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.

Day 58 — Saturday, August 16

Cornwall to Charlottetown
Today was supposed to be a rest day but all we had to do was make it to Charlottetown to be on schedule. That’s what we did, and then we headed downtown to a café within spitting distance of Province House, which is where representatives from PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada got together to discuss, and then follow through with Confederation in 1867.

Vanessa, Allan, and myself were sitting in the van waiting for Kelly when a fellow walked up to our van and asked “Have you seen Kelly around?”. The three of us were naturally confused to the max. It turned out it was Neil, who had just retired and moved to P.E.I. from Lethbridge. He was just downtown Charlottetown and he saw our van. He knew what we were up to so he thought he’d try his luck and see if anyone was in the van, which of course, we were.

Neil invited us to his house where he and his partner Kim (an ex-U of L professor, now at the University of P.E.I.) cooked supper and insisted we stay the night. We did just that. Their house is in Stratford, which is not far away Charlottetown at all.

It was a great time and they were more than hospitable. What a coincidence that was — how he turned down the same street we were on and saw the van. Awesome. I should mention that it was pouring like crazy from about noon to well into the night. We were very thankful for the roof over our heads.

Photo left was taken behind Province House (where the Legislative Assembly is still held in P.E.I.). Two guys dressed up in suits from the late 1800's (I'm guessing) played croquet and had some humourous banter that attracted people. It was pretty good.

Day 57 — Friday, August 15

Moncton to Cornwall, Prince Edward Island
First thing we did this morning was take the van to a tire shop. We went for breakfast while the tire guys repaired the tire and gave the van an oil change. We went on our way for P.E.I.

It was a fairly uneventful day until Confederation Bridge (photo right). Vanessa and Kelly racked the bikes (as bikes aren’t allowed on the bridge) and we drove across the Northumberland Strait. It was pretty cool. The weather was great so we could see for miles.

We pulled into a tourist trap immediately after the bridge and had supper. I enjoyed some famous COWS ice cream (bottom photo).

We then continued on to Cornwall, which is just before Charlottetown. We found a nice campsite where we were right on the North River and could look across to see the lights of Charlottetown. That was also pretty cool.

Day 56 — Thursday, August 14

Gagetown to Moncton
We woke up at a decent time and left the campsite without a campground manager berating us first thing in the morning, so we were off to a better start already. This campground reminded me of Saskatchewan campgrounds, but with a thick forest surrounding us. Our actual site was more in the open, and gave us a chance to talk to the people camping across from us.

he tire was a little flat but not bad. We pumped it up at the first gas station to its recommended p.s.i. It should be good to get to Moncton, which has a population of about 130,000 people — which, with our luck, has approximately zero tire shops. That’d be a very high, and very unusual, people-to-tire shop ratio.

Vanessa and Kelly made pretty good time and we pulled into a big truck stop near a town called Salisbury. We were only 20-30 km from our campsite by Moncton. It was a good day for riding but it looked like it could rain at any moment. I still thought it was necessary to inspect the quality of the pavement the cyclists were riding on (photo left). We pulled into Moncton at about 6 p.m. and went straight for the campground.

Vanessa and I thought it’d be nice to check out Magnetic Hill (top photo), so we took the van onto the hill and it was pretty fun. I drove down (up) what I thought was the hill, and put it in neutral. We began rolling backwards. “This is Magnetic Hill”, I said. Vanessa just thought I had the van in reverse and was giving it gas, but no, we were rolling up a “hill”.

Afterwards, I booked the ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day 55 — Wednesday, August 13

Hawkshaw to Gagetown
We woke up and after getting the van packed, we all sat down and threw some ideas around regarding the ferry situation. Which was necessary because none of really knew what we should do.

We were about to conclude our little meeting, but this old, balding guy mowing the lawn (and likely the owner or co-owner of the campground) drove his ride-on-mower, which was apparently fueled by angst, over our way. He came to accuse us of not paying for a site with electricity (which we were using) and that we were well past check-out time (11:00 a.m.).

After having a bit of an argument with us, he roared his lawnmower and he sped off as fast as he could (7 km/hr). Moments later we checked both our receipt and the time. The receipt showed we paid for electricity, and the time was 10:45 a.m. Genius.

