Though Michael and I are no longer cycle touring and have embarked on a somewhat normal-ish life, we have started experimenting with the exciting world of bikepacking.
So far, it’s been fab! We spent a few days bikepacking in the stunning Gower Pennisula in Wales, and almost a week cycling in the very challenging (for me) Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. Only a few cuts and bruises, and I definitely need to build on my riding skill, that said we already have been chatting about heading off on a few more trips.
Next on the cards, we have potentially Slovenia, potentially Spain and potentially Georgia. If you have any recommendations on great places to bikepack – let us know!
Apart from bikepacking, we have spent time settling into our new home in Bristol, England – absolutely awesome city!! We had a few false starts when we first moved to England, but we are finally a bit more settled now.
As we are living just off the Bath to Bristol bike path, it hopefully will be ideal for hosting and meeting some other Warmshowers cyclists – so let us know if you do happen to be in the area.
Readjusting to… normality
Like most people that have just finished a cycle trip – readjusting took sometime. I was more prepared for it this time around – after the France to China by trip, the feelings of being disconnected from society and the overall cultural shock took me by surprise. This time, though I was more prepared, there were still the emotional challenges.
It was hard readjusting my mindset to a life where people (ie. me) didn’t have to worry about whether I had enough water to get through the next 24 hours, or where I was going to sleep tonight or tomorrow night, or whether my tent was going to leak, or a tornado was going to randomly pass through during the night. It is an odd feeling – going from worrying about life essentials/ survival, to worrying about, well things that don’t really matter.
Michael and I are still appreciating the little things in life, like having access to an oven, running water, hot showers, a good range of food, not living on an extreme budget, owning more than 5 pairs of clothes (I could go on and on). Though, still at times I feel very disconnected from society, especially when discussing anything about celebs, pop culture, or what’s on TV (I haven’t even bothered to buy a TV). These things didn’t matter in my life for 5 years – and though it’s common knowledge to some, for me, it’s not. It has lead to a few awkward conversations, including one where I wasn’t even sure whether Cher was still alive.
At times I miss the simplicity of life on the bike, but I am still happy with our decision – I think it was the right one; and I am are enjoying where we are right now.
Next on the agenda…
Other than readjusting, I’ve been training for an icy run I’m taking part in this Autumn – more about that in my next post. And, though I feel like I have rarely had a free minute, I cannot think of what else Michael and I have been up to this past year. Riding, working, eating, running, sleeping, cooking, hiking…
I DO plan to clear out, update and post more on our website over the next few months. So watch this space!
I know this might come as a shock to some, but while having time to think and discuss our trip, our expectations and what we want from the cycle trip, we actually discovered that we don’t want to be long term cycle touring. We’ve both travelled to around 70 countries, on and off for the last 10 years – it was time for something else!
This was a very sudden change in plan. We had no way that we would feel like this when we left Halifax. In fact, the entire time we were in Halifax we were so excited about starting cycling, that this is the last thing we thought was going to happen. But, sometimes you just don’t know how you will feel or how things will end up until you’re in that situation.
So, how and why did we come to the conclusion that we don’t want to be long term cycle touring anymore?
#1 There is more to life than just exploring the world by bicycle
I love travelling, I love cycling, I love seeing the world… but, as hard as it might be to admit this, there is more to life than travel and exploring. I once thought I could be one of those wandering nomads, off discovering new places and people, letting the road take me where it wants, but in reality I want more in my life than that.
Our priorities had changed and I know wanted the things that travel cannot provide, like the possibility of having chickens, a dog, and a veggie patch. I don’t want to be living on a strict budget each day, worrying about the pennies, where we’re going to sleep that night and whether we’ll get a shower that week. I know there are people out there that live like this either by choice or not, but in my case, I know I don’t have to live like this – there are other options.
Though travel and cycle touring is great for the short term, I don’t think it’s healthy to do constantly. You end up missing out on other important things, like weddings, birthdays and family events, and you aren’t able to maintain a healthy life balance. In the end, there is more to life than travel and cycle touring and that is a huge reason why we don’t want to be long term cycle touring anymore.
#2 I lost my purpose
I am a person that needs to find meaning or a purpose in everything I do, and one day while riding in the US, I realised that I couldn’t find any meaning in what I was doing. This triggered more thoughts and feelings about the trip… thoughts I eventually shared with Michael. I thought that perhaps it had something to do with cycling in the US, and that these feelings will leave once we make it to Latin America. It was pretty clear once we arrived in Nicaragua that it wasn’t the place that was the issue.
Cycling, travelling, living on a budget and being a nomad is exhausting. Even when you take a break (like we did in Halifax) you are still mentally on the move, planning for the next stage or trip. You’re also not able to make any long-term plans, because you’re only there for a short time. This along with constantly being on a strict budget, taking note of the pennies you spend, and trying to figure out how to make your money stretch to the next “rest” spot where you can work, is quite tiring. We had just had enough of skimping on things that we otherwise wouldn’t have to.
I was also diagnosed with an eye condition in Halifax, which meant I was supposed to keep my eye completely clean and put a heat pack on it twice a day – if you’re a cycle tourist, you’d probably understand how difficult that can be. This was just another thing to worry about.
