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So this is the last post for this blog. The bike trip is over, and I am back at home facing the cruel reality of day to day life once again – haha. It’s all good, in fact I really am looking forward to some structure again, and not having to deal with flat tires, inclement weather or not knowing where I am going to sleep for the night.

It was so very nice to disconnect from the daily grind, and in this notable 150th year of confederation, find out what it is to be Canadian for me. While there are the stereotypes (you know them all well – Beavers, Maple syrup, poutine…) there are so many things that go into making up this great nation we live in. The brands that are so distinctly Canadian, the music, the diverse landscape, the people of every race and religion, and too many other things to name. I had an opportunity to live and breathe that in a way few people have, something I will always consider myself fortunate to have done.

I realized as I always do when traveling, just how much most of us take for granted in our day to day lives here in Canada. We have roofs over our heads, water comes out of the tap when we turn it on, food is everywhere in abundance, and we have family and friends around us giving us love and support. It’s easy to forget the fact that these simple things are not enjoyed by most people living in other places. They are either under dictatorship regimes, living with extreme poverty, hungry, homeless, under constant threat of natural disasters or in war-torn countries. While I have had all I’ve needed to survive on this trip, it has provided me with an interesting perspective on things, and I can easily say it has deepened my appreciation for just some of life’s basic amenities. Warm showers, a bed, clean laundry being a few that are top of mind.

The trip also provided many ancillary benefits. I got to see this amazing country that we are so lucky to be citizens of. From the impressive mountains in the west, the very flat prairies of central Canada, the massive chunk in the middle called Ontario, the cultural melting pot of Quebec, and the very welcoming Maritime Provinces – this is truly a great country to live in. I met countless people and had the most interesting conversations. Some of them lasting all day, others just mere seconds. But I value every one of them.

Moreover, it provided an opportunity to get into ridiculously good shape. I lost 15 lbs, and it feels good to say I’m probably the best shape of my life. I know, that won’t likely last…but for the moment, I’m revelling in it and trying to bottle up the feeling of being physically fit.  While I was able to get into impeccable condition, this trip did take a physical toll on my body. I had issues with my left Achilles tendon, pulled muscles in my right leg, an extremely sore butt, and the occasional sunburn. Thankfully, none of these are lasting, however when they did happen, they were not fun to deal with…at all.

And then there was the emotional side of things. There was the passing of my mother – which is hard to deal with at any time – was a very big thing to have happened, however I think having all day on my bike to reflect on things helped me a lot with the mourning process, and for that I am grateful. Arriving at my destination was also very emotional. A few things that happened over the course of this 9 week period that tested my resolve. Weather, bike-related issues, fatigue all converged at various points in time that really made moving forward very difficult. But like anything good and worthy, it’s never going to be easy – and so it went for this trip.

Close to the beginning of this whole adventure, I made a promise to get back on the overall purpose of this trip. Why was I doing it again? Putting myself out there, in the elements, knowing full well that it was going to be a test of emotional and physical endurance. But why? Well, I think the answer is clear. Just because I can 🙂  That, and well for all the reasons I alluded to above.  I know…that’s nothing really profound, but if nothing else it hopefully too will provide an inspiration for my kids that anything really is possible if you put your mind to it.

I’ll again take this opportunity to thank everyone who allowed me to selfishly pursue this dream. Erin, her parents, my parents, my siblings and the management team here at DFO were integral in that regard, and I am eternally grateful for your support.

I will miss writing in this blog….I really will. It has been a lot of fun to have a creative outlet to document some of my experiences. It certainly gave me something to think about on those long rides. How can I formulate things in such a way so as to make it interesting? I had time in spades to ponder that kind of thing… I could continue on just writing about life, but well let’s be honest, that would be boring 🙂

So I have to think of the next big adventure, seeing as I am prone to these kinds of things. What will it be, and when? Another bike trip perhaps? Maybe walk to the North Pole? A trip to Everest perhaps? Well, likely none of the above. I am thinking something a little more passive – maybe a boat cruise to Antarctica. Or, I’ve always wanted to do the Trans-Siberian rail trip. It would be nice too, unlike this trip, to have some company! So if that resonates with any of you we should chat! But anything like that won’t be happening anytime soon. As much as I wish I could be on vacation permanently, I do have adult responsibilities to attend to – parenting, working, etc – so will be consumed with that for the next little while.

Anyways, so as not to bore anyone any further, I’ll end things on that note. Thanks for reading, following along, and again, all the thoughtful expressions of support and colour commentary. It was nice to look forward to all of that after each riding day.

At the very least, I’ll share a favorite song with you from what is arguably one of the best Canadian bands out there, and certainly provided a nice soundtrack for me as I cycled across this great land.

Happy Fall, and until the next adventure. Take good care!

R.

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By the Numbers….

