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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16 thoughts on “To St. John’s

  1. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I want to congratulate you on such an amazing journey across Canada.As an avid follower of your blog, I can’t thank you enough for taking us along with you. You carried all of us that far, we can certainly ride in the car with you and hear the knock knock jokes for the last few kilometers. From all of us at the Sun Valley Trout Park in BC, We wish you well and hope for a visit from you again in the future, maybe a longer visit this time.

  2. Whoo boy, what a day you had, Kat! Maybe the universe did you a favour, as you said. I am glad you’re now safe, warm and dry at Martha’s. (But that’s a very Mom thing to say, isn’t it?) CONGRATULATIONS on arriving in St. John’s. You were so determined to do this trip, and to do it on your own terms, and you did. Can’t wait to see you back in Toronto!

  3. Woohoo! Well done Kat for reaching the end of Canada. Got to love a journey that finishes in a police car. I’m glad you made it. I’ve loved reading your blogs all summer. But what next…? Glow in happiness of your accomplishment.

  4. I’m so proud of you!!! What an amazing adventure. So …. You’re going to keep blogging, right? Or write a book?

  5. What a bummer! But really, it’s kind of nice that your final day exemplified something that made the trip so amazing–the kindness of strangers. And your last day being in a cop car is pretty badass.

  6. (Kat, I am posting this on behalf of Nancy and Charles, who keep getting booted out by WordPress.)

    Bravo to Kat, our hero. You have done it, in your own style, facing so many challenges and conquering them and you did not give up! We have followed you every turn of the way. Our comments have been spotty because we keep getting shut out of WordPress, after writing comments. Just know how much we enjoyed following along with you. You are a trooper and a fabulous raconteur!
    —Nancy and Charles

  7. Well done and congrats for reaching your goal! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.

    Now what are we going to read everyday?

    What’s your next blog?

  8. Pingback: So what do you do? | Kat Stanbridge

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