Day 77 – Chapel Arm to Cape Spear, NL – 114km

I didn’t bother to set a wake up alarm on my phone for this morning. Adrenaline and excitement is better than any annoying chime. I was up at 6:30am—Newfoundland time. I put my headphones on and listened to my pump-up playlist as I cooked breakfast. Breakfast was  8 eggs and some fruit. I was on the road a little after 8am.

I decided that I didn’t want to meet with the support vehicle. I just wanted to get to the finish—no stopping to refill water bottles or any of that. I filled up four water bottles of water and put 3 energy bars in my jacket’s pouches to get me through the 110-115km ride.

There was a fine mist. At the top of the hills this turned into a drizzle. It was chilly. The wind was against me. It wasn’t a pleasant day for cycling. Strangely, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It seems proper that a trip of this magnitude, with the bad weather I’ve had, should have one final challenge to overcome on the last ride. The weather wasn’t wretched as it was a couple days ago between Deer Lake and Grand Falls-Windsor (I had constant heavy rain that day). It was manageable, but unpleasant enough to make the final haul epic, and the fog added a scenic eerie touch.

The lingering mist at Cape Spear

With only 30km to go, just as I was entering the St. John’s area, I got a flat tire. I felt a heat of frustration at first. Then I laughed. I would get a flat tire in the final stretch. It was written. I set myself a challenge three years ago, and I was going to get it; every last morsel of it.

There’s a 12km stretch of road out to Cape Spear from the St. John’s suburb of Mount Pearl. This is Highway 11. Leaving Mount Pearl, Highway 11/Black Head Road has hairpin switchbacks up a steep hill. I was still thinking what goes up, must come down. Start at sea level, finish at sea level. I kept going up and down these really long steep hills. At one point, I looked at my odometer, and figured that I must be on the last hill before the finish. I wasn’t. On this last 12km stretch, I was pushing myself like I haven’t pushed myself before on this trip. I didn’t have to worry about being stiff or sore the next day. I didn’t have to worry about making it through the next 100km. This was it. I felt my heart hammering and my legs burning like never before on this journey. I was earning every kilometre of that last 12km stretch. When I came near, I could hear a foghorn every couple minutes. As I pedaled fiercely in anguish, the finish glaring in my mind, although not yet visible in the fog (and there were some hills in between), I had a smile that wouldn’t leave my face and tears escaping to drip down my cheeks.  Cape Spear, the most easterly point of North America, is actually about 50m above sea level. My mom, Linda, Martin, and Robert were parked in a parking lot near the sea about a half kilometre before Cape Spear. I pulled in, said a tired, distracted ‘hi’, and told them I wanted to go all the way. I pedaled up the final hill to Cape Spear.

Arriving!

Crashing on the grass, overwhelmed. About to call my bro and dad

I dismounted from my creaking bike on a patch of moss and grass next to the parking lot. I lay my bike down. It deserved a rest after two and a half months of strain. I collapsed next to it. I was overwhelmed. I felt confused as to what I should be doing first. My mom, Linda, Martin, and Robert pulled into the Cape Spear parking lot, got out, and we had a proper greeting and celebration. My mom came and sat on the grass beside me. We had a long hug. We both cried and laughed.

The sign says it

It was quite magical. Where I had stopped, there was a fog that limited visibility to about a half kilometre. Waves crashed ominously against the rugged rocks below us. The water looked cold and fierce. I wouldn’t be surprised if these waters had a fierce undertow. Whales were emerging from the water. Occasionally they would flip their tails elegantly out of the water. I’ll never forget that moment.

The furthest east point of North America

I remember my fear back in May, driving out west, seeing the poor roads without shoulders in Northern Ontario. I remember stopping at a picnic area in Saskatchewan off the Trans Canada. I stepped outside the vehicle and felt a fierce wind from the east. I was rattled. I hadn’t thought too much about getting headwinds in the prairies; not until that moment. I was scared of being clipped by a trailer. I was scared of not making my distances in the prairies, and getting so far behind that I would have to hop in the support vehicle to make events; and not truly cycling across the country. But we humans are adaptable creatures. When you’re feeling safe in a car, and you feel the wind from trucks whizzing by you in the opposite direction on the two lane highway, it’s easy to think: “a cyclist would be doomed on this road”. Once I was cycling on these roads, I realized that the shoulders were wider than they looked from driving, the truck drivers were usually quite considerate, and when they did pass close the gust could be harnessed to help me accelerate.

