Great Lakes Tour

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Vendredi, Mai 16, 2008 - Jeudi, Juin 26, 2008

First Journal Installment

May 16, 2008

Hey Kim!

Hey LJ!

We should get our journal done soon eh'?

Indeed! But where to begin… This calls for the Otesha Time Machine!! Dun dun dun... Yippeee!!!

After 8 days of intense (and intimate) training on Riverglen Biodynamic Farm with our dear friends Farmer Dave, Linnea, the Otesha staff and the amazing Algonquin '08 tour, the Otesha Great Lakes Tour '08 headed 18 kilometers … dun dun dun … to Ottawa for our first performance! We gave two shows to Immaculata High School in the city, and considering we had only learned the play a few days ago, the performances went really well. The gang headed 30 kilometers to Stittsville that night for our first camp out in a school at Sacred Heart Catholic High School, and performed the next day to the school's 500 grade 7 and 8s! We really came together as a group the night before, revamping the play's introduction and really got the students involved and interested in our message of sustainable living. The question and answer period afterward was lively and the students showed a great interest in the tour members and why we chose to be a part of the tour. The students were proud of their knowledge about sustainability issues and one girl discussed in front of her peers her interest in Bull Frog renewable power. The performance was amazing and really pumped the group up, especially after being asked to give autographs on band-aid wrappers and Yugio cards! GLT '08 were the heroes of Sacred Heart for at least one day.

Yeah Kim! That performance in Stittsville really energized me – I think we really got our message across. Definitely! It was an early example of just how much impact our Otesha presentations can have on the communities we visit. And the autographs weren't too shabby either! So... after that crazy day, what's next?

After our amazing performance we travelled 35 kilometers to Almonte where we stayed at TeamWorks Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with host Hilary! We spent the next day getting our hands dirty, helping Hilary and the farm owners with tree planting and gardening. It was a great opportunity to learn about CSAs, the different types of farming, and their impacts on communities. Seeing the passion that Hillary had for sustainable farming was empowering, and definitely gave us a boost as a group discussing sustainability.

It was so nice to be able to spend a day at the farm, and really connect with our gracious host, Hillary.

Mmm hmm, and those organic eggs were awesome! So after Almonte where did we take off to? 

Day 4 saw GLT biking 53 kilometers to Lanark County to stay with the Kafrissen family in their incredible eco-friendly tree house! The tree house was built by the family out of recycled materials and "trash" found at a local dump, and from friends and family. It was a two storey dream house with a composting toilet, outdoor shower (for staggerd showers, of course!) and enough books to start a small library. Oh, and did we mention the mattresses! The view was incredible, overlooking the Sheridan Rapids which thundered beneath us.

Hey Kim, I need to cut in here. It was magical biking to the tree house. We biked up and down steep gravel hills, but when we arrived we were greeted by enthusiastic children and a tour of our amazing new home. When we met Clare, she was playing her harp on their porch… it was like a fairy tale.

You're right, LJ. The family was so incredibly generous, greeting us with a gourmet meal, and taking time out of their lives to show us some of their favourite local places.

It was so amazing, Kim. They treated us like their own kids, stopping along the way to pick fiddle heads for dinner and then taking us to Ragged Shoots. I had the best time singing camp songs with the kids for 2 or 3 hours!

Oh how I know!..So, I guess that is it.

Not quite yet... don't forget Nic's favourite part of the week.

What's that you say? The MAMMOTH CHEESE!

Oh right, in Perth! A replica of the largest cheese wheel that ever existed! Just the type of things that vegans love!

What an amazing start to our tour. One week in and we are pumped and super ready to continue on this amazing journey! We have touched lives, and left our mark on the places we have been, whether it be seeds planted in the ground, or those seeds of passion and inspiration planted in the hearts and minds of the students we have spoken to.

Wow, that's deep!

Yeah, well, I try!

Well that's it for us I guess!

This is LJ and Kim, writing it down so you don't need to frown!


And a special thanks to all of our amazing on-the-road food donors! Including… Herb and Spice (Wellington St, Ottawa) and Farm Works CSA in Almonte! It was delicious! 

Second Journal Installment

May 13-18, 2008 

When we last left off, the team was packing up again and leaving the beautiful tree house (built with recycled materials!) just outside of Perth, voted the "the most beautiful town in Ontario". We won't disagree with that one.

An uncertain morning was brewing as the team faced its biggest day yet- a 107km stretch to Brockville. Now, becoming a bike rider, you quickly develop a keen eye for quality roadside stops which provide good rest and great laughs- a giant this or that, an eclectic fair trade coffee stop, witty signage… That being said, as we rolled past a field of stacked bathtubs, discarded windows, and vintage exercise bikes, we knew we had struck gold. Rideau Antiques provided the time-warp needed to re-energize the crew on its long trek, and enough tempting nostalgia (kooky political buttons anyone?) to fill our panniers. Nine hours later, the team finished its biggest ride to date, safe, sound, and sore. We were greeted by incredible hosts, and discussed our amazing journey over lemonade and ice cream. What a boost!

