A Bicycle Ride Around Nova Scotia – The First Half of the Story
– Louis Dini
The time had arrived! All the training, (rides to Dahlonega, big hills in the development, rides on the Silver Comet Railroad Bike Trail with a good friend Jeff Daxson, my daughter and grandson) and work to get in shape are past and the day of truth has arrived.
We met Joe Rohaly and his wife Barbara this morning on the “CAT” in Bar Harbor Maine. The “CAT” is a hydrofoil ferry that took us across the ocean to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The Ferry speed was forty-eight miles per hour and the trip took less than three hours. The water was rougher then I expected but we made it without any incident or seasickness.
Yes, we arrived at our starting point and were anxious to get moving. The ride was to start in the morning and we had all day to load up on food and prepare our bikes for the ride. Joe was smart and had a bike rack allowing him to do very little assembly work. I, on the other hand, had disassembled the bike and stuffed it into the trunk. Surprisingly, I remembered how it went together and everything worked once it was assembled.
Joe had made reservations at a small motel in mid-town Yarmouth for both of us. (strangely enough it was called Mid-Town Motel). At night we found that many of our soon to be fellow riders also stayed at the motel. We tried to meet as many as we could and of course it was fruitless for me because my worst attribute is names. Anyway, we met many and exchanged some of our experiences. Joe was the topic of the conversation with his recumbent bike. Everyone wanted to look it over and have their questions answered to learn all the details about its operation. Of course Joe didn’t ham it up or anything. Ha! I on the other hand would have my turn to find out about it as the ride unfolded. That’s another story and later you will hear about it if you want to or not.
It was extremely hard to sleep that first night with all the adrenaline flowing. We woke early or should I say we gave up on sleep at 6:00 a.m. Guess what? The weather was horrible, rain had moved in and there was so much fog that one could not see across the street. We proceeded to go to breakfast hoping that the weather would break before we had to start riding. Now what do you think a person in training should eat for breakfast to have a good start on the ride. Wrong! It was McDonald’s scrambled eggs, sausage, and hash browns with lots of coffee (and all the grease I could get).
We returned to the motel and joined others that started to put their gear together. About 9:30 am we moved from the motel to the visitors center where the ride was to start. Okay, we are ready to go! But the weather is still horrible and the fog has not lifted (talk about adrenaline, no I think it was just fright). Remember the song about the soldier not wanting to follow Custer (Hey Mr. Custer I Don’t Want To Go), well that is how I felt. I was not ready to go! You guessed it stupidity won over common sense and we (thirty seven of us) left for our destination, Villagedale. Amazingly the first historical site we came to was St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Guess what? I went in and said a prayer hoping that the good Lord would over look my stupidity and protect me on this ride. I guess He listened because that day and the rest of the ride went without any serious incidents.
I quickly learned to take Joe’s estimate of the mileage and add about one hundred percent. Joe insisted that he try the popular Acadian dish rappie pie. He led me off the trail, supposedly a mile, to indulge in the special dish. Well, Joe’s mile turned into almost three and we added another five plus miles to our daily ride. After that detour, when Joe would say it was a mile or two, I would ask if it was a U.S. mile or a Joe mile. By the way, Joe agreed the pie wasn’t worth the ride.
The weather slowly cleared but not fast enough to afford the luxury of good scenery and photo opportunities. By the time we arrived at the campsite the sun was out and that was as good as it was going to get that day because the fog started to roll in early in the evening. Along with the rain and fog we missed the food stop, so after we set up our tents, if we wanted to have supper we had to ride seven miles back and forth. Okay, so you say what is fourteen miles anyway? It was horrible as it brought the ride for the day to eighty miles and before we got back the fog had become very thick. Well, that is day one (80 miles). We rode long and hard, missed our food stop, I broke a spoke, we got to the campsite and the black flies ate us alive.
The second day started out with full sunshine and the black flies that were still very aggressive. Sleep came easily last night after the hard ride yesterday. The first thing on the agenda was to repair the broken spoke and dry out the rain fly as the dampness was extremely heavy last night.
Well, I completed the repair even though there were millions of black flies trying to carry me away. Joe was all packed and we started out at about 10:30 am. Guess what? We were the last ones to leave the campsite. We soon became known for being the last ones in and the last ones out each day. The others were nice about it and ribbed us at every opportunity.
