Lou and I had been talking about taking a bicycle tour of Nova Scotia ever since our last adventure to Yellowstone Park. In fact, Lou inspired the idea before his move to Georgia.
I called Lou to ask him if he was ready to do it. Lou agreed that his arthritis was in remission and that it might be a good time to make it happen.
The Canada National Tour Agency helped me to arrange accommodations for the ladies. The plan was to set them up in towns that were roughly one hundred miles apart. That way we could see each other every other day.
Lou and I signed up with a tour company called Atlantic Canada Cycling via the Internet. ACC is a one-man company run by Gary Conrad. Gary has ridden his bike on nearly every road in Nova Scotia. He has even published a book on traveling by bike in Nova Scotia. This tour was different from others I had taken. In the states, a supported tour will provide meals, but this tour did not. It accommodated our equipment, provided campgrounds, and a route map. A SAG (Support and Assistance Group) vehicle roamed the route providing us with water and aid if we needed it. I reviewed a map of Nova Scotia and saw that the shoreline was loaded with small towns. I assumed we could find meals at restaurants along the way without difficulty. Remember what they say about the word assume? If you assume you can make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” Well, I made an ass out of myself anyway, because the availability of eating-places did not materialize.
Gary enlisted the assistance of two people to help him with the tours. Kim drove the SAG wagon and ran chores, while Nathan loaded and unloaded the truck and hauled our equipment and Gary’s mobile office from campground to campground. Nathan was a second year college student studying finance. He was not in a hurry to finish school, and his goal was to enjoy life before settling into a lifetime career. Kim was from Australia. She had just completed school, and was on a working holiday. Soon she would return to Australia to become a schoolteacher. After graduation, she took a year off to enjoy snow boarding in the mountains of Canada. The snow was gone so she joined Gary’s crew. She lovingly nick named me “Bubble Boy” after the windscreen on my recumbent bicycle. After she met Barb, she referred to the two of us as Bubble Boy and Bob. She pronounced Barb’s name Bob.
We had ten months to train for the trip, but both Lou and I procrastinated until the last weeks to get in shape. Training for the trip, Lou conditioned himself on the hills of Georgia by doing interval training to build up leg strength. He built distance stamina by riding a trail near Atlanta. I rode regularly on the Old Plank Road Trail near my house and commuted to work. I also rode a little bit more often with my bicycle club. By the time we left for Canada I had logged one thousand miles, but felt grossly under prepared.
Lou and Delores drove from Dahlonega, Georgia to Maine for the ferry crossing.
Barb and I drove from Frankfort to Bar Harbor, Maine for the same ferry crossing. We both took our cars across on the ferry. The plan called for the girls to use Lori’s car since she would do all of the driving. Barb and I were going further north to Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island after the bike tour so we wanted our car with us.
We met for the first time in a long time on the ferry. Even though I had seen Lou in Tinley Park on business, we had not seen each other as couples for several years until the ferry.
Barb and I were at the ferry landing very early in the morning. We had arrived in Bar Harbor the day before and spent the night in a motel directly across the road from the ferry landing. We were among the first cars to line up, but our car was the last to get on the ferry because I carried my bike on a roof rack. Because of the extra height, my car required a high ceiling on the ferry. Therefore, even though we were at the ferry very early, we had to wait to board until the very end. If I had a trunk mount rack, I would not have had to pay extra for the bike. The cost for the extra height was $25.00. If I opted to wheel, the bike on board the charge would have been $25.00 more for the bike. The total cost of the ferry over was $200.00. The ferry called the “CAT” is a jet stream propelled boat powered by two 500 HP diesel engines running jet pumps. The boat moves at 50-60 mph across the water even though it is carrying over 200 vehicles, from motorcycles to semi trailers. The jet pumps send out a rooster tail of water that is easily three hundred feet long. It is quite a sight to watch from the shore. The 100-mile journey took just under two hours to complete from dock to dock. This would have been a six-hour journey in a conventional ferry. The weather that day we left was rainy and it stayed that way until well into the next day.
We checked into the Mid Town motel in Yarmouth, NS. Most of the riders checked into this motel. The truck we used for carrying our stuff was located here as well. We parked our car in the airport extended stay lot for a cost of 2.00 per day. The exchange rate at that time was $1.45 Canadian dollars for each US$. The evening of our arrival, Lou provided many of the riders with a service by driving them back from the airport after they took their cars there for the extended parking. The rain and fog continued through the evening before our ride was to begin.
The Adventure begins
Day One. Yarmouth to Villagedale (Sixty miles planned, 81 miles logged)
Our tour was to begin at 9:00 a.m. this morning, but the leader delayed the start because of the heavy fog that had come in off the ocean after the rain. The fog was so heavy I could feel it as a mist. The four of us went to McDonald’s for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and returned to the motel to get ready for the start. The actual start point was at the tourist information center one mile away at the ferry dock. Eventually we rode our bikes to that point and met the remaining riders who had stayed at other hotels. All total there were 35 of us. Everyone was dressed in rain gear and anxious to get started, but we could not see more than a half a block.
I had mapped out a route for Barb and Delores that used many of the country roads that we used in combination with Canada Route One East, also known as the Lighthouse Trail. That night they were to stay in Shelburne 100 miles away, while Lou and I were to camp at Villagedale, the halfway point to Shelburne.
