A Travellerspoint blog

The last leg: Fredericton to Halifax

Finally home!

First of all -

WE MADE IT! I’m typing up this last entry from my livingroom in Bridgewater, in pyjamas, and loving the fact that we can just veg out for the next few days.

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Now I’ll fill you in on the final chapter!

In Fredericton, after doing internet stuff in the morning, and getting my bike fixed at a wonderful bike shop, we headed out. Let me just say right now - kudos to all the bike shops across Canada who refuse to take payment (or much payment) and treat tourers like gold. We headed across the river and took pictures of the gorgeous rain clouds that were heading our way (well, at least we enjoyed them while we could?) and would rain on and off on us til halfway to Gagetown. Happily, the rain clouds seemed to be on our side because they encouraged us to seek shelter in the “biggest gift shop of the east” in Burton - where we met Jana, who was kind enough to let us relax under her covered patio at the store. After asking us all about our trip and finding out that we were planning to stay in Gagetown for the night, she ended up inviting us to spend the night with her and her family for the night! It was supposed to be our last night camping, but we were more than happy to have a place to stay!

On our way to their house we were waylaid by a giant patch of very abundant wild blueberries peeking out from the woods on the side of the road and spent about 15 minutes stuffing our faces with them - Mary Anne was almost speechless she was so happy, as blueberries are a staple at her cottage north of Peterborough. We then stumbled across a patch of bunchberries and had to stop again. Another reason bike touring is so wonderful - can’t see these things from the car!

When we got to their place in Gagetown we couldn’t believe our eyes. They live at the top of a big hill overlooking Gagetown and the Saint John River and floodplains. You can see for miles and miles and miles, including the cheery little ferry chugging across the river! Their house was under construction and you could tell it was going to be just gorgeous - curvy lines and nooks and big whole tree trunks sprouting through multiple levels. Jim, Jana’s husband, was doing all the work in the house and we got the “grand tour” from their daughter Sophie. We also met Nicholas, their son, Marilyn, their adopted Nanny, and Max, the very well behaved black lab. We got to eat a delicious supper together, watch the bike races in the Olympics, and got separate beds! Wonderful.

The next day we biked to Saint John - the first part of the morning it was misty and drizzly, but our views of the river were fantastic. It’s up higher than it usually is in the spring due to all the rain! There were some wall-like hills, but also some lovely straight and flat sections along the river. At one point I saw a mother and daughter walking on the road carrying a quart of some sort of fruit, and said hello - they said hello back, and then ended up stopping us to pour a huge handful of ripe, fresh, blackberries into each of our eager outstretched hands!!! Yes!

We stayed in ultimate luxury in Saint John - Brennan’s friend Jason in Saskatoon had given us coupons for the intercontinental hotels group, and we finally used them on the “Holiday Inn Express”. With all the rain, kind people, and family and friends in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, we ended up inside every day in those two provinces! It was nice to wander around downtown Saint John and reminisce, as we had both been there last year on our Otesha bike tour, and have delicious restaurant food.

Got up early the next day to catch the ferry to Digby, NOVA SCOTIA!! Mary Anne went inside to grab our tickets and I noticed another biker guarding his bike and another - just like I was keeping an eye on mine and Mary Anne’s. His tiny back paniers suggested that he probably wasn’t touring, but when I wandered over to ask where he was coming from, he said, “Victoria”. “Me too!” I laughed. Then I asked when he left - “July 16” was his answer. JULY 16!??? He (Stuart was his name) and his friend Kyle had left from Victoria over two months after Mary Anne and I, making their journey across Canada less than a month long. They figured they were averaging about 250 km a day! The day before, they had biked from Grand Falls to Saint John (over 300 km) and were planning to ride into the night that day to make it all the way to Halifax from the ferry. Although we thought they were a little crazy (just to be doing the trip that fast!), we had loads of fun talking with them on the ride across the bay of Fundy and wished them luck! Poor guys... they were hurting a little bit. haha.

The ride after the ferry to Bridgetown was at first quite hilly, but then flattened out after Annapolis Royal. We spent the night with my good friend Josh Campbell’s parents - the first time I’ve met them, but such a friendly couple and made us a great meal and lent us their massage chair for the night.... MMMM!

I was pumped for our ride into Wolfville, but it decided to rain almost the entire way and blessed us with a headwind as well. I was disappointed because I had been really looking forward to showing Mary Anne the gorgeous routes along the valley but ended up having to take the shortest way to get in out of the pouring rain. Again, it started raining halfway through eating our lunch, and as we were trying to stuff the last bits of delicious spicy chicken and bacon sandwiches down (bought in a wonderful local bakery in Middleton), we met two other tourers, Ross and Megan, who were spending a month exploring Atlantic Canada. It’s always a treat meeting other tourers, especially on deserted roads where you least expect it! They told us the weather here had also been atrocious (10 straight days of rain) but were both still smiling and happy.

