Our rest day was restful with only a couple rides down the road to Chez Mona Restaurant, which turned out to be a favorite for meals among riders during our one-day respite. Twenty-one of us inundated the restaurant for supper, alone.
That battalion of bad mossies that sent us to bed, had lingered to greet our exit from the tent this 22 August morning. By far, it was our worst encounter with the pests. We had erected our tent, as many others did, under the picnic shelters, enabling us to pack a dry tent, quickly. We broke camp efficiently, then partook in a pre-breakfast of yogurt and porridge at the truck. Chez Mona then hosted a good, mosquito-free breakfast to begin our day and the last segment of our cross-Canada journey. It was so nice to sit down again for a breakfast, and enjoy a relaxing coffee. Our legs were spinning by 7:43 am.
The “home stretch”! This would be our last segment, the longest at nine days. If Joyce’s and my feelings were any indication, everybody was becoming anxious to be successful in reaching the ultimate destination of this terrific tour, St. Johns. However, we knew that this was our last week of a memorable meander across Canada with our “summer family”. Mixed feelings!
It turned out to be a hot day at 28*C. Bouctouche, a beautiful little town on the shores of the Northumberland Strait, was our first stop, meeting up with Danny, Louise, Mary, and Myra enjoying lunch in the town park. Joyce and I pushed on only to meet up with them again in Shediac at “the Big Lobster”.
With pictures taken, Danny, Joyce, and I didn’t last long in the saddle before an ice cream store caught our attention. We indulged! Later, toward the end of an optional side trip, we battled headwinds, oddly, bicycling away from the water. By 5:00 pm., with another 140k “off the books”, we cycled into Murray Beach Provincial Park. It was an open concept park with beautiful panoramas and great facilities. A casual walk after supper to better enjoy the views provided me with my first sight of the bridge onto PEI, which we’d be crossing tomorrow.
The exposed park was susceptible to high winds and driving rain, which started about 5:30 am. next morning. Only when the storm abated did we leave the comfort of our tent. With only eighty-seven kilometres scheduled for the day, there was no concern to hurry to the highway. Still, we were on our way into a light drizzle by 8:11. The scenery provided intermittent glimpses of the huge bridge in the distance as Alain, Jacques, Mike, Michel, Joyce and I biked along. It only took an hour to arrive at Cape Jourmain to await the shuttle to Prince Edward Island.
We waited for our turn for the shuttle over coffee and toast in the terminal restaurant. By 9:54 am., the shuttle was transporting eight of us across Confederation Bridge, which joins the eastern Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. After four years of construction, the Confederation Bridge opened to traffic on 31 May, 1997 at a total cost of one billion dollars. The curved, 12.9 kilometre long bridge is the longest in the world crossing the Northumberland Strait, ice-covered in winter. It endures as one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th Century. (compliments of http://www.confederationbridge.com/about/confederation-bridge.html).
At the PEI terminus was a Cows Ice Cream Store. Tempting, but we resisted. After some photographs, Victoria-by-the-Sea was our next stop. Our group of seven broke up to patronize different, local spots. Joyce, Mike, and I enjoyed lunch in a restaurant with a beautiful view at the edge of the water. “It’s a small world” was foremost in our minds during a chance meeting with fellow Huntsvillians, Reverend John McTavish and his family, in the restaurant. Not only was Reverend McTavish the pastor at Trinity United Church, he wed my eldest son, Chris, to his bride and wife, Clarita.
PEI is not flat. But, the undulating terrain did not affect our timely 3:10 pm. arrival at the Cornwall KOA campground. Good thing since we were responsible for supper. The chicken catalina and fruit bowl were a hit. At 8:05 pm., clean-up completed, we were in the tent. After another, evening, diary entry, sleep came fast.
Saturday, 24 August, six days left! Blueberry pancakes rounded out the breakfast menu, our last meal responsibility. Even with breakfast and clean-up, we were on the road by 8:11 am., again. Charlottetown, Canada’s seat of Confederation, was a short five kilometres down the road. The firefighters had an interesting exhibit of old fire engines on display, impossible to resist. Joyce was concerned about making the ferry off the island, so, after a short visit and with pictures taken, we continued. Joyce’s concern wasn’t necessary because our 11:40 am. arrival at the ferry dock was well ahead of the 12:59 pm. boarding, 1:11 pm. sailing times. The ferry completed its 96k crossing by 2:30 pm. Now, we were in Nova Scotia, three provinces in two days, by bike.
A large group of us detoured into Pictou to see the replica of the ship, Hector, which brought Scottish settlers to the area in the late 1700s, hence the strong Gaelic influence in the region. Louise, a co-rider, was Scottish, and, no doubt, this Gaelic influence made her feel at home. The tribulations of our cross-Canada odyssey compared meagre to the hardships of the Hector. Off we went.
