One year later – reflections and gratitude

As we just finished celebrating Canada’s 147th birthday, and as the 1 year anniversary of the completion of our trip across this amazing country draws near (Sunday, July 13) I think it’s a good time to say thank you and to reflect on the last year.
So, thank you to all of you. Those that have been keeping in touch through emails, blogs, texts and tweets, those that came out to all of the events across the country, those that shared their homes, the road, their stories, their laughter and their tears, those that worked tireless hours organizing and preparing. And a huge THANK YOU to the members of the team, the board, the steering committee, Terry, Al, Sue and Patrick and our families who made such sacrifices for the effort.

We covered almost 6900 km over the 10 weeks. There were flat tires, breakdowns (both mechanical and human), storms, heat waves, mosquitoes, black flies, long days, sleepless nights, headwinds, aches and pains and lots of hills. There were also tail winds, down hills, incredible vistas, wildlife, sunrises and sunsets, clean laundry days, great food, great company, amazing music and wonderful new friends.

Because of what you contributed and because of the love you shared, we reached hundreds, maybe thousands of people and offered hope, love, understanding, a voice and an ear to all of them. I also want you to know that after expenses, we were able to share over $48,000.00 with local mental health charities in every province across Canada.

Over the past year, I have tried to keep our mission in my sites. It’s been hard, as life seems to push and pull in every direction at the same time, business, grandparenting, home renos, etc. But we keep telling Hillary’s story and encouraging people to keep the conversation going. I was honoured to be the keynote speaker at the fundraising breakfast for The Support Network in Edmonton in September. I also got to speak to a class of grade 5/6 students at our daughter Katie’s school, Delton Elementary, about the journey, the country and the stigma. And we were thrilled to work on “Clara’s Big Ride” with The Canadian Mental Health Association and The Support Network in Edmonton.
We are not sure what’s next on Hillary’s Ride agenda but we know that we will be working on new projects as time moves forward. We have made some wonderful friends through this process and know that with your help we can make a difference.
I’m pretty certain Hillary would be proud of all of us.
“love is all you need”

A year after the start of the ride; 11 years since losing Hillary

A message from Hillary’s dad…

1 year ago I was in Victoria with my family and a few friends about to embark on our cross Canada bike trip.

Today marks 11 years since we lost Hillary.

Betty jo and I went down to visit her tree last night and noticed how the the little scar that the deer chewed into the trunk several years ago has developed into a big hole in the bark exposing the inside of the tree. I think that somehow reflects how the scar that Hillary’s death left on us has somehow exposed our insides as well and like the tree, we have somehow found a way to grow.

I am so proud of how we as a family and a community have moved forward and, in Hillary’s name, done some thing to help make a difference. People talk now more openly about mental health and the stigma is starting to go away. With efforts like Clara Hughes’ and many others moving into the future, I know that together we can make a difference.

As usual friends, I ask you to keep Hillary in your thoughts today and do something nice for a stranger.

“Love is all you need”

Bill, Betty jo and the rest of Hillary’s family
Much Love

Missing BC Days 0 to 10

The team reach Swartz Bay to cross to the mainland. Sue Sohnle, Patrick Houston, Terry Fannon and Bill Werthmann Follow the links below for more photos from the early days

The team reach the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay to cross to the mainland on day 1.
l-r: Sue Sohnle, Patrick Houston, Terry Fannon and Bill Werthmann
Follow the links below for more photos from the early days

Days 0, 1 & 2: Victoria to Aldergrove to Hop – Click here

We had a terrific sendoff in Victoria. The concert was fantastic, the breakfast with alll the family and friends was great and the weather was perfect. And we made the early ferry!

Read Sue’s update from the first few days

Days 3&4 – Hope to Princeton to Oliver (Kelowna) – Click here

The Hope to Princeton leg had 2 big climbs, and then a windy road (no opportunity for pictures). The next day was a rush to get to Osoyoos, then up to Oliver to stay, and on to Kelowna. The event was great and perfect for the theme of the ride. Too bad there was no TV crew to reach a wider audience.

Read Sue’s update from day 3 & 4

Days 5&6 – Osoyoos to Midway to Castlegar – Click here

A big climb out of Osoyoos, way to go Bill. Spot directed new friends Neil and Cathy to our campground in Midway, with an invitation to dinner the next evening in Castlegar.

Read Sue’s update from day 5 & 6

Day 7 – Castlegar to Creston – Click here

We heeded warnings about the Salmo Creston (Kootenay) Skyway, and opted for an extra 20km through Nelson. It was not an easy day, what with rushing to the catch the only one ferry running, and all those darn hills. But extremely beautiful.

Read Terry’s update from day 7

Day 8 – Creston to Cranbrook – Click here

First order of the day was to ride the 22 km back into Creston. I knew it was beautiful, and Patrick got some great shots so that I could enjoy it too. While driving the RV I only got glimpses of the sights.

