It looks steep — even in full sunlight!
At the end of a hike.
At the end of a hike.
The path — beautifully crafted and protected.
Just me getting creative… J
Flowers and fruit
The path from afar.
Walking around Signal Hill.
Land and ocean.
Gay, pointing to Marlene.
Wind-shaped and stunted trees.
My lovely wif.
Animal tracks beside the path.
Approaching storm — hurricane Irene.
Rock and greenery.
Signal Hill Armory.
The final curve on Signal Hill.
Water’s edge, below Signal Hill.
View from The Rooms, St. John’s remarkable gallery / museum.
A miniature wood and paper model, in The Rooms
View from The Rooms, St. John’s remarkable gallery / museum.
We took the short way ‘home’: the windy and ultimately wet dash from Whitbourne to Signal Hill, St. John’s, to … DONE! And to … after the Ride.
It’s Sunday, August 28th. I am writing ‘after the fact’. This is different from the previous times when I ‘caught up’ with my blogging on rest days. Today I am catching up with… completion! – And sensing the glimmers of new beginnings.
The saying “In with a whimper, out with a bang” applied to my final Ride day. The previous evening I had crashed again, tending to my convulsing tummy with fluids and Imodium and going to bed early, without dinner.
I woke up very early and managed to re-pack all my stuff more compactly. Stepping out I noticed that the door to Isabel’s room was open and – that her room was empty! Had she left on her own? Isabel, who never chose to ride alone, concerned about getting lost… Did she want to finish first? Was she going to take one of the longer routes? Would we ever find out?
Owen and I had an 07:00 am good traditional breakfast at the Irving gas station, about a kilometre from the motel in Whitbourne. Our waitress and one of the patrons spoke about the day being ‘possibly the best day of summer so far’. And it certainly appeared so – bright and sunny, with just a few wispy white ribbons in the otherwise flawless blue sky. Bud joined us and described the different route options – but Owen and I had already agreed that we wanted to take the shortest route possible to Signal Hill and to be done.
As we headed back to the motel the Rolling Rats were heading to breakfast and indicated that they, too, planned to take the short route. We wished each other ‘Bon Voyage’, bumped fists and parted.
The ride as far as Mount Pearl, just outside St. John’s, was a rollercoaster: of wildly changing winds and increasing cloudiness, and the increasing realization that my weakness was returning. The winds came at us from all directions – at times propelling us to speeds of 65 kph while we barely pedaled, at other times mercilessly buffeting us from the south side, requiring an uncomfortable ‘lean’ to stay upright. Or beating our faces and impeding our progress. But we did progress, kilometre after kilometre.
At Mount Pearl I texted Gay and then her cousin John Greey, as we had agreed the day before, to let them know we were getting close. We now rode through city streets, following Bud’s directions. Mostly we were losing the elevation we had gained earlier so it was easy. And then the rain started – tentative at first, just sporadic drops, then more insistent. Owen and I exchanged a wordless glance and it was clear we both had the same thought: we would not be stopping now – not to don rain gear, not for anything.
The street on which we now rode seemed familiar, as if I had walked it when I first visited St. John’s two years ago. And so it was – we were headed towards the harbour and suddenly we saw Signal Hill. And just as suddenly a gray Toyota Prius appeared to our right, its passenger window rolled down and a young woman’s voice shouting and cheering! It took me a couple of seconds to recognize Ginger Greey, and then her dad, John, at the wheel. We were getting a formal welcome and our own cheering parade! I had a flood of emotions – warm gratitude and the ‘knowing’ that Gay would be waiting on Signal Hill.
The Prius drove ahead and we followed along Water Street and, at its end, up the sharp climb to the intersection pointing left to Signal Hill. It was raining, hard. I was very aware of being exhausted and not feeling well and being extra-careful not to slip up, not to make a mistake or have an incident or accident. And to not stop. We rode through and started climbing. Owen surged ahead. I could not keep up. I was in my Granny Gear, pedaling as hard as I could, gasping.
We rode by the Battery Hotel and the Geo Centre. As I dragged myself upward, one painful spin after another, I saw the Prius. And then I saw Tory Greey, Ginger’s older sister – in a running outfit, on the sidewalk, starting to jog up towards the summit just ahead of us! And as she ran she looked back with her huge smile and shouted encouragements at us! Another shot of adrenalin that helped move me forward. The peek was hovering above us – so near yet set apart by several impossibly steep climbs and turns. I looked at the end. My breath hyperventilated and my mind flashed: “I must stop, I can’t keep pedaling.” Owen slowed down so we were side-by-side. He said something encouraging. Two more turns. And at the top a figure jumping and waving and shouting wildly: Gay! And then there was no stopping. The remaining distance disappeared. And there we were, rounding the final corner and entering the parking lot on top of Signal Hill, surrounded by shouts and congratulations and hugs and kisses and high-five with Owen and then seeing John’s wife Marlene, and being approached by total strangers and then being congratulated by them once they heard what we had just completed! And… DONE!
