7,850 km Across Canada with a Golden Retriever
1. Can you describe your route across the country?
We took a rather unique route across Canada. We started in Charlottetown PEI and rode east through the Cabot Trail, west into New Brunswick, north to Quebec. From there, we rode across Quebec following the south shore of the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and Montreal to Ottawa. From Ottawa, we cycled to Kingston, Toronto, Owen Sound, and into Northern Ontario. Finally, we rode across Northern Ontario to Manitoba. Once we reached Saskatchewan we turned north and cycled to Saskatoon, west to Edmonton, and south to Calgary. Once we reached Canmore, Alberta we started to slow down and take our time. We went through Rogers Pass, Sicamoose, Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Princeton, Vancouver, and then finishing on Vancouver Island. Nanaimo to Salt Spring Island and finishing in Victoria, BC. In total, we cycled 7,850 km.
2. What were the highlights?
Beyond the wilderness, open skies, mountains, and oceans – the people make Canada an epic adventure. We were surprised by the friendliness of the people in Saskatchewan and loved the opportunities for wild camping in Northern Ontario. The people in Eastern Canada were also very friendly, but we expected that. What we didn’t expect was the generosity, outgoingness, friendly people we encountered in Quebec. Quebec was a highlight of our tour!
3. Which parts would you skip, if you were to do it again?
That’s tough. To be honest, I wouldn’t skip any part of Canada. You need to experience the country on your own and my advice when telling someone something negative is, don’t. Just get out and have fun!
4. What was the traffic like? Were you able to find quiet roads or were you mainly on the Trans-Canada Highway?
The term “Trans-Canada Highway” is misleading, it really should be the Trans-Canada Highways. There are several different highways that make up the Trans-Canada system. We rode the Trans-Canada only where we didn’t have another choice (Thunder Bay to Wawa), as well as a few other short stretches. On the stretches of Trans Canada we chose to ride, traffic was always respectful – perhaps because of the loveable Golden Retriever. Otherwise, we rode on secondary highways, minor roads.
5. Common wisdom says you should ride from west to east because that’s the prevailing wind direction. Is it true?
Winds were mostly out of the north. We had very few days where the wind really helped us – mostly it was either a crosswind or a slight headwind. To be honest, we don’t control the wind so why try to predict its direction. The only time I cursed at the wind was cycling North to Saskatoon.
6. Did you get a chance to cycle on the Trans-Canada Trail and is it a viable option for cyclists?
We did not intersect much with the trans-Canada trail, and where we did it was a snowmobile / ATV path and not suitable for loaded touring bikes and a trailer with a 75-pound dog. We had fun following the Waterfront trail (portions are Trans-Canada Trail), which follows the shores of Lake Ontario. It varied from bike lanes on busy Toronto streets to single track under hydro lines.
7. You used a range of accommodation types on your trip. Tell us where you stayed.
The eastern Canada leg of our journey, we stayed in graveyards, camped, one hotel and a cabin on the beach. We were still getting comfortable with touring. We did take advantage of hospitality when it was offered to us through warmshowers.org or couchsurfing.com, whether that was a room or a spot on the grass, and met some wonderful people that way. We took inspiration from being kind and giving people the opportunity to be kind and generous. Only rarely were we brave enough to knock on a stranger’s door (church door), but when we did it was a great experience.
By the time we rode across Western Canada, we camped and stayed with friends and people we met on the road almost exclusively (JOHNNY!).
8. Did you have any problems with bears or other wildlife?
No! Why are we so narcissistic to think wildlife is even interested in us? Be smart, stay safe, and be grateful when you see any wildlife. You don’t need to be overly cautious, just respectful to your environment. Save the money and don’t purchase bear-proof devices. But if you’re worried about animals, learn to hang food in trees. And have fun carrying around the rope needed to make it worthwhile.
9. Canada is a big country, with a lot to see. How long do you need to tour from one side to the other?
You need a minimum of the full Canadian summer (starting in mid-May and riding until mid-September) if you want to see most of the country. If you want to avoid the main highways and have time to enjoy the culture, then it is better to spend two summers riding across Canada. People do the ride in as little as 10 weeks, but then they spend most of their time riding on the southern tier Trans-Canada, with few side trips, and don’t have much time to stop and talk to people along the way.
10. What’s one thing every cyclist needs to take with them for a cross-Canada tour?
Sunglasses, iTunes, a hat, some decent bug spray, YOUR DOG, and a toque! Canada is a northern country. It doesn’t matter what time of year you are riding here, there is always a risk of things getting cool for a week or two. In the summer either the mosquitoes or the black flies can get vicious (depends on where you are riding), and on cool nights it feels good to keep your head warm.