2014 East Coast Tour Blog
Dip into a record of the team's journey in their own voices.
The First Seven Days
By: Lili Schwoerer, Volunteer Tour Member
May 12, 2014
This morning when we were hungrily munching away on our (already infamous) seven grain cereal after a 7 AM training on route-mapping, someone interrupted the conversations by shouting 'Hey guys, its our one week friendship anniversary today!' across the table. A moment of silence followed.
Technically, we are prepared - prepared for roadside emergency bike-fixes, prepared for outbursts of hangryness (hungry+ angry), prepared for supporting each other after having gotten to know each other's personal quirks, our strengths and weaknesses. Prepared for stretching our quads properly, prepared for facilitating meetings and organizing the group horizontally, prepared for performing theatre to diverse audiences using only our bodies and voices.
The fact that soon there will be no more amazing facilitators and volunteers filling our bellies with vast quantities of wonderful local, organic, vegetarian foods, our souls with sunshine and our brains with inspiration is nevertheless impossible to grasp. It's going to be a hilly journey, that is certain. But I am convinced that the loving relationships that tie us all together after only a week will make every day an awesome adventure, and that these adventures will tie us together more every day.
Let's Get Started with a Poem!
By: Rachel Van Wart, Volunteer Tour Member
May 16, 2014
Finally on our bikes!
By Mallory Brennan, Volunteer Tour Member
May 22, 2014
Off we go!
So training week is over, we've said good-bye to all the amazing volunteers who helped us for training week (with some amazing thank you songs and dances).
We finally left Fredericton and are on the road with our bicycles and our gear. So far we've performed at 5 different schools and all had a chance to facilitate the workshops. Our first high school audience was yesterday and we were pretty nervous, not sure how an older audience would react. But they were fantastic and I personally felt that we learned from them as well as them learning from us.
Lots more performances and workshops coming up as well as some longer bike rides. Lots still to look forward to!
Not Just About the Bikes . . .
By Emma Buchanan, Volunteer Tour Member
May 26, 2014
After departing Oromocto, we rode a beautiful and sunny 40 km to Gagetown. We all had few expectations for what this small community would be like, and we were truly blown away by what we found. We spent a stunning afternoon laying in the grass, playing ukulele, and helping the next door neighbours, the owners of The Lazy Farmer Hostel, with their garden. The whole town seemed to know we were there, and we had many visitors popping their heads into the church backyard to say hello. Some of us even spent an hour or two sitting at the dock with a few Gagetowners.
After Gagetown we made our way to Queenstown. Although we anticipated a quick and easy 15 km ride, the short distance fooled us. Oh, the hills! The hills! Certainly the worst we've seen, and we bowed down to the folks who managed to lug the trailers. However, when there's a challenge like that, there's always a reward (or so we tell ourselves).
When we arrived at Clair and Anna Ripley's, we were greeted with showers, a home cooked meal, and a party with all of their neighbours! A notable moment from the night was when one of our tour members somehow got the idea that we had been asked to perform the entire show in their living room. After a brief (and well facilitated) meeting in one of the bedrooms, we sorted that we had indeed not been asked to do that. Instead, we performed Bikes Bikes Baby and what we now fondly refer to as 'The Otesha Recital' in which a few of us exhibited our musical talent. We had an amazing jam session with one of their neighbours and we may have a new musical addition to the show...details to follow.
The next day we departed to Grand Bay on a rainy 60 km ride; our longest yet! Although the hills were a challenge, we surprised ourselves and arrived 2 hours earlier than planned! After a restful evening with another delicious home-cooked meal and amazing hospitality courtesy of Pastor Powell and Beverly, we set off for Saint John where we were greeted by the Irving smokestacks and our cosy church basement 'apartment' where we're settling in for three busy days.
Rhymes from the Road
By Olivia Richardson, Volunteer Tour Member
May 28, 2014
Well, our group of radical, hippy, enthusiastic, unique group of
cyclists have been living the dream on the road with our 2 wheels!
with a bunch of good feels!
for 2ish weeks
its been quite the journey thus far to speak
we've mastered pedaling in the rain
even if it does put us in pain
we've conquered some fierce pot holes
we've fulfilled a lot of group roles
we're very proud to showcase our delicious meals in our stylish plastic
Did I mention we are quite ecstatic?
