camping · cycling · fitness

I miss you so much bike rally! ♥️

One of my favorite stretches of the bike rally

What’s the Friends for Life Bike Rally?

“The Friends for Life Bike Rally is the only volunteer-led ride, that brings people together for an inclusive, supportive, and life-changing challenge that inspires much-needed help for people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto, Kingston and Montréal.”

It’s a 6 day, 600+ km charity bike ride, from Toronto to Montreal.

I won’t be doing it this year. I missing the 25th anniversary year because it’s too close to my second knee replacement and I haven’t been able to train or ride those distances yet.

For many years training for the bike rally, fundraising for the bike rally, and riding the bike rally has shaped my summers. The Friends for Life Bike Rally was the big event that marked, for me, our fittest by fifty challenge that launched the blog.

I’m not going to give the full list of which summers I rode and who I rode with but it feels like the rally is part of the rhythm of my summer. There’s a partial list here, I think.

Last year Sarah and I rode the full thing and our friend Rob came along as a rubber maid rustler, helping to get the containers full of riders’ tents, clothes and sleeping bags off the trucks that accompany us along the route. I did it pretty much right before knee replacement surgery.

It’s a meaningful and importance cause. It’s also a community I care very much about. There are friends I only see every year at bike rally training rides or at the ride itself. Hey friends!

Today, Saturday, is packing day for the rally and my newsfeed is full of friends’ stories and photos of what they’ve forgotten this year and in years past. Tomorrow, Sunday, is departure day and I’ll be following along to see how my rally friends are managing, both in terms of kilometers ridden and dollars raised.

My Facebook newsfeed is also full of memories of past rides.

Sarah and Sam in their bike rally jerseys

Here’s more rally memories:

You might be wondering, “What on earth can I possibly do to make Sam feel better about missing the bike rally?” That’s easy. You can sponsor a rider who isn’t me here.

Or, you can sponsor me in the Pedal for Parkinson’s ride, which I am doing this summer here.

I’m hoping to ride in the Friends for Life Bike Rally next summer, either the three day or the six day ride, though I worry about our changing climate and heat and thunderstorms more than about my fitness.

See you there!

camping · charity · cycling · fitness

2022 #F4LBR: All the posts in one place

The first day was tough. We rode in a heat alert from Toronto to Port Hope. So many traffic lights. So much near heat exhaustion. So few women’s showers. I was never so happy to eat vegetarian lasagna at the day’s end and despite all the things that we were really tough I went to sleep with sore cheeks from smiling. It was so great to see everyone again.

Sarah and Sam tongues out in the heat

Day Two is the longest day. It was also a very hot day. But we made it. Sarah described it as using every trick in the “avoid heat exhaustion” book. We kept drinking. We took all the breaks. We paced ourselves. And we rolled into Adolphustown not feeling too bad. It was also the day we first wore our team jerseys. Thanks Rally’s Angels captains Michael and Vanessa.

Rally’s Angels in the morning sun

Day 3 is red dress day and a slow roll into Kingston. Time for a real bed, dinner out with the team, drag show in the park, and laundry!

Rally’s Angels on red dress day

Day Four involves one of my favorite sections of road, the Thousand Islands Parkway. No cars, just smooth sailing to lunch. We had a great new lunch spot this year at The Barn. Thanks guys for hosting us!

Day Five another fave section, the Long Sault Parkway and this year the nicely paved path through Upper Canada Village. We also opted to wear our team jerseys again since we began the day serving breakfast at 530 am.

Breakfast anyone?

Day Six is the ride into Montreal but first we ride through lots of small towns along the way. This year was the smoothest ride into the city ever. Single file, no passing, no stopping and starting and a police escort once we got downtown. Thanks Rally organizers for that. It’s a moving moment seeing all of the riders on the path into the city and I liked being able to soak it in without worrying about crashing into the bike in front of me.

Rolling into Montreal
We made it!

What to do after the bike rally? Ride Bixis around Montreal of course. We also visited with family. Hi Victoria! And basked in the warm waters at Bota Bota.

I’m also so thankful to all of the friends, family, bloggers, readers, colleagues etc who donated. It’s your gift that makes this ride meaningful.

Thanks Susan, Udo, Byron, Nancy, Kira, Jenny, Madeline, Tracey, Tracy, Ed, Emmylou, Martha, Catherine, Todd, Yoni, Anita, Jane, Cate, Sergio, Gwen, M.E., Leela.

You can still donate here.

Thanks Kelly. Unsplash.
camping · charity · cycling

Bike rally day six: We made it to Montreal!!!

