Wednesday, 13 August 2008

On bad days and good days

Yesterday was a lousy day for biking in Nova Scotia. It started off fairly well with overcast skies and the sighting of a fawn and its mother by the side of the road. Actually, I only really saw the fawn for certain. It crashed into the undergrowth in the woods next to the road. I glimpsed the flash of another deer's white tail moving through the trees. I therefore assumed that it was the mother. I had a bit difficulty figuring out if the road I thought was Glenfalloch (or Glen Phallic as I thought of it) was indeed that road. The volunteered assistance of a passing couple didn't help that much. In the event, I decided that it was said road and gaily rode down the gravel road which turned into a rather rutted dirt road where people had been logging. It was worth a picture or two that I will post in due time.

The road came out where I expected and I got on the Trans-Canada for a short while before turning off onto a lesser coastal road (highway 245). The road was okay but it began to rain fairly heavily and the going got slow. The road took me through a Gaelic area with signs in both English and Gaelic.

It also had St. Margaret of Scotland Roman Catholic Church which struck me as an odd mix. I later found out from my B&B hosts in Antigonish that the area was settled by Catholic Highlanders whereas the Highlanders in Pictou were Presbyterian.

At Malignant Cove, I decided not to take the Little Cabot Trail around Cape George, and instead opted for the shorter and flatter route directly into Antigonish. Nearing the town, I came across an area of construction where the asphalt had been partially ripped off leaving a washboard like surface to ride on. It was very unpleasant and exhausting. When I got to my B&B, the hosts remarked on how tired I looked. Fortunately, they had some excellent freshly made oatcakes on hand.

Today was another kettle of fish entirely. For one thing, the wind was at my back for most of the time and I fairly flew along. At one point, the average speed on my bike computer was 24 km/h! In addition, the weather was a beautiful mix of sun and cloud. The only problem was wiping off the sweat mostly caused by the relatively high humidity. This was a day made for biking.

Unfortunately, it was always going to be a short day on account of Antigonish being relatively close to the Canso Causeway. I was here in Port Hawksbury by lunch time. Going further wasn't an option as there isn't a good place to stop near enough to the Causeway for today. Today is therefore a bit of a rest day.

After I had wheeed across the Causeway (which could do with a better shoulder for bikes, please Transport Canada or Nova Scotia Highways), I stopped for a victory picture, arms in the air. Cape Breton is almost a province unto itself so in theory, I have mastered another province. However, I will settle for three and a half provinces down, one and half more to go.

One important sign of progress in this trip is people's reactions to my goal of biking from Montreal to Newfoundand. They are no longer impressed that I am intending on biking to Newfoundland: they are impressed that I have got to here from Montreal.

This evening I need to decide if I will be going via Baddeck or Iona on my way to North Sydney. Each route has its own advantages and disadvantages. The deciding factor will be whether the spouse of the goddaughter of a distant-ish cousin will be around. Having written that, I recognise that it sounds like a very tenuous connection.

Another thing that made today a good day was that I got to let the boy in me watch a train being held up by a tugboat going through the Canso Causeway Canal, and then the swing bridge going back into place. Good fun for the inner child.


Margo & Chris said...

Chris and I are both really enjoying your blog, which we follow assiduously! Are you sure that Leonardo hasn't become the Lobsterbike?

Love from
Tia Margarita y Tio Cristobal

Victor Chisholm said...

Iona vs Baddeck:

Do yourself a favour and go via Baddeck.

The Iona route is pretty (so is the Baddeck route) but there is very little in the way of services in case you get hungry or have mechanical problems. You only save 2-5km. The road is curvier; I suspect that shoulders are worse and that visibility would be less, thus putting you at greater risk from cars. If you do choose this road, though, you might want to check out the Highland Village in Iona.

Route 105 has more traffic but good shoulders. Communities with services are more frequent. Stop at the Herring-choker Deli west of Baddeck on the highway. You can go through Baddeck (Graham Bell Museum, restaurants, hotels, hardware store, sailboats galore) or stay on the 105 and bypass town (probably shorter, may be hillier).

Continuing on 105 past Baddeck, you'll have one big climb and one big descent at Kelly's Mountain; stop at the lookouts and enjoy the view. Detour via St. Anne's Bay and/or Englishtown if you're interested in Scottish history (Gaelic College, Giant MacAskill).

On 105 immediately after Kelly's Mountain, you'll take the Seal Island Bridge to cross an arm of the Bras d'Or Lakes; sadly the road is as shoulderless as the Causeway, but it's not as long. After the bridge, you'll be on Boularderie Island; look for Cedar House Bakery (and restaurant), immediately after exit 13, very soon after the bridge.