Cycling Across Canada (or lend a cyclist a hand)

So folks, I got married last weekend. Yep, I survived the first week relatively unscathed. Hurray me!

Now you may be wondering why I am not either recovering from, or still on, a Honeymoon. Well, the reason is that the wife and I did not take any Honeymoon. Forgoing the traditional immediately after the wedding Honeymoon we have decided instead to postpone it and take the longest and stinkiest Honeymoon two individuals have ever had the gal to attempt. Oh yeah, we are cycling across Canada!

I’m in research mode at the moment and preparing a tentative schedule. Basically just finalizing the proposed route and recording necessary information. Fun stuff, I’m sure you can imagine. But why am I here telling you any of this?

I’m wondering if any fellow Dopers would be so inclined to host the wife and I during our journey. The plan is to camp the entire way (we’re poor graduating students) so any help would be appreciated. Although we would accept any offer, really all we need is permission to set up a tent on some property. Even if you don’t want some random stinky Doper camping on your property, an open invitation to a free dinner or highway / tourist attraction advice from your neck of the woods would be awesome.

The basic route goes something like this:

Highway #3 - Vancouver, B.C. to Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Highway #1 (TransCanada) - Medicine Hat, Alberta to Manitoba / Ontario boarder.

Highway #17 through Ontario, to Wawa.

Highway #101 Wawa, Ontario to Val d’Or, Quebec

Highway #117 Val d’Or to northen Montreal suburbs.

At that point the route jumps frequently, but if you live East of there and think you might be on our route, free feel to give me a shout. Trust me, we’ll visit you if we can.

Anybody who responds, thank you! And again, any advice you could offer about your neck of the woods, hazards or not-to-miss attractions, please chime in. We’re only doing this once!

You are still welcome at my place in Thunder Bay: 48°17’42.8"N,89°23’21.2"W

Just wanted to say congrats, good luck and GREAT typo.

Living far south of Canada, I can’t offer any advice (or room and board :D), but could I ask a few questions?

What time of the year are you going and what will the weather be like? I picture Canada as fairly frigid all year. How long do you two plan on taking for the trip? How many miles a day? Are you going to cycle back to your starting point, or some other sort of transportation?

There’s room for you here at my place in exotic Moose Jaw :slight_smile:

My sister (and her college roommate) biked across Canada ~25 years ago. I don’t remeber much advice but I do know they usually are breakfast at a truck stop.

You may want to peruse - I’m sure there are many trans-Canada journals on there.


That it is not. During the summer, many parts of Canada are smoking, smoking hot. There’s a little desert in southern BC where +40C is not uncommon and west of Williams Lake there are tiny cacti. Out east it can get very humid as well. It’s not uncommon for the temperatures in Canada to exceed those in the US during summer.

Well, we live in a city on Highway 3. I’ve driven that road from Cranbrook BC to Medicine Hat certainly, and should be able to suggest some things. For example, the Frank Slide is really quite interesting; the prairies are really quite boring, and riding a bicycle on Highway 3 through the coulees and downtown Lethbridge would be really quite terrifying. Ride along Whoop-Up Drive instead, since it has the bike trail. Stay in touch and I’ll be happy to make suggestions for your route through southern Alberta.

Again, Muffin, thank you. Your earlier offer was certainly remembered and I appreciate you reiterating it. And Crimmsy, thank you as well. I will definitely be in contact with you in the future to arrange a date.

We will be leaving in late May from Stanley Park, Vancouver and finish sometime in August at Point Pleasant Park, Halifax. The weather will range from possible snow in some of the mountain passes in British Columbia (hopefully not), to torrential rain, horrendous wind, and unbearable sun. We’re hoping for a few pleasant days in there as well. Oh, and we’re camping the whole way across (except for where some kind folk offer to take us in). Finally, we need to average more than 100 km a day. In B.C. we’ll probably average 80 -100 km/day while in the prairies with a strong tailwind we should be able to do 220 km (those will be rarities). A good average for the end of the trip would be 110 - 120 km/day.

Spoons, thanks for the input. I’m definitely not worried about Highway 3 in Lethbridge; I’m far more worried about the highways in Northern Ontario. Can I ask you, how desolate is the highway between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat? Would folk living near / along the highway be amendable to two dirty cyclists knocking on their door and asking to pitch a tent on their property?

From what I know of prairie folk (born and raised in Western Canada), most people wouldn’t care about you putting a tent on their farmland (if they even knew about it), but there are small campgrounds everywhere - every small town has a little one. I don’t know if you can camp in the rest areas - a small part of my brain is recalling “No Camping” signs.

You do know you’re going to bake like a fly on a griddle crossing the prairies, right? You will need SERIOUS sun protection for that - you’ll go hours without any shade.

220 km a day? Holy Penny Farthings, Batman!