After a night of rest and thigh massages, we were off to "The Gateway to the 1000 Islands", Gananoque. It seemed the beautiful ride was nicely coming to a close just as the previous day's 100+ kilometers were catching up with us. First stop: the tourist office, as we had a bit of time to spare before our presentation, and hoping to catch a few sights. We were in for a surprise, because the helpful staff informed us that the school we were looking for was not actually in Gananoque at all, but in another town 16km away. With less than an hour and a half to show time, the team managed to regroup and pedaled some of the hardest fastest kilometers yet to the very welcoming Thousand Island Elementary School.  We were booked for two consecutive performances with less than an hour to play with. With a few tweaks and changes, the two shortened plays were well received, making Gananoque a memorable stop… even if we never did figure out where 1000 Island dressing comes from.

While Nick and Annie hit up the local dump (to later return with fabulous trucker hats for all), LJ, Kim, and Kate hung around Gananoque for a casual sharing session at the Youth Centre. With only a few kids sticking around, they really got to put their skills to the test. A bit unsure if they were really getting through to them, it all proved worthwhile the next day when we performed at Linklater School in Gananoque. In the Q&A after the show, one of the girls from the youth club proudly stood up and presented (to wild applause from us) the toilet dam she had made after we left the night before.

We gradually set off for Kingston and the much anticipated comfort of Kim's house. In no time the hallways and living room were a sea of panniers and the kitchen was...well, a mess. Finally an oven! The next two days were full of delicious home baked tea biscuits, burritos, granola, and pizza. And with a cozy space and full bellies we really got down to work brainstorming improvements for the play.

**huge shout out to the lovely folks at Tara Foods for their very generous donations.

From Kingston to Adolphustown…

When asphalt turned to gravel along blooming apple orchards, we knew we were getting close to Adolphustown, and to our third beautiful host home on the water - we are getting spoiled!  Our wonderful hosts treated us to tea and apple crumble and let us unwind in their hot tub. Don't worry, there was also a few hours of serious play rewriting going on that night too.

Off to Sandbanks Provincial Park…

Our ride took us across a very little (but for some very exciting) ferry and through the town of Picton, where some of our non veggies treated themselves to hotdogs at Buddha Dog. Now we know what you might be thinking… Hotdogs? Really? Oh yes. These puppies were local, and we mean LOCAL! From buns to wiener, everything there was sourced near Picton, with a big map to situate all the farmers and creative chefs who contributed to the gourmet concoctions.

The wind and rain was picking up as we reached Sandbanks Provincial Park, and the sandswept streets provided much laughter to some as the road tires slipped and swerved on the powdery surface. We had planned a community performance in the park's amphitheatre in the afternoon but, despite LJ and Annie's colourful advertising on wheels, the rain won out and the show was cancelled. We'll always have Buddha Dog.

penned by nick and kate.

much love.

Third Journal Installment

The wind was pushy and cajoling (but nonetheless convincing) the day that we left Sandbanks National Park. It was most insistent on ‘The Bridge’; The Bridge was a towering presence, a challenge to not only legs and lungs but to gonads and grit. Not every tear, shed that day, was caused by blowing sand but, triumph was sweet when amid tears and curses, we were to be found on The Bridge’s opposite side.

Night found us in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory where Chief Don left us to slumber but only after recounting tales of witches and devils, lights dim and voices low.

After whatever sleep could be had our auspicious heroes held a performance at Quinte Mohawk School and shortly setoff for the city of Napanee. We went to the hometown of the one and only Avril Lavigne – as I write this I feel the same anticipation now that I suffered on that fateful journey. Once settled into the luxurious Fox Motel we set about reworking the play. There were additions, subtractions and complete reworkings; my character changed his name and my co-host changed his (her) sex.

After a very successful performance for the Catholic School Board we headed back into the arms of motel comfort where the food crew ‘Captains Dog’ made sizzling sloppy-joes despite equally hot tempers.

The team set off the next morning only to face inclement weather with increment hail. Despite some minor pelting and an apple-bean salad we managed to arrive in Madoc whole and with enough time to tour a bale house under construction.

Slightly damp we made our way to Peterborough to be welcomed into the home of former oteshites, Paul and Elizabeth, we spent our day-off exploring Peterborough. I made the personal discovery of a nasty allergy to black fly bites. Some time was spent considering how to ride a bike with ankles that wouldn’t fit into my shoes. But, as with many of life’s woes time seemed to be the cure and I was on my feet for our performance at Green in Motion (a fundraising bike ride / run). Our outdoor performance was only part of the festivities that included a juggler/ventriloquist and a musical act. It was with a heavy heart that we left the festivities of Peterborough… but the journey goes on. 


