Welcome / Bienvenue

The 125 miles (171 km) in New Brunswick Canada we walked proved to be a welcoming experience, just as advertised.

The most common sign in New Brunswick is “Welcome / Bienvenue” which seems to not only be a slogan but a north star for most Canadians. In our week-long Beyond Borders Walk walking journey along the Coastal Link Trail in New Brunswick we were fortunate to have experienced, many times, what Canadian hospitality and friendliness is all about. 

All public signs issued by the federal government, but only those issued by the Province of New Brunswick, must be in French and English. This area values its tourism and its importance as a melting pot for all making their way east and west or even north and south from the U.S.

A Welcome Promise

Our excursion into Canada was a direct result of a welcome pledge our group was given four years ago. At that time, Loredana Delucchi, a member of our U.S.-based FreeWalkers, walking group, crossed the border with Ken Kurland And Nancy Jonap to St. Stephen to present Mayor Allan MacEachern a Canadian penny, a New York City subway token and a knitted bear doll as a gesture of a special friendship and their accomplishment of walking along the East Coast Greenway from New York to Canada over a period of years. Borders were crossed and lives were changed by reaching out. That effort culminated in a promise by the mayor, in turn, to not only welcome them back again but to build a new pedestrian trail along the St. Croix River.

Going Beyond Borders … Again

Our plan was to walk the 125-mile (171-km) newly charted Coastal Link Trail from Saint John ending in St. Stephen. We started our journey walking across the U.S./Canadian border in St. Stephen where Cherie Stewart, Implementation Manager of the Coastal Link Trail waited to drive us for over an hour to Saint John where we would start our week of walking. We had just driven over 12 hours to the border. Without her help to get to the start, the entire walk would not have happened. 

Beyond Borders Walk – Jul 31 – Aug 6, 2022 – Canadian Coastal Link Trail

Canadian Hospitality

Tracking us throughout our journey was Susan Hill, Executive Director Charlotte County Tourism. From the start, Susan tracked our movement throughout New Brunswick. About a third into our trip, she met us in Pogologan and popped up occasionally all day long to check in on how we were doing. She was there to see us off, invite us to her home in Penfield and show us the harbor and fishing industry in St. George, where her husband and many of the population worked. Susan became our guide about the area and the fishing business that has become the most successful industry in the area. Now, it was time for tourism to add even more to the economy.

Welcomes are most obvious when staying at a B&B. One host couple in St. John was eager to share their story of the dream of immigrating to Canada to create a better life over a generous breakfast.

Another host, Dave, proudly talked of his days working in radio and his love of rock music easily displayed in walls of vinyl records. Dave and I both shared a passion for the music of Bruce Springsteen, a New Jersey icon, who often transcends geographic, generational and cultural boundaries. Dave was also kind enough to lend me his bicycle to ride around the town, saying “Don’t bother locking the bike!”, backed by lessons learned years living in this area.

Don was the welcoming, thoughtful and philosophical B&B host. This old Victorian home in the Chamcook area where we stayed was filled with curious pictures, furniture and curios that spoke of mystery and a different time that was still treasured. He represented an interesting dichotomy of the old and new. He respected the old but was an advocate of building new trails and opening up the area to tourism. He was even kind enough to drive us a few miles into St. Andrews for dinner and pick us up while giving us a brief history of the resort town and the places to see. 

Just as noticeable were small gestures of friendship along the way: Kathy and Junior opened up the Musquash Rec center to provide water, a friendly ATV operator, Stephen, stopped to see if we needed help, the EMS tech that helped get Ken to the hospital after a muscle spasm, the restaurant owner Rachel from Comeau’s Seafood Restaurant who gave us free lunch, the Taylor’s who shared water, their art and their life story, the St. Andrews retiree, Hans who said although his job had taken him all around the world, there was nothing better than where he was now, or the golfer’s surprise at seeing me accidentally riding a bike onto the Algonquin course at Joe’s Point in the middle of his teeing up and just saying, “Isn’t it beautiful? But, you know beauty can be found anywhere, if you look hard enough.”

A St. Stephen Welcome

On Saturday, August 6 we met  with Cherie and Mayor Allan and other trail officials for a casual walk on the new pedestrian path that the Mayor had led over the last four years. In addition, the mayor led us to a large mural that was in the process of being finished. To our surprise, the artist would paint into the mural both the image of FreeWalker Loredana and Mayor Alan walking together on the newly created riverfront trail. 

