Bikepacking, Canada

My great trail 8ieme partie

Plans change and it’s ok! It’s actually great, keeps things interesting! I had mapped out my route looked at a bunch of maps and planned every day, but since leaving BC I haven’t followed much of that plan.

I decided to again change course and visit my brother. There is no point in visiting my country if I do not take time to see family! He lives in Kitchener, which means I get to take a ferry and even avoid some highway riding 😁

Since Sault Saint Marie there has been a lot of off highway options, secondary roads or trails following the highway. It’s been fun to vary the terrain and the scenery, it’s quite beautiful along the lake.

When I got up this morning and started pedalling, I got lost in thoughts and missed the side roads I wanted to take. The Great Lakes waterfront trail is a great alternative the highway, it’s mostly paved but sometimes gravel.

My course change takes me through Manitoulin Islands. Quite nice to explore an area I didn’t know existed. Such a rollercoaster of a road, such a beautiful scenery. I even found gravel and coffee shops πŸ™‚

I seem to be in road riding paradise! Like any good riding area there is a good coffee shop where you can meet other cyclists. It’s always fun to discuss routes and gear. My setup always seem to impress, I always like showing off my lightweight setup 😊

Some of the guys I met today were a group of 70+ year old friends on a 500km adventure, I seriously hope I can do the same when I hit that age.

A decommissioned railway starts pretty much as you leave the mainland an stops about 10km before Little river. Parts of it were flooded at the start, but everything else is rideable. The trail meanders along lakes, cottages and islands.

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Bikepacking, Canada

Solo

Am I there yet? I rode over 4000km, just a few hundred more to go πŸ™‚

Riding solo has it’s ups and downs, but so does the road!

I’ve been asked so many times “solo”? Yup! On my own. I’ve been asked as a single human and as a women.

I crossed path with a handful of other cyclists and half of them are on their own. Mostly men, but women too.

It’s difficult to do it alone, but it’s also sometimes better. I ride at my own pace, sleep where I want to sleep and eat what I want to eat.

But it’s lonely. It got tough when I got on the highway, when I stopped talking to the cows and waving to the farmers. Locals would ask me questions and show interest when I was on the roads less traveled, but on the highway it’s all about the destination and how fast we can get there.

I actually met a few people that I actually shared a meal with or a cup of tea. I would also have shared beers with another, but I am an old lady and like an early bedtime πŸ™‚

I actually got a ride yesterday, not because I was tired or hurting, no mechanical, just because I was bored and really happy to have company. A 71 year old gentleman (what an inspiration) is riding across the country with a friend driving the car and luggage and another lady friend (my age).I rode with the gentleman until he got into the support vehicle, then I got in with him. I cheated and saved 50km, but chatted, shared stories and laughed. The other lady friend is faster then he is and never gets into the support vehicle. I am so impressed of all the daily mileage she does and how strong she is.

It was great, it was awesome to have company and I am so so happy I cheated and got to get out of my head for a few hours!

Riding solo may be riskier, but not worse for a woman then a man. I know how to fix my bike, I have all the safety gear and I have loved ones following my dot on a map. Riding solo means spending more time in my head and thoughts, but also opens me to talking to others which I wouldn’t do if I was with someone else.

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Bikepacking, Canada

My great trail 7ième partie

It’s all about the reward and the reward can be as stupid as a good coffee, a glass of wine or a not camping stop.

Most importantly coffee! Just knowing that a coffee shop is at the end of my ride motivates me to keep going. Just today, I had the choice of riding to waterfalls or get to the coffee shop before it closed, Coffee shop won! I got there 25min before closing and it was soooooooo…. good πŸ™‚ I can drive to the waterfalls some other time πŸ™„

I shorten my ride the other day, when an Airbnb host offered me to pitch my tent on his lakeside lot for free. I wouldn’t have accepted, but he checked out and @4:30 I didn’t feel like riding 20 more km to a campground on the side of the train tracks. It was also treated to a free dinner and great company for the evening, which is a lot better then deshydrated food solo on a picnic table.

After long days on the saddle, I am not too inclined to sleep on my thermarest, so cheap motels or hotels are my reward. It’s so nice to enjoy a hot shower and a quiet evening in a comfy bed.

Type of road is a huge factor. I prefer the path less traveled, but In Ontario I find myself stuck on the highway. I can log a lot of Kilometres, but I seriously dislike it. It’s surprisingly beautiful, but very stressful to coexist with trucks and cars.