Read Terry’s update from day 8

Day 9 was a well deserved rest day in Cranbrook.

The day was cloudy so I missed some great shots I should have taken when we arrived.

Read Sue’s update from day 9

Day 10 – Cranbrook to Fernie – Click here

We are in the beautiful mountains here. Fernie is nestled in with snow capped mountains on all sides.

Read Sue’s update from day 10

I have dreams of creating a few summary posts to pick various highlights from our 67 day adventure, so stay tuned.



Pictures for Day 62 to 67 thru Atlantic Canada part 2

The team arrives at Cape Spear Follow the links below for more images from the final days

The team arrives at Cape Spear
Follow the links below for more images from the final days

Day 62 – Halifax concert – click here

A terrific concert that ended too quickly.

Read Sue’s update from day 62

Day 63 – Halifax to Whycocomagh (Cape Breton) – click here

We shuttled from Halifax, so I had to drive 2 1/2 hr today. Then they cycled 62 Km to Cape Beton, where we were treated to a free lunch.

Read Sue’s update from day 63

Day 64 – Whycocomagh to North Sydney – click here

Our last day in the RV. Thanks Michael so much for driving it back to Halifax, and returning it all cleaned up.

Read Sue’s update from day 64

This night we sailed from North Sydney NS to Argentia NL, 17 hours. We slept in a state room with two bunk beds, the four of us together for the last night.

Day 65 – Argentia NL to St. John’s – click here

Read Sue’s update from day 65

Day 66 – St. John’s (rest & concert) – click here

After doing a big day yesterday, we got to wander around the beautiful city of St. John’s. That evening we enjoyed a fantastic concert featuring some great talented local musicians.

Read Sue’s update from day 66

Day 67 – Cape Spear (the end) – click here

Day 67, the end of a fantastic journey across our wonderful Canada. Thank you to everyone who is a part of Hillary’s Ride for Mental Health: family, old friends, new friends who we met and talked with along the way, supporters, and the board who worked so hard to make this dream a reality.

Read Sue’s update from day 67

WOW, we did it – across Canada from tip to tip – Mile 0 in Victoria to Cape Spear near St.Johns’s. Over 6,700 km in 67 days. I consider myself to be so lucky, and so proud to be part of Hillary’s Ride for Mental Health. Being with Bill, Sue and Terry every day I know how hard a job it was to cycle across the country. In the past few years I had a thought in my head that I might want to try it, but no way now. I am happy I was able to be able to share our trip in pictures with those of you who followed us along the way. Thanks for your comments.

Pictures for Day 56 to 61 thru Atlantic Canada

The Deputy Mayor of Fredericton welcomes the team More images of this leg are available from the links below

The Deputy Mayor of Fredericton welcomes the team
More images of this leg are available from the links below

Day 56 Perth-Andover to Fredericton pictures – click here

Bill returns to Fredericton where he grew up. We received a special presentation from the deputy mayor.

Read Sue’s update from day 56

Day 57 – Fredericton pictures – click here

A true day off to enjoy the city, then the concert.

Read Sue’s update from day 57

Day 58 – Fredericton to Sussex pictures – click here

Read Sue’s update from day 58

Day 59 – Sussex to Dieppe (Moncton) pictures – click here

The fastest way from Sussex to Dieppe was the Trans Canada Hwy (TCH), and the goal was to get into the next swimming pool quickly.

Read Sue’s update from day 59

Day 60 – Dieppe to Charlottetown pictures – click here

Read Sue’s update from day 60

Day 61 – Charlottetown to Halifax pictures – click here

Read Sue’s update from day 61


Pictures for Day 51 to 55 thru Quebec

Day 51 – Joliette to past Trois-Rivieres (Becancour) – click here

Day 52 – Becancour to past Levi – click here

“not every day is pleasant. the morning [of day 52] was bad, and just got worse.”

Day 53 – Levis to La Pocatiere (Riviere-Ouelle)- click here

Did you read Sue’s blog from days 51 to 53?

Day 54 – lovely Riviere-Ouelle – click here

“A new day and luckily we headed back to meet the highway at the bridge. Riviere-Ouelle is such a beautiful place with flowers growing all along the river. And looking down low, you’ll find the most interersting things. Later in the day a butterfly caught my eye, and then I looked up too.”

Day 54 – Riviere-Ouelle to Notre_Dame-du-Lac – click here

“Stunning vistas. I’d love to return to hike & bike.”

Day 55 – Notre-Dame-du-Lac to Perth-Andover NB – click here

Did you read Sue’s blog from days 54 and 55?

Sorry for the delay in posting pictures. I could blame it on poor internet, but it was really the fault of all the terrific people who took such good care of us the last few weeks. Thanks so much to all of you.

