Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Maritimes

It is definitely getting warmer and nicer out but with the warmth comes those stupid annoying mosquitoes.  Since we usually are in the bush on the side of the road we are swarmed by insects constantly biting us.  Very annoying.  My legs are quite dirty and have blood stains all over, the same goes for Trevor.  But we have had a few days of rain and fog, and the dampness of course brings the slugs.  As such, we have had to flick the slugs off from our tents many mornings.  If it isn’t the mosquitoes, it is the slugs. 

You can tell the Maritimes is a region where many people come to retire.  Lots of elderly people around.  Also I felt the way of life around these parts is more relaxed.  To get to Prince Edward Island we had to be driven over the bridge as cyclists are not allowed to cross.  A nice retired gentleman drove us over the 12.9km bridge and said jobs are scarce in the region so he worked all across Canada most of his life doing various things.  He also said we were the first touring cyclists he had seen this season.  Usually they start arriving in June.   

Had probably one of the worst headwind days entering Nova Scotia off the ferry from PEI.  We had to get over Mt Thom which rises to around 230m and the wind just kept coming.  I was getting tossed around.  It took me most of the afternoon to ride the 30km stretch over this mountain.  There wasn’t really much of a shoulder so I had to ride the white line as best I could.  Trevor just rode along the gravel shoulder.  When riding along highways you also have to contend with the mental exhaustion as truckers and vehicles zoom by you.  The noise, their presence and being worried that you won’t get hit all play a part in the mental exhaustion.   

We finally met some other touring cyclists.  I thought we would have seen some earlier but our first encounter was in Truro, NS outside the Superstore.  Two young students from Winnipeg cycling from St. John’s to Quebec City.  They had been at it for about 3 weeks and were riding along the Canada Trail.  They saw a lot of moose and caribou in Newfoundland.  I was told by a man in New Brunswick that they introduced four moose into the wild many years ago and now they have a huge population of these mammals.  I hope to see some because we haven’t seen any yet.  Moose I read can be quite dangerous though as they get hit a lot on the road.  And they have a deadly kick so we must watch out. 

After we got out of Halifax I encountered my first bicycle problem.  My front derailleur doesn’t shift anymore.  So instead of being able to play with 27 gears I can only play with 9.  I am a little bit worried but I think I can manage it into Newfoundland.  We do plan on hitting up a bicycle shop in Corner Brook, NL to get a second opinion.  I do know when we get to Europe we will probably need new drivetrains.

We are now in North Sydney, NS and are just waiting for the overnight ferry to Newfoundland.  To kill some time we went to Subway for some grub and while in line I was asked by a man behind me if I was on the bikes and where we were going.  I told him we were doing coast to coast and then asked him where he is from.  Turns out he is Liberal Member of Parliament for the Sydney - Victoria constituency, Mark Eyking.  Nice guy!  He wished us well on our journey ahead.  

Anyway, the final province awaits us!  And hopefully some moose.  

Syrup… goes well with everything.  Here I am pouring it onto some bread.  My most recent concoction though is taking a mouthful of oats, then a swig of syrup and then mixing them up in my mouth and swallowing.  Syrup flavoured oatmeal.  Yum.  Not sure why I didn’t come up with this sooner.

This day started out great and was looking good with the sun out until Trevor suggested a shorter way to the Bay of Fundy National Park.  This shortcut of his led us into gravel roads which kept getting worse and worse.  First they were steep logging roads and then they turned into snowmobiling trails which you really can’t cycle on.  As a result we had to walk a lot of it.  At times we were ankle deep in water traversing through the trails.  This ‘shortcut’ turned out to be a major FAIL.  When we first hit the gravel road he told me it would only be for 2.5km so I thought I can tolerate that.  But once that was done he then said oh wait, looks like it will be another 16km of crap.  Then I got real pissed.  I kept venting off at him throughout the entire afternoon.  I realize the GPS can’t show how the roads will look but I needed to blame someone for the crap I had to go through so I blamed Trevor.  On the bright side our bikes held their own as they took a major beating.  Have to thank the guys down at Mighty Riders, the shop where we got our bikes in Vancouver, for setting us up with the bikes as they sure know their bicycles.

