This post is a compilation of my daily field notes on Facebook. If you would like to see them daily, you can follow me here.
Day 73 – July 2 – Walk Across Canada
A dog howled at me from a rural property yesterday, which is common. But then it came all the way out to me on the highway, which is rare. And then she approached me in a submissive way, fell to my feet, rolled onto her side, and bared her throat to me.
And just like that, I was the Alpha Male, which is a good thing because I was, biologically speaking, the only male between us of any species.
She followed me for two kms. At first, I pointed back and said, “Go home!” But apparently, she didn’t understand English. She just wagged her tail and stared at me like I was saying, “Let’s go find some chocolate.”
After a while, she started barking like a crazy dog. I looked up and there was a coyote walking parallel to me in the field. So we had this little routine for awhile where the dog would bark, the coyote would stop and stare, I would stop, the dog would look back at me for approval, I would start walking again, the coyote would start following, and the dog would follow at my heels. And then every 25 meters or so, we’d repeat the whole thing.
I did wonder about the coyote, however. I thought his presence was coincidental, but then I wondered if it was following me on purpose. A woman was killed recently in Cape Breton by two coyotes. So, just to feel more secure, I stopped, grabbed my knife, and slipped it into my back pocket.
I didn’t need it for the coyote after all. Soon, the dog and coyote went on their separate ways and I was left alone. The show was over. Sniff.
I managed to salvage a 51-km day yesterday, despite not really getting underway until 2 pm. And I even saw some fireworks from the highway as I passed a small town in the dark.
Today, I walked past Moose Jaw around noon. There was a statue of a moose that was too far away for a good shot with my camera, so I kept walking. I wasn’t going to walk an extra kilometer just to get a photo of a moose. You can google it if you want to see it. Hehe.
Once I got out of town, I walked in the heat of the day for twenty kms before a found a tree on my side of the highway. It’s where I’m at right now. Whew! It’s warm out here.
Having no trees is a problem, not just because there’s no shade, but because there’s no place to hide if you have a bathroom emergency.
However, the bonus is that I have a 25-km/hr tail wind helping me along. Woohoo!
If I don’t have anymore fainting spells, I should be back on track for distance again today. Fingers crossed.
Day 74 – July 3 – Walk Across Canada
The road to freedom and success are littered with barriers. There are rarely any freebies in life. That’s why freedom and success feel so good, why they’re so damn satisfying. They’re hard to achieve. They have to be earned. If you think about your own life, the successes you’ve had, the freedom you’ve enjoyed, you’ll remember that you probably had to show some grit and determination to get there. If it had been dropped in your lap, it wouldn’t have had much meaning. It’s the adversity that makes freedom and success so valuable.
I say this because I had some dizzy spells a couple of days ago. I practically fell over onto Kitty at one point. It slowed me right down for two days. I actually thought that this is what was going to end this walk for me. I even considered stopping for the year and picking up where I left off next year. But I made some more changes to my diet and changed from Crystal Light to Gatorade in my water in case the dizziness was from an electrolyte imbalance, and yesterday I was fine. I walked 71 kms and didn’t feel dizzy at all.
Today, the barrier to success is a bad heat rash on my thighs. I thought my thighs were covered in no-see-um bites, since the bugs are ferocious at dusk now and can get up under my shorts. But it looks like a heat rash. It burns. So I put on some Penaten last night. This morning, my thighs look raw, but they don’t burn.
The next barrier is the heat. It’ll be in the plus-30s for the next ten days or so. I haven’t decided yet if I will adjust my routine by walking at night when it’s cooler; I’ve noticed that even with my bike light and head lamp, it feels more dangerous walking in the dark. So we’ll see.
If I were just doing 25 kms per day, none of these problems would matter. I have often found a juicy stealth-camping spot after about five hours of walking and thought, “I could just spend the next 18 hours in there, napping, reading books, drinking Gatorade, and popping jujubes in my mouth all day.” It’s a nice fantasy, and one I want to indulge in on future walks. But this walk is about speed. It’s about challenging myself to the limit. It’s a different kind of adventure.
I’ll keep the pace up as long as I can. To finish this in 100 days means I need to average 10 hours and 40 minutes of walking every day for the next 26 days. Every day that I can attain it is another day I’m still in the game. But to lose a day or two at this point would likely put the goal out of reach.
So today is about staying fed and hydrated and walking, steady as she goes.
It’s 5:30 am. Time to hit the road.