Steve, my roommate from my last year in Wolfville, welcomed us with a massive feast and a big hug!

Mary Anne and I spent the rest day in Wolfville doing a little tour around the woods paths and town, as I had been telling poor Mary Anne a thousand stories about Wolfville our whole trip. It was fun to keep running into people I knew - that just didn’t happen on our trip usually!!! We ended off our day with a nap, a drive to the look-off, and a BBQ before hitting the hay. It was actually sunny all day and we soaked it up, surprised at how hot it got and how good it felt! For me it was great to be back in Wolfville, and I was surprised at how I felt - more like closure than wanting to be back there - I love it in Wolfville, and it will always feel like home, but I’m thinking I may want to be somewhere else next year, if only just to meet more people my age and explore a new place.

Our last “official” full day’s ride to Halifax was typical. Headwind, and rain near the end of the day - we had to laugh - it just wouldn’t be our tour without rain. Before the bad weather hit, we blasted the music we had been listening to all tour on our tiny stereo we mount on my bike (haha, only the basics on our tour) and climbed, and climbed, and climbed - who knew that Mt. Uniake in NS was actually quite a big hill???? When we decided to stop for lunch it really started to look like rain, and I just couldn’t stand the thought of being interrupted halfway through our meal by rain again - so we ended up eating lunch under the flatbed of a headless transport truck on the side of the road. Yep. It was soooo scenic. Later we stopped at an Esso station pumping out terrible and wonderful 80s dance tunes, and stopped for a 5 minute dance party and to refill our water. It was another one of those giggle-till-you-cry kind of days - our favourite.
Once we hit Sackville, though, the rain really started to come down. It poured. So much that we abandoned the thought of going to Point Pleasant Park that day to officially end the tour (we couldn’t take pictures in the rain!) and just went straight to our friend Kristy’s house, who biked with us last year on our east coast tour. We chatted and ate and got into dry clothes, and tried to get it into our heads that - we had done it!

The next day was our official “end of tour” day - my mom, dad, and grandparents came to meet us at Point Pleasant Park, where we dipped our tires into the Atlantic and took lots of pictures.

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We drove to Mahone Bay and then rode, unloaded, back to Bridgewater where Mary Anne and I will relax and play until Wednesday, when Mary Anne goes home. Mary Anne managed to get a massive screw stuck into her tire and got a flat on the way back (only her second of the trip, whereas I’ve had 5), so we arrived home a little late and more than a little ravenous! My aunt and uncle Sarah and Rory and their kids Alexandra and Nelson, who we had visited in Revelstoke BC, were home and had made us all a delicious dinner! And Rory and Nelson presented both Mary Anne and I with a cross-Canada medal that they had made at my Nonna’s house before coming down. We were both so touched and glad to have gotten a “real medal” for our journey!!

Boy, will it be weird to be separated from her when we have spent the last 3 months so dependent on each other!! One of us always has to be with the bikes and our stuff, so that means taking the other one into consideration all the time. We’ve worked hard to communicate really well over the course of our trip so that we can each enjoy it and not go crazy! I have to say - although we’ve of course had our moments of tension, she has been the best cross-Canada biking partner I could have asked for, and I’m so grateful that we didn’t have to deal with fighting with each other on top of fighting our way up mountains, across prairies, and into headwinds!!

So... a few final thoughts... I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that we’ve made it - it’s hard to grasp just how big Canada really is, even after biking across - we keep saying to each other, “We did it! I don’t feel it yet!” Maybe on our second full day in Bridgewater it’ll start to hit us, as we haven’t spent more than one rest day anywhere in Canada on our trip. I think it’s funny that we ended up doing the trip in a year of record rainfall... and that we used to joke in Saskatchewan about a weather system following us all the way from the Prairies. We didn’t think it was possible. But it is, evidently!! And it’s STILL raining as I write in this blog!!!

People keep asking me if I’d do it again - my answer is - I’m definitely glad I did it, but I’ll have to wait a few months to even think of doing another tour! I’m not a huge traveller at heart - I’m more of the settle down type. But I loved seeing all of those new places and meeting all sorts of wonderful people along the way. It was great finding out just how kind people in Canada really are!!

I hope to upload one last blog post showing a graph of our distances, final distance stats, and some more interesting facts sometime within the next few days!

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Posted by Ericabikes 06:33 Archived in Canada Tagged bicycle Comments (2)

Quebec City to Fredericton, NB

Please... stop raining!!!!! (!!!!!!!!!!)

-17 °C

Writing in this blog on a very expensive internet cafe in Fredericton, my favourite city visited last year during Otesha. Raining lightly this morning.. hopefully it will stop by the time we head out for Gagetown.

I think I last left off in Quebec city, where Mary Anne’s friend Benoit was taking very good care of us (ie, feeding us delicious food).

