My 6th province, 3rd time zone, and 2nd watershed

I am in Winnipeg and it’s been a while since I have pumped out some stats. Also I am really far ahead of schedule. I am trying to find a tournament to slow me down because if I keep going like this I am going to hit Alberta with a splash.

  • Time on the go: 80 days
  • Total distance travelled: 4667 Km
  • Money spent: $2 700 (budget is updated)
  • Number of times I have paid for accommodation: 3 ($120 spent)
  • Number of moose sightings: 5 (2 of them were dead)
  • Number of bear sightings: 3

I have made another map detailing my journey from Guelph to Winnipeg. If you click to enlarge it go to the bottom of the left panel and click on the arrow to see all the dots and lines.

You can see that map and the other ones here.

I am really lucky to get to be leading this lifestyle. Being this flexible and open to adventure truly makes this trip feel like a once in a life time experience.

Sunday afternoon in Thunder Bay is a great example. After having checked out the Terry Fox memorial, I attended the competitive ultimate team’s throw around in the park session. As the rain began to fall more and more the decision was made to pack up and go get some all you can eat sushi. A group of us showed up at the restaurant and one of things that came up in conversation was the efforts of Thunder Bay Ultimate to increase the amount of youth playing in the region. One of the efforts they were making towards that end was going into schools to run clinics and there happened to be one the following day. Having nothing better to do than ride my bike I volunteered to participate.

My clinic partner, Jeff, picked me up the following morning and we went out to a junior high school for the morning and ended up running some drills and scrimmages with three different grade 7 and 8 classes. The kids were awesome and we left them with a crate full of discs, a rule book, and an instructional video all courtesy of Thunder Bay Ultimate, if that isn’t a great approach to growing ultimate I am not sure what is.

Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay

Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay

I took off after Jeff made me a delicious lunch of pork chops and rice, and put in a good afternoons ride past Kakabeka Falls (featured on the left) and onto the turn off for highway 11. It was nice to get away from the 17 but I knew we would meet again.

Another long day of riding in desolation put me just past Atikokan, Ontario where I camped near some construction equipment hoping the noise they made during the day would be enough to keep the bears away at night. Not much happened except for passing the sign for entering the Arctic watershed, which was kind of nice. It is a little weird to see water now flowing to my right rather than my left.

Hitting the Arctic Watershed, it is weird having water flowing to the right now

Hitting the Arctic Watershed, it is weird having water flowing to the right now

I was aiming for Fort Frances where a different Jeff was awaiting my arrival. Jeff is a good friend of mine from engineering at the University of Guelph, who is now doing his masters with the University of Waterloo and his research had taken him up to the Rainy River. We bumped into one another on the highway on my way into town, not a surprise as my arrival was anticipated. I wanted to duck into town to grab some supplies and Jeff had some work to do on the river so we agreed to meet in town later on that afternoon.

About 5 Km later, as I was biking over the causeway into Fort Frances, I broke a spoke on my back wheel. I was a little concerned about how I was going to go about repairing it and hoped I wouldn’t have to take a trip across the border to do so, but I found an amazingly friendly sport shop in town.

Taggs Source for Sports in Fort Frances is awesome and I feel like I owe them several times over. I decided that while the bike was in for a new spoke I might as well get a bit of a tune up on it as well, and in the end they didn’t charge me one cent for the whole thing. They wished me a safe and happy journey and sent me on my way. They also helped me out in a Fort Frances car chase when Jeff and I got our wires crossed as to where to meet, luckily it all worked out in the end.

I had an amazing time in Fort Frances. Doing some fishing on Rainy Lake on my first night, getting out on the water the following day to spectate as Jeff and his co-researcher Adrian did some work on the river. Cooking up some Northerns for a feast and then heading out to wing night not an hour later for cheap wings and beer. Just overall a great time with some good folks and some solid conversation.

My freshly tuned bike was good to go and I rolled out on Friday morning having gone several pitchers deep the night before. Nothing a bike ride couldn’t cure. I stopped somewhere along the way for an ice cream and as I was finishing it I heard the dreaded hiss coming from my back tire as my inner tube decided it no longer wanted to hold air. My quick ice cream break became a bit longer as I had to deal with only my third flat tire of the trip.

I should say that paying for campsites is stupid. I did it once right before Thunder Bay and setting up my tent in someone’s backyard for $20 is not my idea of a good investment. Particularly because that is where I saw my second bear of the trip when I woke up in the morning and the entire reason I had paid for a campsite was to avoid bears in the first place.

