September 2006 Archives

September 1, 2006


Testing... testing... 1, 2, 3.

September 3, 2006

Back online!

I apologize for the lack of updates. While we were passing through Sackville, New Brunswick, I received notice that the webserver which hosts the BikeAcrossCanada.Ca site had crashed. As a result, all data and backups have been lost. Fortunately, I was able to recover most of the data from Google's cache, but I will not be able to post much of this until I return to Waterloo next week.

Please bear with me in the meantime as I try to get to get everything back up and running. I am also sorting through a couple hundred pictures and videos. If you would like to be notified when all the galleries are up, just leave a comment to this post with your email address (it will not be displayed) or send us an email to

Day 68: New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

Here's a run-down of the past week:
Day 60: Edmundston, NB to Florenceville, NB (137 km)
Day 61: Florenceville, NB to Fredericton, NB (142 km)
Day 62: Fredericton, NB to Moncton, NB (176 km)
Day 63: Moncton, NB to Sackville, NB (50 km)
Day 64: Sackville, NB to Charlottetown, PEI (125 km)
Day 65: Charlottetown, PEI to New Glasgow, NS (75 km)
Day 66-68: Rest days in New Glasgow, NS.

The ride into Edmundston was pretty rough and I ended up breaking a spoke on my rear wheel, but I got it fixed at a local bike shop. Many thanks go to David and Jonathan, who stayed past the 9:30 pm closing time of the store to make sure that my bike was fixed. On the way to Fredericton, I got my 5th flat tire just outside a service station and then a couple days later, I got my 6th flat tire after arriving in Sackville. I'm turning into quite a pro at changing tires.

I was hoping that all my rear wheel woes would be however, but I broke another spoke just before getting on the ferry out of PEI. Thankfully, we met a man named Gunther and his partner Kristl, who graciously took the time to replace my spoke on the road so that I could complete the ride into New Glasgow. He even sent me off with a bottle of Alexander Keith's for some "extra calories".

Gunther noticed that my wheel was spinning funny. It was no longer a perfect circle, but had a slight bulge on one side, which was not a good sign. I could probably finish the trip on it, but I would have to deal with the constant ga-DUN, ga-DUN, ga-DUN bumpiness of riding on an imperfect wheel.

I spent the rest days in New Glasgow trying to get the website back up and responding to 500 emails that have accumulated in my inbox since the beginning of the trip. I rode my bike into town and found that the only repair shop in the entire county was in the process of moving. "Sorry, we are moving and will be closed from September 1st - 4th and will be re-opening on September 5th at (new location)." My heart sank when I read this, because this meant that I would have to either ride until I found another bike shop, which could be up to another 100 km eastward, or take a bus into Halifax with my bike.

Thankfully, the guy next door noticed my despair as I sat on the curb trying to figure out what to do and phoned the owner of the bike shop to see if they would be willing to do some emergency repairs. An hour later, I found myself at the new location of Pictou County Cycle watching their head mechanic Kevin replace the spoke on my wheel and then "true" it with incredible speed. I was further awed by how quickly he changed the tube of my tire-- from start to finish he had everything replaced and inflated within 5 minutes, whereas it usually takes me about half an hour.

I learned that all my broken spokes and flats had likely been the result of riding on an uneven wheel for several hundred kilometres. Though I could probably make it to the end of the trip with it, I would probably face several more flat tires. I decided to play it safe and replace the rear wheel, so things should go smoothly over the next few days.

I've been watching the weather reports carefully over the last few days and it looks like we may be catching some remnants of Hurricane Ernesto tomorrow morning as it is expected to rain between 5-10 mm. This isn't too bad, especially when compared to Sault Ste. Marie back in early August when we had about 60 mm of rain dumped on us in a single day.

These rest days in New Glasgow have afforded me the time to really reflect on this entire journey and I find myself feeling overwhelmed with emotion. There are so many thoughts and feelings that flood through you when you're only a few days away, only a few hundred kilometres, from the goal. Have you ever had a dream of something? Something bigger than yourself, something wonderful. Something that may even seem crazy sometimes, but deep down inside, you have the feeling-- a knowing, that one day, it'll happen. This is what this bike ride has been to me. This has been my lifelong dream.

By the time we finish, it will be 72 days, over 7,000 km, 3 million pedal strokes and a summer that has challenged and deeply changed me.

We are on schedule to reach St. John's, Newfoundland on day 72, Thursday, September 7th. From there, we will spend Friday packing up our gear and then we fly out on Saturday, just in time for my birthday on Sunday. 4 more sunsets!

September 4, 2006

Day 69: New Glasgow to Port Hastings

If we happen to be near a television when we wake up, the first thing that we do is switch it over the weather channel. Quite often, the weather forecasts are vague, calling for scattered showers or something and it's the satellite maps and pressure system diagrams that are more useful. When you're cycling over 100 kilometres a day, the weather can vary quite a bit, especially in the maritimes.

