Photos by: Katrina Okane
Photos by: Katrina Okane
Well, what can I say… This is the last blog post of my 3600km, 30 day, solo cycling journey through Eastern Canada. It took place from Aug 16th- September 17th 2013 and I have been busy with school and other hobbies ever since my return. Probably why I am completing the last post now, but better now then never, right?
This is a map of the route I travelled. Definitely more extensive than what I had planned.
The tour was interesting, challenging, emotional, eye opening, and in general a real stepping stone in my life. If you want to see what I mean, just skim through the last 15 or so posts and you’ll get the idea. (I suggest starting from the bottom and working upward. This is the order I wrote them in.)
It really took alot of effort and time to acquire enough funds for the tour as well. My main source of income was obtained through recylcing cans, bottles, and scrap metal. More regularly, I worked 6-7 days a week doing exterior painting while working for a moving company on the weekends. It was rough but in the rare spare time, my friends and I managed to sneak a few beers and laughs in trackside.
I am looking to do more intense endeavors in the future both alone and with others.
If you’ve been following my posts from 8-10 months ago, you would understand that this was a first for me in terms of travel; leaving Montreal, QC on a bicycle with little experience in terms of long distance solo-touring. I’ll tell you now, there were no five-star hotels with breakfeasts included every morning. Accomodations consisted of sleeping on peoples floors and couches, or simply pitching a tarp in city parks, ditchs, bushes, beaches, and in one case, a graveyard. Some bug repellent probably would have helped on a few occasions.
Below: Organizing gear before departure out of Montreal.
I cycled a total of 1800km. Not the 2200km I planned. But, I soon realized that the plan didn’t matter anymore. Especially once it got wet and became unreadable. The most important lesson I learned was that the plan didn’t matter. I just had to make it to Newfoundland. When you set your expectations exceptionally high, it typically leads to disappointment. I learned to appreciate the now while taking in as much value as possible, and going with the flow. I try to incorperate this concept everyday. This was an ongoing experience for me. I found myself in many storms, sometimes forcing me to stay put in certain places like Moncton, North Rustico, PEI and Antigonish, NS. And you know what, those were three of the most memorable moments. Steve, Blaine and Penelope were great to hang around with and their friends were wicked too. The extended time with each gave room for relationship building. Something I only touched on throughout the trip. A big reason why most of the trip was just way too lonely. I’ll remember to leave much more time for relationship building on the next trip. The same could be said for what I will share next, and is the subject of my final post for this tour…
As a hurricane pounded Antigonish, NS I was pondering how I would continue the next week I had available till my flight out of Deer Lake, NL. Cycling was not an option, well it was, but I’m not that crazy. hah.
It was pouring, and it would be pouring on and off all throughout my desired route through Cape Breton Island, NS and Newfoundland.
To make a long story short, I was given the contact of a trucker from New Brunswick who ran fishing supplies from NB to remote fishing villages in Newfoundland. I was told Tommy was a friendly guy and that he’d most likely be able to pick me up off the Trans Canada Highway if the storm got too bad.
Well it was bad, and I bailed on cycling the last 300km of the trip. And plus, by the sound of it, this was an oppurtunity I couldn’t pass up. Screw the schedule! I called him up and he was able to meet me at 1 am in the morning at a truck stop outside of Antigonish. Of course I thought this was sketchy, but I was drunk, and figured I could handle any surprises.
He was 2.5 hours late do to some technical issues with the engine (“this is going to be a smooth ride” I said) I threw my bike in the back and there we went. It didn’t take long for both of us to realize we both liked to talk.
Below: Passing time filming myself, drinking whiskey, and listening to Bob Marley.
Below: Hanging out at gas stations was not uncommon.
We made it to the port at Sydney. We waited over 30 hours in the port gates for one of the storms to pass. Winds were blowing upwards of 100 km/h.
There was a Tim Horton’s. Thank god. It was at this time I blabbered on about my adventure to all the curious truckers from around North America. It was an interesting perspective travelling to Newfoundland via truck. Especially because the majority of truckers were aged 45+, and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Which was not neccasarily a bad thing. It was also funny to see the reactions of the tourists and families traveling over by ferry. I was thankful to be in the shelter of a truck chatting a way with a guy who liked to chat. I think we became friends quite quick. Tommy was an awesomely funny guy with a good heart. I was happy to have a bed to sleep in too ( I got the top bunk).
After 30 hours, we got the clear to drive onto the ferry. From my memory there were about 50+ 53ft trailers allowed on, and we were one of the last to squeeze onto the ferry.
If we hadn’t of made it we would most likely be there for another 6 hours. I really didn’t care, It was warm inside the truck and there was a Tim Horton’s nearby. Once parked and into the passenger section of the ferry, Tommy and his trucker friends made there way to the buffet. I sat with them but couldn’t join in on the eats due to my lack of funds. They offered to pay but I refused, and was satisfied with their leftovers and infinite refills of coffee.