Sioux Narrows Provincial Park not so legit campsite

Sioux Narrows Provincial Park not so legit campsite

Ontario Provincial Parks are probably the worst culprit as they are now charging in the area of $40 to pitch a tent. For $40 someone should be pitching your tent for you, cooking you dinner, and warming up your sleeping bag. Which is why in Sioux Narrows I did set my tent up on the beach at the provincial park, but I in no way paid for the privilege to do so. This kind of thing is much easier to get away with when all you have to do is hide a bike and not a car.

My next day saw me through the lovely town of Kenora and things were starting to get flat. Next thing you know…

What is up Manitoba?

What is up Manitoba?

I was baptized by a real Prarie storm on my first day of real riding in the flats. But wow if the wind is with you or at least not against you I think you could really make some time out here. I keep expecting to be punished for how flat it is, but that is what Northern Ontario ingrained into me.

I am not sure if the flooding out West will affect my original route plans. I figure I will stay on course to Regina and then make the call from there.

I certainly was glad to pull out of Ontario. Really such a big province with even bigger contrasts it is difficult to summarize how I feel about it. At times it was too populated at others desolate. Sometimes it was hilly others times flat. From the self-sufficient South to the natural North. All in all I can say the people were amazing each in their own unique way.


A Bay of Dancing Thunder and The Most Precious Resource to Mankind

Well I made it to Thunder Bay. When I last checked in I was in Sault Set Marie. Here we go.

Sunday in the Sault I got to meet some of the blossoming ultimate community at a pick up game and then when out for ice cream with my two hosts Evan and Angele. They continued with their incredible hospitality sitting me down to a delicious lasagne dinner and then we watched a movie that was basically 85% about bear attacks, which was a terrible idea considering where I was headed.

The Wawa Goose

The Wawa Goose

I pulled away the following morning going into probably the most remote section of my trip cutting up the shore of Lake Superior through a provincial park that had no stores, restaurants, or cell phone reception. I did feel fairly Lightfoot when I set up my tent not too far from the site of a famous ship wreck on Lake Superior, only slightly concerned about bears. I ended up seeing one the following morning about 7 Km from where I broke camp. We were both pretty disinterested in one another as the rain beat down heavily and the visibility decreased to less than a few metres for the majority of my ride into Wawa. Even though I arrived around noon, my goose was cooked and I was considering paying for accommodation.

Luckily Dave, my Montreal to Ottawa bike companion, had a few friends from his forest fire fighting days and put me in touch with Lee. Lee and I met at a fitting location, the Beer Store, and I followed him back to his digs. Lee also happens to be the childhood friend of my backyard BBQ buddy from Guelph, Paul, man it seems like a small World. Lee knew just what a wet and tired rider needed and we sat down on his couch: crushed a case of beer, ordered an extra large pizza, listened to some sweet tunes, and talked about life. His roommate Zach showed up we put on a movie and all hit the sack feeling pretty good.

Even though I was tempted to stay on in Wawa because there is pick up ultimate on Thursday nights; I still left the next morning and ran into two other cyclists right away. One was heading East and the other West. We chatted for a bit and then my Westerly companion and I joined forces and biked out of the Wawa fog into a nice day of riding. It turns out my new found friend was only going 50 Km that day and then was going to set up camp and go for a run. He was a retiree biking across Canada to train for his 8th Iron Man competition in Whistler. It was nice to have the company and not long before splitting up we encountered a group of 3 girls who were biking out of Victoria headed our way.

White Lake

White Lake

Two of my classmates from engineering, Trevor and Jeff, had embarked on similar bicycle journey to my own right after we graduated from University. I looked to them for motivation and advice particularly in the barren landscape of Northern Ontario. Jeff had recommended a cheap motel right beside White Lake provincial park and I paid for accommodation for the first time ever in this location. At $28 a night it was tough to turn down.

Coming away from White Lake I made for the beautiful town of Terrace Bay, Ontario and was now starting to see other cyclists more regularly. One, in fact, was a South Korean who I have now passed about 5 different times. His English is very limited and it looks like he is on a Canadian Tire bike but he seems to be having a ton of fun on his journey from Toronto to Vancouver. I find it an unfortunate that he will travel all that way and not get to play a single game of ultimate. Maybe I will get him out to one the next time I pass him.

My brief tenure of ultimate in Fredericton has yielded a lot of connections throughout the Maritimes and now Thunder Bay can be added to the list. Kat, a friend of mine from Freddy, put me in touch with Kristin and Dan two ultimate players who live in Thunder Bay. They offered their couch, food, and laundry to me and have been great hosts through and through.

Word of my arrival spread a little bit in the ultimate community of Thunder Bay and another player, Rita, invited me out to some Saturday happenings in town. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I trucked down to the bar and was sipping on some local Sleeping Giant ale when Rita came up and introduced herself. Turns out the band from Sault Ste Marie was great and the crowd even better and the night became a real dance party.