While I really don’t like math (well, complicated math anyways), I do quite enjoy statistics, as mindless as some can be.  So, I figured it appropriate to throw some out as it relates to this bike trip. It was entertaining to me to think up different categories for these, and some of the numbers required detailed algorithms and models to arrive at (haha…no seriously), and so here they are: 

1 – countries biked across.

8 – number of provinces visited.

6,094 – number of kilometres ridden on my bike.

60 – number of days for the entire trip.

18 – number of rest days (planned/unplanned).

42 – number of days riding.

157- overall daily average of kilometres

9 – number of days where it rained.  

15 – number of flat tires (including those wrapped in duct tape).

13 – number of the above that I still can’t quite understand…. 

1 – number of cables snapped.

2 – number of brake pads replaced.

7 – number of Wal-Mart’s visited.

2 – number of trips to visit health care professionals.

1 – number of taxi rides (approximately 50 kilometres in Nova Scotia).

1 – number of rides in a construction vehicle (approximately 5 kilometres in Manitoba).

3 – number of rides in personal vehicles (approximately 70  kilometres in BC and Ontario).

6 – number of hostels/guest houses providing accommodations (in BC, Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick).

3 – number of motels providing accommodations (Saskatchewan, Ontario). 

1 – number of hotels providing accommodations (Nova Scotia).

2 – number of university campuses providing accommodations (University of Saskatchewan, Lakehead University).

29 – number of campgrounds providing accommodations.

15 – number of nights spent in private accommodations.

5 – number of communities visited that I lived in/ currently live in.  

2 – number of alma matters visited (Laurentian University, Dalhousie University).

3 – number of Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices visited (Lorna – it could have been 4 if you weren’t on vacation when I was in Winnipeg!).

3 – number of Black bears seen (dead and alive; wild and in zoos).

4 – number of Bighorn sheep sighted (wild and in zoos). 

1 – number of birds I offended to the point of being dive-bombed.

4 – number of National Parks transited through/visited.

2 – Number of National Marine Conservation Areas biked past (Lake Superior; Saguenay).

7 – number of Provincial Parks Transited through/visited.

2 – number of Great Lakes cycled by (Lake Superior, Lake Huron).

8 – number of festivals/sporting events attended.

5 – number of provincial/ federal legislature buildings visited/biked past.

13 – number of municipalities exceeding 100,000 people in population (CMA).

5 – number of municipalities exceeding 1 million people in population (CMA).

2 – number of municipalities exceeding 4 million people (CMA).

6 – number of Canadian Pacific Hotels visited/biked past.

3 – number of (legitimate) waterfalls visited.

4 – number of boat/kayak/jet ski rides (Alberta, Ontario, Quebec).

14  – number of other long-distance cyclists/cycle enthusiasts befriended.

2 – number of roadside reunions (defined as people I know stopping along the highway to say hi).

3 – number of air travel trips (Toronto to BC; Winnipeg to Toronto return).

2 – number of train trips (Ottawa to Toronto; Toronto to Barrie).

3 – number of long-distance road trips (Ottawa to Barrie; Halifax to Ottawa; Barrie to Ottawa).

57 – number of blog posts.

I have one more post coming to sum things up, so don’t tune out just yet 🙂 

Glenholme to Halifax, NS (132.2 kms*)

Well, I did it.  I managed to get to Halifax, but very much like the previous day, it wasn’t without its own set of issues.  I won’t lie, a good part of the final ride was spent in a taxi, but let’s just consider that a minor technicality, shall we?

The day started out thankfully on a sunny note.  There was still a bit of a chill in the air signalling the coming change of season, but it wasn’t overcast or threatening rain…so I was pretty thankful for that.  Getting on the bike, I couldn’t ignore the giddy feeling inside that I was so close to my final destination.

Then, as I instictively shifted gears on my rear derailer, I was reminded with that first rotation of the crankshaft that it didn’t work.  Funny how I quickly forgot that not-so-minor detail.  Well, no matter, I was soon going to be there and that was the main thing. 

The ride was around the 120 km range, so I estimated about 6 hours or so.  I was therefore expecting to be in Halifax by mid-afternoon.  It was not to be.  About 10 kms in, still a ways from Truro, my rear tire – that masterpiece of duct tape – exploded underneath me on the side of Highway 104.  My heart sank.  This was going to delay things considerably.  

Again, out came the duct tape, my patch kit, and anything resembling a spare tube and I got to work again to wrap one of them up.  Well, in sum, that didn’t work. Every attempt to pump it up failed miserably.  I guess when you put your bike through the kind of abuse that I have, it let’s you know.  So, there I was literally stranded on the side of the highway and had to figure out a plan. 

I could either walk the remaining 10 kms to Truro with this rig, or I could call a taxi to help me out.  Looking at my watch and realizing I’d lost a good 2 hours again, the answer was clear.  Naturally, I called all 4 taxi companies in Truro, and only the last had vans (one had a wheel chair accessible vehicle…but it was on a call).  After giving precise instructions on where I was located, the dispatcher mumbled he’d send someone right away, and that put my mind at ease.  

