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10
Oct

Words from the Road: Belfast

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Note: I’ll be editing this post later tonight or tomorrow morning with a picture or two, but I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance and wanted to get something up now.

The plane was stifling as it taxied down the tarmac to Heathrow. The airport itself was much nicer, though the roughly eighty security checkpoints we had to go through were interesting.

The flight to Belfast was smooth, and short, and as we landed and stepped out of the airport, we were done and in Ireland at last. More than twelve hours of travel later, the shockingly green grass (is it cliche to say that if it’s utterly true?) was zooming along beside our car as I sat in what would have been the driver’s seat in Canada and drove on what I saw as the wrong side of the road.

We’ve seen of the city, since; the glass dome in Victoria’s Square was not only beautiful in and of itself, but also offered an amazing view of the entirety of Northern Ireland’s largest city – including, off in the distance, Belfast Castle, the beautiful manor we’ll be starting from tomorrow.

It has been stereotypically Irish weather today, ranging from heavy downpour to brilliant sun in as little as ten minutes; my shirt was soaked through in one sudden rainstorm but dry again twenty minutes later from the cool breeze and warm sun.

Time for us to go out and see a bit more – and stock up for our trip over the next few days! – so I’ll update a bit better either late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

10
Oct

On the Road

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Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

–J.R.R. Tolkien

We leave for Belfast today! After more than a year of planning, today’s the first big leap, right across the Atlantic.

Throughout our journey, we’ll be checking in several times:

  • On Friday, September 28th (that’s tomorrow!*), from Belfast.
  • On Saturday, September 29th, from Larne, Northern Ireland.
  • On Monday, October 1st, from Glasgow.
  • On Monday, October 8th, from Fort William.
  • On Friday, October 12th, from Inverness.
  • On Saturday, October 20th, from Perth.
  • On Monday, October 22nd, from Stirling, and finally
  • On Thursday, October 25th, from Edinburgh. It’s possible we’ll do a few updates after we’re in Edinburgh, but at least one saying we’re done!

For these check-ins I’ll be writing as much as my brain will let me – I get foggy when I’m as exhausted as I will be, and I’ll want to do a little site-seeing, too! – and posting a few unedited pictures, assuming all of my technology cooperates.

We’ll also have Twitter being updated by the wonderful Victoria, and Facebook should have our updates posted as well, so keep your eyes peeled.

For now, though, this is it – the last post I’ll be making from Canada until probably November. Looking back, it’s been a long 15 months, with some periods of super-steady daily ‘blogging and some periods of complete radio silence as other things took over. We’ve come a long way since the ‘blog started last summer, and we’ve still got our longest journey ahead of us.

Flight leaves at 6:55pm tonight. Wish us luck, and remember to tell your friends, your family, and your neighbourhood crossing guard to donate. We are still hovering a little under $16,000, and a shiny new number would be a great thing to long on to come October 25th.

It’s time to play the music.
It’s time to light the lights.

10
Oct

Mid-Week Training

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This morning I woke up at my usual time, had my usual breakfast, and then slung 65 pounds of metal over my shoulder for my hour-long commute.

With my unusual accoutrement, I expected the ride to be a lot worse, but people were remarkably polite about my hiking backpack and its accompanying knapsack. Having two bags designed to be worn on both shoulders may sound somewhat awkward, but the reality is it’s a lot awkward.

I’m going to have to find a better way to do this for next time.

For now, though, I have 65 pounds of armour – a chainmail vest, and steel gorget, pauldrons, bracers, greaves and cuisses, all ready to be strapped on for a 16km training walk tonight. Paul and I will be walking from roughly Yonge and Eglinton down to Front Street and back, handing out business cards and talking to anyone who would like to ask about the Quest (and my funny costume).

Care to join us? Check Twitter for our #QtfCTraining hashtag, or just keep an eye on our @QuestfortheCure Twitter account after 6pm tonight. We’ll be updating as we go!

Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook as well, if you’re new to the site.

10
Oct

Join us tomorrow!

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Tomorrow we are doing our second public training walk, where you will have the chance to see how we’re training and how it will feel to walk one of the more-than-twenty days we will be walking just six months from now in Scotland (six months from today we’ll be approaching Scone, getting close to the last leg of our journey!).

We start at 9:00am at High Park subway station and will be walking east on Bloor from there to Dundas West. Most of our eastward journey will be across College and Carlton, taking the pedestrian bridge across the Don Valley Parkway and continuing along Gerrard. We’ll head north on Coxwell like last time and take a straight shot across Danforth and Bloor back to High Park to wrap it up.

Lunch will once again be taken at a pub along the way. We’ll be tweeting along the way to let anyone who would like to join us do so at a convenient time and place.