FreeWalker Loredana Delucchi and Mayor Allan MacEachern at new mural wall

The trip was about fulfilling a promise to return, renew friendships and walk the new trails of New Brunswick. We had become the first group to walk the full Coastal Link Trail, a trail that now connects the enormous Trans Canada Trail system with the East Coast Greenway in the U.S.providing access to thousands of miles (or kilometers) of walking, hiking, and biking trails.

We discovered that what we all cherish most is more access and less borders and obstacles that keep us apart.
Ken, Paul, Loredana and Tom @ the U.S. / Canadian Border in St. Stephen

A Taylor’d Oasis

Serendipity happens when you most need it. A retired New Brunswick couple share their lives with us.

It was hump-day, Wednesday, probably the hardest day of our 125-mile (171 km), week-long, Beyond Borders Walk from Saint John, New Brunswick to St. Stephen, the last Canadian border town near the tip of Maine.

Walking a lonely road

Today, there were 23 miles of walking from St. George to the Chamcook Forest Lodge near St. Andrews. Ken, our fourth team member was out with a back spasm. We started walking country roads which eventually turned into highways. It was not quite like walking an Interstate, but close. By mid-afternoon, the temperature reached the high 80’s, only made hotter by the asphalt, so much so you could feel heat through your shoes. The only relief was an occasional bay breeze near the top of a hill.

This is a relatively undeveloped area of the Provence of New Brunswick just a few miles from the shore. St. George’s lush woods soon gave way to a desolate area with few houses and no commercial business for miles. Even traffic seemed rare. The only thing interesting out here is dead porcupine roadkill.

As the day heated up, I realized I had made a rookie mistake. A long hot day walking requires more than a couple bottles of water, especially when there is no place to refill. About 18 miles (6 hours) into the walk I find myself light-headed and completely empty in every respect. I’m in that state where you watch the heat create mirage waves on the road and begin to wonder “How am I going to make it to the end?”

Miraculously, while heading up a long stretch of highway there appears a sign in the road saying, “Taylor’d Art” an “Open” flag waving underneath. This area was dotted with lakes with a few homes set back. This one though could be seen clearly. Although, we did not come this far to see and appreciate local art, we had no choice and no willpower left to pass this by.

Theresa and Burl Taylor are about as happy couple as I ever met. Married just 52 years ago they were most welcoming to the three of us as we asked (we would have begged) for water. Theresa has maybe 200 natural setting paintings here in a small shed which she had created. She has experimented with various artistic methods from watercolors to oils, flock to canvas and many other methods I had never heard of. Being efficient walkers, we opted to buy a few beautiful refrigerator magnets that pretty much exemplified her work in miniature.

Burl came by with a big pitcher of water and we began talking about life out here as we began to revive. They had moved into a smaller version of this home 50 years ago and discovered this was the place they always wanted to be. Years went by and Burl expanded the house, built a garage, chicken coop, workshop and swimming pool. Much of this prior to his retiring as a forestry engineer. His property and projects look like he put a lot of thought into them.

Theresa is a self-taught artist. As she describes it, one day she just started scribbling and copying things until she began painting a scene, going over and over it until it was right. She presented it to Burl and said this is what she wanted to do and he agreed. Decades later she continues to paint, mainly for the pleasure of it. She painted so much they needed to move some out pieces and Taylor’d Art was born.

They had a son who Theresa mentions often as he developed into an talented artist who’s paintings she still sells. Unfortunately, he passed away a while ago but you can tell he’s very much part of their lives.

There are no other children but a very large extended family. Theresa was one of 21 children! Her mother, whom they speak about with reverence, gave birth to all 21 children individually, no twins or triplets! And, she passed away at the age of 46 due to cancer. Theresa said she spent a great deal of her time with her many siblings and keeps in touch with them often. We are in awe. Can you imagine what a family reunion must look like?

After much water and talk we had to go. Time is very unforgiving when you are walking. I think they enjoyed our company as much as we did their’s. We could have easily stayed for hours learning more about how Theresa and Burl share what they do together – their art, building, hunting, fishing, getting by in the winter and the life between them.

When you are out here you have to be flexible, forgiving, innovative and self-reliant. The Taylor's have figured a way to make the most of their lives and offer an oasis to others.

A Butterfly on a Bike

On August 18, 2021 all rides and adventures stopped for Iohan Gueorguiev. But his legend and spirit lives on in his videos and our fond memory of him.