It’s not that desolate–being as how it’s one of the routes across the Rockies, it’s actually a pretty busy route. There are a few small towns between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat (Coaldale and Taber, for example), and as featherlou points out, there are campgrounds. I can’t speak for how local farmers would feel about you showing up on their doorstep, but most seem pretty good sorts and it couldn’t hurt to ask. At any rate, on that stretch, you shouldn’t find yourself too far from civilization. :slight_smile:

You’re right, the highways in northern Ontario would be more worrisome. I’ve driven those roads, and there can be plenty of hills and huge distances involved. Fortunately, they are quite well-travelled as well. Of course, Muffin could tell you much more about northern Ontario, so I’ll defer to his expertise.

What? Boring? You’ve never noticed all the wildlife then as you’ve sped across them then. :dubious:

I am a few hours north of Lethbridge, but enjoy your bike ride, it sounds awesome.

I can confirm the camping spots in every little town. They are cheap, safe and clean. Plus a lot of them have showers too. I would highly recommend them where possible. I drove from Ontario to Alberta in 2006, we hit motels in Northern Ontario because of a spring snow storm, but after that it was small town campsites all the way.

In Ontario, you may want to take Hiway 11 from Thunder Bay. My brother was a long distance trucker, and #11 is smoother and flatter and in his opinion better then Hiway 17.

220 km isn’t that difficult for a seasoned cyclist. However, seasoned cyclists we are not and I expect we’ll only see one or two 200+ km days. Last summer’s experiences taught us that we can do, in flat and wind neutral conditions, 100 km in 4 hours. With a tailwind and a full day of cycling 200 km should be easy.

I’ve talked to a trucker who confirms exactly what you have said, Highway #11 is smoother than #17. However, we’re cycling and #17 is really, really remote. The distance between settlements is entire days cycling. I’m just not comfortable being days away from any city with a bicycle shop if a serious bike breakdown occurs.

We’re planning on taking Highway #101 from Wawa, Ontario all the way into Quebec, and that is definitely as desolate as we intend on getting. Depending, we might actually have my father support us on that leg of the trip (between Wawa and Timmins, 3 days cycling).

So, are you going on a tandem?

You may find the cross-Canada adventures of a friend of mine (they did the trip in 2008) informative (or cautionary). 220km a day, even on the prairies, may be a bit optimistic.

C2C (Sea to Sea, geddit?)

Check out their pictures, as Mary in particular is an extremely talented photographer.

Bon voyage!

Highway 11 from Nipigon to Matheson – black spruce and muskeg, but flat. Expect to camp in the bush. Traffic is not bad, but is primarily transport trucks, so keep to the edge of the pavement. A Greyhound route.

Highway 17 from Nipigon to Wawa – spectacular vistas of Lake Superior, but very hilly. Expect to camp on Lake Superior some of the time, and in the bush some of the time. Traffic is lighter than on Highway 11. A Greyhound route.

Highway 101 from Wawa to Matheson – black spruce and muskeg, but fairly flat. Expect to camp in the bush. Very light traffic. Not a Greyhound route.

Highway 17 from Wawa to the Soo – stupendously spectacular vistas of Lake Superior, but expect to have to walk up the hills in the Montreal River area. Expect to camp on on Lake Superior or in the bush. Traffic is lighter than on Hwy 11. A Greyhound route.

Highway 17 from the Soo to Sudbury – picturesque views of the North Chanel. Not hilly. Expect to camp on Lake Huron. A little more traffic than Hwy 11. A Greyhound route.

Highway 17 from Sudbury to Mattawa – nice views of Lake Nipigon. Not hilly. Expect to camp on Lake Nipissing or in the bush. A little more traffic than Hwy 11.

As you might infer from the above, the Hwy. 11 route is dull, whereas the Hwy 17 route is something very special when it comes to world class scenery (although you have to work to get up some of the hills). Taking Hwy 11 rather than 17 would be a bit like eating at McDonalds and listening to elevator muzak, rather than dining at a restaurant top rated by Michelin and then heading out to The Met.

If you stick to Greyhound routes, your support person can ship replacement parts to you immediately. If you are not on a Greyhound route, you might run into difficulty in shipping parts. There are bike shops in Thunder Bay, the Soo, Timmins, Sudbury and North Bay. There are Canadian Tires at these communities and also at Marathon, Nipigon and Wawa.

Don’t count on cell phone coverage on any of these routes – communities are covered, but most of the land between communities is not covered.

Fair enough. I’ll admit that the prairies are beautiful in their own way–great huge skies, with the ability to see a thunderstorm in the distance while enjoying fine weather. Saskatchewan’s license plate motto, “Land of Living Skies” is certainly apt.

But boring in the sense that you don’t have to watch out for bears at camp.

We’re too far south…but good luck on your ride!