Day 67 – Cape Spear

From the Pacific to the Atlantic - the cyclists complete their journey Click the photo for more images from the final day at Cape Spear

From the Pacific to the Atlantic – the cyclists complete their journey
Click the photo for more images from the final day at Cape Spear

Day 67, the end of a fantastic journey across our wonderful Canada. Thank you to everyone who is a part of Hillary’s Ride for Mental Health, family, old friends, new friends who we met and talked with along the way, supporters, and the board who worked so hard to make this dream a reality.

Click here for more pictures from day 67 pics – the end of the journey

Did you read Sue’s update about the final day?

Our Journey’s End

<- Read the previous post: We’ve Docked on the Rock!

Day 66 July 12 Friday

Day off in Mount Pearl/St.John’s

As usual, I slept in late for a day off, but this time it was with Patrick by my side. With the time change, it still felt pretty early to him, but it was a great treat for me.

Al and Terry headed out early to sightsee, but Bill and Betty jo were still around, because there was to be a phone interview, but that got rescheduled to Monday. So we drove into town together.

We split up with Bill and Betty jo, as they had already seen the sights on their last trip. We walked around all the famous areas – Water St, George St, down by the harbor, the war memorial. IMG_0864We had a really interesting conversation with a local who works on one of the ships that service the off shore oil rigs, doing underwater maintenance and surveillance on the equipment. Very cool, very different from oil wells at home.

We’re planning on eating as much seafood and fish as possible while we are in a place that we can get it off-the-dock fresh. I had a delicious fish stew at Get Stuffed. Mussels, shrimp, scallops, cod, salmon, all in a tomato and pernod broth with julienne veggies……mmmm. Patrick is determined to have cod every day he can.IMG_0859IMG_0861

We wandered into a music shop, and Patrick is now trying to figure out how to get an “Ugly Stick” home on the plane. We picked up some prints of the colorful row houses, and generally played tourist. We also searched out the cycle shop we would be using to send our bikes home.

We met with Bill and Betty jo again, went home to prep for the concert tonight. Ed and Terry joined us for dinner beforehand, and suggested good down-home cooking at the Classic Café East. They were quick and very accommodating, because we had to get to the Arts and Culture Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Our final concert was very special, and so fitting for our wrap up. The whole program was young musicians, many of them playing traditional music. Do not misinterpret young to mean amateur. Every performer was polished, well-spoken and played beautifully, with many of them multi-instrumentalists and playing their own songs. It was very upbeat and uplifting, and they all spoke about how they connected with and valued the message we are carrying. Jean Hewson, the first lady of folk in St. John’s, organized this concert on short notice. I can’t believe the quality of the talent she brought together, and the fact that they represented the age group we are trying to speak to, it was magical. I hope that Bill’s words about Hillary had an impact that they will carry forward with them.

Thanks to all the performers: Jean Hewson and her sister Valerie Hewson, Esmee Gilbert and Leslie Amminson, Naomi Brown, William Corbett, Danielle Greene and Leah Sing, and The Freels. All up and coming artists, I’ll be looking for them in the future.

Jean and Valerie Hewson

Jean and Valerie Hewson

Esmee Gilbert and Leslie Amminson

Esmee Gilbert and Leslie Amminson

William, Naomi, Danielle and Leah

William, Naomi, Danielle and Leah

The Freels

The Freels


Day 67 July 13 Saturday

St. John’s to Cape Spear

Well, today was the day. We only have 25 kms to get to Cape Spear, the most easterly point in all of North America, but it is mostly climbing. IMG_0883We were meeting a CBC reporter there by 10:00 am, so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get there. It was super hot last night, and our hotel didn’t have air conditioning, so I don’t think any of us really slept. It doesn’t matter though, as adrenaline got us up the hills.

And something eerie happened on the way up. My “new” computer had stopped working around Fredericton. I had felt quite lost at times, not knowing how far I had gone, how fast I was going, and how long I had to go, so I was riding “on faith” that I would arrive in due time each day. Right after climbing the steepest hill, it mysteriously started working again. Although it appears that it was corrosion that stopped it earlier, I choose to believe that when I knew there was no stopping me from completing this, that faith had carried me there, I no longer needed to cycle in with the unknown.

Bill chugging up the hill above the fog

Bill chugging up the hill above the fog

Arriving to the top was bittersweet for me. It doesn’t feel like the end of the road today. We’ve been doing this for so long that I can’t imagine it being over. As we came over the last hill and coasted downhill into the parking lot, with Al, Patrick and Betty jo cheering, it felt triumphant and sad at the same time. You spend so much time planning and making it happen, that you don’t always visualize what the end will be like.

Terry glad he's done the hill

Terry glad he’s done the hill

It was an emotional finale, and it was appropriate that it was completely fogged in, because the whole trip feels like a fog to me at the present moment. IMG_0901Did we really do this? I hardly remember being in BC and the prairies right now. Some very astute people have reminded us that it will be some time before we can process the whole trip, and realize how it has changed us.