#4 Sights losing the “wow” factor
You know this is starting to happen when you start compare everything you are seeing for the first time, to something or somewhere you have already been. You’ll hear yourself say things like, “This city is just like Antigua in Guatemala.” or, “This lake isn’t as pretty as Lake Atitlan.”
For us as well, we felt like this cycle trip was never going to compare to the France to China cycle trip, where everything was new and exciting. We were also cycling through a lot of countries that we had already been too. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time travelling there a few years ago, but the feeling wasn’t the same as exploring somewhere for the first time.
#5 I don’t like saying “goodbye” constantly
Cycle touring and travelling you do get to meet so many wonderful people, and I can say I’m lucky enough to have friends all over the world, but while constantly being on the move you can still be limited to how strong a connection you make or keep with those friends. At times you feel like you have all the friends in the world, other times you can feel so isolated and alone.
I also hate saying goodbye. I feel like with the number of times I’ve had to say “goodbye” in my life, it should be easier to say it by now. In fact, I feel like the more I say “goodbye” the harder it gets.
One thing that cycle touring has taught me is how important family and friends are, and instead of spending months, sometimes years without seeing my loved ones, I would rather have the option to see them whenever I like. Why? Because I miss my friends and family.
No, I’m not having babies! Sorry, Mum and Dad, but I’m afraid I’ll only be giving you fur-grandchildren.
At first we had no idea what we would do. Michael and I are both from Perth, but have spent a large portion of our lives in other countries. I’ve spent just as long living in England as Australia, and already feel a bit torn between two countries. Though, at the same time, if we could pick absolutely anywhere to live, we would probably go with British Columbia in Canada. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to get sponsorship and move there permanently, so with the assumption that New Zealand is supposed to be similar to Canada, this was the first place we picked to move to. This also meant I didn’t have to choose between my two homes, England and Australia. We eventually rethought this idea and decided to give England a go – mostly due to family, and being located in Europe.
So on June 13th 2017 Michael and I will be moving to the UK to start our next adventure. To some this may not seem like much of an adventure, but it’s all about perspective, and to us a life of stability and routine, really will be an adventure.
Will we cycle tour again?
Absolutely! Cycle touring is still our preferred way of travelling, and we’ve already discussed plans to take a week or two cycle trip around Norway and Iceland, and within the UK.
No, we won’t be planning any future long term cycle trip. I think we’ve said goodbye to our budget/ long term travel days. We hope that by living a more stable life, and taking only the occasional cycle trip, our lives will rebalance, and we will become more excited about travel and appreciate our future trips a bit more.
What does this mean for Cycle Trekkers?
Nothing. Just because we don’t want to be long term cycle touring, it doesn’t mean we won’t still cycle tour, so Cycle trekkers will continue as usual. We’ll continue to add our cycle blogs, gear reviews,eco-discoveries and anything else bicycle related, to the site.
Long term cycle touring is a bit glorified, just like budget travelling is, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that think Michael and I have the easiest life in the world. Well, no actually it’s bloody hard work and very exhausting. Usually the rewards of beautiful sights and new experiences is enough to make it worth while, but when you’re not excited by this like you used to be, then you start to wonder what is the point – why are we still cycling? So that’s why we don’t want to be long term cycle touring anymore, and why we are ending our trip early. Have you every experienced something similar, and ended a tour early? Or are you set on exploring the world by bicycle for the rest of your life? Would love to hear about your experience.
Our first day exploring Nicaragua was spent mostly sleeping, eating and procrastinating over putting the bikes back together after the long flight to Latin America – ok so not much exploring. This resulted in us spending an extra day in country’s capital though, which I don’t really recommend.
So, did our bikes make it?
Yes, they did. There was a minor issue with my bike, but we managed to resolve that issue a couple of days later. Michael and I spent around 3 hours piecing the bikes back together in the carport of our guesthouse. We even had some young kids join in with the rebuilding of the bikes.
My cough still hadn’t improved since arriving in Managua. In fact we were actually worried that it had got worse after I coughed up some blood the day after we arrived. I might not know a lot about injuries and illness, but I know coughing up blood is definitely not a good thing, so I spent the morning visiting doctors, getting x-rays and picking up prescriptions. Everything seemed to look fine and I was told it should clear up with time. As you can imagine, I was pretty relieved over this news.
The next day, we packed up and cycled about 60km to Granada. We planned to take Spanish classes (at a chocolate mansion – I know, I have a chocolate addiction) and rest until I was well enough really start exploring Nicaragua and to cycle long distances again.
On the road exploring Nicaragua y bicycle… breifly
Nicaragua was definitely a lot more humid and hotter than New York State, so we decided to get an early start cycling. This proved to be pretty much pointless. I decided it would be a great idea to follow google map’s shortest route to Granada. This route took us down some pretty questionable roads, and into what we think was a sketchy part of town. It took us an hour to cycle 5km from the guesthouse, and we were nowhere near getting out of the city limits. In the end, we backtracked to the main road where the guesthouse, was and took the longer route towards Granada, sticking only to the main roads.
