993km Garson to St. Bruno
The end of our round-the-world trip happens so quickly, we barely see it coming. In the logical part of our minds we know it’s getting closer. Anyone can see that on a map. But emotionally the last pedal strokes towards the point where we began feel much the same as any other day or week or month over the past three years.
Those last spins of our wheels begin slowly, interspersed with lazy lunch breaks on outcroppings of solid Canadian Shield rock and long moments of quiet reflection beside the endless lakes that look like a string of rain puddles on the vast map of Ontario. In Parry Sound, we help an old college friend rip up some truly terrible 70s shag carpeting in her new house and then it’s back on the road again, over the hundreds of small rolling hills that make up this part of Canada.
The usual preoccupations of our life – where to sleep, what to eat, how much sunscreen to put on – take up their usual chunk of time and then there are the unexpected challenges, like an attack by raccoons in Algonquin Park. Incredibly bold and undeterred by our presence, this little group of bandits surrounds our site and makes repeated charges for our food-filled panniers. It’s only when our neighbours lend us enough rope to lift our bags up into the trees that we can retire confidently to our tent.
The raccoons aren’t our only companions during this part of our journey. Rob is a funny, easy-going cyclist from Toronto who hooks up with us in Huntsville and his sense of humour shines through in the $5 sunglasses he’s wearing, held together by reams of duct tape. When we first meet, we’re a bit worried that Rob might have used the same thrifty approach when buying his bicycle but there’s relief all around when we discover his trusty steed isn’t also counting on duct tape to make the distance.
Rob brings with him bundles of energy, a positive outlook and a shared love of poutine and milkshakes. In fact, we stop for so many plates of poutine – a plate of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds – in Quebec that we dub ourselves Team Poutine. Andrew gets the nickname King Fry. Friedel becomes Queen Gravy and Rob is King Curd. This bout of silliness is just what we need to keep ourselves thinking too much about The End.
And then, just like that, it happens.
We were going to have one more night but at 3pm we are struck by a completely ridiculous burst of energy. With over 80km already pedalled that day and, by all calculations, at least 60km to Montreal, we decide to make a dash for the city. Maybe it was the hope of perfectly signed and smooth cycle paths all the way to the downtown core or maybe it was the wonderful weather or maybe it was just a desire to be there after so long on the road. We don’t really know because in hindsight it didn’t make any sense but whatever the reasons, we go for it. We just go.
All three of us are pushing at top speed, not stopping for anything. We don’t stop to eat (aside from one quick milkshake at a roadside stand). We don’t stop to refill our water bottles. We don’t stop to read the map, we just propel ourselves forward and shout questions to other cyclists when we need directions, waiting for the answer to come floating to us from a distance.
The light fades and then we lose the cycle path and Rob suggests getting the train. We tell him that’s not an option. We have to cycle those last kilometers and we think he knew that already and like a trooper he joins us in this crazy quest. We can’t retrace our steps to find out where we lost the bike path but we can follow a main road all the way into Montreal so we do. The sun sinks and soon it’s totally dark but there’s surprisingly little traffic on the roads and when we finally pull to a halt in front of a Montreal row house, where Rob’s girlfriend lives, after a massive 162km we are so shattered we can’t even think. Somewhere in the back of our heads we know we should be celebrating but at that one moment in time all we can think about is a shower and sleep.
A night on the tiles – and for us that’s one with our sleeping mats spread out on a kitchen floor – does wonders for our mental clarity and the next day we wake up with both a sense of happiness and confusion. Perhaps Robert Byron said it best when he returned to England from a trip to Afghanistan and wrote: ‘At Paddington I began to feel dazed, dazed at the prospect of coming to a stop, at the impending collision between eleven months’ momentum and the immobility of a beloved home.’
These mixed emotions stay with us as we finish out the final kilometers of our loop, for Montreal was not the true start. No, this trip began in St. Bruno, just to the south of Montreal, when Michael picked us up from the airport and took us back to his house and we set up our bikes on his front lawn and took those first few baby steps out of his driveway. Michael’s address has changed in the intervening time but as he rounds the corner of his apartment building to see us and our bikes waiting outside he shines that same broad smile and welcomes us back.
So it’s with Michael that we pop a bottle of bubbly and toast a successful trip around the globe. And it’s with Michael that we discuss what might come next. For now, it’s what we like to call our ‘encore trip’ – a retracing of the first few weeks, covering as much ground as we can between now and the end of the month. And then? For all our discussions and musings we are none the wiser. We’re leaving the future in someone else’s hands for now.
10th September 2009 at 8:32 am #
I will miss you both. It will hurt. All my best.
