Lake Superior

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Vendredi, Septembre 28, 2007 - Mercredi, Octobre 3, 2007

September 28 - October 3, 2007: Pic River to Wawa The Hills are alive with the sound of Geese. HONK!

When we last left our heroines, they were recovering from a close encounter of the ursine-kind and celebrating a successful play performance and series of workshops with the wonderful students and staff at Terrace Bay Public School. Let’s check in with what has been happening ever since…

From Terrace Bay, our babelicious bikers cycled 80 km of rolling ribbons of highway - reminiscent of Mae West’s silhouette – to the town of Marathon. This lovely hamlet, “Built on paper and laced with gold,” is nestled into the Superior coastline and offered the eyes a beautiful view of the mighty lake. There, they were hospitably put up in the local united church, offered food, and even given a monetary donation by a congregation member that, as a group, they decided to save to put towards an upcoming Thanksgiving bake-athon/ community sharing/ pay-it-forward event that had been basting in the juices of their Otesha brain-stew.

The following afternoon, after play practice and workshop planning in the space so kindly provided by the church, our vivacious velo-vixens cycled the short and sweet distance to the community of Pic River. There, they were received and welcomed by Eva – and other members of the community – for a delicious potluck dinner, complete with culinary delights such as vegetarian chili and baked squash with miso gravy. [Look for the recipes in our soon to be printed Lake Superior Tour cookbook! Ask a tour member for a copy or to email you a recipe today!] Fine dining and fellowship were in abundance and were followed by a performance to the community of the Otesha play. Bonnie – the maker of the miso gravy – then offered up an invite to visit her at her beautiful home where hot tea, the sharing of stories and songs, and the puppy-love of a black lab named Fred reduced our heroines to a soft, mushy, sleepy and contented mass. Fred, tea, and a comfortable place to sleep at the youth centre proved to be the team’s kryptonite, and all collapsed into a contented sleep.        

From Pic River, our muscled meanderers traveled to White River, where Winnie the Pooh reigns king. Several days were spent enjoying the hospitality of St. Basil’s school, exploring the tiny town, talking with protesters from the town of Dubreilville about the privatization of crown land, looking at the “World’s Largest Thermometer,” –debatable, because is it TRULY the record holder if it does not actually measure temperature?- experiencing run-ins with the law -“But officer, we’re allowed to be in this school! Honest!”- and presenting the play and running workshops with the super St. Basil’s students and staff. [Holy alliteration, Batman!]

The final journey in this inspiring installation takes us 100km down the highway to the home of the infamous honker and the sculptural pride and joy of Highway 17: Wawa, land of the world’s largest abiotic goose. The Lake Superior team was hosted by Michipicoten High School, a school whose staff and students were excellent audience members, workshop participants, gracious hosts, and EXCELLENT pizza chefs! From planning inspirational culture jams at coffee shops to riding out of town with brightly painted faces, the time spent in Wawa was wonderful and the Otesha crew will feel a fondness for the honking cry of the Canada Goose for years to come…  

September 19-23, 2007: Thunder Bay

On Wednesday September 19th, we cycled in to Thunder Bayand met at Westgate High School. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were grateful to be back in shorts and t-shirts, but with our very first high school presentation looming, there was an air of anxiety in the group. I’m happy to report that the first presentation of the revamped Morning Choices play was a great success – we put in tons of energy and earned ourselves lots of laughs and engagement from our audience.

While in Thunder Bay, we stayed at the Thunder Bay Christian Fellowship and were lucky to not only have a big space to sleep in, but to have access to a shower and a great big kitchen. After days packed with activities and presentations, it was quite a treat to be able to return to a warm place where we had our own space.

On Thursday, our group split off to do radio interviews with the CBC and Lakehead University campus station and to run workshops with some first year Group Dynamics students. After having the first years try out some consensus decision-making, it was time for us to do some learning of our own. Dr. Puk, a professor with the teachers’ college, spent an afternoon outside with our group, running ‘macro-models’ which are physical activities that help people to understand specific ecological issues or industrial processes. We had a valuable discussion with Dr. Puk and will certainly incorporate his teaching ideas into our future workshops.