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He accompanied us to the ferry that would take us to Levis, where thus began the day of chaos to St. Jean-Port-Joli. We realized we had left our “Route Verte” book (bike routes in Quebec) at our room in Laval, and I got another flat tire (my first during actual riding). We started biking at 9:30, but after all of our troubles and the ferry and the headwind and the rain, we ended up in St. Jean-Port-Joli at 8:00, our second-latest finish. We did, happily, pass through some ridiculously cute towns... very pretty with the mist across the river between the lowland and the laurentian mountains in the background, and darker clouds in behind.

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From St. Jean Port Joli to Riviere du Loup we had the biggest headwind I think since the prairies, and it was COLD! A lot of putting my head down and realizing that my odometer was reading 11, 12, or 13 km/hr. It rained in the morning (surprise, surprise) but then only lightly misted and then even “cleared up” (well, was foggy and cloudy but stopped raining, blessedly). We met another tourer, Roland, who had also started off from Vancouver. He was from NB and we ended up biking with him for a bit, and then meeting another tourer from Japan who had started in Calgary, Masa. Masa must have had over 80 pounds of gear, including a GUITAR (if you can believe it!!!!) on his back that he had bought in Ottawa – so he could learn how to play on the road!! His plan was to travel into Gaspe, Halifax, New York, then Washington. Wow! We all ate a hearty lunch together and then kept on biking, the boys eventually pulling ahead. The rest of the afternoon was spent battling a wind so strong you couldn’t concentrate on anything else but PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH. The fog obliterated any scenery along the Fleuve-St. Laurent beyond 200 m, so if you asked me if it was pretty, I wouldn’t really know!!

Fortunately, Roland told us that there was a little hostel in Riviere du Loup we could camp at, so we stopped there for the night, and visited with Roland again, three other bike tourers Roland had last seen in Manitoba – Jim, Mike, and Dieter, and Hetti – a very inspiring 63 year old woman travelling across Canada by bike for the second time!! Jim was telling us all sorts of stories about their trip and especially the bugs – “Well, I’m a Buddhist you know, so at first I was taking the mosquitoes out of the tent in a little plastic bag,” (this next part accompanied by puppy dog eyes looking out from long eyelashes and forlorn expression) “but then I thought, there are so MANY of them! And it was really starting to hurt! So I thought... I’m just moving them on to the next life, right???” hahaha, cute.
From Riviere-du-loup to Cabano : Now, I’m not sure if you were watching the news on August 3, but there were actually houses being evacuated and roads caving in because of the flooding, and guess what we were riding in??? That’s right... the rainstorm that created those flooding conditions. Ahhhhh. Rain, another headwind, huge hills (almost all uphill til 20 km before Cabano, thank goodness it was only a 70 km day), and a very sore back that just keeps getting sorer. We were working so hard we thought our brakes were rubbing for about an hour. We finally got to Cabano and booked ourselves into a very French speaking B and B, just disgusted with the weather. At the grocery store, we had a scare when we thought Mary Anne was having some serious bike issues (she couldn’t make the pedals move) until she realized that her glove was lodged into her derailleur. After we regained sanity and wiped off our tears of laughter, we spent a fun night in the B and B where our hosts built two fires to dry our tent and clothes, and we practised our French all night.

From Cabano to Edmunston – threatened rain all day and did sprinkle a tiny bit after lunch, but nothing major – thank goodness. We met up with Roland again on the road. He was motelling it that night (too cold and wet to tent, he said – and the campground we were planning to stay at that night agreed – they were completely flooded) – so we ended up splitting the cost of a room. Oh well, we’ve done lots of camping  I can’t explain how wonderful it is to run into someone you know (if only even for 2 days) on the road – just an altogether great feeling. During the first part of the ride in Quebec, we had headwind but could see blue skies ahead. We didn’t get the blue skies til the next day, but pretty much as soon as we crossed into New Brunswick, the wind changed to a tailwind! “GOD’S COUNTRY!” proclaimed Roland, as he is originally from Moncton.

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Edmundston to Perth Andover – AHHHHhhhhhhhh – sigh of relief. Sun, secondary highway, and the Fleuv-St. Jean. Thank you universe. Feels like our first sunny day in a long, long time – since before Quebec city. It was beautiful, and we met Roland again in St. Leanord, and said goodbye to him again in Grand Falls. Could not BELIEVE the amount of water rushing from the dam in Grand Falls – what a sight! Broiling, frothing water! We ate a delicious lunch on our most comfy picnic spot yet – the patio furniture in front of the Atlantic Superstore. We were surprised to make it halfway through lunch before getting kicked off by the manager who told us that a woman was coming to pick it up (she did!). Through all the hills to Perth Andover we laughed a lot and found stories we hadn’t told each other yet (getting more and more difficult, hahaha) – the shoulder was wide enough to ride side by side, so it was easy to chat. Mary Anne told me at dinner I’m like a comic book character because of all the wacko expressions I make. That night we were planning to camp – but – the manager of the campsite offered us his unused, clean trailer – yes please! We are lucky girls sometimes!