Lesson 1 learnt: stick to the main roads, especially when leaving big cities. Don’t be tempted to take the shorter route – it won’t be quicker.
The rest of the day’s cycle was actually awesome. We passed local properties, farms, plantations, volcanos and mountains. The main road was surprisingly well paved, with a good-sized hard shoulder. Even the drivers seemed courteous to cyclists, and we felt no aggression on the road. Originally, we had planned to take it slow to make sure I didn’t over do it. We thought the 60km cycle would take most of the day, but we ended up arriving in Granada around lunchtime – also the hottest part of the day. We checked into our Airbnb, hit the showers and had a siesta.
Granada is a beautiful, colonial town, but extremely touristy, and therefore, also a little bit more expensive than we were expecting. The colourful buildings, and rustic doorways give a lot of character to the city, and I can definitely see why the city is known to be a photographer’s dream.
For the most part, I rest in Granada, though we did decide to cycle to a nearby lake, which actually turned out to be 15km up a volcano to a CRATER lake. It was beautiful, but it was definitely a hot, sweaty and very difficult cycle day. Surprisingly we saw loads of local cyclists out on the main road between Granada and Masaya (this was before the turn off up the volcano). These cyclists were not the usual commuting cyclists we had seen, but road cyclists.
After our time in Granada, we planned to leave the bikes at the Airbnb and head into El Salvador and maybe Honduras for a week. This plan changed once we arrived in Leon. For some reason, I’ve started to get a bit motion sickness in anything that goes faster than my bike. The 3 hour shuttle we took to Leon, proved not to be too enjoyable, and I couldn’t think of anything worse than a 10+ hour trip to El Salvador. On top of this, Michael wasn’t too phased about visiting either country, so we decided to stay in Leon, do an overnight hike and visit the Flor de Cana rum distillery before heading back to Granada to pick up the bikes and continue exploring Nicaragua.
During this time Michael and I were discussing our plans for the trip. We made a few realisations and ended up changing our plans once again!
Overall the flight to Nicaragua was a bit of a nightmare. This was the first time we had ever tried flying with bicycles, and unfortunately it didn’t go completely smoothly.
First, we caught the greyhound from Buffalo to Toronto. This was probably the only part of the trip that went smoothly. There were only 4 people on the bus and the Greyhound staff didn’t even charge us extra for the bikes – score! We had no issues headed back through the Canadian border. They didn’t even want to x-ray our bike boxes, or any of our bags – double score! At this stage, I was quite hopeful and thought the smooth bus trip was a positive sign for things to come…
Toronto Airport: Flying with bicycles!
It was all downhill from the moment we arrived at Toronto Airport! Once we arrived at the airport, we started to make our way to the departure hall. This turned out to be unnecessarily difficult, when we discovered that the elevators aren’t actually wide enough for our bike boxes. This meant, holding the elevator open while Michael pushed each box into the elevator along with all our bags. Taking up the lift for so long, doesn’t make us too popular with the other passengers. It also turned out we were departing from a different terminal, so we had plenty of small elevators and a train to overcome.
When we finally made it to departures, we checked in then proceeded to the oversized luggage. Now being oversized, you think that would mean they have x-ray machines large enough for oversized baggage. Well, they don’t! The customs officer actually tried to squeeze our bike boxes through the small x-ray machine. Mine managed to fit through. Michael’s on the other hand got stuck. We then spent the next 30 minutes trying to push Michael’s bike out of the x-ray.
At one point, Michael had the end of a broom, and was pushing the box from one end, the customs officer was messing around with the belt… reversing it and then moving it forward again, and another lady was trying to pull the box from the back. It almost seemed to comical to be reality, and part of me was waiting for the “You’ve Been Framed” camera crew to appear around the corner. After 30 minutes had passed, I was convinced that they would have to dismantle the machine to get Michael’s bike out… but, finally, somehow the box was freed and popped out the machine.
After all this, the officer then told Michael he had to open the box to search it – so much for the 4 rolls of duct tape we used to tape up the box. Finally the officer was happy and our bikes disappeared along the conveyer belt. We hoped the next time we seen our bikes would be in Nicaragua – this turned out not to be the case!
Connecting in Mexico City
We were flying from Toronto to Managua via Mexico City. Originally, when I booked the flights I thought that since it was all with Aeromexico, our bags would be checked all the way through. There was no mention ANYWHERE on the ticket on website, that this wasn’t the case. During check out, we were informed that we would have to pick up the bikes and re-check them in for our next flight. Bummer!
When we arrived into Mexico City, we proceeded to the baggage claim and collected our bikes and bags. FYI in Mexico City you need to pay for the baggage carts – great when you are only planning on being in the airport for 2 hours and have no Mexico pesos on you. Luckily, a local came to our rescue and gave us money for a cart – seriously, an amazing random act of kindness, which put me in a good, positive mood.
The airport staff told us that our bike boxes would need to be checked at customs, so after collected our boxes, we headed to departures! Luckily, Mexico Airport has wider elevators, so getting around the airport wasn’t so much of a drama as it was at Toronto. Once we arrived at the oversized luggage check in, we were told we had to wrap the boxes in plastic wrap. Even now this makes no sense to me, as we were told they would have to open the boxes up and check inside – so wrapping them in plastic before the check really seemed pointless and wasteful. Regardless of our attempts of reasoning with the customs officer, we paid $50 (no joke) to get each box wrapped in plastic. Then we headed back to the oversized baggage, and said “goodbye” to our bikes, once again.