Riding a long the east
means there's plenty of time to rest
Have had lots of fun interactions/chats with awesome community folk
some of us are cool and eat using funky sporks
we've been up/down big, small, mini hills,
which are always a nice thrill
In 2 months we will all have thunder thighs a blazing
we're always on the go but find the time to be a lazing
we have tons of fun
even if our bikes weigh a ton
we love the the days in the sun
for it makes cycling far more fun
we are living the dream
as we are blessed to be part of the amazing 2014 OTESHA team
You can always catch us when we're in your hometown
without much fuss or frown
performing our play has gone well
feedback has been quite swell
we even showcased our lively interactive theater skills in schools
even if we must act like fools
we are real crazy
but no way are we lazy
some us love to sing
others happily ring our bells
the days/nights are long
but our team bonding morale remains ever so strong!
Impromptu Ice Cream
By Emilie Russell, Volunteer Tour Member
May 30, 2014
It was our last day in Saint John, and half the team was at a bike shop getting everything fixed up. The rest of us were cleaning up the church we'd been staying in for the last couple of nights: sweeping, mopping, packing trailers, and doing dishes. As we were finishing up, we brought our bikes outside and were pleasantly surprised by the warm sunshine that greeted us. Then, an even better surprise: Mal whips out not one but FIVE free ice cream coupons. Rach, our native Saint John-er, points out that the ice cream shop is on the way to the bike store where we're supposed to meet the rest of the team. We all hop on our bikes and zip to the land of ice cream.
Just as Mal is ordering our ice cream, disaster strikes. The people at the bike store call and tell us they've been waiting 20 minutes for us. We all feel guilty for holding them up to fill our tummies with icy milky goodness. Stevie and Dyllis save the day: they buy more ice cream and we secure it in our trailers and head to the bike shop.
Delivery! Tasty treats for everyone. As we sit in the parking lot of the bike shop, it occurs to some of us that eating ice cream before biking 40 km might not be the best for our stomachs, but, warriors that we are, we plough through.
As I watch my team, all satisfied eating their ice cream with their camping spoons, it becomes clear how important life's little pleasures are, and how wonderful it is to appreciate them. Even as we climb impossibly long hills, the ice cream giddiness powers us through.
Stilesville to Sackville to Pugwash
By Rachel Van Wart, Volunteer Tour Member
June 2, 2014
It is unbelievable that it is the beginning of June -- our journey is now at its halfway point. The past week has brought many cold nights, along with many warm days.
We began our week in Moncton, but not necessarily the Moncton most are familiar with - Stilesville to be exact. Stilesville is a warm hearted community placed at the top of a gigantic hill. This hill will be a fond memory for some and a challenging one for others. I, for one, thought it was possible to bike, not only with my gear on the back but with a trailer hitched too. I even rejected the offer of a tow from an elderly couple passing by. Using the energy of the moment and sunshine in my face, I attempted to climb . . . and ultimately failed.
This wasn't without many laughs. Yolanda then pushed the back of the trailer/bike ensemble while I pushed my 1980's Trek Antelope up the hill. What a sight we must have been.
We did, however,venture down the hill (much, much easier than the climb) to visit the city of Moncton, and in particular La Bikery bike co-op, where we were able to give our bikes some proper love and care.
On Wednesday we departed for the quaint town of Sackville. We arrived mid afternoon at the Sackville Community Gardens for a learning opportunity that involved permaculture and a bit of manual labour pulling weeds and beautifying the space for the summer season. The evening, however, brought some chilly weather, and I, among many other team members, was layered to the fullest with hat and mittens included. It also marked the first full time camping outside for the team. The next morning brought a bit of frost on the ground to which one tour member jokingly said it was snow.
Thursday brought our longest ride yet of 77km from Sackville to Pugwash and Friday marked the beginning of our mid tour retreat where we will be spending a few days on the Waldergrave Farm in Tatamagouche.
By Stevie Pan, Volunteer Tour Member
June 5, 2014
In Tatamagouche we stayed at Waldegrave Farm with multiple families and volunteers. There were acres of organic produce, chickens, ducks, and two horses. All those who live on the farm, except the toddler, participate in the work, and they share meals together like members of extended family.
The idea was conceptualized around ten years ago while Yuill, Meghan, Rob, Hilary and thirty others were on a bicycle tour across Canada performing a play about climate change. The undeniable similarities between their experience and ours made us wonder if any of us would one day team up and start a communal living project centred on organic farming.
I've daydreamed many times while cycling through pastures about migrating to the countryside. In reality the binary distinction of city versus countryside is too simplistic, and I know that as a urbanite I romanticise farm life. In any case it was fascinating for us and nostalgic for them to talk about the two tours ten years apart.