We left the Lakehead campus at the end of the day and headed for a potluck put on by the volunteers at Bikes for Humanity. This is an amazing organization that takes donations of used bikes, fixes them up and passes them on to those in need both in Thunder Bay and in Namibia, Africa. Our group was quite excited to meet and share with other bike enthusiasts and after performing our play, eager to get our hands dirty, we pitched in and helped to repair a few of the hundreds of bikes that the organization keeps in a donated warehouse space.

On Friday, we had a day off, which meant a chance for us to get our bikes tuned up in anticipation of the big hills aroundSuperior. We owe Peatrie’s Bike Shop a HUGE thank you for all of the time and energy they put into getting our bikes back in to tip top shape – you guys are great! The rest of the day was spent checking out the town, doing some laundry and for some brave tour members, going kayaking on Lake Superior.

The biggest event for us in Thunder Bay was the Environment North Conference, “Climate Change: Solving it Together”. We were invited to attend and perform at the conference and were thrilled at the chance to hear experts speak on a variety of topics from water to food to forests to buildings. In keeping with the conference’s message, the entire event was designed to be carbon-neutral. Price incentives for those arriving by foot or bike and a menu of local foods are just a couple of examples of how the event’s organizers achieved this goal.

During our last night in Thunder Bay, feeling overwhelmed by large donations of food from several vendors at the farmers’ market that day, we took a few moments to share our gratitude for all of the people who graciously shared their time, knowledge and food with us. 

September 16-18, 2007: Kakabeka Falls – Mid-tour retreat

Despite a day of cold, snowy weather, we were in high spirits as we headed from Quetico National Park to a campground in Kashabowie – about 55km down the highway. It was a short stay, but we got to meet some interesting people, including a group of friends who get together every September to celebrate the first day of fall (dressed in Halloween-inspired attire) and our hosts, at the campground, who spent the afternoon canning tomatoes in the sun.

On Sunday September 16th, we carried on to Kakabeka Fallsfor our mid-tour retreat. We stayed just outside of the town at Marilyn and Paul’s beautiful farmhouse and quickly made friends with their donkey, Pedro and gratefully accepted their donations of food including baskets of Guinea fowl eggs.

One of the highlights of our retreat was a quiet morning where we ate breakfast in silence, biked to Kakabeka Falls, marveled at the beauty of the waterfall (otherwise known as Niagra of the North), formed a meditation circle, and participated on a workshop on leadership. Back at the farmhouse, we spent time rehearsing and polishing our new and improved version of the Morning Choices play and spiced things up on our last night with a talent show.

During our free time, a few tour members seized a learning opportunity and headed over to Thunder Oaks Cheese Farm to see how Gouda cheese is made and sample some of their 16 different types of cheese. The farm is small-scale, however Thunder Oaks sells cheese in over 15 locations around northern Ontario and is the only Gouda-cheese maker in the province.

The retreat gave us a chance to redefine our goals – from a group perspective and individually and refocus on our mission as Otesha Project volunteers. We left Paul and Marilyn’s oasis feeling rejuvenated and re-inspired to spread Otesha’s message of hope. 

September 11-14, 2007: Mine Centre/Atikokan/QueticoNational Park

The ride to Mine Centre was 60 kilometers of bumpy pavement. My body was anxious to reach Mine Centre Public School where the group anticipated sleeping on a gymnasium floor. To our surprise, the school’s principle Brenda was there to greet up at the entrance. With enthusiastic generosity she offered us her home to spend the following two evenings! WOW, were we ever excited! Not only did we have a warm house to sleep in, we also had access to showers, the internet, a pool table, AND a beautiful kitchen to cook in! It was a camper’s haven. 

In the morning we presented our play to a group of approximately 100 students. The children were attentive and eager to ask questions! After a nutrition break, we broke into smaller groups according to age/class to work more closely with the students in workshops.  It was a great learning opportunity for both the children and the Otesha-ites!  I worked with grades ones and twos to look deeper at water conservation and why it’s important. Although the children appeared shy at first it was incredible how quickly they became comfortable, offering enthusiastic participation and great input!

