Day 71 – Aug 17th -Dunville to Ferry Sailing,
Argentia to North Sydney, Nova Scotia
(18 kms Riding to and from ferry)
Day 72 – Aug 18th -North Sydney to St. Peter’s – 107 kms
Welcome back to Nova Scotia!
A super ride on Highways 305 and 4 to the small town of St. Peter’s on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Highway 4 was a bit hilly for the last 50 kms, but the weather and views over Bras d’Or Lake made up for any hardship.
St. Peter’s is located at the entrance to Bras d’Or Lake from the ocean. There is a canal here now where a narrow isthmus and portage existed in days gone by, hence the canal is a national historic site. The lock is staffed by a permanent operator here who controls the hydraulically operated tidal lock gates (I’m here waiting for a boat, so that I can see the lock in operation!). Interesting stuff! I’m camped at the Provincial Park here, adjacent to the canal. The sites here are pretty basic, with no showers or hook-ups, but very well maintained – 3 flat beaver tails! (Shower facilities would have impressed Basil more and gleaned a higher rating!). It’s a beautiful spot all the same and the weather being so nice is just a capper. The humidity seems to have left for now, leaving this area with bright sunshine and hot temperatures – over 30°C!
Yesterday’s ferry ride ended up being an hour and a half longer than scheduled – must have been a headwind ☺. So a 15 hour ferry ride; 12 hours of which was in thick fog/mist, the remainder in the dark, hence no chance of whale watching! It was after midnight when I arrived back at the same motel in North Sydney and hit the sack, so I was pretty tired today and glad of some good weather and a campsite in a suitable (not too many miles away) location today.
I didn’t have to ride the route to the ferry in the dark this time, but it was almost as bad because I had thick fog all the way from the motel in Dunville to the ferry terminal. So I never did get to see the landscape and scenery on this stretch of road, in either direction! I did discover that it’s okay to camp at the ferry terminal though. It’s not an advertised option, but there’s a nice patch of grass where some overnighting in tents is allowed/tolerated. I also discovered that there are a couple more night ferry sailings during the week than were advertised in the tourist literature that I had acquired. So all in all, I could have had a better schedule, saved some money on the motel – by camping at the terminal – and not had to ride in the dark and fog! I guess that I should have asked more questions when I booked the tickets for the crossing. Live and learn eh! Nevertheless, it was a super experience to visit Newfoundland.
I met two cycle tourists, who were just arriving off the ferry from North Sydney. They were all the way from Victoria, BC too! They had also ridden across Canada from there and were heading for St. John’s and Cape Spear. I told them it would be an easy ride to the Cape with all their gear – rotten bugger, aren’t I? Just kidding, I couldn’t do that to a fellow cyclist – could I? I also met another couple of young fellows who were from Ottawa and were just touring some sections of Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island; these two fellows travelled back to North Sydney on the same ferry that I took. I didn’t see much of them on board, I think that they must have rented a couple of bunks. Probably a smart thing to do as no one could see bugger all for the fog. I did lead them to a camping spot in the town park in North Sydney after we disembarked though. Once again, not legal camping, but overnighters are tolerated. I found that out from one of the locals, whilst I was drying out my gear when I was here a few days ago after I’d already booked my motel! I bid them goodnight and farewell and rode off to my nice soft bed.
Well it’ll be early to bed tonight for me, certainly not midnight again!
Day 73 – Aug 19th -St. Peter’s to Antigonish (again!) – 108 kms
Hot and humid was the order of the day today. I rode Highway 104 all the way here today. The section from St. Peter’s to the Canso Causeway was a good stretch of road with surprisingly little traffic for the major road that it is. After a second breaky – pancakes galore at Port Hastings – I rode over the causeway again and pretty well cycled back along territory that I covered a couple of weeks ago. Normally, I don’t like to return via the same routes that I have ridden previously, but this was the fastest way for me reach Truro and then Digby for my circuit of the western and southern shores of Nova Scotia, and then to end up in Halifax.
I’m in a nice campground downtown Antigonish (wow, I’ve said that a lot – but I really have had a lot of “nice” campsites!) with a pool, and within walking distance of all the air-conditioned amenities in town (four flat beaver tails for this one). I shopped for a few groceries earlier and could have stayed in the store all night – it was nice and cool in there! The pub around the corner was even cooler too!
There’s supposed to be a break in the humidity soon – they say! But for now, I’m glad that I don’t have to ride long distances in this type of weather especially. I set off as early as possible and try to be done riding before the heat zaps all my energy. My only criteria is to be in Halifax for the 29th, so I can afford to be a bit leisurely with my days – I am on vacation after all!
