Sunday, 14 September 2014

The End

'This is the end, my beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end'

 After 926km and over 26,000ft of ascent since we left Port Aux Basques, we arrived at St John's.

Trans Canada cyclists often talk about the hills around Lake Superior from Thunder Bay to Sioux Ste Marie. Well Newfoundland is a tougher cycle with more hills, more ascent and rate of ascent. I've worked out the GPS figures to confirm it. 

I can see why many trans Canada cyclists take the longer ferry journey to Argentia and the short cycle to St Johns. I didn't say I agree with it but I can see why. 

We had to make a late booking for a hotel in St Johns and the only place we could get on the internet was 'Hillview Terrace Suites'. Their slogan is 'a place like home'.  You couldn't make it up! ( for anyone who doesn't know - we live in Hillview Terrace, Edinburgh).

Our end point was going to be Signal Hill. There are a number of locations trans Canada cyclists use as the 'finish' and Signal Hill is the most popular. It is a high promontory overlooking St Johns and the Atlantic Ocean. It was also the reception point for the first transatlantic wireless signal by Marconi in 1901 from the UK. It was a fitting place to end.

We then made our way to Mile 0 where Terry Fox started his Marathon Of Hope.

Our final total was 8,192km or just over a fifth of the circumference of the world at the equator. Canada is wide. 

A question that we were often asked on our travels was 'why'. 

Some people just couldn't understand why we did it and it's something I have often thought about on our cycle. It wasn't the challenge or could we do it?  Yes it would be tough but finishing was never a question. 

We did it for the adventure. It was adventure that drove man across the oceans and across vast unknown territories such as Canada. Whilst we cannot hope to equal that pioneering endeavour we did travel through a marvellous country, meeting so many welcoming people and making new friends. There were highs and lows but every single day was an adventure.  What do we get from this? Well, as George Mallory, known for attempting the first ascent of Everest, said:

'What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy.  And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to live. That is what life means and what life is for'

So to answer the question, 'why would you do that?' my reply is ' well, why wouldn't you?'


Being on the road we have to eat where we can and with nearly 5000 'restaurants' in Canada, it's only appropriate that we give an honourable mention to Tim Hortons. 

A Canadian institution who hosted us on countless occasions, provided us with many many breakfasts and cups of coffee, millions of donuts and free wifi. Thank you.


Yup there is a town with that name and Susan made me take the following pictures. She can be so juvenile at times :)

Gander to St Johns

Leaving Gander we headed for Terra Nova Provincial Park. We were warned about the hills and the warnings proved correct and over the next 80km we climbed over 3000ft. We were pretty tired by the time we set up camp at Newman Sound.

The following morning the hills just continued. The road was a roller coaster. Newfoundland was proving to be a hard finishing stage. But for every uphill there is a downhill and this was a big descent down to the 'pond'. It didn't help that I had changed the rear brake pads the night before and they still had not bedded in. White knuckle ride. 

At Joey's Lookout there were great views over Gambo.

Everywhere we went we were met by friendliness and kindness, including the motel owner who found us a place to sleep when all the rooms were full and the mystery guy who paid for our lunch. The only thing that wasn't kind were the hills. They just laughed at us!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Goosey Goosey Gander

After 7,836km we have reached Gander, Newfoundland.

Gander is known for its international airport that was once the largest airport in the world.  Until the early 1960's it was the transatlantic refuelling point for piston aircraft and early jets travelling from Scotland and elsewhere. 

Today it is the refuelling stop for Susan and I but, unfortunately, we will not be visiting the famous Gander International Lounge.  Instead, we are staying at Sinbad's Hotel. What's that all about? Honestly, this place has a big sword as it's sign and it hasn't been decorated since the 70's. Our room has pink wallpaper and a green carpet. Nice. 

Our cycle here has been all ups and downs as we climb about 2,500ft each day. We cycled via Deer Lake (55km), Sheppardville (95km) Grand Falls Windsor (115km) to Gander (95km). Our stops each day are largely determined by where we can find accomodation. It's just hills and trees in between and nothing else. And I mean nothing. As our cycle to Deer Lake was relatively short, we enjoyed a day camping by the lake drinking beer and cooking burgers. It doesn't get much better. 

