19 August 2007

We've done it--we've finished cycling across Canada!

I quite enjoyed today's ride, knowing it was the last of the trip. The day was sunny, and the terrain was awesome--scattered with short, steep climbs and descents. I had loads of energy, and the ride seemed to go by quite quickly, despite having made a few wrong turns thanks to some poorly-marked highway junctions.

As we approached Halifax, we stopped at a visitor's centre to find out where the hostels were. Apparently, Halifax is very busy in the summer, and all of the hostels were booked solid. The lady at the info centre recommended we stay in the residence at Mount St. Vincent University, just outside of town. We rode the final 20 km of our trip, facing an extremely steep climb into the residence building, which was literally on top of a "mount".

So, now we're finished. And it feels... well, anticlimactic. I mean, we arrived at Mount St. Vincent, and it felt just like we'd finished another day of cycling; the only difference was that there are to be no more days of cycling after this. Perhaps if we'd gone down to the water to dip our tires (this didn't happen because the beach was out of our way, and it was getting late--we did it the next day), or had a crowd of people welcome us to the city (this didn't happen because... well, we're just not famous enough) it would have been different. But we were too tired to experience the emotions that I'd imagine many cross-Canada cyclists feel upon completion of their journey. We were too tired to feel excitement or a sense of accomplishmet, to party, to have a crazy night out. We went downtown and had an amazing meal at the Economy Shoe Box, a trendy little bar owned by the father of the drummer of the Trews. When we told our waiter what we had just fnished doing, he gave us two free pitchers of some excellent Nova Scotia beer. All in all, we had a good night and felt quite satisfied with ourselves.

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you to everyone who has been kind to us along the way. You have been so generous--opening your doors to us for a night or two, feeding us (no small feat!), offering anything of use. You have expressed such a keen interest in our trip, offered words of advice, shared your knowledge. You have made this trip worthwhile, and shown us that Canada is a beautiful country inhabited by amazing people.

Finally, thanks to all who have been following my blog. Your reading this makes my writing worthwhile and fun! Perhaps there will be more blogging to come!


18 August 2007

What a miserable day for cycling! It began with a light rain, which turned into a heavier downpour, and then a full-blown thunderstorm. We rode 10 km before stopping at a visitor's centre to warm up and hope for it to blow over. It didn't, so we visited the nearby library to use the computers for a while, and then sat in Tim Horton's and ate way too much food.

Finally, we forced ourselves to move. This ride wasn't going to be pleasant, but it had to be done; we were just too close to Halifax to spend too much time dilly-dallying. So, we toughed it out. We went outside, got on our bikes, and pedalled as hard as we could to warm up. Although our energy soon faded, we persevered, and took only one quick bathroom break for 60 km of riding.

By the time we were nearing Kentville, my whole body ached and I couldn't feel my feet. I was so looking forward to reaching some little restaurant or coffee shop that we could warm up in before pitching our tents, when I decided to ride over some tiny, sharp object that punctured my inner tube. As soon as we pulled over to change the tube, it started to really pour hard. Once we finished the repair, we decided to stop at the first restaurant we saw, which happened to be yet another Chinese-Canadian place.

A change of clothes, a few pots of tea and some dinner and dessert were just what we needed to feel better. We sat in the restaurant for quite a while, before deciding that it was really high time we sought out a camping spot. Luckily, we found a nearby field covered in long grasses that made for a cushy mattress. Tomorrow we finish our trip!


17 August 2007

Since we had camped outside the ferry docks last night, all we had to do this morning was get up, buy our tickets, pack up our stuff and get on board. The ferry left at 9:00, and we had a nice cruise across the Bay of Fundy into Digby, Nova Scotia. Once we reached Digby, we bought some more propane and made some pasta for lunch. Then, we bought our groceries for the evening and the following morning. By the time we actually got cycling, it was almost 4. The ride was so scenic, and we were dying to go for a swim, so we decided early on to take it easy and spend three days traveling the ~250 km into Halifax, rather than just two. We stopped at a nice rest area, went swimming, and had food. We pitched our tents there, and went to bed. In the middle of the night, we had visitors: a group of teenagers had decided to pull up, beam their headlights at our tent, and honk--loudly, and many times. Luckily, they were harmless, and left after a few minutes.


