East Coast 2015 — Tour by Numbers

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The Essentials:

  • Distance travelled: 1,396 km
  • Days on the road: 46
  • Communities visited: 30
  • Total performances: 21
  • Total audience members: 2,784
  • Total workshops delivered: 34
  • Bike Breakdowns
  • Flat tires total: 7
  • Flat tires on Emma’s bike alone: 5 (P.S. She didn’t get 1 flat on the other 2 Otesha tours she’s ridden on!)
  • Broken spokes: 6
  • Wheel replacements: 1
  • Locks sawed off by a gas station hacksaw: 1
  • Falls off bikes: 5
  • Stationary falls off bike by Jessica: 5

Random, but Important:

  • Churches stayed in: 15
  • Masonic Halls stayed in: 1
  • Church services attended: 3
  • Pounds of apples consumed: 60 (before we got a little appled out..)
  • Litres of water consumed: 638
  • Pre-performance poos: 39
  • Times “Someone Like You” by Adele was sung: 50
  • Pianos played: 18
  • Times we “high-fived & missed”: 37
  • Upside-down sleeping bag tournaments: 1 (Champion: Emily Sitter)
  • Things dropped in a toiled by Emma: 2 (1 sock, 1 toothbrush)
  • Faces sat on by cats in the middle of the night on a farm: 7
  • Tour members who spent a night in a police station: 2
  • On-stage collisions: 15
  • Falls during the play: 2 (and we mean full-on crash and fall)
  • Ice-cream consumed: 64 (1 consumed by dairy-free Natasha!)
  • Days it snowed: 1 (in October!!)
  • Full moons witnessed: 2
  • Blood moons witnessed: 1

Cool things found on the road & strapped to our bikes:

  • 1 license plate
  • 1 pogo stick
  • the tiniest butcher’s knife you’ve ever seen

Road-kill tally:

  • raccoon: 12
  • porcupine: 17
  • mice: 1
  • frog: too many to count
  • rats: 1
  • birds: 3
  • skunk: 4
  • cat: 1
  • snakes: too many to count
  • deer: 1

Well, that’s a wrap folks. It’s been a blast and a half.

Until next time, we leave you with one last quote and also one last story. The morning before we embarked on our longest and hilliest day of tour from Truro to Newport, NS, Emma read the team part of an Irish blessing that is a large part of Otesha history. It reads: “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.”

As can be expected during a 100km day of riding Otesha-style, Kristen’s back wheel imploded about halfway through the day. With 4 broken spokes on the same side of the same wheel, she wasn’t going to bike the rest of the ride. Kristen’s bike buddy, Elyssia, called up her grandparents who live in Dartmouth (Elyssia is from Vancouver Island – Canada is strangely small sometimes!) to drive them to Kentville, another community in the Annapolis Valley, where the local bike shop was ready and able to replace Kristen’s wheel. That evening, after finding a place to stay overnight at the Kentville police station (!), Kristen and Elyssia went to dinner and in the restaurant, found this:

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Kristen’s wheel may not have been able to meet the road, and things don’t always go perfectly on Otesha tour, but things have their way of working out and it’s little signs like this show you that you’re where you’re meant to be. Now, that’s a little bit of Otesha magic right there.

Peace and bike grease,
The 2015 East Coast Tour

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East Coast Tour 2015 – Notes from the Road #7

5 Life Lessons From the Road

By Jessica Bihari

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The two month east coast tour has come to an end. The Otesha Project has given us a unique opportunity to spread a loving message of social responsibility and environmental justice to communities and schools across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Since we are a mobile community, we have been cycling anywhere between 20-100km per day on our journey from Fredericton to Halifax. This has given us a lot of time to get to know one another, enjoy the landscape, and think … A LOT. Through spreading our message we have all gone through vast personal growth. It would be impossible not to considering the physical, spiritual and emotional challenges of this trip. Below are a compiled list of life lessons from the road:

1. Letting go of control

While we had a detailed itinerary, tested out our bikes before every ride, and discussed day-to-day logistics at every evening meeting – things still did not go as planned. Torrential downpours made cycling difficult, spokes were lost, and Google Maps led us astray on more than one occasion. Through these experiences we needed to be adaptable and go with the flow of what the day brought us. This is such an important lesson to learn in life – when we realize not to get shaken up by what life throws at us and instead we breathe, relax and try to laugh at the situation rather than face it with a scowl.

