A blog intended for posting of whatever I get up to in bike touring, not necessarily in Nova Scotia (in fact, hopefully soon definitely outside of my home province!). Most likely will be retrospective rather than posted as I go along. The intent is to entertain, perhaps to inform, and even to satirize a bit (who, me? go on!) as the mood strikes. And if it happens to inspire a reader to do some bike touring of theri own, so much the better.
Some day I might even start taking along a camera and add a few pics.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

TNSTTTT and Then Some-- (5) Getting Home

Solo Day9 the Causeway-New Glasgow (122km)
Having discovered there was a truck stop just on the other side of the causeway where very early or maybe even all-night breakfasts could be had, I came out of a good sleep at about 7 and was on the road quite early because of the length of the day's ride. Although I could have taken less busy sideroads like Havre Boucher, Tracadie-Bayfield and the Pomquet loop, I wasn't sure enough of what I could do to add the extra small distances (besides, didn't want to exactly backtrack myself!). So today I would stay on Hwy 4 wherever I could (that is, except where I had to be on the 104). Up to Antigonish some of the roads would be familiar from TNSTTTT; after Antigonish it would be all new to me on the bike.

This was the day that I discovered that the provincial authorities were so bent on keeping tourist traffic routed directly to Cape Breton that they didn't bother to mark the points where the old road, highway 4, left the 104 after the two had been merged for awhile (usually this happened at major river crossings, to avoid having to re-bridge when the newer highway was built). I do know from previous trips, by car, in decades past, that it had once been quite easy to follow highway 4 from the posted signs, but somehow over the years this has been lost. In the middle of nowhere it was reasonably easy to figure out, but in the western outskirts of Antigonish the signage was not only hopelessly missing, but also misleading. But the erstwhile unmarked 4 ran alongside 104 at close range, which had me wondering, so when a "no reason" little connector strip (of the type that is usually dug up at each end so traffic cannot use it, although in this case the ends were connected) came up I went that-a-way, got on the smaller road and stopped at the first house to find out if it was indeed 4. This was confirmed by a friendly retired nurse, so we also talked about the state of my bandages; she thought the little parasol-ish covers on my elbows and R knee were pretty sketchy until I explained what was going on there. Then on my way again.

Between Antigonish and New Glasgow I only saw one of the white shield route number signs telling me that I was on 4, and that one was so far between any possible accesses to the 104 that I had to assume it was an accidental survivor of a sign-purge operation. Ridiculous. Unnecessary. Unuseful. Unfriendly. Unforgivable.

Apart from the constant attention required to try to stay on my chosen route as opposed to that chosen by some wizard in DoT, and the never-ending search for highway indicators, the scenery was fairly normal for inland: woodlands and forest (not that there is a difference), small hamlets and the odd village, not too many openings with a view. Slight tailwind probably, although the trees block a lot of wind from reaching road level when winding through woodlands. Some rolling up and down but nothing severe.

I made pretty good time again today, and in the early afternoon came down to Sutherland River, where on the way outbound the mad dash with the Express had begun. Another 10km brought me into the outskirts of New Glasgow about mid-afternoon, where I stopped to phone for directions to HM's house; she was on TNSTTTT and when she heard I was riding back home offered me a bed and hospitality; gratefully accepted.

New Glasgow is a pretty small town and following her clear directions was pretty easy when I could find the street name signs, a problem not unique to this town. It seems that society can legislate just about anything-- except moral ethics in business and politics (I'm writing this while Harper is secretly celebrating the impasse at Copenhagen, in which he gets his way without having to say or do anything), and location and readability of street signs.

Having reached her house before her, I unhooked Yak and took Banani down to the nearby supermarket to get some bananas for bike-food the next day, and some more bandage&bike -oriented conversation. Then back, and laid out in the shade on her lawn while waiting. It had really been an unexpectedly fast and easy day, and I had been feeling strong with only a few twinges from the shoulder. Tired, yes; but not unduly.

Soon HM came along and I met their wonderful little dog (stole my heart a bit, that one). Cleanup, some sitting about chatting, and then her kids came home from their day camps. Well-behaved, pleasant kids; some curiosity about the bandages of course. As suppertime approached I became sous-chef and did what I could to help with preparations... The kids and I were ready for bed at about the same time. I wanted an early start the next day because I was hoping to make it the rest of the way home without another overnight on the road, and it would be a long day at best, my longest of the 2 weeks (saving the biggest til last, I guess) although the last few hours would be over familiar roads. So I made sure it would be okay if I quietly got myself up and fed and away early.

