Week #17 - Battlefields, The White House & Snow

Monday October 21st to Sunday October 27th

Monday October 21st

The battlefield and the town of Gettysburg in the background

The battlefield and the town of Gettysburg in the background

A section of the Cyclorama painting at the Gettysburg Visitor Center.

A section of the Cyclorama painting at the Gettysburg Visitor Center.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I was staying with a wonderful family: Laurie, Ellie, Terri, Tom, Julie and Josh. They kindly took me to the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center to see the multiple exhibits they have there. And then toured me around the area, taking in all of the battlefields which cover a large area.

At the Visitor’s Center they show an excellently produced movie about the Civil War & Gettysburg’s role in it. They also have a Cyclorama room– a 360° painting of the battlefield which lights up in sections when the story is recounted over the speaker system. The first version of the painting by Paul Philippoteaux was completed exhibited in 1883. It was then lost and rediscovered in 1965. To think that one man painted this massive 360° extremely detailed painting is incredible.

The Gettysburg battlefields, the movie, the cyclorama– it all saddened me. Men and women killing each other, the pain, the lost limbs, the destruction of families, towns and cities. How can we do this to each other? How can we stand on a battlefield and shoot someone, bomb them, tear them apart and possibly leave them mangled for the rest of their lives? I watched the scenes and thought of these young soldiers– terrified, standing courageously under orders, fighting for what they believe in. I understand that sometimes war is necessary– to prevent a holocaust, torture and slavery– the extremely honorable sacrifice of lives for the benefit of humankind. That is amazing! What courage! But I wish war and armies weren’t necessary and I wish that we only went to battle when absolutely necessary. There are too many wars fought for causes that aren’t absolutely necessary. And I realized that I’ve led a very blessed life not to have ever faced war firsthand.

A bright, sunny day with good company. I felt a part of the family I was staying with. They all made me feel so welcome. But I have to keep going. I left Gettysburg and headed to Washington, DC, where Phill and Britt were waiting for me.

In the evening Phill, Britt and myself went for dinner and then a very amusing and wonderful tour of Washington, DC in Phill’s Jeep Wrangler, with the top off. Britt and I would jump out at various sights– The Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, The White House, the World War II Memorial– and Phill would drive around until we were ready to jump back in again. It all felt very SWAT team… Go! Go! Go!… Jump out, tour… “Pick you up on the corner”… Jump back in… Go! Go!Go! It was a great tour, lot’s of fun and all of the monuments were so beautiful at night. Added to that: an almost-full moon, bright white, shining mistily through the clouds above. Surreal.

Tuesday October 22nd

The Old Post Office Tower in Washington DC

The Old Post Office Tower in Washington DC

A sightseeing day in Washington DC. I rode the motorcycle to see the White House– amazing to think I got here! I wasn’t sure that I would. I never am sure that I’ll get anywhere. Every day is a present to be opened and to see what’s inside.

Meanwhile, the embers of my relationship back at home were slowly dying out. It didn’t look like our relationship would survive the journey. It’s been a struggle with me being gone.

After the White House I headed to the Newseum– a museum focused on news and media. I enjoyed the Pullitzer Prize Winning photo exhibit, Ethics in Media exhibit, and the 4D movie with my chair moving and wind blowing. I spent some time in the museum as I wanted to understand how stories are told. I have ideas. Throughout the museum I wondered why we focus on the bad news and misery. What about the good news? News and media has to be truthful, unbiased, and report hapeenings in the world, but must it focus on the deadly, the sadness, and the shocking? Couldn’t it focus on the heroic for example?

Then I went to the Old Post Office Tower and made the climb to the top to see the view over Washington DC, and to see the bells given to the USA by Britain to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities.

In the evening Phill, Britt and I decided to go Geocaching– something that my host Gail in Kenora had told me about. It’s a scavenger hunt via an App on your phone. “Caches” are placed around your city and you hunt for them via the App which provides GPS coordinates, mapping, a description of the location, hints and clues. We found two Goecaches that night and had fun reading the clues and hunting for the small packages left behind by others.

Wednesday October 23rd

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery

Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery

I headed out to see the Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of grave sites. I wondered around for about an hour taking it all in, then headed towards Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

On the way I was riding along country roads and came across Bull Run, or First Manassas as it’s also known. This was the site of the first major conflict in the Civil War. Much like Gettysburg there is a large area of fields preserved from the battle site. I toured the visitor’s center and wondered why I am visiting so many sites of war recently.

I headed for Luray, Virginia. It  was cold, in the 30’s with a severe weather alert: a freeze warning for the night.

I stayed in a nice B&B overlooking the mountains of Shenandoah. Such a beautiful view– whole mountainsides covered in multi-colored trees.

My relationship back home comes to an end. It is sad. We’ve been best friends for two years.

Thursday October 24th

Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns

Now that the journey’s end is a little over a week away and my relationship has dissolved my thoughts are turning more towards how I would like the future to look. Certainly a journey like this makes you not want to return to life as it was. A journey like this shows you other opportunities and possibilities. It makes you realize we are all human and each on our own adventure– no better or worse than any other, just different and unique.  It gives you a sense of community.

I headed out to Luray Caverns to hunt down the organ and hope that it would be playing as I went through the caverns. Arty had challenged me to post a video of the organ playing in return for a donation to charity. I’ve been in a few cave systems and I would say that Luray is one of the most beautiful, with thousands of stalagtites and stalagmites. I recommend a visit. The organ was playing (it plays for every tour group that goes through). They hold several weddings here each year in The Cathedral– the cavern that contains the organ. It’s quite a unique place to get married. I threw coins into the wishing well and made a wish.

My only goal today was to make it to West Virginia, only a few miles away from Luray. I had figured out that West Virginia was the last US state remaining in which to ride the Triumph on the North American continent– a goal I now wanted very much to achieve. Little did I know it would take me right into the cold weather system that was coming through.

Driving over the Shenandoah Mountains and through George Washington National Forest was a dramatic experience in the Fall. Stunning tree-lined roads, mountains roads that climbed and fell steeply with sharp curves. Long straight roads in the valleys with trees that formed multi-colored, natural road tunnels. Beautiful! I made it to the top of the mountains. It was so cold. I kept putting my gloved hands on the engine to warm up my fingers and letting the warmth flow through the rest of my body. It was there that I crossed into West Virginia. Goal achieved! Every single state– me and the Triumph Bonneville.

I had looked at Google Maps and really couldn’t see any town to stop in. I had no plan. It was the afternoon. The plan became: ride through West Virginia until I found a place to stop for the night. I rode through Franklin. The weather was getting colder and colder. The next town was Monterey (back in Virginia), then Hot Springs and Warm Springs. One of these towns should have a place to stay hopefully. 21 miles to Monterey. It was dramatically colder on this side of the mountains and getting colder. I guessed the temperature was in the 40’s and dropping beyond 4pm. By the time I reached Monterey I had been riding through a snow shower for half an hour. Finally snow had caught up with me.

I pulled into Monterey and asked a lady walking across the gas station lot where the next town was, if there was anywhere to stay and eat in Monterey. She advised it would be best to stay in Monterey– not much of anything further on. I realized I was standing there with my teeth chattering. Ok, I was done for the day.

I headed to the motel a block away and booked myself a room. Turn up the thermostat and keep all the layers on. I stepped outside– still snowing. More snow predicted through the night. Temperatures below freezing predicted and into the morning.

I was concerned about the cold the next day and riding in it. I had two days to ride 270 miles to Raleigh, North Carolina where my friends Todd and Meredith were expecting me. The plan for the next day: bundle up as much as possible, get out of Monterey and try to ride at least 50 miles to the east where temperatures promised to be around 15 degrees warmer. If I was lucky I could perhaps make it 135 miles– half way to Raleigh.

Friday October 25th

The snow of the previous evening. Temperatures only went lower!

The snow of the previous evening. Temperatures only went lower!

29°s in the morning, with a high forecast in the 30’s. Six layers of clothes on the top, four layers on the bottom, balaclava, two pairs of gloves, and two pairs of socks. I’d stay as warm as I could. I just had to make it 50 miles over the mountains to the other side. It was the coldest day of the journey so far.

No snow this morning. I half expected the bike to be covered in snow when I woke up but it wasn’t. Blue skies and the sun is shining. Thank you!

I made it over the mountains and I felt relieved. I had stayed warm. I could keep going. The only cold parts of me were my fingertips and my nose. Everything else was A-ok. The journey was beautiful along Route 250 east towards Staunton– a drive I would rate very highly. If you’re ever in the area take Route 250.

I kept going. My thinking was ‘get as far south as you can today and maybe head into warmer weather.’ 135 miles, half way to Raleigh and I still kept going, just in case tomorrow was also a frigid day.

