking the screech (a type of rum) and kissing a cod or a puffins arse. In this particular screech in our lips met with the bird's bottom (a fake wooden replica, but still authentic), we then received our certificates. What made the event even more memorable was the fact that Les, who had been disrupting the ceremony with a bag of nuts, had to french kiss the puffin from head to toe, which made him paranoid about catching a desease from one of the 8 or so before him who salivered on it including a leather pant wearing, sick-looking homosexual from New York.

We ended up staying for some more beers in Trapper John's befriending a group that were working on an oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland before leaving with them to go to another pub, Orieley's, down George Street, a neat little street filled with bars. Orieley's closed its doors and most of the other patrons cleared out, with only a few keen locals left, which included a handful of colourful characters who we talked to and sang Newfy songs with until well past 3am.

To start the next morning, we went out to the Cape Spear, the most eastern part of North America, for the cheesy photograph session and then made our way down the rugged south coast to Tors Cove, where a diddle shrinking nudey swim in the Atlantic amongst the icebergs was had.

A little cold from the bath in the ocean, we journeyed to Calver, a small village on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula where Michelle, who we had met at the pub the night earlier, lived. Her mother, a lovely lady who had such a strong Newf accent we couldn't understand a word she was saying, cooked us some traditional Newfy Toutons, a heavy bread fried in pork fat covered with syrup, apparently great for the heart.

Michelle then took us to feed her horse a Newfoundland Pony, a minature black horse, one of only 250 left, and then a look around her town and the archeological dig going on in the next town, Ferryland. It was a most interesting tour hearing all of the gossip about the small town and its residents.

We drove back to St. John's, and took a walk around the rocky track around Signal Hill at the entrance to the harbour and then back to Molly and Phils' for dinner and preparation for the last night on the rock, a big night of Karaoke.

St. John's is a fun town to start with, but karaoke with Jickling was a riot, who I had last sung cheesy tunes with just before leaving Vancouver, with him wearing a tailored, white linen suit. Everyone was exceptionally friendly, and unlike most karaoke bars, people could actually sing, which made us look worse than usual, but the rendition of David Lee Roth's Just a Gigalow bought down the house, and I left the pub and Newfoundland a very happy man.

More than 8 million metres later, 6 time zones, 10 provinces, every one unique from the last, and plenty of flat tyres and dog chases, I have made it across the 2nd largest country in the world. Over majestic mountains, across empty plains, through monotonous forests and around bustling cities I have pedalled, through glorious sunshine and bitterly cold snow storms with many freezing nights spent alone in a tent.

I had throught I would learn about languages, history and geography from the 68 tapes I carted along on the journey, and I did (excluding the languages), but what I learnt from the experiences over the past 129 days about people, culture and of course myself, far outweigh anything I could learn from tapes or text.

Without sounding too cheesy, breaking everything down into small steps and beleiving in myself were the keys in making what could have potentially been an overwhelming and formidable cycle, an incredible holiday.

All of the incredibly warm people who helped me along the way including those who provided lodging, to emails of support, right down to waves and beeps really gave me encouragement in which I couldn't have done it without.

I would be lying if I said that I was a completely different person that I was four months ago, but I am all the wiser and have a few different priorities to pursue.

With a tough bottom and a worn woolly bike seat and fortunately no bungy cord injuries I am in some ways happy to be moving onto the next chapter of my life, but I will miss the fresh air and pedalling, the kindness of the Canadians and even the smell of the inside of my tent.


© Copyright 2000 Mark Tanner



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