Jess and I are planning our separate bike adventures this summer. After months of planning and training, Irena is bikepacking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route starting from Roosville, MT this Saturday and biking 2,400 miles to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
If you’d like to follow along, check out Irena’s new blog: www.wheelyadventurous.com/ or track her progress on this link: https://trackleaders.com/dividef.php
You can also find Irena on Instagram @irenanetik or Facebook.
September 15: Butter Pot Provincial Park to St. John’s, 41 km
By ten in the morning, I made it to St. John’s.! I couldn’t even eat my muffin or yesterday’s breakfast sandwich at camp, I was so excited or anxious, not sure which. Google offered two ways to get downtown and I was stressed for about 5 km that the route that I selected, which took me off the TCH, would mean missing the city sign. What relief when I spotted it! There was a path through the tall and wet grass and I positioned my bike next to the sign in pure joy, just like other cross-Canada riders before me have done.
After three month of being inseparable from my bike, Glory, I turned her over to the helpful bike shop guys to get her boxed up for the flight home.
And just like that I walked with my bags to the hostel. A surreal feeling of completion and one that took some grit to accomplish. At some point, maybe this will all sink in but for now, I am going to drink some good coffee and beer and enjoy being a tourist in St. John’s on foot.
ZERO flat tires
8100 km of road (5000 miles); 10 provinces; 6 time zones; 84 days on the road; 73 biking days; 49 nights of camping; 9 ferry boats, biggest day of climbing 1962 m (Cabot Trail); total trip ascend 47,643 m (156,000 ft or more than five times up Mt. Everest); one great riding partner, Jessica; support crew of so many, especially my Justin.
Canada is a big country. Next time, I am biking across a smaller one!
September 13: Gander to Clarenville, 146 km; September 14: Clarenville to Butter Pot Provincial Park, 155 km
Blue skies and sun returned. Everything is more enjoyable when the weather is better. Take me out for a beer and I’ll tell you about the hill climbs, the headwind and the remoteness. I was grateful to see other cyclists, chatted it up with the few fellow campers and gas station attendants “enjoyed” my company as I finished my just purchased chocolate milk or coke. Highway motels with a “dining room” were appreciated when the sky stormed. It only seemed right to camp the last night of this journey and I rolled into the Provincial Park with about an hour of daylight. Although I planned to cook up the dinner I have been carrying since North Sydney, I ate my subway sandwich instead, showered and went looking for moose. The park attendant assured me that every evening at dusk there is a moose hanging around near the comfort station. Not having seen a moose since BC, I waited and waited but no luck. Just rabbits. I can’t believe I have cycled all of Ontario and Newfoundland without seeing a single moose.
Two days of hilly miles
Sharing stories on the side of the road with fellow cyclists and an Ironman
49th night in this tent; Campground closes in four days
St. John’s tomorrow!!!
September 12: Bishop’s Falls to Gander, 75 km
A picture might be worth thousand words but only partially captures today. Raining sideways, wind and regular showers from passing trucks. I was not smiling at the end.
September 11: South Brook to Bishop’s Falls, 105 km
I am starting to get worried that if this weather keeps up, I will bike across all of Newfoundland but not really “see” it. I salvaged the day by playing tourist in Bishop’s Falls, my destination for the day.
I couldn’t resist a dam selfie.
People are heating their homes; furnaces have been turned on
Wore 3 jackets
A motel stay; the rainy and windy night confirmed my good decision. Based on the forecast, I might have a few motels ahead.
September 10: Deer Lake to South Brook, 135 km
I have carried this paper map of Canada with me for almost 5000 miles and for the second time on this journey I sat down to update this low tech option. It’s satisfying to see the end in sight. Canada is a big country.
The first time I heard the term “brook”, it was from a construction guy who was telling me how close the cayote was. The conversation occurred somewhere between Cheticamp and Ingonish on the Cabot Trail. I don’t think I ever heard this word before this trip but between Cape Breton and Newfoundland, I have seen it on many, many creek signs and finally took a picture. One of two today.
Roadside burger and fresh (potatoes were pulled out of the ground this morning) fries
Another campsite by a lovely lake. Salmon jumping. Only two other campers other than the seasonals. Temperature is dropping but I wasn’t cold last night in my sleeping bag, down jacket, long sleeve wool shirt, tights and warm socks.
September 9: Barachois Pond Provincial Park to Deer Lake, 120 km
The headwind on top of all the hills was soul crushing today. I moved slowly. 60 km of remote Trans Canada Highway with barely any traffic and no services. With all the lakes, rivers, hills and trees, this island reminds me of BC. It’s still early for fall colors.
