What is your favourite Robert Munsch book

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Canada Map

Chapter One of Munsch a Bunch of Miles for Literacy was Camrose to Winnipeg in 2006 and Chapter Two was a trip from Prince Rupert to Camrose in 2007. The map shows the route and stops along the way. The question for 2008 and Chapter Three is which direction and how far?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The very very last day

After a great breakfast we are off to Sherwood Park and the Westboro Elementary School for our "second to last" presentation. In front of a gym, full of students, we do our best to promote literacy and tell a few stories and poems. The students are great and we have a surprise gift for one of the teachers. Helen and David's daughter in law (Allison's mom), Jenny, is on maternity leave and has come to listen to our story telling. At the end of our presentation we give her a book about mom's love and how much they love their babies. First, Grandpa David reads it out loud to the assembled students. He bought the book while on tour in Prince George with the thought of giving it to Jenny and Allison. After our presentation the kids crowd around Jenny to see Allison and the pictures in the book but we are off down the road for our last stretch of highway that needs to be travelled in this tour.

At the junction of Highway 14 and 21 Alan gets on his bike and heads off east. Helen and David drive forward to the junction of 14 and 833. Secondary Road 833 is new and the pavement is smooth. Helen jumps on her bike and in no time has crested the small rise in the road leaving David to wait for Alan to arrive. Before David can listen to one episode of Afgananda on CBC radio there is Alan! "Mr Zoom - Zoom" of cyclers.

Off we go to catch up to Helen, which we do just at the Camrose Hutterite Colony. At that point David decides to ride, but instead of taking his bike out of the van he decides to ride Helen's bike! Big mistake - it's a great bike for Helen but the frame is too small for David and it will proof to be the last time he ever rides her bike.

We have agreed to meet the Camrose City Police on the edge of the city. From this point until Chester Ronning School, in the heart of Camrose, we will have a police escort. Very cool! One squad car in front and one following us with Lights flashing. Officer Matt asks how fast we want to travel but I'm sure his speedometer can not go that slow because it is the fastest 10 km we ride! By the time we get to the school we have had a very good work out! I have a vision of a Camrosian wondering why the police are chasing the cyclers down the highway.

We have arrived at the school before the students are ready for us so the vice principle asks us to disappear for fifteen minutes. We escape to Alan and Ruth Ford's deck for a quick glass of ice tea. Then it's back to the school and what a reception they have planned for us. We are treated like heroes which is a very humbling experience. This is our home school, our children attended this school and we greatly enjoy having the opportunity to return something to the school and teachers who helped our children learn.

Thank You Chester Ronning!

Alan David and Helen display the map with all the places they have stopped along Highway 16 over the past two tours.

The trip is over for 2007. Thinking has already started for next year as there may be chapter three. Stay tuned.

Into Edmonton

The ride from Niton Junction to Edmonton was fast. Four lane divided highway made the cycling a bit easier but the highway noise was crazy at times or at least it drove me crazy!

Outside Stony Plain we decided to stay on Highway 16X since our overnight destination was Chris and Jenny's place on the east side of Edmonton.

We managed to stay riding on 16 until the Edmonton city limits and then made a wise choice to quit riding! Traffic was very heavy and it was the start of rush hour. The trucks were much bigger than out bikes and the car and truck drivers did not seem to care about little 'ol us pedalling as fast as we could.

So once more we piled everything into the van and said goodbye to highway 16. Our next highway would be #14 and we were leaving the Yellowhead behind us.

Arriving at Jenny and Chris's place for our "sleepover" was great as it allowed us to have many things such as a hot shower, a great meal we do not have to cook, and time to play with our new granddaughter Allison. Allison is three months old and is Helen and David's first granddaughter. She is beautiful.

We enjoy our visit and our eye lids are very heavy to quickly and soon we are in warm beds for a restful sleep. Tomorrow is our last day on tour.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Niton Junction: What every community needs to be

When we left Jasper we thought it was possible to ride to Niton Junction or to a campground close by. Helen left Jasper first riding with a warm cup of tea. - it was cold that morning. Alan and I went back to the camp site and looked at all the wet gear and wondered "why"; why not stay in a motel, why not call for room service, why hurry , why, why, why . . .