I always set a target before I go to bed. I get up early enough to have time to get to the destination, but also get lost, explore or battle a head wind.

I also like to have extra time to stop at funny diners or recommended lunch spots along the way. Nothing better then a big plate of fries to help complete a 200km day!

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Bikepacking, Canada

Get off the highway

Did you know the prairies were flat?

Did you know they were filled with lots of history? Towns that were founded due to mining or railway, now living mostly from agriculture.

Did you know lots of nice people live there? I didn’t ask for anyone to pose for me, but I really enjoyed talking with locals.

Did you know most secondary road is not paved and almost no one drives on them? When they do cross or pass me, they stop, move to the opposite and wave. Mostly bog pickups and farm tractors, everyone has been very nice, even apologetic if they thought they drove too close or too fast.

I detoured towards Gravelbourg just because I liked the name. They have a museum, grocery store, a field without toilets you can camp on, but most importantly they have a great coffee shop 😁. The cheap motels are basic and not cheap enough, but the coffee is great and the people are super friendly.

The problem with the prairies is that there are not many places to sit and relax for lunch between towns. There are also no rest areas or water water sources. So fill up your water bottles and be ready to have lunch sitting on the side of the road.

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Bikepacking

Mon grand sentier part 4

What am I doing? What’s with trying to go fast and get somewhere quickly? Time to take a step back and smell the roses.

Canada is a big country, how can I expect the trails to be the same throughout? In the tradition of over planning and overdoing everything, I may have planned too much time on the saddle to keep it fun.

I did my homework, looked at elevation, terrain, distances between campsites and hotels. I looked at the overall elevation gain, but not at every peak!

It’s great to log 100+ km rides, but when the terrain is more difficult, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for exploration and fun trail discovery. The last 2 days were hard, I lost track of the exploration and discovery part of my journey.

Heading to Fernie, I had to get on the highway because of trail closure and then missed the next fun off road section. I ended up pushing it to get to Fernie fast, missing out on lots of amazing off roading and beautiful scenery.

Before I ended up on the highway, I had ridden rail grade gravel, followed by fun and flowy trails. I can only imagine how much fun the trails I missed would have been. Chatted with local people, encountered deers and scared a bunch of cows, before I had to coexist with all the pick ups heading to Alberta after enjoying Canada day long weekend.

So I decided to stay an extra night in Fernie and explore some of the trails I missed and their famous mountain bike trail network.

Smiles for miles!

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Bikepacking, Canada

Mon grand sentier part 3

Kettle Valley Rail Trail βœ… It had it’s ups and downs, but overall an amazing trail.

After the beaten up and unused trail leading up to Summerland, came the very popular, comfort bike ridden, Myra canyon. Probably 200km of almost uninterrupted varied trails followed. Remote enough to test my nerves, but never for too long. Cell service is available on most of the section following Myra canyon and the trail crosses many villages with food and lodging.

It’s funny how gravity works. Rail grade makes it look like I am riding on a flat road and feels like I am a 🐌 who is never going to make it anywhere. The descents aren’t technical, but fast enough to be fun. The views from the highest point overlooking the Grand Forks valley was breathtaking, I didn’t think I had climbed that much πŸ™‚

I did end up putting my bear spray away and cranked up the volume of my phone listening to my bad music or an Ebook. No bear sightings, no snake, lots of deers and marmots.

Views are amazing, It’s pretty cool to start one day up in the mountain riding the trestle bridges ending up going through green fields. Everywhere along the trail there are burnt out forests, but also lots of new growth and wildflowers.

I rode through thick forests, farmlands, old mining towns, wood mills. I am amazed by all the different industries that used to thrive along the railway. I am told that the economy is struggling here, the floods and wildfires of the last few years hurt the tourism industry. It is seriously an area worth exploring, so much more to see or to ride!

I found good hydration spots along the way! Surprised I could find good coffee places in Greenwood and Grand Forks.

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Bikepacking

Mise en garde

This adventure will not be exciting! Besides a few bonus climbs and discovery detours I will not get lost. 🐻 will stay away, flat tires and mechanicals will not happen. It will be a touristy visit of my country. All about 🚲 and β˜•οΈ

Very strong winds in Victoria, a tail wind to the ferry, but not mile 0 way. I had to go for my first of not too many touristy photos to come.