16 August 2007

I really began to feel how close we are to Halifax--our cross-Canada destination--today. We were aiming to get to St. John tonight in order to take the ferry to Digby, Nova Scotia in the morning. Then, we'll only have two cycling days left!

Today's cycle was a lot of fun--hilly, but fast, down a highway that was fairly busy, but smooth with a wide shoulder. We stopped at a brand new info centre about 25 km west of St. John for a snack, and then carried on towards the city. Although we had planned on reaching our destination before eating, we stopped at a rest area just outside and spent quite a while relaxing there before moving on.

We finally forced ourselves to mobilize, and rode down to the ferry docks. We were told it was OK to camp on the field outside, so we pitched our tent and had a poor "dinner" of bagels and leftover pasta sauce. We enter our eighth and final province tomorrow!


15 August 2007

It was raining when we woke up this morning, and I was especially slow to get ready. When we finally left, Dan and I really didn't feel like cycling (Naomi was in better spirits), so the ride felt long and slow. Luckily, we only had about 30 km until Fredericton, where we had planned to stop to use the internet and do laundry.

Just as we entered the city, Dan got his third flat of the trip. Naomi and I went downtown, while Dan repaired his tube. By the time the three of us met up again, we were starving. A Fredericton local told us about a restaurant called the Diplomat with amazing all day breakfast. We decided to give it a shot, and we weren't disappointed--our breakfast included two pancakes, hash browns, toast and baked beans. Everything was delicious, and we left feeling full and satisfied.

After spending way too much time on the computers in the library and doing our laundry, we weren't going to cycle any further. We got a residence room at the University of New Brunswick, went grocery shopping, and had a late pasta dinner.


14 August 2007

Although yesterday was fun, we decided it was time we had a bit of a more challenging day of cycling. So, we got up fairly early and just pounded it out to Woodstock, about 80 km away. The road was typically hilly, but quite scenic, and we were very pleased with our morning's ride.

In Woodstock, we went to a bike shop to get some new inner tubes for Naomi, and then had lunch at Timmy Ho's. I needed to make a phone call to get my flight changed, so I ended up sitting on the phone, mostly on hold, for at least an hour. The experience was frustrating, but the flight has been changed: I arrive in Toronto on the 23rd of August in the morning! Wow, I can't believe I'll be home so soon!

It was hard to get going after all of the waiting around, but once we did, the ride wasn't half bad. We made it to King's Landing, a small historical village just 30 km west of Fredericton, and camped out at the visitor information centre.


13 August 2007

The road into Perth-Andover was extremely hilly, and my alread-sore legs definitely took a bit of a beating. When we were just a few kilometres away, Naomi had yet another flat (#14 for her!), but told us to continue on to Perth-Andover, where she'd meet us. Perth-Andover was a lovely little town, where we took advantage of the internet in the library. After taking too many hours off, we decided we were too lazy to continue cycling, and this would be our day of rest. We went a bit crazy at the grocery store, buying loads of cookies and two litres of ice cream. We also bought some wine, and found a nice little spot by the water for our picnic dinner. Since it was lower than the road, we were partially hidden away, so we decided we'd pitch our tents there for the night, too.

We had a lovely little evening, with food, ice cream, wine and hair-braiding. Once we got through our first bottle of wine, we sent Dan out to get another. Dan was a bit irritated that we were being so girly, so I think he was glad to have a break from me and Naomi. At dusk, Naomi and I decided to go for a bit of a swim, in spite of the uncleanliness of the water; it felt amazing, and for the first time in a long time, I was comfortable and decidedly un-sticky in my sleeping bag that night.


12 August 2007

We started off the morning with a quick ride into Edmunston, where we did our laundry and ran a few random errands. It seems that New Brunswick is quite hilly, but a different kind of hilly than northern Ontario or BC: the hills here are usually pretty short, but very steep.

