Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Digby in fog
Sunday, July 20th 2008
We’re off- a 7 day tour of Nova Scotia
JC and I drove (really just JC drove) to Saint John’s, NB Canada (home of the reversing falls) and left the vehicle there to take the ferry to Digby. Sticker shock, though JC had warned me. $10 for the bike and $40 for my person. A massive ferry, capable of carrying many semis and bus sized RVs, the ride is very smooth. The car was left in the hotel parking lot and we rode to the ferry. The clerk at the Ferry booking desk asked me JC’s name and I told her “Jim”, but she didn’t ask for his last name, so as she was printing up the receipt I asked if she didn’t need his last name. She told me she thought I said “Jones” and that was what the receipt stated. JC and I had a good laugh about it and noted that if the ferry sank, he would go down in history as James Jones (JJ).
You can sometimes see whales and dolphins from the ferry and there was a naturalist from a local museum on hand with binoculars, but moderately heavy fog rolled in and enshrouded us on our journey.
The fog mostly lifted as we entered Digby. An interesting phenomenon- as the fog was thinning, you could look down into the water at the edge of the boat and see a halo of rainbow. There were Salmon cages near the dock; they look a little like docks themselves, with screening over them.
Donning raincoats/windbreakers we headed out of the ferry area and came to a visitor’s center, where they advised us to take Highway 101! The lady there said NS highways aren’t like highways on the mainland, but we went through Digby and up onto Highway 101- no difference to me except that bikes are allowed. Fast cars, lots of tarmac to warm you up- we stayed on for one exit then got off- but inevitably we had to get back on because it is the only route going across an inlet we needed to cross. Between exits the road was very hilly and I was thinking about proposing a shortening of the tour. It would probably have been faster/ shorter/ flatter on HW101, but route 1 was definitely more scenic.
On cue, we did manage to find a store with both Gatorade and ice cream- an event I had declared would be a miracle.
Annapolis Royal presented a grocery store (where there was cyclist from Europe- said he had cycled Cape Breton and suggested it be cycled clockwise due to extreme hills) and an ATM, but no cell phone service. A short distance out of Annapolis Royal was another causeway, on which perched one of the few tidal electric generating plants in the world. There was an extremely knowledgeable man, who proceeded to tell us the pros and cons and mechanics of the system and how it compared to other types of electrical generation. JC later suggested he was probably part of the team waiting for the tide to go out so they could do some tinkering/ research into how the system was holding up (they could actually stand in the turbine chamber and look at the channel and turbines).
JC pointed out our probable destination across the bay. At the campground (CG) we ate a little of the food procured in Annapolis Royal and scoped out campsites other than the one we had been assigned- it was really quite nice, but we were looking for something a little more protected due to the expectation of rain. JC made a decision to grab a camping cabin. I revolted after finding out that even after paying $75 (inc tax), we had to pay for showers and refused to shower- I am sure JC will be paying for that later.

Monday, July 21st

It did indeed rain most of the night, making the cabin seem the correct choice in hindsight. We deliberated waiting 'till 8:00 for the camp’s restaurant to open or leaving while it was not raining. We chose the former and were amused by a group of bikers in the café. About six strong, they didn’t really resemble bikers, except for their black clothes; no tattoos, perpetually looking angry faces or tough guy stuff. They were all from New England and consisted of engineers, computer people and one accountant (3 Harleys, 2 BMWs and a Triumph). We had a great conversation with them. The waitress was equally entertaining. When we finished it had started raining again and this continued until about 1:30, not necessarily a downpour, but drizzle/ mist. We stopped once for Gaterade (I didn’t partake) and no ice cream. The owner/employee of the store was very familiar with Kejimkujik provincial park and called it just “Kedgee”.
The second real stop was at a huge grocery store while still about 10 miles away from the CG. They had more variety/selection than yesterday. The approach to the CG (according to JC’s GPS unit) was a down a long road with deep newly added gravel. We shouldn’t have to travel that road again to leave the CG, fortunately, because it was slow and hard on the rear. No cell phone service- pay phones only and no ability to get change at the CG. Showers (currently being converted to pay), laundry, food, wandering and bed.

