Geoff's Tour
A Journal of My Bicycle Touring

Journey Notes

I got a late start again this morning. This time it was setting up the new Koodo phone (on the Telus network) that I will carry because our Fido phones are just about useless here. It wasn't working when I left but by about 1 pm, it started working. It's actually a nice little phone.

One thing that I learned today is not to trust the weather forecasts here!

It was really windy, gusting up to 65 km/h! It looked like that wind would mostly be behind me but not always. As I got going, I realized that it was hitting me mostly as cross winds and the first 2 hours of riding were really tough. The weather did not forecast rain but after about 30 minutes of riding it started raining. The sun was still out so for at least an hour I was getting rained on but still had warm sun and a beautiful rainbow off to my left, lower down in a valley. Eventually, the road turned more northernly, the wind was more behind me but I was also moving under some really dark clouds. I had no rain gear with me. Luckily, just before the rain really started to get bad, I heard the rumblings and anaemic horn of VanGo. I put on more rain gear, made plans to meet Rochelle for lunch at a gas station (almost the only civilization on the route today).

We were low on food so we ate at a gas station restaurant. Not the best meal I've ever had!

The afternoon dried out and warmed up so off went the rain gear again. The winds were not so gusty and were tail winds as often as cross winds so I made some pretty good time.

All in all, the roads today reminded me a lot of those in British Columbia. Lots of long hills in wooded terrain with big bodies of water and mountains to look at.

We are staying at a small, unserviced provincial campground. It is really nice and would be even nicer in warmer weather. Our camp spot backs onto a beach on a small lake and there is another beach/lake just across from us. And only $15/night!

The winds are howling outside and rain is in the forecast. In fact, the next two days look like rain, with Tuesday's forecast as “Heavy Rain”. I'm not looking forward to that! If that actually happens, I might take another rest day and wait it out.

Getting Internet access has been really tough since we arrived in Newfoundland. So posts might not be all that timely in the next few days.

Today was almost a rest day. At least until 6:30 pm. We arrived at the North Sydney, NS ferry terminal at about 8:30 am for our 11:30 am departure time. Three hours early seemed like a lot of time but there were lots of people ahead of us. The terminals had free showers so Rochelle and I took advantage of that. Unfortunately as Rochelle was having her shower, they announced that people should get back to their cars and prepare for boarding. It was only about 9:15 am! By about 10 am, we had driven onto the ferry and had a nice, comfortable seat looking out the rear of the ship. It felt like the ship had completely loaded with at least an hour to spare.

It was a really nice day so I spent some time taking picture as we left Sydney harbour. [At the time I was posting this, my internet connection was so bad that it's lucky that even these words made it. So no pictures.] The trip was expected to take about 6 hours. There was supposed to be WiFi on the ship and it did work for about 20 minutes but even then it was extremely slow. I found that the motion of the ship made it pretty hard for me to use a computer anyway so I listened to some podcasts and even slept a bit. Rochelle slept for most of the trip. We brought our own lunch and lots of other food so we didn't have to eat the expensive and not very interesting looking ferry food.

As we approached Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, we slowed considerably for an hour or so. I suspect that we were arriving too early. When we reached the harbour it was quite tight but the big ferry did a nice 180 degree turn in place and backed into the docks. The ferry unloaded at a rather leisurely pace and we were on the road in Newfoundland by a little after 6 pm.

We stopped at our first opportunity at an Newfoundland information centre at about 6:30 pm. It was closed. There are two ferries a day that come in here, one very early in the morning (about 5 am) and the other at around 6 pm. These are likely the only people who would use the information centre but it is closed when both ferries arrive. It must be a very quiet job when the are open.

At the information centre, I suited up and got on my bike for the 38 km ride to Doyles and the campground for the night. The weather looked a bit rough but this ride turned to be one of the most beautiful ride I have ever done. There were mountains with fog rolling over them. The sea with the sun setting on it. Pristine forest everywhere. Amazing! It was about 8:30 pm when I arrived at our campground. That was really too late to be riding. I had to be really careful to not miss the signs.

It turned out our friends, Alan and Mary Ann, with Belinda were camped out there as well so we spent some time visiting with them in Belinda.

