So my plan was, once underway, to detour to JC&M's for a short visit with whatever campers were still there, and with them. A bit wobbly heading out of the hotel lot with Yak hanging off the back, but by the time I got to the camper's rest it was going well. More extended farewells; and it turned out I wasn't the only one cycling home, but the other chap was going via Baddeck so our roads were divergent. Had a bit of a look around M's excellent garden and passed a pleasant half-hour or so with her and JC and was on my way at a slow, sedate pace keeping my heartrate way down in the recovery zone. 29km to the motel I had arranged in Bras D'Or, only one missed turn: well, actually an extra turn to make sure that I didn't have to get off the highway at that point (easier to get off one turnoff too early than to go on one extra and have to go back).
The weather was sunny and warm. Most of the route was on the main highway (because for some reason I had route 125 (becoming 105 the other side of North Sydney) recommended to me and I never thought to look at a map and find 305 as an alternative) and a bit dull scenery-wise as a result, but closer to Bras D'Or it got a bit coastal and more interesting.
Once I got checked in (MacNeil's Cabins) I went across the highway to find some lunch at the little diner there. After lunch I got bored so I took the bike out for a slow spin along the shore of the lake, 4km each way, the road almost perfectly flat. Nice scenery, and little packets of vacationers swimming in the lake or sitting in the shade; houses and cottages on one side of the road, and a thin strip of shrubbery and beach on the lake side of the road. After that I finally did some reading in a book that had been hiding in my baggage since leaving home. Planning for an early return to the road in the morning I went to bed early and slept fairly well, despite being better rested than at any time in the past 10 days.
Solo Day5 Bras D'Or-Ingonish Beach (91km + 10) (note: map includes yesterday's short trek and doesn't show the shortcut via the ferry) A grey day with showers in the forecast. I had to backtrack about 400m to a truck stop to get a breakfast, but it was worth it. The waitress mentioned that the weather was always different on the other side of Kelly's Mountain, which was about 20km into the day. Foolishly I thought that might mean a chance of clearing. I continued along 105 as the most direct path. It was a 2-lane highway now, less traffic than yesterday, and through greener countryside. Or maybe that was just because it was drizzling a bit; I had put on my rain jacket on leaving after breakfast, but it was warm enough for bare legs, normal (fingerless) gloves and just a cap under my helmet. One geographical note, I'm actually on Bouladerie Island for the first hour or this day; on the east of it there is a very narrow ocean connection to the Bras D'Or Lakes (which are actually salty although not as much as the ocean), and on the western side is the main channel connecting those bodies of water, a bit over 1km wide and with a major suspension bridge.
The closer I got to the bridge the heavier the drizzle and the lower the cloud ceiling. From the bridge there was no visible clue that a 275m high mountain existed hereabouts (the road would summit at a lower altitude) but it was there. I had been warned about Kelly's Mountain by one of the CCC'ers, but it didn't seem to amount to much on the day. The fact that I was riding in a fog that only left me about 200m of visibility might have hidden the full effect from me, but my legs were unimpressed in a good way. I did stop shortly after starting to climb, to pack away my fogged-up cycling specs in favor of my normal glasses and to switch on a set of bike lights so no motor vehicles would have an excuse to flatten me from either side.
The view from the top was no different from that of the way up, which is to say, nada. I did notice that somewhere along the climb the fog had started to include bigger and more frequent rain drops, and on the descent it got to raining quite hard. Yep, definitely different weather on the "other side" of that mountain. I was enjoying the rain so much that on the way down I decided not to take the road around the bottom of St. Anns Harbour but rather to take the Englishtown ferry and save myself about 15-20km.
I have to assume the provincial government is hoping to phase out the ferry, and are discouraging traffic by the abysmal state of the road attaching it to the TransCanada Hwy(105). A couple of times I nearly changed my mind to go back... but sanity prevailed.
The ferry landing seemed to be the focus of the rain, and I was managing a pretty good impersonation of a drowned rat by the time I got there. Of course the vessel was on the other side of the inlet when I got there, so I used the dead time to pump bilges, and then stood outside under a narrow roof overhang wringing out my gloves (why? good question). I had read on a website describing the Cabot Trail as a cycling adventure that the ferry was a tiny little thing for for about 3 cars, and that the passage was only a hundred yards or so, narrow enough almost to jump a bike across, but it was not so. The ferry was a decent size with a capacity of 20 or so cars and the gap it covered was more like a cable (nautical distance), 200 yards in landlubber vocabulary. It was actually shifting quite a bit of traffic that day, full and with a waiting line on the easterly trip and almost full on the westerly. Motor vehicles had to pay to use it (or at least their drivers did) but bikes were free, and so were Yaks. Motorcycles-- I don't know.
The western landing was at the tip of a 2-3km long narrow spit blocking most of the width of the inlet. Beautifully flat and open, although towards the base of it as it started to widen there became room for some trees and houses/cottages.
Finally emerging on the Cabot Trail, nice gentle slopes here through wooded and sparsely-populated areas, the rain started to gradually let up. A few roadside signs advertising the forthcoming presence of restaurants started to crop up, which reminded my stomach that lunch would be a good idea, so when one of those places actually hove into sight I pulled in. A couple of other bikes, well-loaded, parked against the building, so I wasn't the only fool on the road. There was a good bakery integrated with the restaurant too; great sweets. But they are probably still trying to dry up the puddles I left on their floor.
It was easy to spy the two cyclists in the dining area, and rather than eat alone I asked if I could join them. A couple of pleasant young guys, from the Gaspe and the Madeleine Islands; one of them quite athletic and a keen swimmer as well as cyclist, the other not so much. They were camping their way around the Trail with no particular itinerary, and overnighted in graveyards; interesting concept; I guess the grass would be smooth, no roots or rocks to poke at them; and the "neighbors" would be quiet (or at least if they weren't it would be too late to do anything about it). They had about finished eating when I joined them and after a bit of conversation were on their way again but it was a nice interlude. As they left, another group of 4 cyclists came in and took the next table so I talked with them a bit too but nothing memorable stuck in my brain.
