Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 39 - Friday July 9 - Woodstock to Cambridge Narrows (182 km)

"A Capital Ride Through the Capital"
It was another "I-just-don't-wanna-stop-riding" kinda day. Up at 4:30am, and on the road by 5:45 to beat the heat. Luckily, it was overcast! This never used to be cause for celebration, but during the heat wave it means that the scorching heat of the day is kept at bay for a greater length of time. Followed the highway along the St John river, continuing along the "River Valley Drive" from yesterday. There was so little traffic that it was like having my own private highway, and the countryside here is very lush. I had no idea New Brunswick was so hilly! The roadside is peppered with tons of wildflowers, including black-eyed susans, daisies, pinky-purple clover, and a variety of others for which I don't know the names. Passed through the capital city, and Fredericton seems like a really nice place - very clean, biker-friendly, lots of classy-looking houses and cars, and a great sense of community. Crossed over a number of bridges, and the views from these were incredible! Some had "no biking" signs (but there were no alternatives), and I could see why after riding across - the wind can be quite strong so high up over open water, making it a bit precarious. As forecasted, it got Hot. The campground proprietor saw me roll in on my bike and commented, "You must be on FIRE!" Mmhmm! But our campsite tonight is awesome - right on the water (Washademaoak Lake) with tons of shade and an amazing breeze!! Finished up dinner with some homemade apple crisp, sent by my Mom. Sigh. Life is good.
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 38 – Thursday July 8 - Saint-Leonard to Woodstock (151 km)

“The Stronger Wind, The Stronger Trees”
I slept through my 4:30am alarm this morning, waking up on my own at the usual 5:00 (whew!). Turned out to be just as well as the sun wasn’t even up yet (we’re Just into the Atlantic Time zone... so it’s like 3:30am at home). Still managed to be on the road by 6am though, and knocked off some mileage before the heat got tooo bad. Am I ever glad I planned for shorter days on this last leg of the trip! After riding through Grand Falls (Grand-Sault), we headed south on Hwy 105, which made for an awesome ride! It goes through a rural area, and is a secondary highway, so there was literally only about 1 car every 5 minutes or so. The road was also pretty narrow, and surrounded by trees on both sides, which meant shade! It felt SO much cooler than yesterday, and even the wind (a headwind, of course) felt cool. Highway 105 is part of the “River Valley Drive”, a designated scenic route, and it certainly lived up to its reputation (and the signs for it look like they’re straight out of Dr. Seuss!). Dad had to pick up some supplies in Grand Falls, so he met up with me again around the 90km mark. In Hartland, we made a short detour – 1,282 feet one-way to be exact – across the world’s longest covered bridge! Very cool! We had lunch at a picnic table in the shade by the river (so picturesque). After lunch we weren’t far from our campsite, so Dad went for a 10km spin on his bike before catching up with me with the car. Our campsite tonight is delightfully shaded, and now that I’m off my bike the hefty wind is greatly appreciated! Sometimes when I’m riding into a headwind, a verse from one of my favourite poems (by Douglas Malloch) gets stuck in my head, on repeat, in time with the cadence of my pedaling. It goes like this:

“The tree that never had to fight,
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain,
And always had its share of rain,
Never became a forest king,
But lived, and died, a scrubby thing.
Good timber does not grow with ease;
The stronger wind,
The stronger trees.”

I tuck my head down. And I ride.

Day 37 – Wednesday July 7 - Riviere-du-Loup QC to Saint-Leonard NB (162 km)