By the way I forgot yesterday to explain that our wives (Delores and Barb) did not stay in the campsites or should I say they refused to stay in the campsites. Joe did an excellent job of finding them motels along the route. He planned it so they would be in the same town we were every other day. This gave them a chance to enjoy our company and take us to supper (ha!). The ladies fit right in and were on first name basis with most of the riders. In short order Joe and I got ribbed about ladies picking us up for supper. As they came in sight the crowd would say here come the girlfriends, it must be date night.
The ride was better today, because the weather stayed mostly sunny. Of course we had some pretty good head winds. I suppose this is a good time to explain how familiar I became with Joe’s recumbent. I literally saw nothing but Joe’s back all day and then not at any close distance unless we had a tail wind. Damn that bike flies! In the whole trip I think I led or stayed close to Joe about forty miles out of four hundred miles. With my weight and the way I tune my bike, I have been known to leave people behind when there are steep down hills. I found out how people I used to ride with felt. I would start down a hill and reach about thirty-eight miles per hour and Joe would fly by me reaching some fifty miles per hour. I could not even stay close to Joe going down hill! I gained a lot of respect for the ability of the recumbent and am giving strong consideration to purchasing one myself.
Once again Joe led me off the trail to find lunch. This time it was a total of three Joe miles or about a detour of seven miles. For this effort we found a very nice little restaurant with very good food. The only problem we encountered is that, with most of the bikers finding this same place, the restaurant ran out of some of their popular items. We found the world to be very small when we started talking to the owner of the restaurant. Our sag driver, a young lady from Australia, and the proprietor’s daughter were from Australia and even lived in towns that were very close.
We made it to Shelborne in the daylight but still we were the last ones in and the forty-two mile trip turned into fifty-five today. Of course we were late and the wives were there before we could get set up and cleaned up. We hurried with set-up, went to the wive’s motel to shower and then to supper. Do you want to know what we did the rest of the night? We went to the Laundromat to do some riding gear because we didn’t have time to do that task the night before (some sight seeing!). We made it back to the campsite in the dark again.
That is it for day two (55 miles). The weather was better and we were able to get some pictures. The ride was easier, however, we continued to add up more miles then the map designated. We had supper in good company (the wives) and turned in less tired then last night. By the way this tour followed the lighthouse route. The funny part is that in two days we still weren’t able to see a lighthouse because of the fog along the ocean.
The third day started out overcast and gloomy and before we got into town to meet the wives for breakfast, it started to rain. We were not the last ones out of camp today. However, after we ate breakfast we were the last ones to leave the town. The good news is that while we ate the rain came down very hard and all those poor souls who hurried out got soaked on the road. We on the other hand stayed dry and luckily we managed to do that all day.
The head winds grew stronger through out the day and at one point I had a very hard time sustaining ten miles per hour. We came to a turn in the route at the Little Harbour Country Store and decided to have a snack. The store obviously had been closed for some time and it was good that we had snacks in our bags or we would have been out of luck. The wind was very strong and cold as it blew across the ocean that was less than a quarter mile away. The old store provided us shelter from the wind as we ate and rested.
Well here is what I have been waiting for! We now turned with the wind at our back and I had the first occasion to experience what it was like to ride with a partner in over two days, in fact I even led for a period of time. We thoroughly enjoyed the wind at our back and we did eight miles in about thirty-five minutes. What a joy!
We found a place to have lunch on the actual route. I didn’t know if I was going to be hungry, as we didn’t have to travel all those extra miles to find lunch. I guess I was hungry I sure did eat a lot.
Oh! Oh! The first real hills we had to encounter. The legs really burned and of course we had to be on a road with cars going sixty miles per hour. The good news is that this condition only lasted for about six miles. Of course, if you ride a bike, you learn that with every up hill there is generally a great down hill. Yes there was! The only problem is that we had to turn left at the bottom of the hill. I pulled on the brakes as hard as I could and just made the turn. Of course, I could have passed but then I would have to pedal back up hill. My mother didn’t raise any dummies!
The road that led into the campsite was gravel and two miles long. This is not the best road to ride on with a road bike. Fortunately the road was packed pretty well where the cars had traveled back and forth. We were able to ride all the way without any tire problems.
