PEI

Living on the Riverside taking it all in my stride. Living on the Riverside, I’m taking life like a big long ride. “ America

  • Day 20 Montague to Elmira 81km 245 m
  • Day 21 Elmira to St Peters 45 kms 104 m
  • Day 22 St Peters to Barkley Beach 66 kms 100 m
  • Day 23 Barkley Beach to Summerside 62 kms 170 m
  • Day 24 Summerside to Shediac NB 112 kms 200 m
  • TOTAL JOYRIDE DEUX SO FAR 1859 kms 7915 m
PEI wandering

Weather matters. And it continues to be good. Bonus? The leaves are just starting to turn and are beautiful.

We follow the manicured Confederation Trail until we get close to a recommended destination, then we get on quiet back roads or red “gravel” roads. Most of these backroads are smoother than silk. The Trail has enough interpretive signs to result in an average speed of 3 km per hour, so even I stopped stopping. Every kilometer there is a bench or covered picnic table so one can rest from the 0 elevation gain and non-existant traffic of any sort.

There are great seafood restaurants everywhere. Some right next door to where we stayed. Not that we planned that. Okay, maybe we did. But we also internet hunted for shelters with a kitchen of some sort, and fresh seafood from the grocery store has been amazing. Gear Guy, now Chef Guy, is the head cook and does an amazing Atlantic Salmon, cod and mussels! For dessert – the best, biggest chocolate chip cookie in the world at the Black and White Cafe in St Peters. Chef Guy obsesses over oysters where ever and whenever he can. We met Jake and Lisa. Jake is a fisher and was booked to go Wicked Tuna fishing the next morning. He and Jay got into all things tuna and beer and oysters.

Sadly, PEI is in seasonal close down. Closed signs are in many windows in each town. A bit strange, as there seems to be tourists everywhere, except on the bike paths. September long weekend seems to be the end of most everything. The higher end hotels are open til mid October, but not surprisingly, they are all full – and that’s before they even caught sight of us! Good restaurants require reservations. A shortage of staff due to “the CERB” since “the Covid” (island talk) continues to make it difficult to run a business even if they wanted to stay open (which they don’t).

We met Danielle and Bernie at one little seafood restaurant. Bernie is a long distant trekker. He’s done many treks and is now doing the the Island Walk, a 700 km walk around PEI. Danielle joins up with Bernie on his adventures. Intriguing…. Trekking is perhaps an obvious, but only recently initiated, brilliant idea in PEI. Check it out: https://theislandwalk.ca/about-the-island-walk/.

I’m not sure I want to know the story here… This is not Bernie and Danielle by the way.

We rode along the north shore where the endless red beaches captivated us and resulted in many stops, snoozes and stretches. My collection of shells and rocks are carefully hidden in Jay’s bag.

We bumped into Katherine Dewar during one beach stop. Katherine is a retired nurse turned published author. She writes about under appreciated maritime female war heroes. Our chat was, well, mesmerizing. Of course, we forced her to autograph and sell us the only book she happened to have with her. We look forward to her next one, out soon. Look her up.

When we crossed from the north shore to the south, we encountered PEI farmland everywhere. The famous potato crop is being harvested, as well as delicious corn.

We departed ole PEI on the 25 year old Confederation Bridge. The curved, 12.9 kilometre bridge is the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water, and continues to endure as one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century. Justifiably, no pedestrians or cyclists are allowed on the bridge, so a shuttle is provided. We were told that “only 4 boikers have used it this years”. It’s the Covid. Heard that alot.

So long PEI, we will return. Officially our 10th province on our cross Canada Joy Ride. Off to New Brunswick to close the gap to the scene of the broken pelvis… as Bond fans would say: ”Stay tuned for the epic conclusion”.

Ciad MileFailte! – 100 Thousand Welcomes! 