Tuesday July 22nd
We packed in a fine drizzle this morning… wet tents after out efforts yesterday (camping cabin) to not have to pack wet tents. The drizzle stopped shortly after leaving and we cycled about 15 miles to Canning for breakfast. We shopped there, also. There are no towns big enough to have a grocery before Blomidon PP. The path became more and more hilly until we finally arrived at the park, which was the climbing finale, with such an extensive/steep hill (with switchbacks), that we gave up riding and pushed 50% of it and rode 50% in the lowest gear. My bike is now refusing to shift onto the granny gear. We walked down to the flats as the tide came slowly/quickly in. The cliff at the edge there is very soft and erodes easily. There was a marked line from which ground water escapes and the cliff is stained and seeping below the line. Scott’s Bay would have meant about a 10 mile ride and then a return up the CG hill, instead we hiked along some trails along the ridge to outlooks, almost 3 hours. Upon our return, we slacked and lay around talking about what we might be able to ditch and additional things we might need in order to ride across the US. While hiking we had discovered that this CG actually had showers (unusual in a public CG), so we took advantage of them- quite nice. While there, we met a couple from London, ON (we passed it last year on our circumnavigation of Lake Erie). They cycle, canoe and backpack. He looked the part, but she didn’t- it's always a pleasant surprise when my guesses about people are way off. We also visited the CG hosts, Gerry and Wheet of NS. They told us about their 6 children and the gypsum mines on NS. Dinner was little- granola bars. We really don’t eat dinner and are not generally hungry in the evening. No cell phone service (of course) and the change I had did me no good- the phone only accepts quarters.

Wednesday July 23rd

It was barely drizzling when we left this morning. The hill down was scary as opposed to
difficult. The rims of the wheels get so hot on such a decline, you need to stop and let them cool. My bike caused the CG gate to go up, which I found amusing, but JC’s did not. Lots of mist this morning. We returned to Canning for breakfast again (same restaurant), and were given advice from a local man about our conflicting directions to Barass Corner- one set of directions came from the GPS unit and the other from the unit’s computer software. Coming into Kentville, we searched for a bike shop to repair my granny gear. I have already lubricated the heck out of the cable housing and almost unscrewed the stop screw to no avail. At this point I think the lower cable housing is bad, about which I can do nothing. I also lost a machine screw from my front rack, for which I again did a temporary fix with a cable tie. We found a bike shop, but no tech until 1pm. Not killing me enough to wait 3 hours. I was able to find a hardware store and the staff helped me size and replace the machine screw. I made it up all but 4 hills and those were walkers (JC walked them as well; I am sure he did this just to make me feel better). No rain and the skies had cleared. At New Ross, I got desperate and accepted the kind offer to use JC’s phone, since the credit card phone in town wouldn’t take any of my CC. No answer- I left a message that I was alive. The Canadian phone company and my own cell phone company seem to make it incredibly difficult to phone anybody. It is weird; they seem to make it possible to only make local or collect calls. I sent postcards starting on day 2 (all of which made it to their destinations after I got home) and collected the $4 dollars in quarters required to make a 1 minute call to the states in expectation of finding a pay phone.

I would have bought Gatorade if I had realized the magnitude of the hill just beyond the town’s center. We stopped at the top and collapsed at someone’s drive and talked to the home owner. He let me fill my water bottle. Lesson learned- always top all bottles at every chance. More and more ups and speedy downs. At Barass Corner we found a little mini-mart/ grocery store and asked about hotels. The family running the store told us about a B&B and called for us. We were pretty shot. There was no answer, but just as we were hopping on our bikes the owner came out and put us on the phone with the B&B owner. The owner had asked the store owner how we seemed- like the local version of a credit check: very funny- how old are they, are they skuzzy or respectable looking… the B&B is 5 miles in the direction we are going tomorrow as opposed to 10 miles in the wrong direction to the CG. Gravel roads in decent shape brought us to the B&B- 100 Acres and an Ox. It was a beautifully appointed new house, built in old NS style overlooking fields of blueberries, a faraway lake and several valleys. The owner had told JC she would not be home until 7pm. We waited on the pleasant back porch and were much more presentable after about an hour of drying. Ardythe, the owner, was incredibly kind and gracious. Realizing we had not had dinner (she doesn't realize that is our style), she cooked us a great meal (while we showered), a beautiful pairing of fresh ingredients and the perfect portion sizes made me feel like she knew me and how I eat. I am a vegetarian, and JC is not, but she didn’t blink. She gave us homemade lemonade, poundcake and fresh fruit w/lightly sweetened whipped cream for dessert: so excellent. We talked with the other couple staying and then went to bed. Now I have to put in my disclaimer. There are only queen sized beds at this B&B- I know, because we were the first to arrive and I looked into all the bedrooms. I had a very difficult time sleeping in the same bed with JC and thus got about 3 hours of sleep. This in turn made JC feel badly and he got only about 4 hours of sleep. He is going to have to let me sleep happily on the floor. It is however, only sleep, and we got up to a fabulous breakfast.

