Saturday, 12 August 2017

On a wake-up surprise

Having gone to bed around 10, I got up around 7:15 Maritime time, 6:15 Quebec time. The car attendant was up and about so I asked him where we were vis à vis the schedule. We were only a half hour late, and just about pull into Ste-Foy, i.e. Quebec City. Somehow, I didn't twig to the full implications of this. Anyway, I went back to the Park car to get coffee and a better view.

As I sat down, I wondered idly about that big bridge we were headed for. Then the penny dropped: We would be stopping in Ste-Foy which is on the North Shore of the St-Lawrence, not Lévis on the South Shore. This meant the train was going to cross the Pont de Québec, still the World's longest cantilever bridge after about a hundred years!

And it did with me in the dome. 

Unfortunately, it had been raining so there was water on the windows, so the photos weren't as good.

Friday, 11 August 2017

On yesterday and today

I left the "Pedaler's Retreat B&B" a bit later than desired as I fell into a conversation with one of our hosts and a fellow guest (an man of about 60). He was from Washington, D.C. I gathered he was  sort of in the market to acquire a cottage or land for a cottage on the coast. I commented that I had seen a sign in German advertising real estate services. He mock grumbled that Europeans shouldn't be buying up Nova Scotian waterfront. They should leave it for Americans to buy! He also grumbled about he wished he had a shotgun to deal with the horseflies. I refrained from pointing out that the second amendment to the American Constitution didn't apply to Canada.

As expected, the day was sunny and warm, bordering on hot with a wind that was contrary. I was faced with somewhat contradictory information about the distance to Dartmouth owing to the size of Dartmouth (it isn't a point target) and the fact there was two routes. I managed to navigate being me. I found the day particularly hot and dry. Strangely, I don't recall a "Welcome to Dartmouth" sign, unlike the countless such signs in evidence for the many Nova Scotian hamlets I passed through.

I arrived at Johana's house a bit earlier than expected. There was a note on the door saying she was out getting milk but that I should go in the back. I maneuvered the bike into the backyard, lent it against the deck and went in. It was very nice and cool inside. I was pondering which chair I could sit in given my sweaty state, when Johana arrived.

Johana is an old family friend of my parents. She bid me make myself at the home. I showered and put a load in the laundry. We chatted until the load was done. I hung it out to dry then headed upstairs for a toes-up. 

Half an hour later, the phone rang. It was Philip seeking to confirm and coordinate supper. This was agreed as sushi which is a favourite of Dominique and company. Johana drove the two of us to the restaurant where Philip and the others were waiting. I let Philip and Dominique do the ordering. I think we had a merry time. As previously blogged, by the time I got backed to Johana's, I was too tired to blog.

My sleep was odd. I woke up a couple of times thinking that I had a ferry to catch and another time woke up unsure where I was. The latter is a consequence of sleeping in a number of beds in the last three weeks. 

I had breakfast with Johana who started to apologize that she didn't have a bike rack so she couldn't drive me to the station. I happily said it was nothing as I thought it would easier for me to bike it than to wrestle the bike into a car. Given that it was a bright sunny morning, it would also be more fun for me.

So after bidding my adieus, I rolled down to the ferry terminal. I rode across Halifax Harbour. It was a shade early for the waterfront, so it wasn't packed. I moseyed along to the train station. I was waiting in line to pay for the bike when Philip and Family arrived. 

In due course, we boarded and, once the train left, had lunch. I think Via Rail has redone the dining cars on the Ocean since my last ride as it seemed more genteel than before. Via Rail has added a stainless-steel Park car, formerly used on the Canadian. Owning to the difference between the couplings of the Renaissance cars and the Park car ("Tremblant Park" btw) there a special transition car which is largely empty aside from some equipment lockers and a display of flags from the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec and Acadia. I feel Via Rail could put the space to better use, such as a play area for toddlers.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

On my current status

I have safely arrived in Halifax, but I have too much sun and sushi today to care to write more. (Oh, the hardship. ;-) )

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

In the Pedaler's Retreat

Well, I am tired. It has been a long day, thankfully very sunny though not hot thanks to the proximity of the Ocean. Unfortunately, the wind was largely contrary though not that strong. Also an impediment was the presence of too many short hills. 

Furthermore, my front shifter was being balky. At times, it took a lot of force to shift up to a larger ring. My theory is that the mechanism at the ring got a bit rusty in the rain yesterday. I stopped to apply a little oil only to find that my travel bottle of bike oil had leaked its little remaining contents into its ziplock baggie. It was only a Sheet Harbour that I found some reasonably suitable oil. The mechanism had improved since the morning, but it is still a bit of a bother. Thankfully, I reach Halifax tomorrow. The balky shifter makes it hard to shift between ranges and thus discourages shifting to optimum gear. 

Shortly after applying oil in Sheet Harbour, I got an email from the motel in Sherbrooke saying I had left my rain jacket behind. I had hung it up to dry last night on a coat hanger which was located in an odd corner. I remember saying to myself last night: "That's a poor spot." Thankfully, good weather is in the forecast. Consequently, I phoned the Motel (The Sherbrooke Village Inn), and negotiated with them about mailing it to Montreal.

Apart from that the day went quite well. Dominique and Désirée joined me for breakfast at the Beanie Bistro where Dominique got her fix of decaf espresso. Apparently, she is devoted to it.

Not too long after leaving Sherbrooke, I saw a bird of prey perched on a tree. I stopped to make a proper ID using binoculars. However, before I could bring them to bear, the bird settled the issue by taking wing and in doing so revealing the distinctive wings of an osprey.

