Michael and I have been busy little bees this week! After arriving in Halifax a week earlier than planned, we’ve been busy cleaning and mending gear, looking for jobs for the winter season and exploring the awesome city of Halifax! We also got the opportunity to host two of our cyclist friends, Jacque and Luisa. They just finished their 6 month cycle trip across Canada and fly home this week. We met up with them several times during the cycle trip, so saying “goodbye” to them has really made us realise that the Canada cycle trip has come to an end. But as Jacque pointed out;
[ctt template=”8″ link=”C1JUU” via=”yes” ]one journey has come to an end, but a new journey is about to begin @CycleTrekkers[/ctt]
We’ve also been keeping ourselves busy during those rainy days by smashing out some gear reviewsand updating our gear list, typing up and creating TWO ebooks and moving/ updating posts from our France to China trip, which were originally published on a different website. Over the winter we hope to add to this, by creating and sharing some awesome videos of our cycle across Canada, plus adding some more articles on eco-friendly businesses.
If you’ve been following our Canada cycle trip or met me during our cycle trip, then you might also be aware of my eye condition. Well, that is still on the mend, with a potential need for surgery to remove a couple of nodules on my eye (it’s only been 4 months since they first appeared – exactly the reason why you need travel insurance). So hopefully that will also get sorted before we start cycling again in April.
So what’s the plan now. To work our butts off until April! Fix up and/ or upgrade some of our gear. Do some maintenance work to the bikes and prepare for the next leg of the cycle trip. Though we’re looking forward to the break now. I’m sure by the time April comes around we’ll be rearing to go again.
I mentioned we’ve published two ebooks! Exciting times!
“Cycling Canada: Coast-to-Coast Trip Notes” are in-depth notes about our cross Canada cycle tour. The notes are based on our cycle trip and are written primarily for fully loaded cycle tourists, however they should benefit anyone planning a cycle trip in Canada. New Promotion: Leave a review on Amazon, then email a screen shot of the review to email@example.com and we’ll send you a free pdf copy of our France to China ebook.
“France to China by bike” is a collection of posts from our charity cycle trip in 2014, where we cycled from France to China. All royalties from this book will be donated towards the global sanitation and World Toilet Day campaigns.
These are available on Amazon to purchase.
I’m new to writing and creating ebooks, and both of these books are the first editions. So if you do have any feedback please let me know. I’m always keen to learn how I can improve and will update the books based on any feedback I receive. You can send any feedback to our email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you get the chance to leave a review on Amazon, that would also be awesome and greatly appreciated!
That is about it for our update from Halifax, well for now!
Kelly’s write up about cycling Nova Scotia during our 7000km cycle tour across Canada in the Autumn of 2016. Michael’s write up will be available soon.
Cycling Nova Scotia and the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton was going to be a challenge, and instead of feeling like strong cyclists we were feeling a bit worn down.
The ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia was great! I’m always excited to be on a ferry and this one was no different. Once we made it to Nova Scotia, we headed towards Pictou, made a quick stop at the supermarket, and then headed down the cycle path to look for a camp spot. Our plan was to set up camp before the rain hit. What was left of hurricane Matthew was passing through Nova Scotia. People had told us to be prepared for lots of rain.
We discovered an awesome spot next to the river, set up camp early and started to cook dinner. The rain started as soon as we jumped in then tent, and it didn’t stop.
At some point during the night, we woke to discover water was leaking through the bottom and sides of the tent. We moved our important things and tried to get back to sleep. Neither of us got much sleep that night. Michael had already been having issues sleeping as his mattress had ‘exploded.’ The foam had come away and bloated out, making it a very uncomfortable to sleep on. He ended up just deflating it and sleeping on it like that.
When morning came it was still raining and it didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon. We waited a little while to see whether the rain would ease off. It didn’t. Eventually, we made a run. Packed up our stuff and the tent quickly, and headed off into town to take shelter in the Tim Hortons. We arrived 10 minutes later looking like drowned rats. The locals even took pity on us. One lady mistaken Michael for a homeless person and offered to give him money for coffee.
When I checked the weather forecast the previous day, the rain was supposed to clear up in the afternoon. The rain however decided to stay, along with winds exceeding 160km per hour. There was no way we were cycling!
An hour later we were checked into a downtown B&B, warming up with some tea and a hot shower. We spent the rest of the day there, sheltering from the storm.
It was Thanksgiving, and the winds were getting stronger. Half the town lost power, trees were blown down everywhere and there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it. We headed out to find somewhere to grab some dinner, and ended up eating a “vegetarian” Thanksgiving dinner at the local pub. It was yum!
Change in plans
The following day we heard that Cape Breton had been hit pretty hard by the storm. Most places had lost power, roads were washed out and things were closing early for the season. That along with our leaky tent and Michael’s exploded mattress would mean a rather uncomfortable 2 weeks cycling the Cabot trail. So we changed our plans for cycling Nova Scotia and Cape Breton! We decided to head to Halifax early.
Cycling Nova Scotia: the final leg to Halifax!
From Pictou we had less than 200km to make it to Halifax. We could easily do that in two days. So off we set. The following few days after the storm were lovely. If it weren’t for all the fallen trees, it would have been hard to believe the storm had even hit.