When we finally started out of town, at 10:30 a.m., the fog was still very dense but the traffic on the roads in town was light. Once we left the limits of Yarmouth we were on the HWY1 for a fair distance. It was scary because we had no idea of how well drivers approaching us from the rear could see us. We were using queue sheets and to keep them from deteriorating quickly we kept them in a plastic bag. The highlighted map that Gary provided soon got soggy and the marker ran.
Lou and I figured we would be stopping at quaint little restaurants for our meals. By noon, we were ready for lunch because we had ridden a fair distance and had breakfast so early. The adrenalin was also using up our stores. We were able to find a small museum along the way and in it; was a snack shop that served drinks and pastry. Of course, we devoured a biscuit and what ever else we could find. The museum contained a lot of old fishing equipment and boats. In most places, I would have called it a barn full of junk. Further, up the road we made a decision to pass a small convenience store that sold sandwiches in favor of a short ride into the town of West Pubnico. By now, it was close to 2 o’clock. The short ride was off the course and turned into more like 5 miles. The town was linear and stretched out for about a mile. There were no restaurants but there was a cute little bakery. We stopped to see if they would sell us a loaf of bread. It was our lucky day; inside they had some fried chicken and a local Acadian dish called rappie pie. The locals eat it with molasses spread all over it. Lou opted for the chicken. I wanted to experiment so I asked for the molasses; the lady said, “Are you sure?” I said, ” Yes, I want to eat it the same way you do.” “Okay!” She said. Well I devoured the pie, but it was the most horrible tasting concoction I ever had. The molasses is what ruined a very nice meal. I was hoping the rappie pie was enough to fuel me till the supper stop in a town called Barrington.
By 4:30 that afternoon the sun finally came out as we arrived in a town called Barrington Passage, which is just a few miles from Barrington. We stopped at the local food mart to pick up some sundries that we had forgotten. Neither of us was very hungry at that moment so we opted to ride on to Barrington for the next meal. We passed the golden arches, and a Kentucky fried and several more fast food places. A couple of miles out of town we passed a restaurant, called The Old Schoolhouse, that caught my eye. “I know that name from somewhere,” I said to myself. We kept riding, finally arriving at Barrington famished and ready to eat. The campground was at least another 2-Jo miles away. (Lou coined that phrase because I kept telling him things were only a couple of miles away and it would turn into 5 miles). Barrington turned out to be a linear town, with a single hot dog stand closed for the day by the time we arrived.
At this point I asked Lou if we should cut our losses and return to Barrington Passage to the nice restaurant we passed which was also listed on the queue sheet as the last restaurant of the day, (that’s where I saw it!). Lou wanted to push on and set up at Bayberry Campground in Villagedale, we would see what we could get to eat there. We pushed on to the campground, set up, and found nothing. Therefore, out we rode to find the restaurant again. By now, it was evening and there was a lot more traffic. We kept riding and looking for a place that might resemble a restaurant. We passed a convenience store and stopped to decide, “no, let’s go on its just another Jo-mile away.” We must have passed three tiny convenience stores in favor of the restaurant. We finally arrived at The Old Schoolhouse at 7:30 p.m. Although it was still light out I convinced Lou that if we did go into the place we would not get out until 9:00 p.m. for sure. We did not want to ride back in the dark. Decision made, we trudged on toward Barrington Passage to look for the golden arches. Well, we got to the arches at 8:00 p.m. and wolfed down a Big Mac and fries in a belly aching 15 minutes. The daylight was fading fast but worse a cold fog was rolling in off the ocean. Lou and I set a record getting back the 7 miles to camp in the dark and fog. I noticed a pain in my knee during that ride back. We covered 80 miles our first day out. It was supposed to be 60.
Day 2. Villagedale to Shelburne (Planned 42 miles logged 51 miles)
Both Lou and I had packed dehydrated breakfast foods in our duffle bags. In retrospect, we would have been smarter to use them for supper last night. We took down the tents in a swarm of black flies. I have never seen or felt a black fly in my life, I have only heard of them, but I recognized them the instant they swarmed over me. The first restaurant was either 7 miles back to Barrington Passage or 16 miles up the road through some beautiful country. We chose to go forward. The weather was great, sunny and warm, with very little breeze. I kept looking at my map and queue sheet for the location of the restaurant and the name. Well this one turned out to be a short 5 miles off of the planned route on the main highway, and not easy to find, but we were determined to do it. We arrived for breakfast at 11:00 a.m.
Our destination today was Shelburne where the ladies would meet us and take us out for supper. Lou and I were again the last ones to arrive back at camp. The girls were already there and acquainted with many of the riders who were now their friends. After setting up camp and cleaning up, we drove into town and had a great dinner at a bayside restaurant. The girls had scouted it out during the day. While waiting for service, the wind changed and came in off the ocean making it very cold.
During the day, the ladies had visited the Dory Museum and all of the other attractions the town had to offer. The night before they had watched a local parade. None of the locals seemed to know what the parade was celebrating. They just knew that they had a parade every year at this time. After supper, Lou and I went to a local super market and bought some lunch food for the next day. We loaded up on fruit and canned goods that we could easily convert to a gourmet meal on the road. Of course, now we also had to deal with carrying the weight as well.Day 3. Shelburne to Port Joli (Planned miles 48, logged miles 53)
The girls moved on to Lunenburg, while we rode to Port Joli to stay at Thomas Raddal Provincial Park along the ocean shore. We ran into the girls at several points along the way, as they were sight seeing the many ocean turn-off roads to look for lighthouses. After all, we were on the Lighthouse Trail. It was foggy along the ocean again and the poor visibility kept the lighthouses out of view. Our plan was to stop in a small village at the ocean called Little Harbour. There was a restaurant listed there called the Little Harbour Country Store. We envisioned ourselves sitting in the restaurant with a good meal while looking out at the sea. I also wanted to spend some time at the surf taking ocean photos.
