Archive for August, 2008

A real soaker

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

We stayed at Nancy and Gerry’s place (Tanya’s parents) for a large family dinner (lunch). It was wonderful and gave us the fuel we needed for our bike ride. It also gave us a chance to meet more of the family: Shara, Basil and the grandkids Kyler, Hunter, ‘Maya and Max. Great food and lots of fun!

After those brave enough (Tanya and Jay) had a chance to try out our bikes, we got on the road (shortly before 4 pm). Becky wasn’t worried about the late start because it was only “36 kilometers” to Port Hawksbury. After about 8 km riding and the first bout of rain soaked us, Scott pointed out that it was 54 km to Port Hawksbury. Becky was confused … apparently it was “36 miles”. Becky had joined in the conversation a bit late, when Scott and Gerry were talking about metric vs. imperial distances. Oops! Given that, we started out rather later than we should have.

At about the 28 km mark the rain really picked up. It was heavy enough at times that cars were slowing down and using their 4-way flashers. Becky pointed out that this rain was actually heavier than the rain we experienced in Newfoundland – however, the heavy rainfall lasted less than an hour, and soon we had a light sky with only occasional misting. We arrived just before sunset, so didn’t need to break out our lights, although it was close…

We are staying at the Harbourview B&B in Port Hawksbury. It is another B&B in an old historical building, and as a result the shared bathroom has a wonderful soaker tub. This is becoming a trend that we are very much enjoying.
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Omelettes, rescues, and ceilidhs

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

35 km, 2h30min

Last night, we stayed at the Stacey House bed and breakfast in Louisbourg. Becky was delighted to discover that the shared-bath had a huge soaker tub as her muscles desperately needed a soak. We were a bit uncertain of our welcome at first as the young person welcoming us was more interested in her boyfriend than us. Becky was wondering what breakfast would be like. In the morning we met the owner of the B&B and she put out an amazing spread. There was a wonderful fruit salad with fresh fruit and the best omelet we’ve ever had, with wonderful fresh vegetables. A welcome change from Newfoundland and Labrador!

After breakfast we were headed to L’Ardoise to meet up with our friend Tanya, who was home from Ottawa to visit family and attend a wedding. When we figured out that we would be on Cape Breton at the same time, she invited us to join her at the Ceilidh after the wedding and to stay with her parents.

In the discussion over breakfast Becky mentioned that we had an appointment to attend a ceilidh in L’Ardoise. Becky used Scott’s pronunciation of L-are-dwa, instead of her pronunciation of L-are-doose. When Becky said it was near St. Peters they said “Oh! Lord-ways!”. So much for Scott’s insistent correction… The other couple at the B&B are from Quebec, so they corrected Scott’s French pronunciation to be “L-are-dwa-z”, as the s is not silent. Along the Acadian coast of Cape Breton many of the French names have been anglicized in various interesting ways (Framboise is Fram-boys).

In the morning, Scott realized that we didn’t do our homework properly yesterday and our planned route from Louisbourg to L’Ardoise is actually 10 km further than going all the way back to Sydney (oops!). Either way, it is well over 100km and a little too far for us with loaded bikes if we want to function at the other end. Scott called Tanya’s parents (Nancy and Gerry) and asked if they didn’t mind coming out to get our bags at some point, such that we could make it in time for dinner and the ceilidh. It turns out they have a pickup truck, so they came to pick us up instead. Thanks!

The ride on the fleur-de-lies trail was quite pleasant. The road is in terrible shape from a car perspective, but was pretty good for our bikes. The rain mostly held off, with only the occasional drizzling now and then. At 2 pm Scott stopped to pick up a message on the phone. Tanya had called because her parents were looking for us. We were not expecting them until 4 pm, so we were quite a bit further out than anticipated at our earlier call. Funnily enough, as Scott was talking to Tanya about where we were, Nancy and Gerry pulled up – we were found.

We had a wonderful lasagna supper thanks to Gerry and afterwards joined Nancy and Gerry for a trip out to the St. Peter’s yacht club to see the annual parade of boats. This year, the there were not very many boats, so the parade was not particularly interesting, but we had a great visit with Tanya’s brother Jay and his wife Michelle. Jay and Michelle are from PEI and they sailed their boat (a 30 foot Benetteau) over to St. Peters to visit. They were on a 3 week sailing vacation. Becky was quite envious of their ability to sail to so many places. What a wonderful place to own a sailboat!

