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Prince Edward Island
Days 92 - 102
Day 92. August 15. 95 km. Total
7447 km. Charlottetown.
I had a great sleep last night and awoke this morning to find that the rain had stopped although the sky was still threatening. I was invited into the house for tea and got to talking with the two guys who lived there. I told them how tough yesterday was and they said I was in luck, there where three HUGE hills coming up and that I would not have to touch my pedals until I hit the bridge. "Yea, right", I thought. I had not climbed nearly high enough to coast for the next 10-15 km and I told them so. But they were emphatic, the hills were so big that you could not pedal up them when you came from the other direction. Since I had distance to do I just agreed with them and left. Sure enough I was right, there were three piddling descents and that was all. I will say it again, your outlook depends on what you are familiar with. To these guys the hills were huge but to someone who had crossed the Rockies they were nothing. I made it to the bridge around 10:30 and then the real hassle started.
Confederation bridge is quite an amazing structure. It is 13 km long and was built a couple of years back to replace the ferry that went from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. The bridge was built and is owned by a private company that has a fixed contract with the government for the next 30 years. In my opinion they broke one of the contract stipulations when I tried to cross but I guess I am getting a little ahead of myself. When I arrived at the bridge my suspicions were confirmed, you are not allowed to bike across the bridge even though there is a large shoulder. The company that runs it is afraid that you might break down or run into severe cross winds. Their contract with government states that they have to provide a shuttle for pedestrians and cyclists at a minimum of once every two hours. Well I waited, and waited and waited. Nothing showed up. That bridge is only 13 km long, I could bike that far in under 40 min! I have a hot meal and a shower and a bed waiting for me at my grandparents place in Charlottetown and here I am, stuck waiting in this stupid bus shelter. One hour went by and I started getting mad. I left the shelter to try and hitch my way across but no one stopped. On the other side of the road I saw two girls hitchhiking the other direction and went over to share my supply of oranges with them and have a chat. They were from Quebec and had spent the summer on Magdalen Island (134 km North of PEI) and were returning home. I asked how long they had been trying for a ride and they said 45 min. Forty-five minutes! These were two very attractive young women (now why is it that after three months on the road I REALLY notice attractive women?) with luggage and no one had stopped in the last hour! I guess most of the people crossing the bridge are on vacation and people on vacation tend to be so wrapped up in getting from one place to another nothing else registers. I left them with some of my snack food, wished them luck and went back to shelter to wait for the shuttle. If two beautiful women with backpacks can't get a ride, there is NOT A CHANCE that gangly old me with my bike and trailer is going to get one so why even bother.
Two hours passed and still no shuttle. Two hours! I could have been nearly in Charlottetown by now and to make matters worse the weather had worsened. The wind had picked up and it had started to rain. My mood began to match the weather, dark and foreboding. Finally, the shuttle arrived and drove me and my bike across into PEI. Total time to get across the 13 km bridge = 2 hours and 30 min. Oh well, it could have been worse. As soon as I got across there was an accident and the bridge was closed for an hour.
You know how once you are in a bad mood everything seems to exacerbate it? That was me at the time. The wind, the rain, and the crowds, I was in a BAD mood with a capital B. The crowds you ask? I went to the travel info center to pick up a map of the island and I felt like I had entered and international airport! The crush of people was unbelievable. Tourists from Canada, from the US, from Japan, from Europe, from everywhere! There were people all over and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. I grabbed my map and fled to the peace and quite of the rainy outdoors.
Earlier I had planned to take the Blue Heron Drive (a tourist route designated on the map) to Charlottetown a distance of 85 km but because it was now 1:30 and I really wanted to make it there for dinnertime I decided to stay on Hwy 1 which would cut the distance to 56 km. I think it might have been a mistake. PEI is NOT flat. My dad grew up on the island and when I was young he would tell me stories about the island and always joked about their ski hills compared to ours on the West Coast. My mental picture was puny little rolling hills that would be a piece of cake, heck it looked like easy cycling from the map. WRONG! I hit three big hills this day going to Charlottetown and parts of them felt like 6-8% grades. Maybe they weren't really that bad but I was wet, tired, and angry and they sure felt tough. Perhaps being so close (only 50 km) and yet still so far (3-5 hrs riding) was what did me in. The rain kept falling and the headwind continued to fight me. I was starting to lose it, to rage at the wind, the rain, the hills. I was flush with anger and I was nearly crying with frustration....... "Wait a minute," I thought, "This is not like me at all." I realized that I had become mentally unbalanced and then it hit me. This morning I had expected to be at my grandparents by lunch and yet now it was 2:30. I had not eaten anything in nearly 6 hours and my brain was falling apart from the lack of sugar. I headed into the next store, bought a cherry pie and chowed down. I polished of the pie in no time flat and began feeling better almost immediately. With a full stomach and better spirits I continued upon my way.