We racked the bikes on Highway 2 and drove into Fredericton (photo right) for lunch. We ate at a Smitty’s which seemed a bit more expensive than I remember. After inspecting my fish and chips closely, I discovered my meal was actually made out of gold. Now the price made sense to me.

We went to Sport Chek where Kelly got a tube and then we aimed for a bike shop to buy more. Kelly had bought the last one in stock at Sport Chek. On the way, we were stopped at a traffic light and a man drove up beside us and directed us to our back tire where we had a flat. We pulled into the next gas station and pumped it up. It held air so I suspected a very small leak. We had to get it repaired sometime in the next day or two.

Just before pumping up our tire a woman jogged over and was very curious in what we were doing. Her daughter was taking a masters degree in neuroscience (somewhere I can’t recall), so I insisted she take a look at the ground-breaking neuroscience research happening at U of L as she might find it interesting. Unlike me, she might actually understand what they’re doing.

Vanessa and Kelly made pretty good time today and after a few stops, we pulled into a campsite near Gagetown. Gagetown is actually just a small village, which we didn’t even see. Later that evening a few gusts of wind took Allan's tent for a ride. Photo left is him retrieving it. It was originally to the left of the other tent shown in the photo.

We haven’t had internet in a few days and we discovered that it’s not even offered in this area to the locals. I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get on what I like to call “the net” for short.

Day 54 — Tuesday, August 12

Grand Falls to Hawkshaw
I woke up at about 8 a.m., which was 5 a.m. in Alberta because we had passed into the Atlantic Time Zone yesterday. The Québec-New Brunswick border is where we lost an hour.

We got up and checked out the grand falls in Grand Falls. They were pretty decent. Apparently, nearly the same amount of water cascades over them that go over Niagara Falls. So it’s a pretty big deal. We watched the falls for a few minutes but started experiencing diminishing returns so we took off.

I spent a good portion of the morning on the phone with the ferry people. I took a break to give Vanessa a call on our banana phones, which come to think of it, would've probably got more reception in northern Ontario than our cell phones a few weeks ago.

A rather uneventful day. The roads are nearly perfect. They rival Alberta’s for the best we’ve seen so far this trip. We pulled into a campground off the TransCanada Highway (the #2 in New Brunswick) at about dusk and after having some rice and doing some laundry we hit the hay.

Day 53 — Monday, August 11

Cabano to Grand Falls, New Brunswick
I woke up fairly early and it didn’t take much convincing to get up, as my back was so sore from my mattress. I got up to phone the ferry place in Sydney, Nova Scotia again. They were open. Good.

Here’s a transcript of the conversation:

Ferry woman: Marine Atlantic.
Me: Hi, how are you?
Ferry woman: Good.
(silence as I wait a se
cond for her to return the question)
Me: Oh, uh, I’ve never been on the ferries from Nova Scotia, I’m just wondering how much it would cost for 4 adults and a van to go across to Argentia from Sydney.
Ferry woman: Ok.
(silence as I assume she’s checking her computer or something)
(more silence. I look at my cell phone to see if I got disconnected. Nope, looks good.)
Ferry woman: That’ll be $612.
Me: Oh ok, that’s for a round trip?
Ferry woman: No, just one way.
(silence as I’m not really sure what to say. Probably because I just lost my mind.)
Me: Oh ok, how much to Port-aux-Basques from Sydney?
(15 seconds of silence)
Ferry woman: $260.
Me: One way.
Ferry woman: Yes.
Me: Ok, thanks for your help.
Ferry woman: Bye.
Me: Bye.

So to take the van and all of us across the ferry and back would be over $1200. I don’t see that happening. When I told Vanessa and Allan to guess who much it was, they couldn’t believe I said “higher” when they guessed the expected $300 that the couple from Nova Scotia estimated.

400? Higher. $500. Higher. Try six-hundred and twelve dollars.

So taking the van to Newfoundland may not be in the cards. If we walk on the ferry and leave the van in Sydney it’ll be $100 per person + $30 per bike. So it’d be $460, so not much cheaper. And then we’d need transportation while in Newfoundland.

