Ontario

 
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Cooking dinner in a rest stop is a great way to save money on campings on long drives. We stop in a (free) beautiful spot to stretch our legs and cook dinner and keep driving. After that, it doesn’t matter much where we spend the night.

Cooking dinner in a rest stop is a great way to save money on campings on long drives. We stop in a (free) beautiful spot to stretch our legs and cook dinner and keep driving. After that, it doesn’t matter much where we spend the night.

Beautiful stop along Lake Superior.

Beautiful stop along Lake Superior.

Exploring a beautiful free campsite just outside of Lake Superior Provincial Park

Exploring a beautiful free campsite just outside of Lake Superior Provincial Park

Look at that water!

Look at that water!

Very cool Cheetos powder lichen.

Very cool Cheetos powder lichen.

Eating dinner by Lake Superior

Eating dinner by Lake Superior

Mathilde at the Horseshoe Canada Cup

Mathilde at the Horseshoe Canada Cup

The start of the Cadet expert girls at Horseshoe. Mara got stuck at the very back…

The start of the Cadet expert girls at Horseshoe. Mara got stuck at the very back…

Aïsha at the Horseshoe Canada Cup

Aïsha at the Horseshoe Canada Cup

Mara at the Horseshoe Canada Cup

Mara at the Horseshoe Canada Cup

So, how do we deal with the heat when relying mostly on solar? Even with 750 Watts of panels, we can’t run the AC in the bus. We could pay for a 55$+ campsite, but we try to find public beaches where we can spend the day and sleep in free spots. We haven’t paid for a campsite since we left the Yukon. Actually, we very rarely pay for campsites anymore since it is so easy to find free camping spots, and since at this time of year you need to make reservations in advance to have a good campsite (and in our book, if you pay for a campsite, it better be a good one). 

When we cover a lot of ground like we are doing this summer, our go-to strategy is to stop during the day (and often for dinner) at beautiful spots along the way, stretch our legs, bike, swim, and keep driving afterwards. By then, it’s dark and it doesn’t matter much where we spend the night as long as it’s not too noisy. It allows us to save money (since we are spending a lot on gas during this time) and not worry about making reservations in advance.


In Canada, iOverlander is the best app to use to find free camping spots. Be aware that most users are in vans or 4 x 4 vehicles, so scout out the recommended spots in advance if there is no information about vehicle length in the comments to avoid bad surprises.


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The XCO Mountain Biking National Championship was a bit of a bust. Aïsha crashed during her first preride and got a concussion, so there was no racing for her. She is still healing and focusing on the Western Summer Canada Games at the beginning of August. Mara felt strong and ready, but the crazy hot weather at 42 C with humidex was really rough for a Yukon kid. She battled hard, but crashed near the finish and lost 3 positions, finishing 14th over 21 strong girls. It was not the results she was hoping for and she was quite disappointed.

Mathilde is still too young to compete at National level, but took part in the Ontario Cup the next day. The weather was a bit cooler, but there was A LOT of traffic on the course. She’s still quite happy with her race.

The girls are now on Instagram and they will share their own race reviews (and lots more) there. Give them a follow if you want:
@aisha.roldan
@mathilde.roldan
@mara.roldan.mtb

 

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, AB and SK

 
Sunrise over the Conglomerate Cliffs. The positive side of getting here in the dark was to wake up to this amazing view.

Sunrise over the Conglomerate Cliffs. The positive side of getting here in the dark was to wake up to this amazing view.

FREEdom!

FREEdom!

Mathilde is working on a jewelry order (you can visit her Etsy shop here:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/RideItUpJewelry

Mathilde is working on a jewelry order (you can visit her Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/RideItUpJewelry

Riding Last Grizzly, a fun dowhill trail in the Albertan side of the park, near Elkwater Lake.

Riding Last Grizzly, a fun dowhill trail in the Albertan side of the park, near Elkwater Lake.

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Riding by Elkwater Lake.

Riding by Elkwater Lake.

Following Julien’s suggestions (in the book Vie de Van, of course!), we headed to the Conglomerate Cliffs for a sweet boondocking site. However, since we were already in the Albertan side of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park for biking, we decided to cross through dirt roads. We didn’t expect them to be that steep and were too low in diesel for that inclination (and the pump could not pick up the fuel…) Sooo… We got stuck on a hill and had a bit of a moment trying to back up with the Westy attached (we have to be careful backing up with a tow bar and couldn’t unhook the Westy), but made it with the help of a local. JF drove 45 min to the nearest gas station and came back in the dark. As we stayed behind in the middle of nowhere, many herds of cows came to sniff and check the bus. One young bull stuck around for a while and Mathilde turned a stressful situation into a good laugh, saying: Mom! He must be one of Roaditup’s followers! He wants a selfie with the bus! 

We were only 10 minutes from the boondocking site, but driving in the dark on those roads proved dangerous since cows charged the Westy (that I was driving). There are LOTS of free ranging cows here, so driving during the day is strongly advised. The roads also become a mud fest when it rains, so stay away if it is in the forecast of if there had been rain in the last few days.


 

Hike to West Wind Pass and the Canmore Canada Cup

 
Grassi Lake, Canmore

Grassi Lake, Canmore

Spray Lake

Spray Lake

The view after 5 minutes on the West Wind Trail!

The view after 5 minutes on the West Wind Trail!

Getting to the Pass.

Getting to the Pass.

Wow!

Wow!

A well deserved break to enjoy the view.

A well deserved break to enjoy the view.

2,5 km to that awesome view? Hell, yeah!

2,5 km to that awesome view? Hell, yeah!

We get spoiled so much in BC and in the Yukon! On this hike, there are a few trails options and not must signage so it can get confusing. Stick to the trails on the right and you’ll get there. Consider taking poles if you struggle with steep descent. It’s a pretty tame hike by Rockies standard (it’s considered moderate), but the climbing is pretty steep and constant, so just plan accordingly if you need breaks. We got to the pass in one hour and back in 30 minutes. After taking a break at the pass and admiring the view, you can keep hiking all the way up to the Wind Tower. 

Mathilde at the start of her race.

Mathilde at the start of her race.

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Mathilde finishing.

Mathilde finishing.

Mara at the start line

Mara at the start line

Mara at the start

Mara at the start

Aïsha getting down the aptly named Organ Donor trail.

Aïsha getting down the aptly named Organ Donor trail.

Aïsha getting some air!

Aïsha getting some air!

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Well, Canmore was not what I was hoping for. This was for sure not my weekend. I crashed on Thursday during my preride and then crashed again on race morning, bending my front wheel and derailleur 2 hours before my start. We pretty much took a bunch of different parts from other bikes and put them on my bike. When I was finally able to do my race, I didn’t even get 10 minutes into the race and got a flat on my rear wheel. There was lots of experience and learning throughout these few days spent in Canmore, but I’m wishing to get all problems fixed in time for the Horseshoe Canada Cup. What happened to me today was simply bad luck, crashing and flatting are things that are part of cycling and it is for sure not the last time that this will happen to me. Awesome job to everyone who raced today and thank you very much to all the people for helping and supporting me throughout this rough couple of days. What a fun event though, I wish to come back next year and have an even better time riding these amazing trails!

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Even after 5 years on the road, we sometimes forget how fragile the balance of our daily life is. Of course, sometimes we just need to get somewhere and drive a lot, but that also means making sure to get outside and be active for an hour or so a day at least. We are pretty good about keeping our regular (healthy) meals schedules and to keeping a work and school morning routine. However, since we left the Yukon, we haven’t slept in a campsite once and parking lot life does take its toll on all of us. Yes, our bus is big, but throw 5 adult-size person + a giant size dog and it feels very small. Especially after 2 weeks. 

Since there isn’t much external framework when you live on the road, you have to constantly check in with yourself to figure out why you feel the way you feel. It’s one of the reasons people say traveling is a fast track to self-improvement. And a fast track to divorce!!

So, yes, even after all this time, we’re still learning how much of a balancing act this is. After two days in nature, I feel like myself again, ready to cross the Prairies and hit the hot humid and buggy weather of Ontario. Just kidding, I’m so not ready for that. But hey, soon we’ll be in Quebec and spending time with our loved ones and I sure am ready for that!!

