Sunday, August 24, 2008

(M+M) Dipping the wheels in the Atlantic

We have finished a week in St. John's Newfoundland with our old friend Rod. We hiked a chunk of the East Coast Trail (from Bay Bulls to the Spout), went up Signal Hill, visited an archeology dig at Ferryland, the Ocean Science Centre on Conception Bay, and rode out to Cape Spear (furthest east you can get in Canada). Dinner theater, and a few nights out with friends filled our evenings.

But, the thing that indicated the trip was complete with goals met was dipping the wheels of our bikes into the water in St. John's. But where to do it? We had already visited Mile 0, but it was quite a ways from the water, so no dipping there. The St. John's harbour is hard to get to, and, frankly, not the cleanest place in Canada (it will be a lot cleaner soon -- St. John's is getting sewage treatment). We selected the small harbour at Quidi Vidi, just to the north of St. John's proper.

We had to cross private property to gain the Quidi Vidi water, and were invited to do so by the land owner. He then had us into his house to look at photos of others who used his harbour side to launch, finish, or carry on their adventures. Nice to know we are in good company.

We'll be back home in Victoria tomorrow (Monday,Aug 25). Even now it is strange to think that the adventure is coming to an end -- what a great ride it has been! Frankly, I'd do it again in a heart beat.

ttfn and happy trails!

(Mark) Hello from PEI; Home on August 30

Hi all, just a quick note from sunny PEI. We've spent a few days in Charlottetown and then yesterday morning left on bikes; last night we camped along the dunes in PEI National Park at Stanhope and today we're in Cavendish checking out all the Anne/LM Montgomery sights! Tomorrow we'll stay at Kensington and visit a few more LMM sights (birthplace, wedding place) and then we're going to Sunnyside to see a musical before coming back to Charlottetown.

I have booked my return flight (much as I would have liked to take it, the train just wouldn't work out well, and I got a super cheap flight) and I'm getting into Victoria a day before Cathy, I'll be there about noon on August 30th. Charlie is coming in at about 1pm that day, so we're planning on meeting up at the airport and riding into town together! So if anyone wants to ride back into town with me after four months away, just come on by the airport at noon next Saturday!



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.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

(Mark) Aug 14-15: Halifax, end of the road (for now)

Aug 14: 68km to Head of Chezzetcook
Today was a nice morning that turned a bit rainy, but not too bad. I could have gotten to Halifax today but wanted to check out several museums and spots along the way and take a scenic route into town, so I arranged crash space in Head of Chezzetcook and took a leisurely day. I met a nice fellow named Nicholas cycling Quebec to Sydney via Halifax, so we were able to exchange tips about what each of us would see on the road. I stopped at the Heritage Village in Lake Charlotte and the Fisherman's Life Museum at Jeddore, which was very nice as they served lunch and tea (no extra charge) just as part of their regular daily routine to visitors. I also waited out rain a couple of times, and also visited the railway museum at Musquodoboit, which was interesting. In Head of Chezzetcook I stayed with Doug and Wendy and their parrot Elvis, and I had an excellent time thanks to their hospitality; and Doug is a local bike advocate so he told me about the rail trail into Dartmouth and various local bike issues.

Aug 15: 53km to Halifax!! End of the road!! (until PEI at least)
A very sunny day all day, which was nice. The rail trail into Dartmouth starts near Head of Chezzetcook and winds into Dartmouth via some very scenic areas; but the surface is not so great in a few spots (but otherwise very nice). I picked a ton of chanterelle mushrooms (probably $40 worth, judging by prices at the farmer's market in Halifax) along the way, stopped at Lawrencetown beaches to watch the surfers (and the surf), and immensely enjoyed the causeway across the salt marshes for several kilometres - a very scenic part of the trail indeed. I got into Dartmouth past Shearwater and the oil refinery and then proceeded into town to my hosts Sarah and Al, who kindly lent me crash space - and lo and behold next door was where Charlie was staying! So it was great to meet up with him again and trade stories. We had a big supper with Charlie, Reuben, Becca, Amy, and Joanna at Reuben's place next door and I made a big pot of chanterelle mushroom soup.

Well, no more biking, at least until Cathy and I get to PEI: the bike is now luggage! Very weird to be reverting to "normal tourist" mode for a while (and just in time, judging by weather reports). Total mileage to date: 8930km .

Probably fewer blog postings for the rest of the trip for me, as Cathy and I will be travelling and doing "normal" tourist things, so we'll keep our own record separate from the blog. Don't worry I'll post regarding the cycling on PEI!

Aug 14 - 15: Bonavista Adventures

Thur Aug 14: Glovertown to Clarenville 90 km

The morning gave us clearing skies and a bit of sunshine. We had a relaxing start to the day and didn't get off until after 10 am. We rode along the water through Traytown and up a honker of a hill to get back to the TCH. The next part of the ride was through Terra Nova National Park, which has large, rolling hills with some nice views of the ocean. A road-side highlight in this park was a huge field of orchids. I think they were ladytress orchids, or perhaps really big bog orchids.

