Daily Blog

A short blog was written nightly. For those days without a good news story, pictures are included. Otherwise, the pictures can be viewed on the stories page. For links to each blog, use the stats page.

Pre-Trip Blog (written in Alaska)

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A year ago I got an idea. Deciding I would act on this idea, I registered a website name and began building a site. Then I sent out hundreds of emails and spent hours on the phone, talking to strangers from Alaska to Florida to see if they were interested in participating in my little idea. A lot of people ignored my emails and didn’t return my calls, but just enough people were willing to help make my idea possible. Now I’m 7 hours away from the start of it all. So: I invite you to follow along and watch my little idea unfold as I ride a bike from Alaska to Florida. Let the adventure begin…

Day 0: Fairbanks, Alaska

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If there is a right way to kick off a bike ride like this, it has to be the way I am going to do it. Watch the video of today’s story to learn about it. I will hopefully be able to get some footage of it from CBS Alaska that will be at the game and who is paying specific attention to my ride for a story they are putting together to air on Friday. I’m already laughing just thinking about riding around the bases in 6 hours and actually beginning my ride after directly leaving the field. Oh the silly things you can do in life with a little imagination…

About the day ahead: the first day of cycling is one of the hardest in the entire trip. I am anxious to see what the total elevation climbed will be since although I know the profile of the day (essentially where the hills are and where the flat spots are) I don’t know the magnitude of the hills. The website shows 2400m but I have reason to believe this number (and all the others) could be a lot less. This would be nice! We’ll have to wait and see. Wish me luck!

Day 1: Tok, Alaska

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Today was tough, though I knew this going in and am pretty happy with how things turned out. I did 320 kms with no sleep the night before. Saw 3 moose, 2 rabbits and got 1 flat tire. No bear sightings today. Had a headwind for about 5 hours that slowed me down to 19km/h on a perfectly flat and smooth road. Frustrating. It was also HOT. The sun beat down on me all day from 7am onwards. The flat tire happened as I tried to ride over a 50m section of gravel. My tires should be to handle that, so I suppose I just got unlucky. That happened around the 200km mark. These gravel sections are showing up every now and again – I think they are the precursor to paving. They are very annoying because I have to walk across them now, afraid to get another flat. I must have walked over 10 of them. Really slows you down.

One interesting thing today was that I saw a gentleman retrieving his newspaper as I rode by so I flagged him down and told him I might be in it. He was very helpful and we looked through it together, but didn’t see anything. He told me would mail me a copy of the following day’s paper, so I gave him my address. He said his wife worked at the post office, so not to worry about the charges. A few minutes later, he pulled up on a motorcycle and says “I found it!” So I grabbed it and put it in my bags. He also recommended a place for lunch.

The Alaska Highway is so incredibly desolate. My gosh. It’s unbelievable. The sights are great though of course. I’v got to grab breakfast now. Bye.

Day 2: Beaver Creek, Yukon

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Another lonely day on the Alaska Highway, but a pretty decent one all around. The weather was nearly identical to yesterday, sunny 95% of the time, fairly hot, with a wind coming mainly out of the SE. So I had another head wind for most of the day today, but this day being only at 178km, it didn’t cause too many problems. The road in the Yukon is quite bad and noticeably different than in Alaska. I’m told the next 500km to Whitehorse is the worst strech of the highway in terms of road condition.

With about 5km to go, I couldn’t escape one dark cloud looming over me and got poured on for about 3 minutes. The sun was brightly shining and it was still warm, so the shower actually was kind of enjoyable. My bike came out very clean too, as the road had little dirt or rocks on it during the stretch of rain.

The sights were considerably better today as I was travelling up and down mountains throughout most of the day. That’s it for day 2. Thanks.

Day 3: Burwash Landing, Yukon

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My oh my the Alaska Highway is no place for a cyclist trying to get to Florida in 30 days. The warning that caame yesterday about he road conditions couldn’t have been more accurate. Today, quite literally, my body vibrated constantly for about 7 out of the 9 hours of riding. Couple that with the fact that I had a non-stop incessant head wind and that gives you an average speed of 18.5km/h. What a tough day. Wow.

However, if there was one bright spot – and the Campaign for Good News is all about bright spots as we know – it was the kind gentleman on vacation with his family who stopped to give me some water and a couple peaches and granola bars. Oh but there’s more….he was 7 feet tall! Check out the photo, it’s quite funny. What a great guy, he was. His son took the photo. There wasn’t a single place to eat the entire day. I knew this going in and eould have had enough to get by, but my water was running low and so I thought I would flag someone.

Then I met Helmut, a german fellow who had completed about 1000 kms of highway (not the Alaska Highway) in the Yukon who was headed for both Fairbanks and Anchorage. He also flimed the video for the day. Very kind and helpful.

Well it’s past midnight here and I’ve got to get up at 4 tomorrow. Day 3 in the bag.

Day 4: Whitehorse, Yukon

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Well, 6am wasn’t early enough to beat the same southerly wind that has been giving me grief since the beginning of the ride. Today called for a 110 km southeast leg to Haines Junction, followed by a 155 km easterly ride to Whitehorse. Because of the wind there was no way I could complete both parts of the day and get to Whitehorse on time to shoot the video, so I took a 100km ride to Haines Junction after riding 15km or so. Going in to this little adventure I wanted to stay on schedule up until Fort Saint John – for several reasons I won’t get in to – and so I bit the bullet. I still cycled 156 km and actually caught a little tailwind through some parts, making my average speed 24.5km/h. Compare that to the 18.5km/h from yesterday. I had to take another ride – 8km – through a muddy/wet/loose gravel road that would have chewed my poor bike apart. The Alaska Highway is serious business, let me tell you. I already told one guy, “this will be the first and last time I ride the Alaska Highway”. I’m enjoying it though. It’s tough but it’s been a heck of a ride so far.

Bicycle touring is all about the people you meet. Take for instance the two people that gave me rides today. The first are the two guys in the photo on the stories page. They are about my age and from Waterloo, Ontario. One of them said he was a financial analyst for a mining company and decided he wanted to get a little closer to the action for a summer, so he and his friend flew to Whitehorse, bought a truck, and spent a month living in a cabin at the Burwash Landing Resort – the same place I spent the previous night. I’m not sure exactly what there job was, though it involved driving down mining roads off the highway to the mines, where they may have been delivering supplies or something like that. When they picked me up they were driving to Toronto, stopping in Whitehorse for a final work meeting and perhaps trying to sell the truck and buy plane tickets. What a small world though. They both went to the University of Waterloo- where I went for a year before transferring- and I joked with one of them for my fondness for a particular sandwich at the residence caf – which one guy vehemently agreed with. We both laughed. The ride through the construction was compliments of two people living off the grid, as they put it. The lady was a school teacher, very lovely and well spoken. They were from Haines Junction. Quite something, isn’t it. Two completely reasonable, kind and intelligent people living without electricity, not because they are weird hippies or can’t afford it or something, but just because! You know, when you live in the city where everyone has the latest iPhone and complains when service is slow, this is proof that there are a lot of different ways to live your life. All in the same country too.

Today’s blog wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a friend who happened to be in Whitehorse after recently retiring and deciding to take a trip up the Alaska Highway from Toronto. Good seeing you, Rob. Here’s to an old guy (you’re not that old but it just sounds better!) with a bad knee and a young guy with a soon to be bad knee still fishing, camping, riding bikes and living life to its fullest!

Day 5: Teslin, Yukon

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Really a pretty bland day of riding. I met three touring cyclists (see picture) two of whom were, I’m assuming, father and son – both from England – and another fellow from Edmonton who was a friend of the son. Other than that, it was just another lonely day on the Alaska Highway. My body is holding up nicely. Legs feel perfectly fine. No back pain. I hope climbing these mountains will pay off when I hope to make up some ground in the flat sections. I’m really just looking forward to finishing the Alaska Highway. There is a first and last for everything. It’s a tough road to be alone on a bicycle.

The place I’m staying at is really neat and the owners are great. When I came up with my route, the stories were not part of the equation. The only consideration was the ride itself – distances, relative difficulty of back to back days, etc. So I’m lucky to have picked a place with such a neat history. Tomorrow is going to be tough but the weather and wind looks good. It’s either going to be a great day or a really tough one.

P.S. the pig picture is for a special someone!

Day 6: Watson Lake, Yukon

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Yesterday I said today was going to be either great or tough and it turned out to be both. I caught my first real tailwind for most of the day and without it would have likely been in for a real challenge. The hills today made it though though. It was the biggest day for climbing and second longest by distance and I came out relatively unscathed. Phew. Thank goodness there was a restaurant in the middle of today too. That was the only chance for good the entire day. I knew this going into the ride, but the restaurant still saved me bringing extra food and provided a hearty meal and a few cups of coffee on an overcast and generally chilly day. I was on the road by about 6:15, before breakfast was served where I was staying so some peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches served as my breakfast. I think I must have gone through about 10 granola bars today too.