And then the realization – the Ride was really over! We had MADE IT! Revelling in the wonderful feeling of being welcomed by Gay and the Greeys and being able to include Owen in this. And noticing that there was no Cycle Canada, no SchoolBOX, no media – and that it was fine.
Lots of photos. A blur of excited conversations. A random guy joined us and spoke about having just finished the same ride, taking two years to do so. And suggesting that we had to ride out to Cape Spear, about 16 km away, the easternmost point – in Canada, in North America? We started discussing plans: take my bike to the Canary Cycle shop to be boxed. Drive to Cape Spear so Owen and I could decide if we wanted to cycle out there – today or tomorrow. Picking up my stuff from Bud’s van and taking it to the Delta. Our evening plans at Yellow Belly…
So much happened over the next hours, and then the next few days. For a while Gay and I walked around in matching yellow t-shirts, made for us by Ginger and Tory. Mine reads “I just biked Canada 2011”. Gay’s says: “I’m with the guy who just biked Canada 2011”. I started to slowly scale back my eating and to ramp up my movie-watching, news reading, walking, hiking, unstructured living…!
“Fuelled by Equator Coffee!”
More blogs will follow soon: Photos from beautiful St. John’s; Thoughts and feelings to sum up the ride; Lessons to take forward; What’s next. Stay tuned!
See the waves on this (normally still) pond? BIG winds, all day…
On Signal Hill!!! Vancouver is just over 5,000 km ‘as the crow flies’, around 7,500 km ‘as the bike rolls’! And add the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island to get a total of… about 8,200 km!!!
Note the waterproof map case, flipped over by the fierce winds. It was also pelting rain… and it was DONE!
View of the Narrows from Signal Hill
I made it… and I am smiling!
With Owen, who forgot to don his Cycle4SchoolBOX t-shirt for the final push (and who could blame him, given the wind and rain?)
Cape Spear, the eastern-most point in Canada (North America?) The Greeys drove Owen and I here, for our consideration in case we wished to ride the extra 32 km. Both of us… declined!
View of Signal Hill from Cape Spear
My post-ride food regimen will HAVE to change! A fried Touton with butter… not a good start for the new diet, but oh so tasty!
Signal Hill, the day after: clear and bright and sunny. And still hellishly steep!
Disembarking from the ferry was a frustrating experience — hundreds of passengers, very young and very old and everything in between, crammed in the landings of the top three floors’ stairways. The stairs were blocked by staff, pending the signal to let us leave. I always wonder what such situations would become if there was an emergency — mass trampling of the weak?
In any case we made it off without an incident. And leaving the terminal area was a breeze. Soon after we faced our first of several major climbs — and I could tell that I was not well. The queasiness had returned and I felt incapable, weak. Fortunately the wind was at our back and helped tremendously. We only made one short stop, despite the wonderful scenery that unfolded ahead of and beside us.
We made it to Whitbourne and our motel in record time. Bud was here to give us access to the van and our gear. I took all my stuff to my ‘single’ room — first time I would not be sharing living space during the ride! And I spread a whole bunch of stuff out, planning to re-pack. But I was shivering and feeling back at around the 50% level so I went to snooze instead.
I got up, had a very hot shower, shaved and am now writing this update. Avi called — he had heard about my health challenge and was concerned. Then Gay texted me from St. John’s. For once we had a subdued conversation — I hope that I will feel better when we meet tomorrow on Signal Hill.
I will do a bit of packing and then go to sleep.
On the tenth and last province — we madee it!
The Cyclist has landed!
Before and After lunch: two separate realities – Baddeck to North Sydney Ferry, and ferry ride to Newfoundland
I remember yesterday morning quite vividly: woke up at a luxurious hour, had a lovely and leisurely breakfast on the terrace of the Lynwood Hotel and then Owen and I walked the kilometre or so to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. The place does a good job of highlighting Bell’s key achievements as well as capturing key notes about his personality, relationships, values and so on. We walked through most exhibits and sat in on several movies, and had a good time. Then it was time to head back for our noon checkout. On the way I bought some razors at a PharmaPlus. The cost was $2.79. The young cashier had a faraway / bored look. I smiled and handed her a $5 bill. She gave me $1.21 in change. I showed the change to her and asked her about it. She said: “I thought you gave me $4”. Wow, that she could be so out-of-touch as to not realize that I had given her a bill, and that to my knowledge Canada has never issued $4 bills!
