Day 7 – Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia – 363 miles / 584 km
The morning ride started out cool but was pleasant nonetheless. It looked like rain was going to spoil the day but I was lucky. When I arrived on Cape Breton at 3:30pm, the sky opened up and changed the mood for rest of the day. The Ceilidh Trail takes you along west cost of the island, which is quiet and very scenic. I finally made it to the National Park by 5:30pm. I was thinking of finding a hotel in Cheticamp but it was such a nice evening so I decided to head into the park. Steep hairpin roads, unspoiled forests, rocky coastal beaches and wonderful views from the mountain tops made this a wonderful evening ride.
Rumbling down a mountain pass, my eye caught a moose grazing on the side of the road. This was the first of many wild life encounters in the park. Just on the northern end of the park, the Mountian View Motel was a good place to stop for the day. The room was comfortable with character, just what I was looking for. There was still an hour of daylight left so why not go for a ride? It was surprisingly quiet for this time of year and the twisty mountain roads were waiting. After seeing a couple more moose and a black bear crossing the road, it seemed like a good idea to head back to the hotel. What a day.
Day 8 – Cape Breton Highlands – 114 miles / 183 km
The day started with breakfast on the deck of the motel restaurant. The sun was already getting strong but the occasional ocean breeze kept things comfortable. The smell of salt water is a constant reminder that you are never far away from the ocean in the northern part of the island. Without a particular destination in mind and no need to rack up miles, it was going to be a good day for exploring the park and surroundings.
After passing Cape North, I headed north towards Cabot Landing and eventually ended up in Meat Cove. This is the most northern point of the island accessible by road where the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is quite a humbling experience to look out over the vast expanse of water, framed by the majestic mountains as far as you can see. The campground here must have one of the most spectacular views in the province.
The rest of the afternoon was taken up by more riding (of course) and a couple hours of hiking along some coastal trails. Nice for a change to excercise some other muscle groups after riding for 8 days. On my way back to the motel, I stopped at a historic tavern to try out the local seafood. You read everywhere about the Scottish influence on this island so it was a nice to discover a local group of musicians at the tavern playing some traditional music. That was some impressive fiddling.
Day 9 – Port Hood, Nova Scotia – 204 miles / 328 km
It was time to head south and explore the rest of the Cabot Trail. While the rest of eastern Canada was baking in sweltering heat, the start of the day on Cape Breton was cool and foggy. It was quite a change from the sunny skies the day before but definitely as beautiful. Fog was rolling into the valleys and low hanging stratus clouds were skimming the mountain tops. Now it really felt like being in the Scottish Highlands.
I made my way down to Baddeck, the hometown of Alexander Bell for 30 years. After visiting the very interesting museum about his work and accomplishments, I headed into town to find a laundromat. As this trip started out as a week-long vacation, it was time to play house and get some laundry done. As luck would have it, there was one in the center of town so this was a good time to explore the local shops while my laundry was spinning and tumbling.
Grey clouds were approaching from the south so I headed back north again. The road took me to Port Hood where the splendid Hillcrest Hall Country Inn welcomed. The friendly Russian lady at the Inn explained a few historic details. It was originally built by a mine owner as his private residence in 1910 . After the mines ran dry, the home fell in disrepair and was ready to be torn down. It was purchased in the 80′s by someone who restored it over many years to what it is now. Really beautiful woodwork, creaky floors and character that you can only find in a 100 year old building. Rooms start at CA$85 which seems quite a bargain. Even though it was high season for tourists, I was the only guest there so I hope they will be able to stay in business.
Time for dinner at the Manitou Restaurant in town, owned and operated by a friendly German couple from Hamburg. It was nice to have a conversation in German for a change, even though my language skills were a bit rusty after so many years in the States. The owner highly recommended the Schneider Weisse beer from München which I had to try. Excellent choice. The owner cracked one open himself as well after a cheerful “Zum Wohlsein!” He explained it was pretty hard to run the restaurant in winter time (6 months out of the year) but they enjoyed the island very much. I asked if I could take a couple of Schneider Weisse back to the hotel and that was “kein Problem”. Wonderful people, I will stop there again if I ever return to Cape Breton.
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