The following two days were great. The autumn colours were out, so the valley took on a beautiful red, orange and green colour. We couldn’t move into our apartment in Halifax until the end of the month, so hit up a couchsurfer to help us out. Jeff kindly offered to put us up until we could move into our place. Thanks Jeff, you’re a total legend!
We’ve spent the past week in Windsor Junction, about 30km from Halifax, and tomorrow we will move into our apartment in Halifax! Exciting times!
We made it coast to coast across Canada
7000km on a bike, from Vancouver to Halifax – we made it! The trip we talked about doing 3 years prior, was finally complete. To give you some perspective on the distance we covered – our last cycle trip from France to China was 8,500km. We cycled through 15 countries. This trip we cycled 7000km in one country. Canada is friggin’ huge!
We now have 5 months to save up some cash, survive a Canadian winter and prepare for the next leg of our world cycle trip: cycling across the USA to Mexico!
Cycling Nova Scotia turned out to be only a short stint of the entire coast to coast trip, however we will spend the first week of the next cycle leg cycling Nova Scotia, before hitting up the USA.
Thank you Canada!
Thank you to all the amazing people we met on our trip across Canada. It wouldn’t have been such a great experience without. It truly is the people you meet that make a trip memorable, so thank you for being apart of our cycle tour. If you happened to be in Halifax over winter, then please let us know!
[ctt template=”8″ link=”O0Z6a” via=”yes” ]It truly is the people you meet that make a trip memorable! @CycleTrekkers[/ctt]
Kelly’s write up of cycling Prince Edward Island during our cross Canada cycle trip in Autumn 2016. Michael’s write up of exploring Prince Edward Island by bicycle will be published soon (ish).
The Confederation Bridge
It’s not cheating if you are forced to take a shuttle! With that being said, I’m glad we weren’t allowed to cycle the 14km bridge from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Not only is the bridge busy, we discovered that the bridge has only 2 lanes, a few sharp inclines and a small hard shoulder. The cycle would have been horrible! So we would actually start cycling Prince Edward Island, after this huge bridge!
We waited for the shuttle at the visitor centre for 45 minutes. Left to just stare at the long bridge, disappearing into the horizon. Eventually the shuttle did arrive. We some how managed to squeeze our bikes into the bus, and away we went.
Cycling Prince Edward Island
As soon as we started cycling Prince Edward Island, we discovered the confederation trail. With a bit of hesitation, we hopped on it to see what it’s like.
It seems like a lot of cyclist tourists completely avoid jumping on the trans Canada trail. In provinces like New Brunswick, I can sort of understand this, and, in the Prairies, well it just doesn’t exist. However, jumping on these bike trails (when you can) means getting off the busy highway, seeing some unspoilt country and camping in peaceful places, instead of next to a busy road. So what, you might get a bit of dirt in the chain. That’s going to happen anyway. Suck it up!
The Confederation Trail (part of the Trans Canada Trail) in PEI is awesome! It’s might be a compacted gravel road, but it’s much flatter than the highways and main roads, has picnic spots every couple of kilometres and is very quiet. We loved it and jumped on it whenever we could.
The Green Gables
PEI is tiny in comparison to other provinces. You could easily cycle across the island in a day. We decided to take 4 days to explore the island a bit. First stop, Cavendish and the Anne of Green Gables house (which Michael was just ecstatic about).
From the shuttle it was 20km on the bike trail and 20km on the main roads, and we were on the other side of the island. The bike trail was awesome, but as soon as we got off the bike trail, the rolling hills started. After Fundy, these hills were nothing, but they were unexpected. Everyone had told us PEI was flat – such lies!
People had warned us that after September everything in PEI starts to shut down for the season – they weren’t wrong. As we approached Cavendish we noticed lots of “shut for the season” signs. Even PEI national park had shut up for the season – including the campground where we had planned to spend the night.
For this reason, we thought the Green Gables were going to be quiet – boy, were we wrong! Suddenly there were people everywhere. It felt strange being surrounded by so many tourists. We spent an hour or so checking out the house and grounds – and visiting the only café opened for miles. Then, headed off the check out Cavendish and the national park and find somewhere to camp.
Cavendish is a coastal national park with lots of sandy beaches and dune systems. It actually reminded me a bit of the beaches back home in Western Australia. The only downside was that it was far too cold to go for a swim.
Finally we found a picnic site to camp at and set up for the night. The following morning we followed the coast for a bit, hoped on a hilly main road, then the bike trail, and made it to the province’s capital, Charlottetown.
We decided to spend two nights in Charlottetown, just because we could! There was only another 2 weeks left of the cycle trip, and we were getting lazy. Waking up late, having short cycle days and just chilling out at coffee shops, bakeries and breweries.
Charlottetown is cute! There are also several bakeries, coffee shops, breweries, COWs with their supposed, “world’s best ice cream” and a superstore. We kept ourselves busy!
The ferry to Nova Scotia (our home for the winter)
The following morning, we woke up early, with the aim to get an early start and avoid the rain. It turned out I completely underestimated the distance, and on top of this we had a strong head wind. Who said cycling west to east had fewer headwinds? I’m sure we’ve had more headwinds than tailwinds. Anyway, we made to the ferry in time, had lunch and enjoyed a smooth sailing to the next and final province, Nova Scotia.
Cycling Prince Edward Island was short, but really enjoyable. I definitely would recommend it, as well as the island’s Confederation bike trail.
