Introduction

We traveled from September 5-21, 2022. We bicycled for 11 days, covering 633 miles and climbing 26,468 ft, the equivalent of 5 miles! For our Canadian friends, that was 1018 kilometers and 8067 meters climbed. This map shows the cycling portion of our trip once we arrived in Nova Scotia but does not show the trip from Bangor to Yarmouth via ferry from Bar Harbor nor does it show the 3 days at the halfway point when we rented a car out of Halifax to explore the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton. We’re glad we did. It’s really gorgeous and it would’ve been too hard to get there and to ride it too.

As usual the highlights were the people we met along the way and the riding together in new territory. We realized we really didn’t see much of the towns we stayed in. We saw a lot between towns then settled into the evening rhythm of touring: shower, plug in all the electronics, blog, figure out food for the evening and next day and do our brain games. The weather was lovely for nearly the entire tour. The only challenges we faced were due to the Rail Trail conditions. We managed to locate vegan food most places and generally survived in the land of abundant seafood. It helped that we prepared by researching on Happy Cow.

For those who are new to our blog we offer a few tips. The light gray blocks at the beginning are optional toggles that expand by clicking the little plus sign at the far right end. These sections include the backstory, prepping the bike and the drama of nearly having to cancel the trip. The daily stories are each followed by the relevant photos. If you click on the first photo you get a slideshow of that group of images. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about our adventure as much as we enjoyed experiencing it. Feel free to leave comments at the bottom.

The Back Story

Last fall when we rode our first all-tandem tour in Southern Utah we learned about another all-tandem tour to Prince Edward Island in Canada scheduled for the end of August this year. Our e-tandem was so new we didn’t even know if we could get it there. By the time we did the research and signed up we were put on a wait list. Eventually it got too hard to plan, not knowing if we’d get in so we started exploring options. We got pretty excited about Nova Scotia and realized if we did it as a self-supported tour we could spend half as much money and ride twice as far. It also freed us to travel when it worked for us and not when the tour was scheduled, which conflicted with a family wedding. So for a couple of weeks the end of April Spencer worked on routing options while Sheila worked on accommodations and vegan food availability. We did a 5-day practice tour to Victoria in early August to test out the border crossing and our packing. The bottom of that post lists our findings but a couple of key purchases are worth mentioning again here.

  • The pannier packing cubes from REI were BRILLIANT and worth every penny. Our system for organizing everything in them worked very well.
  • We also bought a cellphone holder from REI for the bike so we could easily follow navigation. It worked well. However, we learned that using the phone for navigation eats up the battery. Good thing we have two phones and a backup battery!
  • Signing up for Ride with GPS app for routing each day’s ride gave us more control over miles vs kilometers, taking the trails or not, etc.
Packing & shipping Tess
Thursday August 18 before we rode to Vashon for the weekend, Spencer spent a good part of the day fabricating a tandem bike box from 2 single bike boxes ($20 each from REI). The finished product had to comply with very strict dimensions, provided by Bike Flights, and withstand a cross-country UPS ground journey. Monday when we got back he spent the day deconstructing Tess and protecting her as he shoehorned the tandem into the newly created box. Finally on Tuesday August 23, UPS arrived and took Tess away. We were reunited in Bangor, ME on Labor Day.

Tess arrived in Bangor safely. After a spectacular tour, detailed below, Spencer repacked and shipped her home. The box arrived a week later looking like hell as these images show. We both felt sick. Amazingly, when we opened it and put the bike back together it had miraculously survived the shipping undamaged! Sheila set about researching options for future trips. We’d hoped to find a hard-sided tandems shipping case. We found just a couple of options but each turned out to no longer be offered. After posting on the e-Tandem group on Facebook someone mentioned BikeBoxes. They’ve developed a custom 3-ply box that is sturdy enough to last 3-4 round trips, complies with shipping requirements and includes custom hardware for additional safety, all for just over $300. It looks excellent so when we’re ready to plan another trip we’ll order this. Spencer will still have to take the bike partially apart and rebuild, etc, but he won’t have to also build a box or worry about it arriving safely. And if we continue to tour we can eventually replace the worn out outer box and reuse the hardware for a lesser charge. Let’s hope we’re able to continue to tour for that long! This trip proved that with the e-assist self-supported touring is FUN and quite viable.

