Monday, August 23, 2010


The tour is over and I've had about a couple of weeks off to rest, process, and think about things.  Overall I had an amazing time.  I met incredible people, saw some absolutely stunning scenery, and ate very well (from time to time).  I discovered that I really like the city of Regina and that there's nothing positive to report about the province of Manitoba other than the courtesy of the drivers there.  I discovered that my body is capable of massive days as long as I get the appropriate rest, and that I don't actually require that much fuel on the road to keep going as long as I take care of the basics (sugar, salt, fat, protein).  I traveled East of Montreal for the first time, but definitely not the last.  Quebec City and Atlantic Canada will definitely be revisited several times. 

I met some new friends, and a host of other really interesting people - almost all of them extremely friendly and helpful.  I witnessed the triumph of new cyclists pushing the boundaries of what they thought possible and met and heard stories of other travelers who take the concept of "something different" to an entirely new level.  (Specifically I'm talking about rickshaw dude and that Japanese guy who was pushing a shopping cart from Vancouver to NYC - no, I never met him but I saw the pictures and heard the stories). 

I was reminded of the role that research and diligent preparedness has in life - my no flats in 7600km (6881 of them with a full touring load) is a testament to luck as well as planning, technology, and vigilance. 

I had loads of time to reflect on life and dream up other potential adventures.  I also discovered a real love for touring.  Perhaps not the traditional sort, where the bulk of tourers lie - but then again I've never really fallen into that pool in life, either.  :p  I'll definitely tour again - perhaps staying in BC next summer, or down the West Coast to San Diego.  I'd like to do a Canadian North-South tour, but I'm not sure of the feasibility of that given how remote Northern Canada tends to be.  A paddling tour also crossed my mind...

Physically my body changed, as was apparent in many of the pictures.  I lost a lot of lean muscle mass in addition to a good amount of fat and my musculature reshaped.  I'm curious to see how permanent this change can be - both in terms of "fat" as well as musculature. 

Mentally I'm not entirely sure how much has changed.  I knew that something was different when about 2.5 weeks into the tour I started thinking of hilly 150km days as "easy days" - but it's not like I would have ever considered that beyond my reach.  The "fatal flaw" of mine that I just tend to think of most things as "just not all that hard" served me well here, as did my obstinance. 

I learned to lean on my friends a little bit.  Remote support from Phil, Andy and Julian was indispensable, and it was such a MASSIVE pick-me-up to see Linda, Joe and LuAnne a week into the tour when they chased me down n Cranbrook.  Email, text messages and blog/FB comments from everyone were great encouragement, and being able to share my experiences with all of you here made it all the more fun. 

Apparently, I can survive for several days without ice cream, Snickers bars, chips, or Coke.  I can also survive for weeks on primarily just those things.  :p

Six weeks is a pretty long time to be gone, and I was ready to go home after that point.  Eight weeks is a really long time.  It's probably easier touring with someone else or a small group, but I do really like the flexibility that touring solo gives me.  If I were to ever go on tour with other people, I'd have to be pretty careful about their selection. For most people I'd recommend a group of 2-4.  It's a fair bit easier in a group, and one really has to enjoy spending A LOT of time alone to really enjoy touring solo.  Camping and downtime is more fun with others as well. 

The numbers that everyone have been waiting for are 23 and 155.  That's a net loss of 23lbs, down to 155.  There's still some room for me to lean out a bit, but I'm not sure how much desire is there.  That would take a lot of effort, and I think it's going to take a fair amount just to stay where I am.  But I do like where I am.  :D

Overall I think everything went about as well as anyone could have hoped, and I'd definitely encourage most people who have an interest to try it.  Maybe not solo, and maybe not unsupported.  But try nonetheless.  Even on a motorcycle, if pedal cycling isn't your bag.  Just get out there and do something.  As Shane McConkey would say: Just go down there and jump off something big, goddammit!

I've missed a few questions along the way so I'd be happy to do a Q&A if anyone has questions about my setup, route selection, touring in general, etc.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day51 - it is finished...

