Day 20: Gander, NL to North West Brook, NL (Hills For Days)

Suggested Listening: One Day Left by Stars

Suggested Listening: One Day Left by Stars

Total Distance Cycled: 2984km

Gander, NL to North West Brook, NL: 170km

Waking up just after 6:30am I was keen to see what to expect in terms of weather today. I was quickly annoyed to see again that we’d be facing headwinds again all day. On top of this I was raining lightly outside, but expected to thunderstorm before we make it to our next place. I debated mentioning it to Shantel, but ultimately figured it would only discourage her. The truth can be a hard burden to bear when it comes awful weather on a bike all day.

Leaving our hotel at 7:30am we went to the nearby Tim Hortons to get our breakfast and to the convenience store next to it to get some more snacks. As we out our breakfast and planned out the day the time passed quickly and it was 8:30am by the time we left.

Fueled by her Tim Hortons coffee (or as my friend Andy calls it rocket fuel) Shantel started the day off strong. She’d continue going strong for most of the day despite the hills, heat and headwinds until much later in the evening. I on the other hand was struggling quite a bit. I was able to keep up, but for about the first 65km today it felt like my right leg just couldn’t keep up in my left. It was as if someone had drained all the power from me and no matter how hard I pushed I couldn’t move forward. Every morning and throughout the day Shantel and I ei check in with each other about how we are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. From start to finish today my answer was consistently “I’m managing”. It hasn’t taken Shantel long to figure out that’s code for I feel like I’m dying, but I still want to keep going.

It was at about that 65km point that stopped at the last available stop before entering into Terra Nova National Park. The Trans Canada runs through the park so we’d be continuing along it. Riding through Lake Superior Provincial Park was one of the highlights for me from the last trip so I had pretty high expectations for this park. Also of all the places on the trip this is where I thought we’d see a moose. Unfortunately we didn’t see a moose and while the park offered a nice wide shoulder and some lovely views (especially towards the end going down a large hill overlooking the water) it was in my opinion a bit disappointing. Again while it was beautiful it just didn’t feel overly distinct from so much else we’d been seeing the last few days. On top of this it was filled with so many never ending hills it felt a bit like torture in the 30 degree weather as the headwind blew in my face. I remember remarking to Shantel that today felt like the toughest day of our ride for me. Shantel experienced it differently though telling me that she enjoyed riding through the park and found it fun.

It was after leaving the park that Shantel started to feel the sun and it took its toll on her.We stopped after leaving the park for long rest at North Atlantic gas station. Here we had popsicles, refilled our water bottles, took some time to cool down, and chatted with a few locals. One of the guys said he’d actually seen us in Gander the day before. Riding for a short while longer I finally decided it was safe to take off the sun sleeves from legs and for some reason this seemed to give me an energy boost. I think it likely had more to do with the sugar hitting me now, but either way I was happy to embrace it. From this point forward on the ride though the shoulder on the road got and stayed that way for the majority of the evening.

Just before 7:00pm as we made our way towards Clarenville. It was here that I saw the most glorious sign ever. The sign read: Booster Juice, nwxt left in 1km. I was so excited and hoped so badly Shantel would be up for making the slight detour. When she caught up to me the first thing she said was “did you see the sign?” I immediately knew she was up for going and got even happier. It was only slightly out of our way and going into Clarenville to get groceries for our dinner tonight made sense as well.

Once at Booster Juice we ordered the family pack (because that’s what you do when you’ve cycled in 30 degrees uphill against the headwind). The family pack includes two regular smoothies and two snacks sizes. We devoured our snack size smoothies and most of regular sized smoothies and then made a plan to cross the street to get groceries at Sobeys. Before leaving though Shantel got some photo evidence our excitement and I gave one of our cards to the young woman working at Booster Juice since I felt like she might appreciate some explanation for who these smelly smoothie devouring cyclists were. She seemed really impressed when I told her what we were doing. From there I watched the bike while Shantel went inside Sobeys to get groceries. While waiting for Shantel I kept busy responding to a few encouraging messages from friends. Receiving words of encouragement and support from friends along the way has been so helpful so I wanted to make sure the folks messaging us knew it. During this time I also received a notification saying we’d received a donation. When I checked I didn’t recognize the name, but saw the comment mentioned that she hoped we enjoyed our smoothies. Every time a total stranger donates it blow me mind. It helped turn a exhausting day around.

When Shantel returned from shopping she had our two litres chocolate almond milk, way too much pasta sauce, way too much pasta, veggie ground round, chickpeas, bananas, peanut butter, bagels, and cliff bars. I knew there was no way we’d ever eat it all but figured maybe we could bring some of it along for the ride tomorrow.

Now with our now heavier bags we had 25km left to ride. It was mostly up and downs and against the wind. It didn’t seem to matter for me though since I was feeling awesome after devouring the Booster Juice. The next 20km passed by like a breeze for me. The last 5km though was like something out of a horror movie. The sun disappeared quickly and we were and now riding in the dark. Fog had rolled in and I could see the mist from it from my bike light. To my right was the ditch and forest and ecould all sorts of interesting sounds, but had no way of seeing what (if anything) was there. Even with out lights we still couldn’t help feel vulnerable riding on the shoulder of the Trans Canada highway. Thankfully traffic was pretty calm by this time. When cars or in most cases transport trucks did pass we could usually see them coming from a distance thanks to their lights which lit up the road behind us.

After finishing up what was perhaps the 5 creepiest kilometers of riding we finally made it to our “efficiency unit” – basically a bachelors apartment. We got started right away on preparing our pasta dinner and took turns showering. Shantel complained the soap coated his skin in a gross way, but I didn’t experience the same thing. During it all we tried to fit in some stretching. After the long day on the bike we rewarded ourselves by watching half an episode of Suits while eating dinner. In the midst of trying to do too much we managed to end up with a bunch of pasta stuck to the bottom of the pot which made cleaning up a huge pain. Now with more food than we could possibly manage to eat we had to decide what to do with it all. Eventually practicality won and we accepted we just had to toss it out since there was no way we could eat or transport it.

By the time we had cleaned up having eating dinner it was 11:15am and I was completely exhausted. Shantel went to bed after brushing her teeth and the two of us taking a little time to appreciate our accomplishments so far. I felt determined still to try to write at least a bit tonight so I took some time to do so before passing out not much later.

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