Posted by: Silver | January 26, 2015

-64ºC? Bring it on!

As some of you know already, there was a tiny part of me that was actually a tiny bit disappointed that, despite living in the Arctic for almost two years now, I still hadn’t experienced any temperature lower than -30ºC. Well, as the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for…!”

The air temperature when I got up this morning was “only” -42ºC (that’s -44ºF for those of you still watching in black and white), but with the chill from the 40 km/hr winds added in, the forecast was for it to feel more like -64ºC (-83ºF).

But I still walked to work!

I will take a moment for you all to be deeply in awe of my amazing toughness… before telling you that it honestly wasn’t that bad. As another old saying goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”, and fortunately, my clothing was not inappropriate. Although, there weren’t as many layers of it as you might imagine: t-shirt, long-sleeve top, and hoodie on top, thermal leggings, hiking pants and wind pants below, all topped off with my remarkably lightweight $80 Japanese ‘fashion’ parka – not a Canada Goose in sight! I only even had one pair of socks on!

Now admittedly, the walk to work is less than half an hour – I’m not sure I’d have wanted to be out all day dressed like that – but for the time I was out, I was perfectly warm. Indeed, the biggest problem I had was simply seeing where I was going: with my scarf wrapped snugly across every exposed inch of my face (frostbite is, of course, a very real danger at this temperature), warm, moist air was directed straight up to my glasses with every exhalation. Where, of course, it froze instantly.

Happily though, I could still see well enough, and with the wind whipping so much snow into the air, the sun was the most amazing bright red as it rose: it might have been Arctic-cold this morning, but it was still Arctic-beautiful. 🙂

But hopefully you’ll forgive me for not taking my mittens off to take a photo of it…

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Posted by: Silver | January 17, 2014

A new header photo!

Just a real quickie to let you know that there’s now a much better photo of Frobisher Bay heading up my blog. 🙂 Sundogs are pretty common up here (no, the bright light in the centre of the photo isn’t the sun), but their rainbow colours don’t always seem to survive the transfer to photographic immortality too well. Indeed, much of the breathtaking beauty up here seems to defy being captured: you just have to be lucky enough to be there at the fleeting moment of its passage through the ever-changing landscape…

Posted by: Silver | January 1, 2014

ᕿᑲᖕᓇᒥ ᖁᕕᐊᓱᒋᑦᓯ!

Qikangnami quviasugitsi everyone! *

Yes, I know, it’s been an amazingly long time since I last updated this blog, but with a new calendar year beginning, I thought it was an opportune moment to bring you all up to date.

As you can probably guess from the greeting, and the new header picture, I am still in the Arctic, but I’m no longer working at the dental clinic: after less than two months of relentless bullying there, I’d more than had enough. So now I am employed as the front desk supervisor at the main hotel in Iqaluit, the Frobisher Inn!

Having returned to an ‘ordinary’ working life, there didn’t seem to be much worth talking about here on the blog, but that’s not to say that it hasn’t been an interesting year. I have grown vegetables above the tree line with the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society, danced zumba on the sea ice at -20ºC, watched a beautiful sunset at 1.30 in the afternoon, and – as you can see above – learned a tiny bit of Inuktitut (although, sadly, still not enough to be able to hold a conversation…).

Last night was possibly the highlight of my time here so far, though: having originally planned a quiet (and early) night, on account of working the early shift on the front desk today, I actually ended up playing fast and furious silly games with what felt like half the entire Inuit population of Iqaluit, round-dancing my heart out with a teenage boy who thankfully knew the steps a lot better than I did, then completely unexpectedly finding myself riding pillion in the midnight snowmobile parade out onto the sea ice. Looking back at the twinkling lights of the town from the inky darkness of the bay, with New Year fireworks bursting forth from every direction, was truly a moment of pure Arctic magic. 🙂

* just in case you didn’t know already, that’s Inuktitut for “Happy Holidays”! By the way, if the title of this post looks like lots of little squares to you, it just means that your computer can’t display the Inuktitut syllabics version of this greeting…

This is part of Iqaluit's famous Road to Nowhere, which starts in town and goes... well... nowhere!

This is part of Iqaluit’s famous Road to Nowhere, which starts in town and goes… well… nowhere!

Yes, you do still get butterflies up here! It was nice to see something other than mosquitoes flying around...

