From Travelers to Tourists

26 06 2016

Today we reached our destination of Halifax.

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We took the ferry from Dartmouth to Halifax, turns out the bridge is closed on weekends.

There is a lot tied up in that short sentence. First, there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment, we made it!  Even though we had to do the trip in two parts,  over two summers,  we have cycled from coast to coast.  We’ve stayed safe and at the end of the trip, we can even say we still like  each other. We’ve done something very few people have.

There’s relief.  We can give our bodies some rest, we don’t have to figure out where we’re going to stay or where the best route is or how to avoid those big hills.  (Mostly,  you can’t avoid the hills–just suck it up and pedal! )

But there are other emotions as well. Cycling across the country had been our goal for what feels like a long time.  First the months (years) of planning, setting out from Vancouver, being called home partway through,  making the decision to finish the trip and then actually reaching our goal.  Looking ahead,  life looks a little empty.  We need a new goal,  but haven’t a clue what that will be.

At one of our rest stops,  in a town I don’t even remember,  we spoke to a young couple heading into the restaurant for lunch as we were heading out.  They were obviously busy with their young children,  but wanted to spend a few minutes talking.  Turns out,  they were long distance cyclists,  before other commitments changed their life.  She said “we used to be that cool couple”.  I worry we’ll become one of those couples who have nothing left but stories we’ll tell over and over, a “used to be cool couple”.

We’ll figure it out.

For right now,  we are comfortable in an Airbnb rental unit,  we’re looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and being ordinary tourists for a few days. 

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We have supper at the Bicycle Thief, thought it was a good name.

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The Last Province

24 06 2016

Today we got on a ferry and entered Nova Scotia,  the last province. The LAST PROVINCE!!

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We say goodbye to PEI

We have two days of cycling left until we reach our destination of Halifax. I’m not sure how I feel about the end of the trip being so close,  there’s a number of conflicting thoughts in my head.  Maybe by the time we actually reach our destination I’ll have some of them figured out.

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Saying hello to Nova Scotia.

For right now, we are in Pictou, NS, the first village after the ferry reaches land.  The ferry was a neat experience,  we met a number  of other loaded cyclists–a couple of young women doing a loop of the eastern provinces,  starting and ending in Maine,  and a dad cycling with his two kids. It’s always assuring to know you’re not the only one doing a similar version of “slow touring”.

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One of the things we’ve been surprised about on this trip is the amount of time and effort it takes to find accommodation. Part of the challenge is that we can not make plans more than a day or two in advance.  Then we have some requirements.  Camping is OK, as long as food is available near by–since most campgrounds are doing their best to give people a “get-away-from-it-all” experience,  they often don’t work for us. B&B’s work well,  but can be frustrating getting in contact with the owner. Hotels are OK, but they can also be a long way from restaurants.  In both Charlottetown and Halifax,  accommodation, of any kind and at any price,  was difficult to find and we’ve used airbnb to find a place.

Two more days!!!





We Needed This

22 06 2016

We took a rest day in Charlottetown.  We needed it. 

We spent the day on our feet,  the bicycle didn’t even move.  We slept in,  played checkers on the street,

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took a walk to the farmer’s market, ate some ice cream,  sat on a park bench and watched people at the boat launch.  We ended the day by treating ourselves to a lobster dinner.

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And because,  I’m me,  with a free day,  I bought some yarn and started a pair of socks.

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I Think We’re Getting Tired

19 06 2016

I’ve just finished booking a b&b for tomorrow night.

There are some mixed feelings in doing this.  We are camping for the second night in a row, but the reality is,  we do better in a bed,  with a roof over our heads.  So tomorrow we’re not camping.  It makes the trip more expensive but in some ways I wish we could ship our tent home. Until we get to a place where there is no alternative but to camp.

Last night had no other alternatives. The space between Fredericton and Moncton is a bit of a waste land.  The distance between the 2 is too far for one day,  but there is no good place to stop and services are few.  In fact,  last night was the only night of the trip where we could not find a place to eat within a reasonable distance. We had planned ahead,  but neither of us was particularly thrilled with our supper of cheese,  crackers and pepperoni,  nor with our breakfast of orange juice and granola bars.  Oh well,  it’s all part of the experience.