Lunch over, back on the road. The rain had stopped but it was still overcast and cool enough to keep the raincoat on just in case. The same pleasant scenery and road. Along the way at one of the many coves I saw a bike standing alone amongst the trees; it looked like the swimmer's machine so I guessed he was rinsing the rainwater off with a salty dip in the ocean (how he would get the salt off was any body's guess, I for one would not be happy in my cycling shorts after a dip in the sea. But maybe I am just too old to appreciate all that life has to offer (it has been said...)
This seems as good a place as any to break off for a bit and write about one of the cycle-touring planning tools that I used and explain how it can give false impressions. I used MapMyRide.com to plan my daily routes and decide on where to stop, and to get an idea of the difficulties of the terrain where I was unsure. When I first mapped Sydney to Ingonish Beach the profile view showed slopes of 3 to 4% maximum going up Cape Smokey. However, I had been told by GB who had ridden the Trail a few years ago that that mountain had slopes to 13% of so on the south side, a pretty huge and significant difference in terms of the time it would take to make the climb and the effort and gearing required. So then I created a new route of only a few km in length, from just before the bottom to just after the top, and this time the profile shown by MapMyRide was very clearly showing 12% grades (I'm including links to the closeups of the main climbs so you can see this effect by comparing it's elevation view to the overall map for the day). Examining the results, it looked to me as though the software breaks whatever route you make into about 40 pieces of roughly equal length, and seems to use only the elevation data at those points when it draws a profile and calculates slopes and total ascent for the route; although all the intermediate data is available to the software, it is just ignored whether for issues of website computing overhead or Internet bandwidth I don't know. So, for anyone using MapMyRide for route planning: if altitudes and gradients matter to you, find out where the hills/mountains are on your route and then make separate little routes through them to find out what the terrain will really be. They do have a Beta version of a new version available to try (horrendously slow on older computers like mine) which may amend this issue to use many more data points in determining elevation profiles, but I haven't used the new version beyond the one attempt that determined that it was too slow on my computer.
And now back to our story...
Coming at last to the preparatory ups and downs which became Cape Smokey, I caught up with the other of the pair; confirmation that the one had stopped for a swim. The two of us went on together, neither being in a hurry.
At the base of the climb there is a bit of a dip and then a sharp hairpin which we slowed for; as soon as the road straightened it pitched upward at at least 10% and putting the power (not that I have a lot of it) to the pedals from almost a standstill caused my rear wheel to shift forward on the drive side, jamming the rear tire against the frame left-hand chainstay (a problem I have sometimes had since getting the forks re-chromed even though the quick-release was done up as tight as I can, although it hadn't done it in quite some time). Not the best time for this event, but I managed to unclip a foot in time to not fall over. (that's not a split infinitive, I am merely exploring the uses of the newly-minted infinite verb "to not") Adjusted and retightened the rear wheel. Now for the fun part, starting from a dead stop on this nasty slope; and can I do it without the wheel slipping again? Uh, nope, not the first time. Second try, just about went into the ditch as the bike went where it wanted at first but eventually I got up steerage way and managed to avoid the drop-off by inches, and then it was all good for the rest of the climb up Cape Smokey. We took it nice and slow (was there a choice?!) and steady and it turned out to be not so difficult after all, 8kph on the steepest parts and heartrate well below anaerobic. Not too long after starting the climb we found out just how low the cloud ceiling was as we entered a mist which reduced visibility to about 500m (less at the top) but it took several minutes to go that far anyways, so it didn't affect our speed, just the lack of a view.
And total silence. Nice.
At the top we stopped at the entrance of the picnic park to wait for the swimmer who soon after emerged from the mist (cycling, not swimming, the mist was not quite thick enough for that although it does make a fine mental image). Then we all went into the park for a bit of a look around (at the fog), a bit of a breather, some snacks, and a bit more idle talking. There weren't many vehicles in there, and although a few came in while we were there it seemed like people were expecting to find some kind of a view despite the mist on the highway, but went away quickly and disappointed in the constancy of fog.
It is an unfortunate fact that the picnic park near the summit of Cape Smokey is down a bit from the highway, otherwise it might just be more popular with cyclists. Having battled gravity to win the 350-odd metres up, giving away a few of them to get into the park is a lot easier than getting those few back again once cooled down. Maybe not so much for youngsters though. The downhill was nice and gentle, lots of long straight sections, most of the curves quite gentle and at one point I allowed myself to go above 40kph... Yak still stable... let it go a bit more... still stable... 50kph still stable but uh, getting a bit nervous so let's just feather the rear brake a bit and keep it below 50. Maybe this builds overconfidence...
Here's a closeup of the road at Cape Smokey; the elevation profile is the interesting part. Much steeper going north than southbound.
The sun was coming out as we made the approach to Ingonish Beach, different from what I remembered (not the sun, the approaches), but after about 18 years it would have been more surprising if they hadn't been. Soon enough found the B&B where I had my reservation and said farewell to the camping pair. The place had formerly been an inn with a good dining room which I was somewhat counting on for supper; darn. Not the best accommodations: my room was small, overpriced and stuffy so the first order of business (after cleaning and oiling Banani's chain! interestingly when I asked for some paper towels or rags they actually had a box of rags just for cyclists, although the receptionist said too many cyclists were inclined to use their room towels rather than asking for rags; which doesn't do our collective reputation any good)... ahem, the first order of business... was opening the window and door and setting up a fan to blow the place out. Then shower.
Which was when I discovered the special quality of that area's road grime. When I pulled my socks off there was a distinct ring, about 1 to 2mm thick, of dirt which in washing down my legs had been dammed by the cuff of the socks. No big deal, thinks I-- until I try to wash it off. Not just dirt, but a high proportion of heavy oil!! so instead of washing off it just smeared around (a lot) and forced me to ruin a perfectly good facecloth on it with some hard scrubbing with very hot water and soap. Note to self, pack a little bottle of grease-remover next time... My socks, once blazing white, are still a shade of grey more than 15 launderings later.
Outside, something still didn't look right though. We had always stayed in the Highland Bungalows in the past, and I thought they should have been just across the highway and down a bit. There had been a beach at a small lake somewheres about; since it was still too early for supper and the sun was out I got directions to it (pretty basic and just about where I thought it should be, behind the RCMP station. Which brought back visual memories and I could then locate the Highland Bungalows site. Not a stick of them remained, and the cabin sites were home to thickets of small saplings of maybe 10 years. Which explained why I hadn't been able to find them in the Tourist Guide when I wanted to make a reservation.