Now, I don’t like naming and shaming anyone or entity here, but after calling back the G&D taxi service 4 times, and being told very curtly that someone was out looking for me and it would be 5-10 minutes – no doubt the standard reply to any query of how long it would be – I was losing my mind.  I waited on that f#cking on-ramp for an hour and a half, and noone came.  So Plan B was the wheel chair accessible company – Lanigans – whose vehicle had been freed up.  Within ten minutes it appeared and I was loading up all my stuff and we were on our way.  It being a holiday Monday, all the bike shops in Truro were closed (typical), but the old stand by on this trip – the Walmart Superstore – was open for business.  I knew I wouldn’t need too much, but after all the hearttache the past 24 hours had given me, here is all the stuff I bought.  

I was not about to have this issue again with all these supplies.  So, checking the time, and doing the mental calculations on how much time I’d lost and distance I would have covered, I asked the driver to bring me to the spot where I would have been.  It was roughly around Shubenacadie, about 50 kms out of Point Pleasant Park.  

He dropped me off and I set about getting to work.  With all the gear I’d picked up, within twenty minutes I was sorted, and making the slow pedal southward, this time along highway 2 which was less busy and a nice respite from the commercial traffic on Highway 104. 

I passed through Elmsdale, and then saw the sign for Bedford, which is part of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) encorporated in 1996.  I had arrived, and soon started seeing these:

I began to get the butterflies in my stomach as I neared Dartmouth, right across the harbour from Halifax.  Then, through the trees, I caught sight of this bridge, the span across the Bedford Basin to take me there.  I was quite appreciating the dedicated bike lane to get across. 

On the other side, as much as I was so looking forward to getting off the bike, I stopped to take a few pics at some different vantage points.

The Halifax skyline as seen from Barrington Street approaching downtown.  I lived here off and on for 5 years attending Dalhousie University.  Such a great town to be a student. 

My place of residence at Fenwick towers…getting a much needed face lift it seems.

I biked along tree-lined South Park Street, and with the knowledge I was minutes from my destination, I couldn’t contain my emotions.  The tears freely flowed down my face, and I stopped one last time to take this notable pic, marking the final point of the trip.  

I went flying down the hill to the lower parking lot, and waiting patiently there for me by the water were my two boys, Erin, and her friends Erin and Don.  They had thoughtfully made signs and were waving flags, and it was the most amazing reception I could have ever imagined.  It was truly awesome.  

After the celebratory handshakes and hugs, I lowered my bike onto the beach, dipped my wheels into the Atlantic Ocean, and breathed a sigh of relief.  It was done.  

The trip lasted over two months, and I’d covered over 6,000 kms, with the hardest being in the last couple of days.  But I made it, and was happy to dismantle the bike and not think about riding it for awhile.  I have to say I can’t thank Erin’s friends Erin and Don, not to mention Erin’s parents enough for helping me with getting boxes, and transporting my bike to the nearby VIA rail station were it will be shipped back to my home in Ottawa.  They made it easy, since within a half hour of arriivng, that was taken care of. So very much appreciated!  I’m now in a much faster moving vehicle, with Erin, Rowan and Blair as we are making our way back to the National Capital Region. 

So now to re-adjust to a normal life.  That will be hard I think, but something I am sorely looking forward to.  While this is the end of the journey, keep an eye out on this blog if you are so interested, since I figure there will be another post or two once I get settled soon with some deeper thoughts on the trip.  In the meantime, I will say thanks again for reading this, following along with me,  and all the encouraging comments and remarks.  

In the meantime, as they might say here in Québec, à bientôt 🙂

* – the kilometres were not this total on the bike (it was closer to 70 this particular day)

Moncton, NB To Glenholme, NS (166.1 kms)

My stay at the bread and breakfast was a pleasant surprise, and  a much more social experience than camping solo, that’s for sure.  It was also located in downtown Moncton, a city I’ve been to a few times but I usually just blow through town on my way to somewhere else. Here is a pic of the main drag:

I was soon back on the Trans-Canada Highway again,with is smooth pavement and wide shoulders.  Also, I was again this day enjoying an amazing tailwind, as indicated by this flag, blowing in exactly the right direction. 

A couple of hours into the ride, I went flying down a big hill past the border town of Sackville, NB and then caught my first glimpse of water streaming in to the Bay of Fundy.  This was a special moment.

This was very soon followed by another special moment, as I crossed into the final province on this trip, Nova Scotia. 

Nova Scotia, with its 923,598 inhabitants, is the scond most densely populated province in Canada, with 17.4 people per square kilometre…but it certainly doesn’t feel that way.  It truly is, as all the licence plates say, the country’s Atlantic playground.

