Archive for May, 2007

May 21

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Happy Victoria Day!

 

I was always told to avoid talking about 2 things: Politics and the weather. Well, I don’t really follow politics, so that’s no problem. But the weather has been so unpredictable that I can’t help but complain about it! This morning the clouds were thick and dark. I figured rain was inevitable. With my rain skates on, I headed out towards Truro. The highway was wet, but there was one dry strip near the shoulder. The wind was fairly strong but not directly in my face. It was more of a cross wind that swirled around me occasionally. I’d been skating for about an hour when I realized that I had been slowly climbing a hill for the past 30 minutes. This must be Mount Thom that I had heard about. It was far from a mountain, but just a tedious, continuous incline.

 

Thankfully the rain held off. I decided to get off the TCH just before Truro and head through town on Highway #2. It had been a long morning and I was beginning to get discouraged by the lack of donations. And then everything turned around for me. I got the best donation that I’ve received so far! A little silver car pulled over in front of me and the woman handed me some money. I thanked her and waved as she pulled away. As I watched her driving down the road, I noticed she pulled over again only 50 meters up the street. As I approached the car for the second time, the back door swung open and an adorable little girl jumped out. She walked over to me and handed me another handful of coins. It was the single most precious gesture I had experience on this trip so far. Her name was Mary. She was a beautiful girl with a heart of gold. Thank you, Mary.

 

After stopping for lunch in Truro, I hopped back on the TCH towards Halifax. I was now about 90 km outside of the city. I now had conditions that I’ve been dreaming about. I had huge shoulders, new pavement, and the wind directly behind me. My speed quickly picked up, and with no effort at all, I was coasting down the highway at over 30 km/h! At this rate, I may make it to Halifax today! But then again, you know my luck. Sure enough, almost as if it were on queue, the wide shoulder ended. Ugh. Even with the small shoulder, I kept going. But it was tough skating because I had to alter my stride so that my leg wouldn’t swing out into traffic. It was very tough on my lower body. And then the Road Gods thought it would be funny to increase the challenge. The shoulder had gone from wide and smooth, to narrow and smooth, and finally to narrow and grated. Enough was enough. It was time to get off the TCH. I lost this battle.

 

I managed to struggle through the horrible shoulder until I reached Stewiacke where I changed over to Highway #2 again. Now having been through almost 2 complete provinces, it’s safe to say that Nova Scotia has the most inconsistent roads so far. I’ve had some amazingly good and some unbelievable bad conditions. But there doesn’t seem to be any consistency in the pavement.

 

The Highway took us through some beautiful farm land. I skated into a small hamlet called Shubenacadie and was surprised to find a sign that indicated this town had the highest recorded tides in the entire world! Amazing what you find when you go off the beaten path! And at the bottom of the Welcome sign, the town’s slogan read “Udderly Beautiful”. Pretty suitable for this community.

 

I had nearly reached 100 km for the day when I stopped for the night. I was only about 30 km outside of Halifax, so we marked our spot and drove into the city for the night. We arrived at my friends house just in time for a nice steak dinner! As if the night couldn’t get any better, Trish and Kyle’s neighbour, Paul Lamb (lead singer from Crush), and Kyle’s father both gave me a donation.

 

Tomorrow morning my dad will drive me back to where I left off so I can finish up this leg of my journey.

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May 20

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Maybe it’s just because it’s the long weekend and everyone is out of town, but the last couple days have been rather quiet. I still get many honks from motorists, but since getting off the ferry in Nova Scotia, only one car has stopped to donate. I have had several donations from people in the evenings once I’m done skating for the day. But it really brightens my journey when people go out of their way to pull off the highway with a small donation to help find a cure for cancer. At one point today I thought I was going to get a car pull over, but they just slowed down to say Hi.

 

Right from daybreak, the sky was full of clouds and the rain fell lightly with no sign of letting up. I intended to skate about 40 km before resting for lunch, but a slight misjudgment with our maps resulted in me covering over 50 km in the morning. I had reached New Glasgow already. It was a long, wet haul, but since I completed so much ground, I decided to take a long lunch (and nap) and just skate a couple more hours in the afternoon. While I was sitting eating my soup and sandwich, our cell phone rang. It was CBC Radio. I got to do a live interview! It was short but sweet.