The roads I took through Shenandoah were amazing. Tight mountain switch back turns, 15ph stuff at points. Gorgeous tree lined roads. Then through farmlands. Virginia is gorgeous. I was heading east and then south. Got to keep riding and get as far as I can.

I kept sneezing. I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something. Orange juice. Vitamin C. If I kept going I would also make the 21,000-mile mark. I kept going. 21,000 miles! Made it! And Raleigh– I made it the whole way! 270 miles today. How on earth did I do that?

I found a room at La Quinta because I was now a day ahead of schedule and Todd & Meredith hadn’t received my message in time that I had made it to Raleigh. I didn’t want to inconvenience them at the last minute. I was feeling more ill. I headed to Walgreens to buy cold medicine and then went to bed hoping I would sleep the symptoms off.

Saturday October 26th

I woke up with a full blown cold and feeling run down. I didn’t want to get Todd & Meredith sick so I booked another night at La Quinta, stayed in my room, slept, watched a movie (“Craigslist Joe”), blogged a little, ate, rested and rested more– as much as possible. Tomorrow I had to be back on the road to keep on schedule for the finish line in Miami. My hope was that I would wake up feeling well enough to ride 250 miles as planned.

Watching “Craigslist Joe” I felt some affinity with his journey. We had very different journeys and I would say his was harder than mine since I never had to sleep in such rough conditions or stay up until 4am with nowhere to lay my head. I’ve been very blessed with comfortable rooms in people’s houses and motels. But there are certain commonalities– the sense of community, the not knowing where you are going to stay, listening to people’s stories, the generosity of people, inspiring people and being inspired, touching moments, gifts, feeling you’d been with someone for a month when it had only been two days, the sadness of poverty, having to leave people behind– all this is the same.

Sunday October 27th

Todd & Meredith welcome me in North Carolina.

Todd & Meredith welcome me in North Carolina.

My plan was to go to church. However, because my cold had prevented me from seeing Todd & Meredith yesterday as planned I made them the priority and headed to their place for breakfast with them before setting out on the road. We caught up and spent a few hours together, after 6 or so years of not seeing each other. I was wonderful to see them.

Day #3 of my cold. Not feeling great on the road isn’t very much fun. I managed to ride 150 miles or so before the light of the day set behind the horizon and I quickly found a place to stay. The temperatures were up in the 60’s today and I can’t tell you how good that felt after the recent cold weather. There’ll be no more cold weather from here on out. It’ll just get hotter and hotter. And I am looking forward to it!

Exactly one week until I cross the finish line. It’s beginning to feel very close and very far away. Right around the corner but a world away from mine for the last four months. It’s going to be very strange, very different, and it’s going to take some getting used to. I arrive in South Carolina. This is the final stretch towards home.

 

 

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Week #16 - The Hamptons, New Jersey, Delaware and on to Maryland

Monday October 14th to Sunday October 20th

Monday October 14th

The Montauk Lighthouse

The Montauk Lighthouse

I was staying in Montauk with Courtney and Tim. We had an affinity and shared plenty of laughs. I would ride around The Hamptons today, see what they are all about and return to stay a second night. Tim kindly mapped out a list of things to see and I set out for the day.

First order of business: visit the Montauk Lighthouse at the end of the island. The lighthouse sits on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. Slowly the bluff is being eroded. The lighthouse was authorized to be built by Congress under George Washington in 1792. It’s the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the USA. I climbed the tower to the top on a clear-sky day and could see far off across the ocean, along the sandy beaches, and across the State Park inland. A gorgeous view.

I drove back to Sag Harbor to see the super yachts. There were only a couple left in the harbor. Perhaps all the others had already gone south. They weren’t particularly “super” either. I think in October I’d already missed seeing the best of the best.

I headed to Shelter Island but didn’t take the ferry across due to time. Next, Tim had told me that the biggest house in the USA was along Peter’s Pond Lane to the south. I found it and to get view I took a sandy side road towards the beach. It was a big house for sure. Who needs that much space I wondered.

I then headed towards Southampton but weekend traffic exiting The Hamptons, going back to New York City etc was very heavy. I ended up on Dune Road along the coast instead and found all of the big, modern homes Tim had recommended I see. They are something to behold and the sit right on the beach, which I decided to walk along for an hour or so.

Everywhere I went in The Hamptons I was taken by how many homes were for sale. They were everywhere. I don’t know why. Perhaps hard times have hit The Hamptons. There are many, many homes on the market.

Tuesday October 15th

UrbanPromise children gather around the motorcycle for a time of sharing and questions

UrbanPromise children gather around the motorcycle for a time of sharing and questions

A grueling day. A rushed day. A long day. Probably the longest and most jam-packed day of the whole journey so far.

I started in Montauk, leaving Courtney and Tim behind and headed for a lunch appointment with a friend at Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York City. Lunch had been arranged for noon. It took about 2.5 hours to ride there. I think I was about 10 minutes late. Sadly, my lunch with Amanda was rushed and cut short as I had to be back on the road at 1pm to keep my schedule. But it was good to see her and we had enough time to catch up a decent amount, so I’m very glad we made the effort to make it happen.

I left the heart of Manhattan at just after 1pm with the thought in mind that I had arranged to meet all of the UrbanPromise children in Wilmington, Delware at 4pm. It would be a close call. I was thrilled to be riding in the madness of Manhattan. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and I laughed with unbelief that I was riding my motorcycle down Madison Avenue, Avenue of the Americas, W 56th Street and 5th Avenue.

I rode like the wind and arrived at UrbanPromise Wilmington at 3 minutes to 4pm. Thank goodness for answered prayers! I made it. The children were ready for me and we all gathered in a large room with a projection screen on the stage showing my route. As always we talked about my journey, why I’m doing it (to support the children I was talking to because I believe in them), what I’ve seen along the way, and asked them what their dreams were. We went out to see the motorcycle and they asked enthusiastic questions. I get such joy out of meeting the UrbanPromise children. It’s always a high.

Then I had to ride back up into New Jersey, to Deptford Township where I was going to be staying for the next few nights. Deptford Township was perfectly located for my upcoming schedule.

Wednesday October 16th

Princeton Theological Seminary

Princeton Theological Seminary

UrbanPromise Trenton children gather around... "wheelie! wheelie! wheelie!"

UrbanPromise Trenton children gather around… “wheelie! wheelie! wheelie!”

I was scheduled to meet and talk to the UrbanPromise Trenton, New Jersey children today, at 4pm. That gave me enough time to head into Philadelphia first to do some sightseeing.

I drove around the historic city for a short while and then parked the bike so I could visit The Liberty Bell. Philly didn’t feel safe to be leaving the bike at all. I left it in a supervised lot and walked to The Liberty Bell. I was confused when I got to the bell– it’s just behind glass? You can’t go in and see it? Only see it from the outside? That’s odd. And then it dawned on me that we were still under a ‘Government Shutdown’. Well, I was able to see it through the window thankfully.

I walked the cobblestoned streets for a while, taking photos and then decided I’d like to drive up to Princeton and see it’s Theological Seminary. So I did. It wasn’t that far. The campus is quaint houses, historic churches and buildings, intermingled with trees turning all colors. Beautiful! It was quiet and peaceful and brought a smile after the unsafe feeling of being in Philly with the bike.

I arrived at UrbanPromise Trenton on time. I was surprised by Trenton. Some of it is beautiful historic stone buildings, like the State Capitol building with it’s dome. Other parts of Trenton were old houses that could have been beautiful if they’d been kept up. But they were located in poor neighborhoods, which seemed to cover large sections of the city.

My time with the UP Trenton children was rewarding as always and followed the same format, except this time the children got the additional thrill of me riding around the parking lot for them. They chanted, “wheelie! wheelie! wheelie!” but I can’t do a wheelie on the Bonneville. Instead I rode it through cones for them, hoping that would satisfy them instead.

Antonio, who works at UrbanPromise Trenton, told me that it was so good that we focused on the children’s dreams. He said many have lost hope or didn’t have dreams (what’s the point of having a dream if it’s never, ever going to be fulfilled?)

And I left Trenton after meeting an elderly lady, Edna, with HIV who was in tears. We sat and talked. She cried. She was glad to have someone to listen to her. But I left Trenton quite depressed. I couldn’t shake the feeling of a black cloud hanging over me. The poverty, the rundown houses, Edna, the UrbanPromise kids who are scared to dream– all left me with a heavy feeling.

I felt like Trenton was a prison for most there. Invisible bars of economic hardship and no way out. Horrible. And I only sensed the despair as I drove through. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live there. We must help our own people!

Thursday October 17th

UrbanPromise Camden children gather to talk about their dreams

UrbanPromise Camden children gather to talk about their dreams

One thing on the agenda today– ride to UrbanPromise Camden, New Jersey, get there at 2pm to speak with the children at first UrbanPromise center, opened 25 years ago.