When we hit the otherside, I had an intense and immediete sense of accomplishment, excitement, happiness, and that hoppy-skippy feeling in the chest. I was so far away from what I call home…
What a beautifully interesting landscape this was. It was exotic. This was not a Canada even a Canadian would think about let alone a foreigner. Newfoundland is a must see.
I won’t explain the Newfoundand tour km by km or mile by mile but we generally headed north to about Deer Lake, then east toward St John almost the span of the entire island (but on the north side), and then cut straight south through the most vast landscape I’ve ever seen. We dropped off nets and other equipment to a salmon farming company situated in Pool’s Cove. We were there at about 5:30am and for the first time the sun was out. I was half asleep and really didn’t feel like taking photos, but I managed to do so.
Of course nothing goes perfect, and we broke down a good two times.
Below: Tommy getting ready to secure the door with 50,000 lb of Salmon inside.
In the 4-5 days I was with Tommy, I slept at the most 12 hours. I didn’t want to miss anything. That, and I had a hard time sleeping with the abundance of Moose on the loose. We stopped only a few times to rest.
I got dropped off in Deer Lake. Tommy now headed for the port.
Slept in the woods that night, and managed to get a ride from another trucker into Gros Morne Park where I was supposed to climb the famous Mountain the next day. This was supposed to be the highlight of the trip. But the weather was too bad. I saw the mountain, though. It was nice.
After getting rained out at Rocky Harbour and having to move to the more secluded Norris Point, I was forced to stay in the first payed motel of the trip (80$). It sucked, but was nice staying dry. I thought for a minute that the weather would break up for a day and I could get to the top of that mountain. The next day I found out there was a hostel for $30/night 5 minutes away. But of course, Pittman, the owner of the hotel wouldn’t let my broke ass know before I paid. There are good and bad people out there and everyone in between. Live and learn… They felt bad once they knew I found out and gave me a complentary breakfast in the morning. I forgave them.
It was time to get out of Gros Morne, and with no visibility there was not much point in staying anyway. Temperatures were also dropping close to 0 Celsius at night. I managed to get a lift from an older fellow named Bob who lived in Alberta his whole life but returned recently. Funny enough, he was headed into Deer Lake to pick up blue berries for his wifes’ dish. We shared stories the whole way and he dropped me off at the truck stop where I would spend the rainy night.
I was able to convice the cashier to let me sleep in the restraunt till it opened at 6am. There was a guy on drugs in the trucker lounge and even after all I’ve seen on the road I was in no mood for anything freaky. But that’s another story in itself.
I managed to link up a ride to the airport the next day. Bob’s Blueberry supplier. The woman was actually the aunt of a girl I hung out with at the truck stop that night. She brought me fresh blueberries and frozen moose meat which I managed to keep frozen on my stop-over flight to Toronto.
I made it back home to Toronto with no issues. 3 days later, I was on a train to Montreal a week late for school. I felt weird to say the least; going from a free for all to a structured/fixed city environment.
So many places seen, so many people met, and so many emotions along the way. Even months later it’s still all very hard to comprehend, and I stopped trying.
Below: Bob and the Blueberry Lady
It was what it was and it has affected me in ways I can’t put into words.
Below: Flying over the greater area of Halifax.
The storm that came through North Rustico (pictured below) finally blew away, and I got the clear. I’m surprised I didn’t see any windsurfers out there.
Twas’ a hilly ride to Charlottetown. Thank god this checkpoint was only 1/3 of a regular days distance. Scenery was nothing special as I got closer to C-town, but there were some cool towns along the way.
In no time I was within the city limits and cycling along the coastline. I was out of deodorant so I hunted down the Shopper’s Drugmart and made my big expenditure for the day (so I thought). Now smelling fairly decent, I embarked on a small unintentional tour of the city trying to locate my hosts’ location.
The boardwalk was really beautiful. The whole city was just so pleasant and cute… And I never say things are cute. On top of the cuteness, it looked and felt like one of the safest towns/cities I’ve ever been. I had no problem leaving my bike and trailer unlocked outside the store. Kind on felt like a smaller Ottawa, ON. It’s the whole “clean” thing. Traditional houses painted nicely and in all sorts of colors. Everything was well kept. You could almost eat off the sidewalks.
I noticed quite a large student population, and what looked to be a trouble free group. Everyone was well dressed. The majority gave off a bit of a trendy but classy vibe, maybe even a little snooty. Met some really interesting people on the streets, including one guy walking around with a huge snake.
My deodorant stop caused me to be a bit late for our meet up. I connected with Andrea, who is a very talented singer/songwriter, through http://www.couchsurfing.org days before I arrived in town. We met at the Malpeque Folk Festival where we watched some awesome local talent, many of whom Andrea has played shows with in the past.
Yet again, another awesome host and now a new friend.
She knew that I was a beer fanatic and after having a few east coast beers at the folk festival, I sort of insisted we go to the Gahan House Brewery in town. It is the only craft brewery in the town. In my sole opinion, they had one or two excellent beers but the rest were just, meh, OK. Yes, I tried all 7 of them (2 were samples and a sip of Andrea’s), $40 later…A real nice hangout all in all, and their food looked great. There went a huge chunk of money I made from working with Blaine at the logging yard. I hope Andrea enjoyed her Beer 101 tutorial that night.