As we rode toward the ocean, we faced a stiff wind in our face but we had some long hills to cut it down somewhat. At the crest of one particularly high hill, Lou and I rested. We agreed that we would draft each other down the hill. Since I had the fairing, I led the way down first. It was a long downhill and our speed hit over 40 mph. I wanted to touch my brakes. My eyes were watering and I could barely see, but as I looked into the rear view mirror, I could see Lou hanging on my wheel. One bad move by me both of us would go down. I moved over in the lane thinking I could break the draft and lose him, but he stuck to me like glue. At the bottom of the hill there was a cross road with a stop sign for the cross traffic. There was a car waiting at the intersection to cross. Does he see us or not? I pulled out to the center of the lane to make us more visible as we bottomed and coasted through. A few more rollers like the last one and we arrived at Little Harbour restaurant. It was out of business. The fog was dense and the chill coming in from the ocean was gripping. We could hear the surf but we could not see it. Since we were better prepared today, we swallowed our oranges and snacks, using the out of business building as a windbreak.
While we were snacking, Kim our SAG driver pulled up with the Jeep and asked if we were okay and if we needed water. I topped off my water bottle with the water she had onboard. Kim left us to find more riders. I finished my snack and took a giant mouthful of fresh water. UGH! I spit it out, it tasted like it had been sitting in Luther’s boots for a year. I poured out the contents of the bottle choosing to take a chance with de-hydration over poisoning.
The next leg of the route veered away from the ocean, which meant we had the wind at our backs for a while. We did the 19-mile segment in just under one hour. At the end of that joyous stretch of road, we found a real restaurant and it was busy with our fellow riders. The Grub & Grog is located on the main hwy near Sable River; it is just before the turnoff at Port Joli that would lead us to the park. The park is many miles from nowhere so this was our lunch and supper spot. There were many bikes parked all along the perimeter of the building, which had a low overhanging roof. I spotted a very conspicuous bare spot against the wall and leaned my bike up to the building. We went in for a long overdue meal. As we inhaled our food, I could not miss seeing a group of humming birds feeding off a tube feeder near the building. In addition, a swallow kept coming up under the eave the whole time we were eating. I watched the show with wonderment. When we left the eatery, I saw what was going on under the eave. I had parked my bike under a light fixture. The swallow had made his nest on top of the fixture, and the nest was chirping with baby birds; my black bike bag was now covered in white bird do-do.
We arrived at Thomas Raddal Park, Canada’s newest Provincial Park late in the afternoon. The park designer worked to provide all the services required with the least impact on the natural environment. What this meant to us was that the 3-mile entrance road into the camp was gravel. The park was beautiful and we had huge campsites, but we had to carry our duffle bags a long way from the truck. By the time, Lou and I set up and showered, it was time for a snack, macaroni and cheese eaten out of the can. Eating that way saved us from doing dishes. Many of the riders went swimming in the cold ocean before settling down at the campfire. The next morning, one young lady named Sarah rose at dawn and took a skinny dip as the sun rose out of the ocean. I have to believe she had goose bumps on her goose bumps. Of course, we have to believe her story because we did not see her do it.
Day 4. Port Joli to Lunenberg (63 mile planned, 69 miles logged)
What a way to start the day, three miles of wretched gravel, all up hill. What a relief it was when we got to the highway. Today the sun was out for a while, but it would cloud up as we approached the ocean. There were patches of fog and drizzle as well. The route took us along a stretch of rocky shoreline, which reminded me of Wisconsin. I do not know why, maybe because there were many vacation homes lined along the shore. The first restaurant today was at the 29-mile mark at a place called Hunt’s Point. Again, Lou and I chose a place that was a few Jo-miles off the beaten path. We did not have many choices, so we went to the White Point Lodge, a very nice place. It even had a tablecloth and cloth napkins on the table.
After lunch, we rode the shoreline in a nice sunny section. We came upon three of our fellow riders whom we have not seen at the campground. It turned out to be three ladies who were doing the bed and breakfast thing. One of them was complaining about a noise coming from her back cogs when she shifted into the lowest gear. Bike Doctor Lou had to check it out and diagnose the problem. He did so in a hurry. The next thing I know is that he is digging in his pannier for his tools. He came back with a handful of wrenches and a plastic box filled with screws and miscellaneous metal parts. The young ladies’ chain was dragging on the bolt that held her rack to the frame. It was a new rack just installed before she left for this ride. I was impressed that she would be using such a small diameter gear, but she said it was her favorite. Lou removed the long screw from the bike and found a shorter one in his box. In 10 minutes, he had fixed a problem that had been plaguing her for the last three days. We would see these ladies again further down the road.