In the barn where most tour members pitched their tents, we held our first official session about how the tour is affecting us emotionally. It also followed up our session on personal fears and challenges, which we had two weeks ago in Fredericton. With the magic of a very special stone which had been passed to us from our facilitator and dear friend Kayla, we took turns revealing layers of ourselves which do not usually surface in everyday environments. In the barn we created a supportive space for one another. We told each other how awesome we are and how we can be our true selves around each other; then we hugged it out real good.
Chasing a sudden thought, I asked the group if we fourteen individuals are so special or if actually the Otesha social atmosphere allows us to bond like this. In other words, could we not bond deeply with people outside our group if we made the effort to create the same social environment? The question alone makes me grateful for my experience so far.
By Ciara Roberts, Volunteer Tour Member
The day had finally arrived. It was time for us to meet our cycling maker. The day was hot, our legs werestretched and minds focused on the 97 kilometers of fate that lay before us.
The day started off strong. Just seven kilometers into our journey our lead Malory's tire exploded into a seventeen thousand microscopic pieces. After some quick repairs the group was back on the road. The terrain between us and Windsor resembled something found only in a Mario Cart video game.As we bumbled up and down the winding roads, the coast supplied us with beautiful views, delicious ice cream, and hamstring tightening exercises.
We powered through the first 50 kilometers with ease. The second half of the ride was a more trying experience. In an epic battle to save her water bottle, our dear Olivia sacrificed her head, resulting in her having to take a few days off tour. Olivia is doing well and will be joining us back on tour in a few days.
Two other team members subconsciously wanted to add more mileage to their journey, so their sense of direction led them 15 kilometers the wrong way. Friendly local Kettlecookites got them back on the right track.
We peddled and peddled and peddled until we were finally within 10 kilometers of Windsor. This is where our team split into two. One group took a lovely flat, paved road which gently guided them into town. In order to cut one kilometer off their trip, the other group decided to take a back road. This led them to a valley of literally the most mountains hills our cyclists had ever seen. After two hours of climbing the Everest of the east coast, our team finally arrived in Windsor.
With helmet hair and sore bodies we rolled into the city in high spirits. Our longest ride was complete and it was an incredible feeling to have finished it. With this epic battle under our belts we now knew with full confidence we could handle anything the road could throw at us.
Now, I'm sure to all you readers at home that sounds great: an early night after our longest and certainly hardest day of biking yet. However, one thing that we always do before sleeping, no matter how tired we are, is have a meeting. Together, we plan the schedule for the next day, decide who will pull trailers, debrief the performances and rides from the day, and check in with each other to see how we're feeling. However, because of our exhaustion, we didn't have one that night in Windsor. And we really didn't think it would be that big of a deal!
But, the next morning...well, it was mild chaos. When is breakfast? When is lunch? What food do we even have? Where has everyone gone? Do we have a navigator? When are we leaving?
It took several hours to locate everyone, plan a route, make sure everyone was fed, and to get on the road. But it was alright; we didn't need to be anywhere too early. We were being hosted that night at The Lorax Farm, a land share just outside of Wolfville, and they were expecting us for dinner at 6 pm. The ride was beautiful, but looming on everyone's mind was the hill we were promised at the end if the ride by those who live at The Lorax. And oh, it was a hill. Certainly the steepest and longest hill we have seen. Some of us braved it and managed to go the entire way without stopping, but most of us walked it, and a few even managed to convince some local hill-dwellers to drive their stuff and some trailers (not naming any names) to the top. When we arrived, we were fed the most delicious dinner we have had since being on tour and again we learned that with difficulty comes great reward.
After dinner at our evening meeting, a disastrous realization fell over the group: where was the tour binder? This may not mean a lot to you, but the tour binder is like our child. It has our itinerary, all of our contact information, our team medical info...the list is endless. And nobody remembered where it was, or even packing it that day. At that point, it was 11 pm and we couldn't contact our previous hosts in Windsor to see if we had left it there. To say that everyone was in a panic is an understatement.
The next day, we had a performance and 4 workshops to get through before we could discover the location of the binder. While others were leading workshops, some team members used a school whiteboard to organize a CSI time log of the last 36 hours and the places the binder had been seen. We made frantic phone calls and tried to organize a way to get the binder on a bus from Windsor, even though we couldn't get through to the hosts to find out if it was there.
After hours of phone calls, the team received good news in the form of a voicemail from The Lorax: they had found the binder in the trunk of their car from when they had driven the lead trailer up the hill. What a relief!
And from this debacle, we have learned two important lessons: meetings are more important than sleep, and we will be punished for accepting rides up steep hills.