Later, when I did open my bike box, I discovered a piece of paper inside informing me my box had been checked by security – so I guess they just paid for the bike to be rewrapped again? At least I didn’t have to pay for the “plastic waste” again.
Flying with bicycles: the last leg
The flight from Mexico City to Managua was extremely rough and I was extremely happy to be on the ground when we arrived in Managua. On the plus side, the views flying over El Salvador and Nicaragua were amazing. Lots of volcanos, lakes, mountains and beaches greeted us as we made the descent through the clouds.
Clearing border security was easy – we weren’t even asked about an onwards flight (which is great, as we didn’t have one)! We headed over to baggage collection to pick up our bikes – hopeful that our bikes made it ok!
I think from being wrapped in plastic, the ground staff couldn’t tell what were in the boxes and they had been thrown around A LOT! The boxes were extremely beaten up, with several metal parts protruding from the box.
Initially we had planned to put the bikes together at the airport, and then ride to the guesthouse we had booked. I don’t know what we were thinking. It was stinking hot, we hadn’t slept for over 24 hours and we weren’t 100% sure that our bikes were going to be functional ever again! Eventually, we decided to jump in a taxi, squeeze the bikes and all our gear in, and head to the guesthouse to deal with the situation there, instead of in the arrivals hall, with hundreds of touts harassing us.
I had booked a guesthouse that was only 2km from the airport. Our boxes were squeezed into the back of a taxi, and tied down with some rope! After a 5 minutes ride, we arrived at the guesthouse and paid our overpriced taxi fare (got to love that “gringo” tax – man, I hate airport taxis!) We ended up spending 2 days in Managua to put the bikes together and sort our shit out!
So that was our first experience flying with bicycles! Did our bikes survive the trip? Was I well enough to start cycling again? How was it going to be cycling in Nicaragua? You’ll have to wait until the next post to find out.
Lessons Learnt from our experience flying with bicycles:
Don’t use a cardboard bike box when flying with bicycles! I think next time we’re going to just try wrapping it in plastic (though my environmentalist instinct hates this wasteful idea).
Try and get a direct flight, if this isn’t possible, double check with the airline whether the flight will connect your baggage, or whether you will need to collect it during transit.
Riding from the airport when you haven’t slept for 24 hours is never a great idea! Don’t fool yourself!
Aeromexico has shit customer service – no way around this!
Don’t count on being able to put the bikes together at the airport! Even if you want to try and put them together, have a back up plan in place, in case it’s not possible.
If ground staff can’t tell it’s a bike, then they will probably toss it around, A LOT!
If you have some tips on flying with bicycles, then let us know! We definitely appreciate any advise to help make our next experience not so stressful.
I was pumped to be cycling in New York state, and to start cycling the Erie Canal Trail to Buffalo. I’d heard so much positivity about the trail, and the countryside, I couldn’t wait to actually experience it for myself.
As soon as we crossed into New York State, bicycle route signs and a hard shoulder appeared! This made the cycle to Albany a fairly pleasant one. That was until a guy in a car pulled out in front of us when we had the green light. He gave us the finger, and then proceeded to get out of his car and start yelling at us. We’re not really too sure what his problem was, but two guys in a nearby café whom witnessed the entire thing stood up for us, and took over the argument on our behalf.
This was a strange introduction into the state, and just one example of the two extreme perspectives of cyclists. It seemed you are either pro-cycling or anti-cycling. Sadly, it actually reminded me of cycling in Perth. In both places there is a definite sense of aggression on the roads between motorists and cyclists (not by all, but by some).
At the end of the day just like there are good and bad motorists, there are good and bad cyclists. Though regardless of this, a car can easily kill or seriously injury a cyclist. I think some motorists need reminding of that.
New York’s capital, Albany
As we entered Albany the awesome network of bicycle paths became immediately apparent! It was a super easy city to cycle in and out of, and was also the starting (or ending) point of the infamous, Erie Canal Bike Trail, which we were both pumped to start cycling.
In Albany we had the pleasure to stay with the wonderful, Becca! We stayed at her place for two days, and enjoyed the sun, mediation and some great food, drink and conversation.
Cycling the Erie Canal Trail
From Albany we started cycling the Erie Canal Trail. The rumours were that the Erie Canal Trail was the longest bike trail in North America. The trail was supposed to be a 365-mile bike trail all the way from Albany to Buffalo. What is it they say about something sounding too good to be true?
We got about 20km outside Schenectady when the trail disappeared. This was just the start of our constant battle to relocate the bike trail. Often when we did reconnect with the trail it was unrideable with our heavy, fully loaded bikes. So we ended up on State Bike Route 5 just as often as on the actual Erie Canal Trail.
To be totally honest, cycling the Erie Canal Trail was a bit of a disappointment, but it wasn’t all bad. Some parts of the trail were really beautiful. We passed several cute towns, camped at a couple of canal locks and took full advantage of the abundance of picnic spots along the route. There were also lots of cool heritage sites to visit along the route.