While there wasn't as much ocean views as one might wish, the road was quite pretty and was in good shape. As usual, the drivers are very courteous. I hope it won't be too hard tho adjust when I go into work on Monday! Of course, there was this white Chrysler 300 which went by yelling something at me and making gestures. A rented car by the look of it. Probably Quebec drivers.*

I got to Sheet Harbour a little before 3. As supper was going to be what I brought with me, I did a little grocery shopping, then stopped at The Henley House Pub ( for a smaller glass of craft beer. I chose a bitter. It hit the spot with a nice combination of cool refreshing drinkability, a nice level of bitterness and lots of flavour. I don't want sound too much like Fil with his somewhat overly broad dismissive attitude towards Imperial Pale Ales (or IPAs) but at times I do find some IPAs are overpowering. (I also regret the fact that North American craft beers are mostly over 5% alcohol. The Brits have many delicious beers below 5%.) 
As I sipped my beer (and ice water). I noticed a hamburger sitting on a plate on the bar. I idly wondered what it was there for. It turned out to be for a man called Brad Atkinson. His daughter, Rebecca, ran the brewery responsible for the beer which has the somewhat ironic name "Sober Island Brewing Company." There is an actual "Sober Island" connected to the company, but it does seem a shade contrived. ;-) The whole operation seems to be a very family business as the young lady who served me was another daughter. 

Oh, yes. The hamburger. I overheard Brad say that it featured watermelon. He said it was good, but count me with the skeptics. ;-) 

Brad himself chatted with me and seems like a nice guy. I wish him and his daughters the best of luck in their ventures.

I think I should have gone to short sleeves before leaving Sheet Harbour, but then, I was tired and getting a shade incoherent. I biked on and gave the young kid on a dirt bike a tired "Nope", when he asked if wanted to race.

It was a relief to get to the Paddler's Retreat B&B in Tangier. It is an adjunct to a sea-kayaking business. ( It is a low key but very welcoming operation based in a lovely old house on the Ocean. I found one very distinct sign of their understanding of the needs of their guests: the place provides lovely large towels. After several days of mingy motel towels, it was wonderful to dry myself off with a large towel.**

I am now horizontal and relaxed in what I shall refer to as the Pedaler's Retreat.

*It was in fact Philip and Dominique. ;-)

**In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess to feel strongly in favour of large towels, having bought several over the years both for myself and others. I was annoyed when I discovered that my Granny had put the lovely big new bath towel I had given her in the guest bathroom and was using old rough towels for herself.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

On Sherbrooke Village

Today was a full rest day, the first since Placentia. At breakfast at the Beanie Bistro, I talked with a man who thinking about buying a Devinci Tosca for touring. He had noticed Leonardo's brand and wanted know an owner's perspective. I gave him my personal opinion that Devinci is a good brand, reinforced by the fact I own two of them. This led to a discussion of bike touring. 

After doing my laundry in a machine for the first time in weeks, I had intermittent contact with Philip. This led me to book him a room in the only motel in town. 

Afterwards, I went down to Sherbrooke Village. This is a museum village consisting of thirty or so historic buildings, most of which were built on site. Through talking with the interpreters, I formed a picture of the history of Sherbrooke. It had been fairly wealthy town based on lumber, gold mining, farming, ship building and trading. I was surprised to learn that up until about 1940, ships of up to 600 tons called there. After that, they stopping dredging the river. Since then, the town declined to the point that a hefty fraction of it could be used as a heritage village. Many of the buildings showed the wealth of the town.

It is possible to visit the town in late 19th dress. If it hadn't been a wet day, I would have done so. In fact, I regret not doing so. 

I think I found the print shop the most fascinating of the buildings as seeing the tiny fonts used made me wonder at the skill of typesetters. They had several presses, most of them still in use.

I bumped into the man from breakfast. He gave me too much credit for spending my rest day walking around. He would have in bed watching TV. 

I felt I could practically taste, touch and smell the past. I ended up spending about four hours at the village.

Plus another hour getting my picture taken by ambrotype in period dress. Ambrotype is a form of photography developed about 1850. It requires an exposure time of 40 seconds or more, depending on the lighting. It is a delicate process requiring skill at manipulating wet glass plates. The lady was something of a perfectionist as she rejected her first two efforts.

I returned to the motel where Philip and company had checked in. They were happy to have finally left Halifax. We had unknowingly chosen a long weekend for them to arrive in Halifax and they hadn't been able to rent a car until today. Given that they aren'r used to cities, especially as tourists, I got the impression they had some culture shock. However, they did get to see Sidney Crosby and the Stanley Cup go by.

We had supper together, then went for a walk to Sherbrooke Village. This was partly my plan to entice Désirée and Dominique to come back tomorrow when it was open.

It is supposed to be nice tomorrow.

On the Catholic Church in Placentia

For reasons that related to the ferry from Argentia, I never wrote about the Catholic Church in Placentia. I now have the leisure to do so as I wait for the dryer to finish. 

On the outside, the Placentia church appeared like an ordinary white clapboard church. When I went inside, I was surprised by its internal layout. Rather than a conventional longitudinal layout, the altar was located midway up one side and the pews arrayed around it in something like semi circle as adapted for a rectangular room. I'd be willing to bet that it was an alteration of an earlier, more conventional arrangement as the pews seemed fairly new. Part of me wonders at what arguments went on during the decision-making process. There must have been bickering between conservatives and progressives, as well as the input of those with hearing issues.