From there we packed up our bicycles and traveled to Atikokan.  We were able to speak to an economic developer about the past, present situation, and future possibilities for Atikokan. Currently, the local coal plant is the main industry in the area with tourism following just behind. With Ontario’s plan to get rid of all coal plants in the province, Atikokan is left with an unpredictable future. Currently they are investigating different sources of biofuels to replace the dieing industry. 

In the evening, the superintendent of Quetico National Park(where we stayed free of charge the next night) welcomed us into his home where he and his wife cooked us a delightful dinner. He offered a tour of his eco-friendly home which included solar panels, an organic garden, geothermal heating, and much more. We stayed for some time to discuss their perspectives on Atikokan’s future. 

The next morning we woke up to (drumroll please) SNOW!!! We had been anticipating some colder weather given that our trip was going to extend into late October, however we hadn’t expected to see flurries on September 14. After some moments of denial we got out our toques and mittens and geared up for the 50km ride to Quetico National Park. During the ride, we endured both snow and hail, but arrived safely to a beautiful, almost empty park and some hot cocoa to warm our spirits. 

September 6-10, 2007: Emo to Fort Frances
By Kathleen Banville

On Thursday Sept 6th we woke up bright and early in Sioux Narrows Provincial Park, ate oatmeal (surprise!) and attempted to get an early start on the day, since we were going to be biking over 100 km for the first time this tour.  My biking buddy was Jana and we had a blast going up then down the rolling hills, enjoying the relative safety and relaxation of a high way without much traffic.  By the time we passed all the construction workers they had seen the majority of our group before us, so they weren’t too surprised to see us too.

After biking for over 100 km South on hwy 71, we finally reached the turn off and headed east to Emo.  Our total distance biked for the day was 110 km!  A new record!  The whole day it was threatening to rain, but we were lucky to arrive dry and with only a few drops falling from the sky.

Downtown Emo has a health food store, a beautiful waterfront, and “Emo’s Little House”, which is a  cute shack with pink trim and a sign that says the name, but I have no idea what it actually is for.  Our group spent the night inDonald Young Public School, and since I was on super squad with my group, “la patata mysteriosa”, and we made pizza and a delicious salad for dinner. 

In the morning, we performed first thing for the entire schoolof Kindergarten to Grade 8.  We didn’t have time for workshops or many questions, but we were able to talk to some of the students outside while loading up our bicycles. 

We biked about 13 km east to the town of Devlin and performed again at Crossroads Elementary School.  The play was more energetic this time as we found our “groove” and afterwards we were rewarded with showers!

The day wasn’t over yet.  We got on our bicycles again and biked 30km to Fort Frances to Caren and Eric Fagerdahl’s beautiful Rainy Lake-front property, where we stayed for four nights. Caren put in a lot of effort to welcome us to FortFrances, including organizing a spaghetti dinner for us at her church, Church of the Holy Spirit.  “Saint Charlotte” prepared the meal for us and we were showed around the church a bit. 

The following day, Saturday, we visited the Fort Frances Farmers Market where we performed the play, were given lunch, and stocked up on produce and jam.  The city of FortFrances extended hospitality again by having us to the museum in the evening for a wild rice dinner. 

An exciting highlight of the city was when a few of us went across the border to International Falls, Minnesota, to visit the coffee shop/roasting company.  They made amazing Americano’s and fruit salads, and I just had to pick up a half pound of their dark roast to take on the road. 

Sunday was our “day off” where we spread all over the city trying to get our own errands done.  The Rec Centre gave us free passes so we could go for a swim or shower, Dawn rented some movies so we could relax in the evening, but mostly we all spent a long time on the internet trying to keep up contact with the outside world. 

Monday we performed the play twice at two different schools in Fort Frances before taking off on an 80km ride to Mine Centre.  On the way out of the city, we had to go over a causeway, and bikes aren’t allowed on the causeway normally, so we accomplished it safely by having the whole group ride at once over the causeway and the car drove behind everyone with the hazard lights on.  I was car buddy that day, and it was so fun to be driving behind and watching everyone gracefully pedaling in a long line with the open road ahead and beautiful lakes all around us. 

September 5-6, 2007: Sioux Narrows 

Tired and sweaty, we arrived in Sioux Narrows after a 77 km ride from Kenora. Our destination was the Sioux Narrows Provincial Park, where our host, Beverly, had arranged for us to stay at a beautiful group site right on the Lake of the Woods. When you pull up to a campsite after a day of treacherous hills there is nothing like being able to drop your bike, run down a dock and jump into the water. It felt like a sunny afternoon in July.