We all waved our Canadian flags and and put our final Newfoundland stickers on our helmets, along with the Canada flag, to complete the set of flags on our helmets. I will be retiring my helmet after the trip.IMG_0892

We also had to do the ceremonial dipping of our front tire in the Atlantic, since we started with our rear tires in the Pacific. The only water access there was a steep, precarious hill down to the slippery rocks and sea. The last thing we wanted to do was end the trip with an accident, so we took off our front tires and hiked down to the water to do the dip. I had to take my shoes off, as the cleats are on the outside and really dangerous on rocks. We waited for a wave, and side by side dipped our wheels.IMG_3861

The last order of business was to load the bikes and get down to the Terry Fox memorial. This is the third one we visited on our tour, and it was important to us all to honour him for inspiring journeys like ours. It is right in downtown St. John’s, and is beautifully done, his bronze likeness running towards the west.IMG_0905

I had to say goodbye to Pinky for a few weeks, as we took our bikes to Canary Cycles to have them boxed up and shipped home. I will see you again soon, my loyal friend, and we will enjoy a ride together on home turf.

So it is complete. This afternoon we head with Terry and Ed to their home further south in the Avalon Peninsula, where they are hosting the six of us. Terry heads home tomorrow, to reunite with his wife, Vicky, and his two loving border collies. Al, Betty jo and Bill will be staying until Tuesday, enjoying the whales and scenery. Patrick and I continue our adventure, heading out to Gros Morne Park for hiking and more Newfoundland culture and food. And soaking in what we have just accomplished.

Sue’s Bucket List:

  • Cycle across Canada – check.

See more photos from the final day, at Cape Spear, N.L.


We’ve Docked on the Rock!

<- Read the previous post: More Atlantic Concerts for your Listening Pleasure

Day 62 July 8 Monday

Dartmouth (kind of a day off)

I woke up around 8:00 am to what I thought was Al milling around in the RV, but it turned out to be Terry, who had returned and was raring to start exploring the area by bike. We decided to split up today to make up our extra distance that we missed yesterday. Terry was heading to Cow’s Bay, Halifax and to take a few bridges and ferry rides, while I was going to go east out to Lawrencetown Beach, and check out some of the Trans Canada Trail system.

Terry left me a great bike map he had picked up, so I worked my way through Cole’s Harbour to find the trail system. IMG_0783I met a friendly gentleman who gave me some advice on the conditions of the trails, and I headed along the Heritage trail to the Salt Marsh Flats. The trails here are just a rock path and some wooden bridges, with ocean on either side. The water was so still, it looked more like a lake. The only thing that gave it away was where the tide was coming in under the bridges, and there was suddenly a current. It was a pretty quiet and kind of desolate pathway, except for a few runners.IMG_0782

It turned out to be coarser gravel than I expected, so I walked my bike for a few kms, keeping my recent flat fiasco and lack of spare tubes forefront in my mind. The trail was littered with broken shells, and I wondered why until I saw a gull bringing a crab over to the rocks, and dropping him to try and open the crunchy shell to get at the soft chewy insides (or so I imagine).

The pathway smoothed out a bit so I cycled a bit further, and then decided to move to the road. I came down to ocean side again, and to Lawrencetown Beach, which is a surfer’s hangout and a provincial park. The lifeguards were out, but it was a quiet day as the waves were mild and there was a forecast for possible thunderstorms. IMG_0789It was interesting to see lifeguards and their surfboards on the beach – kind of like Bay Watch but much less tacky and with more bathing suit coverage.

After hanging out listening to the waves, I cycled a bit more and then went back to the Heron’s Nest Tea Room perched atop a hill overlooking the water. It wasn’t supposed to be open on a Monday, but the owners were in doing some cleaning, so they opened up for the few stragglers from the weekend, like me. They said that Sunday was the busiest day they had seen in a couple of years, because of the hot weather. Usually there is a cool breeze all the time, but they said it was downright balmy yesterday.

We ended up having an extended conversation about the ride, how physical health can affect mental health, and struggles that are faced by teens and pre teens today. Normally I wouldn’t have had time to chat this long in the middle of the day, but I was on no schedule, so I felt free.IMG_0792 I must admit I was not looking forward to doing mileage on my day off, but it turned out to be a perfect day, despite the rain on and off. I was remembering what it is like to go for a spin with no agenda, no time constraints, and no set distance to cover. It was a real joy to take my time and toodle along at whatever pace I felt like. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

When I returned home, Bill was back from his morning interview, and was busily packing up things in the RV. It’s hard to believe that we only have a couple more days and nights in the “mothership”. We really have been travelling in luxury, compared to those doing the trip self support. But I think Bill would have had trouble hauling his guitar on his back the whole way. I took his lead and also started packing, and was glad that I had sent some extra stuff home with Al and Patrick earlier in the trip.

