To St. John’s

You know those days when you just want to bang your head against a wall? This is one of those days.
Today, I rode in the back of a cop car, had an hour long conversation with a Newfie kid I couldn’t understand, and froze to death in the rain. So, how was your day?
Last night, I went to bed with a migraine. Before the headache went away and before I was sleeping, it was horrible. I’m not sure if this was caused by dehydration, something I ate, or a change in the weather, but I didn’t drug myself fast enough, and it was a bad migraine. So bad that I started suffering from the side effects of a migraine and lost/tossed my dinner. I did feel much better afterward though.
It was fun waking up on an empty stomach and being half afraid to eat.
It was super windy all night. So windy that I worried my tent might blow over if I went outside, even though it was pegged down really well. When I finally convinced myself to get up, it started raining. But of course. My tent got packed up so wet that I could wring water out of it. A lot of water.
So I started pedalling. Up hill. Into the wind. Into the rain. At least it wasn’t too cold. I think it’s quite fitting that I finish this trip in the rain – after all, it started the same way.
I had to do a small detour into the town of Placentia to get some groceries before I started. To get to the store, I had to go across a lift bridge (a bridge that literally lifts up to allow ships to pass underneath). It was one of those bridges that is basically a large grate, and was very slippery in the rain. I walked across it on my way back so that I wouldn’t slide out.
Out of Placentia and onto highway 100 I went. Again, in the rain and the wind. I pedalled and pedalled, not making great time but still moving forward. It was absolutely beautiful vistas, by starting to get a lot foggier. I could actually see the fog becoming denser as I rode.
And then, ssssss. Well that’s a new sound. I wonder what that is? Oh look, I have a flat tire! I haven’t had a single flat tire my whole trip, and now I get it on my second last day of riding. This is ok. I have a spare tube, I have tire levers, I can fix this. Fortunately it was my front tire so I didn’t have to take all of my stuff off.
I had gone over some sharp rocks and some glass earlier in the day (unavoidably), so I did a quick check of the tire to make sure there were no holes causing the flat (because then I would have a bigger problem). Nada. So I took the tire off of the rim, removed the defunct tube, put the new tube in, put the tire back on the rim, and blew up the tire. And blew up the tire. Nope, can’t blow up the tire. My pump has become lodged with junk kicked up from the road, and no longer works. Perfect.
Plan B. Find a passing car with a bike rack and hope that they have a pump with them. This is a good plan, right? Problem is, no one with a bike rack is passing me. There was, however, a passing cop car. I guess standing in the rain, with the front wheel off of my bike, looking sad, makes a cop pull over. While this officer did not have a bike pump in his cruiser (oddly), he offered to give me a ride back to a gas station to inflate my tire there. So I left my bike by the side of the highway and got in the car with cop Robert and his daughter Hayley (on her way to see her mom).
We went about 10km back to the gas station only to discover that their air pump only fits car tires, and not the presta valve on my tube. I also discovered that passengers in the back of cop cars cannot, in fact, open the door from the inside. The movies did get something right.
So, we head to Robert’s house to have a look in his garage. I kid you not. This province has the nicest people (he was RCMP, but niceness is still a quality of Newfies).
No presta valve at Robert’s house. So he calls up his cop buddies in search of a bike pump. By this point I’m quite cold and have gone back to sit in the car. Hayley, the trooper, calls her mom for a ride. Fair enough, I would have done the same long before. Then Robert’s off duty (!) cop friend shows up with a presta valve pump and inflates my tire. Success!
Robert gives me a ride back to my bike, still safe and sound on the side of the highway, and I ride on. Still raining, still windy, and now also cold from not moving for a while. So good.
Maybe 1km into the ride, ssssssss. Really? This is really happening? If I wasn’t such a stable person I might have a meltdown and throw my bike over a cliff. I thought about that, but then decided it would be hard to carry my pannier bags if I did.