 

After lunch, the rain had stopped, but it was threatening to come again. So I skated hard to make sure I reached at least my 75 km for the day. Normally I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than 80 km, but I’m only a day and a half out of Halifax and I’m ahead of schedule. I should arrive mid-day on Tuesday.

 

I wish there was more to write about. I’m sure I could elaborate and drag this entry on for another page, but I think I’d rather just take the extra time to catch some more sleep.

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May 19

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Rollerblading 101. No, it’s not a class that I teach. No, it has nothing to do with the Disney Classic ‘101 Dalmatians’. It is, however, the distance I was able to cover today!

 

Even though the forecast was for rain all day, the morning started off well. I didn’t sleep well because of a restless, 16-year-old beagle we decided to bring on this voyage. So I was a bit grumpy when I was lacing up my skates. But a few early donations was all it took to make me feel better. And the rain seemed to be holding off for now, too.

 

While on Newfoundland, I bladed nearly 1000 km. But it wasn’t until today that I actually crossed the milestone. No time to stop celebrate, though. Just a quick picture and I was back on my way towards Antigonish. I was planning to stop for lunch and a much needed nap just before crossing the Strait of Canso (which bridges Cape Breton to the mainland). But when we got to Canso, there was no where to stop until I crossed the Causeway. Just one problem. The Causeway was only 2 lanes, no shoulders, no sidewalk and was 2 km long. I know I can skate fast, but I was a bit nervous to slow down traffic for 2 kilometers. Nevertheless, I decided to go for it. I saw a break in traffic and jumped on the road. I took off like a bat out of hell. At least I had the wind in my favour for this! When I got to the other side, my parents told me that I had reached speeds of 35 km/h. Not bad considering I wasn’t going downhill. And only a couple cars had to slow down for me, but they didn’t seem to mind.

 

I’ve travelled across Canada, the U.S.A, and even Australia. I’ve seen my fare share of roadkill from squirrels, to deer, to kangaroo. But today I experienced 2 firsts. It was a bit sad, but interesting at the same time, so I thought I would share my thoughts. Today I came across a dead seal at the side of the road. I know this is Atlantic Canada and the marine life is abundant, but I was shocked to see this on the road side. We were close to the ocean, but it still seemed bizarre. Later on I saw a bird that had been hit by a car. Normally I wouldn’t have given it much thought, but this was a large brown bird. Not a typical sea gull or crow. It turned out to be an owl. Again, I found this to be quite odd. Both instances were a shame, but interesting.

 

The rest of my day was crammed pack with excitement of nothing. Sorry to disappoint you, but some days are just boring. There was a lot of fog, so I couldn’t even see much of the landscape. I did, however, conquer at least 3 hills today that measured well over 4 km each. Not mountains by my standards. But you’d be surprised how long a 4 km hill feels when you can’t see the top due to fog.

 

I ended the day with a couple high points. I faced some strong winds after lunch, but persevered through them to hit my goal of reaching Antigonish, which was 101 kilometers from where I began. Just as we rolled into Antigonish, my dad was able to reach a local radio station (CJFX 98.9 FM) and had our arrival announced on the air. Instantly, this resulted in a few late afternoon donations. Thank god for that! Not a single car pulled over for me all day. I was feeling dejected having cleared over 100 km without raising a penny for my cause. The car honks are great and supportive. If I received a loonie for every honk, I would have reached my goal by now! But unfortunately, honks only help with my morale. I hope the Nova Scotians follow the lead of the Newfies. It’s an amazing feeling to see a car pass me, pull over and roll down their window. Every dollar is one more towards a cure.

 

Enjoy the long weekend, everyone. Think of me skating my ass off while you’re sitting at your cottages drinking an ice cold beer.

NEW PHOTOS ARE UP!

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May 18

Friday, May 18th, 2007

It was no surprise that we parked at another gas bar for the evening when we departed the ferry in North Sydney. It was a surprise when I opened my eyes in the morning and saw my watch reading almost 8:30 am! Most days I’m up around 6:30 and on the road by 8:00. But for some reason I had a feeling of unusual calmness. Maybe it was the air. Maybe it was the water. Or maybe it was the fact that I was about to begin skating in a new province!