Waking up Sunday morning I decided to take a personal trip out to the Terry Fox Memorial located on the highway outside of Thunder Bay. I find it interesting that the particular stretch of highway it is on is only accessible by car, so a tribute to a Canadian legend championed for running across Canada can only be seen by those in motorized transport. Criticizing aside, the monument was very moving and having now done by bike some of what Terry did on one and a half legs I have even more admiration and respect for the man. Truly an amazing individual.

Seeing the memorial for Terry and now beginning to meet many other travellers who are moving across this country on quests of their own gives me motivation for reflection. It makes me think of two personal anecdotes that have made think about what is truly valuable to humans. The first story involves a man I met on this trip who, at 76 years old, was planning to bike across the country. I met him near Peterborough but haven’t shared his story until now. He was in the middle of training for his bike ride, that has probably just begun, goinf from Vancouver to Newfoundland. As we sat and discussed some of the different aspects to cycling he looked at me and said he was jealous of one thing I had that he figured he no longer did. This leads into my next story when, several years ago, I was sitting in Nepal sipping whiskey with another young traveller like myself talking to someone who I admire greatly for his commitment to helping others, Peter. Peter said to the two of us that we possessed the greatest respurces any person can hope to have and that is our youth.

Peter’s words have echoed in my head several times on my various travels and in particular this current one. Many people hear what I am doing and say they wish they were younger so they could be doing something similar. Well, I always appreciate the compliments but in the end every single one of them has this very special resource. After all we are all younger today than we will be tomorrow.

Taking a bite of the whale that is Ontario

A lot of people want to know what I do riding my bike all by myself. I don’t listen to music, however I do sing sometimes. Normally I just think.

Debates have waged as to whether I am an introvert, being able to pedal all by myself for days exchanging only a few words with waitresses at the greasy diners I stop in along the way, or an extrovert, for being able to land on the couches of randoms and connect with people I have never met before. Personally, I don’t like labels.

In my pedaling bliss I think about where I am going and where I have been. I think about the long climb ahead and the three 18 wheelers coming up behind me.

Spending time in Guelph is always great food for thought. I run into many people that I went to school with and it is interesting to see how our paths through young adulthood diverge and intersect. People like Jamie, a friend of mine doing his PhD, and Toronto Rush phenom, Cam Harris, with whom I had a philosophical lunch talking about the best way to eat a whale.

For my part, since leaving school, I have decided to take on life 6 months at a time always striving to do what is best for my personal development. I always try to evaluate the last 6 months of my life and plan for the next 6 in an effort to do what I think is best for me. The plan is to continue in this way until I turn 30 plus or minus a few years or a life changing event. I have some bigger picture goals that I would like to accomplish in that time period but why try and take on the whale that is life all at once when you can live it 6 months at a time.

The Chi-Cheemaun Ferry in Tobermory, ON

The Chi-Cheemaun Ferry in Tobermory, ON

My two hosts in Fergus, Hilary and Nate, have done some pretty awesome things with their living, I took Monday off in their company. Nate and I played a little tennis (Nate won) and did a tour of the gorge and then the three of us went out to play some trivia at the local bar. The next morning we said our goodbyes and I pumped up towards the Bruce Peninsula, hoping that one day my life might look a little bit like theirs as they start to settle down.

The weather was super agreeable for riding and I made camp not so far away from Owen Sound the first day. I knew the following day I would be in a bit of a time crunch as the ferry would be leaving Tobermory at 1:50 pm and I had over 100 Km to go. I had a choice to make: spending another night on the peninsula or getting a start on Northern Ontario. Rather than sitting back and enjoying the peninsula I decided I wanted to get a good jump on my trip and so I motored up and arrived in good time to catch the ferry.

I met two pretty cool cyclists on board and I was hoping we could keep one another company for a good stretch through Ontario but it turned out they were doing a loop and planned on heading East on the 17 whereas I would be turning West.

Manitoulin Island was beautiful and very cycle friendly I would highly recommend it as a cycling destination.

Coming off Manitoulin Island was a little hilly, but I am told that is just a warm up for the hills that are to come as I get farther North into Ontario. I was able to avoid Highway 17 for a little while but eventually had to give in to the TransCanada highway that will be my path for a little under 2 weeks in total until I get to Thunder Bay.

Northern Ontario is really just a few bugs away from being a paradise and there have been and will continue to be a lot of pictures that I should be taking.

It was a lazy noon tossing session that allowed me to connect with my current hosts in Sault Ste Marie. While tossing with my friend Sean, in Guelph, I looked down at the disc to see a logo for Sault Ultimate Players Association. It turns out that a buddy of mine, Jose, had picked up with the league in the Sault during a 6 month contract and had made some good contacts in the city, like the ones he connected me to: Evan and Angele.

