Journey Across My Canada

Start of this journey

I find it fitting that my goal of cycling across Canada which took just under four years to complete ended during the Canada 150 commemorations. In those four years I have experienced significant personal changes.

I started my ride across Canada on September 28 in 2013 in Victoria. Victoria is the starting point or end point of the Trans-Canada highway. That was a one day ride that I did with one of my colleagues.

On June 26 in 2017 I continued that journey with Sea to Sea. That part of my ride went on for 64 more days. This part included about 80 other cyclists who rode parts of the journey and about 50 other riders who rode all the way to Halifax.

On August 30, the day after arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia I continued the journey for 5 more days. This part of the ride included 2 other cyclists who rode along to St.John’s, Newfoundland ending at Cape Spear, the most eastern point in Canada, on September 3, 2017.


Finishing in Newfoundland was a fitting way to end the cross Canada journey through all ten provinces during the Canada 150 year. Even though Newfoundland came late, joining Confederation in 1949, this makes the cross Canada ride complete.

This is not meant to overlook the 3 territories, Yukon, North West and Nunavut. Cycling through them would be a whole new level of cycling. There isn’t a continuous road connecting the three territories.

Crossing Canada at some point from the southern border to the Arctic Ocean is possible now that the Yukon Territory has completed a highway to the north coast.

Tasting a thin slice

Having crossed Canada from West to east only represents a thin slice of an amazing country with such diversity in terrain and more significant a diversity in people.

As a country with two official languages, that simply doesn’t do justice to the multitude of languages spoken in Canada.

There are quite a number of different languages spoken by the various First Nations communities in Canada who have lived on this land from time immemorial (as one Nation in Nova Scotia identifies themselves). Only one province in Canada, namely New Brunswick has a beginning sense of inclusiveness by being officially bi-lingual. In my understanding, of the territories, Nunavut is the only territory that operates with two official languages.

My language experience in Newfoundland is even more unique in that they speak English but have unusual variations of it. The variation includes expressions that most people from away would simply not understand. Also, depending on which part of Newfoundland one is from words are spoken differently, adding letters or omitting letters when it is spoken.

Identity is key

Language gives a community a unifying identity. Language is a key factor in capturing a culture and a people.

My sense has always been that when people are comfortable with their identity they have a greater acceptance and appreciation of other groups, cultures and diversity of view points. Those are important qualities for people to be able to live at peace with each other.

Canada is a confederation. A confederation only works when people choose to work together and value what others have to offer.

Even though my journey across Canada has been a very thin slice it has raised my appreciation for this country I call home and want to see the diversity within unity thrive by learning from each other.

Stories breathe life

The most effective way we learn from each other is by listening to each other’s stories.

In my journey across Canada I heard an interesting comment about sharing stories.

Within one of the cultures in Canada, they do not want a story electronically recorded. The reason being that a story is something alive. You lose it when you try to capture it.

It is only in the telling that a story stays alive. Each time a story is shared the ambiance where it is shared, the mood of the group in receiving the story, the intent of the story teller in sharing it and many other factors is different each time a story is shared. With each telling the story comes alive.

I want to live in a country where each community, each ethnic group or nation is proud to keep their stories alive. They might be stories of celebrations or of pain. In sharing a story one is sharing a sense of hope for themselves, their community or their country. Sharing stories is what I believe would make the Canada 150 celebrations successful.

What stories will you share about the community you identify with?


My Almost Easter Story

Bandit – Border Collie

Came home one day to our border collie, Bandit appearing agitated. He did not greet us in his usually excitable display of affection. He promptly led me to the chicken coop where the door stood wide open but no chickens in sight.

The wide open door was no surprise as we release the two dozen chickens each morning to roam and scratch their way into all corners of the yard. What was strange and unusual was the quiet absence of everyone of the laying hens that generously supply us with fresh eggs daily. All I could think of is that my flock of chickens were gone. Probably dead because there was no sign of them anywhere. What didn’t cross my mind at the time is that there were no carcasses lying around.

Bandit led me to some low shrubs where I found 3 chickens. Well that at least part of my flock. There they sat huddling and unwilling to venture out. Bandit followed me to the coop as I carried the three hens to their nesting area. Bandit then led me to a fence at the far end of the yard. There I found 2 more hens equally scared and quietly huddled.

Each time Bandit would show me another location where some hens were huddled. Each time he would follow me back to the coop. He would scan the hens in the coop and head out to another area of the yard. Bandit showed me two more hens, hidden under an out building 300 feet away, hidden behind some boards, completely out of sight.  After placing those two hens in the coop, Bandit looked over the flock of chickens, turned around and walked to the house and lay down in his favourite spot.

