Don’t know what you call this.
Looks like some sort of crew working gondola to transport repair equipment.
Friend took the photo, and have no good editing software to fix the over-exposure! All good though!
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.
So it was rough go leaving my hosts Ben, Kat, and her family in Albany. I was even starting to miss their dog the moment I said goodbye.
Actually, the wind was the whole reason my plans drastically changed.
My next location was Alberton, PEI. About 100 km straight to the northern tip of the island. It is supposed to be beautiful there and I had a place to stay with a friend of a friends uncle or something like that.. Long story short, the winds picked up big time, i was cycling on relatively flat roads but was surrounded by flat barren farmland after Summerside and the airport near Miscouche. 1. It was boring 2. I was getting fried by the sun and 3. I couldn’t get going much quicker than 10 km/h. So after about 15-30 km outside Summerside I decided it was going to be to much of a hassle to get up there. I made the executive descision to turn around, go back the way I came and head to the central northern coast, where I was headed to in two days anyway.
Funny enough that the man who had the house in Alberton told me that day he wouldn’t be there because he was getting married on Sunday. I would have felt weird staying in his house alone, while he got married, and then leaving the next day.
Cabot Beach looked nice and from the pictures I could tell you that the beaches looked very inviting at that point. Really, I was just getting fed up with the cycling and wanted to get away from the farmland and lay out in the sand. In some more exotic looking areas.
So I did.
I got to the beach, which is part of a provincial park, layed out, swam.
It still felt weird knowing I’d be sleeping on the beach or in some trees. So I waited around till it got dark and managed to get by the front gates without being seen. I found a tight little spot in behind some trees, to keep visibility low, allow me to tie up my tarp tent, and keep me the set up out of the wind.
This was one of the loneliest nights. Just waiting for it to get dark was painful in itself. I was able to get some footage of the area with all the time I had to kill.
Not only was it lonely, but extremely windy, and it rained through the night to top it all off!
The weather was clearing up quite nicely and even though Moncton was quite cool, I needed to keep on moving. The sun was out full throttle.
This stretch was one of the most efficient of the trip yet. I had rested for almost 5 days; my muscles had time to recoup.
I left Moncton via the “old Shediac Road” It was quite smooth with a small shoulder and many rolling hills. A nice ride all in all. Shediac was a nice town, home to a large lobster monument. The city claims to be the “lobster capital of the world”. With the seaside-lobster- statue so large, I did not challenge the claim. I decided to have lunch in town and put some loonies and toonies into the local economy.
Norm’s Pizza really did the trick. Cheap and delicious.
As soon as I started following the coastline toward Cap Pele I could smell the fresh seawater. It was energizing and motivating to say the least. I was so far from home but felt right in place. The winds picked up increasingly toward the bridge.
On the “scenic” route 950 I struggled with about 5-10km of heavy construction. Deep and heavy pebbles littered the road. I guess they were in the process of repaving the stretch. This was the third time during the trip where I wish I had a cross country bike with thick knobby tires.
I am not the type of guy to turn back though even if I had wiped out. There were only close calls, thankfully. Thinking it was the trailer that gave me more stability.
The Confederation Bridge was one of the most outstanding bridges I’d ever seen. I think it is now the 2nd longest bridge in the world. It takes about 15 minutes to get across by car and is 13km long.
Unfortunately it is illegal to cycle across because of the high winds and traffic. They offer a free shuttle service on call from the information centre.
At the shuttle I randomly met up with some other touring cyclists. The third encounter with cyclists on the trip. They were from Montreal, but had taken the train with their bicycles from Montreal to Moncton. They cycled from Moncton to the bridge where I had bumped into them. They were on their honeymoon and were going to tour PEI.
We would have cycled together on the island, but I got the impression the husband didn’t want me tagging along on their honeymoon! I respectively informed them I was headed to the North Eastern coast and couldn’t join.
When we got to the island I met up with Ben who was also a cyclist. He and his girlfriend were my hosts that night not far from where the shuttle drops you off in Borden Carleton, PEI. We connected months before on Couchsurfing.org. He rode to the bridge and was able to pick me out from the small crowd getting out of the shuttle bus.
We rode back to their summer home in Albany, PEI which was 10km away. That was a touch 10km in the high coastal winds.
The house was beautiful and the view was amazing. The whole family was into healthy eating. Lot’s of local greens. I was able to indulge in some alcoholic treats like Potato Vodka and the Lighting Moonshine from the area.
The lighting had me burning and spinning at the same time. It would be very similar to the island moonshine developed during prohibition.
I was their first “couchsurfer” they’ve hosted. The couple, Ben and Kat, are in New Zealand right now, surfing on couches and waves.
Wish I could have stayed another night.