Kilometres for Communication is about promoting values of accessibility and inclusion. It’s about advocating for new policies that don’t act as barriers to people who are differently abled. It’s about hearing and sharing stories to create change. It’s about increasing services, supports and technology to help people communicate. It’s about making sure that everyone is heard. It’s about teaching people so that all of this can happen.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, this journey is not over. I may be on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, but the journey towards empowering the voices of Canadians who have little or no speech is still back in the Prairies fighting headwinds. We want to expand our network further and create an inter-provincial coalition to advocate with strength. We want to develop our website further and keep it as a resource of stories and educational info on AAC. We want to continue teaching people.

We’ve received tremendous support on this trip. Some of what was behind those tears to the finish was the generosity and devotion that many have shown us. Everyone who arranged events, offered us your hospitality, shared your stories, taught myself and many others, wrote us comments of encouragement, donated, cycled, fundraised, sported a Km4C shirt, and contributed to this campaign in your own unique way, you all have touched me. Generosity, creativity, courage and charisma exist in all of you. If such a large number of people, across such a large country, can possess these traits, I have faith that the quality of life for Canadians who are differently abled will improve.

We brought the banner from the Cool Communicators at Camp Winfield (near Kelowna, BC). Each hand print on the banner has the child or youth's name written inside it and the communication device they use

I want to say a special thanks to Cyclepath in Toronto, our first official sponsor. I’ve worked there for several years and consider them my second family. Without hesitation, the Wilsons and the rest of the crew at the bike shop were behind me.

A huge thanks to Norco Performance Bikes. That bike persevered through so much abuse. Norco helped to ease the financial strain on our family by covering spare parts, the spare bike, and auction items and goodies for events.

ISAAC Canada has been a terrific partner. The support and networking that our partner has offered us is remarkable. We look forward to continuing on the road towards our mutual goals.

I won’t be blogging daily anymore, however I will continue to blog. There are lots of photos and video that will be posted when we have arrived back home and have access to high speed internet.

I have learned so much from this trip and I hope many have learned from what I’ve shared. This experience was profound, has changed my life, cannot be done justice by any sentence, and will likely remain the most memorable 77 days of my life. This was the toughest challenge I’ve ever had.

-Skye

August 3/11

P.S. If anyone has questions which I have not addressed, please ask them by commenting, and I’ll be happy to reply or address them in a future post!

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Day 76 – Terra Nova National Park to Chapel Arm, NL – 158km

Three years ago, I had a thought. I tried to imagine myself cycling across Canada. “There’s no way,” I told myself. I went out for road rides and couldn’t get the idea out of my head…If I can do 180km today, there’s no reason why I can’t do 100km on the day after today… “There’s still no way,” I told myself.

Through the years that I was in middle school and a junior in high school, my brother had an ongoing battle to get the education he deserved. One of his teachers took his communication device away because she thought the voice was annoying.

Sometimes new vocabulary would be programmed onto Kerr’s Dynavox. He would go to school with a note for his teachers which explained the new programming and asked them to work with Kerr on using it. We later found out that the school considered these notes harassment. Whenever our family pushed for an improvement in Kerr’s education, Kerr seemed to suffer reprisals—forced to eat his lunch in a different room than other students, less time with his attendant who had worked with Kerr for years, and coldness from some of his teachers. Sometimes Kerr came home with a full lunch box. They weren’t even feeding him his lunch sometimes.

Kerr withdrew. He was bored and depressed. Kerr’s assistant would come home in tears some days after witnessing what was happening. I was younger at the time. I knew my brother had every right to communicate and that people who I did not know were taking this right away from him by underestimating and refusing. I was filled with anger. I think this was the only time in my life where I’ve had pent-up hate for particular people. I hadn’t even met these people, but I wondered what had happened to them to make them so naïve and wretched. Biking and running have always been my main outlets for stress and anger (not that I’m angry if you see me running).

I’ve learned a lot since then. I still have many of the same thoughts. However, I now know that it’s not as simple as certain people being cruel and narrow-minded; although there was a lot of cruelty and narrow-mindedness. The politics of a segregating system and disabling attitudes that people learn from others around them are the frameworks that discrimination is constructed from.