Your silent lurker, Krystal
10th September 2009 at 2:38 pm #
A warm welcome and congratulations for the job you did! I am very thankful to know that you are back healty from your world-around-tour. I will miss your diary – it kept me dreaming about far away countries I would never reach with my own legs. Thank you for these great moments reading your journal. If your project to work in Africa next winter is still an option, you are very welcome on your way there. We miss you!
All the best!
11th September 2009 at 12:26 am #
Congratulations to you both. Albeit our Aleppo meeting was only brief I have avidly followed your trip and am shedding a tear as I write this for you and for me. I have really really enjoyed reading your journal and hope you will continue to write. What an achievement. I am sure you will find something different and fulfilling. Why not!!! Thanks again. Debbie Mill.
PS Welcome to stay with us in Brisbane any time.
11th September 2009 at 6:32 am #
How lucky I was to meet you that thundery evening in St.Jean Pied de Port camp site. Since your generousity on that occasion you have entertained me (and of course many others) with your descriptive journal entries, fantastic photography, and entertaining podcasts. All achieved from the saddle of a cycle peddling mile upon mile.
What an incredible feat your journey has been.
If you visit the UK again it would be great to have you stay here in Aylsham.
Best wishes to you both for the future
11th September 2009 at 8:19 am #
Congrats! I know only too well that feeling of coming home – part of your mind wants to celebrate at what you’ve done and accomplished. Another part just wonders how in the heck you landed back home. And yet a another part just wants to be back on the road.
In time, you’ll get it all sorted out and you’ll fall into a new normal. For now, just rest, relax, and bask in the glory of all you’ve done!
11th September 2009 at 9:27 am #
Welcome home and congratulations on a safe return! It has been such a delight to read about your adventures, listen to the podcasts, and enjoy your photos. I don’t quite know what I’m going to do for my vicarious travel fix now that you have returned.
As to what you will do now, I look forward to reading a more extensive travelogue from you in the form of a book or two.
Joy to you both.
11th September 2009 at 11:20 pm #
Go round again, go on you know you want to.
I have loved, laughed and cried to your journals.
12th September 2009 at 7:00 am #
I will heartily join in with your other fans. 🙂 It’s been so excellent to follow your progress through this site. Thanks for sharing so consistently and honestly.
I expect that you will keep writing and travelling, regardless of what your future plans hold. Blessings on your decision making,
12th September 2009 at 11:48 am #
What a brilliant 3 years! I have loved your journal and it has been part of the inspiration that now finds me in Bulgaria, after cycling all the way from Calais. Please leave the site up, it is a fantastic reference site for any would-be travellers. I’ll be lost without it.
Congratulations on your magnificent achievement.
12th September 2009 at 12:08 pm #
Yay! We’ll miss your regular updates from the road but are looking forward to hearing what you will be up to next.
We’ll be quitting our jobs and following in your footsteps by the end of next year.
Best wishes & if you’re ever in Burlington, Vermont feel free to look us up.
13th September 2009 at 1:28 pm #
Hugs to you both as i have the bug i hope to see you on the road again and we will share a beer or two and is there a book coming or a movie perhaps keep smiling hugs from OZ.xx
13th September 2009 at 6:48 am #
Wow. Thanks for all the kind words! It always amazes us to see how many people have a little stake in our journey. Thank you so much for your support. It really means the world to us. Over the next week or so, we will try to write you all back individually. Don’t worry, we are planning to keep posting. We have some big plans afoot but we can’t reveal them just yet 🙂
14th September 2009 at 4:13 am #
Has it really been three years?
Congratulations on your amazing feat. I have enjoyed reading your entries and loved the photos.
Good luck for the future in whatever you choose to do.
14th September 2009 at 1:20 pm #
Amazing journey you two, and an inspiration to all us armchair tourers! Congratulations on this fantastic experience that I have enjoyed so much vicariously over the years.
Sorry I missed you when you passed through my neck of the woods (Sacramento), but I was out of town when you came through!!
All the best, and happy future travels to you both!
17th September 2009 at 2:00 am #
Congratulations to you both on completing the first lap of the globe!!
I suspect there might be a few more fill in laps to come!
Look forward to catching up with you soon for all those stories!!
4th November 2009 at 1:40 am #
just wanted to say congrats, and thanks for sharing, i have literally hundreds of bookmarks on touring related stuff, and can easily say that your site is the best…the usability, the wonderful journals/pictures and of course the extremely useful information and to be able to find all that in one place is….refreshing
I am planning a trip from California to tierra del fuego and your site has been a great help…
You guys are AWESOME!!!!
all the best,
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