Thursday, 7 September 2017

On good and bad news relating to my trip to the Yukon

I fibbed a bit in the first version of this entry about my trip to the Yukon. At Margo's request on behalf of Louise, I had left out my guessing that Louise is pregnant. At that point, it was still early days and Louise, for all her virtues and abilities is something of a worrier. Being a worrier myself, I can very easily relate to her anxiety. If I remember correctly, the baby is due in January, which of course is a fine month to be born in.  As Louise's status is now been released to general public, I have updated the entry.  I wish her and Thomas all the best.
The bad news is I got an email from Margo today saying that David, Karen's husband, has died. He was the one I went on a short hike near Whitehorse with. Apparently, he was hiking in Scotland and suffered a heart attack on the West Highland Way. While he was no spring chicken, he was full of life when I met him barely two months ago. He will be mourned and missed by many.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

On recent biking related articles in the news

Well, first off, it seems that Montreal bike cops have just proven their chops with the arrest of a drug dealer who was on the American most wanted list.  This not only garnered them kudos from local media, but also the BBC. *

 The BBC also had an interesting article about the relative suitability of biking clothes as regards MAMILs and their ilk. I am afraid it kind of misses the point at one level, namely the posterior level. Assuming you are doing more cycling than puttering around town, going on longer rides will be much more pleasant with proper bike shorts. Not necessarily tight lycra, but something appropriate. Also, it delves into European bike commuters in contrast to British MAMILs which fails to recognise the fact that Europe has a great many MAMILs of its own. It is simply that they make up a lesser percentage of the overall cycling population.
* I don't bother with American news sources, but they have likely covered it. Part of me wants to look at Fox News coverage to see what umbrage about the Northern hippy cops they can extract. It is a small and ignorable part.

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 it with me in the dome. Unfortunately, it had been raining so there was water on the windows so the photos weren't very 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 manoeuvred 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 took a ferry 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 of Canada, 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 to 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 small 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 relate 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 not 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 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 I 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 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 a 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 Smokey. 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". Someone 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 bird 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, I 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.

* a.k.a. stopping to rest

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 and ferry.

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 me that it would be fun to use a bit of the Trailway, especially as the feared rain was much less than what 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 from Placentia 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...vernacular 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 my 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 ocean proper. The beach drops off quickly, so the humpback whales 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.

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 the restaurant 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 were 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 Hillary 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 wasn't a true 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 wasn't 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, known locally as the Pool. Oh another minke. Wait a minute, I can see very long white fins on either side.


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 grumbling.

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 a chair in the lobby area as the display area said no food or drink. One of the older ladies at the desk 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 which was the first to receive its distress signals. 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.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

On a day saved by antiquities and the antics of marine mammals.

Today was gorgeous: sunny, hot, not humid and few clouds. Before I left the city limits, I had changed into a sleeveless jersey and taken off my tights. Unfortunately, the prevailing winds were against me as was the layout of the landscape and the roads. There were an excessive number of steep hills made annoying by the presence of the Atlantic which it was a case of up, down, up, down.

 I had also a time pressure issue as I wanted to get to Ferryland before 4 in order to check into my B&B and take a tour of the Colony of Avalon. I made it but the pressure took a bit away from the day.

The Colony of Avalon was the first official permanent English settlement on the island started 1608 or so by the man who become Lord Baltimore and also founded Maryland. It was latter handed over to the Kirke family as a reward for capturing Quebec in about 1628. They ran it very well. So well in fact that it was twice captured by the French and once by the Dutch. It wasn't entirely clear why it fell out of favour, though I suspect St-John's made a better place from which to administer this here island.

I was given a tour by an liberal arts student majoring in French who wasn't the best person to given a tour to someone like me who knew far more about 17th century England than she did. ;-) I was impressed at the amount of stonework used in the houses. I would have thought wood would have been any easier material to work with. However, there was something I hadn't been aware of: the ground is quite acidic and plant material is rarely preserved. The guide asked a passing archeologist who was at the end of her day about the "wood" question. It turned out she had actually found a piece of wood the day before and was quite excited about it! I was also intrigued by the fact that they hadn't found the cemetery. I think a sweep by ground penetrating radar might help or by asking a geologist with a background in archeology.