In fairness, it was quite a comfortable campground with very friendly people.  I don’t think I’ve seen so many people excited about “washer toss “, their tournament went on for hours!

The truly awesome thing about tomorrow’s b&b? It’s in PEI!!

In tomorrow’s ride we will leave New Brunswick,  cycle a small corner of Nova Scotia and be shuttled across the bridge to the island.

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A quiet corner of the Parasol RV park in Shediac, NB





No More Rail Trail!

16 06 2016

We learn slowly.

There is a rail trail in New Brunswick.  We entered the province on a rail trail that was a continuation of the raill trail in Quebec.  The first few km were great and very well maintained.  Sadly,  it didn’t stay that way.  Every day,  for the last 4 days,  we’ve made the decision to try the NB Sentier trail, usually to avoid another hill. 

It’s always a mistake.  Today was no different,  the trail went from not bad to horrible. I’ve come to the conclusion that a badly done rail trail is worse than no trail at all. I can’t help feeling that it would be better to invest in paved shoulders or  other cycling infrastructure rather than doing a half-assed job of a trail. Next time we’ll tackle the hill.

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We took a break at the longest covered bridge in the world, Hartland, NB

There’s another frost warning in effect for this area,  so we’re camping at a Howard Johnson’s. This place is much more comfortable than last night’s “accommodation”, but not the place we’ll remember in months to come.

Tomorrow we reach Fredericton. We’ll be looking for another bike shop, the tires we put on in Quebec City are not doing well,  I think we’ll be changing them.





The Joys and Sorrows of a Rail Trail

14 06 2016

Edmunston, NB, 62.92 km, 16.3 km/hr

We’ve spent the last 2 days on a rail trail. The Petit Temis is a 134 km rail trail running from Riviere de Loup, QC to Edmunston,  NB. It’s quite special because it crosses 2 provinces. Rail trails are tralls which follow abandoned railways and have been repurposed for recreational use, usually not allowing motorized vehicles of any kind.

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The best thing about rail trails is they are safe,  completely separate from traffic. It’s so refreshing to not have to worry about whether or not the vehicle coming up behind actually sees us.  They’re quiet,  it’s amazing how much noise there is on the highway. They can be beautiful;  bodies of water,  trees,  other plants of various kinds,  are right there. All those people rushing on the nearby highway often don’t even realize the trail is there.

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But they’re not perfect. Rail trails are often,  even usually,  surfaced with stone dust. When done well,  it’s an OK surface to ride on,  but only OK. It’s never as fast as asphalt; when it’s wet, there’s a fair bit of drag, making the ride more work than it ought to be.  They’re also difficult to maintain.  In the last 2 days we’ve dealt with wash-outs, fallen trees  (from both wind and beavers), loose gravel at intersections, mud,  water across the trail,  grass growing up the middle and one time the trail completely disappearing into a Tim Hortons parking lot.

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We made it to New Brunswick!

We’re happy to have made it to New Brunswick and are looking forward to seeing what this province is like to cycle in.  We’re also hoping for some better weather,  forecast has improved, maybe we’ll even camp tomorrow night.





Memories

12 06 2016

Back in the day,  when our kids were young,  we would go camping for our family vacations.  If it rained,  everyone would load up into our vehicle and head for the nearest urban center.  We’d have a meal in a restaurant and do a little shopping,  either clothes or some piece of camping equipment and invariably a trip to the grocery store for more food.

Today felt a lot like those rainy camping days.   We woke up to a cold, wet, miserable day.  It took a lot of discussion but we decided to stay an extra day in Riviere du Loup.  After breakfast at a neighboring hotel,  we stopped at the office to ask if our room was available for an extra night.

We were taught, once again, how kind people can be, especially to those traveling by bicycle. The owner was at the desk, insisted her husband drive us to the mall, lent us her umbrella and upgraded our room for the second night.  Her husband was happy to drive us and took us for a tour of the entire town before dropping us off at the local “commercial centre”.

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The sky was much more grey. We saw this from the comfort of our host's car!

We wandered the mall for a few hours, and had a bite to eat, just like rainy days during family vacations.  The big difference–we bought very little, though we did make a stop at the grocery store to replenish our supply of snacks and found a new flag for the trailer.

The forecast for tomorrow is better than today,  but still not great. I think we’re going to ride anyway.

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Our new flag. Found at Canadian Tire!