Week 4 Update

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The fourth week, a month on the road, started off in Edmundston after a 160 km ride from Rivière-du-Loup and it was full of adventures as I wrote previously.

This week, I spent it in Edmundston as I could not find good weather to keep going and I also decided to ditch my car and travel unsupported because this trip is starting to become very expensive and I am burning cash so fast.

So, I will get bags and attach them to my bicycle and keep cycling the bare essentials hoping that the weather plays its parts and gives me a break that I much need.

On my first day here, I met up with Mr Cyrille Simard, the mayor whom I met online after he welcomed me to Edmundston and politely corrected my typo (he would eventually tell me that everyone mistypes his city’s name so I did not feel that bad)

 And so, I met up with him the first day and the day after, we had a more formal conversation.

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Like I mentioned, I returned the next day for an official visit as he also signed my witness statement, a document that tells Guinness World Records that I was really there.

IMG_0842I was pleasantly surprised by the way this mayor is looking to the future to attract young people and keep locals in town. I wish him well.

IMG_0848After I left city hall, I crossed the street and went for a quick interview at Le Madawaska, a prominent weekly newspaper. I spoke about my tour, the reasons behind it and my thoughts of the city so far even if it had only been 48 hours!

IMG_0859These two ladies are probably the most fascinating people I met in Edmundston. They’re Stephanie and Kristine. Stephanie founded Rehab Night, an events promotion agency that organises dance parties that attract over 3000 from all over the Maritimes.

Kristine, a long-time friend of hers, just joined her as her assistant and the production agency’s first 2016 year event is scheduled in March featuring a DJ from Montréal that I know. What a small world!

Stephanie is only 22 and is already on top of the game! I cannot even imagine what she will be up to in ten years when she turns 32. World domination anyone? Thanks for the Rehab Night beanie! I will adorn it with pride 🙂

IMG_0868We talked for hours and we go hungry so they took me to a restaurant to try out a local pancake called ploye which is eaten with meat or brown sugar.

Let me tell you: it’s filling! It’s actually very good food for cycling since it can be eaten fast and it takes forever to break down. Most people hate that but I like to ride on a very full stomach!

IMG_0899Another day, another chain problem. Joey, a mechanic at Jessome’s La Source du Sport looked at it and put a chain tensioner that should keep the chain in place.

It’s insane how the chain issues are the ones that are slowing me down and bothering me the most. But at least they’re easy fixes!

IMG_0906This week the weather has been terrible. Everything all at once: rain, snow, freezing rain, fog and unsalted roads which makes a very dangerous travel cocktail.

So, I am going nowhere.

IMG_0915I ate this for dinner. It’s a regional delicacy and it’s basically tender beef. Meat without any steroids. Organic meat as locals call it! I am not the most adventurous person when it comes to food but I have to get used to it!

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DSC_4793DSC_4807France, my wonderful host and Chantal, her friend took me on a road trip where there was an ice hockey meet on a frozen lake! I had a great time there and drank the world’s most disgusting hot chocolate. I could not believe how bad it was. Luckily, it was cheap.

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We also went to Grand Falls where there is a mesmerising freezing water fall. It’s something out of a Disney movie.

IMG_0967On the other side of that frozen river, probably 2km, is the United States!

The next day, Sunday, was more sightseeing…

IMG_0969IMG_0971IMG_0974France D’Amour, my wonderful host, is not fan of photographs but I managed to take one with her.

IMG_0985And that was week four! No cycling at all and a lot of tourism. I don’t mind, it’s part of the trip. That is why I gave myself an extra three months of this Canada bicycle crossing.

I want to be able to stick around some of the places where I enjoy myself the most because while Canada is a very beautiful country, its the people that make it exceptional and so far New Brunswick is exceeding its reputation for friendliness and hospitality!

More adventures coming soon. Thank you for reading and until the next update!

Week 3 Update

My last update ended on a sad note as I had to cancel one ride due to terrible weather that made road conditions very dangerous.

Week 3 was spent mostly indoors as I waited for the situation to improve as there was a combination of freezing rain, heavy snow, high winds, and very low temperatures (-30 C, -22F).

I don’t mind extreme temperatures but high winds and freezing rain make cycling a hazard and like I said, this is an adventure not a suicide mission 🙂

By the way, if you enjoy what my adventures as I cycle across Canada and would like to support my Guinness World Record attempt, please make a donation by clicking here? You may even donate as little as $1 as everything counts to keep me warm and safe. You may also send any amount of your choosing by Paypal to jabig@jabig.com Thank you!

Towards the end of week 3, out of the blue, everything improved and I could get back in the saddle again.

IMG_0624So I left from Québec City where I had been stranded for almost a week.