Fourth Journal Installment

It's an Uphill Battle

Once upon a time, I used to think that because it has no mountains, Ontario was...flat. I was proved wrong a little over a year ago when I was fortunate enough to be driven from Winnipeg to Saskatoon and back in a weekend-now THAT was flat. Having never been to the prairies before, I was quite shocked that you could in fact watch the sun meet with the horizon. However, this did not cause me to believe that Ontario was mountainous or hilly in any sense of the word, just...less flat. Riding my bike through Great Lakes territory with Otesha took care of that idea. Yes, indeed!

We, as a team, have climbed colossal hills since day 1.  I have since learned that, no, hills do NOT get easier as you go, EVER! I have also discovered not how to tackle these ominous monsters, but that how I personally take them on has changed only slightly since our beginning, and I believe it will stay relatively the same for the rest of my life.  It goes like this...

It always starts the night before with our group "party time" - AKA nightly meeting - and as per our car free tour, the same pesky question always comes up: "who will take the bike trailers tomorrow?"  Of course everyone has to take a turn, so every once in a while I raise my hand and say "I will", confident that I will arrive at our destination close to "on time" with myself and the trailer still intact.

After this, we all go to bed and as expected, the sun rises again, and so do we. As I open my eyes and realize morning has come once again (and remember that I must pull that monster of a food trailer 70km), I go right back to sleep, only to be woken a few minuets later by the newest novelty ring tone/alarm on our group cell phone.  We all slowly get out bed with a groan here and there, and try to sort out breakfast and the cleaning of dishes and packing of our wet tents on our bikes, all at once. My food crew is next in line for making dinner tonight, hence my taking the food trailer. As I eat my breakfast and take my lunch, I see that there are lots of leftovers from the group before me and think "well, that's good...maybe we won't have to work very hard to make dinner tonight!"

Oh no! I see them looking for places to put the leftover food, and so the trailer is getting packed higher and heavier by the second. Without thinking, I yell "Everybody take more food!!! You need to take more food!!! PLEASE!!".  At this, everyone looks at me and says their container is full. I turn around and cry a little to myself, and have a "why did I choose to do this to myself?" moment. But I get over it and prepare my bike for the trailer...and say the first prayer I've spoken since, well, the last time I took the trailer.

Later on, we're finally on the road, and about 2km into the trip, we come across the first hill.  It's not one of those "good morning" gentle slopes. No, it's one of those surprise "HA HA!! you have the trailer today!!" hills. You know the ones, where you're on a flat road and then you turn a corner and there's a huge hill and you think, "of all days to pull the trailer", and it seems to go straight up and laugh at you all the way.

I approach the monster and tell myself, "You can do it heather, you can climb this thing; you own it, YOU ARE SUPERWOMAN!!!"

And as I get closer, I think, "I don't wanna! I don't wanna do it, I don't wanna be superwoman!"

And I get closer. " it comes...I can do it...I think I can, I think I can, I think I can... just keep biking, just keep biking! AHHHHHHHHH! This is sooo hard!"

"You can do it!" calls Kim. A car comes up behind us and honks.  I try to ignore them, and they honk again, I flail my left arm and yell (which at this point come out as merely a squeak because I'm so out of breath), "Go Around!" and the honker zooms out to my left and up over the monster, never to be seen again, "Kim!" I say. "This would be soo much easier in a car!", I cry!   Silence. She's already up the hill and getting ready to run back down and help me on foot.

No! I tell myself I can do this. Cars are evil!

But so easy...but evil!





I want a car!


All this inner turmoil just seems to make everything so much heavier.

Finally.........I reach the top, A tear escapes its duct, I swear my life flashed before my eyes and I was about to die! But... I made it!!! I did it! I AM superwoman!!

"Take THAT, hill! I own you!! YEAH!".  I finish sticking my tongue out at the hill and I turn around to see...another monster hill, perhaps bigger that the one I just conquered.


So, after this scene repeats itself about 15 times, after we've had lunch and after about 15 more breaks, we are about to enter the city that is our destination! But alas, there is one last hill to be humiliated.  I muster up my last bit of energy and make it all the way up and see that, ok, now there's really one final hill.  But I have this awesome down hill run to gain some speed, sweet!

I start to glide over the top of the hill, and I let out a big "Ahhhhhhhhh!" with a whole day's worth of enthusiasm.  I pedal as fast as I can and I fly down the hill. But, OH NO! There's a traffic light at the bottom!  Once again, I say a little prayer, "Please be green! Please be Green! PLEASE be GREEN!"

