Week 14 Update

Last week was the longest and toughest seven days of my coast to coast to coast bicycle journey across Canada as you have probably read and to be honest, I wish that it stays so and that I only have better days ahead.

Week 14 was pretty relaxed compared to the previous one.

On Monday, I left Clarenville to cycle to St Peter’s, my second last ride to St John’s.

What a foggy morning!
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But none of that was going to stop me from taking my obligatory pre-ride self-portrait

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Oh and it was very windy.

But other than that, it was just an uneventful ride with some interesting sights along the way.

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An almost real life moose…

A town with the most interesting name…

And then suddenly the fog disappeared leading way to a beautiful sunny but very windy afternoon.

In my whole life I have never been in a situation where within a few short minutes, the temperatures went from one extreme to another.

Look at the screenshot below taken from my GPS unit!

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It felt like a curtain was opened. In seven minutes the weather went from foggy to sunny and the temperature reacted accordingly. I had to stop and get undressed because I went from freezing less than a hour prior to close to a heat stroke!

I am glad I have access to GPS data because no one believed me until I produced these results!

The scenery now looked like this

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I kept on riding until I got to my destination

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I don’t know what was it about this little town but I liked it a lot even if I was there for less than 12 hours.

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In the morning, I woke up with a smile on my face.

Why? Well, I had one last ride before St John’s my ultimate Newfoundland destination.

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No matter of crazy steep hills could bring my joy down.

I think at this stage I was only interested in what the signs indicated.

Remember when in my previous post, I wrote how almost discouraged I was when I saw that my ride across Newfoundland or Channel-Port Aux Basques to St John’s to be precise would be a 890 km adventure?

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Well, 14 days later, I was on my last stretch and enjoyed watching the countdown along the Trans Canada Highway.

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And here I was at the city limits. I had arrived but not exactly…

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Another half an hour or so and I finally got to St John’s, Newfoundland

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Oh happy day!!

I had a lot of time to kill so I cycled around the city to check it out a little bit.

The highlight was going to the Terry Fox remembrance site.

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I wish I could say that beside that little visit I saw much of St John’s.

The truth is that I was totally tired and broke from my 14-day adventure that I was not in the mood for anything. I was almost morally defeated and just stayed indoors for three days until the day I left.

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My only souvenir from St John’s was the chocolate from Newfoundland Chocolate Company, a local pride, that my host offered me and I ate it in the same so that did not last long.

Yes, I know that I end this in anti-climatic manner but it’s just the way I felt. I wanted to get off the island and carry on my journey in a more hospitable province.

I have to admit that Newfoundland was a difficult journey because my phone did not work here which is something I never even thought of and the fact that I went there before the travelling season started so everything was closed.

The weather did not help too but even if it almost killed me, I should have respected it more.

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So a few days later, I got back on the ferry and I left Newfoundland with a promise to come back one day under better circumstances to visit my new friends and rediscover the province in a more friendly season.

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In the morning I disembarked from the ferry back into Nova Scotia and to Cape Breton where my journey from Eastern to Western Canada was about to begin, part II of The Big Journey.

Week 13 Update

As, I wrote in the last post, Week 12 was a very fast ride from Halifax to Sydney where I would catch the ferry to Newfoundland, the island-province far in the Atlantic and Canada’s most easterly coast.

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Week 13 started off with a little bit of sightseeing around 20km from Sydney as a new friend took me to Louisbourg.

To say that it was a beautiful would be an understatement so I will let you see for yourself with these images.

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Thank you Monika!

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On Wednesday, I took a bus to the ferry where I would head to Newfoundland to ride this province coast to coast and ultimately end up in its capital, St John’s.

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Embarking on the ferry was pain free and I went into my own little corner to watch some movies and get some more sleep before the six hour crossing from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Channel-Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland.

Here are some images from the moment we sailed from one side to when we arrived to the other.

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I got off the ferry and into Newfoundland without knowing what to expect. All I know is that I was greeted with great weather which was amazing.

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Not even half an hour on the island and I was given a warm welcome by local teenagers who were going around on their BMXes.

They even rode with me to the hotel where I would spend the night which was pretty cool convoy!

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But something burst my bubble when I got to the hotel. Two things actually…

First, I realised that I did not have phone service on this island. My phone operator does not have a presence in Newfoundland so that meant that my phone was pretty much useless unless I got to Wifi spots.

I did not think much of it but this “handicap” would be the main reason behind my hellish time in Newfoundland as you will read on.

Second, the hotel price was crazy expensive even with the discount that the very nice receptionist gave me while telling me that I was lucky because I was also benefitting from low season rates which starts in June (we’re in April).

But I did not think much of this again and as you will also read later, this would the other reason behind my nightmare of a time in Newfoundland, as you will find out shortly as trouble did not wait long before showing its ugly head.

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I woke up to a morning that was nothing like the day before.

It looked like some serious snow was about to fall but I had ridden in many storms before and just dismissed it and got on my bicycle.

I went into a coffee shop to get some breakfast and lunch for the road and by the time I hit the road, this snow showed that it was serious and was going nowhere.

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Again, I did not think much of it and figured that it would a light snow fall which would quickly evaporate since the previous beautiful sunny day was proof that Summer or Spring were in full effect.

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I got onto a famed bicycle trail that covers one end of Newfoundland to the next. It’s a popular path with tourists who are uncomfortable with cycling on the Trans-Canada Highway, the only road way to cross the province.

You will read later that, it would be a decision that would cost me dearly in time, money and energy.