  • Day 15 North Sydney to Iona 63 kms 590 m
  • Day 16 Iona to Port Hood 74kms 600 m
  • Day 17 Port Hood to Antigonish 104 kms 600 m
  • Day 18 Antigonish to Woodburn 82 kms 300 m
  • Day 19 Woodburn to Montague PEI 96 kms 185 m
  • TOTAL JOYRIDE DEUX 1493 kms 7096 m

We had lots of ”epic” and even some ”epic-er” in NF. Now we needed some “Awesome!”. And we got it in Nova Scotia – the promised land of gravel bikers. We staggered off the massive Newfoundland ferry in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to sunshine and warmth; still mostly damp, slightly hypothermic and very much wind blown in our NL long underwear and rain gear. There we were assaulted with too many route options for us to process, having gotten use to the NF one road, one rail trail system. We deliberated each and every turn, often changing our minds at the next corner. First off, we passed on the Cabot Trail. Although stunningly beautiful, we have both done it (Jay twice), and we are still in Newfoundland recovery mode and didn’t exactly crave for the extra 1600 m of elevation. Or the Cabot Trail traffic.

We had good intel from Sue S’s friend Karla who lives in the area. And we remain determined to stay off all main roads. So straight off the start we took a gravel route – clearly less traveled; though we hesitated, still scarred from Newfoundland gravel, but we were rewarded with a day of pristine, heavenly, downhill both ways, type of gravel biking. Our bikes were made for this. It’s like we almost forgot it could be this good. Lucky for Navigation Guy….

Next day the TCT offered another sensational day on the Ceilidh Trail, observing nary a soul nor sage fly. In the 1800’s 50,000 or so Scottish Highlanders immigrated to Cape Breton and the Gaelic language is still prominent on every road sign in the area and Céilidhs with music and dancing are very common on this Musical Coast. We got into the spirit by drinking at the Frolic and Folk pub. Gear Guy, now Gaelic Guy, impressed no one with his vocals.

There are cozy, ocean side cottages and inns a plenty and ne’r too far off route. Sea food markets are attached to beer stores – this is just how bike packing should be. And we haven’t donned a jacket, rain gear or long undees since we got off the Ferry.

At times we felt like we were dreaming: ”I wish I had a snooze stop with a hammock” “I need a lunch stop on the ocean with a historical Scottish cairn”

Sunshine lasted for 3 days until Odette arrived. Yet another tropical storm. Gear Guy, now Hurricane Guy, rated the storm as ”Relatively unimpressive.” having experience now with Ida and Larry. But still, we used the threat to enjoy a day off, wandering around Antigonish, a town of 4364 people. The University of St FX has 5127 students on a spectacular campus that we explored with the sole goal of finding the only coffee shop open on a Sunday.

We stayed at the Maritime Inn in Antigonish where the management did our laundry, offered to loan us their car and kept saying, ”You are family now, it is the least we can do.”; stopping short of adding, ”When you look and smell like you do…..” Next time you are in Antigonish stay at the Maritime Inn!

Best seafood chowder in the world at Charlene’s. Thanks Karla

And then, back on a ferry and over to PEI – our 10th province. We are nigh to closing the gap in our cross Canada JoyRide. Hard to believe. We loved NS. It was an awesome gravel bike paradise but (already) PEI is awesome-er.

It was a sign, so Jay bought it. Not the boat. The utility trailer.

Fare thee well Newfoundland

  • Day 10 Spring Dale – Deer Lake 128kms 243 m
  • Day 11 Deer Lake – CornerBrook 58 kms 246 m
  • Day 12 Cornerbrook – Stephenville 82 kms 550 m
  • Dey 13 Stephenville – Cartyville 70 kms 304 m
  • Day 14 – Cartyville – Port aux Basque 110 kms 700 m
  • TOTAL SO FAR ON JOY RIDE DEUX 1091 kms 5281 m

And I say way-hey-hey, it’s just an ordinary day
And it’s all your state of mind
At the end of the day
You’ve just got to say it’s all right
!

Our Newfoundland biking days have been scheduled mainly to miss hurricanes; which left us in somewhat less desirable places to stay – anything with a roof basically. We have used our sleeping bags in several of the minus 3 star motels/shelters. But as Joc reminded me, ”It only has to FEEL like a Fairmont” – and they did! The 128 kms into Deer Lake was to ensure we could make it to Cornerbrook before Larry hit. We made it before the hurricane, but endured a 40km/hour headwind the entire 8 hours in the saddle. Continuing relentless headwinds out of Deer Lake to Cornerbrook pushed us to go back to the rail trail from the highway, where we are somewhat protected from the winds. But Navigator Man’s cruel choice of bringing us into Cornerbrook resulted in 3 brutally steep climbs, the last of which hit 12.3% grade according to Garmin, but I swear was well over 38%!