I'm racing toward the bottom and it turns green. Yes!  But it's a short light and it turns red just in time for me to reach the bottom.  I squeeze the brakes as hard as I can with great remorse and disappointment.  I have no momentum for the last hill of the day and I'm now stuck in my hardest gear!   So, when the light turns green again, I make it one third of the way up and I manage to get into my second hardest gear, but then I need to stop - I'm so out of breath that I'm dangerously close to hyperventilating. I stop. I try and try and try, but of course, I have no momentum, and cannot for the life of me get my right foot back on the pedal or move my bike at all.

"Kim!" I yell desperately. "I can't do it!" I call out, more desperately. I see her come racing down the hill on foot; of course, she has been at the top of the hill for a while, anticipating this. She arrives at my side and says,"What should I do?".   We both look confused - how is she going to help me ride my bike?  We both know it would be a lot harder to walk the bike up with the trailer attached.

"I know!" She says, and runs behind me and starts pushing the trailer as I pedal (which is still surprisingly very hard).

And then, we have made it to our destination and can rest.  As it goes, after a few minutes rest, I feel fantastic for accomplishing such an impossible task and I will volunteer to do it all over again someday soon.

The End.

Written by Heather Ireland.

(The above installment is dedicated to our team member, Annie, who decided home needed her mid-tour...she has been sorely missed.)






Fifth/Final Journal Installment

June 18-26, 2008

Leaving the big city and wide bike lanes of Kitchener-Waterloo, we unknowingly found ourselves on a long stretch of unpaved, super rocky, country roads, making out way slowly to Flamborough. At long last, we found Plan B Organic Farm, taking refuge here for the next two nights. We worked hard to weed carrots, pick strawberries, bundle shares, transplant crops, and learn all the works of great organic farming. The folks at Plan B were absolutely splendid, opening their hearts and homes to the ten of us. With spontaneous mud fights, pickup street basketball, midnight bonfires, and dogs leaping and kissing you on the cheek, our stay at Plan B was unforgettable. They even opened up their new house for us to stay in!


Alas, with our tummies full and bags loaded with fresh fruit and veggies, we made our way to the friendly ol’ Hammer, aka Hamilton... only to find ourselves without accommodations and cooking dinner on the steps of a church. I guess you win some and you lose some, eh? We ended up staying at the Sky Dragon Centre where fair trade coffee is served, community groups plan ideas that change the world, and the human props of the Otesha play attempt to lure in customers during the play through the big store-front window. When day turned to night, even with clubbing music blasting from across the street, we fell asleep the minute our heads hit the window – we were pooped!


When we woke up the next morning, we found ourselves in the company of Alvero from Plan B, surprising us with evenmore fresh fruits and veggies! Then it was time to head off to St. Catharine’s, our last stop before our final destination. There, we enjoyed our last Rest Day, some riding to see the Falls, others simply chillaxing and hanging about in town.


After our final performance on the 23rd, we bunched up our hair for Side Ponytail Day and jumped back onto the road – so much to look forward to, still! With stops at different wineries, we slowly enjoyed our last ride to Grimsby where we would be spending the next two to three nights. What?! We’re staying in the middle of a cherry orchard?! Yesssssssssss, unlimited cherry eating for days!!! And even though they were not quite ripe, we avoided getting cherry poo by picking with care. Two Century Farm, like most places we’ve stayed at, was absolutely amazing. Shout outs to Elissa and Duncan! They tucked us under their wing, gave us tours around the farm, kept us in great company, and even brought us sailing on Lake Ontario!


These last few days also meant the Great Lakes Tour had to get cracking on our secret missions that we received for the Advent Calendar. We were surprised with recipes for how to make Great Lake Tour soup, cheers about just how “Dynamite” tour members are, final postcards, and of course, an awards ceremony full of memories of our great journey together. Our days may have been filled with tasks and hard work, but our nights were scheduled for games, celebration, and good old fun for the last time as a group. After all, we have been on the road for two whole months, passing through too many communities to count, and it was our end-of-tour retreat – WE FINALLY MADE IT!


Now you are probably wondering, how much have they biked on tour? Not including all the intra-city riding and grocery runs, the Great Lakes Tour Convoy, which consists of Safety Sally, Cycledelic Steph, Slidin’ Sadle, Pannier Patty, Passion Powered Kim, T&T Jackson, Laughing Laser, Little Muffin, Heavy D, and I, Boltin’ Blue, biked a grand total of over 2140 kilometres – double the distance we had set out to do! What an accomplishment for us all!


Rocking out for the last time, cheers and love to all!


On behalf of the 2008 Great Lakes Tour convoy,

Boltin’ Blue, aka, Catherine Pak