Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Weekend

People crawled out of bed slowly over the course of Saturday morning. For my part, I actually did fairly well. I was up and showered by 9:30. Adrienne had gotten the worst out of the night before (it was her good-bye party - she left for Brooklyn in the afternoon), nevertheless I found her in the kitchen cooking up some vegan pancakes when I got there.
I was really looking forward to having a slow day. After breakfast I went back to bed to play some video games and listen to Fur Packed Action for a while. I thought I'd try to look at all the bikes that had mysteriously appeared during the past couple days.

Several bikes in various states of disrepair that had been discovered on the Watershed property had been brought to the front lawn and left for me to look at. Over the course of the afternoon each of the residents and staff brought along his/her own bike to add to the list. I think just about everyone there had one - Karin, Monica, Stephen, Adrienne and Sarah. So basically we lounged around on the lawn all day. While I worked on the bikes Monica, Jeffrey and Tom played whiffle ball or frisbee, Paige and Janine spun poi, and Stephen brought along some pots to glaze. By the end of the day I was pretty bushed. We had supper and afterwards half of us, including me, crashed while the other half went for a late night swim and campfire at Peter's Pond. I wish I could've gone, but it would've just been too much.

Sunday was also pretty relaxed, with most people not putting in appearances until noon or even later. I was actually pretty busy - I threw together a disk of the slide presentations we did on Friday so that everyone would have some images of everyone else's work, I had a bunch of bike tour "business" to attend to, and I finished up my job application. But I was done by suppertime, just in time to enjoy spring rolls, salad, and noodles with delicious peanut sauce. We finished the day off with an ice cream run, followed by a short group bike ride around the backroads of the 'shed.

Monday morning came way too early and I unenthusiastically packed up my gear. It took until lunchtime, so I got to have one last great meal before I left - green salad, pasta salad, veggie burgers and sweet potato fries. After a round of hugs and handshakes I pushed my bike to the top of the driveway and rolled away fattened and rested. Watershed was great - thanks for the fun week, folks.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bike Blogs

Here are the blogs of some other cyclists that I've met along the way this summer. They are a little more of the conventional variety (at least they are not interrupted by ranting and raving about this and that like mine occasionally is), but are full of good traveling stories and lots of what it feels like to travel via bicycle.

First, the story of Jerry, Roy and Michelle, three folks from California who are riding the Adventure Cycling trail from Anacortes, Washington to Boston. I believe they've recently finished, so you can read about their complete trip:

Coast 2 Coast Ride

And next, the story of Reuben, an intrepid traveler from New Zealand attempting to cross Canada by trail rather than road (for the most part). This one comes highly recommended by me - it is full of lots of good stories with hardships and victories and adventure:

Victoria to St. John's - The Scenic Route

Two excellent reads for anyone seriously thinking about doing something like this.


The last day of the week, and my last working day. Things have been going really well around here, so I think we're pretty far ahead of schedule. We got off to a little bit of a late start, but I drew a good job - removing lights from the summer studio and installing them in the winter studio. This occupied most of my morning, as I was pretty interested in doing my best to make the winter studio look a little better. Lunch was the usual amazing feast of healthy and delicious food, after which I helped clean the kitchen. Most of us weren't exactly in the mood to work too hard at the end of the week so we had an easy afternoon.

Quitting time was 3pm, and we planned slide talks for 3:30. We went through about ten people in three hours - there was some really great work:

All week long people have been talking about going out on the town on Friday night. I thought this meant that I'd get dragged to a club somewhere or other. But this is Maine, so what we actually did was drive to a seaside restaurant and bar, eat lobster and drink beer. What a relief!!! We actually had quite the fiasco getting there - after several wrong turns in a row we found ourselves in the completely wrong place. An odd gentleman wearing suspenders with his shorts and earmuffs as he was mowing the post office lawn got us back on track. Having spent an hour and a half to do a twenty minute drive we ordered as soon as we got there. The place closed at 9pm (as, I'm told, EVERYTHING around here does) so we got kicked out and headed home.