Finding free QUIET camping spots in Whistler and Canmore is not an easy task (and paid campgrounds are often full or very expensive). Even the usual trail head spots often have NO Overnight camping signs. We lucked out that our friends found a new trailhead that didn’t have a sign up yet, so we could spend two quiet nights here after the chaos of the Visitor Center (there are huge signs saying NO overnight camping there, but they tolerate it if you leave by 8 am).


 

Down the Cassiar, Westy troubles and Whistler Canada Cup

 
Boya Lake Provincial Park.

Boya Lake Provincial Park.

Boya Lake Provincial Park, Northern BC.

Boya Lake Provincial Park, Northern BC.

Full moon rising over the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

Full moon rising over the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

Aïsha keeping us entertained on long drives with her ukulele songs.

Aïsha keeping us entertained on long drives with her ukulele songs.

Leaving Burns Lake pulling our broken Westy on a U-Haul platform, still unsure where we will be able to get it fixed and even less when…

Leaving Burns Lake pulling our broken Westy on a U-Haul platform, still unsure where we will be able to get it fixed and even less when…

Mathilde showing great form on a steep line during the Whistler Canada Cup.

Mathilde showing great form on a steep line during the Whistler Canada Cup.

Mathilde, proud to finish that tough race!

Mathilde, proud to finish that tough race!

Aïsha at the beginning of the race.

Aïsha at the beginning of the race.

Mara feeling tired.

Mara feeling tired.

Mara on the left and Aïsha on the right.

Mara on the left and Aïsha on the right.

Mara

Mara

Mara dug deep to finish that race.

Mara dug deep to finish that race.

Teammate Zachary Brunelle taking one of the technical A line on the course.

Teammate Zachary Brunelle taking one of the technical A line on the course.

Mathilde in 3rd place!

Mathilde in 3rd place!

The Whistler Canada Cup course was the most technical race the girls had ever done. On top of that, there was 240 m of climbing PER lap. Some sections of the course were only a few days old and very loose. The whole course was incredibly dusty. Aïsha crashed during the preride; she was in pain during the race and had lost her confidence, so she decided to opt out after one lap to avoid another crash and save herself for next weekend Canada Cup in Canmore. Mathilde coughed all night (and kept everybody awake) and was feeling miserable on the morning of the race (we all brought back a nasty virus from Whitehorse). She freaked out a bit after the first big climb when she stopped and felt like she was choking, but thankfully, coach Dan Sams @terraridersyukon was right there and talked her through it and she kept on going. She finished her race and grabbed the 3rd place. She was super proud to have finished such a tough course in her physical condition. After a sleepless night, too much preriding the day before and still healing from her nasty crash at Baie St-Paul, Mara was able to hang on to 4th place. Quite a feat in her condition! The field of Expert Women U17 was very strong with a few BC riders who are super strong technically. It was a good experience and the girls know what they need to work on for next year!

We were super proud of the girls’ Yukon teammates from U Kon Echelon who came all the way down here to race, not expecting such a tough course, but did it nonetheless! Way to go, friends!

And the girls now have Instagram accounts: @aisha.roldan, @mara.roldan.mtb @mathilde.roldan
Go give them a follow if you want!



 

Baie St-Paul and Sherbrooke Canada Cups... and an hospital visit

 
When the big sisters are gone… the little one gets her parents all to herself. And sushi.

When the big sisters are gone… the little one gets her parents all to herself. And sushi.

Getting the bikes up on Mamie’s car to get to the race in Baie-St-Paul. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Getting the bikes up on Mamie’s car to get to the race in Baie-St-Paul.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Ready to race the Baie St-Paul Canada Cup! Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Ready to race the Baie St-Paul Canada Cup!
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Warming up. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Warming up.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Mara crashed hard on the first lap of the Baie St-Paul mountain biking Canada Cup when her handlebar hit a trail marking pole. They carried her down - partly in a coach’s arms and partly in a 4 X 4 (can someone tell me why they didn’t have a proper ambulance with a stretcher at such a big event?!). Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Mara crashed hard on the first lap of the Baie St-Paul mountain biking Canada Cup when her handlebar hit a trail marking pole. They carried her down - partly in a coach’s arms and partly in a 4 X 4 (can someone tell me why they didn’t have a proper ambulance with a stretcher at such a big event?!).
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

She was sent to the hospital for some x-rays. It was nerve wracking to follow that from afar, but my mom was with her and the medics and a Dalbix coach took great care of her. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

She was sent to the hospital for some x-rays. It was nerve wracking to follow that from afar, but my mom was with her and the medics and a Dalbix coach took great care of her.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

There is no spinal injury, no fracture and no concussion. Pffeew!! They did an ultrasound to rule out internal bleeding since she crashed on her belly (and the tip of her handlebar poked her in lower abdomen...). There might be some torn ligaments, but all she needs to do is rest + ice and take anti inflammatory meds. She even had the OK to race the Sherbrooke Canada Cup the following weekend! That’s all she wanted to hear! She’s such a tough cookie!

There is no spinal injury, no fracture and no concussion. Pffeew!! They did an ultrasound to rule out internal bleeding since she crashed on her belly (and the tip of her handlebar poked her in lower abdomen...). There might be some torn ligaments, but all she needs to do is rest + ice and take anti inflammatory meds. She even had the OK to race the Sherbrooke Canada Cup the following weekend! That’s all she wanted to hear! She’s such a tough cookie!

The XCT on Sunday in Baie St-Paul was pretty muddy. Aïsha slid under the tape, but got back on the bike and finished strong. Mara was there to cheer for her team!

The XCT on Sunday in Baie St-Paul was pretty muddy. Aïsha slid under the tape, but got back on the bike and finished strong. Mara was there to cheer for her team!

Catryana, Mara and Aïsha.

Catryana, Mara and Aïsha.

In the tulips with Mamie. Photo by Paul Brouillard.

In the tulips with Mamie.
Photo by Paul Brouillard.

Bringing Mémé out in the sun and eating some fast food (her favorite - Louis Luncheonnette!)

Bringing Mémé out in the sun and eating some fast food (her favorite - Louis Luncheonnette!)

Aïsha racing the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course under the eyes of her grandparents (up on the hill).

Aïsha racing the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course under the eyes of her grandparents (up on the hill).

Mara on the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course.

Mara on the Sherbrooke Canada Cup course.

Aïsha

Aïsha

Sisters talking about the race just after crossing the finish line.

Sisters talking about the race just after crossing the finish line.

Debriefing with coach Dan.

Debriefing with coach Dan.

Grand-papa and Grand-maman came from Terrebonne to watch the race and cheer for their grand-daughters.

Grand-papa and Grand-maman came from Terrebonne to watch the race and cheer for their grand-daughters.

The whole Dalbix-Siboire Expert Cadet and Junior Crew!

The whole Dalbix-Siboire Expert Cadet and Junior Crew!

Sweet Charles - aka Cha-cha - who was quite confused to hear people cheer for Aïsha using his own nickname (Sha-sha). He kept repeating: but I AM Cha-cha!

Sweet Charles - aka Cha-cha - who was quite confused to hear people cheer for Aïsha using his own nickname (Sha-sha). He kept repeating: but I AM Cha-cha!

Family who cheer for your daughters when you’re not there: Priceless! It made our hearts so full to see them there.

Family who cheer for your daughters when you’re not there: Priceless! It made our hearts so full to see them there.

Mara during the XCC on Sunday.

Mara during the XCC on Sunday.

Aïsha during the XCC

Aïsha during the XCC

Aïsha during the XCC

Aïsha during the XCC

Sprint finish for 2nd place for Mara at the XCC (she is the first one here).

Sprint finish for 2nd place for Mara at the XCC (she is the first one here).

Breathing a sigh of relief after securing the 2nd place in a sprint finish!

Breathing a sigh of relief after securing the 2nd place in a sprint finish!

That’s what you call leaving it all on the course!

That’s what you call leaving it all on the course!

Aïsha’s back was killing her during the XCC and she was in a lot of pain. She still finished the race and was proud of herself for not quitting.

Aïsha’s back was killing her during the XCC and she was in a lot of pain. She still finished the race and was proud of herself for not quitting.

Mara on the podium of the XCC.

Mara on the podium of the XCC.

