My feet hurt. That’s weird. I walked for a bit, I stood for a bit, and I cleaned my apartment (on my feet) for a bit, and now my feet hurt. This is absolutely not normal. I think my body is resisting its new upright position. Bring back the bike! We just got used to the bike! Body had just gotten used to cycling for 8 hours a day, why are things changing again?!?
It’s very strange not riding my bike anymore. I’m not sure this adjustment is as smooth as I thought it would be. For the first few days, while I was staying at Martha’s in St. John’s, I was a happy camper and was loving being off my bike – my muscles were relaxed, my joints weren’t being stressed, and my butt (my poor, poor butt) was finally getting a break from being on a bike seat. Sure, my legs, feet, and back hurt if I stood for more than 10 minutes, and my shoulders and neck started hurting if I stood for more than 20 minutes, but at least I was off the bike.
But then, I was driving my mother’s car full of my earthly possessions into Toronto to move back into my apartment, and I yearned for the bike. I got stuck in traffic on the cursed Gardiner “Expressway” and it took me two hours to get back to Oakville (normally about a 45 minute drive). I found that two hours driving a car more physically painful than cycling 150 kilometres in the prairies. Everything was sore when I got out of the car, especially my butt (my poor, poor butt).
I had a lovely time in St. John’s with Martha and her family (her husband, John, and her 13 year old son, Nicholas). They were absolutely amazing hosts, and I am so glad that I got to spend time with such wonderful people at the end of my trip. Martha is a phenomenal cook (I don’t throw that praise around without due cause), and I ate like a queen. At that point, I really would have gone for anything that wasn’t rice, tortillas, and peanut butter, but the quality of food was so much higher than I was used to. Awesome. I think I adjusted fairly well to not eating 5000 calories per day. The first day in St. John’s I was a bit hungry throughout the day, but only up until the point when my body realized we would not be getting back on the bike and riding all day.
My hosts showed me all around St. John’s and Newfoundland. We went to a museum called The Rooms where Mary Pratt (a Newfoundland artist) had an exhibit. As it turns out, Newfoundland is a pretty small and tight knit community. Martha and John are actually quite good friends with Mary Pratt’s children, and so they were able to offer a lot of insights into the paintings and the exhibit. “This is a painting of Barbie [Mary’s daughter]. She looks very sad here. She made the dress she is wearing because she couldn’t find anything she liked better.” They were more eloquent than that, but you get the point.
We also went around downtown St. John’s and did a bit of twacking. What’s that word, you say? Oh, it’s just a Newfoundland saying meaning to window shop. I may have picked up a couple of Newfie phrasings. No big deal.
When we had nice weather on Sunday, we went for a drive outside of St. John’s. They took me up to Cupid’s Cove (or Cupid’s something), which was the first British colony in Canada. 1610. So, that was pretty cool. We had lunch at a tea room there and I got to try a touton, which is basically fried bread dough served/smothered with either molasses or maple syrup. I think a few other cultures have it, but the Newfies do it well, and I enjoyed it very much. Martha took a photo of me eating my first touton and posted it to Facebook. At the end of the meal, a family who had been eating nearby came to say hello to Martha (once again proving that Newfoundland is tight knit), and congratulated me on eating my first touton. Gah! I’m not sure how I feel about everyone knowing my business all of the time, especially when all of the time is actually 8 minutes after the event.
Then, the time came to pack up my bicycle into a box to take it on the plane back to Toronto. I purchased, yes, purchased, a bicycle box from one of the cycle shops in town. All three cycle shops charge $10 for a bike box because everyone finishes their bike trip in St. John’s so there’s a market for bike boxes. Apparently no one ever starts their trip their. I can imagine why. Martha and John told me about some of the roads further west on the island, and the ridiculous winds that the west of the island receives. Apparently these winds occasionally blow tractor-trailers over. So yeah, I’m OK that I didn’t cycle that.
