Archive for the ‘Nova Scotia’ Category

Farewell to Nova Scotia …

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

48km, 2h50m

… your sea-bound coast,
Let your mountains dark and dreary be.
For when I am far away on the briny ocean tossed,
Will you ever heave a sigh and a wish for me?

This is the chorus of “Farewell to Nova Scotia”, which we have been singing all day. Scott misremembered the first line, thinking it was “Farewell to Nova Scotia, your fog-bound coast”, which was very appropriate for today. We awoke to a cold fog, but it lifted quickly, leaving us with a cool, overcast day. A beautiful day for cycling, especially since we had a the tailwind! Both of us were feeling strong, and it was great to have a nice fast ride for a change.

We made quick progress to Yarmouth , and found a lovely spot for lunch. The Old World Bakery & Deli has a wide variety of preservative-free breads and meats they smoke themselves. The breads are all baked in their clay oven, quite neat and good food.

We chose not to do any touristy things in Yarmouth – instead we’ve used the time waiting for the boat to catch up on email and do some more planning for our ride to Boston. Unfortunately the boat is late (due to a bomb scare in Bar Harbor this morning), so we won’t get into Portland until 10 pm or so.

The CAT ferry was quite nice – fast, and relatively smooth, although a bit choppy at the start. We had a chance to chat further with Bob and Joanne, whom we had met in the ferry line – they’re driving a 1961 Land Rover, so almost as distinctive as we are. Bob and one of his sons drove a rover around the Inca Trail (across South America, down to the southern tip, and back up again), which sounds like a fascinating trip.

When we arrived, the U.S. Customs agent asked some questions about our Syrian visa, but we made it through unscathed, and rode (somewhat indirectly) up to our B&B. Dave, the Merrill Mansion proprietor, had stayed up waiting for us, which was very nice, since it was now after 11 pm.



Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

67 km, 4.75h ride time.

We awoke to a beautiful day, but didn’t seem to move very fast. Our departure was much later than we had hoped, fortunately, we did not need to get too far today.

Powered By SmugWPPrior to leaving, we headed out to do yoga on the boardwalk where we had dinner last night. Because we were so late (11:30), the tide had returned. The boats were almost high enough that you could reach them directly from the jetty. The caution buoy had repositioned itself to be right above the sunken boat – of which there were no signs.

Our ride was rather uneventful. The roads were rolling hills. We both felt that our strength was not 100%, but we were not too taxed by the ride. Becky noticed on several occasions that the roads here smell like apples. Scott noted that every time Becky commented on the apple smell there was a tree nearby littering the ground with apples. Amazing coincidence that! The apple scent was a nice change from the rotting ocean smell (which Becky also loves).

A short ride and a long ferry

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

We got up early enough to have a relaxing breakfast and enjoy the company of several of the other guests at the B&B.

Unfortunately, our departure from the B&B was a little delayed which put pressure on us to get to the ferry terminal on time. We had a quick stop to make at the HSBC to open a US Dollar account on the way to the ferry.

Our departure from HSBC would have given us plenty of time to get to the ferry if all the roads were open. We found ourselves being redirected on several occasions. At one point, Becky was wondering if we were totally lost! Fortunately, Scott saved the day and got us to the ferry terminal in time.

In the end, we arrived at the ferry terminal only 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. With many of the other ferries, this would have been too late; fortunately, this was not the case with the Digby ferry. We rushed into the terminal to have no lines and the lady calmly processing the fee for our bikes and printing out our boarding passes. We were then shuffled directly onto the boat and had plenty of time to tie up our bikes and prepare for the voyage (about 3 hours).

The stress of getting to the ferry on time took a lot out of Becky, so we decided that we would opt for a shorter ride and stay in Digby. There appeared to be a plethora of accommodations, so we could figure it out upon arrival.