Perth Andover to Woodstock – Debatable secondary road – bumpy, and chased by 3 dogs off leash, more on their leashes. First dog experiences thus far, and we know from last year that it probably won’t be the last. You know that you are in the maritimes when you start to see lobster traps everywhere (mostly on top of cars so far) and every fifth house uses their front yard as a garage, trash dump, or metal and scrap yard. Yep, home at last. ;)

Woodstock Rest Day – spent the day with Aunt Joni and uncle Dale, and Joni’s good friend Anna Marie. We always expect our rest days to be... more restful than they are, but always they seem rushed and full of stuff we “need” to do – Laundry, job searching/internet stuff, cleaning our bikes, ... etc. Too bad because it would have been nice to spend more time visiting with Joni, who I don’t get to see very often! We did have the most delicious breakfast made for us when we woke up (heaven!) and an amazing supper –roasted veggies and steak, mmmmm. Dale took us on a tour of his Christmas tree farm, and we got to see the huge multi-person trimming machine that they use. All the tree-trimmers (about 25 rough-looking guys our age) were eating lunch in huge trucks and giving us both big eyes (what, girls? Out here?) Dale razzed us for the rest of the day about how the guys had a tough time starting to work later on that day – they were eager for us to come back and watch them at work!!!

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We went down to Joni’s cottage on a lake later on that day, cleaned our bikes (while it rained), and visited with everyone, including David and Hazel (my aunt and uncle) who had come up for the evening. We did get a little time to – breath – read – relax... but I can’t wait until we are back in Bridgewater and don’t have to hop on our bikes the next day and get somewhere. I’ll be glad to just... SIT!

Woodstock to Fredericton – 110 km of almost deserted highway, big shoulder, and smooth road. Mmmm. Rained off and on so much that I gave up on changing into and out of my jacket and just resolved to be wet. Lots more laughing on the road and while eating (“hey, Mary Anne, mind if I pop a few of those cherries?” ...pregnant pause.... “uhmmmm...” We tackled another big, long, steep hill – and I love the feeling of looking at those monsters and thinking, “yep. It’s big. And it’s not gonna be easy. But I can do it, and I will do it. With 55 pounds of gear, water, and food on my bike! Yeah!!”

And so now we are still fighting with these internet cafe computers in Fredericton, where they won’t even let us onto facebook, let alone add photos (sorry!!! Will add some when I’m at home hopefully!). Only 5 more days until we’re in Halifax, and we can say we’ve done it – WAHOO!

Posted by Ericabikes 06:12 Archived in Canada Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Ottawa to Quebec City

Charming villages and rain, rain, rain.

Ok!! Now we are in Quebec city, and I will update you with what we have been up to. I have been speaking french and thinking french and thinking in English with a french accent even, so if a few sentences sound strange, you will know why!!

From Ottawa we headed towards the little town of Alfred, where we stayed in one of the biggest, loudest, RV campsites we had ever seen. People everywhere. And the tent site they gave us was atrocious, but she only charged us 10:50 so we were happy. We ran into - yet another - a thunderstorm and waited it out under the awning of a gas station (again). Now I will take a little tangent to illustrate...

THE EPILOGUE TO THE BLUE WATER BOTTLE STORY (story continued from last week).
As I was yanking on the bit of water bottle top to open it to take a drink, I saw a big truck approaching from behind and, thinking I would rather have both my hands for steering, balanced the water bottle between my teeth as the truck went by. Unfortunately my hold wasn`t as strong as it should have been and as the truck passed, the bottle slipped onto the road. I cursed and Mary Anne yelled, ``what?`` just as I spotted my poor, sad, blue water bottle being whipped violently into the air about 30 m ahead of us. When I found it on the road it was not only permanently dented but actually ripped in half at the thread. Never even found the top. Maybe that was just its way of saying enough`s enough.

hehehe.

The next day we cycled OUT OF ONTARIO (we were in that province for over a month!!!) and on a little secondary road through Hudson on the south side of the Ottawa river and checked out the most beautiful big houses with gorgeous sprawling gardens. We crossed the river on a little ferry with loads of other cyclists and entered into Park DÒka, where ``la Route Verte``, a bike path or route that goes all the way through Quebec, took us through some amazing scenery. Trees overhanging the path, dark black clouds (yes - another rainstorm) in the distance with the sun spotlighting the path and a bog to the left. Pale greens of leafy underbellies and pale reds of bog maples. Little white tiny flowers in the water. The rainstorm caught up with us midway through the park, and just as it really started to pound on us, we saw a little shelter where other bikers were huddling. Mary Anne said, `Should we stop?`` I said, ``Nah... no point``. Then Mary Anne paused, and said, ``Yeah, we`re hardcore.``

That night we actually ended up getting to visit my good friend Guillaume from Acadia, who is working at a field station about an hour north of Montreal. He picked us up and took us past the little town of St. Hippolyte, where we got to meet all the other students at the field station who even cooked us dinner!! It was great fun practising our french and trying to convince some of the other students from France to practice their English with us (``REAL english Canadians``, as Guillaume said.). We biked from St, Jerome, still north of Montreal, to St. Barthelemey, and had a ridiculous tailwind which made the first 95 km easy but the last 20 km we were pooped. No rain at all and wind at our backs - we were quite happy - until it started to rain again. When will it stop!!?? Really. Come ON!