“Beware the Wild Parsnip...”
We got up an extra 1/2hr earlier (4:30) to beat the heat today... but it was already hot. It went up to FORTY THREE DEGREES!! I never thought it’d clear 40 – almost unbelievable! News reports warn people to “avoid strenuous activity” in these conditions – bah! After being frozen like an ice cube for 2 weeks in the west with Joce, I vowed not to complain when the inevitable summer heat hit, and I am making a valiant effort! Pretty amazing how the weather can change from needing to wear-so-many-clothes-it’s-difficult-to-pedal to needing to wear-as-few-clothes-as-decency-permits in such a short span of time! This heat definitely requires some serious attention so as to avoid heat stroke: early starts (to avoid the worst of the heat), LOTS to drink, breaks in the shade where it’s marginally cooler, and potentially sitting out the mid-day heat to finish up the day’s ride later on. It still hasn’t cooled off much as I write this now though (10:30pm), and the forecast for the morning tomorrow is 29, so the strategy might just be plain ‘ole “get ‘er done”! I left camp shortly before 6 this morning, after saying goodbye to Aunt Trish (so sad!). Every time I saw a truck camper go by I perked up expectantly, half-thinking it was her. There were no doors swinging open or towels flying off of any of them though... (Again Aunt Trish, Thank You So Much for being such a defining part of this experience! Love you!). About 40km in, it was time for a bathroom break. Having seen tons of wild parsnip in the area (nasty stuff if you touch it!), I’ve been avoiding the ‘ole pop-a-squat roadside-style, in favour of gas stations and the like. There didn’t seem to be anything immediately off of the highway though, until I saw a sign for the tourism information centre at Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! (and no, that’s not a typo – that’s the real name of the place). Thinking I was in luck, I took the next exit... which, long-story-short, turned into a 6km detour involving very steep hills and the use of a bathroom that I’m not convinced was public. Finally getting back on the highway after this roundabout route, I discovered that the small town wasn’t St-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! At all, but was some outskirts village before it. The Ha! Ha! on the sign seemed to mock me as I passed. We crossed into New Brunswick (woo!) just before Edmundston, and had lunch by the roadside. We were much in need of shade, so Dad cleverly found a patch by the tree line just up from the highway. He also bought some ice cream, which on a day like today serves the dual purpose of cooling down the core and getting calories in (it’s hard to eat when it’s this warm). Oh, and it’s also tasty! The secondary highways were pretty rough, so we hopped back on hwy 2, the TransCanada. Excellent pavement (with heat radiating from it), wide shoulder, and HILLS (big and long); good riding overall, and fabulous views. We crossed the time zone line coming into NB, so we lost an hour again. Our campsite tonight is on a wide stream, so we cooled off in it upon arrival (I sat on a lawn chair with my feet in... Dad sat right in it). There’s a pool here as well, and we had time for one core-cooling dunk before it closed (wonderful!). The rest of our evening was spent pouring over maps... Because we’re still a little more than a day ahead of schedule, we might try to make it to PEI as well before heading to Halifax (barring major storms etc of course... wish us luck!!). Back in the tents again tonight, and we can hear our stream flowing rapidly by outside.

Day 36 - Tuesday July 6 - Montmagny to Riviere-du-Loup (154 km)

"Westerlies, eh?"
Well, you know what they say: the only predictable thing about the weather is that it's unpredictable. The forecast for today was calling for hot, sunny, and a tailwind. Instead, when we got up it was cold, foggy/rainy, with a blasted headwind! It was a tough ride to be sure (I've never used my drop-down bars so much), although the scenery here makes up for it. Another gorgeous ride! The route was mainly flat, and meandered along the river (looking rolly and green and very much like the sea today), before heading a bit inland (flat farmland with mountainous rock-faces jutting up randomly). We ate lunch in the truck camper (with the roof down) to stay warm. Hard to believe after the heat of yesterday! Around noon the sun came out, and by 1pm the scorching forecasted-heat had arrived - a little of everything today! Fortunately we didn't have far to go, and we arrived at our campsite, just east of Riviere-du-Loup around 2:30. We had stopped at the Tourism Information building to ask about campsites, and Aunt Trish hung her towel on the back of the bike rack to dry a little during the break. Hitting the road again, I teased her, "Don't forget your lawn chair! Don't forget your towel!" And lo and behold, 2km down the road when Aunt Trish passed me, there was her towel, whipping in the breeze but miraculously hanging on! I waved frantically at her, to no avail, and figured I'd keep an eye out for it on the road. About 5km later I saw a van backing up on the opposite shoulder, and a man got out and ran across the highway to pick something up - Aunt Trish's towel! I waved both arms at him, but he tossed it in his van and drove away (weird!!). Aunt Trish says, "Ah well, I can use a dish towel. What are you going to do for entertainment without me?!" Tonight is Aunt Trish's last night. :( (I'm going to miss her!!!). My Dad is meeting us here tonight, and will accompany me the rest of the way to Halifax. Aunt Trish went for a ride on some of the off-road trails near our campsite this afternoon. She said they're great, and even have places to fill up your water bottles! We sucked on some freezies to cool off before cooking our dinner. Holy heat wave!
P.S. The achilles is nearly as good as new - woohoo!! :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 35 - Monday July 5 - Champlain to Montmagny (180 km)

