Home > Cycle 4 SchoolBOX, Day to Day > 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.

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!

imageSee the waves on this (normally still) pond? BIG winds, all day…
imageOn 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!
imageView of the Narrows from Signal Hill
imageI made it… and I am smiling!
imageWith Owen, who forgot to don his Cycle4SchoolBOX t-shirt for the final push (and who could blame him, given the wind and rain?)
imageCape 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!
imageView of Signal Hill from Cape Spear
imageMy 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!

  1. John I Timmermans
    March 10, 2012 at 8:34 pm


  2. darylwood
    August 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Dear Ilan, I have just read your words about the final moments to reach Signal Hill. I cried. I wanted to be there AND I’m so glad that others were. I wanted to be in the presence of someone so inspiring, so determined, so focused, so committed. I’m counting you as a hero now. What you endured along the way and in particular those last waning hours is truly incredible.

    God bless. Daryl xo

  3. August 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you Ilan for inspiring and empowering us! Your journey has been a wonderful gift for SchoolBOX and the children we serve. Congratulations on a job well done.

  4. Landon
    August 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Congratulations, Ilan! It’s hard to believe it’s over.

  5. August 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Way to go Ilan, from the Beacon at the start of your journey. I am so sure that you will have something to talk about for many years to come. We have visited Signal Hill so can visual the ending. We truly applaud you, who said strong determination doesn’t pull you through. Hugs, Shirley & Roger

  6. August 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Fantastic Ilan. What perseverance !


  7. August 28, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Congratulations, my friend! 8200km across this vast, rugged, glorious Canadian landscape, one pedal stroke at a time. $76,000 plus for education. You have really accomplished something worth celebrating — Celebrate well!!!

  8. Hugh Timmerman a.k.a. Hubert.
    August 28, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Hugh Timmerman, the old guy from Meaford, tips his hat for you. Marvelous to be able to make such a trek across this vast country. I envy you and wish I was younger to do likewise.

    I have wondered about the Rabobank lettering on your bike, knowing that that is a Dutch financial institution never or hardly ever mentioned overhere. Was it part of your sponsoring team?

    Best regards from an old Dutchman.

  9. darylwood
    August 28, 2011 at 8:15 am

    You look SO happy. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed! Hugs are waiting. Stand by!

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