ST. ANTHONY, N.L.
It is becoming increasingly common for people to bicycle across the country. Thousands have done it, but few ever make it to St. Anthony.
Typically, cyclists leave from Vancouver and wind up in St. John’s. Few go the other way because of prevailing winds and because it is much warmer on the west coast in the spring when most begin the journey.
“That was my original plan, was St. John’s, but then my buddy Dave said, ‘There’s nothing to see all the way across (the island) and then you end up in a city’,” Bob Edmunds, a 60-year-old, retired chartered accountant from Calgary told The Northern Pen.
Buddy Dave had done the trip a few years ago and recommended the west coast.
Getting to the Port aux Basques ferry in North Sydney from Sydney, where he stayed in Nova Scotia, was one of the worst legs of the nearly 10,000 kilometres Edmund’s logged over two summers.
“I had about a 20- or 25-K ride and it was just pouring rain and wind and everything, so I got a cabin when I got on the ferry, sprung the 60 bucks or whatever, best money I ever spent,” he said.
Once on the island though, despite being somewhat cold, the trip up to the Northern Peninsula was one of the highlights of the entire adventure.
“Super-windy, crazy windy, the whole way, but the wind was my friend, (it) gives you the dramatic surf-crashing on the shoreline and because I got sunshine mostly you get the brilliant white of the surf — the colours were amazing,” he said, adding the GoPro video camera on his helmet got a workout as well. “I just film when there’s nice scenery, so I shot a lot of GoPro up this coast because it’s so beautiful.”
Of course, the obvious question for anyone attempting a crossing of the second largest country in the world is why?
Edmunds had a few reasons, but summed it up as “cycle therapy.”
He did not want to share details, but offered a bit of teaser by way of explanation.
“I kind of got pissed off at people, just in general, just through various dealings where people double-cross you or whatever and you just get tired of it and that was one of my things about the solo ride. It’s just, like, I need to reset,” he explained.
For the most part, it worked.
“I’ve met so many great people on this trip, I don’t think I’ve met a bad person and I don’t know if I’ve completely reset, but I’ve got a better attitude towards people again than I did going into it,” he said.
Edmunds made the trip in five legs. In April and May 2017, he rode from Vancouver to Calgary, then took a break at home. Resuming in June 2017, he made it to Val Marie, Saskatchewan—a tiny village just north of the U.S. border adjacent to Grasslands National Park—before taking another break in Calgary.
In September 2017, his wife drove him back to Val Marie where he picked up again and rode to Kenora, Ontario before packing it in for the year.
Saskatchewan was one of the surprises of the trip.
“Saskatchewan was amazingly hilly,” he explained. “It’s rolling landscape, you don’t know that in a car, but on a bike you know every hill you go up and because they just do their roads like a beeline from here to there, they just go up and over everything, I was doing as much vertical in Saskatchewan in a day as I did in B.C.”
Because of the long 2017-18 winter, Edmunds didn’t get going again until May of this year. On the first leg this year, he went from Kenora to Cobourg, Ontario, where he had a four-day reunion with a long-lost aunt and cousin, then took a break, returning to Calgary.
Toronto was another surprise. He thought it would be a nightmare getting through Canada’s biggest city, but he wanted to see the Bruce Peninsula, Manatoulin Island and the McMichael art collection so the “big smoke” was unavoidable.
“It was excellent,” he said. “I discovered the Humber Valley River Trail. It’s like being in the middle of the country in the middle of Toronto. It was just this beautiful ride west of Toronto down to the waterfront and then along that waterfront trail that goes forever.
“I was going to avoid Toronto at all costs, but it was amazing and that waterfront was just such a nice way to get through Toronto.”
Back to Cobourg in September, Edmunds finished off Ontario, rode the south shore of the St. Lawrence River through Quebec, toured New Brunswick, crossed to P.E.I. over the Confederation Bridge, then back and into Nova Scotia to catch the ferry to Newfoundland.
Unlike many of his contemporary cross-country cyclers, Edmunds had no cause he was raising awareness or funds for, he didn’t do it for fitness, he didn’t even blog the trip or share it on social media.
“I just wanted to take a look at the country,” he said. “Canadians, they get holiday time and they’re out of Canada.
“Canada’s the target for a lot of people all over the world, this is their Shangri-la that they’re trying to get into, and we can’t wait to get out, so I just thought, I’m going to do some staycations.”
A bicycle is a great way to see the country, he said, paraphrasing Robert M. Pirsig from his book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”
“Just being on a bike compared to being in a car and looking at the exact same scenery, (Pirsig) said, it’s completely different scenery, a completely different experience, and he was on a motorcycle,” Edmunds said. “Being on a bicycle is taking that another step because you feel the scenery because you’re riding up and down it and you’re feeling every bump and you feel every hill.”
At the end of road, Edmunds found Dustin and Bonnie Hedderson, who put him up in their Fishing Point Vacation Home. St. Anthony in general, and the two-story cabin with 270 degrees of harbour view nestled into the rocks in particular, were the perfect end to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“This place is so awesome,” Edmunds said. “I said to Dustin and Bonnie, ‘Wow, this is exactly what I wanted at the end of this, something like this.’ This was a real nice place to finish it and unwind, I’ve gotta say.”