Finally being here and with such an awesome cycling day, I was in a pretty good mood, looking forward to reaching my destination on this trip the very next day.  That is, until, I heard a hissing noise underneath me. Another flat tire.  I had just one spare tube left, which should do the trick, but wouldn’t you know it….I couldn’t for the life of me find the plastic levers to get the tire off and put a new tube on.  So, I had to resort to using the file on my multi-tool to do the job.  Not ideal using a metal instrument for such a delicate operation.  So, I got the tube back on, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t holding any air…at all.  This is not good at all.  I’m in the middle of nowhere and in need of assessing my options. 

It was at this critical moment that a truck pulled up, and out pops Sheldon, my saviour out here in rural Nova Scotia.  He offered me anything I needed (spare tubes, tires, a ride, etc..) which was more than appreciated.  Unfortunately however, the tubes and tire he had wouldn’t fit my rims so that was abit of a pickle.  So what to do?  At the very least, I took him up on the offer for a ride to nearby Oxford Station to a gas station that had an air compressor.  

But that would only help if I had a tube that could hold air.  So here is what I did.  I took that large roll of duct tape I’ve hauled for over 5,900 kms – and not used even once – and wrapped that puppy in generous lengths of it.  Miraculously, on my second attempt, the air stayed inside. 

Life was good again….or so I thought.  Getting back on the bike, I somehow had snapped the cable to my rear derailer.  This thing that happened, rendered me with 3 gears instead of 24, and of course the derailer was locked in the highest one so getting up hills was about to get alot more interesting.  Not good…at all.  But I could still move forward, and only had a couple of hundred kilometres left so I wasn’t about to let this little setback stop me so close to the end. 

In all of this, I easily lost three hours in the day, and was clearly not going to make it to my destination of Truro for the night.  I politely declined the generous offer by Sheldon to stay at his place since I was on a schedule to get to Halifax the next day.  So I bid him farewell, and with the sun low in the sky made my way onto the highway and pedalled. 

Having only 3 gears straight up sucks.  I had to grind my way up a few massive hills, and my legs were screaming in pain.  On top of that, it was getting a tad chilly.  Like, 8 degrees kind of chilly. Here in the midst of nothing, there wasn’t anything remotely resembling a hotel so it looks like I get to sleep out in this tonight.  Awesome.  Was it going to be in the bush on the side of the highway, I wonder?  Well, thankfully no.  The Elm Lake Campground was conveniently located a few kilometres away.  Let’s go with that.  

So, I cycled into the park in pitch black.  I couldn’t even see the surface I was riding on, which was just alittle disconcerting.  The owner took pity on me and served up a plateful of hotdogs from the roast they had earlier that day, and ferried out to my campsite a big bundle of firewood.

After this especially challenging day, I was getting ready for this bike trip to be over soon.  With literally every piece of clothing I owned on me and warmed up by the camp fire, I fell asleep rather quickly that night, and happy in the thought there was just one day left.   

Fredericton to Moncton (209.3 kms)

The ride out was no fun…again, hopping on and off my bike for a good 6 kms on that gravel road.  I could have stuck it out and biked into Fredericton, got a room, but it is what it is…  Once I did finally make it to the capital city of this province, it is exactly how I remembered it.  A very welcoming kind of place. 

So, I pedaled along the river, and had a very big decision to make. Do I continue along these pot-hole ridden secondary highways that arent so direct, or… do I opt for the sweet Trans Canada highway with its wide shoulders, smooth pavement and easy gradients.  Well, what do you think?  Once on it, I knew I’d made the right decision. 

 With the most amazing tailwinds ever, I continued on this stretch of highway for the better part of 100 kms, averaging over 30 kms/h.  It was almost  like a throwback to when I was on the Prairies, although unlike that there where some hills to add to the experience.

I had a chuckle when I came aross this sign. Where in all of the credentials is DFO???  

As I was closing in on Moncton, wouldn’t you know it.  The skies became dark, clouds rolled in, and the odd smattering of rain droplets pelted my phone.  Really???  Am I going to get wet on this ride?  Well, the answer was a very definitive..yes.  I got drenched in a way, I cannot even describe.  It was almost as bad as back on the ride east of Ottawa.  rain and even small chunks of hail came down on me in a maelstorm and I was soaked through and through.  Not fun at all.  I sought out every overpass I could find to have a respite from these adverse conditions.  

But, like everything in life, the weather changed…this time for the better.  the skies parted and the ride into Moncton was thankfully not so wet. 

But, just after seeing this sign, and a mere 5 kms from my destination, wouldn’t you know it.  my bike slid sideways on the slick roadway in a way I’d never felt before. it threw me off my bike and thankfully I wasn’t hurt.  But why???  The reason:  another flat tire on the trailer.  OMFG, really??  this close to where I was going??  

Instead of changing it rigtht then and there,  I decided to limp the remaining kilometres to the guest home I had arranged for the night. 

  This bed and breakfast, the Leah Jane B&B was, by happenstance, the former home of the Governor General Romeo LeBlanc.  Me and the proprietor Don were trying to discern wether or not my Minister, Dominic LeBlanc, also lived here as a child back in the 1960s…crazy coincidence!