After the parade of lights we headed over to the ceilidh to arrive just in time to see the groom leave (the bride was already in the car). The ceilidh had pretty much ended and things were being cleaned up, but we did get to enjoy some music from a few of the people remaining.
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I’ve never seen a bike like that before …

Friday, August 29th, 2008

62 km, 4.25 hours

Our day started out with much more sleep that we expected, although still not enough. The ferry was supposed to get in at 1:45 am; however, the winds were too strong so the ferry could not dock. We spent the night anchored in the harbor. This caused problems for a lot of people on the ferry, but worked out well for us.  After sleeping in the terminal last night, we decided to buy two dorm berths ($28 each) for napping during the day, and some rest at night.  With the delay, we both had a comfortable bed throughout the night.  Nice!  One thing to note about Marine Atlantic is that they do not allow you to sleep on the floor, so pulling out our thermarests wasn’t an option and sleeping in chairs is not particularly restful.

Powered By SmugWP After arrival, we headed to the ferry terminal to get ourselves organized for riding. When the ferry was due to arrive at 1:45 am, we had planned on sleeping in the ferry terminal. We are glad that we did not need to as the North Sydney terminal is not nearly as big as the Argentia terminal is, so we would have found it difficult to find space to sleep.

As we were getting organized a cyclist came up to talk to us. It turns out he was part of the group doing Tour du Canada (http://www.tourducanada.com/) this year.  It’s a supported cross-Canada ride with camping and shared food prep, so fairly inexpensive.  This year there were about 30 cyclists doing the ride. Unfortunately, the ferry was due to depart very late (over 14 hours late).  After our late arrival, it had to get to Port aux Basques and back before heading to Argentia.  This means the Tour du Canada folks will arrive at 5pm tomorrow at the earliest, and will not be able to ride to St. John’s immediately upon arrival.  Several of them had planes to catch on Sunday, so this was a big deal. For a few, their Tour du Canada ended at the North Sydney ferry terminal as they caught the bus to Halifax.

At the ferry terminal we noticed that they had a scale for weighing luggage. We decided to take the opportunity to weigh our panniers. According to their scale, Becky is carrying about 60 lbs and Scott is carrying about 90 lbs. This is about 50 lbs more than Becky estimated and about 25 more than Scott had estimated. We wonder if the scale reads a little bit heavy, or we’re carrying a ridiculous amount of stuff!

We spent a fair bit of time this morning deciding where we were going to go today.  The choices appeared to be:
1 – Stay in Sydney
2 – Head to St. Peter’s (past L’Ardoise)
3 – Check out Louisbourg
Since the distance between Sydney and L’Ardoise is about the same as Louisbourg to L’Ardoise, we decided to check out Louisbourg.

We both found that being back on the bikes after almost a week was a struggle. We both expected that our bodies would be in better shape by this point in the trip.  We are regularly reminded that we are not in our 20s anymore and our bodies need a little more recovery and preparation. Becky felt that her legs were much more tired than they should have been. One issue was that with all the chaos at the ferry terminal this morning, we missed our morning yoga practice. After being off the bikes for several days, yoga is extra important to ensure our muscles are happy. Another note is that we each need a good soak in the tub after several days of long riding. Becky forgot this, and didn’t take the opportunity while at Fraser and Judy’s. Scott’s legs were in a bit better shape, but not up to par either. 

At our lunch break today, a women says to us “I’ve never seen a bike like that before!”. Over the last five weeks we have heard many different people say “I never sees a bike like that before”, but we’re in Nova Scotia now, not Newfoundland.  Becky was struck by the varying forms of English across the Maritimes.  We like to think of Canadian English as homogeneous, but it really isn’t.

Upon further discussion, we discovered she is a cousin of Steven who is bicycling with David across Canada from Newfoundland to Victoria. You may recall from an earlier post that we met David’s mother Isabelle at Battle Harbour.  Small world!  Unfortunately, we didn’t catch her name.  It’s still a struggle for us to introduce ourselves when chatting with people.

Powered By SmugWPAfter arriving in Louisbourg, we had a brief visit to the Louisbourg National Historic site. Similar to L’Anse-aux-Meadows, we arrived within an hour of closing. Since we were not going to be able to see much of the site, the folks let us head down for free (saving us the $17 each fee). We did get to see a couple of the buildings and get a feel for the community. We really enjoyed the presentation of the cannon that officially closed the site at the end of the day.  Definitely worth a longer visit in future, but for now we’re on to L’Ardoise.

Out and about in St.John’s

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

20 km around St. John’s

We had a delightful stay with Fraser and Judy. We spent several evenings enjoying wine and talking about various aspects of life. It was wonderful to have the chance to get to know them better and also nice to have “home” for the four days we were in St. John’s.

