Cycle Touring Trip 1 - North Sydney to Halifax: Days 9 & 10

Linwood to North Sydney, Nova Scotia (Map)

132 km & 54 km (82mi, 33.5mi)

Spring 2011.


This was another chilly, damp morning, but I quickly jumped into layers of clothes before packing away my camp.

I snapped the above picture about 15km later. It shows the good thing about the road network in Nova Scotia, in that while it isn't the most extensive, there's generally an old Trunk Road which runs besides the replacement highway. I've been following the old Highway 4 since Westville and its been far more enjoyable than riding on the Trans-Canada Highway.

After 20 kilometres, it was back across the Canso Causeway & into Cape Breton. Whereas I hadn't been following the same route I took to Halifax, this was the first time the notion truly struck me of returning home.

Thanks to GW Sr.'s higher quality map, I could now tell which roads were paved & how to get from Port Hastings to North Sydney without using the Trans-Canada Highway. I went through places like West Bay Road (above), which was nothing more than 10 houses & a post office. It was nice to have easier navigation, and it was also funny that my initial route was so much more enjoyable, than riding on the bland, empty Trans-Canada Highway.

I really enjoy discovering small, isolated villages, which is why I say this route was so much more enjoyable.

Prior to the trip, I had GPS marked a stone drain beneath a train line in Mulgrave, but decided against detouring after realizing how tired I was.

I honestly laughed out loud when I was cycling along & came across the above, identical drain on Big Brook Rd after West Bay Road. What a fine piece of antiquated infrastructure, which would surely be no more than a small, metal culvert nowadays.

Cycling along, I stopped after I thought this gas bar was abandoned & I wanted a picture.

It wasn't until the owner's dog walked over that I realized the place was open (as indicated by the small OPEN sign in the window). I had to go in now, as I had disturbed the complacent dog who probably doesn't see all that much excitement here in River Denys. The store was certainly a throwback to older times, as the owner left his living room & walked into the storeroom as I opened the door. The shelves were fairly bare, but I happily found a Snickers & Powerade.

Leaving a certain level of civilization behind, I exited onto dirt roads as the sun came out. I again found myself in an area where the riding wasn't very difficult, the road was smooth & the houses & barns were interesting.

This was good riding & some of the riding I remember the most of this trip.

After I ended up finding that elusive red store in Orangedale, I put a little extra effort into my legs, to try and make it to Iona to catch the afternoon Flyers & Bruins game. There wasn't a town with a restaurant since Port Hastings, so it wasn't as if I could have slacked off there & waited 5 hours for the game to start - I had to get to Iona if I wanted to see it.

I found the only restaurant in Iona closed for the season & flew back down the hill towards the only other option - The Legion. There were only 2 people inside & not too much going on this quiet Saturday afternoon. I asked the lady working the bar, if I could watch the Bruins game & there was no problem. Two men who were trying to fix a slot machine came over & soon enough I was relaxing with a Schooner beer & some Boston domination.

I only had $5 on me, so when I asked for my second beer, I was very sad to learn they didn't have an ATM or debit. I felt like a jackass, but the women just gave me the beer. Upon returning home I mailed $5 to the Legion, since it was so stupid of me to not have any more cash money.

The Bruins officially won the game around 7. I thanked the woman tending the Legion bar & went on my way.

I wasn't sure where I was going to sleep tonight but a great idea suddenly struck me - what about that abandoned mansion? It was 30km away & I had about 1½ hours of daylight left - I could do this.

So through a beautiful sunset & the biting wind of Bras d'Or, my tired body pedaled & pedaled, to try & get to the abandoned mansion before dark. My mind focused on that comfy red couch I had seen 8 days ago & the fact that I'd only have to roll out my sleeping bag. I yearned for the Crispers, the rum & the relaxation that was ahead.

As I entered town, night was considerably falling. The entire population must have been at the local Boisdale Legion hall, as the road was clogged with cars & people. I slipped past them into the darkness, then quietly up the hill to the abandoned mansion...