It was soooo good to get off the bike, have a warm shower, and converse with other guests staying here. I also met Larry, an employee, whose claim to fame was playing guitar with the rock band Aerosmith (who I got to see play way back in the mid-1980s…).  He looked like he would fit right in.

It was so nice not to have to unpack the camping gear, which I won’t need ever again…very soon. Not far now…only 400 kms to go before I hit Halifax 🙂  

   

Grand Falls to Fredericton, NB (169.9 kms)

I’ve been through this stretch of New Brunswick a few times, since I made the regular trip between Ontario and Halifax as a student attending Dalhousie University in a car, however I was usually hellbent on just getting to Nova Scotia, I never really stopped to smell the roses sort of speak.  This trip has somewhat offered me abit of an opportunity to do just that.  So, it was nice to wake up in Grand Falls, NB, and see exactly why it was so named. 

Gorge of waterfalls at Grand Falls, just where I was camping.  Nice to wake up to this view which does not do it justice.   

Now, to get myself south towards Fredericton, and not along the Trans-Canada Highway.  There are routes along both sides of the St. John River to assist with this very thing, however there were issues with both since, one took me way out of the way, and after deviating many kilometres to the other, I saw a sign saying it was blocked due to construction… OMFG!  

Bridge that led to the blocked highway…  at least I got the pleasure of seeing this…  

I continued on my way south, and what started out as a sunny day, got overcast real quick, and soon I was wet.  Nothing too bad, but it was an annoyance nonetheless.  It didn’t detract from taking in the cool mid-New Brunswick scenery: 

Logging and forestry are a big industry here in NB, and I saw some of that first-hand, with stockpiles of wood and the odd patch of clear-cutting. 

This is the view from the bridge across the Aroostock River.  There are just a few major rivers and bridges through this province, it seems.  

I continued southward along highway 130, and noted a distinctive change.  It wasn’t the landscape necessarily, nor the weather (it was still damp), but rather the signage went from almost exclusively french to almost all english.  I had entered a part of the province it seems that had been colonized by the British. As if I needed proof, I saw signs for towns named ‘Bristol’ and ‘Bath’, which mirror those places in England my dad and I visited not 4 years prior in the U.K.  

Soon I was in Hartland, NB, and saw this familiar structure.  I have to wonder, with all the construction in Asia, is it really still the longest covered bridge in the world??  Maybe just made of wood?   

The destination for the night was a campground this side of the capital city of Fredericton.  I was wanting something quick and easy, and just off the main route, with lots of services but was served up with anything but….

I have been relying on Google alot this trip, and thought that the campground I’d been aiming for this night was just of the highway….  Not so. When I finally, after a full day of riding, I arrived at what looked like a trailhead in the shadow of an assumng mountain…..I was perplexed. 

I have complained before about having to ride on gravel.   Something I hate with a passion.  Well, turning a corner, I found nothing but just that; pointy rocks interpersed with hard packed sand, as far as the eye couod see, and a small sign saying that the campground was 4 kms away.. F#ck, after a full day trek, do I have to ride on this??

On account of my level of fatigue and the amount of light left in the day, The answer was….yes.  But, for how long?? Not that long, it would turn out,  But it was a tag team of hopping on and off the bike to deal with some of the more rockier patches.   All the way just waiting to get a flat tire. But, it was okay, and the sun hung in the sky just lomg enough for me to set up my tent in the most remote campsite ever some 15 kms outside of Fredericton.  It was soooooo good to get off the bike after this exceptionally long day.  

Rivière du Loup, QC to Grand Falls, NB (192.6 kms)

The trek out of Riviere du Loup at 6:30 a.m. was just alittle bit exhausting.  Mainly because it entailed alot of climbing as I deviated from the flat lands along the St.Lawrence to the extreme northern reaches of the Appalachian mountains.  just when you think climbing big hills is over….it’s not.  

That, and I had to abandon Hwy 132 which kept going northeast, since I needed to head in a southerly direction.  I initially was lead to believe there was some secondary highway taking you that way along side the Trans-Canada Highway, but I was wrong.  There was a gravel path (part of the trans-Canada trail network) that Google Maps was showing, but it was full of hills and, more importantly, gravel.  I’m not such a fan of that, so I opted for the busy Trans-Canada Highway.  It had wide shoulders, rumble strips to protect me, and was much more direct.  After a stretch of bumpy patches, I was soon touring along on fresh, smooth pavement, and once the climbing was out of the way, life was pretty sweet. 

That is, until, I see this cop car with light’s flashing about a kilometre ahead.  He is waiting there for me, I fthought, pensively as I slowly approached.  And, when he cracked his door open…I was right.  Bikes aren’t allowed on this highway he informed me, in a very good natured, yet still authoritative kind of way.  Really?   I pleaded ignorance.  I didn’t see any signs??  Why is this such an issue when on this massive shoulder I am metre away from anyone?? But, long story short, we had a nice exchange, I wasn’t given a fine or anything, just told where to get off and how to proceed.  As far as talking to police oficers go – which I haven’t done very often – it was probably about as pleasant as it can get…but still, I was abit peaved at having to leave such sweet pavement. 