 I was up quite early, as is the norm when camping - but it was really cold out so I stayed in the hammock and slept in 'til quite late (for camping).  I finally rolled out of the hammock at ~08:00

Breakfast was an exercise in what do I have that's heavy, that I can eat so that I won't have to ditch it before getting on the plane? Seb has a thing for canned beans and Chef Boyardee, and while we were shopping together in Wawa I was convinced to buy a can as "emergency food".  It makes some degree of sense - though heavy, it's extremely calorically dense, high in carbohydrates and salt, and also provides a fair amount of fat and protein.  Pretty much exactly what one needs in a food emergency/bonk situation.  I'd been carrying this blasted can for some 1500km at minimum - likely over 2000, and I was damned if I was going to toss it in St John's.  (I was also in a mood that if I had been carrying something, I was going to USE it!)  The backup stove came out to boil water for tea, and the Chef Boyardee went onto the main stove.  While not a gourmet meal or something that I'd buy to consume at home, it was palatable and did the job.  I packed up my gear and was rolling by ~10:30.

The weather was absolutely perfect.  Gone was the oppressive humidity from days past, and it was sunny but still somewhat cool.  Low 20's, I'd guess.  Absolutely idea cycling weather.  I got rolling and before long I was FLYING down the road.  I'd picked up another map on the ferry - one that had quite a large scale map of Newfoundland.  Because of the scale I was just screaming across the page - flying 1/2 a day's worth of travel on my old map in a matter of an hour or two.  In truth I was actually moving pretty well, but the difference in scale magnified it to somewhat ridiculous proportions. 

That can of Chef Boyardee, while a decent kickstart to the day, certainly doesn't go as far as a proper breakfast (and nothing ever went as far as the incredible breakfast that Bern and Ang sent me off with) - so I was hungry within an hour.  A "rolling fuel stop" (Snickers bar) and I was back on form and feeling decent again.  I kept up the rolling stops as necessary (every hour or two) until I found an ice cream stop for my first "real break".  I don't recall exactly when that was but I'd guess somewhere in the 3-4hr mark, and at around 90k.  I had a chocolate milkshake, a PowerAde, and a bag of chips - and was rolling again on my way to Petty Cove.

This is when it started to get hilly in earnest, and though still feeling good, I took notice of the terrain in addition to the incredible scenery.  Not terribly long after Petty Cove comes Cape Spear.  I had been told that there was some "significant climbing" on the way out to Cape Spear, with grades at ~20%.  I rolled along wondering if this was an exaggeration, or if I just hadn't hit it yet.  I crested the peak of a moderate climb and it looked like the road was going to drop all the way to the water.  "Well that wasn't so bad...  Hardly anything, really"  Of course, just before the water the road hooked right and went STRAIGHT UP.  This was (one of) the climb(s) I had been warned about.  D'oh!  Out of the saddle, grinding it out in my 32x32, I climbed several switchbacks that never seemed to end nor relent in pitch.  Finally the pitch broke and I started to descend - only to go back up again.  Finally a steep-ish descent to the water, and one last (moderate) climb back up to Cape Spear proper.  Okay - so he wasn't kidding. 

The other tourists at Cape Spear were all eager to help me take pictures, and asked a lot of questions about my journey, etc.  One family had been "tracking" my progress as the kids in the back kept yelling to their dad "That guy on the bike is still behind us!  There he is again!  He's still coming!"  They thought it was hilarious.  Of course the real beauty of having climbed and descended into Cape Spear is that you have to turn around and climb out again.  Then once you get back to the main road it's a fair climb over the rocky crags that make up the Nfld coastline, and a good amount more climbing until you reach St John's.  Which is a city built on steep hills, much like San Francisco.  As expected, my hostel was up a few of those as well.

Might as well end the ride memorably, right?


Total Elapsed Time: 7:45
Actual Ride Time: 6.22
Total Distance: 143.62km
Avg Speed: 22.5kph
Max Speed: 63.3kph

Total mileage - Vancouver to St John's - 6881.3 km

Newfoundland scenery

Cape Spear - the Easternmost point in North America...