When I counted the hens, I noticed that Bandit had helped me retrieve every last one. All I could think of was the fact that my flock of chickens were all back. Not exactly a resurrection by almost.

The question I was left with was, “How did Bandit know he had found all 24 hens?” Was he able to count? If he wasn’t counting how else would he know he had them all.

I know that farmers with a small dairy herd have a name for each of their milking cows. They recognize each cow when they are grazing in the field. They know when a cow is in the wrong milking stall. Is it possible that Bandit had a name for each of the hens? Maybe. He never did tell me.

The Lord God had formed all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He had made all of them out of the ground. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give them. And the name the man gave each living creature became its name.

Genesis 2:19 (NIRV)

Irresistible Chicks

Bandit the Border Collie

For several years, each summer, we raised a few dozen broilers. It was our way of filling our freezer with chickens that had been raised under humane conditions without hormones and antibiotics in the feed. You could call it urban farming with a purpose.

We had bought our broilers as cute fluffy yellow day old chicks. We had placed them in the coop with a heat lamp so they would be able to withstand the shock of the change in environment.

The first morning when I went to check on them to make sure they had enough feed and water, our faithful border collie Bandit wanted to come into the coop with me. In my attempt to protect the young chicks I decided to leave him sitting outside.

He refuse to patiently sit outside the door. Instead he put up a ruckus and made it clear to me that he  was eager to get inside the coop with the young chicks. By the third morning I relented and figured I would risk letting him into the coop, not really knowing the intent of his eagerness to get in. If he harmed one or two I could quickly lift him up and get him out of there.

When I let Bandit into the coop he made his trip around the perimeter of the coop with the young chicks scattering respectfully giving him space. Satisfied, he walked to the door and waited to be let out. Each morning he followed the same routine. Once the chicks became used to him they no longer scattered. When a chick did not move he would nudge the reluctant chick with his muzzle. The chick would then amble aside and let the dog pass.

One morning as Bandit made his way around the coop nudging the occasional chick, one of them did not respond. He nudged it a second time. He realized the chick was dead. Using his muzzle Bandit gathered up some of the bedding material and covering the dead chick. Once the chick was covered Bandit proceeded to finish his inspection of the flock. That action confirmed for me that he made the rounds as an inspector to ensure all the chick were well and accounted for.

I had started off wanting to protect the chicks from Bandit. In the end it was Bandit who took it upon himself to check on the well-being of each member of his flock, for indeed he had proudly adopted each one of the 5 dozen chicks.

How does a dog not only develop an appreciation for another species but make it their job to ensure their well-being?

18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me,
    four that I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a young woman.

Proverbs 30 (NIRV)


Micah George Marnoch

20170225_125214Micah Marnoch. You took your time, challenging the doctors and midwives, till you were good and ready to make your grand entrance into your waiting family. And a grand entrance it was, rocketing your way, letting no one slow you down, not looking any worse for wear as you began to take in this whole new world, mom, dad, grand….

February 24, 2017

Getting to a Better Place

Fracture Clinic

I recently visited a health clinic to address a persistent pain. I had vacillated for two weeks trying to decide  my best course of action. I woke up one morning and made the call at 8 am to get a same day appointment. Since the doctor wasn’t taking additional patients that day I was booked with a nurse practitioner.

On walking into the examination room I was asked what the concern was. I explained where I had been feeling pain for over 2 weeks. I told her what preliminary diagnosis I had been given. I further explained the need for some follow up blood work to verify part of my health status.

In all fairness the nurse practitioner asked where I had received the diagnosis. I explained that I had secured the services of an iridologist the day before. I explained how the diagnosis fit with several symptoms that seemed to be part of my health issue.

The discussion that followed clearly indicated that she had minimal if any knowledge about iridology. However, she took it on herself to caution me about the high incidence of medical ‘quackery’ out there. I explained to her that in my dealings with this iridologist over the past number of years I have been very pleased with the accuracy of her observations and the effectiveness of the treatments prescribed. In response to this the nurse practitioner decided to ramp up her statements that this is a very unreliable source of medical information. I was puzzled by her insistence to caution me despite sharing anecdotes concerning the veracity of the information I had received.

Let me digress

In fairness to her concerns there are opposing views about iridology and the reliability of diagnosis and the efficacy of the prescribed treatments.

Iridology (sometimes referred to as iris diagnosis) is based on the bizarre belief that each area of the body is represented by a corresponding area in the iris of the eye (the colored area around the pupil)    

An opposing view is captured in the following statement

Iridology is a quick, accurate and painless system of health analysis through the examination of the colored part of the eye known as the iris.

