Ups and Downs

After an evening in the local pub in New Glasgow, I was off to PEI, the land of Anne of Green Gables and potatoes. An abysmal forecast meant that I spent most of the morning cycling in the rain, though, as I’ve mentioned before, rain is not much of an issue. My grand entrance into the land of red rock was slightly underwhelming, as the fog was so thick, I wasn’t even aware I had arrived until the boat started to dock.

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Cycling to Charlottetown was a breeze – the ground was as flat as flat can be, and the wind was at bay. There wasn’t much vitality to the countryside in the drizzly conditions, but I couldn’t complain. Well, maybe a little.

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I met some other bike tourists! Two brothers, who were on the way from Ontario to St John’s, were just coming out of Charlottetown, and we passed not far from the city. It’s so awesome to talk with other bike tourists, as touring is such a specific form of masochism that ordinary, smart people find a difficult time relating. They had beautiful matching carbon fibre road bikes that must have weighed less than 20 lbs unladen, giving me pause as I reflected on Olive’s somewhat bloated proportions. Another connection for when I head into Ontario. Great.

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After arriving in Charlottetown, couchsurfing came to my rescue, as the unpredictable weather and ominous forecasts left me hesitant to set up camp in the park. A guy named Oakar offered his apartment, and even connected me with some of his friends for a drive-in movie, something I had never done before.

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I spent the next day touring around PEI with a guy I met from Alaska. We drove to Green Gables – closed, but we were still able to wander around the area – and then went off to spend far too much money having a famous “Lobster supper.” 4 days of my food budget used up in 1 hour. Fantastic.

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Having spent an entire day in Charlottetown, I wasn’t completely convinced about spending another day in PEI, but a friend of mine assured me that Tony and Marion (of warmshowers fame) were worth the extra time, and so I went off to Bonshaw, a mere 25km out of town.

I’m so glad I did.

Upon my arrival, the kindly older couple whisked me away on a brief canoe ride down on the local river. Gentle showers cut things short, but the delicate sound of the rain drops hitting the placid firth was positively electric – a wash of white noise to calm the mind and spirit. How could one feel restless here?

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Dinner was fiddleheads and dandelion greens (both of which we picked down by the water), asparagus (from their garden), potatoes, and pork stir fry. Breakfast the next day was homemade bread with rhubarb from their garden and duck eggs from a local farm. Eating food from the land was fulfilling in measures beyond its nutritional value.

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Tony and Marion’s house was like a warm hug. The place was packed to the brim with knick-knacks and sentimental memorabilia. Did this place even have walls or floors? Old photos, towering bookshelves, and countless plants embraced expansive throw rugs and venerable furniture. Wind chimes filled the air with ancient melodies.  They had an old piano adorned with countless folk instruments (including the largest recorder I had ever seen). Even the room they generously offered me had cozy proportions – a child’s bedroom with an affecting if not slightly undersized sleigh bed.

We ended up jamming into the evening, trying to find intersections in our musical tastes and familiarities. What a hoot! I will miss these people dearly. Tony was off early in the morning, and I missed a chance for a group photo.

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In the morning, I headed for the Confederation Bridge, intending to go through to Shediac, NB by the end of the day.

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New Brunswick hit me like a punch in the gut. A relentless headwind – sometimes gusting to 80km/hr – challenged my resolve. My bike was being thrown around like a toy, and progress felt negligible. I had never felt wind like this, not even in the worst stretches through Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. I was a complete lunatic for the next 40km or so, hurling expletives into the wind only to have them thrown back in my face. If I were watching me, I’d have probably been laughing.

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Salvation came in the form of a very enthusiastic biker from St Louis de Kent, about 75km north of Shediac. I had contacted him the day before through warmshowers, and I hoped to connect with him once I reached there (the next evening). However, so keen was he to bike with me, he drove 100km to Cap-Pelé (about 25km south east of Shediac), drove me BACK to his place is St Louis de Kent, and then we both drove BACK to Cap-Pelé this morning to bike together back to his place. This ride was a welcome change of pace, as he let me ride his luxurious carbon fibre hybrid touring bike without any gear. 100km never felt so easy, and we finished well before noon.