We rode off the ferry and continued along Ferry Road to Digby. The map of Digby provided by the tourism folks is clearly not to scale, as the ferry road is much longer than the town. We stopped at the Nova Scotia Visitor Info Centre, and they were very helpful (as is typically). We were pointed to a nice clean hotel in town offering $49 rooms. Given that camping would cost us $25 and Becky wasn’t feeling 100% yet, we opted for the comfy bed and room.

Powered By SmugWPWe have been eating out or at other people’s homes since arriving in Saint John’s, Newfoundland (other than a couple of meals at the cottage in Shediac), so Becky was aching to cook. She did a quick side trip up to the Sobeys to buy veggies and we walked over to the fish market to buy some fresh Digby scallops. Becky cooked up a feast with our camp stove on the boardwalk behind the hotel, and we got to watch the sun set over the Bay of Fundy.

While eating dinner we observed the low tide, and the engineering required to maintain floating docks with a 15-foot tide. The combined staircase/gangway and the long posts for the docks to slide up and down as the tide changes.

We also noticed a sunken boat at the end of the jetty. Good thing for the caution buoy, or someone could tie up to the wharf at high tide, and get a nasty surprise!
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Time for a rest

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

It occurred to us, while riding in the rain yesterday, that we have been on the road (or packing up) since the beginning of June. We have reached that 3-month period that we had read about in various “around the world” travel books, where we really just need a vacation from travelling. Becky is getting to the point where she is dreading getting on the bike rather than enjoying it, so a few days away from cycle touring is in order. We had hoped to make it to Florida (where we will catch a freighter) before this point had hit us; however, we are left reminding ourselves that this trip isn’t about the biking, rather it is about personal growth and meeting people.

We have rented a van to take our bikes from Loganville Nova Scotia to Fredericton New Brunswick, and we have rented a car in Fredericton to provide us with transport until Wednesday. The timing is good as Sunday Nova Scotia is due to be hit by Hurricane Hanna (last we heard, downgraded to tropical storm), so we will be in New Brunswick, happily visiting family and friends, avoiding the worst of the rains and winds.

We will need to be on the road again by Thursday September 11th in order to make our way to Florida in time for the boat. Prior to departure from Fredericton, we need to re-organize our gear, get massages, and do some bike maintenance (we need to replace our chains and change the oil in our hubs). Our bikes could also use a thorough cleaning!

A car rescue

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

45 km, 2.25 hrs


We rode from New Glasgow to Susan’s farm near Scotsburn – home of the Scotsburn Dairy, well-known throughout the Maritimes, and close to our hearts as makers of yummy ice cream.


On our way through Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, we saw signs everywhere saying “Vote Mitch”. Over the past few days we have been wondering “who is Mitch and why would we vote for him?”.  We saw another sign, and Scott said “Perhaps Mitch is on Canadian Idol?”  This was confirmed shortly thereafter by another sign:  “Vote Mitch for Canadian Idol!”  Mitch MacDonald is from Nova Scotia (Cape Breton?) and is now in the Canadian Idol finals, so there’s lots of excitement in the papers.


It was another wet day, and we got soaked on the ride up to Pictou.  Rain gear keeps us from getting soaked, but we’re still damp throughout.  The rain is forecast to continue for the next week, and we are feeling tired. Becky cannot imagine getting back on the bike at this point.


We called Susan shortly before Scotsburn, and discovered that she and Onika were stranded at the farm.  Their car was at the Scotsburn garage after a repair, but they had no easy way to get out to pick it up.  We offered to pick it up on the way by, which worked out very well.  It felt good to be the rescuer rather than the rescue for once.


Becky loaded her bike and all the bags into the car, but we couldn’t fit both bikes, so Scott got to ride the last 14 km with no bags.  It’s amazing how much more responsive the bike is without 90 pounds (40 kg) of gear on it!  It was refreshing (and a bit surprising) to be able to climb hills at 30 kph.  Maybe our legs are getting stronger after all… The shocks were tuned for more weight, which made the bike a bit more jittery when riding over bumps.