Supper was at a restaurant best described as nothing special except for what it called its million dollar view. I can't quibble with that as I was entertained by the playful antics of marine mammals (to borrow language from Stephen), viz two or three balaenoptera acutorostrata or common minke whales. I get the impression that minkes are hanging out close to shore this summer to the delight of the livyers and those "come from away".

On what I am doing in St-John's

I don't think I wrote an entry on what this trip is about. So I will rectify the situation. I am in St-John's more or less set to depart for Halifax via the Argentia ferry and the Cabot Trail. In Halifax, I will meet up with Philip, Dominique and Désirée from where we will travel by train back to Montréal.

This is an indulgence on my part as I have paid for our tickets back and my Via Rail points have paid for their tickets to Halifax. The latter bit was caused by three trips on the Canadian * and several trips to Toronto and back. It is about me wanting to give Désirée (and to lesser extent Dominique and Philip) a really memorable experience. I was her age when Grandpa took us to Scotland.

Also in the plan was taking the time to enjoy St-John's. I have been blessed with good weather for Newfoundland. It has been gorgeous so far except for rain yesterday which was an opportunity to do indoor activities without feeling I was wasting good weather.

I started with the Catholic cathedral of St-John the Baptist (having done the Anglican one the day before). It struck me as over-large but the tour guide said she'd seen it jammed with 4000 people or so. Interestingly, it features an icon or set of icons featuring Our Lady of Fatima and her now-canonised witnesses. It was given by Portugal or at least her fishermen who frequented the Grand Banks and St-John's back in 1955 when the gift was made as a centenary present for Cathedral. The guide betrayed her biases by saying the Portuguese fishers identified with the "oppressed" Irish Catholic Newfoundlanders. I couldn't help but point out that Portugal is (and was) a very Catholic country. She said the fishermen were being exploited by the Portuguese upper classes. They probably were, but I had to refrain from pointing out that one of the tools the Portuguese dictator of the time (Salazar I believe) were the three "F"s which were allowed to dominate the media as they were safe: Football, Fado and...Fatima. She said the shrine was a favourite with her kids and that was easy to understand as the figures were toy sized and shaped. Pretty much the rest of the Cathedral was built large. Unlike its Anglican counterpart, the Cathedral was set in a large complex of buildings supporting Catholicism in Newfoundland including a college or high school.

 Also nearby was the Rooms. This is in essence the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. Designed to evoke the simple fishing shacks in outports known as "rooms", the building has two main parts whose red-roofs dominate the skyline. One half is an art gallery, the other a museum.

I started with the museum which gave prominence to an exhibit about the tragic story of the Newfoundland Regiment in WWI where in about one hour on July 1, 1916, it suffered 90% casualties, which may have resulted in a genetic bottleneck in Newfoundland.

There were other good exhibits, though the label of a whale skull should have had more than the Latin name for the minke whale! Also, I found that labelling a skidoo as belonging to the Inuit culture as a bit much.

Maybe it was the proximity to the Catholic Cathedral, but I found there was an Irish Catholic bias to the presentation. I also felt the need to bone up on my pre-Confederation Newfoundland history.

I went into a nearby Sobey's in search of milk and ziplock baggies. While I was there, I overheard a mainlander couple talking about whether their lodgings had a microwave. This would have not been significant except it turned out they were sharing accommodations with me, something we only found out when we got home. They were a couple of school teachers from Winnipeg. We had a good chat over some Quiddy Viddy beers.

Later that evening and against my better judgement, I got screeched-in at Trapper John's on George Street. This involved consuming a small amount of actual baloney ("Newfoundland steak") and a lot of verbal baloney which perpetuated the myth that the green-white-pink tricolour was actually the official flag of the Rock prior to 1949. It also avoided the origins of "true Sreech" (barrel dregs and I can testify that the process results in something harsh). The blarney also romanticised the Newfoundland-Jamaica connection, leaving out the fact that salt fish was food for slaves. Good fun.

Today, I took a trial run out to Pouch Cove. When I got there, I was contemplating the steep boat ramp down to a very narrow inlet, when an older local asked what the gulls were up to? I replied that they were just squabbling. This led to a long conversation about Pouch Cove and its history.

