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The Great Canadian Bike Trek Commentary
May 17 - June 13

 

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17/5 Right from the first revolution, something seemed to be up, and with each kilometre, my back wheel started wobbling worse and worse. By the time I reached the downhill leading into Gaspé, I was wobbling all over the road with very little control.

At first I thought I had buckled my back wheel, but after seeing how random the wobbles were, I thought it was my bearings and then, one by one, my spokes break off from around the rim.

The condition of my bike was so bad that I could not ride anymore, so I wheeled it into town, where I got directions from some workmen fixing the roof of a motel to the local bike shop.

As the wheel's wobbling got worse, it even became hard to push, but I made it over the bridge to the sports store where fortunately the repair man could speak English.

After closer inspection, the autopsy of the wheel revealed that the rim had finally given way under the weight and the spokes had broken though the rim. Although I obviously wasn't happy about the damage, I could not believe that it had happened so close to the bike store, as the last town that may have had one was St-Anne Des Mont, over 250km and many hills back.

Fortunately Gaspé was a lovely little town to take a break in, set on an attractive harbour with very friendly people, a lot of whom spoke English, some for their first language.

I spent the day doing all of those overdue chores such as a shower, laundry, a haircut, a buffet lunch, and using the free Internet in a nice little cafe, before retiring for the night in the residences of the local college.


18/5 After breakfast, I walked back over the bridge with my bag fill of clean clothes, the the Gaspé Adventure, the sports store where my bike was being fixed.

Patrick, the ace mechanic, was working diligently on rebuilding the rim. The fact that Gaspé Adventure was owner-operated, not some sporting chain store, meant the service was second to none. Murray one of the owners, and Patrick both spoke prefect English, so we had a good chat while they got my bike back into road-worthy shape. It was good to have a proper conversation with someone, rather than the one-two word communication I had been having as of late.

With some great souveniers to leave with including a Gaspé Adventure key chain, T-shirt and two fresh new water-bottles, I left, with all of the rattling and squeaking that had plagued my journey for the last while gone, all of my gears working and brakes that could slow me down on steep hills. It was like a new sport, riding my fixed bike.

As it had taken a lot of the day to get the bike into prestine shape, I didn't get too far, but found a camping spot in a fermé (closed) rest area right by the bay, where I watched the tumbling waves crash on the sandy beach below.


19/5 If there was one day that I wanted blue skies, it was today, as I was about 50km away from Percé, where the famous hole in the rock stands just off shore.

Under bright blue skies, the ride to Percé was pretty, winding along the coastline. There was a bit of a climb just before the town, past some spectacular red rock faces, before the decent into the town, a steep 14% gradient hill at 73km/h, overlooking the surreal natural formation.

The rock itself was one of the most impressive sights that I have seen on my trip to dates, with its limestone cliffs on all sides, dropping down to the ocean below, with a small hole at one end where the moody Atlantic aggressively passed through. My timing was such that as the tide was low, I could walk out to the rock along the small rocky bar that connected it to the mainland. I ate lunch in the sunshine, sitting on a solid, wooden swinging bench, overlooking the rock in the newly-developed waterfront park.

The highlight of the rest of the day was finding a camping store that sold gas bottles for my cooker, as my last one had run out last night, which had caused me to worry a little all day that I would be having a cold dinner.




20/5 For the first time in a while, it really felt like spring, it was lovely and warm and the sun was shining undisturbed as there wasn't a single cloud in the sky.

And what a place to spend such a day, on the gentle rolling hills of southern shores of the Gaspé peninsula with a gentle tail wind at back, with each little town having the standard church and at least one rich, salmon-coloured sandy beach.

I had been making many stops all day, but it was early evening when my blissfulness ended with the sound of escaping air as the small tyre on my trailor had gone flat. The tyre had worn right through to the tube, which caused the hole.

A spare tube I did possess, so after lining the tyre with a couple of layers of duct tape, I had a hard tyre again - for about 2 minutes, when I heard a loud bang, a sign to me that my tyre was stuffed.

About a minute after wondering what on earth I was going to do to get my trailor running again, it struck me that there were fields of grass all around me. So I began to pick, like someone looking to feed a farm animal, and I picked and picked, stuffing as much as I could inside the worn tyre, and when I thought I could fit no more, I stuffed another clump in, and there she was, a semi-hard wheel, not something that would put the free-air people out of business, but something that would atleast get me to the next town that was bound to have a bike store, about 20km away.