From St. Barthelemy to St. Anne de la Parade, we cloud-dodged the entire day. When we exited the campground we were under a huge, grey, scary sky but we could see blue sky to the right, a downpour happening ahead of us, and puffy yellow and black clouds to the left. Very strange. We played tag with those big rainclouds all day and only got caught in it twice, but it was fun! We`d get into a town and see that it had JUST rained because there were still puddles everywhere. Or the time we found THE SPOT where it had started raining - and I mean, dry, then wet - like a line where the rain started, as defined as you can get basically. I`ve NEVER seen that before. We stopped on the road and waited for another rain cloud to pass to the right so it would miss us, and charted its trip across the St. Lawrence river where we could see it pouring on a little town on the other side - just one raincloud in the midst of other, more innocent ones. About 15 minutes later we spotted the biggest rainbow I`ve ever seen, soaring in a great full semicircle over the river and shimmering to an end right on the tip of a sunny little peninsula. The sun was out on our side and was it ever. Beautiful. We stayed in a ``Gite`` that night (an Inn) because we couldn`t find camping when we were planning the day before, and when we did find one in St. Anne de la Parade, we were so discusted we decided to stay in the Inn anyways. It was great - got to watch a movie and relax in style. Poor Mary Anne needed the comfort of a bed that night - she had lost her odometer slash bike computer over a bridge!!!

The day riding to Quebec City was just great. We had a side-tailwind, our favourite kind because it pushes you AND cools you off, whereas a straight tailwind makes you really hot because you can`t actually feel the wind, you`re going with it too much. I just can`t get over how nice the people in Quebec are - I`ve never had so many people (bikers and pedestrians) wave or smile, or wave or smile back. There are bikers everywhere all over the road. I had several very pleasant chatty encounters with people - many ask, ``Where did you learn your french, you speak so well!`` So here`s a big thank you to my three french immersion teachers in junior high, Mme. Rossignol, M. Herman and M. Aucoin. I can actually understand most of what people say to me and usually can get across what I need to.

This day was also the day that the Route Verte took us to the biggest steepest hill (we`ve done longer hills but none this steep) we`ve ever biked on. Oh. My. God. I didn`t know if it was possible. We were in our easiest gear, standing up (you couldn`t sit because it just would have been impossible) and working as HARD as we could to get up, and I was worried the whole time I would just tip over backwords. Whew!! We got lost a few times on our way to Laval University, where we were staying for the night, but kind bikers and pedestrians helped us find our way (just take out a map and someone will come tell you where you are and where to go - no need to ask for help). You`ll notice this is our one biking day without rain since.... I don`t know, four days before Ottawa???? GAHH

My feelings after arriving to Laval:

Hungry! Crotch sore. Back Sore. Bottoms of Feet, Sore. Legs, ok. Heart, Sore. Hungry. Arms ok. Eyes ok. Tounge - sore (probably too much chewing. I ate dinner the night before and reached a new low - hungry again 15 minutes after finishing my supper). Hungry, hungry, HUNGRY!!!!!!

And now, I am in the beautiful little apartment of Benoit, Mary Anne`s friend Guillaume`s friend, who is amazing - he picked us up by bike from Laval and guided us to his apartment, and then took us on a walking tour (after it stopped raining - SIGH...) of old Quebec city. Both Mary Anne and I were surprised to feel our legs shaking after our 3 hour stroll - evidently the walking muscles aren`t getting enough exercise this summer. Orrr maybe it could be because we`ve biked 5 days in a row and ... over 300 in the last 3 days. ...? hahaha... not sure. We ate delicious pastry and gelato, went to a little market, and saw the sights of Quebec city. And now, Benoit is in the kitchen making us a delicious chicken pesto pasta dinner, complete with chocolate angel food cake and fruit and whipped cream, and then we are going to go out and see this fantastic light and music show that is shown every night for the 400th anniversary of Quebec city! We love being spoiled.

We are both pretty exhausted. Can`t BELIEVE we are two weeks from being on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Halifax!!!

Posted by Ericabikes 18:46 Archived in Canada Tagged bicycle Comments (1)

On... and on... and on... in OntarioooooHHH

The last bit of the giant province: Sault Ste. Marie to Ottawa.