To continue…

The nurse practitioner asked to examine me rather than rely on the information I had passed on to her. I appreciated her level of diligence to confirm the symptoms that I had reported. On completing the examination she told me there was no evidence. What she did not acknowledge is that she had no baseline with me to determine what the level of swelling I might be experiencing.

In the ensuing discussion, I asked her what would account for the persistent pain. Despite posing the question twice she offered no answer.

In wrapping up the visit she agreed to give a requisition for the blood work as I had shared with her the specific blood tests which the iridologist had requested. The nurse practitioner made it clear to me that she was only giving the requisition for my ‘peace of mind’. Talk about condescension, as if I’m merely a troublesome hypochondriac wasting precious health care resources. Her final comment on the matter was that the blood tests would come back clear.

A few days later, on reviewing the blood test  results the iridologist informed me that only one blood test had been requisitioned. The nurse practitioner had  simply refused to honour my request. Given that the  one blood test came back negative, the iridologist had to assume that the second test would have been positive.

On Reflection

The arrogant posturing during most of the encounter had me reeling. I had come in with what I thought would be helpful information. While I had considered how to share this information in a non-threatening posture, in the end I did not expect the nurse practitioner to put so much emotional energy into discrediting the information I gave her and the source of the information.

What makes this clinic visit even more concerning is that she did absolutely nothing to help address the pain and related symptoms that I had experienced for over two weeks. While she told me, at one point in the visit, that she was not here to debate the pitfalls of alternative medicine, she had in fact made that the main focus during the consultation.

What concerns me is that when a health practitioner fails to keep an open mind and listen to additional information we are all worse off. We lose out when medical professionals seem more intent on protecting their turf than considering new information that might prove to be helpful. In so many other sectors in society we have learned that collaboration helps all parties make better informed decisions.

This rant is not to disparage all western medicine practitioners. A second experience within the same week played itself out in a very different tone. I was in to see my family doctor who wanted to explore a possible health issue having viewed some recent images from my file. In doing his due diligence he went one step further. He asked me whether the iridologist had ‘seen’ anything during my recent visit.

Wow,  what a contrast of attitude within the same clinic. Two things were affirmed in that second consultation visit. One, collaborative efforts makes for better and more reliable decisions. Second, affirming a patient’s efforts at taking an active role in their own health care makes for a healthier patient. Wouldn’t that put each of us in a better place?

When it comes to health care, there is nothing better and more encouraging than a relationship of mutual respect with a family doctor who has not been totally brainwashed into practicing western medicine with procedural rigidity.

Health Care Provider Toolkit

The Offended Toe

I walked into the treatment room for my scheduled reflexology appointment. As I walked in I commented that I had broken my little toe, so if she could be careful when working on my feet.

What she told me next blew me away. How was she able to put together such a complete and accurate picture of my situation? I hadn’t told her anything after my first comment. While I hadn’t made any other comments she did read some additional information.

Her response to my comment was, “So that’s why you have a headache.” I was surprised that she knew. She had deduced from my body language that I had a headache. And so she explained that my broken toe disrupted the flow of my lymphatic system. The disruption in my lymphatic system caused a blockage in my neck which caused a build up of pressure in my skull, giving me a headache. Headache meds would not bring relief. The toe needed to heal in order for my headache to clear.

It’s amazing how the two pieces of information enabled her to accurately complete the picture.

The Other Side

A few days before my reflexology appointment I had gone to the hospital emergency room to determine what was causing my headache. My headache had persisted for over 3 weeks, something totally out of character for me. By the end of my 6 hours of ER procedures I was prescribe some anti-inflammatory meds and told I had minor swelling in my neck, but no explanation. (It wasn’t something that an anti-inflammatory med could have remedied.) A day after taking the meds I had an allergic reaction and discontinued taking them.

When I compare the two visits it’s interesting to see how different things were. The six hours in the ER involved a very expensive infrastructure and a patch to deal with what looked like an inflammation. However, no direct cost to myself thanks to a government funded health care.

My experience with the reflexologist gave me a full understanding of how the different symptoms played into the body system that was affected. Without the use of any sophisticated equipment I came away with a comprehensive picture of what my body was dealing with. To top it off, this additional insight was part of my hour long reflexology treatment session. I pay out of pocket for that, but no additional charge for the helpful insight.

Making Choices

This experience made me realize that I need to determine the nature of my health concern before choosing a medical services that I think will best understand the issue and be able to offer the most effective treatment.

Over the years I have made the choice to get a diagnosis and treatment from a chiropractor, iridologist, reflexologist, dentist, family doctor or surgeon. I make these choices on a case by case basis.

How I broke my toe is a story for another day.

Reading While Driving?