A major highlight of the day was getting to the ferry town of LaHave. The night before some campers at Raddal Park told us of a great bakery in LaHave right near the ferry. Along the way we stopped at a convenience store to pick up some water. A truck drove by as we dismounted and nearly knocked us over with its stink. Lou and I had the ‘distinked’ privilege to experience a fish waste truck passing by. The smell, ‘au du fish waste’ was very distinctive and disgusting. Inside the water stop, the owner of the store told us he would not fill our bottles because his well was not government tested and certified. At first, we thought he was shilling us to get us to buy bottled water, but I remembered quickly the water Kim had given me from the Jeep. Later that day we caught Kim and I asked her if she knew what kind of water she had and asked if anybody else had complained. She was very unaware and told us the story of how she got the water. She needed to replenish the water jug on the Jeep and the water in Raddal Park was not tested, therefore, it was not suitable for drinking without boiling first. She drove out to the highway, stopped at a nice farmhouse, and asked the lady living there if she could fill up her water-cooler. The lady said yes, but told her she would have to take it from the building in back where the “good water” ran. We each bought a couple of bottles of water and had a snack before we left.
Another hour or so down the road we approached La Have and the bakery. LaHave was a small town with only a few blocks with buildings, but it had a few side streets. The linear towns we rode through did not have side streets. Before we went to the bakery, we checked out the ferry schedule and determined that they leave every 20 minutes. One had just left so we went in to the bakery. It was near closing time and I remember the place had many empty shelves, but I managed to find a very nice bun and relished it while waiting for the ferry. Several riders and the SAG managed to arrive at the ferry at the same time, so we had a group crossing. We posed for pictures on board the ferry as we chugged across the river. If we had wanted to avoid the ferry, it would have added 40 miles to the ride.
After the ferry, we came upon a great downhill, which had us moving well over 40 mph again. This time we did not draft each other and we could brake safely without fearing a collision. At the bottom of the hill, there was a country store with bikes in front of it. We stopped to buy a snack. The bikes belonged to the same ladies Lou had helped earlier. This time another of the trio asked Lou to look at her back wheel to see if he could do something about loose spokes. Lou looked while I helped by holding the bike off the ground. To our amazement, we found the wheel loaded with loose spokes. So much so, that it would barely support any weight. This wheel was on the verge of collapse. It was a miracle that this lady had made it down the very fast downhill without the bike falling apart. She rented the bike from a bike shop in Yarmouth. Bike Doctor Lou again jumped into action and wound up tightening and re-truing her entire wheel.
The remainder of the ride into Lunenberg was uneventful. Our itinerary had told us we were going to camp in the middle of town in the county park, but the queue sheet directed us to a campground on a lake out side of town by 5 miles. It turns out that the Lunenberg Music Festival was going on at the county park. The ladies were going to pick us up in the morning, so we opened a can of something and ate supper at the campground.
Day 5- Tour Lunenberg (No miles planned by bike, 160 miles logged by car.)
Delores and Barb miraculously found their way out of town to our campground and picked us up by 8:00 a.m. they took us into Lunenberg for breakfast at a nice restaurant overlooking the harbor. Lunenberg is a very picturesque fishing village that is a part of the historic register. The whole town has historic status, and must be kept as such. The water front buildings are all painted in reds, yellows and blues. From the sea, a ship can spot the town from quite a distance. Because of the music festival there were many activities going on in town.
After a short tour of the souvenir shop, we headed back to Lunenberg, but not before stopping at the monument to the crash of Swiss Air flight 111. The monument gave us another view of Peggy’s Cove lighthouse from a distance. It was also a very sobering place.
The drive back seemed long, but Lou got us back in record time. We were to meet most of the tour group for supper. We arrived in time and had a nice dinner together. Lou took photos of all the people. Some of the tour stayed in camp and cooked on the sole camp stove that Gary Conrad carried on his support truck. The girls drove us back to camp after dark. Lou and I went to our tents to avid mosquitoes and to read a bit before falling asleep.
Day 6- Lunenburg to Newburn (26.7 miles planned, 29.3 miles pedaled)
Monday morning we broke camp after drying off the morning dew. It was one time when we did not have to put things away wet. It was sunny, but cool at the same time. The campground was away from the original route, so Gary had to give us all special instructions to find our way back to the mapped route. Lou and I started out okay but missed a turn and wound up coasting down a beautiful downhill before we bothered to check that we were not on course. So back up the hill, we had to grind. We decided to follow what we thought was the route, but it turned out not to be correct. Fortunately, for us, the road we took went to the town of MaHone Bay, which was our breakfast destination.
MaHone Bay turned out to be a picturesque town on a bay that looked more like an inland lake. As we approached the town, we could see several church steeples across the lake. What a beautiful sight they presented. We stopped to take pictures. At the campground the day before, we kept hearing, from Tim Lutzac that today’s leg was going to be rough. He told us that crossing the peninsula meant crossing over the mountain that separates the East coast from the West. Both Lou and I were prepared for the worst, both mentally and physically, but for the moment, we were enjoying the sights of MaHone Bay.
MaHone Bay is very touristy with many small shops and eating-places. We rode from one end of town to the other checking out the menus. Finally, we selected a place that had bikes in front of it, a good clue that it is worthy of a cyclist’s appetite. It was a picture perfect outdoor market loaded with fresh vegetables and breads with a deli. Most of the menu was vegetarian. The cyclists whose bikes were out front were the mother, daughter, cousin, and friend quartet from Philadelphia. They thought the place was great. Of course they would, they were vegans. Lou and I continued to look and scouted out some more places, none struck us as being worthy of our business. My grandfather would have told me that I was not hungry enough. We finally settled on a yuppie bagel shop. In addition to all kinds of fresh bagels, they had a good breakfast menu. Lou and I both ordered a good old-fashioned breakfast with eggs and bacon, and toast. As we began to process the food we also began to notice that the shop had a PC that one could rent by the hour to access the Internet. They also had local and national newspapers available for reading. There was a mix of tables with chairs, some low coffee tables with soft chairs around them, and some counters with bar stools. While finishing our coffee, we took note of the fact that there was a flea market in a parking lot across the street. We left the bagel shop and took a quick visit to the market. Several of the stores around the flea market had goods on the sidewalk. Lou had left his hat in the car and was looking for a replacement at one of the storefronts. All we could find were some very expensive souvenir caps. Lou asked the sidewalk lady in charge if she had anything less expensive. She obliged and opened the store to bring out an armful of lower cost baseball caps, which were more affordable. We both bought one. As I returned to unlock my bike at the bagel shop there was a couple standing there looking at the bike. The man introduced himself and his wife. They were from Halifax on a holiday. He was a recumbent rider and built his own bike from plans. He wanted to know all about my Tour Easy because he had never seen one before.