The hills kept our average speed down, and because we started so late we realized later in the day that we couldn't make it to a campground. We ran into Greg about 15 km into the Park and he said he was off to Clarenville, possibly to a motel. After having a quick bite to eat at a road-side cafe outside of Port Blandford we decided to call a B&B in Clarenville. We decided on Sonia's Heritage House B&B. What a stroke of luck!

Upon arriving at Sonia's we found Greg had decided to stay here too. Then we met Judy Lynn and Roger, and Roger's seeing-eye dog O'Riley. They are friends of Sonia's and although originally from the Rock, were here on a visit. Judy Lynn is a professor at University of PEI and, of course, we have friends and colleagues in common. It really is a small, small world!

As Mike moved into our room in this renovated 113 year old traditional Newfoundland home (including three storeys, coffered paneled ceilings and a slate roof), I got a ride up to the liquor store with Judy Lynn and Roger. When we came back, I found we had been invited for a cod dinner with Sonia and Lawrence. It was delicious! Then it was off for a bonfire at the fireplace in the backyard and lots of Newfoundland stories.

The world will grow even smaller for us as Sonia and Lawrence's son Lee is leaving for Victoria next week. He is going to start work with a family relative who runs an industrial window washing firm. I fired up Google Earth and showed Lee exactly where his new home would be. We will keep in touch with Lee when we get back home.

Friday, Aug 15: A tour of Bonavista Peninsula

No riding for us today. A huge tropical storm tracked through Newfoundland, dumping over 70 mm of rain and with winds in excess of 60 km/hr. Over a breakfast of partridge berry pancakes Sonia offered to drive Greg, Mike, and me out to Bonavista, with stops at Amhurst Cove, Bonavista, Cape Bonavista, the Dungeons, Elliston (to visit Sonia's mom and try her partridge berry tart), Trinity, and Port Union. We also called in at a farm in Lethbridge.

The wind was roaring and the rain lashed down for most of the day, but we got to see the North Atlantic in a storm state. I can only imagine what it must have been like for John Cabot as he stood on land at Cape Bonavista in 1497. We were almost blown off our feet as we stepped out of the car at the Bonavista light. I was only too happy to be off the bike!

Sonia also took us to look at her new property in Amhurst Cove. She had grown up in this area and spent many hours looking out over Amhurst Cove. Her property has the same outlook she enjoyed as a girl.

By the time we had a bite of lunch and toured down the east side of the Bonavista peninsula the rain was beginning to lessen a bit, but the wind was still up. We were in the lovely church in Trinity with the wind making the old building creak and groan like a ship in a storm.

In all we toured over 200 km in the car with Sonia. She gave up her whole day for this. Thank you so much Sonia. We would never have seen this area were it not for you! And, Sonia's stories brought the whole place to life in a way no tour book ever could.

Our day wasn't over when we returned. Lawrence had been cooking up a fine pea soup with dumplings and salt beef while we were out. A huge Atlantic salmon was roasted on the bbq, and we all sat down to a wonderful dinner. After dinner the guitars, mandolins, drums and tambourines came out and people dropped in for a kitchen party. We were singing and playing well into the night. The evening finally wrapped up with a bonfire under a clear and calm night sky. With the full moon over the trees of the backyard, Mike and I finally made our way to bed. All in all a highlight day in Newfoundland. I see why people love it here so much.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

(Mark) Aug 9 - 13: Nova Scotia Redux

OK I am getting behind on this blog thing - time to update while I have the time.

Aug 9: only 16km today!
I checked out Placentia and visited Castle Hill, which has fabulous views of Placentia Bay, before getting on the ferry at Argentia. It rained somewhat all day. I re-met up with Andy and Christa on the ferry and also met a German backpacker named Deiter and we had a fine time chatting and eating on the ferry. I slept well, once again on the 7th deck lounge floor.

Aug 10: 112km to Glendale, NS.
I got off the ferry at 9:30 and had a nice ride down St Andrew's Channel, through Grand Narrows and Iona and down Portage Rd parallel to the highway. The scenery was nice but not spectacular, and I felt like putting some km behind me on Cape Breton before hitting the Eastern shore, so I decided to get back on the highway after Portage Rd, and I made some nice mileage on the excellent Nova Scotia highways - great pavement, good shoulders. In Glendale I was asking directions to a farm I'd seen a sign for (thinking I could pitch a tent there) from a nice gentleman, we got to chatting, and when he discovered the farm I was heading for he said "oh you can't stay there, they're a bunch of g*dd*mn hippies up there, you can stay here". And thus I made the aquaintance of Roger and Maureen. Roger and I went trout fishing (first time for me, he caught a trout, I got a few nibbles but no bites), and we ate the trout for dinner. They live in a 160-year-old house that Roger fixed up, it is gorgeous and apparently people come from all over to see it. Very nice stay there indeed. Thanks Roger and Maureen!!