I’m really looking forward to finishing the Alaska Highway and putting these long lonely stretches of nothingness behind me. Tomorrow I’ve got a 210km ride to Liard Hotsprings. Let’s see how that goes.

Day 7: Liard River, British Columbia

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Today will be remembered for the bison I saw. It’s the first time I have ever seen them. They were all over the route today, from start to finish. Quite a beastly looking thing except they are as quiet and peaceful as can be. I think I forgot to mention I saw a grizzly bear with two cubs a few days ago and was actually warned about them and their exact location by a driver. They were quite close to my side of the road, though when I arrived there was already a car pulled over taking photos, so I knew exactly where they were and just went over to the other lane and kept on riding. I thought pictures might not be the best idea. Mother grizzlies with their cubs around are notoriously aggressive. I’ve also seen at least 5 black bears and a few brown bears. One black bear darted across the road today about 50 meters ahead of me. That was a little scary if for no other reason than seeing how fast they can run. But bears are the least of my problems, speaking honestly. The main danger comes from cars, but so far the drivers have been extremely thoughtful – always leaving plenty of space. Of course there is always the odd man out- the person who hardly budges when the entire other lane is open and safe to be in. I’ve always wondered about these people. I see it as either one of two things: 1) they are so stubborn that they refuse to move over or 2) it never dawned on them that moving over would be a good idea. I surely hope it’s number 1, because I hate to think there are drivers that stupid to fall into the second category.

Today I’m staying at a lodge across from Liard Hotsprings Provincial Park. The banner photo was taken with me in the hot springs. I think this is the first time I’ve ever been in a hotsprings. It was great. I also got talking to some of the other people there. I met a nice German couple in their 60’s that were making a road trip up to Fairbanks, having done it a few decades ago. I also met John Luke, a bit of a free spirit it seemed, who was riding a motorcycle up to Dawson City (way up north in the Yukon) to meet some friends. He said he knew a guy who had a bike that said “if you can fix it, it’s yours.” So he fixed it and now it’s his. He took a few photos for me and I told him about what I was doing. He really liked the idea, saying he spent months in Pakistan meeting the nicest people and that you’d never hear something like that on Fox News. Nope, you wouldn’t. Hence the Campaign for Good News.

Day 8: Toad River, British Columbia

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Today was pretty interesting. For one, the rain that I woke up to stopped just before I started and within a half hour the roads were completely dry. That was good. Today should be the shortest day of the trip, barring unforeseen circumstances. I did 118kms, though it wasn’t easy. I had a few big climbs today, including the longest one so far, over 14km long. Also faced a lot of 8%+ grades and some nasty 11% sections. But my gearing can handle it and I just sit back and chip away. That is really my plan of attack on the whole route- slowly chip away at the mileage. I was looking at the route just a second ago and already I’ve made a pretty sizeable dent in it. Today was once again filled with terrible road vibrations. I’ve really forgotten what it feels like to be on a smooth road. When I hit the smooth road of the prairies it is going to be heaven. If I can catch some good wind, I hope to be in the mid 300 kms each day. Boy o boy what have I gotten myself into!

Today I met Jean-Marc, a retired Frenchman who has been touring on his bicycle since May 09, when he left France. I wrote down some of the details. He cycled 19000 miles in Africa, with only one punctured tired. In November 2010, he started pedaling from South America, where exactly I don’t know, and now he’s headed up to Dawson City, way way up North. He told me he’s done 62,000 miles so far. Wow. I’m slated or 5000 miles, not even 10% of his total. The first thing I noticed when I saw him was his suntan. Man was it dark. No helmet either, which is common for people who do that kind of mileage. He told me he does usually about 100kms a day. I really couldn’t imagine being on the road, ALONE, that long. Man o man. I got homesick about 3 hours into my ride. Anyway, he was a very pleasant fellow, well spoken and charming. I told him he had some really nasty climbs coming up which didn’t seem to bother him. I suppose after the first 50,000 miles you no longer worry about hills- you just ride.

Day 9: Fort Nelson, British Columbia

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Another 190 kms of the Alaska Highway complete. This one had a little of everything. For one, I began the day with a 40km climb. Then the rain came out. Then I met two touring cyclists heading up to Fairbanks – grandfather and grandson from Texas. Then I cycled through 15km of non-stop gravel/mud, 2km of which had a nice 8% gradient climb. That was interesting – climbing an 8% gravel/mud hill in the rain for 2km in the middle of nowhere. That’s a good way to test your resolve and seeing I made it through it, I assume I passed the test. This highway has turned me into a bit of a machine. I just grind through it all and every night I seem to wonder, “how did I do that?”

Today also had a lot of climbing, as will tomorrow. I hope climbing all these hills will pay off down the road. I was just looking at my schedule from Edmonton onwards. It’s pretty insane and only possible with good weather. But I’ll worry about it when I’m there.

Arriving in Fort Nelson was great. For one, it is a sign that I am returning to civilization and that the Alaska Highway is almost over. Fort Nelson has a population of about 4900. Aside from Fairbanks and Whitehorse, it is the most populous town yet. It really is nice not having to worry about breakfast the next morning, or whether or not you can drink the tap water or what time the only place in town sells food until. It makes things a lot easier. Anyway, that’s it for another day. Two more days of the Alaska Highway then the real ride begins…

Day 10: Buckinghorse River, British Columbia

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Today was boring! It was probably the most uneventful day of the trip so far. About the only thing I’ll remember about this day was that it started with a 30km ride on pristine grade A pavement – the best pavement I’ve been on so far and a welcome change from the terrible road conditions of the Alaska Highway that has hurt my speed and worn down my body. Boy did it feel nice to ride on that pavement. I was holding out hope that it may last the entire day, but was brought back to reality with a return to the rugged vibration inducing road with, of course, gravel patches on and off for a good 50 km. I also didn’t see any wildlife today and I can’t remember a day when that was true. It also became apparent today that the mountains are dwindling down. There were also zero services along the route today. No food. Luckily I was prepared Tomorrow will be my last full day on the Alaska Highway. The Highway has been an incredible challenge. I wonder how it will stack up with the heat that I am expecting in the south. We shall see.

Day 11: Fort St. John, British Columbia

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This was my final full day on the Alaska Highway. Thank goodness! This road has really been a test. It tests you physically with its climbs and rough roads and it tests you mentally with long stretches of nothingness. I’ve gone 2 hours without seeing a car or a building of any sort. I’ve been through 15km of gravel in the rain. I’ve gone 200kms without stopping for food. The Alaska Highway is not for the faint-hearted. I’m glad it has gone as well as it has. I’ve had almost no rain and that has really been a blessing. (It’s supposed to rain on me all day tomorrow.) The wind was not overly friendly, but considering I made it to all my destinations on time (with one 100km ride on day 4, mind you) I can’t really complain.

I’ve seen about all there is to see in terms of wildlife: grizzly with cubs, brown and black bears, bison, moose and mountain goats. I only missed out on mountain sheep. Today I saw two grizzly cubs playing in the middle of the road. See the photo of it I took from a safe distance. Lucky for me, the mother was not around and I was able to pass once the cubs were off the road.

Now the ride really starts. The flats are going to be a real test. I will have to cut down on sleep and increase my saddle time dramatically. The actual riding should be much easier- flatter, better roads, more services- there is just going to be a lot more of it.

These 11 and a half days on the Alaska Highway have been quite something. Let’s see what the next 20 odd days have in store for me. With bicycling touring, you just never know.

Day 12: Valleyview, Alberta

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282 kms in the rain! Where to begin with this crazy day. Well, it started with a very long climb out of Fort St. John. The hill – Taylor Hill, I believe it’s called, as I was warned about it from all the locals – was very steep and winding with little shoulder. The climb was about 10 kms into the day and by that point I was covered in head to toe in mud from the rain and the road conditions. I knew it was going to be a long day when I couldn’t see through my clear glasses because of the mud being splashed up. Nevertheless, I got through it and was well on my way to Dawson Creek – the city where the Alaska Highway originates.

It stopped raining when I was about 80km away from Grande Prairie, where I was going to get lunch before heading to Valleyview. The sky was completely dark and ominous and when the thunder started I knew I was in trouble. Then rain soon followed and was really hard – the kind of rain nervous drivers pull off the road because of poor visibility. I was completely soaked in minutes and getting cold quick and managed to flag down a pick-up for a lift into the nearest town, which happened to be a place called Beaverlodge. Here I took a photo in front of the large beaver just off the highway and noticed what appeared to be a tourist information centre – actually it was called the Beaverlodge Cultural Centre – so I decided to check it out, while the rain died down. What a place I stunmbled upon! I met a lovely older lady named Marion (see photo) who ran the centre that was once the town hospital, as she explained to me. She made me some coffee in the ‘tea room’ and gave me a few snacks too. She happily talked about Beaverlodge, knowing it inside and out. It was lovely – we sat and talked for a good half hour. She showed me around the place – including an art gallery showcasing some of the local artwork. Because of the rain, I was planning on staying in Grand Prairie today and falling behind schedule by one day when I noticed the westerly wind was still blowing away. I asked another person that worked at the centre – a very friendly and helpful girl of about 20 – if she could check the weather in Grand Prairie and Valleyview and that was when I got the idea of actually trying to make it to Valleyview that night, despite it being late in the day.

