672km St. Bruno to Rimouski
Our circuit around the world ends in St. Bruno but the next morning, after Michael has gone to work, we carry on as if nothing has changed at all.
We eat our breakfast of cereal and fruit, lug our bags downstairs and load them on the bikes like we’ve done a thousand times before. I take a moment to examine the fraying bag that sits across my back two panniers, the one that has held our sleeping mats for months now. I wonder how it’s ever held out this long. This one bag, more than anything else we’re carrying, really looks like it’s gone around the world. Maybe it will stay intact just a little longer.
My thoughts are broken by Andrew handing me some sunscreen. We make the last checks of our bikes and gear, drop in a few cubes of ice from Michael’s freezer into our water bottles, give each other a kiss and head out under a surprisingly intense September sun.
Our loop is already completed but we’re continuing to cycle because, just like a runaway truck going down a steep hill, a strong sense of momentum pushes us onwards. We have been continually moving forward for 3 years now and it’s so incredibly hard to even contemplate putting on the brakes. More than anything we need time: time to digest all those special places and kilometres riding in our wake and time to consider what will come next.
It’s the last point that occupies our thoughts more than anything. That morning I said to Andrew, completely out of the blue and not really knowing why I said it at all, “What if we don’t come home from our trip to Germany? What if we move to Holland?” He smiled. We both smiled. The idea spoke to us. But was it too crazy?
All the way through the farmlands of Quebec, over countless plates of poutine, ice cream cones and while camping behind the tall fields of corn that line the road, we talk about Holland. It’s bike friendly Not too cold. The different culture will feed our hunger for new adventures. And by the time we’ve arrived in Quebec City, to the warm welcome of future world cyclists Louis and Lysanne, we’ve almost convinced ourselves it’s a good idea.
That night, a crash in confidence comes. Will we get jobs? What if it all goes wrong? Despite plenty of adventure with Louis and Lysanne, two incredibly jolly people who fill our normally tranquil rest days with marvellous hikes and bike rides, we wake up two days in a row at 5am. Our minds are full of doubt and we are so anxious we cannot sleep. We debate and dispute and then we reach the same conclusion: the worst case scenario is not so bad at all. Even if we go and don’t find jobs, we can always come home and we’ll have the few months of experience in Holland as something learned and perhaps even enjoyed. And, with a little luck and determination, we might arrive at something even better. This is how we decide that we will go to Holland – a possibility we hadn’t even considered before last week.
As we leave Quebec City, we stop in to see Pierre of Museo Velo (quite possibly the world’s most interesting bicycle shop – an homage to the bicycle more than merely a place to buy a bike) and Pierre congratulates us by doing a trackstand on his penny farthing in front of our bikes. He makes us smile.
Now on our way over the steep hills that line the banks of the St. Lawrence, we know our cycling days are truly numbered. There are people to see and things to pack before we go so cycling all the way home is out of the question. Just a few more miles, we say, but along with Old Man Time, the weather is turning against us too. ‘Turn right for South America now or continue at your peril!” the wind seems to whisper as it whips around our ears.
One night is particularly frigid. It’s so cold that we wear two layers of clothes to bed, including our socks and we both refuse to get out of the tent the next morning. No promise of coffee is enough to pull us out of our sleeping bags before 8am and even then ice falls into our hands when we finally unzip the door. It’s a sure sign that winter is coming.
We spend our last days in a kind of beautiful mourning. With every breath we inhale deeply and feel that wonderful rush of fresh air moving through our lungs in a way that it only does when you are on a bicycle. When we stop, we take extra time to soak in the beauty of the icy blue Saint Lawrence River flowing just beneath our feet. And on the last morning we watch a small sliver of pink sunlight spread out in a thin line along the horizon, the only bit of colour that helps to distinguish between the dawn colours of the water and the sky.
Tonight we will go to the train station and put our bikes in a box. And I will have a lump in my throat but I will pretend not to care that this has been the last day of our trip because it is the only way I know to get through this moment without crying. And Andrew will have tears in his eyes because he knows that our next long trip could be many months away and it has been so special for both of us. And at 2am the train will arrive and our bikes will go into the baggage car and we will take our seats. It will be late and we will be tired but we will not sleep. Memories of countries past and challenges ahead will float through our minds, keeping us awake as the train carries us and our bicycles through a dark Canadian night.
18th September 2009 at 5:17 pm #
18th September 2009 at 8:43 pm #
The road ends here for us stalkers too and I’m sad. Looking forward to the next adventure. G&T
19th September 2009 at 5:19 am #
I can’t read what I’m writing with my eyes full of tears 🙁 At least Holland isn’t too much away from us… But how did this idea get in your mind? You have not been in Holland so far, did you? If anything goes wrong, your always welcome!
Big hugs for both of you!
20th September 2009 at 9:06 am #
I’ve so loved following your journey since you started. Please keep us posted on your activities. I too am curious as to why you are choosing to settle in Holland. Friedel, I do hope you return to RecipeZaar (I’m sweetomato in the Brit forum). You ought to develop a blog sharing recipes from the countries you have visited!
20th September 2009 at 1:09 pm #
It was so great to have the chance to see you in Québec. Thank you for all the advice for our future trip. It did feel weird to leave you the last morning. You in your world of adventure and us in our planet work. We are so happy for you that you realize your dream.
Thank you for sharing your stories in this blog we really did enjoy reading it every day.
Hope to see you again.
All the best for the future on this long road call life.
24th September 2009 at 4:11 am #
remember they do curl in Holland too!
26th September 2009 at 10:21 pm #
After all this time across the miles I have followed. I have loved reading your updates and of course the pleasure of meeting you. Something I will always remember & treasure is of you both cooking a meal for us. 🙂
Both Jim & I wish you every good vibe for your future in whatever you decide to do and where ever you decide to go.
I hope to still see you around on Recipezaar…..maybe sharing some of those recipes you made or enjoyed on your journey.
With much love and big hugs
Jenny & Jim
28th September 2009 at 9:35 am #
Have loved popping in and out of your journey when I spot it in the bookmarks list. It’s been fascinating to read and wander the world through your eyes.
Think you need to combine these into a book with all your photos . . .
Best of luck with whatever is next on the to-do list.
29th September 2009 at 12:52 pm #
We will try our best to make you feel “completely at Home” in the Netherlands as soon as you arrive here 🙂 .. and hopefully walk you though your first steps into Dutchdom to make the transition to living here as smooth as possible. The Kiwidutch’s are VERY much looking forward to seeing you both again.
See you soon!
26th April 2022 at 1:48 pm #
Right on my man!
7th May 2022 at 12:28 pm #
Wonderful views on that!
7th May 2022 at 5:16 pm #
I didn’t know that.