I had a nice surprise this morning when Melissa and Todd Bryden, along with their 5-year-old fraternal-twin children stopped by on the highway. They brought me water, coffee, and all kinds of food – hard-boiled eggs, licorice, protein bars, and Gatorade. Their daughter asked me why I was doing this walk. I told her that when I was a few years older than her, my father laid out a map of Canada on a table to show us kids where we lived. I saw a red line that went all the way from Halifax to Vancouver, and I decided then that I wanted to walk across Canada. Forty-six years later, I’m finally doing it.
I haven’t seen Todd in about twelve years, when we worked together in the military. He was a medic back then. A good medic. And a good soldier. He’s done well in his career since then. He’s a Lieutenant now, commissioned in April, and a Physician’s Assistant. He served for five years in Halifax, posted on eight different naval vessels, the last being the HMCS Halifax, before taking a slightly less-demanding position on the air force base in Moose Jaw.
What a couple of great Trail Angels Todd and Melissa are. Thanks so much, guys!
The heat is oppressive. It’s 33 degrees right now. But what’s worse is the attack I’m under from the new crop of deer flies. Relentless little buggers. I’ve killed ten and been bitten twice. Make that 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. And this is in addition to the new crops of black flies and no-see-ums. I really thought I had left these pests behind in Ontario. No fun at all. Grrrr.
I walked through the town of Chaplin, Saskatchewan. Very cool place with the salt plains and mine. It was a nice oasis in the middle of a long day. I was even able to fill up my water bottles there.
Ok, back to the road. The wind a up and the heat is down. Until tomorrow.
Day 75 – July 4 – Walk Across Canada
I’ve been thinking about that guy who walked across the United States averaging 80 kms/day. If he were on this cross-Canada walk, he would be finishing in Vancouver today.
I was also thinking about my original goal of 150 days. If I were on track with that, I’d be arriving in Thunder Bay today.
Instead, I’ll finish today about halfway between the two, west of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, about 1490 kms from Stanley Park in Vancouver. So I’m about 75% finished. I’ve made some gains since Thunder Bay, so I only have to average 60 kms/day instead of 64.
I’ve also made an executive decision. I’ve listened to the reports of the cyclists coming from British Columbia, those who came through highway 3 and those who followed the Trans-Canada. Highway 3, which is the one I was planning to take, has less traffic, but more hills and narrower paved shoulders. And as my friend, Todd, pointed out yesterday, highway 3 is actually longer by about 30 kms. Somehow, I thought it was shorter by 35 kms. I was finally convinced to change to the Trans-Canada when a couple of people told me that cyclists take highway 3 for the bragging rights, which, in my vocabulary, means it’s a heck of a lot harder. Personally, at this point, I’m not looking for harder. I’m looking for easier.
So there you have it. I’ll be walking through Calgary after all.
Last night, Kitty got another flat tire. It was the one I did a quick repair job on with the tire foam. It was an easy change after I stopped at a gas station. At the risk of seeming overly confident, I would suggest that I am becoming rather an expert on changing these tires. And I did it while fighting off all sorts of dreaded insects. My new superhero power.
While I was fixing my tire, a woman named Anne chatted with me. She had seen me on the highway all the way back in Sudbury. Then she gave me a bag of cherries, which I’m currently eating. Great trail angel.
I’ve had more dizzy spells. I’m going to try to take breaks more often throughout the day. I’ll do what I can in a day, and if it takes more than 100 days to complete the walk, oh well. It was a stretch goal anyway. Still, every day I can walk for 10 hours keeps the goal alive. I just won’t risk my health to do it.
Today was a good day for feeling free. Wide open spaces, rolling hills, gentle breeze, warm sun, nice people. If I could bottle this feeling, I’d make a mint on it. (Al just told me you can’t bottle an emotion. But I could bottle some mustard seed!
You probably think there really isn’t much to this walking across Canada thing. But I assure you that it is mentally draining. I have to make a lot of decisions during a day that sap my energy. For example, I’m taking a break right now, laying on my back under some shady trees, and I have to decide whether to reach for the cherries or to reach for the red licorice. It’s a tough decision. Right? I’m not just dawdling here, my friends. I’m making massive, perhaps world-changing, decisions on this walk.
A police car stopped in front of me today. The officer stepped out.
“We received a call…”
“No, ma’am, no baby.”
Hehe. I already know what comes after ‘we received a call’.
I’m at Subway eating an egg salad sub. Sigh.