After we shoved all the wet stuff in several garbage bags we started down the highway to find Helen. We found her several kms past Jasper and with her we found the sun! It was going to be a beautiful day after all! We stopped at a road side rest area and pulled out all the wet gear. After something to eat Alan proceeded down the highway towards Hinton while Helen and David stayed behind drying out gear. It looked like we were having a garage sale with gear covering bushes and rocks. Seems like people passing by thought the same thing as one couple stopped to see what we were selling! Too bad they were not at our camp site that morning as they could have had everything for a hot cup of coffee.

We proceeded to make the miles disappear as we passed Hinton and then Edson. Alan and David rode up the pre-ascent for the Obie summit and Helen, who wanted to ride up the Obie summit did just that. It is the highest point on the Yellowhead highway and a good challenge for cyclers. Way to go Helen!!! You made it and the hills that follow it.

David's job today was to find a camground for us to stay at that night. Unfortunately the one campground along side of the highway just east of Niton Junction was closed for renovation. This sent David looking for a dry place to stay (that was also cheap). What he found was unbelievable and turned out to be trip highlight.

David stop in at the Niton Junction School to see if there was a phone number he could call for advice on where to stay. Luckily there was still a teacher in the school who offered an innovative solution to our problem. "Why not stay in the school? said "Saint" Margaret. After she checked with staff, we had a place to stay. They set up two cots in the community library and we were in heaven! Not only did the school have the community swimming pool which meant we had access to showers but we also had access to the home ec. room to cook our breakfast.

The only downside for David was having to walk 50 yards down the school hallway to go pee in the middle of the night. David also mentioned it was very hard to sleep in the library with so many books whispering " Read me, Read me, Read me"

The next morning we missed a hard frost and therefore woke up warm - Yahoo!!

The students piled intot the gym for our preseantion just after 9:00 am. The big surprise for us was the grade eight students who sat in on the presentation. It was the first time we did our presentation to older students and we were very impressed with their participation and interest.

Two of the teachers want to exchange places with us however they withdrew their offer when it seem that David, as class room teacher, might wreck the good job they had already accomplished. I mean who would want to come to school when the teacher was offering free food and fun everyday!!!! Actually that already sounds like Niton Junction School - except for the free food part.

Our Niton Junction experience is one I hope I remember for a long time. I even learned how to properly say "Niton Junction". Our expereince of Niton Junction is not unusual. A man called Tim Johnson also writes about his experience at Niton Junction. Maybe there is a lesson here for all schools to learn.

Bears? - What bears?

This is the stretch of highway we were told would have more bears per mile than any other road we travelled. Hmm - and I am QUITE AFRAID of bears!

While travelling Helen was convinced she saw a bear in the the distance on the opposite side of the road. If that had been me I would have turned around and peddled fast in the opposite direction. As she came closer to the bear it was not leaving the highway so Helen began to plan her strategy to get around the bear safety. Perhaps a truck would pass the bear at the same time she went by or maybe - just maybe the bear would leave. In fact another thing happened - the bear turned into a sign just as Helen cycled close enough to see. Helen swears the sign turned back into a bear after she rode past :) Perhaps this will become an rural legend about the bear who became a sign. Makes sense to me - we have other legends of bears becoming signs in the heavens (ursa minor, ursa major) so a why not a road side sign?

We arrived in McBride with plenty of time to gas up our Chrysler van and find a little liquid refreshment for ourselves. Then we made our way to a great campground just east of McBride. The Beaverview campground has great facilities and very welcoming owners. I could have stay there longer but it will definitely be a place I will return.

The next morning after another big breakfast of Sunny Boy Cereal we headed for the road and wind! This first part of the day was perhaps our worst day for riding into a head wind.

We rode past the Terry Fox Memorial Park and the memorial placed along the highway to remember a man who was very courageous. His journey and accomplishments makes our journey seem very small by comparison and I pause to remember his spirit. The following is from the BC parks website.

"The beautiful Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park lies adjacent to the western boundary of Mt. Robson Provincial Park, encompassing Mount Terry Fox (8,700 feet/2,650 metres)

Mount Terry Fox is dedicated to the memory of Terry Fox of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Terry Fox lost a leg to bone cancer, but undertook to run across Canada on an artificial limb to raise funds for cancer research. He completed 3,360 miles (5,375 km) of his epic journey before illness forced him to end his run. His valiant effort against incredible odds touched the hearts of all Canadians and people around the world. Terry died on June 28, 1981. The mountain that bears his name will serve forever as an enduring and fitting memorial to a young Canadian's determination, selflessness, and courage. The park was officially dedicated by the family of Terry Fox and the people of British Columbia on September 22, 1981."

