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Days 108 - 122
Day 108. August 31. 77 km. Total
8287 km. Channel-Port-Aux-Basques.
I made it! I really did not expect to be here today, I had booked a spot on tomorrows ferry because I thought I would only get into North Sydney around 6:00 which would put me in Newfoundland after midnight which is much too late to find a place to stay. However this morning I flew down the road like I had wings. I woke up early and joined my hostess and her son for a pancake breakfast to fuel up and then I was off like a racehorse. The day was clear and crisp with a nice little tailwind behind me pushing me onwards. From Wreck Cove it was mostly small rolling hills to the free ferry that took me from Jersey Cove to Englishtown. From Englishtown to the Hwy 140 junction you climb gradually for about 4 km and then on Hwy 104 (nice shoulder) you climb another 4 km. If you look at the map you see that the road looks like an upside-down V. This is because there is a MOUNTAIN there! Ok, so the summit is only 260 meters high, in the heat of the day it felt high enough. From the summit you descend for 6 km to a beautiful bridge which takes you onto the first peninsula. Over this peninsula and the next I found that I seemed to climb for half the distance and descend for the other half. I felt really good today on my bike and the km just flew by beneath me. I went so fast that I ended up arriving in North Sydney at 2:15 in the afternoon, 15 min before the ferry was to leave for Newfoundland. Excellent! I just pedaled on down to the dock, paid my $29 and drove onto the ferry a full day ahead of schedule.
The ferry ride was 6 hours long and even with the size of the ship we were rolling around a good deal due to the wind and the waves but I only saw one seasick person. The boat I was on was named The Caribou in memory of the ferry that was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat during the second world war. I guess it's a nice thought but a picture of a boat with the same name going down in flames hung in the cafeteria does little to inspire ones confidence ;-)
To pass the time I wrote a bit in my journal and watched two videos that were playing (better than an airplane) before heading up to the deck to watch the sunset. We were now well into the open ocean and the wind on the deck was unbelievably fierce. It felt strong enough to blow skinny little me overboard so I held onto the railings nice and tight. This was the first time that I had ever been out in the real open ocean and it was really quite the feeling to look around 360 degrees and only see the ocean swells moving slowly by. The sunset was amazing and seeing the sun dive beneath the waves was a sight I will not soon forget.
I arrived into Channel-Port-aux Basques at 9:30 pm Newfoundland time (my last time zone change, +1/2 hour) and it was already pitch black. I let most of the cars get off the boat first but even with my lights and reflective gear on I still nearly got hit twice. I did not want to die here so I headed for the nearest houses to try and find a place to camp. Now I had heard that Newfoundlanders did things differently but this was the first time I saw it for myself. I could see two rows of houses carved out at the base of a cliff but I could not seem to find a driveway to the houses in the back. Then I saw someone drive up and go to one of the houses in question. They parked in the same driveway as the house in front and then walked across the lawn to the house in back. No walkway or sidewalk, just right across the lawn! And yes this was the front entrance, there was no way to get to the back of the house! Anyways, I had knocked at the nearest house and received permission to pitch my tent in their yard when I hit my second problem. There was no level ground! Their whole yard (as well as that of their neighbors) was completely on a slope! I found the flattest area that I could and used my clothes and bike bags to build a ledge under my Thermarest mattress to make a somewhat level bed and quickly fell asleep.
11:45 am. I left Port aux Basques only 25 min ago but I had to stop now to write down my impressions while they were still fresh. I did not see any of the scenery last night because it was dark when I arrived, however, when I awoke this morning the sight that greeted me was astounding! No wonder Newfoundland is called "The Rock". Roads and yards are carved right into the rock face and hills and looking around at the mountains something my mind kept telling me something was wrong. I could not put my finger on what exactly was bothering me but then it hit me, the hills were all green but there were no trees! As far as I could see was simply barren ground, covered in lichen and moss and ferns. This was completely different than anything else I had seen so far and it really moved me. Many of the other parts of Canada were somewhat similar to things I had seen before. This land was all new. The very feeling one gets from the land is different. There was a sense of emptiness, of desolation that I have run into nowhere else. Standing alone on top of a hill looking out into this terrain made me feel small and insignificant. It was hauntingly beautiful and instantly gained a place on my list of favorite locals.
11:00 pm. Man o man am I ever tired. Gee, haven't we heard this tune before ;-) ? As usual, the reason I am up late is because I whittled the evening away talking with my host again. As I mentioned earlier I did not end up leaving Port-aux-Basques until 11:15 as I had to stock up on groceries and visit the library. Unfortunately, every library computer in the entire province is down for somewhere between a week to a month because a vandal hacked into their server and deleted everything. Bastard! I really needed that computer access to check my e-mail.
Since there was no net access for me to be had anywhere I just headed out onto the road and became so awestruck by the scenery that I had to stop and write about it. Unfortunately, I had only just put my journal away and biked another 20 km when it disappeared! Back to BC/Ontario/New Brunswick BUSH! The road was good with a shoulder but had a general upward trend much of the way into a headwind. From McDougall Gulch there was a stretch that was mostly downhill or level as you make your way up the valley. Then there is a 2 km climb followed by periodic up's and down's as you work your way over the ridges bordering various valleys. BEWARE the tourist info road map put out by the government! It shows towns that no longer exist and in fact have been gone for over 30 years! Codroy Pond, River Brook, and several others no longer have communities so be prepared to have to travel an extra 10-15 km to get to the next town or carry enough food and water to spent the night in the bush. One nice thing that I have found about Newfoundland so far is that pretty much every little town and community will at least have a convenience store where you can stock up at. This is much better than NS or PEI where really only the larger communities had stores. Perhaps I need to stop here and qualify this information for you. Since I have been on the road for so long now my idea of a large community is likely a great deal different from yours. To me a small community is 30-200 people and large is upwards of a couple of hundred. I now view any community over 1000 people as huge and I actually feel a little uncomfortable with all those people around. I never realized this before but I would bet that 90% of the communities in Canada have less than 1000 people in them.
