The Greater San Fransisco Area

Continuing my quest to travel the world.

It has been my quest to cycle around the world for a very long time, although I have ticked off 16 countries to date, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal of cycling the world. I cannot wait any longer for the conditions to be perfect, age is catching up with me, so it is now or never.

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia
After our trip to Vietnam in 2012.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Halifax - 7350km in 81/2 weeks.

Niel managed to fix his bike and we were back on the road by 10am. We took highway 9 – our so called shortcut  to the Canadian border. Oh my god talk about a hard road, it was non – stop up and downs that were so steep I actually had to walk some of them, and I haven’t had to do that in the whole trip. It was also a humid 30 degrees and there were virtually no shops to buy food and drink. After 113km and no accommodation or hopes for dinner anywhere we decided to stop at a rest area that had a portaloo, a river near by and an area to hide the tent from the road. The only thing that spoilt it was the masses of mozzies and midgies. After a meal of a filled roll left over from lunch and a big bikkie, we slept like a log.
A swollen eye from midgie bites.

I woke up with one eye swollen almost shut from a midgie bite, and we carried on -  on highway 9 to the border. We had some American money to get rid of first, so after a meal of Maccas we still had $11 left,  we could always eat chocolate. The customs people were very nice at the border and couldn’t believe how fast we had crossed the country from Vancouver. They also couldn’t believe we had ridden highway 9 – it is well known as being very hard.
The Atlantic at last.

We took the motorway after that, as bikes are allowed on the motorway in Canada. And finally managed to get  our first glimpse of the Atlantic, when I felt absolutely awful, I was so tired I couldn’t move, or even open my eyes for 10mins. I thought that I had ‘hit the wall’ big time. But later realised that I had food poisoning.  I dragged my body to the campground and felt a bit better in the morning.
We have now made it to the end of our journey. We are in Halifax, and have even ridden out to the airport to confirm our tickets. We almost had our bikes taken from us there, we left them locked together and security guards tried to take them away as they were a bomb threat. Can you believe that! 2 loaded touring bikes – a bomb threat. If they hadn’t been locked together they would have been gone. They had tried to shift them and they were so heavy , they had only managed to shift them a meter. After losing my bike last year to a thief in Vietnam, that would have been my worst nightmare, after all we have been through in this trip.
Yeah we made it to the end.

I can now call myself a trans-continental cyclist – awesome. I am very proud of myself. At 53 years old I put a lot of younger people to shame. 7350km in 8 and a half weeks. Anyone can do it you just need to be cycling fit and a determination never to give up, and always just go that little bit further or faster than you need to. It becomes easy after a while.

Monday, 19 August 2013

The life of a cycle tourist is never dull.

Niel finding the problem.
Things always happen in three’s, I said to myself after I had my new wheel replaced and was back on the road again, but I didn’t want to tempt fate by saying it out loud. The third disaster has now happened, is something trying to stop us getting to the end of this trip?
Only 40kms from the Atlantic Coastline.

Niel’s bike ‘wasn’t feeling right’. He assumed it was the rear hub bearings, and there was a lot of sideways movement in the wheel. He really wanted to push on to the Atlantic Coast only 40kms away, but I convinced him to stay here in Bangor and fix it, and take the shorter route tomorrow so that we don’t lose any more time. We don’t have any emergency days left. It was the right decision, his rear hub was as cut up as my rim was. Luckily he kept my hub and spokes of my old wheel and he can rebuild his wheel using those parts, but my hub uses a different type of gear cluster, so he will have to wait till the shops open in the morning to get a new cluster and chain. Come back to the motel – fix it, and then we need to ride 155kms before the day is done. The life of a cycle tourist is never dull.

So all going well, we will be at the New Brunswick border this evening , ride up to St Johns along the Atlantic coastline the next day, and be on the ferry to Nova Scotia the following day. Surely nothing more could go wrong ?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Big Trouble.

What a difference a day makes, after scaling a 15km hill I summited and started to descend with my brakes on and suddenly – BOOM, my back wheel / tyre exploded. There was no sign of Niel he was enjoying the downhill and was by now kilometres away. I started walking, eventually a kind motorist asked if I needed help and I asked him to stop the cyclist dressed in white up ahead. After walking for another kilometre I saw Niel in the distance sitting on a railing waiting for me.
My wheel rim torn apart.