Karin and Stephen had spent the afternoon repairing the fire pit. We loaded it full of wood from the kiln pad and lit it up. What followed was a party that could easily compete with any of those I'd been a part of at the Bray a couple years ago. It's impossible for me to not compare everything at Watershed with Archie Bray, though I'm not sure it's fair for me to do so.


Another day, another early morning. I got up at about 8am and joined the others for the standard breakfast fare - granola, yogurt, and fruit. Brandon - the mastermind behind the post-session studio shift - wandered in a little late feeling kinda sick. He handed out our assignments for the day and disappeared into the shadows. We moved clay first, then went on to some individual projects. I cleaned the bathroom in the summer studio, packed up some slip, and picked up some wood. After another phenomenal lunch and a little frisbee, I got to work outdoors on the lawn for a while. Incidentally, I was asked three separate times to drive the Ass-Licker somewhere to do something or other, and three separate times I had to explain that I don't have a license and that I don't drive. Everyone was pretty cool with that.
Brandon reappeared around 2:30 and let us off the hook for the rest of the afternoon. Hooray!!

Everyone else seemed mostly interested in taking a nap, but I was pretty stoked about spending some time with my bike. My chain had been grinding pretty bad since I picked up some sand from a beach I visited in Portland, and it was definitely time for an all around tune-up, since I hadn't really done a proper one since leaving Edmonton (more than 4000km ago!!!). I took off my entire drive train (cranks, chain wheel, chain, cassette, rear derailleur) and soaked and scrubbed the parts really well. I'm not sure my bike has ever had such a treatment before. I think it would sparkle if it were silver. Monica, Jeff and Steve eventually joined me and brought me a couple bike to have a look at. Monica has a sweet little matte black single speed that was pretty well maintained. We took off her chain and soaked it, and she did a really great job of scrubbing the grime off her sprockets. Steve's bike is a nice Cannondale mountain bike that will need a bit more attention. Unfortunately, our little workshop was called on account of darkness so I will have to finish his up tomorrow.

In the meantime, most of the crowd headed down to the studio to spend the night working. I contemplated joining them just for the sake of getting my hands dirty, but I'm a little more concerned about a job I found posted at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. The deadline for applications is September 1st, so I don't have much time to get a package together and send it all the way across the ocean. One of the downsides of being nomadic is that even menial tasks can become monumental. Take my current problem: I have to figure out where my student evaluations are, find a way to print 30 pages of application and teaching dossier, find a post office in rural Maine that can deliver this shit to Dublin in eight days, and do it all from the comfort of the couch in the common room of the studio. At least it's going to be easier than trying to do it from my tent.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Day Two Of My Impromptu "Residency"

I unexpectedly woke up just before 7am and peeked out the window to see this:

There was this amazing fog settled all over the compound that I just had to jump out of bed and photograph.

Breakfast was served at 8am, and we had our daily strategy meeting at 9am. Jeff and I got the job of refilling a trench where they had just recently laid a gas line to the new kiln pad. It didn't take too long (actually we ran out of gravel before we got very far) so we moved on to some other tasks. We were charged with filling the truck - which they so affectionately call the "Ass-Licker" - with items bound for the winter studio. We made about six trips back and forth in the Ass-Licker carrying shop glazes, kilns, tools, building materials and other odds and ends. In the meantime Tom and Brandon were working on a new shelter for the recycling centre, Sarah and Monica were sponging down the summer studio, and Stephen, Paige and Amanda were setting up the winter studio.

