Posted by: Silver | October 14, 2012

Alberton to Saint Stephen

Alberton to Bedeque:
Distance: 117 km
Ascent: 505 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 35 minutes

Bedeque to Moncton:
Distance: 118 km
Ascent: 547 m
Cycling time: 7 hours

Moncton to Sussex:
Distance: 86 km
Ascent: 825 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 25 minutes

Sussex to Saint John:
Distance: 84 km
Ascent: 898 m
Cycling time: 6 hours

Saint John to Saint Stephen:
Distance: 120 km
Ascent: 1099 m
Cycling time: 8 hours, 35 minutes

Ironic, isn’t it? The more there is to write about, the less time there is to write about it! There may only be a month of my journey left to go, but the pace certainly isn’t letting up, so this is just a ‘holding’ entry to let you all know that I’m still fine, I’m still pedalling away, and I’ll write a proper entry just as soon as I get a moment!

We’re finally getting a bit of autumn colour, so here’s a little something to keep you going until the next entry!

Posted by: Silver | October 4, 2012

Montague to Alberton

Montague to Souris:
Distance: 49 km
Ascent: 329 m
Cycling time: 3 hours

Souris to Charlottetown:
Distance: 94 km
Ascent: 526 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 50 minutes

Charlottetown to O’Leary:
Distance: 117 km
Ascent: 923 m
Cycling time: 7 hours, 45 minutes

O’Leary to Alberton:
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 72 m
Cycling time: 55 minutes

Another milestone reached! As I cycled to Charlottetown, I cycled my (drum roll please)…. 20,000th kilometre! Yes, if I’d been going in a straight line at the equator, then by now, I’d be more than half way around the world!!

And rather wet.

Fortunately, however, I’ve actually managed to stay miraculously dry since my last posting, despite several fairly spectacular downpours which all very considerately happened while I wasn’t on the road. 🙂 They did, however, make the Confederation trail rather heavy going… 😦

The Confederation Trail is another former railway line that’s been turned into a multi-use recreation trail: it runs right across the island, with branch lines out to most of the larger towns (of which there admittedly aren’t that many on Prince Edward Island!), but sadly, it isn’t paved. In fact, in some places, the surface was really pretty poor indeed. I stuck with it for a fair chunk of my journey to Charlottetown, just because it was so pretty – and so wonderfully relaxing to be away from all the traffic – but in the end, I had to give up in favour of actually getting where I was going before bedtime… 😦 I had planned to take the trail to all my destinations on the island, but after Charlottetown, I rerouted onto Highway 2: full of traffic, but fortunately equipped with a nicely paved, rumble-strip-free shoulder. 🙂 And it’s just as well I did, or I might still have been out there now! As you can possibly tell from the length of time it took me to cycle to O’Leary, I wasn’t moving very fast anyway, on account of some very unhelpful headwinds; if I’d been having to battle with the cycling-through-treacle-ness of the Confederation Trail as well, it would have been a very long day indeed…!

And another benefit of being on the number 2 was that it made it very easy for CBC to find me! Yes! Finally! My first real interview on CBC TV! They even asked me to do the intro to the show (they apparently get a ‘civilian’ to do the “You’re watching Compass on CBC” bit most evenings), so I was able to get a mention in for SOS Children’s Villages right at the top of the main evening news programme: Yay for SOS! 🙂

Unless you’re genuinely colour-blind, it really would be quite hard not to notice that PEI has a bit of a thing about red; whether it’s the rocks…

… or the blueberry fields…

… or the evening sky, red is everywhere here!

In fact, about the only place where there hasn’t been much red yet, is on the trees! PEI apparently has a fall colour season just as lovely as Cape Breton, but the exceptional summer we’ve been having doesn’t seem to want to end! (btw, this is a shot of the not-very-trike-friendly Confederation Trail, outside Souris)

Posted by: Silver | September 27, 2012

New Glasgow to Montague

New Glasgow to Pictou:
Distance: 30 km
Ascent: 248 m
Cycling time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Pictou to Montague:
Cycling distance: 39 km
Ascent: 323 m
Cycling time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

A couple of baby rides this time, that brought me to my final new province – Prince Edward Island! With several presentations to Rotary clubs about SOS Children’s Villages, several more media interviews, and an energy level that’s seriously starting to look like that of someone who’s been on the road for more than two years, though, I was quite happy to be in an area of reasonably closely-spaced communities for a while!