Our big 100 mile cycle day
Struggling to find somewhere to camp near and around Rochester, we were forced to book into a hotel. It had been 3 days since we’d had a shower, so I was pretty happy for the luxury of a hot shower, a comfortable bed and buffet breakfast. I had also developed a chest cough, which was starting to affect my riding and also my mood, so I was definitely in need of a few days recovery.
We still had 100 miles (160km) of cycling the Erie Canal Trail until we reached Grand Island (near Niagara Falls). In Grand Island we had planned to stay with a family for a couple of nights, before heading towards Ohio.
During the morning, at the hotel we discovered there was a crazy storm forecast to hit later that night. The thought of camping in a storm was not too appealing – so we did what any sane person would do. To beat the storm, we decided to smash out 100 miles in one day! This is actually the furthest we have ever cycled in one day. It was one of those days where everything went against us. I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just say it was a bloody challenge!
After a very long and very challenging day, we arrived at the bridge that went from Niagara to Grand Island. From there it was only a couple of kilometres to where we were staying. Finally we arrived at 9pm. I have never been so happy to see a bed! I can honestly say I slept like a baby!
More Tornado Warnings!!!
The storm arrived overnight, bringing with it tornado warnings, flooding and freezing temperatures. Seriously, it’s May – when will spring arrive? I was extremely grateful to not be stuck cycling in the storm, but still it would have been nice to do a few hikes and explore the Niagara area a bit more.
The storm and bad weather hung around for 5 days. We did manage to find a break in the storm to visit Niagara Falls and seek out an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, but other than that we were confined to the indoors. This was probably actually a good thing as my cough had gotten worse, and my body probably needed the rest.
Grand Island and a Change in Plan
On Grand Island we stayed with the Cook family – probably the best people on the island (I’m totally not bias)! They had a little log cabin out the back of their house, which we stayed in. We had originally planned to stay with them for 2 nights, and then continue cycling; however the chest cough I had developed changed all that and got us re-thinking our initial plan.
After our epic cycle day cycling the Erie Canal Trail, my cough got worse (not really a surprise), to the point I couldn’t cycle anymore. We couldn’t afford to stay somewhere in the US and wait until I was better, so we started to look into either taking the bus or renting a car for a portion.
The buses and car didn’t seem to work out how we wanted, so in our frustration and strange logic, we came up with the idea to fly somewhere. This somewhere ended up being Nicaragua!
Our Strange Logic
While in Halifax we actually spent more money than we had budgeted for, and our funds were slowly running out. By flying to Nicaragua we would skip at least 4 months of cycling. Plus it would mean I could rest and recover somewhere for a couple of weeks (in the heat), while we take Spanish lessons. Though this was a snap decision, which meant flying with bicycles, I think it was a logical decision!
So after spending 5 nights on Grand Island, we boxed up the bikes (which was more hassle than we thought) and headed to Toronto Airport, to make the long trip to Managua, Nicaragua!
What Nicaragua brought us was not what we expected… and perhaps would lead to another change in plans!
Excited to be on the road and cycling NEW ENGLAND!!
Cycling in Northern Maine felt like an extension to the Maritimes in Canada – fishing villages, sailboats, pine trees, granite rocks, the Atlantic Ocean and super friendly people. From the border we started cycling New England by cycling down route 1 (for the most part). We asked to pitch our tent on people’s land when needed. Occasionally we got invited in, other times we were given gifts, like a dozen farm eggs.
The random acts of kindness from people totally blows my mind – coming from Canada where people are known for their friendly and kind nature, to the US, where you really hear a mixture of things – it was hard to know what to expect.
Like a lot of cycling destinations, it’s the people and the random experiences that are the highlights. Personally I found the cycling in Maine very repetitive and a bit boring. This could be from staying in Nova Scotia over winter, with it’s similar environment or just readjusting to spending so much time off the bike. Either way I found the highlight in Maine to be the people we met.
Don’t trust the maps of Maine!
One thing we discovered about Maine is that google maps and other map apps don’t always accurately show the roads. Actually, I found the maps less reliable in Maine, compared to some other countries we’ve cycled through – like Uzbekistan! We were recommended to take a short cut – this short cut actually added several kilometres and hills on our trip.
This “shortcut” we took eventually lead us onto a truck route. The smell of gin and tonic from the overtaking trucks filled the air again. Like seriously, what the hell is that smell? Are the truck drivers gin lovers, or are they running off gin fuel? I guess it’s better than black smoke, exhaust fumes, but it does make me crave gin and tonics, which is probably not a good idea at 9am on a Wednesday morning.
Eventually, we arrived into Portland
Our Warmshowers’ host cancelled on us last minute, so we continued on cycling to find somewhere to camp. Unfortunately, this is where the urban sprawl began! We cycled on for another 40km, without finding anywhere to camp. We ended up staying in a motel – the most disgusting place I’ve probably stayed! The smell of stale smoke stained our clothes for weeks after. So gross – this is my only regret of the trip so far!