2. Wants vs. Needs

There was only so much we could fit into our panniers. It really made us think about what we actually need to live and question the societal structures that fuel our desire to want unnecessary items.

3. Oh Those Hills…

Aside from our newly developed quadriceps, those East Coast hills shared with us important life lessons. Whether people in the group were avid or inexperienced cyclists everyone had their own struggles with those hills. It was neat to see everyone get over those hills at their own time and pace. Just like in life, we all find our own strategies to get through tough times and one person’s way is not necessarily better than the other. The important thing is you practice becoming resilient and overcoming struggles. Also, some of those hills looked scary – we had no way of seeing what was on the other side of them. We all had to make the choice to overcome our fears and start pedaling up those hills. And you know what? Once we were halfway up those hills we realized they weren’t as bad as they looked. Just like in life sometimes we may be too scared to start working towards a seemingly impossible to achieve goal. But once we start taking actions to achieve a goal – it doesn’t seem that hard to obtain anymore. A little bit of courage and effort are all we need to succeed.

4. Bike Buddies 4 Life

Since one of our safety rules was that at least 2 people have to bike together, skills and personalities could not always be matched. We always managed to have fun, be supportive, and resolve conflict respectfully when necessary. This highlighted that often in life, the walls people build up around themselves can be broken down through respecting their limits and accepting them where they’re at.

5. Fear – don’t let it control you

When you’re on a 2 month bike tour, it’s not hard to see how the roads are set up for cars instead of cyclists. Some of us had close calls with vehicles, others had scrapes and bruises from falling. At the end of the day, we chose to get back up on our bikes and try again. Just like in life, we will sometimes feel defeated by struggles but the bravest thing we can do is get up and try, try again.

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East Coast Tour 2015 – Notes from the Road #6

The Otesha guide to spending a night in a police station.

By Elyssia Sasaki

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Don’t get too worked up by the title, mom, I promise you we didn’t do anything wrong. But, of course, when the going gets tough, you must adapt to whatever life throws you. And for myself and miss Kristen, this meant rides in cars from strangers, after hour dealings with mechanics and eventually finding ourselves in the doorstep of the Kentville police.

However we should probably retrace and begin where every good story seems to start- at the beginning.
The morning of October 7th was riddled with mystery and anticipation. The sky was thick with fog, a slight morning frost on the grass outside the Saint James presbytarian church that had graciously hosted us the night previous. This morning, however, had a feeling of something intangible.

Perhaps it was because it was the morning of our 100km cycle.

Our longest trek to date as Otesha team members. Our paniers packed with the necessary trailmix and hummus we would need to fuel ourselves we set off into the morning mist.

Ten flat kilometres. Ten more kilometres of rolling hills. A brief rest overlooking the Schubie river. And then rolling on towards the halfway mark of Kennetcook. However, 5 kilometres away from our midday rest, climbing up the biggest hill we had encountered so far, Jessica and I heard a gut wrenching crunch from Kristen’s bike.

Her chain jumped off her de-railer(the bit that changes your gears) and decided to hop into her back wheel, with it took four of her spokes, rendering her bike useless.

Defeated. Downtrodden. These are probably the most accurate discriptors of our immediate reactions. The 236 had claimed another bicycle as its own. It was 2pm. The Autumn Sun and foliage seemed to mock us, as it danced around us so carefree, so beautiful.