Alma, a quaint fishing village on the Bay of Fundy coast and home to some of the highest tides in the world… as you can see here.  Those boats definitely aren’t going anywhere at that moment. 

The Flowerpot rocks at Hopewell Cape.  We arrived before opening hours and since we don’t like waiting around very long I just went on in through the trail to check out these neat rocks.  I wasn’t the only there on the beach though… met a few girls taking photos, one from Newfoundland, one from New Brunswick and one from France all living in Halifax. 

Trevor at Confederation Bridge.  Kind of sucked that we had to take the bridge into PEI and the ferry out since it costs $8.25 to exit using the bridge but $20 to exit with the ferry!  You don’t pay going into PEI but pay leaving.  Not sure why the ferry has to be so expensive and only for a 75 minute ride. 

I never read the book so I don’t know much about Anne of Green Gables but here is Green Gables.  The house is on the left and barn on the right.  This shot was taken from the parking lot as I didn’t want to pay the $8 or $9 to enter the grounds.  Must say though PEI was nice to cycle through with the ample farmland and rolling hills. 

Peggys Cove, a really picturesque fishing village in Nova Scotia.  Spent a few hours just chilling around here and checking out Peggys Point Lighthouse, supposedly one of the most recognizable Lighthouse’s in the world. 

When I was a kid traveling to my grandparents’ house in Terrace I remember seeing a dead porcupine on the side of the road and was enthralled by it.  I had always wanted to see an alive porcupine in the wild.  Now I have.  Actually I saw two.  They both quickly skedaddled off though. 

A little bit of family history here… back in May 1955 my mom, aunt Maria and grandparents touched down on Canadian soil for the first time at this pier in Halifax arriving from Switzerland.  The pier operated from 1928 and closed down in 1971.  Pretty cool to see Pier 21 although it is now just an immigration museum.  So not a whole lot to see but the fa├žade. 

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and toss things.  Trevor first came up with a great idea to purchase a 1.5L bucket of ice cream that was on sale at the Superstore.  I caught on and did the same.  Had a delicious bucket of Bay of Fundy Mudslide ice cream after that very windy day in Nova Scotia… it was well worth it.  Anyway, he loves his ice cream so much he realized he could get a better deal by buying 4L in one go.  I didn’t follow suit this time round.  But I did buy a whole cherry pie which served me well and consumed it within a day.  His plan was to consume the ice cream within a few days but the ice cream melted overnight and he was left with over 2L of chocolate cream.  No ice.  Just doesn’t taste as good but he said it was still alright.  Then we go to a Superstore in Porters Lake where we were pleasantly surprised with another blowout Easter deal.  Never thought we would see another one since we are in late May and Easter was in early April.  But I’ll take it!  Speckled jelly beans, panned Easter eggs and Easter jubes on for half price.  Deals like that you must clean house.  I did just that but Trevor had a predicament in that he was already stacked with food and his ice cream bucket was taking up a lot of space.  So I told him to finish it or just huck it as he will regret later not cleaning house.  So instead of just tossing the remainder he reluctantly downed the rest of the chocolate cream right there.  He felt like crap after.  Who wouldn’t after downing over two litres of cream?  He couldn’t even think straight, nor think about food he was so sick of it.  It was hard enough for him to go back into the Superstore and purchase the rest of the candy.  His experiment with the 4L tub of ice cream turned out to be a failure.  A lesson to be learned from this is everything in moderation… but I don’t think that will catch on with him.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Packing on the Pounds

We continued along the sweet Waterfront Trail in Ontario all the way to Quebec.  Along the way we met a couple at Tim Hortons and the man had previously ridden across Canada.  As such we chatted for a bit and he gave us some tips on the road ahead.  I swear it seems a load of people have done the coast to coast ride or are planning to or want to do it someday.  Or they know someone who has done it. 

