final report, Nancy O’Higgins St. John’s, Nfld.

Borden-Carleton to Charlottetown ‚ 62k

Everyone did different distances today as we tried to maximize our visit to PEI. Dave and Al went to Summerside before going to Charlottetown, George went to Kensington, Eric and I rode on the former rail bed to Charlottetown and met Ken on it a few times. Dave and Mary took the highway so they could get to Charlottetown faster. Harry did, too. Inge and Sandy did a combination. Every time Eric and I thought of going on the highway instead we would see a big hill on the road that the rail grade avoided, plus cars splashing up the rain puddles, so we stayed on the trail.

When we got to the residence Harry was asleep in the bike room, a bedroom set aside for our bikes. Then he nagged the rest of us to get moving and shower so we could sightsee downtown. The trouble is Harry was the only one to get a nap!

I forgot to put in the Shediac entry, that Harry was the first one of the group to dip his foot in the Atlantic Ocean. Brendan, Al and Dave did a full body immersion, but Harry touched it first.

The rooms seem to be much bigger at this residence than they have been in other cities and it is not a long walk downtown or to Walmart. It is our first experience with a province that doesn’t allow Sunday shopping, and since Sunday is our only rest day here it’s a bit disconcerting.

The day we arrived Mary and Dave went off on their own to visit yet another medical establishment, this one telling Dave to eat red meat and drink four Ensures instead of one. Great help!

Sandy and Inge walked downtown with Harry and arranged to meet anyone who wanted to dance at the Old Dublin pub at 8 p.m. Eric and I rode our bikes down first to get an ice cream at Cows and go to a bike shop to replace a missing screw in my pedal. The two young men at the first bike shop scrambled through boxes of screws and couldn’t find the right one. They sent us to another bike shop nine blocks away, MacQueens on Queen St. I walked in the door and the owner said, “You’ve cycled from Vancouver, haven’t you.” When I asked, stunned, how he knew that, he said, “By the lilt in the way you walk.” He said he was a big supporter of the CCCTS and had followed the trips from the very first one. Later that night, when Ken, Harold and Harry were walking back to the residence from dinner and stood looking in the bike shop window, the owner, Gordon MacQueen guessed they were from the same group and said the same thing to them, then invited them to his backyard patio and poured them wine. What a reception!

After Harold, Harry and Ken left the Irish pub, Sandy, Eric and I chatted there until Al, Dave, Frank and George arrived for the dancing. Eric actually left before it started, deciding he was too tired. Frank arrived with a horror story that we’ve all been dreading. His bike was stolen in broad daylight from in front of the residence. He didn’t know there was a bike storage room and had left it outside, unlocked. George thinks he saw the people who stole it, three young boys who looked about 13 who he talked to while he was moving his bike in. They were just hanging around.

Frank may buy a bike at Walmart on Monday morning to complete the trip, since there are only seven more cycling days and only two of those are over 100k. He also may go to a local flea market the next day and see if his bike is there.

After getting a terrible cramp in his leg when he tried to jive, then getting his Guinness knocked over at the table, Frank decided to cut his losses and go home to bed.

The rest of us danced ourselves silly. George told one of the band members that we had cycled from Victoria and they announced it over the sound system to the amazement of all the other dancers. We got accolades for the rest of the night from all the young partiers.

They had a 50-50 draw and asked me to draw the ticket. Al won $125! He bought a round of drinks with some of it, and we also told him he was on the hook for the taxi fare home. Later, George found $10 on the floor that everyone was stomping on during the dancing. Late in the evening, two young stud muffins cut Sandy and I off from our three cycling partners to all of our amusement, and Sandy had trouble getting away from them to get back to our group. They were young enough to be our sons. We left 10 minutes before the pub closed at 2 a.m. to get a taxi back and all had to try to sneak quietly into our rooms, since everyone of us was sharing with a non-participant in the evening’s hilarity. Wasn’t that a party!

The day off was Sunday and, since PEI doesn’t have Sunday opening, it was a quieter one than usual. The bike shop was open because it rents bikes and the library was open in the afternoon, so with laundry facilities at the university, we spent a lazy, meandering sort of day.

Eric and I sat at an outdoor cafÈ by the library, talking to the locals at the neighbouring table and he mentioned that I had ridden across Canada. One of the women said, “I don’t believe you.” I got up, crossed over to her table and said, “Feel those muscles.” She did and said, “Okay, now I believe you.” The man at the next table, sitting reading A Year in Provence, had also looked suitably startled at the information about the cross country trek, so Eric said to me as I was returning to my chair, “He wants to feel it too.” The poor man immediately said, “No, I believe you now, too.”

