Saturday, 30 August 2014

Onward Newfoundland

About 900km and many hills to go to our destination in St Johns. However, we have plenty of time to see this wonderful part of Canada as we don't fly home from Boston until 22nd September. 

We are hoping the weather stays fine though it's probably a vain hope. St. John's has 225 days of rain a year. Oh and the forecast for our first day's cycling tomorrow is, of course, rain. C'est la vie as they would say in Quebec. 

Of course, we wouldn't have it any other way. 
As Dan and Donna said in their recent comment 'life is too short to stay at home'

Our Screech-in

Arriving at Newfoundland we went to the local bar for a beer and, after talking to some locals, we went through the Newfoundland Screech-in ceremony. This ceremony allows you to become an honorary Newfoundlander. 

Firstly, you are supposed to wear a sou'wester but we had a mix of other fisherman gear. Then when you are asked the question 'is ye an honorary Newfoundlander' you are required to answer 'deed I is me ol' cock, and long may your big jib draw'. This is then followed by kissing a piece of cod and drinking a shot of Screech rum before kneeling and being 'knighted' with a paddle. 

Only a native Newfoundlander can perform the ceremony and Wanda assisted us with ours.

Pictures courtesy of Mike Pringle. Thanks. 

Footnote 1
Mike emailed me the pictures from his phone and included the following picture of me having put on the leggings back to front.  He added the caption 'why is there a buttoned fly over my arse?'

Footnote 2.
As you have to down the Screech rum in one shot you don't get the opportunity to taste it so we went out and bought a bottle for our journey :)

Great fun.

North Sydney At Last

Leaving Whycocomagh and Highway 105, we tried the Grand Narrows Highway to North Sydney. It was an undulating twisting road with many hills and one reasonable mountain to cross.  We reached North Sydney after 90km and another 2500 feet of ascent.

We booked into a lovely bed and breakfast.

Cheryl looked after us wonderfully well. Welcoming us with fresh lemonade, tea and wine. Breakfast included a huge selection of homemade cakes. Susan was in breakfast heaven. 

The following morning we caught the ferry to Newfoundland. Bye bye Canada mainland.

7,251km to date.

Canadian Road Signs

No introduction required. Only imagination.

Meet Brian

On the cycle to Whycocomagh, at the top of a huge hill, we met Brian Brokenshire.  He is the first person we have met on another recumbent bicycle crossing Canada. 

Over the next day or so our paths crossed several times as we cycled towards North Sydney. 

Anniversary Cycle

August 27th was our 30th wedding anniversary. To celebrate we left Antigonish and cycled 105km with 2,800 feet of ascent in the blistering heat to Whycocomagh on Cape Breton.  Hill followed hill and we sweated and drank our way through nearly 12 litres of water.  Even the Simpson 'family' turned out to help cheer us along as we wilted. 

Susan was completely overcome with emotion at realising she had managed to get through 30years being married to Clif.

We crossed the bridge at Port Hawkesbury and entered Cape Breton, ate a Mars bar and Marathon sandwich and pushed on with very tired legs. 

As it was our anniversary we changed the planned camping night for a motel. It wasn't a great motel but there was a wonderful little restaurant nearby that had been featured on the TV programme 'You Gotta Eat Here'.  The seafood chowder was outstanding. A good end to a memorable day.

Getting Through The Hard Times Part 2

It's only fair that we also mention Susan's favourite 'tipple' to get her through the day and night. 

It won't be easy, you'll think it strange
When I try to explain how it feels
To cycle every day, with sore knees
You won't believe me

Don't cry for me ibuprofen 
The truth is I'll always need you

Monday, 25 August 2014

Getting Through the Hard Times

When you're weary, feeling low
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all
I'm at your side. When times get rough.
And whisky just can't be found.
Like a bridge over the hills of Canada
I will ease your mind

Tatamagouche Hippie Dippie. 
Cold Comfort.

Sunset Boulevard

Leaving Shediac we travelled east along the last few kilometres of New Brunswick and headed for Highway 6 and the Sunrise Trail.

Soon we entered Nova Scotia and, as we were on a minor road, there was no 'welcome' sign. We improvised at the next tourist office.

