Canada, how it compares with the USA.

 

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Lake Superior

 

It is now several years since cycled across the USA (2009), but it is still interesting to compare that ride with my 2014 ride across Canada. The first comparison is the route, while they both started in a similar position on the Pacific Coast, the Canadian route starts just north of the border and the USA route not far to the south. There the difference ends.

 

The USA route I took was mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association and started at Astoria in Oregon, it meandered through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and ended at Yorktown in Virginia. A series of quite expensive maps, giving full directions, campsites, and quite a lot of relevant information were produced by the Association.

 

 

For my Canadian trip, I simply lifted a route from a website (Canada by Bicycle). By and large it followed the Canadian USA border while keeping to reasonably cycle friendly roads. However, Canada doesnít have the same network of small roads that exist in the States so the route is more often on the hard shoulders of major roads, and for that reason, takes a shorter, more direct route through British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.I started my ride in Vancouver and ended it at Halifax.†††† Again there was lots of useful information available including campsites.

 

 

Mountain campsites in both Canada and the USA often have gravel surfaces

 

A typical riverside campsite

 

 

The USA route is now longstanding, it was developed for the bicentenary in 1976, the Canadian route is much more recent, so doesnít yet have the following and prestige.Over quite large areas of the route in the States, free camping, the free use of the swimming pool and the library were offered in some towns. I was often asked if I would like to sleep in church halls and camp on private land.The people in Canada were just as friendly and, in time, as the number of cyclists riding the route increases, it too may have the same prestige.

 

The outstanding part of each route was the mountains and mountain lakes.Riding across Canada I was reminded of just how stunning these American lakes are, and how they continue right across the continent with a daily dose of variety and shear joy.

 

 

 

 

 

I did manage to spot more animals in the USA than Canada, perhaps because that route crossed the outstanding Yellowstone Park.On the second day I saw a caribou, the only one, and I only saw one bear in Canada, despite all the warnings.It was a black bear.It came out of the bush at the side of the road, looked at me, didnít like what it saw, and crashed through the trees and down a steep hillside!

A chipmunk ran up my leg, onto the table, and demanded a share of my pack of nuts!

 

Itís the people I met on each of these routes that helped make the rides memourable, and while I met and remet more in the States, Canada too had more than itís fair share of wonderful people, many like me from other parts of the world.On day three, the Allison Pass, claimed on the website to be the toughest climb of the trip, I met a French man, Pierre, and a French Canadian woman, Coline.As they were following the same route as me, and they were a similar age, I expected to see them again on route.I did, but only once, 2,700km later, near Thunder Bay. In the mountains I kept ended at the same campsite as Yvon, another French Canadian.We didnít travel together, but for quite a few days always ended up at the same place.Another couple I was to see over several days were Cheung from China and with him Bart from Belgium. We rode about half a day appart, and at a different pace, so never camped at the same place.They rode slowly, but for a long time each day, I was a bit quicker but rode for less time.I would catch them every day and they would pass me while I was at a campsite.I lost them for a while as we travelled on different sides of Lake Superior.And although I didnít see them again, I know they were just in front of me later on the trip as people kept describing them to me.These are just a few of the wonderful people, there were many, many more.

 

2,700 km later, we meet again.

The story goes, that if a boat sinks in Lake Superior it is so cold in the depths of the lake that the microbial life that would normally bloat the body and send to the surface donít exist, and the boat crew is lost forever.

 

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A sunset swim in Lake Superior. This man was out a slit second after hitting the water.

 

 

One man from China, another from Belgium./

Another from Japan

 

In one respect Alberta is like Kansas Ė lots of oil wells.

 

And Manitoba is like Colorado Ė grain

Just outside Thunder Bay is the memorial to Terry Fox, who attempted to run across Canada on one leg to raise money for cancer (which killed him0.He inspired many, some of us, like others around the world, ran an annual 10km to raise money for his charity, when I lived in Budapest.

Sunrise

 

The big question might be for some, ĎIf I only have chance to ride one route, what is the best?íIt is no surprise for me to say there is no best.The USA route is longer and covers a much greater variety of climate and people.Canada too has great variety but this route follows only one latitude, but it has a wonderful summer climate for cycling with unrivalled lakes and rivers.

Canada has few small roads, so long distances are covered on the hard shoulders of major motor routes.These however, are often cycle friendly, and there are a few dedicated cycle paths as an alternative.The ones in the city of Calgary didnít quite work out for me because of floods, but they looked very good and much better than trying to ride safely on the main road.Manitoba is the worst Province or State in either country with few decent hard shoulders, but Quebec is by far the best with marked cycle routes along the St Laurance.