Rest Day 13: After a hangover-curing breakfast-in-bed, we strolled around the historic heart of Quebec City, an impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site full of historic buildings and statues. I took Sharon and Debbie to the airport and we said our last goodbyes. It was tough bidding them farewell and I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all the hard work put into the expedition and for the unbelievable support they have given me. It felt very strange to suddenly be on my own once again out here in Canada. I found a dorm room in a hostel and soaked up more of the atmosphere in the walled 'Vieux Ville' of the city.
Ride Day 38: Packing up camp for the last time with Sharon and Debbie we set off in cold and damp conditions towards Quebec City. The wind strengthened throughout the day but despite threatening skies the rain mostly held off. Fighting against perhaps the strongest wind of the trip so far, we made it 72 miles to Pont Neuf, just short of Quebec City. It was a 6-hour ride I won’t forget, standing up and pumping the legs for long periods to keep some momentum going. I felt a touch wobbly on my feet by the end of the day’s ride! We found a hostel in the city and headed out for a night-on-the-tiles. Exchanging gifts and looking back at all the trials and tribulations of our month together, we soon found ourselves rolling in at 3am in a slightly tipsy state! Debbie and Sharon have given their all since joining me out here in Canada (in Winnipeg) and they have not only helped immeasurably to make the expedition possible, they have made it great fun as well. It was great to end a fantastic month on a high note and polish off a few glasses of wine!
Ride Day 37: After loading up ‘Wilbert’ with all our gear, we did a short news clip for CTV local news who have been following our progress from time-to-time across Canada. We are pleased to get some exposure and raise the profile of The Rob Gauntlett Trust. Rejoining the road north of Montreal, we headed west along the Saint Laurence River which joins the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. We enjoyed the flat conditions and a quiet road. Although still sunny and bright, there is a more autumnal feel to the weather as summer begins to draw to an end. After 70 miles we pitched our tents one last time – sadly Sharon and Debbie leave me in two days, for teaching posts in Southampton and Shanghai respectively. We have come so far over the last month, both in terms of distance across Canada and in terms of becoming a really close-knit team. The bond between travel companions who rely constantly upon one and other grows strong and this is one of the aspects of the coast to coast journey that I value the most. I know I’ll miss Moley and Shazza but I’ll keep exceptionally happy memories of our time together, we have shared lots of laughs over the last month.
Rest Days 11 and 12: We relished the rare opportunity to have 2 consecutive rest days. After doing some chores in the morning we strolled around the historic quarter of ‘Montreal’ and spent a few lazy hours soaking up the sun in a river-side park. Just what the doctor ordered after weeks of biking! The second day off was more energetic with a gentle jog through ‘Parc du Mont-Royal’, a 230-metre hill next to the downtown area. It made an enjoyable change to cycling and we were rewarded with a super view of the city. We were impressed by the French ambiance in Montreal and enjoyed eating out each evening, replacing some of the calories burned on the bike over the summer!
Ride day 36: Crossing the Ottawa River into the province of Quebec, we pedalled the remaining 60 miles to ‘Montreal’. It’s hard to believe that we have finally left Ontario, a huge province which is nearly four times the size of the UK! Quebec already has a very different feel, not least because the first language of the people here is French. Upon arrival here we found a hostel and hurriedly set out into the city to sample some French cuisine! We plan to rest a little and celebrate biking over 3,000 miles from the start point in Vancouver some seven weeks ago. In terms of distance, we are now approximately equidistant from Vancouver and London in the UK…
Ride Day 35: Leaving the capital, we followed the Ottawa River which defines the border between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec for 60 miles to the town of Hawkesbury. Refreshed after a rest day and with a tail wind pushing us along, we enjoyed the scenic ride. We pitched tents near the river and had a terrific barbeque before retiring for the night! It can be effortful at times to camp and cook over so many weeks but we’ll certainly miss the outdoor life and freedom that we have enjoyed here in Canada.
Rest Day 10: After a cracking meal in a local Ottawa restaurant we enjoyed the comforts of o hotel, much appreciated after camping out for so long. We spent the morning catching up with friends and family and getting on top of our now-enormous laundry bag! In the afternoon we enjoyed a stroll around down-town Ottawa, Canada’s capital. We visited the impressive Canadian Museum of Civilisation and read up about how Canada has been inhabited for millennia by ‘First Nations’ people (aboriginals) and how it has evolved from a group of French and British colonies into the bilingual nation it is today.
Ride Day 34: Following the Ottawa River we left the forest landscape behind and found ourselves riding through farmland once again. It dawned on me that Canada is as varied as it is vast; I have biked through roughly 1000 miles of mountains in British Columbia, 1000 miles of farmland in the Prairies and now 1000 miles of forest here in Ontario. Today we pounded out 116 miles from 'Mackey' to the edge of the capital city 'Ottawa'. My legs are now pretty weary and my bum is rather numb - I have cycled for 10 consecutive days now from Thunder Bay, averaging over 93 miles per day. I need a bit of a rest! Before our arrival in 'Ottawa' we had a few obstacles to negotiate: support car 'Wilbert' refused to come out of a rather steep and gravelly road-side slope after a drink-stop, a heavy shower cooled us off nicely and the police pulled us over, made us walk to the next highway exit (!) to find a quieter route to follow into the city... My ride buddies Sharon and Debbie have been fantastic - we have worked as a team against the headwinds and time always ticks by much faster with company whilst on the road. I honestly don't know what I would have done without their support and huge efforts out here. The girls are constantly pitching tents, preparing food, topping up water bottles, working out the route and so on to keep the expedition running smoothly. Doing this whist also biking hundreds of miles with me is exceptionally hard work and they do it so dynamically and with such good humour, it's amazing! We have become very close after spending 24 hours a day together for nearly a month... There's less than 1000-miles left to ride now to Halifax in Nova Scotia. The coast to coast ride doesn't end though until I dip my toes into the Atlantic Ocean!
Ride Day 33: Under clearer skies, I left 'North Bay' after sending a few emails and continued east. The road remains hilly and the landscape is still covered in thick forest. The highway is mostly single-lane and at times the lorries get scarily close. After frequent food-stops and a great pic-nic lunch we pulled into a campsite in 'Mackey'. The owner was interested in our charity ride and was inspired by Rob's achievements and approach to life and kindly let us pitch up without charge. It was typical of the warmth and generosity that almost all Canadians have shown us, really humbling! We also received some donations for 'The Rob Gauntlett Trust' from the families camping around us. (Most have huge RV's and are rather bemused by our 2-man tents!) Pitching tents as darkness descended upon us, we enjoyed Debbie's delicious Spaghetti Bolognaise and slept soundly .
Ride Day 32: We awoke in 'Sudbury' to grey and chilly weather. Setting off in steady rain, I covered 77 miles to the town of 'North Bay' against a strong headwind. It felt like doing an eight-hour long spinning class! The rain eased fortunately and my soggy shoes and damp clothes began to dry out by the afternoon. I really appreciated some company on the road from mid-morning, not least beacuse we could take it in turns to take the brunt of the wind and offer the person cycling behind some shelter! There were 'tornado warnings' here in 'North Bay' yesterday and sure enough we saw a number of tornado funnels across Lake Nipissing. We understand there has been considerable tornado damage further east in Ontario.