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.