Rowan, War Dog extraordinaire

War dog Rowan has decided to sit this one out.

Remember the cautions from our last walk:

What should you bring, you ask? If you intend to be with us the whole way, bring comfortable clothing and good shoes – and make sure you’re wearing appropriate socks, too! Your feet aren’t the only part of you that will be sore by the end of the day, but they’ll be the worst off unless you’re very careful.

Bring a water bottle and some snacks – things like trail mix or even just peanuts are great. We’ll be stopping here and there on the way but we don’t want to make too many trips to convenience stores, since every trip will hold up the whole group.

Plan for the weather – if it looks like rain, bring a good coat and maybe a hat. If it looks like sun, a hat is still a good idea! Sunscreen is a good idea too, even though it’s still March.

Finally, bring money for lunch – you’re going to want to eat it, I promise! – and plenty of smiles and laughs. The best part of these walks is companionship, and we’re going to be spreading the word about the Wayfarers while we walk!

We hope to see you out and have a bit of a larger group than last time! Though I hear our vicious war dog will not be joining us this time, sadly…

10
Oct

A True Quest… Square Enix Style

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For April Fool’s this year, Google gave us a great gift – an 8-bit version of their phenomenal Google Maps software.

Half a dozen people pointed it out to us while it was on this weekend, but because of our training and other commitments we didn’t get to it in time to make something of it. Thankfully, our resources are endless… and my friend Brittany is brilliant. She pointed out that it was still possible to use if you knew the browser code.

Here is our Quest and the eight “levels” we’re going to be meeting: Belfast, Glasgow, Fort William, Culloden, Scone, Stirling, Rosslyn Chapel and Edinburgh. It’s listed at just under 500 miles because it doesn’t take into account things like the trip around Loch Lomond and walking within the cities – which will take us well over the 8-mile difference you see here.

So who wants to design us some 8-bit avatars to come on this journey with us?

 


View Larger Map

10
Oct

Warrior Dash

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With a distance of less than 1% of our trip, Warrior Dash doesn’t sound that hard, right? A nice easy rambling 5km obstacle course, with things like going over waist-high walls and crawling under barbed wire, jumping over fire, and scaling a thirty-foot cargo net – maybe a bit more difficult, but nothing too scary.

Last year, just a month after conceiving of the Wayfarers and long before details were set in stone, I ran the Warrior Dash race with Paul and a few others. Paul beat my time by half, coming in at 46 minutes to my hour and a half. My excuse? 40 pounds of chainmail on my back.

While walking along the river today, the rain was light enough that I could pull out my camera and get shots of the mist-covered mountains, one of which I’ve climbed.

Even though this isn’t working out the way I hoped, the way I planned, it is truly amazing and something I recommend to everyone.

Have an adventure.

Do something crazy.

In costume, if you can bear it, because it makes people really willing to talk to you.

A few pictures from the past week appear behind the jump:

Cows and mountains

Cows and mountains: Scotland in a picture. (Not really, but it’s so pretty!)

Stirling Station... I think.

Pretty sure I took this at Stirling railway station. We’ll be back on the 22nd!

The Althing

I refer to this, a part of our regular route within Inverness, as the “Althing spot” – a perfect place for a meeting of 40-odd people.

The Hobbit adventureth

I wish both of us could have been in this picture. Perfect book cover or what?

Culloden Avenue's wizard

Culloden Avenue, a long pedestrian path leading to Culloden House, has these amazing sculptures along the way, all chosen in theme by local schoolchildren. I thought this was an appropriate one to grab a picture of.

Dragon!

I also love dragons.

 

... and dragon babies!

Can’t forget the dragon’s children. These sculptures are fantastic.

Culloden House

The original estate that stood near the Culloden Moor battlefield in 1746, this gigantic and beautiful manor house, has been turned into what I am sure is an exorbitantly expensive hotel. I still want to stay there.

And then on Wednesday, a mountain

We climbed a mountain, Craig Dunain. It wasn’t the largest mountain in the area, but it was tiring enough!

Those misty mountains

Here are the mountains I was talking about up above, there. I love this country.

Drew explores

We found a hollowed-out tree. Who could resist such temptation?

The River Ness

After yesterday’s rain, the river is swollen but beautiful.

More soon!

10
Oct

Words from the Road: Inverness, part 2

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Today, according to the original plan, we were meant to be arriving at the hostel in which I am already lying as I write this ‘blog post. Rain is pattering against the windowpane.

We learned yesterday that when it rains in Inverness, the sidewalk glistens and the poetry carved in to some of the paving stones on Church Street becomes easier to read… even if one is less inclined to want to stop and read it. I have been wondering about it for a week now, though, so I stopped. Drew didn’t.