We ended up going to some other bar I can’t remember the name of, and then to a very well known pizza shop: Famous Pepper’s.
The town ate a weeks worth of my food money in a night. Your welcome Charlottetown.
On the walk home there was a cat that would not leave us alone. I felt bad for this little guy. I could not convince Andrea to bring it home.
Slightly hungover, I packed up my trailer over a coffee (thanks Andrea) the next morning and hit the road toward Wood Island, PEI on a full stomach. Wood Island runs a ferry service to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Just an hour across the Atlantic Ocean.
This was a rough stretch. A very hilly and gusty 44 km along the northern PEI coast. I had no idea PEI was home to so many god damn hills. You think it would be flat. There were no places to eat for almost the whole way, and I was running low on water too.
I eventually came a across a pretty traditional lobster joint; The New London Seafood Restaurant. A tad expensive for my liking but a good experience all in all. Definitely gave me the fuel to carry forward on what was a very windy,hilly, and rainy day.
I stopped in Cavendish on the way to Blaines house in N.Rustico. The beach was awesome and is a must see for any tourist swinging through. The weather cleared up and I wish I could have spent two more sunny days there. I felt like I was in Mexico or something. This beach just killed the many Canadian stereotypes I had of the east coast.
Anyways, it was about 2pm, and Blaine called me asking where I was. I planned to be at his place around dinner time. He said he would pick me just down the road. Long story short, Blaine was a real cool guy and is a handy man. He does contracting work including painting, interlocking, and builds houses from scratch (including his own). His side business is in the fire wood market. He orders huge logs to his lot, and then using a bulldozer and chainsaws, manages to cut them up into 16 inch pieces, and delivers quads of them all over the island. He does very well, and needed some big help the few days I was there. A lot of large rush orders to prepare and deliver. With no time to waste, I was working at “the wood” as he called it, for the next two days. Cutting and chucking the wood and everything in between. Labour of this type never felt so good. This had to be one of the coolest “jobs” id ever done. I felt like a champion wielding a gas powered chainsaw for the first time.
Blaine was at the wood most of the time, but otherwise it was Sheldon and I sawing the wood and loading the bulldozer.
I could go on and on about how interesting the two of these guys were. But I won’t. I’ll let the documentary film (in process) speak those words. I met him through http://www.CouchSurfing.org
Blaine treated me, along with one of his girlfriends at a local restaurant; By the Bay. They specialize in steak and fresh seafood. Most people were overweight by a long shot, so you know the customers couldn’t get enough! Sort of had a flashback to Houston, TX
A storm came in after my second day at the wood. Man was I happy not to be cycling. Instead I went out the windy peer, picked up some oysters, and long story short I ended up on Blaines brother’s tuna fishing boat. We went about an hour into the middle of the ocean to bring in his fishing nets so they would not get swept away in the storm. We dropped the lines in because there was a 600lb Bluefin Tuna below us. We didn’t catch him, but we caught a bunch of Mackerel (bait for tuna).. but I ate them when we got home! A couple Cod, a lobster, a sharp weird looking fish, and a couple Mackerel came in on the nets. All food for the birds. It was not a lucky haul in the brothers opinions.
Third day I met Blaines close family. His sister owns a family farm with a cow and chickens.
All in all. These three days were some of the most exciting and interesting of the trip so far. Not hard to believe I wanted to stay for another week or so… But I wasn’t going to make it Newfoundland sitting on my ass. Time to say goodbye.
It was Sunday morning in Woodstock, NB after a big night of partying at a trailer-house and the bar… I was some how supposed to get my hungover-ass and disabled bicycle to Fredericton (my next checkpoint). Not many stores were open let alone any bicycle shops. I needed a bicycle tube and/or a patch kit to continue my journey via bicycle.
My host, Rocky, had work on Monday and so I had to get going at this point. All I wanted to do was sleep.I felt like taking another day off and dealing with the flat on Monday. But things turned out for the better. All I can say is that what happened next is a perfect example of how the highs and lows of travelling in general can be so volatile, and in particular, why the “highs” are what drive any traveler forward. For me, these highs have come out of not-so-great situations. This bike trip was no exception.
To make a long story short, Rockies’ roommate ended up hearing over our conversation about the issue. It turns out he and a friend were driving to Moncton (my next major destination after Fredericton). They were going to the Bruce Springsteen concert that night. They offered to give me a lift out there. I was in shock with their kindness and thankful that I got to meet such awesomely-funny guys.
In the end, they convinced me to drink with them at their hotel, sneak into the concert, and then go to the Moncton Casino for 5 hours afterward. I profited about $80 at the casino and was able to buy the guys some drinks. Oh, and the concert was awesome. I felt on top of the world, especially knowing I wouldn’t have to sleep in a city park again.
On Monday the guys had to head back to Woodstock by 1 pm. I stuck around to use the laundry facilities and the free internet in the hotel lobby. I was able to get my bike fixed up and my gear reorganized. My goal now was to find a place to sleep for Monday night. I explored the outskirts of the city, and then ventured into downtown Moncton. I didn’t like the looks of the city park so I decided to try some last-minute luck on http://www.couchsurfing.org.