The Best Laid Plans

Those of you who know Sheila know she thrives on planning and is quite good at it. We have our whole trip on a extensive spreadsheet that includes everything imaginable. We even allowed a 3-day lead up to our departure so we could take packing slowly and reconsider decisions. After all, we’ll be carrying all our gear and we need to be prepared for a wide variety of unknown weather. Two days before departure we were pretty much packed and ready. We checked the packing list and the last thing was to be sure we had all our required documents including passports, drivers licenses and vax cards. We, of course, had already tested all that on our 5-day practice tour. But somehow we seemed to have misplaced ALL but Spencer’s driver’s license. YIKES.

We spent the better part of the day on this distressing turn of events. After thinking about when we last saw them (August 11 when we came home from our practice tour) and turning everything inside out and upside down to no avail, we began researching options. We weren’t ready to give up but we needed a strong Plan B just in case. We learned that the TSA would most likely let Sheila fly, assuming she had her birth certificate, which she did, and they could prove her identity via verifying questions and of course a pat down. That would enable us to get to Maine to reunite with our tandem which had safely arrived in Bangor. We figured if necessary we’d cancel all the Canadian plans and re-group to tour around Maine. We called on our “practice” to recognize this was not as big a deal as it felt in the moment and that it would change. As an EMT friend told us a few years ago if no-one is bleeding and everyone is breathing… all is good. It’s a helpful perspective, but we were emotionally drained nevertheless. We went for a walk at the end of the day and decided we would not initiate cancellations until the next morning, ie: the morning before our flight.

That morning Sheila mentioned that it was odd that the lid to the Tupperware box we keep our bike electronics in was sitting alone without the box. Spencer suddenly felt certain our docs were in that box but where had it gone? We’d already tossed the house including checking people and cars we’d interacted with for the last 3 weeks. Spencer finally discovered the missing box, happily filled with ALL our missing documents! Where you ask? And why? Well, this box had been sitting on the kitchen counter since returning from Victoria. Several paper masks obscured the docs. Sheila didn’t realize the docs were there and generally doesn’t tolerate clutter on the counter especially when overnight house guests are scheduled in our absence. In an uncharacteristic move, she put the box out of sight, but not in it’s usual place. Can you imagine the immense relief we both experienced when we realized we would be able to complete our trip as planned?! Spencer was literally dancing around flapping his arms. We couldn’t believe the stress was behind us.

September 5 & 6: Seattle to Maine to Nova Scotia

Traveling & the kindness of strangers

Photo from Google of Stephen King’s tree sculpture in his yard.

We got picked up at 4:30 AM for our early flight to Bangor Maine. When we disembarked the puddle-jumper we were met by Martin, who we found via the cyclists’ couch surfing site Warm Showers. Not only did he pick us up and take us to a grocery store enroute to our B&B, he also brought a bike pump for us to use in the reconstruction of our tandem. Significantly nicer than hiring a Lyft. As it turns out we have a lot of connections. He grew up in Cranston, RI and went to school in Bellingham outside of Seattle. His daughter lives near Seattle too so there’s a good chance we’ll see him again. He also took us by Stephen King’s house. In the front yard is the remains of a huge old tree which was carved into fantastic creatures and images. (note that photo is from Google) We didn’t stay with Martin in Bangor as we’d arranged to ship Tess via UPS to a B&B 18 miles closer to the ferry in Bar Harbor. We were able to put the bike together there AND store the shipping box and our luggage while cycling for 2 weeks. Ann & Ray get a 5 star rating. They’ve been so accommodating, from helping us with our storage needs to meeting our breakfast requests including non-dairy milk and Peanut Butter for the road. We arrived at the W‌interport B&B about 6 PM and it took Spencer until 10 to reconstruct Tess, in a tight space, with inadequate lighting, all the while it was raining cats and dogs outside. This YouTube link takes you to a very brief video of the rain coming down in front of the B&B.

Fortunately we woke up to cloudy but dry skies after a mere 4 hours sleep, for the second night in a row. Tess was undamaged from the shipping and we felt good. But as we rode with all that extra weight Spencer was beginning to have concerns about the stability. About midway through the ride we discovered 2 rack bolts were missing. We made it to Bar Harbor much earlier than necessary to load the ferry so we visited with the mechanics at Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. They we so friendly and helpful, providing random parts, doing a quick safety check and recommending a nearby hardware store for the one part they didn’t have.