Listen to this story on Spotify including Iohan discussing his thoughts and goals.

While browsing the New York Times’ website in August of 2021 I came across a link to an article that immediately caught my attention. The link read, “Iohan Gueorguiev, ‘Bike Wanderer’ of the Wilderness, Dies at 33.” It was probably the combination of his odd name, his given title and the fact that he lived a short life that drove me to find out more.

In his short life, and in particular his last seven years, he rode over 60,000 miles, rode in 19 countries, climbed mountains, paddled rivers and experienced all sorts of discomfort, pain and pleasure along the way. Fortunately for us, he documented much of his accomplishments in a collection of over 70 YouTube videos which have had over 7 million views. His “See the World” YouTube channel was basically the travelogue of his adventures. Iohan was chasing a dream of biking from Canada’s Arctic Circle to the tip of Argentina. He almost made it.

Iohan’s YouTube Channel “See the World”

Iohan was not unique in the adventure sport of bikepacking. But through his videos you would find that there was no one quite like him. He consistently held a positive and humble attitude as he would bravely move forward through snow, ice, wind, rain, heat, rough terrain and the highest mountains. His videos are evidence that he saw himself not as a super hero, but as a witness to a world we never see. Through him, we could vicariously conquer the harshest conditions, see the beauty on those backroads and meet the real local people (and animals) along the way.

During his last two years, Covid restrictions and logistics got in the way. But, at the end, it was the physical condition of obstructive sleep apnea which led to insomnia and then depression causing him to give up his dream and his life. His abrupt final end seemed like the ultimate paradox to a life that always found a way to overcome all obstacles.

Riding Into the Rabbit Hole

With my own experience cycling and touring on a bike, I was especially intrigued about his crazy adventures and the effect he had on others. I began pouring over one video to the next for months until I had followed his seven- year journey . From the beginning, he chose not to be the ultra-prepared, technical sportsman but to rely on on basic knowledge, a positive attitude, his intuition, friendly spirit and his ability to improvise in a McGiver-ish way. He became the “everyman adventurer” I so admired. 

With no detailed plan he set out to experience the world, not to conquer it. Each trip over the years he would gain knowledge of bikes, tires, roads, weather, sponsors, photography, travel, native languages and native people. Starting with a basic GoPro camera and simple mountain bike in the Yukon he films the icy frontier and finishes his travelogue on a fat bike taking stunning drone videos of the high mountain desert of Patagonia and some of the highest peaks in the world. 

The videos are not about him but about what he sees. Iohan shot and edited all the video while laying down a beautiful sound-track for each of them. They are a pleasure to watch, listen to and dream about.

The popularity of his videos and comments about his death seemed outsized for what he accomplished. Many, including me, felt like we had met him, or at least understood him. His many experiences with people and animals, especially dogs, are in those videos as evidence of a kind and caring person you could not help but admire. 

The Butterfly Effect

There is a popular notion in chaos theory that some very small action can cause something great to happen called the “butterfly effect.” A story often told is that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings may eventually cause a change in the weather. I would like to think that Iohan is that butterfly for thousands of us.

His many followers vicariously lived an adventure by meeting him or experiencing his videos. I know that the hours of video I watched changed my impression of bike touring, the natural world beyond and the people we never get to meet, but wish we could – from the top of North America to bottom of South America.

I have no doubt that some of Iohan’s fans will embark on similar journeys, share friendships with others and take joy in the natural world around us because of Iohan and the work and experiences he left behind. The fluttering I hear is the sound of a bike pedal.

More sources

Fond Memories of the Last Catastrophe

Living through a year of self-inflicted quarantine has been tough. Then, I remembered we had it rough before and made it thru.

This post is a story I wrote for my Storyworth project. It represents an installment of a personal compilation of stories I hope to complete this year. While the Covid pandemic has delayed long bike trips, I guess I have no excuse to stop writing.

How quickly we forget. 

Its been a year living through the Covid-19 pandemic. Our lives have been altered to avoid contracting the disease and to protect others from its spread. Basically, we have led a life that was 90% isolated except for a few selected safe relationships and occasional adventurous activities outside of our homes. Someday soon I hope we can look back on this with some nostalgia. But, not right now. 

Ironically, I just came across a note I wrote in 2012 during the last crisis we faced. I’m not even sure why I wrote the note or if I ever published it or showed it to anyone, but it struck me as oddly meaningful today. 