We took a nice, small highway with little traffic along the St. John River. We're so close to the end of our trip now that nothing really motivates us to do very long days. So, once we reach about 100 km, we feel as though we've covered respectable ground, and are allowed to stop. Today we started looking for a camping spot at just about this point, but found nothing until we hit a small bar and convenience store near a town called Limstone Siding. There was a nice field behind it that was surrounded by trees, and we were dying to go swimming in the river. We went into the store to inquire about the field. Brenda, who was working there, and also happened to be the owner's wife, told us that the field belonged to the lady next door. Instead, she offered us a small patch of grass behind the store, and told us we could even move one of the picnic tables onto the little 'site'. She advised against swimming in the St. John River, as it was extremely polluted, and instead offered us the use of the bathrooms to wash up a bit. We graciously accepted, pitched our tents, and washed the layers of grime off of ourselves. When we were finished, Brenda came outside and offered to cook us dinner. What a treat! We sat inside the bar and had beers--on the house!--while Brenda made us burgers and fries. We were starving, and this was just what we needed. When we finished, we sat inside and watched TV. I left my wet clothing in the bar to dry overnight, and Brenda offered to make us some breakfast before we left in the morning. We are ever so thankful for Brenda's New Brunswick hospitality!


11 August 2007

The morning's ride was tough today, with a staircase-like road that just seemed to go up and up. Luckily, though, it got a bit better later on. We finally crossed the border into New Brunswick today, and after Naomi finished fixing yet another flat, we carried on not too much further to a nice picnic table by the water to have dinner. The plan was to camp there somewhere, hidden away in the bush, but we couldn't find a suitable spot. We asked the advice of a local next to our picnic area, who told us about a park we could pitch our tent in. We had some amazing sundaes at a local ice cream shop, and then headed for this park. Although it was fairly close to the train tracks, we found a spot on the far side of a field that was partially sheilded by a steep embankment. That night, I was again awoken by rustling noises outside. It sounded like someone (or something!) pacing; I tried to make myself stop being paranoid, but it was hard to get to sleep. In the morning, I found out that it was only Naomi shifting about in her sleeping bag. Dan and Naomi had another good laugh, and I'm now determined to stop being such a chicken.


10 August 2007
We had quite the pleasant ride again today, with more beautiful Quebec scenery and friendly cyclists. We rode to the rest stop at the junction of highways 132 and 239, where we found a rest area to pitch our tents for the night. It was hard for me to get to sleep, and I lay awake, frustrated. When I finally did manage to fall asleep, I kept waking up. When I first started to hear noises outside the tent, I looked out, and it was only the dog from the house nearby; however, later into the night, there was defnitely something just outside the tent, walking around. I was terrified, as I wondered what it was and what it was trying to do. It was right near my head, too, and I lay awake for ages waiting for it to go away and praying that it wouldn't try to get in. Luckily, all was well, and Naomi and Dan had a good laugh about it in the morning.


9 August 2007

After a bit of a sleep-in and a delicious breakfast of freshly-baked croissants, we had quite a pleasant ride out of the city this morning. I just love riding in Quebec! It's so scenic and you encounter cyclists everywhere you go. We stopped in a town called Montmagny for a late lunch, and decided to be lazy and not go any further. Instead, we made use of the internet cafe for quite a while. Once we finished, Jean-Lucas, the owner of the cafe, told us he'd show us a good place to camp for the night. He and his father took us to a little park right beside the St. Lawrence River, and told us nobody would bother us there. We were quite happy, as it was a beautiful spot with picnic tables and shelters.

We set up our tents and had some dinner, and it was about 10:00 by the time we'd finished. We were almost ready to get to bed, when some cars pumping loud music pulled up right beside our campsite. A large group of local youths gathered, made a huge bonfire and had some beers. We thought we were in for a long night, when Jean-Sebastian came over to our table and invited us to join them. We gladly accepted, and hung out with them for a while. Although most of them only spoke French, Jean-Sebastian was very happy to practice his English with us, while Naomi spoke French with some of the others. A successful night in Montmagny!


8 August 2007

It rained all day today, making our ride quite miserable, though not as bad as it was with rain in the Rockies in June. We were happy to finally reach Quebec City, where we were staying with Naomi`s family. Naomi`s aunt, Guylaine, met us at the ferry docks and went across with us to Levis, where she lived. We had dinner with Guylaine, her husband Robert, and their son Raphael. It was nice to have showers and sleep in beds, yet again! Many thanks to Guylaine and Robert for their hospitality!


7 August 2007

Once again, Matt led us out of the city, and Dan and I were on the road again. The ride was quite nice. Again, we passed a lot of cyclists, and many of them were touring! It`s so great to see, although it seems we`ve sort of lost our celebrity status...