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But in the meanwhile, this snow was getting serious. Very serious. I did not want to admit it to myself but I was in a full-blown snow storm that would eventually reach 20cm!

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I had to make some decisions. I was headed to Stephenville, 150km or so away and even with good weather, it was a long journey.

But in this snow, I was travelling so slowly that some quick calculations indicated that I would get to my destination by midnight and with the sun setting at around 7pm, I would cycle 5 hours in the dark in the middle of a wild, barely inhabited province, with not enough food, with never-ending snow and to make matters even worse without a mobile phone since I did not have any signal!

After 3 or 4 kilometres of this madness, I decided to turn around and head back to the hotel where I reluctantly asked for another room and I spent another fortune which seriously annoyed me but I had to think about safety first and foremost.

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I spent all day in a hotel room doing absolutely nothing and getting all frustrated but I knew it was for the best.

The next morning, was a different day. As a matter of fact, here is a photo of what it looked like compared to 24 hours prior as evidenced in the image above.

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And that snow would eventually melt away as the day got warmer.

I got on the bicycle and returned on the bicycle path but after about 30 minutes, I got fed up of it as it was full of rocks and gravel and it was not solid enough to allow me to travel at fast speeds.

So, I decided that I would cross Newfoundland on the highway and proceeded toward it and came across this sign that was like a punch in the stomach

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Why?

Well, I was headed to St John’s and the sign that I had 890 km to go and the enormity of the ride just caught me off-guard especially as I thought of the previous day’s experience.

What if most of the trip was snowstorm-filled?

Newfoundland was obviously no holiday and right there, I sensed that it would be quite a challenging adventure.

Exactly three hours into the ride to Stephenville, I got a flat tire. I wish it was just a flat. It was a puncture which meant that my tire was damaged beyond repair and I needed a new one which I did not have.

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The thing with tires is that most of the time it’s the tube that has an issue and I had replacements but this time it was a tire issue and I did not have a spare one, so I fixed it knowing that it was a short-term solution given the fact that the tire was damaged.

Simply put, I needed a new one and I did not have one and I did not have a phone to get some help.

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I kept cycling along knowing that it was a matter of time before the tire got another flat and I was pedalling as fast as possible to break down as close to my destination as possible and perhaps get to a populated area where I would find a place with Internet to figure out alternative plans.

Sixty kilometres later, I heard a loud pop and that was the end of my tire and spare tubes and I know that I was done for the day.

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Luckily for me, I broke down a few minutes away from a motel where I was able to seek shelter from the evening that was starting and was getting cold and use the Internet to get in touch with my hosts in Stephenville and tell them that I was stuck.

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Fortunately for me, Lori, my host offered to come and pick me up and while I waited for her, I was having a friendly conversation with the motel owner and operator and to this day, I am grateful for the company and for allowing me to use her phone, Internet and facilities.

My first ride in Newfoundland while in a VERY beautiful setting was a total disaster but I was grateful to have been stranded near a place where I found refuge and for my hosts who offered to come and bail me out.

The next morning, I decided to stick around Stephenville because I needed to figure out what to do with my front tire that was out of commission and frankly because I was tired and needed a break.

So Lori my host took me on a small hike around where she and her family live and the best I can do to showcase the beauty of Kippens (the exact location where they are located in Stephenville) is to share the images below and let you see for yourself.

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Oh by the way, I almost forgot to mention that Lori raises chicken for the eggs which is something I have noticed a lot in Eastern Canada. I got to feed them and I liked that a lot!

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And how is this for good fortune?

It turns out that Lori and John, her husband are avid cyclists who have gone on many trips across Canada.

They kindly took off tires from their personal bicycles and gave them to me to use until the next city where there was a bike shop and from there, the store would hold those tires for them until the next time they came to town.

Which means that the following day I was ready to hit the road towards Corner Brook.

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To my lovely surprise, John (Lori’s husband) and Jerry, a friend of that family, decided to see me off and make sure that I would be fine on the road by riding the first 30 km with me.

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The rest of the ride to Corner Brook was pleasant and I loved every minute of it even if it was full of hills but they were smooth and the downhills were steep so I would gather enough momentum that would help me in my climbs.

Furthermore, there was no wind so that helped a lot.

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The following day, I went to get my bicycle looked at and purchase new tires at Cycle Solutions. That bike shop was top of their game and they fixed all my problems in a prompt and efficient manner.

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Naturally a photo with the whole crew was a must 🙂

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After I took a quick ride through the city. The only thing I will remember about Corner Brook is that whomever built it was fond of hills!

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Imagine my surprise when I saw a Jamaican restaurant!

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This is getting long but yes, it was a long week so let’s move on…

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So with my new tires, the world’s most puncture-proof according to the marketing hype, I got back on the bike without knowing how far I would go since at this stage, I had realised that the maps had nothing to do with reality since they were not up to date at all!

I cycled and cycled and cycled and out of the blue it started getting dark and the motel that I was looking for was nowhere to be found given the inaccuracies of the map.

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I rode past Deer Lake, a small but major town along the way.

Light rain started falling and it was getting dark and somehow the motel in Sheppardville that I had researched on the Internet was nowhere to be found and I started to panic a little bit.

Luckily for me as it was really getting dark, I saw a motel and cycled past it and I was so lucky because the operator was shutting down for the night since it was off season and she had only one client.

I was a total mess by she welcomed me in. After all, I had ridden 150 km and 100 km were in a moderate but nonstop rain.

I was so proud of my clothes since while they were soaked, I was dry and warm and could even afford to smile and joke around.