There are two ways to get onto Prince Edward Island (unless you count flying or being born there, of course…): by ferry to the eastern end of the island, or over the Confederation bridge to the west end. In neither case is there a charge for getting onto the island… you only have to pay to get off PEI! I didn’t actually know this when I was planning my route, nor did I know that the bridge toll is less than half the ferry fare, but I was certainly very happy when I found out! So I made full use of my hour-and-a-quarter free ferry ride – and fell asleep! (Or at least, did my best to: the seats on the PEI ferry are even less conducive to restfulness than those on the Newfoundland ferry, but hey – adapting to, and making the most of, whatever circumstances I find myself in is far from an uncommon occupation on this journey!)

My first stop on the island introduced me to the first funeral directors I’ve stayed with: another fascinating insight into a world that I suspect most of us generally prefer not to think about. A lot of the roads on the island have no shoulder, but the traffic seems quite quiet now that the tourist season is pretty much over, so hopefully I won’t be requiring their professional services any time soon…!

One of Pictou’s unofficial attractions is the huge number of cormorants who have taken up residence on and around the old bridge pilings next to the causeway. There are ‘no stopping’ signs approximately every 2ft (or so it seemed!) along the causeway, to discourage people from blocking the traffic while they take photos, but I reckoned I wouldn’t get in the way too much… 😉

Thanks to my host in Pictou, I enjoyed a fascinating visit to the replica of the ship Hector, which brought the first wave of Scottish immigrants to this part of Nova Scotia. Rather made my journey look like a walk in the park, and certainly made me very, very grateful for web cameras and email!

Another point of interest in Pictou that I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed without my ‘local guide’ was the only building in the whole world (apparently) with a window in its chimney!

Posted by: Silver | September 23, 2012

Inverness to New Glasgow

Inverness to Mulgrave:
Distance: 91 km
Ascent: 852 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 35 minutes

Mulgrave to New Glasgow:
Distance: 119 km
Ascent: 1255 m
Cycling time: 7 hours, 40 minutes

By all accounts, this has been an exceptional summer. I don’t think there was a single person in the whole of Newfoundland who didn’t mention to me just how wonderfully and unusually sunny it’s been, and the same has been true throughout the Maritimes. I, of course, am not complaining! I appreciate that it has given me a thoroughly unrealistic impression of what this season is normally like around here, but I’m certainly thanking my lucky stars for every single sunny, bug-free ride I’ve had! (Apparently, according to one of my hosts (who works in environmental health), hot, dry summers might be great for keeping the numbers of mosquitoes down, but they do also tend to lead to swarms of house flies instead. This is slightly depressing for anyone dreaming of a bug-free summer, but since house flies don’t seem to congregate in the bushes that I periodically have to frequent during long days of cycling, and aren’t in the habit of biting through my cycling clothes as if I were naked, I’m happy to have flies… ;-))

That being said, though, fall has begun (Happy belated Equinox everyone!) and although my two most recent rides were still mainly sunny and warm and pleasant, they were windy. In the case of the ride to New Glasgow, very windy, and for most of the almost 120 km journey, in my face too – to the extent that I was actually having to ride with my face turned to the side, watching where I was going out of the corner of my eye, since even with my super-duper cycling glasses in place, the wind was strong enough to make my eyes water if I looked straight into it. On the bright side, however, for the one big downhill of the day, the wind was actually at my back, which helped me nudge my personal speed record just another fraction higher: it now stands at 75.6 km/h! 😉

More than a month after coming across the causeway onto Cape Breton island, the mainland of Nova Scotia finally came back into view again