Only to find it burnt to the ground.

I was speechless. In the 8 days I had been gone, someone came along & set the mansion ablaze. This was amazing.

I set up my tripod & snapped a few pictures before I turned around and thought about where I was now going to sleep tonight. It was full-on darkness & there was a resident watching the charred remains of the mansion, so I knew I couldn't camp there. I turned on my pannier light & put another flashlight into one of my hands, so that I could see where I was going. I evaluated one roadside spot, but the ground felt like a marsh & it was too close to the road. Thankfully a provincial park came within a few minutes of riding & that was good enough for me.

As for the mansion, I would return home & find out that it was actually the glebe house for the adjacent church. A glebe house is the same as a rectory, it's just the English word for the structure. This is where the priest would have lived & apparently it had been abandoned for quite some time, as it hadn't been occupied since a previous priest had past away years ago.

The fact that it burnt down on this chance April 23rd, after years of abandonment, was certainly an strange coincidence to me.

Its demise made me truly grateful that I decided to take this trip, or else I would have never seen it.

As for where I slept, the provincial park was still closed for the season, so it was actually another night of stealth camping. I pushed my bike up the hill, climbed underneath the gate & picked one of the campsites.

Waking up in the morning, I observed the beauty around me, as Barrachois Provincial Park was an old farm with an expanse of grass beneath a delightful forest canopy.

The unfortunate thing was that it was raining. I tried to wait it out & read in my tent, but I was growing restless. As the rain started to lessen, I took it as a sign to leave.

Leaving the campground was a horrible mistake.

The rain levels neared a downpour as soon as I left the park and entered the roadway. I only had 30km to make it to Sydney today, but the rainwater was close to freezing temperatures, especially as I went over that mountain foothill-pass from the first day.

I suddenly learned why that fellow cycletourist I saw asked me about my rain gear. I was extremely thankful for the weather I found on the other 7 days, as this day made me realize how downright awful the other days could have been.

As I finally passed over the bridge into Sydney, I came to the Taco Bell a lot quicker than I imagined, although I was more than ready for it. I was cold, my gloves had soaked through, I was hungry & water was clamming up about 70% of my body.

Chili cheese burrito combo with some cinnamon twists please.

After Taco Bell, I went to a Laundromat and dried all of my clothes except for my one moist outfit from the day before.

Eventually it was time to cycle the last 20km to North Sydney so I could board the ferry back to Newfoundland (I had went 20km out of my way for Taco Bell). Thankfully the rain had stopped by now, so it wasn't so cold.

My wheel was shaking & quite rickety, but I thanked my lucky stars when I made it back to the train station in North Sydney.

I also discovered the arena which I thought was abandoned when I first came to Newfoundland, is now actually abandoned. One of those new sterile megaplexes is I don't know, somewhere else in North Sydney.

A NationalPost article shows some great interiors of the old barn.

I cycled past the ferry terminal, as I wanted to check out the town of Sydney Mines to the north.

Along the way, I found the ruins of Stubbert's Point Battery, which distracted me for 20 or 30 minutes.

I reevaluated my ever worsening back wheel and decided to head back to grab dinner at a place next to the ferry terminal - therefore calling an end to this journey.

I cycled 971 km (603mi) in all, which was an annoying sum as I would have likely tried to add on 30km if I knew I so close to a 1000 km trip.

I was sore for a few days upon returning to Newfoundland, but all effects left me within the week. The trip showed me that I could do something like this, especially if I had more time than 10 days.

Even considering that rough evening in Sherbrooke & the rain in Cape Breton, I'd say this was a worthwhile trip: to see a lot of Nova Scotia territory which was a mystery to me, as well to experience some good weather & to visit GW & Neiler in Halifax.



1 - - Barrachois Provincial Park

2 - NorthAmericanForts : NovaScotiaForts Page 3, Cape Breton Island

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