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Archive | August, 2013
August 28, 2013

Dear Canada

Dear Canada

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Dear Canada,

Over the last 55 days, I have had the privilege of riding your roads, seeing your landscape and meeting your people. I have been in awe every day since I embarked on this journey. For not one day did I not experience love, pride and respect.

From the majestic mountains to the expansive prairies, from the rugged Canadian Shield to the memorable Maritimes, each region in Canada offered something different, yet wonderfully similar. You are an amazing country that challenged me physically and emotionally. Yet, I loved every climb as much as every descent, as I try to embrace that what challenges me.

Over the course of these two months, you showed me how simple acts of generosity and kindness can have profound impact on even the most self-assured amongst us. I felt this continuously with every front porch wave, toot of a passing car, and every curious customer in a convenience store. I rode solo, but I was never alone. When climbing up a steep hill outside of Nipigon, Ontario in the cold rain, a group of kids returning from camp all hung out the windows of their bus and cheered me on, when grinding up Sunday Summit Pass in the Rocky Mountains a lady driving by rolled down her window and offered me water and cookies. I could tell story after story of simple acts performed by Canadians that offered me a glimpse of the fabric of people in this country. Being on the bike, the act of a car, transport, or pickup truck hauling a boat swinging wide, crossing the centre line to give me space was an act of kindness I never took for granted. And everyone did it.

Canada, it is easy to write up a list of exotic locales around the world that offer intrigue and mystery, however, you populated my list with places, towns, parks and monuments to visit. I will encourage everyone to visit Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the most easterly point in North America, if for no other reason to feel like you’ve reached the end of the world. I will insist that every Canadian make it to see the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay and then the road sign indicating his Marathon of Hope’s end and share the goosebumps with them. I will explain the cathedral presence of grain elevators breaking the endless horizon in the prairies and implore people to witness them firsthand. And of course, I will return to the laid back attitude of Prince Edward Island and the breathtaking Rocky Mountains and cajole others to join me.

The landscape and the people are each integral parts of your whole. Each piece connected to the other, influencing the other and shaping how we understand ourselves. Once I finished the mountains, I thought the hard stuff was behind me, however, with the winds in the prairies, the weather in Ontario and the hills in the Maritimes, each region taught me that this wasn’t an easy task. It meant something to make it through. It humbled me when I took distance for granted. It reminded me that you earn accomplishment. It isn’t given away.

I spent many days in awe; this country gave me a literal understanding of awesome. Some days my legs got me to my destination and I didn’t remember pedaling. I had time to think, reflect, and live in wonder about the lives of the people and places I passed. I was witness to the industrious habits of many as they worked towards common goals. Road construction is a unifying summer Canadian experience.

Thank you Canada for showing me that life in a rural small town is as rich as one in a metropolitan centre. For this country is populated by more small towns than I ever imagined and each place exhibited a power of its people. I eavesdropped on a group of old men sitting around the town diner in Gull Lake, Alberta and neighbours chatting at the general store in Crapaud, Prince Edward Island and their conversations around the role of the Senate reminded me that Canadians, everywhere, genuinely care about Canada despite what our politicians may suggest.

I can’t capture the feelings of being on a bike and experiencing this country. It’s something you have to do to fully grasp. All I know for sure is that Canada; you are in my blood thicker now than before. I will cheer louder for your grand achievements and for all your subtle ones too. You are more than arbitrary borders on a landmass, more than a vast collection of trees and rocks, and more than a figurative mosaic of cultures, for over the course of 6,734 kilometres I came to understand that you are home.

With love, respect and pride,
Scott Kemp

August 23, 2013

6757

6757

Distance: 130km
Time: 5:01:10

Something caught in my throat as I rolled over the top of the final hill and into view came the massive cliffs of Cape Spear. Beyond stretched nothing but the Atlantic Ocean. It truly felt like I was standing on the edge of the world.

After 6757 kilometers, I came to the easterly most point in Canada and was done. I have now pedaled myself across this beautiful country.

The end of the line.

The end of the line.

