11.5 mi / 10.6 mph / 516 ft. climbing
Lunenburg was an attractive place to stay, but not very practical for a longer term. So after three nights there, it was time to move inland for four nights in Bridgewater, where we could get more value for our money (or more accurately, a place to stay for any price, which was hard to come by in Lunenburg). Bridgewater is place where everyone in the area goes to do their shopping. It’s the place from which one escapes during its 105-degree summer-heat-wave temperatures to live at a campground closer to coast (and meet us at the swimming pool in that Lockeport campground). It’s the place where our motel hostess could not understand why we were exchanging Lunenburg for it. “There’s nothing there!” Yep, sounds perfect, that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Unfortunately it meant that, in the middle of our “biking pause”, we needed to get on the bikes to move them and us and all our stuff back west and up the river.
Due to Rett’s practice over the last couple nights, she started the bike successfully every time she needed to over the relatively-short distance. It still wasn’t easy, and didn’t come without conscious thought like it once did, but it went better than any day of the last few weeks. However, those remnants of fear, plus fairly aggressive traffic on the narrow road (to the town where everyone goes to do their shopping, remember), meant that we’re still a long way from Rett finding bike touring “tolerable”, much less “fun”. At least that means we don’t feel stupid for taking another four days off the bikes.
Waiting for our AirBNB to be ready, we stopped for lunch at a mall-style pub in the big mall. But then walking across one of the eponymous bridges over the water, we found a town cuter than I’d expected. To be sure, we saw the first hints of housing insecurity that we’ve seen in Canada, but there was a brewery, a bakery, some nice waterfront park areas, and some old classic housing stock rising up the hillside. Our AirBNB unit was in the back of one of those big houses, and since the owner runs an HVAC business, we had good air conditioning in case that 105-degree heat wave would return (it was not supposed to).
We walked over to the Atlantic Superstore (our first visit to that chain) to stock up on groceries, did our standard frozen-pizza dinner for our first night in a place with an oven, and then late at night (being four hours ahead of Washington) Rett was able to join her monthly “happy hour” Zoom with her girlfriends, something that always helps give her an outlet and sounding board that rings with a different timbre than mine.
Day 2 and Day 3
One of the things Bridgewater has that most (all?) other towns we’ve been through in Nova Scotia don’t have: a movie theater! My idea to go to the movies was more a treat for Rett, who is a bigger fan of the theater experience than me. But I was happy that ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ has acted like its 1987 original and just continued to remain in theaters week after week, this time long enough for me to see it as intended. I thought it was nearly perfect, up until the climax, where it lost half a star. The next day, we saw the latest from Rett’s favorite director, Baz Luhrmann. ‘Elvis’ wasn’t especially Lurhmann-y, but it was still pretty good, and the blond elf kid from MTV’s goofy ‘Shanarra’ series was surprisingly engaging as Elvis. Thus ends the movie-review portion of this blog. Oh, and Canadian theaters are even less-distinguishable from their American counterparts than Mexican theaters are (and the Mexican theater we went to barely had any non-American characteristics).
(Neil ride only, unloaded)
62.4 mi / 15.4 mph / 3075 ft. climbing
We’d long assumed that our visit to Nova Scotia would include a trip to Cape Breton, the large island separated by just a small gap from the mainland, and the place that’s even more Scottish than the rest of “New Scotland” (the shape of the place even looks like Scotland, if you compare the maps!) Of particular interest was the Cabot Trail, a road loop through the northwest lobe of the island, taking you though Highlands National Park, that’s very popular with cyclists.
But when researching the route, I found that not only would there be a day with back-to-back 1500 ft. climbs, but those climbs have at least 11% (and maybe 15%) grades. So it turns out that it’s mostly van-supported cyclists who do this route! Certainly fully-loaded touring cyclists have done it, but ones more ambitious than us, and certainly not ones who have major concerns about starting their bikes even on flat ground.
But Rett, the Outlander fan of Scottish descent, still wanted to see this mini-Scotland, so already some time ago we had decided to find a way to tour the Cabot Trail by car. Now that we had decided to take a pause from riding, we combined that idea with a plan to use a car to get to Cape Breton (from where we were holed up), as well as around it. Only trouble was that rental cars weren’t exactly easy to come by in this peak tourist season, the options we could find were very expensive, and it was a bit unknown if we’d be able to wrangle the bikes with us.
So that’s why today, I rode 62 miles from Bridgewater to a U-Haul center on the outskirts of Halifax. I’d pick up a cargo van, put my bike inside, drive back to Bridgewater, and then the next morning we’d head for Cape Breton together will both bikes and all of our gear.
I haven’t done a long ride in years where I’m not drafting off Rett, so I was a bit curious to find out what my untethered cycling abilities are actually like these days. Turns out that I can still sustain a pretty good speed over distance! Though I don’t really have any good points of comparison, since I don’t think I’ve ever done a ride this long and this hilly while carrying just one small pannier and my handlebar bag. The downside to being untethered was that I was tired! I felt the need to do some stretching mid-ride, and then definitely afterward when I got home (which again gives me some insight into the physical stress Rett is under every day, since she’s always operating at much closer to 100% of her ability than I am). The other downside was Rett not being along to enjoy some of the pretty seaside riding (though there were also shoulderless busy sections that she’d’ve been glad to miss). The ~50 miles of crow-flies distance is literally the furthest we’ve been apart from each other in more than a year!
After five hours of riding, I picked up the van with U-haul’s on-line system (that actually worked), and then via the 103 (which paralleled Hwy 3 that I’d biked, and had sections of massive construction where they were cutting a new path through forested hills to double its width), was back to Bridgewater in less than an hour.