We had another nice dinner put together by Marg, and then we were off to the concert for sound check and set up. It was being held at the Company House, a great little pub venue with live music most nights. IMG_0795While sound check was happening, Al, Terry and I went to the Citadel to walk around the outside of this historic fortress, and also to see the great views of the harbour, and the site of the Halifax explosion so long ago.

The concert was marvelous. Lots of people came, many relatives and friends, and we were treated to a concert in the round, with all the performers on stage and taking turns doing their own songs. Tonight’s performers were Susan Crowe, Jim Dorie, Stephen Fearing and Kev Corbett. Each of them had their own unique style, but they were all connected from past gigs and workshops they had attended (or taught). It was an amazing evening, full of both humourous and introspective stories. It felt like a mini folk fest.

Susan Crowe

Susan Crowe

Jim Dorie

Jim Dorie

Stephen Fearing

Stephen Fearing

Kev Corbett

Kev Corbett


Our partner charity tonight was The Spot, which is a drop-in place for youth to learn art and music. With no experience necessary, and all the supplies and equipment free, youth can just come in and spend time with artists who happily share their knowledge. Mike and Barb said that many participants open up as they spend time there and realize it is a safe place to share their thoughts and feelings, and build some healthy relationships. They were thrilled to have a venue to get the word out about their programs.

Mike and Barb from the Spot

Mike and Barb from the Spot

We had to scoot out quickly, as there was a Jazz Festival concert there right after us, or I bet the performers would have sang even longer. It was a very appreciative audience. Thanks to the staff at the Company House for the great venue and their wonderful support.

Day 63 July 9 Tuesday

Dartmouth to Whycocomagh

We said our goodbyes to Bill’s mom and sister today, as well as Betty jo, who would fly out and meet us again in Newfoundland on Thursday. We picked up a hitchhiker though – Mike, Marg’s husband, joined us for a couple of days in Nova Scotia. He will be driving the RV back to Halifax, to return it to the rental company.

Mike and the gang

Mike and the gang

We felt a bit guilty leaving Marg and Mike to do the final cleaning and emptying, but they took it on with a smile. They will be donating any of the unused food and supplies to a local charity. Marg is also sponsoring a golf tournament for Hillary’s Ride in August, so we can’t thank them enough for all the support.

We shuttled north a couple of hours, to pick up the original route we had before we got sidetracked by interviews. With the extra miles that were done yesterday, we started further east, and would be making our way onto Cape Breton island today.

Just before we got to the causeway, which was the end of our cycling day, we stopped for a free late lunch (who said there’s no free lunch?) that was arranged by Katherine when we were in Dieppe. She manages three Irving’s Big Stop restaurants, so she had JJ and our server Melissa take good care of us. Lots of truckers there, and you know they only go where the food is good and plentiful. We had a great lunch. IMG_0818Good thing we cycled across the causeway to see it BEFORE we ate, because I don’t think we’d have moved too well after that feast!

We got to the Glenview campsite, and Derek the manager kindly set us up with a primo spot for our last night in the RV. Because of the late lunch, we only snacked for dinner, using up what food we could before tomorrow. The guys went for a walk, and I wrestled with my laptop, trying to post a blog with only sketchy wifi available. If you noticed there aren’t many pictures yet on the last post, now you know why.

Day 64 July 10 Wednesday

Whycocomagh to North Sydney

We started the day packing up the last minute things in the RV and getting ready to vacate. It’s weird leaving our home over the last couple of months.

Terry and I in our "kennels"

Terry and I in our “kennels”

I was considering getting a trailer in retirement and travelling around in it on longer trips, this has given me a very accurate picture of what that would be like. We had breakfast at Vi’s restaurant, and on the way back to the RV we met up with several groups out for their morning walk. There was a family with three teenage girls who had seen our sign on the RV and had gone onto the website to see what it was about. They brought us a donation, and so did another couple whose friend’s daughter was currently struggling with suicide attempts, and talked about how stressful it was on the family as she was refusing to get help at this point. We ended up having an emotional discussion with all of them, and I think it was good for the young girls to experience an open and non-judgmental conversation about the topic. We gave them lots of bookmarks to take to their friends, and we hope they carry the message forward.

Billy and Joe at the RV park

Billy and Joe at the RV park

We cycled to the Little Narrows ferry to cross over to the south side of Bras D’or Lake, and travel along the shore.

Little Narrows ferry

Little Narrows ferry

The scenery was spectacular as we travelled over the rolling hills all morning, with minimal cars and much cooler temperatures, which was a relief. Even with a headwind, we were happy to have a refreshing breeze after all the days of heat. There are so many lovely homes and cottages everywhere, and every curve of the road gave another gorgeous view of the water, bridges and cliffs. IMG_0831We just had to get over Bear Claw Mountain, which was a pretty good climb, to get to the downhill to the coast. North Syndey is also a lovely town, so our last moments on Cape Breton before arriving at the ferry was very picturesque.

