Day 17, July 6 Tuesday
Quick breakfast of cold oats and raisins with powdered milk. On road by 7 AM. Ten miles to Mabou. Stopped on way to buy 4 blueberry turnovers, juice and a banana. Ate all. Turned on to Rt. 252. Steep downhill and then tough climb. Brook Village to Whycocomagh - beautiful valley with dairy farms. At Whycocomagh turned N towards N. Sydney along Bras d'Or lake. Saw a pair of bald eagles perched in tree near the road. Made it to Braddeck for lunch. Nice town. Washed clothes in sink at tourist office.
Continued on with easy rolling hills towards N. Sydney. Around 10 miles before N. Sydney climbed Kelly's mountain. Emma, who I mentioned earlier from Antigonish, spoke of how she rated hills by how far she got singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. I started the song about half way up and finished before summitting. Descent off of Kelly's was far to fast with a hairpin turn at the bottom. 40 MPH downhills make me question my mortality.
Arriving in N. Sydney I went to the ferry terminal and found I could leave at 3:00 AM or 10:00 AM the next day. I chose the latter, figuring I could get a better nights sleep and perhaps Emma and Emily would show up for the ferry. Went into town for a fish & chips dinner, met two women cyclists from Norway, returned to terminal, TOOK A SHOWER (yes, they had a free shower at the terminal),watched a movie, and then set up tent along side the terminal. Went to bed. Noisy, so I put my Skullcandy earphones in and it helped dim the noise. Mileage 90.
Day 18 July 7 Wed.
Woken up by ferry personnel at 2 AM. I think they wanted to make sure I wasn't supposed to be boarding the 3 AM ferry. Back to sleep.
Breakfast of oats, raisins and banana. Got on ferry at 9 AM.
Tried to work on blog on the boat. Found my gmail account had been discontinued and the blog removed for violations of policy. I had no clue what was going on. Sent email to Yahoo.
Met Ray Walker, a Canadian who had emigrated to Canada in his youth. Ray was 80 years old, but still an active outdoorsman. He has been to Vermont enough times to hike and ski that he knew the trail names up Mansfield and Camels Hump. He was a good friend of Dickie Hall, who Jeb used to work with in his telemark teaching days.
Splurged on the $20 buffet. Figured I got my money's worth!
Once landed, I got on the road at 4 PM. Rocky, barren coast. Passed what were labeled as the Table Mountains. Spectacular bald mountains. Too bad it was cloudy, pictures will be poor. However, this is the scenery I came to see. Passed through a windy pass that I was told had winds strong enough at times to throw a tractor trailer off the road.
There was little wind and the hills were gradual. Pushed for mileage. At around 45 miles I started looking for a place to camp. Saw an area that had been a gravel pit and stopped. While standing, I saw three black fox wandering around. Not knowing their habits, I decided to push on. Saw lots of rabbits along the road. Got as far as Crabbs River. Passed two campgrounds and then saw a road head into the wood. Followed it a short way and it passed through a gravel pit. Had a place to lean the bike on a boulder, so looked like good place to camp. Lots of mosquitoes as I set up tent. In bed @ 10:15. Mileage 60
Day 19 July 8 Thursday
When I woke up, I found mosquitoes in the tent. I pinched them to kill them, rather than swat them because I didn't want blood smeared on the tent. It was a cloudy day with a mild tailwind. Travelled through timbered rolling hills. Grades were good.
Stopped @Corner Brook for info on ferries, eat a snack and do some shopping. Pushed on through a deep river gorge and then had hills to climb.
My goal for the evening had been Pasadena. I had read on a cyclists blog that they had great pizza in Pasadena. I found a restaurant that had a pizza sign, but weren't selling pizza at that hour (7 PM). In fact, it was their closing time. Owner had some others still eating, so she let me order a hamburger and fries. Leaving Pasadena, I couldn't help noticing the number of people out for a walk. I asked one gentleman why and he said they didn't often get such a nice warm evening.
I met a cyclist coming the other direction. His name was Yvon Daniel from Gatineau, Quebec. He was trailering a B.O.B. and had cycled all the way from Vancouver. While I was cycling in the misty weather with just a wind jacket, he was dressed in full foul weather gear and said he was still freezing. I think he had lost so much weight that he had no reserves to keep him warm. Tough to keep the weight when averaging around 95 miles a day! Poor Yvon had only 9 sunny days since leaving Vancouver!
Pushed on to Deer Lake. Saw a large hydro generating station entering town. Just beyond it I saw a large pavillion where I could set up my tent out of the weather. Where I could turn off the highway, there was a Royal Canadian Legion hall and it was bingo night. I thought I might go in and play bingo until it got darker, then set up my tent. Turns out the bingo was mostly over, so it wasn't worth buying the $5 card. Just as well. I asked if the bar if I could buy a beer. I could and it was $2.80, much cheaper than the usual $4 for a beer. I ended up celebrating with two as I had just completed the first century of the trip. In fact, I had covered 110 miles that day!