The Cabot Trail may be the ‘famous’ place to see the fall colours in Nova Scotia, but I bet this stretch of the Trans-Canada highway outside Antigonish looks every bit as spectacular… if you’re not there just a couple of weeks too early… 😦

It rained almost the entire time I was in New Glasgow, but fortunately, it stopped just long enough for me to be able to enjoy a very pleasant walk with my host along the beach in front of her house 🙂

Posted by: Silver | September 18, 2012

St John’s to Inverness

St John’s to Placentia:
Cycling distance: 52 km
Ascent: 449 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Placentia to Sydney:
Cycling distance: 48 km
Ascent: 472 m
Cycling time: 2 hours, 55 minutes

Sydney to Baddeck:
Distance: 86 km
Ascent: 888 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 45 minutes

Baddeck to Inverness:
Cycling distance: 33 km
Ascent: 382 m
Cycling time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

I may have finally turned round to start the ‘home stretch’ back to Ottawa now, but the pace certainly hasn’t let up at all. Several more back-to-back days of cycling, with several formal and informal presentations thrown in for good measure as well, have all been enjoyable and beneficial for SOS, but have left minimal time for anything else, including catching up on the sleep I almost entirely missed out on during the ferry crossing back from Newfoundland. It’s my own fault of course: I completely forgot the Canadian attitude towards prohibitions, so when the safety video said I wasn’t allowed to sleep on the nice, comfy, padded benches in the bar area of the boat, like a good Brit I believed them and instead tried unsuccessfully to find anything even vaguely resembling an acceptable sleeping position in the ‘reclining’ seats whose designer was clearly a double agent commissioned by the airline companies to make their seats appear comfortable. The Canadians, of course, all slept in the bar…

Happily, though, I have cause to devote most of this entry to some heartfelt thanks towards several businesses whose generosity brought a few moments of personal enjoyment into my busy schedule just recently:

First, there was Philip’s Café in Placentia: not only did Philip not raise any objections to my shamelessly sitting at his counter and hooking into his wireless network to check my emails before boarding the ferry, but when I explained what I was doing, his assistant insisted on giving me a chocolate brownie for the journey as well! Did she know they were my favourite?!

Then, when I got to Inverness, I found that my wonderful host there had been busy rounding up some lovely local support: not only did she persuade the Mull café and deli in Mabou to provide me with a complimentary meal (funnily enough, that involved a chocolate brownie too… ;-)), but she also arranged free entry for me to the regular Sunday afternoon ceilidh at the Celtic music interpretive centre just down the road in Judique (well, it is ‘just down the road’ if your host is also kind enough to drive you there – by bike it would have been about three hours!). Many readers of this blog will doubtless be entirely unaware of how much I love to dance since it’s one of the many things that I get almost no time or opportunity to do on this journey, so this was a rare and very precious treat for me. 🙂

And of course, as always, there is my unending gratitude to all the people who have hosted me and who have made donations to SOS Children’s Villages since my last post – thank you all!!

This is the view from Kelly’s mountain, outside Sydney. At 240m, it’s possibly one of the smallest, gentlest passes I’ve been through, but Nova Scotians do seem to be very proud of it, so I didn’t like to say too much… 😉

I knew I would be a little early for the autumn colours in Cape Breton, but my ride through the highlands between Baddeck and Inverness was still beautiful

A beautiful end to a beautiful afternoon at the ceilidh 🙂

Posted by: Silver | September 12, 2012

Glovertown to St John’s

Glovertown to Clarenville:
Distance: 97 km
Ascent: 1144 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 25 minutes

Clarenville to Arnold’s Cove:
Distance: 61 km
Ascent: 648 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Arnold’s Cove to Norman’s Cove:
Distance: 54 km
Ascent: 701 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 40 minutes

Norman’s Cove to Victoria:
Distance: 98 km
Ascent: 1164 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 30 minutes

Victoria to Harbour Grace:
Distance: 18 km
Ascent: 293 m
Cycling time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Harbour Grace to Conception Bay South:
Distance: 77 km
Ascent: 918 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 5 minutes

Conception Bay South to St John’s:
Distance: 19 km
Ascent: 276 m
Cycling time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Six consecutive days of cycling through the hilliest part of Newfoundland (or at least, the hilliest part that I was going to be going through…), six consecutive days of packing, unpacking, visiting with new hosts, talking to newspapers, and trying to keep everything organized despite having no cell phone reception and occasionally difficult internet access. Six consecutive days of non-stop exertion when I was already about two months overdue for a rest day: I was honestly rather glad that hurricane Leslie kept me in St John’s for an extra day, and took out the power so that there really wasn’t anything else I could do except rest!

