After my recent accident, it seems prudent to post an update on my blog to go along with my recent Facebook updates. This update will include help for journalists wanting a quick way to get up to speed on my story, so no apologies for repeating what many of you already know. Wifi here is very intermittent and slow, hence why I seem to disappear from time to time. Anyway here is the tale:
On Friday 15th August, while just 20 km from Rimouski (coming from Riviere du Loup) I approached the long steep downhill section of road on route 132. It was a very fast downhill and having had no previous problems on hills like this I let the bike pick up speed. I was soon travelling well in excess of 80 kph when with the sound like a gun going off my front tire exploded and I was thrown onto the road, scraping down it for what seemed like eternity.
It took a few minutes for someone to stop and an ambulance was called. No painkillers could be given to me and my injuries were causing me serious pain – I’m no wimp when it comes to pain but this was simply unbearable. At the hospital I begged for painkillers, but again was denied until they had fully examined me – fair enough but I was lucid enough to tell them where I had pain and where I had none and just wanted something to help me. It was a long time before I was finally given something, but not enough to make me even remotely comfortable.
A dislocated shoulder, at least two cracked bones, many inches of missing skin which the tarmac had scraped off me and facial injuries which required stitches, as did a wound on my left elbow. The hospital was unable to get clear x-rays of my injuries because I was in too much pain for them to move me about enough to take them. I couldn’t understand why they could not just sedate me and get the x-rays, but hey, I got the distinct impression it wasn’t important after they found out I had no medical insurance.
So the doctor told me I had ‘probably’ at least two cracked bones in my arm, but couldn’t tell if my shoulder was broken. I was informed their was no point in referring me to an orthopaedic surgeon (again I have no insurance) and any injuries were most likely best left to heal themselves, even though it’s still not known what those injuries are. If I didn’t have other health issues I would not have accepted this, but as it happens, I really couldn’t care less.
Their was a really nice guy working in the hospital called Jean-Claude who helped me out when the hospital told me I was being discharged to the Repit du Passant (a place like a hostel for reformed criminals) at 11:00 pm that same night. I was incredulous, my wounds had barely been patched up, I was still in agonising pain, nauseous, and they wanted rid of me. I explained to Jean-Claude that I was in no condition to go anywhere at least until the morning and he managed to secure me a bed for the night.
Next morning I was taken to the Repit du Passant hostel, only to be told I had to go back to the hospital until 4:00 pm. I duly did so and later that afternoon a taxi was called to take me back to the hostel. It did not go well there. Firstly the rules stated I had to take a shower, not something I could do with all my new dressings. Then I was asked to wear their pyjamas. While attempting to change into them I was told I had to go back again to emergency because they could not look after my needs. This was a joke, but definitely not a funny one. So back to the hospital, sit around for a good while before Jean-Claude told me I could go to the Centre de prevention du suicide, which seemed very apt because at this point suicide was certainly running through my head, I’d had more than enough and was still in excruciating pain.
The people at the crisis centre were wonderful and for the very first time since I had entered Rimouski I actually felt like a real human being. I posted my predicament on Facebook and offers of help have been coming in, I need no proof of the good people in this world, they are all around. A guy called Jean Madore has been my legs on the ground here, co-ordinating the social media and being my main point of contact. Without his help I dread to think what would have happened and he continues to be at my side on a daily basis. Ex-military, so nothing more needs to be said.
Is being sorted better than it was before and once again, Jean is taking care of this. It will be many weeks before I am well enough to cycle again, so our current thinking is for me to try and continue my journey without the bike while my injuries heal. I will then get the bike sent on to a location ahead of me that fits in with being able to ride again. So if anyone out there wants to accompany me on my journey via public transport, or even better by car, to help me reach St. John’s, Newfoundland, I would be more than happy to have some company.
The journey continues
Of course it does. What else is there for me? Until such a time as I fall in love for the very last time, then I want to help not only myself, but everyone else who is battling against adversity. I too take inspiration from others, yet I’m well aware of my responsibility to continue to inspire my followers, new and old. And besides, I’m also ex-military and we don’t know how to give up do we?
A brief recap on my story
I’m putting this here for you new journalists, it should help you with background.
I first encountered cancer at the age of 14, when a growth the size of a pea was causing pain in my left leg. By the time it was operated on, it was the size of a large orange. The doctors told my mother it would be best if I had my leg removed, to stop any chance of the disease spreading. She begged them not to and was told I would probably have to wear a leg brace for the rest of my life, due to the amount of bone removed. Just 16 months later I ran my first marathon for charity around the local sports track. Sorry doctors, you were wrong!
