Attention: I have a working stove, which also means I have coffee in the morning, which also means I’m able to form sentences properly again. I’ve been slowly working out the startup kinks over the past few days and am now settling into life as a traveler on the road again, short of the odd ache and pain that I still get in my legs and a nasty sunburn I’m caring for on my hands and nose I’m doing A-OK.
When I last posted I was in a tough spot, Sherbrooke Nova Scotia on a long weekend. Services next to nil and nothing really open. I finished up what I was up to and pedaled down the road 10km finding a little cubby hole off the side of the road to set up my tent and sleeping gear, while spooking a porcupine in the process. It was just starting to rain and I was glad to have stopped. I slept well, partially due to the cloud overcast in the morning and set off in the mist down random roads towards Halifax. Easter Sunday proved to be a challenge for finding any food so I resorted to munching on a big tub of Nutella and a loaf of bread I found, metering my water as it was sparse. There was a fire department that I passed which seemed to be a good option to find water, but was not the case – instead I found some free wifi internet and a power plug to do some charging of my phone and laptop. Milling about for about an hour I noticed a yellow figure coming up the road – another cyclist! I yelled at him to stop, excited that I had seen my first cycle tourist of 2011, in fact I haven’t seen another cycle tourist since Ontario in 2010 so we exchanged formalities of the where are you from, where you going, any meltdowns with equipment. Adam was from Cornerbrook Newfoundland and on his way to Halifax on his first tour. I didn’t feel so bad about the day before and the crazy winds as he said he was struggling as well.
Freshly recharged and motivated I pedaled down onto the coastline of Nova Scotia – Glad I was out of the boonies as I was becoming tired of the scenery, which consisted of massive areas of clear cut forest, with no sustainable forestry practices in place. This was a bit disturbing, as there really isn’t that much land there and eventually it will run out, and fast. The coastline has been fantastic before – everything what I hoped Newfoundland would have been, alas I only had the option of taking Highway 1 across that island which was quite boring and unappealing to the eyes save for a few lake sections. Nova Scotia’s east coastline has all sorts of wonderful rock formations, little islands with a few trees on them, tiny harbours, and boats everywhere. Signs galore advertising lobster at $4.50/lb are placed randomly along the coastal routes, and according to the locals this is a high price right now – For me this is nearly 1/3 of what we would pay in B.C. I didn’t pick one up though as I wasn’t down with trying to cook a lobster with my lighter as my stove was still on the fritz.
I ran into Adam later, and he explained he was going to stop early for the day as he was tired up ahead in Sheet Harbour. It was still early in the day (4) for me so I opted to keep going. I didn’t make it far though when I found a pub open serving Roast Turkey dinner with stuffing, mashed potatoes and vegetables for a reasonable price. I haven’t been drinking alcohol so I dealt with water, trying to properly hydrate myself now a days. I must have had some bad water that day as things were a bit.. explosive.
Sufficiently stuffed I made it up the road to end my day at 87km in a closed provincial park where I had the opportunity to maintain my bicycle (adjust a few nuts and bolts, re grease the chain, fiddle with brakes) and take apart my stove entirely in hopes of making it work again. It still acts a bit wonky, but I removed the fuel filter and now things are able to work. It’s not the best thing to do, but since I’m running white gas which is much cleaner than the unleaded gas I typically run ($9 a litre vs $1.45 a litre, you do the math!) I’m not to worried about the no filter part. Feeling content I retired to bed early, only to toss and turn and freeze, as I slept without clothes on not wanting to sweat away in the same shorts, long johns, shirt and sweatshirt I had been wearing constantly for 3 days.
Tossing and turning can be a good thing however, as I was up at the crack of dawn and had coffee and breakfast in me riding out of the park at 7:30am. Minimal traffic, and things just seemed easier as I pedaled towards Nova Scotia’s capital city. I spoke to a few locals who pulled over on the side of the road who wanted to know what I was about, before being blasted with the usual religious speeches and then went on my way. It doesn’t phase me anymore when I meet people who recite proverbs and sections of the bible, I just shrug it off and smile and nod to let them feel good about venting and doing their duty to attempt to help someone fill any void in their soul they may be lacking. I’m good though, no need for that.