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The kitchen was also about to close and they fixed me a quick meal and I went straight to bed with the heating at full blast to dry my clothes and keep me warm since it was a cold and damp day!

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The bicycle was a total mess too. I brought it in the room so that it could dry too because I was in no mood to ride a frozen bike the following morning.

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The next morning, I woke up, got dressed in my sweaty and dirty clothes since I did not have access to laundry.

The good thing is that most of my cycling kit is comprised of merino wool and odor-resistant materials so while they’re full of mud and sweat, I can still get around without stinking and causing people to collapse.

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That day was warmer and with a little drizzle. I don’t remember what the ride felt like but my Strava notes indicate that it a flat road and there was no wind or rain so I was able to keep it moving.

I remember however seeing the 500km mark which is basically the halfway point and I told myself that although the previous rides had been hell, it certainly could not get worse but as you will read shortly, it did big time and I almost died in the first meaning of the word.

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I got to Grand-Falls and checked into yet another modest but overpriced motel and at that stage I had just stopped counting money because I was growing frustrated and broke but I did not have a choice as it was either that or sleeping outside in freezing temperatures.

My next ride was from Grand-Falls to Gander, a 100km trip.

At the 50km mark, the skies opened and it started raining. Not some light rain but heavy, heavy rain that showed no signs of stopping within the next hour or so.

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I was in the middle of nowhere as usual, this is Newfoundland after all, so my strategy was to just keep on cycling and I was sure that my cycling kit would keep me dry anyway since it had done so with flying colours in a few instances the days before.

After three or four hours of these strong showers, I started suffering from hypothermia. I had never had it before but before embarking on this trip, I did a lot of reading and I have learned to monitor the signs and I was displaying all the symptoms to the extent that I was not even able to focus anymore.

I was so cold that my brain had basically stopped working and it was only focused on the simple task that I had given it: to keep my eyes fixed on the road while my legs did the pedalling.

I knew I was close in distance but I had no energy left as the cold had taken it away but I was cycling so slowly that my body got colder and more wet.

It got so crazy that I tried to stop but could not even find the energy to unclip from my pedals so I was just stuck on the bicycle almost literally.

Even the hills which normally make me sweat and generate body heat did not work. I was just drenched with rain and I was slowly shutting down.

It got so bad that after a while I found myself cycling in the middle of the highway without noticing and as I was zig-zagging between the road and the shoulder.

And this is not some small regional rural road. It was the Trans Canada highway, the busiest road in Newfoundland.

Eventually, I told myself that I was in serious danger and just told my brain to give me enough motivation to find the next place available for shelter as I would stop there and basically warm myself up as I was slowly fading out and losing consciousness while still cycling which is amazing in itself as it felt that I had blacked out but never fell of the bike!

95 km into my 100 km journey, I saw a petrol station and even if I had 5km left to my destination where a warm house and shower awaited me, my body did not have the will, strength and energy to carry on and so I dropped off my bike and almost crawled into the service centre and basically told the staff that I was in distress and needed help.

I had 5 km left or 20 minutes to be precise and I could not carry on!

The Irving fuel station staff was amazing. They gave me a hot chocolate and a hot glass of water to hold in my hands to warm them up.

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They took off my gloves and allowed me to basically undress and put the clothes in newspapers and I am not exaggerating when I say that the water that came from it could have filled a bucket.

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My gloves were still so wet that one ingenious staff member put them next to a fan to try and dry them as much as possible.

I have to say that the hot chocolate felt like I had gotten CPR as I felt my body coming back to life and the agony I was going through just vanished.

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I could not stick around for long as I did not want my muscles to get all stiff. So I got back onto the bicycle to finish the 5% left on my bicycle and within 20 minutes I reached Gander and after a nice shower, lovely meal and conversation with my very interesting host, I slept like a dead man.

I almost forgot that I ate two chocolate bars in one sitting because I felt that I had deserved them given the agony I went through 🙂

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So what went wrong? I should have not ridden in that rain that is what happened. I should have stopped in the first city town that I came across and waited for it to stop and resumed my ride later. But when I chose to carry on, I had no choice but to keep on pedalling as I found myself in unpopulated portions of my ride.

I find that at this time of writing I have become scared of the rain which is a good thing but also a bad thing because my mistake was to ride in it for far too long.

I spent 48 hours in Gander getting over my terrible ordeal and I used that time to wash my bicycle which was starting to look like a mess.

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I went to sleep and in the morning, I woke up to a lovely surprise.

My host and some of his friends that I had met the night before at the small get-together he had organised were going to ride with me part of the way to support me but also to enjoy the beautiful Saturday.

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Jamie, Jon, Caroline and I hit the road towards Clarenville on the foggy morning that would eventually turn to a beautiful sunny day with mild winds and scenic routes.
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At Gambo or 43 km into the trip, we parted ways as they had to head back. I took a final farewell photo. I will never forget this amazing group of people.

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So at Gambo where we separated, I had a 100km left to cycle to Clarenville which was okay because I had enough time ahead of me as well as a friendly weather.

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This would turn out to be the most enjoyable ride in all of Newfoundland despite the presence of so many endless but smooth hills.

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That is because I came across a huge park. You perhaps don’t know this but I LOVE parks and cycling in one was heaven on Earth.

Enter Terra Nova National Park of Canada.

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For the next 40km or so, I just flew into that forest. Yes, I was on the Trans Canada Highway but in the middle of a forest.

I took a lot of video over photographs that I don’t have time to upload but trust me, it really made my day!