Lunch was served none to early at 12:30, and famished I wolfed down three plates of rice, pasta salad, stir-fry, green salad, and various other goodies. (One of the benefits of cycling 6 hours a day is that I can enjoy food in a way that few other people ever have the opportunity to.) We lounged on the grass for a little before being handed our afternoon assignments. The luck of the draw provided me with a pretty sweet deal - weeding some of the grounds with Monica for a couple hours.
By 3:30pm everyone was packing it in for the day and getting ready to go swimming at Peter's Pond. We drove out there for a quick swim to the far side and back, interrupted only by some leaping from the rocks into the water at the halfway point. I've never been much of a leaper myself, so I was happy to watch as the others somersaulted through the air and splashed into the surface. We returned to find our supper waiting for us - an amazing meal of chili, macaroni, salad, bread and mint juleps.

I spent the early evening catching up on some computing before joining the others in the studio for beer pong. Sarah and Damien handed Stephen and Paige a loss, and and then went for a second round against challengers Amanda and Jeff. After a close match the champions came through with a sweet win. We ran out of beer after that, but perhaps it was for the best. Most of us trundled off to bed exhausted around midnight.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Beehive Collective

What's the Beehive Collective? They are a group of artists who make and distribute anti-copyright imagery largely about Northern dealings in the economy, politics and millitary of Latin America. Their work takes the form of elaborate large scale black-and-white ink drawings (easily reproducible) filled with images, text and symbols. The works show, in a very didactic and easily readable way, both terrible and hopeful stories having to do with globalization and environmental destruction, as well as their local effects.

After their slide show I went to talk to them, to thank them for the amazing presentation and to compliment them on their fantastic research and work. I also told them about my project and they invited me to visit them when I get a little further up the coast in Machias.

You should visit their website right here:
Beehive Collective
I will write a little more about them after my visit.

Why Ceramics Is So Much Better Than All Those Other Craft Forms

Well, I can hardly believe my luck. I'm riding north from Portland knowing that there are a couple of ceramics places that I should visit, but not having really figured out where they are or what I should do if I find them. So I see a sign on the the road saying "Watershed Ceramic Arts Center" and I veer off into the woods.

I pull into a parking lot that unsurprisingly reminds me a lot of the Archie Bray and immediately run into Paige and Amanda. I explain that I'm a ceramic artist and I want to check the place out. They tell me that if I want I could probably stay for a few days, do some work, and hang out. Ummm....OK!

So they give me a cabin to myself, with my own bathroom, and promise me meals cooked by a couple of resident chefs. Nice! It is what they call "post-session" here right now, and they are shifting over from the summer set up to the winter set up, hence the need for some extra labour. I got settled away and invited to go to an artist talk. Karin and Tyler took me up to Rockland to see the Beehive Collective (more on that in the next post, it was awesome!), so I got a bit of a preview of my ride to the north.

After that we headed home and the current residents, volunteers and staff are sitting around a campfire shooting the breeze and drinking some beers. Perfect! We have a great night, but I am warned of the price we have to pay for this treatment. Apparently they spent all day today moving fridges from the summer studio into the winter studio. On the bill for tomorrow - moving kilns into the winter studio! Oh well, I've never been averse to a bit of hard work! But since I am crossing the continent by bicycle for the sake of art Karin gave me the option of having the morning off. I'll set my alarm, though, and when I wake up I'll decide whether I want to show them some work ethic or not.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The last few days have been full of signs that I'm nearing my final destination. First, I saw this in New Hampshire:

Then today I reached the Atlantic Ocean, exactly 11 weeks (77 days!) since I left the Pacific behind in Vancouver. I went down to Willard Beach in Portland, skipped some rocks, and shot some photos.

It's not much, and I still have a long way to go, but I feel happy.


Hi folks,

Here are a couple more articles that made it into the local newspapers in the Perth area. I have to thank Jackie for tipping off the press to my activities. He should be a publicist!

Perth Courier

Note the really hilarious typo in the second one where they mistakenly printed "art auctions" instead of "art actions"!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Where's The Beef?

