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"There are no limits to the majestic future which lies before the mighty expanse of Canada with its virile, aspiring, cultured, and generous-hearted people." - Winston Churchill
Well, I am in Canada. Warm, generous, exciting, diverse, infuriating at times. It's a country which has given me cause for much mixed emotion. For sure though, 95% of that emotion is variations of positivity. Arriving over the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, I was greeted into the country with a warm welcome, a quick scan of my passport and sent on my way. All my worries of delays and visa questions were quelled just like that, despite my sweaty, unwashed cyclist's demeanor. I'd applied for an extension to my US visa which I needed in order to have enough time to cross the country, but the hitch was that I had to send off my original I-94 form, which is essentially the little slip of paper that declares how long I am allowed in the country, if indeed I am at all. Luckily for me, I am, and even more happily I have been granted my visa extension, but temporarily missing this stapled slip could have caused all sorts of problems. It didn't - Canada was pleased to have me, and I couldn't have been more delighted to be there.
A nice few days ride along the Niagara River led me eventually to the shoreline of Lake Ontario. For all intents and purposes I could have been looking at the ocean. Standing on the beach looking across the rippling water I felt so miniscule. Subconsciously I find myself seeking this particular feeling on occasion, as if it will take some pressure off my journey by the sheer force of relativity in scale. I distinctly remember standing on 34th St in New York, craning my neck up to try and see the tip of the Empire State Building. 'If someone can build that, I can cycle across America for sure!' was my logic. Flawed and silly it seems now, but it made me feel a little better, and when it comes down to it, that's pretty important too.
Once I got over my 'moment' with the lake I eventually made it to Toronto, and out again in one piece. I try to refrain from making this blog a linear, blow by blow account of what I've done and where I've been, so I'll cut out all the excess details. Suffice to say Toronto was a blast, and it was good to ride an unloaded bike for a few days again.
Since leaving Lima, NY where I stayed with the incredible Piper family for a couple of days, I've temporarily given up my status as a solo rider. I won't make this a meditation on the differences between riding alone versus with company as there's certainly too much for my tired brain to say on the subject, but it's been really good for me to have someone to talk to for more than the average 30 minutes I spend on a break from the bike. Lily is riding from New York to Washington State on a similar timescale to me, and although we're taking different routes once we get back into the US, we've had the same goals for around a week or so in northern New York state and Ontario. Motivation has come easier with another bike to chase, and low points have been noticeably absent. Unfortunately, other absentees have included both good opportunities for shooting video, and even the drive to do so. It's been too easy to just pedal and enjoy the ride. The last couple of days have been an improvement however, so maybe I'm learning. Let us hope so.
I now sit in a cosy house, using the internet with a whiskey by my side. I'm welcome to get up and help myself to some of the food on offer in the kitchen, but I'm still too full from a fantastic dinner. This current merry episode is the latest in a catalogue of encounters with friendly folks who open their lives to us for a short while, and bestow upon us everything a dirty, smelly hungry cyclist could want. Tom and Jacqui met us in a grocery store in their town of Innerkip, and invited us back to their home. I spent last night under the stars in a thunderstorm, with lightning so vivacious I wondered if I was witnessing the Northern Lights. I loved every second of it; yet this too is bliss. I think my body and psyche are just adapting to the uncertainty each day brings, and I'm happy to say I'm becoming comfortable embracing it.
When I dreamt of cycling through Canada, it was much like this, with only slightly more ice cream and less wind. Canada feels, and looks, even more like home than anywhere else I've visited so far. This may account for my contentment here. The roads yesterday were irritating, with large cracks, bad surfaces and no shoulder. More than once I felt nothing but the grace of God was keeping me from being run off the road by an over enthusiastic pick-up. But bad roads are everywhere - places like rural Ontario aren't. Not for me, at least. It may not be the most spectacular or invigorating section of my journey, but I have a serenity on my bike here that I couldn't begin to describe. At 1.30am last night I stood under an oak tree with my camera resting on my shoulder, watching fork lightning illuminate the farmland for miles around. A flash of yellow highlighted a solitary road winding it way laboriously to the peak of a hill. Blackness. The next installment lit up the headlights of a car cresting the same hill from the opposite side, slowly traversing the path I'd been watching. The event on the mountain itself was nothing special but I felt like Ontario was putting on a private sound and light show just for me. I think these will be the moments I'll never forget; those that are not palpable or tangible, but generate a feeling inside that cannot be defined as anything more than 'significant.'
I have another 3 days or so in Ontario, and after today's ride into the prevailing Westerly wind they might make for some tough pedaling, especially coupled with some big climbs and uneven road surfaces. I will try and remember how lucky I am to be in the position I am. Today I am going to ride my bike. Tomorrow I will do the same. No-one is asking anything else of me. Who could wish for more?