Sandy Beaches to Kauri Trees to Sheep – Powered by Meatpies – The Northland

  • Day 1 – Cape Reinga – Hukatere Lodge 75 kms 180 m
  • Day 2 Hukatere Lodge – Ahipara Bay 36 kms 25 m
  • Day 3 Ahipara Bay – Rawene 68 kms 1178 m
  • Day 4 Rawene – Omapere 25 km 156 m
  • Day 5 Omapere – Trounson Park 54 km 1070 m
  • Day 6 Trounson Park – Dargaville 37 km 86 m
  • Day 7 Dargaville – Pararoa 52 km 407 m
  • Day 8 Pararoa – Glorit 78 km 1260 m
  • Day 9 Glorit – Waimauku 39 km 632 m
  • Day 10 Waimauku – South of Auckland 65km 517 m
  • TOTAL TO DATE: 529 KM (length in kms) 5511 M (cumulative vertical meters climbed)

New Zealand is a ways from home – 27 hours – 3 flights. We arrived uneventfully in Auckland – with all our luggage intact! Jay slept 10 hours on the plane with the help of Nyquil and The Hobbit. He seems to be mostly recovered from the covid. No one asked us about the covid. Customs Agent was more interested in the cleanliness of our bikes and camping equipment and was especially curious why we brought tea. Jay commented that Red Rose was only available in Canada and what a pity that is. The Agent waved us through. Not even the Customs Beagle was the slightest bit interested in Jay’s Red Rose tea.

We assembled the bikes in an airport hotel, rented a car and searched for a post office that would ship our bike bags to Invercargville via Post Restante – a New Zealand postal service where they will hold parcels for pick up for a fee. Great concept, but no-one at 3 post offices seemed to have heard of it. We shipped them anyways.

Ignoring the locals talk about the wettest winter on record and national news alerts about snow on the South Island, we met our shuttle driver and headed north on a spectacularly beautiful seven hour drive to Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of New Zealand. Where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean clash. Reinga is the Māori word for underworld – refering to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. Definitely not a family swim spot. If it looks cold and windy. It is.

We loaded our bikes and started south to Te Paki Stream “Road” – a tourist name for Te Paki “Stream”. Definitely an inside joke Kiwis chuckle about over a pint during rainy season.

Te Paki Stream “Road”

We did eventually reach 90 Mile Beach – another Kiwi joke – it’s really only 55 miles. Spectacularly beautiful and spectacularly slow – top cruising speed was 12 kms/hour – we learned not to stop and chat with trampers too long, or our tires quickly sank into a cement like trap of sand.

We have yet to meet fellow bike packers, but we met many trampers on the beach – there is a different route for trampers, but we start off together. The Te Arotearoa walk will take most 5 1/2 months. We met a diverse assortment of people hiking: families, singles, old, young, Europeans, Canadians – but they all had blisters in common. We did feel slightly bad as we passed them on bikes and we did not discuss one Kiwi’s ominous comment: “yeees, I thought about biking, but it’s too darn hilly heeeres.” We overnighted at the off grid Hukatere Lodge just off the beach – and the wonderful owner Gabi miraculously stuck a cold beer in our hands and some New Zealand chow for dinner. That sounds simple. But a lot had to go right for us to make that lodge. Otherwise, we would have been in a tent. Gear Guy was betting on the tent. He underestimates me. My record of no tenting remains unblemished.

We basically had the beach all to ourselves, but occasionally a vehicle looking for the perfect fishing spot would whoosh by. But the beach is huge. And at low tide there is heaps of room for all. No traffic signs needed.

Loved riding on the beach for 2 days, but once you hit a paved road, you realize how strenuous it is! On to farmland and into Kauri forests. Kauri trees are only found in the north of New Zealand, and unfortunately many are dying from the scientifically creative name of Kauri Die Off disease. We stood in awe of the 2000 year old Tane Mahuta, the oldest living Kauri. Trunk girth of 13.8 meters! We waited for the only other tourist to finish videoing the tree growing so we could get our requisite photo. We’re among the first cylists. Locals seem glad to see us. Or anyone for that matter. It is apparent that the lockdown in New Zealand (especially the Auckland one) was very nasty for all and there are some lingering hard feelings about that. We ran into a number of locals quite anxious so share their, shall we say, rather assertive views on government, Covid and lockdowns etc…. We just played the “Canadian Card”. Hey, we’re just here to ride our bikes, see your Country and eat some meat pies! We have nothing to do with Justin and Jacinda being besties.