Becky managed to get the car unloaded before the rain started again, but Scott managed to get soaked, since he’d taken off his rain gear in Scotsburn.  A nice warm cup of tea with Susan and her daughter Onika made everything right again though.

Along the coastal road

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

76 km, 4h45 min

We took the minor road along the coast today, partially because we were told it was flat, but also because we both find riding on the highway boring. The road certainly had very little traffic, but it was not what we would call flat. Ontario was flat, this had many small rolling hills and at least two steep climbs. We have heard many times now drivers saying that a road is flat only to discover that it has many gentle hills. The perspective is very different when you are pedaling, especially with loaded touring bikes.

One observation that we made is that there are many “towns” shown on the Nova Scotia map, but many of them don’t have “townsites”: they are just a collection of homes along a road. There are no services associated with the town. This is a huge change from Newfoundland where the towns usually had a post office and a convenience store at a minimum, and often a café. This may be because of the larger population, which results in concentrations of services in places like New Glasgow and Antigonish. Scott theorizes that with the services concentrated, people from smaller towns stop using the local services, and they close or move.

We are finding that the pace of our travel isn’t giving much opportunity for slowing down. It always seems there’s another place we need to be on our schedule, and we need to ride directly to get there. This leaves little time for side trips and spontaneity. Somehow we need to change our pace and leave time for other things.

Highways – fast but boring

Monday, September 1st, 2008

58 km, 3.5 hrs

Today we rode the 104 highway from Port Hawksbury to Antigonish – a much more positive experience than the ring road around Sydney. The shoulders were wide when there was one lane and narrow when there was a passing lane. This worked out pretty well, as when there is a passing lane one of us needs to ride out far enough (just past the line) to ensure that cars change lanes rather than just passing us in the right lane.

The ride across the Canso Causeway was pretty, as was the initial few kilometers on Nova Scotia, but after that it turned inland and we saw little but trees. Riding on the highway is relatively fast, in that it helps us get to our destination quickly; however, the ride is really boring. We are looking forward to following more of the coastal roads and seeing more of Nova Scotia than the highway.

We arrived in Antigonish just in time to visit Dairy Queen (Blizzards – just what the doctor ordered – yum!) and go to the Visitor Centre before the big black cloud finally caught up to us. This gave us time to relax indoors during the deluge rather than getting soaked like yesterday, but it was after 4 pm when the weather cleared, and the next accommodation was more than 40km away. With more storms coming, we decided to stay in Antigonish for the night. We stayed at the Antigonish Evergreen Inn – a very nice motel, newly renovated. Recommended! It has been a long time since we stayed at a motel, because B&Bs have been much cheaper.

The hotel was a bit far away from downtown restaurants, so we ordered in Chinese food. Becky was definitely hesitant, but we were both pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food from the Moonlight Chinese Restaurant. Yumm!

A real soaker

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

We stayed at Nancy and Gerry’s place (Tanya’s parents) for a large family dinner (lunch). It was wonderful and gave us the fuel we needed for our bike ride. It also gave us a chance to meet more of the family: Shara, Basil and the grandkids Kyler, Hunter, ‘Maya and Max. Great food and lots of fun!

After those brave enough (Tanya and Jay) had a chance to try out our bikes, we got on the road (shortly before 4 pm). Becky wasn’t worried about the late start because it was only “36 kilometers” to Port Hawksbury. After about 8 km riding and the first bout of rain soaked us, Scott pointed out that it was 54 km to Port Hawksbury. Becky was confused … apparently it was “36 miles”. Becky had joined in the conversation a bit late, when Scott and Gerry were talking about metric vs. imperial distances. Oops! Given that, we started out rather later than we should have.