Harold, Ken, Eric and I went to an Italian restaurant for dinner, and on the way back to the university, saw Dave, Al and Wayne’s bikes in front of another restaurant, locked together with two locks, but not locked to anything solid. Eric and Ken picked all three bikes up as a package and walked by the window where our three cycling partners were eating. The startled looks on their faces were worth the prank.

Charlottetown to Pictou, N.S. 72k

Short, uneventful day with a straightforward ride to the ferry off PEI. We packed all the bikes into the Budget truck and drove onto the ferry in Chris and Anita’s motor-home, when we found out you can take all the passengers you want for nothing, but it is $16 each for a passenger and bike. A short, 7k ride to our campsite at Pictou, Harbour Light Campground, found us on a beautiful waterfront, looking across at a small village. We were met for the first time by a sweet young woman, one of the managers, with two trays of meat, cheese, crackers and luscious green grapes and bananas, with bottles of cold water

Eric cooked dinner for the first time, with his new cook team of Brendan and Wayne and we enjoyed a fabulous meal of pepper steak with corn and potatoes, followed by chocolate Èclairs accompanied by red wine, a gift from him. Brendan also had bought wine for dinner, so there was more than enough. Sandy and I enjoyed ourselves too much, as usual, with our glass and a half of wine. (Sure! says Ken.) All this exercise has decreased our capacity for wine, but not for enjoyment.

Harold, Eric, Inge, Mary, Sandy and I went for a long walk through beach grass and ended up chatting to a dozen campers about our trip until after dark, when we stumbled, flashlightless, back to our tents.

Pictou to Antigonish ‚ 80k

Horrendous wind and horrendous rain. But at least it wasn’t too cold, due to Al’s marathon experience. He dressed me up in a garbage bag, after he modeled his suave wear, and several others followed suit. My Goretex has long since lost its waterproofing due to the torrents with which we have dealt.

Everyone was in the campsite at Antigonish very early, drying out wet tents in a windy, sunny afternoon. Eric and I went to the campsite at Whidden’s in the middle of Antigonish to get the address in our luggage of the friends where we were spending the night, about 20k further along our route. We spent the night in luxurious surroundings on a private mile-long beach with warm ocean water to swim in (didn’t!) enjoying the treat of barbecued salmon at Brian and Barbara Hoar’s house. We went for a drive after supper to feed our ice cream addiction, getting wonderful cones at a tiny kiosk along the road.

The next morning Brian cycled the first 18k with us to show us a shoreline route we could travel to meet our group further along. It was a warm, sunny, stunningly beautiful ride along the coast with very little traffic. We met Harold and Frank in a tiny village, when they had come off the main highway to find a restaurant. We had another breakfast in the little fish restaurant, before the Canso causeway.

We were warned about a huge hill before a long ride down to the causeway, but we never found it. On the way down, I kept thinking it would start going up again just around the next bend, but it never did. On the other side of the causeway, we were supposed to follow Route 4 to St. Peters but I was the only one who did. Everyone else went on the main highway. Eric wanted to go the faster way to dry our tent and gear, which had been wet since the previous morning, but I wanted the quieter route.

St. Peters to North Sydney ‚ 130k

The decision was made to avoid Louisbourg, since we would only have had a few hours there instead of the day or more it deserves. It has also been subject to a rotating strike by federal employees. The KOA campground at Seal Island was arbitrarily picked because it was listed as Little Bras d’Or in the campground bible we were following. Unfortunately, it was much further than we needed to go that day so we had a lot of cranky campers by the time we got there. The first part of the day was fun with a tail wind. The only problem with the journey was not knowing where it was going to end.

North Sydney to St. John’s ‚ 135k

Inge, Mary and I decided to ride with Anita into North Sydney instead of cycling since we had already been by the ferry terminal and cycled an extra 30k past it the day before. Besides, I needed their help to buy presents for the windup party in St. John’s. The ones who did cycle had a tail wind and a very fast trip into North Sydney. Many of us checked our email at the library whose personnel made us very welcome, got haircuts, visited Timmy’s at least once, and had a pub lunch, where for the last time, my camelback exploded over the floor causing a lake.

The water was calm for the ferry trip to Newfoundland. We ended up rehashing the trip at a long table in the cafeteria all evening, then Frank and I sat at another table amusing ourselves writing a song for the windup party. Brendan poured a glass of wine for everyone who wanted it and Dave M. distributed his Grand Marnier, probably helping us have a wonderful sleep on the ferry.