The Cat High Speed Ferry is a catamaran and is also known as the “vomit express”. Knowing that she has a history of seasickness Sheila procured a prescription for a Scopolamine patch. Spencer hadn’t done anything on that front so we bought Dramamine on the boat for $5. Again, the people on The Cat went out of their ways to help us. They loved our bike and cared for it well. Thankfully after the 3.5 hour ride we both remain unfazed. In fact Sheila took an uncharacteristic nap. Tonight will be our first night in Nova Scotia. It’s our 39th anniversary together (35th married) and we agree we would still love this to last forever. We’re excited to be embarking on yet another adventure together. We arrived in Yarmouth and were among the first off the ferry. Customs is so speedy using ArriveCan. We had planned to eat at Gaia Global Kitchen for its vegan options and it turned out to be just a block up the hill from the ferry. Great food and then 2 miles to our motel. We’ll eat there again on our last night in Nova Scotia.

 

Wednesday, September 7: Yarmouth to Digby – 67 mi

More kindness of strangers

Woke up to sunshine and blue skies. YAY. Little did we know that today’s wet would be coming from below rather than above! After 2 schedule-driven days we decided to roll out easy and enjoy the morning. It was planned as a 62 mile, mostly flat rail trail and that would typically take us about 5 hours including rest stops. We left at 10:30 AM and got in a 6:30 PM. Why you ask? It was NOT due to mechanical challenges. Thankfully the bike is functioning quite well. What we had not anticipated was the rail trail is multi-use – mostly ATVs. So not only was it all packed dirt and gravel for 60 miles, but due to the intense rain a couple of days ago, it was mottled with big and small potholes filled with water. A couple of times we were literally peddling in water up to our ankles because the puddles were so huge with no way around them. This all kept our average speed around 10 MPH instead of 15+ with lots of breaks as it was physically and emotionally draining. You’ll see in the photos how straight and rough it is. The other challenge was that it offered nothing nearby for replenishing supplies such as water.
 
This is where the kindness of strangers comes in again. We had not seen a soul going either direction on the trail and there were no nearby amenities anywhere. We decided to leave the trail on a scouting mission. While checking Google Maps in front of someone’s home, he offered to fill a couple of our water bottles! We only carry 4 and try to use at least one per hour between us. Much later we were running low again and again not sure of our routing. We exited the trail when we saw a sign that said Fuel 2KM. We had pulled off the road at a driveway and the owner came home and talked to us and again we got 2 bottles of water replenished. Not sure how we would’ve done it without all the kindness coming our way! This YouTube video link will give you a sense of what it was like.

Thursday, September 8: Digby to Kingston – 53 mi

We got in so late last night we were more than a bit road weary and cranky from hunger. It was getting dark and we needed off the bike. We had booked with Hedley House above Digby at Smiths Cove. It had a lot going for it including an outfitted kitchenette and a great place to put Tess. However proximity to the desired amenities in Digby it did not offer. We found ourselves in a slight bind. We’d been told not to bother getting Canadian currency as everyone takes credit. Well…not entirely. The cab driver didn’t. So we lost some more time trying to resolve that and ended up paying in USD at a loss. Meanwhile it was already too late to get a proper dinner so we shopped at the grocery and caught the same driver back up to our little place and ate there.

When we woke up this morning Spencer went about cleaning and prepping Tess right beside this huge custom-built car, and yes, it’s as huge as it looks! We wanted to be riding by 8:30 to catch the Green Elephant in Kingston. They offer vegan friendly food options but they stop serving at 3:30. Given that today was planned as all road and no Rail Trails we figured that’d give us plenty of time. After yesterday’s slog on the trail today was a refreshing relief. We were able to ride our 15-16 mph pace and take brief bio breaks each hour. We never feared running out of water. We had to be on the 4-lane highway 101 briefly (great shoulder and no traffic) and then we were on Route 1 the rest of the day. Our first stop was in Annapolis Royal which was a 3-for-3 hit. We got a treat at a German Bakery but she also didn’t take credit cards unless you spent $30 which was more treat than we wanted to carry! So we paid again in USD but the next block had an ATM and we got some CND for the rest of the trip. DUH. Final stop was the pharmacy to pick up some Tylenol. We had Ibuprofen but Sheila’s on her second course of Prednisone and it’s contraindicated. No photos from this stop, but a cute little town. As we were heading out of town we had our first experience of the Bay of Fundy Tides, known for the largest tidal fluctuations in the world. It was surprisingly loud, but that’s because we were riding along the dam of the tidal electrical generation plant. The noise of the water and the churning foam it creates was impressive. We’ll be seeing more and get some photos in the next couple of days. An hour later we stopped at Jubilee Park in Bridgeton. It was another WIN. A bench overlooking the water, a washroom with running water. We snacked, stretched and rolled on. Another hour later we made it to the Green Elephant and enjoyed our first salad of the trip and tofu/veggie roll-ups. Tomorrow our day will begin with breakfast there as well. Life is good.

