Spent Labor Day Weekend '94 riding my bike around the Cabot Trail in a counter clock-wise direction. Trip takes
about 3 days at 100K per day, with 4 mountains (Smokey, North, MacKenzie and French). The trip was organized by
Gary ... and had over 60 riders, staying at 3 separate campgrounds (Baddeck, Ingonish and Cheticamp)
Spent quite a bit of time collecting what I thought might be the right camping gear and clothes for the trip. Did not
do well. Made lots of mental notes:
- On a supported trip, use the support.
- Keep like things together (toiletries, food)
- Ensure that you will be warm in the tent
- Noodles, quick for soup and pasta
- Juice packs, tinned fruit
- Needed more veggies, bigger pot
- Top-off flashlight
- Try pancakes, fast porridge, raisins
- Lots of what you might run out of (sugar)
- Cereal that can be with/out milk
- Need a medium, middle layer
- Need an open wind-shell?
- Bring a pillow, bag-insert
Showed up at the Forum and ran into 7-8 people who became the "VanPeople" (Carl, Mike, Mike and Michelle,
Sherril, Peter, Simon, Tim and myself) as the day wore on. We got to the Bra D'Or Lakes site after 10 PM, but the
bike/gear truck did not arrive until midnight.Pretty funny, standing around a campfire with shorts and tshirts on a very
chilly evening. Went to the local legion for a beer, played some pool, came back, still no gear. People started loaning
us clothes. Very nice. Finally got the gear, got setup in the dark and went to sleep.
Tough night sleeping. Beer wore off and did not get air mattress up. Lucky to get 4 hours sleep, but pretty perky on
wake at 6:15 AM
Up nice and early, shower, big breakfast with coffee, eggs,home-fries, corned beef. Lots of camp chit-chat and checking
out other people's gear. Ride into Baddeck to the Tourist Bureau for a group picture. Beautiful weather. Lots of sun,
light nip in the air.Perfect for shorts and a t-shirt. Quick ride up to the highway, and then along to the Englishtown
ferry. Started out with Carl and Mike(Mike had flat in Baddeck). Small groups making and breaking all day. Little
stops for water and picture taking. Riding up the coast to Wreck Cove went very fast. Had some lunch, more chit-chat
and zoomed up to Smokey.
Made a clean run to the top of Smokey, ass in the saddle the whole way. Paid for it the rest of the day. Nice break at
the top, foto session and a nice glide down towards Ingonish. Ingonish seems to goon forever. Finally found a nice spot
for a spaghetti supper, then on to the tent camp (no running water, just clearings and an enclosed picnic area (Barrach
site). Quick setup, then ride back to trailer area and get a nice,hot shower. Very nice, friendly campfire and 10 PM
bedtime.Really tough night sleeping. Air mattress had leak (never again) and I had quite a cough and accelerated heart-rate. Worried about making 2 days at this level of exertion. Fitful sleep all night, but got better than 6 hours in.
Up at 6:30 AM and made do for breakfast from supplies. Packed up and made coffee in the picnic area. Tummy not
doing so well. Another gorgeous day, tshirt weather. Getting to know more people in the group, though not necessarily
by name. Campsite was spotless when we left. Nice group. No obvious smokers either. Very friendly atmosphere.
Nice run up the coast to Neil's Harbour and run along the old Cabot Trail route. Rugged trip, cute villages, well worth
the side-trip. Met a fully loaded man in his sixties who runs marathons and un-supported bike trips for fun.
Back on the main road and ride a bit before a nice lunch (Doug and his shoe clips) and assault on North mountain.
Mother of a hill. On the edge of being toast the entire time. Went up with about 8 people. We took all the pit stops for
water, photos and leg rest. Brutal. Then an extremely quick descent behind Maniac Mike (part of the tour). Fastest and
scardest I have ever been on a bike. Passing cars!! Mike had fallen of this one in the dark once, breaking no small
number of bones. Should have known this before following him. Stopped at the Lone Skeiling??? below and had a nice
break. Would have been a nice day to here, somewhat like Saturday.
More riding to Pleasant Bay, a break and quick assault on MacKenzie. legs are like stumps, but the views are
spectacular and well spaced. Would have been a nice challenge early in the day. Carl packed it in at Pleasant Bay.
Zoom across the plateau and around to the top of French mountain. The descent on French towards the cliffs and ocean
at that time of day was magic. Took it fast but safe. Nice memory. Gorgeous time of day. Down to the water and push
over the last 3 "bumps" to Cheticamp. It is now 7 PM and we started at 9 AM. Even with lots of little breaks, this has
been a very gruelling day. Surprised at the level and extent of output.
Made it to camp in time to setup, have a shower and get to the local restaurant (same as pit stop on Relay Race) for
a big meal. Mike lost it for awhile but recovered before we left. Carl was feeling OK if a little embarrassed for taking
the "Sag Wagon". Has 2 beer, walked back to camp and got a solid 8 hours sleep, as it was not very chilly and I had
all my spare clothes under my bag. Little radio came in handy for a little quite personal time each night.
Sunday was an extremely satisfying day overall. You pay for what you get. The price was high, but then so was the
reward. Energy-wise, felt solid all day whereas Saturday was iffy from 4 PM on.
Up at 6:15 AM. Cloudy day. Felt buzzed out. Shower right away. Tummy still not well. Not enough control over diet,
and lots of requirement for pasta, sugar and ongoing fuel. Packed up quick with just a coffee, then on to the restaurant
for some French toast and juice. Started to feel pretty good. Tummy still in bad shape.
Rain started lightly and continued all day with both wind and rain increasing in intensity throughout. Quick zip down
the coast (picture at Scarecrow Joe's) and a nice pit stop in Margaree Harbour (Boat restaurant) for scones and coffee.
Really nice break. Onward along the Margaree. Too bad the weather kept deteriorating. All thoughts of sightseeing
disappeared for awhile and the wind picked up. Struggle to Hunter's mountain and take the detour. Not a bad ride, but
we're all getting cold and numb and everyone is soaked. Riding in a mixed group of 7-10 people.
Finally to the highway and 10K to go. Brutal finish. Will this ever end. Everything is exhausted, sore and soaked. Make
it to the Tourist Bureau where the little old lady working there (must send a thank-you) handles 60 people coming in
5 at a time, soaked and looking for shelter, heat and a bathroom to change in. Nice finish.
Off for a bite and a beer. Wait for the last one in. It was Sherril, but I guess Tim the lawyer got lost, and he held us up
an hour more.On the road, with the Van People, swapping stories first of the trip and later of past trips and experiences.
Very interesting group.
Back in Halifax. Big splitup with goodbyes. Gary and Mike drop me off at home in the U-Haul. Little chat with Regina,
shower and deep sleep.
Overall, a great trip. A lot harder than I expected, but I came out of it a lot better than I expected. Other than Saturday
late afternoon and evening, the energy was solid throughout, which amazed me, considering the effort on Sunday.
This gives me a good base for the Gaspe trip, as well as some much needed experience and stamina checking. I will
look into a triple crank, as well as a better warmth setup and accommodations backup for October.
What an experience. Hopefully, I can do this again next year.