The day started as many do, me trying to get out of the campground early and failing to do so. There is always an email to respond to, a chain to lube, or something else on the bicycle that needs some attention. The last few days have been quite wet so we've been trying very hard to dry things. VanGo has a bit of a swamp smell to it right now. Hopefully some dry days will rectify that. VanGo is going to need some pretty serious detailing when we get home!

My choice of routes was the Trans-Canada highway that followed the north shore of Bras d'Or Lake or a much smaller highway that went essentially through the middle of the lake. The south side route involved taking the Little Narrows Ferry and was just slightly shorter. The Little Narrows was only about 3 times wider than the length of the ferry so it was a quick trip. For me, bicycles were free, but VanGo had to pay $5.25.

This route had very little traffic on it until I almost reached Sydney. Misty rain showers hit me 3 times but they were short and fairly warm and by the afternoon, the sun was out most of the time.

There were lots of hills and one last one near Sydney that seemed to never end. Every time I went around a corner I saw more hill that seemed even steeper. It might not sound like it but it was really a pleasant day. Actually, any day on this trip where the weather is not being too difficult and things are not breaking is a really great day!

I reached our meeting spot near the ferry in North Sydney at about 4:30 pm feeling great. I realized that many people that ride across Canada stop here. The distance that I have covered, 7500 km is nominally considered the driving distance across Canada. I amaze myself thinking that I've actually covered all of that distance, one peddle stroke at a time.

This evening we spent some time in FutureShop getting some new cell phone equipment that will work in Newfoundland. Our Fido phones will be useless there and it's a pretty empty place so we need to improve our communications. One of these days, I will write about our communications technology that we've been using and how well it worked (and sometimes didn't work). Also picked up a USB WiFi dongle so my computer can once again connect to the Internet.

Tomorrow morning we get on the MV Blue Puttees for the 6-8 hour voyage to Port aux Basques, NL. It's seems like a much more elaborate process than I am used to for ferries with boarding passes, security and "check-in at least 2 hours before departure". After that, it looks like about 10 days to cross Newfoundland. It may be possible to cross it faster than that but we are limited in the opportunities to camp.

Today, I (Rochelle) will be writing our blog post because Geoff's computer's WiFi decided to die this evening - UGH! (We knew there was a reason we brought along a 3rd laptop :-) Needless to say, Geoff is now in the throes of getting our 7-year-old laptop in shape to be used and I offered to write up tongiht's post...

This morning, Geoff got a late start because there was a problem one of our ArtSites customers was experiencing and he couldn't seem to track down the cause. However, not to be defeated, Geoff finally did figure out the issue even though it took him most of the morning. He finally left around 11:30 AM, which was much later than he wanted. On the plus side, the rain was dying down and the skies seemed to be clearing. For most of the day, the rain was on and off, often with a heavy mist (much like Vancouver :-).

After Geoff left, I went to the supermarket to stock up on food and gas for the coming days. When I walked into the store, I saw another one of VanGo's younger siblings! It was a white VW Westfalia with much less rust, but in essence, another VanGo. I looked around to see if the owners were nearby and saw no one. So, I went shopping and got my gas. After I got gas, I was writing down our mileage (we're trying to get a better handle on our mileage these days) and the other Westy drove up beside me! Driving it was a lovely couple from San Diego - Alan and Mary Ann - who are also driving across the continent to St. John's, Newfoundland. They have been on the road for 4 weeks and we swapped stories and visited for almost an hour! At which point, I realized I really needed to go and catch up with Geoff for lunch ;-) We swapped contact information and wished each other well.

As agreed with Geoff, I took the backroad alternative and was hoping that I would catch up with him before it merged with the main highway and before a major bridge crossing. We weren't completely sure Geoff would be able to cross the bridge on the bike. I could see from my phone that I was getting close to Geoff, but as I got closer and closer to the birdge he still seemed to be ahead of me. I, eventually, did catch up with him, pretty much ON the bridge (which marked our "departure" from continental North America). We drove over to the Island of Cape Breton and had our lunch at the Visitors's Information Centre. Well, guess who was also there...yup, Alan, Mary Ann, and "Belinda" (named after the San Diego Zoo Beluga Whale :-). They were all thrilled to actually MEET Geoff and once again we took some pictures and visited for a little bit.

