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28 August 2010

DAY 15: Gander to Clarenville, 85 km

DAY 16: Clarenville to Conception Bay, 118 km

DAY 17: Petty Harbour and Cape Spear, 75 km

DAY 18: Boxing bikes and Signal Hill

DAY 19: St. John's

Because we'd had relatively long cycling days in Newfoundland, we had the luxury of taking it pretty easy on our last two days of cycling. And it was a good thing that we did, since the weather took a turn for the worse: it got cold and headwindy. What's more, the hills got steeper and longer as we approached Terra Nova National Park, and stayed that way pretty much up to our arrival in St. John's. So while we covered less ground, we still spent a good deal of time on our bikes.

On our third-last day of cycling (Day 15), we stopped for a bit of a break about 75 km into the day's ride. We ended up having fish and chips at a diner and before we knew it, it was getting too late to cycle much further. Fortunately, though, a friendly Newfoundlander working there told us about a great spot to camp only about 10K down the road. Just off the highway there was a clearing in the forest around a nice little lake. The locals take their trailers down there and set up a de facto campground—the perfect spot for us! We arrived there at sunset and put up our tents. Michael and I decided to go swimming, despite the fact that it was only about 15 degrees out and windy, making it extremely cold. Nicole and Frederique (Michael's girlfriend, who joined us for NL) thought we were crazy, but it was our last night camping out, so we had to do it!

Our last campsite

The next day was our (unofficial) last cycling day, and we were eager to arrive at our destination, Sunset View Bed and Breakfast in Conception Bay, just outside of St. John's. I was put in contact with our hosts Elaine and Fraser Inkpen through a friend, and was both eager to meet them and to sleep in a bed for the first time in many days*. We braved another day of less than ideal weather, arriving at the Inkpens' before 7. We received a very warm welcome, complete with snacks, beer, wine, traditional Jiggs dinner and blueberry cake for dessert. We couldn't have asked for a better end to our cycle touring days.

The following morning, after a lovely breakfast of fruit, oatmeal**, blueberry pancakes, turkey bacon, toast and all sorts of jams (blueberry, dogberry and partridgeberry), we set off for the day's cycle, what was meant to be an easy pedal through Petty Harbour, a small fishing village, and on to Cape Spear, the easternmost point of Canada and the official ending point of Michael and Nicole's cross-country ride. At first, the weather was unpleasantly cold, wet and windy. But we were fortunate to have it clear up for our ascent up to Cape Spear. And what an ascent it was! Probably the steepest climb of our trip, followed by a steep downhill, followed by another climb. It was tough, but we managed, and it was worth it! The view was spectacular, as was the feeling of being finished! We had a picnic of apples and celebratory wine before cycling back to the Inkpens'.

Petty Harbour

View from Cape Spear

That night, the four of us had a delicious meal at Oliver's in downtown St. John's, compliments of Frederique's parents. I had a seafood platter with mussels, shrimp, scallops, salmon and cod. SO tasty! After dinner, we headed to George Street, the street with the most bars per unit area in all of North America. Step one: get screeched in. We did this at Trapper John's, and it was hilarious! A shot of Newfoundland Screech rum, kissing a stuffed puffin's ass, followed by some ridiculous NL saying and Bam! you're an honourary Newfoundlander. We then proceeded down the street from bar to bar. Despite the fact that it was a Monday night, some of the bars were pretty happening and stayed open till well past 2am. Everyone was super friendly to us, and we managed to stay out till closing time even though we were used to a bedtime of 10pm or earlier. 'Twas an excellent celebratory night!

The next day was Michael, Nicole and Frederique's last day. After packing up our bikes, Fraser took us to see Signal Hill before dropping my cycling buds off at the airport. That evening, Fraser and Elaine took me out for some of the best fish and chips I've ever had at a restaurant overlooking a peaceful little bay. I spent the following day wandering around St. John's on my own before finally flying back to Toronto.

On top of Signal Hill

St. John's harbour

Many thanks to Elaine and Fraser, who treated us like family during our stay in their home. And thanks to all of you who have been following my blog! Hopefully there will be more cycling and blogging to come :)

*Despite our best efforts, we were unable to stay in a motel since Cornerbrook. Every time we tried, they were booked up. But we're not complaining: it worked out, and we saved lots of money! :)

**But not just any oatmeal: this was probably some of the best oatmeal I've ever had, made with milk and bananas. The best part? A scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt on top! Yum!

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