We didn’t spend as much time as we’d planned doing tourist things or visiting people.  This seems to be a bit of a trend (both here and in Goose Bay).  After many days riding, we need some downtime to recharge, clean and dry equipment and run errands.  For future stops, we’ll need to leave more time if we want to do more tourist stuff.

Sunday: We attended the Sunday service at the Avalon Fellowship. It was nice to renew some connections and visit with fellow Unitarians.

Monday: We took our bikes out to run a variety of chores included buying new cups. We had a couple of melamine cups purchased at Bushtukah (they were about $3 each). On the ferry from Goose Bay to Lewisporte one of them cracked when Becky added boiling water. A few days later the second cracked when Becky added warm water. We were quite surprised as other melamine we’ve owned has lasted forever! We’ve replaced them and our bowls with “squishy bowls” (silicone bowls and cups). 

We went up to Earle Industries (a bike shop) to check the status of our chains.  It is owned by Harold Earle, and seems to be the high-end bike shop for St. John’s.  If you’re looking for bike repairs or purchases in St. John’s, we can highly recommend Harold and his shop.  He spent more than an hour going over our bikes with us and looking at various options for some of the issues which have developed.

After 4000 km, our chains have stretched too much and worn our rear sprocket.  Scott was expecting the chains to last better than this, since there’s so much more chain on our bikes (about 2.5 standard chains).  Had we checked it in Rimouski, we probably would have discovered the chain wear before it damaged the sprocket.  Oh well – a lesson for next time.  The Rohloff sprocket is reversible, so if we could reverse it we could replace the chain, but we haven’t bought the Rohloff sprocket tool yet.  Harold and Scott looked at improvising something, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

Harold also pointed out that the stock chains on our bikes are SRAM 830 – the lowest grade of SRAM 8-speed chain.  Had HP-Velotechnik provided a better chain (SRAM 870, 890, Rohloff Revolver) it likely would have lasted much longer.

We have ordered the sprocket tool from Rohloff (as well as some other spare parts), and we’re planning to replace both chains (and flip the cogs) when we get to Fredericton. 

Tuesday: We went out for a hike with Tammy, a friend from the Avalon Fellowship to Black Head. From the point there is an incredible view of both Cape Spear and Signal Hill, as well as lots of blueberries.  We had a delightful hike, and it was great to get to know her a bit better.  She had just received news of a placement as a kindergarten teacher this year, so she was walking on air.
We also went up Signal Hill at night with Fraser and Judy, and got to see St. John’s at night.  It’s a beautiful view, and it was a warm night, so lots of other people were up there, some “watching the submarine races” and fogging up the windows of their cars.

Wednesday: We spent the early part of the day cleaning up and packing up. It took longer than expected to be ready to go, but that worked out OK.
Vyda, another friend from the Avalon Fellowship picked us up at Judy and Fraser’s and after a wonderful dinner at “Blue on Water” in downtown St. John’s she gave us a ride out to the Argentia ferry terminal.

We had heard from other cyclists that you can sleep in the Argentia terminal. Upon arrival, we found a nice quiet spot in the terminal out of the way of traffic (under some stairs), where we pulled out our thermarests and sleeping bags and spent a comfortable night.  Earplugs and eyeshades again came in handy though – there were two other Ottawa cyclists in the terminal with us, and they didn’t sleep nearly so well.

Detours, Tailwinds, and Trailers

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

88 km, 6.5 hrs

The morning started out with a detour in search of fresh bread. Scott wanted to get back on the TCH right away (and head up a big hill to do so), but we had little food and didn’t know what would be available on the highway. We knew there was a convenience store in Bellevue and a bakery in Norman’s Cove, so we took a detour along the coast via the 201 instead. Scott was quite doubtful about the route due to steep hills and a “Rough Road” warning sign, but it turned out OK. The hills were definitely steep, but the road was great. A few potholes and rough spots, but otherwise excellent. Powered By SmugWP

The views along the coast were quite spectacular, and much more interesting than the TCH. Unfortunately, we got to Norman’s Cove only to discover the bakery was closed. Very sad.

Once we got back on the highway the roads were much faster than the last few days. The winds were still from the south west, however we were now going mostly east, so that translated into a quarter tailwind rather than a headwind. With the tailwind, the hills were much more bearable, and we climbed quite happily.