I know what many of you are angrily thinking - "This is not a travel blog, this is an art blog! Get your priorities straight Mr. Flaherty!" I will be the first to lament the lack of art writing on this URL in recent weeks. But the fact of the matter is that I haven't actually seen any art for a very long time. My schedule simply has not allowed it. And I haven't been writing about my own piece for a while because, I suppose, I'm not quite so self-conscious about it anymore. It's here, I do it, and that's the way it is. I certainly don't feel a need to justify it anymore.

But I will promise this - I am collecting anecdotes of a few of the more profound moments of this trip and will be committing them to electrons soon, so you could expect to find that here in the next couple weeks. And I also promise this - I will be posting less of the "I pedaled XX kilometres in X hours so that I could reach Xville by X o'clock" posts. I've had my fill of those types of details and I'm sure you have too.

Karen and Joe

I just want to thank Karen and Joe for the amazing couple of days I spent at their house in Lake Bomoseen, Vermont. Karen was a resident at Archie Bray while I was there in 2005, and Joe (her husband) was the unofficial resident barbecue chef. I spent two nights at Lake Bomoseen and took one day entirely off - I didn't even see my bike!

We barbecued, drank beer, went out for breakfast twice, scrabbled, watched movies, gossiped, talked art, and spied on the neighbours. It was great to see you again, and it was just what I needed!

I Love Yew Nork

Well, I skipped out on the Wolfe Island Music Festival. Turned out that it was twice as expensive as I was told, there were no camping spaces left, and I couldn't find the friend I was supposed to meet. So I kept on pedaling and crossed over to New York that very night.

My route took me through the Adirondacks. The second night, August 12 I reached Cranberry Lake, just the point where the land turns from typical Great Lakes Basin agriculture and industry to amazing forest, lakes and hills. I timed it so I would be there for the Perseid Meteor Shower, best shower of the year. I remember once when we were kids Jason and I sat on the top of Drake's Head in Shoal Harbour and counted hundreds of meteors per hour during this shower. So I went all out in my preparations for a good show. I paid for a really nice campsite beside a lake that had a pier with a horizon to horizon view. I got there a little early and got everything set up so I wouldn't miss anything. Then I made a trip into town and got snacks - doritos, twizzlers, bananas - and a flask of whiskey so I could have a little nip to keep the chill of the lake off me.

I cruised back to the campsite and watched the sun go down over the horizon. As soon as that happened a huge dark cloud came up over the horizon and blotted out the entire sky. My light show was a bust, so I sat on the pier and got shitfaced on the bottle of whiskey until the rain started. What else was there to do?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Statistics - Take 2

As of August 10, 2007

Kilometres traveled - 5433
Days spent biking - 48
Provinces visited - 4
States visited - 5
Ferry Rides - 4
Flat tires - 4
Thunderstorms I was out in - 3
Wipeouts/accidents - 0
Metric centuries - 29
Centuries - 8
Double metric centuries - 1
Most kilometres in a single ride (Mountain to Marinette) - 71
Most kilometres in a single day (Saskatoon to Bethune) - 201
Days off (no riding or repairing) - 4

Black bears encountered - 5
Grizzly bears encountered - 0
Coyotes encountered - 1
Moose encountered - 0
Elk encountered - 2
Touring cyclists encountered - 16

Nights spent camping - 35
Nights I left the fly open - 21
Nights I paid to camp - 2
Hotels/motels/hostels slept in - 4
Showers I paid for - 3
Couches surfed on - 8

Days repairing bikes - 25
Exhibitions finished - 5
Galleries slept in - 2
Interviews done - 6
Interviews and articles printed or aired - 5

Kilograms of peanut butter eaten - 4
Bowls of pho eaten - 7

Thank-You! Thank-You! Thank-You!

I can't leave without giving a big thanks to everyone who made my stay in Kingston possible.

Jocelyn and Morgan at Union Gallery - Thanks for all your prep work and help while I was in town. None of this could have happened without you!

