“Well I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand.”
“Say, um, Cousin Wash? I suppose it’d be the acme of foolishness to enquire if you had a hairnet?”
-Ulysses Everett McGill (Oh Brother Where Art Thou)
“I’m pretty tired. Think I’ll go home now.”
Total mileage: 7223km
Well, there you have it. Ocean to ocean, coast to coast, sea to shining sea. An undertaking of a proper survey of the provinces. A 2.5 month bicycle journey across the world’s 2nd largest country. Surely the acme of foolishness.
As a result of this extensive survey I’m pleased to announce that I’ve discovered what could very well be the last fully functional KFC bucket sign in the country!
It’s spinning, brother! It’s spinning!!
You can see the auto service window on the left, specialising in oil changes, bearing lubrication and basically anything involving grease. When it comes to auto service rest assured, Poulet Frit Kentucky has got you covered.
My time in Quebec was very pleasant due in no small part to the impressive resources the province has directed at improving infrastructure for cyclists. La Route Verte is a province wide network of trails and pathways designed to encourage and provide a safe and enjoyable cycling experience. It truly is world class, something the province can be proud of and from what I can tell, very well utilised. I saw scores more recreational riders in Quebec than all other provinces combined.
La Route Verte
And that brings me to the Newfoundland Situation.
Sometimes even the best of plans are layed to waste and unfortunately this was the case with the Newfoundland portion of my trip. I had made reservations to take a ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland which would place me 130km from St John’s (the end of the road). Airline reservations for the trip home were finalised, a hotel was booked, my girlfriend was flying in to greet me and I had even purchased tickets to see the rock band KISS who were giving a concert that weekend when a most unfortunate incident occurred. Marine Atlantic, the crown corporation that operates the ferry service to Newfoundland, crashed one of their ships into a wharf which caused enough damage that is was removed from service. The ripple effect of this accident meant that all Argentina crossings were cancelled and I suddenly found myself on a boat to Port Aux Basques, a full 900km away from St John’s. So, what was supposed to be a 1 day ride to the finish line morphed into a potential 8 day trek across the entire isle of Newfoundland. With all the reservations and cash tied up in preparations, I made the very difficult decision to forgo the riding and boarded a bus to St John’s which was the only way to maintain my schedule. Even though the 130km of missed riding represents 1% of my total mileage, I can’t help but feel like I’ve cheated. Like I’ve peeked at the Christmas presents or dug the prize out of the cereal box without eating all the fruit loops. Some people ride from Vancouver to Halifax and are perfectly content to call that a cross-canada trip. I made the effort to start in Victoria and would have cycled into St John’s if it weren’t for circumstances beyond my control. I’m sure as time passes I’ll get over the disappointment and hopefully you won’t think less of me for missing my last day of riding.
Philosophically speaking, it’s important in life to stretch out and reach for things beyond your grasp but other times, when forces conspire to push you in a certain direction, it’s best just to ride the wave and see where fate takes you. For most of this trip I’ve been looking over my shoulder as nasty and unfortunate events unfolded behind me: The flooding in Calgary. The man crushed by a fallen tree in a Manitoba campground where I had slept only 2 nights prior. The vicious lightning storms in southern Quebec. And most tragically, the 2 cross-canada cyclists that were killed in July. The couple were in their 60’s and part of the Tour du Canada, a group of 25 riders making their way across the country, when they were struck and killed by a pickup truck near Nipigon, Ontario. I cycled this exact route (remember the world’s smallest Canadian Tire?) and was scared by just how dangerous that stretch of the Trans Canada is for a cyclist and was amazed that I made it through without incident. So when I learned of the accident it served as a frightening look in a mirror, showing exactly how foolish and dangerous this trip has been.
When I was planning this trip a number of people commented that it would “change my life”. Now that the trip is over the question remains, has my life been changed? Well, I haven’t converted to Judaism, Buddhism, or any other “ism” for that matter. I didn’t turn vegan and my sense of humour appears to have remained intact. Truth of the matter is, it’s a difficult question to answer about yourself. Our personality is largely defined by the collective sum of our experiences, so to take a page from George Carlin’s book, my life is still my life, except now it’s my life + this big bike trip.
But what now? Each day as the finish line has drawn closer I’ve found myself asking that very question…What’s next? Being freed of the shackles of work these last few months has been absolutely fabulous. The inconvenient truth however is that “professional adventurer” isn’t exactly a sustainable business plan. Those who do dabble in these waters inevitably become authors out of necessity to finance their next trip. And despite some of the lovely complements I’ve received on my creative writing skills, I don’t consider myself author material. Then again there’s a lot to be said about having a good editor. I mean if Ozzy Osborne can write a book…
I suppose the take home message is that you should never stop asking “what’s next”. If this trip has taught me anything it’s that we only get one turn on the merry-go-round and it’s up to us to make the most of our short trip to the fair.
“Yup, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
-Ferris Bueller’s Day Off