The 8th message from Canada

Published on 16 April 2015 at 14:17

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Last week was for Michael to put it mildly heavy. Not only for the weather, but also for the slopes and bad luck with the bike. Therefore, he decided to take a rest day on Wednesday. Who took over the course of the day a special twist. Read Michael's contribution:

"I had a good night's rest, but I feel my legs a little bit. Not so weird of course. It feels strange not to be cycling today and if I step out I see that the sun is shining and I only think I had to sit on my bike now...

I'm going to have breakfast and although I don't feel like I’m hungry. I order breakfast with eggs and bacon. Unfortunately again served with baked potatoes again. I still have trouble with this fat food here. It turns out being not a bad breakfast at all, it tastes very good. After breakfast I collect my tools and I ask for a bucket and a sheet or a piece of plastic, so I can't damage to the carpet in the room were my bike is standing.

For the first time I look closely at my bike by daylight. It seems to be very dirty. A build up of salt and dust around the brakes, wheels, chain and cables.  I start cleaning the bike that gives a positive result immediately.


Now I see that there is a layer of rubbish on all of the components. The bike must have been suffering under these conditions. I am amazed. I work from front to back and I am wondering if I can find out what is wrong with switching. I am surprised to see that there is very small gravel between the bare cables and housing. Could that be the problem? With some effort I am able to clean it and ... Yes, fine! Probably the hub has been between two gears while it was making that noise, because the cables could not run free. But it's very special that such small gravel can intervene. If you would like to produce it like that you don't succeed.


I am very happy with the result and go for a test ride. I am being approached by an police officer who happens to see me cycling. When I hear what he says I get a slap in my face. "You are the man cycling Newfoundland, don't you?" Yes, I say surprised, worried that I'm not allowed to make a test ride without a helmet. "We are following you for some days or so, but I would strongly recommend you to stop. Do not continue cycling here. The weather doens't get any better and there will be more wind. The distances in the inhabited world are too long and you have no support at all. I don’t want to hear your name on 911. I cannot ban you, but catch a plane to New Brunswick or stop, because you're really risking your life out here."

My heart skips a beat. I question if the whether is better over there and we talk even for a moment, but my thoughts wander actually. Does it really ends here? I walk back into the hotel and store my bike in the meeting room. One of the house keepers or engineers that I already met earlier comes up to me to hear if it worked out with the bike. I'm telling him what I just heard and ask him for his opinion. In the summer he is a leader of a scouting group and he indicates that indeed it is going to be very risky to continue. It is flatter, but much wider and further down the road with fewer residents. Certainly between Deer Lake and Port aux Basques there is a beautiful but very heavy stage. Just now! "We haven’t ‘got this kind of weather this time of the year for a long time."


I'm going to my room and I feel intensely sad. Of course I took into account that I should not be able to finish. The past days I have been suffering very much not to give up. So to stop or to skip a lot of stages feels like cheating and my goal gets beaten. I really need to come to myself. I decide to act and cycle to the airport in Gander. Shit, now I notice how cold it really is. It is only less than minus 5, but it feels like a carving cold with this strong wind that is around 7. Later on I heard at the airport that the winds near St. John's averaged more than 40 knots (more than 90 km/h). I inform about flights to Saint John in New Brunswick and how I can handle all my luggage and bike. It is possible but it will be an expensive trip. About $800 and not even a direct flight...

I want to call my wife with the news of this day, but I decide to think things over and then to skype with her. So I cycle back to the hotel, but now with headwind. I skype with my family and I feel well again. I'm really proud of them. Of course I miss them and they are missing me, but I kow that they are doing well and that they support me. That gives me power and it does me very good.

There seem to be two options: either by plane back to St. John's or by plane back home. I do not know anymore. I am not ready to give up. I decide to stay in the hotel and I really need to recapulate the whole business again. All these thoughts drive me crazy and I decide to set up a new schedule tomorrow. I will have to manage all kinds of stuff, like cardboard for my bike, because they have no bicycle boxes here! And I have to buy a ice hockey bag to put all my bags in it, otherwise the charge is very high ($50 per extra bag).

I skype with my cousin. He has a researcher who works for him in Halifax. He tells me that she said that it haven’t been so cold for a hundred years in Nova Scotia. "Michael you have to be realistic. It is a journey that is already very heavy in good conditions. Now the emergency lanes are bad and narrow, there is a lot of wind and the temperature is not more than 5 degrees for the next week." Slowly it becomes clear that cycling here really is no longer an option. But to give up? Not yet! This is a chance I won't get again. My cousin reassures me and gives me all kinds of alternatives. "In a few years we can also cooperate in a motor drive from West to East." To me it seems to be also very funny, but I'm not to give in yet!

Right now I'm in my room and I reflect on the week that I have been here. Now, what useful experiences have been gained already and there come even more... I know it for sure! Guys, I go for it! How? I don't know yet..."


Han Schomakers, editor

Translation by Han Schomakers

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