Back at the hotel we donned our riding clothes and gear, packed up and checked out. We decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants along the main street since we did not expect services on the ride to North Sydney. Owen picked the Bell Buoy Restaurant. They listed in great detail their food standards: organic, fair-trade, locally grown where possible, yadayadayada. They did not, however, say that their food might be … spoiled.
Owen had a fish dish. I had a smoked meat sandwich and a chicken-vegetable soup. We both thought the food tasted fine. We started riding. The day was perfect: cool and bright, with little traffic.
Within about 15 minutes I started feeling queasy in the pit of my stomach. So I started taking deep, deep breathes, to suppress the rapidly rising nausea. That was my sole focus – so I can’t tell you much about the breathtaking scenery around Englishtown or the many other spots along the way. Owen led 10 km and then I did likewise. And all I could do was focus on pedaling and making it to the ferry terminal.
At the one stop we took we met a young couple who were cycling unsupported across Canada. They had met Jim in Charlottetown and exchanged impressions about our respective rides. They said they had heard negative comments and Cycle Canada. And, in their experience, it was far better to travel as they were doing: able to decide where to stay and for how long, what to eat and when etc. They figured their costs were about $50 / person / day – far lower than the cost of my trip. And they had a very upbeat feeling about them which Owen and I couldn’t match (not even if I was feeling well!)
It felt like a small miracle that I made it to the ferry terminal. We checked in and I made a beeline to the toilets and emptied my guts out – a very bad diarrhoea. I felt really sick and weak. All I wanted to do was to lie down. But it was only 3:30 pm and we were told boarding would start around 9:00. So I sat in one of those terminal-type plastic chairs and tried to sleep between visits to the toilets. It was pretty bad.
We boarded around 10:30. I went straight to bed. The night was pretty awful – I will spare the details.
Now it is mid-morning. I am feeling about 70%. I managed to put down a bit of food and several glasses of water and green tea. Fortunately the sea is calm and the ride is smooth. I have been taking Gravol every four hours, so one less thing to worry about.
We will disembark about 3:00 pm. And then we will have a relatively short ride to the motel. I am hopeful that this will be uneventful and that I will get a good night’s rest and feel better tomorrow morning. And then the final push to St. John’s and completion on Signal Hill. I wish it was tomorrow already!
“Fuelled by Equator Coffee!”
The Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck — well worth the visit. Areas of focus include Teaching the deaf (which is where he got his start, getting curious about sound); Telephony; Aviation; Boating; Medical inventions; and Kites. And there are rich records of him as a person, a family man and a science and business partner.
The Three Mouseketeers (who Ric informs me now want to be knows as the Riding Rats) on their way out of Baddeck
Graham — a modern Aussie Viking. If only the wind had kept coming from the back!
View above Englishtown (where we were supposed to camp), onto the Cabot Trail
Cape Breton scenery
The Ferry, the Ferry! It would be over 6 hours before we would be allowed to board! And with me being really under the weather…
NEVER before in my life did I experience winds like those of last night; the rain and mosquitoes were record-challengers, too! Linwood to Baddeck, NS
Mother Nature isn’t done with us, not by a long shot!
Yesterday afternoon was weird — Chelsea and Nieka came around and told each of the riders that the two of them would not be going to Newfoundland! Rather, Bud would be renting a smaller van in North Sydney, from where the ferry departs. All our belongings would be transferred to the van from the truck. And our young companions for the past two and a half months would begin driving the truck back to Ontario.
I assume this was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. Perhaps it was motivated by the fact that only Isabel was going to attend the final dinner. In any case, all ‘celebrations’ were cancelled and riders will receive meal vouchers instead of the final celebration event.
Owen and I as well as the three Mouseketeers had already decided that we would spend the next night in hotels in Baddeck instead of camping in Englishtown. This would enable us to have a shorter 110 km ride the next day, a somewhat longer 55 km ride the day after (to the ferry) and the opportunity to (1) visit a nice town, including the Alexander Graham Bell museum and (2) spend one less night camping.
In retrospect, we should have spent last night in a motel instead…
Dinner was early, muted, chilly. We were all done by 7 pm. And as I certainly have mentioned previously, there isn’t much to do in these campsites once dinner is finished: reading, bike maintenance, blogging (in those rare occasions when WiFi is available close to where the tents are) or bedding down for the night. So I cleaned and oiled my chain, blogged, and then sorted out my gear: I needed to take stuff with me for the hotel night and for the 14 hours on the ferry. Then I headed to my tent and sorted through the stuff I keep there — what few items to take on the bike and what to leave in the boxes, in the truck.
