Day 18 – Campground near Baddeck to North Sydney (Wednesday, July 4th)
We wake up at our camp site and eat some breakfast, despite no recollection of the breakfast I can safely assume it was porridge and fruit. Some things that do come back quite clearly – the previous few days of the trip had not been our fastest nor most efficient days. All three of us had something slowing us down, the most serious of which was Jordan’s knee. Kyle was struggling with a broken derailleur, I had a broken clip (both the bike problems had been temporarily fixed by a nice cyclist the day before, but neither fixes were permanent or ideal), and most importantly Jordan had a painful knee that was really hindering his physical ability and quietly worrying me and Kyle. Luckily, we had a short 70kms to North Sydney to catch an overnight ferry to Newfoundland. After 3 weeks of steady pedaling a 70km day should have been really easy, but on this day we were forcing against not just our individual bike and physical problems, but we also had “Kelly’s Mountain” coming up. The mountain, combined with the heat, and the rolling hills of New Brunswick would force us to have our lowest daily average speed for the entire trip at an excruciatingly slow 19.0kms/h (the only other days below 21km/h were the first day of the trip, and the first day of rain). It was also the first of three days of the trip where we eclipsed 10m of rise per 1km (the other two days were the Coquihalla and Roger’s Pass).
A quick diversion to say Jordan kept all the stats and wow, they are fantastic stats
Despite the toughest terrain we’d faced yet we made it to North Sydney with plenty of time to spare and managed to stock up on our standard fare of sustenance (cold cuts, cheese, buns, fruit, trail mix etc.) in preparation for the SEVENTEEN hour ferry that waited. A daunting mind-numbing prospect to be sure, but to three cyclists who weren't sure if they’d be sleeping outside or not the majority of the previous nights a guaranteed 17 consecutive hours of not cycling and being inside weren't that terrible at all.
After expertly getting everything we’d needed from the grocery store, and just as expertly over-indulging in a lot of junk food we made our way to the ferry port where…yes you guessed it…Kyle had another flat while in the line to leave New Brunswick. It was becoming a cruel punch-line but with time providing perspective it’s quite amusing now.
We got on our ferry, which a couple days earlier hadn't been guaranteed as the ferry had been getting repaired from some rough voyages resulting in several cancelled crossings, chowed down on junk food and watched the Yankee’s play in the lounge/bar of the big boat. I used the ferry showers to get clean and feel good and fell asleep on a shockingly comfortable couch while reading.
On the day we cycled about 70kms at our lowest average daily speed of the whole trip
Day 19 – Argentia to St John’s
Impressions of the province – it’s beautiful. Newfoundland doesn't look the same as Nova Scotia or New Brunswick at all. It’s very rocky with lots of hills and the trees and we were almost never not biking past a small lake or a big pond. There are only a couple things to note from the first part of the day’s ride. One of the first town/city signs we pass points down a road towards a place called “Placentia” which in itself isn’t very remarkable except soon after that we pass a sign pointing to a town called “Dildo”. Yes, people in Newfoundland do have their very odd sense of humour on full display right from the get-go. Their famed hospitality is also on full display as we grocery shop and buy some supplies from some mom and pop stores with very talkative and nice and VERY hard to understand owners. Though I do recall the line “ah yes, Newfoundland is the most beautiful country you’ll ever see…err, ummm, province” from one nice local!
The nice thing about this leg of the trip is we have about 140kms to get to our destination in St John’s and for about a 110kms of that there’s only one turn to make. So despite all having different limitations (knee’s and bikes) on our speeds we agree that getting separated isn't that big a deal we can all go at our own paces agreeing to meet up at the turns but to otherwise just go. It was really nice bicycling through a new province and seeing almost no one and nothing for several hours. Newfoundland was truly rustic and stunning. We eventually decided to celebrate embracing a distinctly different province by eating in a small diner in the middle of nowhere at the one major intersection we’d come across so far. We indulged ourselves and got back on our bikes where, once again we separated and continued.
