New Brunswick was so different from Québec that I almost went into culture shock the first night. We had dinner at a Thai restaurant, and I had to keep cutting myself off to keep from speaking French.
The morning after arriving in Campbellton dawned cold and dreary. We decided to take the train from Campbellton to Moncton. This would cut three days off our trip and still leave us more than half of the North Shore of New Brunswick to ride. It started raining just as the train arrived. Through the water streaking on the windows, we could see vast stretches of wetlands, woods, pulp mills, and small towns.
Moncton is a fair town, just big enough to have a city feel downtown, but small enough to be scenic and uncrowded. In Shediag, Cheryl found lobster already shelled in a bag, cheaper than whole lobster elsewhere. We camped in an RV park in between rain showers. Dinner was lobster and pesto on a baguette, an upgrade from the shrimp and pesto that we had been enjoying in Québec.
The cold rain fell in earnest after we set up camp. The park was unprotected from the northerly wind. We slept poorly, wondering if our tents were being ripped away.
The next day brought sunny weather. We rode to Prince Edward Island, using the free shuttle to hop over the Confederation Bridge. PEI boasts a 140-km long rail trail that put us in Kensington on the western end after dark, far from the maddening crowd converging on Charlottetown for a Shania Twain concert. The Home Place (www.thehomeplace.ca) had room, when most of the island did not. It was a stroke of luck: a beautiful setting in an elegant old home, turned into upscale dinner spot and B&B. The perfect ending to a long, adventurous day.
In the morning, we visited the sites connected with Anne of Green Gables and author L.M. Montgomery. I especially enjoyed the show in the Fishing Shanty of the reproduction village of Avonlea. It featured folk music of the Maritime Provinces, a mixture of Celtic, seagoing, and country. The music helped me understand why Shania Twain would be such a big draw in the Maritimes.
We tarried on the National Park beach on the north shore, then headed across the island on Highway 6.
We beat the sun to the hostel in Charlottetown, where Cheryl had wisely made a reservation, now that her phone was working again. We enjoyed the best chowder ever at Brown’s, a bistro, where the band was playing moldy oldies. It seemed to be packed with everyone who was not at the Shania Twain concert.
The next day we tried to use the Confederation Trail to catch the ferry at Woods Island, but it was dug up for major work. The straight route (Highway 28) was rolling instead of flat, and the pavement was terrible, but we made good time and managed to find a campsite at the Caribou and Monroe Island Provincial Park in Pictou, Nova Scotia by sundown.
It rained almost all the way to Antigonish, arguably the most important town on the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Passing Saint Francis Xavier University and signs advertising the recent Highland Games, I could appreciate that this was a destination for different reasons all year. We were in for a treat: the only place with room on Labor Day weekend was the Victorian Inn, a five-star B&B occupying five acres of prime real estate downtown. I could understand why it was often booked for entire weekends for weddings. It provides that kind of setting.
The kitchen was closed for Labor Day. In fact, the only place open was an Italian restaurant that called itself a pizzeria. However, it turned out to have an excellent international menu – and, again, a seafood chowder to die for.
The cord on the power adapter for my computer was fraying at the place where it entered the conversion unit. It turned out to be a coaxial cable that was too light-duty for the flexing imposed on it by the hard plastic tube that connected it to the adapter. I could get a charge by keeping the cord pressed together, but it was worrying me, as it became more problematic to keep the current flowing. I was officially off my holiday now, and not planning to be unable to work.
The next morning, we were delighted to meet Matt, the owner of Highland Bicycles on Main Street. I was surprised to learn that his three-month old store was the only bicycle shop in this University town. His business has quickly become a meeting spot for cycle tourists, students, and local aficionados. We ran into John and Glenn, who were also crossing Canada, and who had crossed paths with Cheryl in a couple of places. I found a new rack and replaced the spare spokes that I had left in Old Lyme accidentally. The Topeak Explorer (like Cheryl’s) rack can handle the load that was straining the old Blackburn MT-1.
The tourist season was clearly over, with mist and rain and dropping temperatures hanging over us as we headed east out of town. The rumble strips and heavy truck traffic on Interprovincial 104 were a terrible nuisance. About halfway to Cape Breton Island, we located the old highway, and made our way up and down the ridges on the north coast to the Canso Causeway.
About three km from the Canso Causeway, traffic was stopped completely. This proved to be an unexpected blessing. The shoulder was adequate, so we made our way to the head of the line, past motorists taking smoke breaks outside their cars and visiting with the other drivers. The traffic seemed to be flowing normally outbound from the island. Was there a crash up ahead?
Just as we were about to get on the draw bridge leading to Cape Breton Island, the traffic started moving again. We were able to sprint across the span as the lumbering trucks held up the column starting to stir. At the Visitor Center, we learned that Highway 104 was undergoing major repairs and that traffic was alternating on one lane. Almost all the traffic to Cape Breton Island heads that way, but we were taking Highway 19 up the east coast. We feasted on hot shrimp rolls made on the spot by “Captain Kenny” in a food truck across from the Visitor Center. It was welcome relief for a pair of cold and hungry cyclists. The run up Highway 19 took us away from the petrol-fueled crowd and soon we were settling into a charming unit at Coastal Cottages in Troy. It looked back at the sunset over the bay north of the causeway. The cottage had everything one could need for year-round comfort, so that I thought that it would be an ideal place for a writer to finish a novel in the winter.
It was dark, warm and quiet after the sunset. By now the cord on my computer power adapter had completely come apart. I tried to fix it, but finally had to resign myself to letting the computer run down, and hoped to be able to mail order a new adapter to meet us down the road.
I fell asleep contemplating the legendary road ahead: the Cabot Trail.