Aug 11: 87km to Guysborough
Roger and Maureen fed me a big breakfast despite my protestations. I took the TCH into Port Hastings, back across the Canso Causeway, and turned left down the coast road. It was an interesting ride, not too much to see though. Once I got into Guysborough I was cruising the main street when two nice ladies called me over and asked where I was going, etc. Turns out they had both bike toured, both different tours across the USA. I ended up sleeping in their beach house, it was a big family vacation house, and I kayaked on the ocean in the afternoon! (another first for me) So big thanks to Jim, Jim, Susanna, Stuart, and especially Sarah and Caroline for hosting me!

Aug 12: 103km to Goldenville, past Sherbrook
After breakfast at the beach house I hit the road. I took the Larry's River road south from Guysborough and then the dirt road to New Harbour, in order to avoid going around the big Canso peninsula. It was foggy all morning and then turned into a downpour, which I mostly sat out at Goldboro, and chatted with locals for an hour or so. Then over the cute cable ferry, on which I chatted with a nice couple from Montreal - seeing my socks drying on my bike they insisted that I take a couple of pairs of dry socks! Very nice and slightly odd gift! I went out of the way to visit the lighthouse at Port Bickerton, which is on a nice point, with great views. The rain started up in earnest nearing Sherbrook and I sat out some of it on a porch, visiting with some cats (the porch owners weren't home). Sherbrook sits on the fine St Mary's River valley and I also sat out some rain at the salmon conservation centre just outside of town. Thankfully at about 5:30 the rain stopped and the sun came out all at once as I was entering town, so I carried on to Goldenville looking for a spot to camp. Upon stopping at the first house to fill up water bottles, I met Jason and Eric who of course promptly said "why don't you just camp in the yard?" and then their mum Doreen took a look at me and said "are you kidding? you have to sleep in the basement". So we ended the day with pizza and beer and watching some Olympics.

I should point out that I haven't turned on my camp stove in five days at this point and I was actually looking forward to camping and cooking for myself that night, but I just can't refuse Nova Scotian hospitality! Everyone is really eager to help out the traveller it seems.

Aug 13: 97km to Spry Harbour
Nice riding along the shoreside towns all day today. One interesting highlight was a scarecrow collection, similar to the one near Cheticamp, but unlike that one (which was fun and silly) this one was downright creepy, with everyone looking like Thriller extras, and no fun icecream stand to set it off. Weird. Upon getting past Sheet Harbour I started looking for a place to camp. I stopped at one guy's house to get water and ask whether camping on the beach was legal (it isn't, I found out later) but he was kind of crazy so I beat a hasty retreat and asked at another place, where I got water. So camping on the beach is out, so I was going to stop at a rest stop and camp, but I had to find a phone to call ahead to accomodations for Aug 14 (a host in Head of Chezzetcook) so I stopped at the first house past the rest stop. And guess what? The house owner owns all the land behind and beside the rest stop, invited me to camp there, and we had a great chat. So thanks to Owen for that! It was a great camp: no bugs, beautiful location on a tiny island poking out into the harbour (an old road came onto the island), and in the evening there were two foxes cavorting about 30m from me that I watched for quite a while.

Tomorrow (today, as I write this) is 100 days on the trip! And the day after is Halifax!!

(M+M) Aug 10 - 13: Newfoundland Touring

Not too much to relate on this section of our trip. The weather has taken a grey and unsettled turn. We have been riding mostly along the TCH and, while it does give a speedy ride, it is not full of "scenic wonders". This is especially true when the sky is overcast -- grey skies, grey water, grey pavement. I don't think Newfoundland gets a lot of sunshine anyway, and this August has been particularly poor in the sunlight department so far.

However, we have been pleased to meet a number of interesting people and they have made our days fun. Also, NFL has by far the largest number of honkers on the highway. These are people who honk and wave, encouraging us onward.

Aug 10: Deer Lake to Springdale Junction. 122 km, 7 hrs on the bike. We stayed at Stella and Francis Hull's Riverview Bed and Breakfast. They are both keen birders and Francis had some fantastic bird photos on display.

Aug 11: Sprindale Junction to Grand Falls - Windsor. 110 km, 17.5 km/hr average. Easy riding on this section of the TCH. Grey skies again. We met two other riders, Aidan and Tyler. They started a few days after us in Victoria. Check out their blog at

We stayed at Beothuck Campground outside of Grand Falls - Windsor. It was 18.00, but not the nicest place. Just generally unkempt. We should have stayed at the slightly more expensive RV campground closer to the downtown. We had a fine Chinese smorg for dinner and could barely roll back to the tent and get into bed.

Aug 12: Grand Falls - Windsor to Gander. 116 km, 15.6 km/hr
Another grey morning with some sunny breaks in the afternoon. We spent the morning trying to find the big waterfall on the Exploits River in Grand Falls. It looks like there used to be one, but it is now behind a dam. The Abitibi Bowater mill hides quite a bit of the riverside landscape.

