Day 90 – Update…..I’ve just checked the stats, and this blog has received over 20,000 views since May. I’m just staggered by that – many thanks for following!
I’ve also added up the number of Countries represented by the visits, and it’s 41. What a collection of flags.
Most popular single post? Hands down winner, by some margin, is “Day 89 – Mission Accomplished “
Tied for second place are “A Massive Thank-You to Beechwood” and the infamous “Day 29 – Winnipeg to Kenora”
As if to tell me that it was time to wrap up this trip and head home, the weather went from balmy and still (for my ride to Cape Spear), to chilly, wet and windy (from leaving the pub until now). Another sign that I was done was the fact that my website stopped letting me upload photos, so this is another blog post relying on your finely-tuned imaginations.
I want to thank all of you for sponsoring me so generously, and accompanying me on this amazing journey, sharing so many things along the way. I’ve never seen and experienced as much as I have over the last three months, and I’ve never written as much either. Reading your comments after each posting was fascinating, and a daily treat.
The most frequent suggestion I’ve received about this blog has been – “Why not turn it into a book?”
I’ve been mulling it over for a while, and here’s a question for you: if you’ve enjoyed reading these daily posts, would you consider purchasing an eBook collection of the whole thing? I plan to reformat it, fill in many extra details that didn’t make the daily cut, and generally create something in the spirit of the Blog, only more so! I’ll research this in depth when I get home, but the idea would be to get it together in time for Christmas and I would donate 50% of the royalties to SOS Children’s Villages (the remainder to cover my costs and pay off a little of my expenses for the last three months on the road).
For anyone not familiar with the whole eBook thing, and that includes me as far as creating one is concerned, don’t worry. I’ll keep it simple. Any thoughts on this are very welcome, you know where to comment, and I’ll get on with it once I’ve got my civilian life back together again in the coming months.
I cycled over to a brilliant bike shop on Saturday afternoon, Earle Industries near the Avalon Mall, where they dismantled and boxed up my bike. This took some doing! WestJet, who I’m flying with, apparently don’t accept the see-through bag I used on the way out to Vancouver. Harold, the owner, asked me about the charity I’m supporting, and then said “Well then, you’re all done”. He donated nearly two hours of labour with the wave of his hand, and I’m very grateful. The impulse to refuse payment has been a regular occurrence on this trip and never fails to make my day.
The cab driver that took me back to my hotel asked what the bike shop was like as he was looking for a new bike himself, and I told him about the donation. The cabbie suddenly went very quiet, and I thought “Oh no, he thinks I’m angling for a free ride!” I assured him I was happy to pay, and he booked me a cab for the airport on Sunday night.
I want to thank all of the wonderful people that hosted me between the Pacific and the Atlantic; first and foremost are Gill and Stewart in Vancouver. Their generosity and support have been an essential part of making my trip possible. I had to resort to some pretty underhand tricks to get them to accept payment for anything I bought back in the last weeks of May. Then there were Brant & Dagmar in Kelowna, BC with their warm welcome and hot tub overlooking the golf course! Gill’s mum Rollie and stepfather Noel were my hosts in Canmore although not there themselves – thanks for the use of your home. Then it was Calgary, where I spent an lovely evening with Ricki & Daron and family who made me miss being with my family, but in a good way! I had to cover a few miles before my next host, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Thanks to John Silver, who was also away but left me in the capable hands of his son Lucas. Next was Wayne (Uncle of Trevor) on a memorable night in Black Sturgeon Lake, Ontario. Thanks for the welcome you gave this uninvited guest (hope you got the pontoon boat going again!). Then Toronto – where to begin? Many thanks again to Virginia and Enid & Ed for the use of their lovely homes during my week off with Susie in TO, and to Morley & Dinah, Jerry & Mayta, and Ellie and Toby for their warmth, love and hospitality. Many miles later, in Montreal, my thanks to Annie, Colin & Phuong (and, of course, little Mai-Lan) who took me in and made me very happy to be in that wonderful city with their lovely family. Thanks to David, Karen and Pat on PEI for introducing me to deep-sea fishing as well as providing a bed for the night, and Stuart and Elsie on Newfoundland, my final hosts in my final Province, for the fine night out in Cupids with Ros (biggest Downton fan in Canada?), Roy, Betty & Ross, and for providing the traditional Newfoundland Fish n Brewis breakfast that powered me to my Cape Spear finale.