Camden, New Jersey– billed as the most dangerous and poor city in the United States.

Joan, my host for the last couple of days warned me to be careful in certain sections of Camden. I’d also recalled the account of my Pastor, Hallie visiting this very center and being stopped in her car on the way into Camden and asked, “where are you going?” They let her and her friends go on when they mentioned UrbanPromise. So it was with some trepidation that I entered Camden on my motorcycle. Perhaps it was the route I took but I didn’t feel threatened or in harm’s way. In fact I thought Trenton was perhaps in worse condition than Camden from the standpoint of poverty. Camden has come along in the last few years. There are efforts to help.

UrbanPromise Camden is a unique center because it has a school that serves 600 children (out of 30,000 children in Camden). The school serves elementary through high school ages. I met with Jodina, the Executive Director, and then went into a full assembly room of children. All of the school children were there. As always, so friendly, all smiling, all wanted to say hello. They had made a big poster with their dreams on streamers taped across it. They had made a mobile out of a stick, string and pine cones which they had painted (it looked really good!). And after my presentation and talking about their dreams they sang two songs and also performed a drum piece. It was all quite spectacular.

I sat afterwards with Dr. Bruce Main, President and Founder of UrbanPromise. We chatted for a while about my journey and then he gave me a tour of the school. Wow, what a school! The children are in excellent hands. I would say much better than your average school. The children here are always affirmed, built up, they feel good to be at school, they go through an amazing ‘rite of passage’ camping and hiking trip before high school graduation, they are loved, they are given attention, they are given what they need to succeed in this world. To be honest I was quite envious– I wish I had gone to a school like this! I think most of us would feel the same if you saw the school too. It is a place where children blossom to their full potential. Yes, there should be an UrbanPromise center in every city in the USA, and beyond.

Friday October 18th

Friday Lunch Club at UrbanPromise Camden, with Dr. Bruce Main, UP high school students and local business people (UP mentors).

Friday Lunch Club at UrbanPromise Camden, with Dr. Bruce Main, UP high school students and local business people (UP mentors).

Dr. Main had invited me back for an unscheduled additional meeting with the UP Camden high school students– at the weekly Friday Lunch Club. At the Lunch Club local business people (mentors) from the surrounding cities come in and have lunch with the high school students.

On this particular Friday Dr. Main had me push the motorcycle into the lunch room. I was quite amused by this. I thought it was great! So did everyone else (who had no idea why it was there).

We all grabbed lunch, had an ice-breaking few minutes where we all met someone new, and then Dr. Main invited me up to the front for a Q&A session. Following on from me was the two Directors of UrbanPromise Malawi who had flown in to provide an update to everyone on how things were going there and to describe what school was like at UP Malawi. The whole lunch was extremely inspiring for everyone in attendance.

Then off to Lancaster, PA. I had promised Joan, my host, that we would take a ride together through the farmlands and Amish country for a nice afternoon trip. It was a long ride and Joan was surprised to find Lancaster not as she remembered it. But the rolling hills and woods of the farmlands was totally worth the journey. It was a good day!

Later I wrote a text to an MSPC member: “Coming to the fore now are thoughts of the journey ending. It both seems far off (something that doesn’t seem real) and something very close (two weeks away). I wonder what on earth God has in store for me next. I don’t want to go back to doing what I was before, I want to keep doing some kind of missionary work like this, whether it’s in Miami or beyond. What shape it might take, if it happens, I just don’t know. I cannot wait to get back to Miami to see all the dreams on Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. I sincerely feel that I have been doing one of the most important things of my life. I have new hopes and dreams that have risen in my heart because of this journey. I’m looking forward to heeding my own advice… “Just take the next step and leave the rest to God”… And starting on the next adventure. The next adventure won’t look like this one but I hope it’s just as important.”

Saturday October 19th

I had thought that perhaps I could make it to both Washington DC and then to Annapolis, Maryland. It became apparent that I couldn’t do both and so I decided just to head to Annapolis.

Annapolis was such a shock to my system after four days in Wilmington, Trenton and Camden. Annapolis was a pleasant shock. It was the opposite of everything I had seen in the last few days. All of a sudden I had gone from desperate poverty to idyllic quaintness and prosperity. My system had somehow adjusted to scenes of difficulties. To now be in a world of marinas, boats, farmer’s markets, coffee shops, men and women in sharp-dressed uniforms, cobbled streets and 1800’s storefronts, so close to all the poverty was a welcome relief to be honest.

Sunday October 20th 

Into town with my hosts Laurie and her daughter Ellie, and two other couch surfers Phill and Britt who were also staying at Brian, Laurie, and Ellie’s house. Grabbed some breakfast and I split off from the group to attend church at First Presbyterian of Annapolis. I found out later that the church was one of our MSPC member’s home church, and where her parents are buried. Small world, all the time.

The message for me today: persistence and stewardship. Interesting. Very. I can’t really explain at this time other than to say that I wonder if stewardship will play a role in my future somehow. The word had came up weeks and weeks prior to this and it’s been rolling around my brain ever since. We’ll see. I think stewardship fits quite nicely with one of the things I sing to myself in my helmet sometimes (and when walking through woods when no one is around)… “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” I love singing those lines and it makes me recall where everything in this world originates from, and that we must look after it all properly and to the best of our ability.

Phill and Brittany packed up and left for Washington DC. I packed up to head to Gettysburg, PA– a place I had wanted to visit. Before Phill and Britt left they offered me a place to stay in Washington DC, which I gratefully accepted! Then I rode out along the expressway and along route 140 towards Gettysburg where I was spotted on the road by a couple who photographed me riding along from their car, and then later sent me the photo via Facebook. Pretty cool!

I arrived in Gettysburg. I had been told there’s not much there. It isn’t true! There’s lots to see and do in Gettysburg. It’s a small town, very historic, well-maintained, plenty on offer for the tourist, and it is surrounded by well-preserved historic sites from the Civil War. It’s well worth a visit.

Journey’s end creeps closer. Today is exactly two weeks away from crossing the finish line. Real life back home seems like a million miles and hours away from today. Completely unreal. I can’t grasp the reality of it.

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Week #14 – New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire

Monday September 30th – Sunday October 6th

Day 93 – Monday September 30th

I departed Burlington, Ontario and by 10:30 am I was in the heart of the city of Toronto to meet with an old friend, Julia. We hadn’t been in touch for perhaps 6 years. Back then we’d had a falling out and severed ties. It was time for reconciliation. I felt like God was guiding me in that direction and Julia had reached out to me. We sat for an hour or so talking about our present lives. Zero re-hashing of the past. We just moved on. Reconciled.

Six or seven years ago was not a happy time. The economy, investments, the real estate market all seemed to be booming, just before it all crashed in on us. It was a time of stress, panic attacks and visits to the hospital for me. We all felt the pressure. I look back and wonder: are material possessions, prosperity, “keeping up with the Joneses,” and “success” worth the pressure and heartache it can bring along with it?  I would say “no.”

We know that jobs, marriages, houses, friendships and businesses were lost during those years of the crash. For me, ad agencies closed down and a total of two years of unemployment followed. My American Dream suburban life fell apart. I look back now and I am very thankful for it. I feel those “bleak winter years” were instrumental in my growth– years in which I came to give up on my own strength and look to God more than ever for guidance and wisdom. He became the only person left to trust, certainly not myself. That is a priceless lesson to learn, a great gift to be received.

Years later it seems that I am in a place where I have grown enough that those lost relationships can be mended. It’s not of my doing. They’ve come as a gift. Before and during this journey I’ve been contacted by old friends that I lost ties with. We’ve been in contact because I had come to their minds and they reached out, not knowing anything about what I was doing, or we ran into each other somewhere. Life-events that all of a sudden brought us together again. I attribute these mended relationships to God because there’s no other way that four people would all come out of the woodwork at the same time, within a few months of each other. You know when God works. I feel very blessed. Thanks for mended relationships! Thanks that I am in a place that they can be!

I headed out of a wet Toronto wanting to get out of the bad weather as soon as I could. Riding 100 to 250 miles per day you can almost discount the weather report because guaranteed the weather will change further on down the road. The key is to keep optional clothing close at hand, to be able to add or remove clothing as required.

I headed to Niagara Falls, the US border and New York State where the rain had stopped and the skies were bluer. I’d been to Niagara Falls before so I rode up and down the road slowly, looking over the wall along the sidewalk and viewing the Falls from the motorbike. If I stood up on the foot rests I could see plenty. No need to get off, pay for parking and walk amongst swarming crowds of tourists. I’m too used to the peace of wide open spaces with hardly anyone around. Three months into my journey I prefer places without hordes of people. If there’s an attraction with lots of people at it I will often keep riding and leave it behind.