The wind! The wind! It was incredible. A strong wind directly from the west made it possible to reach Valleyview today. In total I did 282 kms of what was supposed to be a 305 km day. When I left Grande Prairie for Valleyview it was around 6 or 7pm. It was raining quite hard and was cold. But I was headed due east and so took a pretty big gamble and decided to try to do 110kms. And – I did it! I was completely soaked from head to toe but reached Valleyview around 11:30pm. The owner of the motel let me do laundry, which was a blessing and we shot the good news story the next morning. What a day.

Day 13: Edmonton, Alberta

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After the crazy 282 kms rain-filled near midnight arrival day yesterday, I was in no position to bike the necessary 345kms to Edmonton, despite the presence of an even stronger westerly wind from the day before. I got up around 6 and called my contact in Valleyview, a gentleman named Pat, who I was in contact with yesterday multiple times as I kept him updated on my plans and ETA- Pat and I chatted and agreed to do the good news story at 8am. I also told him I needed a ride to Whitecourt, about 165 kms from Valleyview and 175 kms from Edmonton. Pat offered to drive me – Pat works for the city of Valleyview and heads up the Parks and Rec. dept. among others. He was so kind and helpful throughout these past two days. I had to take a ride because I had arranged with a reported from Global News Edmonton to do a story for around 6pm and didn’t want to jerk them around and push it back a day. After being dropped off at a Tim Horton’s in Whitecourt, I said goodbye to Pat, grabbed a bite to eat and another coffee and hit the road. It was the same story as last night – strong Westerly wind with rain. I was soaked again but flew to Edmonton. Today I averaged 29.9km/h. Compare that to the 20 km/h or so I averaged along the Alaska Highway. I stopped in Spruce Grove where I met up with the Global News Team and former NHL’er Brannt Myhres, who was a real gentleman and very supportive of my campaign.

I’m leaving out details of this day but it’s almost 1am and I need to get some sleep to get to Lloydminster tomorrow – a place I am really looking forward to visiting. My apologizes for typos and other mistakes – I don’t always have the time or energy to reread these blogs!

Day 14: Lloydminster, Alberta/Sask(!!)

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I don’t think today could have gone any better. It will probably also be one of the best days in terms of weather and wind conditions I’ll have the entire trip. Like yesterday, a westerly wind pushed me dead east from Edmonton to Lloydminster. I did 261 kms today and it was one of the easiest days thus far. The temperature was also perfect and the sun was shining with the occasional cloud providing a little shade. The sunscreen got used again after two days of dark skies and rain.

I stopped in a little town called Vermilion to eat a late lunch 60k from the end of my ride. During the first 180k I had my usual banana/apple/chocolate bars/granola bars diet. For a guy who rarely eats junk food in his daily life- especially chocolate bars- I sure have broken that habit this trip. Anyway, the arrangements at Lloydminster were scheduled for 7pm and so time was a little tight after starting a little later than I would have liked to. The road I have been on the last two days and will be on all of tomorrow is Highway 16 – Yellowhead Highway. It’s a fantastic road with a wide, almost always clean shoulder, and new pavement with little cracks or holes. This is a far cry from the Alaska Highway, let me tell you. Oh how I won’t miss that road

With a little time to spare before the 7pm scheduled time, once I arrived in Lloydminster I was able to pick-up some electrical tape for some patch up work on my handlebar tape that got a little messy after the rain as well as hit the local Wal-Mart to buy a cheap set of earbuds for my iPod. Since the trip began, I lost both rubber pieces on my earbuds and so for the last three or four days listening to music has been pretty fruitless as the earbuds fall out constantly. I guess they’re pretty boring items and may not seem like much to you, but I’ve been wanting to buy them for some time now and it was nice to finally get it done, and without any hassles or time pressure. Going in a place like Wal-Mart or Home Depot I bring my bike with me. Same for grocery stores – which I’m in quite often. By now, I’m used to all the stares, so the looks at Wal-Mart and Home Depot were no big deal. Most people actual smile and laugh a little when they see me in a store with my bike walking up and down the aisles. I suppose they know I am on a long bike ride of some sort, probably travelling alone, and they have some respect for an endeavor like that I suppose.

Before I go grab my laundry downstairs (it’s midnight again, too…) I just want to thank the Mayor of Lloydminster for coming out and being so friendly and especially thank Heather Klages from Lloyd FM, the local radio station, for setting everything up. Lloydminster is really a great town, probably my favorite so far.

Day 15: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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Phew. Another 300kms down with the help of a tailwind. Today was 295 kms long. The first 150km were great – I think I averaged around 32km/h at about the halfway mark. Then the heat picked-up and I ate a little too much for lunch and things started getting tough. When my cold water from lunch ran out I was started to feel it. I turned off the highway to this little town- I suppose it’s a town- there was a sign with a name, but the place consisted of about 30 homes and a few community buildings. I found this one building that said motel on it I think (see picture). It looked pretty abandoned and the thought of checking the door seemed pretty silly, but I did it anyway. There were cars in the parking lot, but I assumed they must be for something else. At any rate, the place was up and running and there was a group of 8 people sitting around one table, drinking beer and complaining about the CPP and Old Age Security. Straight from a Canadian movie, I swear. I got some ice water from the owner and also took a 3 minute chill down in the beer cooler. Hah. The things I’ve done on this trip, let me tell you. Anyway, I chatted with the people for a little while. They were quite nice. Then it was back to the road, where with the cold water and a few more hours of digestion, I was feeling pretty good again.

I suppose I’ll spare no details and let you know the back of my left knee is getting sore. I think it’s a muscle thing from the calf and not tendonitis. I think all this flat mileage where I am pushing it a little more than I was in the mountains is finally catching up with me. We’ll have to see how tomorrow goes, though I think the extra strength Advil may be making its first appearance

So there is no story tonight, but instead we are filming it tomorrow morning. I had to get to Saskatoon by 6pm and that just wasn’t happening. 7 I could have done, but it wasn’t meant to be. So this throws a curveball in for tomorrow because I won’t be able to make it to Regina in good time too. Things may get a little disorganized over the next few days. After Regina I’ve got a 390 ride to Minot, ND, which as of right now I find quite comical. That won’t be happening, so I’ll be falling behind schedule soon. I considered getting a 30-40 km ride today to make it for 6 but decided that was a little too cheap, since I wanted and should have just got up an hour or two earlier. So I did the full 295k today.

I’ve got some good stories coming up, I think so at least. Lastly I’ll just mention arriving in Saskatoon was a nightmare! I couldn’t find out where I was supposed to go for the story tomorrow. I think the mileage is getting to me because I could have just used my GPS I bet. Instead I was asking people. Then, I got a flat-tire riding down a quiet residential street, about 1km away from the hotel. Great. I was about ready to kick in my front wheel at that point. I fixed it in record time and then pouted over how expensive hotels are in Saskatoon. Then I hit the Sobey’s across the street and…….get ready for this folks….will be munching on Cheerios tomorrow morning! Yes, with milk!!

Day 16: Regina, Saskatchewan

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The Canadian Prairies are almost over. This was a fairly uneventful day, but a pleasant one nonetheless. This was the start of my real push southwards, and as a result I had to say goodbye to the strong westerly wind that has been pushing me eastward the last three days. The wind was a mixed bag today, so I gave it a neutral rating. I was lucky enough to find a Subway store in Davidson, a small town about midway between Saskatoon and Regina. I stopped there for a sub then headed up the road 2 kms for a nice milkshake from A&W. I also still had lots of food from my Sobey’s run the night before, so I had no food issues today. The road conditions were also pretty good again today. No complaints.

The story for today was shot around 11:30pm, after riding for a good hour in the dark along highway 11 into Regina. It was a little dicey, but I had some great people waiting for me and had to get there. It was either ride at night or do the story the next day, but I think the night worked better for the both of us. Today’s story is very touching, about a community coming together to help a family facing a tough situation. Most of the correspondence I had with them was actually with the mother’s sister, who set up everything for me, so the parents of this boy didn’t really know too much about my ride until I got there and explained it to them. And that’s the great part of it all- they were still willing to participate and to stay up and wait for me. I pulled into their driveway where the wee havinga low-key fire outside with a small group of friends and everyone greeted me warmly. I told them about some of the hardships of riding as far as I have in 16 days and they were impressed and interested. It was just a great way to end the day. You can learn more about this story by visiting the facebook page “The Nixon Fund”.

Day 17: Estevan, Saskatchewan

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There’s no story tonight as this stop is not scheduled. I’m sure this will happen at least a few more times as I am not able to stick to the schedule exactly. However, I do have some good news to share with you all at the end of this blog. But first, a little bit about today.