It was the first time the girls were away for 2 weeks and that we could not be at their races. Needless to say, it was nerve-wracking! But they were very well-surrounded!

The girls had a great flight experience and I feel like since we often hear bad things about Air Canada, I feel it is important to talk about the good things they do too. The girls were upgraded to a direct flight from Montreal to Vancouver (instead of a transfer in Winnipeg) and got upgraded to First Class for that flight AND given 20$ each in per diem to spend at the Vancouver airport! Way to go, Air Canada!

And a little something I posted on Instagram that you might not have read:

And they’re off again, this time it’s only the twins, but for a trip to Quebec. It's funny how when your kids are young and you choose to keep them close people are feeling like you are over protecting then… I've always been a believer in the idea that kids who feel secure when young become confident adults, that you cannot force independence, that it actually come from a place of secure attachment. I had cautious little girls who took their time and we gave them that time. And here they are, at 15 yo, leaving on a trip across Canada alone with 3 flights, solid, independent, resourceful and self-reliant. It's a real treat to watch. Maybe it's time for a little pat on the back.


 

Driving up the Alaska Highway, 2019 Edition

 
After a few days in Langley (a suburb East of Vancouver) where we went to a garage we really like to get the bus ready for the long drive, we stopped in Hope and slept at the Othello Tunnel trailhead for the night (the exact location is in iOverlander). It’s a section of the Kettle Valley Trail that leads you along this beautiful baby blue river through many tunnels. Unfortunately the tunnels were closed for the winter season.

After a few days in Langley (a suburb East of Vancouver) where we went to a garage we really like to get the bus ready for the long drive, we stopped in Hope and slept at the Othello Tunnel trailhead for the night (the exact location is in iOverlander). It’s a section of the Kettle Valley Trail that leads you along this beautiful baby blue river through many tunnels. Unfortunately the tunnels were closed for the winter season.

It was still a short pretty bike ride. And there was a bear on the trail!!

It was still a short pretty bike ride. And there was a bear on the trail!!

When then started our way North and were rewarded with incredible views. And snow, which felt pretty exotic to me.

When then started our way North and were rewarded with incredible views. And snow, which felt pretty exotic to me.

And lots of wildlife too.

And lots of wildlife too.

Stone sheep on the side of the road (and on the road licking minerals) in the Stone Mountain Park.

Stone sheep on the side of the road (and on the road licking minerals) in the Stone Mountain Park.

Such a spectacular drive! It’s the first time we drive up that early and it truly is the best time of year to do it!

Such a spectacular drive! It’s the first time we drive up that early and it truly is the best time of year to do it!

Muncho Lake, usually turquoise, was still frozen.

Muncho Lake, usually turquoise, was still frozen.

The Liard Bison herd. There were lots of brand new calves too!

The Liard Bison herd. There were lots of brand new calves too!

Liard Hot Springs!

Liard Hot Springs!

Paradise!

Paradise!

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10 o’clock sky after leaving Liard toward Watson Lake.

10 o’clock sky after leaving Liard toward Watson Lake.

We saw lots of cariboos since it was still so early in the season.

We saw lots of cariboos since it was still so early in the season.

We slept at the Watson Lake territorial campground boat launch parking lot since the campsites were still covered in snow! You know what struck me the most this time driving up North: the complete utter silence. It's probably because most of the lakes are still frozen here, but it's as near as the Yukon winter silence as I've been in many many years.

We slept at the Watson Lake territorial campground boat launch parking lot since the campsites were still covered in snow! You know what struck me the most this time driving up North: the complete utter silence. It's probably because most of the lakes are still frozen here, but it's as near as the Yukon winter silence as I've been in many many years.

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And we made it to our friends’ place in Whitehorse! This is their backyard on Kookatsoon Lake, our view from the bus for the next few weeks!

And we made it to our friends’ place in Whitehorse! This is their backyard on Kookatsoon Lake, our view from the bus for the next few weeks!

Camping in BC can be pretty expensive, but it is also fairly easy to find free camping spots as long as you are not on the islands or the coast. We used a combination of iOverlander, Park4night and Campendium (where I posted many reviews years ago about many spots in Northern BC) and were able to not pay for a site once after leaving the island. Granted, there were quite a few parking lot and industrial area nights, but as soon as you get North of Prince George, there are many rest areas and pull outs on the side of the roads where you can sleep for free, all the way to the Yukon!

 

Two more Island Cups and turning 15

 
Celebrating their 15th birthday racing in the rain in Campbell River!

Celebrating their 15th birthday racing in the rain in Campbell River!

Mara took the first place in the women expert field! A great birthday gift to herself.

Mara took the first place in the women expert field! A great birthday gift to herself.

Mathilde got first in the women beginners and Aïsha got second in the intermediate women! A memorable race!

Mathilde got first in the women beginners and Aïsha got second in the intermediate women! A memorable race!

Simple and beautiful birthday for our sweet girls.

Simple and beautiful birthday for our sweet girls.

A bald eagle feasting on a dead seal during our morning walk…!

A bald eagle feasting on a dead seal during our morning walk…!

The view near our campsite in Comox. So pretty!

The view near our campsite in Comox. So pretty!

The Cumberland Island Cup was a very muddy one on a beautiful but tough course. Mara lost her chain twice on her last lap, but managed to finish third in the women expert. Mathilde pushed too hard on the climb and got sick, while Aïsha had to stop since the pain in her neck and back was too intense (again - my poor girl).

The Cumberland Island Cup was a very muddy one on a beautiful but tough course. Mara lost her chain twice on her last lap, but managed to finish third in the women expert. Mathilde pushed too hard on the climb and got sick, while Aïsha had to stop since the pain in her neck and back was too intense (again - my poor girl).

So muddy! One turn in the washer wasn’t enough to remove all of it…

So muddy! One turn in the washer wasn’t enough to remove all of it…

We only spent 10 days in the Comox-Cumberland-Courtenay area, but really loved it. We were camped at Cape Lazo RV Park since we needed water and sewer hook-up with all that mud! It is a great little RV Park right by the ocean, but it is crazy windy. We nonetheless recommend it and would go back there!

The biking community here is very active and the trail system is very well developed. Parts of the village of Cumberland reminds us of the old downtown Whitehorse, before all the big box stores moved in. Actually, all these stores are not far, in Courtenay, 15 minutes away, so it allows Cumberland to keep it’s charm and local shops and restaurants.

 

The Bear Mountain Canada Cup

 
The whole Dalbix-Siboire Team for the Bear Mountain Project with the coaches.

The whole Dalbix-Siboire Team for the Bear Mountain Project with the coaches.

Mathilde taking part in the race even with her 12 stitches.

Mathilde taking part in the race even with her 12 stitches.

Aïsha going strong even with very intense back pain.

Aïsha going strong even with very intense back pain.

Mara finished 3rd on the cross-country course! A pretty impressive feat for a first year cadet!

Mara finished 3rd on the cross-country course! A pretty impressive feat for a first year cadet!

Mara giving everything she had on the short track. She kept her second place for most of the race and slipped in a corner on her very last lap… She still finished 3rd and was very happy!

Mara giving everything she had on the short track. She kept her second place for most of the race and slipped in a corner on her very last lap… She still finished 3rd and was very happy!

Left: Mara sharing the short-track podium with one of her teammate from Dalbix. Right: Mara and Aïsha with their wonderful coach who has been training them from afar since December.

Left: Mara sharing the short-track podium with one of her teammate from Dalbix.
Right: Mara and Aïsha with their wonderful coach who has been training them from afar since December.

Proud team. Such amazing young people!

Proud team. Such amazing young people!

The Bear Mountain Canada Cup was the first national race to which the girls ever participated. They are finally old enough for it and did great for first year cadets (U17)! If, like me, you are a neophytes to race lingo, you might not know the difference between a Canada Cup and the national Championship. The Canada Cups are a series of 8 races to which anybody can participate (so there were US racers who came to race it in the Junior category - U19) whereas the national Championship is a once a year event to which only the best Canadians can participate. Bear Mountain was the first Canada Cup of the 2019 season and Mara and Aïsha were racing in the cadet field (15-16 - the age at the end of the year) as first year cadet. The big race (the XC race) was on Saturday and there was a short-track race on Sunday. There was also a big Enduro race happening on Sunday, as well as a Bike Festival, so it was quite the event!