So I thudded along slowly, thinking about what a long 20km it would be, when a friendly fellow in a late model honda pulled up and introduced himself as Marc, and I knew from then that I was going to like this guy.

He had seen me on his way to dinner with his girlfriend, dropped her off and then turned around to come and offer me a place to stay at his home, which happened to be exactly where he caught back up to me.

He quickly showed me round his charming, rustic, 2-storey, 100 year old home, with views of the ocean to one side and rolling farmland to the other. He showed me the nice drift-wood art that he makes before leaving to go back to his dinner.


21/5 I saw Marc again in the morning, the first time that I had seen him since he rushed out to dinner last night.

Marc shouted me an incredible Gaspésie style breakfast at the little cafe down the road that had just opened for summer, before taking me to get a new tyre for my trailor at the general/bike store down the road. As it was a Sunday, the store happened to be closed, but fortunately, as Marc kind of knew the shopkeeper, we went his house just behind the store, and caught him just before he was about to leave for his cabin, and we got a new tyre.

As it was a beautiful day, Marc sat out on his deck and played his guitar, which provided excellent backgroud music to fix my puncture to.

Before I left Marc wanted to have a ride on my bike, so he set off down the thin dirt road running to the back of his property. I did not realise how funny the bike looks all loaded up with someone pedalling it.

I said my goodbyes to Marc and his neighbours and took off, again with a brisk tail wind.

I was more of the same as yesterday, before darting inland through a picturesque valley, every now and then seeing the water, but what I liked most were the trees, which had finally sprouted some fresh, green leaves, contrasting beautifully with the darker shades of the evergreens on the hillside.

I crossed the spearmint-green bridge into a new time-zone and Campbellton, New Brunswick, which represented the of of my Quebec leg of the journey, an emotional time, knowing a few more French words that I did 3 weeks ago, but not too many more.


22/5 As nice as was for a little of something different to have everything in French for a while, it certainly was good to be understood again. New Brunswick is a bilingual province, which was obvious just by looking at the street-signs, just about all of which were in both French and English. The people were truly bilingual as well, and I saw on many occassions, people switching from perfect English to perfect French (or at least it sounded like it to me, not that I would know any better).

I was no longer stumbling over menu items, questions ask to me or questions I asked, it was a bit strange, and I even said "bon jour" instead of "hello" to some people as I was so used to saying it.

New Brunswick was not as built up as Quebec. The road was alongside the Baie des Chaleurs (the body of water between the Gaspé peninsula and New Brunswick) for most of the day, overlooking the rugged hills of Gaspé peninsula. The scenery combined with the great weather and fresh leaves made it a nice days riding.


23/5 I don't know what it is, but for the last week, no matter which direction I have been heading - east, west or south, I have had a tail wind helping me on my way, making riding a breeze (pardon the pun).

The road today took me inland through the forests of silver birches, pines and maples, which seemed to be getting fuller and greener every day.

Miramichi was the only real location on the map that I passed, which seemed to be an attractive, quaint city with tree-lined streets of old wooden homes and another Sydney-harbour look-a-like which crossed the river.

Each town I did pass through looked like the residents had been busy spring cleaning over the long weekend as there were piles of everything from old couches to TVs sitting at the entrance to each driveway. For a while, I was following behind the guy who must have owner the 2nd hand store, because he was stopping at each pile and studying it, loading goods into his truck every now and then.

I stopped for a picnic lunch and fortunately had some insect repellant with me as the sandflies were swarming me like teenage girls to a rockstar.

It was the same again when I stopped for the night with more of the little pests, so I was in the tent all sipped up as soon as it was up.


24/5 I had a slightly embarrassing start this morning, after I had pulled into the first gas station I saw to rejuvenate my water supply which had run dry. I was just beaten to the mens' room by an old guy, and knowing of the potential waterworks delays that senior citizens commonly encounter, I opted for the little girls room instead of waiting.

The process of filling up my collection of water bottles can sometimes be fairly time consuming, especially when the sink is too small for most of the cannisters, so I have to fill the smaller ones and transfer from there. I was partway through this delicate operation when I heard the door rattle and then a knock, which I politely answered "yes" to in the most feminine voice that I could deliver.

I hurried the process as much as I could, knowing there was someone waiting, splashing water around on the transfer. When I finally finished, with an arm fill of plastic bottles, I exited the room to see a lineup of school girls on a school trip, some red in the face and cross-legged, waiting for me to finish from where I shouldn't have been in the first place.

