I rode solo and unsupported across Canada from Vancouver (British Columbia) to Halifax (Nova Scotia), travelling 7074 km in 61 days and raising over £11,000 for cancer research and support, Holy cow.
Monday, 9 September 2013
Or how I learned to love New Brunswick. Kinda. After the glory days of the gaspe peninsula, I crossed over the border to NB in blazing sunshine to be greeted by a group of line dancing pensioners. My belly was full of the enormous farewell ice cream Yan bought me as a leaving gift (yes I shared it with Wilson), the mornings hangover was a distant memory and l was feeling particularly enthusiastic about entering a new province. I cruised along for a while then set up camp for the night by the sea. So far so good. But then overnight the cycling gods got together, decided I'd been having way too much fun recently and sent me some terrible weather to wipe that smug grin off my face.
First they tried wind. Pah, I rode across the prairies, tis but a mild breeze. Try harder guys. So then they added rain. A lot of rain. So much rain I had to keep pulling over because I couldn't see the road. That's ok though I'm British, standard summer bank holiday weather innit. Plus I hadn't showered in a few (ok 3) days, and the downpour got rid of most of the flies on my tail. I'm sort of joking there. Sort of. Anyways, so this being the east coast, the Timmy Ho's density is pretty good. It appears that when Maritimers aren't eating crab, they're drinking coffee.Towns that don't even have stoplights have a Tim Hortons, so clearly I was forced to seek refuge amongst the locals, and the errrr donuts. Ahem. However, being A) on a bike, B) a girl, and C) foreign makes you stand out somewhat, which combined with D) the daytime population of rural Tim Hortons being composed of 90% retired elderly gents, I was lucky if I got more than a slurp of coffee before the questions started. Once they discovered I could speak French, I was a goner, all hope of a peaceful 5 minutes was abandoned and I started turning down offers of (crab) dinners with sons, grandsons and sometimes even the old dudes themselves. But it was all in good fun and these were some of the nicest and most genuine people I'd met across the whole trip. I started to realise that maybe they don't get so many visitors round there when the old boys club in the Timmy's a couple towns ahead were expecting me and had their cameras ready to capture my arrival. I'm a pretty big deal in New Brunswick dontcha know.
The rain did not let up so I struggled on, and ended up sleeping in a super 80s games arcade after a campsite lady took pity on my pathetically sodden state. I got up at 2am to disconnect the power after the Street Fighter II machine went off and for a brief sleepy second I thought raccoons had learned how to talk.
I awoke the next day to more rain, but at least I started dry. It was all about the little victories in No Funswick. I met a lovely group of ladies in Miramichi who renewed my slightly dampened enthusiasm (haha geddit? I made a funny) and also made a super generous donation to the fundraising pot. The rain finally eased off as I pulled into Shediac, home of the worlds largest lobster and possibly my favourite side of the road "sculpture" to date. The monsoon continued for the next couple of days as I crossed the border into Nova Scotia, by which point, after a sustained and heroic effort, my rainproof jacket finally gave up. Sigh. I got super cold super quickly despite many layers and started to get slightly concerned about how I'd survive the night if this continued.... right on cue a Timmys appeared on the horizon. Aaaaah. As I dripped onto the floor, I began to contemplate how many donuts I'd have to buy in order to spend the night in there. One an hour? Two? Which was when I met Joe. We chatted about the usual stuff, he gave me some advice on the local roads then told me the weather forecast. Not good. So this complete stranger then goes "if I asked you to stay at my house with my wife and I would you come?". Hmmm. My motto is that it's easier to spot a good egg than a bad apple, and my first impressions are usually pretty spot on. I liked this guy, so I said yes. We packed my bike into the back of his truck and off we went into the woods down a single track road. Eek I hope I called this one right. I had, and I spent a lovely evening with Joe and Rachelle on the beautiful Caribou Island being thoroughly spoilt. What a welcome to the final province of the trip!
Salmon Beach to Sunrise - 147 km
Sunrise to Shediac - 135 km
Shediac to Pugwash - 111 km
Pugwash to Pictou via Caribou Island - 86 km
Pictou to Shubenacadie - 91 km
Thursday, 5 September 2013
Or maybe just me, but whatever. Sharing's caring.
1. My ass hurts
2. I'm hungry
3. My ass hurts and I'm hungry
4. Is there a Tim Hortons near here?
5. Il y a un Tim Hortons pres d'ici?
6. Is that a bear? No.
7. Shit, that is a bear.
8. Is it free?
9. Hey man. Share the road. Or not. Asshole.
10. Do my thighs look big in this?
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
This weeks update is beamed to you live from Tim Hortons in Miramichi, New Brunswick. It's currently raining sideways so I'm sheltering here until it gets a little nicer out there. Or until they run out of donuts, whichever comes first.
So this weeks big decision was to Gaspe or not to Gaspe. Hmmm. The Gaspe Peninsula is a remote part of eastern Quebec, and supposedly one of the top ten cycling destinations in Canada. However, the weather was starting to turn and I'm all too aware that at some point I need to come home and face the music (finish that phd, get a job, behave like a grown up, etc etc). This little diversion would add an extra 700 km to my route and take around a week to complete. I sat on a bench at the crossroads weighing my options. Consulting my little book from Jen, the next quote said this:
"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less travelled by." - Robert Frost
Well that seemed pretty clear. I had the wind at my back and the sun on my face. Decision made, while there's money in the bank, ride on. Jens fault really.
I didn't regret it, the road stayed close to the sea, winding through little fishing villages in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. Pretty cool. I was invited to spent my first night in Gaspe in the loft of a barn, which turned out to be a luxury penthouse by my standards. The next day though those mountains become more than a shadow. Way more. These were some of the steepest grades I've climbed on this trip, and I think the gasping peninsula is probably a more appropriate name. These were back to back climbs of 15% minimum. I wasn't sure if my chain or my knees were going to give up first. As I struggled up towards the top of the steepest summit, an car slowed down beside me. It was an old French man who shadowed me all the way to the top, honking and shouting "ALLEZ ALLEZ, ON Y VA!!" until I got to the top and collapsed in a sweaty puddle. Then started on the next one. Ooof. As I got around the headland, the hills gave way to blasting wind and the locals developed an accent so incomprehensible I could no longer tell whether they were speaking in English or French. I finally hit some easier ground on the south side of the peninsula, in the form of a Tim Hortons where had my first donut in 3 days. I told you it was tough going. As I was leaving I ran into Yan and Wilson the dog, who were touring the peninsula together by bike and trailer. They were good company, so I spent my last days in Quebec with these two, culminating in far too many pints of stout in a microbrewery which lead to camping in the pub car park. Winning.
Saint Felicite to Mont Saint Pierre - 119 km
Mont Sant Pierre to L'Anse a Valleau - 110 km
L'Anse a Valleau to Saint George a Malbaie - 118 km
Saint George to Saint Godefroi - 128 km
Saint Godefroi to Saint Omer - 92 km
Saint Omer to Charlo - 87 km
Charlo to Salmon Beach - 99 km