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.
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.
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!