To my surprise, I snagged a host with within 30 min. And lived 5 minutes away from the Pumphouse Brewery where I was sampling the local brew. On a side note: their patio and interior setup was great and the beer was even better.
The host was super friendly. He worked at the hospital and enjoys hosting people and showing them around Moncton. We talked about travel, went to watch the tides come in at the river, explored the city, and he introduced me to the healthy world of wheat grass shots.
I decided to stay a 3rd night in Moncton because of the heavy rain and awesome time I was having.
Steve and his friend treated me to dinner at the Tide and Boar Gastropub. I hadn’t had a meal like that in what seemed like ages. This is what I needed to power through the next 2 weeks.
It was time to split course with the father and son cycling duo. Saturday afternoon they were picked up in their car . I miss them and wish them luck in their future nomadic lifestyle in Europe. The three of them headed back to Maine and I continued the journey south toward Fredericton and then would eventually head east toward Moncton. The festivities would continue on without us and the sacred fire would continue to burn until Sunday night.
Now that I look back i really wish I had stayed for the remainder of the ceremony. I was just starting to build some nice friendships as well. Luckily, email exists although it is not the same as a personal relationship.
It’s possible that future travels will not take me through that reservation again.
One thing I’ve learned from the tour so far is that there is a fine line between checkpoints and deadlines and spending quality time in places I found interesting along the way. This hit me hard just after the first few pedal strokes on Day 12.
I’m sure this could be worded differently and I’m sure some of the “pro’s” , if there is such a thing, will disagree with this statement.
But let me add that I only had a limited period of time to get to Newfoundland. In a case where I had all the time in the world, I would probably spend weeks at every checkpoint. (Sounds to good to be true). Visit all sorts of places, stay as long as you please and then move on to the next location and repeat. I think the only solid issue in this being a lifestyle is the required $$.
So that is why I am starting trip by trip. Spaced with work and for not much longer, school in between.
Doing a trip like this ( a bunch of mini connected trips inside a big trip) has a small drawback: leaving good people along the way. But on the plus, there are good people all throughout and this is what kept my spirits up.
Enough of my blabbing- let’s get on the road…
I followed the St John river south on the east side. The old highway NB 105.
You can read all about this awesome river here
There were some rolling farm type hills and mini valleys but things were sort of taming down compared to the days before in the Appalachian mountains. Some points were extremely beautiful where the 105 rose way above the river.
I saw a few osprey and even some big eagles fishing below me. No visual proof though.
In fact, not that many pictures at all.
To give you an idea of what the road was like here is a google maps snapshot from the 105 south bound.
Hartland, NB hosts the worlds largest covered bridge. It crosses the St.John river. I did not get to ride across it
I was in a rush to meet some “family-friends of friends” who were waiting for my arrival around dinner time. So i never had any time to take out my big camera, and I hadn’t gotten the chance to charge up my go-pro.
I made it on time averaging about 21 km/h. The speed would have been higher if it weren’t for the deep valleys on the 105.
Rocky, my host in Woodstock was a really cool guy, with an awesome accent. He introduced me to his friends and we definitely drank a couple beers. Something that is quite routine on any Friday or Saturday night most places you go.
We went to his friends trailer, had a big corn roast and bon fire and then made it down to the local bar afterward. Lots of laughs.
OK, take me seriously when I say this was the best stretch so far. 90km felt like 45km. The salty smell in the air was getting stronger and the sun was not too hot. Going on my second day without a shower, I felt cleaner and more refreshed than the day before.
Sneaking into that campground in Montmagny the night before was a super idea. The ground was soft and the whiskey put me into a deep sleep on the silky smooth and soft grass. It felt like I was staying at the “Hilton” of free camping. Not many bugs to worry about and I didn’t get rained on. I didn’t get to use my corn though, I had to lug the two pieces around with me for the whole day! boo…
Leaving on a positive note like this definitely helped me plow through the hills quite effortlessly.
I loaded up my trailer, brushed my teeth, and strolled on out, making a left onto the 132 which is now the old highway. Might I add, this stretch of road had almost no potholes, and although there wasn’t much of a siding, the lack of traffic made it more than safe. It was a beautiful road and the weather was superb once again.
It felt like from this point on drivers were much more cautious of cyclists and went into the opposite lane to pass if they were able too.
I did not make breakfast that morning, but instead cycled until I found a tiny cafe to eat. My phone had not been on for awhile and I figured this would be a good chance to charge it. There was an Antique store nearby. Lot’s of cool things I wanted to buy. Then I remembered I was cycling and hardly had room for a single beer in my trailer. Nevermind.
My GoPro was completely dead by the time I got to Kamouraska and there was no place to charge it. It just occurred to me on this day that you can only charge it if it’s plugged into a computer. At least this is the case with mine. After today I had could not use my GoPro for awhile.
60-70km down the road I stopped at the famous- La Pocatiere.