The forecast on my smartphone claimed “thunderstorms overnight, with rain showers – 10 to 15 mm.” I did not expect this would be a problem.The five of us guys spoke for a while — light, good-natured banter and ribbing and a vote for Miss Congeniality: too funny. Then I went to bed.
The wind was picking up — soundly batting the sides of my tent. I stared at them wondering how much stronger the wind might get, and how much more the tent could withstand. Peering outside I saw a couple of the nearby tents twisted out of shape and leaning at odd and dramatic angles! One of the tents was almost flat to the ground! Then I saw Ric pick up a large boulder from near a fire pit and place it on an outside edge of his tent. He repeated this several times…
I read for a while and then, around 9 pm I laid the book aside, placed my eyeglasses within easy access and fell asleep. I woke up with a start around midnight… when the tent panel above my head bopped me! Every part of the tent was shaking violently and straining against the pegs holding it down. The fiberglass poles were flexing wildly, but managing to hold. Then I heard the rain begin…a few drops pelting the fly, then a torrent.
“Fits and starts” describes my sleep for the next few hours — nodding off and then getting slapped into wakefulness by a violently-flapping tent panel or a loud crash of rain. At 3 am I was woken up by loud voices and unchecked laughter — Ric and Graham were making the best of being totally flooded and soaked. Ric’s expression was “I feel like an upturned gecko”. I didn’t catch the details but was impressed that the two of them could take their predicament with such good humor. I gingerly felt the tent floor around me. The right side was wet, all around my Thermarest. So I moved my clothes and other stuff away from the wet, piling the important items on top – hoping to protect them. And I tucked the sleeping bag under me so it stayed above the moisture. And I slept again.
05:45. It was still dark. Not really cold. Still drizzling. I initiated my “getting up” procedure, carefully working my way around the wet spots. Ric and Graham were up as well, talking loudly about abandoning their tents and other camping gear (to be picked up by some lucky locals later in the morning.) Once I was ready to exit I surveyed the bottom of the tent — a wet stream started at one corner and spread from it to cover the center of the tent’s floor. Locating and seam-sealing the leak would have been a top priority … had I been facing more camping nights. But since this was our last tent night of the Ride, the repair can wait… possibly for a long time :-)
Quick breakfast. Photos with Nieka and Chelsea. I was able to get all my stuff into my two bins, camping bag and pannier. Other riders will get a nasty surprise when they find that their stuff had been transferred by the Cycle Canada folks from their bins into… Glad garbage bags! (My cynical streak pondered the possibility that Cycle Canada would up-charge riders for the bags… :-))
Owen, Isabel and I rode the 110 km to Baddeck. The Canso Causeway was very impressive and a bit scary to ride across with all the other heavy traffic, two narrow lanes and no shoulders. The terrain was seriously hilly and the winds were coming straight at us, no matter the direction in which we headed. (To be fair, we were mostly headed north-east.) This kept up for about 90% of the ride. And despite the headwinds we made good time. At Baddeck we consulted with the Tourist Bureau and found a nearby motel at a reasonable price that included breakfast and a late checkout.
We walked to town, a distance of several hundred meters. Shared a medium pizza and continued to the edge of town where the Alexander Graham Bell museum is located. We’ll leave it for tomorrow. Back through town, I picked up a great cup of cappuccino and then returned to our room, where both Owen and I quickly fell into deep snoozes, brought on (I assume) by the previous night’s turmoil.
The rest of the evening was not exceptional but it was enjoyable. And now we are ready to settle into lovely queen-sized beds while “Mars Attacks” plays on the TV. Tonight’s sleep should be deep, and uninterrupted!
Nieka and Chelsea, who will leave us unexpectedly tomorrow. And since we will be staying at a motel in Baddeck tonight (rather than camping in Englishtown as originally planned) — this was our last time together… said with a note of sadness.
Nieka and Chelsea — good luck on the drive back to Ontario, and with your lives!
Side of the road, Nova Scotia. The wild flowers are reminiscent of Scotland. And many of the signs are in English and Gaelic! The vicious mosquitoes are strictly local!
Original front lawn decorations…
…in a First Nation home, just off Reservation Road.