Sometimes I like to talk about my problems. I think it’s the healthy thing to do. The unfairness that my brother was experiencing became a battle with the Toronto District School Board that lasted many years. This battle consumed our family life. Ironically, although we were talking about the situation all the time, I never talked about my anger or frustrations. I was sick of the situation. I wanted to tune it out. We were all stressed out and tense, Kerr was depressed, and arguments were arising between us. My mom didn’t need any more stress at this point—she was on a strict macrobiotic diet to eliminate cancerous growths. I hated these teachers, the principal and everyone who made my brother’s twice a day, one hour trek to and from Scarborough for school meaningless; not just meaningless–torturous. I hated these people for ruining our family life.

Biking and running were my emotional releases.

At the end of high school I was thinking much more positively. Kerr had left school. Our battle with the school board had transformed into a legal fight. Kerr was no longer in jeopardy of being discriminated against and not having his needs met on a daily basis. Our family still had our stresses, but we were doing better. Kerr was doing better too. He was volunteering at the Royal Ontario Museum and doing research at the Toronto Archives, giving presentations on human rights (at least some positive things came out of this experience), and learning lots more with his assistants than he learned in the toxic condescending environment at his former school.

This “cycling across Canada” thought wouldn’t leave my head. In grade 12, I made it final that I was taking a year off before university. As you can tell from reading the last couple paragraphs, this experience my brother endured for too long triggers spite in me that most people who know me can’t believe I possess. I’m very passionate in my belief that every person has a right to be included and to have a voice. In Kerr’s experience, he was stripped of his voice, stripped of his humanity, and treated as an object. I knew that my brother wasn’t the only Canadian alternative communicator with such experiences.

I wasn’t sure how, but I was sure of who, why, what, and when. I was going to cycle across Canada to raise awareness about people who speak with augmentative and alternative communication and to try to get values of inclusion and the presumption of ability in mainstream media. I wanted to improve the lives of all Canadians who have disabilities, my focus being on those who are in situations similar to my brother’s. I hadn’t thought much about fundraising at this point, nor had I thought much about advocating for new policy. I knew that I needed my brother’s help. I knew that my mom would be a powerful force in the campaign. I knew my dad would be behind us, and willing to make any sacrifice to make it happen. I talked to my friends, family, and network. Slowly, Kilometres for Communication took shape.

That was three years ago. Tomorrow I finish my pedal across Canada—all the rain, wind, hills, mountains, blisters, sores, thirst, flat tires, fatigue behind me. By no means is this journey to empower voices or prevent what happened to Kerr from happening to others over. However, it does feel that years of emotion, planning, months of giving everything I have, the stories from all the people we’ve met, are manifesting. I haven’t finished yet, but I know that when I do, I will know a new feeling.

Today wasn’t a tough physical challenge. The wind wasn’t a huge factor. There were hills, but what goes up must come down. The sun was out. Nonetheless, today was one of the toughest days mentally of the trip. I was feeling some pain from some rashes. Moreover, I felt so close to finishing, yet I knew that I wasn’t finishing today; that I’d have to wake up again tomorrow and do it one more time. I went through each day of the trip. I tried to go through each road I took, the weather, and the people I met. I had shudders thinking about my days in the prairies and the days of rain in Northern Ontario. That, in combination with thinking of the memories from the last decade, the last three years of planning, and the training 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, got me through today.

At one point today, I was quite high up on a section of the Trans Canada going from the mainland along a channel of land to the Avalon Peninsula. The sky was blue. I could see thick cloud in the valley below me, which I was about to descend into. It really was an epic view, being above the dense clouds and seeing the ocean outlined by misty mountains fading into blue on my right and left. Someone down in that valley probably is wondering where the beautiful day went. They might even think it’s going to rain. I descended into the valley. I lost my view of the ocean. The clouds weren’t dark or threatening from below. They were even more spectacular. The light reflected off the afternoon fog in a magical way that I have never seen before. Life has a way of hiding beauty from those who are afraid to venture.

I cycled by an exit to a place called Mosquito Cove. My first thought was: “Why build a road to such a wretched place?”. On second thought, maybe some people have discovered a gem which they want to keep polished. Perhaps Mosquito Cove is simply a deterring name to keep the tourist traffic away. There’s always another perspective to be taken.

