Saturday, August 21, 2010

Videos and Pics on YouTube

Just in case anyone is still checking in on the blog, I've uploaded to YouTube some videos and a little slideshow of pics from the trip.  Links below...

On the road in PEI:
A little prairie perspective:
Riding the prairies:
Rolling out from Crowsnest Pass:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Some final thoughts...

I've had a few days to relax, unwind, and think of something profound to say but to be honest, I mostly just feel numb. That cold, rainy start back in St John's seems so long ago, and so far away... and the endless miles since, are a bit of a blur. Sitting here in Victoria is still very surreal. I know I've done something special that I'll never do again. And of all the challenges I've set for myself, this was certainly the biggest... but it really hasn't sunk in yet.

Mentally, I feel a bit lost... having gone cold-turkey from the 24-7 routine of the last 6 weeks. I'd be tempted to go for a ride, if I hadn't already spent most of a day disassembling, cleaning, and packing up the bike for shipping home. Carmel and I did borrow some mountain bikes and go for an easy jaunt one day and I instantly felt better... though that may have had something to do with the several ice cream stops!

Physically, my body is suffering. Lots of little aches and pains, and I'm so tired that I want a nap almost as soon as I get up. The last week in the mountains really took alot out of me. I've tried some easy running with Carmel, but the legs are empty and not used to the pounding... It was very slow and painful. There are lots of great trails here though, so I am doing some nice walks.

Going through my pictures is fun and does help remind me of all the places I passed through and the interesting things I saw along the way. Several people have asked me what was the most beautful part of the country. I've always been partial to the mountains, but there was never a day from the east coast, to the Saint Lawrence valley, Northern Ontario, prairies, and finally the mountains, that I wasn't mesmerized by the scenery. Sometimes I had to force myself not to stop to take yet another picture! Sure, my favourite will always be the mountains (masochist that I am) but I loved it all.

I've driven the country once but you see so much more on the bike... partly because of the slower speed... but also, because you aren't cocooned behind glass in a steel shell. You feel closer to everything you pass by and can literally stop on a dime to soak in any view or make a detour that you would have cruised by in a car.

Still though, I think it's going to take some time to fully appreciate the experience. For now, I'm looking forward to getting home, seeing friends, and having another party!

Friday, August 6, 2010

C: Did he put on a pound yet? My mom is still anxious about seeing B's ribs, so it's cookies, squares, lasagna and ice cream. I'm just happy he's finished with no long term injuries (we hope) and that he wasn't hit by a car. Fortunately Victoria is cooler and dryer than normal this summer so he has lots of time to recuperate. Three days later he is still generally tired, and it's like an Ironman, finishing is kind of anti-climatic.
C: The ride is over and already he's running! B still suffers from sore quads, stiff calves, night sweats(afraid he'll wake up and have to do it again?!), and numb hands. But none of it is debilitating, (just annoying) so he is already going for short 6 kms runs up and down the hills here in the highlands (area of Victoria).It's barely 8am and he's already off on a walk/run.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Let the healing (mental and physical) begin. I actually arrived in Victoria yesterday (Monday August 2nd) but celebrating seem to get in the way of updating the blog.

My final day on the road was short... just 91km but was not without a last couple of challenges as I ended up doing 2 furious time trials... the first was over the last 10km to make the next ferry and save myself an hours wait (made it with less than a minute to spare)... and then a second all out sprint to the end through the streets of Victoria after being slowed up by some construction and knowing that Carmel and family/friends were waiting on me. I ended up missing my predicted arrival time by 9 mins... but that's not too bad after over 7000kms of riding!

The official finish was the mile "0" marker in Beacon Hill park in Victoria, where the TransCanada ends (begins?).  Carmel and everyone were there waiting and I basked in my moment of glory as I was showered with champagne.

As I sit here the morning after... I feel a little lost. It seems strange to not be doing the usual routine of packing up and rolling out for another day of pedalling. The whole thing feels surreal and it will take some time to unwind and settle back into "normal" life. I'll post some final reflections on my journey in a few days but for now, here are the raw details.  Despite what I said before I started, my competitive side took over once I got going and I did turn this into a race to see how fast I could get across the country and of course, to try and beat my birthday (which I did by 2 days!)

