Thursday, July 29, 2010

We're massed at the border

Day 35. Birch Run to Port Huron Michigan. We've made it to the Canadian border. That's right. We've ridden our bikes from the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian border at Sarnia (home of the Silversticks Hockey Tournament). We (me, The Duchess, hockey-playing daughter Lauren, and her sister Sam) were here in February 2008 and 2009 for the Silversticks Ladies Hockey Tournament. Aaahhh...Sarnia Ontario in mid-February. Hanging out in ancient hockey arenas, with the smell of Tim Hortons coffee in the so-called air, the taste of stale Timbits in our mouths...memories are made of just such moments.

Actually, I'm being too hard on Sarnia (which is just across the river and bridge from where we are in Port Huron Michigan). We (the fabled North York Storm Girls BB Hockey Club) had a lot of fun at this tournament (and others, like the Brampton Canadettes Tournament we won in 2008 on an awesome goal with 0.1 seconds left on the clock!). Sitting here in mid-July (without the kids/Lauren's teammates, and their parents) seems a little weird. Memories are a bit strange. When you revisit certain places, it doesn't feel right to be in the same place under different circumstances.

Anyway, let's focus on another team for now, shall we – the ABB team. We are massed at the border and we are ready to attack. All we need is the order to go.

I think perhaps I may be overdramatizing this a bit. Yeah, just a bit. Actually a number of the riders are quite excited about crossing the border into Canada. Mostly all on this ride have been to Canada before, but not everyone. For those who have been or live close, it's really no big deal. But for the others it is quite exciting. Everyone is looking forward to our arrival in Niagara Falls Sunday, which is probably one of the signature moments of this ride (along with Teton Pass, Mount Rushmore, etc.). What very few of them realize is that we have 2 "dull-as-dishwater" days of cycling through southwestern Ontario that will make the cycling in Michigan look downright thrilling by comparison.

The idea of going into Canada tomorrow reminded me of Forrest Gump's line about Vietnam – "it's like this whole other country".

Let's not forget about the cycling in Michigan. Today's ride was an uneventful 88 miles through back roads and farms. It is hard to believe, but we cycled clear across Michigan and (according to Michigan expert Dave) across the widest part, in 3 days. Just 3 days. I can't believe it. We had nice sunny weather today. It wasn't overly warm and was perfect for riding. The wind was a mixture of cross and tail wind depending on which direction we were riding, but it wasn't a big factor. There wasn't much to take pictures of, but here are lovely roadside wild flowers and a pretty farm set against puffy white clouds and a cobalt blue sky. Beautiful.

I forgot to mention that last night I got to meet Dave's wife and family, including his preposterously cute granddaughter. Nice people. I asked Dave's wife if she thought he looked thinner, and she agreed. Everyone looks thinner on this trip (except for moi). I think I've gained weight. I have really dialed back the eating the past few days. I haven't had a Blizzard in over a week and am watching what I eat at the SAG stops as well. I don't want to set an ABB record as the first/only guy who rode 3,700+ miles and actually put on weight.

Back to today's ride. I rode the first 25 miles to the first SAG with Joe, Jeff, Dave, Alex, and Baltimore Mark. By the way, here are my official nicknames for the Geldings:

Jeff = The Karate Kid
Joe = Bazooka Joe
Dave = Sully (that was too easy)
Mark = The Baltimore Koltz (Koltz being his last name; how clever is that nickname, honestly?)

Geldings include Alex (Axle, a nickname given to her by ABB staffer Jeff), and Katie (Katie Scarlett).

After the first SAG, I pretty much figured I couldn't keep up with them, so I left the SAG early and rode a while until they caught and passed me. I actually enjoyed riding by myself. It's harder because you don't have a team you can draft from, but it is easier because you can go at your own pace (plus it does feel a little safer too). Both ways work for me – alone or as part of a paceline. I'm fine either way. I rode the balance of the day into Port Huron by myself until Dave caught up with me just as we spotted the hotel and a Wendy's for lunch. At 17.7 MPH for the day, I feel I still moved with a purpose, and I was here at the hotel by 12:35, which is nice and early. The miles/day are starting to go down slightly, and seem more reasonable. It's not quite as stressful on the body.

Of course the big news for us for tomorrow is the border crossing into Canada over the Bluewater Bridge into Sarnia. What's interesting is that when we cross at 7:30AM, they actually close the bridge for us for as long as it takes us to cross (probably 15 minutes). That is no small feat on the part of the ABB staff. If most of you don't know, US border crossings are really busy and this one is no exception. I think it is a miracle that they do this. I know it is for safety sake (and for that I'm glad), but it is cool nonetheless.

Another big thing (for me and our fundraising cause) tomorrow is that I am being interviewed on the radio live at 8:30AM. Brantford radio station CKPC (92.1FM on your FM dial) is calling me on my cell phone tomorrow morning to ask me about the ride and the cause I am raising funds for. I guess I'll pull over when they call. Yeah...that makes sense.

Lastly, the other big news for me is that I am about to get a bunch of visits from friends and family. Tomorrow, my Duchess is bringing my parents (91 year old Irwin and eternally 29 year old Muriel) to see me in London. My wife has an aunt and uncle who live in London (Milt and Audrey) who I believe we'll be eating dinner with. Also, my wife's Uncle Peter and Aunt Carolyn may also be in London (they're the parents of Lara of "Team Lara" who we're raising funds in the name of). The Duchess is driving my Mom and Dad back to Toronto (with my dirty laundry – yeah!), and then coming back to meet me (along with her mother Eleanor and friend Gordie) in Brantford on Saturday afternoon (with snacks for everyone and clean laundry for me). Way to go The Duchess! Then my Duchess is driving to Niagara Falls Sunday where we're going to be met by my brother-in-law Allan, sister-in-law Esther, and niece Erin as well as my bacon loving pal The Vancer, his wife Susan, daughter Logan, and niece Jamie. But wait, there's more! I get to see my daughters on Sunday as well. They'll be driving in from Toronto to spend the balance of the weekend with me. I've been trying to talk my Duchess into staying with me through Tuesday night in Rochester. She hasn't confirmed that yet.

As most of you know, she is a very busy woman. Very busy indeed.

FYI – the DQ Blizzard, milk shake and Snickers count is static today:

11 Snickers
14 Blizzards
6 milk shakes

Now on to today's mail:

The Vancer from Toronto writes: "Now I know that there is a heaven and what it looks like. How do you spell road trip? I spell it "TONY'S" !!!" Honestly The Vancer, you would have died yesterday. Literally. I think you would have had a coronary. It reminded me of a road trip many years ago to Detroit when you over-indulged at The Tunnel BBQ in Windsor and ate your weight in ribs (anybody who thinks I'm lying can fact-check this story with my son Adam or Vancer's kids Jon or VJ).

Charles from Asheville writes: "Y
ikes! If you ate a full meal at Tony's, then you'll need to turn at Portsmouth and pedal your way back to Astoria to clean out your arteries! Great... another 50 days of blogging!" Perhaps not. For the sake of all concerned, the journalistic world, and humanity in general, my blogging days will surely come to a close in about 2 weeks.

Here are my Garmin stats for the day:

This is Joe's blog:

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mark,
    You are amazing! You have endured several weeks of supreme effort for Team Lara and also for what drives you.
    I love to see the donations mount up-we can assure everyone that the cause is right and the lab at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital is the right place to put money into research into brain and spinal cord injury. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. It will be shorter with more funds!


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