If we went the Port-aux-Basques way, which doesn’t take us close to St. John’s, it’d be cheaper ($260), but then we were told it’d be nearly 10 hours of driving, or two tanks of gas at $100 apiece. So that wouldn’t be much cheaper. If we were staying in Newfoundland for a week or two, it wouldn’t be hard to justify it. We plan on only spending a day or two on “The Rock”.

Barry and Beth (photo left) offered to buy us breakfast this morning so we all had a nice breakfast together. They gave us some suggestions about what to do down east. They also nearly fell over when we told them about the price of the ferry. We thanked them for breakfast and their help. They were very friendly people!

Oh, and then Vanessa and Kelly biked into New Brunswick and to a town called Grand Falls. I bought a new air mattress at Superstore and pumped it up with a smile on my face, knowing that it wouldn’t deflate overnight. I was also finally able to find the hot sauce that I like, so I bought a bunch. I will be looking for foods to dip in it for the remainder of the trip.

At the campsite, Vanessa saw a skunk and thought it was a cat at first and nearly called it over. That probably wouldn’t have turned out very well.

Day 52 — Sunday, August 10

St-Denis to Cabano
We got up and went on the internet for a while. We didn’t get out of the campground until about noon. We drove back out to St-Denis and Kelly and Vanessa continued biking. Kelly wanted to stop at a restaurant down the road to get something to eat.

We found a cool restaurant (photo right) looking out to the St. Lawrence River so we had a snack there. It was only about 10 km into the ride. Luckily there was a fellow at the table next to us who was bilingual so he was able to help Kelly order his usual seven sunnyside-up eggs.

By the time we got out of the restaurant it was about 3 p.m. so this might’ve been our worst start to date. But not big deal, it was another nice day which made riding a little more enjoyable.

We turned east to New Brunswick (photo left) shortly before Riviére-du-Loop, and in doing so, kissed the St. Lawrence River goodbye. Once again the cyclists rode until it was dark and we ended up in a small town called Cabano, which was about 50 km from the New Brunswick border.

Vanessa and I met a couple (Barry and Beth) from Truro, Nova Scotia who were very helpful in telling us about the Maritimes. They went out of their way to give us advice and tell us what we should try to see and do. They gave us a thick book for tourists in Nova Scotia. It had a phone number we could call to make ferry reservations. They had warned us it may be about $300 to get across with the van. That’s a lot more than we anticipated. I tried phoning the number before I went to bed* but they were closed.

*the term “bed” refers to “my air mattress that had a tiny hole in it likes to deflate throughout the night and give me a sore back”.

Day 51 — Saturday, August 9

Québec City to St-Denis
We got up at a reasonable time and went back to the Tim Horton’s we had left off at a couple nights ago. The forecast for today was “100% chance of rain”, yet it looked pretty nice out.

Not long into the ride, the weather was nearly perfect. A slight headwind for the riders, apparently, but the sun was shining as we made our way north-east, riding with the St. Lawrence River to our immediate left.

Kelly and Vanessa kept riding until it got dark. We had to take advantage of this nice weather, which has been so rare over the last week or so. We racked the bikes at a small town called St-Denis and then drove back about 10 km to a campsite at another town called Riviére-Ouelle.

Riviére-Ouelle is a very French town. English is beginning to become quite uncommon the farther we travel up the St. Lawrence. This campsite had a ton of amenities and it was actually having a “western soirée” the night we were there. Allan went and checked it out and said it was okay.

We stopped at a small town and had an ice cream break (photo above) and then stopped in another town for a snack at a convenience store (bottom photo). Both very French, but fun.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 50 — Friday, August 8

Rest Day in Québec City
I woke up and discovered that I was the only person that didn’t have a terrible sleep. I just might have had the sleep of my life. Allan got up at 3 a.m. and Vanessa was up at 6 a.m. or something. She woke me up at about 8 a.m. and it was still raining. It turned out she had been on her computer inside the truck stop for over an hour.

The window that we had cracked open before we went to bed had water pouring in. But luckily it was only landing on my sleeping bag — and no one elses. Good.

I got up and walked straight to the truck stop, and through a puddle that went over my ankles. Good.

We ate some breakfast and then went for downtown, despite the rain. We stopped near Chateau Frontenac, which is one of the series of huge, old motels across Canada built by the same cool cats that built the railway back in the day (Banff Springs would be another hotel). I asked how much it would cost to stay the night at the Chateau Frontenac and rates started at $300. Which, if you do the math, is $300 more than staying in the van.