Corner Brook, a city with all the amenities, was welcomed. Tired, I took a long break. Traffic picked up as I got back on the road and a day cyclist came up next to me. We briefly chatted and he offered to take me on a quiet road, paralleling the highway. Richard and I rode side by side for the next 20 km and I learned all about his family, work, wife and Newfoundland life. We passed by a ski area. As a fellow cyclist, he had lots of info about the road and services along the way.
It was a welcomed distraction from the headwind. When we were ready to part ways, he told me to take his number in case I have questions about the island or need some help. Such is the Newfoundland way.
120 WINDY and HILLY kilometers
Honks of support (I think) from passing cars and trucks
First day of Moose hunting and I saw quite a few quads loaded on trucks probably going hunting
Country music blaring couple camp sites over late into the night; it’s Saturday night.
September 8: Port aux Basque to Barachois Pond Provincial Park, 152 km in Newfoundland
Milepost 0: ferry dock; changed my watch half hour forward; breakfast and gear sorting at Tim Hortons
Milepost 1: Provincial sign & Visitor Center
Milepost 57: gas station
Somewhere in between still having fun
Milepost 61: motel where I considered staying until I saw it and thought it looked like the kind of place where serial killers find their victims
Milepost 94: steep downhill to my home for the night where I managed to talk my way into some laundry detergent and a site near a picnic shelter. Laundry done and bike stays dry.
September 7: Ingonish to North Sydney, 107 km and a night ferry to Channel-Port aux Basque
I decided to have a second cup of coffee when I saw the down-pour outside. Maybe it will pass – I was hopeful. It rained last night but the morning looked ok. I wondered when I will have an opportunity to dry the tent fly. I am often thinking about the tent. Not seeing a change in weather, I decided to leave by 9 am. So It Rained. Sometimes hard. Sometimes just a drizzle. Every once in a while there would be a short break. Clouds were low and if there were any views to be enjoyed, I certainly didn’t see them. I was soaked all the way through but figured that I wouldn’t get cold as long as I kept moving. So I cycled.
No pictures were taken until around 1 pm. I took my gloves off to give my wrinkled hands a break just before a gusty stretch to my little “short-cut” ferry. I watched the waves, kept both hands on the handlebars and was barely moving.
This was the scariest little ferry boat ride; I had a good grip on a door handle as waves splashed over the deck and the ferry attendant casually carried on conversation. He advised me that “5 km into the wind and then you have a mountain to climb” on the other side.
It stopped to rain briefly by the time I reached “the mountain” and I was delighted with my first sign for the Newfoundland ferry. A steep down the mountain on the other side and few more climbs to the ferry terminal in North Sydney.
I took a picture of a cool bridge in the distance but when I finally got close, I was concerned how to get across. No signs of bikes not being allowed, in fact a “share the road” sign but no shoulder or bike lane and the wind blew so hard, that I pushed my bike across the bridge. Every time a car came by, I leaned into the railing. This was not a fun adventure.
The ferry terminal in North Sydney is new and fancy and the town has all the expected amenities. I managed to sneak into the laundromat, before they closed, to dry my wet clothes. Grocery shopping complete and leftover pizza packed, I biked back to the terminal only to get soaked again.
Sleeper cabins were all sold out so I paid $20 extra for a recliner in a quiet area. Curled up in my sleeping bag, earplugs in, it was like an oversized airplane seat with leg support.
107 km wet and windy
A Giant grave
End of the Trans Canada Highway
One enormous ferry and no good place for a bicycle. The loading started over two hours prior to departure.
Wet shoes drying
September 6: Cheticamp to Ingonish via the Cabot Trail, 120 km / 75 mi
Every mile and every view was earned today. This has been by far the hardest day with its epic steep climbs and scary descends. But it was worth it! This scenic highway lived up to its reputation in all aspects.
I came across a campground in the Cape Breton National Park, about 10 km before my planned destination. Wiped, I called it quits for the day. My average speed was low which left me with an hour of daylight. I cooked, got cleaned up and by 9:15 pm, I was asleep in my tiny tent.
120 km / 75 mi – these road grades should be illegal
French Mountain – 6 km at 11% grade; North Mountain – 3 km at 13% grade; to name a couple that actually had signage
Glory and a recumbent loaded in the back of a pick up truck – A ride from the “follow me” car through a 2.5 km road construction zone. I reluctantly accepted and was releaved when I saw the road mess as we drove through.
Drenched in sweat all day
Sweat dripping down my face