My Halifax Trip Write-up

Last March or so, I started reading about the unitours people were doing. Across the Alps, through Laos, back and forth across the U.S., and other long distance journeys, absolutely amazing. Being a fan myself of self-propelled touring, which mixes endurance and determination with a bit of stupidity, I did a bit of investigation, and a bit of Google Earthing, and eventually decided I was going to ride from North Sydney, Nova Scotia (Canada), to Halifax, Nova Scotia, take in some of the buskers’ festival, couch surf, and get back home somehow.

First step: Call Dave Stockton, get him to make me the best unicycle ever:

Ahh, the Coker. Definitely a different ride from anything else I have, and definitely one of the most fun. This one has the 29’er tube in it, SS spokes, the whole Stockton super-wheel. Darren Bedford powdercoated the frame and added Magura mounts (which I later didn’t use - airbrakes, right Ken? :P) Nice pedals, too. The seat is stock uncut 2006 KH dual-layer foam with a tube under it. Shock absorbtion and comfort, right there.

Unicycle in hand, I got a ticket on the Argentia ferry, the shortest driving distance, and set off for North Sydney to begin my journey. This is the ferry as it’s docking just here.

About an hour from when this picture was taken, I was riding my freshly-laden unicycle into the belly of the ferry. It was absolutely surreal, me and another dude on a bike (who I’ll mention later) with several hundred campers, cars, and trucks behind us, slowly rolling up the ramp to get on. It was pitch black outside, and more or less midday inside the boat. It felt rather like riding smack-dab into the middle of 2001: a Space Oddysey, the surrealness of riding into a 40 foot high, 100+ foot wide opening over steel grating on a unicycle. I am sure the ferry crew was not expecting to see me, and I got my fair share of hoots and waves, and questions - where’s your other wheel, how do you go up hills, how far are you gonna ride that thing?

Eventually we got the bike/unicycle tied up, and spent a good part of the next 14 hours (the length of the ferry crossing) talking with Correy, the guy I’d ridden onto the boat with. He was a pretty cool dude, told me about how he was coming back form a bicycle tour of Newfoundland, and showed me where he’d been while I showed him where I was going.

Right around now I was starting to feel in my head just what I was in for - here I had a unicycle, two litres of water, a book, pack of cards, some bananas and a first aid kit and I’m gonna ride 500km? Truthfully, I was both scared and incredibly giddy. I slept in a lounge chair on the ferry that evening, which according to my travel journal had ‘very unpadded arms’ - and I think I’m still feeling them a couple hundred kilometres and several weeks later.

The next morning, I waited out the remainder of the crossing eagerly, hoping the foggy fuzz surrounding Cape Breton Island was going to dissipate - I was itching to get going. Myself and Correy parted ways, and I was off.

That was seriously exciting. Here I was, just landed in a province I’d not been in for at least ten years, with a unicycle to get myself from one place to another. The next few hours were full of people slowing down to gape, people shouting and cheering from the sidewalks, and more or less everyone staring at me. It’s cool, I’m used to it.

Hopping off the ferry was definitely liberating though. I didn’t have any responsibility to anything but my continued state of being alive for the next week, and I could spend it doing the one constant thing in my life for the past few years.

I rode down some highway, casually checking my map as I went, knowing that I’d be fine, as I’d checked and rechecked my route dozens of times. Wasn’t gonna get fooled up at this stage! Sadly, somewhere between exit 7 and 8, I wound up on the wrong highway, and it had started to rain, and I spent the last few hours of my first day cursing myself for taking a wrong turn, and upon some local direction, took a dirt road for a couple kilometers (way longer than I thought it would be) until I got back on track, wasting perhaps 40km of distance traveled that day.

In the end, it worked itself out though. I made it to the fork in the road I was earlier promised, and a nice, if somewhat creepy guy driving a run down two-door hatchback of some description with a cracked and yellowed ‘temporary permit’ packing taped to the window, turned me in the right direction. I passed by his house after, and he got his whole family to come outside and stare at the funny man on the unicycle while telling me I was nuts. The fact that he had about six teeth and I could easily see the root structure of the remaining ones, not to mention he was a wiry little dude and could probably tear my body limb from limb if he wanted (except for the legs, those are damn strong) didn’t help my comfort levels much.

