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August 11th, 2013 | Canada

The Cabot Trail…

The weather had improved, and after checking to see how long before the next cold front would come tearing down over Cape Breton, I saw that I had a very short window of opportunity available to me.

We took the short cut to the start of the Cabot Trail via the Englishtown Ferry

We took the short cut to the start of the Cabot Trail via the Englishtown Ferry

Although the Atlantic side of the island was due to be bathed in full sunshine for most of the day, it was predicted that the western side on the Cumberland Strait would probably receive more rain and high winds.

Apart from continuing to enjoy the wonderful hospitality available at Heritage Home, there was no other reason to put off my ride, so I loaded my kit and rode slowly down the main road into town and then out onto the highway that would take me to the Englishtown Ferry.

We retraced the route we had ridden into town on; around the northern edge of the St Andrews Channel; across the long trestle bridge over Bras D’Or Lake; up the steep and winding mountain climb beyond it; and then down to the edge of St Anns Harbour.

Instead of riding around this body of water, I decided to take the short cut across St Anns Bay, by making use of the Englishtown Ferry. The road to the ferry saw us doubling back along the coast and eventually coming out on a level patch of shoreline where the ferry stood waiting.

I didn’t even have to slow down, but rode straight up onto the waiting ferry and was followed by three other cars before they closed the rear gate and prepared to cast off.

The crossing took all of three minutes, so narrow is the channel at this point ! A week before, an old geezer had actually driven his car off the ferry and into the channel, with fatal results for both driver and car… I have no idea how he managed to do this, unless the safety chains were not in position when he rode onto the ferry…

On the Englishtown ferry across St Anne's Bay. It cost just $5.00 and saved me at least half an hour of riding...

On the Englishtown ferry across St Anne’s Bay. It cost just $5.00 and saved me at least half an hour of riding…

 

Riding towards the most northern point on Cape Breton.

Riding towards the most northern point on Cape Breton.

There was hardly time enough to hop off the bike and take a photo before the prow of the ferry ground into the dirt on the far side, and we were being ordered by a gruff voice over the loudspeaker system to “start your engines”…

Another catchy name for a small business...

Another catchy name for a small business…

The SUV in front of me must have thought he was at the Canadian Grand Prix, because he took off like a bat out of hell, kicking up dust and gravel as he powered away along the narrow tongue of land that led to the mainland proper…

Normally, just to cause a little mischief, I would have torn after the car, shot past him, and then pulled in front of him and slowed down sufficiently enough to annoy the hell out of the driver… Just my way of saying, “Thank you for flinging stones at me…”

The road ran close up along the coast, at times barely metres away from the surging ocean, through Indian Brook, North Shore and Breton Cove. I stopped at French River, a small settlement where a number of bikers had pulled over to have what I can only assume was “brunch”… I was still loaded down with Juana’s breakfast, that would probably carry me through to late afternoon so did not bother looking for a meal.

I had expected a much more testing ride at that point, but had found the narrow road to be rather tame, with just a few gentle bends to contend with. A short distance up the coast, past Wreck Cove, things finally got a little interesting.

Up ahead I saw the road slung up against the steep mountains that marched down to the sea, and knew that we would soon be climbing high above the cliffs on a road that I had been told I would love to put the Big Fella through his paces on…

There was a short section of tight corners and sweeping bends just before Ingonish and beyond the town, on the way to Neils Harbour and Cape North, it got really twisty and steep. I passed a lot of riders on their Harleys, who were clearly there for the scenery only, and not prepared to do any leaning on their bikes whatsoever…

High up on the Cabot Trail, a great ride but not as spectacular as I had hoped...

High up on the Cabot Trail, a great ride but not as spectacular as I had hoped…

I did mange to hook up with a few guys who like me, wanted more out of the ride, and together we zoomed up the coast, stopping occasionally to take a few photos at the various view points, but mostly enjoying getting the most out of our bikes and the freedom of riding them through this wonderful part of the country.

The Cabot Trail is named after John Cabot, an Italian navigator and explorer in the employ of the King of England, and who is credited as being the first European after the Vikings, to set foot on the mainland of North America. History tells us that he first landed on Newfoundland in 1497, but many Cape Bretons believe he landed here first, and have claimed him as their own…

The entire northern part of Cape Breton has been converted into a National Park, and is home to moose, black bear and packs of coyotes that have been responsible for at least one recorded death of a hiker…

The Atlantic shore of the Cabot Trail was a great ride in itself, but cannot be compared to the Great Ocean Road in southern Australia or the ride along Big Sur on the Californian Coast. Riding the trail on  Sunday when there was more traffic than usual, also did nothing to increase my enjoyment of the ride.

Ready to do some whale watching at Pleasant Bay..

Ready to do some whale watching at Pleasant Bay..

The whale tours were not that ready though...!!

The whale tours were not that ready though…!!

 

Tiny artists studio near Pleasant Bay

Tiny artists studio near Pleasant Bay

The peninsula is split by a fairly high range of mountains, and on the ride from Cape North to Pleasant Bay on the western coast, I was buffeted by some of the strongest winds I had ridden in for a long time.