We traveled on to Bishop's Falls and found remnants of another set of rapids and falls, again behind a dam. Then it was on to the highway with a lunch stop down on highway 351 at Norris Arm. The Valley Lounge does all day breakfasts!

We camped that night at the Country Inn Motel and Trailer Park. Very nice facility. It looked like rain, so Mike tarped the site. Sure enough, it really dumped over night. We fell asleep with the sound of rain on the tent and tarp.

Aug 13: Gander to Glovertown. 70 km, 16.7 km/hr
Grey morning in Gander, but our gear was fairly dry, so we packed quickly and headed into town. Mike had found a set of keys on the highway yesterday so we turned those in to the RCMP in Gander.

Today was the greyest day of all, and as we stopped for lunch at Square Pond, the skies opened in a thunderstorm that lasted for at least an hour. We were also pleased to meet up with another cyclist - Greg from Montreal. We heard about Greg from some folks at the Tourist Info stop in Springdale Junction, so we knew he was just ahead. Like us, Greg is riding an old bike. Unlike us he has had only one flat (we got flat 29 today -- my bike, front tire, sharp metal spike).

We stayed at Square Pond until the worst of the rain had passed, then rode for Glovertown and the Lilac Inn B&B. Here we met Keith and Elaine, our hosts for the evening. We had some fruit, wine, and crackers and chatted with Keith about updating an old house (like the Lilac Inn), then it was off to bed, again with the sound of rain.

Tomorrow we head south through Terra Nova National Park. Hopefully the weather will improve a bit.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

(M+M) Aug 7 - 9: A Short Gros Morne Tour

Canada is known for the beauty and diversity of its National Parks, and Gros Morne is one of the outstanding jewels in the entire system. Moreover, the Newfoundland and Labrador weather gods took pity on us and let us enjoy two action-packed days in the park in warm, sunny, clear weather.

On day 1 (Aug 7) we left Lomond River campground and rode over a twisty route down along side the Bonne Bay fjord. Roughly speaking, Bonne Bay cuts the park in two, with the north section containing the Western Brook Pond (famous for the huge granite cliffs coming down into an inky-black lake) and Gros Morne mountain. Rocky Harbour, the main town in the area, is also on the north side. The south side has an outstanding natural feature -- the Tablelands. This huge golden-orange chunk of mesa rises above all the other features on the south side. It is a chunk of the earth's mantle that has been thrust up above sea level. Exposed mantle like this is very rare, and it is this feature that gives Gros Morne its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

One of the bigger communities on the south side is Woody Point. We caught a water taxi here and ferried across the bay to Norris Point in the north of the Park. As an extra treat we saw whales on our crossing. The skipper slowed down and followed them for a few minutes. These were Minke whales, and are often found in these waters.

From Norris Pt. we stopped for 2nd breakfast (Pittman's -- highly recommended) and then hurried on to the Norris Pt. KOA. Here we set up the tent and proceeded to the 2nd part of the day, a hike up Gros Morne mountain. At 806 metres this is the 2nd highest point on the island. We rode to the trail head and spent six very enjoyable hours on the mountain. The trail itself is 16 km long and gives commanding views over almost the entire Park. The mountain is a huge, hulking chunk of granite with a rounded top that lets you wander pretty much as you like. Highlights of the hike were the Ptarmigan, Woodland Caribou, and moose we saw at the top. The Caribou, which are the symbol of Newfoundland, were particularly impressive with their huge racks of antlers.

Day 2 (Aug 8) saw us move camp from the Norris Pt. KOA to a B&B in Rocky Harbour. From here we breakfasted at the Treasure Box and bought tickets for the Western Brook Pond boat tour. The tour was set to go at 4:00 pm. The Pond is about 26 km north of Rocky Harbour, so we decided to ride out and have a look around at the coastal plain. We visited the Lobster Head lighthouse, and stopped at Green Point (Lisa Spellacy did her graduate work here -- what a fine spot to work!). Then it was on to the tour.

To get to the tour boat you have to cross about 3 km of bog on a wide and well maintained path. We rode our bikes along this path, viewing moose along the way, and arrived at the tour just in time to climb on the tour boat. The view of the huge granite cliffs as we motored under them was out of this world. I would like to go back and do the back-country hike along the North Rim of the Pond.

The tour finished and we jumped on the bikes and headed back to town. We arrived back around 8:00 pm and finished the day with fish cakes at the Sunset Cafe. These are a delicacy of the area and were very tasty -- salt cod, onions, and potatoes.

Day 3 (Aug 9) had us on the bikes and humping over some huge hills along the north shore of Bonne Bay. After some striking scenery wAdd Imagee made it to Wiltondale for moose burgers. From here the road got a bit easier and we retraced our steps to Deer Lake where we set up camp for the night. Our campground host, Gerard, was full of interesting stories and ideas. He showed us a few of his classic motorcycles and chatted with us about adventures all across the island and throughout North America. All in all, a fine detour off our route -- highly recommended!

