We left off in Levis, Quebec, at a high point on our journey, fresh off of a concert by Paul McCartney and a wonderful experience with our host. In the morning we were treated to a king’s pile of homemade crepes with sugar and syrup, espresso, and fantastic conversation. It was a thoroughly wonderful stop on the route. Then we left Levis.
The road out of town took us northeast along the western border of Maine, near the edge of the St. Lawrence River. We had planned on the next few days being exceedingly easy, as the route followed along with the Jet Stream perfectly, but unfortunately our timing was off, and the northeast was in for days upon days of storms, all of which were accompanied by extremely high winds...Perfectly opposite our direction. We tried to tell ourselves it was alright on the way out of town as that day was originally supposed to be a rest day, so we were making extra progress and setting ourselves up for easy days to come, but by then we had lost our powers of prediction. We labored for 8 hours to put only 60 miles behind us. The rain was awful, and our spirits were worse. We stopped for the night in St. Jean Port Jolie.
We woke up the next morning in a similar scenario, except for the increased rain, and the slightly more intense head wind. We had just 60 km to go until we turned east over the northern tip of the U.S., so we were ready to simply tough it out up to that point, when we could turn out of the wind. It was a long, hard morning, and certainly difficult to stay positive, but we kept our heads up and made the turn east after several hours of laboring. It couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. Right when we made the turn, the clouds almost seemed to part, and the sun came out through a gap in the overcast sky. We enjoyed a short climb and 10 or so miles with what felt almost like a wind advantage, which of course wasn’t, but we had been so abused up to that point that we were willing to take anything we could get, and then the road kicked up towards the heavens with a 6 mile climb. All of the sudden we were going the same speed as we had been in that terrible wind. It was frustrating, but still nice to be battling a slightly different resistance. Then the rain came back. There seemed to be a storm caught in between the peaks of the Appalachians that we had been making out way into for a couple of hours, and pretty soon it was almost dark enough to be night time. Visibility was nil, and the drivers weren’t ready to react to two cyclists, much less be patient with them in such conditions. We found ourselves descending into our stop-town with car and truck horns blaring, dancing over pot-holes every 10 feet, with maybe 50 meters of visibility and, at least in my case, almost no brakes. Scary situation no doubt, but hey, it keeps you focused, eh?
We found a place to stay and supplies at the local grocery store to make a pile of french toast...Which was fantastic. French toast is so good. So good. You should probably discontinue reading for a moment and make some.
The next morning we made our way east again, this time with the Quebec border within striking distance...A valuable mental victory. After several hours in the saddle and, strangely enough, a head wind, we made it to the border of New Brunswick. We were finally into our last provence, and we only had two more days of riding after that. It felt like finishing. We sat down just across the border for some PB and J’s and spent some time reflecting, but mostly pretending that Quebec didn’t exist. It was great to feel optimistic again, and great to be smiling. We soldiered on, putting as much space between us and Quebec as we could. We came through Edmonston, a big checkpoint on the day, and stopped for some beverages and distance calculating. It looked like just 60 miles to go on the day, and then we had a fairly long day the next day, followed by an easy victory ride into the Bay of Fundy. We got back on the road full of excitement.
Then the unthinkable happened. At mile 74, Eric’s chain snapped. It was one of the worst mechanical issues we could’ve been confronted with. Once it broke, we were left with very few options. We either needed to find a shop and put in a new chain pin, or Eric was going to have to replace the chain and the gears on the back wheel (when you ride on drivetrain for a long time, the chain stretches and wears the gears on the back wheel, so putting on a new chain would’ve made for some really awful riding). Either way, we needed a shop and a way to get to one. It was 5:30 pm. We used my phone to look up bike shops in the area and called a few, but they were all closed.
We tried hitchhiking to the nearest town with a shop, but it wasn’t working at all. We ended up having to get a cab to Grand Falls, short of our day’s goal, and without making any progress or having any guarantee of
In the morning we learned that the shop did not have a chain pin, which of course is crazy, but true, so we looked to be in for a very interesting two days. After hours of intense logistical work, attempted hitchhiking, reluctant taxi and bus rides, we made it to the closest town that had a legitimate bike shop: St. John, which happened to also be our final destination on the Bay of Fundy. So, we were unable to complete the last 180 or so miles of the trip on our own. This was a very, very difficult pill to swallow, after working for 37 days through storms and sickness to stay on schedule for a successful arrival on the east coast.
But strangers, yet again, saved our spirits. On the bus ride into St. John, a woman overheard us calling hotels looking for vacancies and explaining our project, and she offered to host us for the night. Such hospitality is absolutely incredible, and really humbling - I honestly can't say that I would walk up to two smelly strangers and offer them my home for the night. And so we spent a wonderful night with Patti, in her wonderful house downtown, eating supper and dessert with her and sharing travel stories.
We awoke the next morning well rested and well fed, but sad to accept the abrupt end to our ride. Eric managed to use his chainless bike as a scooter, and we did have a chance to wheel around downtown St. John as we were rushing to recollect our bike boxes and gather our bus tickets and plane confirmations to get started on the next part of our journey - The trip home.
And here we are. Home again, unpacked, showered, rested and now restless all over again. It's difficult to find a moment to sit down and really understand what such a defeat among so many little victories really means to us, and it looks like we won't have much time to consider it in the coming days either. Eric is all set to head to Indonesia tomorrow to begin 10 months of English teaching at a school in the city of Sumatra, and I have some big races to get ready for - I suppose the wheels were never meant to stop turning.
3,796 miles in 37 days.
So our trip is over, and we are happy despite the unexpected ending. We have taken solace in reminding ourselves of what we originally set out to do. The goal was and still is just to embrace the changes we inevitably make to our lives and to the lives of others; to seize a summer and make it count. The point was to change, not so much to finish, fix, or complete anything. And change we did, both ourselves and a little part of the world, and maybe a few children's lives. The work isn't done, though our work on the bike may be - at least for a little while.
To all of you reading: we can't thank you enough for everything.
Jason and Eric
p.s. Check up on this blog for updates on our fundraising progress and on the changes happening down in Chacaya. Keep spreading the word, and using your passion to make the changes we need to see, and telling us about it! Comments on this blog are always welcome.