The border crossing was easy. Perhaps the customs and immigration officer was a motorcycle rider. I had a feeling he was. It was a pleasant experience.

I headed towards Liverpool, NY just outside of Syracuse. Liverpool– the soccer team in the UK that I support and therefore what made me choose to come and see Liverpool, NY. I had found a CouchSurfing host– Becca greeted me with 5 enthusiastic dogs. Bounce, bounce, bounce! They all kept me laughing that evening.

Colgate University campus, Hamilton, New York

Colgate University campus, Hamilton, New York

Day 94 – Tuesday October 1st

Liverpool, NY is 50 miles or so from Colgate, University. A few days previously Rev. Hallie at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church had sent me a note– “are you going anywhere near Colgate University?” I was. Hallie suggested I should visit with Jenna, a former high school leader of MSPC’s youth group. I contacted Jenna and she had set up a lunch at the University with the Chaplain and 20 or so other students.

I rode the 45 miles through the rolling hills and winding roads of New York State, along Route 20, through beautiful towns such as Cazenovia. Colgate University is located on a hillside and was surrounded by autumnal trees, in the midst of the Village of Hamilton, Hamilton has a population of around 4,000 people. The school is ranked 13th on Forbes top liberal arts colleges, which is quite fitting since the university’s lucky number is 13. The school is said to be founded by 13 men with 13 dollars, 13 prayers and 13 articles. Colgate’s address is 13 Oak Drive. The university’s zip code is 13346 (begins with 13 and the remaining three numbers add up to 13). The senior honor society is comprised of 13 men and 13 women. Colgate Day each year is Friday the 13th. Oddly, my lucky number is also 13 and so was my father’s. And a couple of days before my visit I had laughed when I noticed that I had pumped $13.13 worth of gas at pump #13.

Jenna, myself, “Putter” the Chaplain and 20 students gathered in the chapel. We ate pizza, drank soda and I told them about my journey. We collected all of their dreams and they asked plenty of questions. I read them a passage from the epilogue of Bob Goff’s “Love Does” book which talks about your next steps– how do you put love into action? Focus on what you love to do, what you were created to do (look at your likes and dislikes, talents and gifts, what excites you) and take the next step. Watch what happens…

It was a great time together. Putter, Jenna, and two other students, Sam and Jeff, gave me a tour of the chapel, we prayed in the parking lot, and Jenna then gave me a walking tour of the rest of the campus.  It is consistently named as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the snow. There are 2,300 trees on the 515-acre hillside property.

Before I leave Jenna gave me a challenge: to find her a funky pair of socks. (They have already been shipped to her.)

I rode back to Liverpool along Route 20. Everybody at Colgate was saying that the weather was unseasonably warm. It made my ride back a joy. The leaves have turned color and now they were starting to fall and cover the ground. They drop, float to the ground with a kind of delicate sadness. Like a lazy fall to sleep, gently leaving a previous time behind. Occasionally they would blow off in a shower that I would ride through, like giant colorful snowflakes wafting to the floor. I ride through the cloud going “weee, whoa, hahahahahaha.

IMG_4465_rtchdDay 95 – Wednesday October 2nd

I left Liverpool, Becca and the five bouncing doggies behind. Becca left me with a challenge– go to Fenway Park and take a photo there. She would donate to SNORT: Short Noses Only Rescue Team. SNORT’s mission: to rescue short nosed dogs (French Bulldogs etc) from shelters and homes that can no longer look after them, and place them into new homes. Becca had been babysitting Roxy, one of the dogs featured on the SNORT website. Roxy also has her own Facebook page with hundreds of followers. Since my visit Roxy has been placed in her new happy home.

I was on my way to Rutland, Vermont– about half of the return journey to the Mount Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire where I would make a second attempt at riding to the top, if the weather permitted. The mountain is famous for dangerously erratic weather. Until 2010 it held the world’s record for the highest wind gust measured on the earth’s surface, at 231mph.

It was a somewhat cold start to the day but the day turned beautiful later. I took the Adirondack Trail through the mountains seeing leaves of many colors. It was prime “leaf-peeping” season. Golds, browns, reds and yellows. The leaves were beginning to fall in showers that would come towards my helmet as I rode through them. Sometimes there were patches of leaves lying in the road. I would ride through them and watch them climb up into the air in my rear view mirror, swirling up behind the bike. I stop many times for photos.

I stopped at a gas station in the mountains to refuel and met Tom Murphy. We talked for a long time. His dream is to ride to Alaska. He wanted to hear my stories and all about the experience of riding there.

I had found a place to stay in Rutland with Couch Surfing host, Christine. I was looking forward to the visit and hearing all about her profession as a Circus Teacher. We met at the gymnastics school that she teaches at. The owner of the school is Shelby, who’s birthday it was that day. Christine, myself, Shelby and her boyfriend Chris all went into the heart of Rutland to listen to an open mic night, and to hear Chris play guitar and sing for Shelby. I met the owner of the pub, Steve, who happened to be English. He’d grown up in London and told me all about all the motorbikes he’d owned and how rough it used to be in London in the 70’s.

IMG_4484_rtchdDay 96 – Thursday October 3rd

I headed east along Route 4 in Vermont, and then north along route 100. This is a National Geographic “Drive of a Lifetime”. I was given a book as a gift with 500 drives of a lifetime. I’m trying to do as many as I can on my journey. This route is truly a drive of a lifetime at this time of year with the leaves so many different colors. Through the green covered mountains that are now a solid golden brown and yellow. The leaves are falling. A few trees have lost all of their leaves and are a ghostly grey, they are now whisps of their previous selves. The weather is like a summers day. Blue skies and hot. Days like this on the bike are an extreme joy. I thank God and the beauty puts butterflies in my stomach. I would consider living in central Vermont, historic towns with old wood paneled buildings, towns founded in the late 1700’s.

I stopped in Waterbury in the center of Vermont where Routes 100 and 2 meet and met Mike. He was working behind the sandwich counter at the gas station. In his mid-thirties, long brown/grey hair, tied back in a pony tail, and a beard. He made me a great Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and we talked. He’s not the owner of the station but he has big dreams and plans. He wants to bring in car hops to serve food in the parking lot, he wants to start “dinner and a movie” night there for families, and on other nights have bands and comedians performing in the back parking lot. He’s very happy and content. He worked behind a desk for 20 years or so. He gave that up, took a big pay cut, and is now very happy doing what he’s doing. He gave me a dollar coin to keep with me on my journey as good luck. He was the nicest guy in the world.

Some of the houses in Vermont have the look of the Adams Family’s house. I’ve never seen houses quite like them in other locations.

View of the Mount Washington Auto Road

View of the Mount Washington Auto Road

Day 97 – Friday October 4th

I had made it back to Gorham for the second time– the town 8 miles from the base of Mount Washington. I got up and called the Mount Washington office, “are you allowing motorcycles up the mountain today?”. “Yes, it’s beautiful up there right now.” they reply.

It had occurred to me that had I been able to ride up the mountain when I was first here it would have been with a rear tire without much tread left on it. I had since been to Toronto and got myself a brand new back tire. I was ready, on this second attempt, to come down steep mountain roads with a good back wheel. I felt much relieved about that. Everything happens for a reason.

The ride up and down the mountain was not a disappointment. The view from the top is quite dramatic since the mountain is the highest for miles around. On a good day you can see the Atlantic Ocean from the top, they say. The road starts lined with beautiful autumnal trees, then as you climb higher you come to alpine pine, and higher still you come to tundra. Most of it is well paved but there is a steep section of hard packed dirt. Thank goodness for the new rear tire. I enjoyed the experience so much I rode up and down the mountain twice.

Then, off to Laconia, home of the biggest annual motorcycle rally in the US. It was the time of year for the rally but I wanted to see what Laconia was like and spend some time riding the roads that would be empty of the hordes of motorcycles at rally time.

Laconia sits on a lake and is pretty nondescript, nothing to bring people out for. Obviously they come for the roads. The leaf-peepers are out. Motel rates are up from just last week. It’s “leaf season.”

Day 98 – Saturday October 5th

I spent the day riding around the roads of New Hampshire, north to the White Mountains, which are dramatic in places with gorges, falls and steep granite cliff faces. Combined with multi-colored trees the region is quite something to behold.

I ride a circuitous route and headed to my final destination of Manchester in the south. I thought about Bob Goff’s comment in an email to me, “let me know what you learn.” I’ve learned, and I’m convinced, that our dreams turn into our stories, that turn into relationships, that all culminates in our legacy. That there is nothing new under the sun as it says in the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1:9). I’ve learnt that I personally draw closer to those that support my dreams and increase the distance from those that don’t. It’s just my natural tendency to do that. I can’t help it. I’m thinking continually of new jobs, the next step, new projects, new ideas. We’ll see what comes to fruition following the trip. I hope some of it.