Friday, August 8, 2008

(Mark) Aug 4 - 8: St John's, Cape St. Mary's, Placentia

Ok as you have noticed I'm going to preface my posts with (Mark) so you all know who is posting, since I and M+M are now on different paths doing different things.

So what have I been doing recently? Well, August 4 and 5 were days off in St John's for me, I climbed up Signal Hill via North Head which is an amazing trail, checked out the Battery and Quidi Vidi, chatted with Neil at Quidi Vidi Battery, checked out the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals and had tea in the crypt of the Anglican one, went to the Rooms (provincial museum) with its spectacular views, and met some more touring cyclists at the hostel. And that was just on Monday. Tuesday I did laundry and saw a bunch of other sites including the Railway Museum (very interesting), Commisariat House (elegant, somewhat interesting) and various heritage walks around town, and worked on my bike. St John's is really an elegant, lively and interesting city, I really like it - definitely high up on my list of favourite Canadian cities. In the evening my new friend Ben from Toronto who I met in the hostel and I checked out a few bands at the last night of the George St Festival, which was pretty cool.

August 6: 117km to North Harbour. A nice ride, started in a downpour which eased off during the day. I went through Bay Bulls, over the remote Route 13 to the TCH and then down Salmonier Line to Salmonier and Colinet, where I had a few chats with really incomprehensible locals, and went down the river to near North Harbour where I found a beautiful camping spot right on the beach. It rained all night but stopped before I got up, thank goodness.

August 7: 80km to Cape St. Mary's. Well, Alan, you were right - I do believe Cape St. Mary's is one place on planet Earth I feel priviledged to have been able to visit. It really is spectacular and amazing, and the ride down there was very neat too - very remote, cruising across the tundra, I felt like I was in the high arctic. I would try to describe the seabirds at the Cape but suffice to say there are 70,000 of them and the sight and sound (and smell!) is quite incredible. I walked all around the reserve on various trails and spent a fine afternoon there before heading down the road to camp. The nice man at the nature centre pointed me to a fine camping spot and I had a nice view of the sunset. Unfortunately it was supremely buggy so dinner consisted of bagels etc in the tent.
And this day marked 3 months on the trip! Very exciting.

August 8: I just got into Placentia after a very hilly ride up the coast road from the Cape. Beautiful ride! I was stretching my legs outside of town when Andy walked across the road and introduced himself, and one thing led to another and now I am sleeping in the spare room of the house he and Cindy and Christa and we're going to mum's house for a BBQ tonight. The hospitality of strangers never ceases to touch and amaze me!

More updates whenever I get internet next. Quite possibly not for another week, when I will be in Halifax!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Aug 6: Into Gros Morne National Park

Steady Brook to Lomond River Campground
88 km
5:30 on the bike
15.8 km/ hr average

We had a fine breakfast with a farming couple from Grand Prairie. I wish the morning weather matched breakfast. It was another wet, cool day. Wind was still from the north east (still our direction). But, we loaded the bikes, put on the gortex and headed out. We didn't get too far down the Trans Canada when we were passed by Dave, a fellow X-Canada rider. Dave is from England, and was one of the two British fellows who flew to Victoria, bought their bikes, and all their gear, from Fairfield Bikes in Victoria, and started across Canada. Dave said that the service he got from Fairfield was excellent, so he was only too happy to spend his money there.

We slogged it out in the rain and wind north east on the Trans Canada until we hit Deer Lake. Here we pulled into the Tim Horton's and had a coffee with Dave and Ivan, the cyclist we met yesterday. We dilly-dallayed as much as possible, but finally set out on highway 430 toward Rocky Harbour and Gros Morne National Park.

The weather was starting to improve, and we were beginning to get glimpses of the mountains around Gros Morne. We were also delighted to see Wally, Judy, and Lynne go by in the truck and camper. I wish were staying with them tonight, but they were headed to a campground north of Rocky Harbour, and we were not able to make Rocky Harbour. However, we had a quick meeting on the road and perhaps we will see on another tomorrow in Rocky Harbour or around the area. What a coincidence! -- they are leaving tomorrow on the ferry, so it was our good fortune to see them all again one more time. We didn't ask Wally if he was getting out on the bike!