On our route out, we came to the largest traffic circle that I’ve ever seen, or ridden. I’m sure we doubled the day’s distance because of it. From there, our cycle was steady and uneventful to Cranberry Campground.
I exited the tent next morning into a brisk, cool, clear day. You could see your breath. It seemed sensible to make a quick 180 to return to the warmth of my sleeping bag. Now, I realize why we’ve seen so many truckloads of snowmobiles passing us on the highway.
Joyce and I toughed it out, layered up, and got moving to keep warm. We departed camp into the cool, brisk air, but the sun was shining indicating that, with time, the day would be warm and bright. It wasn’t long before many of the group met up and rode together. Tim Hortons in Antigonish was a stop nobody challenged for further warmth with a coffee.
Joyce and I left the main group further down the road, only to meet up with them again after experiencing some tough going on a “short cut”. It’s great to cycle with a larger group since you get to talk to different riders, when riding along quiet routes. In Harve Boucher, a small eastern town, the group stopped for sausage on a bun and drink to support the fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital in Halifax. It was opportune since it was lunchtime, and a preferred menu to the normal, summer fare of peanut butter sandwiches.
An hour down the road, Larry and Gee, on the side of the road, flagged us into Aulds Cove Volunteer Fire Department. A 2012 TdCer had arranged a lunch in the firehall. What a treat! Our second lunch in an hour included fruit, vegetables, yogurt, crackers, cheese, cookies, and chocolate milk. Well stuffed, our lucky group posed for a photograph with the TdCer’s sister. With difficulty, off we went.
Once we’d crossed the Canso Causeway two kilometres along, we were in Cape Breton. The remaining, seventy kilometres of the day’s 168 kilometre journey was hilly, and our sated condition made riding tough. We were late arriving at MacKinnon’s Campground at 6:30, and late for the pot luck supper, which the campground had arranged. This memorable day was one of feasts.
Joyce’s knee had been bothering her for a few days. A heavy day across Newfoundland was before us. Joyce did not want to miss that day. As insurance, we chose to bivouac in Baddeck for two nights while the group circum-cycled Cape Breton Island. Eric, who was experiencing hamstring troubles, decided to join us.
On Monday, 26 August, while our cycling compatriots toughed out the ride around hilly, but scenic, Cape Breton, Joyce, Eric, and I became “pure tourists”. After the relatively short ride of 55 kilometres, we lazed about in picturesque Baddeck lunching at the Highwheeler Cafe and checking into our B&B. Coincidentally, Cycle Canada’s Tour Atlantic riders started to arrive in town. After applause from us, we spoke with some, and met with Bud, our tour organizer / owner, who was in town to congratulate those same riders. Our dandy day ended with a good supper at Lynwood Inn and some TV. Sleep still came easily despite our leisurely day.
Tuesday was our second, consecutive, easy day, a warm-up distance of 27.6 kilometres over seventy-five minutes. Our good breakfast was closely followed by coffee and some indulgences in town, then our bike ride. By 2:05 pm., we were at Englishtown Ridge Campground. It was a tough haul over the last kilometre up a steep, unpaved road. Once in camp, we set up our tent and contents for the last time on a terrific, soon-to-be done tour. Because our sag truck was not making the crossing to Newfoundland, it was necessary for all to organize and consolidate our belongings. That chore really drove home the point we’d soon be finished our ride. Our group enjoyed a supper of spaghetti and cake at tables in the campground hall. Bud held a meeting about the logistics and crossing to Newfoundland.
August 28 was another short day at 39.5 kilometres. The two-hour ride landed us in North Sydney about 11:51 am., but not before we ascended and descended Kelly Mountain (240 metres), crossed the Seal Island Bridge, and indulged, once more, for our accomplishments at the Cedar House Bakery, which offered a terrific assortment of restaurant and bakery cuisine. I enjoyed coffee and toast with pie for dessert. It was a terrible thought that soon I wouldn’t be able to eat randomly.
Simultaneously as we arrived at the ferry dock, Joyce’s sister, Cathy, and family arrived to greet us. We needed to take time to load our bikes and belongings with the other group members, a concerted effort. Where else but at a proximate Tim Hortons did we add to our initial, short, “Hello!”, a prolonged visit with Joyce’s family. By 3:50 pm., the group was boarding the ferry in preparation of the five o’clock sailing.
Our berth was comfortable, clean, . . . and small, an efficient use of space. After a refreshing shower, we met with our group to enjoy a terrific, buffet supper. Six plates went back, two cold, two hot, and two dessert. Too good! My only after-supper concern was that the boat would rock too much. The days had grown shorter with the passage of summer. Darkness had fallen providing no scenery. And, our ride tomorrow would be long across the Avalon Peninsula. 8:30; bed time!
