After more than 10,000 kilometers and 5 months plus a handful of days, 26 bears plus one grizzly, Venice Beach, Vancouver Island, the Rockies, the Prairies, huge Ontario and Quebec, the Maritimes, and way cooler than I ever expected Newfoundland, we arrived back safe and sound to Montreal. Visiting family, friends, and making friends out of strangers, we were warmly welcomed into many homes along the way.
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If you are interested in seeing highlights in the form of a pictures, you can view any of the (completed) galleries below, organized by State or Province.
This was it. The final day of riding. I was excited to see St. John’s, excited to have made it. It wasn’t too disappointing to have reached the end, I knew there were more places to be explored another time – just maybe not 5 months in a row of exploration, but certainly this wasn’t the last day of touring.
We started the day by returning to the family restaurant. Along with our regular breakfast we also tried the Newfoundland special bread called a Touton, a local white bread that is fried like a pancake and then served with molasses. The servers at the restaurant remembered us from lunch yesterday and were surprised to see us back. They were also excited for our last day, and by the time we were leaving some other patrons who we never spoke with were shyly waving at us from the window. Before we took off one server ran to the door, shouting out to wish us good luck.
We rode nearly the entire way on the Trans Canada. We had under 100km to ride and there was no where to stop along the way. Just as we got started, the rain began. It was a very challenging final day. There was rain, strong head winds, and hills. It felt like a final test before we could be allowed to finish. The kilometers passed slowly, we worked for every one. Then eventually, the road we had been riding south east on turned north east, and our headwind turned into a tail wind. Suddenly Newfoundland relented and let us finish. We were pushed along for many of the final kilometers.
Before we reached St. John’s we passed through Mt. Pearl. We saw the name of the town which caused some minor concern about whether we had a large hill ahead to climb. But as it turns out, we’d finished all our climbing. We were already at the peak of Mt. Pearl, and had only to ride downhill into St. Johns. However it wasn’t that easy. As has happened before, the Trans Canada had a sign posted to say No Bikes just after we passed the exit to another road. So we turned around, walking with our bikes the wrong way on the highway to return to the exit.
It didn’t take long before we had company. Within seconds of us stopping to decide our route, another cyclists stopped to talk with us. He offered to show us the way into town. While talking a bit with him, a second cyclist stopped. He was riding a Surly with Ortleib panniers and was in the initial planning stages of bike touring. So at the street corner we spent quite a while with these two cyclists before we started into town with the first. (His name has escaped me! When I remember I’ll adjust this post)
We took an old rail trail and then Water St. all the way into St John’s. Our new friend showed us George St and took us to the city center before he continued on with his day.
St. John’s was more amazing then I had thought. I intentionally chose not to look at any pictures of the city to keep it a surprise, which I was very happy to have done. I had no idea there were small mountains on either side, which then open to the Atlantic, framing the towns downtown. I didn’t know about the jellybean houses, and that they were all throughout downtown. Maybe I had seen a few colourful houses in pictures, but I didn’t know how prevalent they were. It was wonderful to have arrived. As we stopped for pictures, the sun came out.
Newfoundland is incredible. Absolutely incredible. Even before leaving the ferry, looking out as we were pulling up it just looked different and unique. It was exciting to have made it, I was very happy I never gave up, and that we were able to arrive within the timeframe I had before I had to return to Montreal for some classes.
Immediately leaving the ferry we had all the welcome signs, and we made sure to stop for some pictures. Then we rode up a huge hill to reach the information center. They encouraged us to visit Placentia, but that would mean riding down and then right back up the same size hill we just rode up so we decided against it. There is only one way to ride, so we rode the 50 or so kilometers towards the Trans-Canada highway. After all the ferry traffic passed us, we seemed to have the road to ourselves. It was fun looking around at the vastness of the land around us.
There was only one place to stop on the way to St. John’s, which is where the highway we were currently on met up with the Trans-Canada. Here there was a dodgy motel, a chicken restaurant and another family restaurant. We stopped at the family restaurant for lunch and ended up deciding to find a place to stay in the town of Whitbourne. We chatted a bit with the servers in the restaurant before we left for the motel Jesse found online that was in town. So we rode into Whitbourne looking for the motel, only to discover it was actually that dodgy motel we had just passed on the highway. The extra riding wasn’t disappointing since it was still early in the day and we still had the novelty of being in Newfoundland to keep even a small town with very little to offer exciting.
We returned to the motel on the highway and Jesse checked in. The person ringing us in told Jesse just after his credit card was swiped that there was no water in the room. Well, there was water but it wasn’t drinkable and it was brown. And it wasn’t just because of the water that this seemed like one of the worst places we’ve stayed on the trip. But our standards aren’t too high and it was dry, warm, and offered us a place to be and sleep so we managed just fine. And we had already read this review, so we knew not to expect too much: “It smelt like a crack party at Elton John’s house. The obscurity of the lobby made me feel like a squirrel among rabbits. The free tv was the best part; well at least I hope it was free.”
The ferry to Argentia leaves at 5pm and it was only 20km from Bill and Helen’s place, so we weren’t in too much of a rush to get going. We had breakfast and then Bill took us on a quick drive and tour around Sydney.
We gave ourselves enough time to reach the ferry by the required 3pm cutoff. When we reached the ferry we saw Megan’s bike, and then soon saw another couple Lois and Paul who we had seen earlier in Pictou. Having all just ridden across Canada and now having less than 150km to go until we were done, we could share in each others excitement, and stories of highlights and lowlights from the road. It seemed we all were happy to be almost complete, sharing a certain level of exhaustion we were all feeling, but still happy for having had the experience.
The ferry ride itself was quite enjoyable – it always feels like a bit of a luxury to be moving without any effort. It was even more enjoyable too since Jesse decided to splurge on a cabin. This ferry discourages sleeping anywhere but in a cabin. Though you may be able to get away with it in the theater, it would be hard to spend so much time trying to sleep in an upright airline type chair. It did seem like some people managed to sleep in the lounge, but they had a video playing of the rules on board that said this wasn’t allowed.
As for the food, there was an expensive buffet, or an overpriced small shop which sold basic sandwiches, hot dogs, and soup. Neither option was very appealing.
Today we had only an 80km ride which was quite nice. We were to stay with my dads friend Bill in Sydney River, and with very few place on the route I knew we wouldn’t be tempted with too many places to stop. However the thick morning fog encouraged us to stay a bit longer at the Tim Hortons in town.
Around 10:30 we really got going, riding through on and off mist, rain, and sometimes just cloud cover. It was a cool day but the extreme moisture and humidity in the air kept us from feeling too cool. We did have some nice views along the lake, even if we missed the Cabot Trail.
We stopped for lunch at a roadside stop, Me and the Mrs, which was really the only place to stop on the way. And to its credit, its past clientele includes Sir Paul McCartney. From there I called Bill to let him know where we were at. Only 30km more to his place.
As we left our lunch spot the rain became harder but knowing we didn’t have far to go kept the rain from being to disappointing.
We arrived at Bill and Helen’s in the early evening and enjoyed talking late into the night with them. We didn’t get an opportunity to try out their pool, but in saving the Cabot Trail we know we will have to return another time.