Once we entered Quebec it immediately felt like I was in Europe.  Definitely has a European feel to it.  The province really impressed me with its Verte Route which is a route devoted to cyclists.  This made cycling through Quebec so easy and enjoyable.  We did a half day of cycling into Montreal which gave us time to do a little exploring around Old Montreal and the downtown area.  Later in the afternoon we made our way to my uncle Joe’s sister Bluma’s beautiful home in the Westmount area of Montreal.  There we had a delicious dinner made by her housekeeper Lucy.  I ate and ate and ate.  It was great.

I thought once we crossed over into New Brunswick we would be back to speaking and reading English.  Not so.  All the way to Grand Falls was pretty much French speaking.  However, most people I met could speak English as well.

First impressions of the Maritimes have been positive for me.  We have been riding through a lot of forests and I love the smell of wood.  Got good whiffs in Edmundston.  Trevor is always big on feeding off the land so when we were approached by a nice man who told us of fiddleheads to eat he was quite interested.  Unfortunately we would have to cook them and I am not really bothered to do so.  Trevor also suggested eating dandelions but again, those need to be cooked so it isn’t happening.  Ah well.  Definitely two things I would like to try some day.  

Around Picton, ON, we had to cross a tiny portion of Lake Ontario with the ferry.  I enjoyed the ride even though it was only about 500m.

Almost rode over this little guy.  Got to be careful at times…

Me taking a breather outside the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. 

In addition to a delicious morning breakfast Bluma put together, she also sent us off with so much food.  Chicken, dried fruit, tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts, strawberries, bread, yogurt, bars and a litre of whole milk. Here I am engulfing the BBQ chicken.  So good. 
Trevor with Michel and Celine.  We first met Michel Beaudoin ( last year in mainland Mexico.  He was riding from Prudoe Bay in Alaska all the way to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.  Unfortunately his ride was put on hold when he collided with a bus in Peru and then went into a coma for a few hours.  He is now recuperating at his home in Becancour but plans on finishing his ride.  He will continue from the same spot where the incident occurred on the same day this year.  Good on him for not quitting!  We spent the night at his place and again had a delicious dinner and breakfast made by his wife, Celine.  I really liked the maple pie with maple butter… sure hit the sweet tooth.  We talked a lot about the crooked cops we were swindled by in Mexico as he too was approached by cops outside Acapulco (probably the same ones) asking for his camera and saying that he wasn’t allowed to snap photos.  As a former law enforcer, he got away without handing anything over and had them cowering at the end of it! 
The famous Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.  I got off the saddle for a bit and strolled around the city.  I must say that Quebec City and Montreal are two of my favourite cities in Canada.  Number one though is and always will be Vancouver… can’t beat it.
Man down.  I can be such a dumbass at times.  I was trying to capture the scenic trail we were on by turning on the Go Pro camera.  I wasn’t sure if it was on so I tried to stand up whilst pedaling and look to see if the red light was flashing.  Being the idiot I am and inability to multitask I then fell after riding into a soft patch of gravel.  Lesson learned again, I can’t multitask on a bicycle very well.  

To the bat poles… wasn’t expecting to see a bat en route but sure enough this one here was taking a nap outside the Atlantic Superstore in Grand Falls.

Grand Falls in New Brunswick.  Trevor found these falls more interesting than Niagara. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Into the Wilderness & Out through Suburbia

It was definitely a nice change of scenery when we entered Ontario with the forests we rode through and lakes galore we passed.  There are many nice picturesque cottages on lakes in western Ontario.  We saw plenty of wildlife too… eagles, hawks, galloping deer, marmots, rabbits, coyotes to name a few.  We also saw 3 black bears but they all scurried off into the bush before I could snap a photo.  They are more scared of us than we are them.  We were a little worried about bears prior to the trip so Trevor brought along some rope to tie our food up at night.  We never ended up using it, mostly because of laziness at night.  We now even eat inside our tents which is a ‘no no’ according to being ‘bear aware’.  Bottom line is we aren’t really concerned with bears especially now since there are only black bears here.  I was concerned in British Columbia and Alberta with grizzlies, but they were just waking up from hibernation as we were making our way through.  Had we been met by one of them, I probably would be singing a different tune. 