One of eight (actually since cycling across Canada I have learned at the age of 58 it is now nine) children, I was brought up in care due to my father leaving when I was a small child and my mother not being able to have us all home at the same time. We took it in turns to return home.
I grew up an angry child with issues and joined the Army at 21 years old, to try and sort myself out. It worked for me and I got to travel around the world, the die was cast. I served for nine years, had some of the happiest times in my life and finally found what I loved most – being in the outdoors. I would continue on to work (and play) in this field for many years.
By the time I was diagnosed in 2005 with prostate cancer, I had been cycling for many years, both mountain bikes and road racing. My best performances had always been in endurance type events or sportives and I have cycling to thank for my cancer being discovered. It was a difficult time for me as I refused to really give up a sport I’m passionate about and while still undergoing treatment, I rode ‘The Race Against Time’ which is a charity event that cycles the 1,000 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats in Britain. Nothing special, until that is you know we did it in just five days. Cancer had become a big part of my life and would continue to be so for many years.
In 2007 my wife Caroline was diagnosed with breast cancer and had it removed. Her cancer returned in 2009, when she was told she had 12 to 18 months to live. She died just nine short weeks later. It was not enough time for me to say goodbye and I fell into a deep depression, refusing to acknowledge my own illness. When given the news in October 2012 that my own cancer was now terminal, a huge weight was lifted from me and my depression was gone. I now had a focus, I would make something of whatever time I had left and taking inspiration from my own hero, Jane Tomlinson, (a mother of two from Yorkshire told she had just six months to live – she survived for seven more years) I would not accept the 12 month death sentence handed down to me.
It was an easy decision to set off around the world on a bicycle. I had already planned to do an across America trip in 2005, when plans got put on hold due to my illness. Now it was my illness that made the decision immediate. It took just three weeks to sell up, pay my debts and leave the UK. The adventure would begin.
So here we are 21 months and 33 countries later. I’ve crossed 4 continents (Europe, Africa, Asia and North America) and cycled roughly 36,000 km (which is approx 22,370 miles) so only another 1,630 miles and I have officially become a ’round the world’ cyclist.
There’s more information in my blog and you can search by using the categories box, for example to see just my posts about Canada select it from the drop down list. However a good place to start would be by watching the excellent video made in Vietnam – I think they told my story very well. You’ll find the link on my about me page.
I’m always available to answer questions. Please email me, or contact me on my Facebook page as I’m more than aware that I cannot help others if I don’t help you.
This last few weeks has seen me spending more time with both friends and family, to the point where I almost forgot what camping was like, that is until these last few nights when it rained quite a bit and I was re-introduced to the joys of packing away a wet tent. It’s so hot and humid during the day, so when it rains it is some relief, but I wish the timing was a little better! Anyway I’m now in Quebec City, clean and cosy with another kind friend I’ve been introduced to.
Now, where were we? Oh yes, I’d just left Toronto in the van with David heading for his home in Ajax. It seemed strange to give up my two wheels for four, but in truth this was just another part of my resting up and would mean I could spend more time with my new family, David and his lovely wife, Pat.
There was more than just a passing resemblance between myself and David (poor soul!) and it was even more interesting looking at our family tree, which I now have a copy of and will (when time allows) study it a little more closely. I was very sad to leave and despite the fact I try not to get emotional, I think it showed.
However the show must go on and I’m already well behind in terms of getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway in a reasonable timescale (in the fall), so maybe I will need to ‘cheat’ a little with the cycling and accept offers of lifts occasionally.
My next (indoor) stop was with Tim and Jackie, another Warmshower couple who were kind enough to take me on a whirlwind tour of the city late into the evening. I think I am very lucky to be meeting such wonderful people and making friends, as I’ve said before, it would not be possible to continue without all of you.
Now something for the photographers out there. Can you pass by hay bails without thinking up a picture? I can’t. So here I tried to make up a composition and I’m really not sure if it worked, so I did a close up too.
After Kingston I camped in Smiths Falls, right alongside the canal lock house. I had gone to the campsite just across the road and they wanted 33 dollars, but were kind enough to tell me the lock house charged just 5, and that included a key to the washroom. You could only camp if you were on a boat, walking, or cycling. I had no problem accepting that.
