This resumption of Chris and Heather Hartridge’s cross-Canada bike tour is dedication to friend and fellow musician Murray Boal who died in 2015. Based on one of Murray’s songs, “Good Neighbours”, the bikers have named this tour the Good Neighbours Tour and look forward to meeting many new neighbours along the way.
Well… we’ve done it! 7,326 kilometres, 180 days of travel and we’ve arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland! What an incredible feeling it is to have arrived at the most easterly point of North America – on our bicycles!
As you may remember, we started this journey July 11, 2016 from Old Masset on Haida Gwaii. Unfortunately, Part 1 of this two-part journey ended when my mother, Molly, fell ill at her home in Surrey, B.C. In late August last year, we stopped our tour in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta so we could be with her. We’re very happy we did. In her last few days, she was comforted having family around her and she made us promise to continue our adventure across the continent in the summer of 2017. We made the commitment and were delighted to say… we’ve made it, Molly!
In our last story, we were just approaching the beautiful island of Cape Breton and… the unpredictable weather that comes with it. As we made our way over to North Sydney, our ride up to the highlands started out like many other days on this tour: rainy. Spray from the highway trucks kept us wet as they roared by on their way to points north and east. Maybe to Newfoundland? Thankfully by midday, the sun came out and we were stripping off the rain gear in favour of T-shirts.
We had scheduled a rest day in the historic Cape Breton town of Baddeck, Nova Scotia, home to the Alexander Graham Bell museum. He and his family settled in this area in the late 1880s and his extensive list of inventions grew over the years. At the museum, we learned that apart from his involvement with the telephone and the phonograph, Bell was responsible for the first flight of a powered aircraft in Canada. The museum is fantastic if you ever get a chance to see it.
We continued pedaling to North Sydney, where we would spend our last day in Nova Scotia dining on delicacies like lobster clubhouse sandwiches and freshly caught cod fish and chips. Our ferry for Newfoundland left at 5:30 p.m., so we arrived early to make sure all was well in regard to boarding with bicycles. The crew was extremely helpful and the ship sailed right on time. We had a cabin for the 16-hour night crossing and considered ourselves very lucky, as the waters were relatively calm. We had heard so many stories about the rough crossing from North Sydney to Argentia that an easy passage was a huge surprise to us.
As dawn broke, we could see the shadowy shapes of land from the chilly deck. It was a dreamlike moment considering how far we had come. We were facing the shore of our last province on the last week of our tour. It was a fantastic feeling.
Once on ‘The Rock’, we had to dress up a bit as the winds were cold near the coast. Riding inland on the rollercoaster roads, we soon had sunshine and warmer temperatures. Was this a sign of things to come? As we would learn, it wasn’t. The weather while we were in Newfoundland was changeable, to put it mildly. From warm to cold, from sunny to heavy rainfall – we experienced it all. Didn’t matter, we loved every minute of it!
En route to St. John’s, we stayed at various places, the last one being the little town of Holyrood. Holyrood has a varied history and like many other communities in Newfoundland, it’s still home to folks whose families have been there for many generations. We met a lady named Shirley Fuery who runs a pub in town. Her family built a hotel there in the mid 1940s and she’s still there tending bar. And just around the bay from Holyrood, Harbour Grace was home to the notorious gangster Whitey Bolger… maybe a dubious distinction for this lovely area of Newfoundland.
It’s interesting how after pedaling thousands of kilometres, the feeling of achievement is moderated by the slow gradual pace to get to the destination. It’s not like jumping on a plane, flying for a few hours and stepping off into a completely different landscape. During the Good Neighbour tour, a day-by-day effort little by little introduced us to each region we’ve cycled through… Haida Gwaii, Central B.C., the Rockies, the Prairies, the Great Lakes, the US states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, Central Canada, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Maritimes and now Newfoundland have all seemed like home… for a very brief time. So, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, we’re extremely happy and very satisfied to be in our most eastern home, albeit for a very short time. And we’re smiling, because we’ll be back home soon.
Finally, we’d like to recognize the people for whom this journey is dedicated to. My mum, Molly, and our very good friend Murray Boal. They kept us going through those windy dust storms on the prairie, they were with us as we faced scorching headwinds in Minnesota, we thought of them as we dodged the rainstorms from Alberta to Newfoundland, we wondered if they were watching as we ran over hundreds of screws near Bemidji, Minnesota, but whatever the situation, they were always on our minds.
We’d also like to acknowledge the friendship and hospitality extended to us by the numerous people across this continent that hosted us as we passed through. From Red Deer to Fredericton, Queen Charlotte City to Langley, we were welcomed with open arms. Thanks to all those folks.
And… then there is our support team. Our son Dustin played a big role making this tour a reality. He was our shuttle to the Via Rail train on our first day of Part 1 of the tour. He helped us get home last year as we were rushing to see mum when she fell ill. He drove us back to the same spot where we left off last year to start Part 2 this year. And finally, he is our shuttle home from the Lower Mainland when we fly back from Newfoundland. Thanks Dusty!
Numerous time we’ve been asked, “Why do you do this?” Our answer is always: “Because we can.” Life has been good to us and we’re showing our thanks by getting the most from each and every day. Thanks to Annie and the Observer for allowing us to share this and many of our past journeys with YOU. We have received many wonderful comments about the tour from those of you reading along. Thanks a lot for being Good Neighbours!
‘Till the next time – Chris & Heather