 

By the time we were up and ready to get started, it was going on 10:00am. So I set out from the ferry terminal and headed into the Nova Scotian horizon. Initially, the highway shoulders were very narrow with a lot of loose debris, but this quickly improved as I left North Sydney. Something felt different today. Not just the fact that I was off the Island. As I looked around at the landscape surrounding me, I felt like I had stepped through a portal to a different realm. Only a few hours ago, I was skating through a desolate area with rugged, snow-covered mountains, battling horrific winds, rain and snow. Now I was blading across a soft rolling hills with warmer weather, very little wind and plentiful traffic. I even passed a hitch-hiker. I was completely enthralled by my surroundings. Before I knew it, I was coming down another hill towards a bridge which spanned Bras D’or lake. “How could I be here already?”, I thought. “The map said this bridge was 27 km from the ferry terminal.” I hadn’t even realized I was coasting along the smooth hillsides at a blistering 25 km/h. Having survived the roads of Newfoundland, I was now on cloud nine.

 

Just before the bridge, I passed another hitch-hiker. The bridge was a perfect place for me to have a quick break and a snack. Immediately on the north side of the bridge was the beginning of a mammoth hill called Kelly’s Mountain. Locals had been warning me about facing this daemon. I was told the climb would take me forever since the elevation was so extreme and the distance so great. As I came over the bridge, there was a notice at the bottom of the mountain warning motorists of the incline they were about to embark on. The sign read as follows:

 

“You are now at the base of Kelly’s Mountain. You will climb 240 meters in the next 7 km”

 

I couldn’t help but chuckle. Had these people ever seen a ‘mountain’? But I decided to take the advise of everyone and proceed with caution. I’m sure that at some point during the climb, the grade of the road must be quite steep. The kilometers passed by one at a time. I then passed a third hitch-hiker. Wait a minute… This was the same guy I passed before. In fact, all three times it had been the same guy. That must have been discouraging for him to get passed by a rollerblader 3 times in an hour. A few minutes later I came to another sign:

 

“Top of Kelly’s Mountain. Elevation 240 m”

 

Nova Scotia was going to be nothing like Newfoundland at all!

 

As I continued on, I was making better time than ever before on my trip thus far. The kilometers were flying past me. Then a funny thought came to my head. I actually felt like I was not skating any faster than I had while on the Island. I came up with a hypothesis as to why I’m covering more distance but still travelling at the same speed. I figure that a Newfie kilometer is actually 1200 meters. That’s why every km seemed to drag on forever while I was there!

 

Around this time, I made a comment to my dad about how great the conditions were and how good it felt to finally be on the mainland. “Carefull what you say’, he said. “Cape Breton is still actually an island”. Whatever, the conditions were fantastic.

 

I rolled into a town called Baddeck around lunch time which was over 50 km form North Sydney. Baddeck is a town of 900 residents and was made famous in the early 1900’s by inventor Alexander Graham Bell. I actually got to see his estate where he is buried. The entire area had a very historical feeling to it.

 

After lunch, we decided we would make Whycocomagh our final destination for the day. It was about 45 km form Baddeck. As I continued along the highway, I had a brief flashback to the morning… “Careful what you say. Cape Breton is still an island”.

 

And just like that, my day spiraled downward. The sun disappeared and the rain began spitting. The wind picked up. The shoulder became rough. The terrain suddenly had more hills. And to top it all off, I had gone almost 80 km and not had a single donation. All of this can be summed up in one simple word… Ugh.

 

I tried to look on the lighter side of things. The town name, for example. Why-coco-magh. Well, this is why. Just before I came into the city limits, a woman finally pulled over to donate. A sigh of relief. I know the Newfies set a high standard for the rest of the country, but I figured the Nova Scotians would give them a run for their money.

 

When we pulled into the Esso gas bar for the night, I noticed a flyer inside advertising Wing Night at Alice’s Restaurant. Wings sounded great to me, but the sign said 9pm to midnight. I wonder if they’d make an exception? We headed over to Alice’s and pulled into the parking lot. My dad hadn’t even shut the engine off when a young man came right over to the RV. Jason introduced himself and told us about his successful battle against lung cancer. He was an incredible man with so much enthusiasm toward what I was doing. It’s people like Jason that make my journey as memorable as it has been.

 

Dinner was great. But what was better than the food was the staff at Alice’s. Not only the waitresses, but the owner, herself, all showed great interest and admiration for my efforts. They all made contributions of their own to help in my cause. Thank you ladies!

 

A last thought before turning in for bed. Many people have been asking about various aspects of this website (updates to the donations page, photos, the addition of google maps, etc.). I wish I could meet the demands for everyone. But I just ask for a bit of patience. The donations report only comes to me every couple of weeks. And when I do finally get it, I have to find the time to make the updates manually. But please continue to e-mail me with questions, concerns or recommendations for the site. I love hearing form everyone.