Today was the epitome of my ride as it was hilly (Newfoundland has got some hills), it was windy (most of the time in my favour), and it was overcast (a perfect mix of sunny without being too hot). The landscape that surrounded me was different than any other in Canada, exactly as I have found every other province, its own geography. And the people who I encountered all greeted me with the utmost of excitement and kindness.

I made my way to the Mile Zero monument, the location where Terry Fox started it all. To be in that spot gave having a visceral feeling of pride and respect. As Terry Fox said, “i just wish people would realize anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made true when you try.”

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Today, I crossed off a thing on my list of dreams. It wouldn’t have been done without all the incredible support I’ve received throughout the journey. I can’t thank everyone enough.

And of course, I can’t thank Laura enough for being the incredible supporter, ass-kicker, and making me believe I was capable of achieving it.

My question, what’s your dream? How can I support you?

Ride on.

August 21, 2013

Last Stop on the Mainland

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Distance: 101km
Time: 4:18:32

Well, it is official, I am leaving mainland Canada. I have traversed upwards of 6600km and look behind me and see a majestic country that has both amazed me and challenged me. So it was fitting that today as I rode along Cape Breton Island I was both amazed and challenged.

The amazement comes from sweeping beauty and a feeling of serene coastal living. There was a distinct call to nature with signs to the Cabot Trail and the visions of sailboats in the harbour. It was challenging as I faced a nice crosswind the whole day, climbed my “final” mountain pass up Kelly’s mountain and traversed a panic-inducing bridge.

The mountain pass was a solid six kilometers of climbing at a 4-5% grade. It didn’t rival the mountain passes of early July but it definitely has been awhile since continued climbing like that. It was cute when an old couple who had pulled over at a lookout near the top shouted, “Woohoo! You’re almost there! You are winning the race.” I wondered how they knew. The decent was pretty sweet too.

Could this be my final mountain pass? Although the elevation is not huge, the legs and lungs were burning on the climb.

Could this be my final mountain pass? Although the elevation is not huge, the legs and lungs were burning on the climb.

I have always had a little bridge phobia, however over the course of this trip and all the bridges I’ve crossed, I thought I had beat it. Nope. With a strong crosswind, no shoulder and steady traffic I couldn’t help but picture me going over the side. Luckily, didn’t happen. It even got to the point where I unclipped my shoe thinking it might help me survive.

But alas, I made the easy distance today and have been waiting to disembark on my seafaring journey. Newfoundland awaits in the morning. Tonight I sleep on the Blue Puttees. A 7 hour crossing, which has been made here for over 200 years. In fact, this crossing was a key piece of the negotiations that brought Newfoundland into the Canadian fold in 1949. Canada had to agree to run this connection in perpetuity.

Better than a thermarest on the ground for sure.

Better than a thermarest on the ground for sure.

To top it all off, finally, cyclists are given special treatment and treated like royalty. As cars and trucks sat and waited for entry, I biked onto the ferry. The first one allowed on, giving me the pick of the ship when it comes to seats. Sweet!

Treated like royalty, just for riding a bike.

Treated like royalty, just for riding a bike.

Tonight I sail. Tomorrow I bus. Then, after some deliberation, I bike. One more day, probably 140km or so to Cape Spear and then St. John’s harbour where I put this epic adventure in the books.

Ride on.

P.S. In a follow-up to a previous post, apparently in Nova Scotia the moose wear fur shawls and stand majestically eyeballing the taffic as it rolls past. You’ve been warned.

It must get chilly in these parts, even the moose wear fur shawls.

It must get chilly in these parts, even the moose wear fur shawls.

August 20, 2013

Why Not A Little Further?

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Distance: 180km
Time: 6:20:27

There is something wrong with me. My goal today was Port Hawkesbury, smack down in the middle of the remaining distance to the Newfoundland ferry. But when I got there today, it was only 4:30. I had biked 130km and the legs were feeling good. My mind automatically starts thinking, “I’ve still got time to go further. Might as well ride some of tomorrow’s ride.”

Sure, I could have stopped enjoyed the nice town, relaxed, instead I put another two hours on the bike.

And so, I sit in Waycocomagh, Nova Scotia on Cape Breton island. My legs are tired. But I have some satisfaction in having gone further. As you can imagine I was belting out some Bruce Guthro, one of my favourite singers who happens to be from Cape Breton, while I was making my way.

