Wednesday, March 25, 2009



On May 13, 1979, my father set off from Edmonton on his bike to make a long-distance trip to where his brother, Albert, lived in Sarnia, Ontario. According to his log, he had covered a distance of 4,321 kilometers
when he had completed the trip.

He had saddle bags on his bike - a British-made three-speed Triumph - and carried his camping gear with him, intending to camp with his tent most nights. At the outset, he weighed in and recorded in his log a weight of 170 lbs. for himself and 78 lbs. for the loaded bike, a total of 248 lbs.

Before he left, he contacted the Edmonton Journal and the Lions Club. The Journal, which had covered his trip to Vancouver, asked him to phone in every week with progress reports. The Lions Club gave him introductions to some of their club presidents along his route.

His route went east from Edmonton, then north on the graveled Hanson Lake Road to Flin Flon, and east to Sarnia on the highway that follows the north shore of Lake Superior.

While reading his log, which I still have, several themes emerged:

he is very much in tune with nature and comments frequently about plants, animals and weather conditions

he takes every opportunity to chat with people he meets along the way, and loves good conversation

he is often assisted by people, invited into their homes for coffee, allowed on a rainy day to pitch his tent in their yard or, on one occasion, to sleep in their trailer, and has great appreciation for this help

he is interested in his surroundings, in people, and in their history

he has a sense of humour and an appreciation of the absurd

he is comfortable and self-sufficient living the outdoor life, but becomes very tired and discouraged by the strong head winds, long hills, black flies, and mosquitoes he encounters in northern Ontario, and

finally, he stubbornly refuses to give up on his goal.

All of this is best be described in his own words in excerpts from the log he kept.

May 16, 1979

At 1 p.m. started raining. Wind stronger from east... Got soaked... Heavy spray being blown across road by strong NE wind. Decided to walk on left shoulder pushing my bike...When I reached Blackfoot access, discovered no motels, so pushed on being soaked to the skin and a bit cold. Arrived at Lloyd at 6 p.m. and stopped at first motel "Ivanhoe" and registered. The lady recognized me as the biker going to Ontario and said it's on the house, so I got a $22.00 room free. Unpacked everything to dry out and took a hot bath. I now feel decidedly better. (Ended the day in Lloydminster, logged at 276 km. from Edmonton.)

May 18, 1979

Another shower. Got pretty wet. Rode into farmyard. Clay slippery. Fell in mud. Got wheels thoroughly plugged. Got back on the highway - cleaned out bike. Head wind. Very hilly. Also very tired. (Ended the day in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, logged at 437 km. from Edmonton.)

May 19, 1979

Went to the hall where the Jennings-Pobran wedding reception was held. A big line of people moved to the head table with gifts while the band from Saskatoon played short lively bursts of music and the people who had given their gifts gyrated wildly to some polkas (Kolemenka).

The general dancing started about 11 p.m. There were waltzes, polkas, a butterfly and some rock and roll. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, meeting a lot of charming people and dancing till 1 a.m. These small towns have a genuine friendliness which is now often lost in the large cities. (Ended the day in Hafford, Saskatchewan, logged at 498 km. from Edmonton).

May 21, 1979

Reached P. A. Had lunch at Sheraton Hotel. Then phoned Mr. Doug Lloyd, Pres. of the local Lions Club for whom I had an introduction. Rode over to his house and he offered to let me stay in his trailer... Had dinner with the Lloyd's... Had some flapper pie with real farm cream which was delicious. After supper Mr. Lloyd took me for a tour of the city. Visited the famous penitentiary. Also Red Lake Park and Keyhole House which is a turn of the century mansion with red tile rode and dormer windows in the shape of large keyholes, hence the name. It was a very enjoyable stay. (Ended the day in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, logged at 648 km. from Edmonton.)

May 24, 1979

Little traffic, strong south wind at 10 a.m. New grade being constructed. 1 mile of walking, stopped for lunch at a lovely little restaurant and bar at Mile 62. At 12:30 a van with two fishermen from Saskatoon stopped and offered me a cold beer.