Thursday July 24th
We got up and picked blueberries (at least I did- JC was only interested in eating them). Ardythe made eggs I doubted I would be willing to eat. They looked like poached eggs, but when you cut into them, they were more like hard boiled and she had seasoned them excellently. Since breakfast is normally our biggest meal, I also partook of yoghurt, fresh fruit, whole grain muffins with blueberries and sautéed veggies. The meal was truly a fabulous start to our day. We packed up and headed out, initially taking the route suggested by Ardythe, but then turning around to rely on the GPS. The GPS route was quite nice. The unit has the normal settings for “no highways” and such, but additionally has a setting for “pedestrian” and “bicycle”. It is not always perfect in its routing, but accurate. It occasionally sends us off on “shortcuts”, one of which turned out to be a street running parallel to the main drag, but used solely for accessing driveways. Lots of rolling, but nothing compared to yesterday. We saw a moderately sized group of summer camp teens cycling for 3 weeks. They were scarfing lunch prepared from a grocery store’s shelves, just short of Lunenburg. In Lunenburg we tried out the Fisheries museum- pretty good, but could be so much better with more info about how things got done. The tall ship was nice to walk around and JC seemed to enjoy relating to it as a Navy guy. Next we went to the Bike Barn to have my granny gear worked on. It was indeed the cable housing, but not the one I had thought. The problem actually lay in the upper housing coming out of the bar-end shifter. This is a very old housing, but since it doesn’t get subjected to the rain, like the lower one does, I did not suspect it. Apparently new cabling contains a lining of some sort- maybe Kevlar or silicone. The owner also worked on my back brakes, which had become merely a slowing tool and he “gasp” actually replaced the pads. I usually just spin them around or take them off and rotate them, then readjust them. When test driving it, I was almost thrown from the bike when braking. Funny.Very nice. While there, another group from the same summer camp came in. There are apparently 3 of the groups out at once and they are all self-supported and camping. One of the other groups had been in earlier and had reportedly suffered 9 broken spokes. On to the Ovens, approximately 9 miles away. This natural park is private and its main lure is ocean caves. Uplifted shale is eroding vertically/perpendicularly to the shore. There is a trail and several stairways through chimneys into a few caves. I would like to come here with Dwight and kayak them. Afterwards I had a great veggie sandwich, made from diced veggies, an avacado/hummis spread and field greens w/vinaigrette on local whole grain bread- very messy, but great. JC had fish and chips doused in vinegar. It was plenty of food with no need for ice cream. It has been very foggy all day near the coast and the Ovens was no exception. After dinner (and during, really) various Chapin family members and friends played a ukulele, guitar and piano (though the ukulele was not played at the same time as the piano), and later Steve Chapin played the piano, sticking mostly to Cole Porter and Gershwin, with the twenty somethings chiming in. I tried the pay phones several times, but one had no dial tone and the other had been co-opted by a teen calling Microsoft tech support for the laptop he had in the booth with him. He had a pile of quarters to be admired. We walked back in the dark, using my headlight as a flashlight. JC showered, but I was too shot.

Friday, July 25th
Wow, I slept well last night; head on pillow and “blink”- out. It rained throughout the night and we hopped up and packed as soon as it stopped. After yet another unsuccessful attempt to use the phone, we ate breakfast at the same attached camp restaurant (Hodge Podge Lodge), with similar great results: fresh fruit, local soda bread and a small serving of home fries. We left at around 9:30. It was a really late start for our ~69 mile day. The hills were all doable, but we did disregard the GPS in the end. It takes us on a more circuitous route, with less traffic, but more miles. We were just about spent when we found a tiny “dirt” road enclosed by pines. Pulling off about 25 feet, we took off our shoes and lounged on the pine needle cushioned ground. So needed, even though 10 minutes after getting back on the bikes we came to a store we knew would be nearby. Spent is spent. At Kejimkujik National Park, it started to pour and the kind admissions person told us to get out of the line of cars and go pay at the visitor’s center. I found a CC pay phone, called home, but talked to the answering machine. It stopped raining as we finished paying and rode another 4k to the CG. I have heard all sorts of great things about this park, but they were all said by car campers and day visitors. It is a long way in and might be better appreciated if you spent a couple of days there if entering on a bike. Things are spaced quite far apart. In addition there is no laundry, the concession stand (no store) is 7k away (walking- too late to try this) and the only pay phone in the CG is quarters only. Dumping in my $4 for 1 minute, I got to speak to my 14 year old, but he never told anyone I called… note to self- investigate why only some species eat their young. At least I know no one is dead. Showers were welcome and then a dinner consisting of the two 4 day old rolls and the jar of pesto, carrots, granola bars, cashews and M&M’s. It is amazing, considering the heat, that the rolls were not moldy- gobs of preservatives?

