Follow the adventures of Bryan Thorp as he lives his dream of riding across Canada from coast to coast.
Day 82 - Sep 2 - Wed
French River, NS - Whycocomagh, NS -156km
I woke up after 06:30 and skipped breakfast as one doesn't tempt fate when guerrilla camping. My tent was sopping wet from the dew and condensation. Even the windows of the church beside me were covered in condensation! I was on the road by 7:20. Man, it was COLD by the time I hit the road... my computer showed 8C; I checked my records later on and I haven't ridden in weather that cold since June 30th in Jasper, when it was 4C.
By the time I reached Antigonish just over 2 hours later, the temperature had risen to 20C. Much better! From my guerrilla camping spot to Antigonish, I rode hwy 4 until it merged with the Trans-Canada (TC). Hwy 4 is very low volume, not extremely scenic but definitely preferably over the TC.
In Antigonish, I ran into some Tour du Canada riders and chatted with them. I considered riding the Tour du Canada; it is a ride that takes one across the country, staying at campgrounds or even university dorms, for the most part. On the tour, one does not have to carry their 'luggage' on their bikes - a SAG (Support And Gear) wagon is provided. Problems with your bike? There's likely someone knowledgeable enough to help you out. If you're interested in biking across Canada with 50+ others, aren't confident of your bike repair skills, don't want to lug your stuff, and don't want to worry about planning your trip, this is probably the way to go. I was told that it costs about $4,000 or just under $60/day.
My tour has so far cost that amount also! So, why didn't sign up with the Tour du Canada? I personally felt I could do everything myself, plus I didn't want to be in a large group. Anyhow, the Tour du Canada riders will be on the same ferry as I will be this coming Friday night.
In Antigonish I got my 3 pancakes: small and not that great. I then topped up my food supplies, including buying my last container of Gatorade powder! I hit the road again, this time the TC as hwy 4 had earlier merged with the TC. Eventually, I veer off the TC and take a coastal road; it makes my day a bit longer but anything's better that the high volume and fast, stressful traffic on the TC. The coastal route turns out to be quite picturesque and worthy of some photos.
I arrive at Monastery and buy some pop at a gas station, then resume my coastal route. Even more great scenery! Around 15:00, I cross the Canso Causeway and I'm in Cape Breton, NS. This is the last major cycling region before NF. It's 140+km to the NF ferry from the tourist info, and I have 2.5 days to do that.
At the tourist info, I check my e-mail and have some bagels for lunch. I hit the road for the last stretch today which is 50km to Whycocomagh, where I'll camp in the provincial park. In the Monastery area, I noticed that town names are now being displayed in both English and Gaelic.
I get to my campground and start my spaghetti dinner while setting up my tent. The tent's sopping wet from this am but should for the most part dry out over night. Hopefully, the dew won't be so bad, as the grass is pretty thin in this campsite. Communities that I rode through today were: French River, Barney's River, Barney's River Station, Marshy Hope, James River, Antigonish, Bayfield, Tracadie, Monastery, Frankville, Havre Boucher, Aulds Cove, Port Hastings, Queensville, Kingsville, Glendale, Melford, Blues Mills and Whycocomagh.
Day 83 - Sep 3 - Thu
Whycocomagh, NS - Englishtown, NS - 97km
Well, I slept a long time, waking finally around 07:00. Usually, when I sleep too much, I get a headache, and I wasn't disappointed this morning. I popped 2 Tylenols and ate some breakfast in my tent. There was hardly any condensation on the tent. I found a sunny spot and ensured the tent was completely dry.
I broke camp around 10:00 as I had 2 days to do 100km, but I'm diverting up the famous Cabot Trail a bit to get a taste of of this famous trail. It's already 21C on the road, with no wind, a nice shoulder and a great view of St. Patricks Channel. It was very pleasant riding.
After about 37km I arrived in Baddeck and dropped by the tourist info, where I ran into Dave the Australian, who I met yesterday right after the Canso causeway. Dave's with the Tour du Canada and he also rode Halifax to Seattle solo last year! I don't think I'd want to do X-Canada twice! Anyhow, kudos to Dave for noticing all the important features of my bike - I believe he's the 1st one on my tour to notice virtually every significant detail of my bike. He also guessed the cost of my custom made bike to within a few hundred dollars! Amazing! He knows his bikes well - I actually thought he was in the bike business, but his profession is as an automobile mechanic.
I had a club sandwich in Baddeck and they wouldn't substitute the fries for a basic salad. I should've walked out and tried another place but I acquiesced and ate some fries. I haven't had any fries for a while but still, I don't understand the lack of effort to give a customer what they want. :-(
I'm also looking for small containers of naphtha fuel for my stove... I'm almost out of fuel but within days of completing the tour. I hate to buy a whole litre of fuel and have to dump 80% of it but it'd be cheaper to do that than to eat out. I'll make a decision tomorrow before boarding the ferry.
I left Baddeck but didn't go back on Hwy 105 (TC) but took a scenic back road, hwy 205, for 10km or so. Quite pretty and low volume traffic. Eventually, hwy 205 joins the TC and I followed that for about 8-9km to nr. Southaven, where one can get on the Cabot Trail. I stopped to call home at a pay phone and who should pass by me but Dave the Australian! When I finished my phone call, I joined Dave at the nearby restaurant for some liquid sugar.
Eventually, we resumed our ride up the Cabot Trail, riding a total of 38km. I went up as far as Indian Brook and the turned down to Englishtown, which required a short ferry crossing across St. Anns Harbour. I did indeed get a taste of the Cabot Trail but I didn't get to any of the spectacular parts but the scenery was worthy of a few photos. Most cyclists who have asked me about my ride thru the Maritimes have also invariably asked if I was doing the Cabot Trail. It's quite well known amongst Canadian touring cyclists as being a spectacular ride, probably up there with the Icefield Parkway. Alas, I can't do 'em all on this tour! Maybe someday. Certainly, I've earmarked the area to come back to, whether by car or by bike.
