I awoke this morning feeling somewhat refreshed and in a much better frame of mind than last night. I was ready to conquer Signal Hill.
I texted Elaine who advised that a group of them would be leaving their hotel at 8:00. Their route would take them within a block of my hotel. I told her I would be waiting at that intersection to join them.
Outside, the city was enveloped in a thick blanket of fog. On Duckworth Street visibility wasn’t much more than a block.
As I left the hotel and rode the short distance to the corner I discovered I had a flat! This was the first flat I had since the rash of 4 flats in the first couple of weeks of the Tour. And, like the other 4, this one was the rear wheel. With the bike up on the sidewalk I removed the wheel and the tire. In checking the inside of the tire I discovered another very fine piece of wire, like 2 of my other flats, protruding through the inside of the tire. It took me a long time to pull the fine wire out of the tire (note to self, carry a small pair of pliers in the saddle bag). By the time I was putting the new tube and tire back on the rim the group had ridden by on their way to the Terry Fox statue. Danny held back to lend me a hand, which I greatly appreciated. With the tire pumped up and the wheel back on the bike we joined the others at the Terry Fox Memorial.
After a round of picture-taking (unfortunately my camera was with Susan who had already driven up Signal Hill) we set off for the hill, a couple of blocks away. As we progressed up the hill the slope seemed to be getting steeper and the fog thicker. When we came to the Visitor Center some riders thought we were at the top. “We’re only halfway up” I shouted and continued to climb. By now the fog was very thick. Even worse the hill became extremely steep. As I rounded the last corner near the top of the hill I was standing on my pedals pushing as hard as I could and weaving around on the road a bit. I could see the top of the hill just metres away. There was no way on earth that, after 7800 km, I was going to be forced to walk the last few metres to the top of the hill! I put all the force I could on each revolution of the pedals. Finally I broke through the crest and rode into the parking lot and to Cabot Tower at the far end. Within moments all the riders had arrived – cheering and exuberant. We had done it! We had really ridden across Canada!
The wind whistled unmercifully at the exposed top of Signal Hill and the fog was extremely thick. The beautiful view of St. John’s and the harbor was non-existent. You could barely see the tower from a few metres away. That didn’t matter. Cameras were being pulled out and there was a steady clicking as everyone took pictures of everyone else.
With brunch scheduled for 11:00 we couldn’t stay too long on the hill. Most of the riders were heading back down the hill to dip their wheels in the harbor. I loaded my bike into the back of our rental car so we could get back to our hotel and get cleaned up and changed in time to attend the brunch.
Brunch was at the Bacalao Restaurant which turned out to be a wonderful choice. Newfoundland dishes were featured and there was a nice selection to choose from for our meal.
Just prior to the meal Eric had the restaurant pour everyone a glass of Port from a bottle he had bought in Nippigon and carried for the rest of the tour in honour of Bob and Irene. Following our meal we observed 2 minutes of silence to remember our friends Bob and Irene.
Next came the informal part of the proceedings where a variety of people stood up and gave their comments on our amazing journey. Perhaps the most incredible presentation was from our tattooer Bill, who presented everyone with a copy of a Flash that he had designed and painted for Tour du Canada 2013 before he left home. On it is a crest for each Province and Territory. Each crest has a little design that represents Bill’s impression of that province. It is a beautiful piece of art that I will treasure.
The more formal part of the program involved Bud presenting riders with their TdC Certificates. Following this, Bud presented Elaine with her “C3” pin (Coast to Coast to Coast) honour of her completion of Tour Arctic 2010 and Tour du Canada 2013.
Following brunch it was time to say some difficult farewells to my TdC family. Some were leaving later today and most over the next day or two. I really have been lucky to have shared this tremendous experience with such a great group of people. We have been through a lot together this summer.
After lunch Susan and I returned to our hotel and relaxed for the afternoon. At 6:30 we met up with Elaine, Mike, Rob, Louise, Becky and Clarke and went to Kelly’s Pub on George Street for dinner. After supper Elaine returned to her hotel while Susan and I came back to ours. The rest were headed off to another pub to meet up with Larry and Gee.
It’s hard to believe that the Tour, which has consumed my summer, is actually over. While I wouldn’t have missed a single day of the Tour, even the day from the ferry to St. John’s, I am ready to go home.
Various questions have gone through my mind over the past days. Would I do it again? If I had it to do all over again for the first time I would absolutely do it. But at this point I don’t think I would do it a second time. While it is such an amazing experience, it is a long time to be away from home and certainly put an added burden on Susan looking after the house and yard over the summer.
Would I recommend the Tour to others? Absolutely! But you have to be prepared physically and mentally. The Tour is not for everyone. There are some very challenging days. There are tough, long rides. And there can be tragedies. But it is absolutely worth the risks and the physical and mental pain.
What did I learn? Where do I start that list? One important aspect of the tour is that it put a lot of places in Canada that I’d heard of in context geographically relative to other places. I’ve learned what a truly huge and diverse country this is. I’ve learned that there are truly wonderful people all across our great country. I’ve learned that if you pursue a dream you really can attain it. But first you have to get off the couch and set some goals. Nothing is impossible.
The list could go on and on.
There are three people who I would specifically like to mention:
First I have to thank my wonderful wife Susan for putting up with my constant talk about the Tour, and also for putting up with all the extra work around the house that fell on her shoulders while I was off pedaling across this country. I couldn’t have done it without her support.
Secondly I’d like to mention our driver Adam. I believe the driver is a very important part of the tour group and can have a huge impact on the success of the trip. Over the past couple of years I have heard good and bad stories of past drivers. In Adam I think we had one of the best! At age 20 he is a remarkable young man who I think will do wonderful things with his life. I wish him all the best and thank him from the bottom of my heart for all he did this summer.
Finally I want to thank Elaine for being an absolutely wonderful riding partner. We rode together every day of the tour for well over 7800 km if you count in the trip to Victoria. I really enjoyed her company and I thank her for putting up with me … and for catching me when I made a wrong turn. To think that in riding all across this country there were only a couple of wrong turns that neither of us caught immediately which really only cost us a total of 3 km. I only hope that I didn’t corrupt her too badly (i.e. ice cream, bakeries, etc.).
While the Tour du Canada 2013 is now over, Susan and I have a few days yet to enjoy St. John’s!
Total Distance: 7778 km
Total PBJ Sandwiches: 89