From Sault Ste. Marie to Ottawa I felt like I was finally back in the land of semi civilization. (I keep having to erase "we" or "Mary Anne and I" - I don't think of myself in the singular way any more, I have become a unit!!)

We visited some pretty small communities leaving Sault Ste Marie, including Bruce Mines (which had a very nice white gazebo and one picnic table that we claimed for our lunch break) and Thessalon, which was right up against the shores of Lake Huron - a "one of everything you need and that's it" kind of town (my favourite kind). The first community we went through was actually an Ojibway community, and on the railway bridge there was an announcement painted in large white print: "THIS IS INDIAN TERRITORY". We had a tailwind all day and we must have felt rested because we were laughing at everything again.

For example: Mary Anne and I decide that we need to pee. Scanning... scanning... oop, there's a nice deep ditch with lots of tall grasses. Perfect. Mary Anne heads in and when she's ready to come out, she listens for traffic. Traffic from the highway on the left? Nope - check. On the right? Nope, check. Standing annnnd pulling up pants. OHHHH MYYY there is a POSTAL VAN RIGHT THERE from the OTHER road we didn't see in FRONT of her. Woops!!! Oh well, can't win'em all.

The best was trying to get the food into the tree. Always entertaining for Mary Anne (because lately I've been the one throwing the ropes up into the tree), and moreso for the other campers I discovered. I was trying to get the ropes into the tree and it got all tangled up in the branches - almost hopelessly tangled. As I was working it out (involving a lot of re-throwing my water bottle attached to the rope end and vigorously swinging and swatting the other rope end to encourage things to loosen up) an older man asked me, "WHAT are you doing?"

"I'm doing what you do when you don't have a trunk" I replied.
"Do you want help?" he asked.
"No," I said, "I do this almost every night!"
"Oh! Then you must entertain multiple campgrounds, not just this one!" he chuckled.

Even better was when Mary Anne got back and decided to take matters into her own hands and attach the stew and food bags up into the tree herself. She had pulled the bags about halfway up the tree when I cracked a joke and poor Mary Anne dissolved into giggles, and the food started slowly slipping back down the rope towards the ground. It eventually got up the tree, safe from bears and chipmunks and dogs.

Later on that evening we took the time to wander around the shore of Lake Huron - taking pictures, reflecting, watching the Canada geese, and enjoying our rare moments of free time on a biking day!!

The next day riding from Thessalon to Spragge was our 2-month on the road together anniversary. Mary Anne spied a small restaurant on our way out of Thessalon, and since we thought we were going to have a short biking day, she suggested coffee and a hot chocolate, which actually turned into bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast... woops, hellooo second breakfast. Oh well, happy anniversary! Later on that day we actually smelled a field of strawberries and couldn't resist cycling in to check it out. A u-pick - perfect! When the woman selling the strawberries found out what we were up to, and that Mary Anne was from Peterborough (her hometown too) she insisted that we take the berries for free. Yes, please! We ate them later on in Blind River with ice cream. Oh, bike touring.

We found out that there was no campsite in Blind River (oops!) and our short day turned into a medium-sized one - but we weren't too upset because our day had felt so relaxed, it was worth it.

It was actually funny because at the strawberry field a man warned us about two guys hitchiking who had been "attacked by bears and then saved by a man in a transport truck". When we were biking towards the KOA campground in Spragge, I stopped to pee on the side of the road and a man drove up in his truck - great timing Erica - to tell us that there were two bears right on our side of the road at the end of this guardrail!! I got out the bearspray just in case and we did what we usually do - talk loud and bike on the other side of the highway. Another car had stopped in front of the bears to make sure that we made it ok. Strangers are so nice!

The next day was from Spragge to Chutes Provincial Park, another short day. We had decided to do the trip from Sault Ste Marie (an awkward distance of 310 km) in four days instead of three to give ourselves a little break, so we had a bit of extra time. We went through a bunch of construction and as we passed the guy smoothing the pavement, I yelled out, "HEY! ADD A SHOULDER WHILE YOU'RE AT IT!" He gave a great guffaw of laughter and it made me smile too. The roads are VERY narrow, and the shoulders - when present - are rough.

We went swimming when we got to Chutes Park - now this is a place I can highly recommend. Big thick white waterfall, GORGEOUS, with a great big shallow pool at the bottom where everyone swims - sandy bottom, a little bit of gentle rapids, big sandbar with a few trees for shade - it was like stumbling upon paradise and it's only about 1 km from the highway. Amazing! In Chutes we met two older couples also biking across Canada - one couple on a tandem bike!! The two guys came to our campsite and we chatted with them for a bit while making dinner - were they ever nice. We ended up running into them again and again until North Bay, which was really awesome. They shared strawberries and stories with us. It is such a special feeling to be in a city where you know you know NO ONE, and then all of the sudden a bike rolls up and a familiar smiling face appears. We even saw them in their day off clothes - hard to recognize them at first - and had to laugh at our newfound appreciation of each other!

