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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    5

    trans-canada, prevailing winds & solo travels questions

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    hi! new member, first post, and already i have a question or several:

    next year i'm planning a solo trans-canadian trip, and i've been getting conflicting advice from various people about the best direction - vancouver to newfoundland or vice versa? i know that, what with riding across a whole continent, i'm going to suffer headwinds no matter what, but is there a generally agreed "better" direction? last year i did part of the pacific coast route, seattle to san francisco, and i had previously read up and found that south was best there for reasons of prevailing winds and road shoulders.

    my other question is - well. i did my last (and first) big trip solo, and on the whole i loved it, but even camping in the state parks there was the odd night where the horror stories and dire warnings of friends who felt travelling solo & female on a bike was clearly suicidal rather got to me. (especially at the hiker biker site where no-one else showed up and suddenly the thick bushes and the fact the rest of the campsite was half a mile away felt a little... eeky. i am not too proud to say i went and found a big stick and slept with it next to my sleeping bag...) i expect that on the trans-canadian trip i'll have to camp away from official campgrounds a fair amount of the time, and i guess i'm going prepared to be scared from time to time, but i would welcome any tips from other women who've done similar trips.

    it's people i worry about (though my mother is more concerned that i'll get eaten by bears). so far my tentative plans are:

    #1. find a place to camp relatively early so i don't get stuck pitching the tent wherever because daylight/energy is running out.
    #2. listen to my gut: if someone/somewhere is seriously creeping me out, pack up and look for a new camping site - don't second guess my instincts (though this involves distinguishing between genuine creepiness and overcaution - easier said than done)
    #3. asking people who don't trip my dubious-radar to recommend places to camp
    #4. knocking on doors in the countryside - if the people who answer give me bad vibes, i'll ask directions, if they don't i'll ask if they would mind if i camped on their land (i am not sure about this last one: am i likely to get met with a shotgun? farmers hereabouts - northern ireland - can be a little... grumpy. some of them get angry if you even turn into their driveway.)

    any and all advice/suggestions/tips welcome. (i plan to train HARD in the months before i go, so hopefully fitness won't be an issue.) i'm from the uk, and i have been to canada once, for ten days (vancouver/sunshine coast/vancouver island) so to a certain extent canada is a BIG new world for me. thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    Welcome.

    Good that you are planning cross-Canada cycling trip this year...to be done next years. Especially when you are not familiar with Canada's diverse terrain and climate zones.

    You don't need to apologize to a group of cycling women here, for sleeping with a big hitting stick while camping solo in the wilderness.

    By the way, there is an annual group ride that you can pay..to cycle across the whole length of Canada. They've been doing it for a long time.
    http://www.tourducanada.com/ There's sag support.

    No, I haven't cycled across Canada. But my dearie partner has done it twice from Vancouver to Toronto by himself.

    I also personally know a woman after she retired from work at 65 yrs., she cycled across Canada with a blend of camping and motels.

    The general consensus for these people that I know PLUS the Canadian cycling company that does that group ride annually...it is best to cycle from Vancouver eastward to "reduce" (abit) headwinds.

    The individuals that I've known, tend to cycle on or close to the TransCanada highway (highway 1). Please study a detailed road map of Canada...Canada is huge and in some provinces there aren't many decent highways (with shoulders) to choose for route planning.

    Hope you start your trip from Vancouver in around late May (not earlier) and onward. And end whole trip no later than approx. end of Sept. Some of us have experienced a bit of snow during the Canadian Thanksgiving in early October. (more in mountains, eastern coastal Canada, etc.)

    Do you plan on camping the whole way?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    5
    thanks for the link to the tourducanada - i have thought about joining a group but for some reason (possibly sheer bloodymindedness) i would really like to haul my own gear and do it all myself...

    east-west is starting to sound like the best direction - thank you!

    The individuals that I've known, tend to cycle on or close to the TransCanada highway (highway 1). Please study a detailed road map of Canada...Canada is huge and in some provinces there aren't many decent highways (with shoulders) to choose for route planning.

    my plan was to do general route-planning from this side of the atlantic (i am not sure what people did before google maps - and their "terrain" option!) but i thought i might do the actual map-buying in vancouver - i think there are at least two dedicated travel bookstores/mapstores (so says my guidebook, anyway) as the only readily available maps of canada in the uk are whole-country ones.

    i was hoping to leave in june (probably late june) and make it across in under 3 months. i think i'll be camping most of the way for financial reasons - though i will be budgeting for stays in hostels, when they're to be found, and student accommodation if available, and i plan to keep some money back so i can stay in motels from time to time if need be.

    thanks for your advice. much appreciated!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    3,936
    Shootingstar was actually suggesting West to East, not East to West.