There’s only so long you can sit on the side of the road feeling sorry for yourself. And after a petit pity party, we started making phone calls. We called the lead crew to see if they had any suggestions. We called close-by family and friends. We even called bike shops to see if they could get us in later that day, and if they knew anyone with a truck who could pick us up from this rural purgatory. I even called my Grandparents in Dartmouth to see if they knew anyone close by with a truck who could give us a ride.
This is one of the things I love about small town communities. Someone always knows someone who can help out in times of need. And for my grandfather, it was his buddy Marty, who had a van that could get us to the closest bike shop in Kentville.

Jessica rode on with Andrea and Natasha as Kristen and I waited for my grandfather and Marty to come pick us up. The drive from Dartmouth took them some time but before we knew it we were on our way to the Valley Stove and Cycle. At 4:15. And they closed at 5:00. And we had to travel a good 60 kilometres.

So now, after waiting for so long, we were in a race against time. We sped past our fellow teammates in Marty’s van, witnessing the countryside As if it were through the windows of a time machine.

We arrive at Valley Stove and Cycle with moments to spare. The mechanic , Doug, took one look at Kristen’s tire and said that it could be fixed… for tomorrow. Of course. He wasn’t some bicycle wizard who could wave a magic wand and perfectly tune up this decrepit wheel. But his acceptance of the bike and his willingness to work on it to get us moving again as soon as possible was a different (and, in my opinion, better) kind of magic all together.

He even agreed to tune up my bike. I swear, he is the closest to superhuman that one can get!

So here we are in Kentville. Two girls. Four paniers. Two tents. Two backpacks . One tarp. And no bikes.
We decide, after a brief game of phone tag with some neighbouring friends that we would tent somewhere in Kentville. Not wanting to get in trouble with local authorities, we wandered over to the local police station to ask if there was anywhere within walking distance where we could set up our tents and avoid any trouble.

This is how we met Sergent Dunfee.

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After listening to our story, as weird as it may have been, he was incredibly understanding. He proceeded to offer us the lobby of the police station as our camping grounds for the night, complete with ensuite washroom, and total security for all our belongings. I am reminded in this moment of a proverb I once saw written on the walls of a bathroom stall: it’s not the world that is small; it is the family that is large. And both Kristen and I feel incredibly accepted into the community of Kentville, as if we were one of their own. People continue to amaze me with their kindness and generosity. And help is always available to those who ask for it.

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East Coast Tour – Notes from the Road #5

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By Kristen Lavallee

October 1st.
We all awoke from our slumber with Andrea being our radio host to wake us up, and Jessica singing and dancing around while the rest of us rested in our sleeping bags on the floor of the Chapel in Mount Alison, Sackville, NB. The team was excited for the day as there were a couple learning opportunities ahead of us.

Something which I really appreciate from the tour is our own personal opportunities to learn and grow, instead of only being the play artists and teachers through workshops. Learning is vital to the human experience and it’s important for us all to keep learning, especially about the communities that we encounter, to become inspired and see people taking tangible action.

To welcome in this autumn season, we started the day with the Community Forests International, Sackville Community Garden and Open Sky Co-Operative. With open minds and open hearts, we cycled to our first destination ready to learn.

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Olivia and Esther from the Sackville Community Garden and the Community Forests International were patiently awaiting our arrival preparing the outdoor wood fire burning oven to hot temperatures for our lunch festivities. It was a cold and wet morning, a storm rolling over into the day from the night before. As we all arrived to the community garden, we all huddled closely around the wood burning oven and warmed ourselves up, learning all about the garden and this fine beauty of an outdoor oven. Olivia explained to us all about the cooking times for certain foods. For example, to bake bread, it takes roughly 6 hours to warm up the oven to the right temperature, but the bread would be cooked and ready within 20 mins with a crispy outside and a delightful fluffy interior. We harvested potatoes from the earth and cooked them as an appetizer. They were right crispy on the outside and perfectly toasty on the inside. They made for great hand warmers before feeding our bellies and were quite delicious.

After awhile hanging out around the wood oven, we made our way to the location of the Community Forests International. Esther showed us around their food forest. It was remarkable! The forest planted 5 years ago has grown with such resiliency to the challenges of Mother Nature. There are two forests growing within the forest, one with indigenous plants and the other with non-indigenous plants. Growing in these forests are apples, lemon balm, wild grapes, echinacea, elderberries, cranberries and a myriad of other plants.