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May 17

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

The weather predictions were finally inaccurate! We were supposed to have freezing rain over night and snow in the morning. But when I opened my eyes, the roads were dry! I knew it was cold, but I was ready for that. And to make the morning even more promising, the owner of the gas bar we were camped at had made a donation. What a great start to the day. Maybe this was an omen that my last day on Newfoundland would be filled with enjoyable memories.

 

So we drove back to where I left off the night before. I bundled up with my toque, gloves, scarf and jacket before doing up the laces on my skates. As I began my strides down the road, the wind was slightly across and slightly behind me. It was cold, but still very good conditions. I was done the first kilometer, then the second, and the third. I was flying through the final 65 kilometers like a bat out of hell. It was around kilometer 11 that I saw it. It actually brought a little grin to my face. A single snow flake had landed on my cheek. “Well,” I thought. “This will make for a good journal entry…skating in the snow”.

 

A few more flakes fell but the roads remained dry. But within minutes the skies opened up above me once again. I thought it would be best to put my ‘rain skates’ on at this point. As it turned out, this was a good idea. I suppose I should change the name from ‘rain skates’ to ‘snow skates’. It was almost like someone had flipped a switch. The snow started pelting me from all directions. This was not your average spring snow. This was a full out winter blizzard! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But my spirit was still too high to be battered down by a little precipitation. The wind was still mostly in my favour, so I trucked on.

 

Now that I was so close to Port Aux Basque, the landscape around me was magnificent. I was blading through valleys that were surrounded by snow-covered mountains and had crystal clear rivers weaving through them like serpants. As I came up a small incline, the terrain began to plateau. Staring at me as I started down the long straight-away was a big yellow sign: ‘Caution. Extreme High Winds Next 20 km’. Well this should be interesting.

 

Shortly after seeing the warning, another sign caught my attention: ‘Caution. Winds in this area have been recorded in excess of 200 km/h’. Yes, interesting indeed.

 

I was still feeling good. Regardless of the warnings, I felt comfortable. Besides, I’d be through this section in an hour or so. Then a thought crossed my mind. When we were marooned in Corner Brook, the mechanic had mentioned to me about a section of highway with severe wind. He kept referring to this as ‘The Wreckhouse’. But he also reassured me that the majority of the time the wind would be at my back. I was quite looking forward to entering The Wreckhouse and getting some gusts behind me to push me along!

 

The next thing I knew, I was skating over a ridge and around a bend directly towards the ocean. That was it. The end of the Wreckhouse. I made excellent time coming through considering the winter wonderland I was battling. But the severe winds I was expecting weren’t nearly as impressive as I had anticipated.

 

I was now only 20 km from the Port Aux Basque ferry to Nova Scotia! The end was almost in sight. After a quick bite for lunch, I headed down the highway for what I thought would be my last in Newfoundland. Everything was working out perfect. I was ahead of schedule (the ferry reservation wasn’t until midnight and it was only 2pm), the snow had turned to a drizzly rain (which made me feel like I was back in Vancouver), there were towering mountains on my left and the turbid ocean to my right, and best of all, I was almost at the end. Then I noticed something interesting. Another sign at the side of the road. It wasn’t a warning sign. Just a simple little board with a single word: ‘Wreckhouse’. But hadn’t I made my way through the Wreckhouse? Oh well, I was under 20 km to the ferry now. How bad could it really get?

 

A word to the wise… never ask a loaded question.

 

The road took sharp turn to the left and split between two mountains. As I rounded the bend the realization that 20 km is still a long way set in. It was as if I had been skating with a bungee chord strapped to my back and I had reached the end. The wind came funneling through the mountains with a force that felt like it had been building for decades. I went from a decent speed of 20+ km/hr to barely being able to stand against this force. “So this is the Wreckhouse?”, I thought. “Well, let’s see what you got”. I could see that the road was only about 500 meters or so before exiting the valley and bending off to the right again. So even though I was only inching forward, it was somewhat entertaining for such a short distance. Imagine the story I could tell. I was now face to face with 90 km/h winds!