    This being said, I'm originally from Montreal, Quebec, and I know many people that rode from Montreal to Vancouver (thus East to West) and who thought it was "nicer" because the most spectacular and (to them) least familiar scenery was at the end. They also had a chance to train for the bigger climb. Prevailing winds are from West to East, but it's not as significant a factor as it is going from B.C. to California (where you really MUST do it from North to South).

    Some bits of southern Ontario and Quebec can be a little industrial, and would make a less-exciting end-of-trip. On the other hand, assuming you'll end in the Atlantic provinces if you start in Vancouver, that can also be quite beautiful... and there are serious climbs (although shorter) there, too.

    Have a great trip!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    5
    er. good point! (i meant west to east, i think my brain was just... absent when i wrote that!)

    i quite fancy ending up in newfoundland - i have been looking at pictures, and: pretty.

    thanks

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    The middle of North America
    Posts
    776
    WOW ! ! ! congratulations on planning this undertaking! I have never come close to even considering a trip like that but I would like to offer my advice.

    I am originally from Saskatchewan. I know wind. The weather today is described as "partly cloudy and breezy" "Breezy" is NW winds sustained at 23 mph w/ 37mph gusts
    Since last night the wind was up to sustained 36 mph w/ gusts up to 46 mph.

    The prevailing winds are from the west so I would strongly advise a West to east route or you will be cursing the prairies. There is NOTHING to block the wind and it never ends. As experienced cross country riders have said "When you climb a mountain pass you know you will eventually come to the top and get to come back down, but wind never ends"

    Your prairie ride will cover over 1/2 of Alberta, all of Saskatchewan and most of Manitoba - trust me you don't want to be bucking the wind all the way.

    If I remember correctly all of Hwy #1 is 4 lane now in Saskatchewan. If anyone recommends Hwy #13 really check it out. It has VERY low traffic but spots are under construction - if you choose to do #13 let me know - my sister lives on it and so do my parents. I bet they would put you up for the night! My aunt lives on #1 and would do the same

    Good luck and keep us posted!


    It's about the journey and being in the moment, not about the destination

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    5
    Quote Originally Posted by eclectic View Post
    WOW ! ! ! congratulations on planning this undertaking! I have never come close to even considering a trip like that but I would like to offer my advice.

    I am originally from Saskatchewan. I know wind. The weather today is described as "partly cloudy and breezy" "Breezy" is NW winds sustained at 23 mph w/ 37mph gusts
    Since last night the wind was up to sustained 36 mph w/ gusts up to 46 mph.

    The prevailing winds are from the west so I would strongly advise a West to east route or you will be cursing the prairies. There is NOTHING to block the wind and it never ends. As experienced cross country riders have said "When you climb a mountain pass you know you will eventually come to the top and get to come back down, but wind never ends"

    Your prairie ride will cover over 1/2 of Alberta, all of Saskatchewan and most of Manitoba - trust me you don't want to be bucking the wind all the way.

    If I remember correctly all of Hwy #1 is 4 lane now in Saskatchewan. If anyone recommends Hwy #13 really check it out. It has VERY low traffic but spots are under construction - if you choose to do #13 let me know - my sister lives on it and so do my parents. I bet they would put you up for the night! My aunt lives on #1 and would do the same

    Good luck and keep us posted!
    thank you! and, sorry for the very late reply - i was away on holiday (on the bike, in scotland) and then work decided to take over every spare moment so i wasn't lurking around the forums! i will absolutely look into #13 - i'm still at the early planning stages (lots of googling, looking for books, assuring my mother i know what to do if bears try to snack on me - she has quite the conviction that canada is THICK with cyclist-eating bears!)

    also, it is very kind of you to offer your relatives as staging posts. *g* i will hang around the forums a bit more and you can decide if you actually *really* want to inflict a stranger on them based on that!

    i have definitely decided on west to east! agreed that wind is way worse than hills (though hills with a headwind may be the worst thing ever invented....)

    i have noticed that everyone i tell about my plans looks at me like i'm crazed. i just figure - if i put it off, it won't get any easier, so why not get stuck in now? life might get too busy the year after next, or i might break a leg or something. it is slightly terrifying at times, but nothing ventured nothing gained, right?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    If you are camping in the Rockies, you do need to exercise precaution ..even if it feels like no big wildlife is around at that very moment. Do all the typical stuff, ie. hanging your food from a tree branch at a safe distance from tent/picnic table, making noise while you walk about, etc.