Nick, Martha’s son, helped me pack up my bike. Because I dive into things head first and only think about the consequences later (example: this trip), I removed and deflated the tires first. This, as it turns out, is not the correct way of going about dissembling a bicycle. I should know this because I dissembled my bike when I shipped it to Vancouver 3 months ago. The pedals should be removed first so that the resistance created by the chain and wheel can be used to counter the force of unscrewing the pedals. That was perhaps not a very clear description – YouTube explains it better. Anyway, the wheels of my bike were off and there was no going back. Fortunately, the 13-year-old, five foot eight inch Nick was able to use brute strength to remove the pedals. After that, it was a matter of unscrewing everything and figuring out how to get it in the tiny bike box. I swear that the bike box I bought in St. John’s was smaller than the one I bought in Oakville. I swear. The bike did eventually fit, but it was close.
It may have been a good thing that the bike box was smaller (I swear!) because it only just fit through the x-ray machine at the airport. Any bigger and I would have had to open the box, which I did not want to do.
Once I had checked my bags (the bike box and one of my panniers with my stove and knife and liquids and gels), I headed to security. Having already checked in online the day before, I had downloaded my boarding pass onto Passbook, an app on my phone that stores this type of thing. I did the same thing with my boarding pass when I flew from Toronto to Vancouver. I actually ended up showing the security personnel my boarding pass for my flight from Toronto to Vancouver instead of the St. John’s to Toronto boarding pass. They let me through, and I only realized the mistake later on. Even though there were different airports, and the date was completely wrong, I was allowed through to the secure area of the airport. I have nothing but confidence in this system. I did, though, get “randomly selected” for a pat down and for my bag to be tested for bomb residue. It was only because I was early for my flight and was the only person to go through security at the time. Don’t worry, I was clean.
The St. John’s international airport has eight gates. Eight. That’s not even enough gates for me to not spell out the word. Eight. I was boarding at gate one. One. I think when I left Toronto’s Pearson International Airport I left from gate 39. Not one.
I went to one of the three (three) stores in the departures lounge, which had a Tim Horton’s in it. I greeted the Tim’s employee and asked how she was doing. Mistake. She told me that she was good, but not really. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” said I. Mistake. Because she then went on to tell me how her lupus was acting up again so she wasn’t really having a great day. I could not help but think back to the TV show House and recall that lupus was not contagious. I felt a little guilty about that, but she was serving me food and telling me about her medical condition, so I felt less guilty. Then she told me that the donut I was ordering was really fatty. We weren’t friends anymore.
The flight was uneventful. I was happy about that.
My dad picked me up from the airport and we brought my bike (disassembled) home, where my mother had prepared an amazing meal. There were no tortillas, rice, or peanut butter. I liked it. On the drive home I kept looking at the shoulder of the highway and thinking, “I wonder how it would be to ride on this road?” Shoulder looks a little thin, road conditions are OK, lanes are a bit narrow, but there are some gnarly pot holes. This, apparently, is how my brain now works.
After dinner, I slept in my sister’s bed (I don’t have a bed at my mom’s house – I took my bed to my apartment). It was tough getting to sleep because I was so wired from the day’s events – coming home to Oakville, seeing my family, sleeping in a bed, not being on a cross Canada bike trip anymore, you know, the little things.
I re-assembled my bike on Thursday morning. Because no trip on Air Canada is compete without something breaking, my read brake got bent in transit, and must be replaced at the bike shop. (Anything more complicated than changing a tire is not something I’m keen to do. I don’t even like changing tires.) I rode my bike to the shop (with only a front brake), and realized that I’m terrible at riding a bike without 50 pounds of gear on it. I was all over the road trying to bring the very light bicycle under control.
It’s taken me two days to move back into my apartment in Toronto. My sub-letter left things pretty good, but I cleaned everything before putting things back. It feels good to be back in Toronto, in my own apartment, in my own bed. (Technically, I haven’t slept in my own bed yet, but I am really looking forward to it tonight.) I start work tomorrow, so hopefully I will be able to establish some form of routine. Not that my life hasn’t had a routine for the last three months (get up, eat, pack up, eat, ride bike, eat, ride bike, eat, eat, set up tent, eat, sleep), but it will be nice to have my own space again.
It still hasn’t really sunk in that I’ve cycled across Canada. Everyone keeps saying that they’re proud of me and it’s really cool what I’ve done, but it still doesn’t feel real to me. I’m not sure if or when it will.