Across Canada Tour
Sidney, British Columbia to Sydney, Nova Scotia
(Plus a bit more!)
The Route, at a glance…
Sidney, BC – Alberta – Saskatchewan – Manitoba – Ontario – Quebec – New Brunswick – Prince Edward Island – Nova Scotia – Newfoundland – Nova Scotia
June 8th to September 3rd, 2002
Estimated distance – 8000 kms (Actual distance at completion – 8932 kms)
May 9th, 2002 – This upcoming tour will test my mettle! I’m just about ready, as is my bike and camping gear…
I plan to take Highway 3 through BC until Medicine Hat, Alberta and then a short portion of Highway 1, the Trans Canada, until Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Then I’ll head south – away from the major highways and traffic – picking up the Red Coat Trail, Highway 13, and hoping that the road is in fairly decent shape. Many of the paved roads in Alberta and Saskatchewan have been degraded to gravel in recent years due to fiscal constraints! Regardless, I will try to use back roads as much as possible. Once Ontario looms ahead, then I have not much choice for many miles other that Highways 11 and 17, both very busy major highways. I’ll be able to leave 17 before Sudbury, ON and head south on Highway 6 to Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. From there I’ll head east to Renfrew, ON and cross the Ottawa River at Fitzroy Harbour, ON. Once in Quebec, my route will take me on Highways 148 and 344 to the Montreal area and beyond that I’ll be on 138 to Quebec City, where I can cross the St. Lawrence River or ride on the north shore to St. Simeon and cross there via a ferry. I can rail trail all the way into New Brunswick on the “Le petit Témis.” New Brunswick brings many options too, but I’ll basically head south to the Bay of Fundy and then east for the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island. Ferry over to Nova Scotia and on to Sydney, NS and another ferry to Newfoundland – time permitting. I’ll have to return to Halifax, Nova Scotia for my return flight, so my plans at that point will entirely depend on how much time I have left before the flight home. As planned, there is much room for change once I leave Ontario, ultimately, to spend as much time as possible in the Maritimes, which is a part of Canada that I have not previously visited.
I’ll mention here that I have only added a few photos throughout this blog post of my Bicycle Tour across Canada, but all my images from this trip are available for viewing by clicking this link.
June 8th finally arrives!…
This whole tour report is compiled from my notes and the daily email scribblings that I sent, via my Pocketmail device (Sharp TM-20), to family and friends whilst I was touring. I wrote almost every day that I travelled and the following messages were written at the end of each day. I hope that my day-to-day words will allow you to share in my thoughts and observations as I travelled across the second largest country in the world, and ultimately, the North American Continent.
Day 1 – June 8th – Sidney, BC to Hope, BC – 174 kms
After dipping my wheel in the calm waters of the Pacific, the short ride from Sidney to the ferry terminal was uneventful and the 7:00 a.m. ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen has left on time. This is a ferry crossing that I have taken many times, but this time I’m very excited and it has nothing to do with the ferry ride itself. This is the start of my 12 week solo trek across Canada; what a feeling to be finally at this stage. I have lots of mixed emotions; some sad, at having to leave my wife and home for such an extended period, but mostly good feelings at being on a major tour again and starting a trip that I have been planning for a long time – a trip of a lifetime!
174 kms later, I made it all the way to Hope – what a great ride! Although, the requests to my friends to pray for “wind at my back” seem to have gone unheeded. Well almost! I guess that 25% of the day was tailwinds and the rest a combination of cross/headwinds. Made for a tough first day! At least the weather did cooperate – warm and dry, all but the last 2 kms into Hope when it started to rain; by that time I could care less, but it did make the camping spot a wee bit soggy!
I did manage to find some new hills in the Surrey and Abbotsford (supposedly!) flatland regions, but it was nicer and safer than riding through the busy towns of Cloverdale and Langley. Also the Trans Canada #1 (TC) was not an option as bicycles are not allowed on the TC until Abbotsford; even then bicycles have to exit before, then re-enter after the Vedder Canal bridge. I did ride the TC from Chilliwack to Hope for the last 50 kms of the day, but the rest of the route was through the pastoral farmlands of the lower BC mainland. For the most part I’ve ridden this route and many of the area’s roads before, so there was no big adventure on this section. It was pleasant to see all the faded directional markings on the road from previous BC Lung fundraising “TREK” rides that I have participated in over many years in this region. Some of the markings are from a route that we haven’t ridden for at least 5 years! Good paint!
Tired as I was, I played host in my campsite to another touring cyclist who showed up about an hour after my arrival. Brian from Mission, BC; he’s heading south after Fernie – to South America! He figures that he’ll be on the road for 18 months, and to top it all, he’s riding a recumbent piled high with a ton of gear! He was amazed that I had ridden from Sidney in one day; believe me, no one was more surprised than me! So we shared the campsite and split the cost – good deal and good company for me! Just as well, as the same campground that was $8.00 last year, was now $12.00!