I ride through Campton, New Hampshire. There are big old wooden houses here. Rolling hills and tree lined roads. I’m naturally gravitating continually to these roads and staying away from big towns.

Going through the White Mountains there are hundreds of East Indian people and I wonder why. There are more East Indians than anyone else. Whole families traveling together. I stayed at Hill Brook Motel that night and the owner was Indian. I asked him about this phenomenon. He said its a close knit community that follows each other, and he’d been noticing the same thing as I.

BPC-Home-Page-Church

Bedford Presbyterian Church, New Hampshire

Day 99 – Sunday October 6th

Bedford Presbyterian Church was just down the road from the motel. I headed there in the rain. A gentleman was climbing out of his car and I asked, “Is this the presbyterian church?” It was. I parked and walked in wearing full wet rain gear, helmet and all.

Bedford, just outside Manchester, New Hampshire is a beautiful residential area. The church has the oldest Presbyterian sanctuary in the state of New Hampshire. The church itself was built in 1832. It was World Communion Sunday, which was started in 1936 by the Presbyterian Church as a way to offer peace around the world.

The sermon was from Psalm 137– it’s tone is one of grief stricken agony. The message– you don’t always have to be joy, joy, joy when you go to church. Bring all of your feelings to church and be honest with God. This pain is part of life. Bring your laments to God and worship. Get real with God and open yourself up.

Afterwards I was introduced to a smiling Rev. Karen Hagy who was delighted to hear about my journey and show me where to go to get coffee and join the adult study group. It was such a joy to be greeted so warmly and genuinely by Karen and everyone else. I joined the study group that was studying  “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, based on his near-death experience. We had a lively discussion about science and religion. At least three people were science teachers who believe in God and the Bible, who believe (like myself) that science points to God not away from God. And if only others could see it. At times the conversation got technical and scientific. We were all animated and excited to be talking amongst like-minded people. We talked about our dreams. I talked of how I’m becoming increasingly convinced that those dreams come out of our core from who we’re created to be. That our dreams need to be affirmed and supported by others because we are therefore affirming what God has created. One science teacher, Eric, was fascinated by my journey because he was currently reading and discussing “Into the Wild”, the story of Chris MacCandless in Alaska.

Rev. Hagy gave me an envelope with supreme joy, containing money that I was to pass along to someone in need that I met along the way. I still have the envelope. I’m looking forward to meeting that person. She also gave me money to help with my journey, which astounded me. It’s extremely touching and affirming of what I am doing. Words aren’t enough to express the gratitude. It was a very pleasant shock.

I drove in the rain. I thought of trying to communicate what the visibility of driving in the rain has been like sometimes. Imagine driving your car in the rain with no windshield wipers and then breathing on the window and steaming it up. That’s the visibility I’m dealing with on occasions, such as this day.

I headed into Boston to secure the photo of Fenway Park for Becca. She’d promised to donate to SNORT: Short Noses Only Rescue Team if I got the photo. It was wet and raining. In and out of Boston. Had it been sunny maybe I would have stayed around because I would love to spend some time in Boston, but the rain forced me to go somewhere else, anywhere else, where I wouldn’t be soaked.

I headed along the expressway. Visibility not great. Cars surrounding me on the expressway. Riding at speed on wet, busy roads. I was getting cold. The battery was dying on the phone (no more GPS directions), I was hungry, tired, and I’d had enough. I had to find somewhere to stay and call it a day. I prayed for a Motel 6 and got one at the next exit. That made me laugh and smile. Within half an hour I was in a dry room getting warm. Oh thank you God!

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Week #12 - Quebec City to Halifax, Nova Scotia

Monday, September 16th to Sunday, September 22nd

Inside the Notre Dame Basilica in Quebec City

Inside the Notre Dame Basilica in Quebec City

This really could be France.

This really could be France.

Montmercy Falls at night. The suspension bridge above the falls.

Montmercy Falls at night. The suspension bridge above the falls.

 

 

Day 77 – Monday September 16th

Woke up in Annie and Samuel’s house in Quebec City. Annie had very kindly left me a key to get in and out. She doesn’t normally do that with couch surfers. I felt honored that she felt comfortable with me to give me a key to the house, so I could leave when I was ready. Annie and Samuel had both already left for work for the day.

I spent some time in the morning reading (2 Corinthians 9:6-12) and I noted in my Journal the verses. It struck a cord. It encouraged me. I hope it encourages others. When the time has come for a need to be supplied on this journey it has been provided. I want to recognize that and say “thank you!”

Thoughts followed on… Mario (in Montreal) said the world is all about relationships. It all comes down to that. That’s why prayer is important. It’s relational. And our dreams… they become our stories, our stories become relationships, our lives are relationships built of stories. The best stories begin with our dreams because our dreams are the seeds that sprout from our core, the essence of us.

Mario also said that there are reflections in everything. He said look at the lightening in the sky and look at how brain synapses fire– they look the same. There are repeated patterns all around us.

I headed out to wander for a few hours around old Quebec City. It took me about four times of driving around the old walls before I found a parking spot, because they don’t allow ugly, loud motorcycles in the quaint old city. Good for them! It makes the old city such a tranquil place.

I visited the Notre Dame Basilica. So much gold above the alter! It’s huge! I walked most of the city and loved it. Such a beautiful place. You feel like you’re in old France. I sat in Plaza Royale and had a big bowl of cafe latte (the French way) and a chicken and Brie sandwich. Ahh, old Europe! Here it is in the middle of Canada.

I walked down the picturesque Champlain and back up the steep hill to see the Chateau – the most photographed hotel in the world. Annie told me later that there is a race (or challenge) each year to see how many steps each person can go up– who can last the longest. Old Quebec City is built partly on top of a cliff, and partly below it. It’s a tiring climb from the bottom to the top.

Around 4 I headed back to Annie and Samuel’s. They were both home from work. Annie had very nicely offered to drive me over to Ile d’Orlean. I had heard that the island (the size of Manhattan) was very picturesque. And it is! Out of all the places I’ve seen, it is Ile d’Orlean that I would love to move to. Historic houses and farmlands everywhere. All of the houses must be kept up to standard and of the period. Red tin roofs, matching shutters on the windows, white wood paneling, farms, apple and strawberry fields, views of the St. Lawrence River and the mountains beyond. We bought fresh apples and blueberries.

Then Annie took me to see Montmercy Falls. I was impressed from the observation decks and suspension bridge over the falls. The falls were all lit up at night. Annie said that people will ice climb the frozen portion of the falls in the winter, are they mad?!? And that people die in the undercurrents in the river above the falls each year, where you’re not supposed to swim.

Day 78 – Tuesday, September 17th

It was a cold night last night. Close to freezing. It feels much better this morning. Annie and Samuel have already left for work. I get ready. We leave each other “nice to meet you!” notes. They’ll always be welcome in Miami, along with everyone else that I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

I head out towards Woodstock, New Brunswick. I started with the intention of taking the expressways out of the city, but somehow managed to find myself right in the middle of Quebec City again. A wrong turn. But as always, a wrong turn brings pleasure. I got to ride all the way through the city and see more of the other residential areas. I would definitely consider living in Quebec City. It is charming.

It was a chilly 16°C along the St. Lawrence River and it began to rain. From warm clothes to piling on the layers and the waterproofs. I stop at Tim Horton’s for a warming cup of tea. I love hearing “Bonjour!” when I walk in. It sounds great.

Back on the Trans Canada Highway. I’ve ridden almost the whole length of it now! Getting closer to the end of it.

I crossed the border into New Brunswick– the only officially bilingual province in Canada– and discovered that I’d crossed a time zone and lost an hour. It’s much better going west and gaining hours. I had incorrectly expected the time change in Nova Scotia. Oh well, better get going before it gets dark on me!

It did get dark before I reached Woodstock. I had misjudged. I don’t like riding in the dark for a couple of reasons– the headlight on the Booneville is honestly pathetic. It gives light for about 10 yards. I need to do something about this when I return to Miami. And secondly, the wildlife starts coming out and visibility drops. I do not want to be hitting a moose, deer or bear. I would never see them coming. But this evening I did end up riding in the dark for about an hour.

After dinner I stayed in my room and watched “Into The Wild”, the story of Christopher McCandless and his adventure into Alaska, where he ultimately died. I wondered, “what do our journeys have in common?” Travel, Alaska, not the way of living, introspection, people that we met in our separate travels. We have very different stories. He really was in the wild. I wasn’t. Not like he was. He was gone for a couple of years. I’m gone for four months. I noted in my journal some of his last thoughts that he wrote as he was dying alone in the wilds of Alaska… “When you forgive you love, when you love God’s light shines on you”, “happiness is only real when it’s shared”, “to call each thing by its right name”, and finally he writes “I’ve lived a good life, thank you Lord. God bless you all!” He died at the age of 24 after 113 days living in a abandoned bus in the Alaskan bush outside of Denali National Park. I did not know until now that that my journey took me within a few miles of where he died.