I have another look at my front tire and find a piece of glass that has created a hole and punctured my replacement tube. So now, I have a hole in my front tire, no more tubes, and no pump. Even if I did do a passable job of dislodging the glass, patching the tire, patching the tube (which would have been hands down the most difficult task), I would have to go through the whole ordeal of finding someone to inflate the tire since my pump is still broken.
Plan C. Hitch. Sorry mom, that’s happening. I’ve met lots of other cyclists who have hitched to a bike shop in similar situations, and one cyclist who I think hitched his way across the country (but that’s another story). Having already looked at the map, I knew that there is nothing between where I was and St. John’s, so I would have to go all the way to St. John’s. It’s really unfortunate that I could not ride the last 100km of this trip. I’m quite sad over it, but I really didn’t see a logical alternative.
So, 15 seconds after I decided to hitch a ride, a car passes by. I extended my arm, and did the obligatory “thumb” signal. The car passes me, brakes, and reverses. I must be really good at hitch hiking.
The wonderful, kind, considerate people in the car (a family), helped me load my bike and were going to take me all the way to highway 1, which was about 25km. After that, they were going to head away from St. John’s. I would be able to easily catch another ride on the Trans Canada. I sat in the back seat with Jackson, a spunky five year old with the strongest Newfie accent I’ve ever heard. That, combined with his classic five year old’s drawl, made me able to understand about two thirds of what he said, and I was listening hard. I impressed him with my “riding in a cop car” story, and he told endless knock knock jokes, most of which he had made up on the spot.
It was then that his parents informed me they could take me all the way to St. John’s, since they could do their shopping there, and it was the same distance as their original destination. Seriously, how lucky am I to have met all of these amazing people today! Perhaps they felt bad at me having to listen to Jackson’s sense of humour. The parents have never picked up a hitch hiker before, but the father had recently read a story on the Internet of the kindness of strangers who pick up people in need, and he had been inspired. They did admit to me that had they thought I was a creep, they would have sped away faster than they had reversed to me. Fair enough, I said, I would have done the same.
It was about a one hour ride into the city, and boy was it foggy. I think the double whammy flat tire may have been the universe’s way of telling me to get off the highway on such a foggy day. It wouldn’t have mattered how fluorescent my clothes were, or how many flashing lights I had, or how good a driver’s vision was, I would have been invisible. You win this round, universe.
This family was so nice that they even dropped me off at a bike shop. So far, I like this province. Although it was a bit bitter sweet being in a car and passing such gorgeous scenery, missing the experience of seeing it all from my bicycle.
I went into the bike shop, still wet and shivering, and got a new front tire and tube. The new tire is super thick and very good quality, so it won’t puncture easily. Of course, I have nowhere left to ride, so it doesn’t really matter.
Then I made a call to my mother’s friend Martha and left a message. I had arranged to arrive at Martha’s house tomorrow, after stopping at Butterpot Park tonight (a campsite). But, because I arrived a day early, I wasn’t sure Martha would be a able to accommodate me tonight – I got very lucky though and got a call back from Martha saying not only that I was welcome tonight, but that her and her husband, John, would come pick me up. My day was finally turning around! By this point it was 7pm, and pouring rain outside. I was later told that the Tim Horton’s I was in was known as a good place to buy drugs (of course I find this out after I’ve left – too late for anything). I was ushered into Martha’s wonderful home where I had a very warm shower and a delicious meal (my mother had kept telling me what a wonderful cook Martha is, and she lived up to the stories), and am now about to sleep in a bed.
Does this mean I’m done the trip? It doesn’t really feel real yet. Maybe it will when I get on the plane or back to Toronto. I am still a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to ride the last leg of the trip, but that’s life for you.
Does this mean I have to stop eating so much?