At that time, thank God, we did not have our Ortley Beach home when Hurricane Sandy hit. Still, after our Morristown home power lines went out and we tried living in a cold, dark house for days we decided to seek shelter. Ours was by no means the worse thing that happened at that time so we steeled ourselves and made the best of it.

Mary Ann’s mom Caroline, in her mid 80’s at the time and who has since passed, was living alone and independently in her home in Lake Parsippany. She welcomed company and we needed a lifeline.

As I remember it, it was a great relief to be in a warm home where mom appreciated the company and we sure appreciated the roof over our heads. This would do until the chaos passed and we could return to normal. It was not a perfect situation but we were all in this together. 

Here’s the note I wrote around mid November 2012 as our power was about to be restored after 12 days or so in my mother-in-law’s home:

It made me think that in any catastrophe there are those that suffer much worse than I. Also, overcoming the challenge can lead to good outcomes. Who knew that someday we would all look back on those days when being together in any form would be better than being alone?

In case you forgot what that time was all about…

A Review of The Road to San Donato

I recommend this book to my cycling friends and every father and son that I know. It’s a story of fathers and sons, a cycling adventure and the importance of family and community. Besides that, it’s a fun and fast read!


The Road to San Donato: Fathers, Sons, and Cycling Across ItalyThe Road to San Donato: Fathers, Sons, and Cycling Across Italy by Robert Cocuzzo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If life is a journey, then the best moments happen when we have the courage to take a different route. This is a story of a coming of age for three men. The author, Rob, convinces his dad, Stephen, to join him on a discovery bike trip through Italy with the goal of visiting their ancestral village, San Donato. Rob’s grandfather (“Papa”) is seriously ill and is near the end of his life. While Papa was part of a first born generation in the U.S., many of the people that settled in their Brighton neighborhood had come from the same village. Rob concocts the idea of a bike trip to understand Papa’s family background and vicariously provide a trip for Papa before it is too late.

While Rob seems to have a good relationship with dad, it’s obvious that Stephen is not your average father. He’s extremely independent, has obsessive habits and tends to love wild challenges, even at the age of 64. He also manages to commute to work on a “fixie”, which is a sure mark that he is already a badass cyclist. The image we get is of an aged-out hippie that is true to his core of beliefs who is a great father, but is not fully understood by Rob. With Papa slipping away and dad becoming a senior citizen, Rob sees the serendipity of the moment to enlist his father as his companion on a 500 mile trip from Florence to San Donato. As Rob says to Stephen, “We’ll go for Papa.”

While the experiences in the towns along the way are brief and somewhat interesting the real benefit is in overcoming the physical and mental challenges along the way. Once at San Donato, the revealing of the family history and the gracious hospitality there is an unexpected reward. Within a few days in the village, they have a change of perspective and a different appreciation for the importance of history and our ancestry. The village has a surprise story of courage and community during the days of Fascism that brings wonder and pride to both father and son.

I’ve taken a couple long distance bike rides over the past few years. Riding with others can be difficult because of the push and pull of each rider’s skills and conditioning. But, the reward is to discover more about that person, share your own personal story and to motivate each other. There can be no better pairing than father and son to benefit from this opportunity. Any son or father naturally looks back at the mystery of each other and desires at some point to know and understand more – even though that always has its limits. Each fact we discover inevitably reveals something about ourselves too.

The author has a casual style of writing which exposes a mixture of personal feelings and humor which makes for an easy and enjoyable read. The pace of the book and its subject matter is fast and complete as it goes from the start of the idea of the trip to its final conclusion and slightly beyond leaving a very satisfying ending.

View all my reviews

You’re Never Too Old

The New York Times noted Barbara Hillary passed away recently at age 88. This incredible person was the first black woman to reach the North and South Poles – and doing so while in her mid-70’s! These two feats and many others were accomplished in spite of her having breast cancer in her 20s and lung cancer in her 60s. Eventually, her adventures and travels led to becoming a motivational speaker and lecturer on climate change.

As a nurse in her mid 50’s her life took a different course as she took on these personal challenges which seemed to motivate her and bring such joy.

  • Here’s one of her quotes I love.

“At every phase in your life, look at your options. Please, do not select boring ones.”

New School Commencement Address 2017

Listen to this article on the My Plan C podcast.

You're Never Too Old My Plan C

A few thoughts on an example of someone getting old and not giving up. This episode is also available as a blog post: https://myplanc.blog/2019/11/27/youre-never-too-old/
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