The area around the little beach was still being mowed regularily, and the place was deserted except for me. So I had a brief swim and then laid out in the sun for awhile, then headed back to hunt down a dinner. I poked my head into the couple of local eating places but they didn't appeal to me. I decided then to go to the Glenghorm, up the road in Ingonish proper; I had had a good dinner there at least once in the past. Got out the bike, sans Yak, decided to look it up. It was further than I expected, about 5km, but the scenery was familiar, just not as compressed spatially. The usual initial bike wobbling while I got used to being de-Yak'ed. After entering the National Park and passing the turnoff to the Keltic Lodge, there was a bit of a downhill with a curve at the bottom by a church and cemetery, just before the golf course. Didn't seem like much either going or coming back. Remember it...
After an excellent meal and the bike ride back, watched some tv and then I turned in.
Solo Day6 Neil's Harbour-Cheticamp (106km) The map shows the route as originally planned... The "breakfast" part of this B&B was a bit haphazard and not looking very promising until I unearthed some microwaveable oatmeal packets hidden in a cupboard and then had to figure out how to make the microwaves in the gadget that was meant to make them. Not a great start to the day. It got worse.
Another wobbly start to the day as I readjusted (I thought) to the Yak. When I got to the little hill down to the church I remembered it as being no big deal, not too steep or fast. But. Whether it was due to the extra weight of the loaded Yak or my not having been paying attention the night before or not being totally adapted to the Yak yet or just being overconfident...
... I was riding happily along with my hands on the bar tops, nowhere near the brake levers which I didn't think I would need and ignoring the speedometer when the Yak started to wobble (indicating about 35kph) at about the same time that I realized I needed to slow for the corner. Happily turned into haplessly because with the wobble I couldn't take my hands off the bars to move them to the brakes which would then allow me to control the wobble (wobbles could also be controlled by pedaling faster to pull the Yak into straightening up, but the upcoming corner negated that tactic here). I quickly realized that I was well and truly ... uh, that my goose was well and truly cooked as the wobble grew in magnitude and then I was plowing a furrow through the gravel shoulder subsequent to a probable brief encounter with pavement, headed just about directly at the church door, although it might have been better to be aimed a bit to the left for direct entry to the graveyard. Not that I was thinking about anything at that point anyways. With the wobble of the Yak torquing the back of the bike frame I didn't so much fall to the deck as was thrown down forcefully. Hit pretty hard.
I would have made a poor American (US-type), getting into a vehicle accident with no one to blame but myself and no one to sue, and thus failing to contribute to the significant lawyerly part of the GNP...
I don't remember losing consciousness (does anyone) but the wheels were still spinning when eventually I sat up. But first I just lay there stunned and with the breath knocked out of me, a bit of shock starting to set in; eyes open, watching the blue sky and doing a bit of internal stocktaking. Nothing seemed to be hurting too much (yet) so eventually I tried sitting up and when that worked okay got to my feet; the fact that I could stand at all in gravel and wearing road-style cycling shoes must mean something even though it was a bit unsteadily. While I was looking down at my legs and arms for a bit more stocktaking, and having a look at my bike and the waterbottles and contents of my back pockets scattered around the scene of the crime, I started thinking along the lines of "okay, this is not good, I need help, I'm not getting back on the bike, best bet is to find my running shoes wherever I put them in the Yak pack which I am not going to enjoy fighting with, and walk back to the park entrance so the rangers there can take over. Assuming I can walk. Might be easier to go in socks than to find the running shoes..." et cetera. But before I got up the motivation to actually move much the cavalry started to arrive in the form of motorists pulling in to see if I needed help; one of them had passed me going the other way while I was just about critical with the speed wobble and although he didn't see me crash he figured that I would, turned around at the first chance to come back and see what he could do. Also a park ranger in a pickup truck with a canoe in back came along and stopped. How convenient that there was that nice wide gravel apron in front of the church, so at least we weren't blocking the road (not that anyone drove past without stopping anyways. And traffic was pretty light at that hour of the day).
Some just stopped to lend moral support but a couple had first aid training and bandages and started right in to help, checking to see if my mind was there, checking my helmet to see if I had hit my head (somehow no, which I never did understand since I don't have the greatest neck muscles), checking my breathing, and then, when it seemed like the internal stuff was either unaffected or hiding it, set in to bandage the obvious wounds. I was sufficiently there to tell them not to use my waterbottles to clean the wounds, since they were all filled with sports drinks containing sugars and salts. No point in feeding any microorganisms that had found their way in.
So I ended up with bandages on my left hand, which had a deep puncture where a rock had opened a gap in the seam of the palm of my glove; on my left knee which was also punctured as well as scraped up pretty deeply and bleeding a lot (although not dangerously so); and on my right knee and elbow which just had a few scrapes each. Many thanks to all who helped; but I didn't get any names. As soon as the bandaging was finished and I had assured the ranger that I could sit in a car, my bike and Yak got packed into the back of the Parks vehicle and I pulled myself into the cab with a bit of a push to assist, and we headed off to the nearest hospital, which was at Neil's Harbour, about 30km up the coast. So now you know why yesterday's ride ended at Ingonish Beach and today's ride starts at Neil's Harbour. Which sort of gives away the ending of the story of the next couple of hours...
The ranger kept me talking all the way to the hospital which kept me from concentrating on my hurts other than finding out what they were. Good. Apart from my diaphragm getting a bit tight for about the first 5 minutes after getting in the cab, some of the shock was starting to wear off and I was being encouraged by a few body parts to do a bit more stocktaking, which fit in well with the main theme of the conversation.
Soon enough we got to the hospital and I was escorted into the Emergency section; after making sure I was coherent and getting cared for the ranger unloaded Banani and Yak and gear and wished me well. Thanks for the excellent care and support, much appreciated.
