It seems like yesterday that we featured world traveller and long distance cyclist, Josh Ibbett's last blog post. However, he is still out on the road and now heading along his roughly planned route. There have been a few variations and at the time of writing, Josh has been in company with his partner Caroline. Heading south has given him time to reflect on his ride across the interior of Canada.
This time round, Josh's trip has taken a slight turn. The endless landscapes, which for those from Canada, the US and Australia can easily relate too, have challenged the Englishman who is more familiar with geographically condensed Europe/UK. It sounds like the pure openness has taken its toll. And rightly so! But in typical Josh fashion, he had made the best of it and stayed true to his 'experience-the-world' mantra rather than riding for the sake of it.
Josh Ibbett | World Traveller and Hunt Team Rider
Keep riding on Josh!
The USA is big! Flying into to New York for my first ever visit to the United States was certainly an eye opening experience. The streets are bigger, the buildings are bigger, the cars are bigger and the portions are bigger! Flying in after a month in culture filled Spain it certainly was a shock.
To avoid the worst of the NYC traffic I decided to take the train to a town called Poughkeepsie, 50 miles north. It was here I made my first school boy error of North American travel, I ordered a large Pizza. As I have already eluded to everything is bigger in the States and this pizza could have been mistaken for a table top. Luckily I was hungry.
The rig Josh has been calling home for the last 6 months.
My first target was to meet my old school friend, Billy, in the town of Rochdale in upstate New York. Billy lives in Toronto so our plan was to meet up and cycle the remaining 160miles back into Toronto together. After cycling over 3000miles alone it was nice to be able to ride with someone else, especially an old friend who I don't get to see enough since he moved across the Atlantic. Crossing the border into Canada has to be the most spectacular, if a little touristy, so far. As we crossed the Rainbow Bridge across the Niagra River a cloud of mist hung to our left over the incredible Niagra Falls. Shame about all the tourists and neon lights though.
Toronto provided a great opportunity to rest up and finally shake the remnants of trans-atlantic jet lag, as well as drink as much beer as a is possible by 2 light weight cyclists (i.e. not many). From Toronto I headed north to catch the ferry across Lake Huron to Manitoulin Island. Again the sheer scale of North America and Canada was incredible. The ferry across a tiny part of the lake took 2 hours. In my mind I'd imagined a small ferry across a river… how wrong was I! The journey to the ferry was not the most inspirational, however, was not without incident. Most North American road have a plentiful hard shoulder which is perfect for cycling. However, at my expense I soon discovered that these hard shoulders end abruptly as you enter a town. One second I was cycling along checking my GPS, the next sliding along the footpath at 20mph having not noticed the curb that sprouted as I entered a town.
I was lucky not to be seriously injured, just a good dose of gravel rash, a shredded jersey and a cracked helmet. I booked into a hotel for the evening to get cleaned up, stitched up my clothes and nursed my headache.
The views in Ontario are limited, however, if you like trees I would thoroughly recommend it. Personally I was beginning to struggle a little bit mentally with the monotonous views, endless highway and distance between settlements. It's safe to say that I had massively underestimated this leg of the journey and I was just beginning to realise the scale of the journey access to the Rocky Mountains. My plan was to head back into the USA; cross to the Rocky Mountains; and then ride north to meet my girlfriend, Caroline, in Calgary and attend Billy's wedding. Before heading back to the States I was lucky enough to be invited to the home of Mathew, a Canadian fan of Mason Cycles. I love the Canadian attitude to life, hospitality and kindness and staying with Matthew and family for the afternoon was a huge boost to morale, let alone personal hygiene.
Back in the States and the view hadn't changed. I was, however gifted with a block headwind and heavy rain showers. I was at a mental low point after a few days of battling a 10mph headwind and for the first time questioned the reasons behind my trip. All I could see ahead of me was thousands of miles in a straight line into a block headwind. I began to ask myself what I wanted from this trip, was it about simply pedaling the distance or was seeing and experiencing the world and its cultured more important? I was beginning to view a McDonalds as the highlight of my day, mainly due to the free Wi-Fi and shelter from the wind. I decided that I needed to reassess my journey and break up the slog across the continent. The answer came in a short message from my friend Sarah and Trevor who had recently emigrated to Winnipeg in Canada - 'be great to see you if you are passing by'. I wasn't planning on passing by, however by this point I was craving company so a 100-mile diversion north and a change of plan to spend more time in Canada seemed like a sensible option.
Endless views... but in a bad way.
I crossed back into Canada a week after leaving and was instantly deep in conversation with a complete stranger at a gas station where I'd stopped for lunch. I felt so welcome in Canada and instantly knew that I'd made the correct decision.
I spent a week with Trevor and Sarah in Winnipeg. Winnipeg is a town in the dead centre of Canada and is not a destination I'd ever plan to visit. However, this has to be one of the most enjoyable weeks of the trip. I was taken in by Trevor's extended family and experienced Canadian culture at its finest. I spent a weekend at the lakeside cabin, I hiked, I canoed, swam in the lake, cruised around on a speed boat, paddle boarded, went fishing for catfish and I even squeezed in a local weekday MTB race where I was kindly awarded my entry fee back as a prize just for turning up. I loved Winnipeg and Manitoba and would love to visit again, especially in the winter months.
The week of rest and non-cycling related activities was a perfect mental reset. I was ready to take on the prairies on the 800mile ride to Calgary where I would meet Caroline who was joining me for 6 weeks. I was pretty determined to get the riding done knocking off 195-miles on my first day back on the road. I paid for it the next few days but soon settled into a nice rhythm of 150-miles per day reaching Calgary with a day to spare.
A welcome change.
After 2600-miles of flat roads I was very happy to see the Rocky Mountains on the horizon. With Caroline for company the focus was now less on covering distance and more on having fun. We covered 300-miles in 10 days, spending time to actually relax and taking in the mountains that surrounded us. Our target was the city of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. This was the family home of Billy's fiancé Andrea and we were attending their wedding along with many of my friends from home. Billy has a lot to answer for, the first part of my North American route is based around visiting him and attending the wedding!
The wedding itself was incredible with the ceremony and party taking place on the beach at the end of Andreas family home. The Okanagan valley is a bit of a hidden gem to many outside of Canada. Who knew that Canada had such a great wine industry, weather and terrain to match the lakes of northern Italy!? I count myself lucky to be able to experience such a great place with all of my oldest friends and that particular weekend was well worth the slog across from Toronto.
Entering Washington State.
I've been travelling West for 3000-miles, however at the top of the Okanagan Valley we made a monumental turn South. South will now be my predominant direction of travel until I run out of land at the base of South America.
Follow my progress with regular video updates on Instagram @joshibbett and keep an eye out for my next Hunt blog.