Day 8
August 21st, 2002
Cape Breton National Park
Near Cheticamp, Nova Scotia

There are special days in the life of a long rider.  Days when the weather, bike, roads, scenery, food, people, and riding, combine with the sheer pleasure of living life at its fullest, to make a day for the ages.  This would be one of those days.  A day that ended all too quickly, even though I rode almost 600 miles.

As ugly a day yesterday was, this one is pretty.  I am up early.  The sun still making its way up in the Eastern sky.  As usual, I am first out of the campground. 

It is very cool, almost cold, the sky is cobalt blue.  I ride out of the forest and bust out on the coast to see sparkling blue water, with gentle white caps rolling in.  Now this is why I rode all this way.  I ride north into the hills, with the ocean standing watch.  The sun rises over the hills in the east, illuminating the green landscape.  I have the Cabot Trail to myself.  The RVs, mini vans, and rich college kids on road trips, are still sleeping, leaving this long rider to enjoy this new day in the solitude for which it was designed.

It was a breathtaking morning.

I pull into a overlook to absorb my surroundings.  Brother Rob Hart was correct in pointing me to this road, he was also correct when he said early morning was the best time to ride it.  As I gazed out into the North Atlantic, I felt very proud.  By days end, I will be only 1 of a handful long riders that have ridden both the Pacific Coast Highway, and the Cabot Trail.  I feel even better when I think I was able to do it in 2 months of each other.  It should be against the law to have has much fun as me.
​  Sunrise on the Cabot Trail
The road in this area is good, as the Trail breaks away from the coast into the highlands.  It now becomes very twisty, and I get in all the leaning I want.  I am not riding fast, leaning is not why I came here, although that part is fun too.

Perhaps it was the bleakness of yesterday, but the sunlight of today seems extra intense.  As I near White Hill, the air is very cool.  I see a moose far ahead, he strolls across the road into the woods in a nonchalant manner.  
I pull into a overlook above Fisherman's Cove.  A small fishing community once thrived in the small inlet, trading with Cheticamp over the years, till they all died out, and no one came to replace to them.
The morning sun rises over the hills of Cape Breton, lighting the area just for me.
Riding along in the hills, I snapped the collar of the Roadcrafter to ward off the chill of the North Atlantic.
As I reached the summits of the highlands I rose above the hardwood timberline to a distinct smell.  Christmas.  I smell Christmas.  I look around and see I am surrounded by thousands of acres of Christmas trees.  Blue Spruce I think.  The aroma is especially strong in the low spots.  For several miles I think about long ago holidays.  How our Christmas tree gave our house a special scent.  A medium size Blue Spruce garners almost 200 dollars during the Christmas season back home.  

I have only met a few cars, so far this morning.  

I round the cape, the highway now pointing me south for home.  For the next 2000 miles it will be my only direction.  For some reason I don't feel along way from home.

The bumpy road returns, or maybe it has been with me awhile, and I didn't notice.

The cool morning is warming up nicely.  I have been able to wear my leather gloves exclusively the last few days.

The morning passes quickly, and I stop in a small local gas station in Ingonish.  The station only has a 2 pump island.  The place looks ancient.  I pump my gas, then go in the small, dirty office to pay.  I give the young owner my Mastercard.  He does not have a swipe terminal, but has to manually put in the digits, not seen one of those in a long time.  He hands it back and says -

"no good"

"do what?? I just used it last night???"  I KNOW I am not over my limit, in fact I zeroed the balance out last month. Must be a security check. 

I give him my Visa checkcard, this time the message says its NOT a valid card.

"the hell it ain't"

"not what it says here"

"I have one last card, American Express, he punches in the numbers and says he gets a message for me to call them.

"what the hell, where's ya phone?" 

"don't have one"

"you aint gotta phone??"

"no, I don't live far from here so I just go there when I need to make a call".

I offer him 20 American to pay for my 15 dollars in gas.

"oh we're not set up for that" as he draws his hand back.

My total is 15.02 and I scrape up 15 Canadian in paper and coins.  I can't call my MC people, they are located on the west coast, and won't be in for a couple of hours. I get out my phone to call American Express and get this response when I asked what the deal was-

"Mr Boutin your account is fine, in fact we have no record of the transaction you just described".

"are you sure?"