The odometer reading

Actual pictures of Cape Spear (not just me with a sign)

St John's - this town reminds me a lot of San Francisco...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 49 - under pressure

Stopping in Westville (New Glasgow area) to hang out with Anglea, Bernie, and the kids was great.  I had a fantastic time with them and they were amazing hosts.  Like most of my stops, it's a pity I wasn't able to spend more time there.  As luck would have it however, they are going to be in Vancouver in September - so hopefully I'll get to see them again soon.  The one minor "issue" with stopping in Westville was that it left me with a very big day today - >250k over very hilly terrain to the ferry terminal in North Sydney.  Both Ang and Bern did offer me a ride, multiple times, but I figured I should probably do this the hard way.  I didn't ride this far to get in a truck...  :p

It had rained overnight, and was still raining a bit when I woke up - but by the time breakfast was done (an amazing spread of pancakes, bacon, eggs, toast, juices, coffee... the works!) the rain had abated - leaving the air thick and heavy with humidity.  It was going to be one of *those* days...  I packed up, said my goodbyes, and headed off.  There was a bit of a Westerly today, which was nice - finally, the wind is cooperating with my direction of travel.  I made good time through Antigonish and stopped at ~3hrs and 74k for my first fuel break of the day.    Back on the bike the hills were rolling - not terribly steep, and not terribly long - just consistently ever present.  Highway 104 is a pretty nice road to ride.  It's scenic in many parts with a great shoulder and is well paved. I met another cyclist from England who was wrapping up the final 3 weeks of his tour, and later on, a guy pulling a freaking RICKSHAW!!!!!  This guy left Duncan, BC in Feb '09 and made it to Thunder Bay by Nov where he quit for the winter.  He started up again in the spring, and was on his way back to Halifax from Nfld to finish his trip.  I don't really know what to say about that other than I'm really glad that I met him.  HARD CORE.

I was feeling good, rolling along and pounding out the miles in the sunshine.  The sun had come out to play so the day was beautiful, if extremely hot.  I kept an eye out looking for an nice looking ice cream stand and passed by a few towns in my search for "a good one".  After the high quality options in BC, Quebec, and PEI, some of the roadside offerings look pretty sad in comparison.  I finally found one - a good 4hrs after my last break and stopped for some fuel.  There I met an older gentleman who offered some advice for my route and we chatted about cycling for a while.  He worked as a bike courrier in Ottawa for a few years after he retired (fromer professor at McMaster), and now spends his time mostly surfing.  He was trying to convince me to take a day off and go surfing - and if I had the time, I probably would have.  Like my "real life" however, somehow the schedule seems to dictate all. 

Back on the bike I made a quick stop at the visitor's center to use the washroom and to fill my bottles, and I was back on the road.  This next hour was really hard.  It felt super hot and humid (if someone had told me that it was 46degrees with the humidex, I'd have believed them) and I struggled over the hills.  I stopped at a gas station at a reserve to cool off and get some electrolytes, and kept it rolling.  Luckily my rough period only lasted about an hour and I was back to my "normal" self not terribly long thereafter.  If you only have one bad spell that lasts an hour or so over the course of a day like today, that ain't too bad...

Back to rolling hills.  They got steeper and longer as I got further East on the island of Cape Breton, but the scenery was magnificent.  I'm a little disappointed that I have to miss the Glenora distillery while I'm out here - Canada's only single malt distillery, but I guess I'll just have to come back.  I want to spend more time on PEI as well. 

More hills, more hills, and more hills.  About 50k shy of Sydney (based on the road sign - which can be horribly inaccurate) I noted that if I really pushed hard I could probably finish the day in under 12hrs total elapsed time.  Hmmmm....  Then it dawned on me that 12hrs is just a stupid arbitrary goal, who's only real consequence would be thrashing my legs and making me wait at the ferry terminal for even longer.  I took my foot off the gas, and coasted the rest of the way in.  This turned out to be a good decision as the ferry terminal in North Sydney is significantly farther than Sydney, and I'd never have made my 12hr goal anyway. 

It got dark and I rolled to the ferry in blackness - the road illuminated by my super awesome SuperNova E3 Triple headlamp, powered by my SON dynohub.  I swear I'll never tour without one of these...