Number of days on the road:  42
Number of days actually riding:  40 (2 days off very early on for bike problems and visiting family)
Total distance:  7009 kms
Average distance per day:  175.2 kms  (or 108.9 miles)
Longest single day:  235km  (10 days over 200km)
Shortest day:  91km (the final day)
Total time on bike (just pedaling... not including stops):  339 hrs 25 mins
Average time in saddle per day:  8 hrs 29 mins
and finally... Weight at finish:  150.5 lbs  (start was ~165... so lost almost 15 lbs... but I'll be doing my best to drink that back on over the next little while)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

After the last 4 gruesome days in the mountains, I was finally able to enjoy myself today, knowing that there would be no more big climbs... just a relatively leisurely, mostly downhill run from Hope to the lower mainland. I even allowed myself to detour for a little sightseeing... visiting Harrison Hot Springs on the way down, and then riding along the US border road.

I'm spending tonight in Langley, within easy range of the Tsawwassen ferry for tomorrow after adding another 161km (in 7hrs 37 mins) on this penultimate day of my cross country adventure. That brings the total kms to 6,918.

I'm still pretty shattered from all those big climbs in the last 4 days. Today I had trouble getting up a baby 2km climb (admittedly it was a steep 11%). It doesn't seem like there's anything left in the legs, but part of that may just be that I know the end is near and I don't have to force myself to do anymore. I now know why no other cyclists take the southern hwy 3 route... It may be scenic, but it's the shortest route to the coast because it simply goes up and over every big mountain pass in its way. The worst part was not knowing how big those climbs were. I remember being all excited when I started the first one... picturing myself like the star Tour De France riders... but that wore off quickly with the leg and soul destroying grind of each new climb. Only the thought of the end kept me going... and maybe it was better not knowing how tough each climb was going to be... but it's all over now.

I'm so looking forward to tomorrow and the end. As I write this, Carmel is in the air, winging her way to Victoria (now why didn't I just do that?)... She'll be at the finish... the mile zero marker in Beacon Hill park... and I can't wait to see her and start celebrating.

The pics... Sasquach making off with the Kokanee is from the ridge above Osoyoos a couple days ago... the wooden statue is from my role-out in Hope this morning... and the Allison pass summit sign that marked the end to the final big climb of my trip just before a cold rain started and made the descent into Hope extra scary... a bad memory that is quickly receding and should be helped along by much drinking starting tomorrow afternoon!
Saturday: Hiding out in Hope. A day and a half and counting down. Strangely the last 160 plus km from Princeton to Hope, were rainy and cold just like the week I started in Nfld. It was a miserable day. I had to drag the vest and jacket out again as it was overcast and chilly, the cool mountain air of the Allison Pass. I was dragging all the way up, then bonked at the top, (probably why I was so cold), then it's 60 kms of flying downhill into Hope. The pavement is terrible (it's been stripped prior to repaving), and the wind- deadly. Had to stop and put my jacket on. You can still see snow on the slopes above.

Even though I can hardly walk today, (legs are dead), just knowing it's just one easy day to the end is envigorating! After this just have to head through the Fraser Valley ( the sound of that word) to Tswassen where the ferry leaves for Victoria.

201 kms-10 hrs 19 minutes-6,757 kms

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday (mid-day): Princeton, B.C.: Checking in to kill time and stalling before taking what might be the last massive climb. The Allison Pass, there are still lots of hills, but locals say this is the last huge one.Its windy, head winds and my legs have got nothing left. I feel depleted, and the wind doesn't help.Plus there is nothing between here and Hope, no towns, no services, so I already know I have to spent the night tenting it in Manning Park in the middle of nowhere.

By tomorrow night, I should be in Langley, lined up to take the ferry to Victoria on Monday.
Psychologically I'm really tired, fed-up, dying to finish. it might just be the frustration of being so close and still not finished.

It's funny there's nowhere to stay around here, but the traffic is endless. including bikers on Harley's. Why is HDR's (Harley Davidson Riders) are some of the nicest people you could ever meet, but that bike is so loud it's annoying. I won't miss never seeing one again! (Been passed constantly and the noise is something else).

Friday: Keremeos, B.C. Now the high desert country where it's blinding hot (33 plus) during the day, and cool (14 degrees) at night. Everything is cradled in the shade of a mountain, or perched along the top of a preposterous peak. There are no safe havens, no middle ground along B.C.'s southern hwy 3. Three brutal peaks; 21 -18 & 11 km climbs.

Grand Forks -Greenwood - the first pass, long and gradual (at least for this area), then at Rock Creek a 21 km climb that ends in a picturesque peak (with a viewpoint motorists stop at to peer into the valley), and the drop dead descent into Osoyoos. The last one, every Ironman Canada finisher knows, it Richter Pass which is easy by comparison at 11 km and has a downhill dip in the middle.

