Francois Cross Canada Adventure 2005 : Trip Diary

August 06, 2005 at 03:45PM
From: francois
August 6, 2005

Tourist Day in Charlottetown, PEI
Today's Photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050806/

I enjoyed a quick breakfast at the Wanda Wyatt Dining Hall on campus before driving north in my rental car. My first destination was a bike shop as I noticed the night before that one of the spokes on my back wheel was completely loose. I found a bike shop in the downtown area and left my back wheel.

I then headed to PEI National Park located on the north shore of PEI. I stopped at one of the beaches and had the place all to myself so I sat down and enjoyed my coffee while enjoying the lovely view.

I then drove West on highway #6, enjoying the glorious views all around and I stopped briefly in Rustico, near a fishing village, before continuing on to Cavendish to see Green Gables tourist attraction. Marissa had previously asked me to get a photo of the house that helped inspire Lucy Maud Montgomery's book, Anne of Green Gables so I paid my $6.50 to get in, watched a short movie about L. M. Montgomery, photographed the house and continued on.

My next stop was Malpeque, which you may have previously heard of in restaurants that sell the popular Malpeque oysters. I found a nice park with a glorious beach and I relaxed there for a while to enjoy it. There is certainly an abundance of glory on PEI and I will certainly return one day to discover more of it.

My final driving destination for the day was the Confederation Bridge as I wanted to get more photos of it. So I headed south to Borden-Carleton and found a small park right next to the bridge which was a perfect spot from which to take photos.

I returned to Charlottetown and parked downtown to walk around and stumbled across the Founder's Hall which is an interactive exhibit detailing the history of Canada's confederation. Its very well done and I really enjoyed it.

Before returning to my dorm I picked up my back wheel from the bike shop. The mechanic there was truly impressed with the strength of the wheel and the fact that the wheel was still almost perfectly true despite having a spoke that was totally loose. When I told him that this was the first time that I had the wheel trued since starting my trip he was even more surprised.

As a side note I just learned that Fredericton isn't the only town where one can get a beer while having a haircut. My aunt Carole just told me of a place in Denmark which is called Barberen where you can get a haircut and a beer, or cognac, or even a cigar.

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August 07, 2005 at 05:03PM
From: francois
August 7, 2005

Charlottetown, PEI to Antigonish, NS
KM Travelled Today: 145 KM, Total So far: 6475 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050807/

I woke up at 0730 this morning and I was very tired. There were loud noises throughout the dorm last night that lasted until 3am. I think it was a hockey team, or other sports team staying upstairs and they were likely partying. There is someone at the front desk all night long so I'm surprised that this sort of thing wasn't stopped. When I got up to pee at 2am I noticed that I wasn't alone in my room. When I turned on the lights, several cockroaches scattered but I slaughtered two of them before they could get away and I left them there as evidence. I have to say that my stay at U of PEI hasn't been as enjoyable as the other universities I've stayed at. The food in the cafeteria was really marginal, the cockroaches are not cool, the inability to provide guests with high speed internet displeased me, and the noise level at night was too high. Did I mention they also charge twice as much as the other universities I've stayed? Ok, enough ranting..onto the rest of the day.

I started the day's ride at 0900. To make things easy I decided to stick to the Transcanada as it would take me directly to Wood Island where I would catch the ferry to Nova Scotia. I could have shaved off 10 KM by taking route 23 but from reading other cycling diaries, I knew that route 23 was rather hilly and had minimal views so it didn't seem to be worthwhile to shave off those 10 KM. It was a 62 KM ride from the University of PEI in Charlottetown to the Wood Island ferry terminal and it didn't take me long to do it as I didn't make any stops at all.

I reached the ferry terminal at about 1145 and I had to wait until 1pm for the next ferry which was fine as it would give me a chance to relax, and grab some food. I ordered a burger, a salad, and a piece of pie and I went outside to sit on a picnic table to eat it. All the tables were full so I asked one family if I could sit at their table with them. This family is from Winnipeg and it turns out one of their sons has just cycled from Winnipeg to Newfoundland and they are going to pick him up. Very cool.

A few minutes later I noticed a couple cyclists with touring bikes pull up. I went over to talk to them. Their names are Denis and Chelsea. Chelsea is Denis' daughter and she lives in Victoria, while Denis lives in Wabigoon, Ontario. After talking for a few minutes I suddenly realized that I had met Denis when I was cycling from Dryden to Ignace. On the morning of June 25th, Denis had ridden with me for about 5 KM and he had mentioned that he was going to be cycling through the maritimes with his daughter. And now what a nice surprise to run into him again. Denis and Chelsea are on their way to cycle the Cabot trail.