I even stopped to have a little picnic

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Notice how the distance to St John’s my ultimate destination kept shrinking from the initial 890km? That brought a smile to my face 🙂

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Eventually I got to Clarenville.

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While there, I tried to check into some hotels but there were expensive. I eventually found one outside town that was closed for the season but the operators opened it up for me which was very kind of them.

It was a sort of castle in Newfoundland and I was the only guest so I was a king in my own private hotel, I guess!

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The inside was very enchanting (that is not a real dog. It caught me off-guard too).

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The next day, a Sunday, a family that was following my adventures on Facebook invited me to spend a night at their house which went well as it was good to be with more wonderful Newfoundlanders after a some trying times in this province which Spring had forgotten.

My hosts had a cat that had quite a personality

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After this long week, I went to bed ready for the last two rides to St John’s, my final destination in Newfoundland.

As you have just read, the past seven days were quite filled with some extreme adventures but also with lots of beautiful people and places. I learned a lot about travelling, cycling and myself and I was able to grow as as human being and as Christian as in every single second, I had to rely on  The Most Hight for survival and He took care of me via his beautiful people in Newfoundland.

I will be the first to admit that I am not looking forward to such trying times again though.

Week 12 Update

This week was no joke as it was all about cycling and cycling and cycling.

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My mission was to ride from Halifax to North Sydney where I’d catch the ferry to Newfoundland.

To do so, I had to cycle 500 km in less than a week.

I was fortunate to have good hosts in Halifax who single handedly got me in touch with people who would host me in the four stops that I would make to Sydney.

So I got onto the ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth and off I went!

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My first stop towards Newfoundland was in Truro

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Antigonish was next.

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After a night in Antigonish, I headed towards Cape Breton, an island that is part of Nova Scotia

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In Cape Breton, I stopped in St Peter’s.

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That was an interesting ride as out of the blue, heavy fog came out of nowhere and I could not see a metre ahead of me so I was a little bit worried because if I could not see that means that I was invisible to cars too so I did my best to stay as far from the lane divider as possible.

Then an hour later as soon as the fog appeared it vanished. I was told later that the area is known for that phenomenon and there is even a legend about it that I forgot since I was really knackered from that ride.

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up bright and early on a rainy day to ride to Sydney where I would catch the ferry to Newfoundland and out of Nova Scotia.

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Let me tell you something: this ride from St Peter’s to Sydney was brutal but the challenge made it memorable in a twisted way.

Let me explain…

First, the weather was terrible. It was drizzling which was annoying but it was also pretty warm which meant that I was wet not from the rain because my waterproof gear did its job but from sweat because that gear is not very breathable so the air was getting trapped.

Secondly, the hills so were steep that I looked for an alternative route that turned the 98km ride into a 130km adventure!

Third, the GPS’ map was not current and some of the roads did not exist anymore or they were dirt and I had to take extra detours and for the next seven hours, I cycled on back roads that were so empty that I saw a car every hour or so. I also lost all phone signal so if something happened to me, it would have been a disaster.

I did not take many photos because I was such in a rush to get out of there that I was pedalling like mad and would just stop for bathroom breaks (in the bushes of course!) and to snack on the food that my hosts had made for me. I was fortunate, I had more than enough water so I never ran out of fuel so to speak.

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Eventually I got to Sydney and the temperature had dropped like crazy as it was freezing when I got there but I did not care because after hours in the middle of nowhere I was back into civilisation and had arrived to my destination.

I even had enough strength for a quick smile!

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A week or two before, I was fortunate enough to have met a man in Halifax through a friend and he lived in Sydney and he offered to put me up in a hotel as his way of supporting The Big Journey.

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He insisted saying that I needed to gather some strength before Newfoundland as it would be a difficult mission and I needed all the rest and sleep I could gather before getting on that ferry that separates mainland Canada to that island-province.

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And the hotel room came with quite a view!

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Jason MacLean, thank you so much!

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A few weeks later while in Newfoundland, I would find out that this good samaritan got elected president of The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), the largest union in Nova Scotia with more than 31,000 members. 

Next week, I will cross into Newfoundland. I will be packing light and leaving my laptop behind so you won’t hear from me for a few weeks as it’s a big province to cycle.

Week 11 Update

Week 11 in Halifax was pretty relaxed as I was preparing for the next month that would be filled with many rides and the unknown.

On Tuesday, I performed a live DJ gig at Long & McQuade in Halifax, a set that was streamed to over 5000 people on Facebook and eventually made it on YouTube too where it’s at 20 000 views as of this writing and counting.

It was also very nice to connect with some local fans from Halifax who came by to say hello. I did not advertise the event heavily since it was a last minute endeavour but I am glad at how it went.

The rest of the week was really all about socialising and getting ready for Newfoundland, Canada’s most easterly province which is coming up in week 12.

Here are some photos that illustrate what was week 11 on The Big Journey

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I also managed to catch a cold which was odd but it’s better that it got to me when I was not in transit. So I just sat around and waited for it to pass.

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Did I mention that I am staying with a family that is into cycling? Such hosts are the best because they understand to a certain extent what I am going through and they also tend to have tools that they allow me to use to do some basic maintenance on my bicycle, something that I am really grateful about!

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Week 10 Update

Week 10 started off quietly with lots of socialising and little cycling because after all The Big Journey is also about connecting with Canadians across Canada.

IMG_1831On Tuesday, my host invited to his union meeting as he also wanted to introduce me to someone higher up who has a vast network in Nova Scotia and could perhaps help me with finding accommodation as I cycled this breathtaking Maritime province.