A giggle or two from the van-load of school girls helped ease the situation a little, but I didn't hang around too much longer.

I only passed through small towns today, but attractive towns, surrounded with trees, with the main roads lined with stately, wooden residences from the turn of the century and older.

As the areas that I had seen of New Brunswick so far seem to have logging as a large part of their economy, I decided to check out the Central New Brunwick Woodmen's Museum in Boiestown. It was quite neat, with an old lumber settlement with about 15 buildings being converted into a museum, with everything on show from the old sleeping and eating quarters to a wedding dress and even a commode chair.



25/5 The scenery in the ride to Fredricton in the morning looked like it would be right at home in a car commercial - a smooth, winding road making its way through a forested valley with trees exploding with blooms coloured every shade of green you can imagine, running alongside a gently flowing river, with the odd grassy field and over fields covered in daisies.

Fredricton itself was just like the other quaint towns along the way, only bigger. Settled alongside the river amongst tree-covered hills was a beautiful setting for the city filled with grand old wooden homes and buildings.

With only 50,000 people, the town wasn't too bustling, but was a nice spot to have lunch, which I sat outside in the park surrounding the soldier's barracks, a grouping of historic buildings, some still used by the military.

Some old guy who rode across Canada in 1988 saw my touring-looking bike and immediately came over and shared his story for about an hour while I happily munched my food.

I rode around the elm-lined streets, past the cute provincial parliament buildings and up through the beautiful Univerity of New Brunswick campus, finished my brief visit in the town before I headed south on the highway in the pouring rain.



26/5 It was only about 30km of riding before I reached the ferry terminal in Saint John, with ferries sailing to Digby, Nova Scotia. I had hoped to have a quick look around Saint John, New Brunswick's largest city with 100,000 people, but as bicycles were not allowed on the bridge to the city and the guy in the toll booth told me it was over 30 minutes going around the long way, by the time I got there and back, I would probably have missed the boat, so I went back to the terminal on the Bay of Fundy, where at that particular spot, the tide fluctuations could vary 6m, which was relatively small compared to 16m further up.

I met some interesting people on the 3-hour ferry ride including a few friendly Americans, a girl who had lived in Australia for 3 years and a couple of cyclists who were going south for the Apple blossum festival on this weekend.

Shortly after arrival, when I stopped to have a late lunch, I met my first exceptionally friendly, almost Scotish sounding, Nova Scotian, who was looking for trout bait in a small lake. He told me of a nice spot for picnicing in the centre of Digby, which was where I headed and ate my sandwiches in the sun on the waterfront overlooking the fishing boats sailing in and out of port.

After lunch I rode along the scenic number 1 highway over many a blind crests and through some little towns, with most of the lovely wooden homes having beautiful gardens in full bloom, giving the sweetest scent of pollen in the air.

I rode through Annapolis Royal, on of the oldest towns in North America, established 1605, over the tidal power generator and then to Les's old university roommate, JL's family lot, where all of his family each have there own caravan on a peaceful spot by the river.

JL's parents, John and Maria, owned the cottage they were renovating just up the blue slate road, where I went for dinner before retiring to one of the caravans for the night.


27/5 After a marvelleous breakfast back at John and Marias', I was back on highway 1, the Evangelist Trail through the Annapolis Valley.

It was quite a sight with most of the apple trees in this apple growing region, covered in flowers. The sunny Saturday afternoon also provided perfect conditions for the many garage sales and home-made furniture stalls lining the streets in the small towns.

I arrived in Kentville just before the start of the 68th Annual Apple blossum parade, where the main street of the small town was filled with 8km kilometres of floats with everything from bag-pipe bands, to minature horses to each town in the areas' princess, a girl in her late teens in a princess gown who had obviously won the local beauty paegent.


28/5 I only passed the town of Wolfville before reaching Winsor, where I stayed with JL. I had arrived a little earlier than anticipated, and JL and his girlfriend Rachel were out, but he had left a sign on the door telling me there were some drinks around the back and I could sit out on the sun chairs and enjoy them.

I rested for about half an hour, sipping the beer and apple juice provided when JL arrived.

After a long overdue shower, I had some lunch went for a short walk around town, had fantastic lasagna for dinner before going for a walk on the the dikes with JL on the outskirts of town.


29/5 There was a lot of gear to air out and ripe-smelling clothes to wash before I left JL's for Halifax. As always, it took a little longer that I thought it would, and I was left with just over three hours for the 85km trek to the Halifax airport to meet Shelley Hulko who was coming out for a week to tour around the Maritimes with me.

