July 2014 Cross-Canada & USA Road Trip and Bike Tour

On June 28th 2014, I packed a suitcase and a bicycle in a car with the aim of going from Montréal to Vancouver and back. The truth is that I was really not thinking that I could pull it off but I also knew that the best way to be sure was to try.

I did go to Vancouver and back and it exactly took me a month since I returned home on July 28th! Here are some of the 1500 photos that I took in the course of that month-long road trip. Enjoy reading about the The Big Journey as much as I enjoyed living it!

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Instead of crossing Canada all the way to Vancouver by driving West, I drove South straight to the USA border for two reasons 1) it was a better way to travel 2) I had friends to visit in Washington DC, New York City and a small town called Enfield.

My reason to travel to Vancouver via mostly the USA is simple: 1) faster highways (In Canada the average speed is 100km/h. In the USA it can go up to 120km/h. It may not seem like much but if you set your cruise control to 100 and set another to 120 and drive for four hours non-stop, it does make a BIG difference!). 2) cheaper fuel 3) higher population density which means more access to services and emergency responders should something go wrong 4) the roads are bigger, better and wider 5) less wildlife stepping onto the roads. I drive a MINI so a collision with any type of animal at high speed can be deadly to all parties involved.

The border wait time was fair and I used that time to make phone calls and send notices of absence to concerned parties.

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I ended up meeting my friends at a lake because the drive took longer than anticipated (construction). By the time I got to them, I was too tired to even take a little dive. The water looked delicious to swim in and when I touched it it was warm. But I really had no energy.

I stayed in Enfield for a total of 24 hours because plans changed and I had to drive to Washington DC, where I was also expected and quite urgently!

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These were my travel and tourism modes of transportation. From city to city, I drove in the Blue MINI John Cooper Works (the John Cooper Works designation is important because it’s a supercharged MINI which makes it fast & furious in a fun way.

That exclusivity would cost me dearly later on the trip both financially and in time!). The bicycle is a fixed gear ride (google fixed gear, Wikipedia will explain it better than I could ever) and since the MINI is pretty small, I had to screw out the front tire which takes less than a minute.

Yes that’s a helmet on the floor. I have learned to ride with one for safety reasons first and foremost but also because in some cities that I would eventually visit, it was mandatory by law.

I like to name things so the MINI is called Jazz (the engine sound is like Jazz Music to my ears) and the bicycle whose brand name is actually La Piovra Air is called Buck Black after an animal namedbBlack buck which is super fast like the bicycle!

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I will not be sharing much photos from Washington DC since it was a personal visit and I sort of avoid including the people I spend time with since most of them appreciate their privacy.

But I did go on a tour de Washington DC and visited all the obvious  must-see places and to end the trip, rewarded myself to a Haagen-Dazs ice cream even if I am totally lactose intolerant. There aren’t any company stores in Canada so I could not resist.

0714tbj07I also went to New York City and rode around the city. I took a few photos during the ride but honestly, I have taken and shared enough photos of NYC so I will spare you.

After two nights there, I headed towards Vancouver. I knew it was a drive that would take me a week or two as I had given myself time to enjoy the journey without rushing to the destination.

This photo was taken in the border of New York State and Pennsylvania. It had been raining a few weeks earlier non stop so everything was so green that I had to stop and marvel while inhaling the fresh air!

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I made a quick stop in Cleveland to have lunch and decided to explore the city by car and stopped by a few places that looked interesting. I don’t know much about the city so I had no idea what to look for. After an hour break, I got back in the car and drove along.

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By dinner time, I made my way to Chicago where I spent the night. In the morning, I did some tourist stuff such as visiting Cloud Gate in Millenium Park and by noon I got into the car to pursue my big journey

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By evening time, I ended up in Minneapolis where my plan was to do some tourist stuff again such as visiting the aptly named The Spoon & Cherry, took some photos and drive until night fell completely at which time I would find a hotel. Turns out that I had a family member of mine has a friend there who called me just as I was about to leave town and invited me over which was very considerate of everyone involved!

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In the morning, and it was really early, I got into the car and drove and drove and drove until sunset. This sunset kept me company for a good three hours as I was crossing North Dakoka towards the Canadian border that crossed into Saskatchewan.

I tried my very best to edit this photograph in the way the sunset really looked but I don’t have the right skills. In real life, the sun was very big and very majestic. I remember asking myself: “How can someone attribute this wonderful phenomenon to sheer evolutional luck?”

By the time, I crossed into Canada and got to Saskatoon, it was 3AM. So I had driven over 15 hours with just fuel refilling stops and a quick 10 minute nap! To say that I was tired when I got into a bed would be an understatement!

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I spent three days in Saskatoon because I have dear friends there and meet new ones and also because I attended a wedding. I did ride around the city and loved it. It is small but it has a lot to offer to residents and visitors alike.

I even came across my first coyote on my bike ride! I had seen warnings about them but expected it to be big so I mistook it for a dog that was in the middle of the woods without a leash. While I was calling the would-be owner names, I realised that it was no dog but a wild animal. Now, it look tinier than I imagined it so I was not really scared but I also did not know if his friends were waiting for his signal so I quickly pedaled while he also ran off.

Saskatoon is the land of huge cars. At one stage I pulled over a fuel station and my MINI was dwarfed by all the pickups and most of them were driven by women who gave the MINI some looks then at me. I wanted to exclaim “Hey… unlike your men, I have nothing I am insecure about!!!” (I hope you caught that joke. If you have not, ask a friend of yours that has a twisted mind. My mum reads this blog).