To my surprise, I was actually able to understand what was going on in the meeting even if every member works in a different career as mine but I guess that as humans, we have the same challenges no matter our respective professions.

At one stage I stepped out to get introduced to the person in question and when I came back in the meeting room, everyone had voted on a motion to make a financial contribution to The Big Journey, money that would go towards maintaining my bicycle as well as buying new components that have been brutally beaten by winter and snow.

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IMG_1895On Thursday, I took a road trip to Mahone Bay, a charming little town 100 km East of Halifax for a VERY, VERY special engagement.

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According to Wikipedia: “The town is also known for a history of wooden boat building, it was the main industry of Mahone Bay in its earlier years.” Read more about Mahone Bay.

Here are more photos of the town which was a 30-minute visit in total. I was pleasantly surprised as for a small settlement, there was a lot going on.

IMG_2099IMG_1902IMG_1897IMG_1896IMG_1898The next morning, I played a short DJ set followed by a twenty-minute talk about my adventures across Canada and my journey in music and finally a workshop with some 140 pupils of Bayview Community School in Mahone Bay.

Thanks to Rosa Kendall for taking the photos at the event. I really appreciate it 🙂 

DSC_0785I can DJ in front of thousands people without an issue but was I nervous playing for these young people as I had no idea if they were even going to like my selection.

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Furthermore, I am not much of a public speaker so I was nervous but my friends helped me calm down and I did my thing.

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DSC_0803After the talk, it was time for a quick DJ workshop that was well-attended by pupils and some teachers!

DSC_0814DSC_0830DSC_0828To close off the DEEP & DOPE day at Bayview Community School in Mahone Bay, an obligatory group photos with some well timed dabs in the background! (If you have no idea what a dab is, you’re too old or not cool enough or both LOL)

DSC_0827It was impossible to get everyone in the first shot so a second photo was taken to include the other half of the room.

DSC_0826Thank you so much Marc Breaugh, guidance teacher at Mahone Bay’s Bayview Community School for inviting me to give a presentation and to Raymond Compas in Fredericton, New Brunswick for telling him about me and my trip across our vast nation.

IMG_1877A big thank you too to Long & MacQuade for supplying us with professional DJ gear on such short notice and for being good sports and giving us a great deal on the already discounted hire fee.

A special shoutout to Tyler (in the photo above with me), Dewin, Paul and everyone else at Long & MacQuade in Halifax! Read next week’s update on how I will show my appreciation to them for being so generous and accommodating!

It was time to head back to Halifax and get ready for more cycling the following day as the weather predictions were said to be favourable for a coastal road ride.

IMG_1906But before I forget. One of the hosts in Mahone Bay owns a super bike. It caught me off guard as he did not seem the type but this is what is so wonderful about this town: everything unexpected is to expected and vice versa!

IMG_1933I woke up early on Saturday to hit the road. While during the day, good weather was predicted, a snowstorm was expected in the evening so I wanted to ride and get indoors as fast as possible.

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As you’ll see, the weather was perfect, the wind was in my favour, the sun was out, the hills were not steep, the roads were quiet and the oceanshore scenic route was breathtaking.

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I passed by the memorial of the victims of Swissair Flight 111 which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean not far from here. It is a tragic story that I remember reading about when it happened in the late 90s.

IMG_1960IMG_1967IMG_1970I finally reached Peggys Cove, the little town that was the reason behind this detour.

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The highlight of Peggys Cove is the lighthouse which is probably the most popular landmark in Nova Scotia.

Naturally, I posed for more than a few photos but I will only share three with you to spare you.

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IMG_1989This ride was dedicated to Major Marguerite Downes, the highest ranking black female officer in the Ontario Canadian Army Reserves who was from Peggys Cove. Here is another article about this inspiring lady.

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Major Downes is the grandmother of my good friend Harmony who lives in Vancouver and whom I wrote in my adventures two years ago when I went on a roadtrip in my MINI John Cooper Works that took me all the way to Vancouver.

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Thank you Major for your service and it was an honour to ride in your memory and thanks Harmony for telling me about this Canadian icon.

IMG_1992After the Peggys Cove Lighthouse visit, it was time for fish and chips, the signature dish at the restaurant next to the landmark, the ultimate tourist trap but in a very good way!

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I hit the road again towards Halifax city centre.

Did you notice how just as you cross the municipal lane, suddenly the road seem to have a shoulder?

I won’t get into this issue again as it almost got me in trouble with Nova Scotians.

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I even made a friend along the way!

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From there, the objective was to ride into downtown something that I had not done yet since I was in Halifax Metropolitan area.

IMG_2015IMG_2027I visited the city’s most popular tourist attraction: The Halifax Citadel

IMG_2032And before I knew it I was at the Halifax Ferry Terminal where I would have to catch the boat to get me to other side to finish my ride across Nova Scotia.

But first, I had some engagement in the coming week in Halifax so I had to stick around town a few more days as you will read in the next update.

Week 9 Update

Week 9 started in Nova Scotia, my third province on this road trop.

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The ride started at the ferry station. The ferry runs from Saint John in New Brunswick to Digby in Nova Scotia.

IMG_1729IMG_1735Digby is a small coastal town that I was able to cross in less than three minutes.

On my way out of the city, I made a stop at a police station run by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Canada’s federal police) to sign my witness statement, a document that tells Guinness World Records that I did pass through the town as I claim.

IMG_1740I also used that opportunity to ask constable Colin Helm about the rules and regulations of cycling in Nova Scotia since it was my first time riding in this great Canadian province.