Yes, you do still get butterflies up here! It was nice to see something other than mosquitoes flying around…

The Iqaluit Community Greenhouse in full swing at the end of July

The Iqaluit Community Greenhouse in full swing at the end of July

Brightly coloured houses are one of the many charming features of Iqaluit

Brightly coloured houses are one of the many charming features of Iqaluit

As you know, I don't like putting photos of myself on the blog, but I reckoned this one was probably pretty safe: this was me taking a walk on Frobisher Bay at -28ºC :-)

As you know, I don’t like putting photos of myself on the blog, but I reckoned this one was probably pretty safe: this was me taking a walk on Frobisher Bay at -28ºC 🙂

Posted by: Silver | April 1, 2013

Greetings from the (even more) frozen north

Well, I was clearly enjoying the Canadian winter so much (see previous entry!), that I decided to make it last even longer… by moving to the Arctic!

I apologize for my prolonged silence, but it took a little bit longer than I would have liked to get the next stage of my life sorted out after the end of the cycling. However, today seemed like the perfect day to announce that, finally, my life is moving forward again, and I have a new job: working in a dental clinic in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. 🙂

As with any new job, it’s all a bit hectic at the moment, but I promise I will try to write some more soon…!

Posted by: Silver | January 20, 2013

Greetings from the Canadian winter!

It suddenly occurred to me that it had been an unforgivably long time since I last posted anything here, so let me bring you all up to date. I’m still in Lachute, QC, at the moment, living through my first full Canadian winter (if you remember, I popped down to see my Dad for Christmas in previous years). -20ºC, knee-deep snow… it’s lovely!

No, honestly, it is!

Before I came to Canada, I had this sneaking suspicion that everyone who said they enjoyed the Canadian winter was actually just in a collective state of denial, desperately trying to put a brave face on things, and that when people came out with the old chestnut, “Ah, but winter’s different in Canada”, they were just trying to bolster their delusion by sucking me into it as well. After all, -20 is -20, right?

Well, scientifically speaking, of course it is… but I’ve finally had to concede that winter really is different here. If I happen to throw in a casual mention of walking down to the grocery store at -20ºC the other day, I just know that every Brit reading this is going to instantly shudder, wince, and investigate getting me some professional help. But it honestly was perfectly pleasant. The sun was shining, the sidewalk was ploughed, and with only a pair of thermal leggings to differentiate my attire from what I would wear in a British winter, I was entirely comfortable.

Of course, if the wind starts blowing, then it’s a different story…

But for the most part, the winter really hasn’t been a problem. Snow shovelling is good exercise, I’ve found, and you don’t have to do it every day… because it doesn’t snow every day! (Yeah, that was one naive preconception that I didn’t really think through, eh?) I flatter myself that I’ve pretty much got the hang of walking on snow now, too (even when ploughed, sidewalks still tend to have a bit of snow on them): it definitely requires a different gait, it’s definitely not quite as elegant as ‘normal’ walking, but it’s definitely more elegant than crashing down onto your backside with that unmistakeable look of surprise and horror on your face as you suddenly remember your obligation to obey the laws of friction and gravity. Head out onto the unploughed golf course behind your host’s house, and you also discover that it’s extremely good exercise for legs that are no longer cycling umpty-twiddle kilometres a day! And it is SO pretty… 🙂

In other news, writing the book has had to take a bit of a back seat to the trifling matters of finding a permanent place to live and an income to pay for it, but it is still on the agenda… keep watching this space for further news!

Sunset on Christmas Day

Sunset on Christmas Day

Even on dull days, it's still pretty!

Even on dull days, it’s still pretty!

Posted by: Silver | December 13, 2012

So, where am I now?!

Thank you so, so much to all of you who emailed me and left posts to congratulate me on the end of my journey: it was so lovely to hear from you all! After a couple of wonderful weeks of R&R with my Mum (see a few photos below), I’m now back east, temporarily residing with my very kind former host in Lachute (just a little way outside Montreal) while I sort out what will happen next in my life.

The exact details are still being finalized (keep watching this space!), but one thing that I can already confirm is that I have started writing the book of my journey! It will not simply be a modified version of these blog posts: I’m writing entirely new material, so it may take a little bit of time (as might finding a publisher!), but I will certainly keep you all up to date with how things are progressing, and of course, you are all more than welcome to register your interest in pre-ordering a copy at any time! 😉

First, Mum & I took the train from Toronto to Vancouver, so Mum could get an idea of the scale of the country I'd just traversed...

First, Mum & I took the train from Toronto to Vancouver, so Mum could get an idea of the scale of the country I’d just traversed…

Then we headed over to Vancouver Island and hung around in the trees for a couple of nights...

Then we headed over to Vancouver Island and hung around in the trees for a couple of nights, just for the novelty…

After that, we moved on to Tofino: one of the few places in the country that I hadn't been to before either...