When I got to the ferry terminal I cheekily asked if they had shower facillities - and was shocked to discover that they do!  A FREE shower in the restrooms!  Well if that don't beat all...  Cleaned up and feeling human again, I met some other touring cyclists who were also on the same boat, had a crummy dinner (ferry food is ferry food, it seems) and waited to get on the boat.

I had been really impressed with the ferry service from inside the terminal, but once on the boat it was the Keystone Kops meet the Three Stooges.  The folks loading the boat had no idea what to do with cyclists (there were six of us, and we certainly can't have been the first) and kept having us move our bikes around.  Finally I got my bike secured and went upstairs - where there was nobody on-hand to guide people and all of the passengers wandered around confused as to where they ought to be.  Because this is such a long trip (~16hrs) most people opt for some sort of sleeping accomodation when they book their ticket.  I had purchased a "dormitory bed" and it took a good while before I figured out the system.  Nothing luxurious about it, but it was a bed.  I wandered upstairs and talked the guy in the laundry into giving me some sheets (the beds come with a pillow and blanket only, on a plastic covered mattress) and settled in for what I hoped would be a decent night's rest.

We're scheduled to land in Argentia at ~17:00 tomorrow (the same day the ferry leaves, as it departs at 01:30 in the morning) so there won't be much riding tomorrow.  Just enough to get away from the ferry terminal and find a decent campsite or motel. 

For the record, that's the entire Canadian mainland, coast to coast (plus PEI) in seven weeks to the day - including about a week of not riding (slacker time).


Total Elapsed Time: 13:30
Actual Ride Time: 11:50
Total Distance: 273.4km
Avg Speed: 23kph
Max Speed: ~~~ (electronic interference has my max speed over 150kph again...)


Just prior to crossing over from the mainland of Nova Scotia to the island of Cape Breton

Fuel stop!  It was so freakin' hot out that my ice cream melted on me - and I NEVER have ice cream melt on me!

Stunning Cape Breton scenery...

Lined up with all the other "bikes"...

5 star accomodation

I'm the only one with bedsheets :D

Day 50 - Sitting on a ferry

Nothing terribly exciting today - we boarded the ferry at a little after midnight and I went to bed as soon as I could.  Slept in, wrote some notes for the blog, had another crappy ferry food meal, and took a nap before disembarking in Argentia, NL.

The road out of the ferry terminal goes pretty much straight up (Welcome to the Rock!), and then rolls.  The scenery is extremely beautiful and the highway isn't too bad.  I was among the first off the boat and was a little tempted to just rock it straight into St John's - but I figured if I did that I'd miss out on actually getting to see Nfld as the light was fading.  Keep pushing that hammerhead mentality down and chill

I had pseudo-planned to stop in a little town shortly after Argentia, but I was enjoying riding and not paying too much attention  - so I missed it.  I ended up camping in pretty much the only option there is between the ferry and very close to St John's (not including stealth camping options).

A shower (this campsite has "shower times" - 2hrs in the AM and 2hrs in the PM.  If you miss them the lights are off and there's very little water - but if you wait long enough it does eventually warm up.  Very strange...), one last dinner of packet mee and assorted camp food, and I was off to bed. 

The Rock!

"Welcome to Newfoundland" (I hope you like climbing)

Stunning scenery...

Camp - one last time (and yes, I'm aware that my tarp isn't taut - I fixed it before bed)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day48- 8 provinces down, 2 to go

I woke up at 06:30 to the sound of rainfall.  Looking out the window confirmed it, and I flopped back into bed.  Up at a little after 08:00, I wandered downstairs for breakfast and the rain had pretty much stopped. Score!  I had a bagel, packed up my stuff, and was rolling by shortly after 10:00. 

It was pretty warm, and very humid.  It was also quite windy.  I was happy for the wind today as it helped to mitigate the humidity.  Rolling along at a halfway decent clip, I stopped at an ice cream stand at ~2hrs.  I wanted to hit the Rossignol winery that's sort of near the ferry and didn't want to end up there with an empty stomach - so I had some food as well.  That pushed the break longer than I typically like, and my food intake more than I typically like for a break as well - but there was purpose behind this stop so I dealt with the heaviness as I rolled on.