It didn't take very long before my paperwork was started and I was looked at by a doctor. Gentle poking and prodding, 20 Questions several times over... By now I was aware of some injuries that had been hidden from the first-aiders by my clothing. The worst was my right shoulder by now, although I admit I had initially decided from the minor scraping of right elbow and knee that that side had mainly stayed out of the accident. Hah!! The doctor put my right arm through some range-of-motion tests and then manipulated it, declaring eventually that nothing was broken but that it might have a slight dislocation. We discovered a large patch of not too deep road rash on the back of that shoulder, and I assumed that landing there was what had caused the injury to the joint. Also discovered road rash on the right hip, some of it quite deep, and down the right thigh. With each discovery I became more perplexed as to how exactly I had landed or rolled or skidded or whatever it was I did. But I hadn't bothered to make a mental note of where I was in relation to the bike before I disturbed the accident scene by standing up, and I can't honestly say that I was lying on my back either, although I was by the time I opened my eyes. So the mode of my landing will remain a mystery (and will get even more confused in a week or so).
There was no X-ray tech on duty there that morning and the doctor felt no indication of broken bones, so no pictures were taken, His immediate advice to me was to call my support vehicle and get driven for the rest of my tour. But Banani was my only support vehicle; he found that kind of shocking. Nor were there any buses running up there or I might have opted for one right off the bat. Hmm. I got a prescription for an antibiotic which he advised me to use if I noticed infection setting in, but I figured that I would use it pre-preemptively right from the start just in case. I told him I would see how it went on the bike when I rode to the pharmacy ( a few km away in the town proper) and if I didn't feel it was possible to continue I would try to find a ride to Sydney to get a bus for the rest of the trip home.
Anyways, doctor's exam finished, into a treatment room for mummification, just about. The wounds were rinsed off with a body-temperature saline spray from a can, a very weird non-feeling, non-stick pads placed over them, and then bandaging and medical tape applied liberally to hold everything in place. They did a nice professional job of it, and everyone was very friendly and helpful and supportive.
Before I left, I changed into a set of clean shorts and jersey. And then realized I didn't even know if Banani was rideable. But I should have known, after all the places we've been together over the years and even though I left him alone in the basement for 8 years and put his nose out of joint when I got the aluminum road bike, that Banani wouldn't let me down. The saddle was a bit crooked, easily fixed, and the handlebars askew, ditto, and the left brake hood twisted on the bars, ditto. Other than that, a few superficial scrapes (mostly to the brake hood and saddle) and knocks from flying stones. Gears and wheels good, brakes good, even Yak was good except for a bit of scraping on the left side. (3 months later I discovered that the dvd drive of the laptop computer I had been lugging around was dead, which was probably also from that accident). In the miscellaneous properties department, the hardshell glasses case with my normal specs in it, which I carry in my left back pocket, seemed to have taken a big hit and the "hinge" was sprung and stretched; but the contents were okay. Maybe it is the reason I had no road rash on my left hip; but no bruise either? curious. The other stuff in that pocket, an emergency Powerbar which had been there for about a year and had acquired a shape unlike any bar ever seen, a gel pack, and some hydration packets, were all okay. Center pocket: banana, wallet, some coins: all good. Right hand pocket, 2 bananas: well, they were about ready for use in a smoothie, banana bread or banana cream pie; and yes the skin of one had split so the pocket itself was a bit of a mess. My jersey survived with only a few small holes and some dirt to show for it, the holes small enough that they aren't even noticed by others unless I point them out. My cycling shorts, a favorite pair (of course), had a 5cm gash over the hip and a few small holes. Still wearable, the holes all covered by whatever jersey I'm wearing at the time. (But the gash seems to be getting slowly bigger). What was interesting in an unexplainable way is that the road rash on my thigh was all on the part covered by my shorts, and none below until the knee.
Back in my sea-going days it was every sailor's fondest hope after a few weeks at sea, to go ashore and get scraped. I'm not sure that my experience of today is what they might have had in mind.
A bit hard getting started on the bike; a bit stiff, and the knee bandaging on the left binded a bit. It was a slow and tentative couple of km's to the pharmacy which was conveniently located up what looked like a 45-degree driveway but couldn't have been quite that. I think I walked up it, but did ride down afterwards with the brakes on hard!
At the pharmacy I first encountered the phenomenon which would last me the rest of the way home: it seemed that everyone wanted to talk to the cycling mummy (or, the cyclist with all the bandages if you prefer the less dramatic version). Mind you, I'm not complaining, nor did I then. I told so many people I was okay that eventually I started to believe it myself!! It was a good way to pass time when standing in line at all the places one stands in line at, and a good icebreaker when meeting up with strangers anywhere else.
Also at the pharmacy while my prescription was being counted out I loaded up on bandages, sterile pads, Polysporin, some scissors, and found what turned out to be a really great tape, not sure what it was called but something to do with "Athletic" (oh yeah, that's me, some sort of athlete. Not.) and made by 3M. 3" wide, meshy to allow air through, stretchy to a degree, and it turned out perforated at 3" intervals so I didn't even need the scissors. It was the only tape that managed to stay stuck to my skin after a few hours of sweating on the bike.
Shopping over, I navigated back out towards the highway, where the hospital was. Every minute on the bike I was feeling more loose and a bit better, and although my shoulder was sore it wasn't incapable of supporting that side of my body or pulling on the brake when needed. Mostly it just ached a bit, with a few twinges when I moved my hand from one place to another on the handlebars or brake hoods. So by the time I got to the hospital again I was happy to ride right past it and head out onto the Cabot Trail again, bound not back but onwards, towards Cheticamp and the hilliest, or mountainous, day of the trip. But by now it was past 11a.m. and by my schedule I should have been about 20 or 30 km further up the road (and whole).
The road was in good shape, unlike myself; not much traffic, scenery initially coastal and craggy and later wooded. It was another hot sunny day, not much wind and what there was was from behind, to add another dimension to the anticipated suffering up the mountains ahead. But that was yet to come...
After about 10 minutes on the road I reached down with my right hand to get a drink. Ohh, not good news, that really lit up the shoulder. Nor am I ambidextrous when it comes to drinking or eating on the bike: my left hand must steer, my right must do the feeding. So, now I know: I will have to stop every time I need a drink so that my left arm can do the work. My shoulder was also pained whenever I had to shift gears, because my old-style friction shifters are located on the down-tube, rather than integrated into the brake levers as is the usual case nowadays. Shifting was still something I could do despite the discomfort it caused, whereas the waterbottle was a longer reach and required a significant pull to get it out of the cage (safety factor; it is considered bad form for waterbottles to be loose enough in the cage to self-launch when there are bumps in the road).