So soon I was off that pleasant expressway that reminded me of Calgary, and found myself on what looked like an old decommissioned railway trail.  This, as it turns out, is part of the much hyped up “Trans-Canada Trail”.  I am cool with getting off major highways, but what I take issue with, is what they are made of.  In this case, it was all gravel, and with thin tires like I have, that isn’t all that much fun.  

Here is my own personal highway…only problem is, it is all gravel.  

There was a nive view however, along Lac Temiscouata…which seemingly went on forever…

A boardwalk along the lake….a nice respite from some of the large rocks along the gravel route. 

Eventually, I got to the border of New Brunswick, along this thing, and while happy to enter in to a new province….I was abit sad to leave Quebec behind.  It had been so good to me with its stops in major centres, highway 132, and also an outlet to practice my french.  Infact, I spoke almost exclusively in french the whole time I was here, and re-invigorated my confidence level in being abe to converse in my second language.  

Here are signs that I mostly don’t understand along the Trans-Canada Trail.  I was glad when Highway 144 in NB came along so I could take the more paved, direct route. 

This is a view of Edmunston, NB…home of paper mills and just across from the State of Maine, along the St. John River.  

I have no idea what this is, but it was a prominent figure in the park here in Edmunston.  

so I left Quebec behind, but of course I was still in the land of french speaking people.  New Brunswick – ranked 11th in overall population with its 747, 101 residents, and 11th in size (only 0.7% of all the land mass in Canada, interstingly enough) is home to Acadian people who are a mix of french colonists and indigenous peoples..in a way I don’t quite understand…but are very well established in their roots here in northern New Brunswick.  Many homesteads therefore prominently are dislaying Acadian flags and colours. 

So, I knew this was going to be an ambitious day, just like the last.  However, unlike yesterday – where I was riding on the same highway pretty much the entire time – today, I got a taste of pretty much every type of road out there: from rural highays,to multi-lane expressways, to gravel trails, wooden bridges and everything in between.  Let me say this once, if there is anything you want in terms of what you are riding on for the better part of the day, predictability comes to the top of my mind.  This day, I had anything but since it was literally a grab bag every few kilometres of ‘what are we going to be on next?’.  

I think all of the stress on the bike from what I described above manifested itself in a flat tire, about 15 kilometres from my destination of Grand Falls, NB. Arrgh!!  Really?  I just want a meal and to have my tent set up, and I knew all too well it would have all came to pass before finishing attending to this.  Anyways, I did what needed to be done and was on my way…but the last few kilometres were in twilight that I’d rather not be out on a bike in.  

A very well-known NB brand, along with Irving and Oland Breweries, jst outside of Grand Falls.  I wished the sign wasn’t lit up like a Christmas tree when I happened upon it. 

And, it seems fitting that as I make note of a home-grown NB-based brand, I bid farewell to one in Quebec, whose many franchises I passed in most towns along the way:

St. Hubert Restaurants, specializing in roast chicken.  People from this province go nuts over it…which I don’t quite understand.  I mean, it’s just chicken!!! You can get it anywhere and just as good.  I still remember when the parent corporation of Swiss Chalet acquired this chain, and many Quebecois were losing thier minds… 

So, after a hard day of riding, losing an hour, and finding ou all the restaurants in this still sizeable community are closed, I’m having pasta for the third day in a row.  It is still warmish ouside, it’s not raining, the mosquitos are non-existent, and to top it all off I am in this amazing area in a gorge along the Grand River, so that all counts for something : )

Québec City to Rivière-du-Loup (193.6 kms)

Leaving Quebec City this morning was again a challenging affair, because I really just wanted to stay!  Such a storied city and after only a day here I really only got to scratch the surface of it all before biking out of town once again.  Unlike most mornings, this one entailed, for the first time on this trip, a ferry ride. So as to not have to backtrack to the bridge which gave passageway to the north of the St. Lawrence River (easily a good 2 hour trip), I hopped on the frequent ferry service from downtown to Levis, QC and happily paid the $5.80 to do so.

View loking back at Quebec City, leaving on the ferry.

The opposite view looking northeast.  That bridge pictured here only takes you partway to the large/long ile d’Oreans that cuts the river in half.  

Cycling out of town was pleasant enough, on account of the most amazing bike paths.  Ottawa (and every other city for that matter..), take note.  

Out on the road, and passing Ile d’Orlean, the river got alot wider, offering nice vistas from one of my favorite routes on this trip, highway 132. 

View from the south shore of the St. Lawrence along highway 132 looking north. 