-Skye

August 2/11

Day 75 – Grand Falls-Windsor to Terra Nova National Park, NL – 175km

Last night, the local campgrounds were all full from the summer tourist traffic. We ended up in the free Walmart RV Park. It’s quite funny. Here you have a large empty Walmart parking lot. There’s ample space to park so that you are secluded from any other vehicle and you don’t have to contend with customer traffic. Despite this, all the other RV drivers choose to park their vehicles side by side, a couple metres apart, literally creating an RV park in a Walmart parking lot. We didn’t join the cramped crowd. We parked in a more secluded area of the lot.

Anyhow, in the morning I lugged my bike stand out from our RV’s storage compartment. I put my bike in the stand and tilted it upside down. A rush of water came out from all the bearings, creating a big wet spot on the dry ground. I probably shed a couple pounds from the bike right there. I started working away at fixing up my bike, in the Walmart parking lot a bit before 9am. Customers were staring at me as they drove by. I’m sure it’s a strange sight to see someone fixing a bike in a department store parking lot. I definitely wasn’t fixing my bike in my natural shop habitat.

The weather was fantastic today. Perhaps Mother Nature felt guilty about yesterday. The sun was shining, and the wind was in my favour for 60% of the day. I need all the help I can get to assist me through these last couple days. My mindset earlier in the trip was about pacing, calmness, and enjoying seeing Canada slowly. That was my coping mechanism. Without that way of thinking, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have. Now, my mindset is about survival and making time.

I got a really bad rash from my ride yesterday. A combination of constant wetness, sand and dirt from the road, and the rubbing from my pedal strokes led to breaking skin on both sides of my inner thighs. I also aggravated some older riding sores on my butt. I lathered my sores/rashes in calendula, then taped them with kinisio tape, and then slabbed on a thick layer of Vaseline. That helped a bit, but not enough. I don’t know what I would’ve done if it was raining again today. Thankfully the good weather made it possible for me to make it to where I did.

Here are some things I’ve noticed in Newfoundland.

One: there are a ton of brand new Chevrolet Impalas and Dodge Caravans, often sparkling clean. They dominate the road. Actually local pick-up trucks dominate the road. After the pick-ups, these sparkling clean rental vehicles are the most common on Trans Canada Newfoundland pavement. That probably gives you a bit of perspective on the scale of Newfoundland’s summer tourism.

Two: Every 200km or so, there’s a “Watch for moose” sign that is covered in ‘Navy’ stickers. I find it a little odd. Did someone on a road trip across Newfoundland make it their goal to put stickers on moose warning signs every couple hours?

Three: Newfoundland has to be the ATV capital of Canada. There are log bridges everywhere across the Trans Canada’s ditches from the shoulder into the forest. I question whether some of these bridges could hold my weight. Some of these bridges are built with care, precision and pride. One bridge over a ditch which led to an overgrown seemingly unused trail was built using brand new 4×4’s. That’s a lot of money spent to get over a ditch.

Four: Newfoundland RV drivers like to park close to each other in Walmart parking lots. I haven’t seen anything like this in any of the Walmart parking lots we’ve parked at in other parts of the country.

Five: In other provinces I have to dodge car debris and sometimes glass on the road’s shoulder. In Newfoundland, I have to swerve around moose pooh. Not kidding.

Six: I think people had fun naming places in this province: Dildo, Come by Chance, Random Place, Jumper’s Brook, Heart’s Desire, Old Pelican, South Dildo…weird, but entertaining.

Most of today wasn’t spectacular scenery like the western part of the province. It was much flatter, and there were lots of rocks and  trees. Near the end of today, when I entered Terra Nova National Park, the rugged hills emerged again, and so did glimpses of the ocean.

I’ve planned out my distances so that each day I’ll have to pedal a slightly shorter distance. Yesterday was 185km, today 175km, tomorrow 140km, and at last, on Wednesday, I should only have to pedal 120km.

It doesn’t seem real that I am so close to the end. On one hand, I’m excited and proud. On the other hand, I feel like there’s so much more that needs to be done to improve the lives of Canadians who communicate with AAC and all Canadians who are differently abled. I have a towering mental to-do list that gives me ambition, yet can also be a burden. There have been many profound moments, many people have learned from this campaign, and there have been many fantastic events thanks to many fantastic people. Kilometres for  Communication has been a catalyst for a lot. Despite these positives, I am hesitant to call what we’ve done a complete success. There’s so much that needs to be done. We’ve given it our all, but that never seems to feel satisfactory when we hear stories first hand of systemic discrimination, segregation, and other barriers that need not exist. We’ve been giving it our all, but it always seems like we could be doing more.