Monday, 7 August 2017

"...In Sherbrooke now!"

On the grounds that it contains the most things to do on the Eastern coast of Nova Scotia, I chose Sherbrooke for a rest day. It also has the virtue of being referred inaccurately to in Stan Rogers' very well known "Barrett's Privateers". The thing is that "Sherbrooke" only came into use as a place name in North America after Sir John Coape Sherbrooke's success in the War of 1812. Therefore, it is unlikely that someone in 1778 would wish to be in Sherbrooke. At least a Nova Scotian would not. I am not sure if Sherbrooke is a British place name.

I went over to the Authentic Seacoast distillery to pay for my room and had to ask the obvious questions. The answers were respectively, a boy and everyone is doing fine. Incidentally, I just looked up their website ( It seems the organization began when Glynn visited Guysborough on a bike trip and was smitten. From the purple tinted prose, it seems he was a Toronto Bay Street man.

I stopped at the Guysborough Robins Donuts for a sandwich to take along for lunch. It was recently in the news as the RCMP pressed it into service as a dispatch centre the other day when telecommunications broke down all over Atlantic Canada.

After much perusal of maps and Google Maps last night, I decided on a route from Guysborough to Sherbrooke. It took me on South past a set of concrete bridge pillars I believe were intended for the never built Guysborough line. At Lundy, I left the paved road for a short cut on a dirt road. This began with hard packed gravel before I came to a "construction ahead" sign. As it was a civic holiday, I figured no one would be at work. No one was. However, the loose gravel from last week was there making for some careful riding. This eventuality gave way to semi hard dirt strewn with rocks. Manageable, but no relaxing as sometimes the easy route was on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately and predictably, traffic was not an issue. The surface changed to hard packed earth, one of the best dirt surfaces for biking.

I rejoined pavement at New Harbour. A little later, I was stopped by a very good humoured African-Canadian flag man called George. He jokingly warned me I was going too fast as I rolled up to him. He would have let me through just then except he couldn't get through to Loretta his opposite number by radio for several minutes. Eventually, contact was made and I was allowed through. I couldn't quite see why that section was being worked on as it looked fine to me. I gather they were spraying sealant on some centreline cracks. 

A little later, the road surface took a turn for the worse. In addition to cracks, warped surfaces, potholes and general disrepair, it had a lot of spray painted notes that I assumed represented work to be done. I also noticed debris from vegetation clearing operations and began to smell fresh spruce resin. Sure enough, I came across another road construction zone with flag persons guarding two big caterpillar diggers with grinders instead of shovels mulching offending trees and other vegetation into submission.

I suffered a triple disappointment in Goldboro as the Goldboro Interpretive Centre only opened at one on Mondays and as it was barely noon, I wasn't going to wait. I missed out on finding out about the past of Goldboro ("the town built on gold"), having an ice cream cone (today was very sunny) and using their loo. The latter was also why I wasn't going to wait!

I set off again and made the cable ferry across an inlet marked on my road map as Country Harbour with near perfect timing. There was only one other vehicle on the ferry driven by a guy from Halifax who wished he was cycle-touring. 

Once off the ferry and having used the porta-potty provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation, I sat down in the shade of a small building with no obvious function to eat my sandwich. I was interrupted by a loud buzz. I looked up to see a hummingbird staring at me. I couldn't help but think it had been attracted to the bright red of my jersey and sweat cap and was deciding I wasn't a flower. 

I biked on, along the coast, then up the Indian Harbour Valley. Near the end, just past the Nimrod Campground, I saw a coyote cross the road in front of me. 

I turned South through a narrow valley which lead me to Sherbrooke. On the outskirts of town, I stopped at the Salmon Museum. Predictably, yet disappointingly, it was almost entirely about sport salmon fishing in the area with most of the artifacts being fly fishing flies. It was interesting to learn Babe Ruth had been here. Of more real interest was my conversation with the volunteer womaning the desk. We talked about a number of things including the sighting of the coyote. I wasn't the only person who saw it. Somewhat surprisingly, the woman hadn't thought that there were coyotes in the area even though there was a coyote skull on display.

I rolled into Sherbrooke proper and saw a cycle-tourist sitting at a corner with his front wheel off and cardboard sign marked "Halifax". I went over to him in case he was suffering from a mechanical issue that I might be able to help. From his accent, he was Québécois. It seems he had had an accident which had largely spared the bike but had hurt him somewhat. One of his hands was bandaged. His plan was to hitch a ride to Halifax.

We weren't the only cyclists in town as he pointed out a pair of somewhat odd looking bikes across the street leaning against the grocery store. They each had two seats, the one in front was recumbent whilst the rear was more or less standard. They had bags for touring. According to the wounded cyclist, they were owned by a German couple traveling with their two young children. When I went into the store, I saw the couple shopping but didn't say anything to them on the grounds that they were clearly trying to get a good bit of serious grocery shopping done before their offspring broke something important and/or expensive. ;-) I am being a little facetious here, but their two children (both boys I think) aged between 4 and 8 or so were playing a tag-like game in the aisles. 

It has been a good day on the whole.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

On the Guysborough Line

Today featured rain in one of its most annoying forms: variable and intermittent. To boot, the wind was in face much of the time and the road was up and down on short hills. As well, the Apple Google Maps app is proving hard to use when applied to Nova Scotian back roads. Consequently, I had only an approximate idea of the distance to Guysborough. 