Some children of a friend also saw that I was cycling everywhere so they asked me to take them on a bike ride. I had a planned a little hour ride and ten minutes into it, we went by a playground. They promptly got off their bicycles and played for the rest of the time while I was sitting there guarding the bikes! I did not have enough words. Their mother found my whole story funny and asked if I did not spend enough time with children in Montréal!

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I got back into the car after a few days off from driving. I drove from Saskatchewan into Alberta. That’s where things go interesting. First, something broke my windshield just a few minutes after crossing into the province. I had it fixed.

Then a week later when I would return into the province from British Columbia, my tyre burst and I nearly lost control of the car. I had to get a new tire that took forever to find because limited edition cars like mine don’t have parts that are easy to find. And the mechanics could not figure out how to change the tire since it has components that most cars don’t have! They had to take it to a colleague of theirs who had proper equipment.

Then as I was about to leave Alberta back into the USA, something smashed my windshield again. This time I did not get it fixed as I had a long drive home to make!

I used my time in Alberta where I was stranded to ride around to kill time and I actually enjoyed it despite the unfortunate situation I was in. Oh, if there is a girl called Alberta that I ever wronged, please accept my sincerest apologies but get off my case now! Thanks!

Some jokers were saying that it was a sign that I should move to Alberta. I replied that it was no way to welcome someone and I vowed to get out of there as fast as I could which I did. Jokes aside, I did meet some amazing people that I will surely pay a visit to again.

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The drive from Calgary, a city in Alberta to Vancouver, a city in British Columbia which was my final destination is the most amazing one I have ever taken in Canada and the USA. I could not believe my eyes at how majestic the mountains were.

To use that road, there is a rather expensive toll that the officials call an entry fee to experience the parks. I paid it grumping but it was well worth the money! This place is amazing. Again, my photo cannot do it justice. You will have to go see it with your own eyes if you have not already.

The roads are windy which is PERFECT for a MINI driver so I was really maximising the potential of my car that handles very well and has some quick accelerations! And it’s an impossible place to police if you catch my drift!

I stopped in Banff and Lake Louise, two very small touristic towns which were packed with visitors from everywhere. I can understand what brought them there. The place is gorgeous. Wow!

But I had to love it and leave it and head to Vancouver where I was expected for dinner and had already lost some considerable time from being a tourist in Banff.

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I will not write much about Vancouver in this post except to say that it gives Montréal, my favourite city in Canada — I am biased of course!, a run for its money. My time in Vancouver was so heavenly that I will have to write a post of its own with photos and captions and stories.

All you need to know in this condensed version is that I biked and ate barbecues for almost a week straight day in and day out thanks to my wonderful host and guide who also happen to be so beautiful that it’s almost illegal. But Vancouver cannot claim her! Harmony hails from Toronto.

While you wait for the Vancouver post make note of these keywords: Harmony, barbecue, bike rides, Alfia Italia, the twins, Surrey, MINI Richmond, Lily, Noriko, Karina and much more to come so don’t be a stranger and come visit this blog often!

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After six days in Vancouver which were the pinnacle of my road trip, I had to drive back home. I enjoyed the mountains so much that I took the trip back  to marvel at them once again from a different angle. It was well worth it! We are blessed to live in such a beautiful country!

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After suffering a blown tire that completely destroyed it, I decided to get out of Alberta and drive back from the USA and I went through Montana which was flat. Very flat actually but had its own beauty. They have a practice of planting crosses along the highways were people passed away in fatalities and trust me, there were so many. Maybe one every kilometre on average and I drove a good 4 hour in that state! That tactic is probably meant to remind motorists to be safe but it’s crazy morbid!!!

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In North Dakota, I drove alongside another amazing sunset. What is with North Dakota and sunsets? I should research that! I went through Minneapolis again as well as Chicago before crossing into Canada and driving to Toronto where I spent the night but I could not stay because the weather the next day would be so full of rain that it was not worth the extra day stay.

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When I was driving into Minneapolis on my way to Chicago, I went over a bridge and out of curiosity looked at the name of the river below it and saw that it was the Mississippi! I went from the fast lane that I was charging on onto the next exit that was 300 metres or less in one steering-wheel movement that had me cross four lanes and make my tires scream to a halt not to roll over as I was taking the highway exit.

I eventually found a place to get close to the water and went into the same river that Tom Sawyer went into! I wanted to dip my foot into it, a tradition of mine with every body of water I come into contact with but it did not look very appealing so I just did it quickly with my sneaker!

30 minutes after, I got back onto the motorway and  pushed the MINI as legally as possible to try and make up for lost time.

Why was I in a rush anyway? Well, on Tuesday, I have a DJ gig and I tend to honour my commitments especially given the fact that I had already canceled the Friday one that I was never going to make even with a blown tire that made me lose a day.

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The drive from Toronto to Montréal was lousy because of the constant rain. I used my wipers for the six hours that it took me to drive between the two biggest Canadian cities. By the way, this distance that I used to complain about now seems like a running a quick errand because after all most of my drives were no less than 1000 KM a day and it was not 500 KM that were going to kill me!

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And then suddenly, the above sign brought me to a hard reality: I was home in Montréal. I was safe and sound and I thank God for that but I was also very sad that it was over.

I really had an amazing trip. I saw so many beautiful places but above all, I got to see some of the most amazing humans that I have been blessed to meet. This trip cost me so much money (yes, it’s cheaper to fly) but that is the cost of seeing the world with a front row seat.

Many thanks to everyone that made this trip possible and fun. I can’t thank most of you because you want to remain behind the scenes but thank you! I really appreciate your time and guidance. Thank you for the friendship, the fandom and for being a family outside my immediate family.

Now that I am back in Montréal 12 768 KM later, I have to work to make money but fear not, I have another trip planned once the sun starts shining again so stay tuned!

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