Riders heading into Montreal, our team at the center. Selfie taken by Rally’s Angels Team Co-Captain Michael

This is just a very short post to let you know we’ve made it to Montreal.

Thanks Robert, Byron, Kira, and Tracy for donating and helping out the rally.

Thanks to my very wonderful team co-captains Vanessa and Michael for all of your work organizing us and keeping us connected during the week. I loved the Rally’s Angels temporary tattoos you gave us for the ride into Montreal.

Today began super early, breakfast at 530 am, to make sure we could all meet up in a Lachine to ride into the city together as a group.

After Sarah and I stopped for ice cream in Lachine, we had a great ride into the city along the Lachine canal. And here we are in Place Émilie-Gamelin where we gathered for speeches and a welcoming celebration.

Sam and Sarah in the middle, with team co-captains Vanessa and Michael on either side. We did it!

Here’s our route:

We’re staying in the Grey Nuns residence at Concordia before taking the train home to Toronto and then on to Guelph. My bike is getting home in one of the bike rally trucks.

There’s a party tonight but we’re too tired. It’s been a big week of riding and camping. My heart is full from the closing ceremony this morning. I’m happy to be in Montreal, happy not to be riding my bike, proud of all that we’ve done, but I’m also very sad to be leaving my bike rally family for another year.

Check out my activity on Strava:

You can still donate here.

camping · charity · cycling

Bike rally day five involves two of Sam’s favorite things: The Long Sault Parkway and Dairy Queen

Today we rode 113 km to Lancaster. We had a really wonderful day 5 of the bike rally. I mean yes, it was a lot of riding, after days of lots of riding. But there was an awful lot to like.

Here’s some of the highlights:

  • I love the Long Sault Parkway and riding on the paved bike paths through Upper Canada Village.
  • I had the best freezie of my life thanks to Tourism Cornwall who were handing them out.
  • We had a terrific tailwind after lunch. Zoom. Zoom. Fun.
  • Sarah and I have been getting better at riding together as the week continues and today we had fun working together and setting a reasonable pace while still having fun.
  • The day ends at Dairy Queen just outside camp. I had a cherry slushie float. Yum.
  • Finally despite scary clouds in the afternoon we never actually got rained on.

(I think I was surprised by how good today was. Memories of rainy day fives of years past are still sharp in my memory!)

We won’t mention that we’re staying at Camp Spider. Shhh.

That’s one of my least favorite things.

But otherwise, a pretty wonderful day of riding. Wow.

Here’s the map:

We are almost to Montreal. Just 100 km away. We’re still not quite at our 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal. You can donate here.


camping · charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally Day Four: It was the best of roads, it was the worst of roads

On Day Four we set out from Kingston, led by the rally’s top fundraisers. I joked that since the route out the city involves hills the top fundraisers ought to get a bus.

It was a quick 30 km to Ganonoque for break and then another 20 or so along the Thousand Islands Parkway to lunch. The parkway is one of my favorite sections of this ride. It’s all newly surfaced and completely separate from car traffic.

You know, I think of myself as someone who is pretty comfortable riding near cars, in traffic. I do it most days. And yet, on the parkway, my spirits lift, I smile more and I’m really relaxed. It makes me realize how much of my bike riding brain is occupied with safety on city streets. Sarah and I had a lovely ride talking with Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot. I’m in absolute awe of how much money she raises for the rally. She’s always one of the top fundraisers for this event.

But once we get off the Parkway, into Brockville and beyond, we’re on terrible shoulder of badly bumpy roads for the last 30 km or so. So bumpy. I wasn’t tired at the end of the day. I feltt more banged up from all the bumps and gravel and disappearing shoulder. There were also some grumpy drivers.

The campground here is beautiful though and we all got in pretty early. Even the sweeps were in by 4 pm giving everyone time for a dip in the lake before dinner.

Check out my activity on Strava:

Our fundraising is going well. We’re almost at our goal. Your donations help in important ways, even small donations.

Here’s Stephanie’s description of what they do, “The funds raised by this ride go to making a direct and fundamental changes in the lives of people with AIDS. It is help for mothers, food for children, rides to the doctor, someone who cares if they are lonely, support, love, care, haircuts, pet food, hospital visits, childcare… Every dollar you donate makes a real, tangible and important change in the life of another human…”

You can donate to the bike rally here

I’m very sleepy now. It’s after 10 at night and we’ve been taking part in the rally’s candlelight vigil where we hear from some of the rally’s participants about the their experiences with HIV/AIDS and the bike rally.

