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Canada, Cycle Touring, Cycling Across Canada

Cycling Across Canada: The final stretch

People from the Maritimes are known for their friendliness and hospitality.  I was looking forward to riding through Atlantic Canada as I was entering the final stretch on my cycle across Canada.  The people I met along the way lived up to their reputation – the hospitality was endless and I consider myself lucky to have passed through so many of their towns and homes.

cycling across Canada

It was on the road out of Riviere-du-Loup where I discovered the joy of the Trans Canada Trail.  I knew this is where I wanted to be – some of the highways in New Brunswick are deadly – my little bike would not stand a chance with the big rigs thundering down the road!  I was told that the section of the Trans Canada Highway that I was about to ride was amongst some of the deadliest roads in Canada!  I had made it this far and had no intention of becoming a hood ornament now!

The Trans Canada Trail was nothing short of idyllic after a couple months sharing the road with all things motor (cars, trucks, caravans, tractors, motorcycles and the deafening roar of a pack of Harleys!!).  The path was gravel dust and well maintained.  Dotted all along were picnic tables and rest stops.  I was told that winter was most popular for this stretch of trail as skidoo groups would use the trail – B&B’s and restaurants had created entrances from the trail to make for easy access.  They seem to have thought of everything.  At the end of the day, as if right on cue, I came to the campsite at St Jacques.  To my delight, they even had a cyclists rate for camping.  After all, when you come by bike, how much space do you really need?

Nova Scotia

Camaraderie amongst cyclists is great – the next morning at the campsite, I was given some great tips for the final leg of my trip including taking the ferry from St John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia, and back on the road to Halifax.  Brilliant!

The adventure slowly drawing to a close, the autumn colours a sight to see, needless to say – I was overdue for another problem!  The Trans Canada Trail had been a little too perfect!  Turns out the vibration from the cycling for a day on the gravel dust brought severe numbness to my fingers.  I must have pinched some nerves – I couldn’t feel anything on both my pinkie fingers!  Not only that, a bolt had come loose on my bike rack – before long, the bolt gave way and I was left with a fully loaded rack rubbing on my wheel.  Won’t be able to get too far with that!  Drawing on the hospitality of the people, I knocked on the door of a house, or should I say, the only house on the stretch of road where the bolt broke.  Thankfully – a spare screw was procured – a temporary fix to a pretty serious problem.  There was no way for me to ride without some way of holding up that pannier rack!

The next task at hand – a more permanent solution!  Thank goodness for automotive stores.  After some good humoured laughter at my expense – yes, I understand this is an automotive shop and not a bike shop, and yes, I know that a car is faster….but can you still help me with a part!  When I explained that I had started in Vancouver – the joking stopped – I think these grown men and truck drivers were stunned!  In a moment, my bike was whisked away and repaired.  No charge.  They also insisted on giving me a few extra in case any of the other bolts blew!  Most appreciative, I was ready to be on my way when I was invited to dinner!  How could I refuse – one of the drivers was having dinner with his family and wanted me to share my adventures!

Very generously, one of the Midland drivers invited me to dinner with his family. You could see the pride on his face as he showed me his big rig, parked in the driveway! After meeting him, I found the Midland trucks gave me more space on the road…..perhaps they had been warned about the crazy girl cycling across Canada!!!

Once again, I was running out of daylight as I raced down the road in search of a campsite.  I was back on the highway and not to happy about it!  Too many trucks and traffic.  I decided to once again ask for compassion from a hotel, and camp on their lawn.  Being in the middle of no where with a giant expanse of  grass, the front desk was only too happy to let me put up my tent.  In a gesture of appreciation, the next morning, I splurged on a giant Sunday brunch.  Very decadent to be sitting in the restaurant, reading the paper and chilling like it was what I had planned on doing!

I whizzed through New Brunswick, stopping the night in Fredricton and enjoying the jazz festival in the morning.  Spent the night in Gagetown.  They say that the mosquitos are bad in Northern Ontario – well – their bad ass relatives must have flown in to Gagetown for the weekend – I could barely put my tent up.  Must have been quite the sight to see me try!  It was no better the next morning – for the first time ever, I skipped breakfast – got loaded and out as fast as possible.  Rode to the first country store to find that the weekend festivities had left their shelves bare!   Starving and cranky, pedalling down the road became a battle of wills.  I wanted to lie on the ground and get run over by a truck – but the mosquitos and black flies were so fierce – I couldn’t do it!  It was a full 57 kms before I found something to eat.