I have upgraded from Navigator Man to Navigator Bird

One of the enchantments of Newfoundland is if we stand still for longer than 3 minutes with our bikes, we are invited in for tea by someone. We were taking a short break off the rail trail that passed through a small village of homes when Bob strolled by to invite us for tea “up at the house with the Missus”. Sure! Bob and Eileen are the happiest people in the world. We laughed and chatted for over an hour, sipping tea and talking about their beautiful home that Bob built. Their enormous 12 cord pile of wood that Bob cuts and splits himself ”to fuel da furnace” makes Jay’s brother’s Manitoba winter pile look like a match stick. Bob is 73 but strong as a bull, new shoulders and all. And Eileen keeps it all together with their massive family of combined 28 siblings, kids and grandkids. Just looking at this photo makes us beam.

We now have first hand knowledge as to why Newfoundland has the only ”weather dependent” civic holiday in the country. On the first Wednesday in August each year, St John’s celebrates its annual regatta, typically, a party of over 50,000 people. In fact, this 200 year old event is a civic holiday in St John’s. But if weather conditions are not favorable (very likely in our experience) the event is postponed until “the next suitable day”. Add to this the George Street festival schedule aligns with the regatta, and now you have many people counting on a day off, something referred to as Regatta Roulette. Thanks Gord for pointing out this Newfoundland trivia.

We loved busy Cornerbrook, filled with walkers, runners and cyclists and great restaurants. Mussels so good we went back twice! We spent 1 night in the Discomfort Inn, then managed to move to the Glynwinn Inn which is like Chateau Lake Louise Newfoundland style. We even managed to rent a truck for a few hours! This was perfect as a local bike store (remember there are 2 on the whole island) installed our new tires and did a much needed tune on the bikes.

The new tires are here!!!


Voted toughest province so far.

We will be back…with hiking boots and something with a motor in it.

We Is a Weaving and Dodging, Bye

  • Day 6 Gambo to Gander 42km 310m
  • Day 7 Gander to Bishop’s Falls 91 km 388 m
  • Day 8 Bishop’s Falls – South Brook 112 km 646m
  • Day 9 South Brook – Springdale 14km (completely in the wrong direction, but the only place for food)
  • TOTAL SO FAR FOR JOY RIDE DEUX 632 KMS 4941 M

20 years ago today, Gander played a heartwarming part in 9/11, well shared around the world in the musical “Come from Away”.

On the northeast tip of North America, on an island called Newfoundland, there’s an airport.
It used to be one of the biggest airports in the world, and next to it is a town called Gander.

Welcome to the rock if you come from away,
You’ll probably understand about half of what we say.
They say no man’s an island but an island makes a man,
Especially when one comes from one like Newfoundland.
Welcome to the Rock

Some history – Gander airport was the world’s largest airport when built in 1936. Built essentially in the wilderness to promote transatlantic air travel on planes that did not yet exist. New and unknown, Gander secretly transported 20,000 aircraft to Europe during the Second World War before it filled its roll as a trans-Atlantic stop over.

We enjoyed our gander at Gander (thanks mom for that) while we hunkered down 2 days for Ida leftovers. We were well educated at the local aviation museum but noticed that the 9/11 incident is barely mentioned – not surprising since the last upgrade was in 1967 for Canada’s centennial. But it is not really mentioned anywheres. We managed to find a rare rental car to run errands and day trip to Twillingate. Twillingate is a historical and ruggedly beautiful fishing town. A rental car is something you used to be able to book easily, on-line or by phone, until COVID. Now rental cars are as rare as Big Foot sightings. But we digress. Shockingly, the museums were closed for the long weekend (reopening on Tuesday). And the fresh fish market was closed for the season. And there ya have it. Reminded us of home – “might be busy with a long weekend and covid restrictions off, we’d better close Bye.”

The trail continues to challenge bodies and bikes. 60kms of gravel biking in tough conditions is an exhausting day – weaving and dodging the large gravel and ruts and puddles. There is no shortage of large gravel here on The Rock. Day 7 we left the trail after 60kms and hit the road. My tire plugs are leaking, my gears are complaining and my bike is struggling too.

Don’t you wish you were here?