After we left Wally, Judy, and Lynne we arrived at the Gros Morne park gate and the attendant advised us to head south west down towards Woody Point on the 431 because the last 35 km into Rocky Harbour on the 430 is very hilly. Also, there is a water taxi from Woody Point over to Rocky Harbour and it takes bikes. This will make a nice loop for us. So, we decided to head to Lomond River. At the moment I'm sitting out on the front porch of the office building, enjoying the sunset, and looking forward to a ride through the Tablelands portion of Gros Morne tomorrow, a small boat trip, and, perhaps, a hike up Gros Morne mountain itself. We'll have to see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aug 2 - 5: Two wheels on "the Rock"

Aug 2: Nine down, one to go! Big Bras d'Or to Port aux Basque (Cheeseman Provincial Park) 36 km
After a night camped out in the tent at Jan and Alan's (they had a very full house), Alan gave us a wakeup call at 5:30am and we packed up and were on the road at 6:50 am. Although it was sad to leave the cabin, it was very exciting to think we would soon be hitting our 10th and final province. We were just a duo now as Mark left the day before to take the shorter route to St. John's NFL. Weird to be a duo after all those kms together, but we will see one another in just a few weeks to go over all the details.

Jan made sure we were fed and watered and Kathleen and John also got up to see us off. So, with Alan running down the driveway to catch a few shots of us, we started off into a misty, rainy, and cool morning. We arrived at the North Sidney pier about 22km and 1 hr 10 mins later, in plenty of time for our 9:00 am ferry, only to find it was delayed. I got a bit of a chill waiting in line, so out came the toque (Canada, Aug 2nd: toque, long pants, and sweater required!).

We sailed at about 10:30 am on the Lief Ericson ferry. The trip took six hours. I, who usually am a good sailor, felt a bit off on board and slept most of the trip away in the forward lounge. Mike, who had a bad night and didn't sleep well at all, was in good form and had a fine time roaming around the ship.

Newfoundland was bathed in sunlight and Port aux Basque was a welcome sight. Soon we would be on the road again in a new province. We rode off the ferry at 5:20pm and headed out to Cheeseman Provincial Park. On the way we tried a few metres on the Trans Canada Trail, but it was far too rough for us.

Camping in this part of NFL is cheap -- 13.00 for a tenting site in an excellent campground - showers, grassy site, water -- everything a camper could want. The evening was beautiful, clear and sunny, warm but not humid. After dinner it was early to bed for a full day of riding tomorrow.

Aug 3: Port aux Basque to Crabbe's River 95 km 15 km/hr average 6:20 mins on the bike
What a difference in the weather -- this morning was overcast and a bit cool. I decided to wear a long sleeve jersey. We also had a fairly stiff NE wind, so the going was a bit difficult as we were going NE.

We started off the day with a trip to the Barrachois (barrier) beach below our campground. We had a fine view out to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and over to the lighthouse at Cape Ray. As we went back to the Trans Canada Highway and started east we had some amazing views of Table Mountain and the Twin Hills. The Long Range Mountains soon came into view and we could see some of the hiking trails that threaded through these flat-topped peaks.

The next geographical feature we passed through was the Codroy valley. The road meandered through this wide and lush valley, but rolling hills and a strong headwind made this heavy going for us. Our average speed was down. We were travelling on the Trans Canada Highway -- big shoulders and low traffic. The signs on the highway indicated moose, but no luck, we didn't see any.

We pulled into Crabbe's River Campground, close to the Irving Gas Station at the junction of Highway 404. Again, camping was 13.00. This campground was not as perfect as the provincial park, but everyone was friendly, the price was right, and the shower was hot.

Aug 4: Crabbe's River Campground to Kippens 87 km 15 km/hr

What a hard day! The wind and rain really took it out of us today. We never had a downpour, mostly a drizzle, but the head wind threw it against us. As well, there are not a lot of services along the Trans Canada in this part of NFL, so 2nd breakfast was hard to come by. We were saved by the Ultamar gas station cafe outside of St. George's. Advice to the cyclist: if you are riding this part of NFL, bring lots of supplies.

The scene on the TCH in this part of NFL, especially in the rain and wind when visibility is poor, is a bit dull. To switch things up a bit we turned off the highway onto the 404 and headed through Cartyville, McKay's, and Robinsons. After 2nd breakfast we headed into St. George's and along the 461 to Stephenville Crossing. Here is was up and over a big headland to Stephenville proper on the north side of St. George's Bay. Views from the top of the headland down the Bay were lovely, even on this stone grey day.

The day was difficult, so we treated ourselves to pizza and a B&B. We are now ensconced out in Kippens and trying to decide what to do next. We may do a ride around the Port au Port peninsula to wait out the north east wind, or we may push on into it and try to get to Corner Brook. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Aug 5: Kippens to Steady Brook (up the Humber from Corner Brook)
100 km
6:48 on the bike
14.5 km/hr average

What a miserable day! Rain, cold (we got up to a blistering 15 degrees today)and a head wind kept our average time down. That we were able to put in 100 km was due strictly to time on the bike. For sheer wetness, this ranks right up there with our wettest day in Brittany during our 2000 tour in France.

We did start the day with a fine breakfast at our B&B in Kippens. The first hour on the road, from Kippens back to Stephenville, and then out to the Trans Canada via Highway 460. This is also known as the Hansen Highway, after Rick Hansen.