Fortunately the load was lighter as I had stored some stuff at JLs for the week and the wind was in my favour, so red-faced and pooped, I reached the airport with barely a minute to spare.

I met Shelley shortly after the terminal intercom bleared requesting the "owner or rider of the bicycle in the middle of the terminal please remove the bike" that I had left for Shelley to see just in case I missed her.

It was to the car rental shop where we took possession of the dark green Oldsmobile Alero, which would be the mode of transport for the week-long Maritimes tour that followed, with the bike and trailor, in parts in the boot (trunk) having a break before the final stretch to Newfoundland.

With only a blurry idea about where we were going, we aimed the car in an easterly direction and drove.

It wasn't until after 9pm until we arrived in Sheet Harbour, but as the fishing-town seemed such a lovely place to spend the night, we started to look for places to lay our tired heads.

We cruised the main drag a number of times looking for anywhere that offered lodgings, but the town's two motels were not answering to the knocks and all of the lights were out at the Bed & Breakfast, so we were drawn to the Irvings gas station, a guaranteed source of information about the area, who we caught just before closure. A very helpful attendant phoned around, and within minutes, we had a cabin by a lake to stay at about 11km out of town accompanied by a weird set of instructions to get there.

As thriving as you'd expect a small, Atlantic fishing town to be after 10pm on a Monday night, the only places open that were offering any type of nourishment were the two competing pizzarias. We chose the restaurant where we could sit down, owned by a friendly Lebanese man and painted in with colours that would have even looked bad in the 70's and had awful pepperoni pizza and exceptional icecream before going driving out to the cabin.


30/5 After a short trip to Sheet Harbour's bustling supermarket to stock up for the picnic lunches and camp-fire dinners that would follow, we continued the trip east for Cape Breton Island.

A few hills and windy roads later, we drove over the Canso causeway to the Port Hastings on Cape Breton Island, where we were overloaded with tourist maps and places to see from the helpful Darlene at the tourist information centre, before purchasing a collection of cheap compulation CDs that would act as tour tunes for the proceeding week.

Darlene had marked out a route around the island that we used as a rough guide, but took any coast-hugging dirt-road detour that we could find on the rugged island. After a fantastic 'Hulko family picnic lunch' on a beach by a lighthouse, we pressed on over the winding, hilly roads of the Cavot trail up the island.

It was on the North-Western tip of the island, when we were starting to look for a place to camp, when a large wild animal ran out from the trees. IT WAS A MOOSE! A MOOSE! I had wanted to see a moose since arriving in Canada over a year and a half ago, so I was a very happy man.

Unfortunately it moved to fast and I too slow for a photo opportunity of the huge animal, but that didn't really dampen the spirits.

To make things even better, about five minutes later, down the end of a dirt road where we had just found the perfect campsite overlooking the ocean and rugged cliffs, we saw another moose. This one was also fast and upon seeing us quickly darted into the trees and up the hill, stopping for a brief toilet break before dissappearing into the bush.




31/5 The early part of the day consisted of more paved and dirt roads, some that were so rugged that even the robust Oldsmobile couldn't negotiate them.

We parked by a pretty little fishing village and went for a hike. The route started with a smooth track over shrub-covered, coastline, dotted with white, granite rocks scattered over the landscape, but soon the trail became merely a pile of boulders which we scambled over, through uncharted bush and then down a steep cliff to an isolated beach, covered in smooth, round boulders, where we had lunch.

After the climb back out, covered in fresh scratches and cuts from the hike, we drove on until we found a nice restaurant with a deck overlooking the bay for a few beers, before pushing on to a campsite by a gushing stream.


1/6 On the Southeastern side of Cape Breton Island is Louisbourg. Louisbourg is a coastal fortress that was constructed by the French in the the early 1700's, but was flattened after a series of wars between the French and English.

The Canadian Government funded the rebuilt of about one third of the fort (about 50 buildings) to look exactly how it did almost 300 years ago, and have made the area a national historic site and park.

The site is now a very well done tourist attraction where there are guides in traditional costume acting out and talking about the way it was in the 18th century, including musket demonstrations and canon firing.

It was the first day of operation for the summer of 2000, so all of the guides were enthusiastic and fresh, and were very friendly, educational and entertaining, which made the spot one of the best tourist attractions that I had seen in Canada.

After leaving Louisbourg, we made our way to Iona where we stayed in a nice motel and had a fairly average Atlantic seafood dinner at the motel's restaurant.