Our spirits were high. The accommodations were comfortable and first rate. The food was aplenty and superb. Breakfast, too, went back with ease. We were looking forward to a great, finishing ride. But, it appeared that our optimism was in vain. Our boat experienced difficulty docking. The tips of the waves were being carried away by the wind. The day was cloudy, but clear. Our group gathered on the car deck awaiting disembarkation. As the boat’s snout rose, all of us could feel the cool, windy day awaiting us. At 10:05 am., we departed the boat, readied our bikes, and made our lunches, for the last time, using any flat, table-like surface that we could find out of the wind. Off we went at 10:45. A moment later, we had stopped for a photograph at the “Welcome Newfoundland” sign. We were in our tenth province, the tenth province, actually, to have joined Confederation, in 1949, a good year.
The day was breezy. Not until Joyce and I had ascended the first hill did we realize how windy it was, and how long the day would likely be. Welcome to Newfoundland!
Joyce and I rode a considerable distance together. Catching and being caught, our group grew by mid-peninsula. Only a couple stops delayed our progress. Some took their turns at the front “pulling” the group facilitating the effort. They call Newfoundland, “the Rock”, for a reason. Sparsely populated by people and plants alike, what we saw was mostly wind-blown and barren. The questionable scenery and cloudy day added to the day’s length. It was obvious when we were getting closer to St. Johns. Traffic was heavier and urban sprawl became more evident.
Darkness and rain descended upon us simultaneously as our group reached the outskirts of St. Johns. What a welcome! While we warmed and refreshed at our last Tim Hortons stop of the trip, our terrific truck driver, Adam, was summoned to escort us the remaining few kilometres through dark and rain. At 9:11 pm. Newfoundland time, we arrived at the Extended Stay Hotel. All of us were physically and emotionally spent. After a hot shower not ten feet from a real bed, we joined a happy, accomplished group, which dined on pizza and cake for supper. For Joyce and me, a long day, a long trip, ended at 11:30 pm.
Many had an early breakfast enabling a group of us to ride to “Mile ‘0’” with enough time to return to prepare for our celebratory luncheon. The inclement weather did not provide optimum conditions, nor did it deter us. Several memorable, prized, photographs were obtained with the foremost of Canadians, Terry Fox, included. Giddy, we were like kiddies running about, posing, unconcerned about gigabyte usage. That done, we proceeded to Signal Hill, the traditional end of the Tour.
Signal Hill on this day was not a good location for photographs. One could see the fog moving in and following the contours of the land and manmade obstacles. Fog horns broke the silence. Unlike in 2009 when it was so clear you could almost see England, our hill visit today was short with few pictures taken. Our group then congregated at a waterfront park for the requisite, front-wheel-dip and photographs. Then, we ascended a hill for the last time on this trip on our return to the hotel.
All of us, in turn, were shuttled to an up-scale restaurant just down the road. We congregated in a small room, which made the affair appropriately intimate. We paid our respects, silently, to our lost riders, Irene and Bob Booth. Then, there were plenty of smiles, some tears, good food, some speeches, and a plethora of great memories. The luncheon was a fitting conclusion to a fine summer and an unbelievable accomplishment.
The remainder of the day was used to organize for our imminent departures over the next couple days. While working on our blog, I assisted Myra to box her bike, for many, a common past time today. That evening, seven of us patronized the Keg to enjoy a fantastic steak meal with a side order of fond memories. We revelled in the moment because 12:35 pm. the next day, Saturday, 31 August, 2013, Joyce and I were homeward bound. What a terrific summer!
Segment Table 12 - St. Louis-du-Kent to St. John’s, Newfoundland
|Location / Date||Time camp to camp||Time on bike||Max. speed||Avg. speed||Distance||Trip to date|
|Murray Beach / 22Aug||10:06||6:56||41.5||20.1||139.4||6369.6|
|Cornwall, PEI / 23Aug||7:00||3:38||?||22.4||81.3||6450.9|
|Lower Barneys R/24Aug||9:20||7:11||55.7||21.3||127.1||6578.0|
|Lake Ainslie / 25Aug||10:56||8:02||54.7||20.9||168.4||6746.4|
|Baddeck / 26Aug||5:46||2:28||45.4||22.2||54.8||6801.2|
|Englishtown / 27Aug||3:02||1:16||49.2||21.6||27.5||6828.7|
|North Sydney / 28Aug||2:58||2:03||58.4||19.2||39.5||6868.2|
|Argentia, NL to St.John’s, NL / 29Aug13||10:26||8:11||41.5||16.0||131.2||6999.4|
|To Signal Hill||2:05||8.5||7007.9|