The wind worked against me all day. I left Regina and headed southeast to find a wind blowing directly against me. Because of the wind, I decided to head south a little sooner than my route had me doing, but that didn’t help as much as I would have liked. It was hot again today, too. The heat and the headwind took its toll on me. I got in Estevan (which I keep calling Evestan) around 9:30, riding in much cooler conditions for the last couple hours. Today was extremely flat. It was also pretty boring. I’m looking forward to finishing the Dakotas asap (though they stories are going to be great and I am looking forward to each one of them). It’s just that when things are this flat, the mind really begins to shutdown. Anyway, tomorrow I will be in Minot, ND. I’m looking forward to entering the U.S. again, as it is always exciting to be in a country other than your own. I’m visiting a handful of states, most of which I have never set foot in. And now for the good news…

My sister is engaged! Congrats Robin and Curtis! I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with everyone. I thought it would be a good idea seeing as I found out this morning and this also happened to be the first day without a story. Best wishes to the two of you. See you both soon.

Day 18: Minot, North Dakota

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Today I managed a meager 50km from Estevan to about 10km past the Canada-U.S. border. I woke up later than I would have liked, considered taking a rest day because I knew I would struggle to get to Minot in one day without taking a ride, but eventually decided to hit the road anyway. The wind was the same story as the last 2 days – directly against me. My average speed was 18.7km/h for only 50km. That was the best I could do, given the wind.

Passing the border was not a problem. The customs agent was courteous and only asked to check a few of my bags before I was in North Dakota for good. As soon as I got to the first major road junction, I began looking for a ride. After pointing to a road sign that showed the distance to Minot, a pickup truck pulled over and I was on my way to Minot. The owners were a nice couple, with a young son. They drove me right to Minot, through the scenic Souris Valley, which was the site of the 2011 flooding, which is what the Minot story I about. The valley was quite beautiful. The gentleman said it’s the most scenic part of North Dakota, and for a state is generally pretty flat and boring, the valley was a nice change of pace. I was dropped off at a local bikeshop, hoping to use some of my free time to finally straighten or ‘true’ my rear wheel that is a little warped. But to my surprise the owner of the bike shop wasn’t so interested in the fact that I biked from Alaska to North Dakota and wasn’t willing to give me any special treatment in fixing my bike immediately. To be fair, he said he was extremely busy, and it certainly looked like he was, but surely telling his mechanic to spend 15 minutes fixing my wheel wouldn’t have crumbled his business to a halt. Oh well. Perhaps I can finally get the wheel straightened in Sioux City, Iowa. I’d also really liked to get the chain and drive component degreased and cleaned up.

After the failed stop at the only bike shop in town, I headed for Hope Village, where I met some incredible volunteers who are fixing houses that were wrecked by the 2011 flooding. I had dinner with everyone in the dining tent. It was delicious. I then decided to head out for Edgeley, North Datoka, my next stop, at 9:30pm that same night, to avoid the heat and at least some of the wind. So with no sleep I hit the road, heading for Edgeley, some 330kms away.

Day 19: Edgeley, North Dakota

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This ride started at 9:30pm the night before, deciding to leave Minot at night to avoid some of the heat and wind. It was the first night ride of the trip and was pretty successful. Night riding has its challenges, especially without sleeping the night before. I have a very bright front light that lights up the entire road ahead of me and a bright rear red flashing light, along with some reflective tape on my panniers. There’s no doubt about my visibility.

I’ll share with you a few of the interesting things that happened this night. First, I caught a great glimpse of a red moon rising just above the horizon. The first picture of today shows it- though you have to look closely. You have to realize how peaceful it is at night, on a two lane road through North Dakota. After 1 am, I can probably count the number of vehicles that passed me on both hands. The stars were easily visible and at least once I turned off my front headlight and pulled out my earphones and just looked at the sky, thinking about how hard and yet fulfilling this bike ride was been so far. I thought of all the unexpected yet pleasant things that have happened to me so far- for instance to be in the middle of North Dakota at 2am gazing at the stars. How I’ve averaged over 200kms a day so far. How I’ve met some incredible people who have been nothing but kind and warm to me. Then something kind of funny happened. I got stuck behind a 10 minute train! I took a photo of it, thinking it was funny to get stuck behind a train at 2:30am in the middle of North Dakota. I just relaxed and waited. At 3:30am my front headlight died, as expected. When it did, I was approaching a small town and started looking for wall outlets on the side of buildings. I quickly found one (see picture) ad plugged in my light, which began recharging. Then I decided it would be a good time to rest, perhaps event catch up on some sleep. I was beside a grain silo facility and saw an old tractor. I turned the latch on the door to see if it was open and before long I was snoozing in the back of this tractor, cell phone in hand, ready to wake me up in about 45 minutes. So while you were sound asleep in your home from wherever you are following along, I was sleeping in a tractor in the middle of North Dakota. Quite silly, isn’t it. A bit of a riot I know. I don’t do these things because I think they would be funny to share, really there just wasn’t a better option. I don’t have a tent, so to sleep outdoors would be tough because of the bugs. You’ve got to make do with what you have.

Anyway, the day continued onward and before long the heat and wind had picked up to levels equal to the day before. I made it to Jamestown after taking a 60km ride through construction. To that point I had done about 210kms. I was interviewed by the Jamestown Sun at the McDonalds I had stopped off at for one of their milkshakes. From there I had another 65kms to Edgeley, my scheduled stop. At this point I was so exhausted and the wind was so strong, I was down to 16-7km/h. I took a photo of the grass to my right, to give you an idea of how strong the wind was. I got about half way to Edgeley before I decided I had had enough for the day. I called my contact for Edgeley, the wonderful Joy Powers, wife of Mayor and Fire Chief for Edgeley, Steve Powers. She agreed to pick me up. In total I pulled off 147miles today or 238kms on by far the toughest day of the trip.

I managed to get an hour of sleep in at the Powers’ household before people started arriving for a barbeque Joy had arranged at her place. She invited some of her friends and other people she thought I would be interested in meeting. In a small town like Edgeley (600 people) everyone knows everyone. I listened to some of the funny stories people told me and then got to meet Victor and Bev and listened to their story about the tornado that completely destroyed their farm and how the incredible outpouring of support from the community helped get them back on their feet. They now live in Edgeley decided not to rebuild their farm since they were only a couple years from retirement anyway, and actually live across the street from the Powers.

You know, this campaign isn’t just about the ‘good news’ stories. They are important, yes, but I hope you also realize, mainly from my blogs I suppose, just how generous people have been to me. Here I am in Edgeley, North Dakota, population 600, and I just had a barbeque thrown for me at the mayor’s house with 20 great kind people wishing me well on my ride. I’m just some crazy kid from Canada who came up with a silly idea, but here I am actually living out this wild idea. It is possible to do things like this. And chances are, if you have the courage to push yourself to your limits, the experience will greatly exceed your expectations.

Day 20: Rest Day in Edgeley, ND

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My first real rest day in 20 days. Finally. Though I am planning to start biking tonight around 7 or so, to once again beat the heat and at least some of this southerly wind. But today so far has been pretty relaxing, thanks to Joy and Steve Powers who have fed me well and treated me like a king. I’ve been doing web updates this morning, eating, took a stroll down main street Edgeley for some photos for today’s blog, and once I write this I’ll have 2 hours to just relax and hopefully sleep. I hope you enjoy the photos I took. This is small town America at its finest. What a pleasant place this is. I often how one could get by in a town of 600, but once you start to talk to people and visit the local businesses you realize that is it possible.

Anyway, I want to take advantage of this free time, so I’m going to end today’s blog here. Tomorrow I will be in South Dakota followed by Iowa then Missouri. I’m really looking forward to the remaining states, though the heat and humidity is going to be a real challenge. I’ll do the best I can. Finally I’d like to thank Joy and Steve Powers and all their friends that came out last night. I’ve had a great time in Edgeley. Edgeley will definitely stand out for me on this trip.

Day 21: Mitchell, South Dakota

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Like a few days on the Alaska Highway, today was one of those days I will look back on and say “how did I do that?” I left Edgeley around 8pm. The temperature was absolutely perfect. The wind was not. When the darkness rolled in around 10pm, the wind was the strongest it had been yet and was coming directly at me. What a nightmare. I took another photo on the tall grass just off the road. The idea of leaving at night in hopes the winds wouldn’t be as strong completely failed. My average speed over the fist 170km was 17.1. Absolutely terrible. Today was the second longest time on the bike at 13:09. Second only to the first day.

As the night continued on, the lightning began to increase and I knew I didn’t have much time before a downpour would occur. Luckily I reached Aberdeen, a large town, before the rain came. I went through the McDonalds drive-thru, which was the only place to eat or drink in Aberdeen at 2 in the morning. They also charged my front headlight for me while I ate. This was at 100kms into the ride. Soon after I left McDonalds, the rain started in a big way. I took shelter and hardly got wet. I put on my rain gear but then thought better of it and waited it out for 30 minutes or so. When the hard stuff stopped, I hit the road again. What a long night it had already been. The wind was so strong.