Mike and Brad at Yellow Bike Action - Thanks for the awesome deals, the encouragement, the advice, and for doing all the awesome things you do!

Cyclepath - Thanks for lending me your repair stand. I can't imagine how I would've coped without it.

Christian - Thanks for letting me stay with you. You are a couchsurfing god!

Peggy - Thanks for the company and tasty treats!!!

Emma - Thanks for the bread, grapes and cheese (mmmmmm...cheese...*mike drools*). I ate it all in one go.

Kristin, Karla, Moon, Sergio, Jan, Anna, Matt, Alex, Edward, Genna and everyone else who's name I've forgotten (I need to get better at that!) - Thanks for taking part, for riding your bikes, and making everything just a little bit better!


Have you ever been to Kingston? I have to say that I love it here. It is such a perfectly beautiful city - just the right mix of history, population, and climate. Although they tell me winters are long and dreary.

The show here was incredible. I really didn't know what to expect, since I was showing on campus during the summer in a gallery with minimal access to the street (there was also a big construction project happening in the neighbourhood, so all the local streets were torn up). But participants showed up in droves nonetheless which made for a really busy week. If I had to guess I'd say I went through about thirty bikes altogether, doing things ranging from simple check-ups to complete cable and lever overhauls.

There are a lot of bikes in Kingston, and what I like about it is that it's a really casual biking city much like Victoria - I haven't seen a single fixed gear bike here :) people don't bike to be cool, they bike because it works, and in Kingston it works well.

I'm on my way out of here now. I'm going to Wolfe Island today for a music festival, and then on to New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine on my way to New Brunswick. It's going to be a very relaxed ride (1300km in 20 days) which will be a welcomed change of pace. I'm really planning on enjoying myself!

Monday, August 06, 2007

I Did It!!!

I made it! All the way from Minneapolis to Kingston - 1700km - in just 12 days! I arrived in town around 8pm today, tired but happy. Nothing a good sleep and a few days rest can't take care of.

I enjoyed the last blog entry, so I'm gonna give you the play by play from this past week as well. I think these two posts will really communicate what life is like on the road when I'm riding under a tight schedule. Here we go...

July 31
Woke up early, and a little hung over. The hostel had a nice little bar in the basement where I sat and sorted through my photos while drinking cheap ($2.50) pints all night. I went and took care of my errands (laundry, banking, etc.) while I left my bike at a local shop. My headset had been making an annoying clunking noise for a while which I wanted a professional to look at. Turns out it was nothing serious, but it took them til 4:30 to deal with it. So I didn't actually get out of town until about 6pm. Arrrgh! Behind schedule again! Rode until the sun went down, but couldn't make it past Bruce Mines, a full 20km from where I had wanted to stop.

August 1
Had a really good night of sleep and got up super early - maybe around 7am? I got on the road and really pushed myself all day long to catch up. By night I had made it as far as Nairn Centre, 191km. Nairn Centre is the first town since the Rockies where they have those bear-proof garbage cans actually in the town - not a good sign. I looked around for a place to camp, and the most inviting spot seemed to be a park smack dab in the middle of town. But just to be sure I dropped in on barbecue that some people were having nearby. They told me there was a "perfect" campsite just north of town on the river. I went to check it out, and I have to admit, it was beautiful. But after an exhausting day I just didn't have the energy to bushwack it that night. I hopped on my bike and headed back to the park. Unfortunately I knew I was gonna have to pass by those people again, and probably endure a good dose of ribbing about being afraid of bears. Sure enough they waved me over and the first thing they said was "See any bears down there?" But to their credit they didn't laugh at me - they just nodded their heads. Then one guy says: "I don't blame you. You shoulda seen the size of the one that was here on my lawn last week - and in the middle of the day, too!" So that night, despite the fact I was sleeping in a public park in the middle of a town of 400 people, I hung my food from a tree on the edge of town. I must've been tired, cause I slept like a log.