 

It must have taken me about 20 minutes to get through the 500 meter stretch. And when I finally made it to the bend, the humour in the situation vanished as quickly as it came. What was going on? I was out of the Wreckhouse, but the wind had not subsided! And why should it? Nothing else has come easy to me on this journey. The wind continued to sustain unimaginable speeds which pulled me in the opposite direction my legs were trying to take me. And all along, the rain/snow sliced away at my face. By this time I had my toque almost completely covering my eyes and a scarf over my face. The only skin exposed was my eyelids…and I was shielding them with my frozen fingers.

 

My ferry reservation was booked for midnight, and it was only 2:30. So I had lots of time to struggle through the last 15 kilometers. But I would be damned if this island was going to get the best of me! I had been making incredible time today and was on pace to catch the earlier ferry. Until the Wreckhouse. I was cursing the wind, I was cursing the rain, I was cursing the road, I was even cursing transports as they blew past me throwing an added mist over top of me. This was one of those times that I had to use every ounce of mental strength to step back and regain my composure. None of this really mattered. So what if I was wet. So what if I was cold. So what if the wind was so strong I could barely stand. So what. I was here, and alive, and healthy. I was going to make it to that ferry and nothing was about to stop me.

 

At 4:00pm, I came around the hairpin turn at the terminal and arrived at the ticket booth. I had done it. I was now approaching 1000 km of rollerblading, and I felt amazing. My legs were tired, my feet were aching, my fingers were numb, my face was burning, and my back was screaming. And I never felt better in my life. I know I still had a long way to go, but this was a huge milestone for this journey and for my life. My emotions were too much to handle and a few tears actually ran down my cheek. I had done it.

 

This is where I had intended to leave off and begin my next entry tomorrow from Sydney. But the ferry ride to the mainland took another unexpected twist.

 

My dad, being the silver-tongued devil that he is, started chatting with some of the crew on the ferry. Before I knew what was happening, an announcement came across the P.A. “Would Brian Ralph please report to the service desk on deck 5”. He had obviously talked to the right people, because I was now being handed a voucher for complimentary food from the cafeteria. It wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it was nice to have a paid meal that I didn’t have to plan for. Just pick from the menu and go.

 

While I was waiting for my food to be prepared, a sweet little woman came up behind me and spoke softly: “Are you that boy who is rollerblading?”

 

“Yup! That’s me.” I answered enthusiastically. She just wanted to let me know what a wonderful thing I was doing and that she wished to make a donation. I was flattered, but I couldn’t figure out how she knew who I was. My picture had not appeared in any newspaper in several days. It turns out, she had heard about me on the radio and knew that I was coming into Port Aux Basque today. She had just taken a wild guess that I was the one. Well, I’m glad she took that chance and approached me.

 

As we stood there chatting, she mentioned something about going through Kingston. “That’s my hometown!” I exclaimed. Her eyes instantly lit up as though she had just won the lottery. We walked over to the table where my parents were sitting and began talking some more. Her name is Judy Osborne and I came to discover that she has many mutual friends of my parents. The conversation went on for well over an hour. Judy had told me about how she had lost her 23-year-old daughter and had since created an annual event in Kingston in her memory. She thought it would be wonderful if I could participate in the event this year. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to Kingston by June 9th, but I strongly encourage everyone to take part in this event in Tristan Osborne’s memory.

 

Our conversation carried on. We talked about everything from my adventure, to my parents old dog and her arthritic condition, to Judy’s 5 years living in the Arctic Circle. She is a truly astounding woman. A captivating speaker and an all-round riot. I’ll be posting a picture of myself with Judy soon. The picture may look funny since were pointing at a sign about swine, but that’s another novel in itself. Let’s just say Judy is the one and only Kingston Area Pig Lady.

 

We exchanged details and will be working together to help promote each others causes. And that’s where I am now. The ferry is a little over half way to Nova Scotia. Today I skated 65 km in snow, rain and wind. I got us to the ferry in time to catch the early crossing. And we’re right on schedule. Newfoundland has provided me with an unforgettable experience. I have seen the ultimate highs and lows. At one point, I was almost 4 days behind schedule due to mechanical issues, but I’ve managed to push myself and my family to get us back on track. Now it’s time grab a quick shower and a nap before landing in a new province and starting a new chapter.

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May 16

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

Today I had a sense of accomplishment. I could almost see the end of Newfoundland. Although I was still a day and a half away from the ferry terminal, I felt like it was within my grasp. In fact, I was so close that I could smell the ocean!