We would have liked to dawdle some more in MaHone Bay, but visions of the mountain ahead lingered in the back of our minds. Therefore, we mounted our trusty steeds and left town under a gray sky. The remainder of the day did consist of some long hills, but none of them constituted what Lou or I would call a mountain. I am sure Lou’s hill into his sub-division in Dahlonega was more challenging than the hills we encountered that day. I would beat Lou down the hill, but he would catch me again at the top. WE would stop for a breather and chat a bit before moving on down the next hill. The scenery was somewhat dull, reminding me of upper Michigan. The landscape was comprised of green trees, and old farmhouses that were in need of paint and repair. Some of the farms had yards strewn with junk cars. One place struck me funny, because it was a wreck of a house and an old barn. Junk cars surrounded the barn, and each car had a pit bull chained to it. As we rode by the dogs all went nuts trying to break the chains to get a piece of us. What were they protecting anyway?
As we spun off the miles, I began to notice that the names on many of the mailboxes were the same. I thought to my self that I should write the name down, because I will forget it, and it was unique. I did not write it down, and I have forgotten it, but there were so many mail- boxes with this name on it that it must be the Acadian equivalent of Smith.
A few miles from the campground we passed a winery, Again I said to myself, we should stop here and taste. It was so close to our destination I thought we could come back to it later. We did stop at an old cemetery to check out the gravestones. The earliest date on the stones was dated in the 1700’s; buried there were many babies, and mothers who died in childbirth. We arrived at the campground in the early afternoon. It was a nice clean place situated along a river. Our group settled in at the group camping area. The day turned into a lazy afternoon and evening because, there was absolutely nothing to do at the campground. There was nothing within twenty miles of it. The mountain climbing we expected to do was now being touted by Tim to be ahead of us as we crossed the remaining half of the peninsula on our way to Aylesford.
We spent the remainder of the day dozing, reading and socializing with our fellow riders. At mid-afternoon I ate a snack of sardines and crackers. Lou got into a game of cribbage with Bonnie from Wisconsin, and the youngest member of the tour group, Karen. She was, a spoiled but brainy, ten year old child of a yuppie couple from New Jersey. Her stockbroker father Jon, a PhD. from Yale, had brought his daughter on an adventure trip. They were riding on a tandem. When the little girl felt like it she even pedaled to help out, but most of the time she expected her dad to cater to her.
That night dinner consisted of soup and Irish stew from a can. We heated these up using the stove on the back of the truck. Lou heated his soup in the coffee pot, and I used my tin cup for the stew. It was amazing to see that a single stove could service so many people without any arguments. I also had a bagel from the bagel shop this morning. We retired early to escape the mosquitoes.
Day 7-Newburn to Aylesford (38.9 miles planned, 38.07 miles pedaled)
Christmas trees, Christmas trees, and more Christmas trees, is one way to describe the road to Aylesford. Our ride started out in a drizzle that stayed with us most of the day. We encountered a series of endless hills shrouded in mist and clouds. The countryside was green and lush, and reminded me of my trip to Seattle last year. The predominant colors were gray and green. My notes are relatively sparse for this day. The only note of significance was “woke up in rain, took down in rain.”
We can tell when we are approaching a town by the number of houses that we are passing. We knew we were near Aylesford because the farmhouses were closer together and were better maintained. We passed a raspberry farm where the temptation to stop and pick was great, but we continued to spin past. I noticed that there were two bikes parked at the barn, later we found out that they belonged to Benjamin Doyon and Daniela Kusmierek from our group. They were a very nice couple that stopped often to smell the roses. As we passed the raspberry farm, I noticed we were picking up speed. We were beginning a downhill that turned out to be the highlight of the day. I will never forget the view of the Aylesford valley as we crested the hill to see this bucolic sun lit valley of manicured farms. The scene was impressionistic and Monet like. After living a day of grays and deep blue greens the sudden appearance of white clouds, blue sky, wheat fields, the red barns of the valley nestled among the bright green pastures was a sight to behold. The downhill was long, fast, and exhilarating. The wind rushing past my glasses made my eyes water creating and even more impressionist vision of the valley. I remember looking down at my speedometer for a split second to see my speed, 48 miles per hour. We coasted through the center of this tiny town at 45 mph. The speed limit was 25. At the end of the long coast through town, I passed a farm that had a very fancy barn door. I had to stop to take a picture. The door was made up of individual panes of glass with fancy woodwork around it. You had to see it. A little further, down the road I stopped to snap a picture of some wild flowers growing in the ditch.