I arrive at my campsite at Englishtown and the Tour du Canada is also staying there, so it's pretty full. I make another spaghetti dinner but discover I don't have tomato sauce. Oh well, a can of tuna should do the trick. It's definitely nutritious!
Tomorrow will be another short day as the NF ferry is only 40km from Englishtown. I'll be completely stocking up on food, maybe fuel and cash. The cash is in case I can't find campgrounds and have to stay at a B&B or two in my mini-tour of NF before arriving in St. John's/Cape Spear. Communities that I rode through today were: Whycocomagh, Bucklaw, Wagmatcook, Nyanza, Baddeck, Big Hill, S. Gut St. Anns, N. Gut St. Anns, St. Anns, North River Bridge, Tarbotvale, Indian Brook and Englishtown.
Day 84 - Sep 4 - Fri
Englishtown, NS - North Sydney, NS (ferry to NL) - 50km
I didn't sleep all that well last night, which seems to be par for the course for me in a tent. It was, however, quite warm compared to the prior 2 nights here in NS. There was no condensation on my tent partly because I chose my site especially carefully and left a tent flap partly open for better ventilation. Of course, the weather cooperated, too.I got up at 07:00 and left around 08:30 after some peanut butter and Nutella bagels in the tent. The Tour du Canada (TdC) people haven't left yet but then it's only a 'slacker' 40km day for all of us.
Btw, Dave the Australian showed me the TdC itinerary yesterday and their total mileage is 7450+-km. I also see that in BC, they went from Hope to Merritt, suggesting that they took the Coquihalla; that is the last hwy I would ride in BC, but for the TdC it might be a reasonable choice considering that the southern route through Manning Park, the Crowsnest Hwy, is likely to be too much of a challenge for inexperienced cyclists.I did the Manning Park route in 2007, and it was a challenge even for me, but only because it was 40C the day I reached Alison Pass Summit!
Back to Englishtown: tourist info at the Canso Causeway had warned me that there was a big climb right after Englishtown. They were right. By BC standards, it was a hill, but it was still a good warmup for 1st thing in the morning. The view from the lookouts just before and after the crest were exceptionally nice. I was pleased to see that my Polar computer showed virtually the same ascent numbers as the height for the summit, Kelly's Mountain, at 240m. It was 21C well before 10:00. It looks like it's going to be very nice in the Maritimes and NL for the next 7 days: the forecast shows only Tuesday as having a touch of rain. I'll definitely have to take advantage of that.
I crossed a bridge over a bay and apparently into the community of Boularderie. I started looking for the breakfast place recommended to me last night by a local at the campground. I found it shortly and asked if they did pancakes. They did indeed so I took a seat and subsequently had my usual stack of 3 with java. Status quo! The universe continues to unfold as originally intended.
After breakfast it was something like a 21km slog into North Sydney. My bike computer showed 30C and it was a busy highway albeit with an adequate shoulder. Eventually I arrive in North Sydney. I recognize the town, especially the ferry dock, from my prior visits. It's not a pretty town, IMO.
I checked Canadian Tire for stove fuel but the smallest container on hand was 1 litre, which was way too much for the remaining portion of my trip. I then recalled that my stove does unleaded fuel, so I stopped at a gas station and put $0.41 of unleaded in my fuel bottle. Problem solved! I don't even have to change the jet on the stove for unleaded. Nice! That feature alone of my MSR Dragonfly stove saved me time, money and aggravation.
I visited tourist info, the library for Internet access, the bank, the post office and the grocery store. I picked up some Gravol on the advice of my better 1/2 who claims the entire family was sick the last time we took this ocean-going ferry. Should be interesting. It was only 17:00 and I didn't see any interesting places for dinner, other than the usual Subway, Timmy's and mobile french fry places.
So, time to drag out the stove and cook a spaghetti dinner - what, again?! - on the wharf. Once dinner was consumed, I DID head over to Timmy's and treated myself to an iced cappuccino. I then headed to the ferry terminal right nearby and checked in. I joined some TdC cyclists and answered the usual questions about my trip and the bike. Someone said that my bike was 'legendary' amongst the TdC group, thanks to Dave the Australian!
At 09:00, we 20+ cyclists were asked to line up in front of the ferry 30 of the 50 or so TdC cyclists were able to put their bikes on top of a truck and trailer, so a lot of the TdC cyclists were 'walk ons'. We ended up standing around on the pavement for about 1 and 3/4 hours with our bikes! Then when we got into the ship's hold, we stood around for almost another 1/2 hour! The loading of bikes onto the ferry was totally disorganized. One would think that after all these years, the NL Ferry would be more organized. Certainly on the BC and PEI ferries, it was a trivial task loading our bikes and strapping them down. I did complain to the purser once the ferry was underway, but she said there was no one on board to direct the complaint to - I would've thought the captain would like to know, but I guess not.
As I recall, we got under way about 15 or 20 minutes late. I popped my Gravol and found a reclining chair for the voyage but it sure was uncomfortable. The Gravol helped as I started to feel drowsy but I didn't feel sick at any time during the trip. The seas were very calm, in fact this was my smoothest sailing of any of my sailings to/from NL. In the end, I slept on the floor with my food bag as a poor substitute for a pillow, and my sleeping bag on top of me. At least I was warm. Communities that I rode through today were: Englishtown, NS, Boularderie, Bras d'Or, Little Bras d'Or, North Sydney