We had a new experience tonight. We actually had to cook something to eat for supper. We had made instant coffee and even some instant oatmeal for breakfast but this was first supper (you have to know that we only had a four-cup coffee pot to accomplish this task). I had picked up some Lipton soup mix and a can of white chicken meat. I made soup and put the chicken meat into the broth (not too bad). Dessert was some fruit and nut mix and I was full. Well believe it or not, we broke our string. We were not the last ones to the campsite. We actually got in early enough to retire early and read a little.
Well that is about all there was for the third day (55 miles). The weather cleared in the afternoon and we were able to get a couple of pictures, however, there was not much to photograph as we travelled in an area away from the water and through a lot of forest areas. We had a good breakfast, missed lunch and cooked a marginal supper.
The fourth day started off with a little rain early. It rained just enough to get the rain fly wet and it was overcast enough so it would not dry out before we had to pack up. We had another hearty breakfast of oatmeal, tea and fruit. These breakfasts didn’t last long in my stomach and with luck I would make it out of the campsite before I was hungry again. Today is another long ride and scheduled to be about sixty-four miles. I am sure we will make it seventy before we reach Lunenburg.
The sky was covered with clouds and it kept the sun from burning us up. It was clear enough to get some more photographs along the shoreline. We had a lunch or a second breakfast early in the ride at the White Point Lodge. This was a neat resort on the shoreline with a golf course and all. The food was good even though we had to go up and down some pretty steep hills to get to the lodge. Speaking of hills today was one of those hillier days. I think that each day picked up in regards to a hill size or I was just getting weaker with each day. Well, I guess I made it, as I knew that tomorrow was a lay over day. Joe made it because we visited a terrific bakery in La Have just before we ferried across to East La Have. I don’t know what he had, but he kept talking about it for the next couple of miles.
The wives were already in Lunenburg since yesterday and we decided that they should just pick us up in the morning. We therefore needed to find supper and of course we found a restaurant on the road to Lunenburg. What a novel happening, we had the luxury of another restaurant where we didn’t have to travel five or ten miles out of the way. Joe found a parking spot for his long bike right up against the wall of the restaurant. There were twenty bikes there and yet no one had parked against the wall of the restaurant. Joe thought he was smart but found when he came out that no one parked there because there was a bird’s nest right above his bike. This is a good news bad news story! The bad news was the birds crapped all over his bike and the good news is that they somehow missed his seat so he didn’t have to ride in it.
The weather had cleared even more and there was a slight wind as we entered the campsite. Guess what! We weren’t the last ones to the campsite again, that’s two in a row. We set up early for a change and the wind dried the tents very fast. This campsite was in the open and there weren’t any trees to hang a rope to dry out the clothes that I washed yesterday. I laid them across the tent and they finished drying before nightfall.
That’s about it for the fourth day (67 miles). We started with wet gear and cloudy skies, found the route had more or larger hills, good food, a great bakery and enough sun and wind to dry out the equipment.
The fifth day we chose not to but rather to go sightseeing in Lunenburg and Peggy’s cove. Lunenburg was a very colorful town on the water. By colorful I mean the actual colors of the building. There were buildings of bright yellow, green, red, and many other colors. We found that the reason for the bright colors is they are easier to see in the fog when the ships are coming in.
We took a horse and buggy ride, visited the boat museum, walked along the boardwalk and even shopped for some souvenirs. We had lunch and then met Barb and Joe to drive to Peggy’s Cove. When we arrived at Peggy’s Cove the sun was out in full and we took some very beautiful photographs. These are the sights and memories we had thought we would bring back from the lighthouse route. This made the trip worthwhile. Peggy’s Cove is the most photographed location in Nova Scotia and we certainly could see why.
There was some sadness there also. They had a monument along the shore for the crash of The Swiss Air Flight 111 in which all aboard were killed. It was a very somber moment as we stood and looked out over the water. The only other moment I have felt like this is when we stood in the monument for the Arizona battle ship lost in Pearl Harbor.
We ended the day by having supper with the whole group in Lunenburg. It was good to be together in one place to talk to and get to know each other more. Yes we were all in the campsite together but we didn’t really come together in a group and mingle. That night we found that the people were from all walks of life, all professions and from all over the North American Continent. Thirty-eight people came together and somehow we will all remember one another through the experience of this bike ride.