Mathilde is still too young to be part of the Canada Cup, but she could take part in the Bear Mountain Challenge XC on Saturday morning. However, she crashed on the Enduro course while pre-riding with the local team (Dirt Squad) group 4 days prior and ended up in the ER and needing 12 stitches on her knee… She was very bummed to not be able to race, and at the last minute decided she still wanted to give it a go and said she would stop if it was too painful. She did one lap and decided to stop (her race was 2 laps), and was very proud she gave it a try.

It was a wonderful team experience for the girls and they were so happy to be part of such a big event. It was great to be finally reunited with the team and their amazing coach. I’m already looking forward to the next Canada Cup… and coming from me, this means a lot!!

 

The Hammerfest race and a visit from Grand-Père

 
The Hammerfest race was a really fun event. The course was long for the expert, but Mara had a great race, finishing 2nd in the U19 field. Aïsha is still struggling with some back issues and a vertebrae pinched during her warm up, forcing her to stop the race after one lap since she has lost sensations in both her legs.

The Hammerfest race was a really fun event. The course was long for the expert, but Mara had a great race, finishing 2nd in the U19 field. Aïsha is still struggling with some back issues and a vertebrae pinched during her warm up, forcing her to stop the race after one lap since she has lost sensations in both her legs.

Mathilde had a great race and placed first in her field!

Mathilde had a great race and placed first in her field!

My dad took the train across Canada and came to spend a week in Victoria.

My dad took the train across Canada and came to spend a week in Victoria.

He taught me to shuck oysters.

He taught me to shuck oysters.

My dad and I took a road trip to Port Renfrew. We stopped at French Beach Provincial Park along the way.

My dad and I took a road trip to Port Renfrew. We stopped at French Beach Provincial Park along the way.

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There is so much to explore on the Island and we will not see it all in the month or so we are here. I’m glad I got to see a part of it with my dad while he was here with us!

 

First week in Victoria, BC, and the Hartland Island Cup

 
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Pre-riding the Hartland Island Cup course. Quite a change from the AZ courses!

Pre-riding the Hartland Island Cup course. Quite a change from the AZ courses!

Checking out the lines.

Checking out the lines.

Practice, practice, practice!

Practice, practice, practice!

There is still snow on the ground. It’s very unusual in Victoria!

There is still snow on the ground. It’s very unusual in Victoria!

The view from our beautiful campground - Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina.

The view from our beautiful campground - Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina.

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Look at that water!

Look at that water!

The girls were pretty excited and nervous to race the first Island Cup of the season (it’s their first time here). Mara had a great start and was keeping up with the strong girls until she got a flat, Aisha’s and Mathilde’s timing chips got mixed up, so they didn’t have their results, which wasn’t acknowledge before podiums (Aïsha was waiting for her turn on the podium and someone else got called because of the mixed results, even if she really was third…). They all acted with such maturity and positive attitudes, it was very heartwarming to see. Mathilde said she had her worst race ever (they rode a lot this week and their legs were shut), but that she had fun and was proud of herself. All in all, a success! And this community is simply amazing.

The girls were pretty excited and nervous to race the first Island Cup of the season (it’s their first time here). Mara had a great start and was keeping up with the strong girls until she got a flat, Aisha’s and Mathilde’s timing chips got mixed up, so they didn’t have their results, which wasn’t acknowledge before podiums (Aïsha was waiting for her turn on the podium and someone else got called because of the mixed results, even if she really was third…). They all acted with such maturity and positive attitudes, it was very heartwarming to see. Mathilde said she had her worst race ever (they rode a lot this week and their legs were shut), but that she had fun and was proud of herself. All in all, a success! And this community is simply amazing.


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Mathilde and I when on a paddling date. It was so beautiful, seals were playing hide and seek around our kayak, a trumpeter swan landed beside us and a bald eagle took flight nearby. We could even see the snowy peaks of Olympic National Park in the US in front of us.

Mathilde and I when on a paddling date. It was so beautiful, seals were playing hide and seek around our kayak, a trumpeter swan landed beside us and a bald eagle took flight nearby. We could even see the snowy peaks of Olympic National Park in the US in front of us.

JF and are celebrating our 20th anniversary (well, as you know, we’re not married, but that’s 20 years from our official dating date) and it is my birthday in a few weeks as well, so he treated us to a guided tasting flight in the cellar of Bear Mountain Resort. Every Friday, there is a different theme and this week was Italy. How perfect! The sommelier led our group down to this incredible room with a huge table covered with canapés prepared with local cheeses and charcuteries, and guided us through a tasting of 8 different wines. When they brought out the lobster cakes, I looked at JF with big round eyes and asked: How much was this thing? He said: well it said from 40$ per person… So we laughed imagining cameras looking down on us to see how much food we ate from the decadent spread and charging accordingly! It turned out to be just a little over that and I kept bugging him that it was because he went for the prosciutto 3 times! It was so fun to be with him in such a different setting. It really felt like we had traded life with another couple for an evening, in a weird but cool way.

JF and are celebrating our 20th anniversary (well, as you know, we’re not married, but that’s 20 years from our official dating date) and it is my birthday in a few weeks as well, so he treated us to a guided tasting flight in the cellar of Bear Mountain Resort. Every Friday, there is a different theme and this week was Italy. How perfect! The sommelier led our group down to this incredible room with a huge table covered with canapés prepared with local cheeses and charcuteries, and guided us through a tasting of 8 different wines. When they brought out the lobster cakes, I looked at JF with big round eyes and asked: How much was this thing? He said: well it said from 40$ per person… So we laughed imagining cameras looking down on us to see how much food we ate from the decadent spread and charging accordingly! It turned out to be just a little over that and I kept bugging him that it was because he went for the prosciutto 3 times!
It was so fun to be with him in such a different setting. It really felt like we had traded life with another couple for an evening, in a weird but cool way.

 

Sedona

Gorgeous stormy sky from camp on our first night in Sedona.

Gorgeous stormy sky from camp on our first night in Sedona.

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Chuckwagon Trail.

Chuckwagon Trail.

Aerie Trail.

Aerie Trail.

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Mezcal Trail.

Mezcal Trail.

Deadman Trail.

Deadman Trail.

Oh Sedona… you are so… ethereal.

People go around town in old Volvos or Subarus with licence plates like

WLDSPRIT or SNCTUARY (I can't make this sh*t up), long time no see acquaintances get into awkwardly long full body hug at Whole Food, people in the fruit aisle look at you in the eyes and smile this compassion smile, and you know they are totally looking at your aura and judging you.

OK, I give the crystal/vortex crowd a hard time, but if I’m being honest, I totally feel the Sedonal vibe and it affects me (and I did feel the vortex when we went to check out the Kachina woman last spring… I wanted to laugh it off, but I felt incredibly jittery… I do feel that stuff, maybe I should just accept my hypersensitive side).

I feel a similar vulnerability here as the one I feel in the Yukon. A rawness. I feel stripped to my essence. I can't sleep. I want to run away as much as I want to stay and dig deeper. Every single time.

Sedona and Whitehorse are healing lands. I've heard it many times. Both places chew me and spit me out a shaken but more aware being.

Maybe at some point I’ll need to admit that I am one of them, but simply hiding in dirty bike clothes while shopping for sprouts and tahini instead of wearing hemp pants and a shaman pouch around my neck.

See my previous posts (and here) on Sedona for more biking info.

Crested Butte, Fruita and Moab

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We were very excited to check out Crested Butte, but we knew it was rather late in the season… I had taken notes from Pedaladventure’s great post on that fun adventure town, but we ended up just exploring it on foot and Westfalia instead of riding the trails (already covered in snow).

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We boondocked here a few nights, near Almont.

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And woke up to this!

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It was beautiful… but a bit cold for camping.

Desperate for some good riding, we headed to Fruita where we had been in the Spring, but had only explored one sector (18 Road). This time, we checked them all and loved them (here’s  another post by Pedaladventure on Fruita  if you want more info).

Desperate for some good riding, we headed to Fruita where we had been in the Spring, but had only explored one sector (18 Road). This time, we checked them all and loved them (here’s another post by Pedaladventure on Fruita if you want more info).

