Sunday, September 29, 2013

Who knew...

Retired life was going to be so hectic!  I mean really, I am probably busier than when I worked, and I have no paycheck?!  What's up with that...

Uncle Ronnie and I left Dana and Danny's bundled up in our rain-suits.  We'd been skirting it for days as a tropical depression was moving in from the south.  It was expected to bring huge rains (did) and high winds (ditto), neither particularly conductive to riding curvy roads on the Atlantic coast.  After a brief fuel stop and equipment check in North Sydney, we headed to English town and the short ferry crossing onto the Cabot Trail proper.  There is an alternative (if you get seasick in less than 90 seconds) by road a few miles farther west along the 105.  I'd purchased ferry tickets ($5.50) when crossing at Little narrows the day before.  The boat is barely big enough to hold a dozen cars, and only takes a couple of minutes to cross onto the extended causeway.  It swings, held in place by a thick steel cable, depending which way the tide is running and here in these narrow channels, from lake to sea the current can be fierce.

There was a woman with a dog on one leash and a cat on the other parked in front of us.  Scooping them into her car moments before the boat pulled in, we followed here onto the steel deck.  Steel painted ferry decks, dripping cars and motorcycle tires in heavy rain, is NOT particularly confidence inspiring but like riding on mud, you just don't do anything rash.

The causeway is barely above sea level as you wind your way from the Bras d'Or lake and begin climbing.  Soon we pulled off 312 onto the Trail and stopped for the obligatory photo opportunity.  At this point it wasn't raining hard but certainly gray and overcast with some drizzle.  We rode up to Ingonish Beach and stopped for lunch sitting outdoors so we didn't have to strip from our rain gear.

A couple of points about my experience with the Cabot Trail from previous years.  I've ridden this route dozens of times during my tenure in the Maritime's.  I always loved or at least strongly liked the ride.  Scenic views of the Atlantic, rugged highlands of Cape Breton, twisty roads.  Today, both Ron and I agreed on our description of the ride.

In a word, "boring".


Say what!  The Cabot Trail, World Famous as the signs proclaim, and it's boring.  What's up with that.  For Ron, living in the interior of BC, he has hundreds of splendid mountain roads to rides every year, so this is ho hum.  For myself, in 30 years the trees that line the route have grown up and therefore,  blocked the many fabulous views.

The pavement had become very rough and uneven.  No problem on a dualie and at our speeds we were fine but considering that in the meantime, since my last visit, I've ridden the Pacific Coast highway, Malibu canyons, the Trans Peninsular, the Sea to Sky, the Angeles Crest highway, about a thousands mountain passes in the Dolomites, the Pyrenees, the Tatra's and Matra's and of course the Alps... all of which have better pavement, yes... it left me feeling like, the Trail is no longer living up to its billing.

Don't get me wrong.  If you never rode anything else but the CB... and you lumbered around on it with your big inch cruiser, scraping floorboards and wallowing along, you would not know any better.

Like the Trail, I too have aged and in those years, my experience has multiplied a thousand times. 

Once in the park, things improved greatly and this... finally lives up to its hype.  Plenty of turn outs (very few earlier) to take advantage of the views, the ruggedness of the coast, the quality of the pavement was worth the 13 bucks to traverse the National Park.  Once 'round the bend' and on the backside of the Trail, there is a calmer sense of the grandeur to share.  If you only rode from Canso up route 19 to Cheticamp along the west coast, then to Ingonish and turned around back down again with a detour to Baddeck, the trail still has some charm.

We stopped over in Cheticamp intending to ride to Port Hastings.  While filling at the Petro Can... the skies finally opened and within minutes, the streets were running with hard driving heavy rains.  Fifteen minutes waiting for the bulk of the storm to pass, and we went looking for a motel.  Sure it was only 4 pm, but to the South, the sky was ugly!

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