Louisville Bicycle Club

Louisville Bicycle Club Newsletter -- November-December 1996

New Found Newfoundland

by David Ryan

My fourth major and longest bike ride, 2818 riding miles in 30 full days (Aug.23-Sep.21,1996), plus two airport commutes at the end for a total of 2854.6. The shortest full day was 62.4 (100.5 km); the longest 125.2 (201.5 km); 16 days over 100 miles; 8 ferry rides for a total of 180 miles; 20 miles of vertical climbing; mountain bike and gear weight of 105-115 lbs.; eight states (KY OH WV PA NY VT NH ME), six provinces (ON NB PE NS PQ and NF including Labrador), three hurricanes (Hortense shut down the Newfoundland ferry for two days immediately after my crossing), riding in the rain on nine days (320 miles in the rain, 125 on one day going for the Newfoundland ferry), 30 motels, 1000 pictures, one broken derailleur cable (had a spare) but zero flat tires! Alone. Actually, I was not quite alone. I spoke to several people in the Washington and Maysville, KY and Portsmouth, OH area who asked if I was part of a large group that had just bicycled through from Ontario on their way to Atlanta. There was Keith in Parkersburg, WV, who flagged me down to tell me he had seen several other bicyclists making the same mistake I was, getting off on US Truck Rt.50, not realizing that it did not reconnect to US 50 except on I-77, saving me eight miles after dark. There was a couple in Wheeling who offered me a place to stay (I already had reservations). Near Buffalo, NY, a man, seeing me studying a map beside the road, pulled his pickup truck over to offer advice on a route that proved useful. There was a girl in Burlington, VT who stopped me to talk about touring because she was leaving the next day on a group tour of France (I could tell from her calves she was ready). Stephen, who was going from Essex, VT to Freeport, ME, rode with me for a few miles. We discussed whether the best route was through Crawford Notch or Kancamagus Pass in New Hampshire. It depends. He took the pass; I took the lower notch. I briefly met another cyclist who had been on the road for seven months and 3300 miles from Florida. We exchanged stories and pictures just before I stopped for the best meal of the trip at Jaspers in Ellsworth, ME.

I dutifully informed the Canadian customs officer at Campobello Is. that I was not carrying any alcohol, tobacco, firearms, mace or radar detectors. The last information, which I volunteered, brought a smile. The Deer Is. ferry operator related his impressions of Nova Scotia to me after inviting me out of the rain into the small ferry cabin. I talked to the Prince Edward Island ferrymen about the bridge that will soon cost them their jobs upon its completion in 1997. Bicyclists will then be ferried across the fifteen mile long bridge by bus. I talked to several people on the Newfoundland ferry during its seven hour crossing of the Gulf of St.Lawrence, many of whom had seen me on the road earlier. By the end of the ferry ride, it seemed everyone knew me and wanted to talk. As I rode for three days up the Viking highway, the only road up the Northern Penninsula of Newfoundland, with an almost uninterrupted 300 mile view of the Gulf of St.Lawrence (I saw one out-of-season iceberg), I became a familiar sight to many in that sparse area who had seen me on their way to work in the morning, and further along as they drove home later; many honked, a few pulled over to find out from where I had come. I spent two evenings in the Viking Motel, restaurant and bar. As I finished a second full course meal one evening, one local patron simply could not believe someone could eat so much. Finally, at L'Anse aux Meadows, the site of the only known Viking settlement in North America, several visitors seemed as curious about my trip as about Leif Ericson's.

Besides meeting people face to face, I like to get the local news. The time it takes to pass through a given area and evenings in motel rooms gives me time to get from radio and television what the local issues are. In Newfoundland, for example, Metis (a Native American group) were protesting the construction of a fishing lodge in Labrador without the use of much Labradorian labor. I heard about, and saw for myself (at Port-au-Choix), high school student walkouts over provincial budget cuts threatening extra-curricular activities.

I also called my mom every night, let people at work follow my progress three times a week, and called Adrian Freund at the Tour de Gil from Erie, PA to save me a hot dog! The solitude makes every personal contact a more important and meaningful part of the bike trip and my life in general, and I have time to reflect on each one and put it into context before returning to the hubbub of work and everyday life.

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Copyright 1996 Louisville Wheelmen

last updated: 08 November 1996
by Duc M. Do