Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Night Sweedway Surprise, Camping at the Grand Rapids County Fairgrounds

July 3rd - leaving Calgary for Minnesota
We have set the stage for our expedition.  Our house is in order and in the care of dear friends for the time we are gone. Vera our cat has a loving adopt-a-family. Sampson, Markos and Tarn are enrolled in the Alberta Distance Learning Centre.  Rick's youth development organization, Two Wheel View, in is the capable hands of a strong staff. Tanya's Day Home kids have exciting plans for next school year.  Rick and Tanya have 5 or so weeks ahead to sort some remaining matters and Sampson, Markos and Tarn get to go to Camp Mishawaka.  Our flight to Tromso, Norway is August 14th.

50 meters from our campsite....

July 15

Towering white pines over a sunshine grass expanse, a sole tent on the far-off side, basically a campground to ourselves.  It invited disc golf and hanging of a clothesline to air gear.  The picnic table, a perfect setting for packing camp duffles (off the ground and free from the tiny ant hills that dotted the ground). A shower house.  What more could we ask for on our last family night together before dropping Sampson, Markos and Tarn off at Camp Mishawaka for the next four weeks?

THEN…from the grandstand... up until now quiet and empty on the other side of the forested slope dropping from the campground…a scratchy blaring voice broke the peace: “Welcome to the Grand Rapids Saturday Night Speedway”…. a familiar “OH CANADA” followed by a rather grandiose recording of “THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER”.  An evening disturbance of incredible volume had begun.
Racing engines, floored motors, skidding tires sliding out at the turns, bunched up beasts threatening disaster.  Two+ hours ensued.  A teasing silence between heats the only break from the deafening racetrack roar.  Enough time to make a joke that could be heard…..
Tanya repaired swim trunks.
Markos threw the disc.
Sampson, Markos, Tarn and Rick went to go swim.
Names were labeled on rackets, shoes and all else packed into camp duffles.
Dinner was eaten (re-invented leftover taco meat, shredded cheese and bbq sauce on a bun, romaine salad, kale, tomatoes and more…leftovers from the last days’ family reunion at Breezy Point). 

Go-Carts turned to Stock Cars.  Our solace I suppose, to the unbelievable immersion-by-proximity,  was free viewing of the races from the path in the trees.

Eventually...the anticipated end came.  Grandstand goers filed off the bleachers...the moon rose.  Silence and peace returned to the grounds. As I walked  to the shower house in the darkness a voice rose from a quiet campfire, "THAT, was insane."

Truly, this night goes down with our travels' handful of unforeseen extreme evening disturbances.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cycling the St. Lawrence Seaway, Montreal to Quebec

Tarn's Journal:
August 18, 2011 Today we rode sixty-five km. Dad is making dinner. A freighter went by. There is another freighter anchored down just sitting there. I am writing in the sand right now. There is a freighter going by right now. I lost an eraser in the sand and now I found it. Here come two freighters. I have seen six freighters today. There are ducks and seagulls on the lake. I can see a giant building.

August 19, 2011 Today we saw windsurfing and kite surfing on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Today we met these two guys named Simon and Pierre. One of them, Pierre, was from Quebec and the other was from England. Mon and I are eating macaroni. We are camping in someone's back yard.

Sampson's Journal:
August 19th, 2011 Friday
Right now I am sitting in a hanging blue chair that is hung by a tree. Markos is setting up tents with Mom and Tarn is looking for his journal. We are camped out in this woman's backyard who has four kids but they are away for the weekend. We got here because this guy named Pierre was not able to host us on "Warmshowers" so he let us camp in his friend's backyard. In her backyard there is a trampoline and a table and lounging chairs. Today we met this guy named Simon and he was from England. He was biking the same direction as us and we had a tailwind. Tarn is asking Mom ideas for his journal.

Markos' Journal
Aug 19th, 2011
Today we saw some kite surfers on a beach and a person was coming in. Sampson just read his journal to us. In this back yard they have a trampoline. When I finish my journal Sampson and I will go out front to play hockey, shooting on their goal. There is a marmot living under the garage. He came out to see us.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sherbrooke to Montreal

The mom and Markos outfit - Tarn takes a break at a park. Cattail in front right pannier travels with us for three-day leg to Montreal.

The World Expo site on Isle St. Helene, originally each triangular structure held a solid panel until a fire altered its image.

While enjoying the old town of Montreal, Tarn joins this street magician to entertain the crowd.

The ride from Sherbrooke to Montreal took us three days. Camping seemed easy enough, given a little creativity and awareness of options. Some excerpts from the boys' journals:

Tarn: Aug 14 Today was our first day on our trip. Sampson and Markos are eating plums. There is an apple tree nearby our camp. We are camping near a hotel. I like eating the plums. We are about to have dinner. There is a Santa House by our camping place. I am very hungry.

Markos: Aug. 15: We have red lentils for dinner. Today we had a very flat day because there were no hills. We asked some people to camp and they said we could camp in their back yard. I saw a bunch of bikes go by because we are next to a bike path. The fastest we went was 27 kilometres per hour and we biked for 4 hours and a half.

Tarn: Aug 16. We are camped at a cool camping place. For breakfast we had egg sandwiches. Right now we are at a library. Today we went seventy-two km. Today we got a cool kind of lemonade. The lemonade is a funny name in French "Limonade"

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making it Happen - Quebec Here We Come

Sampson's bike on top and the tandems on the back rack.

Heading out a little different style than our 2009-2010 North American Family Bicycle Tour, this past summer we planned a two week bike tour on La Route Verte - an extensive bike route network connecting Montreal to Quebec. We loaded up our 2003 Westfalia (took a pitstop in Minnesota, USA, for a canoe trip) and landed in Sherbrooke, Quebec on August 14. We load our tandem bikes: Tarn (6yrs) rides with Rick and Sampson (10 yrs) pedals his own touring bike - a Norco rigid frame. Tanya and Markos (8 yrs) slide back into their comfortable groove, sharing a tandem and toting those humongous tandem panniers - still a necessity to carry even our bare minimum supplies.

Wonder why that middle guy has such a big grin? A gift from Dad that morning, a bicycle calculator, now mounted on his front handle bars. Hmmmm, maybe not such a good idea.
"AGHHHHH!" I hear screaming from Sampson behind me. Markos and I pull off the cycle path-turned black top highway and I reel around running towards Sampson who sits gripping his knees in the scrappy grass shoulder of the road. I swipe his bike, twisted sideways, off the black top and cradle him in my arms, "It's ok, it's ok..." 34 kilometres per hour, the speed he reached before speed wobbles took him careening into the gravel - didn't think to use the breaks. Why would you if you are trying to max out your speed on your new calculator? Two hours later we're back on the road and ride a second day of 70+ kilometres. Bike back in action, panniers removed from Sampson's bike, and Sampson re-educated about brake use. All hills will be taken in control.