So that’s the fifth day, good weather, good friends, and beautiful scenery!
The sixth day was supposed to be a very hard ride. That is why the day was only twenty –seven miles. We came to a very nice town called Mahone Bay. We had breakfast and looked around the main street, which was set up for a sidewalk sale. Joe and I both bought a souvenir cap which, we didn’t know at time, would come in handy in the future.
Because we expected the ride to be the hardest we had encountered, we left fairly quickly and made our way toward our destination. As it happens, what you think will be may not always be correct. The day was indeed easier than we thought and we arrived very early at the campsite. This campsite had a very steep hill entrance and the road was made of a very sharp shale type rocks. We decided to walk the bikes in to avoid any tire problems.
Arriving at camp early allowed us to have a day of relaxation. We set up camp and Joe pulled out his lounge chair and proceeded to read his book. I on the other hand decided to do my wash so I would have dry clean clothes for a couple of days. One of the ladies on the ride wanted to play cribbage. I didn’t know how so she took the time to teach me. This brought back fond memories as when I was a child and we went to my grandparents house for a reunion, my grandfather, uncles, and dad would spend hours playing cribbage. I never had the opportunity to learn so this was something I enjoyed.
Well, this was another cooking night as there wasn’t a town for miles. This night we would enjoy beef stew and beef soup. I can’t decide if it was good or if my being hungry would have made everything taste good. After that delicate cuisine we turned in early and read for a while.
Well that’s day six (30 miles). This was a relatively easy day with plenty of relaxation time. I learned something new and reminisced about days of old.
The seventh day turned out to be what we expected on day six. Talk about hills! Yesterday the hills were Michigan size hills, and today they were Dahlonega size hills. Today we used a lot of energy but the ride was in such an area that there was nowhere to get food or to recoup what we lost.
Darn, I hate that loud ping! I broke another spoke early in the ride so we stopped to true the wheel as good as possible until I could get time to replace it. It sure is nice to have good friends with you on a day like today. Joe played the part of a bicycle rack and held the rear wheel up so I could do the truing job.
We had climbed a hill for what seemed like an eternity. At the top of the hill we found a campsite store. We turned in to the campsite and purchased a snack, sat on the porch and enjoyed one another’s company while we discussed life in general.
We probably stayed longer than we should have, as both of us were stiff when we got up. We resumed the ride and in about a mile the road went into a serious downhill. We were enjoying the downhill when all of a sudden the fog and clouds opened into an awesome view of bright sun, green earth as I have never seen and a blue sky. One breathtaking scene that plants unforgettable memories in one’s gray matter is what riding on a tour is all about. That experience wipes out any memories left by hundreds of hard miles.
We arrived early at the campsite again (this is becoming a habit). We set up our tents and then went about our business. I repaired the broken spoke, which was harder than the last as it was on the free wheel side. I was lucky to find a spoke long enough in Gary’s supply (Gary is our tour leader). I found one that just threaded and I hoped it would last the next three days.
Well that’s day seven (42 miles). Tonight is supper again with our wives early to bed and ready for another rough day tomorrow. This was a hard day, my legs needed to have icy hot applied to relax the muscles. With any luck at all, the bike wheel and my legs would hold up for the rest of the ride.
The start of the eighth day was horrible. It rained all night and it was still raining as we tried to break camp. What a mess! Everything was soaked including the sleeping bag. We packed up the best we could and prepared for our journey today. I switched to using only one pannier in order to reduce the weight I would have on the bike. My hope is that it would help the spoke last the rest of the trip.
The ride started out very easy with tail winds making it easy to maintain eighteen miles per hour. We went about ten miles and then it was decision time. We had a choice to go up steep hills to see the Bay of Fundy or take the valley route that had fewer hills. We decided to take the valley route, as it was so foggy in the high country that we wouldn’t be able to see the beauty of the Bay of Fundy. (Because there were huge hills had no bearing on our decision. Ha!)
The valley route turned out to be the most picturesque on this particular day. The ride was initially hilly and very busy. We found a detour to avoid traffic but the hills remained. The route we took allowed us to continue viewing and enjoying the same view that we found yesterday. We came out of the detour route in time for lunch and after lunch we remained on the main highway all the way to the campsite. This road leveled out and was not very hilly. The wind kicked up so we now had a head wind to make the ride just a little bit harder. We had lunch in a restaurant on the route again (is this becoming a habit?)