In the morning we left the ship to fog and rain. When we saw a sign saying St. John’s 118 k, Brendan polled the group, riding back and forth to see if we were all agreed we would go into St. John’s instead of going to Butter Pot Campground, then on to Cape Spear, since the weather was so miserable. Agreement was unanimous. When we got to St. John’s which was a bit further than the sign said ‚ that was obviously to the outskirts ‚ I got my first and only flat tire. I drove across a long piece of tire which had exploded into a million pieces from a truck and the tiny, needle-like pieces of metal in it punctured my tube.

This leaves Harry as the only one to make the whole trip without a flat tire. He wants it said, that he made the trip on a Trek 520 bike with Armadillo tires and recommends that combination as the only way to go.

Harold met us fixing the flat on the road and came with us into the campground, the last three to arrive. I got bear hugs from all the gathered cyclists amid great roars of, “We did it.” What a feeling! Mary said she had cried a bit when she got in and got all her hugs. All I was able to say was, “I had a flat. After all this way, I got into St. John’s and got a flat.” But I did it. I didn’t realize, fortunately, that no one in the group had thought I would be able to make it in the first few weeks. They didn’t know then how stubborn I am. Not an experienced cyclist, not a fast cyclist, but the most stubborn one. (I also promised Brendan weeks ago that at some point I would put in here that I am actually not a wuss after all. He says the group talked about it and if they had a vote I would win the grittiest rider. So there, Harry! See Schreiber entry if you are lost here.)

Most of us went into St. John’s famous George St. pub area that night to get screeched in, to celebrate. We went to Trapper John’s where we had a few pitchers of beer before the ceremony started. We were all given a small plastic souvenir glass filled with screech which we had to down while reciting an incomprehensible Newfoundland traditional toast, with something like long may your big jib draw in it, then kiss a puffin. It is supposed to be a cod you kiss but we all know there are no more cod, so puffins replace them. The puffin was flashed over to kiss its rear end instead of what was expected, to more hilarity, and at the end we were presented with a certificate making us adopted Newfoundlanders. Afterwards, Harold was determined to find some food for me who had whimpered as usual about being hungry, so he, Dave M., Eric, Ken, and I trudged along trying to find something open. Timmy’s had just closed. We found a new place selling pub food with good musicians on a lousy sound system and nachos or hamburgers. Everyone else took an earlier taxi home and we followed.

The next morning, we discovered from Wayne, that Frank, who had stayed home with George from the screeching-in had walked into the cook tent to have someone put their hands over his eyes from behind and he said “who is this?” ‚(Wayne says he asked – Is it Nancy?” but he denies that ‚ Nancy has become Ken’s generic name for all of us); only to turn around and discover his wife Gail had arrived to surprise him. Our finish a day early had made it impossible for her to be at the camp to surprise him when he arrived. We were all touched by Wayne’s description of Frank’s joy.

That incident reminds me I forgot to put in one of the name mix-up stories that had Sandy and me in hoots of laughter at the time. We were having spaghetti one night when Sandy and I had both been served more than we could eat. We were both playing with our food when I let out a sigh. Ken said, “Nancy are your eyes bigger than your stomach again?” Sandy looked up from her barely touched dinner to ask, “Which Nancy?”

We had started making phone calls in Charlottetown to arrange a place to have dinner and celebrate on the 22nd and to find presents for Ken and Wayne for all they had done for us. Luckily, I had friends in St. John’s who we were able to dragoon into doing all the legwork for us, Dan and Susan Rubin formerly of Lasqueti Island, B.C. We had expected to arrive on a Sunday and didn’t know what would be open or how to shop in the very few hours that would be available.

The place they picked for our dinner was the Bagel CafÈ because they serve Newfoundland food and the owner was enthusiastic about having a group of maniacs who had cycled from coast to coast. It was a brilliant find, mainly due to our waitress who was a stand-up comic who brooked no nonsense from us, and kept us howling with laughter. We picked a variety of food, the wine was supplied from the surplus in our beer fund, and Chris Chan and Anita who joined us, donated an ice cream cake with suitable sentiments written on it.

The Four Lads and a Lass, Frank, Al, Dave Mann, Harold and I sang the song Frank and I wrote to the sentiments and tune of “Moments to Remember.” Ken suggested I put it in here so our group can read it later.

That first day's uphill mountain ride
The Coquihalla where we sighed
We will have these moments to remember.

Those early morning zipper sounds
The days we tore the cook tent down  (voice over, Come to Me)
We will have these moments to remember.

The quiet walks, the ice cream fun
The country dancing that we done
We will have these moments to remember.