The room where we are staying wouldn’t fit six, but is perfect for the two of us. It overlooks the River Ness and if you squish up close you can see the castle to the right.

We have been walking hard for the last week. On three separate days we clocked over 30  kilometers. We saw Culloden city and Culloden House, but missed the battlefield because of the cycling route that we were following, sparking the need for a second trip (come on, twist my arm). We walked south to Craig Dunain and climbed it to the top, panting and sweating on a summer-warm day. We have walked a circuit around the Ness Islands so many times even its spectacular beauty is becoming commonplace to us.

Yesterday was the first day that the weather hit us hard, with a cold rain that soaked us through within hours. We opted to take it easy for the day, allowing for the fact that we had covered a total of 70 km in the two days prior and both slept poorly last night. Tomorrow we aim for another 30 km, rain or shine.

More pictures will be coming soon as well – some from the mountain, some from Culloden House, some from random walking in Inverness. It’s a small city but a beautiful one, with poetry in the sidewalk stones.

As of right now, we are 79 km behind our target for this point in the trip. The 3 days I was out of commission with food poisoning put us 81 kilometres down, so we are right on track except for that and we have a few days at the end which will hopefully provide the opportunity to complete our goal. We are still pushing forward, making every effort to make up those 79 km in the course of our planned walks.

Wish us luck, and talk to you all soon.

10
Oct

We Are Thankful

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It is chilly here in Scotland — the perfect temperature to put us in mind of Thanksgiving in our home and native land, parts of which look shockingly like the landscape around us.

Today, we are thankful for our family and friends, so far away yet so supportive.

We are thankful for how small the world has become, to allow an adventure like ours.

We are thankful for how large the world yet remains, for such an adventure to still be the stuff of dreams.

We are thankful for John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and the millions of stories he has sparked.

We are thankful for other authors, filmmakers, and dungeon masters for taking those sparks and planting them in our minds and hearts.

Drew is thankful for his friends, like Dan, who seem to find ways to drag or push him into hapless adventures; to his family, who have helped support him when he needs it (sometimes a result of previously mentioned adventures); and for the opportunities he has had in the last few years that have kept his life anything but dull. He is also thankful for all the people around him who share, enjoy, or at least tolerate his quirks, tardiness, and questionable sense of humour.

Dan is thankful for the internet (for making him feel better while he was sick), for Drew (for never blaming him no matter how frustrating the situation), for all the amazing women in his life (Brittany, Jenn, and all the non-Wayfarers as well), and last, but not in any way least, for Victoria, who has done so much more for this trip than he ever expected (most recently, handling our Twitter account and making sure his spirits remain high even when they try to plummet).

We are both incredibly thankful for all of you. Every pair of eyes reading is someone who is helping with each exhausted step we take. Every dollar donated is one that shows us this is all worthwhile.

Who and what are you thankful for today?

Yesterday, laden with bags and hoping for a better middle to our adventure than the start, Drew and I hopped on the ScotRail from Glasgow to Perth and from Perth to Inverness.

The Scottish countryside is the single most beautiful place I have ever seen. While those who know me can confirm that I haven’t exactly traveled the world, I can say that even the most stunning pictures don’t do this country justice.

Inverness is quite a pretty city. With roughly 72,000 residents, I knew it would be smaller than Glasgow (sitting at almost 600,000), but I hadn’t put it together just how much smaller until we really looked around this morning and ran out of city within two hours.

As a result, we ended up walking south along the River Ness, which provided yet more stunning scenery. There were (many) times when the only evidence of humanity we could see was the pavement beneath our feet and the occasional lamp post–less than an hour out of the city. We crossed beautiful bridges following the Great Glen Way, a route from Inverness to Fort William that we were, not so long ago, planning to walk down in the other direction starting on Tuesday morning. (Such is life.)

We walked 28 km today, instead of the 22 km we had planned on the original schedule. I’m relieved to be able to report that we’re making headway on the mileage we lost last week.

Tomorrow we’ll be waking up early and starting a two-day camp. We intend to visit Culloden Moor and walk along National Cycle Route 1, which runs through Inverness and alongside the famous battlefield at Culloden. We’ll be camping overnight on Monday and returning to our new home base hostel in Inverness on Tuesday evening. That means we can leave a lot of our modern gear (changes of clothes, the netbook I’m using to blog, etc.) at the hostel to keep as much weight off of my still-recovering shoulders as possible.

For those of you in Canada, have a happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll check the ‘blog after your turkey dinners for a few thoughts on giving thanks and on our Thanksgiving here in Scotland.

For those of you in America, well, it’s Columbus Day so, uh, enjoy your day off.

For the rest of you: Sorry. It’s Monday.