Day 79 – Wednesday, September 18th

A lovely sunny day! A bit chilly, but beautifully sunny. Autumn trees of all colors through New Brunswick. Wild, I didn’t expect it. I visit the world’s longest covered bridge in Hartland and blow through it twice. Great fun! I head towards Prince Edward Island. I think I can just about visit the island for one day. I spent the day just focused on riding to Prince Edward Island and I made it to Summerside. I don’t know why I decided to make a left and go to a smaller town, rather than going right and heading to PEI’s main town, Charlottetown. To get on the island I rode over the Confederation Bridge, 8 miles long!

At one point during the day a wasp flew into my helmet. I couldn’t quite figure out where it was or how it was stuck there. All I could see was it crawling across the lower rim of my visor. If it was outside my visor– great! But how could it stay there at 60mph? Perhaps it was inside my visor? If it was inside it was highly likely to blow up into my face. It freaked me out and wouldn’t leave. It was a few miles before I could pull of the highway. By the time I stopped it had vanished. I don’t know when or how it vanished, but very thankful it wasn’t sitting on my face or stuck somewhere inside my helmet.

Day 80 – Thursday, September 19th

Yesterday Alison Etter, a minister at Greenward United Church in Cape Bretton, accepted my couch surfing request to come and stay with her in Baddeck. Funnily enough, Alison had seen Rev. Hallie’s Facebook post at the beginning of my journey on the Young Clergy Women’s Facebook page. Alison immediately recognized my story and wrote back, “yes, come and stay! I read about your journey a while ago!”

Before I set off for the 250 miles or so to Cape Breton I decided to ride around Prince Edward Island and see as much of it as I could. I definitely wanted to see Ann of Green Gables’ house. It was here that Ann of Green Gables was set. I followed what I thought were the signs to the house on the other side of the island. The signs took me on a very scenic and roundabout journey around the northwestern end of the island, down country lanes, through farmlands, and no towns or villages until much later.

On the way I blew past a church that looked like something from Disney World. A Cinderella’s Castle of a church. “What was that?!?!” I turned around and went back to take photos. It was in the middle of nowhere, tucked in the midst of fields. It turns out it was St. Mary’s Church where they hold the Indian River Music Festival, and according to the infallible Internet, “due to the acoustics it is one of the top 10 places in the world for concerts”.

I found Ann of Green Gables house. I snuck a peek around the Visitor Welcome center and took a photo that way, but didn’t want to pay the $7 or so to get in. It was more important to me to see the villages and the surrounding countryside of Cavendish– that was what inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write her novel.

It was a beautiful, perfect day. Prince Edward Island is a rural heaven. At times I found myself riding along dirt roads as I tried to find my own way back to the Confederation Bridge without the use of GPS. Quite a few wrong turns later I arrived at the bridge and left PEI. The toll for the bridge is $17.75 for motorcycles and $44.50 for cars. It made me wonder what the residents of the island do– never leave the island?

I took the advice of the gentleman at the front desk at last night’s motel, and I took the Sunrise Trail along the northern coast of New Brunswick towards Nova Scotia. Small fishing towns along the way and tiny country lanes. Great riding. This is what it’s about– seeing real life as lived by others.

I arrived in Cape Breton around 7:30pm and Alison greeted me with a big, warm smile. A great feeling to be somewhere that you feel that you’re meant to be. Alison had work to do– it never ends for a minister! It’s 24/7! And Alison is housing a Japanese student for a few months as well. I had blogging to do. So we all sat in the living room and worked on our “homework”. Alison helped and tested Moe on her studies, in readiness for tomorrow’s exam. Alison is bright and cheerful and full of energy. However, I have no idea (having seen the life of a minster for a day or so) how any minister/reverend/pastor keeps going. Alison never stops. There is no such thing as downtime for herself. I am amazed at the energy that all ministers have, constantly giving to others. It is is truly a life you’ve been called to and gifted for. A life full of love for others and giving. Alison told me she had wanted to be a minster since she was 7 years old– she sat in church and knew what she wanted to do. She loves it and she’s always smiling.

Day 81 – Friday, September 20th

Alison kindly said that I could stay another night because I wanted to ride The Cabot Trail. It would take me 8 hours to do so, not allowing me any time in the day to head off to another destination.

What can I say about the Cabot Trail? It is perhaps the quintessential driving road– about 180 miles of sweeping road along rocky-cliffed coastline overlooking the Atlantic ocean, through forests, over the top of mountains, through coastal fishing towns, past lighthouses and beaches, past forested lakes, switchbacks with drop-offs, steep climbs and drops. I don’t think I’ve ever driven a better “driving road”. I returned to Alison in the evening totally in awe of it all and overexcited. I bounced into the house and exclaimed, “you didn’t tell me anything about it being the best road ever!!!” Alison laughed and agreed that it was quite the adventure. If you ride a motorcycle, or love your driving, you have to drive this road. And do it counterclockwise– that way you are on the side of the road overlooking the cliffs.

Annegret, another couch surfer from Germany, was staying the night also. Alison went out to Gaelic class. (There’s a big Irish influence here.) I tried to help by cleaning up the dishes an sorting out the recycling bins, making Annegrets bed and my own. Alison is so busy that the house comes second to everyone else. I had to help! It’s a big, old house. It’s so big that I slept the night in the closet– it’s as big as a room, with enough space for a twin bed and more! First time I’ve ever slept in a closet!

Day 82 – Saturday, September 21st

Alison was up and out of the door first thing in the morning. Annegret was making smoothies and I was making tea. Annegret left shortly thereafter to return her rental car to Sydney, Nova Scotia. I followed soon afterwards, heading towards Halifax. I had an interview scheduled with Russell Gragg of Canada’s Accessible Media, Inc. at 4pm.

I headed out along the Trans Canada Highway, doubling back on myself slightly. I had ridden almost the entire length of it, apart from a couple of sections here and there. And then onto the winding south shore coastal road. More small towns and fishing villages. Some parts of the road were badly damaged from frost heave. It sends the motorbike bouncing and dancing down the road. Ive encountered frost heave everywhere that it gets cold. It’s unpredictable where the pavement will buckle. You can be flying along on smooth roads and all of a sudden come across patchwork quilt of road, with bumps and dips here and there. It then becomes a project to find the path of least resistance for the bike’s shock absorbers.

Halifax was quiet on a Saturday afternoon. Another city with an obvious long history, as seen in it’s architecture. Another young city with a vibrant nightlife and expensive hotels downtown. I arrived early, at 3pm. Then I discovered that the bridges over to the south side of the harbor (the second biggest natural harbor in the world after Sydney, Australia) were all toll bridges. I don’t like having to stop at a toll booth, remove my gloves, go fishing for change, pay, put back on my gloves and ride off. It’s not as easy as passing the toll out of a car window. You hold people up. So, I decided to take a 45 minute drive the long way around the harbor, without any bridges. I arrived at the coffee shop Russell and I had arranged to meet at, at 3:55pm. Five minutes early. Perfect.

Russell strolled up. We grabbed coffee and tea and began chatting about the interview. It turns out that Accessible Media is the Canadian equivalent of the Radio Reading service that NPR provides in the States. I have read for the Radio Reading service for almost 17 years now, hosting an hour long show of Esquire Magazine. How perfect! I had not known, nor had Russell, that we both have shows on the same kind of radio channel. Russell is the Managing Editor for all of Canada, and hosts the Morning Edition program.

We headed into the studio to record the 12 minute segment for radio, that would be aired on Sept 25th or thereabouts. It wasn’t live, so we could both mess up and take the best parts. Fortunately, it was only I who really messed up, stumbling for a second or three before continuing on, and no other hiccups. We recorded 15 minutes worth. We were probably all done in 20 minutes.

We parted company and I headed out to find somewhere to stay after stopping by the Citadel perched above the harbor, and driving around town to see what it was like. I spent the night doing laundry and writing a blog.

Day 84 – Sunday, September 22nd

For some reason I had a bout of insomnia and couldn’t get to sleep until 3am. I woke up tired and frustrated with myself for not being able to get to sleep. I had a long day ahead of me. I was frustrated that it would be a lot of riding, already tired before I began.