The girls were waiting for us in the campground at Aylesford. They had driven across the peninsula to the town of Middleton. This town afforded the closest accommodations to Aylesford that I could find. Aylesford had one small restaurant in it, and the queue sheet mentioned that it might not be open or serve breakfast. Lou and I were anxious to dry out our tents since we had put them away wet. The campground was nice and we had fun setting up while socializing with the wives. After we set up, Lou asked Gary to find him a lever so he could remove his freewheel to replace a broken spoke. Gary found a piece of pipe about six feet long, which Lou had to use. As Lou worked to get the spoke in, I examined his free wheel and noticed that the threads were filled with slivers of aluminum; the threads were stripping from a previous removal. I thought nothing of it, cleaned the threads so the freewheel would go back on cleanly.
The girls had lots to tell us. They had been touring the small towns along Fundy Bay. The town of Middleton was small, as was their motel. The single largest attraction was a water clock. Had I known how small this town was I would have booked them to stay a little further away in the town of Annapolis Royal, where there was much more to do and see. We drove to a restaurant in the valley for supper. Afterwards the girls took us shopping for food, and to see the famous water clock.
Day 8- Aylesford to Annapolis Royal (53.4 miles planned, 46.9 miles pedaled)
Last night we had to open our tents to dry them out, and this morning we had to put them away wet again. There was a heavy fog blanketing the shoreline, which extended into the valley. The route for the day was to take us along the shoreline of the Bay of Fundy. Had it been sunny, the hilly route along the cliffs would have been scenic and beautiful. As it was foggy, Lou and I opted for the valley route. We decided that we would not be able to see anything along the shoreline with fog so we opted for the flatter more scenic farm valley route. This route, on the west side of Nova Scotia, is also called the Evangeline Trail. It turned out to be a good decision, because many of the riders reported that the shoreline was indeed foggy and very hilly to boot.
The valley route took us right down the main highway, which was loaded with traffic. Lou and I studied a map for a while and opted to ride east to a country road, which had less traffic. We met and rode together with Anne Mowat and Susan Risk from Saskatchewan, Canada. This part of Nova Scotia is dotted with many small farms, and the farm scenery was enjoyable. Towns along the valley route were more inhabited and offered us some convenience stores and cafes. For lunch, we stopped in Lawrencetown and sought out a neat little diner where we had a nice meal. We ate lunch at noon for once. The remainder of the day was peaceful and cool when under the cover of the clouds, but it became very warm and humid whenever the sun broke through.
Lou and I checked into the Dunroamin Campground on the shore of a nice little lake. There was a good wind blowing, so it did not take long for our equipment to dry out. The girls came by a little bit later to take us out for supper. Since they had been in Annapolis Royal all day long, they were familiar with the town and had chosen the restaurant for the evening. They did well! We sat down at the Fat Pheasant restaurant across the street from the bay at Annapolis Royal. It was a quaint place nicely decorated with cloth table covers and napkins. The menu was upscale and neuvo. They also had a nice wine list. I do not remember anymore what we ate, but it was among the best meals we had since leaving Lunenburg. We spent a long time over the meal and afterwards walked the waterfront to see the ships in dry dock. The tide was out, so many of the boats were hung up in the mud. Had I known how nice this town was, I would have booked the girls here for two nights instead of just one. They could have skipped the tiny town of Middleton and the water clock.
Dave and Jacqueline Black, the honeymooning couple, from South Bend did not do as well as we with the selection of restaurants. They ate at a small pub around the corner from the Fat Pheasant, and Dave got deathly ill. They checked into a bed and breakfast to give Dave a private toilet to use. He was very sick for twenty-four hours, and felt that it was due to the shellfish he had consumed. Throughout the tour, Dave and Jacqueline rode a tandem that they received as a wedding present. Jacque’s helmet sported a strip of her wedding veil that blew in the breeze as they rode along.
Day 9 Annapolis Royal to Church Point (53.2 miles planned, 54.75 miles pedaled)
The following morning Lou and I rode into town and had a great breakfast at a small café around the corner from the Fat Pheasant and across the street from Fort Anne.
We rode leisurely out of town hating to leave. It was such a quaint place, it would have been nice to spend more time just touring. As we turned off the main street to the go south toward Church Point, we saw the meanest looking hill of the trip. Here we were, coming off of a big breakfast feeling stuffed, our muscles still cold, and we were into a hill that would not quit. As I recall, Bonnie from Wisconsin blew right by us as Lou and I huffed and puffed up the hill. We did not see Bonnie again until the end of the day. I shifted into my granny, but she was not doing it for me, I had to muster all the strength I could to push against the pedals to chug up that hill. Somehow, we both made it and were relieved when we topped out. Then we saw that this road was an endless series of hills. Thankfully, the remaining hills were not as steep as the first one.