Many of the towns I have passed through so far have an air of troubled times about them. Empty streets, houses in disrepair, shops boarded up. It's quite sad to see the deaths of an entire way of life. It is comparable to the Prairies where a town dies if it loses its grain elevator, here a town dies if it loses the cannery or mill and so far it seems to me that many are loosing them both.
So far I have not run into too much trouble with Newfoundland accents, I think that the prevalence of television is responsible for the homogeneity of language. However there were two workers I overheard on the ferry when I came over. I swear I could only understand two words out of ten and the rest was just a blur. To see what I mean check out this neat site on the Newfoundland dialect for some great audio clips: http://www.sheridanc.on.ca/students/CSYS4001/mosschar/public_html/newfoundland/slang.html
Tonight I am staying in the back yard of an old man's place in Jeffery's. He fed me a classic Newfoundland meal of salt cod and potatoes then we had ice cream for dessert. Yum, yum. I had a wonderful hot shower and then made some phone calls home on his unlimited long-distance plan. We then spent the rest of the evening talking over glasses of cognac. I tell you, this is the life.
Well I am extremely tired and a little tipsy but I think I am going to change my route plans a bit. Originally I had thought about going up to L'Anse Aux Meadows, through Gros Morne National Park, which in total is 300 km along a single route and then try to hitch hike back or charter a boat or something because I did not want to spend another 300 km riding the exact same route. I think that I am just going to skip it, I'm just getting ready to be done.
Day 110. September 2. 128 km. Total 8523 km.
Up a mountain, down a mountain. Up a ridge, down a ridge. Left round a hill, right round a hill. Up, up, up. Down, down, down. That about sums up my day today. I passed through two mountain ranges which means that I hit A WHOLE LOT of hills, over and over again. The funny thing is that I seem to be ending my trip the way I began; with British Columbia scenery. I have traveled all across Canada now and this is the area that reminds me the most of BC. So much so that I was feeling really homesick today. Tall, heavily forested mountains with large valleys. Lakes, creeks and streams all over the place. Even the way the road is cracking with age and use is the same.
Today's cycling was more strenuous than yesterdays. Yesterday most of my time was spent cycling up valleys and I only had to climb when crossing a ridge from one valley into another. Today was just the opposite. The whole area was hills and mountains that I had to circumnavigate. None of the climbs were particularly steep but they were longer than yesterday and there were many more of them to overcome. One nice thing was that the whole way I had a four foot shoulder that was in excellent condition.
Even with all the climbs and the late night last night I am feeling good. I guess I have finally recovered my touring condition after loosing it in PEI. I did run into a problem with my rear tire however. I have been using glueless patches on my tubes whenever I got a flat and today I had two of these patches give out on me. It seems to me that they work ok for a quick fix but over time they actually rub off the puncture and so I had to use the "old" style glue patches to re-patch the holes. From now on I will use the old, glue type patches all the time. A while ago when I used up my last Presta spare I bought a Schrader tube because that was all I could find. Well, I discovered to my chagrin today that a Schrader valve will not fit through the Presta hole on my rim, Oopps! Luckily I was fairly close to Corner Brook and fortunately they have a good bike store (T & T Cycle) and I picked up two new tubes there which should last me the rest of my trip. The bearings on the BOB trailer are nearly shot as well but I am nearly done so I am not going to do anything about them till I get home.
Corner Brook is a beautiful town situated on a couple mountains around a inlet of the ocean. The bay comes in from the ocean between two mountains and the town is built up the sides of the surrounding mountains and so nearly every house as a killer view of the water. Unfortunately I chose a bad camping spot and am unable to completely enjoy the scenery. I am camping in the front yard of the bike shop and the road I am facing is a semi-major one and I can hear the rednecks in their trucks roaring by. Ah well, live and learn.
I am definitely ready to be going home now. I think I have been alone long enough and need to see friends and family again. The scenery today at one point made me so homesick that it brought tears to my eyes. I think that this is when a touring partner would come in handy in keeping these feelings at bay. Someone to talk to about what you are feeling and going through and have them understand. How does that saying go? Something along the lines of: a sorrow shared is halved while happiness shared is doubled.
In terms of road conditions it was not bad for about 30 km from Jeffrey's. Then it got really hilly to Georges Lake then less so to Corner Brook. If you need food, there is a Gas Station at Pinchgut Lake but other than that there is nothing along Hwy 1 until you hit Corner Brook.
Day 111. September 3. 86 km. Total 8609 km.
Bush near Hwy 401 junction.
I was nailed by fickle Newfoundland weather today! At Deer Lake it was 25 degrees and sunny with a slight tailwind blowing up from the South. I could see this wall of clouds moving in from the North when I headed into the grocery store for some food but I did not think anything of it. I was only in the store for 15 minutes but when I came out the temperature had dropped to 10 degrees, the sky was completely overcast and there was a 30 kph headwind gusting in from the North. That cold, blustery weather just about did me in. The ground was level but I was struggling to do 10 kph. My face and hands were numb with cold and my spirits were dropping fast. I was having to battle with myself just to continue. The conversation went something like this:
Bad voice: Look this is just stupid. You have seen this type of scenery a million times this trip and you are freezing your ass off getting nowhere fast. Just hitch a ride for the 150 km to the next town and we can have a hot shower, a nice meal and camp in a yard where you won't be bothered by bears or moose or rednecks.
Good voice: But that would be cheating! I'm not hurt and my bike is not damaged so I have not excuse not to push on.
Bad: No excuse! You have traveled over 8000 km by bike already! What is a 150 km ride in a car? Just do it!
Good: That's right, it has been 8000 km so what is pushing on for another 150? Besides what would everyone think if I made it all this way only to wimp out and hitch when it gets a little cold and windy?