By dinner time, it was clear we weren’t going to make St. John’s today as we had hoped. The daylight would be fading shortly. Our new friends Fraser and Judy had offered us a rescue, so we took them up on it, just before Butter Pot Park. Fraser came out with a trailer to pick up us and our bikes, and Judy had a sumptuous meal ready for us when we got to St. John’s. A wonderful finale to ten days in the saddle.

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Camping at Bellevue Beach Park

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

6h 15 min, 78 km

It was a good day riding today. Our average speed is still slow and the wind didn’t completely cooperate, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it has been and the sun shone all day. It was a beautiful day riding, so we didn’t feel bad that we were not going very fast.

Powered By SmugWPThere were again a few spots on the Trans-Canada today where the rumble strips provided a problem for us. The only time they are an issue is when we get less than 1 foot of free space on the shoulder side or if the shoulder is too messy to ride on. Unfortunately, this is more common than we’d like. The highway maintenance folks have put some form of Chipseal at the edge of the paved shoulder and onto the gravel, which occasionally forms large ridges. These can catch a wheel if you’re not careful. We know we’ll be riding much rougher roads shortly though, so we’re taking it in stride.

There was one long downhill today where we rode the highway rather than the shoulder. Fortunately there was not too much traffic, and there was a passing lane, so the cars that did approach us were able to pass safely.

We got to our campsite at Bellevue Beach Park quite late, and were given a spot on the beach, which was all right at first – picnic table, old building with porch to put stuff, and had a nice dinner. Powered By SmugWP Unfortunately, the wind picked up just after Becky left to shower, and Scott had set the tent up on gravel which didn’t hold the pegs well. Talking to other campers he heard about 50kph winds for tonight so Scott ended up moving everything down to a sheltered grove right beside another site. This was a bit tedious, but was a much better spot. When Becky returned from her shower the tent was gone, which caused a little shock! She came back just in time to help set the tent up again, which was good.
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Bill, the proprietor of the campground was quite talkative and shared some of the history of the area. There’s a huge sandbar providing an excellent sheltered cove, and a great salmon river, so the locals believe the Vikings spent a fair bit of time in this area.

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A fellow cycle tourist

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

55 km, 4 h 30 min

Our breakfast was fabulous again today, with toast made using fresh bread from the motel bakery. One thing to be said for Newfoundland and Labrador, there’s a bakery almost everywhere, with excellent fresh bread.

Today we continued heading south, which meant more headwinds. The road was also rather hilly.

We crossed paths with our first cycle tourist in Newfoundland and Labrador today, which was very exciting! As we were ascending a hill, Ben came over to great us. He is from St. John’s and was heading up to his cottage in New-Wes-Valley. His claim to fame is a brief appearance in the current (September) Canadian Geographic Travel magazine. He has done a lot of cycle touring (across Canada and the US), and finds that Newfoundland is some of the most challenging riding, with lots of hills, constantly changing weather and high winds.

Powered By SmugWPBecky was feeling really tired today. She thinks her body is protesting too many hard days with headwinds. Scott was feeling better than her, but he was tired too, so we decided to call it a day a bit earlier than normal. We stopped in Clarenville, the largest town we have been in since we left Goose Bay. It is actually big enough to have a Tim Horton’s and MacDonalds (neither of which we will visit – although we did stop at the Subway for our late lunch).

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Charlottetown Newfoundland

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

75 km, 5h 30 min

After a quiet night in the tent, Clyde and Linda fed us a tasty breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast, which was wonderfully fortifying for the day.

For the first part of the day, we left the headwinds behind. Our progress was rather quick and we arrived at the outskirts of Gambo within an hour. No far into Gambo we came across a stand selling fresh locally grown vegetables. This is the first fresh vegetable stand we have seen since leaving Quebec, so we had to stop and stock up. We skipped the giant zucchini, since each of them was more than 60cm long, but got some carrots, cauliflower and small yellow squashes. Yummy! Gambo is a rather long town, so it seemed like an hour before we reached the Trans-Canada highway.

Powered By SmugWPBefore entering the highway, Becky was hungry, so we decided to stop for an early lunch (it wasn’t even noon yet). We didn’t find a restaurant that looked interesting – we have been eating too much deep fried food at lunch lately – so we stopped at a gazebo just before the Trans Canada highway and pulled out our stove and made up a quick instant noodle lunch.

The first leg of the Trans Canada was going East, so we made quick progress. In the first three hours of the day, we were averaging 18 km/hr, which was a dramatic improvement over the 11 km/hr of the previous day. Unfortunately, this wasn’t fated to continue. As we turned into Terra Nova National Park, the Trans Canada quickly turned south and we were again faced with fighting a 25 km/hr headwind. It took us two and half hours to go 25 km!