My 150 km ride to Wolfville was full of foul weather and I got rained on, snowed on and frozen rained on.

Right away, I notice that Nova Scotia provincial roads don’t have shoulders and so I had to share the road with cars. But I don’t think that many people know the rules of passing a bicycle and so some were passing so close that I feared that I’d get knocked down.

I did not even get to enjoy much of the beautiful scenery as I was too focused on not getting run over.

IMG_1745I even cycled past a helipad. I have never seen one in my life so I found that pretty amazing. I just realised that I have never been in a helicopter as a matter of fact!

IMG_1752I even rode through a town called Paradise. I found that very interesting as I can now tell people that I have been to paradise 🙂

IMG_1753Almost every single place of worship has a eye-catching sign. This is the one that really appealed to me as a chocolate lover!

IMG_1773As you can see here, the roads don’t have much shoulders and I had to share them with cars zooming past at 100 km/h!

The ride was long and I got into Wolfville late after sunset. I don’t like riding at night but I had no choice as the distance was just too great

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The next morning after a night’s rest, I had to ride 100 km from Wolfville to Halifax.

But first, a big breakfast to get me ready for the road

IMG_1778I am lucky to be one of those people who can have such a big meal and not feel sick when doing some exercise.

I forgot to mention that Wolfville is known for Acadia University, “one of Canada’s oldest and most respected liberal arts universities” to quote their website.

IMG_1775I love universities and would have paid it a visit but I had a long road ahead of me.

And this was a tough road. I had been warned by Internet users that the climbs were killer and they were 100% correct. I usually whine at hills but I climb them nevertheless.

This time, they were just too steep and I could not climb them and my chain was starting to act up as I was putting too much pressure on it. I did not want to break it again so I just would walk.

I was also tired from the ride the day before so in hindsight, I should have a taken a day break before heading to Halifax.

It was a beautiful ride though. I took backroads into woods and forests and   I felt alive being this alone.

At one stage, in the middle of nowhere I ran out water but I rode past a lady that was gardening and she invited me in for to refill my water backpack and offered me some snacks.

I am grateful to her and her son for the hospitality and I was rather amused at the sign in her house and I took a photo…

IMG_1783Eventually I did hit the provincial highway again and the nightmare of sharing the road with traffic started again but luckily I got into the Halifax metropolitan area and I saw my first bicycle lane.

IMG_1785I almost cried of joy. I could at last enjoy the scenery and not wonder if someone was going to ram into me.

There was a serious downhill that I was on and I lifted my head and said to myself: “Wow, the ocean!”

Yes after three months of cycling like a mad man in Canada’s brutal winter, I had reached the Atlantic Ocean. I felt so happy and proud and even if it’s nothing compared to The Big Journey overall, it is a big milestone for me!

IMG_1786So there I was, in Halifax!

IMG_1789I was lucky to reconnect with a childhood friend of mine who happens to live in Halifax. We grew up in Kenya together as pupils of the French School of Nairobi.

His wife suggested that we go for a massage since my body was so beat! The massage place asked us if we wanted separate rooms and we declined. We had a lot to catch up on 🙂

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Look at my big happy smile 🙂

And I was spoilt with my banane chocolate chip muffins!

IMG_1801Out of the blue, a CBC news reporter got in touch to discuss my experiences on Nova Scotia roads.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 1.59.03 PMClick on the above photo or here for the full article.

Once the article was published, it did not take me long to realise that it was an existing issue in the province as lots of people had strong opinions about my comments.

I feel like the article focused too much on my experiences on the roads but left out at how much Nova Scotians have been to me and how beautiful this province is.

I do understand however that controversy sells and that strong opinions generate strong reactions.

A friend of mine privately wrote to me:

“Don’t complain too much while you are still there; they will run right over you hahaha”

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I hope they don’t. If anything, I hope that the federal and provincial governments start listening to cyclists and make life easier for us.

More Nova Scotia adventures coming up! Stay tuned.

Week 8 Update

Week 8 was pretty relaxed as it led to Easter weekend and that week also had a lot of snowstorms so I just relaxed in Saint John and enjoyed some sightseeing.

This week was pretty eventful but was full of private happenings with people who like to stay private so to respect their privacy, I will just leave this week at this simple photo below.

I am basically standing on the edge of the province of New Brunswick and look far into the distance where Nova Scotia is. This body of water would have to be crossed by ferry or flown over.

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Week 7 Update

Remember how week 6 started off in a rather dull manner and ended with a long ride that I had to abandon because it was so challenging?

Week 7 was no walk in the park either but lord was it full of fun adventures and moments that I will forever cherish as you will read in this update.

IMG_1263The day before Week 7, a Sunday, I had abandoned my ride in Pokiok a small town in New Brunswick due to fatigue that was caused by high cross-winds, a distance that was too much to cover in one day and a bicycle that was too heavy to what I was used to.

However, I still had ridden 156km which is not bad considering the factors! At least, that is what I told myself to feel better about everything…

First order of business?

I had to finish the ride to Fredericton. A quick look at the map showed that it was a flimsy 60 km on a beautiful sunny and windless day. In my head it was a routine ride that I would get done in no time at all.

Thank to Mr J, the father for driving to Pokiok to resume my ride.

I was soooo confident that I did not even bother to eat properly and packed light as you can see in the photo below.

IMG_1272See how I was all smile and full of confidence?

Well, within the first 20 minutes the smug face disappeared and I wondered what the heck was going on. Why?

That ride was cocktail of hill after hill after hill. And these hills were not short either. I would climb for 20 minutes at a time and have a little downhill and climb again for 70 km!!! The route way over 60 km because the GPS miscalculated the distance.