Next on the agenda: cycling the mountainous, Cabot trail! 3 mountain passes, lots of cold, wet weather and hopefully some beautiful views. And then onto Halifax for the winter!
Kelly’s write up of cycling in New Brunswick during our coast to coast Canada cycle trip in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Michael’s write up of discovering New Brunswick by bicycle.
Winter is coming!
We ended up cycling into New Brunswick in the evening of a very cold night. The Trans Canada bike trail that we were on had been fantastic. There were plenty of camping opportunities along the way, hardly any people and plenty of scenic views. We decided we would definitely attempt cycling in New Brunswick on some more of the Trans Canada trail.
As it was already freezing, we decided to set up camp just after the Quebec-New Brunswick border. Next to a small airfield and an old aircraft display. We quickly set up camp, cooked and jumped in the tent, for a chilly night. The following morning we woke to an icy frozen tent, frost on the grass and a definitely chill in the air. Winter was definitely coming (and yes, I’m a Game of Thrones fan). Cycling in New Brunswick was definitely going to be a cold stretch.
We packed up and headed to the closest coffee shop to warm up – this just so happened to be a Tim Hortons. Feeling a bit unmotivated to continue cycling, we ended up chilling out in Timmys, indulging on donuts, muffin and coffee for about 3-4 hours (yeah, we’re fatties). We still had at least another 80km to go, but absolutely no motivation. I think this is called the 3-month travel slum. After 3 months of travelling, no matter how you travel, it no longer seems as exciting. You start to feel warn down by the constant packing up and moving on.
Cycling in New Brunswick: The 100km challenge
To motivate ourselves we decided to book into a “motel/ apartment/ guesthouse” in the little Maritime town of Perth. The only catch was the apartment was another 106km and it was already 1pm. On top off this it was now getting dark at around 6pm, so we only have a few hours of light to smash our 100km+.
The first 60km to Grand Falls was awesome! We totally smashed it – even with a lunch stop! The cycle was on a smooth, relatively flat road, with moderate traffic. We managed to arrive into Grand Falls before 4pm, so made a “quick” stop in at the superstore, checked out the Grand Falls, and were back on our way.
Having such a good experience on the Trans Canada trail in Quebec, we decided to hop back on the Trans Canada trail to Perth. Big mistake! Soft, rocky gravel is what greeted us on the trail! It was barely cyclable, but we persisted for about 10km to see if the path improved. Suddenly the cycle path ended due to path and road closures! We were forced to detour up a steep hill to get back on the main road.
We decided to stick on the main roads the rest of the way to Perth. These roads were quite hilly and it was taking us a lot longer to pass the kilometres. Eventually we rolled into Perth around 7.30pm.
Cycling in New Brunswick definitely had new challenges that we haven’t had to dealt with so far on the trip. Frost, cold weather, less hours of light and sections of continuously steep, hills.
Perth, New Brunswick (not so different to Perth, Australia)
It was definitely strange seeing road signs for Perth everywhere. What made it even stranger was that our apartment/ guesthouse was next-door to “Bogan’s Bar and campground.” It felt like home! We spent a couple of nights in Perth, just resting up, drying all our gear out and making plans for the rest of the cycle across Canada.
The next couple of days were hilly! In fact, we completely underestimated the hills. We cycled through the cute towns of Bath, Bristol, Woodstock (not so cute) and south and north Hampton. Still managing to average about 105km a day (how? I have no idea), our legs were definitely feeling it.
Occasionally we would hop onto the Trans Canada trail for a few kilometres, however the path was generally terrible and very bumpy, so we never lasted long on there. At one point we did decide to take the Trans Canada trail, as we were looking for a good camping spot for the night. The path took us down an old road and across a suspension bridge, where there was also a great camping spot. The following morning it was very misty and eerie feeling. It reminded me of something from the headless horseman!
Back on one of the main roads for another very hilly day! We had planned to cycle through Fredericton and onto Oromocto, to stay with our warmshowers’ hosts. They had a beautiful property, with chickens and an organic vegetable garden – the kind of place I would like to own one day.
Jacque and Lusia, the German couple we had cycled with previously, had contacted us to let us know they were only a day ahead of us. They were cycling with some German friends, so had been taking it a bit slower. We decided to smash out a few kilometres to try and catch up with them at Fundy National Park.
The cycle to Sussex was easy going compared to the previous days. We managed to arrive into Sussex around 4pm, which was lucky, as Michael’s gears had started to play up.
Luckily there was a bike store in town (Outdoor Elements), with super helpful and friendly staff. They played around with Michael’s chain and gear for a bit. One of the guys in the store also helped sort us out with some accommodation at the Timberland motel, about 8km outside of town. After about an hour we headed off to the motel. On the cycle there we discovered that Michael’s bike still wasn’t fixed, so the following morning he headed back into town to get it sorted. Luckily we only had about 50km to the park, so we had plenty of time to get it all sorted. Before midday we were on our way!
Fundy National Park
The 10% gradients into Fundy National Park were killer! Luckily it was the shoulder season, so there wasn’t too much tourist traffic around. It took us a few hours to ride 50km and by the time we made it to the campsite we were buggered. We hadn’t cycled gradients like this since Europe!
We caught up with the Germans in Alma town. It was kind of strange seeing them again, but also really good to catch up on stories. Michael ate a stupid amount of sticky buns and baked goods from the town bakery, and then we headed off on a hike to work it off.