It was a case of hurry up and wait, as we scrambled to get all the REAL last minute packing done on the RV before Mike started his long drive back to Halifax with it. We said our thank yous and good-byes, and then got checked in for the ferry. Then came the wait, sitting around trying to get out calls and emails before the phone and internet coverage faded away over the ocean. IMG_0835We got in a line up where we were told, and then realized they put us in the line for Port au Basque instead of Argentia. That would have added another week onto our trip, so I’m glad we figured it out in time. It gave us a chance to speak with other cyclists and motorcyclists who were also in the wrong line, including others going across Canada. We all made it on safe, sound and on time..

The ship is quite new and very large, so it was like being on a mini-cruise overnight. Our berth was pretty small for four but it did the trick, and since we were used to cramped quarters from being in the RV, it seemed like business as usual. We went to the buffet for dinner, and met a great French couple, Josee and Patrick, who are also cycling across Canada,

Josee and Patrick

Josee and Patrick

but they will start and end at their home near Montreal. We spoke about the ride and mental health, and Josee shared some personal experiences with us. It was wonderful getting to meet them, and we may see them in August when they come through Edmonton.

We caught a bit of live music, then watched a bit of the onboard movie. I went back to the room at about 9:15, and found all the guys already in bed for the night. We are not party animals, that’s for sure. Lights out!

Day 65 July 11 Thursday

Argentia to Mount Pearl

I’m excited this morning – Patrick is now on the plane to join me, no more sleeps! We are landing in Newfoundland, the only province I have never been to, the final province of our journey. I can’t believe we’ve come this far.

The ferry docked at 10:00 am, we disembarked, then we waited for our luggage and to rendezvous with Al who needed to take a bus with the other walk-on passengers. Before we got off the ship, we could see Terry (from our committee) and Betty jo on the shore waving to us! It was almost 11:00 am before we got on the road, heading towards St. John’s. IMG_0845Al went in the rental van with the ladies to take the luggage and check into the hotel, and then would return to help us get into Mount Pearl. Our original plan was not to do the whole distance today, about 125 kms, because we weren’t sure if the ferry would be on time, and even if it was on time it would mean that we would get in quite late. But after the long voyage to this point, we were anxious to get to town. It would be nice to have the whole Friday off for sleeping in and sightseeing.

It wasn’t an easy last “full” day. Did I mention that Newfoundland is really hilly? Incredibly beautiful, but really hilly. Even the ditches were pretty, with all colors of wild lupins growing in huge clumps all along the highway. And lots of ponds (which I would call lakes) all over the place. And we already started coming across signs to some towns with great names – how would you like to live in “Heart’s Delight”? The initial highway we took was quite quiet, after all the ferry traffic had passed. The Trans Canada was much busier, especially as we got near to the city in rush hour traffic.IMG_0847

Al came back to keep an eye on us, and direct us to the hotel. It was a long haul, but we managed to get in at about 6:30 pm. Betty jo and Patrick were waiting for us with open arms – it was so special to hug my husband after weeks on the road, only hearing his voice or the occasional face time session. It was a reunion I had been anticipating for days now.

After a quick shower, we all headed out for dinner to Red Rock Restaurant to have some local fare, because we were famished from the long ride. As we were walking to the restaurant, we crossed the city limits into St. John’s – we’re here! And tomorrow will be the last leg of our trip….really?

Read the next post: Our Journey’s End ->

More Atlantic Concerts for your Listening Pleasure

<- Read the previous post: Billy’s Come Home!

Day 59 July 5 Friday

Sussex to Dieppe

We woke up to Greg and Jane cooking us a wonderful breakfast to prepare us for our ride today.

Greg and Jane

Greg and Jane

It was another amazingly hot day, 29 degrees with the humidex already and it was before 7:00 am. We wanted to get an early start to beat the heat as much as possible, but I guess that wasn’t going to work that well today. Instead of taking back roads, as we try to do whenever possible, we decided to take the Trans Canada today, as it was the shortest route, and we were willing to sacrifice quiet traffic and scenery to get out of the scorching heat.

And, much to my dismay, I got yet another flat! This time it was the dreaded wire again! I had to walk my bike almost a kilometre to get to the RV, and then sent the guys ahead to keep covering distance, while I rode ahead in the RV and fixed my tire. It was a bit of a struggle this time, because I was sweating so badly, especially in the sauna of the RV, that my hands were constantly wet and I could barely get the tire off. And then to top it off, when I got the new tube in and ready to pump up, I discovered it had a pin-hole in it, so I had to change it TWICE! I had to enlist Al to help me get it on the second time, as my hands were running out of strength, and I was starting to wilt. You know, I brought what I thought was a ton of tubes with me, as I have 650cc tires which are a non-standard size and hard to find. At the end of this, I’m down to only one spare. I’ve saved some with small holes, just in case I have to resort to patching them, like we used to do in the olden days. C’mon, aren’t 7 flats enough for one trip??