At about the 28 km mark the rain really picked up. It was heavy enough at times that cars were slowing down and using their 4-way flashers. Becky pointed out that this rain was actually heavier than the rain we experienced in Newfoundland – however, the heavy rainfall lasted less than an hour, and soon we had a light sky with only occasional misting. We arrived just before sunset, so didn’t need to break out our lights, although it was close…

We are staying at the Harbourview B&B in Port Hawksbury. It is another B&B in an old historical building, and as a result the shared bathroom has a wonderful soaker tub. This is becoming a trend that we are very much enjoying.

Omelettes, rescues, and ceilidhs

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

35 km, 2h30min

Last night, we stayed at the Stacey House bed and breakfast in Louisbourg. Becky was delighted to discover that the shared-bath had a huge soaker tub as her muscles desperately needed a soak. We were a bit uncertain of our welcome at first as the young person welcoming us was more interested in her boyfriend than us. Becky was wondering what breakfast would be like. In the morning we met the owner of the B&B and she put out an amazing spread. There was a wonderful fruit salad with fresh fruit and the best omelet we’ve ever had, with wonderful fresh vegetables. A welcome change from Newfoundland and Labrador!

After breakfast we were headed to L’Ardoise to meet up with our friend Tanya, who was home from Ottawa to visit family and attend a wedding. When we figured out that we would be on Cape Breton at the same time, she invited us to join her at the Ceilidh after the wedding and to stay with her parents.

In the discussion over breakfast Becky mentioned that we had an appointment to attend a ceilidh in L’Ardoise. Becky used Scott’s pronunciation of L-are-dwa, instead of her pronunciation of L-are-doose. When Becky said it was near St. Peters they said “Oh! Lord-ways!”. So much for Scott’s insistent correction… The other couple at the B&B are from Quebec, so they corrected Scott’s French pronunciation to be “L-are-dwa-z”, as the s is not silent. Along the Acadian coast of Cape Breton many of the French names have been anglicized in various interesting ways (Framboise is Fram-boys).

In the morning, Scott realized that we didn’t do our homework properly yesterday and our planned route from Louisbourg to L’Ardoise is actually 10 km further than going all the way back to Sydney (oops!). Either way, it is well over 100km and a little too far for us with loaded bikes if we want to function at the other end. Scott called Tanya’s parents (Nancy and Gerry) and asked if they didn’t mind coming out to get our bags at some point, such that we could make it in time for dinner and the ceilidh. It turns out they have a pickup truck, so they came to pick us up instead. Thanks!

The ride on the fleur-de-lies trail was quite pleasant. The road is in terrible shape from a car perspective, but was pretty good for our bikes. The rain mostly held off, with only the occasional drizzling now and then. At 2 pm Scott stopped to pick up a message on the phone. Tanya had called because her parents were looking for us. We were not expecting them until 4 pm, so we were quite a bit further out than anticipated at our earlier call. Funnily enough, as Scott was talking to Tanya about where we were, Nancy and Gerry pulled up – we were found.

We had a wonderful lasagna supper thanks to Gerry and afterwards joined Nancy and Gerry for a trip out to the St. Peter’s yacht club to see the annual parade of boats. This year, the there were not very many boats, so the parade was not particularly interesting, but we had a great visit with Tanya’s brother Jay and his wife Michelle. Jay and Michelle are from PEI and they sailed their boat (a 30 foot Benetteau) over to St. Peters to visit. They were on a 3 week sailing vacation. Becky was quite envious of their ability to sail to so many places. What a wonderful place to own a sailboat!

After the parade of lights we headed over to the ceilidh to arrive just in time to see the groom leave (the bride was already in the car). The ceilidh had pretty much ended and things were being cleaned up, but we did get to enjoy some music from a few of the people remaining.