After Fundy, we had decided to take it easy for the next week and let our legs recover a bit before we hit the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail has 16% gradients, so my legs needed all the rest they could get. So, we decided the rest of the time we’d be cycling in New Brunswick would be our “rest time” – still cycling, but just shorter days.
Leaving the park we had only a short, but hilly cycle along the coast road to Hopewell Cape, home to the famous Hopewell Rocks.
We checked into our motel, chilled out for a few hours, and then headed to the rocks to see them at low tide. We got to the park about 5.30pm, after it had already closed for the day. It turns out you’re allowed in the park after hours, but you just do so at your own risk.
It was amazing! We had the park practically to ourselves, and got some stunning shots of the rocks at sunset. The Bay of Fundy experiences the highest tides in the world. The tidal movement is every 6 hours. If you’re not paying attention to the tidal charts, it’s possible to get cut off on the beach, as the tides move so quickly and so much. But, we’re too smart for that; we just headed down after hours in the freezing cold at sunset instead.
Hopewell Rocks was definitely my highlight of cycling in New Brunswick!
Moncton and onwards to PEI
The next destination was Moncton, which meant another short and relaxing day cycle! Moncton seemed like a nice town. It has a good local brewery, called the pump house, which has tasty beers. Highly recommend if you happen to be passing through. We spent the night at the hostel and the following day had a short 60km to our warmshowers’ host in Shemogue. This would be our last full day cycling in New Brunswick! In the morning, we’re head to Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island (P.E.I).
We were excited to finally be cycling in Quebec! As soon as we crossed into Quebec the roads seemed more European. The buildings seemed more historic and there were bakeries and cafes everywhere. It was great! What did surprise me was that even though everywhere else in Canada the signs were in both English and French. In Quebec everything was only in French (even the signs in the tourist information booth). Time to brush up on my French!
Montreal – our mini holiday!
Overall it was pleasant cycling in Quebec along La Route Verte (Quebec’s designated cycle network) and into Quebec’s largest city, Montreal. We were super excited to be in Montreal! Montreal was our little “holiday” from the cycle trip, where we got to spend 4 nights in an Airbnb in downtown Montreal. The plan was to explore the city, eat lots of food and do touristy stuff.
My brother was also flying into Montreal for the 4 nights we were there. His work (Global Poverty Project) was organising a concert on the weekend, and we got VIP tickets. Woohoo! Cyclist bum turn to VIP! The only problem we had was that we didn’t pack any clothes worthy enough for an event where we would be brushing shoulders with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates and Usher. I doubt we fitted in with the “posh and trendy crowd,” but hey, we still had fun. And, we were able to shower before the event, so at least we didn’t smell.
We even got to attend the after party at some trendy at gallery. If only we didn’t have to cycle in the morning, then we could have taken more advantage of the free booze. Unfortunately, we had already delayed our cycle trip to coincide with the event and seeing my brother. So we had to get back on the bikes as soon as possible to make sure we made it across Canada before winter. I barely got the chance to see my brother (if you know him, you’ll also know he’s married to his job). Actually if he didn’t decide to crash at our Airbnb I doubt I would have seen him at all. At least I got to see he was still alive.
Back to “work!”
It was hard getting back on the bikes after have a few days off. Especially after having a late night with lots of drinking. Luckily the sun was out, and we had a cycle path to follow for some of the way. We had decided to take the most direct route to Quebec City, which meant a 3 day cycle along the river (not that we seen much of the river with all the houses and their private beaches). It was still a pleasant and easy cycle, and the roads were much nicer than in Ontario.
Cycling in Quebec City
Cycling into Quebec City was a little confusion. We missed the cycle path signs a few times, but we got there eventually. On the cycle into the city we met several friendly locals. The city vibe was definitely more friendly and welcoming than Montreal.
Quebec City is one of my favourite cities in Canada. It is cycle friendly, has awesome views of the river, plenty of good bakeries and cafes with good coffee, markets and of course the beautiful, old city. Though a bit touristy, I still enjoyed sipping on an espresso and watching the world go by.
We stayed with a girl called, Maude. A warmshowers’ host that had previously cycled through Colombia and Ecuador. So I was keen to hear her stories. It also turned out that she had studied the same thing as me and was working as an urban landscaper. I guess cycle touring tends to attract the same type of person.
After spending a few days exploring the city and feeling like normal human beings, we were ready to hit the road again.
Cycling in Quebec on La Route Verte
We decided to take the ferry across the Saint Lawrence River to avoid the nasty looking bridge, save 20km, and just because I like ferries. Once across the river, we immediately we got on La Route Verte #1. We followed this route along the river for the rest of the day. It was a stunning cycle, with gorgeous views of the river.
Once we arrived at Rivere-du-Loup, we cut inland towards New Brunswick. The temperature had already dropped by 10 degrees in the past couple of days, so we thought we had better take a more direct route to the Bay of Fundy. We didn’t want to risk getting caught in frost and even snow.
We hopped onto another La Route Verte cycle path. This time the path was a compacted gravel cycle path, which had picnic sites, toilets and even primitive campsites along the way. I had heard mixed things about this cycle path, but after spending two days cycling along it, we thought it was awesome! The trees had just started to change to the Autumn colours. Everything was looking particularly colourful and warm (even though it felt far from being warm).