Friday, September 9: Kingston to Windsor – 60 mi

This day began with a lovely walk back to the Green Elephant for Wild Blueberry pancakes and soy chai for breakfast. The evening before we walked a little on the nearby Rail Trail after dinner to check it out. We chatted with a local Air Force triathelete, Andrew, who recommended that instead of taking the trail which was better but still not ideal, we consider taking route 221. Hence the first 25 miles of our day were spent on lovely quiet country roads with vast agricultural views. It pays to talk with the locals. Surprisingly for this early in the fall there’s even a tad of color beginning to appear. We saw endless corn, apple and pear orchards and potato fields.

When we turned onto Route 1 we began seeing small towns with more conveniences and gradually started seeing a few cyclists for the first time. When we arrived in the college town of Wolfville we stopped at Banks Bikes, our first bike store since Bar Harbor. We had a chat about the routes and they graciously checked our tire pressure. We took a leisurely break at the head of the Harvest Moon Trail learning a little about Evangeline, the Acadians, and the Bay of Fundy while restocking water and eating lunch.

Before resuming our ride we discovered we had a technology issue. Our trusty personal intercom system which we rely heavily on had a glitch. We did some troubleshooting to no avail and limped forward with Spencer being able to hear Sheila but Sheila no longer hearing Spencer except through the air. Not ideal with wind and traffic noise, but viable at least for now. After we checked into the motel Sheila spent the last couple of hours of this work week reaching out to the manufacturer, alternate replacement headsets, etc, to no avail. It appears that there’s no way to get a replacement internationally in a timely way so we will work with what we have for this trip. On a more positive technology note… Spencer decided to do a free trial of the Ride with GPS cycling app. This was the first day we used it to navigate instead of using Google maps. It offers many benefits and worked well.

Saturday, September 10: Windsor to Avondale – 27 mi

Today was a bit of a rest day for us. A relaxed breakfast, some games, a little route planning for the second half of our trip. Then we set out to explore the joys of Windsor. First, we stopped by a local pizza shop. We left them with vegan cheese and meat analogs so they could make us a pie and deliver it for our evening meal. Then we headed out, unloaded (!) to the Avon Peninsula to experience the world’s largest tidal bore. In case you don’t know what that is, as we did not, we’ve included the info sign about it. The roads were small but sometimes crowded. It was very hilly, what we call “island riding”. Steep climbs and drops, but since we only planned on 25 miles, we used the battery freely. We got to Avondale and walked on the wharf to see the water flowing up the Avon River. The first picture of brown water was when we arrived. The second was 30 minutes later. During that time we saw the level rise at least 8 feet. A local told us that during the low tide, it looks like you could walk from one side of the inlet to the other. It also solved the mystery of the twirled grass we’d seen yesterday. You can see the grass plainly on the right side of first picture. It’s underwater in the second. Today, at this location the water level rose 35 feet from low to high. We chatted with several people there. It was their annual Honey Festival and had all the trappings of a small town party. There was a museum describing the First Nation groups who had lived here, the Acadians (French settlers who were forced out by the Brits in 1850), and the connections between the shipbuilders and the slave trade and the Black Canadians. We headed back to Windsor to catch the Spoke and Note (LBS – Local Bike Shop) before they closed. We’d stopped just to say hello yesterday. Today we asked for a tweak to our kickstand. Accomplished in 5 minutes for a mere $5CND we then visited with the owners, Tony & Ashley and their two daughters. Visiting with locals makes our day. This young couple had just bought their new shop location. They have visions of creating a tiny home Air B&B for touring cyclists and eventually also hope to create their own cohousing community! Their unusual business name refers to the fact that Tony grew up in a family-owned music shop and plays, sells and repairs instruments as well as being a bicycle mechanic! FUN. We talked about touring and they want to do a cross Canada tour. We told them to keep us posted, maybe we’d join them! Stay tuned for that.