It is sooo hot, I miss the morning chill. (Had to wear a vest), now I regret not appreciating it more. There are lots of hotels/motels ( and tourists) , but forgot it's the long weekend so there are ZERO vacancies. Have to pop the tent on the grass behind a gas station. There's also an RV parked overnight, the owner says no problem. Even get to use the washroom (but no shower). By now I don't care, two days and counting.
179-9 hrs 23 minutes-6,556 Total

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Message from Fans:
I would very much like to see just what is left of a man after such madness has taken hold and run it's course. Will he be talking to himself and giggling uncontrollably? Perhaps just silence and far away eyes. Is Brian going to be a Jesus freak from now on? Brendan
Amazing Brian. Eat something. Well done on your tour. Drink something. That is a remarkable feat. Eat something. Enjoy a bit of a holiday soon. Did I say eat something? slainte, Pete

If there are plans for coming out this way, let us know we will easily accommodate people (or in Brian's case, a shell of a person?). I hope to be able to see him in all his bedraggled glory! Jenny

Grand Forks, B.C.: The last Thursday ever! The count down continues. It was another grueling day in the mountains (can you hear Phil Liggett?) with no shade, no help and no mercy. Outside of Salmo the climb up Bombi Pass to Castlegar is another 38 km climb. It's not as steep as the Kootenay Pass but it's longer, B had to stop twice on the way up to catch his breath and a drink. Relief at the top but the descent was equally gruesome since it was recently paved and with the rain it was a slippery, scary drop into Christina Lake. It's supposed to be 35 degrees again on Friday, (but at least it's a dry heat), he'll start earlier in the morning for the
remaining days.

Winnipeg Hotel- B's staying at a landmark hotel in GF, the "Winnie", and visited my dad's grave to take a photo. My dad would have approved of his trip, he loved sports (esp. hockey) but as my mother would say, "that man would watch any sport on TV"

137 kms- 7 hrs 17 minutes- 6,377 kms Total
C: Saddle Sores? B passed a "Brian's Saddle Shop" just after Kootenay Pass and was tempted to get help for his! Apparently it's slightly better now that it's drier (no rain), and less humid (less sweating), so it's starting to heal. His hands are still numb, and his legs cramp even when he's not riding. One can only assume the rest of his parts are still working, who knows? Maybe there's a limit to how many kms one can do in a week?

Brendan wants to see the" skeleton get off a bike" in Vancouver, Jenny wonders about "bedraggled glory", and Peter thinks B's mind will go next. It's like torture, continuous pain can cause madness right?

C: Queens Stage: Kootenay Pass -6 thousand feet of continuous climbing? This is why I am in TO and NOT cycling with B. If it's the single hardest thing he's ever done (and he likes pain), I would have been crying at the bottom. Like Yellow Lake in Ironman Canada, there are some times it's okay to walk your bike; (outrageous!! Ironman keeners say), but if you can walk the marathon (or parts of it), you can walk the bike. That's my theory. Now suddenly B wants a granny gear!! ( Brenda & I told him to get one at the begininng). However at least he got a standing ovation at the top from a bunch of bikers (B.C. is hog heaven), they had stopped to recuperate and couldn't believe a cyclist could make it to the top without stopping. They asked for his autograph (he loved that!) and took his picture.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day Thirty Seven: Cranbrook to Salmo, B.C. Longest, hardest hill ever, 34 kms of continuous uphill... not even one little flat break on the way to the top of the 6 thousand ft Kootenay pass and I did it without taking a break... mainly because I had no idea how long it was until I actually got to the top! Got cheers from motorcyclists resting at top when finished. It was the hardest climb I have ever done... Even trucks were grinding their gears and going so slow, it took them 15-20 seconds to pass me. One of the trucks was a Kokanee beer truck... I almost cried at the thought of all the cold beer just inches away. The reward was a 30k downhill where I did not pedal once... but had to stop to let brakes and wheel rims cool down! Finally finished the day and unbelievably, wound up at a motel run by an ex track cyclist, with signed photo of Lance Armstrong on the wall.
194 kms-9hrs 26 mins. Total to date 6,240km.
Day Thirty-Seven; (Wed July 28) Salmo, B.C. Over 6 thousand kms done, and only a fraction left (5 days max).
C: Brian's only company on the road. Imagine how hot that guy is in 30 plus weather

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day Thirty-Six: Tuesday July 28/10 Cranbrook B.C. At the Lazy Bear Motel (C: which B likes because of a childhood nickname Bear (after some TV show BJ and the Bear).
Now the end is tantalizingly near and painfully far at the same time. Maybe Grand Forks by Thursday, Keremeos by Friday, Manning Park Saturday, and Monday Vancouver and the ferry to Victoria.