I somehow missed the museums in Torbay and Logy's Bay and made Quidi Vidi in time for the two o'clock brewery tour with tasting. Both the tasting and the tour were underwhelming.

I wanted to get to the gun battery that had protected the 20 foot entry into Quidi Vidi. This involved a circuitous route via the Cuckhold Cove Road. I got as far the Cove when a vista including Cape Spear distracted me. During the photo op, I noticed people gazing out sea, looking at whales. There was a fair number of minke whales in sight. Some of them were so close and so shallow that I could track them underwater with my binoculars from their white underbellies. That pretty much ended my afternoon.

I never did find the battery.

Ferryland tomorrow.

*My talking about the Canadian at work has resulted in a co-worker going a vacation with her family which will include taking the Canadian from Edmonton to Vancouver. I have given a lot of advice.

Monday, 24 July 2017

On my first 24 hours in St-John's

Getting to my plane for this jaunt took a lot out of me. I think it was depression talking or maybe just a relative lack of prep. The flight itself was great with clear weather and a left hand seat on the plane that allowed me to see North Hatley and St-Pierre et Miquelon.

 Getting from St-John's Airport was so quick and smooth that within an hour of getting my luggage, I was hoisting a pint of Quidi Vidi IPA in the Duke of Duckworth, as made even more famous in "The Republic of Doyle" TV show. I had made the "mistake" of binge watching the last two seasons in the last two months, so I keep on expecting an old Pontiac GTO to surge over the crest of a hill. ;-) This is a reference to the private eye show set in St-Johns'. Actually, I am beginning to think someone could make money with a Republic of Doyle tour of St-John's.

That was yesterday.

Today was also full of sunshine. I assembled Leonardo, gathered information and moseyed around the town in an aimless fashion. My path took me along the harbour. I chanced upon HMCS Glace Bay tied up to a wharf. Glace Bay is a Kingston-class coastal defence vessel that can be configured for a variety of missions such as mine hunting and the like. They are small vessels, not intended for serious conflict. However, there was something about her that made me ask one of officers an important question: "Where was her main gun?" In theory, she was supposed to be armed with a 40 mm Bofors gun in what is termed a "Boffin" mount. Her answer was typical of today's RCN. The Bofors were now too old, having references to King George on their inspection plates. So the Navy is in the process of replacing the guns, but for the time being HMCS Glace Bay is conducting fisheries patrols with out her main gun, hoping that a pair of fifty caliber machine guns (which might be just as old) will suffice to overawe fishing boats.

As I was reassembling Leonardo this morning, a pickup truck parked outside my lodgings and a man in uniform got out. He was wearing a knife and/or bullet resistant vest marked "Sheriff" in large white letters. He walked off. From "the Republic of Doyle", I had learnt of the existence of sheriffs in Newfoundland but knew squat about how they fitted into the Newfoundland and Labrador justice system. I filled this thought away until the afternoon when as I was coming out of my lodgings and the same sherif was going out to his truck. I took the direct approach and asked him. It seems sheriffs are agents of the provincial courts and do things like prisoner transports and serving warrants or writs to appear in court.

Items forgotten so far are a T-shirt for sleeping in and a universal plug. Both omissions have been rectified, the former by a 2XL "Bat-moose" logo T-shirt and the latter by a test-run trip on Leonardo to Canadian Tire. I came back via Quidi Vidi.

On Canada Day in Whitehorse and tangential references to Newfoundland and a niece

My tendency to procrastinate has meant that I am going to write this entry on my trip to the Yukon while in St-Johns'.

Plan A for Canada Day had been to drive to Kluane National Park and back. However, the forecast was for low cloud and rain. Furthermore, I was getting tired of driving so I decided to give it a miss and take in the Canada celebrations in and out of Whitehorse. 

