Follow the adventures of Bryan Thorp as he lives his dream of riding across Canada from coast to coast.
Prince Edward Island
Day 76 - Aug 27 - Thu
Summerside, PEI - PEI National Park, Cavendish - 74km
I 'slept in' until 07:00 and did some chores, trip planning and ate a simple breakfast in my room. I heard on the TV news that a second hurricane, named Danny, is likely to hit the Maritimes in 3 days or so. Hmmm, that might be a good time to get a motel and take a rest day. As for my routing for PEI, I've decided to head 'up' to the northeast coast - the Atlantic shoreline - from Summerside and then head west and follow the coastline all the way to the ferry. That'd take 4 or 5 days, I think.
I hit the road around 10:30. The plan today, and for all of PEI, is to take it slowly and to make plenty of stops, either to have a bite, take photos or to simply savour the last few days of my tour. I expect that my daily mileage will drop from an average of 125km to somewhere under 100km. Depending on how fast I do PEI, I figure I'm 7 or 8 days from completion of my tour. :-(
I ride into 'downtown' Summerside - really, downtown is like 4x4 blocks, it's quite a small town - and decide that a nice relaxing breakfast, my 2nd of the day, would be nice. Boy, I'm slacking off today! I get an Eggbeaters omelette and coffee. Tasty! Too bad the service is uninspired. I top up my groceries at the small grocery store next door, then do a tour of Summerside's waterfront, downtown main street and the beautiful older homes in the downtown area. Next time I come to Summerside, I'll have to see if I can find out, beforehand, where my parents lived, if not on the air force base.
I hit the road, or rather the rail bed - the Confederation Trail - and follow that thru "Traveller's Rest", approx. 10km, then I switch to highway 2 to Kensington. The name "Traveller's Rest" is much better than Eastend, SK's!! The Confederation Trail stretches tip-to-tip at 270km, and branches bring it up to 400km. Riding the trail tip-to-tip is NOT the way to see PEI as you'd just see hedgerows, bushes, trees, farms and some backyards. However, it's great to get from point A to point B without using a road or highway.
At Kensington, I visited the Tourist Info just to confirm my routing to the Atlantic coast side of PEI. I also looked for a coffee shop in town but only found a small Timmy's at the local Esso station. I ain't drinking Timmy's coffee here in PEI - I want a local establishment! I eventually found that a lot of the towns I was to visit have very few services. Certainly gas stations are few and far between, as are grocery stores, but coffee shops? I did not see one since Summerside. Restaurants are here and there, but not in every town. So, the bicycle tourist needs to bring at least a day's worth of food with him.
Exiting Kensington, I turned onto highway 20E, and followed it for a few clicks and then turned onto 104N. The winds were still at 30-35km/h as they were yesterday - confirmed at the Tourist Info - and now I had a headwind. This is the 1st time I've deliberately taken an optional route WITH a headwind - I could've avoided it. It's only about 5km with the wind, so it was not a big deal.
Eventually, I reach Malpeque which I would've missed if I'd sneezed at the time. The scenery has changed from nice rolling hills with pretty farms, etc, to beautiful coastline and small, very small, towns nestled in small valleys, typically in a bay.
I reach Darnley and almost ride by a seafood restaurant. I decide to see if I can get just a coffee. I can, and I also order lemon cake with raspberry sauce. Delicious! This is the life! As a bonus, the restaurant has wi-fi, so I catch up on emails.
I continue in a south eastern direction along the Atlantic coast. Very beautiful and my hunch that the coastline would be worthwhile has paid off in spades. The hills have gotten bigger but in the 32km from Darnley to Cavendish, I only climbed just over 300m, so it certainly wasn't a killer. There are quite a few private and provincial campsites here, but there's also a federal National Park at Cavendish. I decide to check that out versus a 2nd federal park that's 30km further down the road, as it's already 18:00 and sunset is in just over 2 hours. It turned out to be a great decision. I asked for a sheltered spot for my tent - remember the winds? - and I was assigned a great spot that was near the beach with crashing waves! What a great campground! Although I'm getting tired of camping, this site is awesome and I'm really enjoying my stay here. Too make things even better, a French Canadian came by and after chatting for a while, offered me some clam chowder his wife had made earlier that day! It was excellent! While eating the clam chowder, another French Canadian couple, independent computer consultants - bless 'em - offered me wine with my dinner. Jeez, I've died and gone to heaven already! What a great way to end the day. It was nice to have company for dinner, too!
