Don’t know what you call this.
Looks like some sort of crew working gondola to transport repair equipment.
Friend took the photo, and have no good editing software to fix the over-exposure! All good though!
Photos by: Katrina Okane
Well, what can I say… This is the last blog post of my 3600km, 30 day, solo cycling journey through Eastern Canada. It took place from Aug 16th- September 17th 2013 and I have been busy with school and other hobbies ever since my return. Probably why I am completing the last post now, but better now then never, right?
This is a map of the route I travelled. Definitely more extensive than what I had planned.
The tour was interesting, challenging, emotional, eye opening, and in general a real stepping stone in my life. If you want to see what I mean, just skim through the last 15 or so posts and you’ll get the idea. (I suggest starting from the bottom and working upward. This is the order I wrote them in.)
It really took alot of effort and time to acquire enough funds for the tour as well. My main source of income was obtained through recylcing cans, bottles, and scrap metal. More regularly, I worked 6-7 days a week doing exterior painting while working for a moving company on the weekends. It was rough but in the rare spare time, my friends and I managed to sneak a few beers and laughs in trackside.
I am looking to do more intense endeavors in the future both alone and with others.
If you’ve been following my posts from 8-10 months ago, you would understand that this was a first for me in terms of travel; leaving Montreal, QC on a bicycle with little experience in terms of long distance solo-touring. I’ll tell you now, there were no five-star hotels with breakfeasts included every morning. Accomodations consisted of sleeping on peoples floors and couches, or simply pitching a tarp in city parks, ditchs, bushes, beaches, and in one case, a graveyard. Some bug repellent probably would have helped on a few occasions.
Below: Organizing gear before departure out of Montreal.
I cycled a total of 1800km. Not the 2200km I planned. But, I soon realized that the plan didn’t matter anymore. Especially once it got wet and became unreadable. The most important lesson I learned was that the plan didn’t matter. I just had to make it to Newfoundland. When you set your expectations exceptionally high, it typically leads to disappointment. I learned to appreciate the now while taking in as much value as possible, and going with the flow. I try to incorperate this concept everyday. This was an ongoing experience for me. I found myself in many storms, sometimes forcing me to stay put in certain places like Moncton, North Rustico, PEI and Antigonish, NS. And you know what, those were three of the most memorable moments. Steve, Blaine and Penelope were great to hang around with and their friends were wicked too. The extended time with each gave room for relationship building. Something I only touched on throughout the trip. A big reason why most of the trip was just way too lonely. I’ll remember to leave much more time for relationship building on the next trip. The same could be said for what I will share next, and is the subject of my final post for this tour…
As a hurricane pounded Antigonish, NS I was pondering how I would continue the next week I had available till my flight out of Deer Lake, NL. Cycling was not an option, well it was, but I’m not that crazy. hah.
It was pouring, and it would be pouring on and off all throughout my desired route through Cape Breton Island, NS and Newfoundland.
To make a long story short, I was given the contact of a trucker from New Brunswick who ran fishing supplies from NB to remote fishing villages in Newfoundland. I was told Tommy was a friendly guy and that he’d most likely be able to pick me up off the Trans Canada Highway if the storm got too bad.
Well it was bad, and I bailed on cycling the last 300km of the trip. And plus, by the sound of it, this was an oppurtunity I couldn’t pass up. Screw the schedule! I called him up and he was able to meet me at 1 am in the morning at a truck stop outside of Antigonish. Of course I thought this was sketchy, but I was drunk, and figured I could handle any surprises.
He was 2.5 hours late do to some technical issues with the engine (“this is going to be a smooth ride” I said) I threw my bike in the back and there we went. It didn’t take long for both of us to realize we both liked to talk.
Below: Passing time filming myself, drinking whiskey, and listening to Bob Marley.
Below: Hanging out at gas stations was not uncommon.
We made it to the port at Sydney. We waited over 30 hours in the port gates for one of the storms to pass. Winds were blowing upwards of 100 km/h.
There was a Tim Horton’s. Thank god. It was at this time I blabbered on about my adventure to all the curious truckers from around North America. It was an interesting perspective travelling to Newfoundland via truck. Especially because the majority of truckers were aged 45+, and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Which was not neccasarily a bad thing. It was also funny to see the reactions of the tourists and families traveling over by ferry. I was thankful to be in the shelter of a truck chatting a way with a guy who liked to chat. I think we became friends quite quick. Tommy was an awesomely funny guy with a good heart. I was happy to have a bed to sleep in too ( I got the top bunk).
After 30 hours, we got the clear to drive onto the ferry. From my memory there were about 50+ 53ft trailers allowed on, and we were one of the last to squeeze onto the ferry.