Bad: No one needs to know. Just fudge the numbers and pay attention to the road for the reports. Come on, it is time to be getting on home.
Good: SHUT UP! There is no way I am going to lie about anything.
Bad: No you shut up! I'm cold, tired and this is dumb. Let's go!
Well this little internal argument went on for a good 30 minutes at which point I decided that I would push on to the Hwy 401 junction and hope that I could find a house there but if not I would just pitch camp there.
Well after another 1.5 hours of hellish cycling I made it to the junction and.. NO HOUSES! Darn! I pushed my bike up the embankment at the side of the road and found a clearing out of sight where I set up camp (if you are looking for it, it is right near the road sign about 500 meters before the junction). I guess if anything, this little episode serves to show you where my mind is at this moment. First that I would consider skipping 150 km to get home faster, but second, that I could spend half an hour arguing about it with myself! Well I am neither a wimp nor a cheat so I just bit the bullet and pushed onwards.
The road report: From Corner Brook to Pasadena was 27 km of mostly downhill with a great 4 foot shoulder. This section passes through one rocky valley and then opens into a wide valley with hills to the right and an ocean bay to the left. From Pasadena to Deer Lake the road was dangerous. There was a small shoulder in spots but mostly it was absent and the lane was too narrow for both myself and the trucks. I had to jump off the road and ride in the gravel more times than I care to remember. This part had a few short climbs. From Deer Lake to here (~30 km) the 4 foot shoulder is back and the road is mostly level with some gradual ups and down. The scenery from Pasadena to here was really nothing much to mention, just back to that old bush and swamp that I have seen a million times before.
Well right now I am so tired that even though it is only 8:00 I am going to bed. Oh yes one more thing. I started calling for plane tickets today and so far it looks like a one way ticket from St. Johns to Vancouver is going to be around $600. Ouch, that's pretty much two months worth of food right there! Having cut off Gros Morne I have a little under a 1000 km to go which should mean 10 more days. This includes riding both the Bonavista and Conception Bay Peninsulas but I will see how I feel when I get there.
Day 112. September 4. 104 km. Total 8713 km.
I think that I am just too stubborn for my own good. I get from my mothers side ;-) Once I get my mind set on something I just work at it to the exception of all else. I woke up this morning and the wind was still blowing from the North. I headed out but soon had to stop to put on warmer clothes because I was shivering so bad. I had to leave my gloves and neoprene booties on all day to keep my hands and feet from freezing! At this point the little voice from yesterday came back.
Bad: Come on. It's freezing cold, you are going right into a headwind and the only thing that you can look forward to is 100 km of bush. Just hitch a ride to Gambo (~200km) where the towns get close together again and take your time from there.
Good: NO! I have to bike the whole way.
Bad: But you are already doing more than you had to do anyways! You could have just taken the 15 hr ferry to Argentia which is within 150 km of St. Johns and just biked from there. But Nooooo Instead you had to go and take the long route from Port aux Basques.
Good: (Now that last bit was a very good point but I wasn't quite swayed yet) But it will look like when things get tough I just wimped out and couldn't cut it.
Bad: No it won't! You can just say that you simply came to a point where you had overextended yourself and recognized your need for outside help. Nothing wrong with that and a good lesson to learn for life.
Ouch! He really nailed me with that last one. The good voice threw up it's mental hands and surrendered. "One really should know when they need help," I said to myself. So I stopped and stuck out my thumb Well wouldn't you know it? No trucks passed by in the 20 minutes I waited and then the wind died down a bit so I just got back on my bike and kept pedaling. I think that if it had been raining it would have been the last straw that broke the cyclists back. That has been my mantra recently "Look on the bright side, it could be worse."
Road report: Not much in the way of civilization today. There was a truck stop at the Hwy 420 jxn then a couple of vacation trailer parks along Birchy Lake. There was a camp ground ~15 km before Hwy 410 then gas stations at the 410 and 390 junctions. At South Brook where I am staying tonight there are a couple of corner stores but nothing larger than a mom and pop operation. The road today was quite similar to the road from Deer Lake yesterday, long gradual climbs and descents through the bush. There were some nice rides through lake filled valleys but most of the day was spent riding through the ubiquitous bush that makes up so much of this country. There is a fair sized (2.5 km long) hill that you go down (YAY!) before South Brook that has an awesome view out into Halls Bay where you can see the cliffs and inlets of the Newfoundland coast. I really love being back on the water. Again I am reminded of the West Coast of BC with mountainous shores and rocky cliff lined bays.
I am simply sleeping in a nondescript yard near the water tonight. I was not offered a shower but the weather was relatively cool today so a simple hosing myself off with the garden hose and a face cloth was sufficient to remove most of the road grime I have collected. I did not feel like pushing my luck tonight but as it has now been 3 days without a shower I will need to press the issue tomorrow. Either that or get a little too close and upwind of them ;-)
I woke up this morning to overcast skies and a strong wind from the South-West. Of course I now had to go South so what would be been a tailwind yesterday was a headwind today. Sigh! Isn't that the way it always is? One fortunate thing was that it was not as cold as it had been the last few days.
Faced with the prospect of another day spent fighting the wind I thought back to how I survived the difficult parts of Saskatchewan and Ontario. I came to a realization that recently I have been doing two things wrong. First, I have not been eating frequently enough. When working hard and trying to keep warm I should be eating every hour to keep enough sugar in my blood to fuel my muscles and my mind. Secondly, I have been spending too much time dwelling on how bad the biking has been. Instead I need to trance it, to set up a story and play it out in my mind as I cycle. Essentially to daydream and in doing so, the time (and distance) passes by much faster. This combination worked great today. Between flying along on a sugar rush (2-1lb trays of nanimo bars and 2L of Coke consumed today alone) and fantasizing, (SUPER TREVOR rescuing damsels in distress ;-), the day and km flew by.