I had never heard of a Bascule Bridge, so was really surprised when I learned about this one just next to my campsite. According to it’s history, it’s an early example of a Scherzer rolling bascule bridge built in 1912 to carry the Canadian Northern Railway line across the Rideau Canal. It combines the balanced counterweight of a conventional bascule bridge, with a unique rolling lift motion that all but eliminates friction. Still in use until 1978, it was designated a National Historic Site in 1983.
It was a nice quiet spot and with a few boat people nearby, I was able to take the bike and explore the town while leaving behind my tent. It also meant I got a reasonable nights sleep.
Next morning I made an early start to cover the 102 km to Orleans in Ottawa. Graeme and family were away on vacation at Cape Cod, but had kindly agreed to let me have the house to myself until their return. It would be a great opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, transcribe some of my audio recordings for my book into written words. Also it was a good time to get the bike into the bike shop and fix up the wheels which however much I straightened, kept coming loose. Job done.
Another kindness was being invited for dinner with Graeme’s neighbours, who had been advised I would be turning up. Then it was time for chaos, as the whole family returned from their vacation. It was pretty special spending time with the children and having Graeme and Louise spoil me, I just wish I could have stayed longer.
We managed to do a tour of Ottawa before the rain had us breaking for cover, so here’s a few of the images from our walkaround:
And so it was time to return to my travels. Graeme took me in the car to the ferry at Cumberland so I could get across the river and into Quebec and I said my farewell. While I was happy to be back on the bike, a part of me was left behind. Maybe one day before it is too late I will find what I am looking for.
The storm clouds were gathering overhead as I made my way across the river and sure enough, by the time I was once more in the saddle the rain started. Not that it bothered me, I’m more than accustomed to cycling in a downpour.
In front of me a two day ride into Montreal and a night of camping in a wet field, but again I’m accustomed to that too.
So that’s it for now, I’m getting closer to catching up and will post another update soon. Stay tuned…
The sound of more than six million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water per minute falling over Horseshoe Falls was deafening, with the mist filling the air leaving the sidewalks (and me) covered in a thin film of water. It was awe inspiring and yet another of my ‘must see’ sights was crossed off my list, as I reflected on just how far I’ve come. I thought followers might enjoy the background information I discovered and have included it here:
Niagara Falls is the collective name for the three waterfalls (Horseshoe Falls, America Falls, Bridal Veil Falls) that straddle the border between Canada and America, more specifically, between the province of Ontario and the state of New York.
The Horseshoe Falls lie mostly on the Canadian side and is the most powerful waterfall in North America, measured by both height (a vertical drop of about 188 feet (57 m) and flow rate. The international boundary line between Canada and America was originally drawn through Horseshoe Falls in 1819, but the boundary has long been in dispute due to natural erosion, which occurs at a rate of one foot (0.30 m) per year. This means that in approximately 50,000 years time the remaining 20 miles (32 km) to Lake Erie will have been undermined and the falls will cease to exist.
America Falls are entirely on the American side, along with Bridal Veil Falls which are separated by Luna Island, a small area used as a viewing platform to view the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls.
In the 1880s, the Niagara River became the first waterway in North America harnessed for large-scale generation of hydroelectricity. The Canadians and Americans have their own power plants on the river and today they collectively produce 4.4 gigawatts of electricity, which goes some way to providing the needs of both Ontario and New York.
My original plan was to take a ride on “the maid of the mist” and see the falls up close, but I declined for two main reasons – firstly because with the water caused by the mist photography would have been unwise and secondly, spectators were packed like sardines on the boat decks, not my thing at all. Without doubt the best photos are taken from dry (or slightly wet) land anyway.
Accommodation options were scarce in Niagara Falls due to the high prices, so I reluctantly booked into the Hostelling International Niagara Falls Youth Hostel. Reluctantly, because in Canada they bear no resemblance to hostel prices charged in other countries and along with most campsites (who charge a cyclist with tent the same as a large RV or camper van) I think it is very poor value. However I had no other option and on the positive side, it did give me the chance to do washing and charge up my electronics.
Moving on, I decided to take the scenic route to Toronto, going by way of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Burlington. Following the shore of Lake Ontario, the weather was kind and the scenery worth the extra mileage. Just outside of St. Catharines I came across a rusty old wreck that used to be a restaurant in Montreal, before unpaid bills led to it being towed to it’s current location.
My progress was halted for a short time when I decided to go over the Burlington Canal lift bridge, the 6th bridge to cross the canal since 1832. It has a vertical lift of 110 feet, a span of 380 feet and when I arrived was being raised to allow a police boat to go underneath.