Finally the hills leveled out and I reached the outskirts of the city. With less than 5 km to go I caught my second wind and started pumping the pedals with renewed vigor. Nearly there... food... shower... bed... Hey why does my bike seem bouncy? I look at my rear tire and sure enough, I have a flat. CRAP! I look up, look at the house numbers, and there is my grandparents house! I got a flat one block from my grandparents house! I just got off my bike and ran the rest of the way. There they all are! My Grandmother, Grandfather, Aunt and Uncle! I made! I am here! I survived! I was so happy to finally be there, to have a roof over my head for a while. It was great.
Day 93. August 16. 0 km. Total 7447 km. Charlottetown.
Ahhhhh..... A day off.....
The trials of the last few days have been forgotten. Today my cousins took me out sightseeing in their car and we drove around the island looking at the sights. We went up to the North Coast to check out the Cape Tyron lighthouse and I have never seen a more picturesque spot in my life. A white lighthouse in a green field perched on sheer red cliffs. If you have ever seen a picture of a PEI lighthouse I would bet anything that you are looking at this one. For those of you who do not know, one of the things PEI is best known for is its red soil. And I mean RED! It had rained recently and if you took the water from the puddles in a dirt road and put it in a bowl you would swear it was Campbell's Tomato Soup. When you are surrounded by freshly plowed fields of this red soil it almost feels like you could be on mars. I decided immediately that this is the spot that I am going to camp at when I ride past here on my bike tour of the island.
Driving was fun for a change. After being on a bike for so long it seems like we are flying along the road and the back roads of the island are a great deal of fun to drive. We took one road (Hwy 224) that felt like a roller coaster. Huge rolling hills that went up and down and up and down. I was in the back seat at the time and had to move up front because I was getting car sick. At the speed we were going it felt like you were lifted out of your seat when you went over the crest of the hills. Great fun!
When we got home I fixed the flat that I got yesterday and found a large sliver of glass in my tire. I learned that PEI does not allow plastic bottles for carbonated beverages. That's right, no 2L bottles of pop, no 500 ml bottles of pop. Everything is GLASS!?! Seems the local bottling company has made a big fuss about that new fangled plastic stuff and so everything is in glass bottles. You might wonder why that's a big deal? Well anytime you are driving along and see a plastic bottle by the side of the road imagine if it had been made of glass. When glass hits the road it shatters and so along the major highways there is a good deal of broken glass just waiting to give a cyclist a flat. Oh well, I made it. I have a home for a while and I think I am just going to go to bed. Nite nite.
Day 94. August 17. 0 km. Total 7447 km. Charlottetown.
Just another day spent vegetating. My greatest weakness in life is books and unfortunately the room that I am staying is just filled with them. I read until 4:30 am this morning which is much too late when you are trying to recuperate and build up strength for the push to the finish line. I spent most of the day just relaxing and visiting with my grandparents who I have not seen in nearly 13 years.
This evening we went out for a fantastic dinner at The Fisherman's Warf in North Rustico. I would highly recommend the place. We had an awesome lobster dinner with a 60 foot salad bar. I skipped lunch to build up an appetite and for dinner I ate 4 plates of mussels, a 1 lb lobster, a bunch of other food and 9 desserts. That's what I call getting your moneys worth! Bicycle tourists are a serious danger to the profit margins of any buffet. Thanks Nanny for the meal.
Day 95. August 18. 4 km. Total 7451 km. Charlottetown.
What can I say about today? I slept in until lunch and then went to the library with the intent of starting to type up the last months worth of journal entries. Unfortunately all the computers were booked so I just picked a book off of the shelf and spent the afternoon reading it. It was The Firm and I would have to say that I enjoyed the movie more than the book. Heh, I guess there's my deep insight for the day.
Day 96. August 19. 0 km. Total 7451 km. Stratford.
The enormous task of typing up all I have written looms ahead of me. I had no idea that I had written this much since my last update and that I am this far behind. I am finding that I can type up about 3 days worth of entries per hour but if I have to do much editing and remodeling of the text I am much slower. If I have to completely write the day from memory using point form notes I had taken during that day it takes me even longer still. I keep telling myself that I ALWAYS have to write in my journal, in detail, THAT very night but sometimes when it is really late and I am really tired I just end up summarizing the day in point form with the intent of fleshing it in later. Unfortunately doing it that way ends up being much more work and yet lacks the detail that would be present if I wrote it up then and there. I don't do this often but it happened enough that it is going to take me a while to fill it all in.
Day 97. August 20. 9 km. Total 7460 km. Stratford.
More typing today. I spent about six hours yesterday, another eight today and yet I am barely half way done. I sure hope you are enjoying reading these to make all this effort worth while.
Midday I took a break and dropped into Smooth Cycle (Ask for Neil) in Charlottetown and spent a whole bunch of money on more bike stuff. The only maintenance stuff I needed done was to have my front hub repacked and the rest of my money was spent on items that I have been considering buying for some time but only now decided to bite the bullet and purchase. I picked up a new cycling computer (my old one is on the fritz), a real rain cover for my helmet (the Best Western shower cap just doesn't cut it anymore), and invested in a good pair of breathable rain pants as the rubber ones I am using now are starting to let the rain seep through when it really pours. I also bought one of those new saddles that have a cutout in the center to relieve pressure on the main nerve leading to the groin. As I have mentioned before the Brooks saddle that I have been riding on has begun to give me numbness in my neither region and I am hoping that this new saddle will fix this problem.
In talking Neil I learned something new. The last couple days I have been fighting a rather nasty cold which caught me by surprise as up till now I have been healthy as a horse. Apparently this is such a common occurrence among bicycle tourists that it has actually been given a name, The Maritime Flu. It is believed to occur because most bicycle tourists eat tons of carbohydrates but because of expense and hassle, do not eat much meat\protein. This low protein diet does not have much of an effect until the tourist reaches the Maritimes (most go west to east) because protein (well actually amino acids, the building blocks of proteins) are required by the immune system for proper functioning and by the time the tourist reaches the Maritimes, all of their reserves are depleted so their immune system is depressed and the person gets sick. This makes sense to me and next time I will be sure to carry some supplements with me.
Day 98. August 21. 20 km. Total 7480 km. Stratford.
I am really getting sick of typing, it was another 8 hours today. Actually, I love reading my old reports I just hate the typing portion. I can now answer one of my old questions I posed to myself back in Ontario. Was it worth it going over Manitoulin Island and under Georgian Bay instead of continuing straight along Hwy 17? I can now answer with a resounding YES! Meeting that couple on the tandem near Tory Hill with the swim in the swamp, sneaking a nights sleep in a tourist centers teepee with the resulting early morning sunrise over the Georgian Bay, the hill from hell near Denbigh. All these are memories that I would not trade for anything and if I had just gone straight through I would have always wondered what I missed out on. Also, when I spoke with Chris and Karen about the route they took, they said that there was nothing overly special about Hwy 17 and that it too was extremely hilly and hot. To top it all off, since I have decided not to continue on to Newfoundland with Chris and Karen after all, I am will not even miss the extra two days that I spent taking the longer route. All in all I am happy that I took it.
I did make it to the library today and uploaded about a weeks worth of entries (5000 words) onto the site and am just about finished typing the rest, another 21,000 words! Tomorrow I hope to finish typing and start proof-reading what I have written in preparation for uploading this weekend. My goodness, I think that I am typing more words for this website than I typed for my entire undergraduate degree.
Riding to and from the library today gave me 20 km in that new saddle and man o man it is just killing me. My Brooks is nice and wide while this one is MUCH narrower and it is putting pressure where I didn't have pressure before if you get my drift. I am hoping that with time the saddle (or my rear) will "break in" and it will become more comfortable. Oh well, I would rather have a sore rear for a couple days than impotence in the long run. My parents do want grandchildren (and I want to be able to work at providing them <GRIN>).
Day 99. August 22. 9 km. Total 7489 km. Charlottetown.
Well I did finally finish typing up to the end of New Brunswick today and decided to call it quits for now. Unfortunately when I went into the library and tried to update my web-site the site that I do it through was down and I was unable to do it. CRAP! All that work and now I have to wait to get it where everyone can read it.
I was able to check my e-mail though and I received one from that Dutch couple I met the day I reached Calgary over two months ago. Considering the enormous size of Canada I find it amazing how many people I have bumped into. The Dutch couple told me that they had met two cyclists as they were crossing the Rockies and wondered I had met them, their names were Chris and Karen! They did not know that I had already met up with them in Ontario! Also, earlier my parents had told me about a fellow named Joel who they had heard giving tour reports on the CBC who was cycling from Prince George to Newfoundland. I met him in Ottawa and Chris and Cathy met him around Sudbury. Then just today, my cousins from PEI who are driving across Newfoundland as part of their honeymoon camped in the same campsite as Chris and Karen! They recognized Chris and his sister by my descriptions and talked with them. It seems amazing to me that had any of us taken a different road, stayed at a different campsite, slept in one morning or took a longer break one day these chance meetings might never have happened and yet they did. Man I love bicycle touring!
Day 100. August 23. 88 km. Total 7577 km. Cape
Dare I say it? Could PEI be the most beautiful province yet? Perhaps my memory of the other provinces are fading but even so, the route I rode today was fabulous.
I left my Grandparents place around ten o'clock today because it is only 90 km to the Cape Tryon Lighthouse where I want to spend the night tonight. So far none of the side roads I have taken has had shoulders (except where they pass throughout the national and provincial parks). From Charlottetown I rode Hwy 2 past Dunstaffnage and turned north onto Hwy 6. The hills here were rolling and the road passed through picturesque PEI farmland, generally rolling green potato fields. I then stayed on Hwy 6 for ~12 km and then turned off into PEI National Park. This was where the scenery really picked up. The route through the park took me along the north coast ocean beach and the grass covered sand dunes were something that I had never seen before. From the park I took Hwy 15 back to Hwy 6 and stayed on Hwy 6 through Cavendish and Green Gables to New London. Cavendish and Green Gables are the two main tourist attractions on the island but to me they were the cultural equivalent of strip mines. In trying to sell the mystique of Anne of Green Gables, the resulting rampant commercialization of the ideal has utterly destroyed the very charm that they were trying to present. This area was a blight on the face of this fair province. Amusement parks littered the landscape and shops such as Ripley's Believe It Or Not could be seen in the strip malls along the road. One store even had a fiberglass shark bursting through its roof. Lucy Maude Montgomery must be rolling over in her grave. Disgusting, but at least this trash is confined to this small area leaving the rest of the island relatively unpolluted and uncorrupted. Although tourism is a large force in the economy most of the communities have managed to maintain their character under the tourist onslaught. Quaint little fishing villages nestled in inlets and bays and bed and breakfasts are everywhere which maintain the character of the region better than garish motels and hotels. From what I have seen so far, PEI has enough charm to fill a province ten times its size.
By six o'clock I reached the lighthouse that my cousins took me too earlier. To get to the lighthouse take Hwy 20 to French River and take a right past the boat sheds that sit on the end of the inlet. At the top of a little hill you will reach a T junction on a dirt road. To the right is New London Bay which has beaches and a light house but to reach Cape Tryon go left at the T junction for about three houses and then take a right along a dirt path to the cliffs. The work is well worth it and the view is breathtaking.
Tonight my campsite is perched five meters from the edge of a 200 foot cliff over looking the Gulf of St. Lawrence and 500 meters away is the Cape Tryon lighthouse. If you have ever seen a picture of PEI with the red rocky cliffs and a tall white lighthouse on a grassy knoll you have seen my campsite. As I write this its' beam rhythmically passes over my tent as it shines out to sea. I am in a euphoric mood tonight. I am like a wine connoisseur, I collect experiences to treasure and savor in times to come. My only concern is that the wind will pick up and blow me out to sea.
On that pleasant thought I will head off to bed.
Well my worries last night about the wind were well founded. Around midnight the wind did pick up and unfortunately it was blowing OUT to sea not in from the sea. Every hour or so I would wake up to the sound of my rain fly slapping against the tent wall as the wind roared past on its Northern journey. Next time, scenery be dammed, I will camp farther away from the edge!
I spent most of the day on the Blue Heron Drive Tour (marked on the PEI provincial map) with some small modifications. Hwy 20 was somewhat rolling and the North Coast scenery was very nice but not as spectacular as yesterday, it was not as rugged. Past Malpeque I took Hwy 104 to Indian River then Hwy 106 to Hwy 2 and Hwy 1A. Hwy 104 and 106 were badly cracked but like most rural roads, traffic was light and I could dodge the worst of it. Here the terrain was mostly level and passed through plainer than yesterday tracts of farmland. Hwy 2 and Hwy 1A were in excellent condition with large shoulders but traffic was shockingly heavy after the peace and quite I had on the back roads yesterday. From Central Bedeque I left the Blue Heron Drive route, taking Hwy 10 and Hwy 112 to get me back on Hwy 1. I road Hwy 1 to DeSable where I returned to Hwy 19 and the Blue Heron Drive which I stayed on until Charlottetown. The south shore route was impressive and the views of the sparkling Northumberland Strait beyond burnt red sand beaches and lush green potato fields is still shimmering in my minds eye.
The days are now getting shorter and one pleasant side effect is that the sun is now rising at about the time I am usually waking. I now get fantastic sunrises every morning without having to get up at some obscene hour. I was able to get some fantastic shots of a giant pink sun rising next to the lighthouse that I can't wait to see how they turn out.
It is amazing to me to think that I have been on the road for so long. When I left, the days were getting longer, kids were still in school and the farmers crops were just poking shoots out of the ground. Now the days are getting shorter, the crops are being harvested and the kids have been out of school for nearly two months and will be returning next week. These things just seem to sneak up on you. Have I really been on the road that long?
I just checked Chris and Karen's answering machine and heard that they have met up with their friends who drove across and they are all now on their way back home to Vancouver. Am I ever glad that I am not with them! There is no way that I would have traded the past two days cycling for anything. Actually there is one thing that I would love to get rid of. My new saddle!! If you recall I picked it up to replace my Brooks which was giving me numbness. Well I solved one problem and created another. The new saddle is much narrower than my old one and was somewhat uncomfortable at the beginning but I hoped that I would get used to it and break it in. Well it didn't work! Yesterday was uncomfortable and today was downright painful. My butt sort of hangs over either side of the seat (and at 6' 4", 160 lbs my butt is not that big) and the movement caused by pedaling quickly resulted in some severe chafing. Ouch! By the end of the day I could not spend more than 5 minutes sitting before the pain became too much and I had to stand up and pedal. I would stand until my legs started to give out and then sit back down for another 5 min. Needless to say when I got back home I put the Brooks back on and I will just try to figure out how to fix it to avoid numbness.
I am writing this back at my Aunts place in a nice soft bed. Oh man, it's 1:00 am! I have to get some sleep if I am to hit Nova Scotia tomorrow.
Day 102. August 25. 0 km. Total 7703 km. Stratford.
I can't believe how sore I am today. I have not been in this much pain since after climbing though Manning Park in BC. Originally I had planned on leaving for Nova Scotia today but with the way my legs and rear are feeling I decided that I had better take a day to recover while I have access to a roof and a bed.
I was expecting my butt to be sore from the saddle but was unprepared for how sore my legs are. It was either because I lost conditioning or it was because I spent most of yesterday standing to pedal. My legs are just not used to cycling for extended periods of time in that position and I guess I really strained some muscles.
All in all if I had to miss a day this was sure a good one to do it on. The weather was a beautiful day for just lazing around, 29 degrees with a cool breeze off the ocean. I even got down to the local beach for a swim. The red sand and cliffs made a stunning backdrop to the ocean scenery. I called my friends at work in Montreal from the patio and when I described my day and how I was sitting in a lawn chair enjoying the breeze with a cold beer they were less than impressed. I wonder why? ;-)
As a side note to all you tourists out there. If ever you bicycle around PEI be sure to carry enough food with you. Because the island is so small, no community is much more than 30 min to an hours drive from Charlottetown and its supermarkets. Because of this many communities don't even have a corner store so groceries may be few and far between. Also, be aware that most stores are closed on Sundays. Don't be trapped without food!