Oh Bonnie New Scotland! Scots have settled in this part of the world since 1622 and endured many hardships to establish Nova Scotia. It's just like being back home - they have signs in Gaelic and nobody understands them here either!

The coastal views were lovely. Well they would be - it's new Scotland after all!

We arrived at a campsite called 'Sunset View'. As I handed over our $30 I asked 'do we get our money back if we don't get a sunset?' 'Absolutely' he replied. So we set up our tent at a suitable spot and I sat hoping for rain. Oh I was so disappointed.

Then, as sure as day follows night, the sun rose in the morning.

'Quick pack up and let's go' I shouted to Susan. 'I'm not paying extra for a sunrise!' 
Well, I am a Scot after all!

We have now reached New Glasgow and I must admit I'm a bit disappointed. How can it be New Glasgow? - I've been here four hours and I still haven't seen a single person wearing a shell suit! 

6,999km to date.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Tour Du Canada

Over three days as we cycled we kept meeting a group of cyclists who were crossing Canada as part of the tour group 'Tour Du Canada'. For a few thousand dollars they will carry your luggage, buy your food and sort out the route and everything. Now why didn't we think of that?

Here are just four of the riders. They were all Canadian and the chap taking the photo was from Australia who had already cycled across his own country. 

Rimouski to Shediac

We left Rimouski and set off on Highway 132, heading east and then south towards Campbellton. It rained all day. As I have mentioned before one of the issues of pedalling recumbent is that you are more open to the elements as you lie back - there is no way to put your head down and hunch over the handlebars as on a conventional bike. As a result I had a cold river of water running inside my three layers of clothing, down my chest and out the bottom of my jacket. As I cycled along I felt like I was a geographical feature.  Susan braved it out as she cycled in her shorts but that's mainly because she overheats with her two jackets on to keep out the rain. All in all it's quite a bit uncomfortable when it's raining hard. 

As we have cycled across Canada we have experienced snow, the beginning of the Spring through to the summer heat and humidity.  Though it's still hot most days we can feel the beginning of Autumn. Thank goodness we are home before Winter. 

On this part of the cycle the signposts were kind of familiar. 

It was like being in an alternate universe where Scotland has been taken over by the French. 

As we continued cycling south through Val Brillant, Campbellton, Beresford and Miramichi we camped at some very average campsites but with great locations. 

To date we have camped for 32 nights (yes I do keep a record). It's a lot less than we had originally planned but we like the comfort of the motels and, generally, the standard of campsites in Canada has  been poor (in our experience).

This part of New Brunswick is an area of Canada that is proudly Acadian and the flags (essentially the French flag with a star on it) are everywhere.  Also the huge stone churches we saw in every small town or village in Quebec have been replaced by the wooden churches of New Brunswick.  We paused for lunch on the steps of such a church one afternoon.

Eventually, after several days cycling we reached Shediac, self proclaimed Lobster Capital of the world. Just to prove their point they have the biggest lobster in the world on display.

We are having a day off in Shediac and so far we have eaten mountains of lobster, deep fried clams, scallops and prawns. Outstanding. 

Finally, as we don't fly home until the 22nd September we have now adjusted our trip across our last province, Newfoundland.  Originally, we were taking a ferry to Argentia and a two day cycle to the end at St John's.  Now we are taking the ferry to Port Aux Basques, an extra 700km or so across hills with almost guaranteed wind and rain. I think Susan is quite happy with the choice though I won't be able to confirm that until she starts talking to me again :)

From The Pacific To The Atlantic

Since leaving sight the North Pacific in April we had our first sight of the North Atalntic from Chaleur Bay near Bathurst. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

New Brunswick

After two days cycling in the rain, we arrived at New Brunswick, our next Canadian province.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Pedal Heaven - Quebec to Rimouski

Leaving our hotel in Quebec we cycled 10km along a dedicated cycle path along the shore of the St Lawrence in the morning sun. Fantastic.

Then it was the Quebec - Levis ferry with a load of other cyclists talking a whole load about cycling. When we started talking gear ratios, Susan made her escape to a quieter part of the ship.