I have included an archive photograph of the bridge, as it was not possible for me to show it in profile from my location on the road.
I stayed overnight in Oakville with a friend who moved out to Canada from my home town, and even cycled in the same club, the Huddersfield Star Wheelers. Jon has been following my blog and when he realised I was coming through Ontario threw open an invitation to me. It was lovely to share some time together.
My next stop would be the short ride to Toronto and a stay with another blog follower I’d been looking forward to meeting for quite some time, Mike Yealland, who was a good friend of my Boocock family out here in Ontario. It was a nice period for me, as not having to camp for the last week meant I was getting a proper rest period.
I liked Toronto and Mike made sure I got the tour, organising my 3rd cousin (David Boocock) and colleague Jim to take me around while he prepared for the evenings entertainment, a BBQ for about 20 friends who were coming over on the Friday night. I loved the tour, in particular the area around the Distillery District where we enjoyed a snack and coffee from the rather unique café.
The red brick buildings (and architecture) reminded me of England, where they can be seen in many of our old towns and cities, but here in Canada they are very unique.
Then there were the more modern buildings, like the R C Harris Water Treatment Plant constructed in the 1930′s which was declared a national historic civil engineering site in 1992.
Our next port of call were the Scarborough Bluffs, named by the wife of the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. The bluffs reminded her of the limestone cliffs in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and share the same fate – they are eroding at a rapid rate.
It had been pretty special meeting one of my relatives here in Canada and we would meet up again the following evening, as Mike was arranging another BBQ for friends who were following my trip. David would then take me on towards Ajax to meet other family members the next morning.
Mike (and Vasta) had been wonderful hosts and it had been a chance to really wind down and relax, while meeting some of their friends. I was a little sad when it came time for me to leave and this always seems to be the case when I have been so well looked after.
At the moment I feel good and I’m managing to keep my weight stable, thanks to my good friends. Although the cycling is getting more difficult, taking the extra rest time is paying off. I’m not on any kind of schedule any more and this is taking a lot of pressure off me, I just need to keep moving when I’m ready.
So it’s on to Ajax and a stay with David and Pat, I’ll tell you about that in my next blog. More soon…
Memories. I’m finding it hard to remember things and when I speak about this to the many friends I meet on my travels I get told everyone has problems as they get older, but I’m now pretty certain this is not just old age creeping up on me and besides, I’m still very much a youngster. I cannot remember where I stopped along the way from Chicago, so I’m relying on photos I’ve taken to help me along with looking at my Warmshower messages to see if I was hosted. This is rather distressing, I just cannot recall my progress and so it is becoming all the more important that I catch up with my blog. My plan then is to use Facebook to fill in the gaps – I’ll post where I am every time I get net access in future.
I know I bitch and moan, but it’s important my friends (and followers) know just how much I care about them and telling you I have serious problems will go some way to explaining my forgetfulness. It’s not just the odd occasion, recalling where I stayed (or who I met) only a week ago is really difficult for me and I’d especially like to apologise to those Warmshower hosts who waited patiently for feedback from me, if you are still waiting then please send me a reminder – thanks.
My brief sojourn into America ended as I crossed the border back into Canada at the Detroit – Windsor tunnel. The ride from Chicago should have seen the wind at my back, but once again this did not happen and I’m getting used to the weird weather that seems to be happening at the moment. People I speak to say the seasons are out of alignment due to global warming and I have to agree, everywhere I’m travelling it’s the same story, the weather is just so unpredictable.
Arriving in Detroit with time to spare, I had a look around and took in some of the sights. The city is recovering from being declared bankrupt in December 2013 and cycling through the outskirts into the centre, it was evident that here was a city with huge problems and not somewhere I’d ever consider cycling at night. The largest city on the America/Canada border, it is trying to re-invent itself as an entertainment hub in the 21st century with the opening of casinos, stadiums, and a river-front revitalization project.
The Hart Plaza seemed to be the most interesting place to be, as not only did it give a good view of the city, it was also where I found a series of large sculptures. The sculpture pictured above consists of two 59-foot high stainless steel arcs encircled by split boulders supporting a bronze relief of scenes from Detroit’s labor history.
The huge building (Renaissance Center) housing the offices of General Motors impressed, but even before reading the plaque detailing the history, my favourite sculpture was Ed Dwight’s The Gateway to Freedom, which I found profoundly moving.
If I’m really honest though, Detroit is a city I’d like to come back to (in say 10 years) and see how it’s developed as I believe it has a tremendous potential. It won’t happen, but I hope I’m right.