A county which hosts “one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world!” (www.myexplore.ca/en/where) Unfourtunatley, I was there in the middle of the day and could not afford to stay here the night. Too bad.
I took the oppurtunity to relax here for awhile, check out the rocky beach below, and take in the amazing mountains (or hills) across the fast moving river.
It was apparent that this was a special place. An older woman named Julie approached me out of nowhere and started up a conversation. She had seen I was taking photos with my tripod, and was wondering where I had come from and where I was going.
She was a nice lady, who seemed to have a keen interest in what I was doing. Also surprised I was alone.
She had suggested I change my route to go up the mountains south of me, so I could get a view of the river basin below. I smiled and told her that it would be awesome to bike up there but just not after 70km of riding! It would also pack on another 20km to go there, and then end in Kamouraska.
She wanted to me to see these mountains so badly, that she offered to take me up there in her car. Of course, I couldn’t pass this up!
Because she did not have a pick up truck, I had to leave the bulk of my gear behind including my bike. A risky choice just for a few photos. I locked my bike and asked another lady to keep an eye on my trailer for 40 minutes or so. She gladly agreed to. Considering there were a bunch of older folks and no punks around, I felt ok leaving the trailer in her hands.
We headed for this specific mountain, part of it a ski hill, and with a name I cannot remember or find on the internet. It was about 10 minutes away from Julies hometown- St. Pacome. I felt honored that she took the time to show me this little jem of a village.
We went through the town and made it to the lookout. It was interesting to see the route at which I just travelled and where I was going for the rest of the day from someplace other than a digital map.
She said she feels obligated to tell people about this little lookout, as she is from this village, and it is not advertised in any brochures. I was the first random person she’d ever driven up there though. So maybe I’m not as crazy as I thought.
She drove me back about 40 minutes later after taking some photos. She passed me some cherries, and cheese before she left. I couldn’t believe the generosity towards me- a complete stranger.
Back on the road again I had many intense thoughts and feelings about the people I had met so far on the trip. The thoughts were obviously ignited from my recent encounter with Julie. I could not imagine myself travelling this way or any way actually, in complete isolation of humans.
What would be the point really? Yes, I left by myself, but it is the fact I know there will be people along the road who are willing to share something. Whether it be a simple conversation, a story, a warning, a salutation, a bag of cherries, a meal and even a couch to sleep on. There are people waiting out there for you, who are just as curious about you as you are about them. I don’t mean ‘you’ personally either.
It felt like a made it to Kamouraska pretty darn quick after I left left Julie in La Pocatiere. Scenery was looking pretty fantastic. I came around a corner of a farm and there it was … Kamouraska. It was on this rock which looked like it was put there randomly. Kind of funny I thought. I had no idea what this town was going to be like, but since I was so far from any large city, I figured it would be pretty darn easy to find a place to sleep.
The first thing that caught my eye as soon as I got into the village was this bird below. I don’t know what kind it is, but it sure is different looking. Maybe someone knows what species it is?
I think it got hit by a car too. I got super close to it and it didn’t even move. But i saw dried up blood near the leg. He would move every once and awhile. I felt like doing something -like putting it out of it’s misery. The poor guy put me in a pretty gloomy mood and I knew it wasn’t feelin’ so hot either. I thought that would be the best thing to do “morally”. But I didn’t and cycled away pretending I saw nothing. I just couldn’t bring myself to doing it. Plus, he could have been attacked from a natural predator. Perfectly normal I guess.
Earlier in the summer, one of our customers mentioned he and his family had a cottage right in this very town. He told me months ago that I would have no problem finding and staying at their cottage. Well I definitely got my hopes up. He never messaged me for 2 weeks prior to my arrival here. But just so happened to “see my message” later that night. Says he was renting it out or something like that.
Anyway, I figured I’d try my luck at the local bar in hopes of snagging at least a lawn to sleep on legally. The bar, which was packed with staring old folks in nice sweaters, had unusually expensive beer and food. I knew I wouldn’t be hanging around much longer after this 9$ beer. This put me in an even worse mood. I know I wasn’t dressed up for the place, but I sat outside in the corner, and this was apparently the only place to grab a beer in town- hence the prices… so loosen up a bit!
It’s possible though that my mood at the time created a bit of a negative vibration in the place. Or I just wasn’t wanted there.
As the sun started sinking quickly I needed to make a decision. Do I stay in this town and search all over or do I leave the town (toward my next destination), In hope of finding somewhere to stay. I only had an 1.5-2 hours of light left. I decided to make some distance and stop at the next place I saw suitable.
All of the coast line for the next 3-4 km was either inhabited, too rocky, marshy, or inaccessible. The road veered away from the coast and I was getting worried as I became densly sandwiched between farms. (I like sleeping on beaches and in forests, not a muddy farm-field with no element protection). The temperature became perfect and the view was just getting nicer. I could have biked for another 35km very easily.
Luckily though I came across some sort of building with a Jesus statue inside I think. It centered a graveyard with the tombstones and all. Almost biking by without even acknowledging it, I pulled off and made this my home for the night.