There was a point here at Badger NL that the trail cut across the Gaff Top Sails. We were looking forward to it. However, local intel suggested that with the recent hurricane rains, and those still coming, the very rough trail would likely be washed out in places making the impassable trail, well, impassable. My leaky tire was yet another reason to rethink a remote, rough, 130km. So we bypassed that bit of the rail trail and took the highway for that portion.

Day 8 into South Brook was all on highway – fairly flat. We enjoyed a tail wind, the last we are likely to see on the Rock, so we did a run north with only 3 stops to put new plugs in the tire (now sporting 8 plugs). The new tire in Corner Brook seems a long way off still……because it is.

GEAR GUY on tires – Okay, so there is a reason I haven’t put a tube into Deb’s suffering and leaky tubeless tire. Here’s the thing, once you use a tube, then you’re stuck with a tube. And we only have one tube. And it’s not just Deb’s tires that are leaking. All of them are. Easily evidenced by the weeping sealant at the end of a Rail Trail day. And on these trails, pinched tubes is a risk. And if you pinch a tube then I’ve got leaky tires and a leaky tube to deal with. So my plan is to just keep plugging until they just won’t hold any air and then take the last resort to a tube. Because we’re still a long way to get new tires.

All the services, convenience stores, rest stops, or groceries google showed along the way were either closed or non existant. The hotel we had booked was closed on the long weekend (of course) but agreed to open the door for us. But naturally when we arrived after another long, sporty weather day, the place was closed, locked and with no one there. No where even to pitch a tent (thank goodness). We cycled on through a NF squall to Spring Dale, 14 kms out of the way. We’ve come to learn too well that riding in a NF squall in hurricane season is like peddling through a car wash. Now on google maps Spring Dale looked deceivingly like a small, quaint, touristy town on a peninsula that happened to have the only grocery store for 160 kms. But there must have been a Cod Bake or something going on as the traffic on the narrow road was like the Deerfoot 500.

Results of a Newfoundland squall including a waist high car induced tsunami while riding.
72 hour emergency hurricane kit

We thought we would answer some questions we have been asked:

  • You planned an unsupported bike traverse of a barren, inhospitable landscape just as a line of hurricanes was making landfall; are you looking for epic or just stupid? Stupid.
  • Are you tough or dumb? See above.
  • Are you really that hung up on finishing? Maybe on an ATV.
  • Does Jay’s mullet have the same degree of attraction for the ladies on the east coast it has out west? Yes, Bye
  • What did you bring that you haven’t used? Common sense. And swimming suits.
  • What do you wish you brought? Spare tire. Carried one all during BC but not since.
  • Do you want to join us on a bike tour in October? Only if it’s in Antarctica. Its drier there. And not as windy.
And yet the charm remains

Did you know that hurricane season in Newfoundland is technically from June to November? Did you know the peak of the season is September 10? We didn’t…gotta go…need to make tracks. Larry is on the way – we continue weaving and dodging… Do you know what the odds are of cycling into not one, but two hurricanes in a 10 day span? Gear Guy, now Weather Guy, says the odds are ”%#@!*& to one”.

Where ya to Bye?

  • Day 1 St John’s Airport – Conception Bay 75.0 kms 1018 m elevation
  • Day 2 Conception Bay – Blake Town 67 kms 624 m
  • Day 3. Blake Town – Arnolds Cove 70kms 821 m
  • Day 4 Arnolds Cove – Muddy Brook 97.3 kms 760 m
  • Day 5 Muddy Brook – Gambo 62 kms 374 m
  • TOTAL SO FAR ON JOY RIDE DEUX – 373 KMS 3597 M ELEVATION

There are many who could do the distance and elevation we’ve done in just one long day. We know some of them, we don’t like them. But the T’Railway trail is, well, challenging. It’s tough. Even by Fernie standards. Almost all of the 371 kms covered so far are on the T’Railway trail – the abandoned rail road that crosses NFLD (also called the TransCanadaTrail but not by Newfies). It is astonishingly remote at times, as quiet as a whisper. It can be smooth and wonderful and abruptly turn into a messy, teeth shaking, hand numbing, razor sharp rock quarry, with unexpected craters and small ponds thrown in.  At all times it is reliably unreliable.