At the time I discovered this limitation I was already climbing to the first summit of the day, a relatively gentle (compared to what was to come) slope to about 200m which, to put it in perspective, is only some 20m lower than the highest points of land in the Rawdon Hills and the mountains either side of the Annapolis Valley. Just a warm-up climb. Closeup: About halfway up, not a car in sight, a bull moose stepped silently out on the highway about 100m in front of me; he probably didn't hear me either (the great thing about the friction gear shifters is that the derailleurs can always be adjusted for a totally silent chain). So I had this conversation with him, "Go ahead, finish off my day, you'll win any chase after me today" et cetera; soto voce. He looked at me, stopped for a few seconds, and I guess decided that I was "traffic" and had a right to be there, broke into a trot and clopped across the highway, leapt over the ditch and crashed gracefully away into the woods. Whew. Thankfully it was an uphill and I was only doing 10-12kph; I hate to think what might have happened if it had been a fast downhill but it probably wouldn't have involved me writing this story and I doubt the moose would have wanted to do it instead.
On the way down there was a magnificent view of the Aspy River Valley, Dingwall, the mountain on the other side of it, and Aspy Bay. Truly marvelous. At the bottom I lost the view but at Cape North (a misnomer if ever there was one, no cape in sight) caught another sight for sore eyes, signs pointing to food. I couldn't find an actual restaurant that was open without leaving the main road for some distance and I wasn't in the mood for gravel roads, but there was a general store which had plastic sandwiches so I bought one and sat on their boardwalk in a bit of shade talking with some other travelers while I ate and rested a bit and tried to get my bandages to stick a bit better, a futile endeavor since it was sweat that was weakening their bonds. Then back in the saddle.
The road was now traveling up the Aspy valley with its looming shoulders, often in sight and/or earshot of the Aspy River. A vaguely-remembered Irish-flavored croft passed on the left and the road ahead seemed to turn into a bit of a wall.
Just a teaser though, only a few hundred metres and then down into a small dip, curve to the right a bit and then the real wall. Here, and at the base of the previous and following mountains the parks people had posted signs showing the distance of the climb and the gradient. However, when I did the math of
(distance x gradient = height) ..............( Equation 1 )
the result was always quite a bit greater than the maximum altitude in the area, so I haven't a clue what the posted gradient actually represents. (PS there are no more equations, so stop looking.) It is more than the average, and it is less than the maximum; maybe the average of the steepest section of defined or undefined length... Whatever, I was now starting on 1 hour of continuous climbing with long segments of some 15% according to the MapMyRide.
With the little zephyr of a following wind just about as fast as me, it seemed like I spent the entire distance in the same little 5 cubic metre box of air which was getting hotter by the minute. I usually drink about every 10 to 15 minutes, but with my arm and the trouble of restarting on the gradient that wasn't going to be an option. I just put my head down and pushed away at a comfortable speed in my little 22x34 gear, making about 7kph for the first half hour and seeing not a lot except the rock wall to my right and the valley wall off to the left at some distance. The road was just about dead straight with an apparent curve somewhat up ahead. Turned out there was a well-situated look-off at the curve so I zipped across to it for a breather, a couple of drinks, and to look out across the upper part of the valley. Also a look at the road weaving up the second half of the climb. Talked with a few other tourists, and a pair of cyclists going the other way (sheesh, why would one stop halfway down?! okay, I'll answer that in a bit), with whom I exchanged intelligence on the terrain ahead of each of us.
Closeup of this climb:
Then off again. Immediately it was obvious that the road went up more steeply from this point, and I could only make 6 and then 5kph. My heartrate went anaerobic fairly soon, and after about 15 minutes was seriously into my red zone. Although I knew that any kind of a rest would only result in a short reprieve for the heartrate I needed a drink. I would have risked the pain of going for it with the right arm but at 5kph wasn't sure I would be able to stay on the road with only one steering arm.
So . I . stopped .
And rested, somewhat, standing over the bike on the skinny shoulder of the road halfway between two corners of the weave upward so as to give the cars a chance to see and miss me. And had a drink or two. After several minutes came the fun part of trying the restart. Attempt #1 failed, obviously or it wouldn't have been numbered. Likewise the second attempt. So I got creative and stupid, decided it was either walk the rest of the way until the slope softened somewhat, not a good choice in cleated road shoes, or angle the bike across the slope until I could pick up enough speed to turn uphill and keep going. Thing is, there wasn't a lot of visibility to the corner behind me so I would have to trust to luck more than skill for this. I could see a few stretches of road on the uphill side, so I could at least minimize the chance of downhill traffic attacking me in its' lane.
Luck was with me for a change and I got up enough steam before getting to the guardrail that I could turn uphill back into my lane and regain the white line without anyone coming up on me and getting confused. (about my nationality, that is.) Within minutes my heartrate was back up to where it had been before the stop, but it was just going to have to stay there until the summit. Which it did.
It might sound like I was having a terrible time of it for an interminable period, but I was mostly zoned in and not really suffering or in difficulty; except for shifting gears I wasn't bothered by my wounds, and since I was in low gear for the entire climb that wasn't an issue either. The heat was the worst thing, but I really don't mind baking on the bike all that much either. Nor did time seem to slow down during that hour; rather, it only seemed like a quarter hour. Which is not to say it was easy; what it mostly says, I suppose, is that I have a wide masochistic streak in me; but I'm pretty sure that is an essential characteristic in any serious cyclist, recreational or competitive.
There wasn't any kind of a view at the top, since the road came out on a plateau of sorts and continued on level-ish through scrubby woodlands. The climb to the plateau had been initially angling up the side of the mountain (the straight part) and then turned up a coulee eroded into the mountainside by a stream (MacGregor Brook) or glacial action. The builders could, I suppose, have continued along the bed of the Aspy River until it came out at elevation in the highlands, but it would have emerged in the middle of nowhere, hence the nasty deviation so as the road could eventually go to some villages and the coast.
