East LaHave, NS to Lunenburg, NS

6.6 mi / 10.4 mph / 207 ft. climbing
Home: WH Motel

We woke up, stumbled downstairs, helped Mary move all the furniture back into the dining room whose (beautiful, wide-plank) floor they had just refinished, and then shared another gratifying meal around the breakfast table with our WarmShowers hosts. Bernie ran off to an appointment in Lunenburg, where we were headed, leaving Mary to see us off, but she perceptively understood that her presence was making Rett even more nervous about starting the bike.

Neil, Bernie, Mary, and Rett after breakfast.
Ready to leave this classic-but-updated Nova Scotia house.
Just a small part of Mary (and Bernie’s) colorfully planted yard.

Unfortunately, none of last night’s discussions hit on any magic bullet to cure Rett’s ‘yips‘. Once again, when she actually let her body move, she maintained balance well enough to get going, but it took half a dozen aborted attempts and more tears before she let her body move. And then once we left Bernie and Mary’s driveway, a sharp right turn a quarter mile down the road brought her to a stop again, which required a long walk up a hill until we could reach a place flat enough and with enough visibility to allow her to even attempt a restart.

After that, we were able to make it the six miles into the outskirts of Lunenburg, where we stopped at a really busy but well-run laundromat. While I was sitting inside and minding our clothes, Rett was outside, and unbeknownst to me, crying with such force that a concerned group of girls pulled into the parking lot to make sure that she was ok. From what I understand they had a heartfelt bonding session over loss and pain, and while I wish none of them, Rett especially, had experience facing those emotions, I’m grateful once again to strangers who go out of their way to cease being strangers.

Lunenburg is currently crushed with tourists, and we stopped into our insanely-priced motel to see if early check-in was possible. The proprietor thought up some clever options, but we decided to just hit the nearby brewery for lunch instead and then come back after.

So with waterfront beers, looking across the harbor to the colorful houses of Lunenburg rising up the hill, we decided that we needed to hit pause. Moving forward in this way was clearly unsustainable. Rett wasn’t showing any improvement, her daily existence had become miserable, and we’re not in a place where we need to continue doing things if they make us miserable.

Waterfront beers in Lunenburg.
Lunenburg rising on its hill across the harbor.

We decided to find some way to essentially take a week off, and maybe more, and (critically, in my mind), resolved to take time during that period for Rett to practice. Something she hates doing, and has fought like an ox to avoid, but something she was now finally willing to commit to, in a last-ditch attempt to continue our current form of nomadic life. Re-doing “learning how to ride a bike” from scratch, the way I had taught her 9 years ago, was the last idea I had remaining. It’s an idea I’ve had for at least a week, but we hadn’t been able to carve out space to make it happen, and without that ability to reset, everything had just kept disintegrating.

Upon our return to our motel, I walked into the office and the proprietor immediately thrust two cold bottles of water at me. “To her, first, go out and give to her, she needs it more!” After getting checked in and some further chit-chat, she says “do you want a beer instead?” Haha, uh, yeah, of course I’ll always take a beer instead, but c’mon, the water is already plenty. But she goes into the mini-fridge behind the counter and pulls out a variety of beers for me to choose from! I take the Keith’s (the historic local “IPA” that’s not an IPA).

Once we had some time to check out the old-but-cute room, and other options in the area, I went back to the office to book two more nights before they sold out. “Want another beer?” Haha, of course! It’s certainly a smart way to make the high price of the room go down easier! It was the perfect accompaniment to our Chinese microwave dinner I picked up from the grocery store.

Day 2

We spent the day in the room, doing our standard pattern of catching up on business and just vegging out.

But after dinner, Rett held true to her word and said she was ready to try some practice. So I took the pedals off her bike, dropped the seat as low as it could go, and we walked across the street to a conveniently-located set of basketball courts with the perfect bit of incline deviating from its mostly-flat concrete surface.

From this position, propelling herself with her feet, I’d hoped that she’d be able to take the time to feel the slow-speed balance that had somehow gone dormant inside her (knowing that she was “safe” and could put her feet down at any moment, without whacking a leg on a pedal). And almost immediately, even with her loaded bags still strapped on, she could coast with her feet up, and even began practicing various turns. I daresay there were even moments where she was nearing the edge of “fun”, in the way that is inherent to riding a bike, but we tend to forget as adults. Remarkable since “fun” was the last thing Rett had been associating with bike riding for these weeks. To avoid ruining that, after about 15 minutes we called it a night.

Day 3

Finally it was time to explore this tourist town we were spending all this money to stay in. We walked from our west side of the harbor to a trail on the east side that brought us right into downtown.

After seeing nothing remotely touristy in our first week in Nova Scotia, it was a bit of a culture shock to see lines of fashion-trendy young people waiting to get into the many restaurants. We did our part to fit in by checking out the Smartwool collection in a small shop, getting some BBQ lunch (seafood is so ahhhhbvious), browsing the bike shop to see if anything stuck our fancy (nope), and doing a tasting at the distillery (the Gin Noir, a blackberry-infused gin struck our fancy enough to buy a bottle). Then we picked up groceries for dinner at a grocery store improbably set directly on the waterfront.

Some nice old houses in Lunenburg.
Lunenburg waterfront, looking particularly Nova Scotia-y.
Split-personality duplex: character vs. no-character.
A genuinely old building is a perfect place to house Ironworks Distillery.

Upon our return to the motel, we found a small party happening on the second floor porch above our room. I went to the office to ask about ice (to make cocktails so we could finish our Scotch and then replace it with our newly-acquired gin), and additionally walked away with…two more beers! We didn’t end up immediately using the ice anyway, since the upstairs party called us up for duty. There we met Chris and Sue from Australia, Jaime, Ethan, and ??? from London Ontario, and Sean from Newfoundland via Alberta. Good fun and good conversation, and somehow we ended up drinking at least our 5th unpaid-for beer at this motel.

Motel party!
Some curious decorations in the back yard of our motel.

After dinner, Rett wanted to practice again, and she picked up the feel even better this time. After only 10 minutes or so, she asked me to put the pedals back on. More shockingly, she had no problem coming back to the motel parking lot and doing it there, where people could see her. This had always been a barrier to practice: she feels embarrassed and requires a hidden, isolated place so no one can judge her (in reality, anyone who learns of her bike-riding history finds her incredible and inspirational). And, just as I’d hoped (though far quicker than I’d dared to dream), now that she had that feeling of slow-speed balance close at hand, she was able to carry it over to the standard pedal-push start. Not quite at a 100% success rate, but at a far higher rate than she’d been able to muster in weeks. Hope!

Newfoundlander Sean from the afternoon party came down, and we had an unexpectedly touching heartfelt conversation. In addition to commiseration over grief, he is also one of the many people we’ve talked to recently who immediately grasps the stress and mental challenges that come with our chosen lifestyle, perhaps with an insight greater than even our own (we’re more used to people just seeing the fun, adventure, and physical challenges). I realized that these are the kind of connections we wished we could have made in Mexico (and did to some extent with Canadian ex-pats there, ha!), but the language kept a barrier between us and the local people. Yes, diversity in cultures is a good thing, but today I was really struck by how sharing a common language can make it so much easier to build bonds across borders.


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