The next morning it started raining again right after breakfast - happened in Thessalon and would happen again in Mattawa - very frustrating. It seems like it rains every other day or more, and everyone we meet says, "Oh we've never had such a wet cold summer". Sigh.

We met a girl that afternoon biking for the children's wish foundation - she was a machine! Although she was riding unloaded on a road bike, she actually covered 260 km in ONE DAY in Lake Superior - and that's hilly. Verrrry hilly. I was pretty impressed.

I called my uncle David to confirm our meeting in Sturgeon Falls - he and my aunt Hazel were coming up to treat us to dinner and a HOTEL(!) the next day. They were originally going to motorcycle up but David said that they had changed their minds - "It's alternately going to be sweltering hot and thundershowering" he said. I laughed and said, "sounds like our entire trip!" The campground we stayed at just outside of Sudbury was... weird. That's the only way you can describe a collection of RVs that big. Sitting right beside the busy highway, dirty, crowded. Why would you stay in a place like that if you have a PORTABLE CAMPING SYSTEM???? I'll never understand RVs.

We woke up that night to the sound of thunder BOOOOOMING around us and flashes of white hot lightning illuminating the tent, and then "PSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" of rain streaming down the sides of the tent. Thank god our little tent is waterproof, waterproof, waterproof. I looked at my watch, terrified it was almost morning and breathed a silent thanks when I realized it was only 2 AM. It was still raining in the morning and continued until the early afternoon, but not pouring.

We were SOOO happy to have a night in a hotel thanks to David and Hazel. They brought us delicious fruit and took us out, and we shared breakfast too the next morning.

The next day we visited a beautiful little lakeside park in downtown North Bay for lunch and continued on to Mattawa, where Josh Mohan (a mutual friend from our bike tour last year) was coming up to meet us for our rest day. We had a gorgeous tailwind and the road was fun - gentle hills and beautiful scenery.

This was the day I realized my blue water bottle was feeling a little down. I'll tell you about it.

THE SAD TALES OF THE BLUE WATER BOTTLE.

Every night I use my blue water bottle as a weight to throw the food-hanging rope into the tree, and it is often left hanging there, for hours, until we hang the food. Choked and miserable, coated in sap and dirt (the mementos of several inevitable failed throws), it stares at me moodily, begging to be put back on my bike. However, it being the harder bottle to drink from, it always takes second place on my bike because I use the white one first. The final straw, I'm sure, for poor ol' blue water bottle was when I was taking a drink at the top of the hill on the ride towards Mattawa. Now, usually I take a drink on the way UP the hill because I'm more in control of my bike. But it was REALLY hot so I took a drink at the top. Bad idea. Top of hill turning into downhill at disturbing rate. Water bottle in right hand. Grade increasing. Speed: also increasing. Checking rearview mirror. OH! Observe two large transports heading my way. Checking pavement. Shoulder! Rapidly deteriorating! Shoulder now forming distinct v-shaped rut with large crack in center! Speed, still rapidly increasing! Left hand reaching for brakes! Brain interupting! Front brakes alone = bad idea when cruising downhill. Shite. Eyes: moving to right hand still holding blue water bottle! Ah! Ahhh! AHHHHH!!! THROWING ILL FATED BLUE WATER BOTTLE MADLY INTO DITCH!! BRAKING WITH BOTH HANDS! Speed decreasing... decreasing... stopping.

Looking back at Mary Anne holding my water bottle, I saw one very confused expression.

Anyways.

We met Josh in Mattawa and thus passed a very pleasant day off - swimming, reading, cooking, and WATCHING A MOVIE (a big deal for us - go see WALL-E if you can, a great movie!) It was really nice to be with another mutual friend from Otesha and Josh was excited to get out of the city and do a little camping. Other than the gang of rowdy, loud, cussing teenagers that kept us up late late and woke up at 5:30 to giggle and talk, we had a good time.

The bike from Mattawa to Mackey was... interesting. We had been told by one woman that there was "one big hill" out of Mattawa and then "fairly flat until Ottawa", and that it was "hilly until Deep River" by a biker in North Bay. On about the 5th big, steady, steep climb, I turned to Mary Anne and said, "you know, if this is that woman's idea of flat, I'd looOOOVe to see her idea of hilly". Mind you, she did say it was "all downhill to Mattawa" which is a red light as far as I'm concerned. Bikers. Again. Never trust ANYONE who says, "It's all downhill to _____ (insert any place name here longer than 5 km away from present location). Mary Anne was quiet for a bit and then suddenly remarked, "You know, I've come to a realization. When people say something is going to be scenic, what they really mean is, this part is going to be hard biking.". yeah. agreed.