All good Canadians know that PEI is the home of Anne of Green Gables. I know absolutely nothing of Anne or Green Gables, so maybe I'm not as good a Canadian as I could be. I seem to recall that the Japanese have a fetish for Anne. Green Gables is a Canadian National Park and is a few clicks down the road from my campsite. Maybe next time after I read the book?
PEI has exceeded my expectations and I would say that this had been one of the most satisfying days of my tour so far. Why did I wait 30 years to come here? I look forward to my few remaining days here but already I'm feeling some sadness that the tour is coming to an end. :-( Communities that I rode through today were: Summerside, Traveller's Rest, Clermont, Kensington, Indian River, Hamilton, Malpeque, Darnley, Sea View, Park Corner, French River, Springbrook, New London, Stanley Bridge, Bayview and PEI National Park at Cavendish.
Day 77 - Aug 28 - Fri
PEI National Park, Cavendish - St. Peters, PEI - 100km
I was up by 07:00 and cooked some oatmeal for breakfast. The night was cool and windy. It was so windy it kept condensation from forming on the tent overnight - that's rarely been the case on this tour! I hit the road around 9:30 but stop barely an hour later for lunch and a grocery top up. At the lunch place, I leave behind the cabling for my handheld Internet tablet but I'd hardly ridden a km down the road, when a guy I was talking to at the lunch place drove up beside me in his pickup truck and handled me my Ziploc bag of cabling. Whew - I wouldn't want to lose that! I sure appreciated his time and effort to return it.
Perhaps 15km down the road, I come to PEI National Park. This is a relatively small park that follows the shoreline for perhaps 15km. It has beautiful sand dunes running most of the length. There's a wharf where one can grab a seafood lunch, and a small, working lighthouse that you can take your picture in front of. The park has 3 designated beaches, and I actually saw 2 people out there in the frigid surf. It was still quite windy and most people had hoods over their heads. It was only about 20C but with the wind, it was probably closer to 10C or less. I made myself a picnic lunch of peanut butter and Nutella bagels in a sheltered spot at Stanhope Cape in this very beautiful National Park.
Shortly after the park, the road turns inland and I don't get right beside the sea again, or rather a bay, until St. Peters at the end of the day. Inland riding in PEI is not quite as nice as coastal riding. One could probably say that for most places.
Eventually, I get to Morell and do another grocery top up, since there's a very good CO-OP grocery store there. I'd heard that the confederation trail is a nice ride from Morell to St. Peters, my day's destination. So, I rode the trail. It was nice but not spectacular.
I arrive in St. Peters which has a tourist info that is open, as it was now past 18:00. My biggest concern now is Hurricane Danny, the 2nd hurricane for the region in just over a week. The issue is that once I hit St. Peters, the number of B&Bs goes down because it's kind of off the tourist route, at least the Anne of Green Gables crowd. Furthermore, B&Bs ain't cheap in this part of the world, typically $100 and more. Motels? Few and far between.
The forecast is for 3 days of rain, with Sunday, the day Danny-boy arrives, being the worst, I would think. So, I need a minimum of 2 nights of shelter 'cos I ain't camping thru no hurricane, or any of it's lesser varieties! I'll think about my options during the day. Communities that I rode through today were: Cavendish, North Rustico, Rusticoville, Rustico (alright, already!), Cymbria, Oyster Bed Bridge, Brackley Beach, PEI National Park, Grand Tracadie, Corran Ban, Mill Cove, Donaldston, Tracadie Cross, Scotchfort, Glenroy, St. Andrews, West St. Peters, Bristol, Morell, I rode the Confederation trail from Morell to St. Peters, then to my campground in St. Peters.
Day 78 - Aug 29 - Sat
St. Peters, PEI - Charlottetown, PEI - 68km
Well, the sun finally climbed over the trees and hit the tent at 06:55, so I got up. No rain, but the usual condensation on the tent. I started drying off my tent in the sun, which faded away within 1/2 hour to an overcast sky. While the tent was drying off, I ate, then checked my email near the campsite office - the wi-fi didn't reach my tent - and saw that hurricane Danny would hit late Saturday night as a tropical depression, which means sustained winds for 1 minute up to 60km/h. Not that bad but I'm not camping! Considering the cost of B&Bs and my lack of ready cash to pay for 2 or more nites - a lot don't take credit cards and there're extremely few brick and mortar banks around here.