Finally made it to the ferry terminal – the ferry crossing saved me.  With bike neatly parked with the cars, I sat upstairs in a soft comfy chair and watched my first movie in months.  I also learned of the greatest campsite, just up the road from the ferry terminal on the Digby side – for little more than a campsite, I could have a small cabin – there was only a bed and space for my bags, but it was a decadent treat, especially as the nights were getting quite cool.  Some mornings, my tent would actually be wet from the dew.  This meant that it was wet all day on the bike.

My cycling tour was quickly coming to an end.  Hard to imagine that I had pedalled over 6,400kms through the summer.  My route had been pretty direct and some of the days had been long.  When I finally pedalled in to Halifax, the moment actually felt like a let down!  It had been such a massive undertaking.  People thought I would not do it.  While I never doubted I would make it to the Atlantic, I knew there were times that it had more than challenged me both mentally and physically.  There were tears, frustrations and times of boredom and loneliness.  More importantly – there had been moments of joy and elation.  People had been so kind to me – so many in fact, that I have not listed them all over this series!  They welcomed me in to their homes and their lives, and I am so grateful.  I hope they enjoyed meeting me as much as I did meeting them!

A friend of my father met me in a park in Halifax.  We did the symbolic dipping of the tire in the water…and poof – the journey had come to an end.  All that was left was to pack up the bike and fly back to Ottawa!

What can I say – it was a most incredible experience of personal growth and achievement!  I am lucky to call Canada home, and proud to share my country with you.  I hope you enjoyed reliving the adventure with me.

About Anita Mac

The bucket list just keeps growing! The more I cross off - the more exciting new destinations and activities I find! I have been fortunate enough to travel a considerable distance over the years. My love of many things, including travel, cycling, kayaking and photography fit together like hand and glove. I have to keep asking myself....where to next? I am happy to share my travels and photography through my blogs: http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com and http://anitamacphotos.wordpress.com Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! On to the next adventure!

Discussion

33 thoughts on “Cycling Across Canada: The final stretch

  1. Loving your post – great photos – thanks for sharing! Have a Beautiful Weekend:)

    Posted by cravesadventure | June 15, 2012, 4:50 pm
  2. Congratulations on a wonderful achievement, such determination! Such good luck and fortune to have met so many ‘good’ and caring people along the way. I acknowledge your bravery of getting through those ‘harder’ times and the wisdom now from all those experiences! x

    Posted by Yvette | June 15, 2012, 5:45 pm
    • Thanks Yvette! It is amazing how many people are out there who are so wonderfully kind! The people who took me in when I needed a place to stay, or shared a meal with me – they are such a big part of why this trip was so special! On one occasion, I met two women in a restaurant. We hit it off, and I was sharing my cycling story – we had a great time. They left before I did – and when I went up to the cash to pay for my meal, the waitress let me know that they had already bought it for me. Truly a random act of kindness – every now and then, I try and buy a random stranger a cup of coffee in the line as a small way of passing it forward! I am pretty sure this trip is going to stay a big part of me for quite some time!

      Posted by Anita Mac | June 15, 2012, 6:01 pm
    • Ohhh congratulation for great achievement.

      Posted by stephenhaseler | June 28, 2012, 9:52 am
  3. Amazing journey!!! You’re such an inspiration!! Because of your and others who have embarked on similar quests, I’m aiming to backpack across the states next summer, because IT CAN BE DONE!!!!! Thank you for sharing that piece of yourself with us

    Posted by skittles189 | June 15, 2012, 6:05 pm
    • That is awesome! What an amazing journey you are setting out on. I have read accounts from people who cycled across the US – something I may consider doing later, but wow – hiking will be so incredible! You will have to share your story. You will see and experience so much – so excited for your adventure. Remember the ancient proverb…The longest journey begins with a single step……you are going to have such a great adventure!

      Posted by Anita Mac | June 15, 2012, 6:12 pm
  4. Thanks for writing this blog. I am starting a much shorter bike journey soon…from the mainland in southern B.C., to and around Vancouver Island, with my ten pound Toy Poodle, riding back up.

    Posted by vicky1clicker1tr | June 16, 2012, 2:11 am
  5. What a fantastic journey. It’s been great reading about your trip and seeing some of the fantastic scenery through your pictures. If you do the States trip I’ll look forward to following that :)

    Posted by Darren | June 16, 2012, 2:24 am
  6. What an accomplishment Anita! I love the photos also!