The section of Trans Canada between Gambo and the park was also our first introduction to rumble strips on the shoulder. Not too bad so far, but we’re told they get worse as we get closer to St. John’s

By the time we were ready to stop for the night, we had passed all the campgrounds in the park, and had not purchased a park pass, so camping by the roadside didn’t seem right. Fortunately, we were able to find a motel in Charlottetown Newfoundland (not to be confused with Charlottetown Labrador!), which is enclosed by the park but outside the park boundary. The motel had efficiency units, so we could cook dinner in our rooms. The motel also had a bakery, so we got a nice loaf of fresh bread to make sandwiches for tomorrows lunch.

Unfortunately Internet access (including wireless) has become less available over the past few days, so we were reduced to sitting by the roadside near an unlocked router for a few minutes to quickly check email. Photo uploads will have to wait…

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Clyde’s yard

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

70 km, 5h 50 min

Today our progress was painfully slow. It was a beautifully sunny day; however, the headwinds slowed us dramatically.

We planned to have lunch in Centreville – our midway point for the day. We didn’t arrive there until 3:30 pm, at which point we were tired and starving. The place we stopped for lunch had a motel so we considered stopping for the day and resting up for tomorrow; however, upon inquiry the motel was sold out, so we headed further on down the road.

We arrived in Hare Bay (pronounces “air” as the local dialect doesn’t pronounce the h) at about 6:45 pm. At this point we realized that we could not make it to Gambo before dark. We were both tired and with an average speed that was just over 11 km / hr we simply did not have enough time to get there.

There are no places to stay in Hare Bay, so we were looking for a place to camp. We asked at the gas station and someone offered to take us back to a nice place to camp, but that would take us back the way we came. Every kilometer was hard fought, so we didn’t want to have to repeat it again. Had the offer been in the other direction, we definitely would have taken it.

We decided to try out the idea of knocking on a door and asking if we could camp in someone’s yard. Rather than knock though, we decided to ask people that were already outside. The first people we asked were an older couple who didn’t feel comfortable with us staying. In the end, that was probably good because their yard was rather open to the highway. Powered By SmugWP We asked another couple, who turned out to be visiting, but had a house further up the street. This is how we met Clyde and Linda. They allowed us to put our tent on a small flat patch on their front lawn. It was nicely protected by a bush, which provided us with a little bit of privacy.

Linda works at the hospital in St. John’s and was in Hare Cove on vacation visiting Clyde. Clyde used to be a fisherman and is now a guide, taking tourists fishing and hunting in the woods of Newfoundland. Truly delightful people, whom we’d never have met otherwise.

Elevation Profile
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It’ll be a bright, bright, bright, sunshiny day…

Monday, August 18th, 2008

4 hr 20 min, 75 km

Today was a beautiful sunny day, and we had some spectacular views of this part of the Newfoundland coast.

The highway was much busier than usual. Unfortunately, the Trans Canada Highway is still closed at Gambo, and likely will be for several days. This means everyone who would normally be on the TCH is on the coastal route with us.

We discovered today what it is was like to jump off the road to the gravel shoulder to allow trucks to pass. We had read about many others doing this, but had never had to do it ourselves. We are very glad for our mirrors, as they allow us to determine if the vehicles behind us will pass us properly or not. We only jump off of the road if there is a semi coming and it is either a blind corner or there is oncoming traffic. The large trucks in Newfoundland always do a very good job of passing us with at least half a lane separation, so we return the favour when it isn’t feasible by getting out of their way. So far, our vote for the worst passers are trucks towing 5th wheel RVs. They tend to forget that their trailers are wider than they are, so although their trucks pass us well, the trailers sometimes come a little closer than we would like. Overall, our experience with traffic in Newfoundland and Labrador has been overwhelmingly positive, contrary to some reports we had heard.

We are staying at the Windmill Bight campground just outside of Lumsden. We have a nice private site, and there are both fresh water and salt water beaches, but there is no drinkable water or showers. It seems that our $13 gets us a picnic table and a flat spot with other people around us. Since the water is “do not drink” as opposed to “boil for X minutes”, Scott got to go back up the last hill to the convenience store we just left, and buy 8L of bottled water.

We are wondering if maybe wild camping might be a better thought for tomorrow night. If we can’t make it to Gambo tomorrow, it looks like wild camping will be our only option. The only requirement to making wild camping work is that we have enough water with us, which is easy enough if we plan for it.

Elevation Profile
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