I really should have taken a day break and attempted that ride on the following day but I had to take that day as on the Tuesday there was a crazy snowstorm that was on the weather predictions so Monday was the best day!

That was the first time, I rode such crazy hills that I was praying, almost crying, used foul language, ran out of water, ran out of excuses and just wondered why life was being unfair.

IMG_1280But what a sigh of relief when I saw the sign telling me that there was indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.

That ride was extra special because since the day I started The Big Journey, I saw the first cyclist. He or she zoomed past me as I was taking that Fredericton sign photo so by the time I saw him or her it was too late but I caught a blurred photo.

IMG_1281It was a big deal for me since for two months and a half or all of 2016 so far, I had not seen anyone on a bicycle as every single cyclist was hibernating except for trail riders who have fun on their fat bikes. I am talking about road and touring cyclists.

IMG_1282After overcoming hills that looked like mountains, I finally got to Fredericton tired and confused.

By the way, you hear me complain about hills a lot and the reason is that I am in fixed gear. Basically my bicycle only has one gear and I chose one that allows me to go fast on flats but I pay heavily on the hills as I am climbing them with a strong gear.

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My advice is to read the fixed gear entry on Wikipedia to understand what my fuss is all about.

Why fixed gear across Canada? If you know me you already know the answer: why take the easy way when there is the hard way?

IMG_1312After a day of pedalling up and down hills as if I was on a roller coaster, I had to get my after-ride treat: chocolate of course.

IMG_1355I also did some stretching using a foam roller to soothe my muscles and it was the first time ever and I did not anticipate this level of extreme pain!

I hate pain so I bailed out and will try another time when I am in a better mood. But I do understand that if it hurts, it means that my muscles are very stiff and actually really need this weird contraption!

On Tuesday, the skies opened up and that snow storm really did fall fast and furiously and within hours everything that was snow-free the day before was covered in exactly 20 cm of this white powdery stuff!

IMG_1551Crazy huh? And to say that in some of parts of Canada not far from Fredericton, people were already in their shorts and t-shirts!

Eventually the snow stopped and surprisingly melted as fast at it fell and I hit the road again towards Saint John, New Brunswick and this was one of the most dramatic ride, yet again!

I will not even complain about hills anymore because it’s fast becoming a tired song for you dear reader but you have to understand that they are worse than the foul weather!

I would rather ride on a -30 C day without wind and hills than a beautiful 25 C day with hills or crazy winds.

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I tried to be smart and take a shortcut and promptly got lost in a forest. I was so petrified because it was in the middle of nowhere and I expected at any time for some wild animal to pop out of nowhere and eat me alive!

And as you can see from the photo above, there was no more paved road but mud and mud and mud. In some instances I had to dismount and push my bike as I was stuck. And then my feet got stuck and I had to run as I was scared to get permanently stuck!

Notice how I am my own worse enemy. Or should I say my mind that plays tricks on me and comes up with the world’s worst case scenarios?

And out of nowhere, two samaritans appeared out of nowhere and were surprised to see me lost but resilient.

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Evan and Corey, thank you so much for bailing me out from that forest and giving me good directions and a ride to the closest paved road. I owe you a lot!

I kept on riding and of course, there were more hills and hills… This time I walked them because I was just sick and tired of them LOL

At one stage, I was so thirsty and had run out of water and I prayed for water and out of the blue appeared a fountain of fresh water and its owner invited me to fill my bottles which I did! Talk about a miracle!

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Eventually, I did get to Saint John way into the late evening and it was pitch dark. I don’t like riding after sunset but that adventure in the forest cost me two good hours.

I was tired and hungry and just wanted to get it over and done with.

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But I got the world’s best welcome in Saint John thanks to my hosts!

A video posted by JaBig (@jabig) on

And when I got inside their home, I even got a bigger welcome surprise!

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I should mention that the ride to Saint John was my last ride in New Brunswick as I would have to cross the body of water into Nova Scotia another province after this journey.

New Brunswick is full of wonderful people and I had a warm welcome and amazing moments and I will write about this at a later stage but I was also looking forward to Nova Scotia and its adventures.

And thus ended Week oo7 🙂

Week 6 Update

Week 6 was an equally uneventful week as Week 5 as there was almost seven days of heavy snowfall in the regions so I stayed indoors and was just working on music and travel logistics.

I also put that “dead time” to good use by eating properly and sleeping since these are very essential to good rides.

IMG_1185Of course by eating I also mean indulging in chocolate since I am allowed to given that I am the one suffering everyday cycling across Canada, right? 🙂

While waiting for the weather to clear, I also ordered bicycle bags to carry my belongings since I wanted to be independent and need to depend on my support vehicle with all my luggage.

Below is what the bicycle looked like fully loaded. I probably have an extra 15 kg on it and as I will tell you later, it really did affect everything about The Big Journey!

IMG_1216By Sunday, the weather had calmed down or so I thought so in Grand Falls (Grand Sault in French) I got back on my bicycle on my way to Fredericton.

IMG_1219IMG_1463Here I am looking all futuristic and stuff without knowing that I was about to suffer like never before.

At first the ride was smooth and the bicycle was surprisingly light given the fact that I had way more weight on it than usual.

I was pedalling along all happy and impressed with myself at how fast I had the ability to adapt to riding such a heavy two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle.

Until I stopped for a quick second to drink some water…

BAM!!!! I almost got blown by the wind!