The St. Lawrence River, one of the longest in North America and certainly most commercially significant, extends over 700 kms from the Gulf of the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario. The St. Lawrence Seaway, opened in 1959 and includes different canals and power dams to capitalize on the massive flow of water and tranportation potential for goods and services to major markets on the eastern side of the continent.  In my former capacity at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, I got to work on updating an antiquated flow regime under the Canada-U.S  Boundary Waters Treaty (known bureacratically as the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River (LOSLR) Supplementary Regulation Plan).  Thus, this river also holds alot of significance with me. 

Pictured here is a retired Canadian Coast Guard ice-breaker that was a major workhorse up until 1978.

 One thing that is clearly obvious here in Quebec is the abundance of churches. Every town has at least one (mostly catholic), and somewhat like the grain elevators of rural Saskatchewan, they very much are ever present denoting each town and are major landmarks defining the landscape. Their architecture never ceases to impress, and some are pretty spectacular with naves, spires and the odd flying buttress.  I got in the habit of taking pictures of them.  Here is a random assortment of many of those pics:  

After many an exterior photo, the thought ocurred my to acually go inside one of them.  As a Catholic who has recieved first communion and confirmation way back when, and spent some quality time as an altar boy, I felt sort of qualified to enter.

This church at Notre Dame des Boncouers, erected in 1768 is the 12th oldest in Canada, as I was advised by the friendly docent inside. 

It was as impressive inside as it was outside.   

Gradually making my way northeast along the St. Lawrence, I’d crossed a threshold and could tell through a few senses, that I had entered in to a distinctively maritime environment.  There was the of smell the familiar marine algae; beds of tidal eelgrass everpresent that were visible easily enough, and I could practically feel and taste the salt in the air.  It seems I am getting close to the Atlanttc Ocean. 

As if I needed any proof, I came across this sign.  This marine park, designated in 1998 is home to an isolated yet still established population of beluga whales.  A saltwater species that is native to the Arctic Ocean, it is abit of an anomoly here in the brackish waters of the lower St. Lawrence, and this particular population is listed as ‘Endangered’ under Canada’s federal Species At Risk Act (SARA) on account of its small numbers, limited recovery potential, and the threat of shipping and marine noise to its survival.  I know all this well since I also used to work on the SARA legislation back when it was promulgated in 2003. 

It was another 10 hour riding kind of day when I finally neared my destination for the night, the municipal campground here in Riviere-du-Loup. The sun going down low in the sky over the St. Lawrence was espeially dazzling.   

As amazing as it has been to be cycling alomg such a notable waterway as this, tomorrow I’m about to deviate from it so as to enter another interestng province in its own right: New Brunswick.

Quebec City, QC

I loved my stop in Quebec City, which is the capital of this province and home to 800, 296 people in the metropolitan area.  I’ve been here on about a half dozen occasions, but always for work, so on this trip I had the opportunity to be a tourist…if only for one day.

Staying at hostels is not only fun in terms of being able to meet people from every corner of the globe, but the good ones organize a range of fun and exciting activities too.  So, it was fortunate that they had set up a walking tour of the old city with an informative guide to educate us all on what this place was about that morning.  Sign me up for that please.  

The walk around the fairly compact old city (contained by its fortified walls), lasted 2 and a half hours, was an amazing interactive learning experience, and to top it all off, it was free!

Our tour guide Claude explaining one of many interesting landmarks here in Quebec.  There were about 20 people trudging along behind him, hanging off his every word.  

The view of the Chateau Frontenac towards the end of the tour.  Still hasn’t lost its charm.

I can’t quite remember what this is.  But it does look pretty cool.

A statue of someone..again, not quite sure who, but surely someone important…

This street was just down from the hostel which was buzzing with tourist activity…and on a Monday!!

Cannons guarding the city from imminent attack. 

These are flags denoting that the old city is a UNESCO heritage site.  Pretty awesome stuff. 

A very cool wall mural. There are hidden cats peeking out at various places here, of which we found two.  

Quebec City is of such historical significance, there are surely books written that describe at length just exactly why.  So, I won’t go into the details here about it, but just to say that it figured highly in many battles that were had between the British, the French, and the Americans.  I will say, I feel that much more educationally enriched having taken that tour. 

That took up a good chunk of time, but what to do next?  I was thinking of going to check out the aquarium here in Quebec, that is apparently something to see..but was swayed by a fellow traveler (Thea, a university student from Germany who has also done some impressive cycling trips across Europe) to check out nearby Montmorency Falls.  No regrets there either.

Montmorency Falls, at 87 metres, are slightly higher than Niagara Falls, and while nowhere near as wide, were still quite impressive in their own right:

One cool thing they had there was a zipline transiting infront of the Falls, which got us both pretty excited. Of course, naturally I didn’t have the right footwear (flipflops) so wasn’t allowed to go, but according to Thea the 30 second exerience wasn’t really worth the fare so maybe it was for the best anyways.  

The evening was rounded out with easy conversation with other travelers from France and Germany before calling it an early night.  I had high expectations for making some big distances the next day so needed another good sleep.  This time, I wanted to get fairly far away from le capitale nationale, to Riviere du Loup, over 190 kms away.   With all the walking done today an fresh air, it didn’t take long to surender to a deep sleep.  

