Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Open Apology

I have to start this post with an open apology to all the countries I criticized for being too expensive when it comes to food.  Cycling through Canada first time round over a year ago we scored some great deals and didn’t actually spend a whole lot on food.  True we cycled in April and May just after Easter so we got some great reduced deals on Easter jelly beans and chocolate they were trying to clear.  For as long as I live I don’t think I will ever forget the many bags of white chocolate we picked up for 99 cents a kilogram in Marathon, Ontario.  Probably the best deal of the trip right there.  I don’t know what happened since we have been gone but a lot of the prices have shot up.  I realize prices generally go up year after year but some of the increases have dramatically gone up.  We both held our heads low coming out of the Superstore and Extra Foods.  Trevor in particular has been really disappointed because he would talk a lot en route about the mixes he ate while cycling through Canada and how much he can’t wait to get back and eat them again for a decent price.  He said if it wasn’t for the mixes, Canada would rank low for him because we were freezing cold pretty much every day.  The mixes he ate kept him going.  So our homeland is dropping like a rock at the moment.  We haven’t yet been to a No Frills so maybe it can save Canada from being super expensive.    

While we are on the topic of food, we have both agreed the cheapest countries to buy food were Uzbekistan and Iran.  Trevor really misses those Uzbek samsas he gobbled up there for about 20 cents each and because of that, the country has been rising on his rankings list overtime.  Funny how countries grow on you even though you may have not been big on them when cycling through.  Australia has been really growing on me even though I wasn’t very happy with the constant headwinds we endured through the Nullarbor.  But they had good bread and jam and more importantly, delicious cheap milk.  I like my milk and Canada unfortunately doesn’t sell it for cheap.  Why?!  I don’t know.  We have so much agricultural land I really don’t get why our food is so expensive.  If Australia can sell it for cheap why can’t we?  
But it isn’t just the food that is expensive here in Canada.  To enter Banff and Jasper National Park we had to pay $9.80 each per day!  I thought going in that it was a one shot deal where you pay it and it is good for a week or so, much like they do in the United States.  So I have 2 beefs here with Parks Canada.  The first is that they should make the passes valid for at least a couple of days and not just one day.  It is too much hassle to extend the pass if needed, especially when cycling.  To note, they do have a weekly pass but that would have been no good for us since we were there only two days.  The second is cyclists should get a discount of some sort, much like they get in the United States.  It is not like cyclists take up much space or emit pollution.  Although, Trevor would argue that last fact and say that I release my fair share of pollution out my rear end.  To that I say it was only because I have had to resort yet again to oats and sugar since it is the cheapest and most filling food I can find.  Why can’t we just do like the U.S. and just charge $25 for vehicles for 7 days and charge cyclists and hikers half price.  To me, that is fair.  Cycling through the parks I sometimes wondered what the revenue goes towards because at times the shoulder from Lake Louise to Jasper was quite bumpy with many cracks.  Instead of gazing at the jagged peaks around me and looking out for bears, I had to really watch where I was going on the bumpy shoulder.  So I feel cyclists are getting the short end of the stick here.  I plan to write an email to Parks Canada expressing my comments and concerns.  I think we can do better.  Don’t get me wrong, I support Parks Canada and like that they protect and conserve our parks as well as educate, but I just think cyclists should get a better deal when cycling in the parks.    

There was also a noticeable culture change when we entered Canada from the United States.  Us Canadians seem to be more to ourselves whereas Americans are much more open.  Each to their own but I miss that openness and just overall friendliness from the United States.  For example, we don’t get approached as much here in Canada.  Not that it should be expected but I certainly do enjoy it when people come up to us and have a chat about our trip.  Here, people seem to just mind their own business or don’t really care.  The people that have approached us with positive vibes and words have been mostly Americans and Europeans. 

Another bother we have had to tolerate are the mosquitoes.  Again, I apologize to all the countries I dissed before because of their blood sucking insects.  Canada probably has some of the worst.  They are so bad they even bite me while I am cycling.  At times I can’t even hop off my bike to take a photo of the Rockies since they quickly find me and then never leave me alone. 

Anyway, enough bashing of my homeland.  It really isn’t all that bad.  There is a lot to be proud of.  Aside from that short stretch of road where it was bumpy with all the cracks, Canada does have nice, wide shoulders.  We also have some of the best tap water in the world as it is always clean and ice cold.  Plus it is easy to forget the little things like having rest stops with picnic tables, toilets with toilet paper, hand sanitizer and garbage bins around.  When the fog finally lifted, the scenery has been spectacular riding through the Rockies.  Highway 93 is one of the most scenic stretches of road in the world.  Hands down.  And I think I can say that given I have cycled many stretches of road around the world.  Both Trevor and I agreed that the Canadian Rockies are more scenic than the American Rockies.  You’ll see why we think this when you scroll down to the pictures below.   

