NS Bike Tour Day 7

**HI EVERYONE! Sorry for the delay in getting these last few posts up. We did in fact finish our bike tour across Nova Scotia, I just got very lazy with my blogging towards the end.**

125 km – Linwood to Inverness

We wake up in the morning with the excitement of knowing that we will be crossing the causeway to Cape Breton Island after riding less than 20 kilometers. I feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep, and the sun is peeking out between scattered clouds. There is some potential rain forecast for later in the day, but I push that knowledge into the furthest back corner of my mind  that I can find.

Mainland Nova Scotia wishes us farewell with one last kick in the pants – an absolutely massive climb. It is unexpected, as somehow I thought there wouldn’t be any more big climbs this close to the island crossing. I am thoroughly taught how incorrect I was. We start climbing, and around every curve I keep expecting the road to flatten out or start descending, but it just doesn’t happen. We climb, and climb, and climb. I am impressed with how fresh my legs feel after our long and miserable day yesterday. My feet pump the pedals and I keep moving, up, up, up. The morning sun crests over the top of the hill and I don’t stop until we reach a construction zone at the top, and after waiting a few minutes for the go ahead we are flying down, down, down to the ocean.

Our spirits are high as we cross the causeway to the island. Even if we make it no further than this, I can be proud of the fact that we rode our bikes all the way across the mainland. But, I think, I can make it at least a little bit farther. At least to Inverness, to the foot of the highlands. We will see what happens after that. We cheer as we pedal across the water, even as vehicles inch past us on the narrow bridge.

Another exciting part of getting onto the island is that the first 90 kilometers or so will be on a rail trail, and we are excited at the prospect of getting off the road for a while. However, when we reach the end of the causeway and try making our way to the trailhead, we find a narrow, overgrown, and rocky path with a sign saying the first section of trail is unsuitable for cyclists, and we will have to join up with it at the next trailhead five kilometers down the road. Our spirits are dampened for a minute, but five kilometers more on the road doesn’t seem like much at all when we really think about it.

After setting off, we discover the road isn’t bad at all. It is gently rolling, and it’s not the busiest part of the island so the traffic isn’t very heavy. And in no time at all we are pulling off the highway and on to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail. The trail is glorious, flat and packed and following right along the edge of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The views are the best we’ve had in days, and we even get to take a snack break in a seaside hammock at one of the trail’s many rest stops.

But, storm clouds are once again threatening, and soon the rain begins. Light at first, but quickly becoming a steady downpour. We slog onwards, the grit of the trail coating our bikes, legs, and backs. I have scoured Google maps for locations that might offer potential shelter, and we make our way slightly off trail to a tiny bakery and tea room in the town of Port Hood. I clean myself off in the bathroom the best I can, wringing my socks out into the sink and trying not to make a complete mess of the place, before clumping back out to table in my damp cycling shoes. I sit there wrapped in my puffy and we are served steaming mugs of coffee and tea and massive platters of breakfast food. I am in heaven.

When we finally convince ourselves to leave, the trail becomes monotonous, winding through nondescript woods while it rains lightly on and off. My legs strain while the trail goes almost imperceptibly upwards for several kilometers, and then marvel at the ease when the grade switches to ever so slightly downwards. I play Taylor Swift on our portable speaker. We are passed by numerous ATVs and dirt bikes. My mind drifts and I just keep pedaling.

The sun is beginning to break through the clouds again when we reach the trail’s end and are spit out onto the main drag of the town of Inverness. We make an essential stop at the local craft brewery, where we drink beers named in honour of the rail trail and I eat a gigantic plate of nachos. Evening is well upon us when we get back onto the road, but we only have 12 kilometers left until our campground for the night. We are quickly reminded why rail trails are so great when the road immediately takes us on several steep ups and downs. My legs are tired to the bone, and I am experiencing my first chafe of the trip, and it is not fun.

When we finally arrive at the campground, we spend about 15 minutes waiting outside the office to check in while a group of small boys deliberates what kind of candy they should buy. The woman who checks us in hands us a thoroughly useless map to show us how to find our campsite, and we spend another 15 minutes riding around in circles trying to find it. When we finally do, it is already dark, and I am incredibly grumpy. Michael wants to wash down the bikes, but I need to get out of these cycling shorts and into a shower before we even think about doing anything else.

After rinsing the salt out of my chafe and changing into (relatively) clean clothes, I feel much better. We make our way back through the maze of trailers where people sit around blazing campfires, past the pitch black beach, and I slip into my sleeping bag and fall into a deep sleep.

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