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In Fruita, we rode some great trails in the Kokopelli trail system.

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Then, we went to explore the Rabbit Valley area, still technically in Fruita, but closer to the Utah border.

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And rode this amazing trail all around the rim you see down there (called Western Rim).

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It’s now in my top 3 trails.

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You can see the Colorado River down there.

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We also rode a few trails on 18 road (still Fruita) for Mathilde’s birthday (we love PBR, Joe’s Ridge and Mojo).

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That’s Joe’s Ridge. Simply amazing.

That’s Joe’s Ridge. Simply amazing.

And of course, we went to Moab (I wrote so much about Moab, just do a search in the location bar and you’ll find plenty). We had a chance to connect with friends there since it is that time of year where many of us converge to this area. Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

And of course, we went to Moab (I wrote so much about Moab, just do a search in the location bar and you’ll find plenty). We had a chance to connect with friends there since it is that time of year where many of us converge to this area.
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

JF and Mathilde on Ramblin Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

JF and Mathilde on Ramblin
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Me on Chisholm Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Me on Chisholm
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Mara on Big Mesa Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Mara on Big Mesa
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Our group on Big Mesa. Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Our group on Big Mesa.
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

As I’ve shared here before, one of our girls wants to go to school, have external academic and biking motivation, deadlines, a schedule, to be graded… She is an organizer that thrives on structure. She makes lists, plans and wants to know what’s coming. Her Christmas gifts are ready weeks in advance.... You get the idea...

I was hoping that providing as much structure as possible with a Google calendar and online classes with clear external deadlines, timed tests and grades would satisfy her… But she says she’s done with life on the road. She wants stability. A totally normal desire. We knew it would very likely come, but still hoped it might not. Of course, it is out of the question to leave her with friends or family and keep travelling. It's not an option for us. We travel to have more time together.

A few people have asked us why we would settle down if one child wants to settle down and another one wants to keep traveling. Why would we put more importance on the desire to settle down than on the one to keep on traveling? Is is because it is what is expected or more *normal*? Teenagers need a group of peers, need space from their parents, etc. Of course, their life on the road provides plenty of that with bike teams and races, tons of friends of all ages we meet along the road, lots of time alone either in the bus while the others are gone riding or time alone on rides, daily texting with friends, etc… but it’s not the same as being in one fixed location.

So, this is our work right now: finding out what is fear of not offering a normal teenagehood to our girls and what is sticking to our family values and the needs of the other members of the family?

Some might philosophically say that kids will be angry at their parents nonetheless, that they will turn out fine anyways, that we adapt to anything… and there is truth to that of course, but these are key years in one’s life and I don’t want to rob them of these important years. We have a huge decision on our hands...

Another very important aspect of this decision is my mental health. I’ve talked about it here before. I take meds all year round and use my light therapy glasses everyday of the fall and winter EVEN on the road during Arizona winters. I need to be active outside in the sun almost everyday to keep anxiety and depression at bay. The first winter I spent in the south in my entire life was a game changer: I realized I could feel good all year, have energy and drive to do things and not wake up with an elephant on my solar plexus and struggle to get out of bed. I was 35. And I never looked back. Since then, I spent one winter in Quebec and it was really hard. You’ll tell me winter is hard on you too, but when you suffer from SAD, it’s a different level of hard. I don’t ever want to go through this again. Especially not when my girls are going through a major transition like entering high school.

So yes, this is a big factor and a top priority. It might sound egocentric, but if I’m sick, nothing is going to work. So yes, we could veto another 3 years on the road and tell our daughter that we will make sure she has high quality online classes and that she can settle down in 3 years when she goes to University. But that doesn’t feel right to force her into that life against her will… but then, settling down means forcing her sister into a life she doesn’t want either… And that’s where we will have to make a hard decision.

It’s no secret that we are not excited about settling down (we don't even know WHERE we would settle down at this point, but it would very likely be in Canada). Settling down means finding a home base and furnishing it (we have a big dog and finding a furnished rental is very unlikely). We don’t own anything anymore. Settling down IS a big deal. This bus is the home in which I lived the longest in all my life. I don't want to sell it. Same for the Westy. But in the North, these are not winter vehicles and need to be put in storage when not in use… And problems show up… Which also means that we'll need a car (or two) and another job to pay for it all…

So, it’s not a matter of simply *trying it for a year*. If we settle down, it will likely be at least for the next 4 years (or until our youngest is done with high school)... because we won’t turn things around again. Especially since the daughter who wants to settle down wants to do it because she is done leaving friends behind.

A part of me wants to believe that we can turn this into an adventure… If we find an interesting school in a new location where we can live in the bus for part of the year (and maybe an AirBnB for the few colder winter months…), that maybe could work. But the other part of me is like: are you crazy? No friends or family around in such a tough transition. No way!

And I dream of Europe...

I’m sure many of you wonder why I share all this personal stuff here. There are a few reasons. First, this is how I think. By sharing ideas and listening to feedback. It helps me frame my ideas and make sense of it all. Also, and above all, I feel like there are not many families on the road with teenagers and I know I wanted to hear their stories when my girls were smaller, so that’s mainly why I share mine here. It’s the same reason why I started blogging 10 years ago: to connect with likeminded people who questioned the mainstream path. There is less and less of us on that path when the children turn into teenagers and I feel like we need to hear the voices of these parents, their worries, their reflexions and yes, their fears… Because as much as we exude confidence, when you make a choice that is outside the norm, the fears are always there in the back of your mind, nagging. But you turn away from them and look at your teenagers and see that so far, you have done a decent job and that maybe you know the path… against all odds.

I have so much to say about this different life we live together that I am writing a book right now. If you feel encline, let me know in the comments what you would like to find in that book.

Quebec Cups in Tremblant, Sherbrooke and St-Félicien

The Quebec Cup in Tremblant was pretty rough. Just like in Baie St-Paul, it rained the night before the race and the course was wet in the morning.

The Quebec Cup in Tremblant was pretty rough. Just like in Baie St-Paul, it rained the night before the race and the course was wet in the morning.

The Tremblant village is so cute!

The Tremblant village is so cute!

Aisha and Mara crashed into each other during the warm-up and Aisha opted out of the race since she was in pain. Mara had a great start, but crashed on the course and collapsed after crossing the finish line, saying she wasn’t seeing straight. She was seen and patched up by First Aid and was OK once the shock subsided.

Aisha and Mara crashed into each other during the warm-up and Aisha opted out of the race since she was in pain. Mara had a great start, but crashed on the course and collapsed after crossing the finish line, saying she wasn’t seeing straight. She was seen and patched up by First Aid and was OK once the shock subsided.

Mara just before the finish line. You can see her bloody knee and her unwell expression.

Mara just before the finish line. You can see her bloody knee and her unwell expression.

Watching the daddies' race!

Watching the daddies' race!

Martin (JF's cousin) asking us jokingly if he is first or second (knowing very well he is last!).

Martin (JF's cousin) asking us jokingly if he is first or second (knowing very well he is last!).

Alex encouraging his dad Martin going uphill.

Alex encouraging his dad Martin going uphill.

The next day was much better as it began with a soak at the Hotel pool and spa where Isa and Martin were staying, then JF and I went for a ride in the beautiful trails and we came back to the village to watch the Downhill Canada Cup. 

The Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke was exactly a month later and had 2 events. There was a crazy heat wave hitting the south-East of the province and the girls raced in very high and humid temperatures. With a very good prep that included a strict hydration + electrolyte schedule more than 24 hours before the race, they all did great and did not suffer too much from the heat.

Aïsha on the first lap of the Mont Bellevue XCO Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke.

Aïsha on the first lap of the Mont Bellevue XCO Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke.

Mara in 3rd place on the first lap.

Mara in 3rd place on the first lap.

3rd place finish!!! That's a victory smile!

3rd place finish!!! That's a victory smile!

Chatting with teammates as they cross the finish line.

Chatting with teammates as they cross the finish line.

My mom, her partner and Christophe (my step-sister's son). Christophe is explaining to Aïsha how her clip pedals are just like his ski bindings.

My mom, her partner and Christophe (my step-sister's son). Christophe is explaining to Aïsha how her clip pedals are just like his ski bindings.

Christiane (my step sister), François and the boys, came to the race! It was such a treat to have them there!