When I reached the next town, a much smaller one called Redfield, I ate at the subway. The lady who worked there was very kind after finding out that I rode from Alaska to South Dakota. Sometimes when people ask if my ride is for charity I say no it’s just for fun and don’t bother mentioning the website or what I am really doing. It’s just a lot to explain to people and it gets tiring. I did that to this lady, who was still very impressed and gave me a few cookies for free. Some of the locals eating there were also very supportive. After finishing my third coffee at Subway I was back at it. I sunscreen’d up and hit the road. My plans was to make it to Huron, where thanks to the far-reaching powers of Joy from Edgeley (wife of mayor, the one who organized everything in Edgeley for me) I had someone in Mitchell willing to pick me up with 80 kms to go. Her name was Donna and she was the cousin of the mayor of Edgeley, Steve Powers. Anyway, we met up after I did 235kms. That took 13 hours and to finish the remaining 80 or so would have been very tough, since the heat was out in full force. I’m hoping the amount of rides I’m getting will go down dramatically for the remainder of the trip. The southerly wind from the last 6 days is the cause for all the rides. The heat is actually not the main reason at all. It’s been the wind.

Well Donna from Mitchell was just an angel to me. She drove me to the Corn Palace where we shot the story, then she took me over the bike shop, which she herself had used for the locksmith business they also run there. Ron’s Bikeshop it was called. Ron was the owner and I dealt with his son, a guy about my age who said he pretty much ran the bikeshop. He trued my rear wheel and did a great job cleaning my chain and drive unit and regreasing it. I left my bike there and Donna and I headed for a hotel and then the grocery store. Our last stop was the bikeshop to pick the bike up. It couldn’t have been a more efficient hour and a half. I got to my hotel around 4pm. Tomorrow I’ll be in Iowa, which I am really looking forward to. I have two great stories in Iowa. One from a large city and another from a much smaller one. I think the wind also be a non factor tomorrow, or at worst a slight hindrance, but nothing like the 25km/h directly opposing me wind I’ve been facing for days now. Let’s hope my luck changes for the final leg of the ride. Including rest days, I’ve averaged 196kms per day for the first 21 days of the ride. Not bad. I’m hoping to get this up around 225 by the time the ride ends.

Day 22: Sioux City, Iowa

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Today was pretty fantastic. The southerly headwind finally ended. I woke up extremely late though and spent the first few hours on the bike cursing myself. I didn’t start until 8:30am. I was finally reminded what it’s like to ride over 25km/h today. And the peace and quiet! Having the wind not howling in my ears is a real blessing. So the first interesting thing that happened today happened in a dollar store where I was getting some cold drinks in a tiny little town along highway 281. People were paying with cheques! I didn’t think that happened anywhere anymore. I suppose it also sounds funny…dollar store and cheques. After the customers paying left I asked the clerk about it. She said it happens ‘all around here’. The customers have to give their driver’s license number each time they write a cheque. So there you go, some stores still accept personal cheques.

With about 50kms to go I ran into another cyclist. He was stopped at an intersection I was going through. Noticing his nice bike and even better physique I waved him my way. I said I’m biking from Alaska to Florida and could use a nice draft for a little while. He gladly agreed and we settled in around 19-20 mph for a little while. Once we picked up a tailwind I rode beside him and we got talking. He’s 51 and his name is Randy. I’ll never forget the first thing he said to me when I told him I’m riding from Alaska to Florida. He said “You’re going to do it!” I love people like this. The positive ones. The kind ones. I got a very similar remark from the guy who cleaned and trued my wheel in Mitchell. As soon as he heard the words Alaska to Florida, he said the same thing. I like to contrast this with the other common reactions I get when I tell people I’m riding from Alaska to Florida- ones like “you still have a long way to go” or “it’s a lot easier in a car isn’t it” or “have fun with that.” I got a pretty funny response today from a lady who seemed quite upset at the fact that I was ‘way out of the way’ in South Dakota. She seemed to think South Dakota shouldn’t have been part of the route. To me this is a reminder of one of the most important aspects of life: we get to decide how to live it. If you want to make fun of or be indifferent to other people’s endeavors then you can. Or you can be supportive and show an interest. Choices. Life is all about choices. Randy was a great guy who was very supportive of my ride. I told him to check the 10pm news as I just received word that they were going to cover my ride. It was the ABC affiliate in Sioux City. Randy was a tri-athlete and at 51, was in damn good shape. He said he started only a few years ago. After his first triathalon he said he wasn’t too pleased with how he did so he tried again. Randy is the type of guy who after 5 minutes of conversation with him you know when he says ‘didn’t do so well’ he probably finished like 6/2200 or something like that. In other words, he doesn’t mess around. Just my kind of guy. Turns out I was right, because with his second race he won his age division, no small feat at all, and was off to the Ironman World Championships slated for Sept. 9. So I actually caught him on a training ride for that. Anyway it was nice to run into such a great guy. Good luck Randy.

I got to Sioux City around 8:30pm. I climbed three very short and steep hills entering the city and wasn’t too happy about that. One was 9% for probably 2 minutes and my legs weren’t having it. I struggled through that one. I first did the TV interview with ABC, then headed to a ball park for a quick appearance on the field. I also took the banner photo with two Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders who were in Sioux City doing some promotional stuff. That was a fun photo. That’s about it for day 22.

Day 23: Clarinda, Iowa

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Another eventful day on the crazy bicycle ride for good news. And another long ride in a pick-up…argg! I started way too late again today. I was on the road by 8:00am. Just to give you an idea of the sleep I got, I went to bed at 1:45am and was up at 6:45. I tend to leave my gear all over the place when I go to sleep, I think because I am just dying to sleep after all the website work, so I procrastinate until the morning. Then morning rolls around and I am organizing and cleaning everything up. Then I have to cover myself in sunscreen, etc. etc. So though I started at 8:00am, I was up at 6:45am and only got 5 hours sleep. I need stop this though, one way or the other. I’ve decided to organize and clean up before bed now. That will help. I also just have to be more disciplined and stop sleeping past my alarm. It is just way easier said than done.

Well today’s elevation profile tells the story. Check out the route page or the Garmin page. Both show a pretty funny looking elevation profile – completely flat for 120kms followed by nothing but hill after hill. Rollers we call ‘em in the cycling world. Not major climbs, but enough to require your attention. Add 30 lbs of gear and a tired cyclist on the road for 23 days and they are nothing but hell. Anyway, on to my first friendly encounter of the day. Charles. See pic.

Charles was a friendly 82 year old fellow who asked to sit beside me at lunch. He was from the area and started cycling when he was 70. For 82 he looked absolutely great. He does the RAGBRAI every year, the bicycle ride I talked about yesterday for my story from Sioux City. At 82, cycling seemed to be his passion now. “Bicycles just put a smile on my face” he said. He was a cheerful old man, and I really enjoyed talking with him. He went off on a few tangents, but at 82 I’d probably do the same. He also had a few other good lines, including, “The Good Lord is looking out for me when I ride, because I’ve done some stupid things on a bike!” I can relate to that Charles, let me tell you. He cracked me up a bit when he said everyone is trying to make him wear these tight fitting cycling shirts like mine, but he just can’t get himself to do it. He also saw my cycling computer/GPS (the Garmin) and said “Oh, you have a Garmin, yeah I can’t use those, just too old to get my head around it you know?” What a guy. He rides a recumbent bicycle- a sit down bike if you will – or the ones for old people as he said. He really wanted to show me his bike, which was in his van, so he drove his van around the front and we checked each other’s bicycles out. With that, I was off to begin the hilly part of the day. Little did I know what I was in for.

A few kms later I was in no-mans lands. I was on a quiet country road, the temperature was nearly 100F and the road was melting! It was one of these roads that has a thin (and sometimes not so thin) layer of rubber on it, from tires. Well with the heat today, that rubber was boiling, literally. There were bubbles in it. In the thicker parts, particularly those parts on a hill, the rubber was oozing down the road. Add to that the hills – they were very steep – I hit 7-9% gradients constantly, and it was an absolute nightmare. After the 15km gravel/mud stretch in the rain on the Alaska Highway and the nasty headwinds in the Dakotas that had me down to 15km/h this was the third worst ‘experience’ yet. The combination of melting road, heat and hills was too much for me. It also mucked up the brand news cleats I got from Sioux City yesterday (thanks to David Harris) as I would sink into the road when I got of my bike (which was often, because of the heat). So I got off that road asap, change my route a little and decided to test my luck on the Interstate for a while. Yeah, that’s illegal!

