Scoot Commute

Canada Day Six: Five Islands Provincial Park, NS to Cape Breton Highlands National Park, NS (248 miles)

Five Islands Provincial Campground in the morning

Five Islands Provincial Campground in the morning

Wednesday morning saw me still in a bit of mood over the end of yesterday’s ride and the crappy campground. I really can’t blame the campground. The location was fantastic with outstanding waterviews, but the point of the park is for RVs. Most of the trees have been cut down and the camping spots are flat for large groups of RVers. Luckily we were there before season so there were only a handful of other campers so it was quiet in the morning. I just didn’t like it. The amenities were nice (hot water, showers) but we didn’t use them because I didn’t think I was that dirty.

I was in such a mood that I didn’t even make breakfast. We simply packed up and headed out, having agreed to stop at a diner for breakfast. Actually, I think we said we would stop at a Tim Horton’s because we were, after all, in Canada and we still hadn’t been to a Tim’s. Being residents of Rhode Island, the home of Dunkin’ Donuts, it would be like cheating on your wife with her best friend, going to Tim’s.

Belted Galloways near Lower Economy, NS

Belted Galloways near Lower Economy, NS

Shortly after leaving the park, we’re riding along through rolling pastures, the sky a bit grey like it seems to be every morning in Nova Scotia in June, when I looked over into a field of cows and saw not one, but two, Belties! Of course I had to stop and take a picture. If you look closely, the leftmost two cows are Belties. They are deigning to share the field with plain old brown whatever cows.

Restaurant / Tractor Trailer Training School

Restaurant / Tractor Trailer Training School

I was starting to feel in need of coffee as we came upon a truck stop/truck training school/diner. Now this is my kind of place. We spread maps all over the table and scarfed down scrambled eggs, bacon and cups of coffee. Sustenance food for what was going to be a long day.

Given that we wanted to make it to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park which was a ways from where we were, we knew we would have to hop onto the Trans-Canada Highway. We stopped in New Glasgow to pick up food because after my experience in Alma and again last night, I was realizing that if there was a grocery store, you better stop. Plus, how could we visit New Scotland without stopping in New Glasgow?! Across the street from the grocery store (the Atlantic Superstore which is cheaper than Sobey’s for those who think about these things) was a giant Honda dealer. And boy did I want to go. When I showed the boyfriend the picture just now and I said how much I wanted to go, and he asked why, I said to see all the cool Honda bikes we don’t get. Well, apparently I should have articulated that as we were standing in the parking lot. Note to self: ask for what you want.

I have the stock tank on my Dizz and carry an extra liter of gas. I would get worried about 120 miles and start looking around for a gas station. As we’re riding toward the Canso Causeway on the big dual carriageway, the wind is killing me. My shoulders ache like I’ve been shovelling snow for hours, my neck wants to give up holding my head upright and my thighs have really had enough of gripping the tank. The posted speed limit was 110 kph which is like 350 mph in good ol’ American measurements, and that damn Dizz without a sixth gear is just not interested in purring along sweetly at that speed.

I have had to switch to reserve many times on the Vespa because I don’t pay attention to my mileage and I don’t think the fuel gauge worked even when it was new in 1979. But I’ve never hit reserve on Elsa, that is, until this afternoon. I pull over to the side of the highway and calmly twist the knob, ever hopeful that my boyfriend will notice I’m no longer behind him. I’m at 96 miles since last fuel up. Shit, I think. Why didn’t I stop 10 miles ago when my boyfriend intercomm’d back, “Hey, you wanna stop for gas?”

I get the girl going and meet up with the BMW. I yell over that we should really get off at the next exit because the last sign said something like 30 km to the Causeway. We take the exit and sadly, the sign only has icons for a place to sleep and phone. No gas. “Ahh, that’s an anomaly,” I think to myself, “of course there’s gas.” I ride about 1/2 mile down the road and I pull up to two older ladies, chatting over the post at their mailboxes. “Excuse me, could you tell me where the nearest gas station is?”