I was making okay time, and today was a short ride day anyway.  I have friends in Westville, which is not too far from the far side of the ferry terminal - so I'll be spending the night there. 

The Rossignol winery turned out to be very good, and the big lunch I had earlier served me well as I ended up sampling a lot of their offerings (they do a LOT of different stuff there!). 

Back rolling toward the ferry and I made it with over an hour to spare for the 16:30 - so I headed to Crabby Joe's (a famous seafood shack).  I was still too full from lunch to order the lobster that Phil and Andy had told me to get (3lb minimum), so I just had some clam chowder - which was kind of disappointing, really. 

Onto the ferry, where I took a nap on the top deck and then was back on the bike after ~1:30 of chilling out.  The wind was STRONG from the South, directly in my face.  I came across another touring cyclist who had his bike upside down, and appeared to be truing his wheel.  I stopped to check up on him and he showed me a small crack in his rim.  He was wondering what to do, whether it was safe to ride, etc.  After chatting a bit about his plans, load and riding style, I told him to press on for Halifax but to call a shop there at ~10:00 tomorrow morning so that they could get started on a new wheel for him.  He's got a tight timeline, and can't afford to wait for a rebuild using his current hub. 

Soon I was at Angela & Bernie's, and they fed me a fantastic meal while their 3yr old entertained me her ballet dancing, her stuffed dog, and other various things.

Off to bed soon - tomorrow's going to be a long, and likely hard day.  >250k to North Sydney, with time pressure as the ferry leaves at 01:30 on Saturday morning.  This ferry only sails every 3 days, and I can't imagine why it leaves at 01:30 in the morning - but that's the schedule, so I guess I'll stick to it.  I figure ~15hrs total elapsed time (~12hrs riding) ought to do it.


Total Elapsed Time: 9:20 (incl ferry time, waiting for ferry time, etc)
Actual Ride Time: 4:58
Total Distance:  107.03 km
Avg Speed:  21.5 kph
Max Speed:  41.9 kph

The most excellent staff at the Charlottetown Backpacker's Inn

It's hard to see in the picture, but those boxes were swarming with bees!  Apparently someone's honey operation is right by the side of the road.  I guess you'd have to have the proper gear or be a damned fool to go in there...

The view from the ferry

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day47 - the Charlottetown Accord...

Today was my day off in Charlottetown.  Originally I had planned to take more time here, but the ferry to Argentia only runs every 3 days (and at 01:00/01:30 in the AM?!) - so I had to cut short my planned stay in PEI.  As much as I wanted to take the other ferry and the long road 'round the Rock, the pressures of my 8 week schedule and the consequences of having enjoyed my slacker days earlier in the trip forced a rethink.  I could have made it if I scheduled 1 day in Charlottetown, 1 day in St John's, and 4 or 5 back-to-back 200k days - racing 'round the Rock, as it were.  That's not how I wanted to end my tour however, so I sucked it up and adjusted my schedule.

I woke up very early, but I don't get up early on rest days - so I flopped back into bed and got up at a much more reasonable hour (~08:00).  A continental breakfast is included at the hostel, so I had a bagel and some coffee and then thought about my day.  It was overcast and drizzling very lighly.  The staff and other guests there weren't too thrilled with the weather, but I'm a Vancouver boy - that ain't rain, it's just atmosphere!  Out I went to explore the town. 

You know you're getting old (or perhaps just a nerd) when one of the highlights of my trip was a visit to Province House - the site of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference: a meeting for the purposes of discussing Maritime Union that was crashed by John A Macdonald, George-Etienne Cartier, and others that led to the passing of the British North America act in 1867 and my dear country's Confederation. 

I had a pretty darn good chowder and terrible service at a local bar, saw the Charlottetown art gallery, went on the Gahan House brewery tour, and had the finest meal I'd had in Atlantic Canada at the Pilot House.  After dinner I went for a walk down by the pier and saw some local artists performing, and then headed back to the hostel where I played darts and went through the vinyl collection with some of the staff and another guest.

All in all, a solid day - but I'll definitely have to come back...

Province House

Can't you just smell the history?

