Written By David Keindel
Over 50 But Not Over the Hill
Culinary Chef Mario Ramsay and Pastry Chef Chris Rutishauser, full time faculty at Algonquin College in Ottawa, have cycled from Jasper Alberta, all the way home to Ottawa in less than 30 days.
In addition to the personal challenge, a key element of the adventure for the pair was to provide inspiration for their students at Algonquin College. The riders want to remind students to set goals, strive for excellence, and maintain an active lifestyle throughout their careers and lives.
Both riders spent months preparing physically, riding their bikes to work at the College regularly and on weekend outings, to build strength and endurance. They spent time planning the route and deciding on the correct supplies that would allow them to camp in tents as often as possible, and still maintain a pace that would get them home in less than 30 days.
The route evolved as the trip progressed. The total planned distance was 3,747 km. The drive from Ottawa to Jasper, with bikes and supplies loaded in a van, allowed a close look at the road surface, and more importantly, the size of the paved shoulder they would have to ride on in safety.
Once their trip was underway, the actual route changed frequently from the planned path. A side trip through the upper states resulted to avoid poor road surfaces on the Canadian prairies; traffic and road construction often forced them to make detours to bypass unpleasant sections; and advice from locals met in transit provided insight into smoother and safer routes.
Blog Day #24 quote: The Trans Canada in Ontario is not made for bicycling, sometimes there’s no shoulder or if lucky a 1 to 2 feet wide pavement. The worst road so far on this tri; I guess the Minister of Transportation does not use a bicycle.
Breakdowns were few, except a series of flats that Chris experienced. Generous assistance was provided by several bike shops enroute, notably in Regina Saskatchewan, at Dutch Cycle, where the charge for extensive bike service for both riders was only $7.00.
There was a full day rest stop due to poor weather. This day happened to coincide with the FIFA soccer championship game.
Blog Day #17 quote: Tomorrow Sunday we are not biking due to the weather (thunderstorm and 20 mm of rain) and the soccer final …… we will watch the game and just look around. Basically we will relax and act like tourists.
Pace varied each day, based on headwinds and terrain, but a goal of at least 150 km was often achieved.
Blog Day #19 quote: Yes we are in Wisconsin; we did over 165 km today. We are just outside of a town named Superior, Wisconsin.
With an average of 9 hours on the road, 7 of those hours on the bikes, there was seldom trouble getting to sleep at night. The daily routine varied, but usually involved 50-75 km before breakfast, riding and seeking a suitable restaurant that offered pancakes along the route, then short meal breaks through the day, and finally finding a nice camping spot (or motel if weather was unsuitable), and then dinner.
Blog Day #12 quote: We left the campsite in Arcola (Saskatchewan) at about 7 am to get a head start on the weather. After a 18 Km warm up, we stopped at a roadside truck stop for breakfast (no Timmies for miles) and loaded up on pancakes.
Sometimes, they made other meal arrangements.
Blog Day #11 quote: After the stay in Regina at the Lutheran college residence we had plenty of energy to burn. I know I had plenty to eat at the college cafeteria; I had three portions of everything for lunch and dinner. And felt so good after this. I even had call from Miss Vicky late last night; I had sea salt potato chips. There is something that you crave a lot when you sweat, and of course it is salt. This happens even when you drink electrolytes like “Eload”.
Often people were curious about the trip, and many times advice and warnings were offered by strangers, who went out of their way to speak to us.
Blog Day #9 quote: We were 25 km from Moose Jaw when a car stopped on the side of the rode and the driver stopped us. He wanted to warn us about the Tornado watch for Moose Jaw. He offered us a ride, we thank him and we went back riding. We barely rode above 17 km/hr. for the whole day. At that point we increased the speed (30 km/hr.) and watched the sky for something to happen.
Entries on the blog were made daily, in English for all the supporters at home, and in German, so Chris’ family and friends in Switzerland could follow along on the great Canadian adventure.
Blog Day #18 quote: North Dakota ist sehr flach, das heisst wir konnten gute Distanzen machen, sogar ein Tag mit ueber 200 Km.
Photos were taken often and posted on-line as well, providing a great sense of appreciation for the blog reader.
Milestones on the trip were celebrated with gusto.
Blog Day #15 quote: Today’s big event was this; we reached the 2,000 km mark this morning. We celebrated tonight with a big glass of Swiss chocolate milk and no, Chris and I haven’t had a drink of beer or wine yet.
As the riders arrived back in Canada, and crossed over at Sault St Marie
Blog Day #25 quote: In this trip we dealt with kilometers and miles and now in this part of the country with have to deal with minutes. i.e. “next Tim Horton is only 12 minutes away”. Our computer on our bike is base on kilometer. So in the states we had to convert mile to km. ……… Now we have to calculate: minutes to kilometer. …… 90 km = 1.5 km per minutes so 12 x 1.5 km = 18 km. It is a very good exercise for men over 50, it keep your brain sharp, just like playing Suduko or Kakuro.
The duo faced many challenges on the journey, sometimes the heat, often the wind, having enough tubes for Chris’ bike, sore butts, noisy birds outside tent at 4 AM, and no Tim Horton’s along the US route. Sometimes they faced danger and injury.
Blog Day #26 quote: The worst road and the worst drivers so far belong to Sudbury. Some drivers came rather close.
As the adventure came to an end, the team made a list of “best” items from the trip.
- Restaurant most consistent (value/cleanliness/location) across Canada – Tim Horton’s
- Best Breakfast – pancake – Perkins
- Best pizza Carlito’s Pizzeria, Banff Inn, Banff, Alta
- Best road – Canada – Alberta #1, USA North Dakota #2
- Best Campsite KOA – Bemidji, Minnesota
- Best Hotel/Motel – Banff Inn, Banff, Alta
- Best bicycle shop – Dutch Cycle, Regina, Sask.
- Best City/town – Jasper, Alta
- Best bicycle day – Day #13 we did 202 km
- Most friendly police officer — Ashland Wi. (The Police Officer (she) was patrolling along a beach in Ashland where we had stopped for a break .
From the Blog: “She wanted to know all about our trip and told us about an Artesian Well just a little further down in the park. “Make sure you fill all your water bottles with this water, it is the best water”, she said, “some people say it has healing effects, although not sure on what!”
The cyclists arrived safely in Ottawa on July 22, 2010.
Blog quote: after 29 days of cycling, 3,925 km, about 198.7 +/- hours sitting on our bikes (but who’s counting!).
Although a difficult personal challenge, Mario and Chris acknowledge the adventure would not have been possible without the support of spouses, family, friends, and their on the road support teammate, Mike.
Blog quote: Mike, our driver, was quite instrumental into the success of this trip, he was calm, organized and very helpful during the whole trip.
Watch this animoto for a video montage of the trip.
David Keindel, their colleague, supported them too.
“As far as my role, I am a colleague and friend to both riders. I would have loved to have made the trip with them, but could not, so the next best thing was to follow their blog and stay in contact, and offer support. As I was proud of their accomplishment, I thought everyone should be aware, so I issued a press release to local media. We were fortunate to have the Ottawa Citizen and 3 local papers pick up the story.
This type of personal effort illustrates the commitment our faculty provide on a regular basis at Algonquin College.”
What does the future hold? Is this to be an annual event? No plans yet, but one adventure often leads to another.
For trip insight, comments, great photos & animotos, please visit the ride blog: