Wednesday, August 20, 2008

(M+M) Aug 16 - 18: 9300 kms into St. John's -- We are FINISHED!!

It seems almost surreal, but we are sitting here in the beautiful seaside city of St. John's NFLD with over 9300 kilometres under our bike wheels. It is strange to say this, but as of Monday, Aug 18 WE ARE FINISHED!!!

Here are some stories from our last days:

Sat Aug 16: Clarenville to Bellevue Beach 76 km, 5:25 on the bike
We got a bit of a late start -- too much party time I think! Sonia fed us up and we loaded the bikes and headed out. The day was clear, sunny, and warm. It looked to be a perfect day for making some miles, but the late start and a headwind kept our mileage down.

We had a hump out of Clarenville to get back on the Trans Canada Highway. We spent the rest of the morning riding around the southern end of Trinity Bay. We had some fine views of Trinity's capes and bays early on, especially around Ivany's Cove. Then it was up onto the spine of land that separates the Burin peninsula from the Avalon. At Come by Chance (one of those amazing Newfoundland place names) we could actually see Trinity Bay on the east, and Plancentia Bay on the west.

This spine of land is home to some of the famous Newfoundland fogs. Certainly we got to experience them! We were riding along after lunch when the first wisps started to make themselves known. Within about 15 minutes we were enveloped in a cool, clammy blanket. We had to ride with some care as visibility in sections was quite limited. Fog seems to change the landscape and the scrubby black spruce, small ponds, moss, and lichen seemed almost alpine as they resolved out of the fog. The place reminded us both of being up in the sub-alpine of Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island.

We decided to head down to the water and try camping at Bellevue Beach campground. Blue sky reappeared as we headed away down the Osprey Trail away from the TCH. As the name suggests, the site was beautifully situated above a sand beach on Trinity Bay in the Chance Cove area. We had beautiful views and the sound of the ocean in our ears all night long. The campground had some drinking water troubles, so our purification chemicals came in handy.

Even though it was a beautiful and breezy afternoon, Mike set up the tarp. Lucky he did, the fog descended in the evening, and the rain started overnight. This campsite also had a fresh hatch of black flies -- those odious little creatures! Mike was especially bothered as he decided to take the stove apart. Doing detail work as the black flies eat you is something of an art. Mike did quite a bit of dancing around and yelling, but the stove did burn cleaner. On the upside, black flies do stop bothering you in the evening, and we had no mosquitoes to take their place, so the later evening was pretty much bug-free.

Sun Aug 17: Bellevue Beach to Brigus 76 km
We woke to rain, but the tarp allowed us to enjoy our breakfast and pack up in dry comfort. The rain was initially quite light and we had good views of Trinity Bay as we left Bellevue Beach. We got back on the Trans Canada into a headwind. About 15 km along we pulled off at the Whitburne exit for 2nd breakfast at the Esso. We were nice and wet and hungry by this time, with the rain pounding down, so the stop was appreciated. We toweled off, changed socks, and headed in to dry out.

Our goal for today was well within reach -- the town of Brigus on Conception Bay. Mike's grandfather, Lemuel Roberts, was born in Brigus in 1849. Mike's mother has done some research on the family history in Newfoundland, so we where hoping to see some of the areas she has talked to us about.

We got off the TCH on highway 71. It was a gravel road for a few kms, but it was quiet and we now had the wind at our backs. We rode into the small coastal town of Cupids after passing through Makinsons. Mike's family also has history here, so we visited the church and the ocean front. Founded in 1610, Cupids is the first English settlement in Canada. From Cupids it was south down the coast to Brigus. This little town, founded in 1612, has kept a lot of its character houses. It has a lovely waterfront walk, several old churches on high ground, and lots of Victorian, and older, era homes.

We stayed at the Brittoner Bed and Breakfast. This 160 year old home has been beautifully renovated. It is right on the water and has views out across Conception Bay to Bell Island. Our host, Betty Barrett, made us at home. We dried out, did our laundry, and Betty gave us a fine tea and then dinner.

As the afternoon closed the rain stopped and we got out for an evening walk around the town. Tomorrow would be our last day on the road -- St. John's is just a day's ride from Brigus and the weather report was calling for a sunny day. The tour is almost over for us!