I decided to ride the 60+km to Charlottetown where at least I can get something done while waiting out Danny and the subsequent 2 days of rain (3 in all). I'm sorry I won't be riding all the coastline I wanted to, but on the other hand, I'm happy to visit Charlottetown, as it's a historic Canadian city that I originally had no plans to visit on this tour. I call a Tourist Room In Charlottetown and reserve a room.
I hit the road by 10:00 and ride the 60km or so to Charlottetown. Boy, is this a small island! It seems that from any point on the island that one could drive their car to the capital, i.e., Charlottetown, in an hour or less!
Interesting numbers: PEI has about 140,000 inhabitants and it's highest point, I'm told, is 146m! The temperature today was well over 20C at the beginning of the ride but by the time I got to Charlottetown it had dropped 17C, plus it had been spitting rain for the last 20km.
I searched for a decent lunch place but could only find a Timmy's. Getting tired of the same-old, same-old however not much choice today so I did Timmy's. I then rode the remaining 3km to my tourist room and checked in. A nice lady by the name of Kelti runs it; she took it over from her Dad, who ran it for almost 20 years but died a few years ago.
I walked the 4 blocks to downtown from my new lodgings and got to the library 5 minutes before closing time to do my 'periodic' tour mailings, but it was too late. I booked a block of time for the next day. I'm way behind on my mailings. :-(
I then went out to do a load of laundry and by the time it was done, I had to run-walk the 2 blocks to the tourist room, as the rain was really coming down cats-and-dogs. Should be an interesting night... Communities that I rode through today were: St. Peters, Southampton, Corraville, Cardross, Cardigan Head, 48 Road (now there's a weird town name!), Elliotvale, Avondale, Clarkin, Mount Albion, Hazelbrook, Stratford and Charlottetown, all in PEI.
Day 79-80 - Aug 30-31 - Sun+Mon
Charlottetown, PEI - rest day
Well, the fringes of Hurricane Danny - which was technically a tropical depression here in Charlottetown - dumped quite a bit of rain late Saturday night and Sunday morning. I did a walk around the harbour and there were pools of water around and a full sewer drain or two, but I didn't see any signs of flooding in our area, as there have been in some. In fact, the sun was shining when I woke up, although it didn't stay sunny all day. The weather forecast of 3 rainy days had now turned into 7 solid dry days, most of them sunny. Oh well, I still feel I made the right decision by diverting to Charlottetown.
I'm enjoying the town, and just generally walking all over and checking out some major items such as: 1) Province House - this is regarded as the cradle of Confederation. In 1864, political leaders from Upper and Lower Canada (ON and QC), NS, NB and PEI met to begin discussions that would lead to the creation of the Dominion of Canada. I was surprised to learn that no signed document ever came out of the Charlottetown meetings, just a consensus on how to proceed. Details were hammered out in a subsequent meeting a month or so later in Quebec City and in London, England. Those details became the British North America Act and Canada was officially born 1867/07/01, as we all know. Ironically, PEI rejected the union and did not join Canada until 1873 (after BC)! 2)
Founder's Hall - This interactive exhibit, on the Charlottetown waterfront, takes one thru the creation of Canada. They recommend one take 45 minutes to go thru the exhibit but I took double that, as I found a lot of the details fascinating. Actually, I'd learnt a lot of the facts in high school, but with age, I certainly better appreciate and understand the logistics and difficulties of the process these early leaders went thru.
Interestingly, things I don't recall being taught/discussed in school, for instance: The Hudson's Bay Company sold Rupert's Land - essentially, Nunavut, AB, SK, MB and parts of ON and QC - to Canada BUT HBC never had title to Rupert's Land in the 1st place!! Every Canadian should see this exhibit to better understand how we came to be as a country. This exhibit links all the little bits and pieces together very nicely.
To mitigate the cost of the B&B, I'm cooking my dinners at the B&B. For lunch on my 1st rest day, I had fish & chips near the waterfront. I'm not a lobster person, so no creepy-crawlies for me. ;-) On the second rest day, I had lunch at the local, and only, island microbrewery, Gahan's. With my lunch I ordered a sampler set of 7 of Gahan's beers, that totalled 1 pint. Now that's the way to try different beers, just as in wine tasting (but I didn't spit the beer out, I DRANK it!). Nice.
