Newfoundland: Deer Lake to Port Aux Basques

I arrive back at the RV park in a downpour so I head across the street to the Insectarium to dry out and see the exibits. At the park, the owner offers me the cabin and I’m glad to stay dry. My ride the next day is beautiful – there are more deciduous trees on this part of the island and the landscape is lush and green. I restock supplies in Cornerbrook and visit their bike shop for some neoprene shoe covers – warm feet from now on! The highway west of Cornerbrook has very little traffic and it’s often just me and the mountains until I arrive at Barachois Pond to camp.

At the campground, I share a site with Wes, who started cycling in BC in April and has already made it to Newfoundland! We stay up late by the fire chatting about our trips and I’m really excited to see the rest of the country.

The next day is the most intense ride yet. I pedal 153km through rain, wind, fog and mountains but I arrive in time for the overnight ferry to Cape Breton! The boat is technically sold out but Cathy at the kiosk makes arrangements to get my bike and I on board – my final favour from this province of incredible people.

Distance biked in Newfoundland: 1138km

Newfoundland – Gros Morne

After I buy my park pass, the park worker (whose husband played for the St. Catharines Falcons!) warns me that I’ve got a big hill to climb into the park. As I round the corner, I laugh. “I see.” It’s in fact a mountain.

Partway up, I’m joined by Rhonda, who is cycling from Deer Lake to the Labrador ferry. “Hello fellow crazy person!” I say. We huff and puff together up the slope and the ones that follow, but our reward is the most amazing scenery yet. That evening we congratulate ourselves with dinner in Rocky Harbour before I continue on to my campsite at Green Point. Newfoundland hospitality seems to have rubbed off on the other tourists, because a lovely couple at the campground invite me into their trailer for tea and screech.

The sunset over the Gulf of St. Lawrence is spectacular and sunrise the next morning is equally so. I head out early for the boat tour of Western Brook Pond.

To reach the pond, I cycle on boardwalks across a bog. At my first glimpse of the pond’s fjords,  my eyes fill with tears. The beauty is overwhelming. I cry on and off throughout the tour. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

After the tour I’m able to take a trip to the Tablelands – mountains made of the earth’s mantle – before finishing the day in Woody Point. That night I jam my tent between two buildings in the RV park to avoid the 100km/hr winds forecasted.

The next morning the RV park owner tells me I’m so tough I must have a Newfoundland connection. I feel less tough as I’m struggling uphill into a headwind, the rain blowing sideways around me. Luckily, a wonderful family from Ottawa pull up and offer me a ride back into Deer Lake (thanks Claire, John and Jean!), completing my Gros Morne adventure with another dose of kindness.

Newfoundland – Badger to Deer Lake

“We call everyone m’love.”

If life has you down, go to Newfoundland. Bring your bicycle.

Everywhere I go in this province I experience incredible kindness. After biking 40km in a downpour, the staff at Eddy’s Motel and Restaurant take me out of the rain, get me warm, fed, and rested. I play fiddle for the waitresses and owner and a few try my instrument. They send me off with new dry gloves the next morning.

On the road, a couple stops to chat and then hands me $10. They insist I have a coffee on them. Folks in the diner where I stop for lunch are chatty too. An RV slows down next to me while I ride – the driver is taking my photo. I meet several other cyclists on the road and we share snacks.

At the campground In Deer Lake, the owner offers me a covered spot for my tent in case it rains. He returns later with brandy and a harmonica and we spend the evening jamming.

I’m frequently asked if I mind travelling alone, but I have no reason to feel lonely.

 

Newfoundland – Clarenville to Badger

After a long sleep in the castle loft,  I check my bike over and realize that the brakes are rubbing the front wheel! With that fixed, my speed starts improving and the 50km ride to Terra Nova goes by quickly. In the park I meet a couple of gents from Australia who have been driving around North America for the last five months, and a couple girls from Ontario, one of whom has biked from Ontario to BC! We chat into the evening and it’s great to have company.

The next day I finally hit that endurance endorphin high. The hills are fewer and seem easier, and as I sit eating fries and enjoying the view at Joey’s lookout I wonder if I’ve ever been happier in my life. That evening in Gander I eat an entire pizza in company of my fantastic host Paul, who completely understands – he cycled across Canada last summer.

The next day calls for rain but it holds off and I make good progress. I try to buy an apple in Appleton but they’re all out of fruit – produce is hard to come by in rural Newfoundland. Instead I get a coffee and some popcorn in the next town over at Johnny’s Place – the restaurant/grocery store/gas station/hardware store/ ice cream parlour/liquor store. Later, while eating some lunch by the side of the highway, a conservation officer named Bill pulls up and offers me an apple! It’s the biggest, greenest, roundest, most perfect delicious apple I have ever eaten.