The road from South Brook to Badger had no shoulder and was somewhat cracked. No real scenery to speak of just bush but it seemed mostly level or downhill. From Badger I turned East and the wind was now at my back. For about 77 km there was a shoulder which then disappeared most of the rest of the way to Grand Falls/Windsor. Grand Falls has two major grocery stores where food can be bought cheap and I really stocked up because tomorrow is Labour Day and I don't know what will be open then. From Grand Falls to onward it gets hillier than I have seen for a while but there is a shoulder most of the way. Out of Grand Falls you descend for ~6km then it is up and down to Bishop Falls. At Bishop Falls you have two choices and this is where I was lead astray by the map again. You can stay on Hwy 1 (which curves on the map, looking suspiciously like a hill) or take Hwy 351. I figured that Hwy 351 was the original road and Hwy 1 was the more recent bypass which is usually the easier route. I asked a woman in a parking lot which was easier and she said (with a straight face), "Nope, no real hills along Hwy 1". WRONG ANSWER!!! I had planed on disregarding her answer and take the 351 but it was poorly marked and I missed the turnoff. I should have gone back. From Bishop Falls this is what I did: Climb 7 km then down 3 km, up 1km then down 3, then up or level for the next 7 km or so. I heard later that day that Hwy 351 is much more level and very scenic with the only climb being the one required to get back onto Hwy 1. DOH!!
I made it to the Hwy 340 junction around 6:30 pm and after 138 km on the road and a bunch of hills I was pretty pooped and it had started to rain. Well that was where I ran into map problem #2. There was no community there! The map said there was BUT there most certainly was not. One km further there was a Provincial Park but my stubbornness/cheapness prevailed and I would not pay to camp, especially as I would have to shell out the same amount to tent as if I was driving a RV. I had resigned myself to having to continue for another 23 km when at last good fortune smiled on me. About 2 km from the park entrance there is a wilderness cottage community on a lake. I headed in and knocked. Success! Beautiful log cabin right on the shore of the lake, wonderful hot shower and I could keep my food inside where the bears could not get it. Ahhhh..... Super Trevor is happy again.
Day 114. Sept 6. 106km. Total 8962 Glover town
I don't know if it was because I was tired or if my brain was frozen from the rain and cold but I made my most stupid move yet today. Around lunchtime I stopped into a phone booth outside a McDonalds in Gander to call home. I brought my seat bag in with me which holds by wallet, keys and address book and placed it on top of the phone. Can you guess what happened next? Yep, after making the call I left and started pedaling. 10 km down the road (~30 min) I casually reached behind to check my seat. "WHERE IS MY BAG!?!?!" OH CRAP! I had left it back in the phone booth. Now here is the amazing part. I had no sooner turned around and started pedaling when a car stops and out jumps the McDonalds manager WITH MY BAG! It seems that someone saw it laying there and turned it in to the nearby McDonalds and then the manager rushed out to catch me. Wow! I had $170 cash and all my credit cards and ID cards in there, not to mention my address book with every place I stayed at so far (Value = absolutely priceless). Thank God for honest people.
Today was overall a poor day for cycling but it could have been worse. It was cold and overcast all day and the clouds let forth a persistent mist/drizzle that soaked everything allowing the cold to seep in. I could not see much of the scenery because of the fog but what I did see reminded me of Northern Ontario. Smaller, stunted trees and shrubs with rocks and lakes spotted about. The large number of hills reminded me of Ontario as well. Lots, and lots, and lots of ups and downs but really nothing over a km or two in length. At least there was a shoulder present the entire way all day.
I really hope that the weather improves tomorrow because I am passing through Terra Nova National Park and I have heard that it is beautiful. I have decided to skip doing the Bonavista Peninsula and just do the Conception Bay/Trinity Bay one instead. I was looking at the map and Bonavista has only 84 km of coastal road and 114 km of interior travel while Conception/Trinity bay has nearly the whole 200 km as coastal. As it stands, I am now 5 days cycling from St. Johns. I can't believe that the trip is nearly over. That I have really bicycled all across Canada. It just doesn't feel that monumental yet.
I arrived into Glovertown at 6:30 and I am staying in the backyard of one of the neighboring homes. I did not get much hospitality tonight but I think that it is really mixed blessing. Last night where I was offered food and a shower I ended up staying awake until 11:30pm talking whereas here where I wasn't even offered to use the washroom (I'll just pee behind their shed, he he he) I will be in bed by 8:00.
Day 115. Sept 7. 106km. Total 9068km Deep Blight
Deep Blight, Malignent Cove, Wreck Cove, Deadman Blight, all are Maritime town names that help you to understand what shaped the character of the people who live here. Hard times have come and gone and come again but the spirit and strength of the people remain. Tonight I am staying in the yard of one such person. She must be well into her 80's but as active and witty as someone half her age. I was welcomed with open arms into her home and was promptly offered supper. We sat and chatted over tea about family and Canada before she had to leave for a previous commitment. She gave me free reign of her house so I had a shower and called some friends (she had unlimited long distance) before turning off the lights and locking the door behind me. Now that is what I call Newfoundland trustingness and Maritime hospitality. When I put my address book away this evening a $10 bill fell out, something she must have slipped in while I was having a shower. A real gem.