Whitehorse, being territorial capital, put on a pretty good shindig. The RCMP and the military were out, the former in red serge and the latter in red sweatshirts. By this I refer to a party of Canadian Rangers whose uniform consists of red sweatshirts and camouflage pants. The RCMP was showing off their "latest" squad car, namely a classic VW Beetle. I got to sit inside and got someone to take a shot of me. I don't remember being in a Beetle though I am reliably informed by my parents that my first trip in a car was in one as that was what they owned when I was born. Family lore says I was at times transported in a cot that was placed in the storage area behind the back seats. I had never really given this much thought aside from thinking "how times have changed with regards to child safety." However, I used the opportunity to check out this area. There was indeed a space that "just begged" for baby storage. ;-) (This is not meant as a criticism of my parents.) 

I also rode in Whitehorse's trolley which offers limited service.

Other highlights included a salmon on bannock sandwich from the Kwalin Dun Cultural Centre and a performance by the Inuvik Drummers and Dancers dressed in their show anoraks. This performance of traditional Inuit dances made me think just what a harsh environment they live in. How many other cultures have special mittens for dancing? ;-) Actually, the mitts were meant to evoke claws or feathers.

In the evening, I went to the Mount Lorne community party with Karen. It was free burgers and potluck salads. The local firefighters showed off their truck. I had to what the two soccer balls were for. As I expected, they were intended for the celebrations. I participated in a tug-of-war and listened to live music. I bought a bottle of beer with supper which I followed later with some Growers Cider. As I returned the cider bottle to the bar, I was asked if I wanted another. I replied, with a certain humour: "No, thank you, I am driving. In fact, I forbid you sell me anymore alcohol." The man was slightly taken aback, but the woman assisting him was faster on the uptake and said: "I'm a witness to what he said."

The only thing of note was that on the trip back to Montreal, I watched a documentary about Gordon Pinsent that I heard about on Karen's radio in an interview with the noted actor and the second most important person born in Grand Falls-Windsor. Alice's Anna being the most important one. I have been accused of being biased on this point. I take the view that certain biases are acceptable provided you are open about it. ;-) Actually, I think that Gordon would accept the reason behind my bias.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

On getting back to Whitehorse

I had missed the startof the Dempster Highway on my way to Dawson City, so I stopped to look at the information displays about it on my way South. I was amused to see a printout thumbtacked to the woodwork warning cyclists about an agressive grizzly that had been spotted along the Highway. It seems that biking the Dempster is not that rare a trek!
I stopped to gaze at the Five Fingers Rapids. After several false starts in order to return to the car for such things as bear spray, water, rain jacket, bug dope, camera, I hiked down to a view point. The trees were mostly quite close to the path and lacking a bear bell, I whistled and sang my way along to avoid surprising a bear. The path led to a vantage point just beside the river. I looked out at the massive rocks and marvelled at how people had steered riverboats through the one navigable gap between them.
I did the obligatory selfie and returned to the car.
Just as I was pulling out the parking lot, I caught sight of some boats coming around a bend in the river. These, I guessed were participants in the Yukon River Quest, a race for canoes and kayaks from Whitehorse to Dawson City. I returned to the parking lot, informed the other tourists and stood on the view platform with binoculars and camera at the ready. You can see them above the spit of land near the far bank as some blobs. As I left, I photobombed a group of Holland-American cruise liner passengers who had alighted from their bus for a photo op.
I pulled into the Coalmine Campground for lunch only to find the parking lot full of RVs. I parked near the canteen. An older woman in a high-viz vest challenged me with the question: "Are you here for the River Quest or the canteen?"  I said the canteen and was allowed to leave my car where I had parked it. It seems that the Campground was a checkpoint and mandatory rest stop for the Yukon River Quest. While the management enjoyed the River Quest business, they wanted to make it easy for canteen customers to park. I did allow as how I intended to take a gander at the proceedings as well as eat, but she didn't mind.
The River Quest was quite the affair and I looked around and spent a few minutes looking at a board with names of the teams and which category they belonged to. The categories were described by letters and number such as C2 and K1. I deduced quite quickly that "C2" meant "2 person Canoe", but was take aback by "VC8". After scratching my head a bit, I came up with "8 person Voyageur Canoe". I asked a member of the staff if I was correct. She said I was, and ask if had I figured out "SUP"? I sheepishly said I hadn't tried. She said it was for "Stand-Up Paddleboard"! The idea of stand-up paddleboarding for 700 kms struck me as masochistic, but that wasn't my problem!
I got to Whitehorse in time to visit the Yukon Transportation Museum. The museum suffered from having too many "don't touch the artifacts" signs and not enough signs saying what the artifacts were. It did have a nice panel about a proposed bike route from Skagway to Whitehorse circa 1900.