Tomorrow will be my last day of real riding. Now that I’ve taken 50km out of it, it is a small 100km to the Ferry Ramp. Piece of cake.

Ride on.

A lawn of Simpsons characters.

A lawn of Simpsons characters.

August 19, 2013

The Final Chapter Begins

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Distance: 114km
Time: 4:13:21

I took three days off and cottaged. I rode my bike only once to the corner store and back to get more food. I did what any self-respecting cottager would do and eat, eat and eat some more. Getting on my bike this morning was a rude awakening. Leaving Laura once again was incredibly difficult. I have to say, I’m tired of having to say goodbye to her. But this journey still has two provinces and about 600 kilometers.

Laura, queen of the corn.

Laura, queen of the corn.

My biking on PEI had been minimal. Today was only my second day of biking and I was headed to the ferry. Two things will strike you if you cycle the island: 1) It’s freakin’ hilly. 2)You’ve got to watch the road because you may have to dodge a potato or two. (There were about a dozen on the road all told.)

Getting on the ferry with a bike is a dream because you get to roll right past all the other cars and be one of the first on, thus procuring the best seating.

Shoving off the island headed back for the mainland.

Shoving off the island headed back for the mainland.

The ferry was quick. I spent most of it reading and playing hide and seek with the little boy who was sitting by me as he’d tuck his head behind the chair and peek up and when he did I’d make an expression and he’d duck back down. Between those things, I was in Nova Scotia before I knew it.

Good ol' New Scotland, province number nine.

Good ol’ New Scotland, province number nine.

Luckily for me, I was able to stay in the quaint little town of Pictou for the night with my aunt and uncle. They put me up, served me a great dinner and we wandered down to the pier where they have live music. We heard a few fiddling reels as the sunset over the water. A truly gorgeous night.

On the wharf in Pictou enjoying a few reels on the fiddle.

On the wharf in Pictou enjoying a few reels on the fiddle.

Tomorrow, I roll through Nova Scotia on my way to Port Hawkesbury, perfectly halfway to the ferry to Newfoundland. By Wednesday morning, I’ll have made it 10/10. As of today, 9/10. As a teacher, I’d say 90% ain’t bad.

Ride on.m

August 15, 2013

Staying Put For A Few Days

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Distance: 104km
Time: 4:01:18

One of the more difficult parts of this adventure has been the 40 days of packing up home and moving it. Never staying in the same place. It is something I totally underestimated. But today, after a fisticuffs with the wind for 100 kilometers I arrived on Cranberry Lane in Prince Edward Island.

I did have to take the shuttle service to cross the Confederation Bridge, even though the guy did say people have ignored the no bikes on the bridge sign. He said it always ends with a “few hundred dollar fine, and they never get all the way across.” I think my choice was the right one.

A wee little bridge stood between me and province number eight.

A wee little bridge stood between me and province number eight.

With a nice view of the Northumberland Strait, I will be resident here for four nights. A lovely three day holiday. I’m so lucky that Laura is flying in and together we will have a little vacation.

Before I take my multi-day holiday I leave you with this question, why are all the moose in Canada acting so different? As you can see from the signs, in Ontario the moose are apparently quite pisssed off that they are charging at the cars, in Quebec, they have a more gingerly approach, some would say almost snooty, to traffic. In New Brunswick, the moose is stationary, but apparently they are twice the size of a car. Yet, between all three provinces, I saw many, many signs, yet only one decaying dead one. Let me tell you, I smelled it about a half kilometer before I saw it. I had to hold my breath as I passed it, it was so rancid. Now, time for dinner.

The moose is loose in the spruce. I had to Google Image rhe Ontario and Quebec signs, I made the observation only after the provinces and god knows I wasn't backtracking.

The moose is loose in the spruce.
I had to Google Image rhe Ontario and Quebec signs, I made the observation only after the provinces and god knows I wasn’t backtracking.

I’ll be back in the saddle on Sunday as I head for Nova Scotia. Just 600 kilometers and two provinces to go.

Ride on.

August 14, 2013

I Keep Telling Myself, “It’s not a race.”