Our journey continues to Jasper where we overnight in Whistlers Campground. This federal campground is very nice and we might have had a fine evening sitting around a fire except the rain starting to fall at 8:30 and it drove us into our tents for an early night.
Later that night I was spoken by sounds that I first thought were wild life close to our tent. Unfortunately it was not four legged wildlife as I suspected. Rather it was two legged people enjoying their intimate company. The very loud sounds of ecstasy, grunts and groans they made went on ALL NIGHT!! I applaud them for their stamina :)

It snowed in the mountains at Jasper overnight and it was quite brisk in the morning as we had our hot cereal and made our way to the Jasper Elementary school.

Jasper students who received the Munsch Book and the resource book we left at every school.

Helen moments before departing Jasper.

At Jasper our only injury happened and it did not happen on a bike!
It was David's turn to be Loretta in the Munsch Story "ZOOM" During par tof the story telling both Helen and David had satrted to Zomm around the gym or classroom for added effect. This mornign when david went to Zoom he pulled a groan muscle and became a candidate for our injury reserve list. He did try to ride his bike for 40 kms later in the day but told us it was very uncomfortable. Just before the Obie Summit he become our van driver and and gave us one of the best surprises on tour at Niton Junction!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Onward to Vanderhoof BC

Thursday afternoon we left Mouse Mountain School in Fraser Lake at continued riding east with our evening destination in mind "Vanderhoof, which claims to be the geographical centre of BC. Vanderhoof is in the beautiful Nechako Valley and surrounded by farmlands so this prairie boy was feeling at home in this countryside even if it was surrounding by forests and mountains above.

We were motivated to get the Vanderhoof by the compelling visionof soft warm bed instead of a tent (well at least I was) Tonight we were guests of Alan's friends Paul and Ann Collier. and the supper Ann provided was delicious and the conversation was warm and friendly - we had a great time. The memory I will have from that night is the slice of lasagna Alan had. IT WAS HUGE and I'm sorry I did not run out the the van and grap a camera for digital proof. Ann accustom to feeding young athletics high calorie meals . We probably had more calories in the one meal than most people need in a week but we didi our best to burn in all the next day between the school presentation and the ride into Prince George.

On Friday morning we said our goodbyes to Ann and Paul and made our short journey to the school in Vanderhoof.
After the WL McLeod Elementary School presentation we again jumped on our bikes and headed out onto the highway. The school presentations alway gave us extra energy to cycle. Sharing reading and writing with students is important and hopefully one student will to a littel it better because we were there - who knows - I just hope that is possible.

On our way to Prince George we meet the dream team for cycling fundraisers - Cops for Cancer. 22 police officers from northern BC were cycling from Prince George to Prince Rupert, the same trip we were going but they were heading west, Their support team and equipment was a sigth to behold.

Our Van seems small when side by side with their truck. Interesting point - both fund raisers were sponsored by Chrysler - Way to go Chrysler dealerships in Camrose and Prince George!

Our arrival into Prince George marked the end of our first week on the road and gave us the promise of a day off - well not really but it felt like it. Luckily for us the weather was friendly and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Prince George.

On Saturday morning we went to the Prince George Public Library and gave our presentation to a small group of kids and parents. Heck we'd do this presentation if one kid was present.

While in Prince George we do a little bike work to Alan and Helen's bikes. Alan bike to squeaking and Helen needs a new tire. This is all the repair work we need to do for the entire journey.

Then on Sunday morning we went to the United Church in down town Prince George and spoke there - We only did on Munsch Story - I love You Forever. After the service we were delighted to meet Cowboy Bob. Bob Chorney, also known as "Cowboy Bob", has shown love, acceptance and compassion to all he encounters for 30 years. Bob has been able to encourage, persuade and direct people to the appropriate helpers. His constant presence as a friend has earned the trust of many who have "fallen through the cracks" of society. He has provided a linkage between downtown services and the wider community. Bob has conducted regular "get acquainted" tours introducing any who wish to accompany him to each separate agency educating citizens of their own city network.
Cowboy Bob is nominated for the Prince George Community Foundation for Citizen of the Year award. I hope he receives the award, however I know it will not change what he does for his community.

Sunday afternoon the ride begins again! Our rest day has ended. We decide to leave Prince George early and make a few miles before coming back to Van Bien school to do ur presentation Monday morning. We decide to ride about 60km to Purden Lake - home of the famous Gourmet Burgers.