Christiane (my step sister), François and the boys, came to the race! It was such a treat to have them there!

JF was racing on a fat bike since he is waiting on Niner to replace his cracked frame. He still managed to finish in 10th place!

JF was racing on a fat bike since he is waiting on Niner to replace his cracked frame. He still managed to finish in 10th place!

Aisha and Mara at the beginning of the race (turquoise and blue helmet near the front).

Aisha and Mara at the beginning of the race (turquoise and blue helmet near the front).

Aïsha had a great race on the Sunday XCC event of the Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke, even with the crazy heat.

Aïsha had a great race on the Sunday XCC event of the Quebec Cup in Sherbrooke, even with the crazy heat.

Mara got bronze on the two events at the Sherbrooke Quebec Cup.

Mara got bronze on the two events at the Sherbrooke Quebec Cup.

The only picture I have of the St-Félicien Québec Cup (taken by Mathilde) since I had to stay back to work. Mara got 5th place on the XCO and crashed hard on the XCT the next day, but still managed to finish. Aisha had a great race both days and Mathilde did the XCT on Sunday and had a good time too!

The only picture I have of the St-Félicien Québec Cup (taken by Mathilde) since I had to stay back to work. Mara got 5th place on the XCO and crashed hard on the XCT the next day, but still managed to finish. Aisha had a great race both days and Mathilde did the XCT on Sunday and had a good time too!

Our summer is beating to the drum of mountain bike races. The girls could talk about mountain biking for hours, throwin in names of techniques and teammates I know nothing about, and rolling their eyes when I ask for explanations. Remember when your toddler was into dinosaurs or planes and was driving you bonkers chatting your ear off about everything he knew about it? Well, picture that, times 3, and throw in a good dose of teenager sassiness. I’m kind of glad I have taken a job at the state liquor store (SAQ) and can talk to other people about wines and spirits. It keeps me sane and pays for some of the unending list of mechanical problems that keep coming up...

Our summer is a whirlwind, probably like it should be. The bus is a mess, there are more showers in a day than there used to be in a week not so long ago and the girls are constantly hungry and complain that there is *nothing* to eat when there is literally no more room to stuff food in the bus… They are fire and water, expletives and superlatives from morning to night.

But they still ask me to clean their road rashes and give them a massage before bed. They still come and snuggle with me in the morning sometimes and tuck me into bed at night with the best hugs and I love yous.

I’m not gonna lie, these teenage years are quite the emotional ride. I’m not sure I’ve ever questioned myself as a mom as much as I do now. My years of know-it-all are far gone… I know full well that I’ll mess up and that good enough is the new perfect.

I’m not nostalgic of those little ducklings following me around like the center of their universe... Of course, I sometimes miss those chubby little hands reaching for mine to cross the street or those sparkles in their eyes when I told them a story with puppets...

From the moment you birth your kids, you are not the center of your own universe anymore. That was a pretty rough introduction to adulting for the 25 yo only child that I was. Fast forward 15 years and I think I managed OK, although not always as gracefully as I could have, like most. But when I look at those beautiful strong daughters of ours now, I’m so very proud of them, sassiness and eye rolling included!

A weekend in Baie St-Paul

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The girls's start. I was the first time that the 3 of them were racing the same race!

The girls's start. I was the first time that the 3 of them were racing the same race!

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It's no secret that bike races (or any other sporting events for that matter) are not my cup of tea. What's not to love about being woken up on a Saturday morning at 7:15 by “Eye of the Tiger” to spend all day on the sidelines, inhaling dust while cheering people you don't know, thinking: shouldn't she be here already? Who's this again? Look at those legs and ass (OK, I know I'm not the only one, that's the only perk...), while simultaneously having a near heart-attack when they call First Aid on the course during your kids’ race? There's also waiting for the award ceremony that is never on time (except for that one time you were late), being bossed around by an overzealous 15 yo who tells everybody that is 50 yards from the trail that THERE IS A BIKE RACE GOING ON PLEASE STAY AWAY (‘cause you know, I'm standing in the mud with a ridiculously heavy camera NOT KNOWING there is a bike race). What's not to love, indeed? But you know what the crazy part is? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else when they race by me and I see their eyes light up when they see me cheering for them.

It's no secret that bike races (or any other sporting events for that matter) are not my cup of tea. What's not to love about being woken up on a Saturday morning at 7:15 by “Eye of the Tiger” to spend all day on the sidelines, inhaling dust while cheering people you don't know, thinking: shouldn't she be here already? Who's this again? Look at those legs and ass (OK, I know I'm not the only one, that's the only perk...), while simultaneously having a near heart-attack when they call First Aid on the course during your kids’ race? There's also waiting for the award ceremony that is never on time (except for that one time you were late), being bossed around by an overzealous 15 yo who tells everybody that is 50 yards from the trail that THERE IS A BIKE RACE GOING ON PLEASE STAY AWAY (‘cause you know, I'm standing in the mud with a ridiculously heavy camera NOT KNOWING there is a bike race). What's not to love, indeed? But you know what the crazy part is? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else when they race by me and I see their eyes light up when they see me cheering for them.

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Spotting daddy.

Spotting daddy.

“Hit the jump!”I yell like an overly enthusiastic teenager, camera in hand, as he rides towards us. He gives me a grim look as he rides around it, which brings him close enough that I can see the twigs sticking out of his helmet. “He fell on his head!” Aisha says, worried. Look closely, you'll see his branch "horns".

“Hit the jump!”I yell like an overly enthusiastic teenager, camera in hand, as he rides towards us. He gives me a grim look as he rides around it, which brings him close enough that I can see the twigs sticking out of his helmet. “He fell on his head!” Aisha says, worried. Look closely, you'll see his branch "horns".

Lots of love for papa who had two hard crashes during that race.

Lots of love for papa who had two hard crashes during that race.

Ending the day in the village of Baie St-Paul.

Ending the day in the village of Baie St-Paul.

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Gelato time!

Gelato time!

Being twins in the world of competition is not always easy. In the past, the twins either did team races or competed in different categories (in AZ Aïsha raced with the 15-16 yo). But here, it's not an option. The 3 of them are in the same category and if they want to race, they will be racing together (or against one another, depending on how you see it). It was an excruciatingly hard week for Aïsha as she is still struggling with an injury and feels like she is not in race shape… but also wants on the race experience. So, at last, she told Mathilde that she would race if she also signed up for the race. And just like that, we had 3 girls on the course at once! They each chose an achievable goal for that race and reached it! Mathilde knew she would very likely be last and she was, but kept riding with a big smile, encouraging the boys that were lapping her and receiving cheers in return. I believe we all grew from that experience as a family.

Being twins in the world of competition is not always easy. In the past, the twins either did team races or competed in different categories (in AZ Aïsha raced with the 15-16 yo). But here, it's not an option. The 3 of them are in the same category and if they want to race, they will be racing together (or against one another, depending on how you see it). It was an excruciatingly hard week for Aïsha as she is still struggling with an injury and feels like she is not in race shape… but also wants on the race experience. So, at last, she told Mathilde that she would race if she also signed up for the race. And just like that, we had 3 girls on the course at once! They each chose an achievable goal for that race and reached it! Mathilde knew she would very likely be last and she was, but kept riding with a big smile, encouraging the boys that were lapping her and receiving cheers in return. I believe we all grew from that experience as a family.

Cheering for Maghalie Rochette, their idol!

Cheering for Maghalie Rochette, their idol!

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Mara during the XCT (the second event of the race, the other two didn't race that one).

Mara during the XCT (the second event of the race, the other two didn't race that one).

Tired and proud to be 4th on 21 racers and to have been in the hot seat for a while.

Tired and proud to be 4th on 21 racers and to have been in the hot seat for a while.

Wearing her team colors for the podium. So proud.

Wearing her team colors for the podium. So proud.

My childhood memories of Baie St-Paul involve lots of not-so-great art galleries and a mosquito apocalypse in that very same Westfalia at this very same campground which led us to leave for a chic restaurant to have dinner without being eaten alive. We were on a return trip from a Gaspe peninsula tour with my dad’s partner of that time. It had already been a tense trip (she didn't care for Bon Jovi and sang off-key to old French songs and it drove me nuts, so I spent a lot of time behind my walkman, lying down on the back bench NOT looking at the landscape that she nagged me to admire). She also loathed me for my bad manners. When we'd watch a movie together, she'd spend more time peeking in my direction than watching the screen to make sure she'd catch me picking my nose and call me on it.

