Awaking a little after 6A at Pamela’s B&B in St. Ann’s, Cape Breton, we are pumped for our final day on the Cabot Trail. With only 34 kilometres of biking to complete the 300 of the Trail, we feel like we have it made in the shade. We are as cool as the other side of the pillow. As I peek behind the bedroom curtain, I see that clouds and fog have descended down the mountain to the backyard of the B&B. Pleased that my debilitating right leg cramps of yesterday are just a memory, I’m ready to rock and roll on the roads of Nova Scotia.
After three days of six to eight hours in the bicycle saddle, we look forward to a simple few hours of coastal bike riding back to Baddeck, Nova Scotia where we began our trek three mornings ago. Breakfast is simple; pancakes and bacon for me (I give the pig to Hannah) while Hannah has cheesy scrambled eggs and toast.
Packing is quick and easy since we have brought only what we can fit into each of our two panniers. After yesterday’s afternoon rain, we’ll put our gloves and rain ponchos near the top of these saddle bags for easy access in case of more rain. As we step out into what we thought was just a dense fog, light rain is falling and out come our ponchos. Even if the rain were to be bone-soaking, we still should arrive before noon.
Following Hannah on the very small paved part of the shoulder of the Cabot Trail, I push my sweatshirt sleeves above the arms of my poncho so as to keep them from getting wetter; I settle into a steady pace on this 58F morning. Always most concerned about being cold, Hannah has three layers beneath her poncho, biking tights, and two pairs of gloves.
For the fourth day on the road, we have very little vehicular traffic so Hannah and I ride side by side with her closer to the edge. After getting thumped by North Mountain on Day 2 (see blog of June 21, 2014) and hitting paydirt with Wally and Phyllis on Cape Smokey Mountain on Day 3 (see blog of June 28, 2014), we look forward to a morning of relatively level coastal riding along the Great Bras D’Or channel.
What would normally be a spectacular ride along the coastline is just a ride in a fog bank between evergreens with the spray coming up from Hannah’s back tire. Having experienced spectacular for three days, we accept what the weather gods give us this morning. It can pour and pour and we will just marshal on for the Baddeck Riverside B&B, returning to Laverne and Gordon’s place.
Since it’s a warm rain Hannah feels no morning chill. Genetically sunny, Hannah pedals on as she has for three breathtaking days on the Cabot Trail.
Turning right onto the Canadian Highway with its wide shoulders 20 kilometres from Baddeck, we are just smiling. Our bicycle chains and gears have gone 300 kilometres without a breakdown. The flat tires of last year’s ride on the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island are just a distant memory. Our bicycle steeds have come through like California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby.
We are bowed but not beaten. We ride quietly and pay humble homage to the Cabot Trail in all its glory. It was tougher, much more challenging than we had imagined. But we made it. The Cabot Trail has exacted a physical toll for riding her roads. We have paid in full and have had the ride of a lifetime.
About 1030A, after two plus hours of biking, we exit the Cabot Trail and get to Big Farm Road to the Baddeck Riverside B&B; there, innkeepers Laverne and Gordon, welcome us as if old friends.
Tonight we will go to the Baddeck, Nova Scotia public library to hear Laverne talk about her hike of the Camino in Spain. (The El Camino de Santiago is the 790 kilometre (~470 mile) pilgrimage route in northern Spain to honor James, the apostle, whose remains are said to be buried there. Martin Sheen stars in the 2010 movie, The Way, about the Camino.)
At one point during her presentation, Laverne introduces us as her overnight B&B guests who have just finished biking the Cabot Trail. Surprisingly, the audience of 30 Cape Bretoners loudly, collectively oohs and aahs in appreciation. I am a little bit shocked. As hearty daughters and sons of 19th century Scots, they are impressed with our ride when I thought they might think anyone can bike the Trail.
After Laverne’s media presentation in front of thirty of her neighbors (Baddeck has a winter population of 700), her husband Gordon surprises us by inviting us back to their living room for a glass of his chilled homemade red wine. They take us in like family.
Later that night Laverne recites her own poem, the Hall Lamp. (She recites from, literally, beneath the hall lamp on the landing of the stairs to the second floor.) Here words speak of the family history that connects her life with generations past and the joy and love she has for Gordon. Touched that we have been included in such intimacy, we have come to know what is good in Cape Breton.
So what’s next for us? What about going to Spain to hike the Camino in all it’s nearly 500 miles of glory?
Nah, Hannah keeps our adventures in North America and that’s just fine with me.