The idea was risible in the extreme and consequently, it didn't happen. Afterwards, I had supper at the Kopper King (immortalised in Stan Rogers' Canol Road) then a soak at the Takahni Hot Springs.

The next morning, I had the worst experience of my trip. I had gone into the Yukon Liquor store in search of some liquid souvenirs. I was in the process of purchasing a couple of bottles of what turned out to be disappointing booze, when a First Nations woman came in and was brusquely told by a staff member that no backpacks were allowed in the store. She promptly turned around showing she was wearing a tiny backpack and walked out the door. The thing was, I was just about to put my purchases into my quite large backpack that I had been openly and casually wearing as I wander up and down the aisles looking for something interesting. I felt extremely uncomfortable at what seemed to be open racism. And being a weak-willed coward, I didn't say a damn thing on the off chance that it was a case of someone with whom the staff had frequently had trouble and who had been given many warnings in the past. But it sure didn't feel right.

In the afternoon, I drove out to see David, Karen's amicably divorced ex-husband. He is currently in a shack next to a house that he co-owns with Karen. The house is in the process of being moved to foundations on higher ground as the level of the lake it is next to is rising.
I was impressed that the contractors were First Nations.
David is a character. He was going to take me on a hike nearby, though owing to a bad ankle, we cut it down to a fairly sedate walk up a gravel road. He regaled me with the names of countless mountains, valleys and hikes they had been on, of which I made no attempt to remember but merely smiled politely. One place we might have hiked was on land controlled by a mining company which had a sign asking people to report in, just in case. David told me that one time he had checked in with a mining company in order to go on a hike, he had ended up getting a job there as he had a degree in mining engineering! A few hundred metres up the gravel road, I spotted an area with numerous signs of recent human occupation. We looked around and did some observational archeology trying to figure just what had been going on there. My guess that people used the spot for celebrations, and had been for some time as there was cut timber which had been exposed to the weather for varying lengths of time. There was also an iron bedstead wedged into several trees. I would have said that it had been used for barbecueing meat, but there wasn't any signs of a fire being lit under it. Whoever they were, they deserve credit for leaving very little garbage.

We walked up the road for a few kilometers then turned around. As we neared David and Karen's pickup, I noticed a bright orange piece of plastic on the road. "You know, that looks like the safety cap from a can of bear spray." David agreed and after I checked to see that his can still had it's cap, he inspected mine. (Our cans were on our backpacks, close to hand, but hard to see.) The cap was mine.  (David commented that most people in the Yukon are glad that there are bears around but would rather not have to deal with them.) 
Back at David's cabin, we discussed a range of topics including geology, history, literature, TV. And dog-sledding as David has some 17 huskies.

As David is getting on in years, he is no longer adding new dogs and the average age of his pack is over 10. He introduced me to his pack and I managed to register only one of the names ("Katana"). I did manage to learn quite a lot about dog-sledding including a titbit he learnt from a professional racer when he was asked on TV about what qualities he looked for in a sled dog. He said he wanted a dog that could rest. David explained that almost all huskies can run well. However, huskies that can stop running and lie down and rest quickly are good as they recover their strength. He illustrated this by giving the example of one of his dogs who was always somewhat crazy and didn't settle down. (I met that particular dog and can testify that it was on the wild side.) He also had a very good eye for dog flesh and described Sirrus as having the makings of a good sled dog.