My other option was to keep grinding it out on these ridiculous country roads, but I wouldn’t have lasted another hour because of the heat. So I road on the Interstate, which was still hilly, but the hills weren’t nearly as steep. That worked well for a while, but eventually the relentless sun and hills got the best of me and I phoned for a ride, which I knew I would need anyway. I had a great story lined up in Clarinda, a lovely town and one of my favorite places so far, and really had to be there that night, considering all the work that went into my arrival. Elaine, the most wonderful person in Iowa (she organized my arrival, offered to buy me groceries for when I got there, got me a free night at the Super 8 in town, and is the head of the Chamber of Commerce for Clarinda) was going to pick me up. Then something kind of weird happened. As I waited under an overpass (see pic) cleaning my newly bought cleats as best I could from the tar marks, the sky became completely filled with clouds. With the sun gone, riding became possible again. After a phone call with a fellow named Dwight who works at the Glenn Miller Museum in Clarinda, I decided to meet Elaine in a little town called Avoca. I also got off the interstate, with some help from Dwight, who seemed to know his stuff when it came to roads. Long story short, I rode to Avoca – 20 kms, nothing but hills, finally met the wonderful Elaine and her husband, and was off to Clarinda.

Clarinda was just great. After showering I headed for the Glenn Miller Museum and was greeted by the major and 20 other people standing outside and warmly greeting me. There were also two different Canadian families that live in Clarinda who were particularly happy I was there. We had a dinner followed by a lovely cake they made for me, and I briefly spoke in front of everyone and answered any questions they had. Well I’m almost doing face plants into the keyboard I am so tired (seriously) , so I must go. Until tomorrow.

Day 24: Kansas City, Missouri

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Hot, headwind and hilly. Add them together to get a difficult day of cycling in Missouri. Difficult…more like painful. And soon to be added to the equation will be humid. Today was a toughie. The hills from the latter half of yesterday continued in a big way today. They also got steeper. I had to deal with some 11% gradients. With the heat and my skinny tired legs I am barely able to stay on the bike with those kind of grades.

I’m actually writing this from a McDonalds in St. Joseph, which means I still have 100km to go to Kansas City. The plan is as follows: the video will be shot tomorrow at 9am, then I will try to bike around 150-200kms tomorrow on my way to Springfield. I hope to arrive in Springfield around 2pm on Tuesday. So I will lose a day, or a half day I suppose, by the time I reach Springfield. I’m really going to try and limit by rides to zero from here on out. None of the stories really require me to be there at a certain time, like for instance Clarinda, where a dinner was prepared and people were essentially waiting to greet me. So I will most certainly fall behind schedule a few days by the time this is all over.

St. Joseph’s is an interesting town. I stopped for a milkshake at a chain called Sonic, which is sort of an old fashioned drive thru, with girls on roller blades and all. Eventually all the employees made their way over to me and asked what I was up to. I told them and they all seemed pretty stunned. One girl asked if I was famous. Anyway they were a nice bunch of girls. Then I moved across the street to use the internet at McDonald’s and thought I would write the blog now.

I’m taking my time here in St. Jo’s because of the heat. It’s 6:15 now and I think I’ll start around 7. I should get to Kansas City around 1am. I think I better find a hotel now and make a reservation. The story is actually being shot in a town called Independence, which is a suburb of the greater Kansas area.

I’ve also had to deal with a slight headwind all day and that has really compounded the heat and hills. But I’m surviving….not without the constant thought of ‘what the hell am I doing in the middle of Missouri in 98 degree weather!” I just keep telling myself that this was all my idea and I didn’t have to do it. So I suck it up and keep pedaling.

Day 25: Harrisonville, Missouri

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After arriving in Kansas City around 1am and struggling to find a hotel- I never actually made it to Kansas City and was just outside the city limits, so hotels were sort of scarce – I fell asleep in record time. I didn’t bother washing my clothes in the shower or doing any website work. I woke up around 7am and made my way to Independence, Missouri, for the shooting of the story. And what a story it was! Leila was such a delight to talk to and boy did she have some neat pieces in her quaint little museum. She really knew her history and I found it fascinating. I must thank my friend Chelsie for finding this story for me. I found all the stories except for two- this one and the Jonesboro one coming up in two days – these two stories sort of fell through the cracks after people cancelled or didn’t respond it time, so I asked a friend of mine if she could find me two stories while the trip was underway. Thanks Chelsie. You’re the best.

Well in terms of biking, today was an absolute nightmare. I had a terrible headwind all day and my goal of making it to Clinton wasn’t realized as I decided to take refuge in Harrisonville, only 50kms away from Independence. The plan is to leave around midnight tonight to make it to Springfield by 2-3pm for the story, then perhaps bike another 50-80kms on my way to Jonesboro, Arkansas. I think I’ve really been unlucky with the winds. The heat is also very taxing on me. As it happens, the news on TV just told me 55% of the continental U.S. is in drought like conditions. The crops in Illinois are all spoiled. I haven’t had rain since entering the U.S. from Saskatchewan. No rain is better than rain, but when it’s 98 degrees outside and you’re riding into a headwind, a little rain would be nice. Because rain means clouds and clouds mean shade.

One last story before I take a nap: at the motel I’m staying at in Harrisonville, out my window I saw another touring cyclist. I went over to say hi. He is a 60 year old Aussie who rode from San Francisco. He wasn’t in the best of moods, I sensed quickly, and I soon found out why. His saddle sores (sores on the bum from riding too much) are so bad he’s going to the hospital tomorrow to see if he can continue. He says if they tell him to take a week or two worth of rest then he’s done. So though the headwinds were bad today, this is nice little reminder that things could be worse.

Day 26: Springfield, Missouri

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I’m beginning to realize this trip is more about the people I’ve met and less about the challenge of the ride itself. You might wonder why I push myself like I do, biking in 100 degree heat for 10 hours. I wonder why I do it too sometimes. And I can’t really explain why I do it except to say that I like to push myself – to try something so hard that I don’t know how I will respond until I actually do it. It’s during those moments that I really get to see what I am made of. But the trip is becoming less and less about that, I’m beginning to realize. The lasting memories will be made from the people I’ve met, and with each day I am provided with more and more of these great moments. Sure I’ll never forget this heat wave and drought I am in, or biking through the night in 30km/h headwinds in North Dakota, but I think what I will value the most, say 20 years down the road, is the people I was lucky enough to meet. It’s all about the people I’ve met. Here are a few stories about the people I met today.

The first encounter happened around midday, when fixing my first of three flat tires. A pick-up truck that looked like it was about a week away from taking its final trip to the junk yard pulled up behind me. It in was a middle aged woman and two young boys, her children. She immediately offered me a ride. I said no thanks. My plan was to just buckle down and fix it and get to Springfield for 3pm. Then she asked if I needed water. I said that would be nice. My water was about 95 degrees. She came back about 15 minutes later, right when I was about to ride again, with ice cold water in a jug she had with her because she just took her two sons to a football practice. You’ve got to realize in just how terrible shape this pick-up truck was. If we were to judge people based on the quality of their vehicle, this would be the last person we would expect to stop and help. But she did. Then another fellow stopped to offer me water. He was actually headed the other way and turned around at a junction (the highway was divided). He was just a genuine nice guy, who said when he was 22 (a long time ago) he biked from San Francisco to Colorado and that was the coolest thing he ever did. He also gave me water. We shook hands and the end and he told me his name, which I forget, but I told him I am ‘Chris from Canada’. He said alright Chris from Canada, good luck and be safe.

I got my second flat shortly after that. Both were from what looked like an industrial strength staple. Pretty hard to avoid things you can’t see. At that point I had no more tubes and actually had to patch the tire. Around 2pm I called my contact at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks. She was a girl named Laura, who I hadn’t dealt with before. When I originally called them I was dealing with someone else, but they have been so busy planning for this fundraiser happening two days after my arrival that I think the ‘crazy Canadian on a bike’ project got moved around a little. So I called Laura and told her I was having a tough day, having to fix two flat tires, having no more spare tubes, and having a rear wheel that needed truing again. We agreed that it would be acceptable to do the story at 4:30 instead of 3 and I asked her if she could make a list of the bike shops in the area so I could head to one after I finished with interview. She was happy to do that. So I continue on and with about 25kms to go, a woman pulled over in front of me and got out of her car. I stopped and she said “Are you Chris?” That was a good sign. It was Laura’s mom! She gave me a lift to town. I soon found out she is an avid cyclist herself and her husband is crazy for bikes like me. He races and is really into it. She told me about their tandem bike and it seemed like I was picked up by the perfect person- someone who can really appreciate how hard it is to bike 125 miles a day for 26 days in a row, carrying 30 pounds of stuff! She then offered me to stay at her place for the night. I said sure. And so here I am, in the kitchen of this lovely family’s home, writing this blog. None of this was planned, that’s the beauty. I met Laura at Big Brothers Big Sisters and she was just as delightful as her mom. Her mom also took me to the local bikeshop her and her husband go to, where I got my rear wheel trued again and bought 4 tubes. Then she took me out to dinner, along with her two other children, who are in college. The father, Fred, was actually out racing his bike and returned home around 8. He was planning on washing one of his bikes (actually his wife’s bike) and so I jumped on the band wagon and joined him. That explains the picture of Fred and I working on his driveway. So there you go. Talk about awesome. You know, on the ‘About’ page of this website I wrote that what I enjoy most about bicycle touring is meeting new people and ultimately realizing that we are all the same. And I know it sounds cheesy and lame, but it’s true. Here I am in Springfield, Missouri, staying with his amazing family, with Fred helping me wash my bike at 9pm in the dark in his driveway. 10 years from now, am I going to remember the 193 kms I did today, starting at 4 in the morning? Not likely. I’m going to remember this great family, whose generosity and kindness is inspiring. That is what this trip is all about.

