all the distance travelled during an adventure, it is often
the last few kilometres that one remembers most vividly and
feeling of jagged stones being squeezed beneath a pair of spinning
tires, the contrast of soft, moist leaves and sharp, rigid branches
brushing against skin, or the taste of salty ocean air getting
thicker by the minute; these are the sensations one can expect
to experience while riding a bicycle down a rugged trail towards
the coast, the finish line of a long, hard journey lying just
around the next corner or two.
the screaming in my calves and the pounding of my heart –
part exhaustion, part euphoria – but I remember just wanting
to peddle faster no matter how much it hurt, just to savour
the final moments of this adventure. I couldn't see the beach,
but I knew it was only a few minutes ahead. I could have sworn
I heard the waves crashing on the sand. The midday sun was intense,
and I felt drips of sweat running down my cheeks. Thinking back,
they could have been tears. Nearly 80 days ago, I had dipped
my feet in the Pacific Ocean and hopped on my bicycle. Now here
I was on the other side of the continent, over 8000 kilometres
later, ready to dip my feet again - this time in the Atlantic.
trail was thickly lined with bushes, my vision ahead blocked
by tall walls of stones left by storm waves. Strapped to my
handlebars, my GPS confirmed the ocean was no more than a couple
hundred metres away, but the trail – actually an old railroad
– swung widely and begun to follow the shoreline, stubbornly
refusing to reveal open water while it meandered its way to
Lawrencetown Beach. It wasn’t at all what I expected.
had been picturing the ocean in my head for weeks and weeks,
ever since pulling myself up and over the first range of mountains
in Canada’s west. Since then the imaginary vision of the
Atlantic, invitingly laid out ahead on the horizon, kept me
going through the hardest times; the frigid, torrential rainstorms,
the endless onslaught of persistent, blood-sucking flies, the
crippling headwinds, agonizing mud with a consistency of wet
concrete, and the long, exhausting hills that came one after
another like waves on the ocean itself. The sound of snapping
spokes and cables, popping tires, grinding chain rings and bending
metal became a soundtrack of the journey, often serenading me
at the least appropriate times and the loneliest places. I would
be left standing at the side of the road under an oppressive
sun beating down on my shoulders, while swatting away bugs with
one hand and rubbing my chin with the other, wondering aloud,
"Now, how am I going to fix that!?" My imagined
Atlantic Ocean may have seemed even farther away than it actually
was in reality, but continuing forward was the only option;
there was no way I was going to turn around and bike back through
all the obstacles I passed to get this far. It would be easier
from now on. All the tough parts behind me, weren’t they?
Each split in clour indicates individual days.
68 riding days in total
there were many times I happily imagined that I would never
reach the Atlantic at all. Travelling by bike has its moments
of absolute perfection, when life couldn't possibly get any
more interesting and fulfilling. During those moments it seemed
a shame to have a finish line at all. Often the thought would
hit me in the late afternoon, with the sun lying low in the
sky behind me and its light illuminating the trail just the
right way. The trees shimmered in perfect hues of greens and
browns, and the trail itself seemed to glow as though it were
paved in gold. My shadow lay ahead, and I could watch myself
pedaling forward, making progress. I was witnessing the power
of the human body turn something as seemingly simple as a bagel
or apple into enough kinetic energy to not only transport itself
across a continent, but carry along a bunch of extra goodies
along for the ride. These afternoons were when I would experience
that perfect blend of exhaustion and euphoria - partially starved
and delirious perhaps – having spent the entire day living
in the moment, breathing fresh air and pushing pedals; in other
words, feeling strong, alive and free.
Ferry Ride from NS to PEI
province, another bottle of champers!
evening routine of setting up my tent, boiling a pot of pasta,
washing up and bedding down were all that laid between me and
another day. With the sunset quickly fading, I would zip up
my tent flap, tuck myself into my sleeping bag, turn off my
headlamp and take a moment to listen to the loons and coyotes
sing me to sleep. The next day I would wake up somewhere in
Canada’s wilderness, ready to live another day of entirely
new challenges and scenery.
In the grand
scheme of things, the only morning that was truly any different
was the last; it would be my last bowl of cold oatmeal, the
last time I would cringe while rolling up my pungent sleeping
bag, and the last time I would gasp while slipping on a pair
of cold, damp biking shorts which never quite fully dried overnight.
For the first time – on this last and final day - each
made me laugh. These small tribulations – along with the
headwinds, the bugs, the mud and the hills - were all behind
me now; pain is merely a temporary inconvenience, but when it
fades it often leaves fond memories in its place.
Arriving in Pictou, NS with fellow touring cyclist
I started this bicycle trip, I doubted my ability to go much
farther than the Rocky Mountains. I wasn't even sure if I would
enjoy it. Somewhere along the way though, I got into my own
groove, following a route that was as unique as the people I
met along it. My body had become an engine, fueled by passion,
determination and several kilograms of pasta. I grew to crave
each day of riding, never dreading the 6-7 hours of pedaling
that lay ahead, and never growing weary of my surroundings.
The country seemed to fly by at times. I was satisfied with
how far I had come and the experiences I had along the way,
yet ready to cross this item off my list at last.
after one more bend in the trail I saw friends waving to me
in the distance, one holding up a brown long-necked bottle.
They had flown in from Toronto to greet me on the finish line.
Behind them was the Atlantic Ocean. I felt a big smile spread
across my face. The journey was over and now I could put my
feet up and rest. I'd done it; I'd bicycled across