Trois Rivières To Québec City (150.2 kms)

The air had a certain freshness to it upon waking up along the banks of the St. Lawrence River.  However, in keeping with the good forecast, it was supposed to be an exceptional day for being out on a bike.  I took a few moments to head down to the waterfront to check out a pretty spectacular view.  

This is the bridge crossing the river at Trois Rivieres.  It reminds me very much of the bridge of the Americas which I passed under down there in Panama City.  

I was thinking originally that I might cross to the north side and check out the city, which is not a small place by many standards since it’s population exceeds 150,000.  Little did I know (and contrary to what Google Maps was telling me…), bikes are not allowed on that sizeable bridge.  This meant I could either call a number on a sign posted to the on-ramp to arrange a ferry, or continue on my merry way along the pretty-sweet-so-far Hwy 132.  I chose the latter.  So I’d skip Tim Hortons in the urban area to the north and have to find coffee at a gas station/depanneur.  No big deal.  

Trois Rivieres from the south.  Interestingly enough, there are only two rivers…someone wasn’t so great at geography when it came to naming names… 

Thanks Captain Obvious, for pointing out the rather large body of water next to me.  

So the trip went along as per usual.  I did find a depanneur for coffee, lubed up the bike, gave the tire some air, and felt pretty refreshed as I biked along the ‘Route des Navigateurs”.  While I was pretty numb to thinking profoundly about anything this day, I will say, it was probably one of the best cycling days so  far. Everything just seemed to align, and I was in a really good mood.  Especially since, I was going to soon arrive in a very cool place indeed: Quebec City.    

Hwy 132 along the St. Lawrence river.  There can’t be too many routes out there that rival this stretch of road for cycling.  

One thing too I should mention, I was biking through legitimate farming country.  corner after corner, there was another silo, wafts of freshly laid manure, and fields full of hay.  Quebec is truly a farming province, and here is just one pic of what I am talking about.

It got me thinking about the economics of farming, which has always baffled me.  I mean, if the grocery store charges something like 59 cents for an ear of corn, and they are making a profit from it, how does the farmer who produced it (with a finite amount of land) as well as all the chains of custody in between (shippers, wholesalers, warehouses) make some sort of profit too???  I still don’t get it, but one thing I will say, good on you farmers for doing your thing since,  I couldn’t do it to save my life, and you do produce the tastiest food. 

As I neared Quebec City, I passed distinctive strip after strip of farmland.  I was reminded of the old pictures in history textbooks about how this landscape was divided up when Canada was first settled by the Europeans. Along the St. Lawrence, it is in sort of a ‘ribbon” style, with narrow plots of land extending from the water up to higher elevations.  These plots of land I believe have been passed down through the generations, and it was quite a cool sight to see from the highway sloping down to the river.

One such ribbon farm strip of land. Don’t even ask me what is planted here..

The internet so kindly provided an archaic drawing of how land has been carved up around here. 

I stopped about 30 kms outside of Quebec City at a small town called St. Croix to enjoy this delicious lunch.

How can I be in Quebec and not enjoy one of it’s signature dishes: poutine??  While I generally try to keep my lunches not fried food, this couldn’t be passed up.

I got pretty excited when I could see the skyline of Quebec City.  My day of biking was going to come to an end within an hour, in one of Canada’s cultural gems at that!  And, in contrast to yesteray’s ride of the same distance, it wasn’t going to be at 8 p.m. either!    

So I crossed the bridge from Levis to Quebec City and it was a great feeling to be in a populated area once again, along the north shore…and on a Sunday too.  I thought Ottawa had some amazing bike paths.  Here, there was the most awesome path following along the river that pretty much led me to the centre of Old Quebec City, and my destination for the night: Auberge Internationale de Quebec. 

This is the bike path, and it was crammed with Sunday afternoon cyclists.  I had a chat with many of them on my way in to town….which was nice.

Some horse sculpture thing.  Worthy for a 10 second stop to take a picture. 

A clear sign indeed I have arrived in Quebec City.  The Mac-daddy of all CP hotels, and in my view one of Canada’s great architectural wonders: le Chateau Frontenac. 

So I arrived, went through the necesssary logistical details of locking my bike up in secure storage, checking in, finding my room, charging my phone, showering etc…  (this biking thing I’ve realized leaves me with next to no free time whatsoever…).  Then, I fittingly opted for a meal once advised to me by a french sailor I met in Tahiti as the most basic of french meals for ‘les pietons’ which was bread, cheese and meat.  I procured these at a local organic shop and had one of the best meals I’ve had – simple as it is – on this trip, while chatting with local travelers in the bar. 

I’m spending a day in Quebec City since, well…it’s Quebec City.  there won’t be any more of these days off until I get to the end point of the the trip, in (hopefully) less than a week’s time: Halifax.