We reach Purden Lake and get to taste the Gourmet Burgers before we set up camp. We discover Purden Lake has no telephone line BUT the waitress told David if you stand on the top of the community fire truck at the front then you are able to get cellphone service.

This picture is Alan calling home using his cellphone on top of the community fire truck. The next morning David used this space as his office to call CAMFM to deliver the morning Munsch Report.

Friday, October 5, 2007

From Smithers to Mouse Mountain

We arrived at Lady Kathryn Elementary School in Smithers BC just after lunch time. The school was easy to find since it is right along the highway on the west side of Smithers. My memory tells me this is the school that the teacher requested we add a bit to our presentation about bicycle safety. Since we were very cautious while travelling on the highway this was a good fit and we continued to talk about bicycle safety for the rest of the tour.

The school presentations were something I looked forward to each day. I think Alan and Helen did too!

Every presentation was about 25 minutes long and during that time we would read stories and poems, talk about being safe and ask them about sounds they might hear while travelling along the highway. Then we would act out Robert Munsch's book "ZOOM" This story is about a girl in a wheelchair who needs a new wheel chair and how she goes about getting a new wheelchair. We enjoyed acting it out and hope you enjoy listening to the master himself reading it to you.

After our presentation we got on our bikes and proceeded down the highway to our overnight stop. Somewhere along this stretch of highway was "Hungry Hill" known by the locals for its long slow gradual climb. I think this is the hill that Alan was racing a semi truck up the hill. Near the top of the hill Alan was going 8km per hour and the truck crept pass him at an blinding speed of 10km per hour. Perhaps if Alan had one more banana at lunch he would have be able to pass the truck!

We ended up in Topley BC at the Whispering Pines Motel. No campground close "moteling it" was the next option - one that I was OK with but the pure campers in our team would have been quite happy to sleep in a field but the lure of a hot and cold running shower was enough to get then inside for the night.

The next morning it was foggy and not safe to journey down the highway with logging trucks passing by. However within 90 minutes the sun was shining and Alan took off down the road.

Meanwhile Helen and I made a surprise visit to the Topley Elementary School. The school is just 100 metres down the highway from the motel and we had an extra autographed Munsch Book. Oh yea - I forgot to mention - at each school we had an autographed Robert Munsch book to give the students. We also gave the teachers a cool resource book that Ruth Ford had acquired for us. I went and asked the principal if we could do the presentation and within 45 minutes we were in the gym talking to the entire student body; all 45 kids!

Back in the van to catch up with Alan and continue with the bike relay and we were getting excited about our next school stop - Mouse Mountain in Fraser Lake. This is the school we added when Lilly asked us to come to her school. When we said we were able to come to her school we also asked if she could tell us the story about how their school got the name Mouse Mountain. We were in for a TREAT!

After we did our presentation, Connie Sutherland a elder with the Carrier First Nation told the student s the legend of Mouse Mountain. This tale is a good as any Grimm's Brothers fairy tale I have heard WOW!

We also received a furry mouse plush toy that is a school mascot and I think it may soon be near Alan's grandson, Sach, when he snuggles in for the night.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Spirit bears and Bannock as a fast food

Three bicycle riders does not make for an easy relay. Last year we used an overlap system of riding bikes and moving the car ahead that worked but was a little confusing. I remember at one stop thinking it was my turn to move the car and if I had done that the last rider would have wondered where the heck the car had gone.

This year we used a simpler system. On the first day Helen and Alan were the bike riders and David was going the van moving and logistics. This worked very well and allowed the riders to enjoy the ride with logistics taken care of. Later in the day David would ride his bike back to meet Helen and ride with her and that started "Munsch miles". The system worked so good that we decided to ride farther than Terrace BC and keep going to Kitwanga. Alan and Helen keep riding in almost equal 20 km intervals and David rode the last interval into Kitwanga. At the end of this interval 5 km from Kitwanga Helen and David saw a rare sight. They were able to see a spirit bear. This white coat bear are rare and we were delighted to have this experience on our trip. The bear was busy eating berries along the creek until it disappeared into the bush.

The campground at Kitwanga was nice and we recommend it to all. We had a surprising early morning wake up call when the van alarm went off at 4am. We were still learning about the van and the alarm going off tested our ability to find a key while still in deep sleep!

At 6 am the forest mill across the street started up so it was time to get up and start our day too!

Since we were not scheduled to read at the Kitwanga School until Wednesday we decided to ride ahead and then travel back to the school the next morning. So our bike relay began again and we rode to Smithers and stayed over night at Telkwa Provincial Park. Another nice place to stay.

