Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 64 — Saturday, August 22

St. John’s to Cape Spear
We woke up between 6 and 7 a.m. and set out for downtown St. John’s so Vanessa and Kelly could pick up where they left off, and head out to Cape Spear. I’d never been to Cape Spear before so this should be pretty nice. The weather was perfect.

It turned out, it was quite mountainous. It would put it lower than the Rockies, but still above northern Ontario, in terms of the difficulty of terrain. It was like climbing a little summit. After about 45 minutes for the cyclists to ride out there. Suddenly we were back at sea level again … weird.

We wandered around then stood and looked as far east as we could (photo above). After spending about 30 minutes admiring the site, we walked down to the ocean (photo left) and dipped our feet in. The water was pretty rough in some areas and some rocks were slippery, so we had to be careful to pick our spot. It was pretty calm where we waded in the water though, so no big deal.

It was nice to be done. For the first time in more than two months, we were on our way home.

Day 63 — Friday, August 21

West of St. John’s to Zero Mile Marker, St. John’s
After driving into greater St. John’s area for a bite to eat, we went back to the campsite where Vanessa and Kelly mounted their bikes for the final time. Today was the last day.

Today was a nice day. We rolled into St. John’s in the mid-afternoon and arrived at the zero mile marker. Finally we were done. Photo right is at the Zero Mile Marker. We took some photos then wandered around St. John’s for a few hours. Our ferry back to Nova Scotia left at 4 p.m. the next day so we had about 24 hours to take in St. John’s.

We wandered around the harbour and had a seafood supper. After buying various souvenirs we found a decent campground within the city. I thought it’d be nice to go up to Signal Hill at night. So we did and it was pretty sweet. We then went to a movie.

Vanessa and Kelly decided to bike out to Cape Spear (the most easternly part of Canada) tomorrow morning, so we had to get up fairly early. Looks like tomorrow will be the day we truly finish.

Day 63 — Thursday, August 21

Gander to Lethbridge to Argentia to west of St. John’s
We left Johnal’s house, but not before her neighbours gave us some capelin that he had caught himself. We packed it and were to enjoy it later. After an hour or so of driving (and a bit of a detour) we were in Lethbridge . . . Lethbridge, Newfoundland.

We wandered around a bit and took some pictures just for fun. There is basically just a church, a post office, and a general store, a cemetery, and some houses. A fellow there told me the population was about 400 or so.

We moved on and aimed the van for Argentia. My legs were still not feeling great. Vanessa massaged my IT bands as much as she could in the van. I was going to ride today

We finally got to Argentia and unloaded the bikes, pumped our tires, greased our chains, and went on our way. My knees didn’t feel great, but it felt so good to be on a bike again.

My first test was a decent sized hill which wasn’t too bad. The wind was at our backs and it helped. Within 15 minutes I went down a winding hill and hit about 60 km/hour, which also felt good. No peddling required.

Not long after, my left knee started to ache a little more. I kept going.

Ten minutes later my left knee hurt a little more. I had to stop and stretch. Strike one.

Ten minutes later, my left knee hurt even more. My right knee started feeling funny too. I stopped to stretch. Strike two.

Five minutes after my last stretch, my left knee was in slight pain. I stopped to stretch and knew for sure these were the warning signs that I experienced in both B.C. and Ontario. I have no doubt if I was to keep going it was inevitable I’d be in extreme pain again – even just a few kilometres down the road. Strike three. I was out.

For the third time this trip, I packed it in. Again, it wasn’t easy or fun, but it had to be done.

Vanessa and Kelly kept cycling and we ended up at a nice campground just west of St. John’s. We were probably about 50 km from St. John’s.

It was super windy when we were setting up our tents which made for a good time, and by “good time”, I mean “not a good time”. We sampled some capeline (which wasn’t bad) hit the hay.

Day 62 — Wednesday, August 20

Port aux Basques, Newfoundland to Gander
After trying 3 different seats (and multiple positions in each seat), I finally got a little bit of sleep. I probably slept for about 2.5 hours.

We had a fair bit of driving to do this day. The plan is to get to where the other ferry docks (at Argentia — about 150 km from St. John’s) and drop the cyclists off there and just pretend we took that ferry. The reason we took the ferry to Port aux Basques is because it runs daily, whereas the other one runs only three times a week. So this worked better with our schedule and meant less sitting around, even though it required some extra driving.