The ferry ride was pleasant as most ferry rides are and it took about 75 minutes to cross the 22 KM distance between Wood Island, PEI and Cariboo Island, NS.

Upon disembarking I followed highway 106, then highway 104 east. I noticed that my back wheel was starting to get really wobbly again and so I stopped in New Glasgow to try to fix it. I tightened a few spokes and it appeared that things were better and so I continued onwards.

Then came hills, and more hills, and yes, more hills. It sure is handy being in good shape right now otherwise those hills would really be a problem. Between New Glasgow and Antigonish one finds no services. There are just trees and hills and the odd good view. I arrived in Antigonish around 6pm and I got a room at the St. Francis Xavier University. As I walked around campus I could hear the Beach Boys playing. It turns out they were playing live as there was a concert here at the university.

My room at the university is rather amazing. Its a 2 bedroom apartment with its own bathroom and a living room. It has high speed internet access and the cost was only $33!!! I'm very pleased.

I'm going to have to get my back wheel looked at again. It seems many of the spokes that I tightened loosened up again and the wheel is very wobbly as a result. The wheel likely needs to be rebuilt due to the punishment it took when my chain broke and when my bike rack smashed into it. I passed a bike shop as I entered this town so I'll go see what they can do tomorrow.

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August 09, 2005 at 08:33PM
From: francois
August 8, 2005

Antigonish, NS to Baddeck, NS
KM Travelled Today: 136 KM, Total So far: 6611 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050808/

I was up at 0630 today and I just lounged around my room until 0830 when I
packed up my things and rode to the bike shop which was 2 KM away.

The bike shop was just opening when I arrived and I explained my situation to the fellow working there. Without looking at my rear wheel he started trying to sell me a new wheel. I suggested that perhaps my current wheel could be rebuilt but he kept suggesting that the only solution was to get a new wheel. It turns out he didn't have any suitable wheels in stock so he couldn't sell me one even if I wanted to buy one. So he agreed to try truing my wheel and he actually did a good job of it. In fact, a much better job than the fellows who worked on my wheel in PEI. The PEI bike shop had loosened the spokes too much which is why the wheel didn't stay true.

By 1000 the bike mechanic was finished with my wheel and I got on my bike and rode on highway 104 towards Cape Breton Island. Lots of hills again today but at least I had a tail wind for the first 50 KM of the journey.

Shortly after noon I crossed the causeway over to lovely Cape Breton Island where I was immediately greeted with more hills. Cape Breton Island is home to the famous Cabot Trail which is apparently a very scenic and very hilly drive. Adding extra mileage to my voyage is not something that I want to do at this point, given that I'm almost done and am looking forward to some time away from the bike. But its possible that I will have the chance to drive some of the Cabot Trail over the coming days as my ferry to Newfoundland isn't until the afternoon of August 12th. So I will stay on highway 105 until I reach
North Sydney tomorrow.

After riding approx 25 KM on Cape Breton I pulled over for a rest stop next to an ice cream stand. Unfortunately the ice cream stand was closed, so I layed down on a picnic table and fell asleep for a few minutes and was awakened by a car that had just pulled in. A lady, whose name I later learned, is Mary, came out of the car and opened up the ice cream stand which pleased me in a very large way. I ordered two scoops of ice cream and a coffee. While consuming the delicious ice cream I had a very nice chat with Mary. Mary described life on Cape Breton as fairly laid back. She mentioned that people here aren't hung up on making lots of money, they just want to make enough to get the basics and spend the rest of their time enjoying life. We chatted for at least 30 minutes and I really enjoyed it.

A few KM before Whycocomagh I passed a young fellow who was hitchhiking. As I passed him we both said hi to each other. When I reached Whycocomagh I passed the same fellow again and we both smiled at each other and said hi again. A few KM later I passed him a third time and this time I slowed down to chat with him for a bit. I commented that his method of travel appeared to be faster than mine. He told me that he is from Sydney and that he's heading back home after spending a few days partying.

From Whycocomagh to Wagmatocook the road was reasonably flat as it followed Bras d'Or Lake. I stopped for a Gatorade in Wagmatocook and I ended up having a really nice chat with a couple from Moncton, whose names I can no longer remember. They were really interested in my cross Canada adventure and it was nice to share some of my experiences with them.

I arrived in Baddeck just before 6pm and found a nice motel called The Cabot Trail Motel. The view from my room and from the motel restaurant is absolutely fantastic as it overlooks the lake.

I have about 60 KM of riding tomorrow before I reach North Sydney which is where I will catch the ferry to Newfoundland on Friday. Since I'll be a few days early I will rent a car and drive to Halifax to stay with my friend James.