The route lead us into the next province New Brunswick, where we spent the night sleeping at the province border (next to a small airport). Overall, we loved cycling in Quebec! But, New Brunswick was calling, and it was time to move on.
I’m definitely a bit of a nerd at times, and have been keeping track of our cycle stats and route trip notes – hopefully this information will also be helpful to others!
Manitobans had a lot to live up to after the super friendly Saskatchewan locals made us feel welcome in the prairies. The border sign and their license plates say ‘friendly Manitoba’ so I think they’re up for the challenge!
We parted ways with our German cycling buddies Jacque and Luisa in Deleau and rolled into the small town of Hartney. Our first dealings with a local was at a gas station that only accepted pre paid gas cards (which we didn’t have) when we tried to fill our camping stove without success until the kind farmer paid the 80c with his card to let us fill up! Not exactly a huge amount, but a pretty kind gesture and it made cooking dinner slightly easier with fuel!
First impressions of Hartney were that it was a borderline ghost town, but after visiting the local supermarket and chatting with the cashier we were told it was actually the town festival that night and we should stick around for beers, fireworks and general shenanigans. It didn’t take much convincing (they mentioned beer) and we decided to call it a day and check out how they party in Manitoba!
Biking Manitoba… Friendly Manitoba!
It wasn’t quite on the scale that we’d been led to believe but it was still a fun night where we met half the population of the town and had drinks bought for us the whole evening before watching a surprisingly kick ass fireworks display. We were even invited to a wedding, had several offers of places to stay and given contacts for our onwards journey.
Unfortunately the night got a bit shitter after the party when we returned to the municipal campsite next to the public swimming pool which had basically been transformed into the underage kids after party. We had a swarm of smashed teenagers sitting meters from our tent cranking shit music, drinking and shouting until 4 am before ripping down the fence around the swimming pool to jump on the diving board. It sounded like we’d set up our tent in the middle of the shittest blue light disco ever held.
The police eventually came and the kids dispersed…only to come back again briefly to finish the beers and discuss how hardcore they were for vandalizing a fence.
Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep so the next day was a slightly crappy time on the bikes, and when we eventually decided to call it a day in Belmont didn’t really feel like staying at the town’s campsite….it was also their the town festival and the campsite was in the same park. Never fear though, friendly locals to the rescue! A lovely old lady called Irene invited us back to her place to camp in her ridiculously big back yard where we sipped fireball and hot chocolate and scoffed down a massive plate of banana bread courtesy of Irene’s wicked baking skills and slept like fluffy little lambs.
Awesome campsites… a plus of biking Manitoba!
One of the best parts about biking Manitoba was never having to worry about where we would be sleeping that night because there was always a town roughly every 20 Kms with a municipal campsite for a measly 10 bucks a night! Felt odd for us getting to shower that regularly and being able to set up the tent without fear of having the cops called on us or having a farmer shoot us in the butthole with a 12 gauge for sleeping on his land.
Saved by a couchsurfer!
We had a couchsurfer lined up near Morris and had planned on riding down the unpaved gravel rode to his farm until my newly purchased EVO front low-rider rack decided to be a metallic prick and snap in two making it a bit hard for me to carry all my crap along a bumpy road without having an accident and potentially injuring my precious face. Our couchsurfing host Jordan kindly offered to drive out and pick us up and it just so happened that his father had an aluminum welder and his neighbor was a blacksmith! Well that’s handy isn’t it!
Over the next couple of nights at Jordan’s place we heard all about the Mennonites and Hutterites.
We even got a chance to visit a Hutterite colony and see how they lived which was a pretty cool experience. They were pretty much self-sufficient growing and making nearly everything they needed to survive and spoke a German dialect and wore traditional clothing. They did drink beer though and baked some mighty fine bread so it seemed like a pretty rad life and one I could probably put up with.
Everyone in the colony was very friendly and welcoming to us even though they are generally suspicious of outsiders and even gave us a parting gift of a jar of honey from their own beehives, a fresh loaf of home baked bread and 3 dozen eggs. Yes, 3 dozen eggs. We were on a protein high for weeks.
Turns out as well as having a Hutterite hook up, Jordan also had his pilot’s license and half owned a light plane with his father so we were off the bikes and into an airplane! It was a very random couchsurfing experience but it gave us a different view of Manitoba and from the sky confirmed what we had suspected; it was a fucking flat place and the roads were dead straight as far as the eye can see.
We were nearly out of the prairies!!!
At times it seemed that they stretched on forever but we were finally rolling to the end of theses flat friendly lands! To give us a proper send off they decided to give us one last tornado experience in the town of Vita where we stupidly set up outside a local school under a rickety old wooden storage area.
The rain and wind started up not long after we hopped in the tent and soon sounded like a freight train approaching our flimsy little home to mount us in our sleeping bags. At the time we thought it would be smart setting up somewhere under cover to shelter from the rain, but soon realized it was not the wisest choice as it seriously sounded like the whole aging wooden structure was trying its best to rip away from the earth and fly off into the night.
Luckily no debris flew off the shelter and sliced us in two and we weren’t crushed in our sleep, but we did learn a valuable lesson about where not to set up a tent in a storm. Later we heard from locals that a tornado did indeed touch down in some fields not too far from the school so were pretty lucky really.