"yes sir"

I leave the gas station worried.  I am worried about my check card, I carry very little cash, totally relying on my card to pay for things.  I am worried because I fear some swipe has erased my magnetic strip.  It happened to me onetime in a rural Tennessee gas station, stranding me in North Carolina.  I had to borrow 60 bucks from Uncle Phil  to get home.

I came home from trip, and was forced to order a new card.  The bank said there are a few obsolete machines out there, and small local gas stations the most common place to find one.  Problem is, I don't recall swiping my card at any questionable places on this trip.  I learned that lesson, and don't think I would use it in such a place.
Lesson number 27 for a long rider-  Don't swipe cards in old looking gas stations.

I ride a few more miles into the village of Ingonish to find a modern bank.  When I find one, I go to the ATM in the foyer. I slip the card in and a minute later I hear that magic swirling sound of cash being dispensed, ahhhhhhh.  I take out 20 Canadian without a sweat.  Now I feel much better, and my suspicions are confirmed.  Something was wrong at the merchants end, and not my cards.  

I will call the MC people at lunch, to make sure things are ok.  

I ride by Smoky Mountain and get treated to a great view of the harbor below. 

I see the turn off for Alexander Graham Bell's home.  After traveling the world, he settled here, he said this place was the most beautiful he had ever been.

The road begins to jar me again. Banging my poor ST like a motocross bike.  I get raked so hard I have to stop and tighten down my stuff.

I come off the Trail and make a wrong turn. Victim of a poorly marked crossroads.  I am riding toward Sydney and I don't realize it for 20 miles.  

As I enter North Sydney I see a sign that says "Rotary Ahead"  Mmmmmm must be a heliport ahead.

NOT a heliport but one of those things you find in the UK.  I am not sure what comes next so just follow the guys in front.  I jump in and around I go.  I come back to where I came in and say, "hey ain't this where I got on?'  I go around again, and this time I see where I need to go, but I am in the wrong lane, and can't make the turn, and I go around again.  "Ok I got it now, get in the right lane, stay ahead of those guys coming in, and make the turn."  I get in the right lane and miss the turn again, because in the right lane they just pull on out in front of you.  A white car cuts me off.  I go around again.  I know folks are laughing now, "hey will somebody go out there and get that joker from Alabama, he's makin me dizzy."  I go around a 4th time, and this time I execute and make the turn.  

At last I get on the correct route.  I double back the way I came, and find 105.  After 260 kilometers I roll in to Port Hawkesbury for a long break.  A gas mart serves as my venue, and I drink Mountain Dew and munch on a bag of chips.  When I finished, I went across the street into a Sothbys for film, ravioli, and some candy.

I entertained a few locals at the photo lab with my accent.  They thought it was "cute."

I stopped for lunch in Antigonish at a place called "Mother Webbs." The place was jam packed.  I had a great hamburger steak and gravy, served by a delightful young waitress named Annaken.  I kidded her when I said her boyfriend worked in the kitchen. 


"I was just kidding"

I called customer service about my MC, it was 10am on the left coast.

"no, Mr. Boutin we have no record of that transaction"

As Spock would say, "fascinating"

With all that sorted out, I got back on the road again.

I followed 105 to route 7 and turned inland.  This road proved to be another great ride.  The sun was warm now and it glistened off the lakes and rivers I passed along the way.
​A faded, forgotten fishing boat, lies in the afternoon sun
Farmhouses stood on gently rolling hillsides, overlooking green pastureland.  Traffic was light.  This was indeed a million dollar day.  Everyone should forget the busy life for a few days and tour Nova Scotia.  Take some time and leave the touristy coast and see the other half of the province.  You owe it to yourself to take tours without an agenda, to not be fixed to a schedule, where everything is a mad dash to get to the next objective.  I have toured the continent, rode in 46 states and 5 provinces, many of them 2-3 times, and what I am most proud of is how little of that has been on interstates.  I know my country very well, and her people and land.  I have seen it up close.  I'll say this-if I had but 2 weeks vacation a year, I would be better served spending 2 weeks riding to Kansas and back, on back roads then trying to cram in a cross country trip in 10 days.  I could think of no greater calamity then sprinting to Calif and back on I-10, my mind adrift to the many roads I know I'm passing up, that would lead me to interesting towns, and good people.