Yes, I have now witnessed my first hurricane… or rather, my first ‘hurricane-strength, post-tropical storm’ to be exact. It wasn’t one of the most damaging ones that Newfoundland has ever seen – in fact, the storm I watched in Lloydminster back in July of last year was actually more impressive-looking in its violence – but I was certainly glad that my schedule, and my very kind hosts in St John’s, both had sufficient flexibility to allow me stay inside and watch through the window as the storm passed by! Once again, HGVs were being blown off the road, so I doubt Ranger and I would have stood much of a chance. 😦

One thing that did surprise me, though, was the bright blue skies! The winds may have gusted at more than 130km/h, but St John’s, at least, had almost no rain at all. There was a tiny part of me that was almost tempted to take Ranger out on a quiet back street, just for the experience of moving backwards whilst pedalling forwards… but somehow, I found that this was a temptation that I could manage to resist… 😉

My route between Glovertown and Clarenville took me through another National Park: Terra Nova this time. Many magnificent views and majestic hills, but I was actually most struck by the abundance and variety of mosses and lichens to be seen: no, that’s not snow under the trees…!

There’s been a noticeable change in the air just since my last post: the autumnal nip is definitely upon us. The season is coming to an end, and it’s obviously been a bit of a hard one for this butterfly in Clarenville

After admiring the view of Spreadeagle from Dildo…

… it was on to Shag Rock! No, honestly: look it up on the map if you don’t believe me! My ride to Victoria was nothing if not ‘interesting’…

Thanks to the fact that St John’s is located on a narrow peninsula, I was able to watch both the sunset, on Conception Bay beach…

… and the sunrise, at Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America! But as you know, this isn’t the end of my journey: I’ve still got more than two months to go!

Posted by: Silver | September 3, 2012

Grand Falls-Windsor to Glovertown

Grand Falls-Windsor to Lewisporte:
Distance: 75 km
Ascent: 532 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 55 minutes

Lewisporte to Gander:
Distance: 63 km
Ascent: 492 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Gander to Glovertown:
Distance: 68 km
Ascent: 603 m
Cycling time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Numerous little highlights to report since I last posted an update…

The media across Newfoundland have continued to take a welcome interest in what I’m doing and the cause I’m doing it for, although my latest TV appearance was actually entirely unrelated to all my tireless ‘media relations’ efforts: a cameraman from the CBC just happened to be heading home from another story when he drove right past me! I was still on the road when the segment aired, so I’ve no idea how the impromptu interview turned out, but several people later commented that they’d seen it, so it was evidently at least reasonably memorable!

People have also been stopping me to make donations! As I’ve mentioned before, this is not something I actively encourage, for security reasons, but it does occasionally happen, and since my last update, it has happened several times! One couple drove out especially to try and find me after they saw the CBC news item, and another chap not only made a very generous donation to SOS Children’s Villages, but donated a wonderfully energy-packed bag of organic trail mix to me as well!