We took one of our breaks at a small fry stand, where we met Naomi. Naomi is a tree planter from Vancouver Island who started cycling across Canada with four guys, but decided they were too intense for her when they wanted to do 150-km+ days in 35 degree heat in the prairies. She took a bus from Moose Jaw to Ottawa, and was now continuing the trip on her own to Quebec City. She rode with us to Trois Rivieres, where we ended up camping on a grassy spot right next to a grocery store. It was fully lit by huge parking lights, so the middle of the night felt like day. Also, it was right next to a truck stop area, so trucks kept passing us in the night. One of them thought it would be funny to blow his horn at us. Ha ha. I invited Naomi to cycle with us to Halifax, so we`ll have a third rider with us for the rest of the trip.


6 August 2007

Today was quite the relaxing day, and we needed it--I could barely walk after the intensity of yesterday`s ride. After a relaxing morning of lounging around and watching tennis, we went downtown with Matt. We had some awesome Lebanese food, walked around, and went to see The Bourne Supremacy. Then, we walked around some more, had Chinese, and headed home. Many thanks to Matt and the Grubers for making our stay in Montreal so pleasant!


5 August 2007

Today's ride was absolutely amazing. We finally crossed the border into Quebec, and rode along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Quebec is filled with cyclists, which is so nice to see! We were taking a highway that followed the river to a town called Oka, where there was a ferry that would take us back to the south side. On the way to Oka, we ended up racing a group of cyclists on nice road bikes, carrying no weight, and we beat them! It was such a rush, and we felt quite pleased with ourselves.

On the other side of the river, we cycled for about 10 km and met up with Matt so he could lead us right into Montreal. Matt hadn`t taken this route before, and it was meant to be quite confusing. Luckily, as he was trying to figure out which way to go, two cyclists stopped to talk to us, and ended up leading us right through the confusing part into the city. Carol and Tina were both really excited that we were cycling across Canada, and were both so nice. Carol was a super athlete--she`d completed two Ironmans, and placed 10th in her first one! It was amazing to meet Carol and Tina, and they really simplified our ride into the city!

Montreal is an awesome place for cycling--it`s covered in kilometres of bike paths, and so many people use them. Toronto should follow its example! On the ride to Matt`s house in Westmont (in central Montreal), we had our first fall of the trip. Matt had unexpectedly slowed down, and I didn`t realise this until it was too late. I rode into Matt, and fell right over. Luckily, I fell on grass, and didn`t even get a scratch.

When we finally arrived at Matt`s house, we were thankful for the showers and the excellent feast that Matt`s mom, Janet, had prepared for us. There was chicken and potatoes and tabouleh and all sorts of wonderful salads--perfect for us hungry cyclists! Later on, Matt`s dad, Jim, drove Dan and I downtown and we checked out some of the outdoor festivals that were going on. We were exhausted after all the walking around and the hard bike ride, and we were happy to go to sleep in a bed, rather than our tent.


4 August 2007

We were relieved when we stepped outside this morning, and the air felt fresh and cool. The road out of Ottawa was beautiful, and perfect for riding. We encountered many cyclists, but two in particular really got us going. They passed us on their fast road bikes--not carrying any weight, of course--and it was race time. We managed to stay with them till the end of the nice road, and then took a break for water before moving on to the main highway.

Although we weren't yet in Quebec, it felt like we were--most people in the restaurant we had breakfast part two in were speaking French. The breakfast was great, and much cheaper than the rest of Ontario had been. There were some info pamphlets in the restaurant, and one of them happened to be a cycling guide for the region. We saw that there was an old railway bed that had been converted to a bike path just a few kilometres south of the main highway. The map indicated that this path was paved, so we decided to take a break from the traffic and give it a shot. However, little did we know that finding this path would be no mean feat. We rode about 5 km down one road before noticing that we had gone in the completely opposite direction. When we reinspected the map, we realised that it just didn't match the roads. After having some ice cream, we asked some locals and eventually reached this elusive path.

The railway-bed bike path was paved for about 30 m; after that, it was covered in hard-packed gravel, which slowed us down big time. We were annoyed that the map completely lied to us, but continued down the path anyway. Eventually, though, we got quite tired and just wanted to get to the nearest town as quickly as possible. Hawksbury was that town, but getting there was slow and tiring. We were both just so exhausted from our morning's race, and having to search for the bike path for so long. At one point, we got chased by a dog again; this one was only a poodle, but it came too close for comfort, and I didn't fancy getting bitten.

