Journal entries from
Monday September 2nd to Sunday September 8th
Day 63 – Monday Sept 2nd
Happy Labor Day everyone! I was invited to stay another night with Wes and Bridget in Brandon, Manitoba. This would give Wes and I the chance to have a guy’s day on our motorbikes, riding together to the International Peace Garden on the USA/Canada border.
Before we could depart Wes had some carpentry to do for his daughter Kaylee’s house, laying down a laminated wood threshold in the kitchen. Wes has been a woodworker all of his life. He made a full car out of wood once (not the engine, but all the panels and doors). We saw the car on the road later that day. It’s quite impressive and beautiful. I gave Wes a hand cutting wood and metal, laying down the flooring and threshold. You could say I became a carpenter’s apprentice for the morning. It was a good feeling to be giving back to hosts that had been so generous. Giving a helping hand is what I wanted to be a big part of this journey– to be available to help wherever and whenever, to be open to what was needed by those who’s lives intersected mine.
Wes and I set off in the afternoon for the Int’l Peace Garden, directly 60 miles south of Manitoba. I had tried to reach the gardens when I was in North Dakota in the first month of my journey. Back in August, I rode 40 miles out of my way to get to the gardens and stopped about 10 miles short because it was raining. No point in going. It would have been cold, windy, miserable and wet.
Everything for a reason. Now, here I was staying with Wes and Bridget in Brandon. I knew the Gardens were somewhere around here. I did not know they were directly 60 miles south. A straight shot. One road! Wes hadn’t been in a while and wanted to go for the ride also. His friend Bob came too.
The USA/Canada border runs right down the center of the gardens. A mirror image on each side. Four towers at one end, two towers in the USA and two in Canada. The towers represent all the peoples, from the four corners of the earth, coming together in the name of peace.
The International Peace Gardens– one man’s dream. He pursued that dream for many years until it became a reality. Dreams are worth pursuing, you never know where they will lead.
As we wandered the gardens there was a group of teenagers roaming the gardens also. Dressed in t-shirts and shorts, they strolled, laughed and took in all of the beauty.
At the end of the Gardens is a Pace Chapel containing marble walls inscribed with quotes from several nations, creeds, colors and religions about peace. It’s a small chapel. The teenagers beat us there. They were sitting around, taking in their surroundings. Shortly after we walked in they broke into beautiful song, singing 3 hymns before stopping. I began to leave at the end of the 3rd hymn, turned and said, “thank you, that was beautiful.” One of them replied, “God Bless You.” “You too,” I replied.
Interestingly, the International Peace Garden is located just north of the geographic center of North America– the USA and Canada. Equidistant north and south, east and west. And, it is the only place on my whole journey that my route intersects with itself. I don’t think there could be a more appropriate place for my outward and homeward routes to intersect.
That evening Wes, Bridget and I went to dinner with two of their friends, Dave and Vicki. Afterwards, the guitars, mandolin and voices broke out into a musical finale to the evening. Good times!
Day 64 – Tuesday September 3rd
Today’s ride: 268 miles along the Trans Canada Highway from Brandon, Manitoba to Kenora, just inside the Ontario border, situated on the Lake of the Woods.
I had no plans. Nowhere to stay for the evening. No agenda for the day. I left myself open to whatever would come my way. Just go and see how far I got.
I headed to Winnipeg. Once I arrived there I saw two things: a pricey Motel 6 that discouraged me from stopping and the sign for the bypass. On a whim I decided to take the bypass around Winnipeg.
I took the day slowly, taking in the scenery. Eventually I came to Richer, Manitoba where I saw a sign for a Heritage Site– a church. I made a spur of the moment decision to stop and have a look. It was the Elise de l’Enfant-Jesus. A Catholic church, 100 years old and in the midst of being restored by a team of eight dedicated individuals.
The church was not yet open to the public, but I met Patricia outside who is heading up the restoration project and she was more than happy to show me everything inside the church. The team had collected an incredibly extensive collection of records, photos, fur trading tools from the era, clothing from the nuns and priests and many other items. I’ve never seen such a collection– amazing in it’s thoroughness.
Patricia explained that Sept 18th would be a key date in the future of the church. The Catholic Church would be meeting to decide whether or not to deconsecrate the church, and whether to hand over the Title to Patricia and team.
As I left Patricia after an hour-long personal tour I received a message from Gail in Kenora, a couch surfing host. She said “yes, come and stay!”