At the pavilion, more like a performance stage, I found two young men hanging around, drinking. It turned out to not be as nice a place to stay as I had hoped. The floor was generally clean enough, but I think the corners in the back were used as urinals, adding a not too pleasant smell to my camping spot. I used a piece of cardboard to sweep the area for my tent clean, erected the tent, took a sponge bath, and headed to bed.
Day 20 July 9 Friday
Went to a nearby Tim Hortons for coffee and muffins. Did some work on the bike as I sipped my coffee. The headset needed tightening and I cleaned and oiled the chain. The pedal adapters were squeaking again and I tried tightening them with the tool Al in Halifax had given me, but was unable to do so.
Set off for Gros Morne. It was still cloudy. There were moderate hills until around 10 miles from Rocky Harbour. Then came a serious hill. Still tired from yesterday, I walked a steep section. Walking is perhaps 1 mph slower than straining in my lowest gear, so I walk to get a break from being on the seat and to use some different muscles. After climbing that first pass, I screamed down (40 mph) to Bonne Bay. I pulled off at a rest area to have a drink. As I arrived a woman offered me a bottle of cold water. Sounded good, so I accepted. Another family from Corner Brook was next to me having their lunch and they offered me a ham sandwich. This was followed by a soda, cookies, and finally two banana chocolate chip muffins to take along. Nice treat!
Had another hill to climb as I went by Gros Morne mountain. Unfortunately, all I could see was its base. The top was in the clouds. Walked a section again and then 41 mph downhill to the visitors center. Met Josianne there, a Canadian now living in Holland, who was traveling with her friend Andree. She said Andree was working on the internet at the library, so I got directions from Josianne and proceeded there. Josianne and Andree had cycled from Quebec City.
The library closed at 4 pm, so I went to a store, bought a snack and left Rocky Harbour around 5 pm. There was a very strong headwing and it was flat cycling. Passed through boggy areas on my right and the ocean on my left. Wind strengthed to what was at least 40 mph. Decided to ride it as long as I could. Nearing dark, I stopped at Daniel's Harbour. I bought some OJ. Asked about a place protected from the wind as it was certainly too strong to erect the tent. Was directed to the school where I found a spot on the leeward side that wasn't too windy. It was still windy enough that I had to peg down the tent footprint so I could erect the poles.
It was a chilly evening so I brought out my long underwear and cap to sleep in. The wind buffeted the tent and roared all night long. Somewhere, late in the evening, I was awoken by headlights and voices, but the vehicle backed away and I was left in peace again. Day's mileage, 100.
Day 21 July 10, Saturday
Around 3 AM I was woken up by a group of boys and girls coming down the side of the school where I was located. Obnoxious, they bothered me for a while before leaving, tripping over my guy lines as they went.
At 5 AM I was again awoken by two drunks. "Time to get up" they shouted. I should have listened to them. Around 7 AM the skies opened up with a pouring rain. It was my first test at taking down the tent in the pouring rain. I successfully took down the inner tent, packed it in the dry bag, and then strapped the soaking wet fly and footprint onto the bike outside the dry bag. It rained hard the first couple of hours on the road. I rode in my cycling shirt, windbreaker jacket, plastic poncho, and rain pants. I stayed warm enough, except for my feet, which were cold and wet. I need to find a better way to maintain foot warmth.
The remainder of the day was drizzle. I continued to have a tailwind, just not as strong as last night. Stopped for coffee and muffins and a chance to dry out at 24 mi and stopped again for hot soup at around 50 mi. Learned at the first stop that there had been a big party in Daniels Harbour for the area kids last night. Most of the riding was easy until around Hawkes Bay where the road became hillier. Got to St. Barbe at around 3:45, plenty early for the 6 PM ferry to Labrador.
Treated myself to a hot meal at the ferry terminal and also asked about accomodations when I arrive at the other side. I would be arriving in Quebec, cold and wet, at 8 PM and I figured it wisest to book a room. I called a B+B and reserved a room.
Coming off the ferry, I was greeted with a steep hill which I needed to walk. Legs were tired after back-to-back centuries and that day's 90 mile ride. It was 5 miles to the Beachside Hospitality House where I met my hosts, Norm and Gloria Letto. I hung my tent fly, footprint, and other wet items in a shed outside. Also outside was a family of mom and two kids, Catherine, Sophia and Tom, who were cooking up some dinner before they went into their room. I had seen them earlier on the ferry.
The room was $48 as opposed to the $38 advertised on their brochure, but I wasn't in a position to argue. The house was immaculate and my room very comfortable. Before showering, I asked Gloria if there was somewhere where I could wash my clothes. She was hesitant, then offered to wash them in her laundry. So, after a hot shower, my pile of odiferous clothing was offered up to Gloria for cleaning.