"Prairie Butt and Mountain Legs"
There's something so peaceful about rising with the sun and getting on the road before the inhabitants of the houses that line it are awake. It's almost like time has stopped, and if it wasn't for the slight breeze ruffling the grasses and leaves I could almost believe that I was moving along while the rest of the world was on "pause". Aunt Trish and I got a hustle on this morning to hit the road early to try to beat the heat. Even at 6am, it didn't take long for the first beads of sweat to form, and by 20km I had a nice, slick, full-body sweat on (leg drips and all!). It went up to FORTY DEGREES here today - hot weather for sitting, let alone biking. But nonetheless, it was a GREAT ride, and I didn't want to stop when we arrived at camp around 2:30pm. Fellow cyclists, the verdict on cycling in Quebec: it's amazing - do it! One day, I plan to come back, mountain bike in tow, to check out the tons of trails that I'm seeing signs for. If it's anywhere near as good as the road riding... This morning the road was very flat, leaving me with that restless shifting in the saddle, reminiscent of the prairies. And then this afternoon, out of nowhere, were some hills that would rival the Kicking Horse Pass in BC! No word of a lie, one hill was so steep I thought I might "pop-a-wheelie", and I was glad for the extra weight on the front of my bike afforded by the handlebar bag. After a few doozies, the terrain changed to gently-rolling, and through all - flats, hills, rolling terrain - the scenery was unparalleled. I'm amazed at the uniqueness of this province, which is difficult to describe other than to say that it's different. We followed the river for most of the day, first on the west side and then crossing over a bridge (crazy!) to the east side at Levis, and there's a great mixture of lush farmland, colourful residential areas, and untouched wilderness. We ate our lunch in the shade of the truck camper, while I melted a ziplock bag of ice on my wrists, and Aunt Trish kept me well supplied with water and ice-cold gatorade (I lost count of how many litres of liquid I drank!). Our campsite has a pool, so we went for a refreshing dip after cleaning up, setting up camp, and eating dinner. It's supposed to be another scorcher tomorrow, so early-to-bed and early-to-rise it shall be!
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 34 - Sunday July 4 - Saint-Sulpice to Champlain (116 km)

"Hot Hot Heat"
A short day today, which was actually great as it's blistering hot (38 degrees!). The roads were great, and the traffic much more courteous than yesterday (even a young, cherub-faced boy gave me a timid smile and waved me by, though he had the right of way!). Aunt Trish stopped at a market and picked up some fresh fruits and veggies, including watermelon - a genius roadside snack on a day like today. Tossing the rinds into a wide-open ditch, Aunt Trish managed to accidentally nail the lone billboard with one of hers (whack - "oops"). We should've guessed that getting through Trois-Rivieres together would be tough... But at least we met up again on the other side! At one point, I was waiting for Aunt Trish by the side of the road, and a middle-aged gentleman pulled up to make sure I was alright. After I assured him I was fine, he gave me some freshly-picked strawberries before heading on his way (so kind!). There are TONS of people out cycling here, although I've only seen one loaded with gear so far! We passed a basilica in Cap-de-la-Madeleine where my parents go annually on a pilgrimage, and it's neat as is architecture is designed to look like a maple leaf. Actually, a lot of the architecture here is really unique and interesting. We arrived at our campsite around noon for lunch! After a quick bite and shower, we both had a snooze in the camper; last night a crying baby in the campsite next to us had made sleep pretty minimal. It's nice to have the afternoon free; it's like 1/2 a rest day! We read our books by the river, walked to a little store down the way, and before we knew it it was dinner time. We finished odd the leftovers from Aunt Wendy (still sooo good!), and are enjoying a quiet night by the river.
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