We visited New Zealand with our kids in 2003 during a 6 month sabatical – I had forgotten how upside down things are to what we are used to. Light switches are reverse, south means colder, Christmas is summer, the north is tropical vegetation and traffic drives on the left. Surprisingly, I quickly became accustomed to cycling on the left with my helmet mirror on the right. Until I stop to take a photo and panic that the cars barrelling towards me are on my side of the road. Then I am fine until I need to turn right and I have no idea where to look. Then I get back in the swing of things until I ride up to a round about – that just does me in. I walk.

Kaipara Harbour is the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. As recommended for the route, we had cleverly booked a 3 hour boat shuttle along the length of it to avoid 3 days of less desirable bike miles with Auckland bound traffic. The day we were to head down the peninsula to meet our ride, the boat owner Terry advised us he was covid positive. No one else drives his boat. No one else shuttles people. No fishing charters will take you. “There are no other alternatives.” So we stoically biked around the long way. There were marvelous perks of this route – The “World Famous in New Zealand” Kauri museum; Deb at the Old Post Office Guest House and Sharon and Shane at the Kaipara Views Eco Lodge almost made the Auckland bound traffic bearable. Oh, and the glow worms and shrieking eels. Everyone knows “the shrieking eels grow louder when they are about to feed on human flesh.”

We’re not sure, are Kiwis known for their cuisine? Seems to us If it is not deep fried, then it is enclosed in pastry and called a pie. Our record is 3 pies in one day. In the North Country we struggled to find grocery stores with much more than our 7-11 selection of vegetables. Fish and chips is readily available, but we have tested it and it is not the best fuel for biking…. And we’re trying to keep our emissions down so as not to get taxed. But will continue to search out fish and chips as good as the Digit’s Fabulous Walleye (Jay’s Brother’s World Famous in Canada recipe). And the meat pies. Did we mention the meat pies? They vary in quality. Steak can mean bologna.

Speed limits – more Kiwi humour

Our initial perception of riding here in New Zealand is there are no free miles. Every kilometre is earned – up and down with no flat in between. Looks like an unhealthy EKG chart rather than an elevation graph.

We are standing (peddling) many of the steeper hills in first gear and then braking on the way down due to traffic or gravel. We had 10 days in 9000 kms of riding Canada that were near or over 1000m of elevation and we have already done 3 here. And we’re only on day 10. 500 kms in 10 days and feeling a wee beat up. Leaving Northland and heading for a beach for a day or two off.

Epiblogue

9000 kms 100 days of riding

We arrived in The Miramichi, our destination, not a minute too soon when the cool, dreary, heavily clouded skies opened up in a now familiar maritime downpour. This storm, locals warned, “would be witt us pour awhiles”. Our original thought was to “close the gap” in Miramichi and then, weather permitting, continue to ride westward as far as Montreal perhaps. We took the stormy weather as a sign. That, and accommodations, restaurants and even grocery stores were closing due to both seasonal closures and Covid related labour shortages. These are all mandatory elements for us bourgeoisie travelling cyclists. So instead of continuing, we took a few days to count our blessings, re-group, and, finally, decide to end our cross Canada bike adventure in The Miramichi. From St. Johns, Newfoundland to Miramichi, New Brunswick, we rode about 2,000 kms in 26 days. We originally estimated this stage of the ride at about 1,200 kms but we did almost that distance in Newfoundland alone.

We apprehensively drove by the scene of the 2019 crash. Gear Guy remembers it well. Me, not so much. It is now a very nicely manicured section of pavement. The impact dent is gone and forgotten by most. We reached out and thanked Jason and his team that helped us through that day and also to the family that received a Freedom Concepts bike. Then we stole the sole rental vehicle from a poorly guarded Enterprise dealership and pointed homeward.

Our retirement goal was to gravel bike across Canada on routes less travelled. Canada does have a deluge of bike routes as diverse as the country itself. Start in Victoria end in St John’s. How hard can that be? We delighted on beautiful gravel roads, suffered on unpassable animal trails, and noticed millions of details beside us that we would miss if not on a bike. You may not see as much on a bike, but what you see, you see, feel and experience deeply – whether bone rattling gravel or people sharing a cold beer. You gotta take the good with the bad.