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But first and foremost, I need to thank Collège Notre Dame du St Laurent for allowing me to keep my car there while I rode towards Rivière-du-Loup (eventually, Mr Martineau one of the people in charge drove my car all the way there which was meaningful gesture!)

Québec City to Rivière-du-Loup is a 200 km ride along Route 132 (the longest highway in Québec that runs South of the Saint-Laurent river) and there is no way I could ride that great distance in one day as I would have been caught in the dark and all of you fans and friends forbid me to ride after sunset 🙂

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So, I stopped halfway for the night in a municipality called Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies with a population just under 1000 people!

IMG_0620The best feeling in the world after a long freezing ride is no longer a very hot shower but to sit in front of a fireplace that warms up the mind, body and soul.

I decided that night that when I buy a house, a fireplace will be a MUST!

Also, my host’s flatmate played me a tune on his guitar and there we were in the middle of rural Canada on a cold night listening to the sounds of Bossa Nova.

How epic is that?

The next morning I got back on the bike but first, I needed to take care of some serious business an hour into the remaining journey to Rivière-du-Loup

IMG_0628I am not a big eater but I had no choice. I had almost 100km to ride and I did not know if I would come across decent places to eat and so at the first restaurant, I had what for me is a mega breakfast!

There was a groupe of senior citizens that were on their monthly brunch meetup and they were fascinated by the fact that I was crossing Canada by bicycle in the middle of winter. They asked me millions of questions and they were particularly amazed by my heated soles that prevent my toes from freezing.

And then I hit the road.

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IMG_0639The sun was out but so was the wind. The temperatures were so cold that I had to stop every hour and seek shelter in any sort of business if I was lucky to come across one to give myself 3 minutes to warm up again because it was just that cold.

The route was a climb all the way to Rivière-du-Loup. I am in fixed gear (one gear) and it was slightly challenging but a piece of cake compared to what awaited me a few days later as you will read soon.

So that made the journey tiring and long but it’s what The Big Journey is all about, right? But I still enjoyed myself and the scenery as you saw from previous pictures.

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At long last, I arrived at Rivière-du-Lup just as the sun set. It was so cold that everyone who venture outside was running to get from one building to the next or to a car or bus.

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I was welcomed by Aurore (right) and Laura (centre) who kindly let me stay with them for two nights. It was supposed to be one but the weather got so bad that I had to stay in an extra day.

But no matter the bad weather, I had the time to tour the small city (population 10 000).

IMG_0750IMG_0746IMG_0747I also had my bicycle looked at by Cyclo Expert, a local shop and they gave me a new chain as the new one that I had was already worn from all the salt and dirt which makes me understand why few people cycle in winter and why the few that do ride bikes that are easily replaceable!

IMG_0697IMG_0701Thank you Serge! 🙂

IMG_0681My Rivière-du-Loup hosts were amused at how I washed dishes in my cycling clothes. It’s a personal principle for me to wash dishes when someone offers me food. That is my contribution. It does not matter if I am some famous DJ, it’s just good manners!

IMG_0889I even got a private concert from one of my hosts but she will kill me if I post the video so you’ll have to do with the photograph. She sang me her own rendition of “Stand By Me” 🙂

On Sunday February 21st at 7:20am on a grey day with rain and snow, I left Rivière-du-Loup towards Edmundston.

IMG_7895(Aurore took the above photo as I was leaving. She was amused by how I had a banana in my back pocket)

That was to be a long epic ride, the longest daily distance so far. 160 km (100 miles).

Well, let me tell you something. This ride was not a Sunday pleasurable outing.

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It had rain, slight freezing rain and NEVER-ENDING hills. It was the first time in my riding life climbing for almost two hours straight.

The hills were not that steep except at the end but since the roads were slippery and I am in fixed gear, my back tires kept spinning when I stood to pedal and I could not remain seated because I did not have enough power and I want to spare my knees.

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I will even complain about the temperatures. They were mild at 0 C which honestly feels like summer. But I was overdressed so I was sweating and when I started going downhill all that moisture froze and I got so cold LOL

BUT!!!

It was the most beautiful ride so far. It was challenging but the sights were so breath-taking that I was in awe with God’s creation. I did not take many photos because while climbing, I could not afford to stop as I would lose my momentum and while going downhill I could not stop either because I was going so fast to catch up on lost time during the ascent.

But then one peculiar part of this ride caught my eye and I slammed on the brakes, pulled a u-turn and had to go closer to inspect what in the world was going on and try and make sense of it all.

IMG_0772From the corner of my eye, I saw the flags of Canada, Québec and USA on a bridge.

I thought to myself “That would be a weird border”

And then I stopped because I realised that it was INDEED a border!

There sits this bridge in the middle of nowhere. It’s less than 100 m and on one end is Canada where I stood and on the other was the United States!