Sunday, September 11: Windsor to Halifax – 43 mi

Another lovely day with plenty of sunshine and a leisurely morning. Today marks the end of the first half of our tour with 300 miles on Tess so far. The day started warm and moved toward hot. The riding was pleasant, despite one colossal climb early on. We stopped for lunch near a fire station and they gave us cold water as well as a much needed washroom.  Our only two pictures came on the short trail leading into Bedford after which we quickly arrived at our hotel at 2 PM, an hour before check in time. Our hotel criteria here was about being able to securely store Tess while we head off to see the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton in a rental car for a couple of days! And we scored because not only were they willing to do that but they are near a car rental AND have a laundromat.

Today’s highlight was meeting Lily, another WarmShowers connection. She and her partner Stephen, who was sadly not home this evening, ride a Bike Friday tandem. Lily runs early childhood/preschool outdoor programs for a local organization called the Adventure Earth Centre as well as directing a theater company called Gale Force Theatre, with a show opening in a couple of weeks. So she wasn’t in a position to host us.  But she generously prepared a fabulous salad with roasted vegetables and a fennel and garbanzo bean soup. It felt like heaven to have some of our typical food choices, which can be a bit challenging to come by when the menu everywhere is fresh seafood. We enjoyed learning about how they’ve created a sense of community with friends in the house next door and prepare meals for each other and eat together five times a week.

September 12 – 14: Off bike… driving rental car

Cape Breton

Today began with an opportunity to try one last ditch effort to restore our communication device. A local computer/gaming store had a headset they said met our requirements. Once we’d picked up our rental car we drove over and arrived full of optimism. The gotcha was that due to strict government sanitation regulations once it was opened to test it, we could not return it. Our strong desire for it to work overcame the non-refundable $50 CND price tag. In less than 5 minutes we discovered it was a no-go. Bummer. Oh well. Letting that go. Will try to resell it once back home.

Meanwhile, Tess is currently stored at our Halifax hotel until our return Wednesday evening. We spent today mostly driving our rental car toward Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail – tomorrow’s focus. It’s such a dramatic contrast to go from cycling in the sunshine to sitting in a car all day. We scouted out a short hike at Usige Ban Falls (pronounced “ISH-KA-ban”), a Provincial Park to a sweet waterfall via 5 miles of gravel roads. It felt great to be outdoors and move our bodies again.

Amazingly in the remote area of our motel, the only restaurant around offered vegan burgers!

Off-Day 2:The Cabot Trail

Our day started off just outside our motel door where we chatted with 3 folks who appeared to be cyclists. Turns out they are riding the Cabot Trail (CT) on their own and are from Vancouver Island! We swapped road stories. They were looking forward to getting to the “must see” vista from the Skyline Trail today. We, of course, were heading there in our rental car, so we wished them well and headed off. There was nothing really dramatic unless you count the largely French/Acadian population centers that still exist along the CT. The day was shiny as we rolled into Cape Breton National Park.

Immediately we started sharp climbs with blistering descents. We passed a tour group of singles struggling up toward Skyline. We got to the trail head and nearly immediately headed out without fully discussing our plan. So we only had 1 bottle of water and no food or sunscreen as we left at 10. Then the trail to the great views turned out to be twice as long as we’d expected. We decided to go as far as we felt comfortable. The path was lovely, winding through thick forests which opened into grasslands, then back to forests. This was curious. Turns out that the moose herds (with no natural predators) have eaten enough spruce saplings to kill the forest in many places. We went through “moose exclusion” territories on the way. Will this work to bring the forest back? Ask your children to check in 40 years or so. We, on the other hand, were reaching our unprepared trekking limit. Fortunately, that’s when we got to an observation spot that allowed us to look down on the road we’d driven up. We also noted that clouds were rapidly approaching from the ocean side. By the time we’d returned to the car, the clouds were everywhere meaning we probably couldn’t have seen anything but fog from the viewpoints further down the trail.

More massive climbs. More serpentine descents. Visits with some of the cyclists at pullouts along the way. And then we got the 12%+ downgrades! We were happy to be in our car. It was way too steep and twisty to be fun on the tandem. We did add a tour stop to visit the very top of the island at St. Lawrence Bay. It’s a cute protected bay with lots of fishing boats. It seemed we were on the edge of the world as we looked across the Atlantic.

Getting back on the CT, we found lots of great water views. Most of our time here has been well inland, but we were finally traveling along the water’s edge. It was gorgeous. We stumbled on a handmade chocolate maker, Cabotto Chocolates, for an exceptional treat. But even gorgeous gets tiring as we traveled the last 50 miles to Sydney. We went straight to the Indian restaurant just past our hotel for a perfect dinner.