Solo Day10 New Glasgow-Mt Uniacke (155km)
I slept well, and I think was quiet enough not to wake anyone. The dog was quietly content to let me putter around, and although curious when I did my yoga set didn't consider my floor-level exercises to be an invitation to play like my own dogs used to. A very polite little guy. It wasn't until he saw me outside and actually pulling out of their driveway onto the road that he decided I needed to be barked at; not much, just a bit.

Once again I was going as directly as possible, and why not: a serious distance to go, towing a trailer with some baggage. So it was to be Highway 4 again until Truro. Same sort of scenery as yesterday, but higher hills culminating in the morning in the slow gentle climb up Mt Thom (maximum about 4%) and then the slow gentle roll down from it. Again I felt strong and made good time.

It was a bit grey when I started, and I got rained on lightly for a few km just before Alma but then the sky gradually brightened and not long after crossing West River the sun came out a bit. There were two other incidents in the morning. On the way up Mt Thom the battery of the bike computer decided it had done it's job and died; I hoped to get a replacement in Truro. And on the way down Mt Thom at some point I lost my mind and rode to the right of the white line when the pavement was a bit wider than usual; the problem was that all sorts of gravel and other crud (broken glass) was lying loose in that strip of pavement that seldom had car tires pass over it to keep it clean. And I picked up a sliver of something which worked its way into the rear tire and made a slow leak. First puncture in about 2 years. Darn.

It was not a straightforward tire change. First the Yak had to be disconnected, then I had to find the fork-spreader, a tire lifter, a spare tube, the pump... all of these somewhere in the Yak bag in places where I had forgotten they had been put. I didn't have to unload the bag, just rummaged around in it for awhile and eventually, one at a time, came up with the items. I was doing a bit of heavy mumbling, under my breath I thought, but one of the residents nearby came out and started cutting up some logs with a chainsaw while I was at it so maybe I was being a bit too strenuous in my exhortations and he decided it was appropriate to over-ride my vocalizations. Or maybe it was just a coincidence. I didn't ask...

Back on the road again, about 20 minutes lost to this evolution; soon into the flat farmland outside of Truro and then into the town itself. I managed to miss one turnoff, but soon set that right when I stopped recognizing where I was. At the shopping mall on the way out of town I pulled in for a battery search. There was a Source electronics store; I figured I wouldn't have to look any further. Wrong! But they pointed me towards a jewelry store as a possible source (small s) and yes, there they were able to fix me up with the right replacement. Good. Then a Tim Horton's lunch and on my way again, only a bit more than 90km to go and all on "home roads". The sun was out in force now and the day hotting up a bit too.

Truro to South Maitland was pleasant riding, the small hills seemed smaller than on TNSTTTT (a bit earlier in the day this time). Then the long climb up the backbone and the bone-jarring ride down-ish to Kennetcook in the afternoon heat. At Kennetcook I stopped to buy water, filled the bottles, and then went to the ice-cream kiosk for some soft ice-cream which I enjoyed sitting at their tables in the shade, joking with a trio of ATVers who were there at the same time (felt a bit of a hypocrite, I'm not generally a fan of the ATV ilk. But was outnumbered. Well, they weren't bothering anyone or anything at the time.). They finished and left a bit before I did, and two of them actually managed to get out of the gravel parking lot without spinning tires spitting gravel and raising a dust cloud. The third one did, on purpose . Thanks. Ice cream is so much better with a coating of dust...

The road construction that had been in progress during TNSTTTT was finished so I had a nice smooth ride to Clarksville. And then the fun. With 130km behind me for the day already, the last 25km to home were through the Rawdon hills, a couple of good hard climbs to 200m or so, at gradients up to 14% on the last one although the elevation profile at Map My Ride shows "only" 10% . Just set a cadence and plug along; this is very familiar terrain, although usually without Yak but with bigger gears. It does make it seem easier when the road is familiar, and although I was somewhat dreading the steepest section it was after all not a problem; there is a big difference between a pair of 200m long, 14% ramps with an easier segment between, and the 4km of 14+% that the Highlands presented. And, let's face it, I was a feeling a whole lot better today than on the day of the last vertical challenges!

And so I came to Lakelands and the final 30m rise to home (and just in time for supper, which I had set up in the freezer before leaving). A great feeling! except...

"Mommmyyy! It's Ooverrr!! *sob*" (per "Just For Laughs")

Final footnote for this day: I had been planning to ride the Joe Howe Century later in the year, but when it came down to it 155km with a loaded Yak was hands-down more of a challenge than 165km without one so I didn't feel the need to do an official Century.

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