Also, my team, Rally’s Angels, is serving breakfast in the morning. That means we need to be dressed and ready to help at 530 am. Night night!

Moon over the lake
camping · challenge · charity · cycling · fitness

The bike rally day 3 is a slow roll into Kingston, also red dress day!

It’s the shortest day on the rally, just 60 km into Kingston. Now that’s not nothing but it’s less than half of what we did yesterday. It’s also Red Dress day or Dress in Red day, your choice.

Here’s Sarah and me at the start. Or as Sarah and I like to call it, the hurry up and wait, part of the morning. You rush to have breakfast, get dressed, take down tents, pack bins and load bins on the truck, but then you can you can’t leave until all of the trucks and loaded and have left.

But the weather was good this morning and so we sat in the grass pretty happily. It is overcast and in the low 20s. No bright sun, no rain, just perfect riding weather.

We also took the time to take team photos in all of our red dress finery.

Rally’s Angels

Here’s our ride on Strava.

Ride on Strava

Why the slow roll approach? Well we’re staying in the residences at Queen’s tonight. Thanks Queens! And while there are hot showers, laundry, real beds, and air conditioning, we don’t have access to our rooms until 1. So if we leave camp at 9 that’s 4 hours to do 60 km.

Our team decided it was a good morning to stop for coffee en route. Sarah and I were also slowed down by our first flat of the rally.

Here are all the bins in the courtyard of the residence at Queen’s

Here’s some video from the day

And our team at the Kingston sign.

Rally’s Angels

Tonight it’s team dinner plus a drag show in the park after. If you’re around, stop by.

“DRAG IN THE PARK: Trellis HIV & Community Care, Tourism Kingston, and the greater Kingston community invites The Friends For Life Bike Rally to DRAG IN THE PARK, a showcase of fantastic (and slightly naughty) entertainment under the open sky in Confederation Park (that’s the big park between Kingston City Hall and Lake Ontario). The show will start at 7:30pm on the veranda of the Kingston Visitor Information Centre.”

Tomorrow we ride Kingston to Johnstown, about 110 km.

We’re now halfway to Montreal and I think about $30,000 away from our 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal. If you’ve been thinking about donating, every bit helps, and here’s the link.

camping · cycling · fitness

Tomorrow is Packing Day and Sam is Frantically Searching for All of the Things, #f4lbr


Chargers, Kindle, mini shampoo bottles, Ibuprofen, knee gel, bike tubes etc etc

I’m at the stage of packing for the bike rally and arranging transportation home where all of that seems like lots more work than just biking to Montreal.

What’s so hard?

Partly it’s packing tomorrow and not seeing stuff again until we get into our first night’s place for camping. Glasses? Where do they go? I’m wearing sunglasses on the bike but need my glasses glasses for Saturday. Some years I pack them and spend Saturday blurry. Other years I’ve carried them along in my jersey pocket. Still deciding for this year.

Partly it’s because you have two big bins, so room for lots of stuff. I usually dedicate one bin to clothes etc and one bin to camping things, pillow, tent, sleeping bag etc. But then once the rally is over, you’re in Montreal. The bike rally team brings bikes back to Toronto but you’re responsible for lugging everything else to the Grey Nuns Residence at Concordia where we’re staying for the weekend and getting it back to Toronto. It’s easier to have less stuff.

Partly it’s that weekend in Montreal after. For the actual rally week, it’s all bike clothes, shorts and t-shirts, and ball caps and flip flops. But for the weekend in Montreal I want something just slightly more stylish. But then I have to keep those clothes in my bin and carry them around so decisions need to be made.

And finally, there’s the pandemic. I used to travel a couple of times a month, often for work. I was a seriously good packer of carry on luggage. But I’ve lost my packing mojo. On my last trip to Vancouver, in March 2022, I arrived without my prescription medication and mother had to FedEx drugs to me.

I’ve been traveling about during the pandemic but mostly in a car with a lot of stuff.

Wish me luck!!!

camping · cycling · fitness

Training for multi-day bike adventures

Here is me on my pink Brompton commuting bike.

As we’re getting ready to leave for the Toronto-Montreal bike ride in support of Toronto’s People With Aids Foundation, I’m getting more questions from readers about how to train for big bike journeys.

The obvious part of my training plan are the long weekend rides that get longer as the summer goes on.

The less obvious part that I find makes a huge difference is riding everyday. I start using my bike every day, riding the long way to work and doing all errands by bike, pretty much whatever the weather.