After 5 or so km along the plateau (Sammy's Barren), time to start descending to the Grande Anse River valley and the other (west) coast. Not sure of the name of the stream that made the coulee it goes down. So, now I've got this significant and steep downhill (not as steep as the side I went up, but 12% in places) not all that many hours after I wiped out badly from losing control at high speed on a little hill. Talk about getting back up on the horse that threw you! Yesterday I did some descending at 50kph but you're not going to read about any of that today; 25kph tops. I rode the brakes all the way down, initially with my hands on top of the hoods. After about 10 minutes of that my hands were threatening to cramp so I stopped for a few minutes. In the middle of a downhill run.
closeup of the downhill:
Restarting, I got my hands into the drops and the braking was not as hard on the hands and wrists. My shoulder wasn't as happy about this, and my neck didn't exactly appreciate the bend it had to carry either, but life is all about trade-offs and this was a useful one. There were a couple of spots where there was a nice view up the valley towards the coast, but no look-offs or even slight widenings of the roadbed, Maybe that's because the downhill side was mostly up against the valley wall, and traffic on the uphill side wouldn't know that there was a view behind them to bother stopping for. Just a guess.
Into the outskirts of Pleasant Bay; spotted a general store on the left and pulled in; needed water and water and more water (at the price of bottled water, it just might cost less in gasoline for a car to go from A to B than in water for a cyclist to do the same distance! although whenever possible I'll use "bulk" water or tap water which is somewhat more economical), and to get something to eat for later in the afternoon, another sandwich. Here I first met R and his friend from Cheticamp. They were on a motorcycle trip to Meat Cove. Anyways, somewhat aghast at all my (visible) bandages, once they knew where I was headed they offered to get me a lift to Cheticamp. But I'm still stubbornly figuring (not exactly insisting) that I can make it under my own steam, after all the worst mountain is now behind me. So then they told me they'd check in with me when they would pass me on their way home later in the day and see if I had changed my mind. Doubtful, although I didn't say so, but it was a bit comforting to know that somebody would be looking out for me later on.
Pockets and bottles replenished, I slipped off one way while the motorbikes zoomed off in the other. Pleasant Bay lived up to it's name as a place to ride through, then over a bridge, round a corner, and oh, MacKenzie Mountain already. Shouldn't have been a surprise because coming through the town I could see the road zig-zagging up it, and could even see where the lookoffs were. After the previous climb, this was almost a lark; the hardest thing about it was that it wasn't steep enough to justify getting immediately into low gear, so I was frequently upsetting my shoulder by changing gears. Aerobic the whole way. Nonetheless I pulled off at the first lookoff to enjoy the view and have a late afternoon snack etc. Then onwards again; after a short steep pitch the gradient relaxed and better speed was possible.
Closeup of MacKenzie Mountain:
It was hard to tell where the climb ended and the plateau began, because the "top" was all rolling with some steeper gradients. the scenery up here was variably woods and almost muskeggy tundra-like, with good vistas where the road crested or ran beside a drop-off. The motorbikers had made better time than I (surprise, surprise) so somewhere up here R caught up; we stopped, he offered to come back for me with a pickup truck once he got home, but I figured I was still good. But in deference to the time of day I asked if he would call the B&B where I had a reservation and let them know I would be late getting in; turns out he knew it's operators quite well, so he would do that for me.
Then they're off on their way, and I'm continuing on mine. Finally the road tilts down; this side of the plateau is called French Mountain.
Closeup of French Mtn:
Nice views of the coast on the way down, and then from the bottom on to Cheticamp the road is coastal along the rocky and at times precipitous west coast in very spectacular scenery, probably my favorite section of the Cabot Trail. It has one drawback for a cyclist at the end of a weary day, which is that it is forever up and down, climbs up to 100m at 10-12% gradients, which on any other other day would be significant but today are very much secondary except in the drain on legs that are already as taxed as only the legs of a Canadian tax-payer can be. (i.e. somewhat less than 50% left...) This was a very long stretch of coast for me that day, but finally I saw a green DoT sign telling me I was entering Cheticamp, although there wasn't a building to be seen. Foolishly, I thought I would be parking the bike in another 2 or 3 km but no, 5km further along still barely any sign of civilization. This has to be the biggest small town in the province! Finally, finally buildings start arriving thick and fast, and then I am into the downtown. Not entirely sure where the L'Auberge Doucet is, and having forgotten what the blurb in the tourist guide said about it, I stop a pedestrian and ask. The answer kills me; it's about another 3 to 5 miles, he says. Out past the other end of town. **Sigh** Well, no choice, switched on my lights and on I go. Fortunately it was at the bottom end of his distance bracket.
Another little aside, I didn't clutch in to it at the time, but this was about the only time once north of Truro that when I asked someone for a distance estimate I was answered in terms of distance rather than "minutes" meaning of course minutes by car, a particularly useless measure of distance to a cyclist!. So to this anonymous citizen of Cheticamp, hats off and thanks for knowing a proper unit of linear measure!
The Auberge stood out proudly on it's hillside and was well-marked with a big sign. But, up a hillside. On a loose-graveled driveway. Mostly a gentle slope, but there was one steep ramp in it that I decided it was best to walk up rather than lose traction part way and fall over onto my bandages.
Madame was anticipating my arrival and was most concerned and gracious. Although I greeted her in French my brain was too weary to deal with anything other than English... Her husband was enlisted to carry my Yak bag up to my room. Not being sure if any of my wounds were likely to leak through my bandages I asked for an extra bottom sheet (to save the mattress). Then, given the hour, headed out for supper right away, on the bike but Yakless.
The Hometown Kitchen Restaurant had been recommended to me by JC&M, and is run by the family of SL who was one of TNSTTTT riders. It was at the other end of town, about 5km, but I went there anyways... The special of the day was Snow Crab, and so I decided to go with that. The meal was very tasty. But... it had been about 15 years since I had crab in the shell, and not much less since my last encounter with lobster, so I had definitely lost whatever touch I had with the things. So it was not the best choice for a rather tired, somewhat starved cyclist whose main arm could barely get his fork to his mouth. It was a very slow meal at a time when I needed some fast calories. No fault to the restaurant, just a poor choice on my part. The food was good and the staff friendly. I'll go again.