This part of Nova Scotia is off the beaten track to say the least. To get here you have to carefully look for the turn-off to route 344 near the Canso Causeway (it is opposite the Irving Gas Station). This brings you around the backside of the quarry at Mulgrave. Once you get to Mulgrave, it was almost too easy to go past the rather good local museum they have there, designed to superficially ressemble the Scotia II ferry which used to ply the Canso Strait carrying train cars. The person working there said I was the first visitor of the day.

This general area is Stan Rogers country, his family coming from hereabouts and according to the less than 100% reliable though knowledgeable Garnet Rogers ("Shriner cows") the source of at least a few of Stan's songs. In fact, the choice of Guysborough as a place to stay was partially a result of his relatively obscure song "Guysborough train". When I visited  Guysborough's local museum, I had to ask if there had every been a rail line to Guysborough. The answer was interesting. Apparently, there had been a line under construction to the town but after a change of government, the project was canceled. This doesn't surprise me. Railways are odd beasts in many respects. They are profitable to build but not easy to run profitably. Given that the railway to Sydney wasn't in use the last time was through these parts and that it had been running trains every fifteen minutes during the Second World War, canning the Guysborough line was almost certainly a wise idea.

My bed for the night is in the Osprey Shores Golf Resort. I had moral reservations as golf represents to me a very unenlightened industry. I rolled down the lane to it and saw there was a combined brewery and distillery on the same lane. I stopped at it to what its hours were. Well, it was closed. Not on account of it being Sunday, but because of the arrival of a baby, at least according to the handwritten note! There was a second note with room numbers on it with names, including mine. The resort might better have been described as motel next to a golf course. From subsequent observations, the brewery-distillery also roasts coffee beans and cornbread makes baked goods. (I don't believe they do everything at the same site.) I can't help but suspect that ythis represents a few, possibly even one, person(s) with more money and enthusiasm than hard business sense.

Sherbrooke tomorrow.

On getting from B to C

Yesterday was nothing special. I made good time with a mostly useful wind but there wasn't much of any particular note aside from the breakfast time antics of the B&B's dog, a chihuahua-yorkie mix. I wonder if she should be called a "chikie" (cheeky) or a "yorhuahua". The purpose of the day was to get from B (Baddeck) to C (the Canso Causeway). The sight of note was a spectacular sunset. Today is short trip to Guysborough.

Friday, 4 August 2017

On Baddeck

My departure from the Salmon Pool  Inn suffered from one major flaw: I left my water bottles behind. I blithely rode on in the still cool air for 13 km before noticing. And there was no cellphone reception at that point. I rode back a fair distance before phoning the Inn. Thankfully Bob the Owner was there and willing to drive the bottles to where I was. The whole experience took about an hour and stole the momentum from the day.

It has been very warm and dry in these parts to the point the locals are wishing for rain. I must confess I am starting to shun the sun when possible. While I would rather not bike in the rain, at times, I would welcome the cooler temperatures rain would bring. Then again the memories of my trip when Anna was tiny spring to mind: that summer was described as atypically cold and wet by the locals.

Somewhere after crossing into Victoria County, I found a license plate from a skidoo or ATV complete with part of the vehicle still attached by the side of the road. I picked it up and stowed it for delivery to the RCMP. 

It was a bit of a shock to get off the Cabot Trail and onto the major Highway that is the 105, a.k.a. the Trans-Canada to North Sydney. It was also weird to see a billboard for a resort I had passed in Ingonish. In theory, going to Baddeck is going backwards a mite, but I wanted to go to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. 

Today was a short day and I got to Baddeck by about two. It was also strange as it was the largest town i have been to since Tuesday.  It is also very touristy in a different way from say Chéticamp with its hooked rug boutiques and its less than useful bike shop.

After the Bell Historic Site, checking into my B&B, showering and cleaning my gear, I sought out the local RCMP detachment to drop off the plate. It had closed for the day so I left it on the doorstep. As I rode back to town, I saw a RCMP SUV going the other way. I flagged him down to let him know about the plate.

The choice of where and what to eat in these parts is complicated for me as lobster is the ingredient of choice in these parts. However, as described in early entries in this blog, I am not sure if lobster agrees with me. Given the price and debatable ethics of lobster consumption in combination with my stomach, I avoid it but it seems a shame at one level and a relief at another.

On the subject of food, in the restaurant I had supper tonight, there were a couple boys who decided to put their fries on long skewers that came with another part of their meal. I was so amused that I asked their mother if I might photograph one of their creations. She said yes, so I will post the picture when I get back.

Désirée, Dominique and Philip get on the train to Halifax tonight. I gather Alice drove them to the station in Montreal. In less happy news, it seems Izzy is ill.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

On an Acadian shore

I need to do more prep work on my trips. I had left an early estimate of today's distance in my distance grid. This was 124 km which represented Pleasant Bay to Baddeck. However, since then, I had booked a bed in the Margaree Valley which was closer. However, I hadn't corrected the estimate. So I thought I had 124 km to cover. The day started well enough considering I had to climb up the Plateau of the Cape Breton Highlands which topped out at 300 m above sea level initially and eventually reached 550 m. However, there was an honesty to the climb. There was more construction to deal with, though not in steep bits. I saw what looked like a portable asphalt plant being moved in a half dozen oversized sections going the other way. Then there was an exhilarating descent through a canyon and a picture perfect, classic view of the Cabot Trail. I had stopped part way down. A woman on a loaded touring bike going up asked how far the summit was. I sheepishly confessed I wasn't sure but I thought she was getting there. It is hard to judge how far I have gone down.