I arrived in Kenora and was greeted very warmly by Gail. We hit it off immediately and talked well into the night about all sorts of subjects. It was a great way to end the day. The scenery as I entered Ontario changed from flat lands to fir trees, the granite rock “shields’ of Canada, stunning lakes and rolling roads. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to stay. Thank goodness I flew by Winnipeg. Gail and Kenora were a treat.
Day 65 – Wednesday September 4th
Gail invited me to stay a little longer and I was happy to do so. Kenora, Lake of the Woods, and Gail’s sense of humor were all welcome. We went into the market in town where we met Gail’s friends– Ali and Nancy. Ali challenged me to eat a big, fat burrito in Toronto and Nancy told me of her dream to do a journey just like Arctic Ride For Dreams.
Gail and I went for a hike on Tunnel Island in Kenora, wandering along lakes and through fir trees. Tunnel Island she told me is the center and hub of North America. All the rivers that run north to south go through here. The Continental Divide was just south of us.
In the evening Gail and I went to Borrelli’s restaurant for dinner. We spent a whole day talking about God, travels, relationships, and every topic under the sun, including our plans to go camping the following day. Gail is an avid kayaker and camper, and since I had not used my camping gear once on the trip, and felt quite rusty in regards to camping, Gail felt that we should get me out into the wilderness with my new stove, etc.
Day 66 – Thursday September 5th
Happy Jewish New Year! I called the office back in Miami and talked about returning to work around November 18th. That would give me two weeks to pack up all my belongings in the house and search for new places to live. Not much time. It would be a rush most likely. I am trusting that God will provide a new place to live and the time to move in. Things have calmed down on the home front for the moment. It’s a welcome respite from the madness that seemed to be going on around me last week.
Gail and I made plans and preparations to go camping in Berry Lake in the wilderness. We left in the afternoon. Only about a 45 minute drive. The wilderness is close by. We took food, logs for a camp fire, tents, cooking equipment, and everything that we’d need.
Upon arriving we set up our tents. I wasn’t as rusty as I thought. It was a beautiful day and we’d chosen a spot overlooking a river, lake and some rapids. It couldn’t have been a more perfect spot. There was already a fire pit built by previous campers.
We cooked dinner, using my camping stove for the first time. We were both impressed how well and how quickly it worked. We cooked sausages over the fire, made mashed potatoes and vegetables in the stove pot, and then fried it all together using my new frying pan that had not been used yet either.
As the sun began to set around 8pm we washed everything in the river, put it all away, and made sure the food was secured, just in case bears were to come sniffing around.
We made popcorn and s’mores over the fire and watched a million stars in the sky. It was perfectly clear night.
I slept amazingly well on my air mattress and pillow, which were again being used properly for the first time. I slept soundly inside my little tent.
Friday September 6th
I awoke after a peaceful night’s sleep to the sound of Gail wandering around and exclaiming, “Bear!” There was no bear but it was time for me to wake up.
Gail had already gone hunting for wood and had built the up the fire already. I rose and made us eggs. Then it was time to see how easy packing up all my camping gear was. No problem. We carried everything back along the pathway to the car and were heading out by noon.
Gail had errands to run that afternoon and I rested. Dinner in the evening and more long, deep talks about everything under the sun. And laughter. Lots.
Saturday September 7th
I rode 302 miles / 486 km from Kenora to Thunder Bay today.
Gail got up in the morning and proceeded to spend quite some time planning out my next few days for me, all the way up to Sept 27th when I need to be in Toronto to meet with the UrbanPromise children there. Gail planned out how far I would make it each day, which places to stop at, and began to reach out to people along that route that she knew and that perhaps I could stay with. What an amazing person Gail is– so generous and giving of herself and time!
This evening I would be staying with friends of Gail’s in Thunder Bay– Glynis and David Ramsey. I was looking forward to meeting them and they awaited in anticipation also.
The drive out of Kenora and the surrounding Lake of the Woods area is simply gorgeous wilderness– lakes and fir trees. The drive took me through more of the ‘Canadian Shields’– an area of exposed granite everywhere. It’s all postcard picturesque.
Ontario offered perfect riding roads that were incredibly smooth, well-maintained and no breaking up of the surface. A stark contrast to the roads of Manitoba which were often quite broken up and rough to ride, because they break up with the freeze of the winter months.
As I drive I thought about the difference between dreams and daydreaming. Keep thinking that daydreaming is not good, selfish, stuck in your own control and power.
Had an A&W burger for the first time. Not bad. Sweet potatoes fries with a spicy chipotle sauce. I have to try these Canadian staples of society.