We walked to the Plains of Abraham and then wandered back to the van. But not before having a “beaver tail” that tasted pretty good but upset my stomach to the maximum. It actually felt like there was a beaver tail thumping the insides of my stomach repeatedly. How authentic!

It was hard to enjoy the sites with the rain pouring down on your head. Once Vanessa bought an umbrella, the rain was replaced with the pokey part of the umbrella stabbing the top of my head, with the occasional umbrella handle hitting me on the side of the head. At least I was nice enough to accidentally return the favour more than once when it was my turn to hold the umbrella.

We opted for a campsite tonight that was nearly $50. But at least it had a pool (closed!) and a whirlpool (closed!) to justify the price. Our sites was one of the smallest ones we’ve seen yet. It was pretty clean though, until our van doors exploded and we made sure it felt like home.

Day 49 — Thursday, August 7

Trois-Riviéres to Québec City
Before leaving town we headed back over the giant b
ridge to get Vanessa a bike tire. She insisted she’d be fine but it wasn’t a risk anyone else wanted to take. She had no spare tire until we went and picked one up.

I drove about half of the day and it was pretty tame day. We got into Québec City pretty late and with Tim Horton’s on our minds, we ended up stopping there. In the meantime, all of the campgrounds closed. Perfect.

It had poured all day and the rain was coming down harder. We didn’t want to camp too badly but some of us needed a shower.

We ended up sleeping in the van at a truck stop, so it was a slight improvement from sleeping in the van in a Wal-Mart parking lot like we did it Chilliwack. We had all the amenities we needed at the truck stop.

Here's a video I took earlier today of us crossing the St. Lawrence River at Trois-Riviéres this morning:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Day 48 — Wednesday, August 6

Joliette to Trois-Riviéres
I drove from Ottawa out to our starting point near Joliette. It was about a 2 hour drive which included going through the west side of Montréal. Man, talk about congestion.

Nothing terribly eventful happened today, except when my nose suddenly became very itchy. So I rubbed it pretty hard. You know, like when you make a fist and itch your nose. Just like that.

About 5 minutes later I started sniffling a lot. Then all of a sudden I realized I had a bloody nose. A wave of fear swept over me. I leaned forward and put my hand out to prevent any blood from getting on my white shirt (which already has a number of other stains on it), but nothing fell. Lucky day! My mustache had finally served its purpose and was my first line of defense against my bloody nose. It soon stopped and I thanked my lucky stars.

I should mention that I was driving and Allan was fast asleep in the passenger seat, oblivious to it all, until I told everyone at the next rest stop what had happened. I don’t know why I got a bloody nose. I wasn’t even doing hard math.

We finally got to Trois-Riviéres and it was starting to get dark. There was a giant bridge we wanted to get over so we could cross the St. Lawrence. We had to rack the bikes because they weren’t allowed on the bridge. We pulled into a decent little campsite and after going on the internet we hit the hay.

p.s. I would like to own this car.

Day 47 — Tuesday, August 5

Rest Day in Ottawa
Vanessa and I made a point of getting up early so we could go tour the city. We only had a few hours of sleep, but I’m glad we got up when we did. We headed straight for the Parliament Building which was about a 20 minute walk. We went down Sparks Street and hit a Tim Horton’s for breakfast, which was a half a block from Parliament. We browsed the Parliament grounds and got a pass for a tour of the inside later that afternoon.

In the meantime, we went on a double-decker bus tour around Ottawa. We saw many sites, including the Governor General’s house, the Prime Minister’s house, the RCMP stables, and a number of museums. As I mentioned before, a double-decker bus would be pretty sweet just to use as my primary vehicle back in Lethbridge. This tour confirmed it.

We took the tour of the Parliament Building and then went to The Market to meet everyone for the alumni event. It turned out there were more people than I expected. I’m not sure of how many exactly came out, but I’d estimate about 15 to 20 people. It was awesome to meet these ex-U of L students who were so interested in the trip. It was pretty sweet.

Day 46 — Monday, August 4

Rest Day in Montréal
We decided the best way to see downtown again would be to simply take the subway. We toured Old Montréal and stayed downtown for most of the day. My knees were starting to get sore from all the walking.