Dude: How far are ye ridin’ that thing anyhow?
Dave: Halifax!
Dude: Don’t take no offense now, but’cher fuckin’ nuts.
Dave: I get that a lot.
Dude:: You from Newfoundland?
Dave: Yep.
Dude: hah! Tolja! maniacal laughter

This is more or less representative of most conversations I had along the way. I excused myself, as it was starting to get darker out, and rode on.

A little ways up the road, I met the only good part of my entire detour, an ex-biker dude wielding a chainsaw with the most broken vehicle I have ever seen which can still be driven under its own power. He told me tons of stories about his (pretty awesome and likely partially fake) life, mostly vague details about how he’d owned a brothel at age 19, spent years bouncing biker bars in Ontario, and now owned a peat moss, and a boat he’d bought from a guy in St. Pierre for 1$. He was a very cool guy. He stopped at his house first to feed the dogs, and I got a picture of his horse:

This guy had turned most of the (many, many) vehicles in his yard into machines for his own purpose. He had a half-truck sawmill, and a firetruck that’d he’d turned into a land-clearing device. He was incredibly cool, and drove me to a B&B that he knew was cheap in Sydney Forks. I probably would have slept in an emergency blanket on the side of the highway that night if not for him. Thanks, Alan :slight_smile:

That night I slept in absolute comfort at a small family cabin-type hotel thinger in a very sleepy Cape Breton town. At first, the woman there wasn’t too keen on having me, but the conversation was interesting:

Dave: Hi, I’d like a room for tonight.
Woman: Oh, sure thing. How old are you anyhow?
Dave: 19.
Woman: Ohhh. hrmm. That’s a bit young, you know. How did you get here anyhow?
Dave: I rode a unicycle.
Woman: a unicycle?
Dave: It’s outside.
Woman: takes one look at the unicycle - How’s 45$ a night sound?
Dave: Sounds great!

I rode down the road to the convenience store, bought some frosted flakes, a carton of milk, more reese cups, and some other food to get me through the next day, then promptly collapsed into an unconscious pile upon returning home.

The next morning, I was a bit late getting on the go, as the owners wanted a picture of me with their kids and the unicycle. It was cool though, it’s always nice to be able to put a smile on someone’s face, or cause that look of wonder when kids stare up at you.

The day was absolutely beautiful for riding, just the slightest hint of wind, sunny skies, and overhanging trees on the highway. I rode pretty much the entire length of the Bras D’Or Lake that day, which was beautifully calm, with a mysterious foggy bank far away on the other side. Every so often, the trees on the side of the highway would break, and I’d be riding with blowing grass on either side of me, the lake glimmering out over some sandy beach I was pedaling my way towards, then beside, then away from.

Road construction was a highlight along the way, to be sure. The guys who are out in the weather fixing up the roads have seen a lot of stuff, I’d imagine, but I was something new. The looks on the faces of the heavy equipment operators were priceless.

A woman actually saw me riding down the Route 4, turned around, drove home, then stopped on the side of the highway to cheer me on, kids in tow. ‘I had to have my kids see this!’ she shouted as I rode by. After a hard day’s ride, stuff like this just keeps you going. Marathon runners know what I’m talking about.

I stopped for lunch in Johnstown, a tiny village surrounded by fields of grass and hilly hills, and had some lunch on the wharf there, made a few phone calls home, and watched the caretaker of the church mow the lawn. If idyllic is your thing, this place was it:

After some rest, I got up and kept riding, starting to run low on food and water. Water was easy to come by, with all the houses in the area, but there hadn’t been a grocery store for about 65km now. I ran out of steam in Chapel Island, about 60-65km traveled, and slept in St. Peter’s that night.

The sight of a grocery store to someone who hasn’t seen one for days and needs one desparately is amazing. Walking in, and just looking at all the food, not junk food, but actual real honest to god food was awesome. I bought a huge load of bananas and some other road food, then headed to a local cafe for some food.