MSR bottle comes in handy

MSR bottle comes in handy

“Oh, that would be blah-blah town, up that way.” “Um, and how far would that be?” “Oh, 8 miles.” Yeah, I found that last two people in Canada who still use real measurements! I was still a bit freaked out about how much gas I actually had left (I know, I know) so I asked the boyfriend to empty that 1 liter into the tank. I don’t know where this was, but it was where a road went right next to the railroad tracks.

We got back on the highway and stopped at the big Petro Canada station right before the Causeway because I liked the logo. We snacked on bananas and granola bars and filled our thirsty steeds. We decided to ride over the Causeway and stop at the Welcome Center to pick up a map and check in with the always helpful staff.

Gypsum gone wild!

Gypsum gone wild!

Crossing the Causeway, you see all these big piles of white stuff. Hmm, what’s that? Well, it turns out it’s gypsum. It’s everywhere in Nova Scotia and I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s freaking cool, these white rivulets covered with fir trees. It’s kinda cool to think that the horsehair plaster walls of my 1885 house may have gypsum from Nova Scotia.

As we left the visitor’s center, we met a couple on a bike from Quebec. There were definitely a lot of Quebecois on vacation in Nova Scotia. It was like being in Woonsocket.

We rode up the left coast of the island, not stopping but planning places we would backtrack to visit. The plan was to stay a few days in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park before heading down to the other side of Cape Breton.

Gulf of St Lawrence, NS

Gulf of St Lawrence, NS

The sea was beautiful. The traffic almost non-existent. The weather, sunny and welcoming. We stopped at one little “scenic overlook” because, well, why the hell not. The place looks so much like the west coast of Ireland it was really freaking me out a bit. If it weren’t for signs in kooky French, I would have thought we were in Clifden.

After we got off our bikes at this stop, a mini-van pulled in and parked near us. Now let me just say, I lived in New York for years and a coping mechanism was to filter out all the unnecessary noise, both audible and visual. So I sometimes miss the big picture when it comes to visual scenes because I’m focusing on the one thing that I find interesting.

The mini-van had the same GPS we have on the dash. The aging StreetPilot 2720. I failed to notice that the people were staring at me, staring at them. Then I noticed that they had Rhode Island license plates! Are you kidding me? No one leaves Rhode Island. Turns out they’re from Cumberland, and were driving Cape Breton in a day or two. I recommended they go to Meat Cove because their friends would not have gone there. They even had Australian Jill as the voice on the GPS.

We got into the campground around 6pm and there was no one official around. We rode around some, and then walked around some, to try to figure out how it worked. There were only 5 or 6 campsites with a fireplace; all the others were fit for a tent or an RV but no fires permitted. We were able to snag the last site with a fireplace but were wedged in with the handful of other campers. The site backed up to a roaring stream.

As the boyfriend set up the tent, I rode back out to the little shop just outside the park to pick up wood because the ranger station was closed (closed in my face as I walked up to the door, thanks for that). It was here, waiting in line to pay, that I got to hear my first bona fide Acadian French! And he missed it. The only word I understood was “oui”. It was very exciting because I really wanted to hear some in natural speech. Man, it’s weird sounding.

I got my bundles and attached them to the back of Elsa, and rode back to the campground. We stayed up late this night, listening to the water in the stream and watching the fire burn. Tomorrow we do the distillery tour and look for dirt!

The view to Ireland

The view to Ireland


One Response

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  1. Liz said, on 2011/01/18 at 10:39 pm

    lilolita, hi!

    Your story is wonderful!! Having been through Canada quite a few times, even in some of the places where this trip went, I’m reading and saying “Yep … she’s right. I know just what she means!” I especially love the Timmy’ and Dunkin Donuts comment. Hanging out at Tim Horton’s does feel like cheating, kinda.



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