This trip may be over in 2 days, but this journey towards accessibility, inclusion, equality, empowered voices will continue.

-Skye

August 1/11

Day 74 – Sandy Lake to Grand Falls-Windsor, NL – 185km

I’m losing my tan in Newfoundland and I don’t like it. Today was probably worthy of the top 10 most difficult days of the trip list. The combination of the long distance with cool weather and rain blowing in my face made the 7-hour day quite gruelling. I suppose  there’s always a trade-off. The weather was quite kind to me the last 2 days in Gros Morne National Park.

I had put on a spandex base layer. Above that layer I had my 80% waterproof jacket which was my warm jacket for the mountains. Over that jacket, I had a light ‘100%’ waterproof shell wind-breaker layer. There’s no such thing as 100% waterproof. The fine mist from vehicles whizzing past will always soak through. I was wet and cold.

We needed a few groceries, so we decided I would end my day in the Dominion parking lot of Grand Falls-Windsor. I checked my Google Maps. I thought I knew where I was going. I did know where I was going. I got off the Trans Canada and biked through the town. There was no Dominion where my map had indicated. I checked my texts. My mom had gone to the same place, discovered there wasn’t a supermarket there, and then driven to the correct place—the Dominion on the other side of town and the other side of the Trans Canada. I pedaled back across the town.

I kept thinking about taking a warm shower at the end of the day. By the time I had found the Dominion parking lot, got inside the RV, changed out of my soaked gear, and dressed in sweatpants and a soft, comfy sweater, I didn’t feel like showering. My skin was pruned and all the sweat had been washed off by the rain. I had been soaking in water all day. I curled up in my sleeping bag and took an evening nap.

It’s a good thing that I have 3 days and less than 500km to go. My bike is aching. I wasn’t able to use my third front gear for the last 100km of today’s ride. Everything seems normal. My shifter isn’t broken. The cable is relatively new. Perhaps the spring in the derailleur is near its end. I don’t really know. I have to fix this tomorrow morning. Bikes do mysterious things after thousands of kilometres. The bearings in the hubs of my rear and front wheel need to be overhauled. They’re super gritty and in need of some grease. Unfortunately, I don’t have an axle vice, a vice, or the cone wrenches to fix this. Only three more days, my dear bike. Hang in there.

I’m also feeling quite stiff from my trail run up Gros Morne Mountain yesterday. It may have been foolish to do such a thing on a ‘rest day’, but it really was an opportunity that was begging. I may not have been able to stand up and push hard on the hills today, but it was worth it for the sights and satisfaction I had yesterday. I kept a very high cadence today. I was rotating my pedals’ cranks about 120 times a minute. I kept telling myself: loosen up, break a sweat, make body heat, warm up, get there quickly. I guess it worked. Only three more days, my dear body and mind. Hang in there.

-Skye

July 31/11

Day 72 & 73 – Rest Days/Detour to Gros Morne National Park

Have you ever seen a picture of a place that put a permanent desire in your mind; an everlasting hope at the back of your mind to one day stumble upon this place? I have.

There’s a classic picture that anyone can find on Google if they search Gros Morne National Park. It’s a picture taken from the top of Gros Morne Mountain looking down onto the fjord of Ten Mile Pond. Years ago—back when I was in grade 7 or 8—I was cutting through a stack of old National Geographic magazines for art class. I saw this stunning image of deep water sheltered between cliffs, and the distant ocean lying placid under a sky. I had no idea where this was, what trail to take to get there, the name of the park. I would figure some of this out, but I certainly didn’t know what was involved to get this view. When I did learn where the picture was taken from, I felt sad. I didn’t see myself or my family travelling there. That image went to the back of my mind for many years.

That image...except this one is my own 🙂

A year and a half ago, when I was planning my route for this bike trip across Canada, I figured that I could stop in at Gros Morne on the drive back from St. John’s. It turned out that the ferry from Argentia was much more time and cost efficient. Argentia is close to St. John’s. It didn’t seem that I would be able to go to Gros Morne on this trip.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Linda, Martin, and Robert, long-time family friends, had flown out to join me for the last leg of the trip. They were planning on visiting Gros Morne during their stay on the Rock. I looked at my schedule, and realized that I could pull of a side trip to Gros Morne. I sacrificed a rest day and added distance another day. Voila! I was 2 days ahead of schedule.