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To Argentia

I am no good at sleeping on planes, trains, buses, or boats. On the bright side, I did not get sea sick. I don’t know if it had anything to do with my anti nausea wrist bands (they’re a real thing) or just an iron will, but I felt fine the whole trip.
I did manage to get some sleep in the bar of the boat. It shuts down at about midnight and everyone who does not have a cabin finds a bench and sleeps. My friend Erin (whom I stayed with in Halifax) had told me about this bar on this boat. This is the new boat, the one that hit a rock, and I had been told that the interior decor looks like the set of a 70s porno. It’s true, it did look like that. And I slept there.
After 16.5 hours we docked and I got off the boat. It was cold, foggy, and super windy. Like unbearably cold and windy. Is this what Newfoundland is always like? I hope not.
Knowing that I am terrible at sleeping on boats, I had planned to stay at a campground near the port. I checked in at about 10:30am and set up my stuff. Since I was in a tent the campground attendants let me use the indoor kitchen, so I spent some time reading and eating in there, out of the cold and wind. They told me that it had been beautiful summer weather up until about yesterday. Of course it was. I guess someone told Mother Nature I was coming.
I took a 4 hour nap this afternoon, and it was fantastic. It really would have been uncomfortable to ride today – I’m exhausted, dehydrated, and underfed, so a rest day was called for.
Upon waking I discovered that the weather was unchanged, but at least it wasn’t worse. The temperature really wouldn’t have been so bad had I not accidentally shrunk my toque when I washed it. It’s now a child sized hat. Sadly, I still have an adult sized head.
I had a gloriously hot shower and was on my way to the kitchen to make dinner when I was stopped by a car. The man in the car told me that there were three moose just around the corner, if I was interested. If I was interested!?! The elusive moose! Multiples! Meese! Yes, I would like to see the moose, thank you. I grabbed my camera and set out. Not being quite sure which corner the guy had been referring to, I kind of wandered aimlessly around multiple corners, eyes on the lookout for moose. No moose. Then it started to rain. I had my fleece on but no rain coat, so I was forced to retreat. Number one rule while camping in the cold rain is to keep your fleece dry. Nothing worse than being cold and wet. That’s ok though, I’m in Newfoundland, I’m bound to see a moose sometime, right? Right?

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So Far: Nova Scotia

As usual, when I finish cycling through a province I like to have a look back at that province, and what I’ve learned (or relearned) about travelling in general blah blah blah.
First, some thoughts on Nova Scotia:
Nova Scotia could maybe work on naming places more creatively. For example, there’s North Sydney, Sydney, Sydney Forks, and Sydney Mines. There’s also Antigonish and Tignish, which apparently are two different places.
This province does not enjoy putting street signs on major roads. In towns, when numerically named highways also have a street name (highway 305 is also Main Street), the street name is not given at intersections. It becomes a bit of a guessing game that I’m not very good at.
It seems that every morning it’s overcast and foggy, and by the afternoon it has cleared up.
Every morning there is an especially thick layer of dew all over everything.
People here are nice. I had a couple in a vehicle turn out of their way to give me directions because I “looked lost”.
The NSLC (liquor store) has its act together. None of this LCBO “agency” stuff, or gross and tired looking stores (yes LCBO, I’m talking to you here) – these are shiny and new looking free standing stores with big selections and cold rooms. Swanky.
I like fish cakes, a Nova Scotia favourite, but in smaller quantities. 3 fist sized fish cakes is too many.
There are some beautiful views here. This is a gorgeous province.
The terrain is reminiscent of northern Ontario with some sizeable hills and crummy roads. So far though, no bears.
Alcohol is just as expensive here as it was in PEI and New Brunswick.

And some things I’ve learned (or relearned) about travelling in general:
The amount of food I have in my system is a direct reflection if my mood. That’s probably a life lesson (one that I’ve learned over an over again), but still pertinent.
Earwigs go on the outside of tent.
There’s almost nothing worse than finding a new bug bite first thing in the morning. It means there’s something in the tent with you. The call is coming from inside the house!
If I drink it, it’s drinkable water.

