Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Irish Loop Tour 2009

On August 29th, 2009 my girlfriend Alanna Wicks and myself left the top of Commonwealth Avenue in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and set out on a 10 day bicycle tour of the Irish Loop. A section of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, Canada named for the multitude of Irish
settlers in the area in the early years of settlement in North America. The eastern coastline, known to locals as "The Southern Shore" can be described as "Hilly" at best. Newfoundland is mostly cliff and with every community along the way bringing you back to sea level the eastern coastline if full of great downward slopes for picking up high speed, but also full of strenuous climbs back up cliff.

So the first day we set off to head to our destination of LaManch Provincial Park, 48 kms away. Going through Bay Bulls, Witless Bay, Mobile, and Tors Cove, all with huge hills going in and out. It was a bit of a difficult ride with a full load on but the scenery was quite nice and the downward hills bringing you back to sea level, while assuring you of a tough climb again ahead, were quite exhilarating. After getting to our campsite which was pure gravel assuring us our sleep would be less than perfect we set up camp quickly to be ready for the coming rain the next day.

The next day called for 20mm of rain, and we got it boy, if not more. Not much to say about that Sunday except it was a tough day to get through with a small little tent, luckily the park was fairly deserted and we spent most of the evening in the ladies (heated) washroom stretching our legs, drying off and getting hot showers.

The next day once the tent was dry enough we packed up and headed out on what was to be one of the longest, hardest days of our trip. We stopped in Cape Broyle for lunch, around 10 kms from the park. After a bit of letting our food settle we headed out again. Coming out of Cape Broyle is a very large long hill, that was less than pleasant. As seen the third video Alanna was none too happy about it but her spirits were quickly brightened again after a small rest. After our bad LaManche experience we decided to B&B it for the night to get some good rest. We eventually made it to a place just before Cappahayden called the Round Cove B&B just 13 kms short of our planned camping spot of Chance Cove. It was a pretty hard day, we had to walk some of the hills near the end and were glad when we finally stopped for the night. I blame this on poor sleep due to wind/rain/gravel as well as our food stop or fish and chips...not my best idea. We stayed here with Ollie and Ken for two days and it was amazing, felt just like Nans house. Not only was she very nice and made sure we could get breakfast whenever we want she also served us supper on the second day and made sure Alanna had chicken to eat as opposed to the Pork Chops she was cooking. We explored the beaches a little at Cappahayden and after two nights rest, headed out again.

We headed out over the barrens of the southern portion of the peninsula towards Trepassey for a night in the motel there. This was a great ride. Very little wind, warm temperatures, and a nice flat (for the most part) stretch of road. Some people talk of getting bored on long stretches of road with few landmarks and lots of nothing. I found it great for pace as well as a very relaxing cycling experience. We passed by the small town of Portugal Cove South and even went through it a little bit. There is a touristy thing (Light House and Bird Reserve) way down the road and seeing as we were feeling pretty good we thought we'd check it out. Unfortunately it quickly turned into a nasty dirt road, so we turned around and kept on going to the Trepassey Motel. The motel was awful. Very poor service, they enjoyed posting up their scoring of 2.5 stars. Personally I wouldn't broadcast 2.5 stars, but what can you do. The town was quite large compared to some of the other bunches of houses we saw in places like Aquaforte and Cappahayden, and it was quite nice.

After downing a bottle of cheap champagne and eating junk food, and watching TV all night, the next day we set off again towards St. Vincents and Holyrood Pond, our planned camp for the night. We were in for a hard day. The wind was blowing hard and we hadn't felt the worst of it yet. Once we got up out of Trepassey over the large climb known as "Plant Hill" I was sure that riding across these barrens would be similar to our previous ride and not too windy due to them being inland, as you hear in the beginning of the next video. I was sadly mistaken. We weren't able to get the bikes over 10 km/hr for 30 kms. The wind was just pounding us, after a while my mouth and ears were feeling kind of funny. This 30km stretch from Trepassey to Peters River was by far the hardest part of the trip. Once we got to Peters River/St. Vincents area we were treated with scenery I didn't think existed in Newfoundland and also started heading back inland to wooded areas where the wind was greatly reduced to a level where we could actually function. We made it to camp at Holyrood pond, where just before the road makes a turn west to head to Gaskiers there is a turn off to the right where there is an old abandoned provincial park with some campsites still in good shape! We had a great fire and some smores and were in bed by 9pm.

The next day, Friday, was looking like a challenge. After deciding to scrap Butterpot and get a ride home from Alanna's cabin we were going to try and make it from the abandoned park, to the cabin turn off on Salmonier Line in one day, 62 km, with a full load. I was skeptical as it was our third day of riding without a day of rest in between and Alanna and myself were feeling a bit weak in the legs. Like most of the rest of the trip I was wrong. Friday turned out to be our best day of cycling for the entire trip we were making solid time bringing our average speed for the trip up over 1km/hour. From Gaskiers all the way up Route 90 is a really amazing ride. Beautiful country, not a lot of big climbs, and you can keep a really good pace the whole way. At arriving at the dirt road turn off, Alanna's parents were still in town so we had to bike in the rest of the way to the cabin on the dirt road making our total that day around 70km, and I still felt great.

Spent the rest of the weekend relaxing and doing pretty much nothing at the Wicks Cabin, and got back today. Its certainly been an educational, physically challenging, and exciting experience that I won't soon forget. Even though the trip was cut short I'm still pretty happy with my first tour. 268kms of cycling in 7 days, that's not too shabby. Next summer I will try and plan another trip of the Avalon or maybe further. Hopefully I will have a proper touring bike and will be able to pack less.
For all the pictures I took you can check out my Photobuket Album or check out the album I put up on FaceBook. Alanna also put up some pics there. Thanks for reading! Next week look I will try to make a post about how to choose a bike as a beginner, at least in my opinion.


  1. hey, it's Dan Murphy

    I really enjoyed readng about your trip. I did the spout this weekend in one day and was wondering how your trip was going.

    Looks like you had a lot of hard work and fun as well.

    I'm pretty impressed that you guys did so well, when you compare this sort of thing to average people we know...who do we know that would even be able to say they would try to do this?

    hope your next trip goes even better.

  2. Thanks Dan.
    Yeah we were kind of thinking the same thing about the not knowing many who would do stuff like that.

    It was hard, but we were prepared and we had a lot of fun.

  3. Hi,
    I found your blog through a comment on RJ's An Adventure Called Bicycling blog.

    Sounds like you had an exhilarating time on your trip. Hope you have many more.

    And for your vicarious touring pleasure check out Russ and Laura's ,if you haven't already. They are on an open ended cycling adventure.

    I look forward to your "beginner" impressions.

  4. Thanks for the link and thanks for reading!

  5. Thanks for putting this up! I was thinking about riding solo to Ferryland in Oct and had no idea how long it would take what with the hills and the inclement weather (neither of which I mind, but I am not a good climber). Now I have a better idea!