On September 20th, 2017 we flew from Birmingham to Argentina and started what would be an epic 19 months in South America and 4 in North America. We didn’t have a plan, didn’t know how long we would be away or what would happen in the future. Now, almost two years to the day we are writing this blog post which brings to an end our Americas trip. It wasn’t the route we had planned at the start but plans change, and it feels so strange sitting at home writing this post. The final 100km ride into Toronto seems like a long time ago now, but we’ll try and fill you in on all that’s happened from then until now.
Leaving Jacqui’s house we followed the Waterfront Trail into the Toronto suburbs which was a mix of on and off road trails, sometimes on small roads, other times on busy highways, but the closer we got to the city itself the more dedicated bike trails there were. It was a nice day for our final long day in the saddle with lakeside views, shady seated lookouts and mostly flat gradients. All in all it was quite pleasant and uneventful!
Our final Warmshowers hosts were Andy and Becky, a couple from the UK who moved to Toronto for work, and who helped us celebrate our final day’s riding in style. We shared Thai food on the beach with a bottle of wine and watched the sunset. They happened to live in the beautiful Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto, a little outside of the city proper but easily accessible by public transport in under an hour. As the name suggests we were staying 100m from the lakeshore with its stunning beach and promenade, which was a nice place to stay for a few days.
It wasn’t all lounging around on the beach though because we had some chores to attend to, mainly shopping for smart clothing for the wedding we had three days after arriving back in the UK. Luckily for us Canada has a number of chain thrift stores which were a goldmine for cheap clothing and we managed to find a full outfit each of us for under $50 Canadian each. Bargain! Once that was sorted we spent an afternoon exploring downtown Toronto, though by this point we were feeling very city-ed out. We did what we usually do in cities, a lot of walking to see the main tourist points and then when we felt overwhelmed, headed back out to our quieter neighbourhood.
Toronto is a massive city with the Beaches neighbourhood on the east side and the airport 35km away on the west. As such we decided to move to a Warmshowers’ place closer to the airport for the last few days to make it easier to catch our flight and we had found an awesome sounding guy to stay with. Sadly he was out of town but in the spirit of amazing Warmshowers’ hospitality he offered us his place anyway, told us where the key would be and said to make ourselves at home. It was basically an AirBnB but without payment and with cupboards full of food and drink! It was a great base for a few days of relaxing after boxing the bikes up in their cardboard boxes and packing the rest of our gear into a duffel bag ready for the flight. If that wasn’t awesome enough, our host even arranged with a friend with a pickup truck to collect us and take us to the airport then wouldn’t take any money for it. Canadians (and as we’ve hopefully shown throughout this trip, 99.9% of people in general) are awesome!
We booked our flights to Florida and then from Toronto back to the UK in February when we were in Colombia, and after the debacle with multiple flights and long layovers when we flew home at Christmas, we chose flights that were direct this time. It helped that they were really cheap too, but at the airport we found out that Westjet had changed its bicycle policy since we booked the flight, adding a $50 charge for each bike. I think the woman on the desk took a liking to us after we’d been chatting for a while about our trip because we managed to get this fee waived. We then took the bikes to the oversize baggage desk to find out that the scanner was tiny and our bike boxes wouldn’t fit. They’d need to be checked by hand. Urgh! After meticulously packing the bikes into their boxes, the last thing you want to do is reopen them but that’s what we had to do. After a brief look inside, scan of any luggage that was easy to remove (we didn’t have to take the bike frame or wheels out – phew!) and swab for explosives (which Ben’s beeped for but after a phone call to higher up, she quickly threw away and said was fine), we resealed them up and hoped they’d make it to London in one piece. Top Tip: always carry an extra roll of tape when travelling with a bike. Finally we got through security and went straight to Tim Hortons Cafe, spent the last of our Canadian dollars on sandwiches, doughnuts and delicious drinks, then boarded our flight. Turns out that flying overnight is a great way to prevent jet lag.
We were collected from London Gatwick by Ben’s uncle and spent a week in Surrey, catching up on some Netflix, walking the dogs and eating all of the British food we had missed. But the main reason we didn’t go straight home was because that weekend we had the first of three weddings to go to, conveniently less than 10 miles away. Tom and Emma’s wedding was at a beautiful hotel on the hottest bank holiday weekend ever and the lakeside wedding ceremony was perfect. We saw a few friends that we hadn’t seen for a few years, drank too much free wine and danced to some cheesy party tunes, and we were definitely so glad we had made it back in time to be able to be there to celebrate with them.
It has been three weeks since we arrived back at home in Herefordshire and it’s been fairly busy with seeing family, looking for jobs and generally settling back into a “normal life”, whatever that means. For us it’s not packing and unpacking every day, having a bit of a routine and having more than two sets of clothes!
But what else have we done? Well Steph gained a new niece since being away so we went to her christening, which was lovely. We went to wedding number 2. Taylor and Gina got married in Ludlow Castle which was an amazing setting for a wedding, followed by a beautiful marquee after do (where we didn’t drink all of the free wine though, we’re still recovering from last time!) and Moroccan feast which was delicious. The dance floor well and truly went off as the night went on, it was a properly fun night. The following weekend we continued a tradition of ours and went to the Ludlow Food Festival where we caught up with Matt and Laura, shared travel stories and followed the sausage trail.
To round off our run of busy weekends we went to Rich and Liv’s wedding in Bromsgrove. It was another really joyous occasion in a truly gorgeous setting, and it was amazing to celebrate such a special day with an amazing couple. Following a fantastic night, with plenty of dancing to possibly the best wedding playlist ever we headed back to Rich’s house with a few friends (the bride and groom obviously weren’t using it). We finished the night with some hilarious but ultra-stressful games of Overcooked, definitely making the most of the best thing about being back home; having friends and family around!
So that’s it for this blog post, all that’s left is to say thank you for following along with us on our journey. It’s been really fun blogging for the past two years and knowing that people out there have been reading it… and more than just our families, which is incredible! This blog post in particular was a difficult one to write because it hasn’t been the most busy of times or the most interesting in terms of photos. (In fact we’ve taken barely any since being back.) However we’re going to work on that and keep the unscripted ride website going. So many times we follow people’s journeys on their blog but when they get home they just stop. I know that’s what we did these last few weeks but it just means we have to go out and find new adventures, as well as taking time to reflect on what we’ve already achieved.
Until next time,
Steph and Ben