We started out with a plan to average 80 kms per day but ended up with an average of 90 kms per day. Our main route finding app was GAIA, a backcountry app suggested to us by Steve K, for which we are eternally grateful. If you cross Canada via the Trans Canada Highway, you would travel about 7,800 kms. Our back roads and trails route included diversions to visit friends, family and to buy beer, but also the occasional mis-step by Nav Man, took us 9,000 kms.

“Oh the places you’ll go and the people you’ll meet.” Dr Seuss.

The much complained about mis-steps are estimated at about 500 kms including 2 un-passable fences with barbed wire, 2 dead end paths with un-passable rivers, one compete Zen out moment west of Ottawa that took us about 75 kms out of the way in one day, and about 20 times where we were just, well……lost. But like learning how to work the PVR, there is no point in both of us navigating, so Nav Man is thrown under the bus here.

Mis-Steps

We learned that if you are bound and determined to bike across Canada without ever taking a main road or highway, you could do that – mostly. But it’s desperately naive to think you could do that without ridiculous challenges. Like 3 kms of knee deep snow on Coal Creek Road east of Fernie. Or the impassable so called “Trans Canada Trail” in Northern Ontario. Or the rail trail in Newfoundland where the trail is, well, you know. And of course Manitoba, where gravel roads are plentiful, but mainly in non-contiguous, anti-geometric patterns seemingly designed to confuse. In the end, we believe we crossed Canada as back road as possible given our general routing, type of bikes, aversion to riding in tornadoes, hurricanes, heavy snow or horizontal rain. Which left – hot, cold and headwinds. Our well considered estimate is that we accomplished about 75% of the kilometres off main roads.

All our days were fantastic but some were fantasticer.

Our Top Biking Province list includes – British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia and PEI. An absolute joy to ride in with bike paths and back roads practically everywhere.

The Provinces and places we would not bike again (at least not the same route) are Manitoba (ridiculously pathetic roads with steep gravel shoulders everywhere); Northern Ontario (as bad as Manitoba but with more traffic); Newfoundland (we loved the people but the rail trail (as we were warned) is only for the most masochistic of riders).

Here’s some of our observational trivia about stuff that we noticed as we rode:

  • In BC we noticed a strong scent of marijuana by an astonishing number of passing vehicles. This strange phenomenon did not appear anywhere else.
  • Worst vehicles and worst drivers on the roads are hands down – half ton trucks and the people that drive them. Many have 6” exhaust tail pipes, apparently compensating for something. Now, it should be noted that Gear Guy drives a half ton truck but he promises his truck comes with a standard exhaust system.
  • PEI has more tractors per capita than anywhere. If there is a tractor heaven, it’s in PEI.
  • In Saskatchewan, several farmers or retired farmers stopped to chat with us in the middle of nowhere. One thought we were lost. We were, but denied it. Another, Bob, we still enjoy regular contact with. A retired farmer who pilots his own plane and has a passion for electric vehicles and planes.
  • We carried our tent for 100 days and didn’t set it up once – “It’s a bike trip not a camping trip” we kept telling everyone. But carrying it gave us the confidence to try some routes that MAY have required an overnight. During the 2 year gap in our trip, we discovered that we had carried a leaky tent for the first 7000 kms, so it was a good thing we didn’t need it.
  • We also carried a dried Beef Stew meal for 9000 kms. Expiry date is 2087 so perhaps next trip?
  • Our accommodations varied greatly, some inadequate for humans. Like Spruce Woods, Manitoba. There, Gear Guy chose to sleep in his sleeping bag on a broken table rather than on the sleeping cots provided. In fact, we donned sleeping bags several times – prophylactic style. But really, there is nothing like a hot shower and a cold beer at the end of a ride. So we put up with a lot to get both at the end of the day.
  • Best beer we ever had – like, ever. Annica somehow found and rescued us with ice cold beer in her van when we had one of our mis-steps and found ourselves in the middle of a jungle of pterodactyl size, swarming, biting, knawing deer flies near Muskoka. Never have two people lost so much blood, so quickly, by such crazed, blood thirsty insects as we did that day. We practically needed stiches to sew us up. Really, only tripping into a pond of piranhas could be worse.
  • Local craft chocolate is almost a popular as local craft beer. We indulged in both. Frequently. But M&M Peanuts are still the best alternate road snack in a pinch – easy to share so there is only fighting over colour.
  • We get asked about animals alot. So here’s the thing, we were chased by just one dog – in PEI. There was one other large scary looking dog on a remote Alberta gravel road seemingly scheming a U Boat type of attack, but in fact, it was just seeking some shade behind a tree. As we passed the old guy appeared to have a stroke, apparently surprised by us. A couple of bears, tons of deer and antelope and horses. That’s it. Folks that ask us about animals (especially Americans) seemed disappointed by our reply so we started to make things up like, “Ya, we saw a Sasquatch in Saskatchewan.”