Today was another challenging day. When it was windy, I would say "At least it's not raining". When it was raining, "At least it's not windy". When it was windy AND raining? Well then I just gritted my teeth and kept pedaling. Because of my early bedtime last night I was up early and on the road by 7:45. The woman (who would not let me use her washroom last night) redeemed herself by sending me off with some muffins and apples. I guess she realized I was not some crazed psychopath. From Glovertown, it was 10 km to Terra Nova Park and then the work began anew. Within the park you travel from one hill to the next and most of them pushed me into granny gear. They were not much longer than a km or two long but there were a lot of them. The scenery within the park was nice but nothing outstanding, mostly boreal forests and the occasional glimpse of the ocean. I imagine, in order to get the real nice scenery you would have to get on some of the side roads or do some hiking but I was not up to it today. Outside of the park I caught my first glimpse of the Trans-Newfoundland trail and went exploring. In talking with the couple 2 nights ago they said that when the provincial railway was shut down they removed all of the rails and ties and turned the gravel railway bed into a cross provincial trail. (They were also promised that in return for loosing their rail line the entire HWY 1 would become two lanes to support the increased freight traffic, but that has not happened yet as I can attest to as these 18 wheelers fly by with only a 4 inch shoulder to spare.) Anyways, I saw this trail going under an overpass and since I was feeling adventurous I road down the side of the hill and tried it out. You definitely need shocks and wider tires than my touring bike for this sort of riding. It is a hard packed gravel trail but it appears that ATVs use it and this has made it rough in places. I found that I preferred the road as I could do twice the speed and because of the close in growth along the trail I really could not see any of the scenery, so at Port Blandford I returned to the Trans-Canada Hwy. However, for those of you who want the real wilderness experience, either by hiking or mountain biking, I think that this trail would be great for you. The nice thing about it is since it used to be a railway the grade of the hills should be very manageable and every 60 km or so it passes through a town where you can stock up on food.
Fall is here now. I have been gone for three seasons now. I left home when the leaves were just starting to come out on the trees and now I can see the odd maple tree sticking out from the evergreens in a burst of red and yellow. Coming up towards Thorburn Lake there was a nice rocky waterfall creek that I hiked down to watch for a while and got some great pictures. There were more hills out to Clarenville (which has a Sobey's and a Wal-Mart) and since I was getting tired I called it quits for the night.
Day 116. Sept 8. 108km. Total 9176km Dildo
The day started out with (surprise, surprise) a headwind. But today I was prepared. I was loaded down with enough sugar from Sobey's and Wal-Mart to send a hundred diabetics into comas. 2L Coke, 6 jumbo cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting, 300 g chocolate bars, 6 pudding cups, 1 lb nanimo bars and nearly 1 kg (2.2lbs) of gummy candies. Yep, I was loaded for bear and planning on riding the sugar wave all the way into St. John's.
There was a good shoulder the entire way today and the hills were mostly smaller than those I hit yesterday except after the Hwy 202 turnoff where they were large and rolling. The scenery made my decision to take the Port-aux-Basques ferry instead of the Argentia ferry more than worth it. Especially the section from around Sunnyside to Long Cove. This area was back to barren ground scenery with rocky lakes to the left and right and the ground covered in moss and lichen. Off in the distance the ocean could be occasionally seen.
If you are ever out this way, as you pass through a large rock cut, look up at the hill on your left just after the rock quarry to see if my Inuksuk (stone man) still stands as a testament to my crossing. Chris and I when we were in Ontario vowed that when we were in Newfoundland we would make one and when I saw that hill I knew that was where I had to make mine.
I am in the best mood I have been in for a long time. The kilometers just flew by today and I am now within striking distance of St. John's. Had I stayed on Hwy 1 I would be 80 km away but instead I turned North onto Hwy 80 to travel the Conception/Trinity Bay peninsula. I passed through Blaketown and South Dildo before stopping in Dildo for the night. Yes it sounds like it is spelt. D-I-L-D-O. Even the locals get a kick out of it. Could you imagine being on a high school sports team here and traveling elsewhere to compete?
<Principal over PA system> "Listen up everyone. This afternoon at 3:00 there will be the championship game between our home team and the team from Dildo Senior High."
You just don't need to give high school kids that kind of ammunition.
In Dildo I waited until I found the most amazing spot on the water before going up to knock. It was a great family and they welcomed me with open arms. I ate dinner with them and then the local newspaper reporter dropped by for an interview. It seems that my hosts thought I would be an interesting note in their paper! In talking with the reporter she asked me if I could sum up my feelings about Newfoundland. I thought for a bit and then told her that calling it "The Rock" does not do it justice. It's scenery is completely diverse with forests and barrens, rolling hills, coasts and bays. I had to say that if I was forced to pick my favorite place I have traveled through on my trip that I would pick the coast of Newfoundland. Quite a statement!
Well I am wiped out so I am going to bed. Goodnight all.
Day 117. Sept 9. 106km. Total 9282km Grates
Leaving Dildo I started hitting more hills and discovered a fact about traveling along the coastline of Newfoundland. Leaving a community you always have to climb a hill and entering you always go down one. Since Newfoundland was originally a fishing colony, most towns are all along the coast. In nearly every bay there is a community and I figure these big ridges in between bays served as effective barriers to the growth of a community so when it got to a certain size (or someone got sick of everyone else) another town would spring up on the other side of the hill. From Heart's Content the hills became more frequent and steeper but the additional work is well worth it for the scenery. In fact it was so nice I had to stop and write this section immediately:
My little aside: The communities along this portion are picture perfect and capture the feeling of what Newfoundland was years ago. The boats nestled in the harbor, laundry flapping on the clotheslines and the smell of wood smoke in the air all served to transport me back to a simpler time. The day feels like a crisp October day on the west coast. There is a nip in the air that bites at the nose and numbs the fingers but with my wool gloves on it is downright pleasant. The air is filled with the heady aroma of the sea and I had to stop for a while to watch the surf pound the shore; the breakers turn ice blue and green before being beaten into a white froth by the cliff. Today would be a perfect day to be curled up in front of a fire with a loved one but this is a close second. Words can not accurately describe the way I feel right now. There is a feeling of joy welling up from my chest and pressing upwards on my throat
Back to writing this evening: From New Perlican the paved surface changes. You lose the shoulder and there are quite a bit more cracks and bumps in the road.