Stevenson Rd overpass

This is not a back handed way of giving some credence to texting while driving. It’s not endorsing another means of zoning out while driving and living life in a place where you wish to be rather than where you are. Do you read other driver’s body language that puts you front and centre where you are living and being present? Has this type of literacy helped you?

My experience with reading another driver’s body language has probably saved me from one or more automobile collision. Was it body language or was there something else going on? At best I would say, my response wasn’t conscious. It was more a matter of some subtle signal that made me react. A cue that something was off.

I recall one occasion quite vividly. I was driving in the curb lane on a four lane city street. As I was slowly gaining on the car in the left lane I hesitated. There was something about the driver’s body language. My front bumper was merely inches from being in line with her rear bumper. (not to disparage female drivers) Something signaled to me to not overtake the car, not her right turn signal. Suddenly the car was in my lane a mere inches I front of me. The driver was a grey haired lady talking with a friend in the passenger seat. There was something in her posture, a momentary tenseness that she was ready to execute a maneuver.

I’m in the habit of continuously scanning, not just my side view and rear view mirrors but the side of the road and beyond. One passenger once commented that I don’t seem to miss anything, even what’s in the ditch. Isn’t that’s where moose hide before charging across the road? Never know what comes at you.

At age 16 my driving instructor told me to not look off to the side of the road because a car will go in the direction the driver is looking. Hold that thought and imagine how a car would swerve all over if a driver was checking their mirrors or talking to a back seat passenger.

I regularly recognize familiar faces of drivers and pedestrians when I’m on the road. I guess that’s part of scanning my surroundings. Gives me an edge when ribbing someone about their whereabouts at a later date. What’s more helpful is being able to read a driver’s or sometimes a pedestrian’s intentions. Fore warned is fore armed.

I remember coming down the main street in our town. As I approached one of the intersections I slowed sensing that the car was not going to stop for the stop sign. As I got closer I saw the driver breeze through the sign. I braked harder and came to a skidding stop just inches from the driver door. The driver apologized but I was not impressed and let him know.

Reading other drivers also helps with the flow of traffic. In our part of the country the latest rage in street design is installing traffic circles. The circles are showing up on quiet residential streets, main arteries in town and on provincial highways with speeds of 80 km/hr (50 mph). The rule when entering a traffic circle is to give the right of way to drivers that are already in the circle. The challenge is deciding whether to yield to a car in the circle or whether it will exit early. By glancing at a driver one can tell whether they are planning to exit the circle or continue to circle around further. That’s because most people look in the direction they are going. I say most, because the drivers that aren’t looking in the direction they plan to go are distracted drivers. The ‘distracted’ body language is an immediate caution signal.

There are many other body signals drivers subtly or not so subtly display. If the driver looks aggressive in their moves I’m more alert. If the vehicle meanders in their lane or wanders over the line, not exactly subtle but, give the driver extra distance.

Georgian Bay near Collingwood

One day I was heading down a four lane divided highway. The tractor trailer in the right lane had emergency flashers on but moving at the speed limit. I was traveling in the left lane and saw nothing ahead that would suggest an impending emergency. Something was off, so I held back. Moments later, as the truck started down the kilometer long incline one of the tires rolled into my lane and bounced past the truck. Then another tire rolled into my lane and rolled past the truck. Next a round metal object did the same thing. I started braking wondering what else would invade my lane – the whole truck maybe. We all came to a stop at the bottom of the hill without further incident. It would have been a different story if I had overtaken the truck.

Reading a driver’s body language is not always possible. There are times when I have been taken totally by surprise. I have been in at least half a dozen collisions with the other driver always at fault. Three times I’ve been hit from behind. Three times I’ve been T-boned. My 1966 Mustang was totaled in a police chase while it was legally parked. Each of these were preventable. The collisions happened because drivers weren’t attentive, turned across lanes of traffic without clear visibility, ran a stop sign, or drove too fast for road conditions.

Traffic collisions are the single greatest cause of death over any activity or disease. I have done all my driving in Canada and United States, with the exception of a year Europe. In Canada there were 1834 fatalities in 2014 (5.8 / 100,000). That is a 50% drop since 1994. In the United States there were 32,675 fatalities in 2014, almost double the rate of Canada. The fatality rate in the US has gone down 20% since 1994. The rate for serious injuries as a result of traffic collisions is about 5 times greater than the fatality rate.

No matter how you cut it, that is too many fatalities and and serious injuries most which could have been prevented. It makes one pause. My last accident ended my full time job and career, not to mention how it has changed my life and affected members of my immediate family and my participation in the community.

One can’t control the risks other drivers put people in. Reading body language is one defensive driving strategy that could make a difference.

I wonder who else reads body language while driving? Has it helped avoid a collision?