Arrived at Highways maintenance yard. Here Dave and Joan Pelech not only let me pitch my tent among the pines, but invited me to supper and later we played ... that universal Highways card game, Oh Hell. A very good day terminating in an enjoyable evening. (Ended the day at Junction Hwy. 165, logged at 900 km. from Edmonton.)

May 25, 1979

Stopped for a drink at Ballantyne River. Some fishermen were frying some pickerel and they invited me to join them and I had two big glasses of iced tea which suited me admirably. (Ended the day in Deschambault, Saskatchewan logged at 983 km.)

May 26, 1979

After the dust and bumps of the last 200 miles it was wonderful to reach pavement again. At 4 p.m. arrived at Pawastick Lodge which is beside a lovely little lake and having a government campsite across the road. Barry & Deane Ogdan invited me over for drinks to celebrate his birthday and later we had supper including strawberry short cake. I promised to cook breakfast for them tomorrow... Perfect weather and delightful company. (Ended the day at Pawastick Lodge, Saskatchewan logged at 1051 km.)

May 27/28, 1979

In evening, walked over to Willowvale where I looked at the house I built on Parkway Blvd. and visited with my neighbor Jack Martin. Over rum and cokes we talked about old times till 1 a.m.

Decided to take today off... Then Barrie Ogden came to get me ... for a 20-minute interview with CFAR radio. Then to the Flin Flon Hotel for lunch with Jack Heins of the Lions Club. Visited main office (HBM&S)... Rode my bike to Phantom Lake and called on Garnet Eidt who played some guitar music. Had supper with the Ogdens and slept there over night... Saw the Remainder article... Radio station had excerpts of my interview on the air. Ended the day in Flin Flon, Manitoba logged at 1,110 km.)

May 30, 1979

Arrived at The Pas and after checking with the town hall and getting a map, registered at Rupert House Hotel run by Shorty Rusick who was a famous dog musher. I met him in the hotel and talked with him, but he is a bit deaf... he is 87 years old... Had a couple of beers in the Kelsey Room of the New Avenue Hotel. There were many Indians and there was an unmistaken atmosphere of northern Manitoba. At the door, as one entered, was a sign which said, "Those creating a disturbance, will be charged." However, all was peaceful and quiet...

After dinner... interviewed Shorty Rusick who now had his hearing aid on. Used Alaska Hitch., 7 dogs. Dog food: little balls of gound beef. About 12 teams started. Any number of dogs could be entered... Rode sleigh most of the way but helped by pushing on hills or in soft snow. Dogs were mongrel: part wolf. All brothers and sisters... He gave me a photo of himself and team. (Ended the day in The Pas, Manitoba logged 1,281 km.)

June 1, 1979

Four Flin Floner's going south stopped and gave me a drink of whiskey. I'll have to watch this does not happen too often as I'd hate to be picked up for being impaired.

Lake Winnipegosis. Pelicans. Red Deer River running full. Approaching Mafeking, sides of road are green and neat and the R/A (right-of-way) is very wide. Saw my first dandelions. Stopped at Mafeking and had a good meal. Fresh lake trout. Strong N breeze, so benefiting from this favourable wind went on to Birch Lake, and made the 35 km in about 2 hrs.

Went to a nice little gov't campsite where a party of 8 guys from Russel were stopped for a meal They called me over and poured me a generous drink and set a plate with cabbage rolls, home made country sausage, pickles and other delicasees. Although I had eaten not too long before, I couldn't help but have another good meal in congenial company. Set up my tent and lit a camp fire... This is a very lovely spot in poplars, the underbrush having been cleared away. (Ended the day in Birch River, Manitoba logged at 1, 486 km.)

June 2, 1979

From Bowsman West, the wind was so strong I had to push my bike and walk. Arrived at Swan River ... and phoned Mrs. Heiman who is the mother of the Edmonton Journal reporter who edits my weekly reports and she invited me over for supper.

The valley from Birch River to Swan River is very beautiful, trees are now in leaf and there is lush green grass. Farmers are busy trying to get their crops in. Noted many American toursits towing huge motor homes...

