Summer vacation offered a rare opportunity for some motorcycle exploration. My wife and I packed up the kids and flew away from the sweltering heat of South Carolina and landed in the much more temperate Nova Scotia. Originally, Shannon and I were going to rent a bike and ride the Cabot Trail, but the ride was going to be more than she cared to do, so I got to turn it into a two day ride and see a lot more than a TransCanada blast to Cabot Trail and back.
I lined up a new Kawasaki Versys from Brookspeed Motorcycle Rentals and left out early on a Monday morning. At home, all my bikes are setup for touring, but I had to do a few things to get ready on the Versys. The factory saddlebags carried all my normal riding gear, tools, clothes, etc. The Versys has some plastic on the side of the tank so my Cortech Tank Bag would not work there. Luckily, I had my GCAG Mondo Straps and some ADV Sushi to rig it up as a tail bag. Then I ran a USB cable from my Antigravity XP-10 battery pack to keep my phone charged. I had my GPX files loaded up in Osmand for the whole trip so a charged phone was necessary.
This setup worked great for the whole trip. I fashioned a nice DSLR compartment with some padded Velcro inserts from Watershed and I was able to keep my camera safe and accessible.
My trip was two full days and just under 1000 miles, or since I was in Canada, perhaps I should say around 1600km.
I have done a lot of motorcycle touring so I knew I could do the miles, but it was an ambitious trip. I wanted to make sure I took time to enjoy it, get good pictures, and eat good food. The roads were a mix of dirt, gravel, busted pavement, and newly paved roads. The ironic thing is a good bit of the pavement is worse than the dirt.
Leaving from Stewiacke, NS I headed to the eastern shore. It wasn’t long before I hit my first gravel road. As I made my way over to the coast the temperature dropped slightly and it was perfect, I mean matching what you set your house thermostat to perfect. Most of Nova Scotia is rural and the towns you pass through are spread out and small. With the exception of passing through towns, I rarely saw anyone else for most of the first day.
The main road along the Eastern Shore is called Marine Dr. and it has a very appropriate name. You are almost always within eyesight of water and often the shoulder of the road is mere feet (or meters) from the water.
If I had to choose one thing that stuck out to me about the Eastern Shore it would be the colors. I don’t know what it was, but it was like nature had been photoshopped and the color saturation was turned up. Look at this picture, it has not been touched up in any way. It’s so vivid!
As I made my way north heading towards Cape Breton Island I got to do my first moto ferry ride. Before I left, my ma-in-law gave me a good tip about a new brewery restaurant that opened in Guysborough. It was later in the afternoon when I got there. Fuel was low for me and the bike. I stopped at this visitor center to look at a map to see if I could find the brewery. I didn’t have a name to look for, just a tip that it was there. Guysborough was a bit bigger than the rest of the towns I had passed through, but looking at the map I realized that the town basically existed along the road that followed the water. I decided to wing it and sure enough, I found “The Rare Bird Pub”. I sat on the back deck looking over the water while I had the best fish and chips of the entire trip and a Maple Ale. How could a beer not have maple in it in Canada? Everything has gratuitous maple leafs, why not maple in the beer too.
From Guysborough I headed to Port Hawkesbury where you cross an awesome bridge to Cape Breton island. I even rode the bridge twice to get some video. The terrain is more mountainous on Cape Breton. In fact, the road leading to Port Hawkesbury has a beautiful decent to the bridge. Since all vehicles going to and from Cape Breton have to cross here the traffic was heavy. The roads are now a bit more familiar to me. Like riding at home, I had elevation changes, more twisty curves, and unfortunately very slow cars.
As I made my way to the coast there was a lot less traffic. I enjoyed the ride to my next stop of Louisburg Fortress. Unfortunately, I didn’t get there until about 5:30 PM and they were closed to visitors. I snagged a couple of zoom pics and headed out for Sydney.
After I checked into the hotel and took a break I headed out to find some dinner. When I walked out I got a pic of the bike parked and a guy across the street asked if that was my bike. As I turned to answer him he started walking across the street. He had no shirt on and was covered in tattoos. I’ll admit, I thought he was going to hit me up with a story about how he needed gas money to get home. To my surprise he was a pretty cool guy. He rode motorcycles and toured all over Canada. Imagine a motorcycle as your only mode of transportation in Canada…in the winter. To wrap up the evening I went to “Governor’s Pub” and had some salmon and a couple of local brews. A cool crispness was in the air and I sat out on the patio watching the boats in the bay and quietly savoring my adventure as the sun dropped below the horizon.
John 7:14 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
When I stepped out of my hotel and was approached by the shirtless tattooed guy my first thought was to pretend I didn’t hear him and keep walking. After all, we were on opposite sides of a busy street. It would have been easy to do that and not seem rude. I decided to push those thoughts aside and ended up having a great conversation with a total stranger for about 45 minutes. Here I am now making it a point to write about it. For me, one of the most valuable aspects of adventure in life is learning from it and becoming a better person from your experiences. This was a good reminder to reserve judgement.
Have you ever had a similar situation? Has there ever been an interaction with another person that you almost avoided? I would love to hear your story.