Nova Scotia is a pretty place if they would only fix the roads.
​A Nova Scotia farm sits silently on a hill.  Route 7

I stayed on route 7 and it brings me back to the coast.  I pass through the many villages.  I stop several times for pictures.  I called my wife at work.  She told me it was going to be 98 humid, muggy degrees in Central Alabama today.  When I told her it was 68 perfect degrees where I was, she threatened to hang up the phone.

I saw a field of gorgeous yellow wildflowers, and stopped for a snapshot.
​Squinting in the afternoon sun, I took this picture among the Golden Rods.
I took a butt and fancy water break in Musquodoboit Harbor.  I also ate a ice cream sandwich.

I rode into Halifax and promptly got lost.  No signs, and the worst designed highway system I ever experienced.  I soon found myself lost on the surface streets of the city.  I staggered around Halifax for a hour. They need to do some serious work around here.  If they can confuse a long rider like me, no telling what happens to ma and pa tourist.

I stopped in several places for directions, but failed to understand anything that was being said.  I saw a tavern, and wished I drank, cause if I did, I was so frustrated and exasperated, I would stride in and get drunk.

Some how, some way, on a obscure surface street deep in Halifax, I came across a sign pointing to 103.  I followed the road for what seemed liked miles, and found my route.

I escape Halifax on 103 and begin looking for a place to spend the night.  I see the exit for Graves Provincial Park.  I wanted to make Yarmouth today, and I can't do it.  I'm tired, fried and sore.  I'm having back spasms from the pounding I've been taking the last 2000 miles on these things they call roads.  I've NEVER been had spasms before.  I fear every nut and bolt on the ST is loose.  

Graves Park is situated on a small island and I ride over a small causeway to get there.  This park is a great place.  Quiet and scenic.

I paid 12 bucks Canadian and found a nice grassy site.  The campsite sits on a small hill overlooking the island.  Nice choice if I say so myself. 

As I was sitting up my tent the campground host comes over for a chat.  He says he once spent time in Columbus, Georgia.   He chats with me while I go over the ST checking nuts and bolts, to make sure nothing has come loose.  He's local, and says he once shook a muffler off his car on these roads.

After that, I got out my stove and cooked up my raviolli.  My all stainless steel mess kit (courtesy Aerostich catalog, where else) is 100% better then my old tin Wal Mart kit.  When I finished eating, I went to the showers.  I charged up my phone while I cleaned up.  The facilities were good with plenty of hot water.

It was dark when I walked back to my campsite.  I strolled by a group  campers with a large campfire.  Several were strumming guitars and singing, they weren't half bad.  They sang a couple of old country songs and soft rock tunes.  I listened to them as I made my journal notes.  The moonlight was reflecting off the water and all was good with the world.

I called my wife and son.  They were fine.  My wife said she was starting to miss me, and wanted me home.  My son asked if he could borrow my latest Playstation 2 game I am currently playing.

"but I ain't beat that game yet"

"I'll be done with it by the time you get back"

"well ok, just don't get amnesia on me."  Its the damndest thing, whenever I loan somebody something, they come down with the dangest case of amnesia you ever saw.

I called and checked with Jerry R.

I'm a day behind.  I should be in Maine tonight.  The twisty, bombed out roads of the Maritimes are very slow.  The distances involved are quiet deceiving.  Riding the Gaspe, and the Cabot over these poorly marked, potted roads, was a challenge.  I've covered over 2000 miles since leaving Ottawa on some curvy, traffic bogged highways, through a 1000 fishing villages.  But it was worth every mile.  Today was a great day, lots of good scenery, people, and miles.  

My back is feeling much better, and the hot shower has loosened me up.  I gulped down 2 aspirins to knock down any remaining soreness.  It was a beautiful night, and I crawled in my tent about 10pm.  It was going to be a cool night, but I left one of the flaps down, to see the moon.  I got out my TV and watched the news out of Halifax, munching on Mounds bars.  

Tomorrow I arrive in Yarmouth, ferry over to Bar Harbor, and head for New Hampshire.  I will be sad about leaving Canada.

I switched my TV off, and stretched out in my sleeping bag.  The therm a rest under me felt good.  The air was cool, and I drifted to sleep the natural way.  Funny how some folks need pills to sleep.  It is a poor substitute for the old fashion way.  The moon was casting a blue hue in my little tent.  I'm in the middle of great tour, and looking forward to the ride through New England.

Next Day 9 back into Maine