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To The Ferry

Oh glorious day of rest. How my legs needed that. It was a giant uphill battle for the last few hundred kilometres, so I feel like I earned this. Also, I am now clean (relatively) and showered for the ferry ride. There’s nothing I hate more than being dirty on long haul transportation. Except maybe earwigs inside my tent. That’s pretty bad too.
I leisurely got packed up, with a dry tent, and made my way to Sydney to catch the ferry at 5pm. Since I had some extra time, I bought a book at the library (for 25 cents), had some lunch, and got some groceries. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of stores between Argentia (where the ferry lands in Newfoundland) and St. John’s. For lunch I had fish cakes, they were ok.
At 3 I went to check into the ferry. In the waiting area I ran into a large group of cross Canada cyclists. This is the other organized group doing the trek (I had met the first organized group on the ferry from PEI). There were about two dozen cyclists, most of whom looked like retired men. There were maybe 4 people under the age of 40. Again, I’m glad I did this trip on my own.
I sat down next to one of the cyclists and started chatting. I’m really sorry that I did. He was a rather depressing individual. He started telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this trip on my own because it was dangerous for a lone person, especially a woman. Then he told me about a couple (a friend of a friend of a friend) who had a bad experience cycling, and then a lone male cyclist who stopped blogging in Mexico (the downer telling me this story assumed the worst).
Buddy, first of all, you do not get an opinion on this. This is my trip, and I will make the decisions without any input from you. Second, your stories make no sense and are doing nothing but making me regret speaking to you. Third, I’ve made it through 9 provinces by myself, and have had no problems, except that I’m now talking to you.
Then, as a coup de gras, he told me about the two cyclists in his group that had been hit by a car and killed. I had heard about this long ago – a couple were riding outside of Thunder Bay and a driver from Austin fell asleep at the wheel and hit them. I can’t imagine how devastating and scary that must have been for the rest of the riders (I don’t think they ride as a group). I’m not sure I would have been able to continue the trip if I had been in that group.
But really buddy, stop talking to me. I picked up my book and started reading, having finished my conversation with this guy.
While boarding the ferry I met another cyclist on his own. I forget his name, but he had gone from Vancouver to Montreal one year, and was now completing the trip by riding from Montreal to St. John’s. He was much nicer. I liked him.
I secured my bicycle and gear to a pole, and made my way up to the movie room of the ship. It was there that I met Mikhaila, a hilarious six year old from Texas, who was travelling with her family to a reunion in Argentia. She told me all about her school and her family and then drew me some pictures. Apparently I’m very good at making friends with small children and depressing older men.
We set sail (engine?) and were off on the 14-16 hour ride. They played some movies while Mikhaila built a fort next to me.