In the following few days, our team, as has been normal throughout this tour, continued to fall ill. In addition to our concussed friend, two teammates had to be driven a few days ahead to rest up from a stomach bug. Since then, there have only been 10 of us riding and performing the play, and although we wish our other members were here, it has been amazing to experience the creativity and spontaneity of this group.
We recently opened the tour binder and were shocked to realize we only have two shows left! I suppose if we'd thought about it earlier it makes sense- schools are ending, high school students are talking about exams and everything is winding down for the year. But it still came as a shock for most of us.
So what's left? Well, we reach Halifax tomorrow after nearly six weeks on the road. We have our end of tour retreat where we get to reflect on what we've done and how we can continue to move forward after tour. We have a public performance in Halifax which many of us have friends and family coming to. We have one more week of learning, laughter, friendship and, of course, biking.
I’m standing at the edge of a rhubarb patch, which is growing at the edge of the valley, then joining into the rolling hills. I could believe I’m alone in the valley.
I’m singing Farewell to Nova Scotia to the wildflowers in the pasture. I’ve been cooped up all day with a stomach flu and I need to stretch my legs. Grey clouds pass overhead but it ain’t raining yet. It’s not quite dark.
Once we reach Halifax, I’ll be leaving this province (my second home) for who knows how long. I don’t know when I’ll be back to this valley. As I sing I wonder how many others have stood here feeling a part of the land. Mi'kmaq, Acadians, and New England Settlers all called this place home before being more rudely and cruelly separated. Did these hills take their breath away too? I swear I can hear it.
The valley I’m looking at is part of Lorax Woodlands, the community that we are staying at. I think probably the best way to describe them is a group of committed families who share and protect a large tract of land just outside of Wolfville. The land that isn’t forested is used for the families’ homes and tended to meet some of their needs. Some families grow bees, some grow veggies, and there are two jersey cows that provide milk and cheese and butter. One family is trying to start a CSA box.
I’ve lost hope so many times while studying the environment. I’ve lost the illusion of hope. I’ve been angry, I’ve been self righteous, but I was always terrified and hopeless. On this trip I’ve met so many people who are trying, I’ve met so many people doing things that I’ve heard people say no one would do. And they are just normal human beings. There are so many people and places that are testing what we believe is possible. I didn’t believe there was such thing as untouched wilderness, I didn’t think there was such thing as small time farmers willing to grow the food in a way that sustains the land against profit.
Guess what? There are.
In the same way you receive what you give to the world, as a team we are constantly inspired by those we are meant to be inspiring. Would you think there are fourteen youth in your community who would be willing to invest two months of their time, two thousand dollars plus personal gear to bike from community to community to put on a play to hundreds of strangers in the mad hope that it starts people TALKING about the environment?
Guess what? There are. And with that I’ll say goodnight.
Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea-bound coast,
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
When I’m far away, on the briny ocean tossed,
Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?
By Lili Schwoerer, Volunteer Tour Member
It is now official: the Otesha 2014 East Coast Tour is over. As much as some of us kept pushing the end back by spontaneously prolonging the tour with an overnight trip to Peggy’s Cove and not letting each other out of sight in Halifax for days, we could not deny the fact that the group was continuously getting smaller as people went off into their own corners of the country, taking what they have learnt in those intense two months with them. We now get asked how the tour “was” and not how it “is going”, and summing it up in one word or sentence (usually “awesome”, “amazing”, or “one of the best experiences of my life”) seems insufficient. You have read some of our stories and followed some of our adventures on this blog, and I hope that you got an insight into some of our feelings, our highs and lows, struggles and rewards. Now, as a contrast if you will, I present to you some numbers. The recipe for the 2014 Otesha East Coast Tour jam:
Kilometers travelled: 1500. At least. Do not underestimate the intenseness of 20 k grocery shopping detours.
Kids inspired by our plays and workshops: approx. 5500
Communities visited: 36
Days we carried 17 pounds of potatoes up and down hills without noticing: 3
Skinny dips: 17
Jars of peanut butter eaten by team members: 92
Muffins donated: 350
Tupperwares filled with oatmeal: 784
Concussed heads: 2
Broken spokes: 14. 12 of which belonged to one bike – adding onto . . .
. . . Replaced wheels: 3
Ticks on team members’ bodies: 25
Impromptu performances of “Miss Ohio” by Gillian Welch: 117
Maximum number of group ice cream stops within one ride: 4
Spontaneous understudies: 22
Creative Rainbow – Promposals: 7
Bioluminescent Plankton seen: Millions
Memories that will make us cry and laugh for years to come: Countless.
Peace and Bike Grease,
Lili and the ECT 2014 Team