Can't get over how much traffic there is RVs by the dozen with retired drivers! Constant trucks and cars packed with kids. B.C. is a tourist magnet. Its so stressful have had to put away the ipod to concentrate totally on the traffic. The shoulder is so bad,littered with rocks, cracked and uneven, so have to ride on the road. It's tense.

Heath wise good thing its ending. Have permanent numb spots on both hands and blisters on both cheeks! IE saddle sores. Knees and quads are aching and takes increasingly longer to warm up in the morning. I've noticed my legs cramp easily even when I'm not on the bike.

168 kms-6 hrs 58 minutes- 6,046 kms Total

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day Thirty Five: Blairmore, Alberta. (20 kms from B.C.) BM is a tiny town near Crows Nest Pass at the foot of the Rockies. Picturesque & QUIET. Everything(2 bars,little else) is closed by 5:30. For the first time forced to eat dinner TWICE.
Found a bar(empty as usual) and ordered the only thing on the menu-a personal pizza and wings. (Then watch the bartender undo the plastic and throw them into the microwave.) Still starving, I look for a corner store, nothing, BUT find another bar. Again it's empty BUT has a better menu so I order a burger n'fries. First time I ate dinner TWICE in the space of an hour.

Deathly silence, it seems unfair that after riding all day with no one to talk to, I arrive in town and there is NO ONE in the pub. Who would imagine I'd be desperate to talk?(with complete strangers - anyone? which is totally unlike me). It turns out there is such a thing as too much of a good thing (solitude). (C:Now I know why B is so annoyed when I don't answer the phone! And being out of town at a conference this week I haven't been around. A crime! Who knew.)

Weatherwise the mountains might bring relief. Cool in the morning and slowly heats up all day so not bad. Am apprehensive about rain in the mountains but might be lucky and miss it. On the energy front, am finding it hard to get going in the morning, generally tired, stiff, sore. Have to stretch out, and ride gingerly early on to settle the saddle sores. (Pain-free is no longer an option, but with only a week to go I can bear it). Tomorrow my mantra will be, "this is my last Tuesday", then "last Wednesday", last "Thursday". The mountains will be a distraction, now I need it.

148 kms - 6 hrs 40 minutes- 5,878 kms Total

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, Finish in Lethbridge, Alberta: The wind has died down, but it's boiling! With NO shade. Happy to get off the bike. Now have blisters and numb spots on hands, saddle sores are worse, its a grind. Don't know what I'd do without the ipod. Initially was reluctant to use it, now I need it. At a certain point, you just want to finish, I think I'm at that point. Should be in B.C. by days end.

In a first, find a women's wallet with ID, ten dollars, several pawn shop receipts, and a casino players card in it. There is a Casino here, so obviously she is a semi-regular player. Turned it into the desk and strangely she was still at the hotel (different room). Kind of sad.

174 kms-8 hrs 12 minutes-5,030 kms Total (corrected 5,730 kms Txs PN)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I've just enjoyed my first steak stince my fabulous sendoff in St John's. It didn't measure up to the St John's feast, but it was pretty damn good and I definitely earned it today... 224km in 10 hrs 22 mins to get to Medicine Hat, Alberta... yeah... province #9... only one more to go. (and that's 5,556km total to date).

I was Alberta bound from the moment I started pedaling this morning and 4 strong winds in my face all day were not going to stop me. Did everyone get the cheesy Gord Lightfoot and Ian Tyson nods there? Anyway Ralph's Steakhouse was a welcome stop after a very long day in the sun. It may not sound like anything special but it was everything it should be... country music and lots of guys in cowboy hats... Strangely, they were all black (the hats, not the cowboys)... so I guess the good guys all hang out somewhere else... suits me... I always wanted to be one of the bad guys.

The prairie roads continue to be a grind... lots of long, gradual uphills and leg destroying false flats... but I can sense the mountains looming ahead. Today was my last day on the Trans Canada... yeah again! Here in Medicine Hat I make the turn onto hwy 3 to begin my southern route through Alberta and BC... I'm looking forward to the change.

My excitement for the day was an attack by some falcon / hawk /whatever... it came down on me out of the sun like a fighter jet and the first thing I knew, I heard the sound of the air on its massive wing span... saw its shadow on the ground beside me... and actually heard the tap of its talons on my helmut... It quickly flew off, but it scared the #$#& out of me and I almost crashed. Clearly it didn't know what to make of me... and I think that if I had lost anymore weight, it might have just carried me off.

One of the pics above is obviously coming into Medicine Hat late in the day... the other is a look back at one stretch of the long prairie road... click on it to enlarge and get you can get a sense of the endless roads and why this part of the trek is such a grind... I know the mountains are still ahead, but right now, this seems like the hardest part.