Finding a comfortable rhythm to ride fast by was impossible, as the strong head winds pushed me off-line on so many occasions that I gave up trying to dominate this stretch of the route and settled instead for a pace at which to remain on the bike and with bones intact…

Pleasant Bay is famous for it’s whale watching tours and I was keen to experience what other guests at Heritage Home had described to me the night before, but on arrival there, I discovered that all tours from Pleasant Bay down to Cheticamp and beyond had been cancelled due to the high winds…

Every fishing boat was safely tied up to their docks and fisherman stood out on the breakwater of the little harbor, watching the waves pound up onto the shore nearby or smash themselves into the rocky walls of the harbor…

 

 Heading down the western coastline towards Petit Etang...

Heading down the western coastline towards Petit Etang…

The road left the rocky coastline and ducked inland through the National Park, looping back and forth along the ridges of the mountains in this region… I was leading a small group of riders that I had met at one of the viewpoints and had just entered a long straight, when a medium sized Black Bear lumbered into the road in front of me…

I had no time to take a photo, as I wanted to be sure that it did not stop and run back across the road and into my path, but the riders behind me slowed down at my frantic signaling and managed to get a few photos of the bear, clambering up the opposite slope. It was a good sighting and the second time that I had come close to colliding with a bear, the last time having been near the town of Jasper in British Colombia, western Canada. I managed to catch that incident on my onboard video camera…

 ..and along the coastline north of Creignish...

..and along the coastline north of Creignish…

 Leaving Cape Breton and getting back into Nova Scotia...

Leaving Cape Breton and getting back into Nova Scotia…

I enjoyed the ride down the western side of Cape Breton as much as I had the Cabot Trail on it’s eastern side, but by the time I got close to the Canso Causeway, that would take me back into Nova Scotia, I was feeling tired and in need of sustenance…

I stopped at the tourist office, bought myself a sandwich and sat on the bike while I studied my map of the province and punched options into the GPS to see what Gi-Gi figured we could manage before the sun went down…

It was by now almost 3.00 pm and with all the stops I had made to view the scenery on the trail and chat to the many interested bikers and other tourists along the way, I had only covered 365 km !!

 I decided to forego another ride down Marine Drive, and push on into New Brunswick...

I decided to forego another ride down Marine Drive, and push on into New Brunswick…

I wanted to get at least as far as the New Brunswick border, which was still 300 km to the west, and despite not feeling up to it, I did not want to spend more days than was necessary to get to my next important destination, Madawaska, near the border of Maine USA and the Canadian province of Quebec.

I had refueled in Cheticamp, having once again got there by the skin of my teeth after using all my spare fuel along the way. I knew I had enough fuel to get me somewhere beyond Truro and settled myself in for a long hard ride.

Two hours later we stopped near the town of Debert, quickly refueled and hit the road again. It was all highway riding, and although the wind was blowing like crazy, an hour later we crossed into New Brunswick, and 45 minutes after that, having been pummeled by wind for most of the day, I cruised into Moncton.

The glory days of the Glory Inn had long since passed...

The glory days of the Glory Inn had long since passed…

Wrestling the big bike through the twisties on the Cabot Trail and the long stretches in high wind had me fairly knackered by the time I finally found a place to stay…

Moncton, or the part I ended up in anyway, was a rundown town if ever I saw one… The sidewalks were overgrown and riven with deep cracks. An open lot across the road from the Glory Inn, harboured rats that ensured that there were no cats within miles…

I watched one drag a large banana into it’s hidey-hole, as if the banana was no more than a stalk of grass… I began to wonder if the Big Fella’s wiring would last the night !! Or if he’d be in the same place I left him when I awoke the following morning…

Protect the water from what ??

Protect the water from what ??

The place my wallet selected after numerous calls to other high profile establishments, turned out to be a B&B run by a Chinese family. It doubled as an import/export company on the side, and even though the service was friendly, the three houses that made up the B&B, were very sparsely furnished and in need of some serious TLC…

The floor in my room sloped alarmingly towards the front of the house. I dropped my deodorant on the floor and watched in amazement as it rolled to the far side of the room, gathering speed as it went !!

I called Juana back in North Sydney, telling her that I had arrived in Moncton after my ten hour ride, and thanking her again for the wonderful stay I had enjoyed at Heritage Home. She was amazed at how much ground I had covered, and wished me well. After ringing off, I looked around me and thought what a massive change this place was from the one I had just left in North Sydney…

The promised internet signal never materialized and I sat fuming in my room until I finally flopped over and fell asleep… It was like sleeping on a boat, because my body kept trying to make corrections for the sloping bed…

Despite not ending well, I had enjoyed the day, and the highlights that had gone with it… (See the next post that I wrote before this updated one)

North Sydney, Cape Breton to Moncton, New Brunswick, via the Cabot Trail and Nova Scotia. A 720 km ride that left me tired to the bone...

North Sydney, Cape Breton to Moncton, New Brunswick, via the Cabot Trail and Nova Scotia. A 720 km ride that left me tired to the bone…

Breakfast the following morning consisted of fried eggs on toast, and half a watermelon. Enough watermelon to feed a small family, anyway… Although the chef had asked how I wanted my eggs (or rather I think that was what he was asking, in his sing song Chinese pidgin-English…) he seemed to have no idea that fried eggs come in various guises besides being fried to the consistency of the tyres on my bike…

The French couple seated at the table next to mine, (who had also had the misfortune to end up at the Glory Inn, had ordered their eggs “soft to medium) had received eggs that were difficult to cut without a samurai sword…

I was glad to leave Moncton and be on my way, heading first west and then due north to Edmundston…

©GBWT 2013

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