If we hadn’t of made it we would most likely be there for another 6 hours. I really didn’t care, It was warm inside the truck and there was a Tim Horton’s nearby. Once parked and into the passenger section of the ferry, Tommy and his trucker friends made there way to the buffet. I sat with them but couldn’t join in on the eats due to my lack of funds. They offered to pay but I refused, and was satisfied with their leftovers and infinite refills of coffee.
When we hit the otherside, I had an intense and immediete sense of accomplishment, excitement, happiness, and that hoppy-skippy feeling in the chest. I was so far away from what I call home…
What a beautifully interesting landscape this was. It was exotic. This was not a Canada even a Canadian would think about let alone a foreigner. Newfoundland is a must see.
I won’t explain the Newfoundand tour km by km or mile by mile but we generally headed north to about Deer Lake, then east toward St John almost the span of the entire island (but on the north side), and then cut straight south through the most vast landscape I’ve ever seen. We dropped off nets and other equipment to a salmon farming company situated in Pool’s Cove. We were there at about 5:30am and for the first time the sun was out. I was half asleep and really didn’t feel like taking photos, but I managed to do so.
Of course nothing goes perfect, and we broke down a good two times.
Below: Tommy getting ready to secure the door with 50,000 lb of Salmon inside.
In the 4-5 days I was with Tommy, I slept at the most 12 hours. I didn’t want to miss anything. That, and I had a hard time sleeping with the abundance of Moose on the loose. We stopped only a few times to rest.
I got dropped off in Deer Lake. Tommy now headed for the port.
Slept in the woods that night, and managed to get a ride from another trucker into Gros Morne Park where I was supposed to climb the famous Mountain the next day. This was supposed to be the highlight of the trip. But the weather was too bad. I saw the mountain, though. It was nice.
After getting rained out at Rocky Harbour and having to move to the more secluded Norris Point, I was forced to stay in the first payed motel of the trip (80$). It sucked, but was nice staying dry. I thought for a minute that the weather would break up for a day and I could get to the top of that mountain. The next day I found out there was a hostel for $30/night 5 minutes away. But of course, Pittman, the owner of the hotel wouldn’t let my broke ass know before I paid. There are good and bad people out there and everyone in between. Live and learn… They felt bad once they knew I found out and gave me a complentary breakfast in the morning. I forgave them.
It was time to get out of Gros Morne, and with no visibility there was not much point in staying anyway. Temperatures were also dropping close to 0 Celsius at night. I managed to get a lift from an older fellow named Bob who lived in Alberta his whole life but returned recently. Funny enough, he was headed into Deer Lake to pick up blue berries for his wifes’ dish. We shared stories the whole way and he dropped me off at the truck stop where I would spend the rainy night.
I was able to convice the cashier to let me sleep in the restraunt till it opened at 6am. There was a guy on drugs in the trucker lounge and even after all I’ve seen on the road I was in no mood for anything freaky. But that’s another story in itself.
I managed to link up a ride to the airport the next day. Bob’s Blueberry supplier. The woman was actually the aunt of a girl I hung out with at the truck stop that night. She brought me fresh blueberries and frozen moose meat which I managed to keep frozen on my stop-over flight to Toronto.
I made it back home to Toronto with no issues. 3 days later, I was on a train to Montreal a week late for school. I felt weird to say the least; going from a free for all to a structured/fixed city environment.
So many places seen, so many people met, and so many emotions along the way. Even months later it’s still all very hard to comprehend, and I stopped trying.
Below: Bob and the Blueberry Lady
It was what it was and it has affected me in ways I can’t put into words.
Below: Flying over the greater area of Halifax.
Yes, the first photo I took is of my toe!. I was bored, and had nothing else to shoot before bed. It gets a bit better I promise.
To all the the photo experts out there, please bare with my amateur attempts using manual. I am slowly learning.
Was amazed at the amount of trains today; 4 freights and 4vias (passenger trains).
The weather could not have been better either… phew, I never thought I’d say it… but i am trained out for the day.
On top of the trains, there was a cool dog, a live crew change , and some kids who thought it would be cool to try and touch one of the moving trains. There was some cool artwork by the tracks too.
On May 17 my good friends Shawn and Nina informed me they would be making a surprise visit to Montreal from Ottawa (2 hours north west of mtl). I have had many crazy adventures with the two of them, and it was a real treat to have them out. I took work off Saturday and Sunday, something that will not happen again.
Just before they arrived on Friday night, I was invited to a friends for a beer, right around the same time I’d be picking up Shawn and Nina. Most would kindly refuse the offer, but it just so happened their apartment was right near the bus stop where the “visitors” would be arriving. So I made it work, and what a good decision it was.. It was in an interesting area, a street which i was not aware of, or can name online.