Evan and Angele are known as Southies to people in the Sault as they are originally from Southern Ontario. They moved up here for work and picked up the sport of ultimate as a way to get to know people in the community. Ultimate being the what it is offered them the connection they were looking for and now a large portion of their group of friends are ultimate players. They have become a big part of the 150 person Sault Ultimate league, that runs two nights a week and is now starting up a youth night to try and grow the sport in the region.

Ontario Bear Wise Sign, do somethings really need to be said?

Ontario Bear Wise Sign, do somethings really need to be said?

Nothing promotes good relationships like shopping for spandex and I think that in the aisles of Ardene, the women’s accessory store, is where Evan, Angele, and I really bonded. I had forgotten my original leggings a few days early in a diner after changing into shorts for the hot weather. This had put me in a sour mood and although delighted to see the Ontario Bear Wise sign 60 Km later, where I first discovered they were missing, it could not replace the bottoms I had misplaced.

Both of my Sault hosts were really eager to help out in my search for a replacement and were strong promoters of the leopard print option, which, unfortunately, was not in my size. These new friends and I had only exchanged a few emails, but they opened their doors to me and have given me a place to stay for my day off and been amazing hosts. They had a BBQ last night with a theme of funny hats and we had a great time playing some cups in the backyard and then watching a movie projected onto the side of the shed. It looks like we might even get in a game of pick up ultimate and go for some ice cream afterwards.

The Sault crew: Evan, myself, and Angele

The Sault crew: Evan, myself, and Angele

I am now two months and over 3000 Km into this adventure. When I first started envisioning this trip, Northern Ontario was one of the scariest parts I had to plan for. Moving through the vast expanse of nothing was a daunting task and I wasn’t sure I was up to it. With hosts like Evan and Angele it definitely seems much more manageable.

So how do you take on a bike ride through a province the size of Ontario? The same way you would eat a whale: one bite at a time.

Gender Blender: A luge course to a dance party in hell

It was a light bike ride out of Kitchener into Guelph and thankfully I did not have any flat tires to slow me down, like the last time. Toronto Rush stand out professional ultimate player, Eric Blanchard, invited me out to his parents’ house a little past Guelph, sweetening the invitation with offers of a roast and a soak in a hot tub. I had a great time hanging out with the Blanchard family playing card games and just relaxing.

Backyard BBQ in Guelph with Paul

Backyard BBQ in Guelph with Paul

The following day I headed into Guelph proper choosing the wettest moment possible to complete the short ride into town. Another Toronto Rush powerhouse, Andy Kubinec, a man who I saw put 43 mints in his mouth a few weeks ago in Toronto, had graciously offered me his couch for my stay in town. His two housemates Gerrit and Sean are also good friends of mine and the three of them were amazing hosts letting me use their couch and providing me with dinners while I toured around my old university.

It was at the University of Guelph that I made use of the student run bike shop to tune up my bicycle at the best price possible: free. Afterwards I met up with my good friend Paul who invited me out to a BBQ with his graduate program. The food was great and the day was lovely, so much so that I ventured back to Waterloo by car post-BBQ to participate in a Maverick practice.

Maverick is the open touring team based out of the Waterloo region and this year is being called a development year and they have opened up their practices in order to promote ultimate in the region. I saw several old teammates from my days playing with the University of Guelph and it was a neat practice, ultimate in the region will benefit greatly from their approach. Some of the Maverick team was gearing up to head down to the States for a tournament and several individuals were going to play on various teams at Gender Blender for the weekend.

This was my first time at Gender Blender, I had only heard the stories. It lived up to the hype.

Gender Blender is a weekend long party in Fergus, ON that also happens to be an ultimate tournament. Friday night teams set up their campsites and blend a drink to impress the rest, Saturday night has a huge dance party under the big tent, and you play some ultimate in between. The team I was playing with, MUPH, is composed of University of Guelph Alumni players and had the reputation of best game for the past two Gender Blenders.

This year the team’s theme was an 80’s ski lodge and the game promised to be a contender for best game for the 3rd year in a row, a treadmill powered tobogan luge course. Two of my teammates, Blue and Ryan, had put in many hours constructing the course that was about as dangerous as it sounds; if you didn’t lean forward on your run. Plus while waiting in line you and three friends could stand shoulder to shoulder and take a shot out of the shotski.

Friday night was a blur as there were 56 teams at the tournament (ed note: make that 60 teams), this year being bigger than ever because it was the last one. Each team with a drink and a game it would be a feat to make it all the way through. Some of my highlights were the strip dodgeball, the strip volleyball, the Lance Armstrong cheat to win site, and the eventual dance party in Hell. But I couldn’t even come close to doing all the campsites justice that is just too much for one person to handle.