By the time we passed Black Duck Siding it had started to rain. The rain was with us for the rest of the day. We joined the TCH and slogged along until Pinchgut Lake, where we hit the only highway cafe we saw all day. Just before PInchgut we met another cross Canada rider. He and his partner (who was ahead) started from Victoria on May 25th. They flew in from England, bought new bikes at Fairfield Bikes in Victoria (Long Haul Truckers -- the same as Charlie's), and started out. These two fellows must have been doing some long days. We didn't stop to talk for long as the rain was really pelting at that point. Hopefully we'll see them tomorrow.

We are currently in a B&B -- the Edgewater Inn -- in Steady Brook. We are right on the banks of the Humber River, just below the Marble Mountain ski resort.

Hopefully the weather will improve tomorrow as we travel on to Rocky Harbour and Gros Morne National Park.

July 30, 31, Aug 1: Friends old and new; Feasts here and there

Mike and I spent three wonderful days off the bike enjoying the "down home" hospitality of Jan, Alan, and friends at Big Bras d'Or. Mark arrived on Wed, July 30, and left on Friday Aug 1, and so had two days off to take in the feasts and fun at the cabin on Bras d'Or. We were so pleased to see Jan and Alan, they made us feel completely at home. They also made sure we were wined and dined in Cape Breton style.

I already mentioned the fab lobster chowder on Tuesday evening, but our first evening with Mark at the cabin featured a hickory smoked turkey (ok - Mark didn't have the turkey, but there were lots of other delicacies to sample). The irrepressible Bobbie Nagle joined us for that feast, as did Lynn and Louise, the dynamos of delight from North Sidney. Bobbie is famous for knowing just about every Broadway show tune going, while Lynne and Louise are formidable hikers, and know lots about hiking in Newfoundland.

Our second evening featured another feast. This time it was a feed of mussels and chantrelle mushrooms (picked by Mark, from a cliff below the cabin) up at Bobbie's house. Lynn and Louise joined us for that get together as well. The third evening was a scallop and pesto dinner. Scallops were courtesy of Bobbie. Alan's sister Kathleen and her husband John drove up from Halifax and were there in plenty of time for dinner. Kathleen is a force of nature and one of the only people who can stop Alan in his tracks with just a look (well, Jan can do it too). Visiting from Toronto was Alan's nephew Michael along with his partner Alice. Everyone was gathered for the long weekend, and to help Alan bury cousin Ted's ashes in the St. James churchyard down the road. So, the feast was also a bit of a wake for Ted.

Lest anyone think all we did was eat and drink (although it did snow food and rain drink), let me assure you we did get some exercise in too. On Wed Mike, Alan, Jan and I did the Dalem powerwalk and swim (a 7 km hike to Dalem lake). Later that day Mark and I visited the Alexander Graham Bell museum. On Thursday we all did a classic Cape Breton hike at Lighthouse Point, across the bay from the reconstructed fort of Louisbourg. Our hike was in the Louisbourg National Historic Area, and had us walk through the area where the English off-loaded and set up artillery to shell the fort.

On Friday Mark left for the ferry, while Mike and I did bike chores and helped Jan and Alan get the cabin ship-shape for the upcoming weekend. Of course, we took a salt-water dip every day in the Big Bras d'Or channel, just below the cabin.

We packed a lot into a few short days. It was so wonderful to see Jan and Alan at the cabin. The place really is a Shangri La. It was such a treat to share the experience with them and all their family and friends. Thank you so much Alan and Jan! See you soon in Victoria.


ps: check out their blog at

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Aug 3: I made it! YAY!!!

Well, I got to Cape Spear today and after having looked at the compass on the front of my bike pointing East all the way across the country, finally I got out to the point of land and the compass pointed East and there wasn't any more land. DONE!!

But a quick review of the last few days:
Aug 2: 52k to Whitburne, NL
Aug 3: 85k to Mile Zero, St John's, and then another 42k with going around town and then going out to Cape Spear in the afternoon/evening, for 127k overall.

The ferry to Argentia was great, I found a nice spot to sleep and we had nice views of the Burin peninsula and Avalon in the morning. Breakfast and lunch were free (because the ferry was late and slow, I guess) so I got two breakfasts and a lunch to fill me up. On the ferry I also met three other guys on bikes, two doing coast-to-coast, all with interesting stories - they were Mark, Donny and Jody, the latter going Toronto to St John's. That afternoon after getting off the ferry I went past Whitburne, passed 8000km and camped in a lovely forest with deep plush moss to sleep on, and I was up early and on the road by 7, all keen to get into town today. I came in on the Trans-Can and then Hwys 90 and then 60 through Conception Bay South and through Topsail and into town that way, which was OK enough, though mostly strip malls through CBS and into St John's, but fairly direct. I rode a few bits of the Trans-Canada Trail, both yesterday (a shortcut between Hwy 100 and Whitbourne) and a few bits today, and they were rideable (especially today - into town it seems to be all nice crushed gravel) but slower than the highway.