 

The day started off with a brilliant sunrise coming over the mountain tops and was supposed to remain clear all day. After a quick breakfast and our farewell’s to Rose and Calvin, we hopped in the RV and headed back to Barachois Pond Provincial Park where I left off the night before. With my panty hose on and my skates tied up, I stepped onto the cold, gray asphalt. At that moment I knew the sun was just being a tease. I should have known better. Even in the bright sunshine, the Newfoundland weather will still torment you. The scenery around me was breathtaking, but the cold, forceful wind was ripping at my cheeks like razor blades. Nevertheless, I hammered on. I continually reminded myself of the greater goal I was shooting for. That was all the motivation I needed. The frustration I was feeling was intense. I just felt like I couldn’t catch a break with the weather. But aside from the odd curse to the Wind Gods, I wasn’t doing badly.

 

As the day pressed on, the uneventfulness was weighing on my shoulders. A few honks from cars going by just wasn’t as exciting as it used to be. Each kilometer now felt like 10. And then, to make matters worse, the nicely paved shoulder now had rumble strips carved into them. I had no choice but to carefully skate on the highway itself. Thankfully the traffic was light and the strips came to an end about 20 km after they began.

 

I had decided to skip my regular afternoon nap so I could get in a few extra miles. The weather forecast for tomorrow was calling for snow and rain, so I wanted to get in as much skating today as possible.

 

The afternoon ticked by and my mind started wandering when I noticed a truck pass by and slow down. I started to think this would be my first donation of the day, but I watched as she simply slowed down to make a turn into the upcoming crossroad. No more than 30 seconds had past when another truck past and and pulled over blocking my shoulder. Wait a minute… this was the same truck. Well this should lift my spirits a bit. When I rolled up beside the truck, the driver opened her door quickly and spoke with a big grin on her face. “You’re on the radio right now!” she said excitedly. She turned the volume up loudly so I could hear. The voice I heard coming through the speakers was none other than the lovely Rose Howse! She had called in to VOCM and was telling the province about how she graciously welcomed us into her home the night before. She mentioned all the details of my website and the cause I am raising money for. It was fantastic to hear someone talk about me like that… especially someone who was a stranger less than 12 hours ago. And with that, the woman who had pulled over reached into her purse and made a wonderful donation herself.

 

Within the next 100 meters, 4 more cars would pull over and make a donation! At one point, there were actually cars lined up on the shoulder of the highway waiting for me to come to their window to accept a donation. Even an off-duty highway enforcement officer stopped to donate. He told me that he passed me several kilometers ago while on duty but wanted to come back and contribute. Absolutely amazing! Rose’s phone call to the radio station single-handedly made for one of my most successful days in terms of donations! Thank you Rose!

 

I was now finally less than 100 kilometers from the ferry. Another great feeling! But I knew I would be faced with adversity the next day, so I kept moving forward. The late afternoon conditions had settled the fierce winds from earlier and I was now making pretty good time. At one point, I actually hit a new personal top speed of over 50 km/h! Obviously that only lasted for a few hundred meters coming down a smooth decent. I ended up calling it a day near an area called South Branch. We drove in to a town called Doyle where the nearest gas station was located. Here we plugged our hydro in and got ready for what was expected to be a blistering cold night.

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May 15

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

We woke up with an uneasy feeling in our stomaches today. We sat around the table and had a seance and prayed to the Auto Gods that our new master cylinder would arrive with no problem. It was almost 10 am when the guys at Thruway Auto told us the part had arrived in the city and would be here soon. When it finally arrived, they told us it would only take a few minutes to change it. Sure enough, when they removed the old cylinder, the new one refused to fit. The Auto Gods were toying with us again. Thankfully, a minor adjustment needed to be made and the new cylinder slid right on. With the brakes back in working condition, I was ready to hit the street.

 

It was almost noon when I started skating. I had checked the weather report and knew that the conditions were not going to be as nice as the previous day. The winds had shifted and were now (once again) directly in my face. As frustrating as the wind was, I was prepared for it. But what i wasn’t prepared for was the road conditions between Corner Brook and Stephenville. Almost the second I began skating, the road was treacherous. There was gravel, sand, cracks, no shoulder and finally, construction. The wind alone had knocked my speed down to only 10 km/hr, but with the added road conditions, I was now lucky to be doing 7 km/hr. Not exactly the speed I was hoping for considering I was behind schedule again.