Our first day in the park, I spent some time skipping stones from a pebbly beach into the ocean at Baker’s Brook. It was a clear day. The rugged mountain sides fell into the ocean off in the distance. Later in the day, my mom and I took a cruise along with our family friends to see the fjord of West Pond. It was quite spectacular. However, as I would learn the next day, you don’t realize the scale of size looking up from a boat as you do looking down from the top of the cliffs.

Baker's Brook

The cliffs from lake level

We were discussing our plans for the next day over dinner at a cute restaurant called Java Jack’s. It’s a renovated house converted into an art gallery, bakery, and restaurant. We were figuring out what hikes would be good. I was quite set on doing the 16km Lonely Mountain (Gros Morne) hike. Linda and my mom were interested, but the rest of the crew decided not to go for the long steep hike.

It sounds silly, but on my rest day, I ended up doing a 16km trail run up and down a mountain. People are supposed to allot 6-8 hours for the hike. There was other stuff we wanted to do in our little time at the park, I had blogs to write, and my mom and I had to drive back to Deer Lake so I could begin cycling early the next day. We didn’t want to drive back at night because of the moose risk. There are 4 moose for each square kilometre in the Gros Morne area!  I wanted to see my place. I wanted to take my own picture. I didn’t want to live the image vicariously through Google Images. I was determined to make it happen.

The cliffs from near-summit level

I jogged most of the trail except for some gnarly sections where spraining my ankle would be a huge risk. The final 500 metres of the climb to the summit don’t really follow a path. It’s a steep valley of rock slide. There are small boulders and plenty of loose rock. You sort of make your own path up. I didn’t run up this. I stopped and talked to a couple fellow hikers on the way up. Eventually, I made it to the spot. I took the famous picture. I sat on a rock facing the view. I stayed there for about 10-15 minutes, ate my power bar, and sipped my water. I’ll never forget that view. I assure anyone considering the trek: it’s worth it. This was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve seen in my life.

I had the helmet camera mounted on my backpack. This was taken about 75% up the steep rock section. Notice the size of the people.

Notice where the same people are now 10 minutes later...if you can see them (lower left corner)...this gives you a sense of scale

A photo taken by another hiker on the trail. I have a new appreciation for the altitudes out west. I can't believe I went through a pass 500m higher than this. This seemed pretty high.

On the way back down, I stopped and lounged next to a lake that was still quite high up. It looked over an ocean inlet and other mountains in the area although it was much lower than the summit of Gros Morne. Near this lake, I heard the rushing sound of a stream. A couple steps off the path on an overgrown path, was a little rock pond with water trickling in from a series of mini waterfalls that flowed from higher up the mountain. The water was clear. There was no soil or mud touching the water—just rock. I put some on my face. It was freezing. I cupped some water in my hand and took a sip. It was the cleanest, purest water I have ever drunk in my life.

The lake with the view

I made it back down the mountain by 1:30pm after starting at 10am. I took a shower in the RV. Then I realized how stiff I was. I wasn’t looking forward to the long bike to Grand Falls-Windsor the next day. There are no regrets. An opportunity was begging me. I saw a spectacular sight. Finishing at Cape Spear wouldn’t feel the same if I didn’t get to see the view from the top of Gros Morne. The stiffness will go away, but my memories never will.

Those were two truly remarkable days. I’m touched and delighted that our friends whom I’ve known nearly my whole life, are going to be with me for this final stretch. I’ve got some long and tough days ahead of me to compensate for this detour, but that’s all part of the rewarding challenge.

I may be drunk in dreams, but I would love for my brother to see the sight from the top of Gros Morne one day. Kerr, take a look at the pictures. We’ll dream, and perhaps one day, we’ll stumble on an opportunity and make it a reality. Dreaming is never foolish.

-Skye

July 29 and 30/11

Day 71 – Barachois Pond to Sandy Lake, NL – 144km

Like yesterday, I began today with rain. Sun was in the
forecast and I could see blue sky, so I knew the road would dry up soon, and so
would my clothes. I got soaked from trucks’ spray and my own front wheel
flicking water up. The sun came out, the road dried, and so did my gear in the
breeze. The best way to dry gear on a long day is to keep biking.