Our first glimpse of Lake Superior was when we entered Thunder Bay.  We arrived there late in the day and quickly concluded that the city is pretty ugly.  Since we were low on grub we went to the Superstore to stalk up.  A first nations man who appeared discombobulated came up to me while I was waiting for Trevor and looked as if he was going to make a move of some sort but then backed off.  I thought nothing of it but really watched him just in case.  Later two Superstore employees chatted me up about the trip and then gave some tips on the road ahead and a camp spot around town.  They said to watch ourselves around Thunder Bay because a lot of First Nations people are addicted to OxyContin and recently the government put a stop to this prescription painkiller drug.  As such, they have been more aggressive since they are no longer getting high. 

From Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury we saw signs warning about horse carriages on the road.  I was kind of confused by it until I saw some Amish people on the other side of the road in their carriage.  I never knew there was an Amish community in Canada.  I thought they were mainly situated in Ohio. 

From Parry Sound south it was quite a struggle to find our way down as cyclists are not allowed on the main highway.  At times we were on the highway when we clearly shouldn’t have been.  But sometimes we thought we were okay and then all of a sudden when we are already on the highway it shows a no cyclist sign.  Real annoying to see it there after we already made our way onto the highway.  You would think it would be wise to post the sign prior to entering the highway no?  Just a thought.  Anyway, we ended up taking the longer way round which turned out to be okay. 

Funny sometimes we meet people and feel like a D-list celebrity.  We have many people always approaching us asking us about our trip and even one person wanted to take our picture.  On another occasion, we met a few retired men at a McDonalds in Wasaga Beach and they said we were the first guys in a long time that had some celebrity status around there.  The last guy they remember walk into that McDonalds one early morning was 10 years ago, an NHL player who recently won the Stanley Cup!  It was flattering to say the least but pretty sure we aren’t on the same page as a Cup winner.  Another instance was in Grimsby where we were approached by a woman who wanted to shake our hands and was fascinated by what we were doing.  She said she has read about people like us but had never met anyone in person doing this.  She asked if we needed anything and we said we were good.  The man she was with guided us to a sweet camping spot right on the beach.  It was a great spot and later while we were setting up camp he came down in the dark with over $15 worth of Wendy’s food!  Seriously it was a super kind gesture.  We both didn’t expect that.  It was the first decent dinner we have had since Alberta.  I think they must have seen us eating our reduced priced food and thought we must be starving.  In addition to the food, he gave us a few coffees and since Trevor doesn’t drink coffee I drank his.  In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best move to down both coffees just before going to sleep as I didn’t get any shut eye that night.  I was buzzed throughout the whole morning.  

We are now in Toronto resting up at my friend Mark’s place.  Tomorrow we head northeast for Quebec and will likely take the Waterfront Trail for the most part.  Still a few days away but most of Ontario is now complete. 

One of many scenic lakes we passed in western Ontario.

Exiting Thunder Bay I got annoyed with Trevor because he went off into the distance and was too far for me to get his attention to stop.  I wanted to see the Terry Fox monument which was along the Trans-Canada Highway, the road adjacent to the one we were on.  When I finally got his attention we were about 7km past the monument and I got real pissed at him.  We exchanged heated words and I went back to see it and he went ahead only to meet up with me later.  I enjoy seeing sights along the way whereas he could care less.  I realize it is just a statue but it is interesting as it is around the spot where Terry Fox ended his great marathon of hope back in 1980.  The spot also afforded great views of Lake Superior and Thunder Bay.  What gets Trevor excited is finding something on the roadside like food or duct tape.  He will also gladly ride out of his way to hit up a Superstore or No Frills but when it comes to attractions he is not interested.  I will give him credit though for insisting we ride an extra 10km round trip and ascend 100m to get to Marathon, a small town on the Northeastern tip of Lake Superior.  There we cycled to an Extra Foods where we got a stellar deal on white chocolate… 99 cents per kilo!  This is going to be hard to beat.  I picked up 2kg and Trevor did 4kg.  It kept us happy for days on end.  Looking back we should have cleaned house but left one bag. 

One animal we didn’t see is the elusive beaver… alive that is.  Saw a lot of their work with cut down trees and dams but never saw these engineers out and about.