My hotel that night was a tiny room which barely had room for me and my stuff (and I didn’t have much stuff), which was nice. I curled up after the now-regular games of solitaire with my souvenier cards from the ferry, and slept like a log.

The next morning I got an awesome omelette and set off again, and came upon one of the stranger experiences of the whole trip - I was given a New Testament. It is a common occurence for people to slow down to my speed and have a short chat, and take some pictures. On my way out of St. Peter’s, this older couple in a white minivan slows down next to me, takes a few pictures, and speeds off down the road, stopping at a gravel turn-around area. I figure they saw me leaving, and drove out to get a few photos.

Well, as I was passing them in the gravel, they both got out of the car, and while I was riding past the two of them, the guy holds something out to me, and says:

Man: Take this, it’ll help you on your way! Don’t stop!
Dave: Thanks?
Man: It’s a gift! From the Gideons!

I looked down at the object in my hand:

That kept me riding full steam pretty much to Port Hawkesbury, and I took this picture along the way, in fact:

A quick stop in the hospital in Evanston got me some water refills, and that was great because it was really hot out. They even let me fill my camelbak up from their water cooler. Great stuff. It was another 15km into Port Hawkesbury, and from there a hopefully short jaunt across the Canso Causeway to Aulds Cove, where I could get myself a bus to Antigonish or Truro.

Well, I stopped in Port Hawkesbury to get some food at the Dominion (my God what a huge store that was at the time - temptation galore for my poor stomach). I headed out and presumably towards the Causeway, by now cursing the headwind with all my remaining might. When it let up, I was beyond happy. I kept on riding, passing a pretty neat wind generation tower:

After a couple of km, sailing along with the wind at my back, the traffic had severely let up, and I was in the end faced with a chain link fence. This was definitely not the route across the Causeway. Some cursing and about an hour later, I’d retraced my steps to the road to the true mainland. There was no road shoulder for much of the route through Port Hawkesbury to Aulds Cove, just across the Causeway. I got honked at a few times, and I also got incredibly tired, but after some serious effort, I pushed myself to this sign:

For posterity and the record, I rode the whole thing without getting off, proving something to someone I’m sure. There wasn’t much shoulder to work with there either.

Aulds Cove was luckily just after the Causeway, and I walked in with the unicycle, and was immediately greeted by an incredibly curious and friendly staff. I asked them about the bus, and they mentioned something about it stopping there occasionally, but that they did not sell tickets. I needed to make up another day on my trip desperately, since I wanted to make the end of the Halifax Buskers’ festival, so I really did need to get on this bus. I got some food in their restaurant, and they were kind enough to let me keep my unicycle in the back room while I ate.

As it turned out, one of the managers there, named Gordie, lived very close to Antigonish. He offered (incredibly kindly) to drive me to the bus stop at St. Francis Xavier, the university there, where I would be guaranteed to get myself a bus to Truro for that evening. Awesome! We had a great conversation in the car, and I am eternally thankful for his kindness.

At St. F. X. , I rode around for a little bit to make myself feel less guilty for spending so long in a car that day, and enjoyed the beautiful architecture. Very nice place indeed. To my surprise, there was actually improv (another hobby of mine - I am one of the organizers of the Newfoundland Improv Games each year) going on in the basement pub type deal. I chilled out there and enjoyed the show while I waited for my bus, a very nice treat.

The bus took me to Truro in a few short hours, and Fran picked me up from the bus station:

Fran and Al are long-time friends of my parents, and quite good ones. They were all too happy to have me, and it was wonderful to have them attempt to feed me everything in their fridge, plus the use of their shower and spare bed was great as well. The intense sunburn I’d picked up over the past few days (Great idea, Dave, wear your only pair of shorts for the only few days of the summer when there’s no sunscreen for 50 miles and it’s bright and sunny all day every day and you haven’t worn them yet… You get the point. Red lobster legs were my fate - and they also gave me some aloe cream for them as well. Much appreciated, let me tell you.

The next morning they fed me - eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, and more, gave me a hat, took some pictures, and I was off again just like that. They gave me a bit of a head start from Truro (and I was grateful for it later in the day when I was dropping from exhaustion by the halifax airport), and I was off. I can’t thank you guys enough, it was great to see you again for sure.