It was Gloria's birthday, but I had just caught the tail end of the party when I arrived. Norm was playing the accordian while his brother-in-law accompanied on the guitar. I chatted with the family and learned that Howard Dean had stayed there back when he was governor. Mileage for the day was 96.
Day 22 July 11 Sun
Had a "breakfast" of three pieces of thick toast with assorted jams and coffee. Packed up the tent pieces and cleaned and oiled the chain on the bicycle. Stopped at nearby store for more food. Trip to Red Bay started off with a one mile climb. It was foggy when I started, but the sun broke out for a beautiful day. The landscape was spectacular. Barren hilltops and beautiful bays. Had several steep climbs and steep descents. The temperature varied probably 20 degrees between hilltops and the windy bays below. Passed what looked like a chicken farm along the way, but I was told it was a mink farm. Had a hill to walk.
Road started to follow the Pinware River. The river was beautiful as I followed it up into the mountains. There on the high plateau were ponds, lakes and rock, very wild and spectacular. Catherine and the kids went by several times as they went off on side trips to explore. At Mary's Harbour, my destination for the day, I again met Catherine and the kids. They were going to hike up to an observation point and offered to give me a ride to the departure point. We climbed a hill with a nice view over the town and harbour. Catherine was feeling adventurous, and led us on an alternate route down to the sea that had us all wondering if we would finish our hike that evening as we had to bushwack through thick growth and lower ourselves down steep banks by hanging on to trees and bushes. However, we did make it down safely and returned by a path along the coastline.
Catherine and the kids were also camping, so we scouted a place to set up our tents. The local playground offered such a site so we stopped there. I should mention, we made several stops at the local store that afternoon and evening. Of interest there was the fact that to wash and dry a load of laundry was $5, but to take a shower was $7.95 plus tax! Guess a shower is a luxury in these parts.
I contributed some food to the dinner and helped in preparation as we all battled with the black flies. I had purchased a fly coat that afternoon that went a long way in the battle. Pasta with mushroom soup and hamburger was the dinner for the night. Mileage for the day - 50
Day 23 July 12 Mon
I left the pavement today. There was lots of climbing and fresh crushed stone on the road made cycling difficult. On one fast downhill I was probably up to 25 mph when I hit a section of loose stone. It was all I could do to keep the bicycle upright. Fortunately I made it through without incident, but I will be keeping my speed much slower on the downhills in the future.
Hit a section that was freshly graded with the loose stone pushed to one side. I was able to move as fast as pavement, particularly with the day's tailwind. I'm disappointed that cars and trucks don't slow down as they go by, as with each passage I am enveloped in a cloud of dust.
A truck pulling a camper stopped and offered me water. They had gone by me several times as I bicycled up through Newfoundland. Two airport employees from HV-GB stopped and asked about the trip. They were willing to shoot a couple of photos of me by taking my camera and going up the road and waiting for me to approach.
At Lodge Harbour, stopped at Mona's store. The store had everything. It was interesting that the prices were not unusually high. I'm thinking that they keep the prices reasonable for the locals. A Gatorade, banana, and ice cream cone and I was underway for the last 5 miles to Mary's Harbour. Catherine and the kids went by one more time. I didn't see them in Mary's Harbour as I found a spot to pitch my tent behind a store upon arrival with rain threatening.
At 6 PM I was in the tent and taking a nap. Woke up at 7, had some tortillas and cheese slices for dinner. Tried my radio and by chance it was set to the TV frequency. Canada must not have switched to digital yet as I was able to listen to the weather portion of the evening news followed by the Wheel of Fortune!
It rained hard during the night, but the tent stayed dry. Average speed for the day on dirt was 9 mph. Mileage 55
Day 24 July 13 Tuesday
Morning arrived with nice weather. The wind has changed from the SW to the NE. Means I'll have a headwind all day. Caught up on my journal.
Heard yesterday from the two airport employees from HV-GB that new sections of the road from HV-GB to Labrador City are now paved. This could make that section faster for me.
On the way out of town, I stopped at a motel/restaurant to use the washroom and met a group of students from Dukane U. in Pittsburg. They were filming a documentary and their story line was led by two students, boy and girl, riding loaded BMW motorcycles. One of the group, Robert Isenberg, had grown up in Middlebury. He said my passage on the highway was becoming a topic of conversation.
Although it was only 30 miles today from Mary's Harbour, it was a hard day for me. The temperature as I type here in Port Hope Simpson is about 85 degrees and I battled a 30 mph headwind all day. Road surfaces for the most part were excellent and with no wind or a tail wind I could have probably doubled my speed. Most of the day was travelling through dense woodland, punctuated by beautiful blue lakes and rocky hilltops. I saw multiple woodpiles along side the road. Apparently the locals cut the wood in the winter, leave it by the roadside to dry over the summer and then in winter again, pull it home with snowmobiles and sledges.
I'll be treating myself to a restaurant meal (and washing up in their washroom) before I begin what could be a five day trek to HV-GB without any towns between. It's about 240 miles. Best to all of you. Wish me luck.