I’ve got some great photos to share from the last two days, as well as a couple of signs that are absolute belters, best of the trip! I’m dying to post them but they’ll have to wait – for the eBook perhaps?
Lastly, I want to than my lovely wife Susanna for her patience and support over the many, many weeks I was away, as well as the years of plotting and planning I did at home. I appreciate it more than I can say. I guess I should be ready for her to spring a plan of her own on me one day…“Ben, I’ve bought a Harley…”
The most common questions on the road were: “Where y’headed?”, and, a close second, “How d’ya find the traffic?”. This one always gave me pause before answering, because there is so little traffic out there, away from the cities, that it hasn’t been too much of an issue. As mentioned before in the blog, when you’re in the car whizzing by, looking at the lonely cyclist, you don’t necessarily notice that it’s just you passing by, then silence again. Roughest traffic? Right here in St John’s, no question. No shoulder, no bike lanes, no quarter given.
And so to the distance travelled – it felt every bit as far as it had in my imagination before I left home, but with so many events and experiences along the way that I rarely considered the distance as a total. Each day felt new, each road different, and here I am at the end of it all. Total mileage is about 4,500 miles / 7,242km, but I won’t know exactly until I get home. So it’s less than the five thousand I projected but that guesstimate included two large diversions en route that I didn’t do, the first up to Ottawa from Toronto, and the second the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, so I knew that would change things quite a bit.
Almost all of my gear held up really well, especially my bike. I spent a long time building it back at home with just this trip in mind, and the work was paid back every time I cycled out of the campground or motel. Regular servicing, which I normally did every free day, is highly recommended for the way it draws your attention to any issues. Apart from wear and tear on the chain, chainrings and brakes, it’s the same bike that flew out with me in May, and I love it. And now that I’ve finished, I don’t need to be superstitious any more. I can say it – I crossed Canada without a single puncture! I had a leaky valve for two days (fixed), but that’s it. It’s almost unbelievable given the variety of surfaces my poor bike (and my backside) had to deal with. So Schwalbe Marathon Plus tries are a top choice too.
The most disappointing failure was right at the end – my lovely, comfortable Thermarest mattress (a big expense) which I chose above many, many others, proved to have a critical weakness. The structure of pockets of air created by a clever lattice of foam is much too reliant on the glue that holds it all together, and it failed under the strain of regular use in a wide range of temperatures, so I’ll be digging that receipt out and heading to Cotswold Outdoors in St Albans for a full refund, and writing to the firm with my feedback.
My alcohol stove (a Trangia) is still a firm recommendation, and can run on many more types of alcohol that the manual suggests. As well as meths or denatured alcohol, it works with Marine alcohol, rubbing alcohol (95%), or even fondue fuel! (Tip for any users – add a nip of water to avoid soot with purer fuel). I never got desperate enough to try it with the emergency hipflask. There are limits, after all.
All the technology worked exactly as advertised, iPad, iphone, foldable bluetooth keyboard (really good and very strong – Esynic, on eBay), hub dynamo on the bike, my over-priced clamshell phone from Rogers.
The tent, my home for so many nights – MSR Elixr II, another big ‘thumbs up’ and a favourite bit of my kit. You can’t just make-do with a tent, you have to like it.
So I think we’re done here. By the time some of you read this I’ll be on my way home, bringing to an end the biggest single adventure of my life. I still feel so involved in the journey that I can’t really talk about it in the past tense, so I’ll leave a bigger retrospective view of the trip to another time. I think I’ll sign off with some appropriate words, sent to me by my mum: Bilbo’s Walking Song
The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow if I can
Pursuing it with eager feet
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet
And whither then? I cannot say.