2/6 Right next to the motel where we spent the night was the highland village. It was similar to the French fortress of Louisbourg with costumed guides talking about how it was, but instead of one era, it had a walk that took us through the different times of highlander history on Cape Breton Island, who make up a large portion of the island's population.

The walk started with a stone hut with 6-foot thick stone walls and a grassy roof which would have been representative of the kind of house the Scots would have lived in the highlands before emmigrating to Cape Breton Island. The rest of the buildings stepped through the time from landing on the shores, like Louisbourg it was very well done and most enjoyable.

After learning all there was to know about the island's Scottish Heritage, we drove back through Nova Scotia to Pictou, where we caught the ferry to another island, Prince Edward Island (PEI), famous for potatoes, which I love, and Anne of Green Gables.

PEI was so picturesque, the whole island looked like a well manicured golf course. We drove to one of the island's many beautiful beaches where we pitched the tent and had camp fire, which turned out to be a raging inferno due to the dry drift wood and Shelley's Girl Guide learnt fire building skills.


3/6 The howling winds and pouring rain that were battering the tent on the exposed beach made the battle of taking down the tent an exciting experience. Once we got everything packed away we made our way down to Charlottetown, PEI's provincial capital.

Charlottetown was a dear little city of only 30,000 people, and had many grand wooden homes and buildings built on the tree lined streets and around the pretty waterfront. Charlottetown promotes itself as the cradle of confederation as it was the venue of the first meeting between the different parts of what is today Canada in 1864 to discuss the confederation, which was apparently just a big drunken party.

We tagged along with some media from the other Maritime provinces on a private tour by a girl in traditional costume which detailed the buildings in the Great George Street precinct and its colourful history.

It was to the beach after Charlottetown for a short swim amongst the waves in the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Although the water was pretty chilly, and the dip was short, it certainly felt good to swim in the ocean and feel the salt water all around.

After drying off, we went to the drive-in movie theatre at Brackley Beach, which is something that I have never done but always wanted to since the days of old American movies that we used to get back home, and was as fun as I thought it would be.

The two movies finished fairly late and we made our way back to the beach for another night on the sand.



4/6 No trip to PEI would be complete without visiting the site that inspired Lucy Montgomery when she wrote Anne of Green Gables and other books, now a National Park.

The site included the house and barn in the book and some other spots that Lucy had written about including the Haunted Forest and Lover's Lane. The spot was nice, perhaps a little overdone.

We drove through the surrounding area, past the tacky touristy spots which used Anne of Green Gables in any way that they possibly could to promote the stores and attractions, and drove on around the island past many lighthouses, all painted in their own unique style. Anne Montgomery perfectly described PEI as having emerald-green grass, ruby-red soil and saphire-blue ocean. It's sweeping country side of gently rolling hills leading down to the sandy beaches certainly were nice.

After finishing our lap of the Island, we drove over the Confederation Bridge, a 13km long bridge linking the island to the mainland, which certainly was a sight.

Back in Nova Scotia we stopped for dinner at a friendly Italian restaurant before finding a camp site on the Bay of Fundy.



5/6 On the shoreline just down from our campsite, the tides can vary 16m, and can go from low tide to high tide in 6 hours (going up or down about 2mm every 3 seconds).

At the pier was a fishing boat that was resting in the mud as the tides were so slow. We sat for a while and watched the tide as it made its slow journey to the high tide line. As fast as it was moving, it was still about as exciting to watch as paint drying. Fortunately the show was interupted by some lobster and scallop fishermen, who were exceptionally friendly even by Nova Scotian standards. So friendly they were that they took us for a 20 minute ride in the fishing boat while they dropped off a container of lobsters, and on the way gave us an educational lesson of lobster fishing in the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy.

By the time we returned back to the dock, the tide was almost at a high, and the boat that had been lying in the mud was now floating proudly in the water.

We made our way over to Lunenburg on the south shore of the province. The town is a world heritage site because of its large collection of heritage buildings dating back to when the town was founded in the mid 1700's and has been labelled Canada's prettiest town, due to the colourfully painted wooden buildings stepping up the hill from the fishing port.

The drive close to the coast took us through Mahone Bay, which I thought was just as pretty as Lunenburg with its three churches.

After sunset, we hiked down past the closed gates of a provincial park and camped there.



6/6 After rising at close to midday most mornings, for some strange reason we were in the Oldsmobile and driving by 6:15am, which was a good thing as we had a lot to see or our last day of the Maritime tour.