I exited the Park and was a bit surprised by Chéticamp. For one thing, it was Acadian and for another, the trees weren't there. This was significant as a stiff wind was facing me causing me to worry about making the 124 km. I found a place for lunch which featured live Acadian music (fiddle and keyboard played a bit too loudly) and some spontaneous jigging by some girls who may or may not have been shills.

 It was during my interminable wait for my meal that I checked my remaining distance with Google Maps and was startled to discover a much lower figure than what I had counted on: 25 rather than 70. 

This was a relief from having to do the distance. It was also a concern as I had obviously made a serious mistake somewhere along the line.

The rest of the day was more slogging against the wind. The only relief was at a low key maritime fauna institute where you could see some sea life in tanks. This included some green crabs (an invasive species) eating each other. Another relief was pondering just how much inbreeding is going on in the Acadian community as every second name seemed to be "Aucoin". 

I got to my lodgings which eventually led to very frustrating lack of communication that I am not going to dwell on.

One thing that has become very clear is that my parents should not attempt the Cabot Trail by bike. All due respect, I think it is well beyond their biking abilities in more ways than one. (Long, steep uphills; long, steep and twisty downhills; relatively narrow shoulders; and significant traffic.) It is not a ride I wish to do again, though I don't regret doing it.

I do regret the prep errors. However, the disc brakes were again much appreciated today.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

On a tough day on the Cabot Trail

I started relatively early just after cocks' crow, or at least a cock's crow. The owner of place I was staying at keeps chickens. Also, the cocks don't work like clockwork so in fact I woke up around 7, had breakfast and left about 8.

Despite the cool of the morning, I quickly broke out in a sweat as I climbed up Cape Smoke. I stopped a few times to catch my breath and to change into a sleeveless jersey. I noticed a Pepsi delivery truck going by, proudly bearing the logo "Made in Cape Breton". Some yelled something at me from a passing SUV that I chose to think of as an encouragement. At the top, there was a view point complete with said SUV and its occupants. They were impressed at my performance, etc. They also told me that people signed the nearby guardrail with a felt tip pen left for the purpose. So I signed.

At that point, my average speed was about 10.7 kph. It was a long downhill into the extensive selection of Ingonishes. By the time, I reached sea level, my average speed was up to 16.6 kph! I rounded an arm of the sea and as I began to climb again, I saw two bald eagles attempting to catch a small brown water bird, possibly something in the merganser line. The eagles were more or less wading and weren't at their best. I got the impression the small escaped but with the bushes, I can't be sure.

The Ingonishes (Ingonish Ferry, Ingonish Harbour, Ingonish Beach, etc. ad nauseum) were intermixed with the Western entry point into Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Signs in English and Gaelic were replaced by ones in English and French. The cynic in me would love to know just what deal making went into determining the exact and remarkably complex borders of the Park. 

Three different people, two of them cyclists and one of the latter being local, suggested that because of construction, I should take the older road via Neil's Harbour and White Point to get to the town of Cape North. So I did. The route was more scenic with some spectacular cliffs to ride above. In the process, I saw the Pepsi truck making deliveries.

In Cape North, I had a bowl of chowder at a bistro that operated in blissful ignorance that the word "bistro" is Russian for "quick".

I am encountering a fair number of cyclists in these parts. Anyone might think the Cabot Trail was well known. ;-) Some are day cyclists. Others strike me as van supported. Some are campers and others not unlike me. I was impressed by one party of German cyclists with good looking bags. However, when I talked to one of them, it turned out the bikes themselves were rented!

Leaving Cape North, I re-entered the Park. Construction began anew as I climbed a long hill along the Aspy Valley. There were several traffic control points along the way which pulsed traffic making it easier to cope. Easier, not easy. The climb was in the sun which made it feel very hot, though in the shade it was cool. I stopped several     times to drink, "admire the view" and talk with people. At one point, I stopped to exchange information with a pair of cyclists going the other way. They were two months out of Vancouver, heading for St-John's via Argentia. After they headed down the hill, began to push Leonardo up as I was getting very tired. At the next control point, I was very tempted to simply wait through a cycle.

The road levelled out on the plateau before all to soon descending to the sea. The pavement had been ripped off the road making for a jolting ride. I blessed my disc brakes as I went down secure in the knowledge I wasn't going to overheat my rims. 

The day ended in Pleasant Bay at the HI Hostel. I had booked ahead several weeks ago the only remaining accommodation, a family room. As I checked in, I chatted with the friendly "landlady" or whatever her title is. Somehow it came up that I didn't mind sharing my room so she "changed" the room for the night into a small dorm. Within about thirty minutes, the other two beds in the room were booked! My good deed for the day.

A good day, but I am tired. I am happy to being doing the Cabot Trail, but I don't think I will do it again. More accurately, I really don't want to do it again at least by bike.

One more thing, I was asked a Parks Canada ranger at some point if this was my first visit to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I said "No, I was here in 1986." He asked if the biking was better than before. I laughed and said that in 1986, I had been driven by my parents, mostly by Pappy who in his unarticulated desire to get to Sandy Cove drove like a crazy person resulting in a significant speeding ticket in the Park.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

On getting to Nova Scotia

For various reasons, the breakfast portion of the Rosedale Manor B&B happens across the lift bridge at Philip's Café. This is good in that their breakfast menu is much more interesting than that of the other Newfoundland B&Bs I have experienced. Indeed, Linda confided to me that before deciding on how they would run Rosedale Manor, they had tried a number of other B&Bs and got fed up with bacon and eggs. I opted for a breakfast sandwich which included eggs, peppers, green onions and cheese on their homemade bread. I also tried some of their wonderful molasses raisin bread made into toast. The "downside" was that I bought a couple of books as well as their T-shirt!