The border is unattended although I was told that there were multiple cameras there so any attempt to cross would send the American border agents and I did not want to get shot so I politely stayed in Canada.

As you will read later though, I would get myself in trouble LOL

If you look at the route, you’ll notice that all along, I kept riding along rivers that separate both countries. It’s no big deal to many but to me it was awesome!

IMG_0819In a deli along the way in a town called Pohénégamook, after I ate lunch I wanted something sweet and I stumbled across a M&M chocolate bar. I did not not know that they now made them and I had to find out about it in the middle of nowhere!

Naturally, I was too curious and got one and it was delicious!

IMG_0788Eventually, I crossed into New Brunswick the ONLY Canadian province that is bilingual. What is also cool is that I entered a different time zone and my phone adjusted automatically.

IMG_0775You’ll notice that this photo is taken from the wrong side of the road. Sometimes, I do that since it’s better for me to see what’s coming in front of me than what’s coming behind me. I do that especially in the wind since I can’t hear anything.

Perhaps I should invest in an uncool rearview mirror for bicycles!

Then I got myself into real trouble…

IMG_0789As I rolled into Edmundston, I saw another bridge. I could not believe that the border was right in the middle of a city!

So I rode close to the bridge to take this photo but what I did not know was that I had just left Canada and was in the “no man’s land” and so when I tried to get back on the road, I came across the Canadian border and I did not think much of it and kept pedalling.

Then I had a scream of someone telling me to stop. I did and I went towards him and he asked me why I was trying to come into Canada without showing my papers.

I replied that I actually came from Rivière-du-Loup and was taking some photos. He did not seem to understand how I was from Montréal and was in Rivière-du-Loup and yet had just came from the USA.

By the way, if you enjoy what my adventures as I cycle across Canada and would like to support my Guinness World Record attempt, please make a donation by clicking here? You may even donate as little as $1 as everything counts to keep me warm and safe.You may also send any amount of your choosing by Paypal to jabig@jabig.com Thank you! 

I told him that I had just stopped to take a photo and that was it and I did not even have a passport. He thought that I was trying to come in and dodge customs because I did not have valid papers.

My selfies saved me… I told him that I could show him my photos of how I rode all the 160 km and so it was impossible for me to come from the USA. I also advised him to check his security cameras that surrounded the building as they’d show that 3 minutes before I came in, took a photo and that was it.

He let me go and that was the welcome that I got as I got into Edmundston LOL

IMG_0813Tired, hungry and amused by the border incident. I had made it to Edmundston 160 km (100 miles) later.

It was the most tiring ride of the journey so far and after leaving the province of Québec into New Brunswick, I am now comfortable to say that I am able to get The Big Journey done until the end.

Stay tuned for the next update as I met the mayor and so many prominent local citizens that make this small city so vibrant!

By the way, if you enjoy what my adventures as I cycle across Canada and would like to support my Guinness World Record attempt, please make a donation by clicking here? You may even donate as little as $1 as everything counts to keep me warm and safe. You may also send any amount of your choosing by Paypal to jabig@jabig.com Thank you!

Week 2 Update

The plan with week two was very simple. Ride from Québec City towards Halifax or Moncton. But first, I had to ride a 200 km journey to Rivière-du-Loup, because the overall segment is pretty long and I will do it in two weeks.

The days before Monday February 8th, there were some pretty strong weather alerts but I did not think much of them as they were forecast for Québec City, the city that I was leaving.

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What mattered to me was the conditions on the route and at my destination.

So here, I was at the beginning of the ride

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I caught a ferry towards Lévis to join Highway 132 that would take me all the way to Rivière-du-Loup.

That is Québec City from a distance…

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And that is where all hell broke loose.

The winds were just too strong and were pushing me into traffic and I was moving so slowly that after some quick mental calculations, I realised that at that speed, I would make it to my destination way into the night and I have a rule: I don’t ride in the dark. (I did it once in Summer and it was a nightmare. In Winter it would be suicide mission).

I took the decision to turn around and abandon that day’s ride.

Here is the GPS route

As you can see, I did not go far. I was frustrated but first and foremost, safety first is the motto.

Today, I defied mother nature and went against all weather alerts from municipal, provincial and federal agencies. Then the wind that everyone was sending strong alerts about sent out some random gust that flew me into traffic (it felt like a stong person pushed me in front of cars) and a lorry almost hit me but my instincts saved me. After getting my heart back to a proper rate. I turned around and called it quits for the day. Exact details in the video below.

Posted by The Big Journey, by JaBig on Monday, February 8, 2016

And the following day, there has been a heavy snowstorm and the same the day after so now, I am just sitting waiting for the roads to clear and the alerts to be lifted.