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We had the opportunity to walk through the forests to harvest apples, cranberries and elderberries. Esther then happily showed us how to make both an elderberry tincture and cranberry tincture which both have healing properties. Seeing this happen made me feel as though I in fact want to follow my dreams of attending herbalist school.

Once we were done with the learning opportunity (all of our bellies grumbling from being around the lavishing forest of food), we made our way back to the wood oven and cooked some lovely pizzas for lunch. Some of our teammates’ shoes were a little wet and cold, so after making lunch a couple of the girls decided to take off their shoes and socks and roast them on the side of the oven in hopes that they would become dry. Of course, with fear that the fire would melt the shoes and time coming to a close, they decided to retract that idea. We thanked Esther and Olivia for their hospitality, warmth and knowledge sharing, leaving with hopes and deep inspiration. We then cycled in the cold for roughly 20 mins to The Open-Sky Co-op.

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Upon arrival at The Open-Sky Co-op, we were greeted by Norm and Margaret. The seven of us shuffled into the building ready to perform. We were greeted with much warmth and nourishment of chocolate zucchini brownies, tea and coffee. We had an audience of about 20 individuals who were very receptive and asked us many questions. Afterwards they gave us a tour of the farm, which houses 2 donkeys, 3 goats, plenty of chickens and turkeys, and 2 large gardens which are part of a Community Supported Agriculture program. You can learn more about the Co-op here:
http://openskyco-op.ca/contact-us/

Our day was filled with real-life examples of individuals seeing a need for something and taking the power into their hands to make a positive difference in their communities. Overall we left feeling inspired, elated and full. This day definitely impacted us individually in a special way.

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East Coast Tour 2015 – Notes from the Road #4

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By Andrea Johancsik

If home is where the heart is, this Otesha tour has found home again and again throughout the last 5 weeks of cycling together. As we celebrated Thanksgiving in Wolfville, Nova Scotia this past weekend, we raised our glasses to people’s generosity and openness. In particular, one experience of home stands out: Grandbay.

The ride from Gagetown to Grandbay-Westfield, New Brunswick, was our first long ride of the tour. It was 72km, which takes about 7 hours on a bike.  That day, we learned what “rolling hills” really means – sore and out of breath!

Halfway through our ride, Pastor Malcolm and his wife Laura from the Grandbay Baptist Church accepted us into their home to provide homemade scones, warm drinks and conversation. Four hours and many hills later, we were welcomed by them again at the church along with a fresh hot meal of soup, salads, fruit, tea, and (the best part!) quinoa cookies and a dark chocolate bar. That night and throughout the weekend community members let us into their homes for showers, did our laundry and provided us with air mattresses.

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One of the challenges of cycling tours is giving up daily comforts. After a difficult cycle, we desire hot meals, comfortable beds, warm showers, and clean clothes. Instead, we often accept hunger, hard floors and smelly bodies, so the comforts we received at Grandbay are memorable to us.

However, we are most grateful for the sense of community. Community is a concept we advocate in our performances and exercise in our group, but the members of the Grandbay Baptist Church were the first to show us on tour how a genuine and well-functioning community thrives. We truly felt at home.

In return for their open hearts, we performed an excerpt of our play at an event the church was holding. It was so last minute we were rehearsing harmonies outside the church just minutes before stage! We also wrote and played a song for the community members that were so generous – You can read the lyrics at the bottom of the post.

The Grandbay Baptist Church holds a special place in Oteshaites’ hearts, because this was the church that the 2010 Highlands and Islands tour stayed in after tour member Andrew died in a road accident. More is written about Andrew here: http://otesha.ca/content/remembering-andrew-0

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Grandbay Baptist Church embodies the sharing, giving spirit that is often encountered at home during Thanksgiving. We are always grateful for the places and things that are donated to us, but more important is the intention behind the giving. At Grandbay, the community’s small actions made a big impact on our lives – a message Otesha truly takes to heart.