My legs are feeling beat up today. They took a lot of punishment the last couple of days and they are now feeling it. I'm sure I will sleep well tonight.

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August 09, 2005 at 08:34PM
From: francois
August 9, 2005

Baddeck, NS to North Sydney, NS
KM Travelled Today: 62 KM, Total So far: 6673 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050809/

I was out on the road at 0830 this beautiful sunny day. I enjoyed some lovely views of the lake on my right side as I cycled the first few KMs of the day.

After cycling approx. 22 KMs I reached the base of Kelly's Mountain which is a 7KM climb up to 240 Meters. It was a pretty easy climb and the best part was the glorious view that one gets from the summit, followed by a superb high-speed descent with more glorious views.

Shortly after desccending Kelly's Mountain I crossed a bridge and then stopped at a restaurant to fuel up with some blueberry pancakes. The remaining 22 KMs to North Sydney were mostly downhill which was a pleasant surprise.

I have reservations on the ferry from North Sydney to Argentia (Newfoundland) on Friday at 3:30pm which means I have some time to kill between now and then. So, as planned, I rented a car and drove to Fortress Louisbourg and spent a couple of hours visiting. A couple of hours wasn't enough, I really need 3 or 4 days to really visit the place. But that will have to wait until my next visit to Cape Breton.

After leaving Louisbourg I drove almost 5 hours to Halifax to visit and stay with my friend James. I got here at 9:30pm and James and I chatted for a couple of hours while enjoying some beers. I look forward to visiting around Halifax over the next couple of days.

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August 10, 2005 at 04:42PM
From: francois
August 10, 2005

Tourist day around Halifax
Today's Photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050810/

Out of habit I awoke at 0630 today but I forced myself to go back to sleep until 0830. James stayed at his girlfriend's place last night so I had his entire apartment to myself. He came back this morning a little bit past 0830 and brought me a cup of coffee from the java place down the street.

James lives right in Halifax, not far from Halifax harbour so everything is pretty much within walking distance including Cora's where we went for breakfast. This is my third visit to a Cora's and its always incredibly busy. Now, BC doesn't yet have any Cora's so I think there is a good business opportunity here for someone wanting to run a restaurant.

After breakfast we picked up James' friend, Chris, as well as Chris' 2 year old daughter, Fiona, and took the scenic route to Chris' dad's cottage located in a beautiful bay west of Halifax. Along the way we stopped at Peggy's Cove which became very famous after the Swissair 111 crash in 1998. Peggy's Cove is an absolutely glorious spot, overlooking the Atlantic ocean, with a lovely lighthouse on a shore covered in large smooth wave washed granite rocks.

When we arrived at Chris' dad's cottage we all boarded a Boston Whaler and went for a boat ride around the area. Chris' family has had a cottage here for over 30 years and development in the area, along with prices, have increased dramatically over the last 5 years. There are some amazing homes located on the shores here as you can see from some of the photos I took.

After our boat ride we drove to Queensland beach where we stopped for some lunch. The beach was absolutely full of people, many of them swimming. Chris explained to me that the water here in the bay is actually quite warm.

After lunch we dropped Chris and Fiona back at their home and James and I returned to James' place where we relaxed and had some beers.

Tomorrow I will visit the Halifax Citadel and do my best to acquire some saltwater taffy (thanks for the suggestion Sarah) and I will also walk around downtown Halifax and the harbour that was host to the tragic explosion that killed 1900 people and damaged 12,000 homes back in the year 1917. That explosion was actually the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic age and it was actually studied by Oppenheimer and his boys when they were calculating the strength of the bombs for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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August 11, 2005 at 01:35PM
From: francois
August 11, 2005

Tourist Day in Halifax, NS
Today's Photo: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050811/

I visited the famous Halifax Citadel today. The Citadel that is there today is the fourth in a series of fortifications that occupied the hill overlooking Halifax harbour since 1749. It was completed in 1856 and was actually built to guard against a possible attack from our US neighbours. The earlier forts that occupied the same ground were there to defend British interests in North America against the French.

Today the Citadel is a National Historic site operated by Parks Canada and it is a wonderful place to learn some Canadian history. There are actors in uniform that portray British soldiers marching around and firing canons. There is also the Army Museum which houses artifacts relating to the Canadian military and its role in the first and second world wars.

I concluded my visit to the Citadel by purchasing a few pieces of salt water taffi which were rather delicious. I should have purchased more.