After lunch, Geoff and I took the Transcanada Highway (105) to the Glenview Campground in Whycocomagh, NS. (I'm still not quite sure how to pronounce this town's name ;-) There were some long hills, but Geoff seemed to take them all in stride and VanGo did his best :-) When I arrived at the campground, it was very quiet; it's amazing how quiet campgrounds are once again. Tomorrow, we're off to North Sydney, where we will camp for the night before catching the ferry to Newfoundland on Saturday morning. Here's hoping the weather continues to improve and Geoff is able to get a computer working for him...if you know Geoff, that's REALLY important!

Today was a hard day. It started off with a light rain and head winds. The rain got heavier and the the wind got stronger all day. I was soaked through after about 30 minutes and stayed very wet all day. I think the remains of hurricane Isaac.

There were parts of the route where I had to ride on the Trans-Canada highway. It had a good shoulder but rain and wind made it particularly unpleasant. The last stretch that I was on had wind gusts that I think were about 60 km/h.

I met up with Rochelle several times to get out of the rain. I even stopped at a mall were there was a covered corner that allowed me to just get out of the rain. Over a longer stretch, I was following an old highway that was likely replaced by the Trans-Canada highway. It ran through 3 underpasses under the Trans-Canada and I "camped out" in each one for a bit so I could use my phone and just drip for a while.

We had a campground picked out for tonight but it turned out to be closed for the season. Walmart where we come!

Tomorrow is looking a bit better. Less rain and the winds will come more from the southwest instead of east southeast as they were today.

Today was a long one as we passed from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia. It was long for a couple of reasons. The first was that our destination was one of a few campgrounds in the area. It was 130 km from last night's stop. Shortly after starting this morning, I took a wrong turn and added 10 km to today's ride. Then, as we were getting close to our chosen campground, we were looking at the distance to the next campground. I was feeling up to it so we went the extra distance, thus making it a 155 km day.

The day was supposed to have fairly stiff headwinds and they were in the morning but later in the day the winds were not as bad. After having a rest day yesterday, I seemed to have quite a bit of energy today.

The route today was quite flat until the last 40 km or so. It ran mostly near the coast and the various bays that are a major feature of the coastline here. It was all quite beautiful and ranks up there as one of the most picturesque rides of the entire trip.

Cellphone coverage was not good for a lot of the trip so Rochelle and I met up at least 4 times during the day. We ate lunch in front of the Tidnish Bridge Art Gallery and after lunch spent some time in there looking at the art and talking to some of the artists.

I am feeling pretty good given the distance and morning winds. The longer day today makes tomorrow's ride to Antigonish a much shorter 95 km!

You know when you are in Nova Scotia when....

Last night's campground was a 2-night stay. It was interesting to watch it change from a very active and loud campground to being half empty and the other half abandoned (seasonal campers). Tonight's campground seems to have about 4 other groups in it although it is quite full of seasonal RVs. I think it will be much more quite in campgrounds from here on out.

It was 5C (41F) when we got up this morning. That's winter weather in Vancouver! We had no electricity and thus no heat so it was generally a cold start to the day. VanGo could have used a scarf. I started off with full winter cycling clothes including doubled cycling gloves.

About 9 km out, I heard a bang and within 3 turns of my front wheel, I was running on the rims. Something had sliced a hole in the sidewall of the tire. I replaced the tube but it was bulging out of the slice in the tire a bit so I kept the pressure low and called for backup. Rochelle caught up after about 12 km and I put on the new tire that we bought in Winnipeg. That font tire was put on when the bike was new and had over 10,000 km on it. It could have gone quite a bit further although the sidewalls were looking kind of rough. It's still kind of patchable so we will keep it for a backup until I can get another spare.

I followed Route 134 from our campground just north of Saint-Louis de Kent until Shediac where I turned east onto Route 133. We met up at grocery store to decide where we were going to camp and decided on Sandy Beach Campground in Cap-Pelé. That was about as far east as we could go in that area and still make the turn south into Nova Scotia.

I was dealing with headwinds all day and they got stronger as the day went on. It was nice to get to our campground at about 5:30 pm. It is on a beautiful ocean beach so we took a walk on it before dinner. As you can see from this picture, the campground itself is not the most beautiful in the world. Looks a bit like a refugee camp.

I've had three fairly hard days and my left knee is feeling the effort, especially from today's wind, so I think that tomorrow will be a rest day. We've got a nice beach to hang out on on a sunny day.