On the road from Sheppardville to Grand Falls Windsor we hit a southerly headwind. Yes it's the nature of the road across Newfoundland that we spend much of our time travelling either north or south! This was the strongest headwind we have had in Canada. Winds were strong to gale force. Added to that we had a 30km long hill to climb. It was astonishingly tiring. 

I have read about other cyclists crossing the Prairies against headwinds and getting to really hate the wind, almost on a personal level. Well, sitting on the front of the bike I began to understand what they were talking about.  I cycle along talking to myself (Susan gives up listening), moaning about the hills and the wind. If I could catch the wind I would have given it a dam good talking to. It's at times like these Susan just calls me DQ (drama queen). She does remarkably well and has a real inner strength to get through days like these (oh I know she will read this and tell me to take it out but she can't do it herself so she's stuck). 

At the end of a long day we made it to the Robin Hood hotel and ordered in pizza. The following day, as tired as we were, it was back on the bike to Gander. That's long distance cycling for you, keeping going day after day.  Thankfully, the wind had gone home (probably tired of me moaning at it). The skies were blue and the hills were still there but it's a lovely place to be. 

We now have just 345km or so to reach St John's and we aim to reach there Saturday morning (we don't fly out of St. John's until the 17th so no rush). 

Also, George Street, St John's, has the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in the whole of North America. If you had read an earlier post you will recall that we cycle in accordance with my Plan. Now you really don't think it's a coincidence that we arrive in George Street on a Saturday!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Port Aux Basques to Corner Brook

Leaving Port Aux Basques we stopped by the 'welcome' sign for the customary photo.

For the next 40km or so the road was undulating but not too bad for cycling. Then the bigger hills started at the same time as the rain. A local guy told us Newfoundland had had a great summer and it hadn't rained like this since May. Just our luck. We were soaked through by the time we got to the campsite at Crabbes River.  It was a another poor campsite.  So many campsites are set up for huge recreational vehicles which are so popular in Canada.  This means that washroom facilities and showers for campers are not properly catered for.  You wouldn't believe the amount of chipboard constructions we have had to endure on our trip across Canada.  I could go on but let's just say if you visit Canada don't take a tent. 

The following day the sun shone and it was hot. We put on our wet clothes from the previous day to get them dry and we cycled to Barachois Provincial Park where, again, the camping facilities were poor. At this site we even had to boil our drinking water for 5 minutes before it was safe. Thankfully, I was a Boy Scout and never travel without my water purification tablets. 

To get to this campsite we had to leave the main highway and cycle down a steep winding hill, dropping about 300ft.  In the morning we spoke to the Park Ranger and loaded the bike and trailer onto the back of his pick-up truck.  I then jumped onto the flat bed and held the bike whilst Susan sat in the passenger seat.  Off we went with the speed of a bullet.  The bike immediately lurched back and I just managed to hold it and onto the side of the truck whilst wrapping a leg around the trailer.  I would have knocked on the widow for them  to slow down but I couldn't let go of anything. 

After a few minutes we reached the junction but before I could draw breath the vehicle turned right and started down the highway. Thankfully, we were now going downhill and I could let go and knock on the back window.  We stopped and both Susan and the Park Ranger got out smiling. Where were we going? I asked, trying to not swear and be calm.  'Oh he volunteered to drive us to the top of the next hill and I said that would be nice thanks' said Susan smiling before adding 'I have no scruples!' 

You see Susan knows that I would regard that 'lost' quarter mile to the next hill top as 'cheating'. This is the same Susan who wanted to get the ferry from Thunder Bay to Saulte Ste. Marie and cut out 9 days of cycling.  She actually called me 'clif the b*****d' for a few days after that. 

Many people would agree with her I know but you either cycle across Canada or you don't. Both Susan and the Park Ranger were now having a good laugh at my expense especially when I insisted that we cycle back up to the junction to start where we had left off.  I could tell the Park Ranger thought I was barking mad. 

As we later cycled down the road I asked Susan if they had given a thought to me in the back of the truck as it raced up the hill. She replied 'we were just chatting away and yes I thought he was going a bit fast and I would have been cold on the back if it was me'!

On we cycled through another hot day and the road continued to go over hill after hill. The scenery looks a bit like how I imagine Scotland looked before they cut down all the trees. 

By the time we reached the Glynmill Inn at Corner Brook we had climbed over 7000 feet of hills since Port Aux Basques. That night, we dined on a feast of beer and marvellous homemade burgers. Nobody said it was easy.