Photos by: Katrina Okane
Photos by: Katrina Okane
As I count my last nickels, pack my trailer, and gather my last batch of aluminum cans, I am starting to realize the grand scale of this adventure. It is the same feeling as if you were waiting to write a big test that you studied for, but are having second thoughts just as you enter the room. I have never done anything like this before, but I know it is what I need. Maybe I will gain a bit of sanity, maybe I’ll lose even more. hah.
My trailer is all filled up with film gear, camping gear, food for a couple days, and cycling related items. It weighs about 40-60lb. I don’t have a scale so I don’t know for sure. I know I will be lugging this thing off my back wheel for about 2200km over 25 days.
Half of my friends probably don’t know where i’m headed in the next couple days. Probably won’t make too much difference anyway. I have not seen many of them this summer due to a tight work schedule and extreme fatigue on the weekends. See you all in Mid September.
Some of my friends have asked me what the purpose of this whole ordeal is, and I can never give them a simple answer. There are many reasons.
#1 being a retreat. Escape from the highly stressed, sheeplike zombies of the city, and all the flashy cars, suits, and makeup that comes out at night on St.Laurent. I am outta here, at least for a good while, to clear my mind, and figure out where I want to go after I finish business school.
Let’s call it a getaway.
I want to meet interesting people, see a pow wow, catch some trout, eat some good food and drink lots of good craft beer. These are the activities that keep me smilin!
I will try to post a couple times a week or do programmed posts so that you can follow the adventure day by day. Hopefully filled with small video clips and lots of pictures.
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?
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…
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.
Anywhere I go, however I go or get there, I will somehow find a way to see a train or get a view of some rails or a siding.
This fascination could have evolved slowly after my parents bought me a train set when I was a little gafffer and grew even more as I immersed myself into the rail art phenomenon which I know I will always be a part of.
One of the purposes of my upcoming bike tour, and all that will precede it, will be to explore the railroads in the many provinces of Canada and in the US. Here are some pictures of the “rails” and related “artwork” that I have captured throughout Northern Ontario, Mid Eastern US, Quebec, and Vancouver.