In the parking lot was a KTM motorcycle, all decked out with gear for traveling long distances and stickers all over it. Someone was on a big ride. It was an Australian couple, Sharon and Craig, who had been on the road since April 2012. We talked for quite some time, comparing notes and stories about Alaska mostly. “Did you do the Top of the World Highway?”, “Oh, you did the Dalton? I didn’t want to face those trucks,” he said. I’m surprised he didn’t want to do the Dalton Highway as he’d done much worse– riding across Canada off-road! Sometimes along railroad tracks. They had begun their journey in the UK, dashed across Europe in five days, then across all of Russia. They left the bike there because it needed too many repairs, flew to Alaska and bought the KTM they had with them, then headed across Alaska and Canada. We compared dates– “when were you at?” and “what was the temp like then?” etc. We swapped info so we could keeps tabs on each other, and then I headed out. They had decided to spend another day in Halifax, catching up, resting and a bit of sightseeing.

It is an extremely windy day. It’s a battle. The expressway is a pure fight. On the side roads it’s not much better. I get on and off the Trans Canada when I can’t take it any more. But I have to be in St. John, New Brunswick by 7pm to stay with another couch surfing host– Debbie. I battle on.

I thought about taking the 3 hour ferry from Digby across the Bay of Fundy. I did the maths. It would cost me a lot less to ride the long way around the bay of Fundy instead of crossing the Bay on the ferry. I decided to make the 8 hour ride. That would also take me by the Hopewell Rocks– the site of the highest tides in the world (40 to 50 feet), which is a place I had wanted to visit.

I made it to Hopewell Rocks at 4:15pm. The park closes at 5pm. 45 minutes to run down and take some photos. Perfect. It was all I needed. And it kept me on track for getting to St. John by 7pm.

St. John was very quiet on a Sunday night. I can usually sum up my feelings about a city in the first 5 or 10 minutes. St. John had character. It was real. Blue color. Historic. This was an old fishing port for sure. The houses were all 100 years old or more. Brick and wood paneled, square-shaped. Very appropriate for an old fishing town. It all seemed to fit perfectly. St. John has a good feel to it. Not the most polished of cities. but it’s welcoming and I liked it. It felt quite similar to Prince Rupert in British Columbia.

Debbie greeted me warmly, showed me the apartment I would be staying in. The coolest place I have seen on this trip, complete with street sign, designer furniture, etc. Very well decorated and I had the place to myself! Debbie owns 5 buildings on the street and rents apartments out to tenants. I had Debbie’s apartment to myself, and Debbie was across the street with her son Mitchell, daughter in-law and grandson. We went out for dinner and talked a lot about my journey and how Debbie and her late husband, Dominic, came to St. John when they were 20 and bought their first building (29 rooms) for the ridiculous sum of $3,500! That decision set them on a course for the rest of their lives.

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Week #11 - Ontario and into Quebec

Monday September 9th to Sunday September 15th

Day 70 – Monday September 9th

Woke up in Wawa, Ontario on the eastern shores of Lake Superior. It’s the middle of nowhere. Vast stretches of wilderness between towns. Eighty miles or more between gas stations. The weather is cold. It was cold and raining last night as I arrived in town. The sun is setting earlier now, around 8pm. The numbers of hours I can ride in a day are shortening.

Didn’t sleep well last night and woke up at 10am. Felt pretty darn grumpy this morning. I promised I would call the office and speak to the owner of the company– to let him know if and when I would be returning to work. I told him I would be returning on November 18th. That will give me about two weeks to sort out a new place to live in Miami upon my return, and get as much of the move done as I can. Not much time but I don’t feel I can afford to take any further time out of the office. We spoke for a short time, perhaps 5 minutes. He asked how the trip was going briefly. It was a very short and to the point conversation.

My plan for the day would be to try and make it to Sault Ste. Marie. I heard there’s a big storm the size of Lake Superior coming in.

I didn’t expect to have to need it again, but there is a long stretch after Wawa with no gas stations, so I had to fill up the extra fuel container and ride 100 miles or so with the added weight on the back. Perhaps an additional 20 pounds or so. It makes a difference.

Ontario is incredible and a surprise. It is such a vast province that takes days to cross. After Calgary I was under the assumption that I was back to civilization, that the days of no cell service were behind me. I was wrong. Ontario is even worse in some sections, this being one of them. No cell service, no texting, no gas, just wilderness. It’s wonderful. Peaceful. I love it.

I ride through rugged granite strewn and forest covered lands, with roads dropping down to rugged harbors and mist rolling over them. There’s a mix of trees: maple, silver birch, and fir.

The roads in Ontario are well maintained. Long sweeping curves. The road rises and falls. It’s great driving. Makes you feel great to be alive. Lake Superior seems to reach up into the sky as you go down hills. It’s quite a strange phenomenon.

The maple trees are turning color. Some of the them are laden with bright red leaves. They are gorgeous, tucked in amongst all the green surrounding them.

I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie and was greeted by my Couch Surfing host, Jill. We went out to The Pub and had probably the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. Jill is a big advocate and raves about their burgers. She introduces them to everyone. We named the burgers that evening, the “Adventure Burger”, because you get to build you own using a wide selection of options. All on a homemade bun that was incredible. For $10! Can’t beat that.

A last day in the Ontario forests and lakes.

A last day in the Ontario forests and lakes.

Day 71 – Tuesday September 10th

Jill woke up and left for work at Sault Ste. Marie College and left me to get ready in my own time and walk her dog, Jazz. Jazz is a cross between a German Shepherd and a Husky– a big, beautiful and gentle dog.

It was a very foggy morning. Visibility was low and the visor on my helmet kept steaming up in the cool air. I had to press on to North Bay, Ontario, where I had more couch surfing hosts waiting for me– Kim and Terry. I’ve learnt to just get on with the ride, no matter what the weather is. So far, there hasn’t been a day of weather that’s stop my riding. I’ve chosen not to ride on days that I could afford to, but when I need to get somewhere I have ridden no matter what the conditions are. Today was a prime example.

There was a lot of rain and thunder last night. Jazz was shaking and pacing. I heard this morning that there was a section of the road that I will be taking that washed out and collapsed. Apparently a motorcycle rider lost his life when he rode into it. I can’t imagine what his family is going through.

There was a detour around the washout today– the Trans Canada Highway is closed in that section, close to Thessalon. The detour added perhaps an hour to the days journey. There aren’t many roads out here so the detour went along way north, before heading east, and then south again. The country back roads through the woods and farmlands was a lovely break from the Trans Canada HIghway.

I listened to the locals in Thessalon talk about the rain last night. Several houses were flooded.

The fog hung around all day, the sky was grey and overcast above the forests, but it was dry and warm. And there is a yellow cast to the sky, perhaps the smog coming up from Toronto someone suggested to me. It’s a combination that makes the day a dark day. At 5:30pm cars are using their headlights. This is an ominous sky.

I made it to North Bay around 7pm. Already quite dark, even though it was still daylight. I was greeted by a police lady in uniform standing outside her front door. Turns out my couch surfing host is a police officer. Kim greeted me and introduced me to Terry. Kim cooked a great dinner and made us ‘special coffee’ (her own recipe) afterwards. Kim went to bed later and Terry and I stayed up having ‘guy time’. I joined him in a tipple of scotch, which thrilled him because good Scotch and company is something he very much enjoys, but doesn’t get to do that often.

The mystical mists over Lake Huron. I was so captured by the sight that I stood there for quite a while and didn't want to leave.

The mystical mists over Lake Huron. I was so captured by the sight that I stood there for quite a while and didn’t want to leave.

Day 72 – Wednesday September 11th

Kim was off to work early– a court appearance in Maple Creek. Terry and I chatted the morning away over breakfast, talking mainly about the USA, guns and 9/11. Today is the 9/11 anniversary. I mentioned the TEDTalks series of seminars to Terry. As I was packing he had pulled up the latest TEDTalk video on YouTube, about 9/11 and the Museum of You. It was fascinating and a fitting tribute to place on the ARFD Facebook page today. Never forget. Here’s the TEDTalk video:

It’s a fitting video for the Arctic Ride For Dreams because more and more I realize that this journey and our lives are about our stories. Our stories are all that we leave behind. The Museum of You I just that– a museum of stories. Lives lived, courageously.

Today I rode to Ottawa. It was the last day of riding through the Ontario wilderness. It has gone on for days. I will miss it. I wanted to savor each minute, so at one point I pulled off the Trans Canada Highway and rode the bike into the woods down a small forest road. I had the forest to myself. Peace. Ahhh.

I arrived in Ottawa in the early evening. Gail (my host in Kenora) had arranged for me to stay with her cousin: Tom, his wife Christina and their son, Johnny (10). I found their house easily. We chatted over dinner and then Tom took me for a very informative drive through Ottawa for an hour or so. We looked out over the Ottawa River at a garden of Inukshuks– a huge art project of balanced rocks placed in the Ottawa River. Tom showed me the apartment building that started the cold war. We drove through the scenic Rockcliffe area with big houses, the Prime Minister’s residence, and embassies. We came back through Chinatown and Little Italy– wonderful sections of town with what seemed like a year’s worth of dining establishments and pubs to try. Foodies would not be bored here!

