I must be getting close to the end as I’m being tested on all fronts for the remaining couple of hundred kilometres. I’m situated in the town of Gander, wearing 3 layers of Merino Wool for the Uppers, 4 pairs of Merino Wool Socks, long johns, pants, and my rain pants. I forgot to mention that all the wool is still wet from the washer – this is the quickest way to dry in these situations… I made the decision today to stop into a Laundromat to get a wash of my gear, jacket, gloves, and other items as they all have been covered in mud, not to mention my whole body was emanating an odour beyond anything you’d ever want to imagine. I’ve been sleeping in the same clothes I ride in over and over again in order to keep myself warm, and things were starting to get funky. Getting my garments in the washer allowed myself to head into the washroom and give myself a sponge bath and wash my hair, something that I’ve desperately needed due to the added sweat and heat I’m giving myself throughout the day from so many layers climbing hills, and from sweating away in it at night.
The repair to the pannier didn’t work, and I’ve got an even bigger rip in the side of it, so the food pannier is no longer waterproof, and noticed that the electronics bag has yet another rip, allowing seepage to come through. After a quick inspection of the others I also found the clothing pannier to have a good gash in it, yet I noticed no moisture on the inside. The end can’t come soon enough to keep things dry, and I’ll start collecting shopping bags as of tomorrow to wrap everything inside. The Sealskinz gloves I spoke about when I was in PEI are not doing their job either, after a wash a few days ago they are making crinkling sounds sort of like a plastic bag, and allowing all sorts of wetness in – I’ll be contacting the manufacturer and letting them know my experiences and perhaps I’ve got a bad batch. The only other gloves I’ve seen have been from Gore Bike Wear, which I will try out next as I’m determined to find a set of waterproof gloves, and desperately need to protect the digits as they are absolutely frozen throughout the day while riding, along with my toes, the wind passing through my holey Timberland Hiking boots making them feel like bricks. They’re constantly soaked no matter how I try to protect them with booties, or plastic bags, and it is a real shocker in the morning to slip these boots on to start my day.
Setting up a soggy, frost covered tent has been quite the challenge as well, that is, once I’ve been able to find a decent spot to camp out in. Last night, I found a decent spot in the town of Grand Falls, only to be alerted by the Barkeeper next door, Rod, that there would be gravel and dump trucks going into my path at 5:30am. This made for an early morning for me, luckily he left the side door of the hotel open for me and loaded me up with coffee and toast while my tent poles defrosted so I could properly pack them up. Pulling the tent out tonight in the city of Gander took many shakes to get the packed snow off and I took off two layers of clothes to wipe down the inside of the tent so that it wasn’t a puddle when I return to it later tonight to get some shut eye. I don’t plan on leaving the tent like I had to the other night in the pouring rain in the middle of nowhere to move my bicycle, as I had yet again set up my tent in the path of where semi trucks drop their trailers off temporarily. At least this truck didn’t try to back over me like in Carrot Creek Alberta. At this stage there is no possible way that I can dry out the tent throughout the day while stopping for riding – It’s just too bloody cold! I have to shuffle around while stuffing food into my mouth to keep warm, and since the temperature is hovering at 1 degree constantly it just causes more work to unpack the tent, pretend it is drying off and then cause pain to my fingers to repack the Ortlieb trunk bag I carry all my sleeping gear in. It’s also best I don’t open it up and see how soaked my sleeping bag and Exped Synmat 7 Deluxe air mattress is.
My daily costs have been skyrocketing, purchasing mostly dry foods on a daily basis to eat while riding, and stopping for coffees, hot chocolates and meals as I go. The warmth does me good, but destroys any desire to ride afterwards, so I struggle to make my 100km a day target. In an attempt to deal with getting rid of some of the food in my panniers I setup the stove while waiting for laundry to dry at the Laundromat, only to have my fuel canister and pump pop with a bang, releasing all pressure in the canister, destroying any abilities to use the stove any further. It didn’t work worth a damn anyways over the past few days, unleaded gas clogging the jets equating into it not boiling water/heating meals properly whatsoever.
The phone continues to flash No Service, and finding internet access has been quite difficult on these lonely stretches of road. My only saving grace to get email and find out weather reports (which are entirely untrustworthy for more than 30 minutes) has been my Amazon Kindle E-Reader. It has a 3G modem embedded inside of it and gives me real basic web browsing capabilities. My cell phone provider only offers service in St. John’s, so I’ll have to wait until then to make any make/receive any calls or use it for data purposes. It is frustrating as I’m trying to arrange to have winter gear shipped out to me from BC, and close the door on some issues that have been causing me stress over the past month, passing through my mental system and causing physical issues because of it. Stress, seriously, it’s a killer.
There, got it out of my system. Not all weeks are roses, and while I remain upbeat, thanks to my speaker system boosting my mood, the conditions are tough, and I’m being thrown curveballs every which direction that are impacting my overall experience. There really isn’t that much to look at while riding on Highway 1 – the Trans Canada Highway, it’s a windy stretch of hills passing through communities every 80 or more kilometres closely following the old rail line that connected the east and west ends of the island in the late 1800′s up until the 1970′s. The locals affectionately call it the Newfie Bullet each telling stories of cars that had a different party going on at any given time, with breakdowns frequently occurring, snow storms blocking passageways and the overall slow transit time from point to point. In fact, I heard a great story about a woman who was pregnant on the train and contacted the conductor to ask if they could speed it up as she was about to go into labour. The conductor asked her why she didn’t take a plane or use some sort of other service if she needed to get to a hospital to deal with the birth, to which she replied that she wasn’t pregnant before she got on. Ha. This was the only way to get from community to community safely back in the days, as the highway has only been in place since the ’60s, where before it was just a bumpy rocky road causing major flats and breakdowns for people ballsy enough to make the trek. Thank goodness I’m not riding those roads, as the ones in place are great – lots of shoulder space, no potholes, and little to no bumps or jitters in the bike while riding, allowing one to get good speed while going up or down hills – that is if the 50km/h gusts of wind in your face don’t stall you.
I’m planning on taking a detour about 100km away from St. Johns and heading north, to visit a friend for a few days, where I will decide if I want to keep riding around or call it an end to the trip after hitting up Cape Spear – the weather is supposed to flip by the weekend giving us 15 degree temperatures with lots of sun, and I’ll make my decision then. This will be my only time to cycle some of these areas as soon the snow will start falling and change the landscape in ones eyes, and I seriously don’t want to be attempting any of these steep hills with ice on the roads. Right now is bad enough. Props again to the Schwalbe Marathon XR tires for being sticky enough to deal with the snow, flurries, and ice I’ve been encountering so far. Ahh Newfoundland. Hopefully I can make it without getting busted for my poor attempt at stealth camping tonight and make it through the next 3 days of cold weather! It is November after all though, so I’m not expecting any sort of breaks from Mother Nature.