Over breakfast, Linda suggested I visit Argentia in the morning. I replied that I planned to do it the afternoon as I didn't want to face the hill more than I wanted, all due respect. I left three of my bags at the Café as I would be returning there for lunch. 

I visited the O'Reilly Museum which is in lovely Edwardian home built a lawyer and magistrate named O'Reilly. While the building was obviously well built and intended to convey that owner was a man of means, it eventually struck me as rather small for a family that eventually had eight children! While the presentation was good, the designers of the museum had slipped up in a few cases. The box of Twinnings tea should have rotated 90 degrees to hide the UPC barcode. Also, the Readers' Digest Condensed book didn't seem right. Also the guide was poorly informed about bits of local history. There was a bailiff's staff presented by George III to Placentia and later used by his son, William, Duke of Clarence and later William IV, when he was in Placentia. However, the guide seemed to think he had governed the area for twenty years! Also, when I asked about why the North side of Placentia was called Jerseyside (downtown being Townside), he didn't know. (I later saw a display explaining it was in memory of the fair number of merchants from Jersey who had done business in Placentia at one point.) Another interesting fact was that the Newfoundland playwright Thomas Cahill had lived there as a child.

After lunch at Philip's Café where I witnessed Philip trying to cox crows to come closer (Philip is a crow enthusiast) I climbed the hill and somehow missed seeing the touristy bits of Argentia, if there are any. In the ferry terminal there was a display recounting the "American Invasion" in early 1941 when they arrived to set up a naval base, the locals having been kicked out by the government of Newfoundland. One of better lines was that the locals couldn't figure out why the Yanks were in such a hurry to build given they had the place for 99 years. Unfortunately, the display only covered the war years, the Americans having stayed until the 1990s.

The Atlantic Vision was built for the Scotland to Belgium ferry run and thus was doubtless made redundant by Ryanair and EasyJet. It was switched to runs in the Baltic involving Estonia I believe before coming to Marine Atlantic. This probably explains the multiplicity of languages on some of the signage. As well, the multiple users may be partly responsible for the slightly confusing layout of the ship. I know I got a bit lost, though that was partly my not having a cabin for the overnight trip. I eventually found a cabin of reclining "air chairs" relatively aft of the ship and laid claim to one.

I was uptight about getting enough sleep so as to bike to the Cabot Trail on the morrow and but wasn't that concerned about sea sickness. However, the motion of the ship started getting to me. Despite taking a Gravol pill, at supper time I found the sight of food was making me ill. I am serious: I went into the buffet, served myself some salad, took a very small bite and then sat there staring at it for five or ten minutes before screwing up the courage to explain the situation to a crew member and get a refund. Going back to the air chair, armed with a bottle of ginger ale, I started to feel queasy. I made my way to an outside deck where I cast my accounts. It was some minutes before I returned to "my" area and cleaned myself up in the adjoining washroom. I sat down in the chair in my MEC equatorial sleeping bag and reclined it. I was surprised when I woke up some hours later. It seemed that even if I wasn't going to be able to eat, I would be able to sleep. So I did.

(I don't think the seas were particularly rough. Indeed, I think that stress might have been a factor. However, I think I will keep this in mind for future adventures.)

Getting off the ferry in North Sydney seemed needlessly long and convoluted. What is more, it seems that someone doesn't want people getting off a ferry from Newfoundland to go straight into North Sydney. At least not without some noticeable and annoying detours. This is significant as my game plan was to find a dry land breakfast and a post office in North Sydney. The point of the latter was to send home a parcel containing the equatorial sleep bag and other bits no longer wanted on voyage. I found a Shoppers' Drug Mart which as per usual included a Canada Post outlet where I bought a box. I returned to the bike and went through my bags fairly ruthlessly. Despite breakfast, I still wasn't 100%. I am afraid I was a bit impolite to an old man with a thick Cape Breton accent who wanted to talk about the motel on the top of hill that used to be owned by Koreans. I am not a great organizer and as this was a decision point, I really didn't have the brains to spare.

I think it was around 10:30 when I set off. The day was sunny and somewhat hot. The wind was chaotic and I found that it alternated being a help or a hindrance. The highly settled lands near North Sydney gave way to forests. After crossing a bridge over Great Bras D'Or, I was greeted by a sign saying I was facing Kelly's Mountain and a gain of 240 m in 7 km! I took a picture of the sign then settled in for the grind. When I got to the top, there was a sign saying I had done it. So I took a picture of it. I then had the notion to look at the times the pictures had been taken. The climb had taken me forty minutes.

Once on the other side, I turned off for Englishtown where I visited the Giant MacAskill Museum and caught a very short ferry ride resulting in a 20+ km short cut. I wasn't the only cyclist to use it as I passed a couple going the other way.

And so I came to the Cabot Trail. I wasn't sure what I expected from this section but it sure was this. The region seems to have gone through depopulation leaving hamlets that are little more than names on a map and forlorn churches some of which have found new life housing arts and craft stores which seem to be the major form of commerce in these parts. I can't quite get my head around the sheer number of them compared to the few places to eat (three) and the single gas station which claims to be a general store but isn't really that I have seen in the thirty or so kilometres I have seen of the trail. It feels weird. Sort of like all the antique stores on Notre-Dame East of Atwater. (One of eateries was the Dancing Moose Café where I got some ice cream.)

