Thursday, July 4, 2013

More of Nova Scotia

I'd spent the last day in my tent camped out in a field somewhere, hoping that I could wait out a large rain storm that parked itself over me.  But the second day dawned and the rain was still coming down; if anything, it was even harder, and the ground was too saturated to absorb any more water.  I soon found myself to be camped in the middle of a sizable puddle.

Even the best "water-proof" fabric isn't REALLY waterproof unless it's a solid sheet of rubber; when faced with constant submersion, almost all of them will begin to absorb water and slowly seep through, as the bottom of my tent started to..  Even worse was my riding suit; it had been sitting in the standing water and even with the waterproofing treatments I'd given it, it was completely waterlogged.

I finally caught a small break around 1pm, after nearly 36 hours of consistent, unending rain.  The sun even made a fleeting attempt to come out, and I took advantage of this narrow window to pack up.  It was clear enough that I was even able to let a few things dry out, but on my way out of the campsite, the roads were still soaked.  This time when I went down, I went down hard.

The front end slid out and I didn't have the traction at the rear wheel to fix it; I went down at about 15-20mph and the saddlebag dug into the mud, hard.  So hard that it ripped itself off it's mountings.

I got back out to the main road before taking it off to inspect the damage.  It was quite deformed, although the steel frame still seemed straight.

By taking off the lid and stomping on it, I was able to get it sort-of back into shape; close enough that I was able to close the lid with some reasonable hopes that it would still be weather tight.  I could also re-mount it with some sort of security, but it's still tweaked badly.  My plan is to find an auto-body shop at some point and see if I can give the guys a few bucks to hammer it back into shape.

With the saddlebag slightly better attached now, I kept heading south and found the first town big enough to have a shop with internet access, so I could check the weather.  It didn't look good; more big bands of rainstorms were heading at me from the south, making any prospect of exploring the southern area of Nova Scotia for the next week pointless.  Facing the prospect of many more days of solid rain, I elected to instead head east to Halifax, and perhaps from there I'd move north and catch the ferry to Newfoundland.  I made reservations on the ferry for three days out; I figured it would give me enough time to either hide from more rain, or see some sights.  Nova Scotia isn't a big place; driving it end to end doesn't take more than half a day if you burn miles.

I avoided the storms for a bit, but as I got into Halifax, they caught up with me again.

After resupplying at a supermarket in Halifax, I headed north up the east coast for an hour, and began to try and find somewhere to camp.  No luck; every little side trail or path I could find ended up being someone's driveway, and the few old rail trails had absolutely nothing in the way of clearings on the side to pitch a tent in.  For someplace as desolate as it was, stealth camping in the area was quite difficult, especially in the rain and with the ground as soft as it was.

I gave up; it was almost 9pm and quite dark.  This wasn't going to be a night I could camp, I had to find a hotel.  Unfortunately, being this out in the boonies there simply wasn't anything around; I had to ride an hour BACK into Halifax and checked in at the first roach motel I came across; $90 later, at least I was dry for the night.  I brought my sleeping back and pad inside as well, to let them dry out as much as they could.

Checking the weather the next morning at least gave me some options; almost all the rain storms seemed stuck on the eastern edge of Nova Scotia.  I decided to forgo the east shore, and instead crossed the peninsula to the western edge, heading northwest on the Trans-Canada Highway through New Glasgow and Antigonish.  The weather was mostly cloudy, but blessedly dry and not unreasonably cool.

Passing through one of the little towns just south Cape Breton National Park, I spotted this on the side of the road, and immediately slammed on my brakes and turned around for a look.  Was that a . . . Honda CBR1100XX . . . with a sidecar?

And a hub-steered front wheel!?


I think the owner of the rig loves the attention; that must be why he parked it out close to the road, and as I was gawking, he came out to chat about it.

Apparently, the whole sidecar setup is sold as a kit from a French company; runs about $18,000, plus the cost of the bike that you have to supply.  The wheels are from a Honda Civic and the front shock is actually the rear shock from a Kawasaki ZX-10 sport bike.  Utter madness, I say!  (Also, WOW that looks like fun!)

I made it to Cape Brenton National Park just as the sun was setting; no sense in entering the park that late in the evening, so I turned around and headed down a gravel road until I found a bit of a clearing, and set up camp for the night, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

 After packing up the next morning I headed into the park itself, happily, today was July 1st; Canada Day!  Meaning free park admission!  :)

Cape Breton National Park composes the majority of the northern tip of Nova Scotia, and a road known as the Cabot Trail circumnavigates it.  At the entrance to the park, near the town of  Cheticamp, there's a fairly standard Visitor Center, with free Internet and a number of displays on the wildlife of the area, and it's history as a park.

As much as I could have spent quite a while poking around here, I had a schedule to keep; my reservation for the ferry to Newfoundland was at 5pm today, so if I wanted to have any time in the park I had to get a move on.

Mostly overcast, with the occasional splotch of sun but thankfully, no rain.  Although when the road turned inland to go over the highlands, it did get up into the clouds and turned into Subarctic Tundra pretty quickly.

Most of the time the road hugged the coast, and plenty of pull-offs gave great views and picture opportunities.

I had to leave the park sooner than I would have liked, heading for the departure point of North Sydney, making use of the occasional local river ferry along the way to shave a few minutes off the journey.

I made it to the docks at North Sydney almost right on time; within just a few minutes of queuing up outside, we were waved on board. 

Motorcycles got to go first, because we're just that much cooler than cars.  :D

And I'm sure letting us go first had nothing to do with the fact that we needed extra time to strap down our bikes.
After we'd all made sure our bikes were secure for the crossing, I took what I'd need out of my luggage and headed up to the lounges.  I was too cheap to pay for a cabin; just myself and the bike was $220, and a cabin would have been another $130 on top of that.  Too rich for me; I'd make do with finding a couch somewhere.

The crossing was uneventful; comfortable enough, although the Internet was cripplingly slow to the point of near uselessness.  I spent most of the 18 hours watching movies and listening to podcasts.  The food was okay, and I did make use of the buffet, as expensive as it was (and gorged myself into oblivion, because dammit I'm going to make as much use of my $26 that I could).

Once the lounge area settled down some (they had live music playing for most of the evening), I stretch out on one of the couches (under a "No sleeping" sign) and napped away the rest of the crossing to Newfoundland.

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