In dealing with the pack as well as several other huskies on this trip, I was struck by how much body language huskies have available. The mobility of their ears and the position of their tails make it relatively easy to figure out where they are emotionally.
In our historical discussions, David put forward his opinion that the Umbrella Final Agreement (a comprehensive and progressive land claims settlement signed in 1992) was one of the two significant events in Yukon history, the other being the Klondike gold rush. I agreed that both of them must be considered significant but thought that he should add a third event, namely the construction of the Alaska Highway. Before then, travel to and in the Yukon had been either very difficult or reliant on transportation companies (i.e. riverboats, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, or aircraft). Afterwards, individuals could easily drive in and out of the area. I reinforced my argument by pointing out that it was shortly after the opening of the Alaska Highway that the capital of the Yukon was moved from Dawson to Whitehorse which then stood at the juncture of three major transportation networks (the railroad, the Yukon River and the Highway). He conceded the point adding that he had arrived in Whitehorse on a motorcyle via the then unpaved Alaska Highway in about 1980.

(In the interest of full disclosure, earlier in this blog, I referred to the three important events in the history of the Yukon. I got the notion from this conversation with David and claim only the addition of the Alaska Highway as being even remotely original.)
When I got back to Karen's, she and Kendra were setting off with Affry and Sirrus to go bike skijoring. This means the dogs were pulling the bikes that Karen and Kendra were riding. I must confess I felt nervous for them, but they seemed quite happy, especially the dogs!

Friday, 21 July 2017

On getting my word in at work

I have been biking to work for eighteen years now. In that time, I have often thought that the bike parking at the building was sub-optimal. (The building and its surrounding roads and parking lots were designed in the mid-eighties and reflect the suburban thinking of the time.) For most of that time, there was only one bike rack and its design reflected a time when bikes weren't locked. I have quietly endeavoured to advocate better bike parking arrangements.

This summer, the back parking lots of the building are being remade. This afternoon, I was asked to consult with the project manager about where bike racks would be best located and oriented. I was more than happy to contribute!!!!  The project manager got my perspective on the matter of bike parking, and accepted my advice within the constraints of the project.

I feel chuffed.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

On Dawson City

Dawson City is an odd place. It was a nothing place until the Goldrush which caused the population to reach 40,000 in 1898 (more than the current population of the whole Yukon). Yet within 5 five years, the population fell to less than 5,000. Moreover, within ten years or so, the nature of the place underwent a shift from a town of sourdough prospectors to a territorial capital with pretensions of grandeur, electricity and corporate bigwigs. Individual claims were replaced by large mining concessions using equipment on a massive scale. Yet the image of Dawson is that of the sourdough. However, precious little of that is actually around. The buildings, in various states of repair, are those of the Edwardian era Dawson which slowly faded as 20th century wore on. This process was hastened when Whitehorse became the capital in 1953.  Pierre Berton made an NFB film in 1957 called City of Gold which describes the fading town. Berton and his works have contributed heavily to Dawson City now enjoying a new life of tourism playing on the past, but the past being promoted is very much a sepia-toned one. Not that it is the only past being shown as if I see other pasts, then so might others, even if they don't have my background in history. For one thing, there is now a very conscious effort to get the First Nations version of events put out.

One example of this confused spirit might be where I stayed, Bombay Peggy's Inn and Pub. It is named after a brothel owner who was active as late as the 1930s if my guess about her picture is anything to go by. The inside of the building is done up in pseudo-Victorian splendour. The Inn offers complimentary private label sherry or port to its guests. The pub offers a list of cocktails which bears scrutiny as the names are often the only inventive thing about them. I give you the example of the "Bloomer Dropper" which consists of gin, vermouth and olive. This cocktail is better known as the Martini. When I pointed this out to the bartender, he shrugged and brought my attention to the "Spank me I'm naughty" which he said was in fact a cosmopolitan. I will give them credit for their Dark and Stormy which featured spiced rum and Crabbie's (alcoholic) Ginger Beer.
The down side of staying there was that bar patrons would exit the building for a smoke and have loudish conversations late at night. Or more accurately, very late in the evening as the Sun set at around a quarter to one in the morning. The above photograph was taken after I was woken up at half-past midnight.
The only paved street in town was the Klondike Highway and I couldn't help wonder if this was because it gave the place a frontier atmosphere and created a rationale for the wooden sidewalks! I was also surprised by the presence of a pedicab!
In the morning, I walked over to the ferry landing to bear witness to a line of some two dozen RVs waiting to cross so they could drive the Top of the World Highway to Alaska. My guess is that they were in for a long wait as the small ferry gave priority to other vehicles, such as those of the Transport Ministry. I got on the ferry just for fun and the only RV to get on was one that had been taken out of sequence as it was fairly small!
I spent the day seeking out various historic sights, including a Parks Canada tour of downtown which went inside several old buildings and included "chance" encounters with Mme Tremblay, a renactress of a past era.