Cape Breton vista, before the Cabot Trail
English, First Nation and Scottish names all co-exist here…
Quilting is big in Baddeck…
The view that inspired Alexander Graham Bell to invent…
Just when you think it not likely that you will experience anything new on a trip like this — something new comes along! Things leading up to ‘sleep’ were pretty ordinary: a good meal, Ric announcing with pride and joy that Gina had come in second in a swim race back in Vancouver, discussions of plans to change the suggested ride route for the next day… And when I woke up around midnight the first thing I noticed was the wild flapping of the rain fly. Not due to rain, rather a very strong wind was batting everything in its path. And on top of this I could hear waves crashing on the shore. Waves, crashing on the shore of a river? What kind of wind would do that? No, we didn’t experience a hurricane. We did however hear the roaring flapping of the giant tarp we use to cover the bikes at night! Too funny!
Today’s ride was dominated by winds. Mostly ‘against’ us, no matter which way we turned. But having four riders switching the lead made it easier and we made it into camp relatively early. Here we said our goodbyes to Landen, who was heading home to Halifax (which will require him to ride three consecutive ‘centuries’ — 160 km days or longer.)
Our plans for the coming few days have changed! We were looking at a long day tomorrow into Englishtown, followed by just 40 km to North Sydney where we would have to hang around till 9 pm before we could board the ferry to Newfoundland. So we made the executive decision and reworked the plan: we will ride a shorter distance tomorrow, to Baddeck, see the Alexander Graham Bell museum and other sites and stay in a motel. Then on Wednesday we will have a longer ride, about 80 km, to North Sydney. Which will mean less time hanging around waiting to board.
Our change of plans cascaded into a Cycle Canada change: Nieka and Chelsea will not drive the truck to St. John’s. Instead, Bud will rent a van and take our stuff to St. John’s, while the ladies will start the long drive back to Ontario. So tomorrow morning will be the last we will see of the two young women who have been part of our lives for the past 11 weeks. For some reason this is really driving home the sense of ‘the end is coming’. So soon! Three months ago I could not have imagined saying those words!
Landen’s goodbye cake — he left earlier this afternoon from the Linwood campsite. All of us will miss him.
Typical road and scenery for us in Nova Scotia
The Four — Isabel, Landen, Owen and I. Last time together, now that Landen has left. The remaining three expect to be on Signal Hill this Friday! Along with the three Mouseketeers… and thousands of ecstatic, adoring fans!
Safety shot, in case the first one didn’t work out!
Linwood campsite. For the first time during this ride I had to peg down the groundsheet AND the tent before pegging down the rain fly — the winds are that strong!
Our neighbors — modest RVs (recreational vehicles) that are only more luxurious than 99.9999% of homes on planet Earth.
More neighbors. We are definitely the ‘great unwashed’. It so happens that I AM washed: 3 minutes for a dollar. Boiling hot water that had me jump out of the shower. By the time I got the temperature right, the time was up!
“We aren’t, we aren’t all sheep!” Or are they?
We took different routes and we all ended at the same place, on time. The weather again played tricks with us — it was cloudy and looked like we would get rained on, but we got more and more blue skies as we rode toward the Wood Islands Ferry.
We had a bit of excitement at the ferry’s cashier’s — we were promised that there would be a record of us, and there wasn’t. But this got straightened out after some time and we made it on board.
Nice smooth ride across to Nova Scotia. Welcomed by Owen’s sister. A short ride to a Tim’s for a Chilli Combo and then a very fast ride to the campsite, thanks to strong tailwinds, mostly along highways with great shoulders. The final bit of side-road was OK as well — no surprises.
Good dinner. And a goodbye cake for Landen (photo coming tomorrow), who will leave us tomorrow. We are all sorry to see him go.
The photos tell the story.
A beautiful fox got run over and was lying in the middle of the road. Next thing we saw was Ric with a fox tail… which he stuffed it into his Cycle Canada water bottle and claimed the fox had climbed in there and died! There is only one Ric!
Approaching the Wood Islands ferry. There was supposed to be a record of us. There wasn’t. We stood there and discussed the situation with the attendant while a long line of impatient cars, motorbikes, trucks gathered behind us. Some started honking. The attendant called her manager. Then she called the Cycle Canada number. Then she let us through.
PEI view, next to the ferry.
The ferry kept its engines running while we boarded — made a good photo.
Out the back of the ferry — starting to move.
Getting out of the docking area.
We’re going to fit through there?!
Old lighthouse at the edge of the pier
Approaching Nova Scotia
Close to docking in NS
First we were welcomed to Pictou County…
Then we were welcomed to Nova Scotia!
Then we were welcomed to Nova Scotia! One more province to go!
And this is where we get to spend the night!
Possibly the nicest campsite to date! Wonderful showers, great pool, free WiFi… and mosquitoes to cow us all!
Only problem was — Owen and I got there before the truck! So we waited, and waited, … and then Owen’s sister picked him up. The truck arrived soon after.
Still a spectacular view!