We consider ourselves remarkably lucky. Lucky to live in a country like Canada; lucky to be able to bike across it; lucky to have the support of friends and family along the way. Lucky to have each other. Nav Guy should add – lucky to have escaped death by torture on the number of mis-guided navigation adventures along the way.

But most of all, we are lucky for JoyRide. JoyRide was our plan to give away a Freedom Concepts adaptive bike to a child or young adult in need in each province in Canada. With your generous donations we were able to almost double our initial donation by giving away 18 Freedom Concept bikes, including 3 bikes in Fernie. Thank you so, so much. We are humbled by your generosity and were privileged to personally or e-meet all of the recipients. Special thank you to Ken, Gabrielle and the Freedom Concepts team who supported us and do amazing work.

Here are the 4 recent recipients of a specialized bike who will benefit from your generosity.

Oliver lives in St John’s, Newfoundland. He is 3 1/2 years old and has triplegic Cerebral Palsy. Oliver loves being outside and learning new things. He is a big brother to two siblings. His favorite colour is blue and his favorite food is soup! Oliver loves the bike he can use at physio and now he will have his own to use whenever he wants. Go get em Oliver!

Simone lives in PEI. She is 10 years old and has endured 16 surgeries with grace and determination. She has mild Cerebral Palsy and a chromosome syndrome that has caused her some malformations and delays. But in daily life, Simone is a social butterfly, loving grade 5 and is a great swimmer and ball player. Not sure how her mom Anna will be able to keep up once Simone has her new wheels!

Zander is 6 years old from Fernie. Zander had a genetic condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. This condition unfortunately caused Zander to have a stroke and brain aneurysm at day 6 of life.  Zander is a very happy, social little boy that loves life.  He loves scooting, swimming and snowboarding. Zander’s family are a bike family and can’t wait for Zander’s new opportunity to ride a bike.

Mackay Centre School and Philip E Layton School in Montreal operate out of the same building and accept students from all over Quebec. Philip Layton services students who are blind or visually impaired along with any associated disabilities. Mackay Centre School services students who are deaf, physically disabled and/or have a communication disorder. These schools provide a safe, caring academic environment for children and young adults from the ages of 4 to 21 years of age. The schools offer rehabilitation services to optimize the social participation and autonomy of students. Their abilities-based approach looks for the unique functional skills every child possesses and tries to select games, sports and activities that match these skills. This bike will allow more students to enjoy the benefits of being on a bike!

The other 14 amazing people who received a bike because you care.

Signing off (for now)….JayandDebsJoyRide. Thanks for riding along.

“You travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape you.”

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.

Backward to forward

We have about 1400kms left to complete our cross Canada ride, 900 of them in Newfoundland. As Covid has things around the world screwed up, we decided to do the route backwards; because sometimes you have to go backward to go forward. We flew from Winnipeg to St John’s Newfoundland to close the gap to the scene of the crime, Miramichi, New Brunswick, and beyond if the weather holds.

Departure Day minus 2 days

A massive overnight wind storm at our lake in Manitoba tipped our sail boat and bent the mast and rolled our little laser sail boat like a lawn chair, putting a fist size hole it it. Our Gull Lake training regime might have had something to do with that. Gear Guy (already delinquent on duties) and my brother were busy in the scotch that night so nothing really got tied down for the storm.

Departure Day minus 1 day

In my search to get more detail about the TransCanada Trail or T’Railway in Newfoundland, I managed to connect with Kevin, a seasoned local cyclist, new gravel rider, who was quick to chat on the phone and email me some details of his T’Railway ride across Newfoundland in 2017 – on a fat bike. “Unless you are a masochist, there are much better ways to see our province.” One province, 880 kms, in excess of 5200 meters of elevation and riding east to west against prevailing winds on a really, really bad trail. We’re in.

Departure day

Plane hit seagulls on take off. Gear Guy, now Plane Guy, said the collision sounded like a small explosive. And then the plane seemed to decelerate quickly as the captain calmly accounted the incident and that we had to make an immediate landing, cleverly not using the term “emergency”. But as the Red River is not as wide as the Hudson, our Captain Ms Sully circled around and landed back in Winnipeg.