Off Day 3: Return to Halifax

The drive back to Halifax involved a lot more serpentine country roads until we finally hit the highway. They don’t seem to have rest areas here or a lot of commercial spaces near the big roads, either. We almost didn’t make it to a fuel stop on the way back. Today we saw the only rain so far on the trip. It was forecast to be 80% chance of thundershowers. We had intermittent rain, sometimes heavy, for about a quarter of the drive. When we got back to Halifax it was sunny and 79 degrees. First stop was the Blue Elephant Thai restaurant. It was near our hotel and felt like symmetry with the Green Elephant we enjoyed in Kingston. The meal was delicious and our bodies sang to thank us for all the vegetables we’d been missing. And we were thrilled to find Tess in perfect shape when we got back to the hotel. We’re shooting for an early start tomorrow as it will be our longest day, possibly 70+ miles.

Thursday, September 15:  Halifax to Lunenburg – 69 mi

Today was a tough day. We left at 7:45 AM and we quickly hit a16% grade! Initially the Rail Trail was really quite good with lots of water views along the way. Construction on the main highway necessitated trail closures (ever ride past a “Danger Explosives” sign? We have!). We were kicked off the trail right at Scotia Cycle. Met Tom, the owner of this new bike shop, who gave us advice on continuing. Unfortunately, the trail we ended up on was being re-graded. That work made for lots of soft spots that were treacherous. Having our new flat pedals really helped us to be able to literally land on our feet a few times. Stressful and scary but we made it through. One thing that helped was instead of the tendency to stop pedaling when we hit one of those soft spots, Spencer had taught Sheila that continuing to pedal would help us stay upright. Eventually we left the trail and got on Rte 3. The surface was finally stable beneath us. It was not heavily traveled but had no shoulder and, oh yeah… major headwinds. We were two tired puppies when we finally arrived. We’ve enjoyed visiting with our Warm Shower’s hosts Ryan & Allegra. Their home is conveniently located a short walk from the touristy fishing village of Lunenburg, with ample options for dinner. We went to the Burrito Bar and enjoyed bowls seated outside where it was still sunny, and cool in the persistent wind. Check out the flags in the harbor image.

 

Friday, September 16:  Lunenburg to Liverpool – 56 mi

Another relaxing start to another sunny day. We continued to enjoy more great visits with Allegra. Then we hopped on our bike with temperature in the mid-50s and the wind blowing steadily at 25 mph and gusting to 35. For the first hour, it was mostly a headwind. Then we got to Bridgewater and had about 12 miles of the wind from behind. That was sweet. The roads were all sparsely populated so it was pleasant riding.
 
When we got to the ocean end of the inlet, you could see white caps on the water and waves crashing into the side of the ferry at the dock. You can see how windy it was by looking at the flag! The view of islands out from the mainland was gorgeous. With side winds now, we stopped at a provincial park to balance our fluids. The couple in the car ahead of us at the gate, told us they’d seen us 18 miles earlier and were stunned to hear our destination.
 
On the road again we had a young deer run along side us at our pace on the other side of the street. It was cool. When it finally decided it wasn’t going to outrun us it returned the the protection of the trees. The winds held steady all day with some impressively strong gusts. We took an unplanned stop to visit with some local riders at a coffee/bakery shop. We swapped cycling stories. They seemed impressed with our stories about RAMROD (which was the jersey we wore today).
 
Toward the end of the day we had to ride about 5 miles on a 2 lane highway. Fortunately it had a wide shoulder. Our resources tell us we might not be that lucky on the same highway tomorrow. We raced into Liverpool hoping to make it to a vegan friendly store, Five Girls Baking, we knew about before they closed at 4. We got there at 3:45 and scored some homemade ginger carrot soup and a vegan shepherds pie by Canadian woman-owned Boosh for dinner. When we got to the hotel, we had 2% of our battery left. It had been a great day.

 

Saturday, September 17:  Liverpool to Port Clyde – 58 mi

We’ve been waking up early every day. This morning we saw a beautiful sunrise. By the time we could’ve dressed and gone outside it would’ve been gone. The view from our hotel window through a screen doesn’t do it justice. When we started to ride it was sunny but hadn’t hit 50 yet. It wasn’t as windy as yesterday but it was windy enough to feel a wind-chill most of the day.