Day 27: Jonesboro, Arkansas

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Must. Get. Sleep. It’s 1am and I’ve been awake since 3:45am, where I woke from a 4 hour sleep. I was on pace for 345kms right to Jonesboro before I got a flat tire in the dark. Ended up with 276 kms, over 2km climbed, in 100 degree heat (see photo for proof). I went to work fixing the flat in the ditch when a jeep pulled off the road to make sure I was okay. Andy and Christie, a couple in their forties with three children. Self pro-claimed red necks they joked. Very nice. Funny story on the ride into Jonesboro (where they were headed anyway) – they told their son about me (“we picked up this Canadian riding a bike from Alaska to Florida…”) and he didn’t believe them so Christie took a photo of me in the backseat and sent it to him. It was pretty funny. He called back and couldn’t believe it. I got the ride with about 60 km to go, but only about 10 more km in the mountains – after that it leveled off completely (see route page). So I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to roar through the flats and hit my 345 km like I planned.

I’m slowly beginning to understand the rarity of this heat wave I am in. It may be the hottest summer ever recorded in American history. I heard that on one channel. Can you believe it? The year I decided to go on a crazy bicycle ride. The heat has been in the mid 90 since North Dakota. But I’m surviving. I’m slowly turning into a machine. The heat doesn’t bother me too much anymore.

The wind was also pretty friendly for a change. Today was the first really enjoyable day of riding I’ve had in a while. The ending was the pits of course, with the flat tire in the dark. When I biked across Canada, 7500kms, I got 2 flats. I’ve had 6 or 7 now. Same tires. Different bike.

I’ve got to end this blog a little early because I need sleep for tomorrow’s early interview and for another long day of riding in the heat. What else is new?

Day 28: Memphis, Tennessee

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Hello Memphis! Let’s just say I got more than a few warnings over the last two days to stay safe and be alert as I went through Memphis and now I can see why. I woke up around 7:30 (oh how nice that was) and we did the story around 9am. This was the other story chosen by me trusty friend and she did another great job.

Today was a short day because of the late start and the humidity. Yes, it has officially begun. The heat has been primarily dry prior to today and so the humidity hit me hard. I was sweating so much that I decided to take a break and get my head shaved in a town called Trumann. I took a photo with the three ladies that worked there. When I mentioned that I need to go get my wallet outside on my bike, they immediately said not to worry about it. The three ladies were all very charming. They said they would be very scared to ride as far as I am. One lady said she would have to take a pistol with her and the other ladies agreed. Yep, I’m in the south folks. It’s very different down here than good the true north strong and free – but two things are for sure: no one is in a rush and everyone is really nice.

I crossed the Mississippi river today. Took a few photos. Water looked a little low to say the least. There are two bridges that cross it and lead to Memphis and I took the older one. There was a tight pedestrian walkway that I used. It was littered with nails and broken glass and so I walked my bike through most of it. When I reached Memphis I made the mistake of picking a gas station a little too close to the ‘action’, if you will, for a cold drink I was dying for. I ended up having to give panhandlers 7 dollars. They get right in your face and give you lines like “one more dollar please sir, it’s my birthday”. They were ok though, I didn’t feel too threatened. I guess once you give them what they ask for they are kind of on your side. One lady was talking to me and as soon as I responded she gasped “you have nice teeth!” She wasn’t a panhandler. Anyway, I got through that ordeal and wanted to get out of town a little before I found a nice place to spend the night. I did just that.

Tomorrow I will enter and leave Mississippi. I’m looking forward to meeting the people waiting there for me in Corinth, Mississippi, which I have only heard good things about when I told various people over the last few days that I have a scheduled stop there. After that I am in Birmingham for a neat story. The south has been great – really fun, exciting and eye-opening.

Day 29: Corinth, Mississippi

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Today was pretty fantastic. No crazy stories about fixing flat tires in the dark in a ditch. The winds were helpful today and helped me squeak out 225kms in under 9 hours. It was a 130km ride to Corinth, Mississippi, where I was warmly greeted by some Corinthians(?) in historic downtown Corinth at the oldest pharmacy in Mississippi and as I was told, the oldest pharmacy in the U.S. that is still owned by the same family. The story was shot around 1:30pm and though I would have loved to stay in Corinth for the day, I had to take advantage of the friendly winds and remaining daylight and so headed to Birmingham. I made it just where I wanted to – about 50 miles past Corinth.

In Corinth I was treated to some Slugburgers and a delicious banana milkshake at the pharmacy. The pharmacy is really more of a restaurant, but there is still a functioning pharmacy and it is run by an 86 year old pharmacist. Neat! I had another great helper named Karen Beth who was one of those people who would do just about anything for me. She bought me a few bananas, apples and granola bars. Thanks again Karen Beth.

I was treated to a nice little surprise when I arrived in the town I am staying at tonight. Helen Keller was born here and her home has been maintained as a historic spot. The story of Helen Keller is quite amazing and so I followed the signs to her home, only to find the gate was locked (understandable, it was late). The photo you see of a distant house is it.

I’m watching the Tour de France nighttime broadcast. They did 225 kms in under 5 hours today. It was a flat stage and they had a nice tailwind apparently. It took me 4 more hours to do the same distance. They were going about 70km/h on a flat section of road because of a strong tailwind and they weren’t sprinting, they were just coolly spinning along. Pro cyclists are just amazing. Trans-continental ‘good news’ cyclist are pretty neat too. Birmingham tomorrow with a few hills in between and one that looks really nasty. Either my elevation profile graph is wrong or this is one steep hill. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Day 30: Birmingham, Alabama

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I’m getting tired. This trip is wearing me down. Today wasn’t that long but it felt long. That nasty hill I was talking about yesterday really was a hill and it was tough. A few kms long with some 10% gradients mixed in to the average 8% gradient. I think every pore in my body was pouring out sweat. I climb those kinds of gradients around the 8-10km/h range. At that speed you get hot and with the humidity where it was today, I was pretty much soaked the entire day. Fun.

Today is really all about the incredible not-for-profit bike shop called Bici Coop. It was great to finally meet Anna, one of the founders of the shop, who I had been in contact with the last few months, occasionally bugging her to remind her when I was coming and making sure she was still interested. Anna is just awesome and is a good reminder to me of the many great things you can do in life if you just care. The Bici Coop is my favorite story and not (just) because it involves bicycles, but because it involves a bunch of young adults being creative, caring about their community and having the courage to put their best foot forward and give it a shot.

I’ve got 4 more stops left and Miami can’t come soon enough. This ride has been truly incredible but it comes with a cost. I am tired and sore and can’t remember what a home cooked meal tastes like. This is what I signed up for though. Onward and upward. Georgia here I come.

Day 31: Columbus, Georgia

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Another 204 kms closer to Miami. Today was one of those days where I felt strongest and most energetic during the last two hours of the ride. That’s the sign of a good day. I came up short of making it to Richland, but only because the road wasn’t safe enough to ride in the dark for the final two hours. There’s no shoulder and traffic is heavier than ideal, so I decided not to risk it. But all in all today was a good day. I started thinking about the last two weeks and realized I’ve been pretty lucky. With bicycle touring the glass half full vs. glass half empty idea is really prominent. I can look back at the last two weeks and think about the terrible heat wave, no really strong days of tailwind and the terrible headwinds in the Dakotas or I choose to think about the fact that I’ve had no rain, haven’t even seen a meter of a gravel road, and still have no real serious physical ailments. The quality of roads have also been great, especially lately- smooth pavement with very little cracks and bumps.

I did take a 30km ride from Anna this morning to try and actually make it possible to make it to Richland. That took a 284 km ride down to 254 km, though I ended up only doing 204. Anna also made me some great hot-off-the french-press coffee this morning which was about 100x better than the McDonald’s ‘premium’ coffee I’ve become all too used to.

There’s about 1000 kms left in the ride until Miami. I think I can do it in 4 days. I can start to really push myself now that the end is near. Some night riding may happen too, so long as it is safe. Today was also the last really hilly day, which really makes me happy. With the end near, I can’t help but starting to reflect on this crazy adventure. I think I am actually going to miss this ridiculous lifestyle a little. I spend the majority of the day wanting to quit and go home but some days are better than others and I suppose today is one on of them. Reaching Miami will be bittersweet…but mostly sweet I think.