After lunch we headed to our destination arriving at the campsite early again (another habit?). We set up the tents and proceeded to dry out all our gear. The wind and the rain made short order of the drying process as we waited for our wives. We were having supper again with them (another habit?).
We ate at a restaurant that was a restored two-story building called Fat Pheasant. This place had it all, great food, ambiance, and great service. We really pigged out (this was the best meal of the trip). We arrived at the campsite at dark and turned in early because we were to have another hilly day tomorrow (another habit?).
Well, that is day eight (60 miles). The ride was not as hard as it could have been, and the day ended with good weather and excellent food (both lunch and supper).
The ninth day started with no major rain only light drizzle early in the morning. The morning stayed overcast and it looked like rain most of the early hours. We broke camp early, which was unusual for Joe and I. I guess I was up early because my watch stop working yesterday and I didn’t really know what time it was.
There was no breakfast cooked this morning just coffee as town was only two miles away and it had several good eating places. After a good breakfast we tackled the ride for the day. I was sure glad we had a good breakfast because the hills started almost immediately. These hills were bigger than Dahlonega hills and probably more like Blue Ridge Mountains. They seemed to go for an eternity!
My legs would not perform well today and Joe stayed way out in front of me. He occasionally would stop to wait for me to make sure I didn’t give up. Believe me, on this day, if there was a way to get the ride over faster, I would have paid to do it (this thought may have been an omen, as you will read later).
Suddenly, there was a downhill and it had to be the downhill of all times. The road was horrendously steep, had lots of tight curves and pot holes everywhere you looked. I knew this would not be fun! I had to pull on the brakes harder than ever before on this ride and I still could not get below twenty miles per hour. I pulled even harder and only hoped the tires would not blow for the intense heat of the friction on the rims. I reached the bottom at last and the road opened into the nicest little town called Bear River. It had many neat stores with all types of unique things to ponder over.
Our wives happen to come into the same town at the same time so we had lunch with them. Lunch again at lunchtime for sure this is a habit I can get used to. We ate and then decided to attack the rest of the day’s ride.
There is an axiom in bicycle riding that says, whenever you over eat at lunch there will be a big hill to try and navigate. Try navigating a steep incline on a full stomach one time. Well sure enough the hill stared us in the face. We started up the hill and after about one third the way up something slipped on my bike. The next thing I knew was it was slipping more then finally would not go any more. I had stripped the free wheel right off the hub. Luckily the sag driver and my wife had not left town. I flagged down the sag driver loaded the bike and went back for my wife. I needed her to drive me to a bike shop to try and get repair parts. As we started to leave for the bike shop the sky opened up and the rain came down in buckets. Joe was somewhere out on the road in the middle of it.
After driving around for several hours, we had no success in finding necessary parts to make the repairs. I decided to hang it up for this tour and we went to the campsite to get some of my gear. I ended up in Yarmouth with the wives in the motel for the evening. That by the way was a very smart decision on my part even though I didn’t think so at the time. That night a severe electrical storm came in and I was glad not to be in a tent.
Well that’s day nine (20 miles). This was the worst day of the ride with horrible hills, high winds, torrential downpours, an electrical storm and a broken bike.
The final day found me up early. I guess I was anxious to wait for the riders to come into Yarmouth. I surely had mixed emotions today. I was sad that I couldn’t be riding in with the group on this the tenth and final day but was glad I didn’t have to be in a tent in an electrical storm or riding in a fog the storm left this morning.
We had breakfast, then I went to the visitor center to wait for the riders while the ladies made one more round of stores to see what they might have missed before. The first riders arrived about eleven o’clock and the last about two o’clock. I took pictures of the individuals as they crossed the finish line. I was sad I was not one of those crossing the finish line, but happy that I had an opportunity to talk to each as they came in. I would not have been able to do this if I had been able to ride on this day (another memory to treasure).
We had lunch, went back to the motel, dried out my gear, packed the car and left for the ferry and our return trip.
Well that’s the tenth day (0 miles today but 404 for the trip). To sum it up, I had some real fears (fog and steep down hills), some dilemmas (equipment breakdowns), some great moments to remember, and 37 new friends to think about for many years. I love this sport and can’t wait until the next trip.