We drove down past the Swiss Air 111 memorial which went down close by on the gastly day of September 2nd, 1998, and then made our way to Halifax, Nova Scotia's provincial capital and the largest city in the Maritimes with a population of over 300,000. We started our city tour with a quick walk around the city's citadel on the hill directly behind the city which was built hundreds of years ago to protect the city against any potential attacks and which also acted as a great place to get our bearings because of its location above the city, although its viewpoints were limited and we were given a stern telling off by the first unfriendly Nova Scotian that we had encountered for climbing on the surrounding wall.

We walked down George Street to the bustling waterfront. Halifax's waterfront is one of the nicest ones I have seen with the old buildings clustered around the area restored to their former glory, with many of them playing host to restaurants with patios stretching out to the dock side, where there were tall ships and fishing boats were tied up. Halifax's harbour is the 2nd largest natural harbour in the world and it plays a large part in its history and economy. The waterfront tastefully reflected this maritime theme.

We caught a short ride on the bubble-shaped ferry, the oldest continually running commuter ferry in North America, to Dartmouth and back which gave us a nice view of the city.

Lunch was on the waterfront and then after a failed attempt to visit the historic Alexander Keith Brewery (1820), which was opening at the end of the week, we visited the city's Maritime museum which was a good showed of good representation of Halifax's colourful maritime past including a detailed exhibition on the Titanic, in which Halifax was the closest large port to where it went down, and the 1917 Halifax explosion, which occurred when a couple of boats collided in the harbour, one of which was carrying explosives that exploded in the largest human-caused explosion before Hiroshima, killing over 2,000 onlookers and people in the area and leveling an entire suburb of the city in addition to throwing shrapnel all over the city including a 500kg peice of an anchor 4km away and a peice of wood into a downtown church, which is still lodged in the wall (we had look).

After finishing of our brief stay in the pretty Halifax with a few beers at one of the city's many pubs, we drove back to JL's in Winsor, where Les was staying to ride the final leg of the journey, after having rode the first leg.

I said my hellos to Les and my goodbyes to Shelley. As keen as I was to get back pedalling, it was kind of sad to see the Oldsmobile drive off, coated with mud from dirt roads of every place we visited.


7/6 Today was meant to be spent sorting everything out for the rest of the ride, but we didn't really do too much of that.

JL had taken the day off work, so Les, JL and I hung out for the day, meeting Rachel for lunch at a nice cafe in a town a little bit up the line, and then a barbecue dinner with a couple of Rachel's friends Anne and Lyn followed by a few beers at the local pub.




8/6 After the longest absence from the saddle in four months, it was back to pedalling after pussy footing around until early afternoon with JL and Anne.

With Les in some of the sexiest cycling getup that I had ever seen, and me in my worn costume, we set off, riding once again side by side just as we had on the first day of the trek.

As Les was on a super fast racing bike with two small saddle bags and flash pedals, he had to slow down to my pace, my ususal slow crawl, lugging the trailor full of all sorts of goodies up and down the hilly terrain. The road was peaceful but didn't offer any spectacular scenery, trees and farmland, but probably the most exciting part of the ride were the many dogs of all shapes and sizes who viciously chased our pedalling convoy.

McDonalds Truro was the venue for dinner, a reminiscent time for Les as he had eaten in that very restaurant in the summer of 98.

By dinner's end the wind had picked up and there was a chill in the air, so we found a camp site behind a cemetary which was conveniently just down the road.


9/6 I was awoken at 5:50am by some weird, loud noise outside my tent coming from Les. He was pretty excited about the big day's ride ahead of him, and indicated this with his strange yelping.

Les had been given a false sense of security yesterday with perfect conditions - blue sky and a tail wind, with the only grief coming from a few barking dogs and bug bites. Today was a little different right from word go.

The commonly believed superstition of bad luck coming in threes came around twice for Les. First was a couple of hours of heavy rain, which soaked us to the bone, then came his heart burn from the tomato sauce which gave our pasta breakfast its flavour, an agonisingly sore knee that plagued him all day, a flat tyre with 5 holes to repair, a fall after hitting a rock, but the most grandiose incident in this day of difficulties was just before lunch time about 2km outside of New Glascow on a section of the highway where there was roadworks. A large motorhome from Massachussets, part of a 12-RV convoy, missed me by centermetres, blowing me off the road into the pot-holed gravel shoulder. Les wasn't so lucky, as the old man driving didn't seem to know the dimensions of his vehicle and knocked Les from his bike in a spectacular crash that sent Les, in his flowing yellow waterproof cape, somersaulting through the air, only coming to a stop when his helmet hit the pavement.