Trevor enjoys climbing things and so here he is in this heavy piece of machinery.  

Since I couldn’t take a photo of a moving bear I will take one of a stationary bear.  Here is Pooh Bear aka Winnie-the-Pooh again in his hometown of White River.  The story goes she was found here and purchased by Harry Colebourn back in 1914.  He named her Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg and when he was sent to serve in France he gave her to the London Zoo where she became popular with the crowds.  A.A. Milne saw the bear in London and inspired him to name his bear after her.  Then Disney buys the story and makes the movie and wam bam, Winnie-the-Pooh is a household name. 

Never would have thought it but there are some nice, sandy beaches on Lake Superior.  

Here I am at Pancake Bay in front of a wood carving place where I chatted with a retired man who gave me a free coffee.  Interesting this man started out as a cost analyst in the banking industry after university but after a short while called it quits and eventually set up some businesses such as the wood carving.  He didn’t have fond words for the banking industry as he said it took forever to get something done what with so many studies to see if what was proposed was the best course of action.  Then when they did come to a decision or think something was alright it never got done.  So all for not.  I found his comments amusing.   

Here I am on a totally demoralizing day, May 2nd.  We were met all day with strong, relentless headwind that would not quit.  All day I had wind blowing in my face and believe me strong headwind or crosswind is really the pits.  You have to push twice as hard and it feels like a constant uphill battle.  The wind finally let up late in the afternoon but shortly thereafter we were met with fierce thunderstorms.  While I was scouting an area for a camp spot a man pulled up to Trevor and recommended a spot nearby.  He insisted we both hop in his vehicle and just leave the bikes on the side of the road because no one would take them especially when it is raining cats and dogs.  I didn’t want to leave them so I stayed with the bikes while Trevor jumped in the van to check the site.  I waited a good 10 minutes and got completely hammered by the rain.  It came down in buckets.  It reminded of the torrential downpours I used to experience in Singapore and SE Asia.  It was nicer there though since it was always warm and usually would pass quite quickly.  This particular thunderstorm didn’t let up.  As a result I had a really wet night and my tent, sleeping bag and other possessions got wet.  It wasn’t fun. 

Back to back bad days with the weather.  Well it wasn’t as bad as May 2nd but as you can see here we hit another fierce thunderstorm.  Luckily we were undercover when it came down like crazy.  We just waited until it passed and then continued on to look for a campsite.  Not as quite a wet night as the night prior but still it wasn’t great. 

Here is one of our first glimpses of the T dot O dot, Toronto.  We camped out along the coast of Lake Ontario in Mississauga and had a great view of the skyline. 

We made it the famous Niagara Falls along with 100 wild hog bikers.  Not sure why but there were loads and loads of bikers riding their loud Harleys and what have you around Niagara Falls on Cinco de Mayo.  Not sure why.  Anyway, here is Trevor not so impressed with Niagara Falls.  If it is any consolation he did say they are the most impressive waterfalls he has seen but he hasn’t really seen many if any.  For me, Iguazu Falls still reigns supreme but I do find Niagara Falls striking.  I must say the surrounding area has changed immensely since I first went to Niagara Falls 10 years ago.  So many casinos have popped up and the whole place is very commercialized.  It was nice riding from Mississauga to Niagara Falls as we used the Waterfront Trail for the most part.  There are plenty of beautiful lakeside homes which made the ride that much better.  A nice, elderly cyclist directed us to a more scenic route after we got sidetracked taking a more direct and trickier route.  He told us he rode from Vancouver to Halifax about 5 years ago in a span of 41 days.  Quite an impressive feat!

Here I am throwing back a delicious chocolate milk courtesy of the Toronto Marathon.  We rode passed some of the Mississauga marathon and Toronto marathon as we made our way into the downtown area of Toronto.  We got trapped at the finish line and then mixed in with the finisher crowd.  There they had volunteers handing out free drinks and sure enough gave Trevor and me a few. 

First stop in Toronto: the CN Tower.

A big thanks to my old high school friend Mark who let us crash the night at his place in Toronto.  We also had some delicious Chinese food in Chinatown which really hit the spot.  Yum. 

Follow by Email