We knew that we were going to be greeted on the highway by Karen and Don, Betty jo’s brother and sister-in-law, but we had no idea of the “welcoming committee” that showed up. Karen and her visiting sister Katherine were jumping up and down, clapping and cheering, as we came down the road. I felt like I was just coming to the finish line of a race! It was the most enthusiastic welcome we had gotten since Bill’s family greeted us in Fort Macleod.

We followed them to their home in Dieppe. We were thrilled to have another chance to cool off in their backyard pool, and bring down our core temperature before we spontaneously combusted.

Life is hard...

Life is hard…

We needed to make up a few more kms today, so Terry went out and did that while the rest of us soaked. I loved chatting and floating with Katherine, she is a real character full of vim and vigour, and has a hearty, infectious laugh. I ended up spending the afternoon working on the computer on the deck – what a lazy, luxurious place to blog instead of the table in the RV! And we even got our fur therapy again, getting to know Lily, their daughter’s shih-tzu who they were dog-sitting.

Karen and Don whipped up a lovely dinner, and we were joined by Shelley Richardson from the Kids Help Phone. She was very engaging, and gave us lots of information on the programs that they offered, which includes not only 24 hour phone support (1-800-668-6868), but on-line posting and chats as well. They take calls from ages 4 to early twenties, and refer kids in need to resources in their local communities – they have a database of over 37,000 agencies and programs nationwide. It was fascinating to learn about what they offer, and how they are staffed by professionals, not volunteers. The most startling statistic we heard is that they take over 5000 calls a week! This is obviously a resource that kids are using, and fills a huge need because it is anonymous, confidential, and available to kids whether they are rural or urban areas. We are all very pleased to be able to support and promote this invaluable service to Canada’s youth.

After dinner, guests started arriving for the house concert that was being hosted that night. IMG_0723The evening started with Ben Landry playing an acoustic set. I’m told he usually plays with a band that plays 60’s and 70’s music, but he also sings in both English and French, so we got treated to songs in both languages. Bill then played a few songs, and we took a break to have delicious snacks and punch. Shelley spoke about the Kids Help Phone, and Bill spoke about the ride and about Hillary, and then did a last set. Lots of folks stuck around after the concert to talk and visit, so I got a chance to meet some wonderful new people. We were also treated to beds in different homes. While Bill and Al stayed with Don and Karen, Terry spent the night with Barb and Kim, and Katherine and I went over to Claire’s down the block. We are really getting spoiled along the way, it is such a pleasure to get pampered by so many new friends!

Ben Landry

Ben Landry

Shelley from Kids Help Phone

Shelley from Kids Help Phone


Day 60 July 6 Saturday

Dieppe to Charlottetown

We were shuttling in the RV all the way to PEI, so we decided to all rendezvous back at the RV at 7:00 am from our various billets.

Katherine, Don, Karen, Kim, Barb

Katherine, Don, Karen, Kim, Barb

We were going to grab breakfast on the run, but Karen was up at the crack of dawn making us “egg muffins”, and Barb sent us on our way with homemade muffins. What am I going to do when I get home and have to take care of myself again?!

We stopped at the info centre just before crossing over to PEI, to soak in the engineering wonder that is Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge crossing ice-covered waters in the world. It seems to go on forever, but it is actually 13 kms long. It disappeared into the mist that had formed, as it was yet another day of the maritime heat wave. IMG_0730They also had a great interpretive centre and look-out to scale up, so we had a look-see quickly before we had to get back on the road so we could make the concert on the island. We would have preferred to cycle across the bridge, but that is not allowed (boo hoo).

I had cycled around PEI about ten years earlier, but had totally forgotten just how stunningly picturesque it was. The red dirt between the perfect green rows of potatoes, the coves that appear when you come around a corner, the rolling hills with crops swaying in waves with the wind. Vivid green everywhere. I couldn’t help but to breathe deeply, even in the heat, to try to soak in the beauty. We made our way to Charlottetown and to Myrt and David’s home, who are parents of an old school friend of Bill and Betty jo’s daughter. Trying to figure out the connection was really confusing until I finally realized that both of them were named Katie.IMG_0736

Myrt and Daviid, and Teddy in the middle

Myrt and David, and Teddy in the middle

Although they had never met Bill, and didn’t quite remember Katie, that didn’t deter them from inviting us into their home and treating us like royalty. They drove us north to the afternoon concert in nearby Mount Stewart, at the Trailside Café. We met some of the performers, including organizer Scott Parsons, who had played at the Northern Lights Folk Club shortly after it had started. IMG_0745It was unfortunate that there was a very large country music festival taking place at the same time up in Cavendish. The turnout was not what we hoped it would be, which is sad because the entertainment was top notch! The jam-packed line up included Scott Parsons, who organized all the musicians for the concert, Morgan Hall, a talented young man who was a student ambassador for the Kids Help Phone when he was in school – he exuded such a loving energy, it was great to meet him and hear him. Bonnie LeClair had an angelic voice, and did some songs with a nostalgic feel, and Margie and Leona Carmichael did a heartbreaking tune about losing the family farm.