Then a slightly more enthusiastic 5km back to the Auberge. It was pushing 11p.m. by the time I got back, a late night after a long day. On the way back, just as I was entering the driveway, a car crept along behind me and lighted the path rather better than my little LED headlight. It turned out to be R and his wife, just helping me out a bit after he saw me on the road in town, completely by chance. Fine folks in Cheticamp!
Decided, due to the numerous bandages, not to shower that night but just wiped off as best I could whatever wasn't covered with the things. The plan was to remove the dressings in the morning, shower, and go to the Cheticamp Hospital to have things checked out and to get a new set of dressings put on.
I usually sleep on my right side (somehow the result of years at sea in rolly ships with my bunk always on the same side) and that wasn't going to work, but I was tired enough to fall asleep right away while lying on my back, a couple of extra-strength aspirin helped. In about 4 hours I woke up from discomfort, took a few more aspirin, and then mostly lay awake the rest of the night (no tossing and turning though, I can assure you).
Solo Day7 Cheticamp-Inverness (56km) (wow, that's short!) (for a map, see the first part of tomorrow) I did manage not to leak onto the sheets, a positive sign I thought. Showered as planned, temporary dressings on the major stuff (L knee, R hip). After a good breakfast during which I didn't have much trouble getting a spoon to my mouth, Madame very kindly offered to lend me her car to get to the hospital, which I gratefully accepted.
After the usual paper-processing waits (not all that long) I was efficiently dealt with by the friendly and helpful staff of the hospital. A doctor checked out my shoulder's range of motion, which was already much better than a day before, and looked at the road rash; it was decided that the R back and shoulder and knee didn't need a dressing anymore, just a coating of antiseptic ointment for a day or two. For the rest, a specific dressing was ordered up (Adaptic) and the antiseptic salve Fucidin (for which I was also given a prescription; it's a stronger ointment than Polysporin) for the re-dressing in days to come. My dressings suitably shrunken in size and number, I was bound to be less of a spectacle on the road, I thought. Then off to the pharmacy to get the prescription filled and to get a package of the Adaptic dressings. Or not; they were out of it and wouldn't have any until the next day. Oh well, I thought, I will get some at the next town, no problem. Silly me; over the next several days I found one small packet in Port Hawkesbury and then none, not even in Sackville or Bedford (where Oh yes, they could order some in for me and it would be there in a week-- kind of useless, that: the wound it was intended for would have a good chance of being either healed or foully septic in that time frame. Of course by not ordering it in I confirmed the computerized ordering function in it's correctness in not keeping the stuff in stock since "obviously, nobody wants it". Nuts.)
Back to the Auberge to return the car, undinged, and changed into cycling strip. With Yak in tow I didn't trust the grade of the steep section on gravel so I walked us down that bit on the lawn. It was a nice sunny day, but with a strong breeze off the Gulf of St Lawrence, which meant a moderate headwind vector most of the time. It at least kept things cool. The scenery was quite fine, mostly along the coast and through or beside little fishing hamlets and a bit of farming. Grand-Etang, Cap Le Moine to name a couple. Lunch not too far into the ride and at an open promontory with a great view down the coast, since most of the morning was spent looking to my skin. At Margaree Harbour I left the Cabot Trail for the more direct coastal highway 219 and then 19. The folds in the ground became larger and steeper along here, and mainly the road was out of sight of the water and through woodlands and small settlements, so it became quite warm.
I hadn't checked my route notes that morning, but vaguely recalled that today should be about 30km longer than yesterday, which was 96 km. Then, approaching 40km into the ride finally a roadside distance sign: "Canso Causeway 110km". Say it ain't so! Should have been about 80 or 90 by my calculations! My mind crumpled; I was mentally done for the day and decided right then that at the next accommodations I would quit for the day. (Later I realized where the extra 30km came from: yesterday had been shortened by that amount by my lift to Neil's Harbour.) Shortly after, an answer to my prayer, there was Inverness. And a Tourist Bureau. Good enough.
A vacancy being found at the motel just about across the street, I booked in, changed into civvies and then went off to the pharmacy for some Adaptic. No dice. However, the pharmacists introduced me to Tegaderm, which he said was recommended for road rash And what marvelous stuff it turned out to be! for wounds that were in the right condition. While in the pharmacy a big-eyed boy or maybe 8 or 10 was shyly eying my bandages. I heard him quietly ask his dad, "Did he do that skateboarding?" so I told him it was a bike crash and didn't hurt as bad as it looked, which didn't seem to set him any more at ease. He was terribly fascinated by it and couldn't stop staring at the bandages. I think there was a story behind that; maybe he wanted a skateboard and a parent had told him he would likely fall and get all scraped up so he should ride a nice safe bicycle instead? What an irony that would be.
Still early afternoon. A snooze would have been nice, but I knew that if I did that I wouldn't be able to sleep well at night. From the motel I could see down to the beach about a km away. Decided to wander down there and amble around a bit, and since it was a nice day took my shirt off to let the sun and the breeze play over my road rash; ahh, that felt good! This being August, the beach was, if not crowded, at least busy. I wandered out onto the hard sand below the tide line and meandered up to the breakwater at the harbour entrance and then back again... I'm not sure my scrapes and bandages didn't end up figuring in some kids' nightmares in the near future... On the road going back up to town I met two older gents walking down so with bandages for an icebreaker we had a pleasant chat, and then on my way.
Read up the instructions for the Tegaderm, decided I should try it on everything except my L knee and my hand. Showered, and settled in to deal with the wounds. Tegaderm is a breathable plasticy covering with some kind of an adhesive on one side and a cardboard frame around the outside to assist in placement (after which the cardboard comes off). Once on a wound, as long as the edges remain sealed and/or no sign of infection appears it can stay on for up to 7 days and is shower-proof, rain-proof, sweat-proof... New skin closes over the wound under the film more quickly than with normal dressings, and is pliable (unlike a scab) and results in minimal scarring. Perfect (although I kind of wanted to have a good set of scars...). So although the price per film is not inexpensive at first glance, by the time it has stayed on for seven days it costs less than the conventional gauzes and dressings that one would go through in that time. I also found out that, although the pharmacist thought one couldn't, large films can be cut in half to make 2 smaller ones as long as the pointed corners at the ends of the cut are made rounded (otherwise the pointy corners will lift off). So, one big patch on my R hip, a half-film each for my elbows, and another full film for my right knee. I was still going to need some kind of a gauze covering over elbows and knee while riding, because the new skin forming would be sensitive to sunburn, and the plastic film would act like a mini greenhouse and get very darn warm inside otherwise, but these coverings would be merely sunshades.