As I sit here, I have to rethink my strategy. Given the strong winds, I have to ride shorter distances on a daily basis which means that I have to scratch all my accommodation plans as the city stops have changed and I DEFINITELY now need a full time road manager to help me carry my luggage and equipment by car.

Furthermore, I am so behind schedule (not that I am racing against time) that I have to overlook some cities in Eastern Canada.

IMG_0493Stay tuned for the latest updates. For now, I am reworking the plans and cannot wait to get back on the bicycle.

 

Week 1 Update

Week 1 started on January 31st 2016 when I started of The Big Journey in Montréal with my two witness as per Guinness World Records requirements.

Meet Andrew Kelly and Maria Sanz, the only people that were present at the beginning and the last Montrealers that I will see in a long while.

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My first ride was from Montréal to Trois-Rivières, a city located halfway to Québec City.

The ride was long but pleasant as I had the wind on my back. (See the GPS itinerary here)

Two friends met me halfway at Berthierville to deliver me a warm lunch which was very welcome by my hungry tummy

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Then I carried on.

Along the way, I would make some quick stops to snap some photos but had to get back on the bike right away to stay warm.

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This view completely blew my mind. This is the frozen Saint-Laurent River. See the two tiny dots on the horizon. That’s a couple that was casually taking a stroll on it! You can even see the footsteps. I wanted to take my bicycle and ride down there but I chickened out!

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The couple in question as they got closer to me. I was so fascinated and quite scared for them. Who does that? But I guess that is a funny question coming from a guy on his way to cross Canada by bicycle in the middle of winter!

I eventually got to Trois-Rivières and I am afraid to say that there is nothing much to say about this city except that I have very good friends there that I was fortunate to see.

To be honest, I did not even take one photograph there although I admit that I was not motivated to thoroughly discover the municipality.

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Two days later, I left Trois-Rivières towards Québec City.

Again, I was lucky. The weather was good (it was VERY cold but sunny and with no snow on the roads) and the wind behind me so I was flying.

I saw ice fishing huts on the frozen river… FYI, most of Quebec’s inter-provincial roads run along the Saint-Laurent River which is great scenery but very cold.

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Are those volley-ball fields on ice? Yes! How do you even play that?

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Québec, the province, has so many churches it’s amazing. I have never been in a place with so many of them in my life!

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Halfway in the middle of NOWHERE, I came across a restaurant (Restaurant St-Alfred) that served GREAT food. I had a little chat with the chef and when I asked about desserts, he made me this monster that was amazing.

IMG_0325After this yummy lunch, I was full of energy so I raced towards Québec City and not even 20 minutes later, I was gathering speed to climb up a hill and not even two seconds into it, I heard a funny noise coming from the chain and I immediately knew something was wrong.

Before I could even stop, the chain snapped and broke off.

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That was the end of my ride right there as I don’t have the tools or knowledge to repair a chain. What puzzled me was that my chain was less than a week old and was told that it would last me a good 5 000 km.

Anyway, I was stranded and after 5 hours waiting in a warm Mc Donald’s in Donnacona. Thank goodness for mobile phones as I used that time to reply to unanswered emails and messages. (See the GPS details of the ride)

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Eventually my bike got fixed and I returned from the point I broke down and finished the ride to Québec City (See the GPS ride details).

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And I even made new friends in Québec City…

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And of course, I ended up my week’s ride with a treat!

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Then it was time to call it a week…

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Hello world!

This is how I dress for extreme cold weather. I am talking about down to -20C (-4F). Just one base layer, one mid-layer (a jersey) and a hardshell jacket.

With just this, I can cycle all of Canada. When it gets below the above temperatures, I just add an other layer between the base layer and the jersey and I am good.

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At the bottom, I just wear some long johns over padded cycling shorts, long warm socks and cycling bibs.

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The hardest part is keeping my fingers and my toes warm.

I have some sort of poggies that I put on the bike to protect my hands from the wind and I just wear normal gloves. When it really gets cold, I will throw in there a Zippo hand warmer to heat it up a little.

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For my feet, I wear cycling boots. They are warm but not my toes get cold fast so I have had to get heated insoles too.

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I have two helmets: a normal road cycling helmet for when the weather is reasonable and a ski helmet for when the temperatures are too freezing and my head needs to retain heat.

I protect my eyes with glasses and googles with clear, dark or tinted lenses depending on the conditions.

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And for finally, the mode of transportation,,,

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This is a Cinelli Mash SSCX bicycle set up as a fixed gear. This will be the two-wheeled vehicle that I will ride across Canada on The Big Journey. Initially, I had three bikes in mind but my Guinness World Record attempt rules stipulates that it must be done with just one.

I still have not come up with a name for this bike so any suggestions are welcome!