Not enough gravel for the first day, but still a beautiful ride to get to the ferry. It seems like the real start is tomorrow. Our van waiting on the mainland, where I have one last night with my partner spending it in a Walmart parking lot πŸ™‚ It’s quite a contrast to the Fairmont Empress luxury we had the previous night!

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Bikepacking, Canada

Details

I am ready! Honestly I was ready a month ago!

I packed my bags and loaded my bike a few times already. I still don’t have a tire boot, but added an extra folded tire and sealant.

Tomorrow we make our way to Victoria (my partner joining for the first leg), just so I can start at mile 0 Tuesday morning to start that crazy 8000+km adventure.

My bike is so heavy I wish I could take some stuff off it, it is 49lbs fully loaded, even if I am keeping it pretty minimal.

-ultralight camping gear

-dehydrated food

-water and water treatment things

-tools and bike repair stuff

-bear scaring stuff

-essential clothing

-personal hygiène things

– important Garmin Edge and Garmin Inreach devices so I do not get lost or do get found

-solar panel and a multitude of charging cables

Sooo excited! But first I need to enjoy one last night in my bed, one last awesome espresso with my Rocket machine and one last tooth cleaning with my electric toothbrush

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Bikepacking

Mission accomplie!

21 days

6 countries

2000.59km

17565m of elevation gain

93 hours 19 minutes

3 flat tires

21 croissants

Too much chocolate

Plenty of coffee and wine

The first plan was to follow Eurovelo route 5 and get To Florence, but plans change. The Eurovelo route is not easy to follow and I got to the mountains at the same time as the snow. I explored Switzerland and France instead and had a great time! I discovered so many cities, saw so many ruines, monuments and castles from different eras and met some very nice humans.

The las few days of my adventure were flat and short, so I was happy to see mountains yesterday. I noticed the Pyrenees as I was approaching my last French lodging, but soon after, the clouds rolled in and swallowed them. The worse rainfall they had seen fell that day, lucky for me, I got there just before all hell broke loose.

My last day was another short one. It was a great day! I had another great french breakfast (yogourt and croissant) and left for Girona.

As soon as I left France, a heavy rainfall started and stayed on me for a good 45min, enough to create pools in my shoes. I really didn’t mind, I wasn’t going to stop to put shoe covers on, rubber globes or leg warmers, I think I even smiled! I wasn’t going to get off my bike today.

I was a girl on a mission. I ate my croissant while I was riding through Figueres, only stopped for 2 pictures and had no choice but to stop and lube my chain (every pedal stroke sounded like pure torture).

My bike is getting a well deserved tune up before I get to take it out for the world renowned riding Girona has to offer.

Time to leave the nomadic lifestyle behind and enjoy some greatly anticipated company, as well as more good food and coffee.

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Follow the path

Euro velo routes are…..very different from one to another, from a region to another, sometimes marked, sometimes paved, sometimes inexistant,…

Today was a fun one, I am quite happy, because I actually thought it was going to be a boring day. The plan was take it easy, follow another canal, try to avoid the rain and get to my second to last hotel before the final destination.

Everything went according to plan, the canal was there, the rain was blown away by that insane wind and I made it to destination.

The canal du midi is a well known popular touristic destination, a huge project that was created over 300 years ago. I was actually excited to see it, until I saw it… I am pretty sure it is impressive somewhere, but not the section I rode. The bike path that follows it is also mediocre, but I liked it a lot πŸ™‚Β  A pavement bike path along a canal is pretty uneventful, but a wet and muddy path is pretty awesome and challenging to navigate with a loaded bike.

Maybe they read my blog or it’s just to prove me wrong, but I met some nice cyclotourers today. Nice couple of teachers who quit their jobs and tour Europe. I was envious of their situation, but he was envious of my lightweight setup πŸ™‚ They did not enjoy the mud/rock bike path at all!

A stop in Narbonne for a quick tourist tour and an awesome coffee/lunch break before heading to my hotel in a kinda abandoned off season beach town. The 20km of gravel and dirt to get to the hotel was just awesome, music on, no one in sight, it was awesome! Quite happy I didn’t take the road bike on this adventure.

I’ve enjoyed finishing my days early and visiting the cities, but Narbonne may have been my last city visit before Girona. The pedestrian areas and the patio dinning will have to wait until I reach my final destination.

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