    Posted by Travel Spirit | June 16, 2012, 8:52 am
  7. I very much enjoyed the ride. Thanks for taking me along.

    Posted by themofman | June 16, 2012, 6:32 pm
  8. Great blog and I loved reading it. I finish my cross Canada journey tomorrow in Halifax! Are you still in the city?

    Posted by Sam Edwardes | June 16, 2012, 10:51 pm
  9. wow what a ride. Oh and yea Ocean :)
    Wow-over 6,400kms through the summer. did I say wow? Thats a lot of riding. Thanks for posting all the pictures I really enjoyed them.

    Posted by thecaptainnemo | June 17, 2012, 12:43 pm
    • I am glad you enjoyed them! One regret from the trip – not taking more photos! The scenery was so stunning day after day, it was easy to become blase! Cycling across Canada was such a brilliant way to see the country and really experience the landscape!

      Posted by Anita Mac | June 17, 2012, 1:52 pm
  10. I saw the post a couple of days ago, but wanted to take the time to sit down and enjoy it since it was the last, so I’m just now getting to this.
    Wow, what a great adventure. I’m jealous – in a good way. Inspired is a better word. I know you said that it felt anticlimactic, but I hope in recounting it you feel a better sense of accomplishment. It certainly is one. Thanks for sharing the adventure. I’ve really enjoyed this series.

    Posted by texpatstarling | June 19, 2012, 10:50 am
    • I am so glad that I have inspired you! Cycling across Canada remains the greatest adventure I have had to date! While it was anticlimactic, I do feel like I have accomplished something huge. It was hard to imagine the magnitude as I was cycling – I could only take one day at a time. Towards the end, it started to add up in my head. I purchased my airfare ticket back to Ottawa before arriving in Halifax. All of a sudden, I had my first real deadline. Then I had to watch the miles as they ticked by. Loved every minute of it – it has left me hungry for my next adventure….more to come on that one.

      Posted by Anita Mac | June 20, 2012, 12:28 am
  11. I have thoroughly enjoyed your story of this epic adventure. I am loving my time in Canada. You have a wonderful country to be proud of and reading your blog posts has given me the opportunity to go places that I haven’t had the opportunity to go thus far. But who knows.
    Thank you once again for this series. I have enjoyed everyone.

    Posted by katehobbs | June 19, 2012, 11:13 pm
    • I am glad you enjoyed my cycling adventure. It was a dream trip – even the weather was on best behaviour! I am so glad you are having a good time in Canada. I am a proud Canadian and it always makes me happy to hear others are enjoying what we take for granted! Enjoy your time here – I hope you are able to see as much as you can. Stay tuned for the next series – my wandering ways are not over yet!

      Posted by Anita Mac | June 20, 2012, 12:31 am
  12. thanks so much for this…..i am hoping to do this in the next couple of years….any advice about bikes?…my current road bike not built for panniers!

    Posted by angelamr | July 15, 2012, 10:42 pm
    • That is awesome – I know you will have a great time!

      If you are hoping to use your current road bike, you could look into a Bob Trailer – it has a number of advantages such as keeping all your gear in the one bag. You can use a heavier dry bag to keep it dry. I have heard from others that it can introduce an element of vibration or shake although I have never used one myself.

      If your are going the route of panniers, you may consider adding a cyclo-cross bike to your garage. Very similar to your road bike, it is a little more robust and should have the capacity for panniers. I road a hybrid with flat bars similar to a mountain bike. I had bar ends attached – for such long distances, it was nice to have a second position for my hands.

      In the end, I would go with the road style cyclo-cross bike with panniers. I found them easy to manage and the cyclo cross bike would be lighter than the touring bike I used.

      Whichever system you use, certainly get out there and test it out – go for a weekend of camping and make sure you are comfortable with your gear. Keep most of the weight over the back wheels. I found I used the front racks for food and cooking gear, keeping the fuel separated from my dinner.

      Posted by Anita Mac | July 16, 2012, 8:09 am
      • thanks…i think the panniers are the route for me and will check out cyclo cross….i’ve always wanted to do this trip and at 56 yrs it seems like it’s time to make it happen! thanks for the inspiration.

        Posted by angelamr | July 16, 2012, 8:23 am

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