Inukshuks by the Ottawa River at sunset.

Inukshuks by the Ottawa River at sunset.

Day 73 – Thursday September 12th

A day in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. I started my day by riding down to the edge of the Ottawa River to see the Inukshuks in the daylight and photograph them. The artist balances rocks on top of each other to make the remarkable artwork. There are possibly a hundred of them. Each year the winter elements tear them down, and each summer he returns to make new ones.

I rode through the city, past the Parliament buildings, all Gothic Revival style architecture. It reminded me of Westminster in London. A little bit of Europe in Canada. I continued on up the Rockcliffe Parkway– a little nature in the middle of the city that rises up above the Ottawa River. Rockcliffe is the wealthiest neighborhood in Ottawa, with big houses, embassies and foreign government officials. On the way through you also pass Canada’s Prime Minister’s residence.

I’m very much enjoying Canada’s mix of UK and USA cultures. It’s a perfect balance for me. Canada offers the best of both. I would consider living in Canada, without question. Ottawa is the best city in Canada yet that I have visited (Montreal and Quebec City still to come at this point). There are businessmen walking around in suits and my mind goes back to my days in London when I was one of them. I miss wearing a suit to work.

They are building condos in Ottawa at a high rate of knots. Since marketing luxury condos is my career at the moment thoughts begin to enter my head of moving to Ottawa.

Ottawa’s architecture is beautiful. I’m impressed by the Parliament buildings and Know Presbyterian Church downtown.

I head to the Canada Museum hoping to catch an exhibit of Canadian Arctic photographs. I am missing the wilds of the north. It’s barren but you become attached, perhaps because it’s only you and nature, without any other influences. It’s pure.

Unfortunately the Arctic photographic exhibit had ended, so I walked around parts of the museum, taking in all of the dinosaur and whale skeletons, etc. I had been requested to get a photo of a moose (real or fake) in return for a donation to Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. Moose sighted in the museum! That’ll do! And I find myself not interested at all in the dinosaur exhibit. I’m having conflicts. The skeletons are wonderful, but the informational plaques I have a hard time with. It’s conjecture by scientists. Theories. They don’t know these facts are certain, but they are mostly presented as certain. I found myself wishing they would be more honest. I believe in creation not evolution. I believe that there is more scientific evidence pointing toward creation than evolution.

I returned to Tom, Christina and Johnny’s house for a wonderful evening spent talking and spending time with them. Great, great people! Johnny totally floored me. As he said goodnight and “good luck with your trip” he handed me $5 out of his own money to go buy a snack on the road. Accept? Don’t accept? What do you say to a 10-year old, who’s $5 must seem like $500 to him? I was so touched. I accepted because I knew how much it meant to him. I couldn’t refuse. And I will buy something special with it. Something very special. Some kind of small keepsake for my trip, not a snack. An amazing young man being raised by two amazing parents. It still touches me to the core when I think about his empathy and generosity.

One of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.

One of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.

Day 74 – Friday September 13th

Montreal! A dream come true. I have wanted to visit Montreal for many years. I’ve been enamored by the beautiful photographs online of Old Montreal, especially in the Autumn.

It’s a bitterly cold and rainy day. Montreal is a heaving metropolis. It reminds me of London for all of it’s bustle and pace, traffic and people. Ottawa’s architecture reminded me of London, Montreal’s madness reminded me of London. The city made me nervous. It’s been some time since I’ve been a city like this. The traffic is nuts. The driving is crazed… rush, rush, rush, and “I really don’t care if this motorcycle is on the road as well.” I was cut-off several times by cars needing to be somewhere quickly and barging their way through. It was a shock to the system.

I found the tourist information office in the heart of Montreal. Got myself a map and a place to stay for the following night. I would be staying tonight with Linda and Mario, couch surfing hosts. I ate lunch in MacClean’s Pub close to the tourist info center. Then rode the Bonneville through the busy streets to Mont Royal– a huge park at the top of the hill overlooking all of Montreal. It’s a large city!

Then I headed to St. Joseph’s Oratory, which turned out to be a huge slice of peace in the middle of all this madness. I stayed in the church for quite some time. The architecture is breathtaking. The sanctuary/chapel is over the top, brilliantly done. All of this work that man has put into worshipping God! It’s incredible! I walked the gardens. I sat in the pews. In peace until it was time to head to my hosts’ home.

I headed for Linda and Mario’s. Little did I know that I would be staying in the hippest and sought-after section of Montreal. It’s like The Village in New York. Linda wasn’t home just yet, but Mario greeted me at the door with a huge smile. They are both such warm people. Linda’s a singer, Mario is an actor/director/stage-presence coach. Mario and I sat and talked for a while before Linda got home. We spoke of philosophy, dreams, psychology, of over-thinking, of being authentic, that the world and dreams are all about relationships and stories. And that stories are a facet of our relationships. It’s all about relationships… Which makes sense with who God is… His being is all about relationships. It was a happy and celebratory conversation. Mario is all smiles all the time. Linda arrived home and they obviously love each other very much and are so happy being together, still after 12 years. It was a joy to be around.

Gail Row had challenged me to eat real Poutine in Montreal– Poutine’s real home. Linda and Mario told me that one of the two best places to eat Poutine in Montreal was in walking distance. So off we went. The Poutine was fantastic– cheese curds, french fries, gravy, cranberries and pulled pork. It may not sound appetizing, but it is!

Inside the chapel at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal.

Inside the chapel at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.

Day 75 – Saturday September 14

Woke up at Mario and Linda’s. They prepared a gourmet oatmeal for breakfast. A great start to the day. Miriam is with them too. Miriam, a new roommate, is from Switzerland working with a new start-up company. Linda sings and she played me a couple of her songs. Linda could be famous. She has the voice and the songwriting talent. Both Linda and Miriam dream of some kind of fame as recording artists.

We all went for coffee in the morning. Across the street was a small grocery store. Linda had woken up with an idea that was a stroke of genius. I had been challenged to buy something in Montreal for $0.66, in return for a donation to UrbanPromise. Linda woke up and announced “grapes!”. We could buy a small bunch of grapes, weigh them, get the exact number of grapes to equal $0.66. Mario led the charge into the store and caused a small stir as he announced to everyone and anyone that we needed $0.66 of grapes! Linda grabbed a small bunch. They were placed on the scale, and it was $0.63! One more grape! Would one more do it? Yes, it did, on the nose… $0.66! We all cheered. The store clerks laughed. We all explained what was going on, what my journey was about.

Shortly after I left Linda, Mario and Miriam and headed for my hotel for this evening. I checked in, unloaded all my belongings into the room. I was belonging-free and able to head off to Old Montreal without concern for items being stolen off the bike. I could leave it somewhere without cause for concern.

Montreal is young. Young people, beautiful people, all speaking a beautiful French. Is this what Paris is like? I’ve never been to Paris, but it’s easy to imagine Paris’ romance in Montreal. Just close your eyes. I rode through and through the Old city, filming video as I went and trying to figure out where and where I could not park the bike. I found a spot eventually and spent the afternoon walking around the Old city, feeling like I was back in old Europe. It was Saturday– a day full of weddings. Every church and garden seemed to contain a bride and groom, and a horse-drawn carriage.

A day of weddings in Old Montreal.

A day of weddings in Old Montreal.

Day 76 – Sunday September 15th

A drive through the wine country of Quebec. Everyone speaking French. The sun shining. A slight chill in the air. I find myself going along a National Geographic “Drive of a Lifetime”. And it is a drive of lifetime. Rolling hills, country towns and villages, old quaint houses, old stone restaurants and pubs with courtyards. I must have chosen the right route because there are hundred of motorcycles out today– a good sign that I’m on the right motorcycling roads. The best of the best, if the locals are out here too.

The drive takes me about 5km (3 miles) from the USA border. I see signs for Vermont. I’m not ready to leave Canada yet. Beautiful country. Corn fields, red wood barns, horses, wooden houses, country lanes. Motorcycles everywhere. Little villages with lots of Harley’s parked and enjoying a country lunch speaking French. Am I in France?

Lunch is Poutine with blue cheese and bacon. Not healthy but very good. This is a day to celebrate the trip. This is what it’s all about!!!

I arrived in Quebec City a little late, around 7:30pm and stayed with more couch surfing hosts– Annie and her son Samuel. They speak French but their English is good. As always, we sat and talked to almost midnight. I would be staying another night, and visiting old Quebec City tomorrow. Annie would give me a tour of Ile d’Orlean later in the afternoon. I’d been told that if you like Montreal, Quebec City is even nicer. I was looking forward to seeing it for myself.

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Categories: Charity, Dreams, Motorcycles, Travel, Video