I met up with Robert, my host from Windsor just outside the tunnel on the Detroit side and we had a uneventful trip through both the tunnel and customs. I was thankful to have a nice female officer on duty, who once establishing I had already visited Canada sent us on our way without any further ado, which was most unexpected according to Robert.
Windsor was a nice rest stop and I was well looked after by my hosts, who also took time out to show me around (taking me to the beach for sunset was pretty special) and then ride out with me when I left, (both riding recumbents) which was really kind of them. Thanks guys.
I’ll never tire of seeing spectacular sunsets, and though the clouds never really cleared (and it rained most of my time here) I was still able to capture a few nice shots of the beach.
I had really wanted to get on my way, but another friend following my blog persuaded me to stay an extra day (in another part of Windsor) and I’m glad I did. Lynn lost her husband to cancer the same time as I lost my wife Caroline, so I know the difficult journey she has come through and I think we were able to help each other. She really is an amazing woman who puts her faith first and is not afraid to speak out, something which is not easy in today’s “politically correct” society. She is also a keen blogger: Life with Lynnie
So as the sun came out I got to see much more of Windsor on Lynn’s guided tour, which I’ll share below.
Lynn was as surprised as I was by my knowledge of the exhibits we visited, which I was able to describe in high detail on the day. Since I have been able to recall my childhood only recently, the memories of building Airfix models and finding out their history has strangely stayed with me and this is the first time it’s proved useful. The Spirit of Windsor locomotive, which is a 4-6-2 class steam engine was built in 1911 for the Canadian Pacific Railway and retired some 50 years later in 1961.
The highlight of course was the aircraft and none so more than the “guardian of the skies,” a Supermarine Spitfire on display. Without Reginald J Mitchell’s design, it’s almost certain Britain would have lost control of the skies in WWII. Sadly another legendary aircraft, the Lancaster bomber was not on it’s usual display.
Huge bridges are a feature of North America I also enjoy, and I only wish I’d had time to organise a boat trip on the Detroit river to get up close, but sadly this was not really feasible. It’s amazing that steam ships are still making this journey, though they are more modern versions than the steam paddlers of years gone by.
Another highlight of my tour around Windsor was being taken for a “fish fry” meal and meeting Lynn’s friend Ann, a lovely lady who also hails from the UK. As my time in Windsor came to and end, I was captured on camera riding out of the city – I’m just off centre cycling on the road in the picture below:
Excitement in me was growing though, because very soon now I would be meeting up with relatives (and Boocock’s) I didn’t even know about until recently, and to find family on this journey would be more than I ever expected.
I’ll tell you about this in my next blog, coming soon…
“What makes you keep going?” is a question I’m asked all too frequently, but my answer has now become automatic: my friends and followers. The trip has for a long time become more about the friends I’m making than the miles I’m riding, but this doesn’t take away from the fact I’m getting very close to being able to call myself a true “round the world” cyclist. The point of telling you this? well this trip has been called “The Goodwill Tour” since I landed in Canada and without your help I could never have got this far, so thank you everyone who has helped (or is still helping) me continue my trip.
Guinness World Records has a set of rules which define what constitutes an around the world cycle. These include:
- Cycling at least 18,000 miles in a given direction i.e. east or west.
- Crossing every line of longitude around the world and two antipodal points (opposite points of the globe).
- Travelling a total distance – including flights and boats – of at least as much as 24,900 miles, the earth’s circumference at the equator.
I’ve now been on the road for 20 months and when I started this venture, my daily mileage was approximately 100 miles (160 km) and I was easily able to accomplish this. The biggest challenge now has become continuing to try and cycle a ‘worthwhile’ daily mileage and I set myself the target of 60 miles (or 100 km) many months ago. What’s changed is this 60 miles is now taking me a full day (between 8 – 10 hours) and it’s becoming very exhausting to keep this up continuously for more than a few days, hence why I am taking much more rest time than I have done before.
What’s also changed is I cannot write my blog immediately when I stop for rest days, because I’m honestly just too tired. OK so that’s my excuse for why I’m so far behind, but I am going to change the way I keep up with the blog and this should help in the future. Now lets get back to my trip…
Chicago was for me the realisation of a dream, as I’d wanted to come here since my childhood. It’s a truly amazing city of which I took the time to explore, both on my bike and by taking one of the many heritage boat trips along the river, which is by far the best way to see Chicago’s wonderful architecture. It’s also well worthwhile having a knowledgeable guide to describe the buildings and give you their history and this for me was the highlight of my time spent here.