Went to Heiman's for a nice meal and there Martha Heiman interviewed me for the local paper. (Ended the day in Swan River, Manitoba logged at 1,528 km.)

June 5, 1979

Wakened at 5 a.m. by birds chirping and owl hooting. Beaver swimming and feeding. Cooked breakfast in drizzle. Away at 7, but not far. Heavy rain... ran into farmhouse (Lebel)... Her mother who was visiting ... was a Van de Poele, Belgian, spoke French. Invited me to stay for lunch. Very nice. (Ended the day in Ste. Rose du Lac, Manitoba logged at 1,763 km.)
June 8, 1979

Barely out of Oak Point the right pedal came apart. Unpacked and made a temporary repair with hay wire. Resumed ride at 9:30. Good going, there being a following wind just about all the way and my repair holding well. Tomorrow I will get ... my bike looked after and visit friends (his neice, Claudette and her husband). (Ended the day in Winnipeg, Manitoba logged at 2,044 km.)

June 12, 1979

After a breakfast of hot cakes, set out for Kenora. I have been warned that the road gets narrower once I enter Ontario... Here it is definitely the Pre-Cambrian Shield and the road is more winding and hilly. Also there is now a bit of a head wind. Stopped at Granite Lake where the two cyclists from Carman who had left before me had ordered and paid for coffee and a piece of pie for me. A nice surprise.

Finally arrived at Kenora ... Set up tent. Not too bad a campsite. I got quite a sunburn on my arms and legs. Also skidded in loose sand and fell and skinned by knee. The heat and numerous hills made this a very tiring day. Have now completed about 46% of the trip. I sometimes wonder if it is worth it. (Ended the day in Kenora, Ontario logged at 2,302 km.)

June 14, 1979

Packed and ready to roll at 9 a.m. CBC Edmonton phoned and had a 5-minute interview. Shoulders are now paved. Hooray! However, after a few miles they disappeared. A Dept. of Hwys truck stopped and talked with me. Said he had heard the CBC broadcast. Wished me Good Luck. (Ended the day in Stewart Lake, Ontario logged at 2,371 km.)

June 15, 1979

Camped at Stewart Lake Resort... This stopping place is run by Lynn and Bill Krolyk who also have a flying service. They were very friendly and as there was a storm forecast, they told me that if things got too rough I could take shelter in the garage. There were two huge dogs that growled often in the night and I couldn't help but think of bears as one big black one had been sighted earlier in the day. They advertise their flying service by a t-shirt listing it as "Krash" Flying Service. (Ended the day in Aaron Park, Ontario logged at 2,455 km.)

June 19, 1979

Strong head wind. Lots of traffic. Stopped at Raith for bite to eat. As the forecast was for rain, the wind was blowing a gale from the SE, and the lady running the store here said I could pitch my tent next to the house, decided to do so and hope for a better day tomorrow. (Ended the day in Raith, Ontario logged at 2,727 km.)

June 20, 1979

After a bite to eat,... started towards Thunder Bay. I had not gone very far before it began to get quite cloudy and cold. There was some smoke as well, probably due to the forest fires in the vicinity. Soon it began to rain and what with the strong head wind, the steep hills, that was all I needed. Ducked into a farm yard and waited about an hour before the owner, a Finn by the name of V. Hernseshuhtha, returned. He suggested that I spread my eiderdown in his camper. I did so and was very comfortable. (Ended the day at Junction of Highway 102) logged at 2,786 km.)

June 22, 1979

Walked up a hill that was about 1 1/2 miles long. Stopped at restaurant at Crystal Bay for lunch. This is another tough day with strong head winds and now lost one of the clips off my pants when I was walking in the bushes. For two bits I feel like packing it in.

Wind continues to blow intermittantly dead ahead to that I had to do a fair amount of walking. When I arrived at Dorion and found that I could get a room for $10.00 decided to do so... Guys in the bar bought me a beer. This establishment is run by a French Canadian and the atmosphere is jovial and friendly. A welcom relief. Tomorrow, it promises to be a warmer day... (Ended the day in Dorion, Ontario logged at 2,883 km.)