No great scenery to report, pretty well just boring old highway riding. Lots of dead skunks for some reason – must have been Hari-Kari weekend for them!
It’s been strange the last few mornings to head away from the rising sun; for so many weeks, I got up, jumped on the bike and rode east into the sun. I guess that means that I’m heading in the right direction?
Well, gotta go see if I can find some boring old seafood to fill my gullet!
Day 74 – Aug 20th -Antigonish to Brookfield – 135 kms
Today the sun mercifully stayed behind the clouds for most of the day and this evening it is overcast but much cooler than yesterday. I keep feeling a few raindrops, so perhaps a good rain will clear out the humidity for a while.
Same old 104 today, all the way to Truro with a stop for second breaky in New Glasgow. It’s a good road though and even better after New Glasgow when it turns into a divided highway; lots of long hills, but nothing serious. Less trees and more valley views improved the ride too.
I was hoping to see the Tidal Bore at Truro, but I missed the tide by a couple of hours – typical eh! But Truro was a good stop for lunch – lobster sushi, yummy! I stopped at the tourist info place, where there was a convenient picnic table at which I could scoff my culinary find, and met up with a couple of young lady cycle tourists from (you guessed it) Quebec. Also, there was another older fellow from Quebec (a cyclist too) lunching with us (he’d only just met up with the girls on the road). But the funny part was, that the girls were riding for a while with the large group of young people that I met way back in Ontario – remember the “cycling for sustainability” crowd? I believe that I dubbed them hippies at the time! Anyway, these two girls had left the group by the time I met up with them. They still keep in touch with the others and said that they would relay to them that they had met up with me returning from St. John’s, NL already. Apparently the big group is still in Quebec – I wonder if they’ll ever make it out to Newfoundland before the snows hit? Small world again, eh?
I had a great chat with them for quite a while. Basil, of course, was the centre of attraction; they had a little shaggy dog type mascot, but Basil didn’t want anything to do with that! The girls have been riding since the middle of May, starting out in California and riding up the coast to BC and then east from there. This is as far east as they can go though, as they have commitments and have to return to Montreal via train from Halifax. The best part was that they had ridden some of the same route through Southern Ontario as I had, and they remembered those particularly nasty hills in the Horseshoe valley as I did – knee-knackering!
So after lounging and touring around Truro for a quite a while, I took Highway 2 south to this campground at Brookfield – about 10 kms south of Truro. Nice campground, but expensive – only 3 flat beaver tails, due to cost!
Just before Truro I passed the 8,000 km mark on my odometer, Basil said “Wow!” I guess that’s the last thousand that I’ll turn for this trip though – just a few hundred left.
Day 75 – Aug 21st -Brookfield to New Minas – 137 kms
Another longish ride today, but the weather was gorgeous and from Brookfield to (almost) Windsor I rode on Highway 236 – a quiet back road. 236 also gave me some much nicer scenery as I passed quite a few farms and ranches. I even saw some deer and herons today – first (live) wildlife that I’ve seen for days! After Windsor, I picked up 101, a much busier road with plenty of heavy truck traffic. Tomorrow I’ll be switching to Highway 1, which parallels the newer 101.
Along 236 was about a 75 km ride and I thought there’d be no services – read, restaurant. But sure enough at Kennetcook (middle of nowhere) there was a lonely little cafe, just waiting to dish up a second breaky for a hungry biker – I don’t know how Basil finds these places!
In the end, it actually didn’t rain much last night, just a few sprinkles, but it did turn cool. Yep, and now the humidity’s gone, but the bright sunshine still made for hot riding, big day for cold drinks and ice creams! – What’s new eh?
One of the difficulties that I have to deal with on a really hot day is NOT thinking about cold drinks and ice creams when I’m in the middle of nowhere. If I start visualising, it drives me crazy as I can’t just put my hands on one right away – and then I think, “all those stinking big motor homes passing me, sweating my arse off, have fridges full of ice cold drinks” – talk about masochism and hatred for your fellow traveller! Anyway, best to keep my mind off that track, so for the most part I do fine with my warm Gatorade! – Even that tastes great when you’ve got a real thirst on. And as soon as I spy a convenience store – look out for that fridge door swinging out!
WE BOTH CYCLED X-CANADA EXACTLY IN THE SAME TIME! You left Sidney on June the 8th, 2002 and so did I, but from Calgary! And you even took the same ferry route from North Sydney to Argentia (and not Port-aux-Basques). It took me 47 days and 6430 kms though 😉