Scott, Morgan, Bonnie, Dave

Scott, Morgan, Bonnie, Dave

The Carmichael Sisters

The Carmichael Sisters

Jon Rehder did a funny but so true tune about how cigarettes are poor substitutes for our unrealized hopes and dreams. Dave Solomon and Jim Hornby both played solo sets, as well as a group set with Scott and Margie. I’ve been so lucky to experience such amazing talent from coast to coast – a folk music lovers dream!!

We also met Dave and his wife Tina from Nova Scotia. Dave is the cousin of Linda, Hillary’s mom, and they came to PEI for the weekend to take in the concert and a quick vacation.

Tina and Dave

Tina and Dave

We look forward to seeing them at the Halifax concert coming up, as they will be there too and will be bringing others with them.

We thank Pat, the owner of the Trailside Café, for generously supplying the venue, and feeding us the halibut stew and sandwich special (sooooo good!) with some local beer, and to all the musicians who shared their time and talents with us.

We headed back to Myrt and David’s place, with a stop at the fish market to pick up some fresh PEI lobster for dinner. This lobster isn’t like the ones I’ve had back home in land-locked Edmonton – often dry and stringy. This was juicy and tender and……..oops, I’m drooling again, time to get a napkin! Anyway, we had a feast, complete with homemade raspberry pie and genuine PEI potato chips. And after dinner, we had an unexpected pool trifecta, as the neighbours Mary Lou and Barb, invited us to come over for a cool down swim. We’ve had a pool almost every night of this heat wave, which has been very fortuitous.

Before bed, Bill played “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and a few other songs for David, and then it was off to bed.

Over the last week, we had some very enlightening conversations with parents who are dealing with their children who have depression or have attempted suicide, or they themselves live with depression. Although there are no easy or standard answers, the common thread I heard is that speaking openly about feelings with youth, and not ignoring it hoping it will pass on its own, gives the message that it is okay to bring it up, and that speaking about it is helpful and a courageous thing to do.

Day 61 July 7 Sunday

Charlottetown to Dartmouth

We had some logistical changes today. We needed to get an early start this morning, as we were headed for the Wood Islands ferry, and had to be there by 10:15 am. We always want to leave plenty of time to account for hills and for any bike issues, as missing a ferry throws everything off. And we definitely had hills on the route we had, but all went according to schedule.

The ferry ride was a joy, as our other ferry crossings had been windy and cool. But this morning was warm and sunny, and the breeze and view were delightful. It was even nice enough to enjoy some famous Cow’s ice cream out on the deck – I opted for Wowie Cowie. I had the chance to chat with a family from – guess where – St. Albert! Kirsten and David and their kids were on vacation, saw the Tour de l’Alberta cycle jersey I had on, and asked where Al and I were from. Good to share our ride with someone from back home – they can spread the mental health good news there too! I also spoke with a psych nurse from the maritimes who had seen many cases of mental health issues that had sad outcomes because of delays in treatment. I didn’t get her name or picture, as our conversation was cut short as the ferry was docking.

We had an in-person interview with CTV Halifax and Snap magazine in Dartmouth scheduled at 2:45 in Cole Harbour. So we had to change plans and shuttle in the RV for most of the way, and would cycle the day after instead, which was to be a day off.

The CTV van was waiting for us on the side of the road, getting footage of us cycling in to town. He would jump out, take a few pics, then zoom ahead to get a few more shots. Wow – Hillary’s Ride officially has paparazzi!

We had a wonderful welcoming committee – Bill’s wife, Betty jo; sister, Marg; niece, Amanda and her son Jackson. Terry’s sister Bette was there to greet him too. We meet with the reporters, and then it was an escorted cycle on to Marg and Mike’s place, where we were staying the next two nights. There Bill was reunited with his 92 year old mother Margaret. I have met so many active, sharp and healthy seniors on this trip, they are certainly breaking any stereotype of frailty that is so often assumed as you age – so refreshing! It was cool to hear stories of Bill as a child, and enjoy her quick sense of humour.

We had a barbecued Sunday dinner all together, except Terry who headed to his sister’s place for the night. The evening was spent catching up and relaxing with family, and watching the news to see the interview, It was weird to see the news, we’ve been so removed from world events over the last two months. The world keeps spinning, whether we are wrapped up in all the happenings or not. Good thing to remember next time I get caught up with the sadness in the world – just remember the ride and the overwhelming goodness and hope that also exists.

Read the next post: We’ve Docked on the Rock! ->