Back at Miami Shores Presbyterian they are putting up the ribbons from the UrbanPromise Vancouver children– all of their dreams.
I arrived at Glynis and David Ramsey’s in Thunder Bay. We chatted into the evening. Great people! Above my bed was a picture of Big Mountain and Whitefish, Montana– the place where MSPC’s Rev. Dudley Rose used to live and preach. It made me smile. Made me feel at home and where I’m supposed to be.
Sunday September 8th
Thunder Bay. Glynis, David and I went to Lakeview Presbyterian Church. I was very pleased that we all went together. They hadn’t been to church in a little while, they had got out of the habit and were searching for a church home. So the fact that we all went together meant a great deal to me.
Part of the sermon this morning was from Luke 14:25-33, with a key word in the sermon being “endurance”. Quite appropriate at this time I thought. The pastor talked about sticking it out to complete the task. And I thought of the Shackleton family motto: “Fortitudine Vincimus” (By Endurance We Conquer). The morning gave me more encouragement that this journey is important and it must continue, no matter what might be happening back in Miami with the foreclosure of the place I’m living in. Trust God on that and let the chips fall where they may. The important thing is to keep on with this journey. That’s what I feel I must focus on. Not the situation at home. Let God take care of that.
Glynis and David seemed to have had a great time during the morning coffee hour catching up with all sorts of people that they knew. I left Glynis and David after church. Always hard to leave people.
On the way out of Thunder Bay I stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial that is up on a hillside overlooking the Bay. His remarkable story is all about his dream. I felt a kinship with him in a way (both on a big journey for charity) but my journey felt like a drop in a bucket compared to his. His journey was monumental and he became a Canadian hero. He changed the nature of fundraising.
The road in Ontario are wonderful! I enjoy driving them. They are a thrill. Curves, hills, scenic, smooth– just perfect. I drove along the north shore of Lake Superior. Clear skies and cold. Plenty of layers of clothes!
Back at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church it was “Kick-off Sunday,” the weekend that officially marks the end of summer, when people have returned from their respective vacation homes, other states, the children are going back to school, church is changing back to two services on a Sunday instead of one in the summer– a chance for everyone to reconnect, refocus, and see what they want to be involved in during the coming months until next summer. A fun event. I wished I was back there with everyone for this morning.
Rolling mountains, over hill rests with Lake Superior on the horizon. Amazing! It looks like you’re going into the lake. Lake Superior appears at times to rise up into the sky on an angle. It’s you who’s angling down (a hill) but it’s the lake that feels like it’s rising to the sky. Quite odd and very special.
That evening I pressed on to Wawa– the last town on the shores of Lake Superior before a long stretch of road with no services. Time to fill up the extra fuel tank again and hope that I didn’t need it during the following day.
Day 56 – Monday August 26th
I’d stayed the night in Dawson Creek, on the edge of the British Columbia and Alberta border. I aimed to make it to Hinton, Alberta just outside of Jasper National Park. I thought I was only going to make it only to Grand Cache, but when I got there I learned that Hinton was a bigger town with more chances of a room somewhere. I pressed on to Hinton. The drive from Grand Prairie, through Grand Cache, onto Hinton is noted as a very scenic drive, and it is. I love the place names in Canada. The weather was sunny most of the way which I was much relieved about.
Day 57 – Tuesday August 27th
I decided to stay another night in Hinton because hotels inside Jasper National Park can be up to $300 a night. I rode into the park, up the Edith Cavell mountain road, to the big mountains, glaciers, Angel Lake at the bottom along with Angel Glacier above it. A chipmunk led me back down the path. I learnt later that people feed them, hence the reason that they follow or lead you.
I drove 7 km down a dirt road and then a short half mile hike and tried to swim in Moab Lake. Again, too rocky to jump in and I feared breaking an ankle on the slimy rocks. Then onto to Athabasca Falls which were beautiful and powerful. While at the Falls, having just got a snippet of cell service back again, I got a load of texts about the house at home, and other issues. I dealt with it all at the Falls (plus before and beyond, it’s ongoing), as other tourists gave me odd looks. I looked serious, pacing up and down, trying to deal with things thousands of miles away.
I was almost in tears on the bike because I thought the trip was over, that I really had no choice about returning home. Maybe I had failed God and everyone back at home, everyone following me, the 5 remaining UrbanPromise centers still to visit and all the children there. Perhaps God’s changing directions. Perhaps the journey has been a failure. Perhaps I have failed. It was quite upsetting and showed me how important this journey is to me. The dream part, the UrbanPromise part, the inspiring part. It’s all really important to me.