I’ve never seen a bike like that before …

Friday, August 29th, 2008

62 km, 4.25 hours

Our day started out with much more sleep that we expected, although still not enough. The ferry was supposed to get in at 1:45 am; however, the winds were too strong so the ferry could not dock. We spent the night anchored in the harbor. This caused problems for a lot of people on the ferry, but worked out well for us.  After sleeping in the terminal last night, we decided to buy two dorm berths ($28 each) for napping during the day, and some rest at night.  With the delay, we both had a comfortable bed throughout the night.  Nice!  One thing to note about Marine Atlantic is that they do not allow you to sleep on the floor, so pulling out our thermarests wasn’t an option and sleeping in chairs is not particularly restful.

Powered By SmugWP After arrival, we headed to the ferry terminal to get ourselves organized for riding. When the ferry was due to arrive at 1:45 am, we had planned on sleeping in the ferry terminal. We are glad that we did not need to as the North Sydney terminal is not nearly as big as the Argentia terminal is, so we would have found it difficult to find space to sleep.

As we were getting organized a cyclist came up to talk to us. It turns out he was part of the group doing Tour du Canada ( this year.  It’s a supported cross-Canada ride with camping and shared food prep, so fairly inexpensive.  This year there were about 30 cyclists doing the ride. Unfortunately, the ferry was due to depart very late (over 14 hours late).  After our late arrival, it had to get to Port aux Basques and back before heading to Argentia.  This means the Tour du Canada folks will arrive at 5pm tomorrow at the earliest, and will not be able to ride to St. John’s immediately upon arrival.  Several of them had planes to catch on Sunday, so this was a big deal. For a few, their Tour du Canada ended at the North Sydney ferry terminal as they caught the bus to Halifax.

At the ferry terminal we noticed that they had a scale for weighing luggage. We decided to take the opportunity to weigh our panniers. According to their scale, Becky is carrying about 60 lbs and Scott is carrying about 90 lbs. This is about 50 lbs more than Becky estimated and about 25 more than Scott had estimated. We wonder if the scale reads a little bit heavy, or we’re carrying a ridiculous amount of stuff!

We spent a fair bit of time this morning deciding where we were going to go today.  The choices appeared to be:
1 – Stay in Sydney
2 – Head to St. Peter’s (past L’Ardoise)
3 – Check out Louisbourg
Since the distance between Sydney and L’Ardoise is about the same as Louisbourg to L’Ardoise, we decided to check out Louisbourg.

We both found that being back on the bikes after almost a week was a struggle. We both expected that our bodies would be in better shape by this point in the trip.  We are regularly reminded that we are not in our 20s anymore and our bodies need a little more recovery and preparation. Becky felt that her legs were much more tired than they should have been. One issue was that with all the chaos at the ferry terminal this morning, we missed our morning yoga practice. After being off the bikes for several days, yoga is extra important to ensure our muscles are happy. Another note is that we each need a good soak in the tub after several days of long riding. Becky forgot this, and didn’t take the opportunity while at Fraser and Judy’s. Scott’s legs were in a bit better shape, but not up to par either. 

At our lunch break today, a women says to us “I’ve never seen a bike like that before!”. Over the last five weeks we have heard many different people say “I never sees a bike like that before”, but we’re in Nova Scotia now, not Newfoundland.  Becky was struck by the varying forms of English across the Maritimes.  We like to think of Canadian English as homogeneous, but it really isn’t.

Upon further discussion, we discovered she is a cousin of Steven who is bicycling with David across Canada from Newfoundland to Victoria. You may recall from an earlier post that we met David’s mother Isabelle at Battle Harbour.  Small world!  Unfortunately, we didn’t catch her name.  It’s still a struggle for us to introduce ourselves when chatting with people.

Powered By SmugWPAfter arriving in Louisbourg, we had a brief visit to the Louisbourg National Historic site. Similar to L’Anse-aux-Meadows, we arrived within an hour of closing. Since we were not going to be able to see much of the site, the folks let us head down for free (saving us the $17 each fee). We did get to see a couple of the buildings and get a feel for the community. We really enjoyed the presentation of the cannon that officially closed the site at the end of the day.  Definitely worth a longer visit in future, but for now we’re on to L’Ardoise.