Lyrics (written by Elyssia and Kristen)

It seems like only yesterday,
I met my fellow tour mates,
and we set out to make a change.
But actually yesterday,
we pedaled seventy-two K
Towards Grandbay.
And tomorrow, we’ll be moving on,
to Saint John.
How sad it is, to say goodbye,
when we’ve only just said hello.
Grandbay! You’ve been so good to us
You’ve fed us, showered us and washed our clothes
It’s nice to know that even with a thousand miles to go,
we still feel right at home,
through the rain, fog hail and snow.
We’ve got a long, long way to go.
Grandbay, we love you so.

East Coast Tour 2015 – Notes from the Road #3

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By Andrea Johancsik

Imagine cycling on a road packed with cracks and potholes, rain streaming through the neck of your raincoat, and all forces against you: gear weighing down your back tire, 25km/hr sideways wind, pulling a 50lb trailer. Then, you approach a near vertical hill (at least, that’s what it seems) with dread. Unless you’ve toured before, this might be difficult to imagine; experiences on the road are much different on a bike than a car. However, the scene described has been the reality of the East Coast Tour members the last week.

Road safety is the responsibility of both cyclists and drivers. Otesha tours consider safety seriously, so here is our compilation of lesser-known safety tips, in order to encourage readers to think carefully about how their actions on the road affect others.

Cycling Safety

1. Avoid putting your leg on a curb at an intersection. Doing this indicates to a car to drive right next to you. Take your deserved space – you’ll be more visible.
2. Bike 1m from the right white line or curb. Cars will see you, and you’ll avoid hazards such as manholes.
3. Learn and use proper hand signals. Pretend to be in Vaudeville and cars will get the hint.

Driving Safety

1. Make a full pass. Give as much space to a cyclist as any other vehicle. If you can’t see in front to pass safely, slow down and watch those cyclists’ legs with envy until you can. Expect cyclists to travel in groups!
2. Be cautious of honks. Friendly honks are appreciated, but only from IN FRONT of the cyclist.
3. Expect the unexpected. Cyclists maneuver more quickly than cars.

We believe there will be less road rage if cyclists and drivers respect each other and practice patience. Be safe on the roads, and happy motoring!

East Coast Tour 2015 – Notes from the Road #2

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By Kristen Lavallee

It was 7:30am as we were leaving the Ridgeview middle school in Oromocto, NB. Our trailers all packed up and everyone ready to go. The lead team began on their way. Natasha and I were designated in the middle with 2 other girls at the back. Natasha went to go brake at the stop sign before heading out onto the road, oil began spewing out of her front brake.

It was gone. No brake left to work with.

In a panic, I yelled out to the front team to stop and pull over. We needed to figure this out. At this point we were 20km away from Fredericton, which is about an hour cycle. Everyone pulled over, Wendy, the principal came out to say goodbye and thank us one last time for attending their school and bringing our message to them. A number of us on our phones trying to find a bike shop nearby that knew how to work with hydronic disc brakes. There were none, except for in Fredericton.

Next thing you know, the mechanic shop teacher from the nearby high-school rolls on by in his big Ford F-250. His name is Jeff. Wendy asks him to pull over and asked him for his help. He said he would see what he could do and asked Natasha to follow him. Being her bike buddy, I hitched the first aid trailer to my bike and met up with her at the highschool, the rest of the team made their way to our next destination, Gagetown.

I arrived at the high school and Jeff wasn’t sure how to fix her bike. But he quickly asked us if one of us had our license. I did, so he then handed over to me his keys with full trust and allowed us to take his truck and her bike to Fredericton to get it fixed. We brought it to Savages in Fredericton who fixed her bike first before anyone else’s, replacing her entire front brake system for only $22!!! This day went from a quick mishap to turning into a really great one. After returning Jeff’s truck we arrived to meet the team in Gagetown at 2:30pm!

We’re really thankful for the kindness and support and generosity of everyone we have encountered so far on our journeys.