Prairie Sky Tour

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 25th, 2009

Prairie Skies: The Season Finale

As the Prairie Sky 2009 tour draws to a close, the inspired and imaginative team members prepare to travel off into their new corners of the country and world.  Meanwhile, we here at the Otesha office file our papers and collect our information about the tour from beginning to end.  This includes asking the tour members important questions about their experience, and we would like to share one of them with you:

If your tour had been a TV show, what would some of the best episodes have been?

The Unexpected Solar Adventure

During the past weekend we attended an amazing Solar Fair in CraikSK. There were booths of all sorts; Turning the Tides Bookstore from Saskatoon, Moosejaw Community Gardens, pesticide free lawns, alternative energy, and chickens and kids everywhere! You can only imagine how excited we were to perform for these people!

After a great lecture by Amy Jo Ehman on lentils and food security in Saskatchewan, we rushed to the tent we were perform in and within minutes, we attracted a large crowd that included children sitting in their parent’s laps, families huddled together, a slightly daunting group of filmmakers ready to film our play for a documentary they’re making, and so many other knowledgeable and inspiring people. The tent was bursting with energy as we performed one of our best shows yet - people were on the edge of their seats and constantly giggling. Once we finished the play we were beamed at each other with pride for our show and to be together.  The love continued for the next couple hours while people were coming up to each of us to shower us with support and praise, and more importantly, to share their thoughts and passions with us.  

Return of the rain cloud

Leaving Craik was the day that the Saskatchewan sky let out any and all frustrations it had with us. The day started with forceful headwinds, but we were not dismayed. Those winds quickly became buckets of rain, which became slushies being poured on us (oooh a metaphor!), yet we were still not dismayed. Then the sky started to sparkle with lightning and thunder and we all thought back to when Katrina explained to all of us how to survive such intense thunder and lightning - some of team mates got so nervous that they threw down their bikes and attempted to find non-conductive items to stand on, and even contemplated spreading 50 feet apart from each other (as Katrina had suggested).  Meanwhile, Chandel and Kelda danced on the side of the road because they would rather be together and dead than alive but apart. Along the long, wet day of riding to BethuneSaskatchewan, we would often stop to wring out our clothes, bake potatoes at roadside pubs (we ran out of camp fuel), and to find shelter at a truck stops.

Look! It’s a bike rodeo!

To end things right, a couple nights ago, we came together for one last group bike ride in the form of a Bike Rodeo - in true Otesha fashion. This involved dressing our bikes and ourselves in brightly coloured spandex, fanny packs, one piece bathing suits, reflective vests... you get the picture. We raced through the streets of Regina, hooting and hollering, ringing our bells, honking our horns- finally ending up in a sunny spot near the legislative to do an awards ceremony and to play a very sassy game of ultimate frisbee. We returned home that night to eat a Kelsey’s first ever pumpkin pie and to watch one of our past performances- needless to say, it was a perfect night.  

Thanks for tuning in! 

Signing off for Prairie Sky Tour 2009,

Renee McLachlan

***

June 7th

Prairie Skies survives and thrives 

The week started in Elk Island ParkAlberta with a delightful5:30 am wake-up call and a breakfast of cold oatmeal. We set off only 5 minutes late (a first!) and headed north. Four of us were brave enough to take a 7km gravel road shortcut, and later emerged onto the highway triumphant from our conquest and ahead of most of the others!

Our presentation at St. Mary’s School in Vegreville was great! The students asked tons of questions - including if we did laundry! That night we had a delightful sleep on the gym’s crash mat, and in the morning we mingled with the teachers in the staff room while eating our burnt oatmeal.

We left late and raced to off to a tour of an enormous concrete grain elevator in Lavoy. Richard at the grain elevator was extremely excited to answer our endless questions. We were surprised to learn that most of the grain was being shipped overseas, perhaps even to get processed and packaged there and sent back here.

We later arrived at the Innisfree Campground to discover that we were out of camp fuel. Then we discovered that the villageof Innisfree doesn’t have a grocery store! So we ended up doing our grocery shopping at the Petro Canada Truck Stop. Mmmmm, delicious creamed corn from a can! 

The next morning some of the ladies slipped off to the lake for a swim while the one of our cooking crews, the Super Squad, slaved over the fire making us bannock for breakfast. Josh crushed Tyler in the competition of who could make the longest bannock.

Thursday, we rode off to Vermillion and they had a food co-op with great groceries! But they had no camp fuel plus and we were subject to an extremely strict fire ban. Uh oh. Tyler (always talented at cozying up to the locals) managed talk a kind stranger (James) into letting us use his kitchen. Hooray for James!

Lakeland College in Vermillion showed us their sweet alternative energy cabin and enormous solar cooker which gave Katrina a giddy smile on her face as she used it to warm her lunch.