We could see trees! Lots of trees!
That was a dead give away that our time in the prairies was at an end. We spent one last night camping near the U.S.A border in a weird town called Middleboro In a local park where we had some kids stand outside our tent while we were in it discussing if they should ‘tackle’ the tent. Happily they decided not to and I wasn’t forced to use my mad knife fighting skills to defend our home and the next day we zipped to the U.S.A border to enter Trump country! So we have come to the end of biking Manitoba and the Canadian Prairies.
Goodbye Manitoba, your license plates are correct you friendly little minx!
Interested in what gear we took with us – check out our gear list! Kelly’s also been a bit geeky and kept trip notes and stats of our trip through Canada.
We still had 850km to cycle to reach the country’s capital, Ottawa. After some discussion, we decided to take the most direct route to get there. This would mean we could meet my brother in Montreal on 14th September, and also have a few rest days before then.
Discovering Amish Country
After all the steep inclines around Lake Superior, we finally got to enjoy a relatively flat road. The cycle from Sault St Marie to Sudbury also took us through Amish country. To our delight fruit stalls and bakeries started to appear along the road. We also spotted a few horse and carriages on the highway and horse powered plowes in the fields.
September Long Weekend
Cycling into Sudbury on the Friday before a long weekend was definitely not a smart choice. In fact, it was horrible and very dangerous! Not only did we have to put up with road works, a terrible or non-existent hard shoulder and soft gravel, plus a cross wind, we also had constant RVs and trucks to keep an eye out for.
After a very long, scary day, we pulled off the highway onto a quieter road, just as we were coming into Sudbury. We had decided to try and avoid the highway as much as possible. It was getting late in the afternoon, and we decided to start looking for a campsite, just as a car pulled off just in front of us (this is one of Michael’s pet hates).
“Friendly-cycling-enthusiast” to the rescue
Out of the car popped, Patti! A keen and very enthusiastic cyclist, who insisted we make it to her house that night, to shower, do laundry and sleep in a proper bed. The only problem was, Patti lived at least another 30km away (we discovered later it was more like 40km). There was no way we were going to push on another 30km. We were done for the day and felt completely defeated. Patti then offered to drive the bikes and us to her place. Usually, I would consider this cheating and decline the offer, however after spending the day on the busy highway, fearing for my life, we decided, screw it, lets do it! Cycle touring is about the experiences you have and the people you meet, not about cycling on dangerous, busy roads.
Picnic sites make ideal camping spots
After spending the night at Patti’s we woke early, feeling rested and in good spirit. The weather was good, so we decided to try and smash out the kilometres, getting as close to North Bay as possible. North Bay is where we had planned to take a rest day off the bikes. Having a long day would mean a short cycle day into North Bay and a bonus afternoon off the bikes.
The cycle day was great! We managed to find a camping spot at the picnic site about 20km west of North Bay. We camped behind the drop toilets at the picnic site, which was also an amazing viewpoint and sunset, looking out over Nipissing Lake. It would have been an amazing camp spot if it weren’t for the smell of the toilets.
Since arriving in Ontario, we discovered how great picnic spots are. They are practically free, basic campsites. Sometimes there might be a “no camping” sign; however a lot of the time, there is no sign at all. Some of our best campsites have been at these picnic sites.
Rest day in North Bay
We arrived into North Bay early the following day. We had arranged to stay with Liz, a warmshowers’ host from Australia (the first Australian we’ve met since leaving BC). It turned out, she also had a love for beer, worked in a local brewery, and fed us free, tasty and local beer! We definitely scored!
We were in North Bay for September long weekend. After the traffic we experienced heading into Sudbury on the Friday, we decided cycling on the Monday would be hectic, and to take the day off cycling. This meant we got to experience North Bay’s September long weekend festival next to the beach. The town definitely had a great community vibe, and quite a nice beach.
The cycle to Deep River was quite pleasant, which meant we were getting used to cycling on the busy Ontario highways, which lacked any decent hard shoulder. The scenery was quite beautiful, and the roads were slightly quieter after the long weekend, which meant we felt quite relaxed. If Ontario roads were cycle friendly and had good hard shoulder, then I’m sure it would have some of Canada’s best cycle routes.
Once we arrived in Deep River, we were fortunate to stay with Mike and Danielle, two warmshowers’ hosts that had toured a lot around the UK. Mike, like Michael, had a interest in fine beers, so we spent most of the evening sampling and learning about beers. It was great! Beer is full of carbs, so it’s great for cycling. They also helped with our route into Ottawa and told us away to avoid all the busy highways.
Goodbye Highway 17!
After Deep River, we finally got off highway 17 and onto some quieter country roads. We had been on highway 17 since Thunder Bay, so more than 1000km on the same, crappy quality road. We were ecstatic to be off it.
The country roads were awesome! On the way into Ottawa we camped out the back of a gas station, for the first time in Canada. On our last cycle trip, camping at gas stations was the norm.
Onwards to Ottawa
We stayed on the country-roads until we reached the start of the city’s cycle paths, about 20km outside of downtown Ottawa. The cycle path led us right to Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa. It was probably the easiest and most stress free cycle into a capital city we have EVER experienced.
We arrived into Ottawa a day early, so decided to stay 4 nights in Ottawa, to check out the city and rest. After 10 weeks of cycle touring, we were definitely beginning to feel a bit drained.