View of Quebec from the ferry.

When we hit the shore, we found our old friend La Route Verte. Oh how Quebec spoils us cyclists!

Even when we had to connect to Highway 132 we had a paved hard shoulder and signs for 4% of motorists who need to be told. 

I don't know why the poster portrayed the cyclist as a sausage with ears. I think the artist was perhaps one of the 4% I was talking about!

Then it was back onto a coastal trail.

For two days, with stops at L'islet (93km) and Rivière du Loupe (111km) we cycled over relatively flat landscape.  We spent too much time stopping and looking and not enough cycling so it was starting to get dark when we had a biscuit pit stop. But who can grumble when the views were like this.

On our third day, we left Rivière du Loupe and began to pick up hill after hill (the end of the Appalachians) as we continued on Highway 132 and cycled towards Rimouski.  Unfortunately, we had to leave La Route Verte as it became gravel and twisty - no place for our tandem. 

From Rimouski we will now head around the coast towards Shediac. We are not taking the most direct cycle route across this part of Canada but we have never been about the shortest route. Sometimes we wish we were but when we have had such great days cycling in Quebec we don't regret it for a minute. Vive le Quebec. 

6,222 km to date. 

Footnote:  after 4 months in Canada I think it's time for Susan to go home soon - when we had a minor problem with a mudguard she called it a 'fender'! 

It's Not All Biscuits And Beer

We eat an awful lot of biscuits, drink beer and every day it's good to be cycling in the fresh air through the ever changing Canadian countryside. However, it's hard. Very hard. Cycling day after day pulling a heavy load over hill after hill is challenging. 

Here is a pic I took of Susan at lunchtime today.  Just off Highway 132 we found an abandoned crazy golf with a bench in the middle to eat our lunch. We had been looking for a suitable spot for an hour but there was just highway and fields. 

We had started the day cycling well but both of us felt quite flat by about 11am. By lunchtime Susan is so utterly and completely tired that she doesn't even want to sit on the bench.  Days like this are not uncommon but it's usually me lying down and crying but we don't need to go into that here. 

When I returned after taking the photo she demanded 'I want one of these shots'. Now don't think we are on any anabolic steroids - one look at our bodies will tell you otherwise. She was talking about the energy gel sachets we carry.  

Now I'm in charge of the gel distribution and Susan calls me the 'gel monitor'. That's a term from school - remember the milk monitor? Now this was not a time to refuse her as she looked at me like that girl 'Carrie' in the horror movie. Well I'm the kind of guy who is scared of horror movies so Susan got her wish. Actually it wasn't really a wish was it? 

So after some food and a strawberry gel we set off again because no matter what you feel like in the morning or at lunchtime you have to get to the end of the day.  Today, the end of the day was another 54km! 

Now these gel shots are little miracles in a packet. They get you started and then you need a positive mind to drive your tired body and legs. Every day is a physical challenge but what every long distance cyclist will know is that the physical challenge is only a part of the equation. I believe the psychological challenge is more important. If you are not in the right frame of mind it's a real struggle whilst a strong positive attutude can drive you even when your body feels like the plug has been pulled. Every day has it's ups and downs. We pedal better in the afternoon than in the morning and some of our strongest pedalling has been when we were most tired. Put your head in the right place and your feet will follow.

So we pushed on and when we got to the motel (the last two previous nights were camping), Susan allocated the pills because she is the 'pill monitor'. She asks what bits are sore and then I get the appropriate coloured pill.  I'm not always happy as sometimes I want a blue pill and she gives me a red one (note: she kind of keeps the blue ones to herself!). 

So as I sit with another beer and Susan is having another biscuit I can only reflect that there's a lot more to this cycling lark than that. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Sights Of Quebec

Quebec is a lovely city that plays on it's French heritage and on the weekend we were there the New France Festival was in full swing.  It was a bit of a Disneyesque French pastiche in places and I kept looking for Minnie dressed as Joan of Arc and Mickey as Napoleon Bonepart but we had a great weekend mingling with the other billion tourists enjoying the sights and sounds of Quebec.