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To North Sydney

Ok, I just let in not one, but two earwigs into my tent. This is something I have managed to avoid up until now, but all of a sudden there’s an earwig party in here. How did I suddenly become so bad at this? I was airing out my clothes and then it got dark and I brought them into my tent without shaking them out first. Hello? Camping 101? Yes, I’m going to need a refresher.
My greatest fear in the world is that there are more. Lurking. Hiding. Waiting for the right moment. And then? An organized attack. I guess if that’s my greatest fear I’ve got a pretty cushy life. But still, super worried about that.
Also, when I found the two intruders I let out a string of expletives so loud that I’m hoping my campsite neighbours are hearing impaired.
Today was a pretty nice ride. There were some giant hills, but I had an ok tail wind, good music, and a straight line route. I did have a small problem at the end of the day when guidebook screwed up some directions. It seems like a certain guidebook author has not actually been to the campsite in the book, but instead googled an address, and then google mapped the incorrect address of said campsite. A certain guidebook author is going to be getting an email from a certain frustrated cyclist. If I had wanted to google directions by the side of the road, I wouldn’t have bought the book. Additionally, this guidebook was supposedly edited by three individuals, which means that four sets of eyes neglected to catch several huge mistakes (“turn west here…”). I guess none of these editors were concerned with fact checking. Or logic.
When I did finally get to the campsite I had a lovely 5 minute shower for 50 cents, and an ok dinner. Tomorrow, I will get seafood. Probably. It’s my last day in Nova Scotia tomorrow, as my ferry for Newfoundland leaves at 5pm.
Oh the ferry, what an ordeal that’s been. Before I started the trip, I had planned on taking the short ferry from Sydney to Port-aux-Basques (approx. 6 hours), and then riding for about a week to reach St. John’s. My father, who sent me weather reports that predicted rain for 3 weeks before I asked him to stop sending them to me, checked up on the ferry and discovered it was fully booked. Having spoken with other cyclists though, I became increasingly certain that walk ons almost always made it on, especially those on bicycles rather than in cars. Still, I did not make a reservation.
Then, after doing some more diligent research (ie chatting with strangers and cyclists), I changed my plans and decided instead to take the long ferry from Sydney to Argentia, Newfoundland (approx. 14-16 hours), and then only have to ride about 130km to St. John’s. Since Newfoundland is known as the Rock, I was keen to not pedal too much in such rugged terrain. Also, I made this decision in northwestern Ontario when I was pretty much done with hills.
But then, I heard from the Wanderers and Dino that the ferry to Argentia had been in a small accident and had hit a rock while making the passage. It would be out of commission indefinitely. But, since I’m in the “let’s wait it out” school, I decided to hold tight until I was closer to Nova Scotia.
Then I heard that the ferry would be fixed and operational by August 26. No, sooner. But, they had already bumped a bunch of reservations, causing many people to cancel their reservation and take the shorter ferry and then a bus the rest of the way. It was at this point that I began to get a bit nervous. I kept getting all of these mixed messages from locals, other cyclists, government sponsored information booths, etc. I finally got a straight story in Nova Scotia, and called to make a booking.
And so, tomorrow, August 28, I will set sail from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Argentia, Newfoundland. Don’t worry – I’ve heard from a reliable source that they know where that rock is now.

To St. Peter’s

Well, that was another day of riding. I don’t know how else to put it. So, instead of rehashing a very dull day (what? More hills? And wind? My goodness!), I am going to make a list of the things I will miss and the things I will not miss when I’m done this trip in a week.
(I will be back home in Toronto in just over a week, but I only have 3 days of riding left, plus a ferry ride.)

Things I will miss:
Knowing that everything I see today will be something new, something I’ve never seen before. Each minute offers a different viewpoint of this beautiful country.
The stars at night. Ok, obviously at night.
Watching a beautiful sunset every night. Ok, obviously at night.
Eating 5000 calories a day. It’s great being able to eat everything.
Meeting awesome new people.
The smell of fresh air and the great outdoors.
My insanely strong legs. They’re awesome.
Having rest days that are actually rest days when I can sit around and do absolutely nothing instead of real life chores.
How nice people are outside of Toronto. Sorry Torontonians, but you know it’s true.
Knowing that every day I’m working toward a giant, achievable goal and that every pedal gets me that much closer.

And things I will not miss:
Saddle sores.
Bugs. I’m trying to keep this PG, but just know that I want to swear.
Also eating bugs. Not fun.
Being able to predict, with some degree of accuracy, how much it will hurt when a certain size and type of bug hits a certain part of my body – a horse fly to the shoulder feels different than a dragonfly ricocheting off my leg.
Eating 5000 calories a day. I’m looking forward to normal people sized portions.
Peeing in bushes. I don’t hate this, I’m just not going to miss it.
Working on these ridiculous tan lines.
Answering the same questions about my bike and my trip. Every day. Multiple times per day.
Getting passed by RVs.
Going over giant potholes. Rather, going into giant potholes.
Not having friends and family nearby.

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