What was going on is very simple. I had the wind on my back and it was pushing me along and that is why the ride seemed sooo easy!

The wind was so strong that whenever I stopped, I had to lay low as I feared that it would blow me into the river. We are talking about 45 km/h winds with gusts of up to 70 km/h.

I got back on the bicycle and kept on pedalling while praying that the wind stayed at my back as otherwise I would be in deep trouble.

Did I even mention that I was trying to ride 200 km, the longest distance that I attempted so far on The Big Journey? So I had extra weight, crazy wind and I was aiming for an impossible long ride.

But I was in high spirit and would even stop to take some photos:

IMG_1226Naturally I was covered from head to toe as it was a freezing day and in such conditions, no part of my body is exposed to the elements as it could get bitten to pieces.

IMG_1241The most important landmark on my Grand Falls- Fredericton ride was the world’s longest covered bridge. I tried to cross it but the wind was so strong that I did not even bother.

IMG_1239The bike was rolling along smoothly with the wind on my back so I felt good and powerful

See the above map? It means that the wind was blowing South but eventually, I had to make a left after Woodstock and then that friendly wind became my foe as it was now a crosswind that proceeded to heavily slow me down to the extent that I knew for sure that there is no way I would make it to Fredericton before sunset

IMG_1249And to make matters worse, one road turned into a snow trail (in Summer it would be a gravel trail) and I had to dismount and walk for a good hour in deep snow.

I tried to pedal but eventually the trail went to ice (which I could cycle) to soft snow and my tires got stuck to the extent that the bike could stand on its own that’s how deep in the snow it was!

IMG_1252The fact that my bicycle was heavy and that I had been riding for over 8 hours did not help. I was just exhausted.

Luckily for me, my host in Fredericton got concerned and realised that I was not showing sign of life and offered to come and pick me up.

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For the first time on The Big Journey, I dropped out of a ride because I was too exhausted and there is no way I was going to make it my destination.

I felt like a loser but like I will explain in the next update, quitting that day was a blessing in disguise so make sure to read about Week 7.

In a small community called Pokiok, I sat down exhausted and defeated and was out breath, motivation, strength and everything that one can think of.

IMG_1257I held my head down in shame although deep down I knew that I had been way too ambitious to try and ride the longest distance ever 200 km (my average ride is 100 km so I attempted double that) on a very windy day and with a lot of new weight that I was not used to.

IMG_1260In the van on the way to my host’s home, I kindly asked him if we could stop by a supermarket so that I could get myself my favourite brand of chocolate since in victory I celebrate with chocolate and in defeat I get over my shortcomings with chocolate.

When I looked at my travel log, that night, something important caught my attention. Even if I had quit that ride that day, I still had travelled 156km which is the second-longest distance that I have cycled on The Big Journey (the longest was only 160km). Yes, I was aiming for 200 km and stopped at 156km but that alone is not bad if I put ego aside for a quick second!

And that was the end of Week 6, a very uneventful six days with a soul-stressing seventh day!

Week 5 Update

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Last week was adventure-filled as I did not ride much waiting for the weather to clear.

There was so much snow that the only thing to do was just to embrace it instead of crying about it.

But first! I got some amazing press coverage in Edmundston’s weekly French newspaper.

IMG_1063IMG_1062That was pretty exciting! Click on the second image for a bigger image. Sorry the article is in French and I don’t have time to translate it unfortunately.

This week, I finally hit the road again and I was blessed with the best weather so far although to you it may seem intense

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Yes, -37C (-34F) looks intense but there was zero wind, zero cloud in the sky and zero snow on the road which meant that I was able to ride fast and effortlessly and got to my destination an hour ahead of schedule.

It actually messed up my plans because had I known earlier that such favourable conditions were going to make the trip easy, I would have ridden farther!

By the way, when it’s this cold, I stay warm from the body heat that I am generating from the pedalling. So far, I have never ever gotten into a situation where it was too cold to ride and I can safely say that I won’t either since Spring is around the corner and temperatures are rising.

The ride was so beautiful as I mentioned earlier…

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IMG_1135I even rode by McCain, the number one maker of frozen French fries in Canada.

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I eventually got to my destination, an amazing water fall in Grand Falls, the aptly-named town.

IMG_1137But look at this…

As I rode into town, I wondered why I was suffocating. I was so hot that I could hardly breathe. A quick look at the local weather told me why…

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-8C (17F)! What a weather difference in the space of three hours and 65 km (40 miles)! It felt like a Summer ride although when I started Winter cycling, I could barely survive those temperatures and now I almost ride naked in them!

IMG_1159During the ride, I encountered a pain that’s always there when I cycle. I asked the Internet what was that all about and it turns out that my seat is too high therefore my leg gets over extended hence the pain.

I lowered the saddle and will report on the results when I resume the riding.

maxresdefaultTo kill time, I watched House of Cards and watched all 13 episodes in a weekend since I don’t know when I will have access to fast Internet again to watch shows and movies on Netflix.

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All that eating lots of chocolate of course!

I also learned how to use my new GPS unit that was sponsored by Andre Gingras, a gentleman from Montréal who owns ARG Sports, the exclusive distributor for Canada of highend European bicycle brands as well as a complete line of Italian bicycle gears and shoes. Him and his company have been very supportive and I appreciate the fact that he was able to expedite it to me which was amazing!

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That’s it from a pretty uneventful week although behind the scenes there was a lot of work done as you will read next week so stay tuned!

As always, thank you for your support and thank you to all who are contributing financially because I will tell you this: crossing Canada by bicycle in Winter is an expensive expedition!