Ride Day 47: Tired after eight consecutive days of pedalling, we set off early on our final day. Only 70-miles remained and I could step off the bike for the last time! The morning was far from plain sailing: I fell off after failing to unclip my shoe from the pedal (you'd think i'd have learned to do this by now!!) and I managed to mistakenly turn onto a motorway which was so dangerous that we retraced our route on foot on the hard-shoulder! With final-day obstacles behind us we pressed on to Halifax. I was thrilled to see the first road sign for the city, I could not even imagine this 10 weeks ago when I set out from Vancouver! We met two crazy cyclists en-route - Jonathan and Chris - who had biked from their home-town of Toronto. We first met them just outside Quebec City a week ago and Becs and I rode with them again, making fast work of the final push into Halifax. We made it to 'Point Pleasant Park' and touched the Atlantic - the ride had been successfully completed!
I had mixed feelings if i'm honest. Elation, yes. I have given my all to the ride over months: from booking flights, setting up the website, buying the bike, putting in some training, doing some fundraising, planning the route, packing the kit, co-ordinating the support team, buying 'Wilbert' the support car and pedalling over 3,800 miles... 47 days on the bike and 13 much-earned rest days. 8 provinces, 5 time-zones, 5 punctures, the Rockies, Prairies, Great Lakes, French-speaking Quebec, the Maritime region... I was definately chuffed to bits to successfully make it to the end!
I thought of the amazing support I have had. From my Dad who made such an impact on the journey and worked so hard. From Moley and Shazza who were with me for a month, I'll never forget our time together or how much they put into the expedition. From Charlie and Becs who have helped me to finish the ride, bringing a certain amount of organised chaos to proceedings and lots of laughter! From Canadian people from coast-to-coast who have invited me into their homes, donated money to the Trust, offered discounts on campgrounds or motels but mostly have just offered a warm welcome and a friendly chat. It's amazing to think just how much has happened from the time when the ride was just an idea, a distant dream. I felt overwhelmed and choked to think how lucky i've been to experience all this. And sad that it ends here in Halifax, as my feet touched the icey Atlantic water.
As the elation and sad feelings flew around my head I thought of Rob. He's been at the forefront of my mind all summer and with us in spirit the whole way i'm sure. He's the inspiration for the journey and no doubt would be pleased for me to successfully make it from Pacific to Atlantic. I feel for the loved ones Rob has left behind: for his Mum and Dad Nikki and Dave, his brother and sister Tim and Louise, his girlfriend Lucinda and his Everest and Pole-to-Pole expedition partner James. I feel also for the family and friends of James Atkinson who died with Rob in the French Alps in January. Robbo had a fantastic spirit, he lived his 21-years to the full. He inspired many and achieved so much. He became a close friend over 6-months through deserts and stormy seas. We hope the Rob Gauntlett Trust will go some way to keep Rob's spirit alive. Young people will benefit from the charity and continue to hear about who Rob was and the inspirational way he led his life. The donations received during the ride will go some way to get the Trust Fund off to a good start and I can only thank all the people who have supported me to this end from the bottom of my heart. You have made every mile, every hill and every ache more than worthwhile. Thanks to everyone who has followed the journey over the summer, it really has been a privilege to undertake and an experience i'll never forget.
Ride Day 46: Today we crossed into the final province of the coast to coast journey, 'Nova Scotia' (which means 'New Scotland'). With 3,500 miles in the saddle done, the end felt palpably close! I have been so lucky to have company on the bike for the majority of the journey. Initially my Dad, Sharon and Debbie joined me on the spare bike and now Becs and Charlie are putting in the miles with me. Becs was less than impressed that she rode for 2-hours predominantly uphill only for Charlie to hop on the bike and, after just one long climb, cruise downhill for 30 minutes right back to sea level again! It has been great to chat to my riding companions - the aches and pains seem less bothersome and miles continue to tick by more quickly. It's now the seventh day of riding now since leaving Quebec City and my hamstrings and bum are more sore than ever... It's cumulative I suppose, whilst my resting pulse is fairly low now and i'm recovering faster from steep hill climbs, it's pretty sore to sit down for long and my muscles are permanently stiff! After nearly 100-miles we made camp near Truro in the tidal Bay of Fundy. After hot showers we ventured out to a 'Trucker's Cafe' for a hearty feed, again replacing calories with a huge pudding. Tomorrow will be the last day of the ride, it's strange to think that after nearly 4,000 miles of cycling we are just 70-miles from the completing the ride now.