Saturday, July 26th
Today we got up around 6am. There were a bunch of really obnoxious 20 somethings roaming the CG until 5am, talking very loudly and being extremely vulgar, even for my standards. At one point one was talking about what he expected from his sleeping girlfriend when he returned to his tent and what he was going to do if she did not perform, followed by some charming words used to describe her. I had to resist the temptation to pull down their tents; it would smear the image of peace loving cyclists. Hopefully life will stick it to them. The combination of a lack of security, long ride in, no direct lake access from the CG, no laundry or store would probably discourage me from ever returning on bike or at all on a Friday or Saturday. We ate breakfast at a restaurant just outside the entrance (Tent Dwellers), where the owner also runs a stand apart grocery store. She moved back and forth pretty efficiently. It was drizzly when we entered, but had stopped when we finished breakfast. It seemed forever until our 1st turn at about 15 miles, then the riding got better and the sun came out. We stopped at a house and JC rang the bell to ask questions about whether the closed bridge was truly impassible, even for bikes (since we have had long detours avoided by the discovery that a bridge was only impassible for cars). The owner was said it was definitely out, but that we could go on to Bear River and cross there. It was much further than we expected and we went down this outrageously steep hill, which we could see climbing back up the other side of the valley. The worry about hot rims resurfaced, because we worry about the possibility of popping a tire from the heat. At the bottom were no ice cream cones, but we did meet another Vermonter, who said we should “fuck” them? She clarified (it seems she thought JC would automatically know what she was talking about) she was talking about Bush and his cronies- just making a statement about the way a specific county in Vermont feels. JC is enamored of the root beer popsicles he finds in the novelty ice cream cases and found them there in Bear River as well. The way out of Bear River was to follow the river itself (still hilly). Someone told us the shortest way to Digby was to go up the steep hill, but I laughed at this prospect. It would have been about a 1.5 mile walker. I had already gone up that road, past two houses and had to walk after just a short way to them. We did need to get back on Highway 101 for a bit, since it was the only road to Digby along the coast, but we stayed on it for just that one exit again. Digby itself has quite a bit of traffic and the road seems a little dangerous, so mostly we rode on the asphalt sidewalk. Digby CG is only 4.67 miles from the ferry we will catch tomorrow at 1pm. Entering the drive, I checked the door latch of the office and there was a note telling people to come to the trailer at the top of the small hill. JC had overshot the entrance, so when he caught up with me I suggested he not stop, but continue up the hill. At that moment, the owner came around the office and JC had to come back down. I laughed myself silly and almost fell off my bike; maybe I was a little punch drunk by that time. There were pay showers and a laundry and each tent site had a little lean-to with a picnic table inside. If it rains, the owner had told us, we could swap the table out and tent in the lean-to. The lean-tos are sided with Kevlar? House wrap or something and there are several which are fully enclosed and have board bunks built in; very small, but could be fun. There is a rail trail into town, which we took and had dinner and ice cream.

Sunday, June 27th
We went back into town for breakfast, then wandered around on the wharf, taking pictures. Moving to the ferry dock, we were joined by a group of 30 supported cyclists. Many were tired from the unexpected hilliness of the terrain and the high mileage of their organized tour. They averaged 70 miles a day (no packs). I was rather proud that we had averaged 50 miles per day with packs, and had some days of 70 miles or so. The ferry ride back was blessed with porpoises jumping around us, but fog killed any chance of seeing whales. JC was disinterested; apparently in the Navy you become unappreciative of marine life. Off the ferry, onto the roads, back to the hotel and going home.