And we continued cycling New England into New Hampshire
We continued cycling through the sprawl of hotels, resorts and motels until we hit Portsmouth in New Hampshire. Portsmouth was a pretty awesome city. We spent the day there then camped in the office of another warmshowers’ host.
We were in and out of New Hampshire in a heart beat! The only true discovery other than Portsmouth being a pretty awesome town, was the cheap booze! If you’re in New Hampshire then it’s worth boozing it up before you leave!
Salem: The home of history and witches
The next state on the cycle agenda was Massachusetts! Since I studied the play, “The Crucible” at high school, there was no way I could skip a detour to the town of Salem! For those of you that have never heard of “The Crucible” it’s a play based on true events in 1692. The event, know as the witchcraft trials, involved a bunch of people that were taking to court and executed for being witches. The play was written in response to the anti-communist movement in the US in the 60s. Super interesting! Definitely worth checking out the play or movie if you haven’t seen it!
Salem was a pretty awesome town. One of the oldest European settlements in North America. It definitely was touristy and their were a lot of tacky witchcraft shops scattered all over the town, but it was still worth the detour.
Boston: Finally some rest days!
After spending the morning in Salem, we continued on to Boston, where we finally got a few days break off the bike. Cycling into Boston wasn’t exactly fun. The city sprawled a fair bit, but once we found a city bike path, we were all good!
One thing that became immediately apparent in Boston was the aggressive drivers. Even with all the bike paths and cyclists on the road, driving in Boston was stressful and not really that much fun. Sure, if you can stick to a bike path, it might be fine, but stray from that and you’re risking your neck.
To sum up Boston: food, beer, walking, more food, more beer, couchsurfing company and good music! We had an awesome time in Boston!
The Sam Adams free brewery tour with free beer was definitely a highlight and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the city! It’s a bit out of the way, but definitely worth it – they even have a bike path that leads pretty much to the brewery door! We also got to listen to some local music, walked the freedom trail, paid a visit to Harvard University (because we’re pretty smart) and visited the Fine Arts Museum (free on Wed evenings – and really impressive). Boston also had an awesome selection of vegetarian and vegan joints, so we were two very happy cyclists.
Cycling Western Massachusetts
From Boston we decided to take our couchsurfers’ advice and catch the commuter train to Worcester. Apparently the road from Boston to Worcester is pretty dangerous, and it was raining, so we didn’t need much convincing. From Worcester we cycled to Belchertown. After getting out of the Worcester town centre, the cycle actually was awesome! Lots of hill climbs, but amazing views and beautiful scenery!
We spent that night with a warmshowers’ family in Belchertown – amazing family, with the friendliest dog ever. I was actually tempted to steal their awesome dog – I think she would have loved cycling New England with us haha.
The following day was probably one of our favourite cycle days in the USA – awesome cycle paths, amazing scenery and yes, more hills! We camped next to a state park near the New York border. The campsite was beautiful, and so peaceful. Due to the bad and very unpredictable weather we ended staying with people a lot more than usual (mostly people took pity on us and invited us in to stay). In almost 1 month this was only the forth time we set up our tent! Crazy!
The following day we cycled to the New York state border! Finally, we had come to an end of cycling in New England! Next we were to cycle the “mythical” Erie Canal Bike Trail.
After spending almost 6 months in Halifax, I couldn’t believe the time to leave had finally arrived. From Halifax we were starting the next leg of our world cycle tour: cycling Canada to Argentina!
Being a Haligonian!
When Michael and I arrived in Halifax we had good intentions of maintaining our level of fitness – yeah, that last about a day! With me working in a chocolate shop and constantly getting free chocolate, as well as it being freezing cold and there being so many craft breweries to try out, there was little (read “none”) fitness going on.
Come spring we were two relatively unfit cyclists, ready to hit the road and start cycling Canada to Argentina. Unsurprisingly, we felt the consequences! My butt hurt, my thighs hurt, my arms hurt, even my back hurt – and we were struggling along doing almost half the pre-Halifax cycle distance. Admittedly, it wasn’t just down to our lack of fitness or the extra shit we were hauling along – the weather also had a large part to play in our lack of kilometres.
When the day finally arrived to leave Halifax, it was snowing and not just a little bit. There was still a tonne of icy snow of the floor that had yet to melt and it was bloody freezing! I’d never cycled in the snow before, and to tell you the truth, I was slightly excited about the thought of it. The novelty soon wore off – about 10 minutes later.
We cycled for 2 hours in the snow and finally stopped in at a Tim Hortons to warm up. Eventually the snow eased and we were back on our way.
Cold nights and friendly people
Our plan for the first night was to camp at a provincial park in chester, however when we arrived it was still closed for the season. It was supposed to drop down to -7 degrees Celsius overnight, and we were already shivering and it wasn’t even sunset yet. Would we freeze to death overnight? Luckily, we never had to find out.
While we were contemplating our sanity and deciding whether to set up camp in the provincial park, Joan and Rob (two friendly locals) spotted us, and took pity on us. They invited us in, gave us a warm place to stay, and fed us some amazing food. We got to spend the evening sharing some stories – which was much more enjoyable than shivering away in the tent. I’m forever grateful that we never had to discover just how cold camping in -7 degrees Celsius is.