My next stop for today was the Halifax harbour. The harbour was a very busy place today. There's a boardwalk along the water and it was packed full of tourists like myself enjoying the view, the food, the shopping and the entertainment. There are dozens of buskers working on the waterfront at the moment as the annual Halifax Busker Festival is currently on. I enjoyed watching one particular busker who was dressed up to look like a metallic Elvis. This Elvis would stay motionless until money was deposited into his bucket at which point he would temporarily come to life and perform several Elvis-like dance moves in a robotic like fashion.

Tonight I will be going out to dinner with James and his friend Mariah to a Thai place and after that I'll drive to Antigonish to stay the night at St. Francis Xavier Univerisity. I was originally planning on leaving Halifax tomorrow morning and driving directly to North Sydney but I've since decided to break up the drive into two segments as it will make tomorrow's drive less stressful and significantly reduce my chances of missing my ferry.

I won't be posting anything again until Saturday evening as I'm fairly certain there will be no internet access on the ferry.

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August 14, 2005 at 09:09AM
From: francois
August 13, 2005

Argentia, NL to St. John's, NL
KM Travelled Today: 135 KM, Total So far: 6808 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050813/

The ferry ride from North Sydney to Argentia was over 14 hours long and covered a distance of approximately 500 KM. The ferry is large, accomodating over 300 cars and 1200 passengers. For a fee there are two types of sleeping arrangements available on the ferry: a private cabin with four sleepers, or a bunk bed in a room with several other bunk beds. I opted for the latter as it was significantly more cost effective.

After boarding on the boat yesterday at around 3:30pm, I did a little exploration and found that the ship contains a bar, a dining room, a coffee stand, and a gift shop. The dining room was nothing special and served typical ferry food consisting of burgers, hot dogs, a few specials, and some submarine sandwiches. I also located my bunk bed which was on deck 6 in a room with at least 20 other beds. With two people per bunk that equates to about 40 people in this one room. The temperature in the room was kept much colder than the other areas of the ship. In fact it was damn freezing in there.

As the boat departed around 4pm I enjoyed the views of the harbour and of the open ocean before stuffing myself with a burger, a baked potato and a submarine sandwich. As I ate my dinner I noticed that the ship had a rather violent vibration. The dining room, which was located at the rear of the ship, seemed to have the worst vibration of all. It was like sitting on a washing wachine.

I read a magazine until 7pm when I decided to retire to my bunk bed. In order to stay sufficiently warm in the sleeping room I had to actually put on a fleece as well as cover myself with the provided blanket. I listened to music for a couple of hours before falling asleep. I didn't get a great sleep but it was sufficient. The ship vibrations, the noise of people coming/going/snoring/other bodily noises, made it difficult to sleep solidly.

The ship docked sometime after 6am and I believe I was off by 7 or 7:30am on my way towards st. John's. In case you didn't know, Newfoundland time is 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic time (4.5 hours ahead of BC time).

There was a fairly steep hill not far from the ferry terminal and once I had climbed it I was surrounded by dense fog but I could see that the sun would sun burn it off.

I followed highway 100 for about 45 KM until it joined up with the TCH. The road was in great condition, had a nice paved shoulder, some good hills and the views were of forests and lakes.

I arrived in St. John's at about 3pm and quickly located Memorial University thanks to the great directions I obtained at a tourist info centre earlier in the day. My room at MUN (Memorial University) is nice but the lack of phone and internet access in the room are frustrating. I'll try to find an Internet cafe tomorrow. The room also lacked towels but for a fee I was able to obtain some at the residence administration. This is the first Univerisity that I've stayed at that didn't provide towels by default and that didn't have a telephone in the room. For $33 a night I guess one shouldn't complain too much though.

I received a text message and a phone call from Ryan a few minutes after getting settled in my room. Turns out Ryan finished his cross canada trip two days earlier and has been hanging out in St. John's. We made plans to hook up for dinner.

My next task, even before showering, was to obtain a rental car. I wanted to get that taken care of before the car rental places starting closing for the day, and not to mention that tommorrow is Sunday which means many will not be open. After an intensive search I was able to locate a vehicle at Rent-a-wreck and I rented it.

At around 6pm, Ryan came by the Univeristy and we drove to the downtown area only 3 KM away. St. John's has a lot of steep hills in it and the downtown is no exception. Its almost like a miniature San Francisco in that regards. The downtown is, not suprisingly, on the waterfront. Ryan knew of a good vegetarian restaurant and thats where we chowed. It was great to swap cycling stories with Ryan. As Ryan likes to say, "good times."

I was pretty tired after dinner and I went back to my dorm while Ryan went out to get "Screeched". Getting screeched involves ceremoniously drinking screech and kissing a cod fish. Performing the screech procedure apparently allows you to become an honorary Newfoundlander.