Poor Les had come out for a peaceful cycling holiday, but in a matter of hours, his vacation had turned into a state of dissarray.

The weather cleared and we found a nice campground with some interesting live-in residents including a mining disaster survivor, who I think helped ease Les's frustrations from his disasterous 2nd day of touring, as he realized that there were people who were much worse off than him.


10/6 Les's run of dilemas seemed to be over, with the breakage of his sunglasses being his only misfortune. After about 60km and a few hills, we crossed over the Canso Causeway to Cape Breton Island, having ridden on Canada's mainland for the last time.

Lunch was at Smittys in Port Hastings, the first town on Cape Breton after the causeway and were treated to some fine hospitality by a native Cape Bretoner, a unique breed of some of the friendliest people around.

A campground in Whycocmagh was our stop for the night where there were a few other cyclists staying including an Austrian who had just started his cross Canada bike trek, from the Newfoundland to the west coast, and had been battered with a headwind since starting, the poor bugger. We met a few more of the friendly locals when we went and bought dinner at the local convenience store, one of who was kind enough to give us a ride back to the campgound when it started to rain.


11/6 The last day in Nova Scotia turned out to be one of the most spectactular days of riding in the province. We took a scenic detour off the highway through the town of Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell spent his summers and later years.

Baddeck capitalised on the famous inventor of the telephone, gramaphone and hydrofoil among many other things, who had chosen the picturesque lakeside town to spend so much of his time and had built an interesting museum celebrating his colourful life and achievements which we lost a couple of hours looking around.

Up and over large hills looking out over the ocean dominated the rest of the days cycle to North Sydney where we stopped at 'Lick a Chick', a fastfood chicken restaurant, for dinner. We were originally attracted to the roadside diner which had been operating since 1967 because of its name, but it turned out the place had fantastic food, notably the foot-long whistle dogs. After 'Lick a Treat', the dessert bar next door for a banana split, it was only a couple of kilometres in the dark down to the Newfoundland ferry terminal where we sailed on the overnighter to 'The Rock'.


12/6 We arrived on the windswept island at 7:00am the next morning, taking into account the 30 minute time change. We had rented a car to look around the large island province and came across some rather different people in the small depressed towns, some who I think were overwhelmed by our out-of-town attitudes.

Lunch was at 'Freak's Family Restaurant' which we had been recommended by a lady we had met earlier, but it turned out to be a disgusting feed in a restaurant where the other patrons and staff were acting as if someone had just died, so Les's and my loudness didn't go down too well.

The same lady that recommended the bad eating spot had also said that we could see icebergs in the town of Twillingate, so we detoured for about 1 hour to the gorgeous fishing town, but were disappointed to find not a single block of ice, although we did meet a very friendly old guy, Wilson, who was hosing his drive when we asked him for directions, and ended up talking to us for about half an hour, giving us the full rundown on 'clonkers', the name the locals use when referring to huge icebergs. He was sad to see us go, but we still had a fair drive left past Dildo Run Provincial Park, through some heavily populated moose habitats (we didn't see or hit any) to the town of Comebychance where we camped.


13/6 I was well rested for my final ride of the trek, the home straight from the ferry terminal in Argentia to St. John's, Newfoundland's largest city and provincial capital.

I was keen to make the last day's ride a big one, and as Les was driving the rental, I borrowed his cycling shoes and racing bike, the same bike which was used by the American who won the Tour de France last year, instead of hauling the mountain bike over the hills in sandles.

It was a completely different experience altogether riding the weightless road bike after pulling along over 100 pounds of luggage for so long, but it certainly felt good and was a high note to end on.

I drafted Les in the rental for a stint, but once we made it onto the main highway, it wasn't appropriate, so I left Les, vowing to meet him further up the line.

Les and I met again and agreed to meet at the end of the Trans Canada Highway.

I had reached St. John's, and was only one turnoff from the end of the highway when one of the fragile tires went flat. The heavy rain that had started about an hour ago meant that the tube was too wet for the patch to stick onto the tube, so I wheeled the bike to a gas station just off the highway and called for a cab to take me to the end of the highway.

I couldn't see any sign of Les and the highway didn't end in any clear spot so I got the taxi driver to take me down to the 'Trapper John's' pub, which I knew Les would come to as it was only landmark that we both knew in the town and we had planned to go there that night. As I had no money, I left the bike in the taxi as security and clunked into the pub in Les's bike shoes, soaking wet from head to toe.