In addition to the look of the communities, I have been finding the people here really neat too. I am continuously addressed by the older women as "My love" and the Newfoundland accents change noticeably from town to town. As you progress further North, the hills become rockier and the trees smaller and more stunted by the wind roaring off of the sea.
From Old Perlican I took the gravel road through Daniels Cove to Grates Cove instead of the paved Hwy 70. The road was ~10 km long and rough but it was worth it. I have to travel on Hwy 70 tomorrow to start down the East coast of the peninsula so why ride the same road twice? The call of the wild and unknown is just too strong for me to ignore. My title for the day was an actual conversation I had with a gas station attendant in Old Perlican while trying to find the right road to Grates Cove.
It was dark by the time I arrived in Grates Cove (only 8:00pm! I remember in Field, BC that it wasn't dark until 10:30pm). I was quite high up and could hear the roar of the surf and the house lights in the town were strung out along the cliffs like pearls. I headed towards the water and knocked on the first likely looking house I found. "The Knock" was successful again. Right now I am perched on a hill overlooking the bay and from here I can stare the North Atlantic straight in the eye. To the North there is nothing but water until you hit Greenland and to the East nothing but water until you Britain. With all that distance the waves have plenty of time to get BIG and the thunderous roar of the ocean is astounding. I was going to pitch camp on the ocean side of the house but they said that sometimes the wind is so strong that it nearly blows over their tent trailer. Well discretion is the bettor part of valor so I set up in the shelter of the back of the house.
The locals here say that this (and not Bonavista) is where Cabot first landed and local legend says that Cabot and seven of his crew carved their names on a local rock cliff. They have a plaque set up saying that in 1963 two men came and cut it out of the rock wall and drove off (in a blue van). In talking with my host about this he said that the two men were buddies of Joe Smallwood's (the first premier of Newfoundland) and that the cut out rock is now a part of the basement fireplace in Joe Smallwood's house. Of course no one has actually confirmed this but it makes a good story.
Two days to St. John's.
Day 118. Sept 10. 82km. Total 9364km Harbour
I awoke today to the fury of a gale force Newfoundland storm. The rain against my tent walls sounded like someone had turned a garden hose on my tent and the roar of the surf pounding against the shore was deafening. Looking out of my tent I swear there must have been gusts of wind over 70 kph and the rain was falling sideways in sheets! Spray was shooting up a good 20 feet in the air from the massive waves pummeling themselves against the rocks below me. I sure am glad I took my hosts advice and camped in the shelter of his house or else you might never have heard from me again! It was almost enough to make me stay in my snug sleeping bag all day but I just resigned myself to getting soaking wet (at least with my raingear I would be warm) and set about having fun cycling in the rain. Hey, when the rain is being blown so hard that it stings when it hits your exposed skin, you just have to make the best of the situation. Picture this if you will: here I am passing through rural Newfoundland decked out in my police yellow rain coat, blue lobster mitt gloves and bright neon booties hauling a huge ass trailer through the pissing down rain all the while singing and hollering at the top of my lungs. Perhaps it was because I was so close to completing my journey but I was just in a GREAT mood. As I passed through the towns people would stop and look at me as if I were nuts and you know what? Perhaps I was. It just made me sing a little louder, "I'm cycling in the rain. Just cycling in the rain. What a wonderful feeling, I'm cycling again." You know the tune.
Any ways, the road for most of the day was much like yesterday; no shoulder and poor conditions in parts. Most of the hills were not as steep though it did seem as if I went down worse ones than I had to climb. It was difficult to see any scenery in the morning due to the pea soup fog but from what I could see between Grates Point and Kingston I would say the scenery was not as nice as yesterdays. Here the houses all looked to be from the 1950's and not the 17 or 1850's like I have become used to seeing. However, after Kingston the views were marvelous with large rocky cliffs plunging 100's of feet to the blue/green sea below. From Salmon Cove I wanted to go through Blow Me Down (don't you love these names!) but the locals kept trying to dissuade me and direct me through Victoria. I had this conversation three times at least while trying to get directions:
Them: "But it's a dirt road, Bai!"
Me: "Yes I know. I still want to go there."
Them: "You have to go over dem der mountain!"
Me: "That's ok, I've been over worse"
Them: "You nuts?"
Me: "Nope, I've just discovered that the road less traveled tend to me more interesting and exciting than anything you will ever find on the normal, well beaten path."
When I finally got through their disbelief and obtained directions to the right dirt road, I headed out and started climbing, and climbing and climbing. Wow! It was so steep at points that I had to get off and push because in the loose gravel my wheels could not get enough traction to force me up. However, like everything else so far, the work was more than worth the effort. The view from the top was amazing, I found a blueberry patch and gorged myself until I felt sick, and now I can say that I have been to Blow Me Down. What could be better than that?
After returning to the paved road near Freshwater and just before Carbonear, I saw enormous waves crashing against the rocks near a point about a kilometer off the road. I hopped of the bike and hiked out to the tip of the point and spent nearly an hour watching and taking pictures of the surf. I am really having fun just taking my time. I am only two days easy riding from St John's so I don't feel any pressure to rush onwards. My experiences these last few days have resulted in my coming to the conclusion that I did not leave enough time to do Newfoundland properly. Now that I have seen what the coast looks like, there are so very many other places that I would like to explore. Next time I am back (and I WILL be back!) I want to tour the entire coast of Newfoundland. Every time I have an opportunity to turn off the main road I will take it.
I was just entering Harbor Grace when I tried to shift and my rear derailleur did not move an inch. The cable had broken and as the nearest bike shop was still several towns away I just pedaled in low gear to the nicest house I could find and knocked with the intent of staying the night and fixing it myself. Ahhhh.. Successful again and it could not be sweeter. I have a nice comfy bed, I had a great hot shower, I was fed and then given free rein to make some calls on their long distance plan. Woo Hoo! I also fixed my rear derailleur using the spare cable I have been packing for the last 9000 km. Good thing I have some mechanical aptitude because I pulled the old cable out without thinking how I was going to thread the new cable through my hollow chainstay. The smart thing would have been to tie the new one to the old and pull it through but like I said, I did not think ahead. In the end I straightened out a clothes-hanger to thread some monofilament fishing line through and then used that to pull the cable through. Glad I got it worked out because only having one gear to get me to the next bike shop would have really sucked.