The next day (Wednesday) was the first day of school in Ontario and as such we had our first presentation in a school. Finally! Having spent the prior evening preparing workshops and fine-tuning our play, we rode over to Sioux Narrows Public School feeling excited and energetic. Our audience consisted of a whopping 12 students ranging from Junior Kindergarteners to grade fives who were equally excited to see what we had in store. The play went well – we interacted with the students and fed from their energy and had a laugh when we heard one of the youngest ones blurt out “When’s it gonna be over?” at the beginning of the second scene. Following the play, we ran two workshops. For the young ones we focused on water and hunted for water sources around the school, put up signs to encourage both students and teachers to conserve water and – the highlight – put a dam in the back of the toilet in the boys’ washroom. The older students were led through a workshop on transportation and media and had a chance to check out our hybrid car, critically examine the impact of marketing jingles and talk about alternatives to watching TV.

On Thursday morning we left Sioux Narrows and headed out on our longest bike yet – 110 km to a little town called Emo.

August 31 - September 2, 2007: Into the Rocklands

August 31, 2007
I woke up groggy this morning wondering why exactly I was sleeping inside on a carpet when I could be outside on the grass with morning breeze awaking my senses. Oh yeah, our Halls Haven B&B hosts had been kind enough to welcome us inside to dry our gear. I soon discovered that I’m not the only one slow to wake up and start packing my panniers. A gentle nudge reminding me that nature on the senses is the most delightful organic, trade-less caffeine.

By the time we set off pedaling East in our small pods, the total group count seemed quite small. With and Jason, Michelle nudging us ‘out of the nest,’ comes the surprising realization that we were on our own! What? Are we really capable of touring the Transcanada, alone? As each ‘giant’ incline became a shrinking downhill in our side mirror, it soon became clear that we, the Lake Superior Tour, dig the challenges most.

A few kilometers West of the Ontario boarder we reached the resort town of West Hawk Lake. One would expect that after hours of trees, rocks streaming through our peripheral, passing ice cream stands, restaurants and even bars should have been tempting. None seemed more enticing than jumping into West Hawk Lake itself for a washing of the mind, sweat and spirit. It’s hard to describe the pure joy of having all you want and need on your bike, and to crave the Earth gifts most.

That evening we came together as we always do; a circle of giggles, concerns, and saddle bag tangents. Though our discussions on the ethical purchase of our group food often seem endless, we reached a consensus that we need to teach ourselves more, and trust store labels less. With backs starting to slouch and glances cast in the direction of our tents, the group ‘vibe watcher’ (one the roles on our wheel of responsibilities), suggested a massage chain and the sharing of our FPD’s (favourite part of day) before tucking in for the night. Considering we’ve only known one another but a few short weeks, this journey we’ve found ourselves on certainly feels like home.

Drifting off to sleep I dreamt I was on my bike, dreamt I was up a hill with my team each doing her part to look after us. Drifting, drifting, don’t bike off the shoulder.

September 1, 2007
6:15 in the morning and I’m eager to start the fry granola with my supersquad. Today we bike into Ontario. Today we tackle the biggest hills yet. Today is gonna be fantastic, I just know it.

It was Sylvie Anne the ever-observant who said, “The hills are like a long row of peanuts, one after another.” Rows of hills? So far we’d been bubble-wrapping our bike egos with the low-gradient prairies. All I have to say is that propelling yourself up a hill is an experience to drink up. I don’t think any of us expected the raw energy firing up within us on the uphill, and here I thought the downhill was where all the giggles welled up.

A wild blend of singing, laughter, and random roadside shouts of celebration thread the hills and rocky ridges into a path I’m proud to be a part of. And just when the day seemed that no more beauty could be crammed in, we turned into Clearwater Bay just outside of Kenora. It took mere minutes to park my bike and run flying into the water. With September water pricking at my senses, I realize that it has been a long time coming since I felt this alive.