Today’s route necessitated traveling mostly on Route 103 again which locals had warned us against. Turns out it mostly has a good shoulder and a rumble strip. You can get a feel for the terrain from the photo over Spencer’s shoulder. Fortunately there was not a lot of traffic and what little there was was quite respectful. But we were almost always going up or going down. Still we had nice visits whenever we stopped near people.

Since we couldn’t check into our B&B in Port Clyde until 4 AND there’s nowhere to eat there at all, we were advised to check out the village of Shelborne. It seems every town has their own logo and tagline on a sign to welcome you. We went to the grocery chain Sobey’s and bought some vegan prepared items that will work for dinner and a bag of kettle corn for a post-ride treat. Then we located the Emerald Light which came highly recommended for vegan options. It was great. We were able to sit outside near our tandem. We’ve been running our battery down lower than usual with all the extra weight, hills, and headwinds. So while we were eating lunch, for the first time ever, we plugged it in to give it a boost. Turns out it’s such a slow charger that the entire casual meal only gained us 5% extra buffer. While we were there several couples stopped by to hear our story. They’d seen us on the highway and wondered where we going and where we’re from! Everyone seems quite friendly and chatty. We’d seen a sign about this weekend being the Whirligig & Weathervane Festival. We took just one little video. For more visit this link to their website which has a gallery of images and videos from past festivals. It was a block and a half away so we headed over and continued to have many visits. The first person who talked to us at the festival wanted to know if we were a mobile whirligig! As we entered Port Clyde we stopped by this cemetery with mailboxes in front… dead letter office?

 

Sunday, September 18:  Port Clyde to Yarmouth – 61 mi

Spencer writing today. I get to write because it is my 70th birthday and I’m the person whose dreams all come true today. Literally, I woke and Sheila quickly played a birthday wishes video prerecorded for just this occasion. People sang, told stories, and generally wished me the best. I was crying by the end. Everyone should feel that kind of love every day.

Our B&B host, Kim, at Studio 181 followed up with a bountiful breakfast including food from her garden, but mostly pancakes with candles. She even sang Happy Birthday. We were fueled up and ready for our ride to Yarmouth, 60 miles away.

After an entire vacation full of blue skies and sunshine, rain was scheduled to catch us sometime today. It was cold enough that Sheila decided to just start with her rain jacket on, and kept it on all day. We rode a large part of the day along the shoreline which had a different feel with cloudy skies instead of clear. We really only got a little wet with intermittent heavy mist or light rain in the last hour of the ride. We had to get back on Hwy 103 for about 12 miles (Canadian translation: aboot 20K). Fortunately traffic was light and the shoulder was fairly broad. I don’t think a single BFT (bug f**king truck) passed us on any of the roads we were on.

Once again people stopped to chat us up all day. Now they were impressed because we were near the end of our 1000K trip. And the sights we saw today! Just a few miles into the ride we saw a house with a huge happy birthday sign in the yard. I knew Sheila was a creative organizer but could she have really planned THIS?! No…it was for Derrick.

We didn’t come expecting fall colors as it’s early. We’ve seen a single tree with color occasionally. Today we started to see more and more fall color. I can imagine how gorgeous it’ll be in a couple of weeks.

The day was book-ended with another surprise. We dined at Gaia Kitchen where Sheila had arranged for candles and singing with my vegan chocolate cake. I feel well loved.

 

 

Monday, September 19:  Yarmouth, NS  to Bar Harbor, ME – 38 mi

The kindness of strangers – Redux

Today was our last ride in Nova Scotia, only a couple of miles. We had to be at the Cat ferry by 8:30 for a 9:30 departure. We just had to show our passport cards then we boarded the vessel and awaited departure for an hour. The 3.5 hour ride seems to go quickly despite there being no WiFi or cell coverage. We read e-books from the library. As seems to be the case, Tess is often a conversation catalyst. When we were close enough to shore I checked email and discovered we needed to shift the schedule for the UPS tandem shipment. That done, we set out trying to find a place to eat in downtown Bar Harbor that might be willing to store our panniers for today’s ride around Acadia National Park. The first place we called said NO, however it sparked a passenger who’d overheard to offer some assistance. Turns out Paul lives on the island and he offered to take our bags to our hotel for us. This saved us about 12 miles and we got to start riding in the park sooner. AH…the kindness of strangers.