Allan started the day at the wheel for a while before Vanessa took over after a couple hours (after a stop in Corner Brook - photo right), I then drove for about 1.5 hours, and then Kelly drove for an hour where we ended up at Gander. More specifically, my cousin Johnal’s house. I hadn’t seen her since 2001 at my older sister’s wedding.

We all visited with Johnal and she cooked us an authentic Jigg’s Dinner and then let us stay the night. It was great! I didn’t expect so much from her.

Johnal took us out to the Silent Witness which is a memorial for American soldiers who went down in a plane crash in 1985. Despite being out there when it was starting to get dark, it was still interesting to see.

We decided tonight that we would split the last day of riding (tomorrow) into two days. We still had to drive to the Argentia ferry tomorrow morning, which was to take about 3 hours.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 61 — Tuesday, August 19

Whycocomagh to North Sydney
We knew today was a short day (about 100 km) so we slept in until about 10 a.m. After having lunch (genuine seafood) we set out for the second last day of biking. We were headed to the ferry which would take us to Newfoundland tonight.

Once again the roads were pretty quiet, the shoulders were nice, and the weather was just right. The terrain was pretty hilly, but it was a piece of cake for the cyclists.

We stopped at a town called Baddeck and checked out the Alexander Graham Bell historic site (photo). It was interesting. He invented the phone and created many other inventions.

We pulled into the ferry port and after checking in we wandered around to kill some time (about 3 hours) before we had to board the giant ferry. We were to depart at about 11:30 p.m. But before long, we were on our way to the final province in our trip.

There was virtually nowhere comfortable to sleep on the ferry. The ride would be about 6 hours long and we would get to Newfoundland at about 6:00 a.m.

Day 60 — Monday, August 18

New Glasgow to Whycocomagh
I admired the campground pool I wish I had time to swim in, and then we left. After a stop at a gas station to get some supplies (mainly junk food), we let Vanessa and Kelly off at the spot we left off at the night before.

We went through Antigonish and stopped for food. We had a few honks (good honks) from people passing by this morning, which we haven’t heard in a few days.

We finally made it to Cape Breton Island, where we had to cross a man-made thing to get across (a causeway) from the west side of Nova Scotia (photo above is the end of the causeway). The weather was really nice today. In fact, when I woke up I could feel the sun reminding me how it was the boss. It was hot. I have to think hard to remember the last hot day we had. Somewhere midway through Ontario maybe? Maybe before that.

The country is very scenic here, the roads are very nice, and there’s not a ton of traffic. This is how I pictured the trip.

Day 59 — Sunday, August 17

Charlottetown to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia
We made decent time from Charlottetown to the ferry at Woods Island that would take us to Nova Scotia. We still missed the ferry we were aiming for (2:45), but it looked like there was already a line of cars who had to wait for the next one. We joined the line after paying about $70. Of note, it’s free to get into P.E.I. byway of ferry or Confederation Bridge. They just ding you on when you’re on your way out.

While waiting in the line, a fellow (and his friend) from Pincher Creek came over and said hi and we all chatted a bit. While visiting, a guy on a bike pulled up and started chatting too. He was a middle-aged man from Seattle who teaches, and goes biking every summer. This was the first time he went across Canada. He was excited to hear we also took the Crowsnest Pass through B.C.

We all parted ways and then got on the same ferry.

Vanessa and I ended up talking to the cyclist from Seattle for 80% of the ferry ride. We enjoyed the view from the top deck the entire time as we aimed towards Nova Scotia. He was pretty interesting and had some good stories.

We got off the ferry and I was in Nova Scotia for the first time. I thought I was there when I was younger, but my parents told me otherwise about 10 days ago. I guess it was the last province I’ve been to. Last fall I was in Newfoundland, which I thought was the final province (not only to Canada, but for me as well).

We ended up racking the bikes near New Glasgow and then found a campground in Trenton. It turned out we were now a day ahead of schedule. We had allotted a full day to the ferry and a short 50 km stretch. We were now set to arrive at the ferry a day ahead of schedule. That had to be changed so I called them back and now we’re leaving for Newfoundland on Tuesday night.