Justin, the resident at the apartment on the cool street, suggested we head up to “the” rooftop as it was getting dark. I shrugged my shoulders, nodded, and we headed up the rusty staircase. (I was expecting it to be like any other apartments’ rooftop). I started to notice graffiti on the walls, and a moldy scent fromt the interior as we ascended to the top.
Keep in mind, he said “the” and not “his” rooftop. It clicked, and to my surprise, the building was abandoned. I smiled as the adrenaline started to run loose. I tried to hold some of it in, as to not embarass myself in front of the others. I love abandoned places…. and the visitor’s did as well.
As soon as they arrived, I brought them to the spot. We spent the next two nights there, and explored the interior before sunset. I must have been up and down that staircase 10+ times this weekend. The best part was that it overlooked the train tracks. And everyone knows shawn and I have a thing for trains.Throughout the weekend we definetley played our part in stimulating the Montreal’s economy. We had lots of fun at the following places: St.Sulplice Bar, Boustan, Brewtopia, Brasserie Benelux, Tam Tam’s, Old Montreal, Bar Diana’s and Three Amigos.
If you have taken the time to look through those links you will notice one unusual one. Diana’s. A bar close to home. It is not the safest place, I do not go there so often, but I have met some great people there, and I knew Shawn would enjoy checking it out. I have some great inuit friends like Betsy, for example. We spend time exchanging stories. Her daughter works in a mine in Northern Quebec. Very nice and generous person. Let me tell you, It’s not everday that a white man can gain even an ounce of respect from an Inuit person. You may or may not be aware of the long and hostile history between the two peoples. But I encourage you to look into it.
This is one interpretation of the place..
“From the outside, Bar Diana is a cold and gloomy place. Inside, there’s an unusual warmth—the warmth of a place where the marginalized can be among equals”
It was nice to have a few other friends join as well. One in particular from Ottawa who happened to be visiting his mother in Montreal.
Of course we also drank lots of beer and that meant lots of empties.
We are not alcoholics by the way, I found many of these in the abandoned building!
Total: $20. I see it as $20 I would normally not have. Some will go into savings, the rest, toward a lunch and coffee.
Just yesterday, I found another abandon building. Am I on a streak or something?
There is just something about having a beer trackside!
School completed Thursday, April 26th at 10:30pm. Work start: Monday, April 30th 7:30am.
What to do for the 3 days in between? Hmmm, it was a bit of a braintwister. There was not enough time to bike to say, Mexico, but still enough time to go soemwhere significant! One thing was certain, I was not going to sit on my butt at home. I just needed to get out, clear my mnd, do something active, and burn off all that winter fat.
I flipped a coin and picked one of the many places I wanted to see “close” by. I called heads, and I was heading to Trois Rivieres, QC- only 140km away. It occurred to me that camping right now in this wet and cold spring spring weather would not be the smartest idea, so i figured I’d take the oppurtunity too try out Couch Surfing for the first tme. I got in contact with a nice host, Caro, who offered a place to stay Friday night.
I headed east from downtown Montreal at 8:15am Friday morning in hopes of getting into TR by dinner time. And was I ever mistaken… It was a rough trek, much rougher than I anticipated. My overly optimistic goal was threatened by a bunch of factors; Wind,distance, carrying a heavy load by trailer, lack of strength/sleep ,extreme cold, snow/rain, 20km of backtracking-confusion, and un-motivating scenery/sky. I saw a total of 2 cyclists the whole day (and they were travelling into Montreal only 20km east of the city) on the busiest cycling route through the province. I felt stupidly foolish and proud at the same time.
On top of it all, my wheel popped off not even a 1km out of town slowing me down of the start. Trailer was running OK, but a weird feeling using it for the first time.
It was snowing, -5C, and the winds were so heavy and gusty that I barely got going past 20km/hour off the island. It was definitely damaging my enthusiasm of making it to Trois Rivieres, QC-still 135km away at this point. Hell, this is even a “haul” in perfect conditions. I did not help that this was my first time doing long distance for almost a full year, and got 5 hours of sleep the night before, but i was able to put that aside-humming tunes that reminded me of the beach.
After getting off the island and arriving at the Harvey’s near Charlemagne, I made 1 really bad choice, I followed the bike path. More specifically, the route verte #5 (I love you, and hate you even more).
East. I thought it was taking me east like it was supposed too. But damn, it was confusing in that area. I followed all the signs (when they were present), and landed in Lachenie 40 minutes later, a total back track of about 10km (with all the winding of the path). Logically, I go back the opposite way I came, in hope that I would see a sign that could take me to Repetigny (the town east of the Harvey’s restaurant). When I realized how far out I was, I almost turned back home knowing that i’d have to cycle an additional 20km on top of the 145km. A record breaking trek even for a lot of experienced riders in perfect conditions. Anyways, I ended back up at the Harvey’s just after the bridge, said f***k the route verte #5, and followed Notre Dame until I met up with the path again, I was in no mood to go on a Easter egg hunt to find the right signs/path near the Harvey’s. No time for that nonsense anymroe, I will just take the dangerous road est.