As a little bit of trivia, the air strip here at Harbour Grace was the one from which most of the pioneer trans-Atlantic pilots left in the conquest of the Atlantic by air. Even Amelia Earhart flew from here! There is also a great big boat, the SS Kyle, that sits in the middle of the harbour. And I mean, SITS! It seems that back in the 60's it had a run in with a iceberg that caused it to be brought to the harbour for repairs but then a big storm hit, the moorings broke and the ship drifter into the shallower water were the bottom got torn out. It was too big and heavy to be moved so they just stripped everything out of it and it has been sitting there ever since. It looks really neat though.
Well I might make it to St. John's tomorrow but with all the side trips I have been taking it might be two more days. It is now really, REALLY late, curse those electric lights! There was a good book just sitting on the shelf in the room I am sleeping is so I read the entire thing in 4 hours and it is now 2:30 am. Ouch! This was not the first time that I have stayed up too late to read a book and it certainly will not be the last. Let me tell you, there is something to be said for candles which force you to go to bed when they finally sputter out.
I realized today that I have become much less detailed about the hills in my road reports. I think it is because now that I am in such great shape I hardly even notice them anymore. Well I do notice them but they don't stand out like they use to. This will not be a problem for any of you coming from Vancouver as you will be in killer shape by here but to those of you crazy enough to start out in St. John's, I apologize. You are really going to have your work cut out for you. The scenery has now changed back to the mountainous, heavily forested hills from the barren grounds I was seeing earlier although in some section the rock is still very evident. There were more hills along this route than yesterday and they are different as well. Some of the climbs are really good grades (the one out of Harbour Grace Southside was the 2nd steepest of the trip so far) while as I got closer to the bottom of the peninsula the hills became longer with shallower grades. It still seemed like I went down worse that I had to go up, there's that good old reason to go West to East again. Now this reminds me, here in Newfoundland directions are reversed. Newfoundlanders would say that they are going down to Labrador or down to Grates Cove (at the tip of the peninsula) while in my mind, and in the minds of most "mainlanders," going North is "up" since that is the way it looks like on a map. Newfoundlanders will say that they are going UP to Toronto while I definitely feel that Toronto (and South in general) is down. What do you think? This is no big deal but it sure can make getting direction confusing as I found out when I told someone I was coming down from Grates Cove and they told me I was going the wrong way! (eg. "Sure there is a great place to camp, just head down the road." Errr .. Which down do you mean?)
The bays and coves along the "top" (ok, that's the only time I will use that) I mean the bottom of Conception Bay differ starkly from those on the Trinity Bay side. Here they are more like small inlets with large rocky hills to either side and some have a very fiord like appearance. I must say if I was forced to pick one place in Canada as my all time favorite (or at least favorite "genre") I would have to say that it is the coast of Newfoundland. I just love it.
My route today can be summed up in one word. Coastal! Every time I was given a choice, I took the coastal route as opposed to the inland route. From Harbour Grace I passed through Bishop's Cove, Bareneed, Bridges and Harbour Main before ending up at Holyrood. I even did a side trip out on a peninsula to Port de Grace just to get a picture of the town because the entire peninsula is just one big rock and it looked so rugged and foreboding. From Holyrood I pushed on to within striking distance of St. John's but because it was getting late I called it a day at Seal Cove.
The last two days I have been going much slower for two reasons. First my flight doesn't leave until the evening of the 14th so I have tons of time and secondly, this area is just so beautiful, I don't want to miss on bit of it. I also spent a lot of time off of my bike today just hiking over the hills to find the best picture spots. This slowed me down considerably as what should have been a five minute walk would end up taking 45 minutes because of the wild blueberries everywhere. I could not go more than three steps before coming upon a mass of berries just crying to me to be picked and eaten. "Don't pass us by Trevor," they would call out. "We are plump and juicy and tasty, eat us" they beckoned. Well I could not help but oblige them. I swear I ate at least 4 pounds of berries today alone.
Tonight, my last night of the trip camping, I am spending in Seal Cove. It was about a 3 km detour to here from Hwy 60 but I just had to get away from the main road and back near the water. From Holyrood, Hwy 60 quickly became the suburbs of St. John's. Full of little commuter communities and I had to get away form the cookie cutter houses and get back to an area with some personality.
Tomorrow St. John's!
I am done. Finished. Complete. I awoke this morning in a state of numb shock. This was to be my last day on the road. I had made it. Nearly 4 months and over nine and a half thousand kilometers later, I had crossed a continent. What does it feel like? I think disbelief and shock would sum it up best, not euphoria like most might think. I just can't grasp that I am done. I can't imagine not having any more distance to cover. My mind flits from memory to memory: camping in Field, fighting the wind in Saskatchewan, climbing Hell Hill in Ontario. It almost seems like they are memories from a dream. Events that happened a million years ago and yet also just like yesterday. An impossible contradiction? You try it and let me know how you feel.
I now understand how Marco could stay on the road for nearly three years and over 30,000 km. The days just blur together and it gets easy. I have not had a day off since leaving PEI nearly 2000 km ago and yet I have been climbing hills that would have killed me at the start. I have been going up them as if they are not even there!
Fittingly for my last day, Mother Nature blessed me with a sweet tailwind that blew me all the way to my finish line so be warned, what I feel was level or downhill really might not have been. From Seal Cove to St. John's was mostly downhill. I cringed upon entering the suburbs but what could I do? I now only have one route to get me to where I have to go.