It was on this leg towards St. John’s that I saw another cyclist way up in the distance while biking the lonely roads, and being who I am decided it would be silly not to try and catch him…so I did.
The cyclist was Phil. He also had a friend somewhere up ahead named ahead named Alex and they were awesome. They were just finishing up their cross-Canada cycle trip that day and we decided to join them for the rest of it. I spent a long time talking with Phil while we biked along the highway and gasping for breath from trying to catch up but eventually we caught up with Alex also and stopped for a little lunch break when Kyle and Jordan also caught up. We shared lots of stories on the side of the road and eventually Alex and Phil took off while the B4B team ate sandwiches.
We eventually caught up with A&P again at the sign for St John’s and had them take the picture that would get more hits on Facebook than any other Bike for Bricks post. Jordan, Kyle and I were excited at the prospect of completing the eastern leg of the trip, but it was nothing compared to how A&P felt at finishing their almost three-month long cycle trip and it was great to be able to see and share the moment with them. Kyle unfortunately got a flat tire (surprise) and so our group of five was forced to three for little bit though we eventually met up at a great fish ‘n’ chips restaurant and the five of us celebrated by eating more local St John’s food and drinking quite a bit of their local beer and some good talk. It was one of the most enjoyable afternoons of the trip and the two respective groups of cyclists agreed to keep the “when in NFLD” mentality going and briefly parted ways with plans to meet up later to get “screeched in”.
The B4B team then headed up to Signal Hill to choose to see the sunset and perhaps even get a campsite under the presumption that the “occupy” movement from earlier in the year had been
The highest point in the city wasn't easy to get up to via bicycle though the sunset was spectacular. We did manage to find a place to stash our supplies out of sight and headed back into the city for more celebratory drinks with A&P at the famous Trapper John’s where we got “screeched in” by saying some weird phrase, and drinking some foul rum. Eventually, exhaustion set in and late into the night the B4B teams re-tackled the steep incline up Signal Hill (which seemed much more difficult than it had a few hours earlier…) and passed out – though not before setting our alarms early enough to see the first sunrise of Canada.
On the day we cycled 140kms to St. John’s and another 5-10kms in the city
Day 20 – Signal Hill to the Atlantic Ocean to the airport.
This day brought with it very little biking, but stress of a different sort as we had a flight to catch generously paid for by Mary Bales – the head of the Heartwood Place. Can’t say enough to thank her for very measurable gestures like this and for the multitude of things she did to help us before the trip, during, and after. Thanks so much, we did the biking, but you helped turn it into an event bigger than the B4B team. (You can still donate to the Heartwood Place here)
We took our pictures and hastily got back on the bikes after admiring the view. We had a flight to catch in a few hours and bicycles that needed to get dismantled before they’d be allowed on, and boxes to purchase to put them in. We were a little nervous about making it but there was nothing we could do but head to a bike shop and hope for some help.
We also used what little spare time we had to use the downtown Goodlife to shower in a merciful attempt to save our unfortunate fellow flyers the smell of three cyclists who hadn't showered in a couple days. After the showers we found a shop that, despite not being open had a semi-rude and dismissive employee in the store who sold us the necessary tools to take apart the bike, and sold us the boxes we’d need. With a lot of stress, and a lack of time we managed to get our bikes apart (with very little thanks to the employee) hop in a taxi and get to the airport just in time to make the flight to Toronto. In Toronto Kyle and I made our connecting flight to Vancouver while we parted ways with Jordan and the Bike for Bricks team parted ways on Friday and wouldn’t be reunited until Sunday night.
The first part of the trip, the eastern leg, or 35% of the biking, was done. We’d been through a lot of rough times, but way more good times, and once again, with the benefit of hindsight I can say that we were about to go through a lot more.
Two days of rest were coming up – and then it’d be back on the bikes to for another 4430kms…Bring it on.
On the day we cycled approximately 10kms though Kyle and I travel almost 7000; Jordan ends up back in Waterloo exactly undoing what we’d biked in 3 grueling weeks in 3hrs.