Ride Day 45: Cycling through some beautiful Maritime seaside settlements we pressed on to 'Shediac' near the border with the province of Nova Scotia. Reminded increasingly of home in the UK, the map now has place-names including Oxford, Truro and Liverpool. We covered 77-miles to the town of 'Shediac' where we camped, braving plunging temperatures and huddling around the campfire under a stary sky. As we ease into September, the weather has cooled off sharply. The heat-wave conditions (and the accompanying forest fires...) of British Columbia that I experienced early-on in the ride seem like a distant memory! I have loved the outdoor life this summer though and i'll miss it. A stunning sunset followed promptly by a huge moon-rise reminded me just what a privilege it has been to be living outdoors for 10-weeks.
Ride day 44: The fifth consectutive day of riding from Quebec City, I pedalled 94 miles from 'New Mills' to the town of 'Chatham'. In the morning we did some much needed laundry and, setting off late, arrived just after dark. My legs felt tired after a long afternoon although the coastal landscape here in New Bruswick and great company with Becs and Charlie made the miles tick by nicely. Once again we found a bed for the night, enjoyed a bite to eat (and a huge cheese cake...) and turned in for the night feeling well and truely exhausted.
Ride Day 43: Settling into a efficient routine with the new team, today we managed nearly 100-miles and crossed into the penultimate province of the journey. It’s hard to believe I have pedalled every inch of the way through British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. It’s only by taking it one day at a time, breaking the route into manageable sections and resting-up from time to time that it has been possible. We have a real sense that the finish line in Halifax is getting close; I am so, so excited about reaching journey’s end and dipping my toes in the Atlantic! Pursued once again by a much-welcome tail wind, we crossed the ‘Patapedia River’ leaving Quebec and entering New Brunswick. We crossed another time-zone here actually became an hour closer to Greenwich Meantime. Again following a picturesque Atlantic estuary (the ‘Baie des Chaleurs’) we found a delightful motel in 'New Mills' with views over the water and tucked into Bec’s fine Spaghetti Bolognaise. After a full day in the saddle and a glass or two of wine, I fell into a deep slumber. I appreciated sleeping in a real bed for a change!
Ride Day 42: After a night of stormy weather we awoke to clearer skies and warmed up with bacon, eggs and mugs of tea. I enjoyed riding along the quiet riverside road and the vista has changed dramatically once again. We are now enjoying an estuarine landscape punctuated by red-roofed houses. The air is now far cooler, the sound of seagulls is prevalent and we can smell the salty sea air. We are a now so close to the Atlantic ocean – this seemed an almost impossibly long way to go when I set out from the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver all those weeks ago! We took ‘Wilbert’ for some love and attention at the Ford garage in Rimouski (the part we needed was unavailable here…) and we pressed on to the town of ‘Sayabec’, a distance of 87-miles. The St Lawrence river has been widening gradually as we have followed it’s course over the last few days and we could only just see the north bank as we veered due east to cross the Gaspe Peninsula. Becs joined me on the bike and endured some sizable hills as we left the floodplain for the first time. This is surely one of the loveliest parts of Quebec. Conscious that we would soon be leaving the province, we enjoyed a luxurious fillet-mignon meal and some French wine and retired wearily to our camp on the shores of Lake Matapedia!