Judy, the lovely lady who rescued me.

I was in trouble, the ‘donk, donk ‘ noise I have been hearing every time I used my rear brake was not a patch of oil on my rim as Niel surmised, but a crack in the wheel rim. My rim was a shattered mess. There is no way to fix that and I needed a new rim or wheel. The nearest bike shop was 60kms away and there was no cell phone coverage to phone them. I had no option but to stick my thumb out to hitch a ride.
Niel is my knight in white lycra delivering me a new wheel.

Dirty hands, stuff everywhere, and great entertainment for the McDonalds patrons.
No one picked me up. After walking another kilometre I saw some nice looking people outside their house and decided to ask to use their phone. They very kindly offered to drive me and my bike to Woodsville -the next town with a motel. So Niel and I gathered our wits together there and realised that Niel will have to ride to Littleton ( the place with the bike shop), ride back to fix my bike and then we’ll both ride back to Littleton.

That sorted, we used the Wi-Fi at the motel to look at where some of the other Trans Canada riders are. One couple had discovered their ferry to Newfoundland had been cancelled and they didn’t know what to do. So we thought we would check out our ferry to Nova Scotia. Shock, horror, ours had been cancelled too.

Apparently the Nova Scotia government subsidises the ferries and it is so broke it had to cancel some services that weren’t getting enough patronage. Now what do we do? We found out that there is still a ferry service from St John in New Brunswick to Digby in Nova Scotia, but it is another 300kms to St John. After pouring over the maps and adjusting our mileage, we reckon we can still make it to Halifax. There is one hiccup though; the ferry only goes at 12 noon, so that is another cycling day gone.

We have to make it to Halifax and not just the coast, as our flights home are from there. Thank god I had the sense to keep aside 2 days for emergencies. Those 2 days have saved our bacon.

Well, not only did I need a new wheel, but also a new cluster and chain – it was senseless putting the old one on when it was decrepit too. After fixing that, Niel discovered I had no brake block left – it had been eaten away by the jagged cracks around the rim. So with new brakes, new gears, and a new wheel I was a happy chappy at last. Now it’s time to do some big kilometres and get the end of this trip.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Almost at the Atlantic.

Thousand island area Lake Ontario New York State.
 A new State and a new map – Vermont / New Hampshire in this case. What’s that in the bottom corner of the map? It’s the Atlantic Ocean – we are almost there. We have only 9 days cycling left till we get to Halifax. The seasons have turned, and autumn is just about here. The evenings are shorter, the nights have heavy dews now, and the leaves are just showing a hint of yellow in the forests. The sun has lost its power to give us sunburn, so we have thrown out the sunscreen now. And the temperatures have definitely cooled off. That will be good news to everyone at home, who is sick of winter.
Lake Saranac in the Adirondacks
Trees turning yellow and the cycling route through the Adirondacks.

We are at Burlington, Vermont. It is our last city before the end, so we are making it our day to buy something for ourselves. We have stayed on schedule for the whole trip and have 2 emergencies days up our sleeves, which we will use at Bar Harbour in case of bad weather trying to cross to Nova Scotia – apparently it is hurricane season. We are understandably talking a lot about what we will do when we get home, but also trying to enjoy this last bit of the trip.
On the ferry between New York and Vermont States.

The Adirondack Mountains were lovely and it was nice to have views of mountains to look at. We crossed from New York State to Vermont by taking the ferry across Lake Champion. The rivers and lakes around here are black in colour and it must be from plant tannins. We are now heading for the White Mountains before heading to the coast.  I think our bikes are only just going to make it. Niel’s tyres have the thread showing both front and back, and my gears are grinding and grumbling, and I only have a couple of gears that don’t give me trouble.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

New York, New York.

Lake Eyrie Canada, and back to the States again.
the ferry over the St Clair river to Canada.

The riding through pleasant Canadian country – side that was tidy and well kept, was spoilt by the people of Dunneville – which I have now renamed to Dunnyville because the people are crap!!
Pleasant country-side.