MUPH is fairly accustomed to playing with a a hangover and the team went undefeated on Saturday and benefited from a local connection to lounge in the hot tub for the evening before heading out to the big tent dance party and then subsequent after parties at various campsites, the most popular being the ones that could keep out the rain, like the giant volcano.

Sunday came along with a rain storm and a win in our quarterfinals and then a loss to the eventual champions Herb and Mary Jane, placing us in 3rd or 4th on the tournament.

MUPH at the last Gender Blender

MUPH at the last Gender Blender

MUPH players and Fergus residents, Nate and Hilary, are my current hosts and I got in another hot tub session at Nate’s parents’ place and then a delicious steak dinner to finish the weekend off.

Not bad for my 5th tournament of the trip. Southern Ontario has made me soft and low on money. It is time to head North and see what this body is really made of.

The Sault will likely be my next ultimate destination, so that is on deck.

The art of hitchhiking and 2 flat tires

I am finding it difficult to write another post when I have barely gone 200 Kms since my last one. On the cycling side of things it has been more quiet but I guess the social and ultimate side are happening. Here is the map I have created in google detailing my route from Ottawa to Guelph

The maps are fairly good in terms of tracing my actual route. There are times when I took bike paths and not roads which was more difficult to illustrate but you can get the idea of how I travelled. You can find the Halifax to Ottawa map here.

My budget has also been updated, looks as though I am on target.

Pictures have also been added here.

Now that's a flat tire

Now that’s a flat tire

I have yet to hitchhike on this trip. The hitchhiking stories I am going to tell are from other years.

I always felt that our society had a lot of unused potential. My recent travels to Africa, where having 4 people on a motorcycle was commonplace, reinforced my opinion; particularly in the domain of transportation.

I feel that it is unfortunate that we are content to use so much energy to transport one person from one place to the next. I find that hitchhiking, much like this adventure, is a very interesting sociological experience. While you might have the money to take the bus, plane, or train nothing compares to the feeling of a driver putting on the brake lights and offering you a ride in a similar direction to that in which you are travelling.

The two seconds of eye contact that you make with your potential lift, as you stand on the side of the road holding up your sign and they size you up wondering if all those horror stories in the media are really true, it is one of the most interesting social experiences I have ever lived. I do not think there is a standard profile for someone who picks up hitchhikers. Young or old, male or female, singles or families, in one province or the next, I have had rides from them all. The one thing they all have in common is the willingness to break the societal norm and live something different.

My monologue on hitchiking is relevant because the team I played for at the Canadian Ultimate Championships last summer was based out of Waterloo and I was not, but now I am temporarily visiting.

I came out of my brief stint as a Fredericton resident last spring so that I could take a summer research position with the University of Toronto in Northern Ontario. The interesting thing about ultimate in Northern Ontario last summer was that North Bay was going to host two tournaments. The annual classic Northern Flights and Regionals. North Bay was only 6 hours by car South of where I was stationed in the forest. Hitching seemed like the most logical option for making the trip and twice I found myself participating in that interesting social experiment to get South so I could play some disc. From yelling about the politics of Northern Ontario to sitting in a family’s living room being asked for safety references the stories were worth every second of standing on the road with my thumb out waiting for that someone somewhere who was willing to take a chance.

Onto the present day story.

With my spirit sill spinning I left Mark’s house in Oshawa and rode along the shore of Lake Ontario into Toronto. I fell for the second time this trip in along the way. I think we are all aware of Toronto’s crack problems and I fell victim to one such hole and ended up going face first into the sidewalk. The gentleman sitting in his front yard located beside my unfortunate faceplant informed me that I was the second cyclist that day to fall because of the hole. He was nice enough to me, helping me pick up my bicycle which survived the tumble with only minor scrapes and bruises, however he was irate with the city. I guess someone should tell the mayor that there is a crack problem.

In Toronto I had the luxury of staying on the couch of Brendan and his girlfriend Steph. Brendan and I go way back to the canoe tripping days of Camp Hurontario and it was great to catch up with him again. My time in Toronto was spent logging some serious couch time and drinking beers with various friends in the city.

I wanted to make Hamilton my next stop and so I called on an old friend who I hadn’t seen since high school. Mary and I have known one another since we were 7 or 8 years old and despite our 7 year communication hiatus, she offered me her futon for the night. Hamilton is another city I am super glad I got the opportunity to visit and it is not quite what I would have expected, in a good way.

Now that's a flat tire

Now that’s a flat tire

The following morning Mary and I biked together along Hamilton’s beautiful Lakeshore pathway and we parted ways promising to do a better job of keeping in touch. The pride I had felt in the fact that I had not gotten any flat tires quickly evaporated early that morning when I felt the dreaded drag of low pressure in my rear tire. I fixed things up pretty quick and thought I would be good to go for the day. It was a feeling of dismay when, biking through Cambridge several hours later, my tire blew out completely.