Day 1 was mostly side roads and city pathways. Day 2 started on the rail trail until our bodies couldn’t handle it and we aborted up to the highway to end the day on pavement. Day 3 we stayed mainly on the busy, stressful highway to prove the discomfort of the trail wasn’t so bad. Since the highway day, the princess has sucked it up and remained commendably stoic, if I do say so myself. Days 4 and 5 were all rail trail, and were sensational days spent looking for moose and blueberries (while I bounced off sharp rocks).

We were warned about the Rail trail. Few do it on a bike, and those that do, do it on fat bikes or mountain bikes with oversized tires. We currently are running 47mm. Too narrow. You need at least 55mm in case we have enticed you to come ride the trail. We’ve already suffered a 3 plug flat. And it leaks. Tubes wouldn’t help.

Trail “upgrades” are frequent, often close to major centres of more than 500 in population, and always involve truck loads of 2 inch gravel. The sharp kind. The unrideable kind. At least on a bicycle. The ATVs seem to push the gravel into three organized, 6 inch high walls, leaving behind just enough rocks in between that a cyclist must always be vigilant to swerve the most pointed, tire piercing rocks. We cycle behind one another in case of any urgent need to make the daring plunge across the center pile to get to where the grass is greener – only to return again shortly thereafter. It is comical to watch from behind the constant weaving, dodging and darting.

We’ve seen only one other couple riding – Paul and Dwanda from St Johns; out for a day ride on high end carbon 29er Mountain Bikes with + tires. Last year, they did the entire trail on gravel bikes, but on the newest model Salsa Cut Throat (that come standard with 56mm tires).  Gear guy is already speccing our next gravel bikes – Cut Throats.  Our Kona Libres are great but can only take 50mm tires.  Not that it matters right now, because it is not possible to source any tires wider than 47mm which is what we’re riding now. They are basically cut to shreds with goo leaking out from innumerable spots and plugs barely hanging on, mostly holding the air in. We have ordered new tires from our Winnipeg bike shop that should make it to a nearby town in a few days and many, many more kms of gravel.  

There are about 500,000 people in NFLD and two bike shops.  Two.  The nearest one to us is now about 400kms (of already well described trails)away.  But if you are into ATVing, Newfoundland is your place. There are about a million ATV shops.  Like 7/11 stores.  We’ve run into lots of ATVs on the trail. And they are friendly, but we wonder (as I’m sure they do) where is the fun in dat?  

We have had to do more planning than we typically like. Typically means “What’s for lunch?” at 11:30 am. Between the weather threats, lifted restrictions bringing every Newfoundlander home, the September long weekend, limited accommodations and no fresh food for hundreds of kms on the trail, we have had to be more organized. But we take a look at the road just ahead and take it slow and steady, ensuring we find every Fairmont on the island.

Canadians are special. Newfoundlanders are exceptional. The post office lady helping us tape our parcel smaller so Canada Post would take it. The BnB host who drove us to his parents’ home where we filled a bag with garden vegetables and fresh caught cod. Another host who drove us to get a rent a car and back again. The liquor store clerk who pulled off the road the next day to say hi when passing us. And of course, Paul, who we met biking with Dwanda on the trail. Paul stays in touch with us by email and has had great tips on the trail. Everyone is so friendly and wants to know “Where ya to bye?”; which we think means – “What’s our story?”; which is complicated to explain why we are heading west while on a cross Canada bike trip from Victoria.

The sea food is crazy good. Dinner tonight was fresh caught salmon (Jay’s fishing pals know that I don’t need to add “bought from store”). We are finding bnb’s whenever possible so we can cook the fresh fish that is in the rare grocery stores close to the trail. Cod tongues (they must have bigger mouths than I could ever imagine), scruntions (deep fried pork belly), and toutons (deep fried dough dipped in maple syrup) have all been on the menu as well. When in Rome…

But really, this trail is awesome, as long as you are packed for it and have lots of tire patches and plugs.  There’s drinking water everywhere and we have made note of the locations of the many sensational camp spots if you are interested. Just so you know that it has not been all bourgeoisie biking, we had the cook stove out a few times for soup to take the edge off. At this rate we should be off the Rock sometime in 2022, just in time for Jay to see the Jets win the Stanley Cup.  

Sultry weather

Ahhhhhh….Newfoundland. This is where we’re to Bye.