I used the restroom's hand dryer to dry my clothes to a damp consistency and then sat in the bar for about an hour talking to the friendly locals in very high spirits as I had just ridden from Vancouver to the city I was in.

As predicted, Les came waltzing in, and within 2 minutes of his arrival we were being filmed by three lovely ladies from the local university as part of their school project. We had a couple of beers with them and before they guided us to the taxi driver's house to pick up Les's bike, before driving to Molly and Phil's house, where we were staying for the next couple of nights.

Molly, Phil and their son Malcom turned out to be very interesting people, having lived in some obscure parts of Canada over the years, and had many interesting tales to tell.

St. John's turned out to be such a fun place to end the journey in, and we made our way back to Trapper John's to be screeched in. Being screeched in makes one an honoury Newfoundlander (or 'Newfy' as they are commonly refered to as) and involves singing a tune in Newfounese, drinking the screech (a type of rum) and kissing a cod or a puffins arse. In this particular screech in our lips met with the bird's bottom (a fake wooden replica, but still authentic), we then received our certificates. What made the event even more memorable was the fact that Les, who had been disrupting the ceremony with a bag of nuts, had to french kiss the puffin from head to toe, which made him paranoid about catching a desease from one of the 8 or so before him who salivered on it including a leather pant wearing, sick-looking homosexual from New York.

We ended up staying for some more beers in Trapper John's befriending a group that were working on an oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland before leaving with them to go to another pub, Orieley's, down George Street, a neat little street filled with bars. Orieley's closed its doors and most of the other patrons cleared out, with only a few keen locals left, which included a handful of colourful characters who we talked to and sang Newfy songs with until well past 3am.

To start the next morning, we went out to the Cape Spear, the most eastern part of North America, for the cheesy photograph session and then made our way down the rugged south coast to Tors Cove, where a diddle shrinking nudey swim in the Atlantic amongst the icebergs was had.

A little cold from the bath in the ocean, we journeyed to Calver, a small village on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula where Michelle, who we had met at the pub the night earlier, lived. Her mother, a lovely lady who had such a strong Newf accent we couldn't understand a word she was saying, cooked us some traditional Newfy Toutons, a heavy bread fried in pork fat covered with syrup, apparently great for the heart.

Michelle then took us to feed her horse a Newfoundland Pony, a minature black horse, one of only 250 left, and then a look around her town and the archeological dig going on in the next town, Ferryland. It was a most interesting tour hearing all of the gossip about the small town and its residents.

We drove back to St. John's, and took a walk around the rocky track around Signal Hill at the entrance to the harbour and then back to Molly and Phils' for dinner and preparation for the last night on the rock, a big night of Karaoke.

St. John's is a fun town to start with, but karaoke with Jickling was a riot, who I had last sung cheesy tunes with just before leaving Vancouver, with him wearing a tailored, white linen suit. Everyone was exceptionally friendly, and unlike most karaoke bars, people could actually sing, which made us look worse than usual, but the rendition of David Lee Roth's Just a Gigalow bought down the house, and I left the pub and Newfoundland a very happy man.




More than 8 million metres later, 6 time zones, 10 provinces, every one unique from the last, and plenty of flat tyres and dog chases, I have made it across the 2nd largest country in the world. Over majestic mountains, across empty plains, through monotonous forests and around bustling cities I have pedalled, through glorious sunshine and bitterly cold snow storms with many freezing nights spent alone in a tent.

I had throught I would learn about languages, history and geography from the 68 tapes I carted along on the journey, and I did (excluding the languages), but what I learnt from the experiences over the past 129 days about people, culture and of course myself, far outweigh anything I could learn from tapes or text.

Without sounding too cheesy, breaking everything down into small steps and beleiving in myself were the keys in making what could have potentially been an overwhelming and formidable cycle, an incredible holiday.

All of the incredibly warm people who helped me along the way including those who provided lodging, to emails of support, right down to waves and beeps really gave me encouragement in which I couldn't have done it without.

I would be lying if I said that I was a completely different person that I was four months ago, but I am all the wiser and have a few different priorities to pursue.

With a tough bottom and a worn woolly bike seat and fortunately no bungy cord injuries I am in some ways happy to be moving onto the next chapter of my life, but I will miss the fresh air and pedalling, the kindness of the Canadians and even the smell of the inside of my tent.



 

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