The next morning we drove back to Kitwanga and did our first school presentation at the Kitwanga Elementary School.

Thanks to the students for being our first group. We were a little nervous and messed up up a little but we were deeply honoured to be allowed to interact with the students and staff. David also wanted to join the grade seven basketball team because the loops were low enough for him to "dunk the ball".

After Kitwanga we jumped back in the van and drive up the highway over miles we had already cycled to Lady Kathryn School in Smithers. But first we had to stop along the highway and stuff ourselves with "hot off the grill" bannock served with honey and jam. It was a treat!!

From Camrose to Prince Rupert, BC

On Friday, August 31st we packed the van with our camping gear, three bicycles, our literacy presentation material and headed away from Camrose to Prince Rupert. Our goal was to travel as far as McBride BC, camp for the night and carry on the Smithers for another camping experience before arriving in Prince Rupert on Sunday.

The drive to McBride was uneventful but the day ended in showers and upon arriving at McBride things were a little wet. Helen was still game to set up tents to start the camping experience but I prefer my camping "dry" so thanks to the Camrose and Area Adult Learning Council we stayed the night in the McBride Motel.

Saturday morning we drove to Prince George and stopped in to say Hi to friends who own the Stride and Guide Store in Prince George. After a short visit, with enough time to buy an anniversary gift for Helen (34 years), we jumped in the van and drove to Smithers. We wanted to travel the entire route in daylight hours so we could see the highway shoulders. This would help us later to know where the highway was not as safe to ride which allows us to us "Munsch Miles" More about Munsch miles later but quickly it's a term we use for miles that we accumulate for overlapped miles in the relay.

At the Smithers campground we unload everything and set up our tents, cooked supper and rested. Soon the van signage, provided by Windwood Signs, has people stopping by to see what we are doing. This was great because it helped us know that we would have to change the date of our first school visit. Our first school was Kitwanga but their first day of school was only one hour so we would need to delay our presentation one day. With the help of our visitor who knew the school principal's name and phone number (how's that for service) and we were able to make the needed change.

The next morning we had our second campsite visitor, Lilly. Lilly is the librarian at Mouse Mountain School in Fraser Lake. She wondered if Robert Munsch was in the van with us since she knows he is capable of showing up at any school and entertaining the students. We said he was not with us, but when we explained what we were doing she invited us to her school. She is a very determined woman and we were curious about the school's name and as luck would have it we were able to change our schedule to accommodate the visit.

After breaking up camp we headed for Prince Rupert and a night of seafood before starting the bike relay home.
Our night in the Prince Rupert Campground was "WET" and my spirits were as damp as everything around us - not a great way to start but we did expect rain in Prince Rupert.

Helen was the brightest spot of the morning as she was ready, willing, and able to start riding from the edge of Prince Rupert. So the bike relay began.

Munsch a Bunch of Miles for Literacy

Two weeks past past since the three amigos returned from the two week bicycle tour across BC and Alberta.

Now we have time to write about our experience and share it with the many people who helped along the way; the schools, our sponsors, our financial contributors, Robert Munsch and friends who encouraged us to make the trip.

Thanks for all your support and encouragement.

The first person we need to thank is Richard Rexinger and the staff at Camrose Chrysler. Richard provided a Chrysler van for us to travel in from Camrose, Alberta to Prince Rupert, BC and return. Was it ever nice! We had enough room for all our gear and three bikes.

Another great sponsor was 98.1 CAMFM radio. We were able to call in every morning and give an update while on tour. Thanks Bruce, and the "Dog's Breakfast" for taking our calls. Funny story about one of our calls later in the blog.

Camrose Booster was another important sponsor. No surprise as they understand the importance of literacy - if people have trouble reading then the Camroe Booster newspaper is in trouble.

Also thanks to the Camrose Morning News for providing space for us to have a daily running total of the funds raised and the miles travelled. Our fund raising target was$15,000 and we managed close to $9000.00 if all pledges come in.

OK - now on with the stories.

The three bicycle riders are Alan Ford, Helen Samm and David Samm. Each has travelled a few miles on bicycles and this was their second long distant trip together. Last fall they went from Camrose, Alberta to Winnipeg, Manitoba for the same literacy cause. That experience was great and we now call it Chapter One: The prairies.

This year 2007 is Chapter Two: The Mountains
The next post will start the journey.