I got to town about 1:30 and rode down the waterfront looking for the Mile Zero marker, but I couldn't find it! so I went to the tourist info and it turns out it is not on the waterfront but a few blocks up, next to city hall, so I went there and Mark from the ferry had just arrived as well and was taking pictures with his family from town (he is an expat newfie) so I politely waited until they were done before taking pictures. The marker itself is kind of modest. Oh well. Mark's uncle, after we discussed how cool it was that some of his family were there to meet him, gave me his cellphone and said "call your mother!" I said, "oh I can't do that, it's long distance you know, in fact the most long distance you can get!" but he insisted so I called mum and dad from there, which was pretty neat. I also took photos at the Terry Fox memorial (not as big as Victoria's), at the only spot on the waterfront we could get our bikes down to to dip the wheels (and throw in the pebble, mum), and at the Mile Zero of the Trans Canada Trail.

The hostel in town let me camp in the backyard, and they didn't want to charge me, which is nice. After setting up there I went out to Cape Spear - easternmost point in North America - and back. Thank goodness I left my stuff in town and the bike was empty because there are three honker hills to get over on the way out! It is about 17k and it took me over an hour each way, with an unloaded bike.

And now I'm going to spend a couple of days checking out St John's before heading back to the ferry. I hope to get down to Cape St Mary's on the way.

It feels very strange to be here, end of the road and all. I still can't quite believe it's over, more or less - I still have to get to Halifax, but the point-to-point mentality is gone and I can relax and sort of do what I want, take a bus if I want to get somewhere fast, hitch rides, etc. Probably I'm not likely to do that, just ride all the way, but the point is that I could if I wanted to! I met a guy (named Andrew) in the hostel who has been exploring Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on bike for about a month now and is basically just going where he wants at whatever pace, what a nice way to travel.

Thanks everyone for emails and whatnot of support, it is really great to hear from people at home and hear what you have to think about all this. It still kind of boggles my mind. More updates whenever internet is available...


PS I won't be posting photos with my blog posts because that requires a card reader, which only Mary has. Sorry!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Jul 30, 31, August 1: And now we separate

Well, a quick update from me while I wait for the ferry to Newfoundland.

On the evening of July 29 I had a fabulous evening camping on the beach in North Shore with Anna, Jay, Nathan and Natalie who were enjoying their last evening of a trip around the Cabot Trail. It was really fun to hang out with them and see them off the next morning on their return to Lunenburg, and I hope to catch up with at least Anna and Jay in Lunenburg in August or thereafter. Thanks again guys! And thanks to Paul at the pottery shop and Bill and Penela who graciously let us camp on their property down on the water. It was a simply beautiful spot, we saw whales (we think) and tons of seals and seabirds all evening off the beach.

July 30 all 5 of us rode down across the Englishtown ferry and went our separate ways once we hit the Trans-Canada highway again: I headed east to Jan and Alan's at Big Bras d'Or and they headed south towards Baddeck where their vehicle was parked, for the drive back home for them. I was sad to leave them, despite having only known them a day! After arriving at Jan and Alan's and reuniting with everyone, in the afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting the great Bobby Nagel (Alan's neighbour) and going with him, Alan, and Mary into Baddeck where we visited the Alexander Graham Bell museum. That evening the twins Lynne and Louise came over along with Bobby and we had a great feast.

July 31 was a day off (thank goodness) at the cabin, which we filled by going on a lovely hike to the Lighthouse trail along the coast starting across the harbour from the fortress at Louisbourg. It really was a spectacular hike and featured true Atlantic coast, sun and a bit of fog and picking bake-apples and other berries. That evening featured yet another feast featuring PEI mussels at Bobby Nagel's house, again with the twins visiting.

Aug 1: Today I am in North Sydney waiting for the ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland! Very exciting to be hitting the tenth province!! (well, I won't arrive until tomorrow). Sadly however the triumvirate is broken: Mike and Mary will be heading to Port-aux-Basques to cycle all of Newfoundland and perhaps go up to the northern tip, so they will be on the Rock for much longer than I will. I am not going to cycle all of Newfoundland so that I have time to go down to Halifax to meet Cathy. So leaving Alan and Jan's this morning was quite weird, as I was by myself for good once I left their driveway...

So, as for my future plans for the rest of the trip, I will probably be taking the ferry back from NL on the 9th, so I will just be cycling to St John's, staying there for a few days, and then returning (taking a different route) to Argentia for the return ferry to North Sydney. From there I'll have 6 days or so to bike to Halifax where I'll be meeting Cathy who will be arriving on the morning of the 17th. (I plan on taking the eastern shore route down the coast through Sherbrooke to Halifax). We'll be holidaying in Halifax and area and then PEI for two weeks and then I plan on either taking the train or flying back home on or around August 31st, which is when Cathy leaves.

So from now on if you need to get a hold of me email is the only option, and of course my access will be sporadic (as usual)... hopefully my next post will be from MILE ZERO in St John's NL!!

Ciao for now,