Cross-Country Weeks Eight and Nine

Reader Contribution by Rick Stiles
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Our route on this trip has bypassed, for the most part, major cities: but not in Canada. Our ride now took us through Hamilton, Ont., (population 520,000), Mississauga, Ont., (population  714,000), and Toronto (population 2.615 million). Toronto, as well as other cities, has a wonderful system of bike routes, but having now ridden on them I actually felt safer riding on the streets with the automobiles. On the bike routes you have bicycles, walkers, joggers, roller bladers, and others. People are going many different speeds, passing around, cutting through, and pulling in and out without signaling or checking for the location of others.

Once past Toronto we rode along the northern side of the St. Lawrence seaway through many beautiful towns filled with very friendly people. Many of the buildings and houses are painted with their own unique colors and decorations. It would have been very easy to spend a day walking around and looking at everything, but alas, our time was limited, and we always needed to keep moving.

In some areas along our route the road was interrupted by water inlets; rather than building an expensive bridge with room to let boats pass underneath, Canada has chosen provide ferry services. These ferries are considered ‘part of the road system’ and are free of charge.

One area that was quite interesting was the ‘loyalist’ part of Ontario. During the War Of 1812 between England and the United States many individuals that supported ‘the crown’ crossed the St. Lawrence Seaway from the US to Canada. In this area we saw many British flags on display, numerous business with the name ‘loyalist’ in them, and even traveled on the ‘loyalist highway’.

Originally we planned on continuing up the St. Lawrence seaway and skirting Montreal, QC, on the south, but, after some discussion we decided to cross into the U.S. at Cornwall ON, ride along the northern part of NY, then cross back into Canada at Rouse’s Point N.Y. Our thought was to come back into the U.S. at the northeastern corner of Vermont, then through a small section of New Hampshire, and finally through Maine to the finish at Bar Harbor.

Nine weeks of bicycle riding had finally gone by, and we were heading out for Bar Harbor, Maine, on the last day of the ride. As at the beginning of the ride, no amount of planning or thinking about this day prepared me for what I was feeling. Happiness at getting back to family and friends, sadness that the daily routine we had established was coming to an end, and curiosity at how my life will respond to the things I seen, the people I had met, and stories I had heard.

With our family cheering us on we pedaled toward Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. The ride itself was a blur as the entire focus was on getting our first glimpse of the beach, which did occur at high noon. With a beach full of people staring at two guys pushing loaded bicycles across the stand and into the water our journey from beach to beach had come full circle.

I do want to thank everyone that supported us on the trip through prayers, blessings, and personal comments. Without your constant encouragement this trip would not have been the success that it was. And, a special thanks to Tom’s wife, Dixie, and my wife, Margie, for holding down the home front and giving us the summer to make our dream come true.

Take care, and talk at ya’ later.

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