We had the whole afternoon and took it casually. First rode the two-lane, one direction Park Loop road and then took to some of the Carriage Trails, no cars allowed, just walkers, cyclists and horse drawn carriages. It was well-packed small gravel, nothing loose or scary. Lots of amazing lookouts to view the Atlantic ocean. Then we headed into town to find a place to eat because our motel, once again, is pretty isolated. Today’s weather forecast called for heavy rain starting at 4 PM. When we settled into the open air porch of Side Street Cafe it started to pour right on schedule. By the time we were done with our early dinner, it had subsided but returned intermittently for the 6 miles to the motel. We had wisely brought our rain gear and hadn’t needed it until yesterday and even more so today. It looks like our last ride, tomorrow to Bangor, is likely to be another wet one. Of course with the right gear it’s not too bad. But today was heavier rain and pretty windy so we were not just wet but cold to the bones. Our warm room and hot showers were most welcome!

 

 

Tuesday, September 20: Bar Harbor to Winterport – 45 mi

Today was our last ride on this tour, a short 45 miles. We had barn fever and the route was the reverse of our first day’s ride. We were fully decked out in our rain gear, as the forecast predicted cloudy with increasing chance of rain, up to 90%! After nearly two weeks of sunny blue skies we were due. It was cloudy, windy and cold and we got wet for about 15 miles of the ride. We were glad to have appropriate apparel. Fortunately it was never the kind of intense deluge we experienced our first night here in Winterport when Spencer put Tess back together. At this moment he is reversing the process, packing Tess to get picked up by UPS on Thursday. We fly home tomorrow.

So a few stats. We bicycled for 11 days, covering 633 miles and climbing 26,468 ft, the equivalent of 5 miles! For our Canadian friends, that was 1018 kilometers and 8067 meters climbed.

And since there were no photos taken today, I thought you might enjoy seeing some unique Washroom signs from around Nova Scotia!

 

Routing Tips if you tour Nova Scotia

Rough rail trail

Now some commentary about traveling the roads of Nova Scotia by bicycle. When we first started planning this tour, it was hard to get much information about safe traveling routes, particularly along the south coast. We knew that controlled highways were often off limits to bikes and to avoid 3 digit highways. Google Maps told us there were rail trails from Yarmouth to Windsor. That’s how we got on the rutted, rough trail leaving Yarmouth. After that fiasco, we routed ourselves mostly on single digit roads, Hwy 1 in the north and Hwy 3 in the south. They were generally fine. They had less traffic, fewer large trucks, and people gave way easily. A local directed us to Hwy 221 from Kingston to Windsor and it was fine. The trip to Halifax was a wonderful road and just as it got to the busy streets, the Bedford-Sackville Connector got us safely past the controlled access highways.

A new cycle trail from Halifax to Lunenburg was great for about 25 miles, but turned out to be the one which sent us through the re-grading mess that day. Up to The Hubbards, it had been fine. When we got back on Hwy 3, we finished in good time. Going to Liverpool was easy on Hwy 3. But the stretch from Liverpool to Yarmouth had too few amenities for overnights. The shoreline is beautiful, but it could have added 30 miles a day.

Hwy 221 was nice

We opted to do 35 miles (53km) on Hwy 103 to get from Liverpool to Port Clyde. We’d been told it would be dicy. The warnings were overdone, in my opinion. Most of the time we had a decent to very good shoulder. Usually climbs had a rumble strip between us and the cars. A few rare instances had chunky edges with very little room. We just got through them as quickly as we could and soon found decent roadway again. There were long climbs, but equally long descents.

The day from Port Clyde to Yarmouth, we had to get on 103 again for about 6 miles (10k) rather than risk an equal amount of time on a gravel road that  possibly went through. Highway 103 was even better than the day before with wide shoulders and rumble strips most of the time. We still got back onto Hwy 3 so we could ride the crinkly edges along the shore on the way to town. It was a pleasant combination.

Suprisingly nice 103

Summary: When planning your trip in Nova Scotia, don’t let Google maps or RidewithGPS fool you. Many of the “trails” they direct you to use aren’t really bike trails. And they’ll put you on a piece of “trail” for as little as ¼ of a mile then just return you to the highway. You can run up a lot of extra (and hard) miles that way. We were comfortable when we had to use the 103, but we’ve traveled a lot of miles on highways. We found out that many of the rail trail corridors are mostly paid for by ATV user groups. So they tended to be rougher, more pot-holed and not ideal for our bike, and we have 1.5” tires.

A 5-day practice tour