I went through Corner Brook and then along Deer Lake. The
Trans Canada follows Deer Lake for about 40km before it reaches the actual town
of Deer Lake. The sky was clear today, so the lake took a deep, dark blue hue. The
wind was against me and I was thankful for the distracting scenery.

By the end of today, I was 2 days ahead of schedule. Some
family friends of ours had flown out from Toronto to join me for the final leg
of the trip in Newfoundland. I’ve known the Vaughan’s since I was 4 years old,
so it’s fitting that they’re here with me to share the joy of completing this
profound journey. Tomorrow and the day after (Saturday), I’ll be in Gros Morne
National Park. I’ve always wanted to see the inland fjords (I know, a bit of an
oxymoron—fjords must be connected to the ocean). I hadn’t originally planned
visiting Gros Morne because it was out of the way. However, this was an
exceptional opportunity, so I decided to try my hardest to get ahead of
schedule in order to make the detour possible.

It felt fantastic finishing today. The headwind made the day’s
end all the more rewarding. More importantly, I knew I had two spectacular days
ahead. This was my finish line before the finish line. When I get back on the
road Sunday, Cape Spear will feel near, my goal in sight, and my mind focused
to pull my body through the last several days.

-Skye

July 28/11

Day 70 – Channel-Port-aux Basques to Barachois Pond, NL – 155km

Last night, our ferry to Newfoundland docked around
9:45pm. We watched remnants of the sun set streaked hazily across dark cloud as
a mystical, behemoth rock rose out of the sea.

The rock rising out of the sea

By the time we got off the boat,
it was dark. There were no campgrounds nearby so we parked in a Foodland
parking lot. It turned out that this was the parking lot where the local teens
came to drink and do drugs. At one point, someone was lying on the ground
nearby kicking their legs in the air—probably close to midnight.

I slept better than my mom. I wasn’t disturbed or worried
at all, so I fell asleep quickly. When I woke up this morning, the wind was
howling. This can be a good or bad thing depending on which direction the wind
is coming from. It turned out to be a cross-wind.

I was pedaling by 9am. I’ve heard that Newfoundland
weather can be unpredictable. I want to give myself a full day to get to where
I need to go in case bad weather comes along at some point. The beginning of
the day was rainy with a gusty tailwind—this lasted about 30km. I was wet, but
I enjoyed the light misty rain with the wind mostly at my back. Sometimes the
twisty highway would curve into a cross-wind. The Table Mountains looked eerie
in the dense mist to my right. To my left, I could make see a peaceful ocean.

The weather cleared and the sun came out. The road
changed direction, and I think the wind may have as well. I now had cross-winds
and headwinds. There were lots of hills: some long gradual climbs, short steep
climbs, and even some long steep climbs with stunning views at the crest. If
the wind isn’t in my favour, I don’t mind some hills.

The scenery was mystical. The clouds, the sea, the hills
and mountains, the little waterfalls emerging from rock faces at the side of
the road, and the rushing brooks created this natural fusion of ruggedness and
calm.

I finished my day at Barachois Pond Provincial Park. We
had a pretty campsite nestled in a dense coniferous tree forest. Some of trees’
roots had clenched on to boulders. There was often no soil or mass to be seen
between the tree and the rock. I’m in awe how some of these trees managed to
grow and thrive from the nutrients in the rock.

Rather than taking a shower, I decided to go for a swim
in the lake. It was cold; similar to Lake Superior in June. I didn’t stay in
long. One of the first things I’ve learned about Newfoundland: lakes are called
ponds, except for several large lakes that span at least 50km.

Barachois Pond Provincial Park: the pebble beach near our campsite

The weather held out for the most part today. The
temperature was awesome. I had a wave of adrenaline as our ferry came closer to
‘The Rock’, but that adrenaline was gone today. I feel lucky that I had the
weather I had. Although I love the scenery, I can’t say I’m looking forward to
the pedaling ahead. I’ve seen the sign saying: St. John’s 810km, St. John’s
780km, etc. I’m still a long ways off, so I won’t have that final rush of
hormonal energy until the last 2 or 3 days of biking. Most significantly, it’s inevitable
that I’ll have at least a couple days of bad weather in this province, which is
surrounded by ocean.

The Trans Canada has a paved shoulder for all of
Newfoundland. There’s no figuring out all the left and right turns each day—it’s
the Trans Canada all the way. Hooray.

-Skye

July 27/11