Day 58 – Wednesday August 28th
A day of riding from Hinton, just on the northern side of Jasper National Park in Alberta, to Calgary Alberta, via the incredible Icefields Parkway. The road took me through Lake Louise, and then through Banff.
The day began cold and ended hot, in the 80°F’s. The layers of clothing were removed gradually as I headed south. Jasper, Banff and the Icefields Parkway are all places that I would like to go back to and take more time in. It is the most scenic drive I have ever done I think– 220km of glaciers, lakes, Rocky Mountains, granite sliced at angles, in fact whole mountains sliced and sheered off. There are many glaciers, emerald lakes and rivers.
I couch surfed in the evening with Laura in Calgary. It was a full house– Laura, myself, and three other guests: Brad from Australia, ZenZen from Germany, and Nathan from Australia. It was a warm welcome. Everyone was celebrating being together and telling each other travelers tales.
The place I am renting back at home is foreclosing and must be sold within 90 days. Does this end the journey at some point? Miami Shores Presbyterian cheered me on– “keep going, the journey does not end!” I felt exactly the same way. But there is a part of me today that feels defeated. I’m too far from home to get back quickly. There’s no point. Along with an encouraging email from MSPC and a note in the MSPC newsletter which quoted the Shackleton family motto: “By Endurance We Conquer”, I was refocused and determined. At this present time, with numerous ongoing issues on the home front in Miami, this is not currently an enjoyable journey.
Day 59 – Thursday August 29th
I had planned to stay two days in Calgary and Laura’s house proved to be the perfect place to recuperate, collect my thoughts, try and sort things out at home, and re-pack all my luggage for warmer temperatures (now that I had reached Calgary’s latitude I felt I was no longer outrunning winter, I was back into summer). It was a day of relaxation and doing nothing.
Laura and I went to the local pool and did laps for perhaps an hour. The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging around– recuperation of mind, body and soul. Nathan had arrived from Australia, about an hour after me yesterday, and proceeded to head out to get a SIM card for his phone and check out the university he would be studying at. Brad and ZenZen rented a car and headed out to Jasper National Park. I gave them tips and must-see’s and do’s for the Icefield Parkway.
I spent quite some time working on fixing issues with my place back in Miami. I was glad that I had a day of nothing to work on it as much as possible.
Day 60 – Friday August 30th
I woke up in Calgary. Still at Laura’s place. It has been a big boon to be here. She’s been such a great host: you want to do nothing and chill, no problem.
I got up at 7:30am to go to Blackfoot Motorsports in Calgary. I had an appointment to check over the bike from top to tail, get an oil change and new air filter. After all the pounding and covering in mud the Bonnie had taken in Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia I wanted to make sure she was all ok and in tip-top condition for the last stretch home. It should be the last service before I return to Miami.
Blackfoot Motorsports were very kind and moved the schedule around to fit me in. Bike dealerships often make exceptions and allowances for people traveling through on long journeys. They know that you’ve got limited time and the next dealer might be too far away. Blackfoot were done with Bonnie by 11am and I headed back to Laura’s to pack up.
I rearranged all my belongings. I changed to summer gear from winter gear. Temperatures are now back to consistently being in the 80’s and good roads. This is easy going now!
I left Calgary and rode across the flat badlands of Canada. It’s oil country again, like it was in North Dakota and Montana on the way out. Those states are just over the border, not far to the south. Again, it’s windy across the plains, and hot slightly. I’m feeling sweat again for the first time in a month or so. The winds normally travel from west to east. On the outbound journey I battled through the winds across North Dakota and Montana. Now the winds are at my back, helping me along eastward. If I turn south or north I feel just how strong the winds are, blowing the bike so I have to ride it at a slight angle.
I headed for Medicine Hat. I took it slow. I blew past the Dinosaur Provincial Park– a UNESCO site– as I’d seen the one in Colorado already. I would rather ride the Trans Canada Highway.
Things at home were going from bad to worse, although some things were getting taken care of. It’s been draining. It’s been a barrage over a lot of the journey, not just now, but also in the previous two months. By endurance we conquer. Following your dreams does not guarantee an easy ride. Conquering your dreams means that you may well face all sorts of adversities. They make you realize how important your dream is to you, you learn, you grow, you change, you battle on, and it makes the dream all the more sweet when you get there. As they say, it’s often about the journey, not the destination.
