* new * – the map

*NEW-NEW-NEW, Now an all new page under “cycling canada”: the map !

Schermafbeelding (115)

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and so it began – the first four days

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2014-06-11_3595_internetThe photo above is about the closest my fully loaded bike got to the Atlantic. The day before I had been cycling in the rain the whole day and I hadn’t found a good spot to go and dip my wheels in the ocean. While having lunch on this pier in Lunenburg I was contemplating on cycling 6 km to a spot where I could actually reach the water. But I would’ve had to backtrack after that, so I settled for this photo. I actually do have a picture of me and my bike in the Atlantic that James made for me. But it’s without my stuff on it. I also have a departing photo from Halifax. All three pics together should count as a wheel dip, right?! As far as I know extremism hasn’t ever done any good to the world anyways.

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I wish to thank Jenna & Dale again for hosting me. They really welcomed me into Canada and the three days I stayed with them were very relaxing. It gave me the chance to explore Halifax a bit. Sadly enough it started raining on the fourth day. But just like James a few days before, I was eager to get on my bike myself now. So I set off in the pouring rain that continued all day long. There’s no point in complaining about the weather, so I won’t.

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I mostly biked on the rails-to-trails on my first two days. The trail had quit a few rough spots with potholes and the gravel isn’t always as smooth. But it was beautiful. And my kind of MTB touring bike with its wide 2014-06-14_2441_internettyres can handle a bit of dirt. I wouldn’t ride a more classic touring bike here. It’s great that these old rail trails have been opened up for recreational use. But I think if they want to attract more cyclists to the trail they’ll have to put more work into it. And I’m sure it will happen over time, they were actually working on the trail close to Halifax.  Banning the quads might help to avoid getting potholes like you see in the picture. But I guess ATVs are a big part of the recreational use of the trail, so that might not be possible (yet). I don’t want to come over too negative, I definitely enjoyed riding the trail, I’m just saying there’s a huge potential here to get more people cycling. Right now it’s more of a MTB trail.

After another great Warmshowers stay in New Germany with Bob and his family I set off on a bit of a race against the clock on my third day. I had to make it to the ferry in Digby by 16h. The rolling hills, a firm headwind and quite a bit of dirt roads 2014-06-16_2476_internetdidn’t make it easy. But I arrived in Digby by 15h40 after a tiring 130km. And that’s when I saw a sign St.John Ferry, 5km. I laid my arms down on my steer and started a 5km time trial with a fully loaded touring bike. I made it by 5 minutes. Once on the ferry I went straight to the cafeteria for pie and cookies to replenish my energy after that crazy race. Pfew!

While cycling to my WS host in Saint John (another thank you to Raymond!) after getting off the ferry, all of a sudden a bus came right besides me. While still driving the driver opened the front doors and shouted something to me. I couldn’t really understand him but I presumed it was something negative. But when I asked him to say it again he said “That brings back old memories. When I was 17 I biked from here to Key West, Florida”. He wished me luck and continued his bus ride. Just one of those weird but great encounters.

Speaking about encounters: the next day I was biking on another rail trail in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly saw something big and black ahead of me. In the US I saw a bear on my fifth cycling day, in Canada it was bound to happen sooner. It took four days. And this time it won’t be the last one either, that’s for sure. I was quite far away and after taking some pictures I saw one cub, two cubs and eventually three. I tried to get a bit closer in the hope that they would just leave the trail. But they didn’t, so all I could do was turn around and bike about 9km back to find another route off that gorgeous rail trail.

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I’ve biked 450km in the past four days. Right now I’m enjoying a well deserved rest day in a coffee shop in Fredericton. The pouring rain outside can’t harm me. Being back traveling on my bike feels good. My shape isn’t at the same level as it was a year ago when I started cycling in the US and I’m definitely a few kgs heavier. But it’ll all get better. My trip across Canada is off to a good start. I’ve already seen a lot of beauty and met some interesting people. I’m ready for more. And there will be a lot more. People. Nature. Bears.

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the true meaning of a dirtroad – canadian edition

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Halifax airport (blurry cellphone photo)

To bike or not to bike? Tuesday, 9pm, Halifax airport. I had just picked up my bicycle at the drop-off after going through immigration for my work visa. Everything went smooth, no fuss, with the visa in my passport my Canadian year had just been officially launched. Yeah! So I guess I was in a bit of an euphoric mood when I decided to ride my bicycle to Dartmouth even though it was raining and getting dark. I had just been told that taking a taxi van would cost me $70. Call me a scrooge, but me and my bicycle had just flown into Canda from the other side of the world for 360. Compared to that the price of the taxi just didn’t sound right to me. For the first time ever I have a reflective vest with me while touring, so here was my chance to use it. Optimistic thought is what it’s all about at moments like this.

Unpacking and assembling the bike didn’t take too long since I had an enormous box. Off I went for the first 35 km of my trip! I was prepared for this. I had a Google Maps route loaded into my Garmin gps. And that’s where it went wrong. At first it was all ok. I was just cruising through the pitch dark in the pouring rain. But when my gps directed me into a gravel road I should have turned around right away. Obviously I didn’t and what started as a gravel road soon became a bumpy rocky road and ended up to be a muddy road full of puddles. When I finally got back on the main road my morale was down and the jet lag started to kick in. After twenty more tiring kilometers I finally arrived at my Warmshowers host. My bicycle and my panniers looked horrible. But Jenna and Dale were really welcoming and soon I was settled down and everything was more or less forgotten.

It turned out that there was another touring cyclist staying at the house. James had flown from Scotland to Halifax over Reykjavik. What?! Yes, he was on the same flight as me and had arrived by taxi two hours earlier! If only I hadn’t been the last one to leave the baggage drop-off, we could have shared that taxi! Just like me, James has the plan to ride his bicycle all the way to Vancouver. After a good night’s rest we both went down to the water to perform his official wheel dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

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wheel dip: James from Scotland with his bicycle in the Atlantic

He wants to be at the Pacific in about two months and left this morning. Hopefully we’ll meet again at some point. I’m eager to start cycling as well, but I’m staying two more days in Halifax to explore the city and get some administration done. And maybe deep clean my bicycle :).

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James on his first meters to Vancouver!

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eager to bike