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Distance: 201km
Time:7:23:36

People who know me, know that I’m naturally inclined in competition. I never care who wins or who loses, it’s all about having fun.

After biking about 2km from my lodging, I felt that sensation of forgetting my wallet. Being in my own world, I slowed down to check my panniers. Unbeknownst to me, there had been a guy, out for his morning ride in full kit, drafting me. I hadn’t signaled my slowing down, so he was startled and a bit perturbed by my immediate stopping. He dodged me and took off.

Once I confirmed I had my wallet, I was back pedaling. The “guy in the red jersey” gone ahead. It was a flat winding road, so I hadn’t anticipated seeing him again. But then, on a little straight away, I spotted that red jersey on the horizon. His pace was fair, so I thought, if I sped up, “just a little” I could close the gap. Now, you have to understand, after a month and a half of daily riding, my legs usual loosen up about 30km into the ride. Today I was asking my legs to get going a little sooner than normal. The stupid part of my brain also disregarded that I still had a 200km ride ahead.

Anyway, I started closing the gap. Sweet. Then on an ensuing straight away, he did the unthinkable. He looked behind him, saw me, then speeded up. Well, I know what most everyone would think, “it’s on.”

I started picking up my pace. Ok, that’s not true. I started hammering hard on the pedals. The competitive spirit was sparked. I was pushing way too hard this early in my ride, but I was closing the gap. This just kept me pushing.

Eventually, I got to that distance where I could blow past him. The problem, of course, if I got around him I’d have to maintain this speed. There could be nothing worse then getting re-passed by him. So, I slowed down and got in his draft. For 5km, I drafted him, recharged the legs and frankly, stopped breathing heavily. After 5km, I figured I had enough to get around him and stick, so I did. I never saw the “red jersey” again.

This time we were actually racing.

This time we were actually racing.

Why did I feel the need to chase him down in the first place? He had just his road bike and I had two full panniers and a tent. Later in the day, I again reminded myself, this is not a race, as my legs were burning.

From Fredericton, I got to Moncton, home of one of nature’s greatest wonders, Magnetic Hill. I remember going as a kid and have wanted to go back as an adult. Laura has refused to stop in each time we’ve been in Moncton, telling me, “It’s not as impressive as you remember it.” and sure enough, Laura is right again.

The third most popular natural wonder in Canada, can you name the top two?

The third most popular natural wonder in Canada, can you name the top two?

After Magnetic Hill, I pushed on to Shediac, home of Parlee beach. The site of the famous Parlee Ultimate tournament, a place that holds many great memories for Laura and I.

What's a trip to the East coast without a stop in Shediac?

What’s a trip to the East coast without a stop in Shediac?

Tomorrow, I leave New Brunswick and hit the Island. Another province will be behind me.

Ride on.

P.S. I can’t thank everyone enough for the comments and support you’ve shown me on this trip. It has been very cool to feel so supported.

August 13, 2013

There Is Something About A Bike

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Distance: 165km
Time: 7:15:14

Barefeet, no shirt, and pedaling as hard as his legs could down a gravel road. That was the first kid I rolled past today.

The second was a little boy practicing skidding on the gravel driveway. He’d tear down one way, then slammed the pedals backwards as he whipped the handlebars to a side. He’d throw out his leg to help the skid get distance. Then he’d fly off in the opposite direction.

The third boy was biking around his driveway making motorcycle sounds with his mouth. He was lost in his world of his imagination. He could probably feel the wind in his hair.

The last boy had taken his bike, made his way to the local corner store, Wilson’s in Millville, bought himself a bag of chips and rode around town. Up curbs, around rocks, trying to bounce over potholes.

There is something about a bike. It’s the speed, the power, the freedom, the possibility. I’ve biked 6000km this summer, so far, and there is still something about the bike.

Rural New Brunswick was wondrous today. Tough hills, a hot sun, some potholes, yet there was something about being on my bike and watching the world go by. I can’t count how many front porch waves or farmer nods I got today, but quiet country roads will do that to you.

I also got lucky today and the timing worked out that RoseMarie Davis, the Cameron Heights librarian, and family were traveling home from their summer vacation in Nova Scotia. We were able to meet up at the foot of the Hartland Bridge, the longest covered bridge in the world. Why make a covered bridge you ask? Because before steel was used for bridge trusses, wood was used. The roof of the bridge was to protect the wood truss from rain and prevent rotting.