I stayed with fabulous Warmshower hosts Lee and Cindy, enjoying a relaxed and restful period while eating some great food, including making my own pizza which was a first for me. My happiness was even further amplified when taking these photographs, not only because the subject matter is one of my favourites, but because I was also able to enjoy a boat trip!
So here’s my tour of Chicago, hope you all enjoy the pictures (or you can simply skip to the bottom of this blog if it’s not your thing and continue reading).
I could easily have posted many more pictures as Chicago is such a photogenic city, but I have to stop somewhere. My blog is a record of what I have seen and experienced during my trip around the world and will be (along with my book) the only thing I leave behind, so I make no excuses for the amount of photos I use – after all isn’t a picture worth a thousand words?
Chicago came to an end and next up would be my ride across to Detroit, then through the tunnel to Windsor returning into Canada. I’m now in Toronto and will try and catch up with my travel tales as I take an extended break here, so more soon. Stay tuned…
Heading down the shore of Lake Michigan, my next stop would be Racine and a stay with another Warmshower host. First though I would ride through Milwaukee, which would have been an overnight stop had I not been catered for on both sides. It seemed very industrial to me, even if at the moment I’m confused as to which photographs belong where, a result of falling well behind with the blog. Although I’m now Back in Canada (in Windsor), I am still writing about my travels of more than a week ago.
Being told not to miss the Milwaukee Art Museum on my ride down to Racine I’m glad I took John’s advice, because it is certainly a very impressive building which houses over 35,000 works of art. I couldn’t quite work out why the car outside was wrapped around the post though…
I didn’t really do much exploring in Milwaukee, but from what I did see there was not much of interest for a photographer other than the Art Museum, which is worth another picture. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong place? If so, sorry Milwaukee.
Arriving in Racine, another John made me very welcome and cooked a great meal as I sorted out my washing. As I was only staying the one night we arranged to take a look around the sights in the morning and then John would ride part of the way to Chicago with me. It ended up being a good tour as I got to visit and go up inside the local lighthouse, quite a treat.
After listening to a presentation given on the history of the lighthouse, the old lighthouse keeper was on hand to proudly show off the fresnel lens. I loved his passion and knowledge of his subject.
Struggling with the 144 steps (I counted them) to the top of the lighthouse, the view out over Lake Michigan was superb and certainly worth the effort to get there, even if my photography doesn’t do it justice. To be fair it was rather hazy.
Racine is a pretty nice place, especially the harbour area. Although this was just a quick look round, I could so easily have spent much more time here, but really needed to get to Chicago the next day. So we settled for photographing each other around the main highlights…
We parted company just after visiting Highland Park and John would have a long ride back to his vehicle, while I would continue onto Chicago. It had been nice to have someone to share riding with as I’ve not done this for quite a long time, so thanks again John.
On the outskirts of Chicago (Wilmette, just north on Evanston) I came across what I at first thought was a mosque, but in fact it is the oldest surviving Bahá’í House of Worship in the world, and the only one in the United States. The sun was directly overhead so I struggled to get a good picture and this is the best of them:
And then I was in Chicago, one of the places I have always dreamed of visiting due to my love of architecture. I would be staying a few days, taking both a bike and boat tour of the city and I’ll tell you all about it in my next blog coming soon…
Can’t wait? well here’s a taster of the fantastic scenery I photographed and some rather interesting information about it:
The world’s first Ferris Wheel was erected in Chicago for the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Built on speculation by George W. Ferris, a bridge builder from Pittsburgh, the wheel rose to 264 feet, surpassing the Eiffel Tower, and offering breathtaking views of the fair and the city. Here’s another interesting fact: the London Eye was until 2006 the largest Ferris Wheel in the world!
I’m sat in McDonald’s eating my French fries, which are smothered in salt. It’s hot and I’m pretty tired, even though it’s still morning and I’ve only covered a little over 20 miles. My bike is leaned up against the wall just outside the side door, always in view.
I catch a beautiful lady out the corner of my eye, wearing a green t-shirt with a slogan on. I like the slogan (sorry I’m not sharing it). She glances my way and I obviously pique her interest and half expect her to speak to me, but she sits at a nearby table. Despite my on-line self confidence, I’m far too shy to initiate conversation (and I say to myself – you fool Derek).