My L knee was still weeping too much to contemplate using Tegaderm, so that stayed with a normal dressing, re-used (shudder) Adaptic for today with extra Fucidin! This was my first use of the 3" 3M adhesive, and it was super. I made sure to bend my knee tightly when applying dressing and tape, and so had the most comfortable and least binding knee bandage of the trip, the wide tape on all 4 sides and no circumferential gauze or tape wrappings to pinch the tendons behind the knee. Mind you, it looked like a horrible lump when I was standing with my knee straight.
Supper, not bad. A bit of computer time to send e-mails ahead that I was delayed a day. Some web browsing and mindless tv, then aspirins and about 9p.m. to bed. And then it was morning. An excellent uninterrupted sleep despite the shoulder and being on my back.
From the physical perspective this had been the worst day of the trip: partly from still feeling the effects of the crash, partly from arriving late the previous night, from sleeping poorly, and from headwind: I was beat before I started; I just hadn't realized it until that fatal roadsign. On the other hand the hour and half walking to and on the beach were good, as was the long deep sleep at the end of it.
Solo Day8 Inverness-the Causeway (94km) (today's map includes yesterday) Breakfast in the same place as supper last night, and I don't know what was going on in the kitchen but the place was almost bereft of customers and still it took forever to be served. How long can it take to make toast, fried eggs, and bacon? Quite long; apparently they were taking the sign "breakfast served until noon" to heart.
Back on the road, a very early start compared to the past 2 days although about 20 minutes later than I would have liked. Yes, alright, get over it-- I am.
Inland the first hour: until Mabou; with a couple of little 100m climbs along the way. Mabou is on an inlet so it only looks coastal (depending on how one defines that); neat little town actually. Then more inland and a downhill run to Port Hood, where I was filmed by some tourists perhaps wondering about my white wings. From there, variably coastal or slightly inland to the Judiques. At Judique proper I was startled by a large and official-looking sign proclaiming it the "home of Celtic Music", an honour which I rather expected would have belonged to one of the places the NS Celts originally came from rather than a place where they came to, i.e. someplace in the Old World. How silly and unimaginative of me. Along the way, a number of signs were spelled out in both English and Gaelic and I have to say there seemed little enough resemblance between the apparent sounds. Just inside Judique I stopped at a little museum and store to see if there would be a restaurant nearby for lunch; there were some bilingual signs on a table with the Gaelic phoneticized and yes, the phoneticizations didn't really follow the spelling, explaining my confusion. Talked about it a bit with the proprietress; in the end I could only assume that the man or men (a woman would never have botched the job so terribly) who first set Roman letters to Gaelic sounds was either illiterate in any Northern European language or, more likely, was determined to create such a dog's breakfast of it that no one would be able to figure it out (with the presumed effect of the language dieing out shortly, which it almost did.) This is not a scholarly claim, just an opinion derived from a shallow knowledge of some (not much) of the history of the area.
While there I got the answer to my question, so a few km down the road I stopped in at the Gaelic Music Center, which I would ordinarily have passed right by; it didn't look a bit like someplace to get a lunch. But the appearance was deceiving; I got a good sandwich and desert for a reasonable price, and live music by a fiddle and piano duet. Good lively beat, and when finally I was on my way I replayed parts of those tunes in my head to keep the pedals moving lightly (not dancing, exactly; I am after all not Contador! by a long shot; but a good rhythm nonetheless) and was so glad I had lunched there.
I was now on the landscape I had seen from Cape George on the ride to Antigonish. Mostly through coastal woodland, never far from the coast, and rolling moderately. Before I was ready for it I emerged into Port Hawkesbury and found my motel. Lord T'underin' but another place with a near vertical driveway, although at least paved this time. These people hate bikes... Struggled up the thing, went into the office and hit another wall of a different sort-- only one staff on shift, busy trying to clear up a credit card error caused by entering an extra digit in the Amount space, which caused a snowball effect so that when the attempt was made to correct the error the customer's card was then rejected. It pretty much balanced the breakfast issue but eventually to my astonishment I got checked in. First thing to do, phone around to drugstores to see if any Adaptic was available. One place in Port Hawkesbury had one packet. So, leave the Yak, jump on Banani, wobble off to that drugstore about 5km away. I didn't mind the distance, I had lots still left in me today. A successful mission! Shower, check the Tegaderms, all still good; a bunch of fluid in the one on the hip but it's not murky so that's normal and no infection; new Adaptic for the L knee and hand, sigh of relief. That knee is still very ugly but clean; still weeping too.
My motel was advertised in the Tourist Guide as having a restaurant, but the information was old and tourism was down so the restaurant was closed. So it was either go back into Port Hawkesbury or try the motel across the highway and up a bit. Their dining room was open but not very occupied; I would be surprised if it were still open: this was the worst meal of the two weeks by a long shot: Atlantic salmon you'd think should be pretty decent around here, but the poor fish was as dry as... (well, there's a Dutch expression that my dad always used but out of deference to Sinter Klaas I won't use it here)... pretty dry anyways. I ate because I had to; there was no pleasure in it with that meal.
After supper, some mindless tv and bed around 9. Apart from the supper and a few bouts of waiting, this had been a pretty good day; I felt energetic on the bike and was actually able to drink on the go again: still a bit of discomfort and awkwardness in getting the waterbottle out of the cage and at the top of the lift, but do-able easily enough; gear shifting was also much easier than the past few days. Banani made good time all day and the km's seemed to fly by (relatively speaking). A bigger test tomorrow.
I didn't exactly do the Cabot Trail completely, having left it at Margaree Harbour and not closed the loop. But I figure I did the important parts...