So that night at the Mouton Noir (see, I remember the name of the restaurant 30 years later! That's PTSD!), she threw a scene because I had taken a bite off my bread roll instead of ripping a piece off with my fingers and THEN putting it in my mouth. I was ten. You might have guessed she had no children of her own. It went downhill from there.

I'm glad to report that the Mouton Noir is still in business and that the art galleries are still thriving, as well as the mosquitoes. So long Baie St-Paul, see you in less than 30 years I hope!

 

 

 

Page, Lake Powell and the Wahweap Hoodos

We camped two nights at  Lone Rock Beach by Lake Powell . It a beautiful camping spot, but it can get pretty windy. There is a beautiful beach, but it was way to cold to swim in March. We saw lots of people kayaking on the lake and exploring a cave inside Lone Rock.

We camped two nights at Lone Rock Beach by Lake Powell. It a beautiful camping spot, but it can get pretty windy. There is a beautiful beach, but it was way to cold to swim in March. We saw lots of people kayaking on the lake and exploring a cave inside Lone Rock.

The beginning of the Wahweap Hoodoos hike. 

The beginning of the Wahweap Hoodoos hike. 

The rickety fence I mention in the directions below.

The rickety fence I mention in the directions below.

The fact that it a longish hike (14 km/8-9 miles) and that most of the hike is in a wash and has nothing exciting to offer (at least by Utah standards) makes it much less trafficked that the rest of the sights in the area. . A great plus: dogs are welcomed and can be off-leash!

The fact that it a longish hike (14 km/8-9 miles) and that most of the hike is in a wash and has nothing exciting to offer (at least by Utah standards) makes it much less trafficked that the rest of the sights in the area. . A great plus: dogs are welcomed and can be off-leash!

Here we took a wrong animal path that led us close to the hoodoos, but we had to turn around because we could not keep going. Stick to the wash until you see the brush (description below)

Here we took a wrong animal path that led us close to the hoodoos, but we had to turn around because we could not keep going. Stick to the wash until you see the brush (description below)

Exploring the first set of hoodoos.

Exploring the first set of hoodoos.

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The Towers of Silence, the most stunning formatio. and truly a wonder of the geological world.

The Towers of Silence, the most stunning formatio. and truly a wonder of the geological world.

The soft entrada sandstone is pure white in color and forms hoodoos that are often topped either by dark sandstone blocks or unusual boulders of purple conglomerate, composed of small pebbles bonded together. 

The soft entrada sandstone is pure white in color and forms hoodoos that are often topped either by dark sandstone blocks or unusual boulders of purple conglomerate, composed of small pebbles bonded together. 

Left: eroded slope. Right: fluted bedrock.

Left: eroded slope. Right: fluted bedrock.

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There are also tons of beautiful rocks in the wash, so that kept us busy!

There are also tons of beautiful rocks in the wash, so that kept us busy!

Page is not known for its mountain biking, indeed there is only one 16 km loop around town. But we had seen pictures from that trail and wanted to check it out. It's like if Sedona trails and Moab trails had a baby trail along the Colorado River. The views are jaw-dropping and the trail is fun and flowy, with some exposure to keep it exciting. 

Page is not known for its mountain biking, indeed there is only one 16 km loop around town. But we had seen pictures from that trail and wanted to check it out. It's like if Sedona trails and Moab trails had a baby trail along the Colorado River. The views are jaw-dropping and the trail is fun and flowy, with some exposure to keep it exciting. 

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While the Antelope Canyon parking lot was packed and there was a line of people looking like ants to get to Horseshoe Bend, we only saw one guy jogging the Rimview trail with his dogs and only 5 parties on the hike to the Wahweep hoodoos ON A SATURDAY! Definitely, two of Page area best kept secrets!

While the Antelope Canyon parking lot was packed and there was a line of people looking like ants to get to Horseshoe Bend, we only saw one guy jogging the Rimview trail with his dogs and only 5 parties on the hike to the Wahweep hoodoos ON A SATURDAY! Definitely, two of Page area best kept secrets!

There used to be two ways to reach the Wahweap Hoodoos. Now the only way is to hike 9.2-miles roundtrip from Big Water, Utah, which is located about 20 min from Page, AZ (the trailhead is marked on Google Map as Wahweap Hoodoos trailhead). It used to be possible to access them from the southern end of Cottonwood Canyon Road (located near Churchwells, Utah) for a mere 2-mile roundtrip trek, but the BLM closed it because people abused it. It says it is closed to vehicular traffic, but it might be accessible by bike, which would be a great way to shorten the approach to the hoodoos. Here is the info if you want to check it on bike (but it would be even better to check with the Big Water Visitor Center): The non-vehicular approach to the Wahweap Hoodoos is along an undesignated track, rough in places, that forks northeast 1.5 miles from the south end of Cottonwood Canyon Road, which joins US 89 between mileposts 17 and 18. This bends eastwards after a few miles, past several junctions and ends after 10.5 miles right beside Wahweap Creek, from where the hoodoos are a short walk south.

There is a 2 WD parking lot and a 4 WD parking lot 0.8 mile further after the sometimes muddy creekbed. When you arrive at the wash, look for a sign along a rickety fence that reads Wilderness Study Area. After 3 miles of hiking in Wahweap wash (a normally dry, hot and shadeless trek: be prepared with adequate water, sunscreen, and protective clothing), you see the first sets of hoodoos. Make sure to stay in the wash the whole time (sticking to hard mud patches to make your hike less strenuous) and not take the side animal trails or you will have to retrace your steps (even if they seem to lead closer to the hoodoos).

You will come to a big patch of high brush and see the hoodoos behind that. Just make your way through the brush. You have arrived to the first set of hoodoos. Make sure you keep going just around the corner to see the Towers of Silence, rising like white ghosts, which are the most stunning (look for the White Ghost on Google Map, make sure you have your phone with you to locate the formations, it was really helpful). GPS Coordinates for the Towers of Silence 37°09’45” 111°42’45”

We believe that big sections of the wash could be done on a fat bike or even on a mountain bike with wide tires, which would shorten that less interesting part. Of course, the wash structure will change according to the rain, so check before going! There are several very short slot canyon tributaries, on the east side (check topo map).

 

 

 

The 24 Hours of Old Pueblo

The storm before the storm.

The storm before the storm.

Friday sunset cocktail party at the Whiskey Tree.

Friday sunset cocktail party at the Whiskey Tree.

Tying a bottle to the Whiskey Tree.

Tying a bottle to the Whiskey Tree.

Got Lobster?

Got Lobster?

Let’s go ride bikes in AZ they said, it’ll be warm and sunny, they said...

Let’s go ride bikes in AZ they said, it’ll be warm and sunny, they said...

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Jason in the stampede at the beginning of the race.

Jason in the stampede at the beginning of the race.

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I love how these guys kept themselves entertained with that "piñata" while waiting for the dad to ride by.

I love how these guys kept themselves entertained with that "piñata" while waiting for the dad to ride by.

Antonio on his first lap.

Antonio on his first lap.

That's the spirit.

That's the spirit.

The water bottles of the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo from the last 13 years.

The water bottles of the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo from the last 13 years.

Lance Armstrong!

Lance Armstrong!

The Saturday night Happy Hour crew at the Whisky Tree.

The Saturday night Happy Hour crew at the Whisky Tree.

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Diedra rocking it.

Diedra rocking it.

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The CycloKeg going down the rock drop!

The CycloKeg going down the rock drop!

Antonio and Jason on their 6th lap!

Antonio and Jason on their 6th lap!

Our friends 4-men single speed team, the Fearless Foursome, finished in 3rd place with 21 laps!!

Our friends 4-men single speed team, the Fearless Foursome, finished in 3rd place with 21 laps!!

This is E.T. It’s his 14th year of doing the 24HOP in solo. He is a fascinating man. He bought that truck brand new in 1973 (he calls it the coyote den). He is a fire fighter and was sent to help during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the big fires of California over Christmas. He’s worked in Tok, Alaska and lives in a remote rural area near the Mexican border. He speaks Portughese and Spanish and asks the most interesting questions.