This time my tire itself had split open and I was forced to turn to the foldable tire I had stashed in my paniers. In order to make it fit I had sacrificed one of my African suits and it was nice to see that it had justified the space I had given it.

I pulled into Kitchener to a darkening sky and a cold wind. I was staying with Dan and Kirk, two Waterloo touring ultimate players. That night Kirk and I made for a cold and wet Whiplash practice that featured some sideline shivering and a ton of burpees.

I got the opportunity to see all of the Whiplash players on the field Saturday for the one day Waterloo tournament, Mayday. I was playing with Too Bad a mens touring team based out of Toronto the same one I had played with 2 weeks prior at TUF. Too Bad ended up winning the tournament coming out on top in our final game against the 4th version of the Waterloo mens touring team, Maverick, we had faced that day.

Too Bad 2013 MayDay Open Champs, I'm the on with the beard (photo cred: Ed)

Too Bad 2013 MayDay Open Champs, I’m the on with the beard (photo cred: Ed)

Out of control night out in Waterloo

Out of control night out in Waterloo

Clearly I felt this was a cause for celebration as Kirk, Dan, and their buddy Thomas took me for one of the most wild and expensive nights of my trip. Hitting up a couple of different bars in the area and making for a forgettable Sunday.

Now it is time to Blender.

The Spirit of Spinning

“So Tim, is this what you expected?”

The question came out of nowhere and seemed innocent in nature and I didn’t think I would base an entire blog post about it, but the words that call into question my expectations often give me cause for thought. Not to mention I was having one of the most unique and interesting experiences of my trip thus far.

I checked my surroundings before answering. It was dark out, there were explosions in the distance, children were running around screaming carrying burning sparklers, and what can only be described as UFOs were flying through the air. I didn’t feel concern because I had a cool beer in my hand and I was surrounded by people who, although I didn’t know any of them by sight a few hours earlier, had become fast friends and another story in this remarkable adventure. Having completed the survey I replied:

“No, but only because I didn’t have any expectations to begin with.”

The Durham Ultimate Club

The Durham Ultimate Club

This story begins a month and a half earlier when I had just launched a website, this very website actually, about my weird idea to bike from Halifax to Vancouver on a $45 bike playing ultimate as I went. The next step in this story involves a fellow named Derek. Now Derek is just your regular father of two, but I felt a connection to Derek for two significant reasons. The first reason is that Derek plays ultimate and is a member of the Durham Ultimate Club or DUC. The second is that Derek has an email account and he knows how to use it. When Derek came across my website about this weird idea he decided to send me an email inviting me out to a tournament hosted by DUC and even linking me to some of the bike trails to take in the region in order to arrive in Oshawa.

Having exchanged several emails it turned out that the tournament was going to be on the same day as TUF, an ultimate tournament in Toronto, so I would not be able to make it. Derek and I persisted in our email contact and I decided that Oshawa would be a good stop to make in between Peterborough and Toronto, so Derek went about finding me a couch.

Derek introduced to me to Mark by email, describing him as a ‘super awesome guy’, about 3 days before my expected arrival in Oshawa. I did not know him nor he me. All we knew about each other was a few emails and a phone message.

I came in from Peterborough on a lovely Saturday having stopped at the Farmers’ Market before taking my leave of the city. With some perogies and apples to fuel me on my way I had a nice ride through Ontario that was maybe a little more hilly than I had originally expected.

I came down the street to the address I had received by email to the sight of a beautiful house with an old Volks Wagon Bug parked out front and a man standing out front with both his arms raised above his head telling me to pull right in. I had met the self-proclaimed oldest player in the DUC but the youngest at heart, Mark “The Spirit of Spin”. Mark’s enthusiasm was infectious right off the bat and there appeared to be about a million things going on at once. George the lawnmower was getting reworked by Mark’s son Connor and his friend David and Troy, Mark’s buddy from BC, was making a solar powered light to sit on the fence. Feeling slightly overwhelmed I asked if I might be able to grab a shower and hoped to grab a moment to collect myself.

I made the Wall of Fame at Mark "The Spirit of Spin"'s residence

I made the Wall of Fame at Mark “The Spirit of Spin”‘s residence

When I was led into the house I knew I had landed in the right place. Mark took me in through the garage into a room absolutely filled with discs. They lined the walls and each seemed to have a unique story. There were fun discs like a disc you could fill with water and it would spray as it rotated through the air. More serious discs like the 2013 Toronto Rush Inaugural Season where Mark had attended the home opener with over 100 people from the DUC. Or discs with stories like the one Troy had acquired in Costa Rica because he was feeling a little bored and, as per Mark’s instructions, he bought the disc and waved at people as they passed hoping to find someone to toss with on the beach. The first couple to see him have now become his good friends. Every where I looked all I could see were discs and attached to each disc a story lining the walls and Mark was telling me all about them, talking a mile a minute.