Tim Lutzac had told us that we would come upon a small town called Bear River today, which would be worth stopping at to buy souvenirs. We reached Bear River at noon; the approach into town was a hair raising twisty curvy downhill filled with potholes and blind spots. Normally I enjoy a downhill but this one was a little bit too dangerous to be fun. The road down the hill was through a tunnel of trees. It opened up to a town bathed in sunshine. All of the frame buildings on both sides of the street were painted in gaudy colors of pinks, blue, yellow, and mauve. At least one building had some hippie looking psychedelic messages painted all over the front of it. Kim was there parked at the bridge by the river. There were other members of the group wandering about town looking in the shops. I too, went into the shops and found a nice little puzzle box in the shape of a whale. I bought it for my grand-daughter Dana. I left the store and deposited the purchase in the sag wagon so I would not have to carry it on the bike the rest of the day. I turned to find Lou talking to Barb and Delores. The girls had also found Bear River, and the timing was good. We had lunch together in a little café along the river. When we left the café we were hearing stories about a road being out and that, we would have to take a detour out of town. At the same time, we saw many riders leaving town on the main road. The way out was up a hill. Lou and I said goodbye to the girls and began the ride up the hill. It had become cloudy all of a sudden and it looked like it was going to rain. I was in the lead and Lou followed. We were about a hundred yards up the hill when I heard Lou holler that he had a problem. I stopped to look back to see Lou getting off his bike. He was looking at his rear wheel and the chain. As I approached him he told me that he thought he had stripped, his freewheel. I said, “That can’t happen.” I examined his bike and came to the same conclusion after recalling the slivers of metal I had cleaned off the threads two days ago. Lou had lost his transmission. He could pedal but the power would not go into the wheel. It started to drizzle as Lou ran down to town to catch the girls or the sag. Luckily, he caught the sag. Kim drove him up the hill in the Jeep Cherokee and we reluctantly packed his bike into the car. Lou’s plan was to chase down the girls and to get the bike fixed at the bike shop in the town of Digby. As Lou closed the car door behind him to get his bike repaired, it started to drizzle harder. I took the opportunity to put my rain gear on before I got too wet. It was a good move, because the heavens opened up. Suddenly, a feeling of loneliness overcame me, as it struck me that I was on my own for the first time in eight days. I was alone, starting a windy curvy road, up a steep granny gear hill, in a major down pour.
I struggled with each pump of the pedal, pushing hard with each stroke while trying to maintain my balance on the very edge of the road. Cars were passing me with little room to spare, as I wobbled trying to stay upright. With each wobble, I kept getting closer to the edge of the road, then it happened, I slipped off the edge and had to stop. I could not restart without putting myself into major jeopardy, so I decided there is but one thing to do, walk. The rain continued as I pushed the bike up the hill getting more soaked as I did. I kept wishing that I were with Lou in the car. It took about fifteen minutes to push the bike up the hill in that cold driving rain. When I finally got to the top and remounted the bike, the rain slowed to a drizzle. The front that passed through had cooled the temperature down to the low sixties and perhaps into the fifties. At least it felt as if it was that cold. It also brought a wind, which blew across at an angle. The remainder of the road was a series of rolling hills, which I took advantage of and powered up to get a good roll down again. Momentum got me up the next one.
The road merged with Canada Route One as I neared Digby. Lou and the girls passed by in the car and waved as they did. They shouted out that they were going back to the shop with the wheel to see if they could get the hub replaced. I continued to ride on a major highway. I stayed on the shoulder, and used all of my strength to speed along. I kept thinking that I wanted to get off this road as fast as I could. If I spotted a fellow rider ahead of me, I made it my challenge to catch him and pass him.
The cold air was getting to my muscles and I longed for a hot shower. The ride out of Weymouth to Church Point was through Acadian territory. The shoreline was barren, and the buildings looked lonely sitting in the open fields with no trees around anywhere. I passed a neat little Acadian café in an old farmhouse; I think it was called Café Charlene. I remember thinking that if I was with Barb, Lou, and Delores, that it would be a nice place to eat.
A few miles further, I pulled into Belle Baie campground, which is situated right on the shore of the Bay of Fundy. The front part of the campground was very attractive, and filled to capacity with trailers. Many of them were permanent summer cottages. The owners had little gardens and flowers planted all about their spaces. Most of the trailers had awnings that were decked out in patio lights. Our group rode through the nice part of the campground onto the barren rugged wild shoreline of the Bay of Fundy. There were a few trees in the front part of the campground where all the trailers were, but not a single wind break of any kind in the group campsite. I set up in a heavy wind, and was glad to have extra ropes to hold the tent down.
After setting up, and taking a nice hot shower it was time to start my supper from a can. What luck! I did not have to; the word was out that Gary, Kim, and Nathan were going to drive the group down to the little Acadian café for supper. It was the crew’s gift to us on the last night. So the ferry process to Café Charlene began with Kim driving as many as she could fit in the Cherokee. On the return trip, there was a van as well. Kim had talked the lady who owned the café into helping. It took three trips for the two cars to get us there, and everyone that wanted to go made it to the café. I was on the last trip when it started to rain. By the time we got to the café, it was pouring very hard.
The ambiance in the cafe was great. Everyone was relating their plans for getting home or just reviewing some of the highlights of the trip. I cannot tell you how many times I had to tell people where Lou was and the circumstances of why he was not able to be with us on the final day. Lou was a favorite among the group because of his cheerful demeanor and sunny disposition. Everyone in the group was sorry that he had to miss the very last day. Many also told me what a great idea it was to share our adventure with our wives.
We took up the entire three little rooms, and completely filled the café. The menu was hand written on a five by seven piece of paper. It presented a nice selection of simple Acadian dishes. All of the entries sounded so great, it was hard to make a selection. I do not recall what I ordered anymore, but I loved every morsel.
Throughout supper, there was a driving rain and a thunderstorm. We were all glad not to be at the campground. Toward the middle of the meal, the rain had slowed a bit, but there was a spectacular display of lightning. The frequent flashes would light up the entire landscape as if it were day. The staff at the café began lighting storm candles on every table to prepare for a blackout. During one of the lightning flashes, I spotted Mike and Anna riding by on their bikes. They had been caught in the storm and continued to pedal their way toward Church Point. A few minutes later, they joined us. They did not know we were there, but decided that the café might be their only chance for a meal that night, and opted to stop before proceeding further.