I walked in with my gear and situated myself under the best trees. Two that provided protection from the wind, provided some shielding if it rained, minimal roots on the ground, and enough cover from the semi-busy road.
I set up my stuff and got my stove cooking. Buttered pasta with herbs..mmm. I was not going to start a fire in the graveyard to cook my corn and risk blowing my cover! Those two pieces of corn will be sitting in my trailer again on route to Cabano, QC. I wanted to eat those so badly.
I walked around the graveyard trying to read the tombstone messages but no luck. I sat down at one of the picnic tables to eat and I was a bit shocked to find a pair of ripped female leopard panties. You all may laugh at me now, but when you’ve been alone for awhile on the road in a place you know nothing about-specifically the crime rate, you tend to think on the less optimistic side.
Sleeping in a graveyard is creepy enough but the fact I may now be sleeping in a potential crime scene, gave this night a comedic feel.
But I made it through the night with out any thoughts of the rapist. I was plenty occupied with my only visitors- the F*****G mosquitoes. Excuse my language. I drove myself insane slapping these buggers flying around my ears all night. The buzzing sound when their flying is outrageously annoying and frustrating- and when the sound stops you know they’ve landed on something, possibly your ear, eyelid, cheek or the outside of your sleeping bag. Either way you are still wide awake-adrenaline pumping- as you whisk them away hour after hour.
I literally got so comfortable in Quebec City that I wanted to stay there for another 3 days or so. But with my limited time and the checkpoints and goals I had set for myself, I had to be going. Plus, there was no time for my legs to get soft again!
I was ready to continue my journey eastward. I woke up on Sunday morning around 9am, and according to my “schedule”, thought I’d be taking the bridge south and doing an 80km day along the south shore of the St.Lawrence River. This was fine, but when I woke up pretty darn hung over from the beer fest the night before, I knew I was in for a rough day considering the hills everyone was talking about. But I knew I had to be on my way.
For some reason I decided to check my route when I woke up. Google Maps showed that there was a ferry terminal not even 20 minutes away and that it would take me to the south side of the river. Thank f*****g god. This made the day a lot more enjoyable. This ferry, which cost me $3, saved me a 30 km back-track. It allowed me to stay and have breakfast with scott, grab some whiskey and corn at the market (not knowing where I’d be posting up for the night), and provided an awesome view while crossing the river. I was ecstatic. And suddenly not hungover.
By the time I got to the other side it was around 3pm (breakfast went a bit late!). I followed a paved and busy bike path for about 6-10km after the ferry terminal. Everyone on their expensive carbon frames kept the pace moving fluidly though. It seemed like a lot of these cyclists take their bikes over on this ferry just for a change in scenery. The bike path turned south after 10km and so did I, accidently.
The vibe didn’t feel right, and I never saw the river for 20 minutes. I turned back to where I came from and asked for directions. I knew it. Wrong way. So I guess I could add 12-13km onto this day. I’ve made worse detours on small trips prior to this one and I was not to upset.
Once I got onto the road, the hills started to appear. Again, the scenery kept me going. It distracted me from how much my legs and ass hurt. The mountains which started to appear on the north side of the river, were spectacular. They were as smooth as silk against the blue sky. They all kind of blended into each other.
I did not stop much on the way out. Maybe 2 or 3 times for water (don’t have a spot for one on my frame). This was my most efficient day yet (22km/hour). QC-Montmagny was the nicest part of the trip so far. It literally was getting nicer and nicer as I ventured east. The smell of salt and “freshness” in the wind was becoming more apparent as I traveled toward the ocean. The rivers’ salt to fresh water ratio was increasing.
I had been following this river for about 340km from Montreal. I felt much further away because of that salty smell though. Smelt like somewhere foreign. This is probably because I grew up in Toronto and go to school in Montreal, and am used to breathing in smog and pollution.
No turning back now.
When I got into town, I noticed it was very well kept and clean. I pulled into a boardwalk and watched father and his son fish as the sun sank toward the horizon.
I could see a few places that looked alright for the night but everything looked very rocky, indeed 2/3 spots were. There was one other place I needed to check out closely, I’t looked like there was some tree cover too.
It was a park, and whatta’ you know there were campers. Everywhere. There was also circus looking tent 150ft away. There were families all over the place, and one older lady camping out of her car. Her and I were the only ones travelling alone.
There was a fence behind the trees where all of the RV’s were. I talked to the older lady who shared a bottle of wine and a chicken with me. She wouldn’t take any of my whiskey though. She seemed lonely and was travelling from Montreal to Nova Scotia for no apparent reason but travel. She mentioned she paid something like $35 at the front gate and that there was some show going on in the tent.
I didn’t see any gates, and I didn’t have the dogs after me, so I set up my gear when the woman went to sleep.
Not surprisingly, everyone in their campers looked at me weird as I hooked up the blue tarp to my bike and pegged the other ends of it in the ground. They probably thought I was mentally ill.
The grass was soft and there were no roots, rocks, or rain in sight. The wind of the water kept the Mosquitoes away and wasn’t strong enough to blow my tarp out of the ground. Success.
Spiders everywhere. Fortunately, none made it into my sleeping bag.
