by Jack Hawkins
Photos: Jack Hawkins
An early start for me, 8:30AM. I woke up, showered and then packed everything I'd need for the day into my two rear panniers, this was to be my new touring bike's first real road test – a forty-seven mile, out-and-back ride. The plan was to ride out to Cap Lumiere for lunch, and then up to Bouctouche and back home.
I packed a rather bulky camping stove and an extra butane canister in the left-hand pannier. Occupying the right-hand one was my lunch: a packet of chicken-flavoured Mr. Noodles, a waterproof jacket and a long-sleeved top, I also wore a bum-bag which handily had two water-bottle holders on each side. I filled both, as well as a water-bottle cage.
I set off an hour later after a breakfast of oatmeal sans tea, a lack of teabags at home was to blame. The riding conditions were perfect – a slight breeze, but otherwise pretty warm.
The road conditions through Richibucto and Rexton had been smooth and paved, however, they worsened slightly when I eventually turned onto Bells Mills Road – having previously taken a wrong turn, you'd swear that I hadn't lived in the area for the last seven years! There were often small inclines and the road was unpaved and bumpy in places, this made for difficult riding.
Not far from my lunchtime stop, I hit Richibucto-Village and a two-minute stop for some water and to admire the scenery, which had previously been a blur. I realised that I was riding too fast, and so I slowed the pace a little. I was now twenty kilometres from home, rolling into Cap Lumiere (Cape of Light), and my lunchtime stop.
Mr. Noodles had never tasted so good, after a gruelling twenty kilometres – let's not forget that this was my first tour. And, as per-usual, I made the mistake of not bringing enough water. I was out. Thankfully, I approached a local couple, who allowed me to fill up with refreshingly ice-cold water, at their cottage's outdoor tap.
Getting back on the road, I cycled up Highway 505, which hugged a quite stunning coastline. This route brought me up past a Fisheries and up to a fork in the road. I turned left and cycled through Saint-Anne, this was my first taste of a proper hill. I then had a choice to make – I could either stick with Highway 134, which would take the back-way into Bouctouche, or I could cycle up Highway 11, following the most direct route into Bouctouche.
The “back-way” would mean cycling an extra ten kilometres and looping into Bouctouche, but I was out for the day and so, why not take the scenic route?
Arriving in Bouctouche, I stopped again for a couple of photo opportunities and then finally a rest-stop at the Tim Hortons, water and a banana were my mid-afternoon nourishment. I waited in the Tim Hortons for a full twenty minutes, fully intending to connect up to their Wireless network and update my Facebook status, telling the world of my thus-far thoroughly enjoyable day. Unfortunately, their wireless wasn't working and so the world of Facebook would have to remain in the dark about my exploits – at least until I was sitting in my chair at home.
Then came the long ride home. I had no idea just how much cycling I'd done that day, nor I'd put my body through. It wasn't that I was unfit – far from it, it's that I'd not really done much – or any preparatory rides in the build-up to my sixty-seven miler, I simply rode. I found out after the first ten kilometres home just how tired I was... Crawling along at a speed of about 9km/h, according to my cycling computer, and the feeling of actual physical pain in my legs, it was a terrible twenty kilometres back home. Thankfully, and now retrospectively slightly embarrassingly, I stopped off at a anti-hydraulic-fracturing camp that was situated just as I rode into Rexton. They gave me several slices of bread and some fruit to see me through.
Arriving home, I put my bike away, unpacked my panniers, reheated some leftover chili – and then collapsed on the couch. Moving only to wash the dishes and hit the hay, several hours later. Exhausted though I was, I reflected on what had been an otherwise unforgettable experience, I just cycled almost fifty miles, seventy-five kilometres and I had learned a lot in just one eight-hour day out on the bike by myself.
I'd learned that I cannot possibly expect myself to do 80km days immediately, that I should definitely pack more food and bring some money along. But more importantly, I learned that I absolutely loved cycle-touring, I loved the freedom, the feeling of it being just me, my thoughts and the bicycle. It had been an amazing experience, and I began to plan my next one the very next day.
More Stories (Photos and titles are clickable links)
This is the story of my first solo self-contained tour warts and all. I learned a great deal that first time all by myself. Great experience with some entertaining moments.
This story is about another first. This was my first tour bringing along the family. My wife had never gone on a multi day self-contained tour of any kind before. Sheldon of course was just an infant.