The winding roads we pedaled slow
Through scenery we hoped to know
There is no scenery to remember.

The swimming Al did every day
The coffee breaks that faded away
The tinkling of V8 juice every evening.

Though we were bloated at the start
But know now we are strong of heart
With shapes we no longer resemble.

Though summer turns to winter
And the present disappears
The laughter we were glad to share
Will echo through the years.
When other nights and other days
May find us gone our separate ways,
We will have these moments to remember.

Throughout the evening, there were many toasts, with the most heartfelt being to Irene who we all miss and wish was with us. And while I’m on the subject of Irene, I found the note with the ambulance attendant’s name on it who helped so much at the accident. Thanks to Michele Paradis of St. Alphonse-Rodriguez.

After the song, Al presented Wayne with a gift from all of us to thank him for his incredible volunteer effort to get us to St. John’s. As Al said, the trip would have fallen through if Wayne hadn’t agreed to drive the truck. He got a hooded sweatshirt with a Newfoundland train design on it and an engineer’s cap because of his background working on trains. Ken gave out certificates for the trip and Wayne’s certificate said he had the best vocabulary. (Heckler in the cheap seats: and that was only up to the letter F!) The gift that went with the certificate was, coincidentally, a train whistle.

The other certificates which Ken presented started with Chris Chan for lying down on the job, (his recumbent) then Al McLean for re-routing city buses, (after an incident in Thunder Bay where he phoned the head office of the bus company and got the bus sent back that had passed him without stopping!) Harry got a certificate for first in, first out, which was accompanied by a present of an apron for his constant discussion of what was women’s work whenever we did dishes. Brendan’s certificate was for emulating the Roadrunner, George Fralic’s was for a girl in every camp (he knew someone in communities all the way across Canada). Harold Bridge’s was for remembering the date ofä.. Frank Thompson’s was for finishing without his bicycle — he borrowed Wayne’s when his was stolen in Charlottetown. Dave Herlt’s was for aspiring Iron man ‚ not – since he has been anaemic. Mary’s was for beating the sun to the coffeepot; Dave Mann’s was for misplacing almost everything; Sandra Larson’s was for beating down camp operators (she became a genius at getting us great deals); Inge’s was for participating in every cook team; Eric’s was for being the best dressed cyclist; Anita Chan’s was for sharing her Fig Newtons the night Marilyn went to the hospital; mine was for most improved cyclist, and Ken’s was for establishing schedules no one followed. My presents with my certificate were a set of noisemakers so I can continue my partying, and a bungee cord to attach myself to Eric’s bike so I can keep up with him. Ken’s gift with his certificate was a package of Fig Newtons because of his constant problem of trying to get people to take their share of cookies and leave some, especially Fig Newtons, for others. He passed them around the table and they disappeared as fast as the ones on the Budget truck did. He also got another card with a zipper in it, so whenever he misses us, he can play with the noisy zipper, and the feeling will go away.

The last present was for Ken from the group and before I had a chance to make the expected maudlin speech, Brendan saved the day by saying how much we all appreciated everything Ken did for us on the trip. We gave Ken a cycling jersey from Newfoundland with the provincial flag on it.

After the party, most of the group went home, but Inge, Sandy, and I went to a Fifties pub to dance, where we found Dave Mann, Brendan, Al and his wife who had arrived after flying standby and spending unwanted time in two other cities when she got bumped. We were stunned to discover what an incredible dancer Inge is. We were sorry we had let her get away the other nights we went dancing since she joined us in Ottawa. Hidden talents. We burned up some more energy, then made the mistake of going to another pub which turned out to be a downer, so we went home to bed, early, at 1 a.m. ‚ our last night of dancing.

Over the next few days everyone packed up their tents to catch their flights home and disappeared one by one.

After Wayne, Harry, Sandra and Ken had all left, over two days, the last highlight for the rest of us was meeting for lunch at Auntie Crae’s. Every Tuesday noon hour, local musicians have a jam session there. It was a special experience to hear live Newfoundland music from people who were obviously enjoying making music and didn’t need the rest of us there clapping and cheering. Some of the musicians knew each other. One man, a frequent visitor from Ottawa, sang and he was incredible. The other musicians played accordions, fiddles, bodhran, mandocello, and mandolin.

We went to the glass fronted Geo Centre, or as locals call it, the Gordon Pinsent rock museum, after lunch, and were overwhelmed by the place. (All the videos, which Inge and Eric slept through, star Gordon Pinsent). Ken, we were going to send you a postcard from there saying people in glass houses shouldn’t show stones.

We did it! We did it!