What is also weird is that I inadvertently dodged a huge bullet today having managed more or less by accident to secure lodgings at just about the last place before the hill at Cape Smokey without knowing it! I would have been wreck if I'd had to do it this afternoon!

I have just had the thought that last time I arrived in Nova Scotia it was also by bike.

Status update

I have arrived in North Sydney after a crossing marked by sea sickness and a surprising amount of sleep.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

On the ups and downs of Placentia

For some reason, I slept badly last night. My pet theory is that yesterday's aches were at play or maybe the indifferent bed in the motel.

Fortunately, today was a short day. However, it had its ups and downs, some quite literal. It started with a somewhat imprecise sign saying Placentia was only 32 km from the Trans-Canada Highway. This convinced it would fun to use a bit of the Trailway, especially as the feared rain was much less than Margo, Chris and I had suffered back in the day. The Trailway wasn't bad but it took effort to navigate the puddles. Then it turns out the city limits of Placentia are some 10 km before the actual town.

Then there is the nature of the town. Placentia is on both sides of a steep-sided fjord. The setting is very dramatic and beautiful and steep. As are the roads. This is ironic as downtown Placentia is built on a low-lying sand bar at the mouth of the fjord. However to get to it, the roads do a lot of up and down. Prior to descending, I visited the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism office aimed at people getting off the ferry. There, I scored a map of Placentia as I really didn't want to make an unnecessary climb!

I then visited Castle Hill National Historic Site using my Parks Canada pass acquired in Dawson City (about as far as you can get in. Canada!). This was all about the French presence in Placentia (Plaisance pour les francophones) which ended in 1713 and the treaty of Utrecht. The French in their manner built several small forts to defend the entrance to the Fjord from the English and the Dutch. Afterwards, the British pretty much neglected the place, only paying attention when wars broke out. Standing on the ruins, I couldn't help feel that it would have been a miserable place to be a French soldier in 1700. The light rain rain helped this thought. The walls were substantial and thought of hauling the stones, cannons, etc, up to the location (some 100 m above the sea) made me glad I wasn't around back then.

I rolled down to Placentia proper where I found Philip's Café. This was a welcome relief from both the rain and Newfoundland's...typical cuisine. It was also associated with my B&B (Rosedale Manor B&B) as both were owned by the same people and breakfast is served in the Café. The two are separated by less than a kilometre and a lift bridge. They also form two of three food and lodging entries for Placentia in Lonely Planet. Linda recognized me from my cycling grab based on our phone conversations as I went into the Café. I had a simple but good lunch there. I leafed through the selection of books for patrons as I munched. The B&B is great, tastefully decorated by someone who knows when to stop! Seriously, I give the place a rave.

The rain intensified, so the rest of the afternoon was a shower and a toes up. Ferry tomorrow.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

On a dirt road

As many of readers know, I am a world class worrier. Because of the limitations of my Atlantic Canada back road atlas and Google Maps, I only found out a few days ago that a portion of Route 81 between Colinet and Whitbourne is unpaved. This filled me with worry as I don't recall having ever ridden for significant distances on a dirt road in Newfoundland. The Trailway, yes and that once involved my front wheel sinking halfway to the axle. What's more, the dirt bit was near the end of a day estimated at 130 km. Given my poor apparent performance on the two previous days over shorter distances and rumours of rain, I was worried and pondered various alternatives.

In the end, I went ahead and just did it. I hoped that rounding the corner going mostly North, I'd get the wind at my back.

The day started with a climb up to more moorland. There was then a whee down to St-Vincent's Beach. This a bar of pebbles that separates Holyrood fjord from the sea. The beach drops off quickly, so the humpbacks feeding on capelin were within a couple of hundred feet away. I couldn't get an accurate count but I'd guess the range as being three to eight. They cruised slowly parallel to the beach dragging a gaggle of spectators including some of the people I had breakfast with at the B&B! They were a family of three from Newfoundland. The college age daughter was devotee of whales. I didn't stay too long given the length of my ride.
(This is an experiment at getting pictures straight from the iPhone to the blog.)

Once across the bar, I found the town of St-Vincent's a hive of activity as they celebrated Whale Fest 2017, a town reunion for all those people who have moved away. It was time an elevenses, so I discretely approached the parish hall where a community brunch was being served, free of charge. I asked if I, come from away, might get a cup of coffee and was welcomed in.

The road turned inland after that and the wind was in my favour. I made St-Mary's in good time and found some lunch. A woman smoking outside recognized me as having been in Trepassey the night before. No secrets in these parts! ;-)

After lunch, I flew along through what I suddenly realized was what I had expected the day before: a road going through woods consisting mostly of black spruce. My speed was hastened by a call of nature that led to me barely stopping until St-Catherine's. This was also where I turned off the more important Route 90, and onto the 91. After 13 km of that, I turned onto the feared 81 at Colinet. 

I needn't have feared. It was quite hard packed and with relatively few potholes and washboarding. Traction was good, so with the South wind, I zipped along. The drivers on the that bit of road went far beyond courtesy. They slowed right down to avoid showering me with dust. One driver came up behind so carefully, I felt obliged to wave him forwards. "I'm okay! I know you're there. Go, it is safe to pass."

I made an attempt to reciprocate the courtesy by stopping when I came across a couple of ATVs being examined by a couple of old men. Their stance suggested a mechanical problem, so I inquired if there was anything I could do for them. The issue was too much antifreeze and they thought they had a solution. I left them to it.