She’s leaving and casts me another glance. I know she just wants an excuse to talk with me and also know when she steps outside she will find it. Sure enough, she returns and asks if I’m the cyclist. We laugh, because it was such a dumb question. This lady is no dummy, that’s for sure. We chat, about her own battle with cancer and mine. I’m asked if I’ve considered going to one of the specialist cancer centres here in the USA and I’m too embarrassed to say it’s not possible, for many reasons, but funds being the main one.
Then she drops the bombshell: “what do you need?”
I mumble that I’m not used to asking for things, but wish I was not such a coward. I know exactly what I need. How do you tell a complete stranger the truth? That I need someone to ask me to stay a while so I can enjoy living a ‘normal’ life and offer the chance to get to know me. That I’d just like time without the pain, which has now spread to my lower back. That I need to stop worrying about dying and enjoy living.
“If you need anything call me, I can make it happen.” She’s speaking the truth, she almost certainly could. I want to speak out, but remain silent. Then she leaves and I feel I have lost something.
The cycling (and pain) make it easy for me. I can handle it. I can write my blog and everything will be fine. It’s so easy to wear a mask, it eventually becomes part of you and you stop even noticing you’ve got it on.
It would be another week of wild camping before I reached my next Warmshower hosts in Cedarburg. My decision to head south towards Chicago had me scratching my head and almost pulling my hair out in frustration, as the winds which had been blowing in my face now turned to blow from the west. Had I stayed on my original course I would have had a nice tail wind, instead of the difficult cross/head winds I encountered for all but one day of this leg of my trip. Seems I just can’t win at the moment with the weather.
Stealth camping in one of the many public parks along the way I had a bit of good fortune when found by a local officer, who informed me camping in this particular park was not allowed (which I knew!), but on hearing about my travels he simply asked me to be discreet and informed me he had not seen me. Moments later I took this picture of a rainbow:
When the sun did come out, I came off the main highways and took the back roads to find lakes or parks to break up the journey and have my meal stops, or just to go through small towns. After crossing through Green Bay, home of the famous NFL football team: The Green Bay Packers (interesting fact 1. The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States. Interesting fact 2. There is a 60 year waiting list for season tickets) and after passing Two Rivers, Lake Michigan would now remain on my left shoulder until I reached Chicago.
By the time I reached Cedarburg I was ready for a proper rest and my kind hosts John and Marie had allowed me to make myself at home until they arrived a little later from work, showing once again the trust and companionship in this wonderful cyclists network. It was a great weekend as we watched the Independence Day celebrations together and enjoyed visiting the local sights, which included my first visit to a Frisbee golf course. John is rather modest, but it turns out not only did he design the course (and others) but he is also a Frisbee world champion!
Here in Cedarburg their own personal street chairs had been put out as much as 24 hours earlier, to ensure a spot on the side-walk for the parade which lasted for a couple of hours.
The Americans rightly love Independence Day and so I left my union Jack at home, but here’s another interesting fact I discovered: three US Presidents in a row died on July 4th – Independence Day.
Much as I enjoyed the parade, the sightseeing tour was pretty special too. When told there was a covered bridge just outside town (one of only a few remaining in the USA) I simply had to see it. We actually had to go twice, because on our first visit the sun had gone too low and not only was the light poor, the mosquito’s were out in force.
Another bridge built across the Milwaukee River in 1888 was moved (complete – quite a feat) in 1996 when it was replaced by a concrete bridge to handle the additional traffic. It’s new home was Lime Kiln Park, in the village of Grafton, just a few miles from Cedarburg. It is one of the few remaining steel truss bridges left in Wisconsin.
The park was once part of a lime quarry operated by the Milwaukee Falls Lime Company, which operated from 1890 until the 1920′s. Five lime kilns were built and now three have been restored.
It was an enjoyable tour and we didn’t have to travel more than a few miles from Cedarburg.
So ended my time in Cedarburg. I could easily have stayed longer, but I really need to keep moving and stick more to my schedule as I’m now well behind (after miscalculating the time it will take to get to St. John’s, Newfoundland) and will have to re-think my trip back across the USA to avoid the cold weather.
And that’s it for this quick update, more soon…
Once again my route plans have been changed, as I find different ways to cross both Canada and the States. My original idea of going to Sault Ste. Marie has been scrapped because I want to visit Chicago, and doing so on my way back from St. John’s disrupts far too much of my future plans, which will now include taking in the awesome Blue Ridge Parkway. So I’ve headed south and I’m now only about a week away from Chicago.
Here’s a brief look at my route: Marquette to Chicago though I will be following cycle paths for a while from Cedarburg.
