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

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.

9 thoughts on “Where ya to Bye?

  1. Terry

    If I Google “Where ya to Bye” I now get your blog. So that’s where I’m at. Looks like you need to invent steel belted radial bike tires. Wow that is rough terrain. Hopefully, as you get to the more remote parts, the moose will pack it down for you. Don’t let the gear guy near the screech. Love your stories.


  2. Deborah Patrick

    You two certainly encounter the stuff that helps one recognize and deeply appreciate the sweet stuff! Enjoy you two! What special lifetime memories you two are making for yourselves!! Thanks for the updates!


  3. Gord Otto

    Sounds like you’re getting a sense of why NL has the only “weather dependent” statutory holiday… and why all those other bike shops went broke…

    So, you’re really hung up on this whole “completion” thing, eh?
    You know, you could complete it on ATVs… just saying…

    Keep cycling and sharing!


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