A surprise came to me when I noticed a road sign claiming that Halifax was only 40km away and my maps showed over 100! I wasn’t planning on making a big push into the city that day, but with only 40km to go at 2pm why not! This route put me on a very busy highway stretch, while it wasn’t entirely bad for riding on the sound of the traffic was deafening. I countered it with some loud and clanging music and swerved to miss all the broken glass on the sides of the roads. There was so much I thought I was going to puncture at least one of my tires if not both.
Feeling well burnt but forcing myself to finish the last 11km into Halifax was the only option at this stage, stealth camping in a populated area is not my cup of tea so I cruised all the way to the Murray Mackay bridge only to be turned away, as it did not have bicycle lanes available. I met another cyclist, Carolina who was in the area doing her internship for hospitality who helped me get to the area of the MacDonald bridge which dropped me right downtown in the city. I still had time to make it to MEC before it closed and returned some parts that either failed, broke, or just didn’t work out for me along the way, stocking up on extra tent pegs (I already lost 2 of my new ones), a new water bottle (lost in Quebec), a new pair of socks (I didn’t lose one of them, honest, the dryer ate it), and a mirror for my handlebars. I figure its time to see what is going on behind me, due to the white knuckled riding I dealt with earlier in the day on busy roads. I made it over to where I was staying just at sunset.
Al And Sarah are two forward thinking individuals who spend alot of time not getting sucked into todays culture. They’re avid cyclists (Al runs a guerilla bike shop in his basement) who tour regularly, don’t have a fridge, and don’t have the necessities of today in the household (cell phone, computer etc). Instead time is spent making art, developing black and white photography and drawing informative cycle maps of the city of Halifax in a very unique DIY like way. I was able to get ahold of one of the few colour maps that I am sending back to Vancouver for safe keeping – look around in Halifax if you can, these things are gold.
I stayed in Halifax for 2 nights, spending the next day cycling around in the pouring rain trying to find a few must haves, and visiting the final legislative assembly ‘Province House” of Canada. It is the oldest one in Canada, and the 2nd smallest, but sure did have a lot of character. I befriended the security guards and was able to have one snap a photo of the final headstand, and spent 30 minutes in the gallery watching the snakelike politicians below wither and squirm their way out of past promises. The remainder of the day consisted of laundry, crossing my fingers for the Vancouver Canucks to win Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs, and then finally sleep. Another poor night of tossing and turning. Halifax seems to be a very cycle centric city, even with its many hills. Everywhere you look are people riding cycles. I had heard that it was similar to Vancouver, and I would have to say I saw more cycles in Halifax in the short time I was there then any one day in Vancouver.
I dragged my feet wondering if I should set back out on the road, timing a bit loose as my friend who was to cycle from Halifax back to Fredericton with me had to cancel due to time constraints. The weather looked moderately reasonable so at about noon I took off with the help of Al’s advice on a route over to Digby, to catch the ferry to New Brunswick. I’m taking the longish route, hoping to grab a bit more of the eastern coastline and then crossing over to the Annapolis Valley, which is to be likened to the Okanagan of the east. Yet to see it but will be sure to report back.
There is an impressive trail system from the old decommissioned railways here and due to the history of the inhabitants in this area. I took advantage on riding some of these trails after visiting a graveyard where victims from the sinking of the vessel Titanic were buried and found a cozy little coffee shop called Beans and Bikes, which offered rentals, minor repairs, and dark coffee about 30 km away. I checked my phone and realized that superb singer/songwriter Natasha Duchene who I befriended in Yellowknife, NWT last year told me that I should go visit some of her family in the area, so I altered my end plans for the day a bit and ended up in the town of Chester in the night. It was raining nicely as I was pulling in and I was exhausted from the hills that were presented to me for the final 8km, but I would have to say it was worth it to make the trek over here. Some great conversations were had and future opportunities were discussed that could potentially open a few new doors.
I’m hoping to head over to Digby and catch the 4pm Friday ferry, but not really bent out of shape if I miss it and have to take the 4pm Saturday sailing – I still don’t want to push myself too hard even though my daily distance is steadily climbing and my muscles are starting to adjust properly. I’ll have more than enough time to make it to where I need to be.