In spite of (because of?) the rain that morning, it was a stunning ride. Here's my attempt at an artistic description: The clouds were low - resting with their vague tiptoes on far sides of wetlands, creeping over a dip in the road, hovering flat and long over the opposite shore of the Ottawa river. The white water littles were ALL in bloom, and they coat the surface of many bogs. We saw one bog blanketed with white water lilies, with a midnight blue path around several large dead trees and leading to a massive beaver house; in the background a lazy white fog cloud rested on dark evergreens. I breathed a sigh - OaaahHHHHHHH - half awe, half a moan of regret that it was raining and I couldn't risk a picture.

The next day - the day of the nice and AGGRESSIVELY NICE people:

- Alex, from Quebec who is cycling around his province with so much gear! Really nice guy, and we had a good chat with him on the road.
- Guy in bistro in Deep River giving us advice on routes whether we wanted it or not.
- Guy asking Mary Anne in campsite whether we were lost - "I'm a local! I can help!"
- Woman in bathroom who offered us chili and wanted to take our picture and add us to facebook?
- Newfoundlander. The worst of the aggressively nice people, a dirty old man with a little black dog who came over to our picnic table on the pretense of introducing his dog to us. Upon finding out I was from Nova Scotia, he announced that he HAD to give me a hug - and when I refused, ("No thank you, I'm eating" - code for, "You're nasty and I don't feel AT ALL comfortable touching you") he actually came up and hugged me from behind. Then he had the audacity to warn us about creepy people in campgrounds in Quebec. I wanted to scream, "YOU'RE THE CREEPIEST PERSON WE'VE MET so GO AWAY!!!"

Anywhoo. We did have a good day, we stopped in the very nice town of Deep River to make Carnivorous Chili (the first time we've cooked with meat) and swam in the Ottawa River in our campsite in Pembroke, the warmest water we've experienced so far. We did some mutant synchronized swimming and generally had a pretty fun time.

We discovered some lovely secondary roads on the way to Fitzroy Provincial Park the next day. It was the day of colour and texture - sagey green soft fields with little yellow sprigs throughout, soft tufts of rich burnt yellow fronds of grain with braided core, curly deep fresh green herbs, muted grey barns with creeping ivy, and all the while the Ottawa River on our left. Mmmmmm! I loved Beachburg, another "one of everything and that's it" kind of town. We passed through some very obviously Scottish-founded communities "McNab and Braeside" and had a fun time listing every Scottish last name that we could think of and sounding them all out with a Scottish burr. Our favourite was the next town's name, Arnprior. Arrrrrnprior. Arrrrrrrnprrrrrrior. Arrrrrrrrprrrrrriorrrrrrrrrrrrr. At one point I stopped being able to breathe I was laughing so hard, realized with some part of my rational brain I couldn't possibly bike any more without oxygen, started laughing harder, and had to throw myself off of my bike so I could breathe again and take some giant gasps of air to feed the laughter that was pouring out of me in screams and tears!

The next day although we woke up to rain, we were sheltered by a large tree. Unfortunately it didn't stop raining and just got worse... and worse... and worse... until it was a giant thunderstorm and we were biking in a warm, pounding waterfall that was the heaviest rain I think I've ever biked in so far (having escaped under a canopy in Penticton in similar - colder - circumstances). "You know what!" Mary Anne shot at me over the dull roar of the water. "What!" I yelled back. "WE'RE HARDCORE!!!!!!" She volleyed back. Ohhhhh, yeahhhhh. It was dripping off of my eyelashes, sluicing into my contacts and rendering it near impossible to see - I was wiping my eyes so often and only really seeing through a crack in my right eye which was somehow missing most of the drops. Water screaming down my back and arms, little streams from all points of my body onto the wet road. Oop, and now that's water raging down my back down into my bum. Shiver. We found a gas station and huddled under the awning for about half an hour until I realized my tire was flat (thanks, life) and got rid of another tire which had worn out, changed the tube, started biking in more rain (the lightning having stopped by now), tire flat again, sighiiiiing.

When we finally did get to Ottawa, I was so impressed by the bike paths! Mary Anne's brother picked us up on his bike and I biked to Emily and Julien's, good friends from Acadia. I'm here now, using Em's computer, and basking in how good it feels to be with people I really love in a real home under a real roof, with a real towel and a fridge and comforter and different PJs (thank you Emily) and different food and good conversation. AHhhhhhhh.

Here's to making it out of this giant province in one piece, and to only 3 WEEKS left on the road!!!! WAHOOOOOO!

Posted by Ericabikes 18:37 Archived in Canada Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

A few pictures on Facebook

check these out!

Just in case anyone would like to see photos, I posted a few on facebook tonight. Not too many as I need to get to bed, hopefully I'll add more in Ottawa!!!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2041651&l=f61e5&id=132701813

Posted by Ericabikes 19:41 Archived in Canada Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

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