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In contrast to my previous stop, this place is completely modern, with every convenience I could ask for, and many I wouldn’t have thought to. Who’da thunk that I would end up driving a Porsche Boxter while bike touring? Yes, I did that, and it was an awesome and surreal experience. I feel right spoiled here. Tomorrow I’m off to meet an old friend and camp at Kouchibouguac National Park, then on to Bathurst, Campbellton, and across the Gaspesie peninsula in Quebec.

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I’ve determined that I have a bit of IT band syndrome in my left leg. The IT band is a fairly useless tendon that spans the quadricep from the hips to the knee. It’s sole function appears to be to get needlessly tight, requiring isolated stretches, painful massage work, anti-inflammatories, and _rest_ to loosen. It’s frustrating, as I can’t seem to get into the consistent rhythm that I had while biking in NL, but the stretches are proving effective, and a somewhat relaxing day in the park tomorrow should be helpful.

Slightly more alarming is the occasional numbness that I have while biking. I’ve come up with a way to prevent it, but it requires careful attention to how I sit, something which can easily go out the window if I lose focus mentally. I’m continuing to experiment with seat angle and position, and I think that, the next chance I get, I’m going to perform some saddle surgery, like this:

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Bike touring beats ya up. If it’s not the internal struggle to remain positive, it’s the small aches that are worrisome in their potential to worsen. Entering into NB, I came face to face the worst parts of myself. Mentally, I was completely unbridled, and that nagging pain in my left knee that had subsided for pretty much the entirety of PEI came to the fore. Losing control is a bit unsettling, and sometimes I just had to stop and sit at the side of the road, contemplating what the fuck I was doing. My temperament was completely visceral, and during these moments, I longed for someone to share my suffering with. But there was no one. I was alone with my demons, and I had to pick my ass up and carry on.

“No matter where you go, there you are.”

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6 comments

  1. Hey Joe….you definitely have a flair for writing …. Loving your blogs, feeling your pain, truly! Persevere my friend, praying for tailwinds, beautiful weather and friendly door opening peeps!

  2. (not pictured: wind) HAHAHA! Great post man. I am loving how many friendly folks you are meeting along the way!

    As for the numbness. You are right that you do need to consciously remind yourself to sit on your sitting bones, and you are also right that making small adjustments to your seat height, fore/aft position and tilt can make big differences. I am wondering though… are you wearing bike shorts under those pants? Considering picking up some nice cycling shorts and long tights in the next town you stop in… it can make all the difference.

    1. One more thought on seats:
      I have struggled with seat fit in the past as well. I previously jumped from one seat that was recommended by someone to another. But in the end, it’s a personal fit. Another cycling relevent adage “One man’s lazy-boy is another man’s ass-hatchet.”

      I have finally found one that gives me no problems, and it does have a cutout. It’s a specialized romin… and I think a big part of why it fits is how they measure your ass and give you the exact size you need, but also allow you to try it for free for a few days.

  3. Love that quote, Dave. The seat will work, I think, when I cut it out. Until then (some time in Ontario or Quebec), I’ll continue to experiment, as I have successfully been able to mitigate it for the most part. Bike shorts? Yes, I have two pairs.

    Thanks, Kathy. (-: Always happy to read your comments!

  4. PORSHE BOXSTER.

    I could die a happy man after driving a Porshe!! Haha, great article, good to hear you’re doing well and all that! The Maritimes seem to be taking good care of you. Keep them coming!

  5. as always, enjoying these posts. I am amazed at the adventure of it all, these memories will be with you forever. (especially that ‘crazy wind story) And equally great is the generous, friendly people you are hooking up with. Makes me consider adding our name to the site to be a host to cyclists. I am sure many would make their way through Victoria. anyways, signing off for now.
    Mom

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