Because there are two things that are hard about multiday long riding adventures. The first are the big distances, but the second is the everyday-ness of it. It’s not just riding far, it’s getting up the next day and doing it again.

You can train for that even if the distances aren’t the same.

Here’s me on my everyday bike riding the long way to work:

What else do you do when you’re training for big bike adventures?

cycling · fitness

Why would you do that?

Earlier this week I blogged about riding in a heat wave. See Heat cramps and aging? Really? Some readers wondered why I even did that. Why would you go out on the bike for a long ride on a hot day? Why suffer when you don’t have to?

Here’s my attempt at an answer.

The ride was a training ride for a larger event. In this case, the 6 day Friends for Life Bike Rally. All participants commit to a fairly rigorous training schedule and this weekend was our weekend of back to back rides.

In theory, I could have done that earlier but I didn’t. I could have ridden during the week, but work.

One thing I could have done, had I paid enough attention to the heat, was leave earlier but I’m the only early riser among the group that was riding and I’m no fan of long rides alone.

Also, it mostly wasn’t suffering until it got really hot and we hit the hills on the return part of our trip. I’d say it was about 60 km of rather pleasant riding, followed by 25 km of being too hot and hilly.

I also didn’t expect the barfing and cramping. I didn’t choose that. It happened. For anyone pushing their limits in terms of physical endurance in less than ideal conditions, it’s a risk.

Sometimes you ride in less than favourable conditions to get good, to get experience, riding in those conditions. That’s why I think cycling in the rain can be good. It’s all about skill development. I’m not sure that’s so true about heat though I did learn a few things–my new jersey isn’t as breathable as I thought. And I got a reminder about electrolytes.

Some people think you get used to running and riding in the heat by doing it. It’s about acclimatizing yourself and I guess there’s a bit of that in my answer. We won’t be able to opt out of hot days on the bike rally itself. We need to get to Montreal.

Now we’ve ridden on heat alert days before. See Heat, Hills, and Happy Birthday for one account. And in the past I’ve opined about riding the rally in the rain versus riding in a heat wave and said I preferred the latter. Now I am not so sure.

This week my Facebook memories also featured photos from our cold, wet Newfoundland cycling adventure and I got all nostalgic about the chilly days of riding.

The short version is that sometimes you do hard things to get better at doing those hard things. And in the case of the rally, those of us doing it care lots about this very important cause. The money raised goes to help people living with HIV/AIDS. It helps people who need food, wellness care, peer support or just to be in a place that is welcoming and safe for them.

Our group in Newfoundland, bundled up!

The hardest part for me really is fundraising and I got the plea this morning that the rally as a whole is not coming close to its goal.

You can help by sponsoring me here.

charity · cycling · fitness

The year the bike rally went virtual and Sam and Sarah rode 600 km mostly on the trainer

The Friends for Life Bike Rally is a very big thing around the blog. Lots of us have done it in one version or another! Me, frequent guest Sarah, sometimes blogger Joh, Susan, Cate, Catherine, Natalie…

For me it all began in 2014 when I rode the 600 + km to Montreal with David (and a few hundred other riders.) You can read an accounting of the rally over the years here.

But this year? The bike rally, like lots of other charity rides, was forced to move to a virtual format. It’s not just a ride of course. It’s first and foremost a fundraising event for a very important cause. Here’s their description, “The Rally is the only volunteer-led, week-long ride that brings people together for an inclusive, supportive, and life-changing challenge that inspires much-needed help for people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto, Kingston and Montréal.”

According to this CBC story charities that rely on sporting activities stand to raise a lot less money.

What it was: 6 day, 660 km ride from Toronto to Montreal (with 1 day and 3 day options)

What is now? 90 day challenge to ride for either 600 minutes or 600 kms.

I did it mostly indoors on my trainer. And while I love Zwift, indoor riding just didn’t compare to the comradery that is the bike rally. We used an app that tracked our miles. I’m the pink unicorn below. Go me!

How to sponsor me: Here!

Sarah got home from our canoe camping trip last night only to notice it was the last of the 90 days and she was a few kilometers short of the goal. A lesser person would have done it in the morning but not Sarah.

She posted to Facebook, “Okay friends. I just got back from 6 days canoe camping in Algonquin Park. When I got back, before I even showered, I set up my bike on the trainer and rode the remaining 2.8 km of the 600.3 km Friends for Life Bike rally as today was the last day to complete the virtual version.

Here’s a link to my fundraising page if you’d like to send a few bucks my way in support of the wonderful work of Toronto PWA :