Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 26 - 27: Getting started on the Cabot Trail

July 26: Antigonish to West Mabou Harbour
117 km

6:24 on the bike

18.1 km/hr

Big rain in the night and on into the morning. It kept us in our tents until after 7:00 am. Then it eased enough for us to pack up and hit the road by about 9:15 am. Very warm and humid too. I cycled for the first 50 km of the day in my bathing suit. We were joined for our ride today by Wally. We met him yesterday on the road in Pictou. He ended up camping in the same Antigonish campground as we did. He has ridden across from Vancouver. Wally rides about 100 km per day. He is supported by his son Mike, who drives the RV. Since the campgrounds are spaced approx 100 km apart, and since we are all heading up to the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island, we decided to share some miles.

2nd breakfast was at the Dragon Fly Cafe outside of Antigonish. A bit early for 2nd, but we decided to take it. Then it was on to the Trans Canada Highway for the ride to the Canso Causeway that connects Cape Breton with the rest of Nova Scotia - we decided to bypass the scenic route, Highway 4, as the TCH would be significantly faster and we had some time to make up. The clouds were still hovering and rain was on the wind, but we didn't see any drops. The TCH here has a fairly good shoulder and what with the long, gentle rolls, we made excellent time to the Causeway. Bikers beware however, the Canso Causeway doesn't have any shoulder and the pavement is quite rough -- but it only lasts for a little while.

Unfortunately, Wally flatted twice and didn't catch up with us until our lunch break on the far side of the Causeway. By this time the clouds were starting to lift and we were beginning to get great views. Also, the road from the Causeway to Mabou (Highway 19) was very fast -- long rolls through little towns like Judique and Port Hood (by the way, if you listen to Canadian Idol, vote for Mitch -- he is from Port Hood and is quite the local celebrity). The countryside was really reminiscent of Scotland. The Scottish settlers arriving here must have thought they were back in the old country -- probably until they got their first taste of winter, apparently it can snow quite a bit here.

We pulled into our campground in West Mabou around 6:00. Wade and Mike kindly gave us a fine pasta dinner -- complete with lots of home-made red wine. It was a great ending to our first day in Cape Breton.

July 27: 89km to Cheticamp
A beautiful day's riding on the edge of Cape Breton, with warm and sunny weather all day. After breakfast we took the highway through Mabou and up into a lovely Scottish-like valley before descending towards Inverness. On the way we stopped at the Glenora Distillery - Canada's only single-malt whiskey distillery for a quick peek (no samples, though). Brunch was in Inverness with deli sandwiches, as the only cafe in town was packed out. On the way into town I explored the last section of the rail trail that goes from Canso Causeway all the way to Inverness - it was a bit rocky and soft but quite nice, we had decided not to take it yesterday because of the poor surface. Too bad it doesn't go further, but the railway it is based on only went to Inverness to serve the coal mines there.

After Inverness the scenery just kept getting better as we continued, sometimes along the coast and sometimes inland, through the coast road to Margaree Harbour and joined up with the Cabot Trail proper up the coast to Cheticamp. Along the way was Joe's Scarecrows, a weird tourist attraction consisting of hundreds of scarecrows at a rest stop... quite odd, from a distance it just looked like a big crowd of people hanging out at the side of the road.

Camping is at Plage St Pierre on Cheticamp Island, and we were in camp before 4:00 so we had plenty of time to do laundry and hang out at the very nice beach. The water is superbly warm and the beach a very nice sand and the water is very shallow a long way out.

Tomorrow the REAL hills begin, north of Cheticamp. And this nice weather should hold out for most of the week.


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