I came up from my shower feeling a little more prepared for what was bound to be an interesting evening, and Mark pointed out his wall of fame and showed me where I had been honoured with a message, in the picture above. We sat out on the front porch with a beer and talked ultimate and Frisbie amid the distractions of friends dropping by and lawnmower maintenance questions, it all seemed like an everyday occurrence for Mark, being the focal point of the neighbourhood.

Mark has been throwing a disc for many years and is a frisbee/disc/ultimate nerd/junkie/fanatic. He was actually a member of the International Frisbee Association (IFA), established in 1967, and at one point he even had the T-Shirt to prove it. Mark brought out some literature that he had acquired over the years about the history of Frisbee right from the fabled pie plate that kick started the sport when it was turned upside down in order to be thrown. He even had one of the original Frisbie’s pie plates as a part of his already impressive disc collection which he had made a pie in for the occasion.

A Spirit of Spin apple pie in the Frisbie's pie plate that is the origin of the sport.

A Spirit of Spin apple pie in the Frisbie’s pie plate that is the origin of the sport.

We eventually went up to the park, as a group of four: myself, Mark, Connor and David, after a delicious spaghetti dinner, to toss a few discs. We took about six discs and some water and had a great time throwing around. Mark even had a disc that measures the RPMs on your throws and we took turns whipping it at one another to see who could come out as the best spinner.

We retired to the house for some beers and Frisbie pie and Mark read me a story he had written about the life of his favourite disc Mr. Friz from game disc to road warrior. It was an awesome listen and I think it should be out in the next Ultimate Canada Magazine. Mark has already written an article for said magazine entitled “I’ve found my people” found on page 26.

Derek, the emailer who set this all in motion, swung by and we got to have a beer in person to make up for the all the keyboard tapping we had done back and forth. Then the lot of us headed back out to the park for some long weekend fireworks, sparklers, light up disc tossing, and beer. It was there that I was asked:

“So Tim, is this what you expected?”

And my subsequent reply:

“No, but only because I didn’t have any expectations to begin with.”

Even if I did have expectations before the start of this trip they never could have lived up to what I am experiencing.

Thanks to Mark “The Spirit of Spin” and crew for making my stay in Oshawa such an awesome one.

Mark "The Spirit of Spin" and  me in Oshawa May 19th

Mark “The Spirit of Spin” and me in Oshawa May 19th

On 4 wheels and 2: Ottawa, Toronto, Ottawa, Peterborough

I think I can now officially say I have made it past the 2000Km mark, but I am getting ahead of myself.

A little bit of house keeping; I have reworked the site a little bit so that the ultimate stories have have their own separate section. Unfortunately the only actual ultimate stories I have gotten are from Halifax and PEI otherwise just a few offers that never came to be. Somewhere along the way someone mentioned that this would be a really neat document to have as a reference particularly in terms of the ultimate that exists in communities at this time. Obviously if I am going to make this work I am going to have to re-think my approach to getting people to write for me. Anyways there are some stories to be told.

I arrived in Ottawa to an empty house as my parents were off in California. While at first this was a positive thing I realized that in order to keep my budget low during my time there I would need to rely on whatever was left lying around. The first meal was grand as I dined on shrimp and steak from the freezer, things got a little desperate after a few days when I was forced to make do with salsa and pie crust. It was around this time that my Grandmother took pity on me and invited me to a charity event at the horse races in Ottawa, I was particularly glad to see the buffet.

Me styling on the TUF sideline (photo cred: K-Poh)

Me styling on the TUF sideline (photo cred: K-Poh)

I will admit that I am not a twitter fan, however I have to give credit where credit is due and in this case it was thanks to the tweets of TUF Tweet Dude that allowed me to hook up with a drive down to TUF courtesy of BFC and Big Fish, many thanks to them. The visions I had of lounging around 25 degree weather at Sunnybrook Park networking couches for the Ontario leg of my trip and catching up with the team from Newfoundland, the one province I am shunning in this trip, were dashed when word got out of the fields being cancelled for the weekend, due to weather. In all honesty the TUF organizers did a stand up job on short notice providing everyone with a place to play and at least 5 games. I think that is some quality scrambling. But my networking opportunity was ruined and I decided to try and find myself a team.