From Chester we headed to New Germany, then onto Keji National Park. The cold weather and snow hung around, but at least the sun was out… well for a couple of days at least.
When we arrived at Keji, the visitor center had already closed and the rangers had left for the day. Lost for what to do, we decided to head into the park to Mills Falls and camp in the emergency shelter. It was still extremely cold, even with the wood fire we got cranked.
Overnight, there was freezing rain, crazy winds and more snow. The snow continued on into the morning, so we decided to stay in the shelter to wait it out. After lunch the freezing rain had turned to light snow, and we decided it was time to make a move.
To get to Mill Falls we had to ride down a dirt road – overnight this dirt road got covered in snow. We had the fun job of pushing/ riding out in the snow – which I actually found quite enjoyable, though it was quite slow going. Luckily we discovered that all other roads had been cleared, and it turned into quite an enjoyable ride to the Bay of Fundy.
From Keji, we had originally planned to make it to New Brunswick via the Digby ferry, the same day. The snow and bad weather slowed us down, and we only made it as far as Annapolis Royal. Stuck for what to do, we did what any normal person would do and headed to the pub. This turned out to be a great idea, as at the pub with met Brian, who came to the rescue and invited us to stay at his place. Perfect – this meant a good night sleep and time to explore the town in the morning.
Saint John, New Brunswick
Eventually we did make it to Saint John, New Brunswick. We only had a short cycle day to get to Saint John, but I was totally shattered on the ferry and slept most of the way. Once we did arrive, it was already dark. It turned out that the ferry port is 5km outside of town. After much confusion we eventually made it to our warmshowers hosts’ apartment – it only took us a shocking 45 minutes (I have no idea how I managed that).
We spent two nights in Saint John – awesome city! I was delighted to have a day off the bike – the cycling was really taking out of me. It was clear that my fitness was not what it was 6 months earlier.
More cold weather
After resting for the day, we were (semi) ready to hit the road again! From Saint John we got on the highway to the border. A crazy headwind and cold rains greeted us. This slowed us down, and instead of making it to the border town, we only made it as far as Saint George. Soaking wet and freezing cold we decided to book into a cheap hotel.
One thing about riding in the freezing cold, it’s just about manageable, until you stop riding! I have no idea how the long distance winter cyclists do it! What about breaks and stopping for lunch when there is no shelter, not even a gas station? We stopped for a minute at a time to eat some food, but there was no way we were stopping for longer than that. It was way too cold! This was probably one of the coldest and most miserable days we’ve cycled in the Americas – it was not fun! Luckily the hotel was pretty nice and the hot shower was one of the best of my life.
Headwinds are the worst things in the world – no joke!
We woke up to sun – and another headwind! But, it didn’t matter because it was about 10 degrees warmer, so I was happy. We continued on the highway to Saint Stephen, dropped into the Superstore to spend the last of our Canadian coins, and then crossed into the USA – with surprisingly little hassle!
So after spending the best part of 2 years in Canada, it was finally time to say farewell! I don’t think we could ever repay the kindness we experienced during our time in Canada – it truly is an amazing country (despite it’s cold winters) and we will definitely miss it!
CYCLING THE MARITIMES: WELCOME TO ATLANTIC CANADA!!
We left New Brunswick to pop into Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, and it was definitely a spectacular entrance! The confederation bridge is Canada’s longest bridge at nearly 13km long. Unfortunately it is illegal to cross the bridge by bicycle as the wind gets pretty intense and there isn’t really much space to ride. So we had no choice but to jam our bikes into the back of the shuttle bus and be passengers over the bridge. I was keen to try and pop a wheely across the bridge, but Kelly was having none of it.
Anne of Green Gables – yes, we did!
The cold and dodgy weather continued cycling the Maritimes and into PEI and we were faced with freezing headwinds and rain, but the sun did come out when we reached the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ house, which is actually a national heritage site…for some bizarre reason. I knew little to nothing about the Anne of Green Gables books, but seeing as we had a national parks pass, the entrance was free. So we decided to pop in and check it out along with the hoards of Japanese tourists who apparently come here as some sort of weird pilgrimage!
The staff was cool and let us bring our loaded up bikes inside and lock them in the lobby area while we poked around some odd props and ‘Anne’s house’. She was a fictional character and this house was actually built from descriptions in the book. The author Lucy Montgomery grew up in the area so I guess it wasn’t all made up. I got to try on a luxurious red pigtailed wig, pose outside the house like Anne and stuff my face with ice cream, so all in all it was a good outing!
The cycle trails around PEI were stunning routes along the coast and through farmland and forest. We found a good spot to camp at a picnic area on the coast after deciding against setting up our tent in one of the many campsites that were closed for the season. We decided this due to the tales of other tourists getting moved on in the middle of the night by security for illegally camping. Also we rode around one of the closed campsites and it had a bit of a horror movie vibe about it so we didn’t want Michael Myers slashing our tent in the night and making us soil our sleeping bags.
Unfortunately we arrived just outside the tourist season and it seemed like half the island had shut down. Campsites, restaurants and shops were kind of hard to come across until we hit the capital, Charlottetown.