August 2
Got up early again and rode through Sudbury and on to North Bay. Not much to report here but that the riding was infuriating on account of the terrible road conditions and the hideous amounts of traffic. Would it hurt to have any sort of shoulder whatsoever on the road? You're gonna laugh here, but North Bay kinda reminds me of California. Lake Nipissing could pass for the Pacific where all the beach houses have yards that run right down to the water, and the carnivalesque California atmosphere is provided by, well, a carnival that runs along the shoreline about 100 metres back from the beach. I found a sheltered, secluded spot right on the beach to pitch my tent and bunkered down for the night. By midnight a serious storm had blown in and knocked out power to most of the city. But the brunt of it passed just a kilometre or two north of me, so I was out of harm's way for the most part.

August 3
Having slept only intermittently because of the thunder the previous night, I got off to a slow start. I didn't leave town til about 11am. There's just some invisible force in cities that sucks me in and keeps me there - on second thought, it might just be the bacon. The road conditions continued to be miserable, however I forced myself to do 170km to Deep River. But I think things started to shift in my favour when I stopped for the night. I was thinking of camping in some cover near the tennis courts when an older gentleman came and asked if I was looking for a place to camp for the night. He introduced himself as Alex, the commodore of the yacht club, and told me he had just the place for me. A few minutes earlier he had offered the yacht club lawn to another cyclist, and said I could share the space with him. Alex introduced me to Reuben, a guy from New Zealand who is riding from Victoria to St. John's, much of the way off-road, and gave us access to bathrooms, a shower, and perfect little patch of grass next to the Ottawa River. I even got a beer out of the deal since there was a function happening there that night. Reuben and I stayed up chatting for a while until the mosquitoes drove us into our respective tents. We determined that our trails overlapped long enough to ride together most of the next day.

August 4
Most of my riding has been a very solitary exercise, so I was happy to have Reuben for company most of the day. He was pleasant conversation, and I think we have a really similar philosophy on our activities. We rode on some quiet country roads - yes, there are alternatives to the highways once you get out of the north - and stopped for at least two breakfasts and lunch by about 1pm. Reuben sets a pretty good pace for a guy on a mountain bike, so we made great time. But he was heading to Ottawa, and I to Kingston so before the day was over we had to split up. Too bad, but there is a slight chance we may meet up again in Newfoundland. I rode on to Renfrew and Calabogie where I found a sweet camp site in an overgrown baseball field. Overall, one of the most pleasant days of the whole summer.

August 5
70km to Harper Village where, in 2001, I did an apprenticeship with a salt-glaze potter named Jackie. I pulled into the driveway around 2pm and found him and his wife Joanie out in the garden. I've wanted to visit them for a long time, but haven't been anywhere close to nearby. We hung out for most of the day, picked some veggies, cooked supper and cleaned up, and watched a movie. I was thankful for the shower and the nice soft bed to sleep in. They visited Newfoundland last summer and brought back lots of stories to tell, so we each had our travel diaries out. A great, relaxing evening, to say the least.

August 6
I got up early the next morning and joined Jackie in the studio, just for old times sake. All my bowls turned out terrible, but Jackie assured me that he'd be able to salvage some of them. He is always so positive. He does a huge fundraiser every year called Empty Bowls where he makes hundreds or thousands of bowls and sells them to support local charities. It's a really big event, and still growing. I didn't get to contribute much this time around - as quick as I arrived I had to leave again to plunge the final 85km into Kingston. I got on the road around 1pm and rode towards Westport. I stopped at a pub for lunch and a pint, where I lucked into an impromptu music show. Some dude just showed up at the bar with his guitar, played about three Johnny Cash songs, then quietly put his guitar away to enjoy a pint himself. It was really cool - the pub was just about full, and everyone really got into it. Best Monday afternoon show ever! I finally got into Kingston at about 8pm, found the house where I'm staying and got cleaned up. My show begins 11 hours from now...gotta get some sleep!