With presentation opportunities sadly somewhat thinner on the ground over the summer, I’ve even had a tiny bit of time to be a ‘tourist’: in Lewisporte, I was treated to the most fascinating guided tour of the area by my host, whose family roots are firmly planted in the rocky bays there. When I expressed surprise that the old houses often seemed to be out on the exposed points of land, rather than nestled away in the sheltered bays, she pointed out that this made it a lot easier to see what the weather was like out at sea, before you put out in your boat: just one of many glimpses into a completely different way of life, moulded by the rugged conditions here. The communities along the coasts, away from the Trans-Canada Highway are known as ‘outport’ Newfoundland, and it’s undoubtedly true that this is where the unique character of Newfoundland is still to be found at its strongest. As a vegetarian, however, I ‘unfortunately’ had to forego the cultural ‘pleasure’ of eating cod tongues…

Only in Newfoundland? This garden, just down the coast from Lewisporte, was somebody’s private garden, but it was open for everyone to come and enjoy 🙂

My host’s tour took us all the way out to Twillingate, where another surprise was in store for me: there actually used to be a gold mine out here! If you look closely, you can still see some bits of old mine equipment in the photo

I didn’t quite manage to out-run the rain on my journey to Glovertown, but I still couldn’t resist stopping to take in this magnificent view of Gambo

A rare quiet moment at the boat launch in Glovertown: many people have boat-access-only cabins around here, and as my stop coincided with the last long weekend of the summer, the launch was definitely getting well used!

Posted by: Silver | August 28, 2012

Deer Lake to Grand Falls-Windsor

Deer Lake to Springdale:
Distance: 129 km
Ascent: 685 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 35 minutes

Springdale to Grand Falls-Windsor:
Distance: 106 km
Ascent: 605 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 5 minutes

There is nothing more likely to break the heart of a triker than to see a beautifully wide, well-paved shoulder rendered completely unusable by a dirty great rumble strip hacked through the middle of it. And sadly, I’ve had my heart broken more than once as I’ve made my way through Newfoundland… Fortunately, however, that is all that’s been broken, despite the best efforts of an extremely inconsiderate dump truck driver who refused to slow down and wait until it was safe to pass me, despite the fact that I was doing a good 60km/hr down a good-sized hill at the time. I mean, seriously, it really wouldn’t have killed him to slow down that much for a few seconds, but instead, he forced me onto the rumble strip, which – at that speed – might very well have killed me, if I didn’t have such good brakes and so much experience of handling the trike these days. Because when something as light as a pedal cycle hits that sort of uneven surface at that sort of speed – trust me, you will lose control of it…

Happily, however, most drivers continue to be extremely courteous and sympathetic of my plight: one lady who stopped at a gas station at the same time as me said she’d been commenting to her children about the rumble strip in the shoulder and how dangerous it looked like it was making things for me. I could do nothing other than agree vigorously. I know I’ve said it before, but if they could just make them a little bit narrower, and put them a little bit closer to the edge of the shoulder, then they’d help keep everyone safe, instead of putting my life in danger every time they appear…

Once you get off the Trans-Canada Highway, of course, the rumble strips disappear – but then again, so does the shoulder. Fortunately, the road to Springdale was fairly quiet, and people certainly seemed quite excited that I was going there: most people who are simply ‘crossing Canada for charity’ never leave the TCH, but then again, as you all know, I’ve never simply been ‘crossing Canada’, and the residents of Springdale have as much right to know about how wonderful SOS Children’s Villages is as anyone on the main highway!

One of the disadvantages of this journey is that you never know what’s coming up: I’d already pulled into a very unscenic dirt side road to eat my lunch before I came upon this perfect picnic spot just a few miles further on. One of the advantages of this journey, however, is that it really doesn’t take long to work up sufficient appetite to justify stopping for a ‘second lunch’…

There are very few places where the TCH meets the coast in Newfoundland, but just after Springdale is one of them: although even then, I had to go down a little side road to get this shot

In common with many other salmon rivers all across Canada, the Exploits river in Grand Falls-Windsor has a fish ladder to help the salmon reach their spawning grounds above the hydro dam that’s been built at, yes, some Grand Falls. I was more impressed by the view looking downstream, however…

Posted by: Silver | August 24, 2012

Sydney to Deer Lake

Sydney to Port aux Basques:
Cycling distance: 30 km
Ascent: 252 m
Cycling time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Port aux Basques to Stephenville:
Distance: 170 km
Ascent: 1550 m
Cycling time: 10 hours

Stephenville to Corner Brook:
Distance: 85 km
Ascent: 801 m
Cycling time: 4 hours, 55 minutes