The ride from Truro to Halifax was incredibly pleasant. It was bright and sunny the whole day, I had a huge shoulder of road to cruise down, little headwind, if any, and it was either flat or slightly downhill. I could not have asked for better. The miles just floated by, and I passed town after town just motoring my way down to Halifax. At some point I managed to get mentioned on the radio (some crazy guy on a huge wheel on the highway!), and got into Halifax not quite where I was expecting, but a quick call to my friend and one final push, around the harbour and I was cruising towards home for the next few days.

I stayed with a good friend of mine, Nick Goldberg, and his pretty awesome cat (well, roomate’s cat):

I also saw some crazy buskers, got crazy drunk as is the custom with teenage celebrations of this magnitude, and flew home a few days later. It was a great trip, and definitely something that will stay with me for a long time. I hope this write-up wasn’t too long, but I didn’t want to leave anything out. And if you got lazy, there were pictures.

Thanks for reading,

I read it. Sounds like an awesome ride! I have been to some of those places, but not on a unicycle.

Great writeup as well with some beautiful pictures. Heh, that is a bible, right? Just making sure. Why is it sitting infront of a unix terminal?

I really like your pictures, they’re great.

But damn, that’s a really far ride…

I ride a 20" Unicycle… so maybe it’s not so far on a huge tire like that one.

I know I don’t get far on my 20"… very tiring.

I also read the whole post, pretty cool that you got mentioned on the radio.

Dave, awesome write-up! Unitouring is just like that but with a bunch of other crazy people to share the joys with you. See you in June!


Yup. New testament and psalms. It’s next to a unix terminal because that’s what’s on my desk :slight_smile:

Yeah, my butt hurt at the end of the day, but it was way worth it. It would have taken at least four times as long to do on a 20" though. If you search around a bit you can find pictures and writeups of trips far longer than mine, really interesting stuff.

I am beyond pumped for MUT. It’s gonna be awesome! Getting to meet all these cool people will be pretty exciting as well, to be sure.

Let me tell you, this story was HUGE inspiration. I’ve been attempting to plan a similiar trip for the near future and you sharing this was a huge emotional catalyst. I know you aren’t the first to do this but the timing of the story is perfect.


Great adventure; great write-up. What a cool journey for your first big distance. I felt like I was right there on the ride with you.

Nice job!


Thanks for a fantastic distance writeup. And an independent one, too. Good work.

That sounds like quite the awesome trip. I’m really curious as to a few numbers though.

How many KM did you unicycle in total? How much was your longest day? And how much did the whole trip cost you?

I was thinking of doing something similar to Toronto sometime next semester and it was really cool to read about a trip that was done completely solo.

Cool trip.

Respect for just going out and doing it, it’s great to see people going out riding without messing around organising support crews all the time.

You should do an extra long writeup of it for uni magazine, it’s a great story.

If you’ve got a taste for it, the Canadian Coast to Coast route appears to have never been done on a unicycle. It looks like quite a long way though!


In total, I probably rode around 250km. I didn’t keep exact numbers, as at the end of the day I really don’t want to think about how many times my feet went around in a circle. I had about two weeks training (and only about three long rides to train with), so I didn’t get to keep up with my daily goals anyhow.

The longest day of riding was 75km, through Cape Breton, which is a very hilly place. I had a headwind that day as well, and although it was light it was definitely there. My last day was about 70km as well. No world records, but I was pleased :slight_smile:

I don’t know if I’d ever do another solo unicycle trip. This one was really fun - and you definitely get to meet more people when you’re alone than in a group, as someone is more likely to approach a single person than an entire group of people. However the logistics of carrying all the stuff you need to keep going for so long are hard, to say the least. I had a seatpost rack on the unicycle, and it really didn’t add to teh seat comfort, pulling it back into my crotch etc … basically I would much rather have had some form of support, even if it were a person on a bike following me.