Generally, I'm just relaxing and getting some minor chores done before the final leg of my tour starts. That's what rest days are for!
Some other interesting facts about PEI: PEI was originally inhabited by the Mi'kmaq people. Jacques Cartier arrived in 1534. Eventually, the British controlled it after the 7 Years War in the mid-1700s. The Americans raided Charlottetown in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. As mentioned above, in 1864, Charlottetown hosted the Charlottetown Conference and the seeds of Canada, as we know it today, were planted. The ethnic origins of the people here is 87% from the British Isles, quite the contrast to Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver! The provincial economy is driven by agriculture, tourism and the fisheries. PEI has the highest provincial sales tax in Canada at 10%, and when calculating PST, they first add on the GST to the cost of the goods, and the effective rate is 15.5%. That's a tax on a tax - not good!
The B&B I stayed at was called the Aloha Tourist Home, on Sydney St. The cost was reasonable, it was clean, comfortable and had a kitchen at my disposal for cooking dinners (or lunches, if I wanted). It was within minutes walk of major attractions in downtown Charlottetown, so it worked out well for me. The owner, Kelti was very friendly and accommodating. Kelti cooked the breakfast muffins and bread, plus the usual packaged porridges, yogurt, cereals and juices were available. I didn't starve there. I recommend the Aloha B&B to anyone passing thru Charlottetown.
Day 81 - Sep 1 - Tue
Charlottetown, PEI - French River, NS - 118km
Well, I got a late start as I was talking to fellow boarders at breakfast. The late start is no big deal, as I have 4 days to cover approx. 350km, which is no challenge for me. If I didn't have 2 ferries to worry about I could do that distance in 2 days. I said my goodbyes to Kelti and a few boarders and hit the road around 10:45.
The 66km ride from Charlottetown to Wood Islands Ferry Terminal was quite scenic. I road hwy 26, which then merged with hwy 1, the TC, and traffic was very low volume. Eventually, I roll into the ferry terminal with plenty of time left for the 14:30 sailing. The ferry's less than 1/3 full on this run. We dock at Pictou Landing, NS.
9 provinces down, 1 to go! It's a 7m ride just to get away from the dock to the nearest highway; this setup is similar to the BC Ferries route at Nanaimo, BC. At the highway, I stop at the Tourist Info for a map of NS. Although I brought my own maps, I find the province-issued maps worthwhile to obtain. My goal is Antigonish, NS but already is 16:30 and sunset is by 20:00. I have 78km to cover - I won't make Antigonish in daylight. I know there's no campgrounds along the way, and motels are unlikely. Doesn't look good!
I saw a dead beaver on the side of the road - that's a first for me. I've seen ALL kinds of dead animals, the largest being a dear, and probably the smallest being a hummingbird. I've seen cats, dogs, gophers, all kinds of birds, snakes, foxes, chickens and so on The automobile sure kills a lot of life, including human. I don't recall seeing any serious car accidents yet, however.
From the tourist info in Pictou, I worked my way towards Trenton but don't go there. Instead I turn for New Glasgow and I get on the Trans-Canada (TC). Yuch. No fun. Tourist info had recommended hwy 4 which kind of snakes back and forth over the TC, so after 20km or so, I exit the TC onto hwy 4. It's got smaller but steeper hills than the TC, which had 1-2km gradual climbs.
By 19:00, it's very apparent that I'm guerrilla camping tonight. I keep my eyes open. I pass a cemetery but kids are playing in it. I want to be discreet. Finally, I arrive in French River and spot a non-descript church. I go around the back and it's perfect for guerrilla camping. No one can see me from the road. I set up my tent and call Susan to let her know where I am, just in case. I then ate some bagels and peanut butter and Nutella and waited for nightfall, keeping my eyes and ears open. I'll feel a lot better when it's dark.
Just to spook some of my readers, the grave yard is about 20 feet away. It doesn't bother me one bit! As I recall, I haven't guerrilla camped since Ontario, so it's been awhile. Communities that I rode through today were: Charlottetown, PEI, the Tea Hill area of Stratford, Alexandra, Pownal, Mount Mellick, Cherry Valley, Vernon Bridge, Lower Newton, Eldon, Pinette, South Pinette, Falt River, Flat Creek, Wood Islands West, Wood Islands, Pictou Landing, NS nr Trenton, New Glasgow and French River.