We met up with Jamie (who was living in Montréal for a few weeks learning French) and he cooked us some chili which really hit the spot. We ended up getting back to the van at about 11 p.m. or so and we drove back to Ottawa as we had an alumni event to get to the next day. We ended up getting to Ottawa at about 1:30 a.m. and stayed at Joanne’s place again. My knees were killing me and I could barely walk it was so painful. I hadn’t worked my knees so much in weeks.

We decided to do a couple days of riding and drive back to Ottawa rather than spend 4-5 days in Ottawa and wait for the alumni event. We’ll drive back to Joliette the morning after the alumni event.

Photo left was taken inside the Notre-Dame Basilica church in Montréal. It was pretty big and awesome, but you know, I've seen better — in like, magazines and stuff.

Day 45 — Sunday, August 3

Lachute to Joliette
We packed the van and made a brief stop at the Wal-Mart and McDonalds where we had a delicious meal and enjoyed exquisite shopping. I’m making more of an effort to use French when I can — complete with hand gestures.

We went back to the Tim Hortons where we left off the night before. Kelly got a flat tire in the hotel room last night somehow, so he changed it in the parking lot. He pumped up his new one and it popped. Within 15 minutes of getting going, it started to pour again. Kelly got another flat. We had a late start today as it was already 1:30 p.m.

We went through a town and saw Wilfred Laurier’s house. In fact, it turned out that it wasn’t his actual house, according to the girl working there. Regardless, if we wanted a tour, we would have to pay. We opted not to. Laurier was Canada's first francophone prime minister. The photo to the right is not Wilfred Laurier's house.

Immediately after, we made our way back to the van and played a game of “Everyone Cross the Street Except for Allan” on the way there. Allan was left holding his gnome in broad daylight, trying to cross a pretty busy street and having little luck in doing so.

Today we packed the bikes near Joliette and then drove into Montréal. We drove downtown and right into Old Montréal without really getting lost — thanks to the GPS. After realizing everything downtown was either full or too expensive, we ended up at a motel near the outskirts of the city.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 44 — Saturday, August 2

Gatineau to Lachute
We took just a few turns from our starting point and were on our way out of the city. We stayed on the same highway from Gatineau right to Lachute, which was about 130 km away. The shoulder was actually a designated bike route which was fairly wide. It was perfect. Then it rained. A lot.

It rained the last two thirds of the day, which meant it wasn’t super hot, which was good for the cyclists. The only downside was they were drenched.

We finally arrived in Lachute and after getting lessons on how to order particular donuts at Tim Horton’s (by the girl working there), we started hunting for a hotel. There were no campgrounds within 40 km of where we were, so a nice dry hotel room with a shower would be heaven for the cyclists after today’s ride. We haven’t had to get a hotel room since our first night on the trip in Surrey.

We crammed a lot of our junk into the hotel room immediately after getting the key. Our “roof bag” that is on the van was soaked. It included all of our tents and sleeping bags, so it wouldn’t be very good to sleep in them tonight anyway. Instead we’re drying them out.

The one downside to this hotel is that it was the last room and is a smoking room, and being allergic to smoke, it’s not the best for me. Fingers crossed I don’t wake up feeling like garbage tomorrow morning.

Day 43 — Friday, August 1

Haley Station to Gatineau, Québec
We packed up pretty quickly this morning and despite no rain we headed straight to the Ark. This time for breakfast (and internet).

I drove the entire day. We crossed over into Québec and because it was not a significant highway, there wasn’t really any welcome sign or anything. “I guess we’re in Québec...” I thought to myself as I scanned for signs. The roads were pretty bad all the way into Gatineau. Once we got into the city, Vanessa and Kelly took a bike trail where we would meet them at the Ottawa Bridge.

While they biked, Allan and I went over the bridge into Ottawa where we got a nice view of the Parliament Building. Vanessa phoned as they thought they were at the right bridge. They weren’t, and they kept moving, but they went the wrong direction and ended up going north into Gatineau. We GPS’d their location, met up, and drove to a friend of Kelly’s (Joanne) where we would stay the night.

We met up with Joanne, Brittany, and Jamie (all U of L Alumni) and went to The Market where we had some pretty good burgers. It was a pretty good time.