After that, we moved on to Tofino: one of the few places in the country that I hadn’t been to before either…

Tofino is quite famously rainy, especially in November, but as you can see, we had almost completely unbroken sunshine while we there: we almost felt cheated! Almost...

Tofino is quite famously rainy, especially in November, but as you can see, we had almost completely unbroken sunshine while we there: we almost felt cheated! Almost…

Posted by: Silver | November 17, 2012

Journey Over!!!

Yup: after two years, five months and 22,300 km, I cycled up Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday morning to finally finish this grand (and possibly slightly insane) odyssey I’ve been on for SOS Children’s Villages since June 2010!!

It’s all been a bit hectic since then, as both my parents came to Ottawa to meet me, but I promise this isn’t the end of the blog: I will write more as soon as I get the chance, but for now, I’m concentrating on spending a bit of quality time with the family I haven’t seen in a long, long time…

In the meantime though, here are the final few stats, for those who’ve been following them (has anyone been following them?!):

Sherbrooke to Cowansville:
Distance: 98 km
Ascent: 1078 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 45 minutes

Cowansville to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu:
Distance: 53 km
Ascent: 197 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

St-Jean-sur-Richelieu to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield:
Distance: 98 km
Ascent: 314 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 25 minutes

Salaberry-de-Valleyfield to Lachute:
Distance: 70 km
Ascent: 390 m
Cycling time: 4 hours, 35 minutes

Lachute to Pointe-au-Chêne:
Distance: 59 km
Ascent: 303 m
Cycling time: 4 hours, 45 minutes

Pointe-au-Chêne to Gatineau:
Distance: 98 km
Ascent: 409 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 20 minutes

Gatineau to Ottawa:
Distance: 16 km
Ascent: 101 m
Cycling time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Posted by: Silver | November 6, 2012

Saint-Pascal to Sherbrooke

Saint-Pascal to Montmagny:
Distance: 98 km
Ascent: 411 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 5 minutes

Montmagny to Sainte-Marie:
Distance: 121 km
Ascent: 760 m
Cycling time: 7 hours, 40 minutes

Sainte-Marie to Thetford Mines:
Distance: 55 km
Ascent: 615 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 55 minutes

Thetford Mines to Victoriaville:
Distance: 82 km
Ascent: 602 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 55 minutes

Victoriaville to Sherbrooke:
Distance: 104 km
Ascent: 805 m
Cycling time: 7 hours, 15 minutes

October was shaping up to be the biggest cycling month of the entire journey, but thanks to hurricane Sandy (which didn’t actually make much of an impact on my little corner of Quebec in the end anyway…), my Halloween ride to Sainte-Marie ended up happening on November 1st instead. Nevertheless, at 1421 km, October was still only just in second place behind last June (1465 km), and with less favourable weather conditions to contend with as well, I offer that as my excuse for why you didn’t hear very much from me last month!

And things aren’t letting up in the final days either: in previous winters, I’ve tried to keep my rides somewhat shorter, in the hopes of reaching my destination before my toes freeze completely, but even though I’ve now had two snowy days on the road, and the temperature is generally hovering around freezing (and sometimes below!), I’m still clocking up the miles as you can see from the stats. Fortunately, I’ve reassuringly discovered that, despite neglecting every exercise other than cycling just recently, I’m still flexible enough to get my foot under a (hot-air!) hand dryer, and after so long on the road, I’m certainly brazen enough to no longer care what the staff of Tim Hortons think I’m doing in their washroom for so long…

And talking of the final days: it’s less than ten days until I get to Ottawa now, so this is a reminder that you are all cordially invited to join me for the celebrations, on Thursday November 15th!! I’m still waiting for confirmation of the timing of events in the morning, but I can confirm that there will be a reception at the Heart & Crown in Byward Market at 5pm. If you’d like to attend this, please let me know, as SOS need to know numbers by November 12th. Hope to see you all there!!!

This part of Quebec is on the migration path for the great flocks of snow geese that are very sensibly making their way south at the moment: this was my first glimpse of them, outside Montmagny…

… and then again, at rather closer quarters, in Victoriaville

… and yet again, as I failed to make it into Sherbrooke before dark!