The winds were reaching over 35km/hour and were extremely amplified travelling along the river,farms and across bridges (90% of the trip). They hit me from all sorts of directions.
Now two hours behind schedule, I continued to bike east until I needed a little rest (50km later). I sat in front of la trattoria la volta (an italian restraunt) about 35km out of the city to eat a sandwhich, at 11:30am.
I continued for hours and hours, battling the heavy direction-changing winds, which never seemed to blow in my favor. But that’s life.
I made it to Lanorie by 2pm. In the next couple hours I hoped to get to Maskinonge. It took me more than 3 hours. I was averaging 10km every35-50 minutes. Not very fun.
I almost got blown off the small shoulder twice by the gusts, and finally got blown into a ditch by a transport truck along a stretch of the 138 before Maskinonge which injured my upper right thigh.
I was still 35-40km out of town. I brought no camping gear with me, and envisioned saturday morning waking up in a damp field, half frozen to death. There was no shelter anywhere in sight, and none of the hosts in Trois Riveres had cars, or friends who had cars at the time to come pick me up. I started to ask around for a ride into the next town at the local pharmecie in Maskinonge. No luck for over an hour. I needed to be 10km east in order to “possibly” catch a bus. The wind at this point must have been blowng close to 45 km/h, enough to blow over an elderly person or small child.
An awesome man and his daughter over heard me asking a resident for a lift into the next town. They offered to give me a lift. It was like an angel magically floated down in front of me despite the heavy winds which seemed to have blown all my good luck away. Great conversations with the two of them. Hopefully we get to meet again when there is more time to chat.
It was getting dark,windier, and even cooler.
I boxed my bike up at the convenience store/bus stop and within an hour off I went on a moderatley filled bus. Riding the bus along the 138, I pictured my self struggling at -10,0000 X the speed of the bus in pain. I was so happy to be insde. I got into town by 8 15pm.
Trois Rivieres was awesome, my host and her friend were really great. We went for dinner at some belguim frite place downtown of Forges street and had a beer at the Gambrinus Micro brew pub near the university. The IPA and Rousse were great.
Took the bus back Saturday afternoon and was greeted by an old friend Cam who came out to visit me Saturday night. Before I left though, I had to find the train tracks….
When we met in Montreal, Cam and I had a couple beers and started to repeat the same shanigans we were known for back in the day.. It was a hoot and we met some real characters throughout the night. Went to bed this mornng at 6am.
I think I got my fix of excitement and physical activity for a few weeks now…
This is just absolutely awesome.
Surprisingly I was using a point and shoot here!
Now, I don’t know if you guys follow any railroad moniker’s or streaks but let me tell you, this is one you’ll see all the time.
They call this guy “rail owl” and you will see him on at least one boxcar, tanker, gondola, or hopper given any line in North America. He started doing these things around 2006. I know this because he usually leaves a date below his marking and various quotes such as “I miss her” or “The Bowl”
Check out this link on flickr and you will see what pops up when you type “Owl Moniker”
These are photos that people have taken of his markings all over North America.
If you pay close attention you’ll see that not one of these markings is on anything but a train (Maybe one or two recently)
But what I have found helped pinpoint his location. I found one of his markings on something other than a train! People were pretty ecstatic in the community. I was very shocked too. I said to myself.. “This freakin’ bugger is everywhere”.. For the longest time, more so before he got popular, I swore that he followed me around everywhere rail spot I went..
He has been putting hard work in to this for several years now… and some friends and I have come to the conclusion that he works for Canadian Pacific Rail in South Central, Ontario (Where I grew up). It makes sense as the railroad supplies the Markal Oil Paint Sticks he uses in White and Black and he also works in the yard which allows him legal access to all the train cars. We can conclude this, among other things, because of the types of cars he chooses to right on.
There are 1000′s of artists all over North America putting up small monikers on trains. Although it is illegal, the rail companies sort of turn a blind eye to it. I mean as long as there getting goods A and B to points C and D as fast and as cheap as possible (among some other things) they are happy.
It’s all about maximizing shareholders wealth. So a small marking on the side of a train does not effect their goals.
Year’s and years of watching and photographing trains has helped me to build a database in my head of all these artists and in many cases have actually led me to meeting some of the artists. It is always cool feeling to meet the face behind the work. I know over 35 railroad artists in Canada and the US. The people I’ve met “by the tracks” and some of the things i’ve found beside the tracks always surprise me and keep me coming back for more.