Looks like Jay’s navigation
We continued our flight. Seagulls? Not so much.

The delay meant we missed our connection to St John’s, but at least it was only 5 hours. Until weather caused further delay…

We arrived in St John’s at 5 am, approximately 15 hours later than planned, but safely and without further incident.

Riding Day One – Airport to Cape Spear (the outermost eastern tip of North America) – an out and back from St John’s. Cape Spear is the official eastern KM 0 of the TCT. The wonderful family that received a Freedom Concepts Bike during our ride in 2019 met us at Cape Spear. Very special.

Sue, Mel, Kai and Remi not only brought us lunch but also made a donation for a bike.  Very special family.


Did about 75km and 900m of elevation that day.  It was fantastic.  Except for the rain.  And the wind.  And the cold.  And no place to stay because of the music festival in St Johns. As we ended our day of riding, we discovered there was not one room in the entire city. Just when we were resigned to (gasp) camping, one of the places we called had a cancellation. Only 22 extra kms, in the wind, the cold and rain. Of course, that’s when I got a flat tire. And it still has a slow leak.  Other than that, it’s awesome! Our plan is to continue on the T Rail trail, in spite of warnings against.  It’s cold and windy.  But at least its raining…..  Our slow tire leak continues. But we’re not worried, there’s a bike shop in 640 kms.

The George Street Music Festival is on this week, for the first time in 2 years. And it would seem that all of Newfoundland is in St John’s to attend. A local said, “There are so many Newfoundlanders visiting now that COVID restrictions are lifted the island is going to sink.” We were hoping to see Allan Doyle and Great Big Sea but the lead band of the night was Glass Tiger. Chris S. would have loved that.  

Gotta go, a kind hearted Newfie warned us that, “You needs to hunker down soons with them boikes cause a hurricanes a comin”. He was referring to Hurricane Ida. Which we never thought about. Til now.

What are your favourite things of 2020?

Numerologists say being alive in 2020 is special because it is the only year you are likely to live through wherein the first two digits will match the second two digits. Non-numerologists (!) found 2020 “special” in other ways – shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, bikes and skis, yeast and flour, travel and live music, fresh turkeys and live sports. And what about the over abundance of Netflix and masks, Zoom meetings and directional arrows, sweat pants and housecleaning. But really, can there ever be too many puppies?

And yet, there have been many bright spots for our family in 2020. Here are two of our favourite things of 2020.

We were able to donate two more bikes since our last blog this time last year, both from your generous donations. Meet Ethan and his parents.

Ethan was born with a congenital myopathy called Nemaline Myopathy (NM). It is a rare muscle disease and he is on the more severe end of the spectrum. It affects his skeletal muscles, resulting in low muscle tone all over. It significantly affects his breathing and swallowing muscles, so he has a tracheostomy and ventilator to support his breathing and a feeding tube. Despite his condition, he is capable of so much. He is a strong-willed, funny and curious little boy. He now has a bike to get around on, and we were thrilled to see his excitement (on Zoom) when he received it earlier this year.

Meet Kenzie.

Kenzie, 17 yrs old, was nominated to receive a bike by Peak Performance Health Center in Mirimachi New Brunswick, the clinic and staff that were so kind after my fall in August 2019.  They have also been key supporters of Kenzie during her journey. Thank you so much Jason! Kenzie has always been a very active and passionate person, full of energy and dreams. She was a competitive cheerleader, avid skier and swimmer. In early December of 2018 Mackenzie was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Mackenzie’s dreams have now changed to a day she can live without pain and be able to walk again. We met her on Zoom and know she will make the most amazing recovery possible. If anyone can, Kenzie can.

That is 14 bikes donated across the country now! AND there will at least another 4 -5 bikes donated with the funds you have contributed. We continually watch for urgent need for bike donations.

The completion of our JoyRide in 2020 was delayed due to provincial travel restrictions. So, another one of our favourite things is to think about picking up where we left off and completing JoyRide in 2021 when provincial borders open. Or maybe we will do it again in reverse. Or maybe we’ll go from North to South. Or maybe…… One thing 2020 has taught us is to appreciate our favourite things even more – time with family and friends in person, an inside dinner party, unrestricted travel.