Day 42 — Thursday, July 31

Stonecliffe to Haley Station
I woke up and took my rubber tubing down to the beach where I did a brief workout. It was pretty nice down by the lake/river. It was foggy above the water and it still looked nice. In the meantime, a couple people were fishing off the dock.

After packing up everything and being ready to go we got a visit from a different old guy who likes to talk. Enter the guy from last night. Good.

Vanessa and Kelly were talking to them about the trip. I was sitting in the passenger seat when one of the guys referred to me as “a quitter”. Not once, but twice. Based on his own laughter, it’s likely the most hilarious thing he’s said in years, or centuries. Albeit jokingly, it didn’t sit well with me. One look at his tubby physique, I could tell he certainly wasn’t a quitter — particularly at the buffet table.

We finally got out of there, but still at a decent time. Allan drove the entire day and we stopped at a town called Haley Station. It was less than 10 km from the Ottawa River. The photo to the right is one of an interesting billboard I saw. You'll have to click it to enlarge it.

Two larger centres we went by today were Petawawa and Pembroke, we racked the bikes and drove into Pembroke for lunch at Tim Horton’s. During lunch today we thought it might be a better idea to cross into Québec before Ottawa so we don’t have to deal with Ottawa and Gatineau. Instead we would just have to deal with Gatineau. We’ll do that tomorrow.

We stayed at a campground that had waterslides, mini-golf, a petting zoo, and dismal showers. It was a pretty nice place. The waterslides were about to close for the night, so we didn’t bother. Instead, Allan, Vanessa and I played 18 holes of mini-golf where I showed them who was boss. And by that, I mean, winning by just one stroke. Here's a video of the excitement:

We went and had supper at a restaurant shaped like Noah’s Ark which appeared to be somehow connected to the campground. We walked 2-by-2 up the ramp into the restaurant and had some food, as well as went on the internet. We met a guy there who was with his wife and daughter. They were pretty interested in our trip and asked us for some literature on the U of L. Unfortunately we had none to give.

We played some Frisbee and then hit the hay.

Day 41 — Wednesday, July 30

North Bay to Stonecliffe
We woke up to the sound of pouring rain. And not long after, we could hear a ton of ducks quacking around our tents as they played in the puddles. It was kind of cool. We packed up our junk and took off to get some grub. We ended up at Macdonald’s which was attached to a Wal-Mart. I bought some rubber tubing so I could do some upper body exercises aside from pushups.

Of note, I finally(!) got to turn the page in our map book from something other than Northern Ontario. I think I may have those two pages memorized.

The terrain was becoming noticeably more flat. Not as many hills. We finally made it to a campsite a few kilometres from Stonecliffe. It was a pretty nice campsite. The people there were friendly, but couldn’t stop talking. Allan, Kelly, and I were on our computers when a couple men came up to us and one felt obliged to tell us about his “original” business but how he might sell it for a lot of money “just ‘cuz” and how his entire family consists of millionaires.

I got a small hole in my air mattress so I tried putting a bike tube patch on it, which held just long enough for me to fall asleep.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 40 — Tuesday, July 29

Sudbury to North Bay
Because we weren’t exactly in a campground and had no showers to enjoy, we ended up getting a fairly decent start. We stopped at a town called Verner and had some lunch. Most people in the restaurant were speaking French. We were only about 100 km west of the Quebec/Ontario border. After getting the grumpiest waitress on the planet, we kept rolling.

We made it to North Bay and after dealing with some serious traffic (Vanessa and Kelly were still on the bikes), we made it to campground. We were advised by the campground manager to check out the beach, so after setting up our tents, that’s wh
at we did. We got to North Bay at a decent enough time to enjoy it.

We played some serious Frisbee in the water and soaked up some sun. The beach was pretty nice. I could see myself spending more time here. The lake was called Lake Nipissing. It was massive. The weather was perfect. I took some photos and my camera’s memory card had become full for the first time. I fit about 900 photos and videos on there. Not bad at all.

We then went down to an internet café where we had pretzels, coffee, and smoothies. Apparently North Bay is the smoothie capital of something (Ontario? The world, maybe? I can’t recall). I worked on a website ( while everyone else did their blogs. I know I’ll have some time to work on my blogs in the van tomorrow so I wasn’t too worried.