 

In between my rants and tantrums due to the wind and road, people continued to pass by and honk with encouragement. One man pulled over in front of me to make a donation. As we chatted for a few minutes, I told him how our RV had broke down in Corner Brook. His response shocked me a bit. “Again?!” he said to me. He had heard about our RV troubles back in St. John’s. He had been tracking our progress across the entire province.

 

As the day went on, I finally reached the end of the horrible roads. And in fact, the wind was starting to let up. At its peak, I was facing gusts of wind up to 45 km/hr! I was glad to see some smooth pavement in front of me now. If you’ve been reading my journal from the start, you should know what’s coming next.

 

Just as the conditions start to look good for me, the rain started up. I couldn’t help but laugh. I’ve never failed a test in my life (except for University Calculus and Chemistry, but that’s another story), and I would be damned if I’d fail this test. That is exactly how I felt… like I was being tested. It’s a long journey across Canada, and I think if I can make it through Newfoundland, I can make it through anything!

 

Now with the rain drizzling down on me, I almost began enjoying the day. Skating in the rain is great because it tends to draw more attention. Almost right away, a car pulled over to donate. The woman who was driving told me she had actually stopped a couple hours earlier and given my parents a previous donation, but she wanted to give me more. What an unbelievable woman. Rose Howse. The next thing I knew, she had invited us to stay at her place that evening if I was able to make it to Stephenville. The thought of a hot shower was motivation enough. I was determined to get there!

 

So I trekked along more optimistic than I’d been all day. Even with the rain falling on me, things just started looking brighter. And then another glimmer of enjoyment… Another moose! This time the moose was only 25 feet off the highway. She didn’t seem to care about passing vehicles, but as soon as she saw me in my bright orange vest, she headed for the trees. I was able to snap one great picture, though. It will be posted soon.

 

My legs were getting heavy as the day was coming to an end. But I had enough left in me for one more big hill. I’d faced some big inclines, but this one was really long. I was hoping to continue on for a few more kilometers after I reached the peak, but I decided I’d had enough for one day. I came to rest at the entrance to Barachois Pond Provincial Park roughly 65 km from where I had begun in Corner Brook. Not a bad haul considering the obstacles I had faced today.

 

So I hopped in the RV and we headed for Stephenville for the night. We arrived at the home of Rose and Calvin Howse where they welcomed us in with open arms. Amazingly generous people. I was able to shower and get some much-needed laundry done. Before I knew it, my eyes were starting to close. It was a long, hard day and I badly needed to recover with a good nights sleep.

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May 14

Monday, May 14th, 2007

I started the morning off with a little taste of luxury…. a hot shower! And believe me, I needed it. Not necessarily because I stink (although that’s mostly why), but because it was -3 degrees outside! The truck stop we stayed at last night in Deer Lake had all the amenities you could ask for, so a hot shower was well needed.

 

Feeling refreshed, I set out with into a cold, sunny morning. The scenery around me was incredible. Calm lakes, snow-capped mountains, blue sky, no wind. Even in the frigid temperatures, I was able to make good time. I’d covered nearly 5o km before stopping in Corner Brook for lunch.

 

Just before Corner Brook, the views continued to amaze me. As I skated past a ski resort on my left, a beautiful dark river was winding through the hills to my right. The road I was on followed the water around a bend where the river turned to rapids. It was right out of a movie.

 

Then I rounded another bend to see a long climb ahead of me towards Corner Brook. I think the hill leading into the city was my most challenging incline so far. But the conditions were perfect for skating at this point. The air had warmed up to about 8 degrees and the breeze was slightly behind me. And then the call came in.

 

“Rich, we need to stop and check the brakes”.

 

My dad had mentioned previously that the brakes felt soft. But now that we were getting back into the hills, he was beginning to grow concerned. We were planning to stop in Corner Brook for lunch, anyway. So we pulled into Thruway Auto to have them take a look for us. It looked and felt like the brake lines just had some air in them. So they bled the lines and sent us on our way.

 

With a sense of relief (again), we headed to the grocery store to pick a few things up. We hadn’t driven 100 meters away when my dad said something didn’t feel right. So we swung around and headed back to the mechanic. Long story short, we are now stuck in Corner Brook waiting for a master cylinder to be flown in from the mainland. It’s like deja vu all over again. I suppose the fortunate thing is that today is Monday and the part will be here at 9am. The mechanic expects us to be on the road around 10. So I’ll hopefully only lose less than 1 day of skating. Everyone keep your fingers crossed for us!