When we finally reached Hawksbury, we sat down at the nearest restaurant and had a huge meal and some beer. We got lucky, as the owner offered the field in the back, which was hidden from the street by trees, for us to pitch our tent. It was great not to have to ride any further, and not to have to pay for a campsite.


3 August 2007

It was a bit cooler in the morning than it had been in the past couple of days, and it was very nice not to have to cycle in such extreme heat. Although it warmed up later on, we made good time, and arrived in Ottawa by about 1:30. We stayed with my friend Lillian, who is living with her uncle right in the city. We hung out in her pool, barbequed some burgers and went to see a movie with her brother. Yay Lillian!


2 August 2007

We slept in a bit today, and by the time we left--at about 9--it was already hot and humid. Despite the weather, we had a really good ride, and decided to stop for breakfast part two in a small town called Portland. I had the best omelette of my life at Fast Freddy's, and Sharon, the owner, introduced us to all of her other customers. She gave us free ice cream, and refused to let us tip her.

It was only about 1 when we finished hanging out at Fast Freddy's, and we didn't have far to go to Smiths Falls, our destination for the day. We decided to go swimming at the small beach in Portland to cool down before heading off again. While hanging out on the floating dock, we met Joy and her kids, Felix and Leah. Joy lived in a town about 20 km away, and invited us to spend the night at her place. We graciously accepted, and cycled over to her house after spending a bit more time relaxing on the beach.

We had a delicious dinner of bean burritos with Joy and her husband, Brian. We watched three-year-old Felix ride his bike without training wheels, while Joy and Brian told us about teaching in Japan and their travels through India. Joy is also a cyclist, and had been bitten by dogs and hit by cars--scary stuff! We had some yummy raspberry pie for dessert, and went to bed in their cool basement.


1 August 2007

The alarm went off at 4:30 this morning, and we were out of bed by 5. I think the last time we got up so early was... Saskatchewan? It's definitely been a while since we'd been up before the sun. We managed to get things together fairly quickly, and hit the road by 6:20. This was a good call, as it made the first bit of our ride nice and cool. We had breakfast part two in Napanee, just over 90 km into our day.

We were glad to have cycled so much in the morning, as the afternoon was HOT. We were fortunate to meet a nice lady working in a convenience store just outside of Napanee, who gave us some ice cold bottled water for free. We made it to Kingston by 3:15! It's amazing to get to a place so early, and be able to relax. We're staying at Rhian's friend Ali's apartment tonight, which is really nice. Thanks to you both for hooking us up! We look forward to the frozen pizzas and wine that await us there.


31 July 2007

In spite of the fiasco in White Lake, where our cooler was taken out of the bathroom by a concerned camper, we decided last night that we'd store it in there again, along with our toiletry bags. That was a stupid decision, as we discovered that all of our stuff had been removed, yet again. This time we weren't as lucky as we had been in White Lake--we went to the office, and were told that nobody had brought in our stuff. So, we were forced to move on and buy new everything. It was a huuuuge pain--I especially lamented the loss of a half-full bottle of mustard and my salt and pepper shaker--but we managed.

We had spent half the day buying new food and toiletries, and cycling in the heat was rough. Luckily, Highway 2 is beautiful. We passed all kinds of lovely little towns, including Port Hope, where we had our breakfast part two. We had ice cream--Dutch apple pie flavour!--and then used the internet for a bit. While we were inside the library, somebody stole a water bottle off of my bike. What's with all of these thieves? And why steal a dirty old water bottle, of all things? Surely, they could have taken something more valuable, or at least useful.

Since we were having such a slow, hot ride, we decided to call it a day early and stop at a campground in Grafton. We went swimming in the pool, had our delicious Sidekicks dinner, and called it a night.


30 July 2007

It took a while to get everything sorted out this morning. Apparently, four days off just isn't enough to do everything there is to do. It was well after 1 by the time we finally set off, and pretty hot. We rode into Toronto to meet Alex, who hooked us up with a solar-powered iPod charger that he had put together for us. Thanks, Alex, you rock!

We continued down Highway 2 to Darlington Provincial Park, just outside Oshawa. Dan was excited because this park was named after his hometown in England, but his excitement didn't last--we payed a whopping $27.75 for our site, which had ground so hard that we couldn't even peg our tent down! But we made do, and ate the sandwiches my mother had made us for dinner before getting to bed.