It took a little explaining to Too Bad to convince them to give me a couple of points. But once it was sorted out that while my bike trip had commenced in Halifax but I wasn’t actually from there and when I was there I was playing with a team from Fredericton, where I had only lived for a month, and when I was at nationals last year it was with a team from Waterloo but I didn’t practice with them I just hitch hiked to tournaments to play with them. Once that was all sorted out I got to get a few points in up and down the field. Much appreciated to the folks of Too Bad they were a good group of guys and I think I will hook up with them again in Waterloo for Mayday.

Too Bad finished the tournament in 5th place in the open division, but I had only planned on playing the Saturday with them. Sunday morning I awoke at 6:30 in the apartment of Toronto Rush super star, Jeff Lindquist, surrounded by the captains of PPF as they got ready for their early Sunday game nobody seemed to be in good shape that morning. I found myself to be in about as much disarray as the tournament schedule as I lost both my disc and water bottle somewhere in my Sunday travels.

Jeff had to go evaluate some of the players at their Sunday games and so I tagged along in an effort to make something out of m day. The hail and general cold weather brought me to accept my buddy Peter’s invitation to his family brunch. As I walked in the door to his house I was greeted by the warmth of his family and over 10 of us sat down to a delightful and unexpected Sunday Mother’s Day Brunch. Pete and I then went down to the Toronto Rush game that was quite unusual due to the weather.

I made it back to Ottawa, thanks again to my ride from Nicole of Big Fish, on Sunday evening and to the return of my parents. There were still a few things to be done in Ottawa before I hit the road like a parliament hill photo shoot with my friend Bri. A ton of credit to her, she really worked for these pics lying down on the grass and everything. I think the other tourists also found me quite a sight and I may be featured in a few other people’s albums commemorating Ottawa.

My family joining me on the ride out of Ottawa

My family joining me on the ride out of Ottawa

Wednesday morning I was all set to go and my family decided to accompany me on my way out of town. My mother took the lead taking us in twists and turns out of Ottawa, through main roads, side roads, alleys, and back yards. I think at one point we biked through the kitchen of a family enjoying breakfast together, they were nice and didn’t seem to mind.

My mom and sister turned around after a coffee break about 30 Km from where our driveway. My dad and I continued on to the house of his cousin and her husband John in Lanark. My dad had biked to Goderich, ON a few years earlier and this had been his first stop on his way out too. My mom drove in and John, my parents, and I went out for dinner in Perth. John turned out to be a really interesting guy having run for the Green party in the past couple of elections. He also used to plant trees for a commune in the area and had done the same program I just finished, Canada World Youth, before I was even born. My parents headed back to Ottawa after dinner and John and I went back to his organic farm.

I took off early the next morning and my next two days of cycling really became an internal struggle of efficiency versus safety. I was heading for Peterborough and unfortunately with the head winds I was up against I wasn’t going to make it in time for Thursday league night. The difficult thing about being in Ontario is not only do you have to contend with the geography, which was a little more hilly than I would have thought, but population dynamics play a big roll. In a car going from Ottawa to Peterborough is a breeze you take highway 7 it is straight and true and you can drive quickly on it. On a bicycle highway 7 is tempting due to its straightness and trueness but it is also a side mirror clipping waiting to happen. The shoulders are narrow, the cars drive quickly, it has a fair amount of trucks on it, and it is a prime route to take to your cottage. This was the other aspect of rolling on the Thursday Friday before the May 2-4 long weekend, I think anyone who can spell the word cottage goes up to one towing who knows what behind them. In an effort to avoid the mayhem I tried side roads and old rail trails some were better than others.

Beavers and snowmelt contributed to the bike riding me.

Beavers and snowmelt contributed to the bike riding me.


The above picture shows a not so favourable bike path/ATV trail that I attempted to ride. The first 15 Km were pretty terrible with loose gravel and sand and then I came across the wash out. It seemed like there was two major contributing factors the beaver dam and the snowmelt. Facing a long back track I opted to portage my bike across the water that came up to my knees. I then decided that efficiency trumped safety and I would be taking highway 7 the rest of the way into Peterborough.

I had always met interesting people from Peterborough or who had gone to Trent but I had never really explored the town myself. My down the road neighbour from childhood, Hollis, was one such former Trent student. He informed me that he was no longer living in Peterborough but he had a friend that could maybe take me in. If I owe Hollis one then I feel like I owe his friend Lyn at least 100. She opened her home to me and made me a delicious dinner. Then we rolled down to the water and ate ice cream sandwiches and drank some beers and I got a great tour of the Peterborough downtown.

The only ultimate I got to play in Peterborough was a round of disc golf when I first arrived and I briefly spoke with a player who tours with Smoke the Peterborough ultimate team. My next night in Oshawa I more than got my fill of ultimate, but that is a story for tomorrow.