Ontario – Ottawa to Saint Catharines

I arrive in Ottawa after dark and head for the hostel. While unpacking, I discover that my front rack has failed, but the next day a nearby car mechanic removes the broken screw for me and I’m able to continue my trip after a few hours exploring the city with Faez.

I ride through beautiful Ontario wilderness full of rock and lakes, and small Ontario towns full of friendly people. Toronto is a shock after so much time away. No strangers want to chat or even make eye contact and the only thing said to me is that my bike is taking up too much space. Strange that the city with the most people seems like the loneliest place around.

Next I head to Saint Catharines, where I feel anything but lonely. Gillian’s Place welcomes me with a party, complete with cheerleaders, reporters and members of the local government. I’m so excited to be raising money and awareness for such an important cause, and so honoured that my trip has become much bigger than me.

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Quebec

I celebrate my crossing into Quebec with a poutine at the first rest stop – perfect fuel for the mountainous hills ahead. On one particularly difficult uphill a car stops on the shoulder ahead of me. Annoyed, I move over to the gravel to pedal around but then the driver gets out – it’s Steph, a friend I made in Saint John’s! What a small country. I sit in her stopped car to catch up and enjoy a brief reprieve from the rain before continuing on.

I soon get my first glimpse of the Saint Lawrence River, which I follow for days. Through Rivière-du-Loup, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli and Montmagny the water is a constant and beautiful companion. The weather is cool and at a campground, Gisèle and Lloyd kindly insist that I stay in their camper. Their dog Mia keeps me company on the sofa bed and in the morning they send me away with homemade maple sugar.

In Quebec City I stay in a hostel  and meet people from all over the world here to explore this beautiful province. I also run into Victoria, a friend I made in Charlottetown. Small country again.

After Quebec City it’s onward up the river to Montreal. Amahl comes from Toronto to visit me here and we get to see my friend Xander perform in the circus festival. I relax and enjoy the city for a couple days. Faez the didgeridoo player, who has cycled out to Halifax since we parted ways, catches up to me and together we head toward Ottawa.

New Brunswick – Moncton to the Quebec Border

After spending so much time in and around Moncton, I’m in a hurry to leave the province, but New Brunswick still has plenty of beauty to show me. I make it to Fredericton for Canada Day and enjoy a free public party in the historic city.

For the first time this trip, I feel lonely. Leaving my new friends in Moncton has been hard, but I’m never alone long. In Mactaquac Provincial Park, a family invites me to their site for dinner. The kids have lots of questions about my ride, and in the morning they all get on their bikes and I have an entourage riding with me to the edge of the park!

My route follows the St. John River along a peaceful old highway. One night I camp near the longest covered bridge in the world. In Perth-Andover, I forget my phone in a shop that’s closed by the time I realize, but luckily a neighbour knows the shop owner and drives me to his house! (Thanks Amanda!) We retrieve the phone and all is well. New Brunswick rivals Newfoundland in kindness!

I continue on, past Grand Falls and Edmundston, through rain and hills and more lush scenery until – at last – the Quebec border!

New Brunswick – Confederation Bridge to Moncton to Hopewell Rocks to Moncton again

“Serendipity, noun: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for”

After crossing Confederation Bridge I make my way to Murray Beach to camp with yet another unforgettable sunset. I leave the next morning with the intention of heading all the way to the Hopewell Rocks but my bike is making funny noises with every pedal stroke and I think my bottom bracket is failing – one of the few parts I lack the tools to repair.

On the road, I run into John who has cycled from BC, and tell my troubles to him. He recommends I head to a bike shop in Moncton that he had some work done at yesterday, so I give them a call. Not only do they have the parts to fix my bike, their employee invites me to his house for the night AND he’s hosting a folk concert in his attic!

I spend my evening listening to fantastic music and mingling with awesome people from the cycling and arts community in Moncton. The next morning my host, Cory, recommends a great cafe and I have a delicious breakfast before heading toward the bike shop.

Before I can reach the shop though, another cyclist stops me on the street. Faez biked from Toronto, and like me never intended to stay in Moncton. He forgot his camera in a shop that closed Friday night and didn’t open again until Monday morning! Faez inquires about the tube containing my travel fiddle, so I show the instrument to him. To my surprise, he can play it beautifully! He used to play with a symphony in Iran, but these days travels with one of his other instruments – a collapsible didgeridoo!

After getting my bottom bracket replaced (thanks Consolvo Bikes!), Faez and I pick up some food to share and bring it to a drum circle he heard about, in a park by the river. Here we get to see the tidal bore come in, complete with a surfer! We also meet Justin and Isabelle, two locals who later show us a great camping spot near the city, where Faez cooks Persian food over the fire and we play fiddle and didgeridoo all evening.

The next day, Faez and I bike together to the Hopewell Rocks in time for high tide. We camp nearby and return for low tide the next day. The rock formations are beautiful and a cave mouth is the perfect place to play some more music. I overhear a tour guide joke that the park brought us in to play for everyone.

We return to Moncton for one final night of camping and jamming, joined this time by Justin and Isabelle. The next morning I get stuck in knee-deep mud and nearly lose my shoes – it’s as if Moncton doesn’t want me to leave! But after cleaning up it’s time for some difficult goodbyes. I need to continue west on my journey, and Faez needs to continue east. Justin and Isabelle tell us they’ll come visit in Toronto, Faez tells me he’s glad he forgot his camera in Moncton, and I tell him about the word “serendipity.”