My last blog covered Duluth and then onto Marquette, but along the way I stopped off in Ironwood where I met another touring cyclist staying with the same hosts. It was a bit unusual, because these particular hosts were not even there, their faith in the cycling community has led them to throw open their house to us travellers and it takes “the kindness of strangers” to a whole new level.
The ride from Ironwood to Marquette was hard, as once again I battled headwinds and my overnight camps were pretty wet affairs. I was pleased to see the sun come out when I arrived at my new hosts and this lifted my spirits tremendously, but then so did being part of another clan gathering. Jess and Jason had other visitors staying, including Curtiss, a friend from Alaska who was playing at the local brewery later that evening. I was invited to go along and had a great night out as Curtiss is a very talented musician, deserving of a much wider audience. Check him out for yourselves at: CousinCurtiss.com
I enjoyed my time in Marquette and it was a chance to finally see more of Lake Superior without the cold and dense fog as we all headed down to the beach, where a fun time was had by all.
Beach frisbee proved very popular, but there was no way I was going in the water – it was freezing!
Whereas Jess had the common sense to stay out!
And Jason got baby duty…
Jess and Jason took me around some of the sights, including a hilltop view of the city and Marquette’s claimed largest wooden dome in the world. It was a nice relaxed rest period with good food, good company and good weather, which made a pleasant change. Here’s a selection of the other pictures I took:
Another of Marquette’s claims to fame is it has one of the few remaining Iron Ore Dock’s in the world. Michigan was the largest producer of iron ore in the United States way back in the 1890′s and the dock is still in use today.
Too soon it was time to leave and as I mentioned at the start of this blog, I had made the decision to head south. My attempts at trying to arrange other Warmshower hosts proved unsuccessful, that is until I reached Cedarburg, my current location. It was a tough time with only the final day finding me riding with the wind behind, while in between there was far too much rain. The summer must surely arrive soon?
Anyway that journey’s for another blog, so more soon…
Emotions. They play a huge part in our lives and often can be difficult to handle, at least for me. I miss being around people and in particular families and children; its a lonely road I’ve chosen to ride.
Arriving in Duluth amongst a large family gathering (mum, dad, son, daughter, partners and grandchildren) was special, because I had no problem fitting right in. I’ve always been pretty gregarious and this journey has made me much more so, probably because now I truly value time in the company of others. My hosts Rich and Molly even organised a cake and celebration for my birthday, despite having a busy schedule with folks preparing to run the Grandma’s Marathon the next day.
I extended my stay, not just because I needed the rest, but because I so enjoyed being here and the arrival of another cyclist (Bala, coming from the East) gave me the opportunity to plan out my onward route. Molly writes a great blog and wrote an article about my visit:
How do you thank such people, who give so much? I feel truly blessed to call them my friends.
My only regret was the weather, late June and the cold winds and fog from Lake Superior made sightseeing difficult, although we did get sunshine one morning and headed down to the harbour area. Here’s a few pictures:
Living just a short walk from the lake and surrounded by woodland, wildlife would wander by on a regular basis and Rich showed me some wonderful pictures he’d taken. I never got to see the foxes, but deer came to within feet of the house.
The replacement lens I was able to get in Viet Nam is not great, as focus with wildlife is never pin sharp. I suppose that’s the chance you take when buying cheap – the same lens which I broke was great, so it’s just the luck of the draw whether you get a good one or not. This shot of a merganser illustrates my point perfectly.
It’s not a big problem with landscape shots, as I can use a small aperture (f16-f22) to give me a greater depth of field.
Down on Lake Superior it was cold. The ice had still not gone in early June and so the winds coming off the lake brought the temperature down considerably, but it was the fog which made it feel almost like winter. It’s a beautiful area though.
The port is a great place to wander around and the small maritime museum is free, well worth a visit along with taking in one of the port city highlights, the Aerial Lift Bridge. It began life as an extremely rare transporter bridge, the first (of just two) built in the USA in 1905 and upgraded to a vertical lift bridge in 1929-30. It is still in use today.
The cycling here in Michigan (so far) has been much the same as what has gone before, mostly flat roads. Of course being by the great lakes has added to the scenery and it’s just such a shame that I passed through a period of very poor weather, making the photography I love so much difficult and the reason there are not many photos of my cycling. It’s warming up now and I’m seeing more sunshine, I just need the wind to change direction as I’ve battled it for more than two weeks constantly.
I’ve now made it to Marquette, where I’m going to enjoy a couple of days rest with another nice couple from Warmshowers. I’ll post details and pictures soon, stay tuned…