It seems that tonight we get campground wide karaoke. It's not quite up to the standard of the real band that last night's campground had. I can imagine that after tonight the campgrounds will get a lot more quiet.

Oh, and today I crossed over the 7,000 km (4,350 mi) milestone. The tour is rapidly coming to its end. There are only 13 more scheduled days of cycling left.

Today's ride was quite different from yesterday's. I only had a couple of glimpses of the ocean and the route was much hillier although nothing that was all that challenging.

Soon after leaving Beresford, I drove through Bathurst and was quickly out into lonely forested highway as I crossed the base of a fairly wide peninsula (never figured out what it was called). I was surprised at one point to see a black bear cub next to the road. When he saw me, he ran into the woods. I was grateful that at that point I was moving at about 40 km/h and if the mother was near by, she wasn't likely to be able to come after me. You do feel a lot more vulnerable to wildlife when on a bicycle. Surprisingly, this is the first time that I've seen anything that might be even remotely dangerous on this trip.

I eventually reached Miramichi city and river. I quickly crossed the river and the the city and was back out into forest again. I was almost at the 100 km point before Rochelle caught up to me and we ate lunch in front of an abandoned retail building.

The last 35 km was quite uneventful although the strong tail wind that I had enjoyed all day eventually turned around and was a cross head wind, slowing me down considerably. Up until that point, I had an average speed of almost 28 km/h!

For the first time on this trip, the campground that we picked out had no serviced spots left and we had to take an unserviced one. It's too bad as it will be cold tonight and we will not be able to use our electric heater. Well, we have lots of good blankets!

I arrived around 4:30 pm and was really tired. The campground has a pretty good pool so we braved the large group of kids playing Marco-Polo and did a little swimming. It's really nice to just get into a pool after a long day. I don't swim much but it just feels good!

One surprise that I had in coming to New Brunswick is just how French it is. The province is officially bilingual but there were areas where there were no signs in English. Even the bilingual areas seemed to be predominately French.

Tomorrow, we will come back to the coast again just east of Moncton. We will be just north of the Confederation bridge to PEI that we drove across a little more than a week ago when we were touring the area with our goddaughter. The beaches here are supposed to be the warmest saltwater beaches in Canada and they were pretty warm. Hopefully, we will be able to take another dip tomorrow.

It was a very late day today. I finally got on the bicycle by 2:30 pm with 106 km planned. I was concerned about getting that done before the sun set. Luckily, there was a really good tail wind for most of the day and I was able to keep up a very high rate of speed. Having a day off yesterday helped too so I had more energy.

The route today was quite beautiful. I was within view of the ocean all day. From Campbellton to well past Dalhousie was all resorts and cottages. After that, there was a large stretch of rolling farmland that gave way to more resorts and cottages as I got closer to Bathurst. We found a nice campground in Beresford, just north of Bathurst. There wasn't a challenging hill all day! A nice change after the last week or so of cycling.

At the 94 km point in Petit Rocher, I stopped to take a picture of a nice house. Shortly after that, my rear tire started to get soft. I knew that I didn't have that much further to go so I was hoping to limp in but it eventually went flat. The culprit was a very sharp piece of crushed rock. That delayed me an extra 20 minutes in fixing it.

I rolled into the campground at about 7:30 pm. That's just about as late as I want to ride now as the days get shorter.

Tomorrow, we are heading for Saint-Louis de Kent, 134 km away but it looks like it will be a cool sunny day with nice tail winds again. I will try to get out early and take it a little slower than today.

It was a cool start to the day. It was cloudy and quite windy. The good news was that the wind would be a tail wind for most of the day. I started by cycling down into Campbellton and over the Restigouche River to Pointe-à-la-Croix and back into Quebec.

The road to New Richmond is newly paved and has wide shoulders. There were even reminders to motorists that bicycles were using the road. The combination of nice road and tail winds allowed me to beat Rochelle to our lunch rendezvous point in Carleton by a couple of minutes.

A lot of the drive was right next to rock beaches. There were a number of seaside towns although it didn't feel right as it was quite cold compared to what we have experienced this summer. I fear that summer is rapidly fading into fall in this part of the world. We need to get to our destination quickly!

Another hour of riding in mostly head winds brought us to New Richmond where we will be visiting various aunts, uncles and cousins.

Tomorrow is a rest day but I will be back to riding on Friday.

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