We hope you are able to find meaningful connections with family and friends, even if they can’t be in person yet. Wishing you and your families a healthy and happy balance of 2020 and a return to your favourite things in 2021.

Merry Christmas!

https://payment.csfm.com/donations/calgaryfoundation/?fund=ZAMMD

Falalalalalalalabike

Has it really been 19 weeks, 1 day, and 3 hours since we last wrote? I’m mostly rehabbed from the broken pelvis. We have well used crutches and a stylish cane available for sale, cheap. My doctor and I are besties. I have enjoyed the company of 3 different physios and am still looking for one that will support my unsubstantiated theory of rehabilitation with cardio and weight training. What happened to “Moving is Medicine”?

We’ve learned a few things along this rehab journey.

For instance, when this part of your pelvis breaks, it usually breaks in more than one place. As mine did. But we didn’t find that out until week 6. We also learned that there are vastly differing views on how best to recover from a broken pelvis – some say weight bear and circulation help heal, others say do mostly nothing and still others said “Listen to your body”. I went with the “listen to your body” view mostly. But my hearing is not great. We also learned that sometimes a body doesn’t like supplements meant to speed healing.

But ultimately, and reluctantly, we learned that time is the best healer. Well, time and friends; friends dropping in for visits, teaching me bridge, jabbing my butt with needles, keeping pace with and my crutches and driving me places. I’m still careful and don’t plan on falling for 12 months, but feeling great. Could have been so much worse, but really – avoid breaking your pelvis.

First time back on a bike since, well, you know

I have now biked (on smooth pavement), cross country skied (short loop), downhill skied (my now Ski Sentry Gear Guy tracking annoyingly close behind me), hiked in Banff with girlfriends (loved having 11 moms with me), hiked in Palm Desert with girlfriends (including shopping therapy), visited my mom in Winnipeg, enjoyed Broadway shows with my Jessie, and danced (in heels) at my son’s wedding. How lucky am I? Life is returning to its wonderful “normal”. I am grateful.

At our son’s wedding we compared marriage to our bike journey, we will share it here.

  1. Everyday is fantastic, but some days are more fantastic than others.
  2. Like a long bike trip, a long marriage is two people trying to ride together –  but on two different bikes.
  3. You sometimes get lost on a bike, (especially if Jay is navigating), but at least you are lost together.
  4. Always stop in on friends and family.  They really do want to see you, and feed you, and serve you beer and wine and do your laundry and help fix your bike.
  5. Always cherish your biking partner in life but even more so if they crash and break their pelvis.

And hey, since our last blog update, we have added FIVE more bike deliveries to the JoyRide!

St. John’s Newfoundland – On account of the crash, we missed getting to St. John’s Newfoundland to meet Kai and his family, Mel, Sue, and Remi. But the bike delivery proceeded as planned with our friends from Freedom Concepts. Kai has limited head and trunk control requiring total support. His new bike allows him to move on his own – and he can teach his sister how to ride! We look forward to meeting Kai next spring in St. John’s.

Fernie, BC – Terry Fox Day was the perfect day to get on a new bike in our hometown. Lilianna and Liam participated in Terry Fox Day for the first time and completed multiple laps around the track (along with hundreds of other kids). Their smiles and energy were amazing! They even stopped the rain!

Lillianna had Jay wrapped around her finger

Minden, Ontario – Chris and Jocelyn experienced first hand the impact of a bike on a child and her family. Harper had a beautiful fall day to take her new bike for a spin. Angelman Syndome prohibits 6 year old Harper from moving independently, but she LOVES to feel the wind in her face. Thanks to Chris and Joc for making that happen.

Fredericton, NB – In our last blog we wrote about our great meeting with James over a couple of pints in Fredricton. James is amazing. And he received his custom bike this fall. Have a look.

Two of these bikes were from very generous donations. We will be donating another 5 or more bikes from your donations in the next year – yes that means a total of at least 17 bikes shared across Canada. We are overcome with gratitude for your support.

Our plan is to finish our JoyRide through PEI, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (a mere 1400 kms or so) in spring 2020. We will send you updates on those adventures and more bike giveaways as they happen. In the meantime, we wish you the very best of the holidays and health and happiness in 2020.

Deck the halls with bikes and chain lube Falalalalalalalabike Even the stockings are filled with bike tubes Falalalalalalalabike Ride a bike in snow or summer Falalalalalalalabike. Otherwise it’s just a bummer Falalalalalalalabike