Ride Day 41: Gradually nearing the Atlantic the weather has become noticeably cooler. Mornings and evenings are now chilly and I am wrapping up more on the bike. We are sleeping in more layers whilst camping too and we wake up with cold, red noses…Today I rode with both Becs and Charlie, the spare bike is somewhat miraculously still going strong after hundreds of miles on-the-road. It has been superb to ride alongside friends across the country, helping one and other over every steep incline and enjoying the downhills as we go. Today we made it 76-miles to ‘Trois Pistoles’ where we were struck by a little misfortune. Support car ‘Wilbert’ decided that he would like to continue running despite us removing the key from the ignition - a rather alarmed Becs (who was driving at the time) was soon on the mobile phone trying to explain this unusual predicament. Eventually we limped into a nearby garage, disconnected the battery and the faulty ignition component was identified. The diagnosis of the problem was inexpensive but a full repair for Wilbert may be more costly. We cut the day’s riding short and made camp in ‘Trois Pistoles’, cooking a barbeque in a lovely woodland spot.
Ride Day 40: Leaving Quebec City we took a ferry across the huge St Laurence River and headed in a north-easterly direction towards the ‘Gaspe Peninsula’. Pushed along by a terrific tailwind, it was easy riding for 63-miles to the town of ‘St-Roch-des-Aulaines’. Passing small villages notable for their French-style architecture, we wound along the ever-widening river under a blue sky. We pitched tents mid-afternoon, pleased with the mileage covered due a favourable wind and we then returned to the airport to pick up Charlie, the final member of the support team. I sailed 10,000 nautical miles from South America to Sydney in Australia (via the South Magnetic Pole) with Charlie last year, supporting Rob Gauntlett and his expedition partner James Hooper on their Pole-to-Pole manpowered trip (www.180degrees.com). Charlie went to school with Rob and James and is keen to help raise funds for the Rob Gauntlett Trust – Rob had an amazing spirit, achieved so much in his life and had a positive impact on so many people. We really want to do our bit to make sure Rob’s spirit lives on even though Robbo is sadly no longer with us. We gave Charlie a guided tour of Vieux Quebec (we now know it quite well!) and drove back to our campsite on the bank of the St Lawrence River ready to get on the road towards Halifax tomorrow.
Rest Day 14: Deciding to rest aching legs, we took the opportunity to explore the city further. After a hearty breakfast of croissants and omelettes we ambled around the streets within the ancient city walls, soaking up the French atmosphere and taking in the view over the St Lawrence River. We visited the excellent ‘Musee de la Civilisation’, learning more about the history of ‘Nouvelle France’, the conquest of Quebec by the British and the subsequent development of the distinct Quebecois society. It has been fascinating to explore the French-speaking parts of Canada and has added an extra dimension the coast to coast journey. We enjoyed a meal out, once again opting for some French cuisine. It’s time to get back on the road tomorrow, the eight-hour biking routine beckons!
Ride Day 39: Today I was slightly ‘in limbo’ here in Quebec City: Moley and Shazza flew home yesterday and two more friends arrive shortly from the UK to support the final leg of the journey; 1000 km through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Halifax. I decided to ride from the edge of Quebec City into the centre as we had to stop short on the day we arrived here due to a tremendous headwind. I took the bike on a bus to ‘Pont Neuf’ and wound along the St Lawrence River for a couple of hours into the Vieux Ville. It was a pleasure biking here, with no wind and great views across the river, the slog against the wind of the previous ride day seemed like a distant memory. In the early evening I excitedly returned to Quebec City airport to pick up ‘Becs’, an osteopath from the UK who has kindly come out here for two weeks to help drive the support vehicle ‘Wilbert’ and do some biking with me through the Maritime provinces. Once again I feel humbled by the amazing support I have had with the whole journey. I owe a great deal to the special people who have given up their time to help to make this 3,600 mile ride possible and it’s fantastic to spend time with people on-the-road through this part of the world. I miss Moley and Shazza after a month spending time together 24 hours-a-day 7 days-a-week. Despite a little jet-lag after a 9-hour flight, Becs and I strolled around the centre of Quebec City and caught up with news over a bite to eat.