One of the things on my list for Dawson was dredge Number 4. This is the largest wooden dredge in the world, which probably means less than it sounds. It was described as being 8 stories tall and the pins linking its buckets together in a chain were over a ton each. It was a floating factory with no means of propulsion (its position was controlled by cables attached to anchor points on land) or indeed power source (it was powered by electricity generated many miles away, supplied by wires). It was a study in contradictions. It only took 4 people to operate it, but required about a hundred to keep it going as in order to scoop up the ore-bearing gravel, there was a lot of prep work to be done. It was up Bonzana Creek (site of the initial discovery) and the stream I saw as I drove up was small. It seems that it sat in a pond of its own creation, one which it could bring with it by eating up the ground in front and spewing it out behind. Yet however massive it was, it worked on the same placer mine principle as the sourdough miners used. Gold bearing gravel was shifted, shaken and washed and the gold sank to the bottom. It operated until the winter layover of 1959-1960. In the spring of 1960, a dam broke upstream of the dredge and it was flooded with water, gravel and sand. The owners decided it wasn't worth salvaging and wrote it off. It is now property of Parks Canada.
 The shack housing the admissions booth for the Dredge featured a mining pan and a satellite dish on the wall! The tour showed us and let us handle a one-ounce nugget of gold.

There was a mining operation just up the creek that was re-shifting the gravel in the hopes of finding more gold, that which two previous efforts had missed. As I drove down past spoil heaps of gravel, I wondered if the gravel might be useful as "pre-mined" construction material. I then thought of the issue of the residual gold content which would have made it too valuable to use for road building! This prompted me to stop and gather up some sand for Dominique!

Back in town, I went on a tour of the former Commissioner's Residence (the Commissioner being the territorial equivalent of a provincial lieutenant governour). More Edwardian splendour and more Parks Canada reenactors giving vignets of the past, particularly the 1900s when Dawson City was transitioning from sourdough to corporate mining.
Like much of Dawson, it was a ghost of the past.

Me being me, I went to the museum and found out more about the odd history of Dawson. I was also fascinated by the railway annex featuring several old narrow gauge locomotives that had been used for a few years then abandonned for the amusement of children such as Pierre Berton. I was fascinated by the inner wheels of one of the locomotives which lacked the normal flanges seen on train wheels to keep them on the rails. The locomotive in question featured four linked driving axles. As the railway was probably quite winding, the relatively long, rigid wheel base would not have been able to cope with the curves unless the middle axles were allowed to shift. I had read about such arrangements, but this was first time I saw it.

All through the day, I kept on seeing and talking to cycle-tourists including a couple of young lads from Vancouver, a Japanese man about 7 years into his trip and an Italian.
I felt a little sheepish for not having invented a way to make the trip into bike expedition. However, que sera, sera.

While having supper in the Drunken Goat Taverna, I found I was sitting next to a colourful local character called Larry. He claimed he lived by hunting, trapping and piloting barges on the Yukon River. There is still commercial traffic on the River which as I expected consists mostly of heavy equipment for mines and fuel. Larry seemed almost too colourful to be real. He claimed not to have much education with the exception of a fascination for Robert Service. He asked me with a straight face if I knew any of Service's work. I answered "There are strange things done in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold."

I ended the day by going to Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall. This features gambling and can-can dancers. It was a surreal experience. The dancers were putting on a show that was obviously done for the tourists. Yet in this day and age, tourists know that such things are only done for their benefit. Compounding the mix is the fact that burlesque is now viewed as a feminist statement. So who was fooling who?
The confusion didn't prevent me from posing with the dancers. However, as I was standing at the back, I didn't get asked to join them on stage like some other patrons.

Later that evening, I stopped in the Downtown Hotel where the fabled Sourtoe Cocktail is served. I managed to avoid having one. In fact, I managed to avoid having anything there as the atmosphere was more akin to a themed bar on a cruise ship than anything else.