Friday brought nasty, cold headwinds and endless hills on our way into Lloydminster. Cross the border and welcome to beautiful Saskatchewan! Josh and Tyler beat everyone there and cooked lentils and barley to replenish our strength. We set out again for another 20km, 10km of which was over newly grated loose gravel.

We finally arrived at the farm oasis of Guy, Charlene, Gaelin and Thomas in Marshall! Hot chili and freshly baked banana bread was there waiting for us. YUM!!!  We passed the most amazing and relaxing weekend hanging out, making food and jumping on the trampoline. Charlene welcomed us into her sewing cottage to make Otesha Flags and also some baskets from scrap fabric and plastic bags. We slept and exposed their house to yoga for the first time while Josh, Jess and Kelda got intimate with their bikes. We finished our visit by serenading the poor family with a group rendition of “I will survive!” A perfect ending to the week.

***

May 31st, 2009

Who said there was anything wrong with hugging a tree? 

As tour member Kelsey Wilson describes, a simple team-building activity finds putting the 'hug' in 'treehugger'.

I walk around, blindfolded. The simple words of my guide tell me “left”, “straight”, or “right” – and these words are all I need to know for this moment. These words get me past the obstacles to my destination. Over something long and round, under something else that reaches out for me, and around what must be other large objects. I reach out and hug my destination, smell it, and carefully consider all of its particularities. I pay especially close attention to the rough texture of my destination, and the jagged piece that is jutting out of it just above my head and to my right. Yet despite these somewhat off-putting characteristics, I give it another squeeze and feel the warmth of the energy flowing between me and it. We remain like this for a few more moments, concentrating on the existence of one another and being as one.

As I let go of my destination to return to where I began, I scrape myself on its rough skin while it tries to cling onto me with its sticky-sweet glue. However, the moment has passed and I am guided back to where I began with the same simple words that got me here. Then, as I take off my blindfold and open my eyes, I am immediately drawn to where I had been and I recognize my previous destination without any doubt in my head. It was the tree with the rough bark and the broken branch; just up ahead past that log, under those branches and around those stumps.  

Go hug a tree!

***

May 28th, 2009

From Camrose to Edmonton with Katrina

Hi there, my name is Katrina Siks. I’d like to tell you about what my Otesha group was up to a short while ago - places we learned from, reasons we laughed and thoughts that were pondered.

May 25th: Our last morning in Camrose, Alberta. Everyone is relaxed and blushed with the sunshine of the weekend. Our performance had been canceled so we focused our energy on the 71km ride to Leduc, where we set up our home-for-the-night at the Lion’s Club Campground. We received donated briquettes, and the Tasty Girls (my cooking crew) took full advantage of the barbecue, creating delicious veggie burgers under Renee’s guidance. The next day, most of the group dove into Leduc’s Waste Treatment Center for the morning, not literally. On the way out of down, riding past Leduc’s beautiful community garden was a source of inspiration, seeing a few avid folks out tending their gardens on a mid week morning. It seemed peaceful.

Headed North to Edmonton, Renee and I were bike partners for the day. We merged onto one of our busiest roads yet, propelled along by the slipstream of large trucks and Renee's anticipation of seeing her newborn niece for the first time later that day. Along the way I was reminded of a few of the effects of the car culture we have created. Amongst the litter of work gloves, license plates, assorted beverage receptacles, we pass water bottles one quarter full with a yellow liquid I suspect is urine. I’ve spotted 5 such bottles so far. It seems that sometimes we are in such a hurry we barely have time for ordinary life functions. Then we pass white crosses adorned with flowers. It seems that sometimes we are in such a hurry that death is an acceptable side effect. Groomed gardens emerged from the shoulders a few hundred meters before entering Edmonton.

We entered Edmonton and the open arms of Keely, a past Otesha member of the Kooteney tour. A few hours later, Kelda struggled in with her mischievous bike rolling along reluctantly - its pedals would occasionally refuse to turn. The mechanics in Leduc had not been successful, but Kelda found her saviors at Red Bike in Edmonton, where they chiseled, drilled & blow torched her pedals to freedom. Over the next three days we were embraced by the generosity of Remi and Anna, who opened up their homes to us stay.

We presented our play at Westminister Junior High School, who has a neat on-going school-wide theme of ‘How to love your earth’. That afternoon we spent some time exploring Edmonton’s river bike paths and their crab apple trees in full bloom. Despite temporarily losing Josh – something got in his eye while biking and he headed to the doctor (remember to always wear sunglasses when biking!) - we spent some time getting down to business. The group took time to develop an energizing and interactive opening / closing to our play, as well as to create a new workshop. We regrouped (including Josh and both of his eyes) at the Dies family house, where Kelly Dies had masterminded a scrumptious dinner for everyone!