We actually entered Canada on my birthday which I guess was a nice present to myself.  Unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of the day and rack up some freebies like I did at Denny’s when riding from L.A. to San Diego on the first attempt.  That was probably one of my best birthdays ever.  I may have said this before but I am not a fan of my birthday since I like to celebrate unbirthdays because there are so many more of them.  So on my birthday I was down and out and tried to forget what day it was.  Up until I hit my mid-twenties, I have never really been a fan of time passing even though I realize it passes every second.  Unfortunately we only have a finite time on this Planet we call Earth and time is something you can never get back.  It just keeps on a ticking.  I always remember comments made by fitness guru Jack LaLanne who talked about time being the most important commodity you’ll ever have.  That is very true.  You can view these comments I speak of if you Youtube the song Hallelujah by the Canadian Tenors at the 2011 Emmy Awards.  Good song, and the performers are, you guessed it, Canadian! 

We are now in Jasper but had some tire problems approaching the town.  My front tire blew up so we have just picked up another tire here.  I don’t get why North America has destroyed so many of our tires?  The roads in South America were far worse yet we got through with very little flats and no ruined tires.  Strange.  Anyway, we are about 25km away from British Columbia, our home province which would also imply we are almost done this world tour!  Vancouver is in sight!

I know you can’t really see my face but I assure you that is me and we are back in Canada!

If you didn’t believe from the last shot, then you can’t deny this shot.
It has been a while since we left Canadian soil so this barn was happy to see us back in one piece.  And great to see you too!  

Calgary was another milestone I guess for us in that it is the first place on this trip that we have crossed twice.  So it now REALLY feels like we went full circle if it hadn’t already.

Once again a big thanks to Fran and Joe, our great aunt and uncle in Calgary who we stayed with much like we did over a year ago when we were crossing Canada and it was early days in this trip.  It was also very nice to meet up with our mom’s cousins and their families. 

I woke up to foggy, gloomy weather on the day we were riding through Banff National Park.  I was seriously pissed off since I didn’t want to see my most favourite lake in the whole wide world covered in cloud and mist.  Luckily as we approached Moraine Lake the weather quickly turned for the better.  I was utterly surprised.  The weather gods must have known I was coming on through and changed up the weather for my arrival.  Thank you weather gods, even though you have frustrated me many times on this trip.  But you came through when I needed you. 

An absolutely packed with tourists Lake Louise.  Last time we were here there weren’t many people around.  Plus the water was frozen and I could walk around on the lake.  Trevor liked it much better before since there weren’t many people around.     

Well here is something that I think my park fees go towards and I support it.  They have quite a number of these animal bridges along the Trans-Canada highway in Banff National Park.  As such, mama and papa bear can guide their three cubs across the highway safely if need be without getting run over.  They also have fenced off pretty much all of the Trans-Canada highway through the park.  That is reassuring since there is plenty of wildlife out and about.  However they didn’t do that along highway 93.  And so Trevor came face to face with a fair-sized grizzly bear who wanted to cross the road.  It walked out onto the shoulder and stared Trevor in the face.  As Trevor halted to a stop about 25m away from the bear, it hightailed it back into the forest.  Poor bear just wanted to cross the road.  Unfortunately I missed it as I was zoned out but heard it trample over small trees and bushes to get out of there asap.  But can you blame the bear after looking Trevor in the face?  He isn’t really an approachable person.  In fact, he can be downright mean.  I became a bit annoyed at Trevor for scaring the bear since I love viewing wildlife, especially grizzly bears.  So I reminded him as I have done before on this trip to smile next time and do it more often because it goes a long way.    

Alvin the chipmunk.

Here is my second most favourite lake in the whole wide world: Peyto Lake.  It is a really close 2nd by the way.  Just love the turquoise lake with the many mountains in the background.  Quite the view, quite the lake. 

The morning we cycled through Jasper National Park the weather was again gloomy.  But the weather gods did their thing yet again and said let there be sun and blue sky.  Just in time too, because it would have been a letdown had I not seen the Columbia Icefield in all its glory.  Both Trevor and I remember seeing the Athabasca Glacier coming out closer to the road when we were younger.  Sadly it has been retreating a fair bit over the years.  See it while you can…

More Canadian Rockies.

Athabasca Falls.

Trees, rock and water. 

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