When I reach my campground early after 100km of riding, I decide to bike another 40km to the next campground, just west of Badger. I can’t find anyone working there but the rain starts coming down so I head to a campsite and hope they don’t mind. Just as I’m putting my tarp up, my day is made by a lovely couple from Grand Falls who offer me their trailer for the night! Thanks Sean and Dawn! I’m warm and dry tonight because of you!

I’ve now biked 540km – the longest I’ve ever ridden in a single trip. I’ve seen some incredible suff but the last few days have shown me that the best thing about this island is the kindness of the people who live here.

Whale bones on the beach in Terra Nova
Me, Bill and the best apple ever

Newfoundland – Cape Spear to Clarenville

“Where are ye headed with all that gear?”

“Vancouver Island.”

The people here are friendly-both the locals and the tourists. The environment is rugged, cold and harsh but everywhere there’s an air of optimism. A mountain is called a hill. A lake is called a pond.

After building my bike in the airport, I cycle out to Cape Spear – the most easterly point in North America, before heading to my hostel in St. John’s. There I make friends with another cyclist, a gentleman from Alberta who is also cycling across Canada. I visit The Rooms, hike Signal Hill, and have a drink while listening to some live music on George St. – all the appropriate tourist stuff. At the hostel, I pull out my travel fiddle, a staff member grabs her guitar, and we have an impromptu kitchen party.

My first full day of riding is difficult but the views are incredible. The rail trail I had planned on taking around the island is made of deep gravel that’s like riding in sand. When the gravel gives way to rocks the size of golf balls, I give up on the trail and head for the highway. I tent in a campground about 75km outside St. John’s.

The next two days are nothing but hills, hills, hills. The climbs in Newfoundland are immense and the highway traffic is heavy – I’m only making about 3/4 of the distance I’d planned to each day. Nights are chilly – around three degrees Celcius – and I’m glad I have a good sleeping bag. Still, the views are amazing. I’ve only had a faint hint of the endorphin high I’m used to on long rides but I’m sure it will come. On the third night, I head to a campground where the owner offers me a bed in the loft of her castle-shaped motel. I accept gladly.

 

Now for the part that’s been the hardest, and reason it’s taken me so long to post an update. The morning after my first day of riding, I received terrible news. A cyclist was killed the day before on the Trans Canada Highway – the part that I skipped by taking the rail trail. It was my new friend from Alberta. We’d left together that morning, only I’d wanted to see the   Terry Fox monument and he’d wanted to buy fuel, so we said we’d meet further down the trail. I saw him from a distance early afternoon but he was leaving the trail and I still wanted to continue on it, so after trying unsuccessfully to flag him down, I decided to catch up with him later. I never got the chance.

My friend, I am so sorry you didn’t get to ride across the country, so sorry you never got to sleep inside your sleeping bag inside your bivvy inside your tent (“camping turducken”), so sorry you didn’t find happiness on the west coast, so sorry for the way your family must be feeling right now. They didn’t release your name, so I won’t either, but I will share some of the cycle touring wisdom you shared with me during our brief friendship:

The climbs in the Rockies may be longer than in the Maritimes, but they’re nowhere near as steep. Maritime riding is harder.

If you sleep in the clothes you’ve worn all day, your sweat will make you cold. Change into dry clothes right before bed.

If you get caught free-camping, it can go one of two ways: Either they’ll think, “Oh it’s just a cycle tourist. I’ll let him have a good sleep,” and leave you alone, or they’ll think “Oh, it’s a crazy person. I’ll steer clear of him,” and leave you alone.

The first few days of touring are always the hardest.

My friend, I hope you are right about that last one. Rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Name my bike for $5!

Name My Bike

Here it is! This is the monstrosity I’ll be riding across the country. It’s got fenders, racks, panniers and indestructible tires. All it needs is a name and you can pick! Donate $5 to Gillian’s Place on my fundraising page between now and May 15th inclusive and write your name suggestion in the “Personal Message” section. Multiples of $5 get multiple suggestions OR multiple draw entries for the same suggestion, up to you. On Monday, May 16th I’ll put all the suggestions in a hat and draw the winner on YouTube for your enjoyment. Whether patriotic, stalwart or just goofy, that will be my trusty steed’s name forever! Even if it’s “Bikey McBikeface.” 🙂

Woohoo!

So thrilled that we’ve surpassed 10% of my fundraising goal for Gillian’s Place! Thank you so much to everyone who’s donated so far! Donations can be made through my fundraising page. Big spenders ($50+) get a place on the Donor Wall of Fame. Really big spenders ($100+) will also get a postcard from somewhere along my route!

Preparations for my ride are in full swing. I’m tuning up my bike, piling up my gear, and packing up my apartment. I can’t wait to share this exciting adventure with everyone!