We contacted a Warmshowers host called Lindsay in Charlottetown and spent a couple of nights camping in her backyard and strolling around the pretty port town, visiting the local breweries (Upstreet and Gahan) to sample some of the fine local drops including a spiced pumpkin ale that made me excited for getting to spend Halloween in Canada! We also tried out the ‘world famous’ Cows ice cream that started on PEI and has been consistently voted into the top ten best ice cream places in the world. I felt it would be wrong of me not try it and it was definitely packed full of creamy goodness. Cows’ gets the official Cowgill stamp of approval.
It was a short stay on PEI, but the cold was starting to make it difficult to sleep and we were both pretty burnt out after nearly 4 months on the road and were looking forward to getting to Halifax to explore our new home for winter!
Hello Nova Scotia and crazy, windy storms!
We got the ferry to Nova Scotia and straight into some gale force winds. Unfortunately winds from the hurricane that devastated Haiti were hitting Atlantic Canada and when we camped on a cycle route outside Pictou, they paid a visit to us shaking the tent violently and pounding it with a crazy amount of rain and flooding our delicate little home.
We had previously had some issues with moisture getting into the tent through the floor and ground sheet even in light rain, but now with this downpour everything was soaked.
To add to the tent issues, my Therm-a-rest mattress had developed a gigantic bubble in the centre forcing me to try and sleep with a basketball-sized lump between my shoulders. Not a good night, my spine has never been the same since.
In the morning we shivered in soggy sleeping bags hoping the rain would ease up long enough for us to pack up and bugger off to somewhere drier, but the downpour just refused to let up.
We ended up making a break for it and finding a Tim Horton’s coffee shop to shelter in and try and warm ourselves up and come up with a plan of attack. After filling ourselves with as much hot coffee and muffins as we could, we decided it was not worth the risk of riding in the storm. It was apparently set to get a whole lot worse with 100km an hour winds throughout the day and heavy rain and flooding. Not ideal weather for pushbikes and a leaky tent.
Change of plans!
We found a reasonably priced hotel in Pictou called the Auberge Walker Inn with lovely Scottish/Canadian owners who let us dry out all our gear in the basement and warm up with pots of tea. It was thanksgiving and half the town was without power, but we managed to get into the pub before it went out and enjoyed an awesome veggie roast and beer to forget our soggy intro to Nova Scotia.
The freezing wet weather and gear issues with the tent and my mat were starting to get us down a bit and we were now tossing up if we wanted to stick to our plan of riding the Cabot trail in Cape Breton or just call it quits and head straight to Halifax earlier than planned. It was a tough decision as we were so close that it felt a shame to skip what is supposed to be one of the greatest cycle destinations in all of Canada, but we were worn out and just not feeling it at that stage so decided to avoid the cold and skip Cape Breton.
The end – for now!
We eventually drove the Cabot trail a few weeks later with a friend and it was spectacular, but at the time we were just tired and not up for riding and camping in the rain and cold anymore. It was a tough choice but we felt there was no point doing it if we weren’t going to enjoy it.
So all of a sudden our trip was nearly over! We had less than 200km until we reached our final destination! It was a very surreal feeling, but I still think we made the right choice as it gave us more time to sort out our accommodation and get jobs in Halifax before Christmas to help us save up for the next leg of the trip next year! We had finished cycling the Maritimes, but it wasn’t an end to our time in the Atlantic provinces just yet.
Halifax: Our home for the Winter
We still had 2 weeks before we could move into our apartment that Kelly had organized through Airbnb negotiating a month by month rate with our new landlord and friend, Fred. So we still had to find somewhere to stay for a couple of weeks. Luckily for us there are some pretty amazing people out there and a Couchsurfer called, Jeff came to our rescue! Letting someone stay in your place for a night or two is pretty cool, having someone stay for 2 weeks is friggin amazing! Jeff totally saved us and we spent the next couple of weeks hanging out, drinking around the fire pit and playing card games in his cool rural property in Windsor Junction just outside Halifax. Jeff had also adopted a couple of young German Couchsurfers for an indefinite amount of time so his place kind of felt like a vagabonds sanctuary!
In that time we both applied for as many jobs as we could find and rode the 30km into Halifax for interviews for jobs, which we both scored! I would be working at a discount home and clothing store called ‘Winners’ in a warehouse role and Kelly would be working at a chocolate shop in the same shopping centre.
So after 7000kms we had done it, coast to coast by bike!! We ended with a bit of a fizzle rather than a bang, but hey we still had an amazing time and now get to save some pennies, investigate the local brews and prepare ourselves for our next epic adventure, from Canada to South America! Come April time we will roll out of Nova Scotia and into the good ‘ol USA for the second leg of journey and I can barely contain my excitement thinking about it, bring on April!!!
Thank you to all of the amazing people we met across this stunning country. As with our previous trip it’s the people that always make the most lasting memories for us and Canadians definitely are a special breed of humans! We loved cycling Canada and we loved cycling the Maritimes – so thank you!
[ctt template=”8″ link=”8Tacb” via=”yes” nofollow=”yes”]Canadians definitely are a special breed of humans![/ctt]