Tomorrow, I hope to be in Princeton – in one of those cheap riverside cabins – we’ll see!
Day 2 – June 9th – Hope to Princeton – 137 kms
Another big day and a tough ride with two mountain passes under my belt. The first pass of any trip is always a toughie, and today’s was no exception. The weather was hot and sunny, which seemed to make the hills seem all the more daunting. Allison Pass was more difficult from the west than when I rode it from the east last year. Anyway, that’s those two out of the way!
I decided on taking Highway 3 – the Crowsnest Highway – as my route east out of BC, rather than the Trans Canada 1 a little further to the north. Highway 3, although more mountainous, is a far more scenic route and does not have the “freeway” atmosphere of Trans Canada 1.
I met a gaggle of cyclists just as I was leaving Hope, they relayed that they were on their way to Edmonton. They had empty bikes, a motor-home and a SAG wagon following. I was almost jealous as I was humping my 50 lbs of gear up the hill out of Hope. However whilst climbing the hill, I was riding alongside and chatting with one of the young lady cyclists (the only one that was slow enough to keep up with my laden snail pace) who was describing their intended route to me, when I suddenly realised that they should have taken the Coquihalla Highway 5 out of Hope, not Highway 3! So off she went to catch up with the others, who fortunately had stopped for a rest a little further up the hill around a bend. They all had to turn around and head back to Hope – a good warm-up for all those youngsters I thought as I chuckled to myself!
About 30 kms out of Hope, I saw this guy coming towards me, in a car with his head hanging out of the window, shouting and yelling. It was my friend the “no-show” from yesterday – John Keyser. Turns out that he did show up to ride along with me yesterday, but we just missed each other. Actually, we saw each other from a distance, but we were both too stupid to realise who each other was and make the connection – until today. Anyway, it was nice of him and his wife Bev to track me down today. Only problem was that he was in a hurry to get back to the gas station that he left his wallet at! Good luck John!
Further along today’s route, I met two young lady cyclists from Quebec. They flew their bikes and gear out to Vancouver and were riding all the way back to Quebec. I met them about 5 kms west of the Allison Pass summit and they grilled me on the road ahead. As soon as I mentioned that Sunday Summit was still ahead after the crest, they decided to stay in Manning Park for the night. Wise move! I didn’t get into Princeton until 6:00 p.m.! – 6 litres of water later and very tired. At least the last 30 kms after Sunday Summit were downhill!
Whilst I was crawling up one of the hills today, a small bear cub ran in front me – “Great!” I thought, “where’s Momma bear?” But I was lucky, as Momma never appeared. I also saw a mule deer and I snapped a good photo of a moose cow, not to mention Basil’s ground squirrel buddies a Manning Park.
While I was crawling up one of the hills today, a small bear cub ran in front me – “Great!” I thought, “where’s Momma bear?” But I was lucky, as Momma never appeared. I also saw a mule deer and I snapped a good photo of a moose cow, not to mention Basil’s ground squirrel buddies a Manning Park.
On the outskirts of Princeton, I rode past the remains of the big forest fire that was started by a motor-home last year; lots of blackened and charred trees – Ugly!
Tired as I was, I rode by some spectacular scenery, that would only be visible by someone cycling eastward, as I was, very close to some very precipitous embankments – beauty! The weather was also a bonus, but I’m still looking for those tailwinds! Maybe tomorrow eh?
I’ve opted for the riverside cabin tonight, rather than camping. Nice, clean and peaceful – cheap too!
Day 3 – June 10th – Princeton to Osoyoos – 124 kms
Shortest day yet, but I’m feeling it! I think that I might just have a rest day here and tackle Anarchist mountain the next day. I’ve got a nice campsite by the beach with showers etc. So I can use tomorrow to do laundry and relax. I’m quite a bit ahead of where I figured I’d be by now, and besides the weather is really hot all of a sudden, so a day to acclimatise certainly won’t hurt – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Besides, by the lake, on a beach, temperatures in the high 30’s – come on now!
Anyway, some of my friends back home must have done some good praying last night, ’cause I got my tail winds today – for the most part. I had a great run into Keremeos and Cawston, but as soon as the road began to undulate the wind god turned on me. Mostly flat road today except some fool stuck Richter Pass in the last part of the ride, but it was a nice downhill after that into the desert like Osoyoos and its surrounding area. The road follows the Similkameen River for a long stretch and it was interesting to watch the scenery change to the desert and sagebrush qualities of this area from the highly forested regions of the previous days’ rides.
The campground that I’m staying at has the beginning of the climb up to Anarchist summit for a backdrop, so I can watch the trucks crawling up there, just as I will have to do – Oh joy!
My Moroccan pasta and beans are almost ready, my beer’s getting warm and I’m starving – I’m off!