Wednesday, April 26, 2017

25 Days to Departure

How time flies. We are now 25 days away from leaving for Newfoundland.

TrainingWe started riding our bicycles loaded with the panniers on April 8th (4 days sooner than on our first trip in 2015). We were not gifted with nice weekend weather this time around and we had to squeeze in short rides (50 km) after work during the week. We got a chance to test our dynamo powered lights a lot. We got a solid workout on each outing and spiced things up by pushing our bikes through snow-covered NCC bike paths. On a few of the weekends, we headed out under cloudy conditions to get our long rides in. We were once again reminded that in the rain, keep pedalling to stay warm. 

We were told the bicycle path was clear of snow. Glad the trailers were still at home!

Found much needed packing foam while on the road. It saved us a trip to Canadian Tire.
Reduce - Recycle - Reuse 
By the 21st of April we finally had our food sorted, packed in panniers and ready to be attached to the trailers. For that first outing with the trailers, we kept it simple: flat terrain and 100 km. We headed SOUTH of Ottawa to the Loughlin's Country Store in Hallville (training ride #13 on the map below). The rumour that we went there just for the delicious homemade butter tarts is just that 'a rumour'. It was tough getting around Ottawa with all that stop and start while pulling 50+ pounds of trailer. As a friend said: "Once you get going, you don't really feel the weight'. He should have added "... and on a country road, ..."

Bikes and trailers parked outside store in Hallville, ON


Trailers: The experience we had last summer with our Extrawheel trailers was very positive. This time round, we discovered that when heavily loaded (44 lbs +), the trailer can start to oscillate at speeds greater than 22 kph. A good thing that our first trailer ride was on relatively flat terrain. Since Hélène, with a bit less weight in her panniers, had not experienced the same problem it was decided (actually I was ordered to :-) ) that we should reduce the weight in my panniers and move some of the food to my duffel bag, This cheap and cheerful solution enabled me the next day to hit 38 kph heading down hill away from Chelsea. Problem temporarily solved. I started reading online about trailer oscillation and tongue weight, so there may be a Part II to this.

Those trailers are a powerful addition to our equipment. With just your run of the mill panniers, folks start asking questions when you stop near them. When stopped with the trailers, people literally cross the street to chat and ask to take pictures. We also noticed that they cause pedestrians that we pass to turn around a have a double take, We have also observed the same from drivers heading from the opposite direction. This should lead to interesting encounters during the trip.

Electronics: We got ourselves a small 35 mm DSLR camera and a small tripod to increase our picture/video taking capabilities. We have also been trying our hand at taking and editing videos. As you might have expected, this is turning out to be a lot more difficult and time consuming than we had anticipated. Nevertheless, we will keep at it! 

Now that we have a USB connection to our dynamo, we have used it to charge one of our cell phones. Next test, is to charge a small storage battery. This will give us more autonomy for up coming trips.

Food: Planning our food menu for 14 days turned out to be a bit more involved than we had anticipated. We opted for ready-made freeze-dried food instead of assembling meals from bulk foods for our 2-week trial. We figure, it would have taken us many many hours to research recipes, assemble the meal, try it and again look for more recipes, as required. We start each day with a hot breakfast and a hot meal after the day's ride. In between, we eat snacks lots of snacks to reach the estimated daily caloric needs. We used a spreadsheet to help us arrive a daily menu that is both palatable and nutritious. The food on the table is one week's worth for two people. 

The really fun part was trying to fit all that food into 4 panniers. The main purpose of the original packaging is to help preserve the food for 30 years and provide a container to reheat it in. I don't think making it easy to pack was high on the list. In the original packaging, I could only fit 6 days of food in one pannier. Using medium sized freezer bags, we were able to save enough space to fit all 7 days inside the pannier. We use insulated cozies with the food in the original packaging for winter camping and will have to make smaller ones to work with the freezer bags. What they don't say in the instructions (when you follow the link) is that once you fold the longer piece over the shorter piece away from you, at 1/2 in from the fold, fold the top piece back on itself. Do the same for the bottom piece. This will enable you to spread the bottom of the assembled cozy (like the packaging below) and create a flat bottom so that you can stand the cozy. 

Daniel's food packing challenge

Hélène pannier with plenty of room for a few
butter tarts. 

In Hélène's case, we were able to fit the week's worth of food (original package) in her pannier. But as shown below, doing away with the original packaging also made a substantial difference (right pannier).

We are very close to ready. The to do list is now so much shorter and we can almost pretend and make believe that we are en-route to Newfoundland when on training rides.

The routes have been firmed up, the travel cards printed, the tarp is finished but has yet to be waterproofed. More on this subject at a later date. 

Hélène has put much effort in adding more features to the blog and making it easier for you to track our progress (or lack thereof). She is also the team "video/moviemaker" and is getting first-hand experience at how difficult and time consuming it is to assemble a 4-minute video with music. 

To the "In Training" signs we had on the rear of the bikes in 2015, we decided to do the same for the front of the bicycles. Having a "In Training - Ottawa/St-John's" saves us from having to respond to the the often asked: "Do you need directions!", "Where are you from?" and my favourite "Are you lost?". I just don't know how they know :-) 


  1. Bravo Dan and Helene! The turtles appear to be painted turtles (Chrysemys picta). Very nice picture. It was also nice to see your little sewing machine "back in action". I'm looking forward to future losses of productivity as I pause everything to read your blog and the comments of your followers. :)

  2. Dan and Hélène - this self appointed, unofficial taste tester wishes to report that the dried mango is exceedingly tasty and leaves the dried bananas far behind.

  3. Just found your blog! Hoping to someday cycle Ottawa to St. John's with my husband, so I'll be watching as you prepare and update us on the way. Best of luck!!

  4. I am using your trip (Vancouver to Ottawa) as a guide to my own trip , Starting June 1 st from Vancouver , the GPS hills and grade info is great , my bike will not be as loaded as either of yours , my food panier will be a bit more conservative than yours. Not as many days of storage .