 

I got an message today from my friends who I met near St. John’s a few days ago. Remember the couple I met on the TCH who are cycling across Canada? Brad and Tina. Well, it turns out that they are only a few kilometers ahead of me right now. In fact, I would likely be in the same town as them tonight if the RV hadn’t needed these repairs. I haven’t got all the details from Brad, but they are taking a couple days rest in Stephenville. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up to them and maybe grab the same ferry when we reach Port Aux Basque.

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May 13

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny day. And then we saw the frost on the windows. The temperature had dropped below zero but was supposed to climb throughout the day to almost 10 degrees.

 

So I set out on my blades bundled up with 5 layers of clothes and toque. I was warm enough, but the amount of clothing I had on wasn’t too comfortable. I slowly started shedding pieces as the temperature rose. By lunch time, I was down to my shorts again.

 

I’ve now come all the way across the province and been as far north as the TCH will go. And the decent to Port Aux Basque has begun. I was looking forward to my southerly skate today since the wind was coming from the north all morning. But the second I turned to the south, the wind decided to swing around at me again. I should have known. Some words of advice… if you’re ever on Newfoundland and you need to check the weather, there’s no point in trying to predict the wind direction. Regardless of what they say the direction is, the wind will ALWAYS be in your face.

 

Just before arriving in Deer Lake, we made a small detour to the north of the highway to a town called Reidville. It was too good to pass up. I had to go get a picture. Adam, I’ll post the photos soon for you.

 

I made it just south of Deer Lake before quitting for the day. Since it’s Mother’s Day, I decided to treat my mom to the fanciest place I could find in Deer Lake…. The Irving Gas Station Truck Stop Diner. I knew it was the best place to eat in town because it was packed! And we weren’t disappointed. We had the best truck stop meal I can remember. I won’t go into details about the meal itself, because I don’t think my girlfriend/nutritionist would approve.

 

They’re calling for blue skies tomorrow, but we’ve been warned that eastern Newfoundland tends to be windy. We’ll see what the morning brings.

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May 12

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

This morning I woke up and felt like I was 5 years old… I was lying in a big wet puddle. Had I really just wet the bed?? With a sigh of relief, I determined the substance to simply be water. But where from? Well, the sound of rain on the roof quickly answered my question. My dad and I had thought we patched the leaky spot above my bed, but it rained pretty hard last night. So I guess the water found it’s way in. We’ll have to take another look when it dries out.

 

I was happy that I hadn’t wet the bed, but now the reality of skating in the rain was setting in. I actually don’t mind skating in rain. But I knew that the wind was blowing down form the North so it would be a cold wind directly in my face. Sure enough, as I got rolling, the rain and wind was fairly harsh. It wasn’t quite as bad as the previous wind I had faced, but it was definitely not going to be an easy day.

 

Nevertheless, my determination helped me get through nearly 50 km before lunch. We stopped in a little town called South Brook, just south of Springdale. Seemed like a good place for lunch and my daily nap.

 

When I woke, the weather looked promising. It was still misty, but not pouring. By the time I had my skates on and headed out for the afternoon, the skies opened and the rain came down again. I knew Newfoundland was going to be a test to my will, but this was getting ridiculous. Fortunately the wind subsided considerably making the skate much more enjoyable. With my favorite tunes playing on my Ipod, I was hauling down the TCH at a pretty good rate.

 

For those who know me well, I have a tendency to notice things that most people wouldn’t. Well, for some reason, I glanced over my right shoulder into a marshy wooded area. And there it was. Finally. A moose. So the Newfoundland people were right! There are moose on this island. The moose I saw was about 100 yards off the highway, but we could clearly see it. I’ll be sure to post the picture soon. I was beginning to think that moose only existed in fairy tales. But alas, there it was.

 

It was a good thing that we saw the moose, because the rest of the day was relatively uneventful. By the end of the day, I had managed to put 100 km behind me. I’m now about 70 km East of Deer Lake.

 

I just want to mention all the people who pass by and honk for me. Quite often I am not able to wave. Sometimes I don’t hear you, sometimes I’m just concentrating on my balance and need my hands. Whatever the case, the encouragement from everyone is very appreciated. And to everyone who literally stops on the highway to say ‘Hi’ or make a donation, thank you. You all give me the motivation to keep going and push through horrendous conditions. I love reading your e-mails and messages, too.

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