Day 3: Trois Rivieres-Quebec City (140km)
Andreas and I both set our alarms for 9am on Friday morning. We drank a couple glasses of water, ate a muffin each (courtesy of Muddashir) and we made it slowly out of the house as we gathered our gear and said our goodbyes. The small delay was due to my trailer and I. It never really went together so easily after it’s flip in Montreal. I found out that morning the aluminum attachment bar was completely bent. But with a bit of elbow grease I was able to squash everything together. We were off. Even after a bit of confusion getting out of Trois Rivieres, I could already tell the ride was going to be much more pleasant than if I were to have gone alone.
We conversed almost the whole-way riding side by side.
I have not really ridden with anyone before outside of Montreal, but I understand the concept of drafting, something we did not really take advantage of! We didn’t need to. There was hardly and wind at all, and we liked to keep eachother company on the long stretches. Andreas was a much stronger rider than me at the time and I’m sure he could have reached Quebec city an hour before me in a comfortable manner! Nevertheless, I managed to keep up, and pick up some massive speed down the hills, using my 80 pound trailer and the heaviest of my 30 gears!
Below: Heading into the Corridor du Littoral.
It was definitely not as fun going up them though, and that’s where Andreas would gain lots of distance and take some 3 minute rests. It was nice to know i could take my time up the big ones and I didn’t have to hold him back. (He even had time to take out his camera and snap this picture of me coming up a hill outside of Portneuf, QC). The burger and beer in town slowed me down for an hour or so!
There were 1.5 hills that we needed to both walk up. They just kept on coming, and were getting steeper and steeper as we approached Quebec City. They were so steep that on my lowest gear, my front wheel was coming of the pavement on this one incline.
This was the biggest day (km wise) of the entire trip. It was tough. We aimed to rest every hour or 20-30km. I think we’d both agree that aside from the handful of 20 minute stops, we averaged about 17km/hour with the hills.
It was 8-9pm by the time I reached the city limits. We both had places to be that night, so Andreas continued to the east end of the city, and I ended up finding my way to the old part of the city where I had a place to stay.
Like me, Andreas was going to take a rest day in Quebec City and stay Saturday night as well. We had planned to explore the city a bit the next day, but there were some timing issues and he did not have a cell phone! We have managed to keep in contact. He has a blog too and the link will be at the bottom of this post. We did not ride together afterward because his route was quite different. Andreas went to explore eastern Quebec via the north shore, and I needed to stick to the south shore, eventually turning completely south toward Edmundston NB after a few days.
It was dark, cold, windy, and cold. From asking around a little bit, I was able to determine that the temperature on Friday night was a bit abnormal. When we reached her place, the difference in temperature really hit me. I hopped in the shower and rinsed away the layers of salt off every square inch of my skin. I was so tired, I wasn’t even tired anymore, and after a cold beer, Catherine was able to convince me to get on my feet and check out a few pubs nearby. I’m glad we did.
Catherine had to work in the early afternoon, and so I packed up and headed to Scott’s place by the afternoon after exploring QC on my own for a bit.
I met Scott through Couchsurfing as well. He originally grew up in Eastern Nova Scotia and has a very extensive family network out east (a couple of which he hooked me up with a few weeks down the road). Funny enough, he ended up living in Quebec City by accident. He was on his way to Toronto in the early 90′s (I think***) for work but ran out of money halfway. He made it through some hard times, and found a job that he still enjoys. He is a high school history teacher and just finished a 1 year sabbatical. He has a passion for travel, learning, teaching and interacting with people. There’s no wonder we clicked instantly.
To say the least,Scott and I have become very good friends in a very short period of time. I stayed with him Saturday night and for about half of Sunday. We had an awesome bbq dinner at his apartment in town and then walked over to FestBiere and drank all sorts of interesting delicious brews for the rest of the night. The festival was packed with people and there was an irish rock band playing too. After the festival, Scott and I had time to chitchat back at his place. It didn’t take long to realize what an awesome person he is. He has to be one of the most caring and compassionate people I know.
The festival was a great way to interact with and observe the local people.
From my 3 days in Quebec city I was able to make an interesting conclusion. The culture in Quebec City is vividly different than Montreal’s. Something I never imagined. I am no expert, but they seem more cautious about safeguarding themselves against cultural intruders-like immigrants, tourists, and visitors (not that we are all intruders). The people are a lot more conservative and less open minded to change than local Montrealer’s. For some this may seem less attractive, but I believe it makes Quebec City more attractive- by preserving almost every aspect of it-the reason there are so many tourists in the first place. Quebec’s buildings, streets, landscapes, and people are beautiful and original. Would I live there? no. Would I visit again, definitely.
The last 4 weeks on the road have been filled with a diverse range of emotions, people, and events. On August 14th, 2012 I departed the disintegrating streets and overpasses of Montreal,QC and headed east a long the St.Lawrence river on a tight budget and not much more than a bike, trailer, tarp and a fairly confident mindset. I had been pushing my body to it’s limits for 25 + days and all though I had the desire to move forward, my body was hinting otherwise after just 5 days. But this soon changed.