Did you know that Canada has a day off work every month? No kidding. I thought the country needed taxes to pay  off debt etc, but apparently days off are more important. It is these days off that ruined our time in Canada this time. The Campgrounds were full to overflowing, and we had to literally beg for a piece of grass, or we will pitch it out the front on the road edge. They just don’t understand cycling and the point that you CANNOT go on to the next campground 20kms further on, on the chance they may have a spot free. Anyway we were merrily riding along when a group of Harley riders decided to overtake us and immediately turn right – right on top of us, almost taking Niel out who was in front of me. Then the second rider tried to turn in the 1 metre gap between Niel and I – almost taking me out. I yelled out “ f…wit” and gave them the two fingers. They yelled out  to f off and turned around to harass us. The one that told me to f off, sped up and cut me fine to scare me. Well that is just a typical New Zealand driver, so it didn’t scare us. 10 minutes later we caught them filling up at a gas station and we pulled up to mingle with them and get their license plate numbers. Well they sped off as if they were scared of us.
Someone's private beach on the Lake Eyrie shoreline.

Then we got to Dunnyville. They camp ground was full of campers who couldn’t afford to camp at the beach, we won’t call them tosser’s – opps  I just did, oh well it’s the truth. An extended family behind us, so drunk the women were cackling with laughter non stop, a family of many kids next to us that thought our campsite was the playground and I lost count of the number of times their balls got kicked into our tent, and on the other side of us - the boy racers and their girlfriends with their friends, alcohol and car stereos. Well at 12 midnight the kids finally wore themselves out and stopped screaming, at 1pm the drunk family finally finished laughing at everything and anything and went to bed, at 4 am I got up and told the teenagers to keep their voices down as we hadn’t slept a wink and had to get up early. They finally went off in their cars ( right beside our tent), some time after that. So after 3 to 4 very interrupted hours sleep we were up and out of there. 
I'm terrified of these bridges.

We coudln’t wait to cross back into the States. But as we were cycling the last bit of the Lake edge before the border we stopped to take some photos of the nice scenery. Did you know that people can own the beaches here!! In NZ no one can own the beach – it is crown land and no one can prevent  the public getting access to the beaches, rivers and lake edges. So after peeing on someone’s private beach, we left with glares from the obvious owner.
The American Falls.

The Horseshoe Falls.

So here we are back in the States in New York State. We have cycled off to Niagara Falls. The falls were stupendous, but the neighbouhood they were situated in was rough as guts, derelict buildings, broken glass in the shop fronts. The USA is not the land of opportunity, but the land of lost opportunity, if this was anywhere else it would be attractive to the tourists who flock here. And the tourists would be wandering around looking for lunch and other such stuff, but no, the USA needs to get it’s act together and get this tourist dollar to pay off their huge debt. Niel and I had a heated disagreement here as to who should carry the back  with the cycling shoes in it. Well as I was carrying more I thought it was a no brainer and Niel would carry it – that would be the chivalrous thing to do. But no, when you are married chivalry goes out the window.Anyway we were not happy happies as we perused the stupendous Niagara Falls. Unfortunately we have to pass through here again tomorrow on our way to the shores of lake Ontario – our last lake.
Sunset over Lake Ontario.

Why is that unfortunate, I have to cross that scary bridge again. That is 3 scary bridges in 3 days. One crossing from Canada to the US, one crossing to Grand Island where  the camp ground is, and one crossing back to the mainland to see the falls and carry on with our jouney. This bridge is scary because it is old and rusted and the cars roar inches passed you. The cycle way is so rusty it is warped with humps that you could call speed humps and these are sloped towards the outside railing. But worst of all is the manhole covers every 20 metres or so. These are so rusty that the hinges are broken and you can see the water through them. Only a rusty dodgy plate between you and the water that is about to rush over the Niagara Falls. I kept telling myself “look at the path or the road and not at the water. Calm down”. Over and over like a mantra until I got to the other side.  

We are talking to each other again, but  we are tired in every way except physically. We just want to get to the end now and go home to our lovely home and our poor old cat and kittens stuck in the cattery for 9 long weeks. The real temptation is to do big miles and just get there, but we can’t go home until our flights on the 25th Aug, so we just have to get over this jaded feeling and keep to the schedule.