Our warmshowers’ host, Richard, was awesome! He had loads of interesting stories and loads of interesting bikes to go with it. He showed us a whole world of bicycles and bicycle touring that we didn’t know existed. Ottawa is an awesome city! Super bike friendly, with great markets and a real community feel. It felt more like a big town then Canada’s capital city. We were definitely sad to leave.
There were two options when leaving Ottawa, to get to Montreal in Quebec: the Quebec route or the Ontario route. The Ontario route was 20km shorter, so we decided to take that option. The route led us onto an old railway path that was converted into a very quiet cycle (gravel) cycle route. Though it was on gravel it was great, and a brilliant way to end our trip through Ontario.
We rolled out of Calgary full of hope for dry weather and favourable winds through the farm belt of Canada; the prairies! We were both still in need of a bit of a break and the one full day off we had in Calgary wasn’t really enough, so spent a couple of nights in Airdrie just outside Calgary guzzling craft beer with our awesome couchsurfing host Kolin, playing with his 3 cats and cleaning our stinky tent as it now smelt like a sweaty pair of soiled manpants. After a few extra rest days, we were ready to head to Saskatchewan on two wheels.
It didn’t take long for the scenery to change and the Rocky Mountains to recede into the distance behind us. The world became flat! Yellow Canola fields popped up everywhere and the farmland began again. We spent a night camping in a rest stop next to horseshoe canyon with dozens of cute furry prairie dogs darting around our feet hoping to catch some stray spaghetti falling from our plate…no chance little prairie dogs, I’m a hungry cycling fatty with a huge mouth.
[ctt template=”8″ link=”rU3GT” via=”yes” nofollow=”yes”]SASKATCHEWAN ON TWO WHEELS[/ctt]
Drumheller was an interesting place, a mix between Cappadocia in Turkey and a weird tacky dinosaur theme park.
Cool mars like rockscapes and the most intense heat of the trip so far…but around this time is when the mosquitoes really became an issue. Horrible swarms of the nasty little shit-tards would descend on us and annoy the piss out of us constantly, not just when the sun went down but during the day! The rudeness! Mosquitoes are supposed to give you a break until nighttime, that’s the rules!
The constant headwinds, savage horrible mosquitoes and heavy rain took it’s toll on us through Saskatchewan, as well as the distances between towns to get water and food as we had chosen a less travelled route along the number 4 road to avoid the busy trans Canada highway. Although it did make for a trying period of cycling, I’m glad we decided to take this route as we met some incredible people and experienced levels of hospitality we hadn’t come across since cycling in Iran several years ago.
Our introduction to discovering Saskatchewan on two wheels was long stretches of not a whole lot other than abandoned farms and ominous storm clouds rapidly approaching us. On the second night we were forced to take shelter in a slightly creepy (but also slightly cool and photogenic) abandoned farmhouse on the side of the road. The thunder and lightning had started up and it was raining very heavily so we reluctantly dragged our bikes inside the derelict house that was still furnished with a burnt out old cot bed, an oven that appeared to predate Christ and some busted up kitchen cabinets. We managed to squeeze the tent into a dry section where the roof wasn’t leaking and settled in for a pretty poor nights sleep, both of us half expecting the roof to blow away in the middle of the night or an axe murderer to appear and help us shed weight from the bikes by hacking our legs off in our sleep.
Death by Mosquito
The mosquitoes were relentless and whenever we saw a slight hill in the distance a sense of impending doom gripped us knowing that we would slow down going up hill giving the bloodthirsty little pricks a chance to land and feast on our already weakened bodies. I’ve never ridden anywhere before where the mosquitoes actually keep up with you while riding and attack every inch of you body including your face. Saskatchewan on two wheels definitely had new challenges we didn’t consider – mosquitos being one of them!
We pulled into a tiny village called white bear with a population of 13 to treat ourselves to an ice-cold beer at the bar…only to discover that they were closed on Mondays. Locals in Eston the previous day had told us of this pub and it’s reputation for ‘the best wings in Saskatchewan’. Not really interested in the wings, but after a few days of boring hot riding with occasional freak downpours, the thought of a cold beer and being able to refill our water bottles was pretty appealing so we were close to broken when we arrived at the pub to see it was closed. We plonked ourselves down on the table next to the pub feeling very sorry for ourselves and started sporking our jars of peanut butter and Nuttella when a guy called Russ pulled up in his truck for a chat. He invited us back to his place to refill our water and ended up offering to let us stay in his ‘spare house’ behind his own place!
Befriending the locals
The pub may not have been open, but we did end up getting fed many ice cold beers, met nearly the whole town and ended up at a BBQ at the bar owners house where he cooked up a feast and we learnt all about life and history of White bear! The bar owner was originally from Bangladesh but had lived in Toronto for 25 years and randomly ended up buying the local pub in White Bear, but his wife and kids weren’t too keen on the isolation of living in a town of 13 in the middle of the prairies so chose to stay put in the slightly larger Toronto.
Being a pair of weirdo biking vegetarians at a BBQ in rural Saskatchewan we filled up on baked potatoes and salad while the others scratched their heads as to why we weren’t touching the mountains of chicken wings and burgers. We didn’t help get rid of the meat but I definitely did my best to help clear the beers and felt pretty rough riding the next day. After the BBQ we visited a local couple Lynn and Darryl’s farming property nearby, had a few more beers and then returned to Russ’s ‘main house’ and into his amazing crazy basement saloon for a chat before sprinting like fuck to his ‘spare house’ to avoid the clouds of savage mosquitoes.