This is E.T. It’s his 14th year of doing the 24HOP in solo. He is a fascinating man. He bought that truck brand new in 1973 (he calls it the coyote den). He is a fire fighter and was sent to help during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the big fires of California over Christmas. He’s worked in Tok, Alaska and lives in a remote rural area near the Mexican border. He speaks Portughese and Spanish and asks the most interesting questions.

It’s like someone had a deal with the weather gods... The weather was perfect for about 30 hours just for the race, and then it rained again!

It’s like someone had a deal with the weather gods... The weather was perfect for about 30 hours just for the race, and then it rained again!

Rain in the desert is pretty special.

Rain in the desert is pretty special.

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This weekend marked 19 years of enjoying Sonoran Desert singletrack at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. One of the largest 24 Hour events in the world, this race has the reputation of being biking’s Burning man and can be anything to anybody... pro racers, party riders, soloists, corporate riders, single speeders... but it sure feels like there are two different races going on as my friend Antonio likes to say: the Spandex vs the Monkey suits.

Away from everything, this trail is only busy one week out of the year. The cows look at us in confusion as we ride by, the jack rabbits scamper off and they all probably wonder what they did to offend the gods for such mayhem to take over their otherwise quiet home...

There’s a new record for single speed solo male this year with 19 laps!! Imagine that! 19 laps 17 miles lap in 24 hours!!

Founded in 1999, Epic Rides has become world famous for producing events that celebrate the many positive aspects of mountain biking. Events such as the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Whiskey Off-Road, Grand Junction Off-Road and the Tour of the White Mountains are popular with participants because they offer challenging, fun riding and emphasize the joy and camaraderie inherent in the sport. 

Havasu Havoc 2018

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I sit on the pointy rocks on the side of the trails, carefully avoiding the cacti, camera ready, waiting for someone I know to ride by. Every time, I am surprised when JF tells me that one of the girls is first or second. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m proud. Or is it the right feeling? I struggle with the idea of pride... JF and I don’t have much to do with their successses. I always tell the girls that I am proud FOR them, not OF them.

The world of competition is new to me. I’ve never been an athlete and never will be. I’ve never competed or stood on a podium. In my world, swimming lessons were synonymous of shame and anxiety. So I am a rookie here. Cheering from the sidelines, taking pictures, following JF’s lead. Like many, I used to assume that a lot of these kids were pushed by their parents to compete. What I see now is that this is more the exception than the rule. I see happy excited kids that raise to the challenge. I see our girls count the days before the race. Sure, I also occasionally see meanness and jealousy, over zealous parents and crushed egos, but I what I mostly see is excitement, self-confidence, satisfaction and pride. And it’s a pretty humbling experience. 

 

Prescott, AZ

Exploring the Granite Dells.

Exploring the Granite Dells.

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Willow Lake seen from the Granite Dells.

Willow Lake seen from the Granite Dells.

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Riding the Sundog Trail. Photo by Jason Liske.

Riding the Sundog Trail. Photo by Jason Liske.

Photo by Jason Liske.

Photo by Jason Liske.

Photo by Jason Liske.

Photo by Jason Liske.

Photo by Jason Liske.

Photo by Jason Liske.

Watson Lake. Photo by Jason Liske.

Watson Lake. Photo by Jason Liske.

Our campsite at White Spar Campground and the trails nearby.

Our campsite at White Spar Campground and the trails nearby.

Cold Brew Negroni. Recipe on my  Instagram account . So good!

Cold Brew Negroni. Recipe on my Instagram account. So good!

The weather was unusually warm in Prescott for this time of year, so that meant we could comfortably camp (0 degrees nights and nice warm days) and most of the bike trails were rideable. Our original plan was to go on a BLM camping spot on Thumb Butte Mountain, but there was snow and mud on the steep climb to get there, so we turned around and went to White Spar Campground. For $10/night, you get a big asphalted lot with a picnic table and fire rink and access to a bathroom. There is no water on site at this time of year, but it’s easy to go dump and fill at Affinity RV for free. AND there are lots of bike trails that start right from the campground (Twist and Shout, Apple Blossom, Goldwater Lake). We rode a lot during our stay here and checked out many different areas. The number of bike trails here is just incredible! I think the favorite was Badger Mountain and Sundog and we also liked the new trails at Spence Basin (Tunnel Vision), but there were many more that we liked. Prescott has over 250 miles of beautiful trails. The Trailfork app is the best app to use for this area, as well as the PMBA website for trail conditions.

On the other side of town, there are two reservoir lakes (Watson Lake and Willow Lake) surrounded by the Granite Dells, a landscape reminescent of the Alabama Hills (where you can ride some pretty technical trails), and completely different from the area where we were camped.

 

Estrella Hedgehog 2018

Amazing food to feed an army prepared by our friend Diedra.

Amazing food to feed an army prepared by our friend Diedra.

Our little set-up at Estrella Mountain Regional Park competitive loop.

Our little set-up at Estrella Mountain Regional Park competitive loop.

Leg marking to identify the categories

Leg marking to identify the categories

Antonio.

Antonio.

JF coming in hot!

JF coming in hot!

Energy chew have to be accessible when you ride. They also might get extra crunchy...

Energy chew have to be accessible when you ride. They also might get extra crunchy...

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She had that big beautiful smile the whole time!

She had that big beautiful smile the whole time!

Mathilde at the finish!

Mathilde at the finish!

Mara on the podium, 1st place! Sisters supporting sisters!

Mara on the podium, 1st place! Sisters supporting sisters!

So proud of herself!

So proud of herself!

Just a week ago, Mathilde and Aisha were not interested in racing the next bike race - The Estrella Hedgehog, but at the last minute, Mathilde decided to register (she is in the same category as Mara, 13-14 yo – the age the child will have at the end of the year – so on the young side of her category) and Aisha decided to race up a category (in the 15-16 yo) because the course was more interesting in her opinion (the 15-16 are on the adult long loop -10 mile with some pretty technical and loose sections - instead of doing 5 junior loops like the 13-14). The other reason is because she finds it too emotionally hard to race against her twin sister. So this was perfect. There were 9 girls registered in her category and her only wish was to no finish last. She came in second and surprised us all (and herself!!). She so needed that confidence!
Mara had a great race and finished first on 15 girls in the 13-14 and Mathilde rode very well with a big smile on her face the whole time and finished 9th!
JF also had a great race and finished 12th on thirty-something racers. Our friends all had great races and podiums too!! What a day!

McDowell Meltdown 2018

Our set-up for the race near the Competitive Loop (4 Peaks).

Our set-up for the race near the Competitive Loop (4 Peaks).

Jason leading the pack of Intermediate Single Speeders.

Jason leading the pack of Intermediate Single Speeders.

Antonio after his first lap.

Antonio after his first lap.

Diedra at the start (women intermediate 40-49)

Diedra at the start (women intermediate 40-49)

Mara on her first lap.

Mara on her first lap.

Ben closing the gap!

Ben closing the gap!

Mara at the finish!

Mara at the finish!

Mara came in third (over 14 girls) in her category (13-14 yo girls)!!

Mara came in third (over 14 girls) in her category (13-14 yo girls)!!

Last year, the McDowell Meltdown was JF and Mara's first ever bike race. You might remember that they had registered just for fun. This year, they came in a little more prepared (but not super well-trained since they both got a nasty bug over the holidays). They still did great and had a good time. 

Some of you have asked why Aisha and Mathilde did not do the race. The answer is that they simply didn't feel like it. They might or might not ride the other races in a few weeks. Our girls are free to choose, of course! As for me, I'm not interested in racing (nor am I in racing shape!).

We had never stayed at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park campground (we rarely pay for campsites), but this was well-worth it since they could pre-ride the course during the week and because there are also tons of trails that you can ride right from your campsite. We explored some trails, but there are still lots we haven't had a chance to ride. There are all types of trails, from wide sandy washes to steep rocky trails.

The sites are huge and well-spaced, they all have power and water ($30), but make sure you reserve in advance online because they fill-up pretty quickly at this time of year. If the campground is full, there is an overflow where you can stay for $20/night with no services, but access to showers and dump station.