June 23, 1979

There were many long hills ... about 2 miles long, up which I had to walk, pushing my bike. When I started down the other side, I found that not only would the rear brakes not hold, but the front brakes developed a chatter and then would suddenly take hold in a succession of shuddering catches. This certainly was anything but reassuring, so I had to go down cautiously.

Finally, at about nightfall, arrived a Rossport which is a lovely little harbour on Lake Superior with some boats anchored out close to shore. There is an inn which is in the process of renovation and a dining room and bar. The latter was doing a roaring business, it being Saturday night, and I had a cold beer and a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, all the cabins were rented, but ... the landlord ... permitted me to pitch it (my tent) near one of the cabins on the lawn. (Ended the day in Rossport, Ontario logged at 2,995 km.)

June 25, 1979

Last night met a young couple from Sarnia by the name of Ferguson who had a tent camper in the camp. We sat around a camp fire and swapped yarns. This morning ... I tackle the 2-mile hill and the rest of the rolling road to Marathon. Met a cyclist from Halifax who stopped and offered me a handful of a mixture of peanuts and raisins. The hills continue, though on a minor scale. Just before reaching Marathon, it began to blow a gale from the right and prospects are for rain. So, arriving at Marathon more dead than alive, I took a motel for $20.00 and got a good rest. (Ended the day in Marathon, Ontario logged at 3,111 km.)

June 28, 1979

Met three Edmonton motor-cyclists who had read about me in the Journal and who stopped and said hello. Met three cyclists from Kitchener going to Alberta. At 3:30 the seat on the bike broke. Bought new seat in Wawa for $8.51. Wawa means wild geese in Ojibway... returned to highway and went to Oski Wawa Park where I got a tent site ... (Ended the day in Wawa, Ontario logged at 3,319 km.)

July 4, 1979

Built a fire and two couples from Haliburton as well as a young couple from Lanigan, Sask. came over and we had a pleasant evening in spite of the many mosquitoes. Up at 6:30 and away at 7:30. There are quite a few small hills which with the head wind or cross wind require walking to ascend. (Ended the day in Spanish, Ontario logged at 3,777 km.)

July 7, 1979

Last night, woke to sound of scratching and scared away a raccoon who had gnawed a hole through my front saddle bag. Up at 7:30. Cooked breakfast and away at 9:40. Stopped and talked to an Ojibway wood carver set up at side of road. Arrived at Wiarton and took a room at the Pacific Hotel... The local press came in at about 8 p.m. and interviewed me. Nice little town. (Ended the day in Wiarton, ONtario logged at 4,038 km.)

July 9, 1979

Stopped for hot cakes at Kincardine. Shortly after stopping for lunch at Sullivan's Restaruant at Kingsbridge, along comes my brother Al and his wife Jeannette. (Ended the day in Bayfield, Ontario logged at 4,204 km.)

July 10, 1979

Very heavy, wet fog to Grand Bend, then strong wind. Fog lifted at Grand Bend and at that point along came a reporter for the Sarnia paper and interviewed me. Took motel... (Ended the day in Forest, Ontario logged at 4,276 km.)

July 11, 1979

Approaching Sarnia was overtaken by a young lady on a bike who told me that there had been an announcement over the Sarnia Radio and wished me congratulations for having completed the trip. Stopped a bowling alley and had a bite to eat. (Ended the day in Sarnia logged at 4,321 km.)

The first photo, taken in Winnipeg, is of my cousin, Claudette, and my father as he is preparing to leave for Sarnia in 1979.

The second photo shows my father as he is leaving Winnipeg on his way to Sarnia. Both the first and second photo were provided by Claudette who is the daughter of my father's sister, Jacqueline.

The third photo is from the May 14, 1979 edition of the Edmonton Journal and was taken as he was leaving Edmonton the previous day on the trip to Sarnia.

The fourth and fifth photos, taken from newspaper clippings which cannot be identified, show my father arriving in Winnipeg and with his bicycle.

1 comment:

Col Murray said...

I remember Grandpa John teaching Catherine & I the butterfly in the basement of his house in crestwood. Great to see it mentioned here at this wedding he was crashing/possibly invited to?