My memory of our time in the prairies is always going to be linked with mosquitoes and the feeling of being constantly on edge and under attack, it was not possible to step outside without being swarmed and face fucked from all angles. I think I am going to be permanently mentally scarred by Saskatchewan mosquitoes.
We pushed on through the prairies stopping in Swift current for our first hotel of the trip where we basically lazed around in air-conditioned glory and I filled my system with booze and chocolate. You’ll notice a theme to my traveling habits here; booze and food. It’s basically why I ride.
Amazing People and cheap campsites
One of the best parts of riding throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan on two wheels was not having to worry about where you will be sleeping that night, particularly in Manitoba as there was a town roughly every 20km and the vast majority of them had a municipal campsite for 10 bucks a night! We also had quite a bit of success with the website ‘warmshowers’ in the prairies meeting some amazing people who have been involved in the cycling community for years. Glenda in Moosejaw was particularly cool seeing as she wasn’t really into biking, had never done any bicycle touring, but over the years had hosted hundreds of cyclists! She called it her “summer hobby” looking after cross country cyclists and giving them awesome history and cultural lessons in her kitchen while feeding us amazing food and telling us about her time in the 80s as a best selling microwave cook book author! Not surprising really seeing as she had also rescued and looked after 6 or so cats too! Cycle tourists are pretty similar to stray cats really; living off scraps, sleeping in bushes and bathing themselves in public.
The ride through Saskatchewan while sometimes boring and windy was made a whole lot better by the quietness of the roads allowing us to ride side by side without fear of losing a limb to a passing truck. It got busier heading into Regina, but even then pretty cruisy compared to most other cities we’ve ridden in.
Ron in Regina was another colourful character we stayed with; for over 50 years he’s been tinkering with bikes and touring across Canada and since his retirement from teaching he’d set up his own fully decked out bike shop as a hobby in his basement and helped out cycle tourists and locals with low cost repair work and maintenance. Ron was a super cool generous guy with a big heart who cooked amazing Asian dishes and while he could no longer cycle due to knee issues was still passionate about biking and pretty much an encyclopedia of bicycle knowledge…handy for me because I don’t know a fucking thing. He replaced Kelly’s stretched chain and I used his workspace to fit a front low-rider rack as I was getting pretty sick of wobbling all over the place due to an unevenly distributed load on the bike.
We had to stay a couple of nights longer in Regina as it was a public holiday and Kelly needed to see a doctor about her eye which had developed a red swelling since the beginning of the trip and had not gone away, so we got to stay indoors for a while like real life normal people which was nice for a change.
The whole ‘sleeping indoors’ thing continued as we left Regina and stayed with a warmshowers host’s brother Brad and his wife Lisa and their kids in a little town called Sedley 50 km from Regina. Brad and Lisa ran the local newspaper for Sedley and the surrounding areas so we got quizzed about the trip while enjoying a few frosty cold beverages and we eventually made it onto the front cover of the local paper so felt like cycling celebrities!! Fame at last!
The weather had not improved and we rolled out of Sedley in the rain the next morning, made it 50km before finding out the town of Stoughton where we had planned to camp was under a tornado warning! A fucking tornado! The prairies really did hate us, but we loved its people so in the end we won the battle. There was really no point continuing any further for the day as every km we pedaled into the 60km an hour headwind brought us closer to where the tornado was supposed to touch down so we decided to camp in the small town of Fillmore where we had heard about the imminent tornado. There was no need to bust out the now rarely used tent as a local lady called Ava heard of our plight and immediately offered to let us sleep at her place! Sleeping indoors again! We really were being spoiled. Ava and her family were totally cool, took us around the local farms and showed us a little bit of harvesting of wheat, fed us a kick ass dinner and gave us a warm comfy place to sleep. The kindness and generosity of people really never stops amazing me and is always a highlight of cycling. As well as being able to drinks lots beer and eat lots of food without feeling guilty, that’s a highlight too.
[ctt template=”8″ link=”50ly0″ via=”yes” nofollow=”yes”]The kindness and generosity of people really never stops amazing me and is always a highlight of cycling[/ctt]
The weather cleared up the next day and we managed to make up for lost time by smashing out 137kms, our biggest day of the trip so far! Unbeknownst to us, we had had two other cycle tourists hot on heels for a while now and today they finally caught us! Jacques and Louisa were also cycling across Canada but had started in Victoria and zig zagged through the Rockies and other areas, and had first heard of us from Glenda in Moosejaw and then Ron in Regina who they had stayed with days apart from us! It was awesome getting to ride with another couple doing the same thing as us and we spent our last evening in Saskatchewan at a cheap official campsite in Redvers chilling out with our new friends over a few beers and huge camp dinner.
Visiting Saskatchewan on two wheels had pushed us to our limits mentally sometimes, but the friendly helpful locals had made it a great place to ride in the end and if we had to do it all again I definitely would not skip this province! I’d skip the mosquitoes though. Actually I’d strap a giant vacuum cleaner to my bike and suck all the little fuckers out of the air before depositing them in a blender. Bastards.