The map indicated there was a winery near Markland nearly at Whitbourne, so I kept my eyes open. Quite a bit after the pavement restarted, I found the Rodrigues Winery. It feature bio-everything fruit wines which are even kosher and sulfite-free. It is located in an unusual building that I only figured out halfway through my visit: it was a former country hospital, complete with the old signs and some of the old equipment. Some parts seemed like a museum. 

I had arrived a few minutes after the official closing time so it was with some trepidation that I went in, especially as I had remembered my cousin Mike's grumbling about the "problem" of cyclists at his winery in Prince Edward County where the Parents and I had stayed in between Toronto and Montreal. "They eat everything in sight, drink lots of water and don't buy any wine." Evidently, this winery doesn't have that many cyclists passing by as I was made very welcome. After paying, I sampled a number of the wines. I thought the raspberry wine worked best, but there wasn't a chance I would buy one.

I chatted with the two ladies (one young, one about fifty) who tidying up. I had to ask about the name as Rodrigues isn't your average Newfoundland name. (All due respect.) I voiced my suspicion that it had a Portuguese or Spanish origin. It turns out that it was founded by Hilary Rodrigues, who is of Portuguese descent by way of India! He is a dentist who came to Newfoundland and ended up coming to work and live here. He still practices part time but in the mid-nineties he founded the winery. 

At some point, I had to explain that I had come from the South, meaning the 81. I suspect the younger woman isn't fully local as it took her a bit to get what I was saying. Also, once she did, she wouldn't take her car down that road, a notion the older woman pooh-poohed given the good weather. As I left, the older one gave me a packet of the place's own brand of energy bites on the house.

Markland became Whitbourne and I stopped to get some milk at the grocery store. The two men had evidently fixed the ATV as they were just coming out. We exchanged greetings. I had wait for a bit at the cash because of some glitch requiring the manager or owner. The time gave the man in front of me who was in his mid-fifties a chance to look me up and down. This caused him to remark: "Someone's a science fiction fan!" I was wearing my Star Trek jersey which looks like the wearer is a member of the crew from the original series. He confessed to being a serious collector of memorabilia and suggested I go to the Avalon sci-fi convention about to be held. I think I gave a polite though noncommittal answer. The young woman at the cash refused to be engaged by the man's talk saying she didn't care about Star Wars. (sic) ;-)

My motel was on the Trans-Canada Highway. However, it was that prominently marked, so I when didn't see by the end of the strip of commerces, I went into the tourism office to double check. I had indeed passed it. Luckily, it was only a couple of hundred meters back. 

As I checked in, the receptionist asked if I wanted to stay two nights because there is supposed to be a storm tomorrow. I had to grin at this, as the last time I was here, Margo, Chris and I would have stayed here on account of the pissing rain, only there was no vacancies. Instead, we went to an efficiency unit Dildo. (We consumed a pound of bacon in two meals, so as we left, I quipped: "I hope the next people aren't Jewish or Muslims!" on account of the lingering smell.)

I am not going to stay as it is only 44 km to Placentia. I had booked a room there last night on account of the forecast, giving Brigus and Cupids a pass.

I am feeling sore but satisfied.

Friday, 28 July 2017

On humpbacks and contrary winds

The Newfoundlander tendency to chat and gossip delayed departure somewhat. Also, rather than leaving Ferryland directly, I left three bags at the B&B and rode out to the lighthouse. 

Along the way, I saw some of the archeologists at work on the Colony of Avalon site. A little further, I saw a whale surface just inside the harbour or Pool. Oh another minke. Wait a minute, I can see large white fins on either side. Stop. Grab camera. Take a picture of the humpback whale. Not one iota of doubt that the cetacean in question was other than a megaptera novaeangliae or mega-winged New Englander. I just checked my camera and I got a good shot that shows the long white fins. Unfortunately, I can't post it until get to computer.

It was very cool to see and know that I'd seen such an iconic animal. I had heard that humpbacks were in the area but I didn't think I'd see one so close to shore. 

The first half of the day was more of the same: steep hills in succession and head winds. After Cappahayden, the road went inland and into gently rising moorlands and headwinds. It was getting colder and I donned a jacket. 

Near the top of a rise I saw another cyclist come into view going the other way. We stopped to chat. He was from St-John's and was doing the Irish Loop as a short camping tour. He expressed surprise that he hadn't seen any other cyclists. I voiced my recently formed opinion that most cyclists had more sense than to try it. He was amused at my  griping. He was obviously an enthusiastic Newfoundland cycle-tourist and suggested that Deer Lake to Anse-Aux-Meadows was a great ride with predictable tailwind. I asked how one would get back. He indicated one simply put the bike on the bus. Idea for another time.

A little further, the land started to descend to the sea at Portugal Cove South. Still going against the wind, I rolled down to very welcome visitor centre where I got a hot chocolate which I sipped in chair as the display area said no food or drink. One of the older ladies asked me why I didn't go in? I pointed out the sign. She told me to go in anyway. The displays dealt mostly with the Mistaken Point fossil beds (UNESCO heritage site). It also dealt with local history and shipwrecks connected with Cape Race. The Titanic was one of them thanks to the local radio station.

There was a board on the wall with the recent wildlife sightings. These included "capelin roiling" on the nearby beach. I set out for said beach (it was on my way). The capelin were long longer roiling or spawning, and in fact not doing anything except rotting. Now I knew what the whales had been after.

It wasn't too long after that, that I got to Trepassey.

Tomorrow will be a long day, but I should be getting some tailwinds. Here's to hoping.