John, an old friend of Michelle’s has shown us, yet another example of superior hospitality, by welcoming us into his family’s cozy lakefront home. I think Liz said it best with,“It’s those little touches that just spell grandma.” Though I am new to this world of Otesha, the people and care outstretched towards us are refreshing fruit in this basket of hope we carry.

August 27-31, 2007

So, you last left the Lake Superior Tour as we were leaving our training week at the Weins Farm near Winnipeg. On Tuesday Amanda and I were the first off to Northern Sun Farm Co-op which is a bit south of Steinback, Manitoba. When we arrived to the farm and were greeted by Mike, one of the amazing co-op members we had the opportunity to spend time with over the next couple of days.

While we were a bit put off by the poison ivy and talk of a bear, we set up tents and before we knew it, dinner was ready and we were meeting up to talk about food and the play. After a dinner of shepard’s pie, cooked on a woodstove we had access to in a beautiful roundhouse which would be our home for the next few days, a few lucky tour members were able to check out a late night sauna and swim with some of our hosts.

On Tuesday, Mike, Dawn and Gerhardt showed us around all their beautiful homes and gardens and animals. Most of the buildings on their 250 acre lot were made from recycled materials and straw bales. They use solar and wind to power their homes, grow and raise most of their own food, compost human and animal waste with worms, heat their homes with wood from their land and generate enough honey and flour to provide both to their community. We were in awe at the level of self sufficiency this group of people has been able to achieve.

After a day of working on the farm, milking the cow, more workshops, meetings and rehearsals on Wednesday, our group performed the play for the farmers in the half constructed building which will eventually become a community centre and summer kitchen for the co-op. At this point, some of us climbed the windmill and we all returned to our round house for a delicious snack of popcorn and sweet chocolate-peanut-butter-granola-balls and a slideshow.

Finally, Thursday the group of us mounted our bicycles and rode a beautiful tail wind and sunny day through Steinback to get our first taste of the Trans Canada. Ninety five kilometers latter, we arrived at the Halls Haven B&B near Hadashville to a short but powerful rainstorm.

This evening, the group said goodbye to Jason and Michelle, our awesome group facilitators and trainers from the Otesha office, who head back to Ottawa early tomorrow morning. While we were all sad to see them go, their hard work, diligence, passion, patience, compassion and sensitivity have left us all feeling prepared to take on this journey with confidence and a wealth of skills we did not have when we showed up in Winnipeg on a sunny afternoon in August.

Michelle and Jason: Thank you guys so much for everything you have taught us. We will miss you and will keep in touch.

Love, Sylvie Anne and the Lake Superior Tour

Training Week


What an amazing week! We all met in Winnipeg with bike boxes in tow and welcoming smiles that would have made passersby think that we were all old friends re-uniting... and now it feels as if we have known each other forever.

After a few hours of tuning up bikes at the park, we all cycled out of Winnipeg to our new home for the week at the Wiens' Shared Organic farm (approximately 25 kms south of  'the Peg'). The farm was beautiful and all of our hosts were warm and welcoming. The farm is supported by a collective of workers, and work share members who all work tirelessly to plant, till, and harvest, chemical and pesticide free veggies to take home to their own families and sell at a nearby market on weekends. 

The com'poo'sting toilet, 'lounge', 'kitchen', and solar shower were  welcomed amenities, and farm dogs Pluto and  Thor, and Honker the goose were always good for a laugh. 

Our week was packed with learning: Food Mandates, Community (Consensus) Decision Making,  Bicycle Maintenance, Yoga, Fears, Goals, Workers Cooperatives, Youth United Against Racism Workshop, Our Morning Choices Play Performace, Acrobatics, and Work Share on the Farm to name a few. Our time together is just beginning and we have already learned and shared so much!

We performed for the first time in front of an audience yesterday, at St. Norbert's farmers market. The energy and enthusiasm was superb and the play went off without a hitch (after only 5 hours of preparation!) Good Job Team!

After that we said goodbye to our  fearless leader  Genevieve, her energy and excitment will be the wind at our back for this next leg of the journey. Thanks  Genevieve! 

Tomorrow we begin our cycling voyage with a 60 km ride to Steinbach.  The team is pumped!

Thanks for reading about our voyage so far.

Peace and Bicycle Grease! 

The Lovely Ladies of the Lake Superior Team