We stretched out the meal as long as we could, because we knew the tour was over, and that tomorrow the excitement of making connections and getting to the end would leave little time to socialize. We had spent nine days and nights getting to know each other well. It was now easy to talk to anyone in the group and know their names and where they were from, and what they did for a living, and how they got to the tour. Slowly the ferry process emptied the little café back to the campground.
I remember getting out of the van into a rain, and stepping into a puddle that drenched my feet. By the time I ran to the men’s room I was soaked again. I was running back to my tent when the campground lights all went out. I was lost in total darkness in a pouring rain not knowing where my tent was. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and the lightning flashes began to light the way. It was such a feeling of comfort to finally get into the tent, change into dry clothes, and feel the warmth of the sleeping bag. All the ambiance and coziness of the café had been forgotten in the split second that it took to step out of the van into that puddle of water.
Cory Burns, John Albright, Michael McInnis, Nathan, and a few other riders hung out at the truck throughout the night drinking beer, and swapping stories in the rain. They watched the lightning flashes as their entertainment. They were a quiet group who did not disturb anyone.
Back in my tent, I read for a short time before going to sleep. As I lay there watching the tent light up with the flashes, I reviewed the tour in my mind. All the great times I had with Lou, and all the special moments with the girls on the days, we met. Meeting the challenges of the weather, the hills, the sparsely spaced food stops, all left me thanking God for giving me the ability to accomplish another dream. I drifted to sleep thinking nice thoughts while watching the light show of the century.
Day 10 Church Point to Yarmouth (41.9 miles planned, 41.3 miles pedaled)
I awoke to the sound of Mike and Roni Boyd of Oak Ridge Tennessee taking down their tent. They were always the first to break camp and leave. I unzipped my door and stuck my head out. Surprise, I could not see more than fifty feet. The fog was thick. Everything was soggy. I re-zipped the door and dressed for the day. I began to pack things while it was still dry inside the tent. Once I opened the door for any length of time, the fog would saturate everything and make it damp. When I had everything put away that could be put away, I exited the tent to start my morning ritual. I heated some water in my tin cup for instant coffee. I drank the coffee and ate the muffin I had bought the day before in Weymouth. The queue sheet listed the first restaurant in the town of Meteghan. On the map, Meteghan looked like it was about ten miles down the road. It would be some time before I could get there for a good breakfast. I loaded my bags on the truck for the last time and started the ride into the morning fog.
The fog was thick on Canada Route One and traffic was light. The cars that did pass were driving slowly. They gave me a wide berth when they passed. I could hear waves breaking along the shoreline to my right, but could not see any water.
Church Point is named after a large catholic church that is built on the edge of the shore. A few minutes out of the campground I came upon the church, but could not see it’s spire in the fog. It was a huge beige colored frame building with a tall bell tower. I pulled into the parking lot to visit. The front door was barely visible from the road. I walked into the vestibule and looked into the church. It was simple but beautiful. Inside, there were a couple of local teens, dressed in Acadian garb, presiding as docent. They would not allow anyone into the church past the vestibule. They were friendly and did answer questions. I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the great tour and left.
Riding in the fog was scary. I thought it strange that the tour started in a thick fog and now I was on the last leg in a thick fog. I never knew if the cars coming up from behind could see me in time to avoid me. Thank God I made it through the day safely. At Meteghan, I spotted a new lodge that advertised a restaurant. I mentally debated as to whether I should go further or stop and eat while a place is available. I decided to stop and eat. I was the only one in the restaurant except for some of the guests from the lodge. I felt much better after breakfast. I had covered fifteen miles getting there on the muffin. As I left town, I noticed that there were no other places to eat. I had made a good decision. The fog now seemed a little less dense than it was earlier. Visibility was still poor, and the road seemed long. The day before I had developed some tendonitis in the knee from pushing so hard into the wind, and today I was wearing the knee band Lou had loaned me. I was determined to make it in on my own power, but I had to limit my cadence and down shift often to keep the pain in my knee to a minimum. I was using granny gears that I would normally never even think about using on the frequent little hills. At the twenty-five mile mark the road swung eastward to go inland where the fog was less dense. In fact, the sun was breaking out to show a very blue sky. It started to get warmer as the sun burned off more fog. It felt good and my weary muscles began to enjoy the workout. Gradually I entered the city limits of Yarmouth. The tourist center where we had started ten days ago was just a mile further away. A strange feeling of joy and sadness overcame me as I approached the finish.
I rode into the tourist center parking lot to the sounds of Lou, Barb, and Delores all shouting and cheering me in. Lou was standing in the middle of the road, camera in hand taking my picture as I crossed over the street into the parking lot. I made it, as did Lou and all the others.
Lou and I stayed in the lot at the truck talking to the cyclists that were still coming in and those that hung around like us. I did not want it to end, but it was closing in quickly now. In a few hours Lou and Delores would be back on the CAT crossing back to Bar Harbor on their way home. Barb and I would continue on a car tour the following day and remain for another ten days.
We went to lunch across the street from the tourist center and relived the vacation from both perspectives; Lou and I from the camping end, Barb and Lori from the motel end. I think it is safe to say that we had a great time, and will never forget this trip together. Our friendship was strengthened and renewed. We look forward to the next adventure together.