Being back in Quebec also means being back in the land of lots of decent, paved, cycle paths – yippee! This was in Lévis, just across the river from Quebec City

With all the beautifully muted colours around at the moment, I just couldn’t resist playing with my soft focus… 😉 This is the Chaudière River, just outside Lévis

Posted by: Silver | October 30, 2012

Edmundston to Saint-Pascal

Edmundston to Rivière du Loup:
Distance: 121 km
Ascent: 784 m
Cycling time: 7 hours, 45 minutes

Rivière du Loup to Saint-Pascal:
Distance: 53 km
Ascent: 261 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 5 minutes

The countdown to the end of the journey has definitely begun now! I’m back in Quebec again, the last province I will travel through before the ‘grande finale’ in Ottawa, and it’s now just a race to see who will get there first: me or winter! I’ve already had my first morning with frozen gear cables: when I left Edmundston, it was -6ºC, and I didn’t regain use of my chainwheel until almost 10.30! Overall though, I’m still being very lucky on the weather front, and I even had a bit of a tailwind on the way to Saint-Pascal! 🙂 I’m guessing that the St Lawrence must have a moderating effect on the climate, as I was still able to enjoy a fair bit of autumn colour as I travelled along the river – in contrast to northern New Brunswick, where almost everything was virtually bare already.

I can’t deny that, after almost 2½ years on the road, I’m certainly starting to get ‘quite tired’ now (typical British understatement there – I’m clearly still not fully assimilated into the North American mindset… ;-)), and the sudden return to francophonie is giving me some extra mental exercise as well, but I’ve been very happy (and relieved!) to notice that I still wave my arms around and jump up and down as much as ever when someone offers me the opportunity to talk about SOS Children’s Villages. 🙂 It was the children who gave me the motivation to do this journey, and they are still motivating me now: if you still haven’t checked out SOS’s website, do it now, and see why I’m still so excited about the difference this amazing organization is making in children’s lives!

There were still a few leaves left in Edmundston, and they set off these statues outside city hall quite beautifully

Part of my route from Edmundston to Rivière du Loup took me on the bike trail alongside Lake Temiscouata. I could actually have followed the trail pretty much all the way, but as it wasn’t paved, it would unfortunately have been well after dark by the time I finally got to my destination – the trails are beautiful, but they’re definitely not the fastest way to travel!

Not just the autumn leaves, but even the odd flower was hanging on along the shores of the St Lawrence!

In Saint-Pascal, my hosts took me along the Sept Chutes (seven waterfalls) trail: this was the only waterfall it was possible to see up-close, but the whole trail was very pretty, and certainly made an interesting change from cycling!

Posted by: Silver | October 24, 2012

Saint Stephen to Edmundston

Saint Stephen to Waasis:
Distance: 137 km
Ascent: 1255 m
Cycling time: 8 hours, 10 minutes

Waasis to Fredericton:
Distance: 25 km
Ascent: 207 m
Cycling time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Fredericton to Woodstock:
Distance: 98 km
Ascent: 709 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 25 minutes

Woodstock to Perth-Andover:
Distance: 104 km
Ascent: 868 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 25 minutes

Perth-Andover to Grand Falls:
Distance: 43 km
Ascent: 454 m
Cycling time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Grand Falls to Edmundston:
Distance: 67 km
Ascent: 457 m
Cycling time: 5 hours

Oh dear! Things just aren’t slowing down, are they?! It’s been so long since I last had the chance to catch up, I don’t even know where to start now! I have so many people to thank for so many things – maintenance for Ranger, treats for me, donations for SOS Children’s Villages, and more – that for fear of inadvertently missing someone out, I’m afraid I’m going to go for the cop-out option of simply saying, “You know who you are, and I’m INCREDIBLY grateful to you all!!”

I’ve now cycled over 21,000km, and Ranger finally has his first new tyre! The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres that he’s been sporting ever since Whitehorse have kept me puncture-free for over two years now, so needless to say, I replaced the finally-nearly-bald rear tyre with another Marathon Plus! I am definitely a happy Schwalbe customer! I am also now on my third chain and gear cassette: 10,000km seems to be the best one can get out of those… which is still pretty good, I reckon!

The winds are definitely getting autumnal (ie stronger!) now, and of course, Murphy’s law states that they’ll always be going in the opposite direction to me, but overall, I’m still doing pretty well weather-wise, I think. From now until November 15th, though, I will simply count every dry day above freezing as an additional blessing on this journey…!

I didn’t see any wildlife that I was able to photograph for ages, but just recently, there suddenly seem to have been a lot more opportunities…

We were a bit concerned by this little fellow’s lack of quills, and his complete lack of interest in running away from us, but he did seem to be eating very healthily – just a few feet away from me!

This feisty chap obviously didn’t realize I had his best interests at heart when I tried to nudge him off the tarmac, and he put up a very impressive show of baring his fangs at me… despite his head being no bigger than my little finger nail…!

It’s amazing what you sometimes find when you pop into the bushes for a quick ‘comfort break’…!

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