Corner Brook to Deer Lake:
Distance: 56 km
Ascent: 385 m
Cycling time: 3 hours

Did you all read the statistics today? Did you all notice the really big number?! Yes, I’ve just set yet another new personal distance record (the 170km, or nearly 106 miles, from Port aux Basques to Stephenville), and once again, it was all a little bit unintentional and unplanned…

Even before I arrived on the island of Newfoundland (the Sydney to Port aux Basques statistics specify cycling distance because most of that route involved sitting on a ferry…), people had been telling me about The Wreckhouse: a stretch of highway outside Port aux Basques where the winds blow so fiercely at times that even trains could get blown off their tracks – or at least they could have been before “they took our trains away” (that was back in 1988, but you get the feeling that there’s still a certain amount of bitterness about it on the island…). When the forecast for the scheduled day of my departure from Port aux Basques promised heavy rain and strong winds, therefore, I didn’t exactly fancy my chances. Waiting until the following day would mean that I would have to get all the way to Stephenville in one go, rather than splitting the journey over two days as originally planned, but my very thoughtful Stephenville host offered a solution to that ‘little problem’ too: she was going to be driving home up the very same highway as me that evening, in a large van, so the plan was that I would just keep pedalling until she caught up with me, then we would bundle Ranger into the back of the van and drive the rest of the way!

But for whatever reason, when I got out on the road, I was just smokin’ along! There wasn’t much tailwind, but I was still making outrageously good time, and actually made it all the way to Stephenville a good hour or more before my host got home! (Fortunately, her children were home and made me very welcome, so I didn’t have to sit on the doorstep waiting!) Truly, I have turned into a cycling machine…!

So the only other necessary element in this change of plan was an extra night in Port aux Basques, but fortunately, my extremely kind host there said it would be no problem for me to stay; in fact, with a quiet night in prospect, he said he would be glad of the company. What neither of us knew, however, was that all his friends had been planning a surprise party for him, at his house! If I hadn’t felt so incredibly bad about sticking such an inadvertent spanner in their works, I’m sure it would have been funny, and everything did work out OK in the end (thanks largely to the amazing chivalry of my host), but it did bring home to me that, even after more than two years on the road, this journey can still throw me any number of curveballs…

I don’t want to perpetuate any stereotypes about Newfoundland weather, but this was the view as I arrived in Port aux Basques on the ferry, and no, I haven’t turned this into a black and white photo: that’s what colour it was…!

I was on such good form the day of my ride to Stephenville, I didn’t even mind the horribly steep hill that appeared after more than 160km of pedalling! And I minded it even less when I saw the view from the top!

There are a lot of moose in Newfoundland, and moose and cars do not make a good mix, so I wasn’t surprised to see protective fences along the road on my way to Corner Brook – but they did make ‘nipping into the bushes’ somewhat difficult…!

Can you see the Old Man in the Mountain?! (hint: it’s just his face, he’s towards the bottom left, looking to the right, with a pointy chin and a black cap) This is a local landmark just outside Corner Brook

Posted by: Silver | August 17, 2012

Party now on THURSDAY, November 15th

SOS’s media person thinks he will be able to get much better publicity for the charity if I don’t arrive back in Ottawa on a Friday, and so, since getting SOS as much publicity as possible is the whole point of this journey, I’ve moved my arrival into Ottawa back one day to THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15th. Hopefully this won’t cause any problems for any of you who were hoping to be there?!

And just while I’m writing a little ‘information’ entry, the map is up to date again, but once again, google is refusing to show the entire route at the same time, and to be honest, I’ve given up trying to fight it, so if you want to see the latest lengthening of the line, you’ll need to scroll down on the left hand side and click through to the second page. Highly unsatisfactory, I know, but maybe that’s just the price you pay for using a free map!

And the final bits of information to bring you up to date on are that I have now cycled more than 18,000 km, and raised more than $35,000 – indeed, if unconfirmed rumours of private donations are to be believed, it’s actually a minimum of $37,000! Yay for SOS! 🙂

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