Scoot Commute

Canada Day Seven: Cape Breton Highlands National Park to the Whisky Distillery (133 miles)

Posted in 2010 Canada, BMW F650GS Dakar (Maxx), Suzuki DR-Z400SM (Elsa) by sbahn on 2011/01/20
Cape Breton, NS

Cape Breton, NS

Look at this place. It’s beautiful.

Today was all about exploring a little bit of Cape Breton. The plan was to camp for a few nights in the national park and ride around, looking for interesting things to do and see, maybe some dirt to ride, and oh, yeah, check out the whisky distillery.

Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine, Mabou, NS

Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine, Mabou, NS

When we first rode up into the national park, we passed through a town called Mabou where I saw a sign for the Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine. Let’s just say I have some eccentric interests. Marconi. Miners’ choirs. And shrines to the Virgin Mary. So now you know why we came to Nova Scotia. It has it all!

The shrine used to a full-fledged Catholic church that was moved from its original location, and looks like a traditional New England Congregational church from the outside with its white clapboards and tall, plain steeple. But then you open the door…and it’s Catholic over-the-top.

Mother of Sorrows Shrine, Mabou, NS

Mother of Sorrows Shrine, Mabou, NS

We spent some time here because, well, I love this kind of stuff. There’s a second floor that leads to the bell that you can ring. A sign asks that if you do ring it, please be considerate and only make it ring once, and of course I messed it up because I was so excited. Then I felt horrible. Perfect.

I lit a candle for my brother and my grandfather. It felt kinda cool trying to bring my brother along on the trip because my other brother and my dad ride (or used to), and if I think about it, I know he would have loved it, too.

I wanted to go into the attached shop because it hit me that I didn’t have my grandfather’s St. Christopher medal with me. I don’t have a keychain for the DRZ and here I was, riding around without a St. Christoper medal. Yikes! Unfortunately there was a sign on the shop door that it was closed, but someone would be right back.

When a car pulled up, the driver quickly parked and hopped out. She apologized for the shop being closed but she had to go into town for something. She then told us that one of the priests who says Mass regularly rides his Goldwing in from Antigonish. She was so hoping that he might just arrive. Now that would have been cool.

Got my two St. Christopher medals, one that I carry in my jacket at all times, and one for the boyfriend, who apparently, doesn’t currently know where it is (which may explain what happens in the not so distant future).

Mabou Harbour Road, NS

Mabou Harbour Road, NS

We rode around some more, without much direction because I had seen a sign for the Mabou Mines, until we found a gravel road that led us down to a dock. This ride was through a gypsum forest (see the post from day 6), where there were hills that were oozing white rock covered in trees. At this point it was getting late and we wanted to get to the distillery for the tour.

We headed to the Glenora Distillery where they make a single malt whisky, the only single malt distillery in North America. I don’t think the Scottish need worry. We arrived in time for the 4:00 pm tour with time to spare, so we popped into the pub to have a drink to fortify us for the grueling activity of walking through a whisky making operation. The barmaid told us about how global warming / climate change is affecting the climate in Nova Scotia during the winters. Something about ice and how it’s not as thick or not even where it used to always be. It was very interesting getting the perspective from someone who is seeing real changes. In Rhode Island, it’s weather as usual.

She also let me use the hotel guests lobby computer to confirm that our borrowed Spot (thanks Terry!) was, indeed, sending messages to my mom. And she recommended this great dive called the Hoff for a very late lunch / early dinner.

Glenora Distillery, Glenville, Cape Breton

Glenora Distillery, Glenville, Cape Breton

The tour was really interesting as I’ve never been to a whisky distillery before (I know, can you believe it?!). Unfortunately the whisky wasn’t very good in my humble opinion. It tasted too alcohol-y. Mind you, this is coming from someone who drinks Laphroaig and Ardbeg (particularly the 17 so if anyone has any just sitting around…). The guide was great, as were the other folks on the tour. We met a couple from British Columbia who were telling us something about the Homeland Security Act and taxes being 43%. But everything seems better in Canada, and that’s because the taxes are 43%.

We headed to the Hoff. Interesting place. We were travelling during the World Cup so I was very happy to be able to catch some highlights. Italy was out! Holland was doing well…yesssss! I had called them as the overall winner before the matches even began (despite how things ended).

Sitting at the bar, I ordered fish & chips. The barmaid asked me if I wanted gravy. I looked at her as if she were from another country and said, “Gravy? On fish? Why would I do that?” She looked at me as if I was from Mars and said, “On the fries.” Ugh, no, that sounds nasty. I even had heard about the poutine, but when confronted with it, oh no. “Vinegar?”

Ladies Room at Hoff Pub & Grill, Inverness, NS

Ladies Room at Hoff Pub & Grill, Inverness, NS

So of course we get into conversation with the other folks at the bar. That’s why I sit at the bar. This one guy, who was stoned out of his mind, couldn’t get it through his head that we were not on horses. Apparently some newlywed couple had ridden across Canada on horses and he thought we were they. But we were on motorcycles. And we’re not married. Petty details. He told us all about some great dirt roads but then he wasn’t really sure where they were (something about a bridge) and seriously, he was really stoned. The back porch, when it’s cold, that’s where to go to get stoned.

Stomachs full, we thanked everyone for the good chat and the World Cup updates, and headed out toward the campsite. I did find a dirt road that led up a steep hill into a grassy field and to a house and barn. Um, better turn around. What you don’t see in this pic is that it’s a 30 degree angle. What is this like in the winter?!

Random driveway in Nova Scotia

Random driveway in Nova Scotia

Before heading back to the campsite, we stopped at Charlie’s Record Shop to pick up some firewood because the shop I had gone to before was running low. I couldn’t be without wood for a fire.

The boyfriend went into the shop to pay as I loaded up my bike. I’m the fire crazy and I have a large, flat rack so I carry the wood. As I’m loading up the bike, a guy comes up to me and starts telling me to be careful because there are coyotes around. Ok, I’m interested. Coyotes? What’s up?

He tells me this story about a woman who was hiking in the national park who was attacked and killed by coyotes. Really? That’s crazy. But I’m listening intently as I saw a coyote go crazy on a cat when I was in grad school in southern California and it will forever be with me (I saw the cat the next day wearing an Edwardian collar). He felt that the coyotes should be sterile to keep the population in check. He said to me, “They can put a man on the moon but they can’t make food that sterilizes the coyotes.”

So here I am, standing in the rain, loading wood onto a DRZ, about to head into the woods and sleep in a nylon tent. And there are bloodthirsty coyotes running around. I had no way to confirm his story (there’s a surprising lack of wi-fi in the national park) so I wasn’t sure if he was a loony or there really was a horrible incident (sadly, I was to learn when I got back home that the story was true). The boyfriend comes out of the shop and the guy begs him to not hike in the park. It was crazy. It required a stop at the LC.

We picked up ice and Strongbow cider (mmmm) at the NSLC in Chéticamp. As we’re getting on the bikes, a guy from the repair shop next door comes over to say hello. He tells us a story about a guy who was riding the Cabot Trail who hit a guardrail and fell down the side of a cliff because he was memorized by the scenery. The guy is paralyzed now but the bike is fine, he informed us. Actually the bike was in the shop.

With all this doom and gloom, we rode back to the campsite. But we had our St. Christopher medals.

At the Glenora Distillery on BMW F650GS and DR-Z400SM

At the Glenora Distillery on BMW F650GS and DR-Z400SM

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