Speaking of Newfoundlanders, my experience with them so far is that they are a very friendly bunch but I can't understand what some of them are saying. Some of them seem to have a very thick Newfoundland accent and they speak so fast that I catch only the odd word.

Well, I won't declare my cycling adventure completed yet as I still have to cycle to Cape Spear which is the eastern most point in North America. Its not too far and I plan on cycling there tomorrow morning.

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August 14, 2005 at 09:15AM
From: francois
August 14, 2005

St. John's, NL to Cape Spear, NL (and back)
KM Travelled Today: 40 KM, Total So far: 6848 KM
Todays photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050814/

The cycling portion of my adventure officially ended today with my trip to Cape Spear, which is the most eastern point in North America. I left the university at around 8:30 am this morning and reached Cape Spear before 10am. The hills along the way were absolutely sick, and by sick I mean very steep. The ride to Cape Spear was easily the most difficult 20 KM of road that I've encounted on this trip and so it is appropriate that it should be saved until the end.

There was a rather strong wind this morning which also made things interesting (translation: difficult). But since reaching Cape Spear meant the end of the voyage, neither the wind nor the hills bothered me all that much.

I was a very happy cyclist when I reached Cape Spear and it was hard not to smile. While enjoying the views I spoke to the only other people there besides me. They were Helen and Jack from Massachusetts and it turns out that Helen has done a lot of cycle touring including a cross Canada journey that she undertook 5 years ago. She unfortunately recently had an aneurysm and I believe that it has slowed her down, but it certainly hasn't stopped her.

I love this! Out of all the people that I could run into at such a place, and at such a time, I was fortunate enough to run into a couple that was very much aware of what cycle touring is all about and that was very cool because I knew that Helen and Jack understood perfectly what I was going through right at that time.

The ride back to the University was much easier as the hardest hills were on the way to Cape Spear and so now I faced several good downhill segments and only a few difficult climbs.

Its a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to have completed this 6848 KM journey. I have a panoply of good memories to think back on and I've met a lot of interesting people. Along the way I've tried to learn a little history of the places that I have visited and I believe that I now have a much better understanding of Canadian history and geography than I did prior to the voyage.

There are two things that stand out most in my mind right now. The first is a feeling of accomplishment. The second one cannot be so easily described. It is regarding my family. I could not have undertaken this voyage without support from my family. Those of you who have kids will understand that my wife undertook the larger challenge this Summer in being the sole active parent to our two kids. I only hope that I am as supportive when it comes to helping Marissa achieve her dreams. I've been asked the following question countless times: "And you're wife is ok with this??" and I've always been proud to respond with "Yes".

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August 15, 2005 at 03:13PM
From: francois
August 15, 2005

Tourist Day in Newfoundland
Today's Photos: http://www.bikeacrosscanada.com/photos/20050815/

I dropped off my bike at Earle Industries Bike Shop to have it boxed up for the plane ride at 10am this morning before driving over to Cape Spear. I wanted to return to Cape Spear to take some more photos as my visit there yesterday was a little short due to the cold winds.

Cape Spear is truly a glorious place. There's something special about standing on big solid rock overlooking the open Atlantic ocean, especially when its the spot where one has just ended a 6848 KM cycling journey.

After leaving Cape Spear I picked up Ryan and we headed south. We headed south along highway 10 to Bay Bulls where we enjoyed a 3.5 KM hike to an old lighthouse. The trail followed a path along the bay which meant we had views of the water almost the entire way. When we reached the lighthouse we spoke to a couple that was waiting there. This couple will be bidding on a project to do some restoration work on the lighthouse and they were waiting for the coast guard to show up to let them inside the lighthouse.

After the hike it was already time to head back to town. I dropped off Ryan, dropped off the rental car, got in a cab, picked up my boxed bike, and then headed to the Comfort Inn located less than 1 KM from the airport. Since my flight is at 5am I thought it would be a good idea to stay as close to the airport as possible. Also, the Comfort Inn has a free shuttle to the airport available 24 hours per day.

Soon I will be home and so I think this will officially be the last entry I will make in this diary. I will conclude with some stats:

Days Since Leaving Home: 83
Total Distance Travelled: 6848 KM
Days of cycling: 58
Days off: 25
Average Distance cycled during riding days: 117 KM
Maximum Distance cycled during a day: 231 KM

Thanks to all of you who followed my journey. Having a loyal audience certainly helped encourage me to update the site regularly. And having this site is absolutely the best souvenir I have of the voyage. It is something I'll be able to read and re-read for years.

Time to return home.

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