Fresh mussels

and the requisite "schow-d'air"

Just because it's not a ride day doesn't mean that one can ignore one's nutrition - proper fuelling is essential!

The best meal I've had to date in Atlantic Canada...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day46 - sayonara to NB, and I'll shed no tears...


Today was a short, relatively easy day on paper.  Less than 130km to Charlottetown, with a little break in the middle as I had to take a shuttle across the Confederation Bridge to PEI - cyclists and pedestrians are not allowed.  I woke up at ~07:00 when a Harley started right outside my window (really?), and then got up by ~07:30.  Breakfast was a slow affair and I know I'm tired because instead of just sitting there waiting for my coffee while the less than highly competent waitress struggled with a few tables, I sat there annoyed, thinking: "Where's my damned coffee?!  Do I have to get it myself?  Come on, lady!" etc.  At least one other table was having similar issues, as I could see the growing annoyance on the face of the woman who was facing me.  I guess us jerks from the city have unrealistic expectations of small resort towns.  :p  Breakfast finally arrived, and it was ok.  Back to my room to pack up and I was on the road by 09:30 - one of my earlier starts of late.  I figured on ~65k on each side of the bridge and was pretty close to spot on.  The wind was coming from all directions today, but it was light - so it didn't have a significant impact on my progress.  I wasn't feeling "on", but I wasn't feeling "bad" either - it was just another one day on the road.  7 weeks is a long time to be on the road, and I'm getting tired.  I'm definitely ready to go home. 

The road leading out to the bridge was pretty flat and I made it there by shortly past noon.  Cyclists need to go to the info center and call for the shuttle, so I went in and the guy told me that he'd let the driver know.  I called him back to ask for an ETA and he said "I don't know - I have to find him, first.  He's somewhere on the island, so it will be at least 20min." There I go with my crazy big city expectations again... (though really I just wanted to know if I had time to check out the restaurant)  It turned out that I had all the time in the world.  The shuttle didn't show up for a good hour.  In the meantime I ate a bunch of food figuring that I might as well take advantage of the downtime.  I also cost Phil about $1.50 in text messages.  :p  When the driver arrived we decided that it would be best to unload the bike so that no-one got hurt trying to load it.  I was the only one on the shuttle anyway.  It turned out that this wasn't the regular shuttle driver - he's a bridge maintenance worker who was just filling in for the driver who had gone to lunch.  He's a cyclist however, so I sat up front and we chatted about riding for the short duration of the trip.  He told me that he had recently gotten a flat tyre and how he hated mini pumps as it's really difficult to get a decent amount of pressure with one.  I mentioned how I was looking forward to hitting a bike shop in a big city so that I could borrow a floor pump to air up, as I was probably sitting at ~70psi.  He in turn told me that he lived very close by and offerred to grab his floor pump for me to use!  He dropped me off at the info center and took off in another truck to go get his pump while I reloaded the bags onto my bike.  He was back very quickly, and mentioned that it was only ~1.5km for him to get home.  We chatted a bit more about bikes and my specific build, I thanked him profusely for his generosity, and he was off to do whatever it is that he needed to get done.  I mounted up and rode on. 

On the PEI side the first thing one notices (after the little park and info center) is a McCain processing plant.  Awesome.  Shortly thereafter I noticed a potato stand.  That rules.  They've got varieties of potatoes of which I've never heard here, and apparently potato stands are as common here as blueberry stands in Northern ON.  The road got hilly, as expected and the wind stronger - but it was mostly a cross, with a bit of head or tail mixed in depending on how the road was winding.  I rolled into Charlottetown at ~16:00 and was at the hostel by 16:20.  Probably my easiest day on the road yet.  Definitely my easiest solo day. 

I got my bed sorted, put away my bike, took a shower, and am now doing laundry at a local quik-e-mart/cafe/laundromat.  Then it's off to the "Gahan House" - a local brewpub that Phil tells me has "the best fish 'n chips I've ever eaten".  High praise indeed...


Total Elapsed Time: 7:20 (incl 1:20 waiting for/riding the shuttle)
Actual Ride Time: 5:24
Total Distance:  123.28 km
Avg Speed:  22.7 kph
Max Speed:  67.1 kph