We started at about 7:30 am today and the satellite maps indicated that we would be catching the fringe of Hurricane Ernesto. A light drizzle started coming down at about 11 am and continued until we got into Port Hastings at about 3 pm. There are rolling hills the entire way and the climbs were pretty gradual. On some of the higher hills, there was a spectacular view of the coastline.

Before entering Port Hastings, you have to cross the Canso Causeway, which is a long narrow 2-lane road that connects Cape Breton Island to the rest of Nova Scotia. The shoulder leading up to the causeway is almost non-existant and once we were on the causeway itself, we kept on getting forced off the road by passing tractor trailers. A note for future cyclists, I would suggest shifting down into a lower gear and simply riding on the gravel shoulder instead, if possible. If you find the gravel is too deep and the causeway is busy, consider walking your bike across for safety's sake.

After arriving in Port Hastings we headed for the tourist information centre so that I could ask about a strange section of the road near North Sydney. The road looks like it loops back on itself and the woman at the centre indicated that it's a very steep section of road. A month or two ago, I would have dreaded the climb, but the legs are used to the tough climbs and long days so it shouldn't be too bad.

Only a few more days until St. John's. It's about 160 km to North Sydney tomorrow, where we will be staying at a bed and breakfast across the street from the ferry terminal. We figured it would be a good choice because we have to be in the port at 6 am on Wednesday morning to catch the ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland.

I've had Sarah McLachlin's Ice Cream stuck in my head all day. And the music from City of Angels, which I watched it last night and subsequently found myself missing Jenny more than ever. I think it gets more difficult when I pass through some beautiful areas or quaint little towns and I wish that she were there to share the experience with me. Throughout the trip, I've been making mental notes of places to visit and explore in the future.

I've been trying not to get too anxious on the road, because we are so close to the end and I can barely stand watching the odometer slowly count each meter that we cycle each day. I have mixed feelings about the trip coming to an end on Thursday. On the one hand, it will be good to have completed this cross-Canada adventure, but on the other, I'll miss the freedom of simply spending each day biking and seeing the country. In the future, I would love to be able to re-do the Toronto to Quebec City section, because it's such a beautiful and relatively flat route. Any takers out there?

It's time to get ready for bed and we'll have more for you from North Sydney.

From Canada to Cameroon

I received an email from Marinus, who I connected with through a summer seminar at Chapman University last year. I thought I would share it here:

Hey Jason,

This is Marinus, writing from Cameroon in West Africa. Just want you to know I am very pleased with the sacrifices you and your friend are making to fight this deathly pandemic, especially in the heart of the African continent. I cannot help you financially, but I can support the cause, by dedicating an article in our monthly youth reproductive health magazine to the cause. ... Our print run is 10.000 copies and is distributed in west and central Africa. I hope this can help reach out to as many people as possible. While hoping to hear from you, I remain your friend in the fight. Do have a great day.

Racing to the finish line

Hey Everyone!
Wow, it has been a pretty long time now since I last wrote an entry and I must say a lot has happened and it would be difficult for me to go back and try to recap on all of it, but the most important thing now is that we are in the Maritimes and we are officially on the home stretch! It is especially nice to be in Nova Scotia since this does happen to be my home province. I had the chance to visit with my friends Hilary and Jon in Halifax this past weekend while Jason stayed up in New Glasgow to fix up the website. It was so good to be back in my favorite city again. I don't know what it is about that place but I just feel completely relaxed whenever I'm there and it definitely helped that I had such excellent hosts who made me dinner every night;)

And now we are headed to "The Rock" which I am pretty excited about because it means we get to take another ferry! (Jason is not so keen on our many boat trips but I look forward to every one of them...there's just something so cozy about being on a big boat!)

It looks like we might be enduring rain for our last couple days of biking but that is to be expected here and I think we might have developed a substantial amount of immunity to it the mentality being, just stare straight ahead and concentrate on the finish line, and if that's what it takes then so be it!

So since this is close to being or is my last entry I just want to say it's been a blast and it's been great to be able to share our experience and hopefully it has inspired a bunch more people to take the plunge and bike across Canada. Keep donating too!

September 6, 2006

Day 71: North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland

This morning, we boarded the M/V Joseph and Clara Smallwood at 6:30 AM for a 14-hour ferry ride to Argentia, Newfoundland. I spent most of my time sleeping, eating, writing and shooting electronic bears and prairie dogs in the arcade. I think that the most interesting thing that happened on the boat was when I thought it would be a good idea to temporarily store my gum with the unchewed gum in the package. Yeah, that was a mess.