It is very wet outside today in Antigonish, NS. I am sitting in a brand new library watching the streets fill with water as the light dims.
In my 21 days of travel I can honestly say that this is the only spare time I’ve had to dedicate my efforts towards my page.
I am a little bit dissapointed that I have not been able to provide a more live-day-to-day type insight into the trip. So to make the most out of today, I am going to write about the first 2 days, and continuously do a post about every 2-3 days of the trip from now on. Past tense is ok too!
To gain some perspective I have travelled a total distance of 1734km by bicycle less 170 km (long story will be explained in later posts)
Montreal, QC -Woodstock, NB- 824km
Woodstock, NB-Antigonish, NS- 910km
Day 1: Montreal-Berthierville (75 km)- August 14th, 2012
I left a cloudy and dreary Montreal early in the afternoon after doing some last minute preparations on the way out the door. Not feeling super energetic and a bit sick, I started to feel some insecurity and uneasiness just 2 km into the first day.My trailer flipped over after hitting a huge pot hole just before I left the island which permanently screwed up the position of my fishing rod on the trailer. It continued to ever-so-slightly brush against my rear tire on certain turns. It only took 25km to figure out the proper positioning for it. I now had a ripped trailer with some not-so-true wheels! Both of which have not been fixed to this date. What was I getting into here?
As i hit the road and my mind started to clear while the elements started to behave in my favour. Especially the wind. After all, I was heading east. It gave me the positive boost I needed to get my spirits up and get rolling.
I was leaving such a systematic work schedule, a lot of stress, my friends, the hustle and bustle of the city, and of course the certainty of waking up everyday in the same bed. As much as I wanted to do this trek for the past 8 months, it felt weird leaving the cage.
This scene above was fairly nice to take a break near. There wasn’t much after this but boring farmlands and some very flat/straight roads until I reached Berthierville, QC- A small farm town along the St.Lawrence or maybe some of it’s tributaries. With no planned place to stay that night, I had to start scanning the area for possible sleeping grounds ( I was new to this, nowhere near experienced.) There was an abandoned factory type building that looked ok. It was almost certain I’d come back here after going for a couple beers. The local bar, called “le bar” i think, was filled with working class Quebecois men. At first they seemed a bit uneasy with me probably being a new face and not speaking the native tongue. But it only took a few beers before we were conversing in ‘fringlish’ about the major activities in the city..corn, grain and beer.
I even got offered a place to stay, but it was way out of my way and it looked like a storm was coming through. After a couple cold ones, I headed back toward the factory. On the way I spotted a house and lot under construction. Perfect for a one night stay. The river that ran through the yard provided a nicer view than the crumbling factory walls anyway.
As the rain trickled on and off, I set up camp, shot some footage, and enjoyed the blue herons and jumping fish. When the sun set, hell rose on up out of the shadows…. Mosquitos. They have to be one of the most aggravating bugs on the planet. They buzzed around my ears all night, snuck into the tiny air holes in my bivvy and bit the shit out of my face. The humiditity was almost as annoying as them. I dont even know if I got any sleep. A construction worker came around 6am and booted me out. I expected worse, and to be honest Im glad I was forced out of my sticky bivvy and into the cold/wet air. It could of been worse, but not the best way to start a 31 day cycling tour. Oh, and it was raining all night and morning. Fun.
Day 2: Berthierville-Trois Rivieres (75km)
I rose out of the Mosquito infested riverside lot, moist, tired, and sore. I was starting to have second thoughts about how I were to last another 15-20 days in the bush. Luckily I had a host to stay with in TR and could think about this later. I headed out of town after grabbing some breakfeast and lots of coffee at the grocery stores’ cafe. There was no tim hortons near by. The scenery really didnt change much from the previous day. The rain died off but the humidity stayed. I stopped in Yamachiche to check out a small layup of trains. They were loading grain into the hoppers. It was cool to see, and took my mind of the bugs and humidity. I got into TR not long after and it started to pour rain again. I checked out the boats at the port and had a beer at the only bar that would let me bring my trailer inside.
I met up with my host near the University after he finished work at 5pm. His house was of course situated at the very top of a steep hill.
My host for the night Muddashir- from Mauritius was awesome. I got in contact with him through an international organization called couchsurfing.org. If you have not heard of this site/community you will be impressed.
Muddashir got a job as an industrial veternarian and lives with a 3 other roomates who also host travellers from around the world. I was his 50th “couch surfer”. He cooked a fantastic pasta for dinner and we had some great conversations. He even let me sleep in his bed (after I refused 100 times). He felt bad he booked two surfers in a night, with no place for them all to sleep. Super generous. Thanks :). Little did i know, he had another host coming from Germany that same night. Andreas arrived at the house hours after I did with a bicycle. He had just cycled from Montreal (like me), and was headed to Quebec city the next day (like me). Talk about a coincidence. So i had a partner to ride with the next morning. A much needed partner I should say. It was good to have his company and motivation on a hilly 145km into Quebec City. He kept the pace going, mostly leading with a cool carbon frame bicycle and a good attitude.