It was early when I arrived in St. John's so I pushed on through the city and continued onto Cape Spear, the most Eastern point of North America. It was 15 km from town and all ups and downs. From the city there was a tough 2 1/4 km climb then 3 km down followed by ~2 km up then a gradual 4 km down then 1.5 km up and another 1.5 down. On the way back you have to take the same road so you hit it all in reverse! I was completely shocked to climb the 2 km from downtown St. John's over a hill and find complete and utter wilderness. I mean there was nothing but bush as far as the eye could see. If this were Vancouver or any other city, this area would be completely developed by now with monster homes and mansions eating up the best views. I imagine it must be great to live downtown and still be a 5 min drive from fantastic hiking and camping.
Along the route I passed through the community of Blackhead and noticed that it had a very nice rocky beach that and would make for some great victory shots in the water. I was going to stop and take some pictures on the way back from Cape Spear but when I did, the weather had changed and it was nowhere near as nice. You would have thought I would have learned by now, I have never, ever regretted taking an extra picture.
Cape Spear was nice but foggy. Don't expect to be able to get down to the water because they have much of the area fenced off and I am not sure you would want to go there even if you could. The waves are gigantic and slam against the rocks generating a huge spray. Many people have died because they were out on a rock when a large swell hit and swept them out to sea. At a water temperature of 4 degrees you don't last very long. While I was watching the waves I saw an old three masted sailing ship (~60+ feet long) slowly heading toward St. Johns. It was as if I had been suddenly transported 200 years back in time. Where I was standing, I don't believe that anything has changed in hundreds of years and I could picture what the area must have looked like when it was a bustling seaport. It was a neat feeling.
On my return to town I cycled the South side of the harbour to get some photos of the houses perched on the rocks and then headed up the North side of the harbour to the top of Signal Hill which offered an amazing view of the city and the Atlantic. At the top there was also a series of signposts with directions and distances to major cities all over the world: London 3733 km, Moscow 5149 km, Prague, Australia. Of course all the distances were as the crow flies but there was not one that I could not have biked to with the distance I have done.
Signal Hill is named as such because in the old days flags were hoisted on a yard-arm, telling merchants which ships were approaching the harbour, giving them time to prepare docking facilities. It is also the location where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message Because the hill is located at the entrance of the harbour, it was also a site of strategic importance and was a major site of harbour defenses from the 18th century through to the Second World War. I learned that at the end of World War II a German U-boat actually fired two torpedoes into the harbour! Very cool. I must also say that in terms of physical location, Vancouver and St. John's have to be the most beautiful cities I have seen.
With my sight seeing complete I then headed on to my home for the next two days. I am currently staying with a great guy right in St. John's that I met through someone from the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list. I just sent out an e-mail asking if anyone lived in St. John's and wouldn't mind putting me up for two days and as usual they came through for me. Thanks guys!
Day 121. Sept 13. 0 km. Total 9524km St. John's
Today my host and I went down to Quidi Vidi, a small fishing village that is in the North-West corner of St. John's to take my victory photos. I waded into the water at the wharf and held my bike up over my head in a victory pose while he shot off a roll of film. Funny, the bike felt light at the start but by about photo fifteen I was telling him just to wind and shoot as fast as possible because it was getting really heavy. I will be getting triplicates of that roll to send a copy of those photos with a thank-you note to everyone I stayed with on my journey.
With that job done we then went hunting for packing materials, specifically boxes for my bike and trailer so that I can mail them to Montreal where I will be starting work in October. While phoning around I discovered something that you should be aware of, bike boxes may be very hard to find! I had not even thought about it but of course, St. John's tends to be the end-point for most cross-Country cyclists and they ALL try to get bike boxes to ship their bikes in. Then to make matters worse, because this is early September, all the students who moved away to go to University have taken whatever boxes remained for moving their bikes as well. Luckily, after calling six or seven stores, I finally found someone who had just received a box and we picked it up and organized all my gear. In total, I got everything into two huge boxes and each were exactly the maximum dimensions for shipping by mail (well perhaps a bit over in places). When we went to drop them off at Canada-Post to have them mailed to Montreal I made sure I smiled a lot at the lady measuring and weighing them and she graciously let them pass. Phew, I did not want to have to unpack anything. Canada-Post is definitely the best way to send it, two boxes with a total weight of over a hundred and ten pounds was mailed for only $65.
Well that's it. I am in the airport now just waiting for my plane that will take me home. In nine hours I will be back to the point I left four months ago. It's funny how things can change. Remember that fellow I met in Castlegar who had been on the road for 2 years, 7 months, 31,000 km and I thought he was crazy? Well I now know that he is not. If I had the money and the time I would be very tempted to just point my bike South and head down the East coast of the US. Perhaps take a right at Florida and head for South America and then .. It would be so easy to keep going but I now have a job waiting and a medical degree to obtain. The chains of life are slowly wrapping themselves about me again.
I do have some regrets from this trip and most of them center around Newfoundland. I am sorry now that I did not cycle Gros Morne up to L'Anse aux Meadows. I missed doing the loop from Norris Arm to Gambo, I did not do the Bonavista Peninsula and I still want to see the Avalon Peninsula. I WILL BE BACK!
Now one of the main questions that keep coming up in e-mails sent tome is: "What ever happened about that girl in Quebec? Your moving to Montreal right?". Well I recently received an e-mail from her .. From her husbands computer . DOH!!!! "I swear officer I didn't see any ring!" Ah well, that's life for you, always full of little surprises.
I really hope that you have enjoyed reading about this trip as much as I did doing it. Some days it was really tough to keep going but I know now that having come this far, through all the trials and tribulations, I can take on anything that life will ever throw at me. Head down, tail up, pedal pedal pedal!!!
May your skies always be clear and the wind at your back,
P.S. Now that the typing is done I will get on
scanning in a whole bunch of my pictures. It never ends ;-) You can view
the ones I have up by clicking on the photo galleries to the left.