I stopped at a rest stop on the side of the highway in the badlands. I like them. They are peaceful. There’s no one else here. It’s good thinking time. I can look out over the rolling plains and prairies and easily imagine the First Nation people’s cantering their horses across these lands. It’s like being in a time warp. You are there, with them.
I made it to Medicine Hat, an historic small town, to stay the night. The houses were big, quite impressive brown stones and wood panel gable peaked houses.
Day 61 – Saturday August 31st
Leaving Medicine Hat and heading towards Swift Current and Regina. Aren’t the place names wonderful here? They are so descriptive.
It took all of 3 km to enter Saskatchewan. An overcast day, and cooler than yesterday. Again, I am going through the Canadian Badlands. Rolling prairie with buttes and small canyons. I can imagine the First Nation people’s hunting buffalo. Yesterday I passed a place called Head-Smashed-In jump. For 5,500 years the native people would drive buffalo over the edge of the cliff there. Maybe 100 or 200 buffalo would be killed. They’d store the meat for the winter. Normally they would use a different “jump” each year. I guess the buffalo would learn or remember.
It’s beautiful out here with the wind rolling across the plains. I’m transported back in time, to another way of life, a life living off the plains. It’s great just standing and taking it in. It’s easy to see how North America once was out here. Plains, nothing, horses, tents, trails. A simpler way of life. A land that time has forgotten. Time has moved on around it but left this where it was for centuries.
It’s an overcast and now cold day without the thermals. I’m layering up on the way to Swift Current. My goal was Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I arrived and stayed at at Capone’s Hideaway. There are some places where get you depressed. They are unclean, overpriced, bad service, you feel like you may be being taken advantage of. This was one of them. And things at home were coming to a head, to make things extra depressing. But God is ever present, ever-supportive with encouraging words, and so are friends… again, I thank everyone that reached out to me that evening and the next day. You all make a difference and keep me going sometimes.
There’s a passage in the Bible that came up today. I posted it to Facebook because it felt so appropriate at that moment: James 1:2-8 – “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Day 62 – Sunday September 1st
Today was sunny with a chill in the air. I missed seeing the Tunnels of Moose Jaw because I was dealing with things in Miami. There’d be no sight-seeing in Moose Jaw. I wrote in my journal, “from horrible Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Brandon, Manitoba.” That’s unfair to Moose Jaw. I didn’t really see too much of it. I was focused on other things at home. It’s not right for “the other things” to sully the impression of a town.
But it was Sunday– time to spend some time with my brothers and sisters at church. I went to St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, it was two short blocks from my motel. I arrived late, or should I say: I arrived at the perfect moment.
As I walk in the pastor is talking of our stories. It was based on the passage, Hebrews 13:1-8. It felt like the whole sermon and morning, was designed for me, from top to bottom. I was in tears more than once. It was an emotional and uplifting morning. “Such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” We bless God when we follow Him, keep going, believe in Him and struggle through the hard times. By endurance we conquer. “What we do matters.” That was the title of the sermon. There was so many consistent messages throughout the morning (I cannot write them all here) that I left uplifted, filled up, strengthened, determined, encouraged, believing in the journey again, convinced I am doing the right thing. And I cried in thanks.
I headed off, out of town, along the Trans Canada Highway, took Route 39 southeast to Weyburn, and then east on Route 13 towards Manitoba. Farmlands and lots of bugs! Covered in splattered bigs. A visor full of them. A beautiful blue sky day. I was back in the saddle with determination. I realize after the sermon how important this trip is to God, I gotta keep going. I feel like its big. I don’t know how. I will never know. But that’s not important. It’s not for me to know. Just do it. Love does.
Time zone change! One hour forward as I cross into Manitoba. That’s another donation secured to Miami Shores Presbyterian Church!
I arrived at my couch surfing hosts’ house in Brandon around 7:45pm. I was going to stay with Wes and Bridget in their 1902 house. Three daughters Kaile and Tessa and Miranda, and a grandchild, Luka. There were also two Ukranians staying: Dmitri and Eugenia. They arrived two days ago from the Ukraine. Dmitri is here to study at the college for one semester. We sat around the fire in the back garden, ate dinner and talked about marketing ideas for Lady of the Lake, Bridget’s gift shop, pub, café. Bridget’s all-time dream is to have a little traveling circus and be one of the performers.
The weather is easier now. Summer and smooth roads. I’m more determined and more convinced than ever that I’m supposed to be on this journey. I’m very much looking forward to the remaining two months on the road…