On the ferry, I had a lot of time to reflect on ... well, everything. Where I've come from, where I'm going and what I want out of life, but those thoughts will be shared another time. At this point, as soon as I get back home, the first thing I want to do is cook. I want to be able to prepare a hot and delicious meal and be able to simply take my time savouring every bite. And then finish it all off with apple pie for dessert.

This evening, we're sleeping in the Argentia ferry terminal. At first, we weren't sure if we would be allowed to sleep here, but the staff said it was okay, so here we are. Tomorrow morning, we begin the final stretch into St. John's. I just might be so happy when I get there that I may throw myself into the Atlantic.

September 7, 2006

Day 72: The morning...

It is now 7:00 am Newfoundland time. We slept well in the ferry terminal, except for the lone mosquito that bit me three times-- I spent 45 minutes trying to swat before I finally smashed it all over my face when it landed briefly on my cheek. And then all was well. There is a light fog outside is probably the best weather we can ask for in Newfoundland. Weather reports are calling for a light drizzle today. The ride is approximately 135 km today with very hilly terrain and I estimate that we shall arrive at about 5 pm.

It's time for breakfast and then we hit the road for one last time. Nervous butterflies will be flying alongside me today.

Day 72: Argentia to St. John's! We made it!

The lights in the ferry terminal switched on at 6 am and I slowly proceeded through my morning routine. Biking shorts. Pants. Jersey. Shirt. Socks. Shoes. Jacket? Not today. And I put the gloves in my pocket. We sat down for breakfast in the terminal and slowly filled our bellies. Bacon. Eggs. Toast. Yogurt. It would be our only meal of the day. As I climbed onto my bike, I paused just as I began to put on my gloves-- I put them away. Today, I wanted to feel everything. Every bump. Every turn. Everything.

The morning greeted us with an island shrouded in mist and such remarkable beauty unfolded before us that every pedal stroke was tinged with a tiny bit of sadness. Without the jacket, I could feel the wind chilling my arms and chest as I coasted down the hills. And without my gloves, I could feel the wheels spinning in my hands and the dampness of the pavement in my fingertips. It was overwhelming. Intimate. Sensual.

School buses passed with children inside. Trucks drove by, spraying a fine mist over me, dotting my glasses. Dirt sprayed up from the road, onto my pants, despite the fenders. Closer and closer. After 100 km, the morning's meal had been depleted and my stomach cried out for more. We stopped and I had an apple, but it wasn't enough. Though I had another one in my pocket, I wouldn't allow myself to eat it. I don't know why. Perhaps I thought that my hopes and dreams would carry me the rest of the way. But it's more likely that I simply wanted to add hunger to the anxiousness and excitement to the flurry of emotions I was already feeling.

A huge hill. Onwards and upwards. Everything was focused on my breathing. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. And as I caught sight of St. John's, my eyes blurred and I found myself completely overwhelmed. Not now, I'm not even there yet. Yes now, experience it now. And as I kept on cycling towards the harbour, all I could think of was how long I have wanted this. How badly I have wanted this. How many nights I have dreamed of cycling across the country. How much this means to me. How much this means to others. How I wish that I could share this incredible feeling with all the people I know and love. How I wish that I could tell all my students that their dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, are beautiful and worthwhile.

Down the hill. We gently rolled into the harbour and our bikes came to a stop. We unclipped ourselves from our bikes and stared at the water before us. We're here. We made it. And a calm settled over us. There was no yelling. There was no epiphany. It was simply quiet and peaceful. And it was wonderful. We took pictures. We admired the scenery. But that wasn't enough.

"I'm going in, hold the camera." She looked at me in disbelief. We were already both shivering from the cold winds. I removed my shoes, grabbed my water bottle and leapt into the harbour.

I plunged into the frigid water with a splash. Everything came alive. Every part of my body screamed for heat. I quickly filled my water bottle with the souvenir of salty Atlantic water, screwed on the cap and hurled it up in the air. Remember. I lowered my head into the water and allowed the coldness to envelop me. Remember this moment. I climbed out of the water and stood shivering and numb, dripping salty trails onto the pavement. I could only laugh when I saw that my water bottle had shattered, spilling my precious souvenir water everywhere.

I pulled my cell phone out of my bag and called Jenny. Hello? Her voice. How I've missed her voice. I could barely contain myself.

I love you so much. I'm finally here. I miss you. And it all poured out, through my gasping breaths, the realization that it was over. 72 days. 7,257 kilometres. 160 pounds on June 28th. 145 pounds on September 7th. 3.4 million spins of the tire. 6 punctured tubes. 3 broken spokes. 1 worn down rear tire. 1 bent rim. A new appreciation for Canada. An opportunity to help communities in Malawi.

Thank you for everyone for helping to save lives on the other side of the world. Thank you for reaching out with your kindness, generosity and support.

Thank you for making a dream come true.

About September 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Jason Shim and Kylie Hicklenton Bike Across Canada in September 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.32