    There are wild bears in the Rockies. When you go to Banff, sometimes enough deer venture into town. The townsfolk there have enough problems with deer munching on their gardens, etc. Bighorn sheep come down from the mountains in spring for tender grass and might be hanging out near the secondary highways where traffic volume is not as high as Trans Canada highway. Yes, we've spotted elk several times along the Bow Valley Highway. It is magnificent to see.....from AFAR.

    I've biked, hiked and x-country skied several different trips/visits in areas within the 250 kms. radius of Banff area since my partner lived in Calgary for 2 yrs. During different seasons: fall, spring, summer and winter.

    I have encountered/see bears twice. lst time when we were biking on the Contintental Divide from Lake Louise towards Fielding. It was a baby bear, eating a fish by the water. But we had ripe bananas in our panniers..and so we sped off our bikes as soon as we spotted the bear.

    2nd bear..which was bigger bear...was less than 15 ft. from me...I was in Waterton National Park in Alberta near the Montana border. Bear was on a common hiking path near the parking lot...not far from our hotel. I was starting to hike at that time. I simpley backed away and started to jog away. This was in the middle of the afternoon. I was in civilization, still not in total wilderness..

    My partner has seen a teenage moose right by the road in the Rockies, while he was cycling by. Yes, he was on his trip.....across Canada.

    For European tourists from U.K., Germany, France, Spain....western Canada does have enough wildlife that visitors do need to be warned that there is some large wildlife, animals should never be fed, etc.

    And wildlife is not too far, even here in highly urban -ooking VAncouver where the mountains are visible all around us. In North Vancouver and Coquitlam, a suburb, in last 2 weeks, there have been 3 separate bear incidents involving residents. 1 woman got mauled. Another incident a baby bear got into someone's home and made a mess. It had to be shot by the conservation officer since it already detected food... The baby bear incident is not far from a route that a cycle occasionally to a favourite beautiful inlet area.


    Not to get you paranoid, but particularily if you are alone in wilderness just look out for no.1- yourself.

    For now, become a strong cyclist...if you ever need to start cycling faster or mount that hill suddenly.
    Last edited by shootingstar; 08-15-2008 at 11:59 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    SF bay area
    Posts
    151
    I just got back from a tour in the canadian rockies-- about 380 miles down Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Lake Louise, then the Golden triangle (LL to Golden to Radium to Castle Mt to Banff) ending up in Banff. We saw bears almost every day-- about 8 black bears and cubs total plus a grizzley. It is buffaloberry season, which draws the bears down to the road to nibble on berries. Fortunately, the bears were engrossed in eating and not in us on our bikes, at times riding very slowly past with loaded touring bikes. The grizzley was huge and particularly intimidating!

    We camped every night and found good support in the canadian campgrounds for cyclists-- bear boxes or even special cyclist food storage huts.

    We were on the transcanada for a bit between lake louise and golden. It's pretty but some of the riding on that road was challenging due to wind, rainy weather, poor shoulder (or no shoulder, in the descent into Golden) and rock falls (yes, rocks were falling as we rode past on the way into Golden) and rock fall debris on the shoulder. There are some photos on my blog if anyone is interested

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    Brings back great memories about that area Nadia. What is buffaloberry? Never heard of it. There are sasktoonberries, blackberries and in our area, salmonberries.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    SF bay area
    Posts
    151
    I have tried to attach a photo of buffaloberries. They are medium sized bushes with small bright red berries.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    3,936
    Thanks for the report NadiaMac, and I'll check out your blog. We've been wondering about the "Golden triangle" for a while, maybe we'll travel there next summer!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    SF bay area
    Posts
    151
    The golden triangle was awesome, and a nice complement to the Icefields Parkway in that the terrain and scenery was quite different on each segment (from eachother and from the Icefields-- more sweeping gradual vistas and of course the long valley ride on highway 95). I especially loved highway 95 between golden and radium hot springs! Limited traffic and wonderful valley views, plus gradual grades that permitted good speed even on the loaded touring bikes

    We rode it in the reverse direction to that recommended in our route guide (and to that used by the big group ride that takes the route). It was fine in that direction! We had a bigger climb out of radium springs than had we done it in reverse, but much smaller climbs on the transcanada to Golden. Not sure whether the shoulder is better on the transcanda going east, though. The westward shoulder was in poor/unusuable condition for chunks of the westward ride.
    Last edited by NadiaMac; 08-19-2008 at 07:02 AM. Reason: typo correction

 

 

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