The original plan was to carry a hammock, lightweight sleeping bag, my alcohol stove, some rice, water, all that. However when all the gear, light as it was, was weighed, it was far too much to comfortably move - especially at the distances I wanted to travel each day. I see a lot of solo touring in the future, but it is going to be on a bike next time. I’ll save the unicycle for when someone is organizing a support crew :smiley:

Once I got the idea in my head, it wasn’t too hard to organize. I just bought a map, and made a list of all the stuff I’d need. I basically put faith in the fact that even if I left a few unknowns in the equation, it’d all turn out all right, and likely be way more fun. Anyone who’s thinking about it should definitely go for it, provided you’re in decent shape and eat right, it’ll be a blast.

It took me like two months to do that write-up, not sure how long it’d take me to make it even longer :stuck_out_tongue:

Hmm. Canadian coast to coast, eh (heh.)? Perhaps if it were not just myself (any takers?!)

For trips like of this kind of distance, I’ve always used a small backpack like this rather than a seatpost racks. I tried seatpost racks and decided they just made it horrible to ride, especially once you’ve got any amount of gear in them. The backpack, you don’t notice at all once you’re riding. I only took one change of clothing. The one thing I did attach to the seatpost on the last trip was a sleeping bag, strapped to the back of my seat, so it hung under it. This changed handling a little, I wouldn’t want to muni with it, but was way way better than using a rack, because it was closer to the centre of the unicycle, the unicycle still handled fine on road.

The backpack forces you to pack light, I took a bivvi bag, a spare set of lightweight clothes, tools, food + water, toothpaste and not much else in mine. If you’re going for longer than a couple of days, you want to wash the clothes at laundrettes in towns you pass, or if you’re staying at b&bs, in the sink when you get there, and hang them out overnight.


Nice write up! Reading it made me smile. I like how you incorporated pictures into your writeup, it was kind of like a storybook.

I look forward to meeting you next June for the MUT.


Wow !! What an awesome trip! I’ve driven the northern bit of NS (Cape Breton) and I’d love to ride there someday. Thanks for the great write-up.

Do you feel your skill on the big wheel improved any over the course of the journey?

It definitely did. It was measurable too - at the beginning of the trip I was averaging 15ish km/h, and by the end it was closer to 18km/h cruising. Now that I’ve had a few months to get really used to it, I’m cruising around town at above 20km/h usually. Obviously I probably won’t keep that sort of speed up over a day’s ride (because I’m not ken looi!), but there was definitely a marked improvement.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the trip made it way easier and faster to get comfortable on the Coker than it would otherwise have been, for sure.

I read this with great interest as I’m planning a similar trip on the C&O canal from Cumberland Maryland to Washington DC - 184 miles - for fall 2007. It won’t have any (small? not in NS!) hills as yours did and there will be plenty of civilization(?) around, but the logistics will be the same: if it ain’t in my backpack it won’t be there.:smiley: :sunglasses:

Oh my gawd, a whole new set of “Foundie” jokes! :roll_eyes: :astonished: Yeah, I heard about them from a relative in Antigonish.

Great pictures, especially the “Shadow Reads”, the boats and Great Black Cat. And is that horse camera shy? :thinking:

Absolutely, please, please do this, Uni Mag will need stories like this, both in caliber and topic, to be the success that we all want it to be. Be sure to include your pictures!

All in all a great write-up of an excellent ride, thanks.

Really enjoyed your write-up. I’ve gotten pretty bored with all the same “which uni…,how do I…,etc.” threads so I don’t check in here very often lately. Sure am glad that I caught this thread before it slipped over to page 2 or 3. You’re an inspiration.

Just remember that one of Uni Magazine’s requirements for articles is that they haven’t been posted anywhere previously, including online here. Not to discourage you at all as it would make a great article, but it would have to be all new content.


Way to go, Dave. There are two ways to do trips like this – as a purist, and not. This comes up in backpacking all the time. If you are a purist, and get a ride into town for supplies, you have to get a ride back to the same place, and hopefully kick a tree or something before and after, to prove to yourself that you Walked the Entire Distance. If you are not a purist, but wish you were, there always is an element of not-quite-good-enough to your trip. Trouble is, it can be hard to fully not to be a purist.

This seems to be an art which you have mastered, and that is as much of an accomplishment as the trip itself. You had a fine adventure on a unicycle, and thanks to your writeup, we all could enjoy it too. Thanks!