The following day was the premier of our brand new workshop on Mobilizing Theatre followed up our two performances at McNally High School. We then were treated to a vegan lunch in the home economics room at the High School – a delicious spread that was well received after two performances. That evening our final presentation in Edmonton was outside at Parkallen Community Hall, the weather was on our side and the audience was filled with family of members, and friends old and new. Afterwards we played on the many bikes kept at the community hall by the City of Edmonton, including a bicycle built for two! …Charge!

***

May 24th, 2009

Snow Falling on Cyclists

Hello Folks!

Thank you for your patience, in waiting from this edition of Notes from the Road!

To bring you up to speed, in Red Deer we stayed at the home of the parents of a past Otesha staff member. We stayed there for four nights, and our hosts were awesome! We had our first performance at the Cheers Club at the Michener Center. Later in the evening we performed at the Lion’s Club Campground as an exchange for a sweet tour around Kerry Nature Centre the next day. Through the second day the sky clouded and we woke up the next morning with snow around our tents. Lucky, our hosts were the nicest people the world and they let us stay inside for the next two nights. We also had a performance at Blackfalds Farmer’s market, 20 km north of Red Deer. Most of our Otesha members jumped out in the snow and had the best ride of their lives to get there!

The next day we had a performance at the huge Hunting Hills Highschool. After our performance, we celebrated Chandel’s birthday! We made a delicious vegan meal and had a small party in the basement for her.

The next day we left for Ponoka, to sleep in Ponoka Composite Highschool. Following a ride to Wetaskiwin and a lovely night in the First United Church, we had our first performance in a few days!

Our performance in Millet was at the Griffith Scott Middle School. This was a UNESCO school, meaning they follow the mindsets of the UN. It was incredible to speak to this school!

And finally, we arrived in Camrose, to the humble abode of Danielle Hachey. We performed at the opening of a new bike library she was involved in, as a thank-you for her hospitality!

Thank you to all of us who have helped us out on the road.  Until next time!

***

May 19th, 2009

Prairie Sky's windy, windy ways

We spent an amazing first week in training at Kamp Kiwanis, playing lots of fun games, getting to know each other through group building activities, and learning the Otesha way. We decided what kind of food we'll be eating, we worked on the play, so much happened. It was amazing.

On Friday the 8th, we set out for Calgary. Our first performance was at Ernest Morrow school. It was an interesting day, as 3 of our group members got lost on the way (one being the lead role of the play). So there was a lot of improvisation, and about 2 or 3 hours later, the latecomers arrived and we headed to our accommodation in Calgary. We stayed with Andrew and Molly (thanks guys!) for the following 3 days, having lots of fun, including a fire show one night. During our stay in Calgary, we visited the GoodLife Community Bike shop. It's an awesome place where you can fix your bike for free and everyone volunteers their time. On our last day in Calgary we put on two performances at the Glenbo Museum for the school groups of Destination Conservation. It was awesome to see those kids getting active in saving our planet. Some of them even did a rap for us about trees! ("check it out, check it out").

After our performances at the museum, we cycled to Crossfield and slept in a church. It took forever to get out of Calgary, but once we did it was SO nice to be on the road and in the country. Some of us stopped for smoothies in Airdrie, and there were lots of random encounters with nice people all through the day.

After sleeping in the Crossfield United Church, we headed out on Tuesday for Carstairs. That was one crazy ride. Going downhill was more difficult than going up because the headwind was SO strong. We're on a carfree tour, but our friend Carla was with us (in a car) for the first five or so days of cycling, so she came by and refuelled us with chocolate. Even though it was only a 17k ride, we sure needed that sugar. In Carstairs we had a small crowd at the curling rink for our performance, and then the Lion's Club graciously put on a BBQ for us (delicious! thanks guys). We stayed in the campground by the grain elevator museum. It was SO windy that day, we heard it howling all night long!

Carstairs to Olds! A short ride and a very warm welcome. We performed at the career fair, thanks to our good friends Cody and Kristin. They advertised for us and pulled some strings. And they let us stay at their house! They are amazing people, pulling up their lawn for a garden, working on sustainability... and they let us stay longer than we had planned. We actually loved it there so much that we stayed an extra day and a half. We had a potluck and some awesome conversation, a campfire in their backyard and lots of music and fun. Plus they have two great sons, Matteo and Pablo, who are adorable and just bundles of energy. Thank you all SO much!

There is always so much food for us, it's kind of insane. There is so much kindness and hospitality in the hearts of everyone.

Nearly last but certainly not nearly least, we traveled to Bowden. That was a nice short ride, with a pleasant breeze. We set up out tents in the highway rest area and had some fantastic group bonding time, after which we visited Jen and her giant blue ex-church. We helped them with shovels and laughs, setting up their pond and greywater system that they are putting in. Such fantastic people. Thank you all, surely some of us will be back to visit.

And then, after Bowden, we suited up and headed off to Red Deer, where we now perform and rest and live... sustainability with family always in the front of our minds.

Luke George Branson & Josh Suppan for the Prairie Sky Team