Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Archive for June 20, 2012

Transiting The Trans Labrador Highway & Canadian Atlantic Provinces (Part 7)

We awakened to falling rain and fog.  Our foggy heads cleared quickly, but the fog and rain outside refused to do the same.  We resigned ourselves to more riding in the rain and reduced visibility, but that is part of the adventure isn’t it.  We were more disappointed that we would be missing scenery along the way to the ferry at Port Aux Basques.    Unfortunately, we didn’t see much for most of the ride, but as we approached the ferry, the rain did stop and visibility did increase somewhat.

Although the weather obscured the traditional scenery, we were in for a treat when the ferry arrived in port.  Out of the fog, a giant ghostly shadow appeared.  Moving slowly, it glided silently towards us with a nearly imperceptible rocking motion.  We knew it was a ship, but we couldn’t clearly make out any detail.  As it approached, it blew its horn and there was no doubt it was a large vessel.  Then out of the gloom we made out the blue, white and gold of the MV Caribou.  Although it was a very large vessel more than 565 feet in length, her impressive form glided more like giant kayak across the calm harbor waters than a ferry capable of carrying 1,200 passengers, 370 cars and 77 trucks.

Just as we thought she would pull into the dock and tie up, she gave us a special treat.  What we hadn’t noticed was that the vehicles entered and disembarked from the rear of the ship.  The Caribou was headed straight into the dock, so how would she unload her cargo.  Ahhh….  A 270 degree turn would be necessary in the very narrow harbor.

So as easy as pie, the Captain of the Caribou turned his gigantic vessel around in the middle of the small harbor with very little clearance.  It was an awesome display of seamanship.  You want to see it?  Well, OK…..

After a successful docking, we were able to load the bikes onto the Caribou for the ride to Nova Scotia.  It was a smooth uneventful trip and before we knew it we were being discharged on the shores of Nova Scotia around midnight local time.  Of course it was raining again and finding our hotel was a bit of a chore, but find it we did and we dropped into the rack to sleep the sleep of the dead.

Viola!  We awoke to bright sunshine with only a few clouds dotting the sky.  What a wonderful change!  Having heard about the beauty of the Cabot Trail and the twisty roads that surrounded it, we made a beeline for the reportedly smooth pavement running along side the mountains and ocean.  We were not to be disappointed; not one iota.

On narrow, bumpy and mostly deserted roads, we passed many small towns which seemed to have one thing in common; wonderful people.  During our brief stops, or our overnight stays, it seemed that everywhere we went people greeted us and wanted to chat.  All the greetings were warm and welcoming, we often felt like lost relatives.  They wanted to know about us and they often told us much about their families and themselves.  This give and take is in our opinion what true adventure riding is all about.  We were really not all that far from home, but we were learning much from the folks we interacted with and I think we got a true feeling of what it was like to live in the Canadian Atlantic Provinces.

As welcome and comfortable as we were, we hightailed it towards Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail.  The blue skies, clear blue ocean and sinuous mountain roads beckoned to us.  As we rolled along the road that paralleled the bright blue ocean, we passed the tiny town of Wreck Cove and immediately the mountains which mark the beginning of the Cabot Trail became visible.

We could see the steep and twisting road immediately in front of us.  A sharp hairpin turn led to the steepest part of the road that clung to the side of the mountain as the ocean lay calmly hundreds of feet below.  There was only one thing left to do and it was to ride that road.  And ride it we did.  The road was steep enough at the beginning that we used first gear for the a significant portion of the climb.  It was a bit interesting to be riding this twisting road only a couple of feet from the guard rail that was the only barrier a several hundred foot drop to the ocean below.  But nonetheless, the view was spectacular.

As we crested the first ridge of the mountain, we lost sight of the ocean, but the pavement became very smooth and we were able to enjoy some twisties on a smooth surface.  We both hooted and hollered into our communicators and told each other how spectacular the riding was and  how much we were enjoying Nova Scotia.  Although we were enjoying the twisties, we did take the time to stop and enjoy some of the spectacular mountain views along the top of the mountain pass.

Later as we began our descent from the top of the mountain, we were treated to another set of twisties, this time even more exciting than at the beginning of the day.  Hairpins and decreasing radius turns awaited our eager throttle hands and wide open eyes.  But this wonderful steeply descending road presented us with a significant dilemma.  The problem was that the twisties were so technical that we dare not take our eyes off the road while navigating each corner.  So you say, why would that be a problem?  The problem was that just beyond that guard rail were the most amazing views of the north Atlantic you can imagine.  The bright blue sea met an equally dazzling ocean and where they met at the horizon, it was as if the two were merged into one.  The decision as to which to look at was mind rending.

But as we laughed to each other over our communicators, “someone has to do it,” we started down quickly scanning from road to sea, road to sea.  If you know anything about instrument flying, it was an exercise in scanning.  Don’t stare at anything, keep moving your eyes, soak it all in to your brain and make the correct control inputs.  It was a test, but a wonderful one at that.

As the road straightened out a bit, it still provided awesome views of the ocean and of itself as it undulated up an over little ridge crests alongside the sea.  To your left, green trees sprouted from the sheer mountain walls while to your right, the ocean vied for your attention.  It was an amazing test of willpower just to stay on the road.

The mesmerizing ride took away all realization of time for us and before we knew it, we had completed the Cabot Trail and were headed back inland across the peninsula towards Lunenburg.  A very lovely town with an artists flair, we were treated to more local sights and flavor.  We’ll take you there in Part 8.