Mon Aug 18: Brigus to St. John's 88 km Betty gave us a fine breakfast and we headed out for our last day on the road. It was sunny and warm, but the wind was up. We had it in our face for the first half of the day as we made our way along highway 60 south around Conception Bay. The road was windy, with a number of hills -- but the views of the bay in bright sunshine were well worth the effort. Names like Marysvale, Avondale, Harbour Main, and Holyrood went spinning by. We even tried a few kilometres on the Trans Canada Trail outside of Holyrood, but it was a bad idea -- the trail is full of sharp rocks and is used by ATVs, so is in no shape for bikes.

After Holyrood our route got busier and turned north. The wind was now at our side and not so fierce. We went up through Seal Cove (home of Jennifer Bursey Kent), and into CBS (Conception Bay South -- but CBS is how everyone refers to it). The road deteriorated here and the drivers got a bit wild, so we climbed the hump out of CBS and made our way back onto the TCH. We took this all the way in to our exit to Memorial University. We were planning on surprising our old friend and roommate Rod Byrne at work - he is a professor in the Computer Science Dept. We missed him at work, but got directions to his house and surprised him there, after a short diversion down into town. What a great fellow Rod is -- we arrived at his house out of the blue and are now staying with him. At dinner that night we also caught up with another old friend, Mike Rendell, and yet another Mike, Mike Rayment.

We toddled around St. John's on our bikes -- down to the harbour (couldn't dip the wheels as it is only docks at harbourside), along some of the historic streets like Water, George, Gower, Cochrane and Bond. This seaside town is full of the most colourful old houses, and it seems like there are fine views down to the harbour from every street. But the streets are steep, and I had to push the bike up a few of them. And so did Mike - his drivetrain had finally had the biscuit and could not cope with the st. John's hills. It seems strange to consider it, but after over 100 days of riding and 9300 kilometres, WE ARE FINISHED!!!!

We'll take the next few days to see the sights in St. John's and area -- things like Signal Hill, Cape Spear, Quidi Vidi, and some of the east coast trail. We'll spend some time catching up with Rod, and with new cycling friends Greg, Pat, and Brian (Pat and Brian were on the x-Canada road ahead of us).We will also ride over to visit the Kents on Bell Island. I'll post something more on our time in St. John's in the next few days, but for now we are simply revelling in our accomplishment and enjoying NOT loading up the bikes.



Anonymous said...

Congrats on growing that amazing beard mike. Absolutely spectacular. The bugs must have LUVed it!


Knee-d-full Things said...

Congratulations Mary & Mike! Quite the beard, Mike! Just think - no more bugs! Looking forward to hearing more at a Friday morning Pure Vanilla Coffee! Maybe Mike can treat us to one of his 'dances'!

Mark Weston said...

Congrats you guys - hope the weather in SJ treats you well (better than me at least - mostly cloudy and a bit of rain when I was there). Make sure you hike the trail from the Battery around and up to Signal Hill! Cathy and I are in PEI now and will start cycling on Saturday. Are you still thinking of cycling down to Halifax? It'd be fun! cheers

Mary Sanseverino said...

Thanks everyone!
Mark, we did the hike you suggested and it was great. Excellent views. Weather has been good -- mostly sun. Today (Thur 21) we did a 27 km hike along a portion of the East Coast Trail. We went from Bay Bulls to a geyser called "the spout".

Anonymous said...

Am I ever glad you decided to get off Route 60 (CBS Highway) when you did! We had three cars demolished on that piece of road and I have it to thank for my broken collarbone that still aches when it rains. And Mike - quite the beard! My Dad was a barber and can give you a trim if you're willing to risk your life and travel back to Seal Cove.

Congrats and hope you enjoy your visit with the Kents this weekend.


Anonymous said...

Congrats you guys, and bless you for your support and care for Mark. We have really enjoyed following your progress, many thanks.
Luv Robert and Joanna

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike and Mary,

Congratulations for making such a grand plan and then for completing it! You guys are amazing. We have really enjoyed watching and reading.

LillAnne Claudio and Gemma