Day 32: Moultrie, Georgia

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Palm trees! I finally saw them as I entered Moultrie, the town I am staying in for the night. But boy was I lucky to finish when I did because the last three kms I could barely keep my bike upright from a really strong wind and storm that was moving in. The possibility of riding through the night to make it to Lake City by morning, which I had been thinking about the entire day, was not to be. So I’m about 800 kms away from the finish, which will take between 3-4 days.

Today was interesting because I wasn’t able to get in touch with my contact for the Richland story and so really thought I would just have to skip it entirely, it being a small town ad me having just the one contact. When I got to downtown Richland, which is small and historic (Richland has a population around 1500), I noticed that Richland Rum, the subject of my story, was staring straight at me. After discovering the door was locked and thinking that was the end of that, I decided to peer inside the building, I noticed someone working in the end. I waved them over and the gentleman let me in without any questions. Seeing as he didn’t ask me any questions, I thought I would cut straight to the chase, so I asked him “do you know me?” thinking my contact for the story would have mentioned something to him about my arrival. He said no. So I explained what this was all about, gave him the name of my contact and told him I couldn’t reach him and that it was weird seeing as he was very supportive of my ride during previous phone calls. Long story short: people in the south are great! Jay was his name, a farmer who also knew a thing or two about distilleries, had his two adorable children with him in the shop (the HOT shop…the AC unit was coming I was told) and was completely fine with doing the photo and video. Pretty amazing when you think about it. Just 5 minutes ago I was about to leave Richland and skip the story, having no choice really, and yet now Jay has saved the day. I had the smallest sip of some of the rum – the really strong stuff Jay made clear- and my spine shivered like it always does when I try hard liquor. But meeting Jay and his kids was just great and learning about the trial and tribulations, as well as the motivation behind opening such a venture like this in a town like Richland (which Jay also made clear has been some better days economically) was really fascinating.

The southern states have all been incredible. I try to detail at least one encounter with a person each day, to give you at least a partial picture of what my day was like, but I’ve met so many great and interesting people in the south it’s too hard to write about them all.

Well it’s 1am and I am beginning to nod off while typing, so I must go. Tomorrow I will shoot the Lake City video (I hope…the scheduling is going to be difficult it looks like) and continue onwards on my great bicycle ride from Alaska to Florida.

Day 33: Lake City, Florida

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Today’s blog is being written in the Lake City Fire Chief’s office. Not bad! After the video was finished with the mayor, I phoned the city clerk, who I had been dealing with to ask her if I could have a quick shower at her house before I began my night ride. She lived too far away and had a better idea anyway- go visit the fire hall two blocks down from city hall and shower there. She met me there 5 minutes later and low and behold, here I am.

I am planning on riding through the night tonight. The weather is too nice, the roads so smooth, and my energy too high to not do it. I also had a major sleep last night and didn’t get started until 9:30 this morning.

Today was just great. The road I spent half the day on wasn’t a state highway, instead it was a local country road that couldn’t have been nicer. The only concern with these country roads are dogs. With all the houses you are bound to run into a few guard dogs that will chase you. I haven’t described any of these chases yet but there definitely have been a few this trip. I seem to be less and less scared about them now because it’s been my experience so far that the dogs just chase and don’t attack. Once you are far enough away from the property they stop. I think every cyclist agrees that the first time a big dog chases you and gets close is a moment of sheer terror. But like a lot of things on this trip, I am getting used to it. Anyway that country road was great as was the state highway I took as well. The roads are in far better condition than in Canada because of the lack of freezing/snow.

I made it to Lake City in good time today, averaging 25.1km/h with no help from the wind – it was all my skinny legs, relative flatness, and smooth roads. I’m recharging my cycling computer and writing this blog before I think I will head out to a seat down restaurant- yes a SIT-DOWN restaurant – for a little relaxation before I being what I hope will be a peaceful night ride. When I was planning this ride, I often thought about riding through the night in Florida and how peaceful and quiet it will be. Let’s hope that happens tonight.

Day 34: Avon Park, Florida

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I rode 140kms through the night tonight. After hanging out with Lake City Fire Department and EMS team, a fun and likeable bunch of people, I headed for the local sports pub recommended to me by one of the firefighters for a big meal before I began my third nightly trek. It was big alright. And delicious and cheap. Boy are the prices down here so much cheaper than Canada. Not to mention the food prices on the Alaska Highway, where a box of granola bars runs you 4- 5 dollars. Anyway, after the meal and a few cups of coffee, I was off.

What a ride It was! Except for the wind being a little unfriendly, this was the perfect Florida night ride I had been waiting for. There was next to no traffic, a sky full of stars, and some of my favorite songs playing as I began looking back on a wild and remarkable 33 days. But of course, I was getting sleepy, so when the motels starting showing up, I thought 140kms was enough and after doing a web update, got about 4 hours sleep before I was back on the road around 11am. That left around 200kms to Avon Park and so by leaving at 11am I was already behind the eight ball.

It was hot and the winds were ‘Dakota-ish’ and I just couldn’t squeeze out the 200kms needed. I did 95k before packing it in and calling my contact in Avon Park to see about getting a ride. I ate at a Denny’s while Laura and Rob (or Ross?) graciously picked me up. They were both great, typical of the friendliness I have been the lucky recipient of over the past 4 and a half weeks. Laura had made arrangements at a local hotel in town called the Jackaranda. It was built in 1926 and as you can see from the pictures, if pretty neat. I also saw a gecko on the hallway wall (see picture) which was also pretty neat, as I hadn’t seen one of them before.

All in all, I rode about 240 kms today, split between two rides. The story is scheduled for tomorrow at 7am. With 285 kms left until Miami, the Campaign for Good News is nearly over.

Day 35: Miami, Florida

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Today was the third longest day by both distance and time riding. I left Avon Park around 8:00 am and in typical fashion, headed for the nearest Subway for breakfast and a coffee. The Avon Park left a real impression on me, learning about the Honor Flights program and sending WW2 veterans to Washington D.C. and giving them a proper hero’s thank you. It was terrific. And so my final day of riding began.

One of the gentleman I spoke with about the story in Avon Park mentioned he had a brother in Miami who would be more than willing to have me spend the night with him, in a town called Coral Gables. We exchanged phone numbers and I waited for a phone call from either him or his brother to see if I had a place to spend the night in Miami. I heard from his brother around noon, a man named Tom. Little did I know Tom would be one of the most interesting and incredible I met the entire trip.

I knew today was going to be a long day, and it sure was. I rode for almost 13 hours today, 2 more than I would have liked, because of headwinds. So rather than cruising into Miami with favorable winds, I had to buckle down and fight a light headwind all day. I think this was a more fitting end to what had become a long and hard trip. I ran into some construction workers about 100 kms into my ride, and in need of water, decided I would ask them for a bottle or two. They gladly handed over a few bottles, which I drank on the spot. As I cooled down from the water, I asked them if there were any alligators around here. They mentioned an alligator exhibit of sorts, where you can pay to see a bunch of them, not 5 kms up the road. Then they told me of a 13 foot gator living under an irrigation pipe on the highway, not 500m up the road. They had been working on this particular section of highway for a long enough time to have seen the gator a few times. Perhaps a little bored from their work paying pylons on the road they offered to see if they could coax him out from under the pipe that ran perpendicular under the highway and show him to me. Thinking the whole thing was pretty silly and it being my last day, I smiled and said sure why not. We went over to the pipe and they tried their usual tactics….to no avail. The gator was elsewhere. I thanked them for the water and continued on.

Today was the final day for many things. The final stop at a gas station for ice and water from their fountain machine. The final funny looks from people inside the gas station and typical questions of what I was doing, where I came from and where I was going. The final Subway sandwich and cookies. The final few litres of Gatorade. The final best wishes from strangers, telling me to be safe.

One interesting thing about today’s ride was an 80km stretch without a service stop – no gas station – no nothing! I couldn’t believe it. My water was long since gone and eagerly awaited the first gas station. One finally came with about 60 kms to go at around 9pm. I also called Tom to tell him I was about 2-3 hours away. I was likely to arrive around midnight. He had no problem with that.
I began to reach the Miami, and what a site it was. Beautiful streets with tall palm trees and smooth roads. Lovely. I arrived at the address I’d been given, in a very affluent neighbourhood. Tom turned out to be 10 years older than his brother. He was 76. I would spend the entire day with Tom tomorrow, learning that he still worked as a mechanical/civil engineer nearly 7 days a week, for himself, by choice. He was an incredible man who had stories like no other. His wife died about 6 years ago he said and I actually spent the night at his friend’s house, a woman named Mary, whose husband had died about 5 years ago too. I learned that they were friends from church, and when Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson about a year ago, Mary helped out a great deal. Tom lived just down the street from Mary.

So there I was, in the house of a woman named Mary, friend of Tom, brother of Steve from Avon Park. This couldn’t have been a more fitting end to this incredible 35 day journey. I’ve received nothing but generosity from complete strangers and this was no exception. You never know who you are going to meet when you are on the road. Sometimes you are just lucky enough to meet incredible people that you can learn a lot from. Tom was one of them. 75 years young and still going strong.

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