Vanessa, Allan, and I were going to go see another movie (Step Brothers) but it was cheap night and it was already sold out. Instead we enjoyed ourselves at Shoppers Drug Mart where I bought something for my cold.

Day 39 — Monday, July 28

Spragge to Sudbury
Again, I wasn’t feeling very well today, so I tried to get some sleep in the van but it’s not exactly the smoothest ride when one tire is on the shoulder of the road and the other is on gravel.

Vanessa bought a small box of fresh blueberries for the cool price of $20. They were pretty good. We ended up sleeping at a tourist information stop after cleaning the van out a bit. I discovered the iced tea I had placed on the roof about a kilometre ago. I’m glad it didn’t fly off in traffic. On the whole, a pretty uneventful day for Allan and I. We didn’t really see any of Sudbury as we went around it.

My knees still hurt, particularly when I walk down slopes or up stairs. On a flat surface the pain isn't really there.

Day 38 — Sunday, July 27

East of Sault Ste. Marie to Spragge
I tried to get some sleep in the van today as I wasn’t feeling very well. I think I’m slowly getting a cold or something.

We drove back to the drop-off point and the cyclists kept going. We pulled into a campground at a town called Spragge. Just as we were pulling in, Vanessa got a flat tire and lost her balance and wiped out. Jeepers! She was only going about 5 km/hr but that still smarts. She hurt her hand but her shoulder looked like it got the worst of it. Surprisingly she got back up without a problem. Her shoes clip into her pedals so it’s not always easy to get out of them in time.

We met some folks from Edmonton and we saw another group of people from Grande Prairie. I did some pushups then went in the pool for a bit. We then did laundry while enjoying the slowest internet on earth, and then hit the hay.

Day 37 — Saturday, July 26

Sault Ste. Marie to 50 km East of Sault Ste. Marie
I started the day off by going for a swim in the campground pool. It was nice. I did some pushups, then had a shower. My knees still hurt. Sometimes it hurts to walk. After giving my legs 4 or 5 days off entirely, I’ll probably start some light stretching soon.

We ate and Vanessa checked her voicemail. The hospital in Marathon left a message saying she had a different virus than what they thought she had. I wondered if the medication that I bought last night was the right stuff for me now.

So Vanessa and I went back to the hospital and it turns out the antibiotics I bought last night were useless. The virus we had were resistant to regular antibiotics, meaning that we had a “super bug”. Just great. The doctor we had today worked in the United States and said it was more common down there. He recognized it right away and prescribed some antibiotics where the main ingredient was sulfate, rather than penicillin or other types.

Vanessa and Kelly agreed today would be a light day since we had extra time in our schedule. They rode for a couple hours then we drove back into “The SOO”. Allan suggested going to see the new Batman movie, which we did. It was pretty good and I recommend it to anyone. My super bug enjoyed it too. The theatre was right by the river, so we saw the big bridge lit up at night. The bridge connects Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

We stayed at another, less expensive campground just outside of the city.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 36 — Friday, July 25

Montreal River Harbour to Sault Ste. Marie
I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. I had wanted to get up to see the sunrise on the lake, but that wasn’t going to happen. It would’ve been awesome, but maybe another day I’ll get up that early. Or another year

When the rain stopped I got up to the sight of Allan dragging his yellow foamy and sleeping bag around the campground looking for the laundry room. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen that I’d have about 35 cents, which is a lot right now. It seems every time it rains, the rain finds a way into Allan’s tent. Either the top of his tent falls apart or the seams leak. I picture a little cloud right over Allan’s tent just pouring all night long, just like in Charlie Brown or Garfield comics. With the odd lightning bolt zapping Allan on the top of his bald head just for good measures.

It rained a fair bit today and at times I was glad I wasn’t riding. Vanessa and Kelly only stopped a couple times the entire 110 km ride which made things go by a lot quicker.

We pulled into a campsite in Sault Ste. Marie that cost $45 (thumbs up!) and I went to the hospital again. Another one of those weird sores came back near my shoulder. Apparently they’re just from sweating and chaffing. Guess I won’t have to worry about that anymore now that I’m not riding. Not only that, I’ve got some antibiotics for the next two weeks.