The Davis family and I standing next to a world record.

The Davis family and I standing next to a world record.

Tomorrow, I get to saddle up again and ride some up and down terrain to Moncton, New Brunswick where I hope to camp beside Magnetic Hill. Now, I should tell you, I’ve invented a new cycling term today, a brunswick. A “brunswick” is a hill no longer than 200 meters that rises at 11 or more percent. Steep enough to require severe gear changes and by the time you change gears, you’re at the top. For instance, today was a 19 brunswick day. At the end of a high brunswick day, the legs are tired.

Here’s hoping tomorrow will be aa low brunswick day.

Ride on.

August 12, 2013

These Days Are For The Riders

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Saturday (Montmagny – Pohenegamook)
Distance: 162km
Time: 5:48:23

Sunday (Pohenegamook – Perth-Andover, NB)
Distance: 204km
Time: 7:12:14

If you were driving in your car this weekend through Quebec or New Brunswick, you probably didn’t notice it. Sure, you may have noticed the beautiful blue cloudless skies and the just-right temperature, but the subtlety of these two days was left to the riders.

From the get go both days a nice, cooling forceful wind blew me east. When you stopped, you could barely see it, but as you rolled down the wonderfully maintained, bike-friendly roads it was easy. Pedaling was easy. I stayed in the big ring all day, just turning over the feet getting closer to the ultimate goal.

The flag flapping and pointing me In my direction. Sweet!

The flag flapping and pointing me In my direction. Sweet!

Generally, when I camp I get the opportunity to meet people. They’ll see me with my bike and ask questions and the like. When I pulled into the campground in Pohenegamook, it was empty.On a Saturday night. Not one person around, at dusk. When I text Laura to say where I am and tell her this, her response, “It’s like the start of a horror movie.” Great, now I’m a little on edge. There is no running water, no electricity. Nothing. Sites are numbered, picnic tables at each site, but just me. Luckily, later on another cyclist showed up. Or was it lucky…duh, duh, duh, duh.

There is something unsettling about a vacant campground. I know what you did last summer?

There is something unsettling about a vacant campground. I know what you did last summer?

On Sunday, I crossed into New Brunswick. Without a doubt, Quebec has had the most consistent bike friendly roads, I will miss that. I won’t miss trying to communicate in my broken, it should be better, French.

Province #7. Starting to feel accomplished now.

Province #7. Starting to feel accomplished now.

But alas, New Brunswick, a quick trip through it and the reality of this epic trip’s end become’s closer to reality.

Ride on.

August 10, 2013

Le Gars En Sueur Vetu de Spandex

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Distance: 208km
Time: 8:24:38

About three minutes after leaving the comfortable, welcoming house of Agathe, I was a sweaty mess. The humidity in Trois Rivieres was palpable. It formed little droplets on each of my arm hairs. I wouldn’t be dry again, all day.

The riding was wonderful through the quaint riverside towns. The roads started to roll so making time wasn’t so easy. I started early today because I wanted to get to Vieux Quebec with enough time to be a tourist for an hour or two. Little did I remember that the old part of town hulks above the rest of Quebec City. I had to do a final climb of maybe 300m, but it was at a consistent 10% pitch, with one stretch flashing 15 on my Garmin, which I think is the steepest I’ve ridden yet.

As I got into the cobbled, busy streets I immediately became aware of my absolute drenched, spandex clad body and decided to tour around but not really mingle with the tourists, for everyone’s sake.

The crowded streets of Vieux Quebec, not necessarily where you want to be the sweaty guy in spandex.

The crowded streets of Vieux Quebec, not necessarily where you want to be the sweaty guy in spandex.

Taking the ferry across the St. Lawrence I started my track towards Montmagny. I definitely felt it in my legs and I may have under fueled because the final 50km felt way more difficult then they should have. But alas, I arrived.

Vieux Quebec, from the ferry.

Vieux Quebec, from the ferry.

Tomorrow, I ride to within 30km of the New Brunswick border and prepare to say goodbye to my 6th province.

Ride on.

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