Scoot Commute

Canada Day Nine: Chéticamp to Mira River, NS (140 miles)

Posted in 2010 Canada, BMW F650GS Dakar (Maxx), Suzuki DR-Z400SM (Elsa) by sbahn on 2011/01/26
Look at this beautiful weather over the Bras d'Or Lake (I think)

Look at this beautiful weather over the Bras d'Or Lake (I think)

A gorgeous, sunny morning greeted us as we prepared to leave Chéticamp and head on down to the other part of Cape Breton. This entire trip was very loosely planned; there was only one day that required us to be in a particular place at a particular time and that was Glace Bay on the upcoming Tuesday evening. Today is Saturday. Our destination was the Mira River Provincial Park and we had all day to get there.

Seal Island Bridge, NS

Seal Island Bridge, NS

After a hearty breakfast of farina and oatmeal (how does he eat that stuff?), we poured over our maps and charted a route to take us through every version of the towns of Margaree, through Baddeck, over a fantastic bridge, to Bras d’Or. At Bras d’Or the plan was to take secondary and tertiary roads on the very long way to Mira River.

Upper Leitches Creek, NS

Upper Leitches Creek, NS

We stopped for gas in one of the Margarees (seriously, there’s a Margaree Harbour, Margaree, Margaree Forks, North East Margaree, among a handful of others) and the friendly, jumpsuit-attired attendant apologized for not having premium gas. Um, I’m on a DRZ. My girl doesn’t need that fancy stuff. It was a little bit of how things used to be, with someone willing to pump your gas (I did it myself even though I’m from New Jersey), paying with actual cash, and a chat.

The ride was beautiful, yes. I don’t think there’s anything ugly in this part of Nova Scotia. Well, maybe some parts of Sydney, but that’s another story. We finally reached Bras d’Or where we exited the 105, a big, dual carriageway, to get on Peacekeepers Way to Grand Narrows Highway.

At this exit there was a large pull-off where we consulted our map again. The boyfriend has a GPS, but I like to write directions on a piece of paper. When we both agreed on the route, we took off again toward Upper Leitches Creek.

We pulled a left onto a small paved road. In short time, to my great delight, the road turned into gravel. Finally! There are a handful of houses, spread way apart, and fir trees, fir trees everywhere. The weather was comfortable, the ride invigorating, and things were gooooood, very good. This was exactly what I was looking for. Peace. Quiet. Fir tree smell. Me and my bike.

I was riding in lead position and was having a rip-roaring time with the gravel and rocks. Did I mention how much I love my DRZ? It’s such a hoot to ride. We both have communicators and as long as we have line-of-sight, we can talk to each other. I had gotten waaaay ahead (again, he’s Cap’n Slow) when a voice crackles in my ear.

“I’m down.”

“Oh.” I continue riding forward. “Um, do you want me to turn around?”

“Yes.” Ugh. It didn’t even occur to me that he may need help getting the bike up as it was laden with our camping gear. Yes, we have chairs with us. I gotta have a comfy place to sit.

But the ‘yes’ sounded, well, not like a normal ‘yes’. It sounded like a freaked out ‘yes’. I turned around and rode from whence I came, not really thinking about anything. Just, this is slowing me up!

I know, I’m a bitch. Because this is what I found.

F650GS takes a gravel nap in Upper Leitches Creek, NS
F650GS takes a gravel nap in Upper Leitches Creek, NS

What you don’t see in this picture is the boyfriend who was lying underneath the bike when I first got to him. Now who’s freaking out! I managed to park my bike and ran over to him, trying to push the bike up off him to find out what’s going on. He said he was fine and that the bike was not crushing him. Point 1 for the Vario case.

Who didn't fall down?

Who didn't fall down?

He crawled out and over to sit in the grass on the side of the road, clutching his right arm. It was obvious he was in a lot of pain. And he’s a guy who doesn’t make a big thing out of anything, but this was, indeed, a big thing.

I get his helmet off and get him some water. “How about a granola bar?” I ask. He takes it.

He manages to get his jacket off and crawls into the shade. It was hot in the sun, real hot, not fake Nova Scotia hot, but America hot.

I go over to the bike and try to get it upright. But it’s facing downhill in slippy slidey gravel (there seems to be an abundance of this stuff in Canada) and no matter what I do, I can’t get it up. I’m being careful as I don’t want to hurt the bike and I don’t want to hurt me. So I go join him in the shade. I figure, someone has got to come by, eventually. If I had really thought about it, I don’t think I would have assumed anyone would come. Where the hell does this road even go?

After about 15 minutes, I hear an approaching vehicle. I jump up and run to the top of the hill as I want to both stop them for help and make sure they don’t come barreling over the hill and smash into the bike. It’s an old pick-up truck, you know the kind, all metal and real square looking. He jams on the brakes and swings open the driver’s side door. He runs down the hill, screaming, “Is everything ok?” I tell him I can’t get the bike up by myself, and he single-handedly wrestles the bike up onto its kickstand.

By this time, the passengers have also jumped out of the truck. It’s a guy, a woman, a young girl of about 7, and a dog, who remains in the bed of the truck the entire time. “Oh, he won’t hurt you. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. He’s a good dog.”

We’re all standing around, trying to figure out what to do. The guy is determined to repair the broken pannier as we’re discussing how to get to the nearest hospital. He finally asks me where we are headed and I say “Meera River.” “Meera River? You mean Meyera River?” “Oh, that’s how you pronounce it? In Irish it would be Meera.” Who knows why I said that.

Both he and the woman declare that we are very lost. I said we were looking for the long way to the campground, but they kept insisting we were very lost.

He asks where we’re from. “Rhode Island.” “New York?” “No, Rhode Island is a state, sorta above New York. You’re thinking Long Island.” After a little geography lesson that involved showing where Long Island is compared to Rhode Island, I think he did finally believe that we didn’t live in New York.

“I haul Christmas trees down to New York.” Well, now that’s a story. Do tell. He explains how he drives the big trucks laden with trees down to New York every year. “I’m the only one without a record so I don’t have a problem crossing the border. I meet the trucks at the border, drive them across where I meet up with drivers on the other side. I also make the drive in one of the trucks myself.” Having lived in New York and bought Christmas trees from French-Canadians freezing their cahones off on the street, I completely believed this story.

The woman goes back to the pick-up, returns to the group, and hands the guy a can of Alexander Keith’s. He was so drunk he could barely stand. When he suggested that we all drive to the hospital, he volunteered his girlfriend/wife as she “has only had a couple today.”

So what are we going to do? The boyfriend doesn’t want any hospitals. He is insistent that he can get back on the bike and continue riding to Mira River. The guy tells us that he was heading with his family to his “camp” which was further down the road we were on. Did we want to join them that night? Well, of course I wanted to join them, but the boyfriend didn’t and since he was in a serious amount of pain, we decided against that. We were going to continue our ride to Mira River. But how the hell were we going to get there?

Back on the bike,  hurrah!

Back on the bike, hurrah!

We both thanked the family for all their help. I’m still kicking myself for not getting any names or pictures but I was pretty shaken up. I’ve never seen the boyfriend like this and we’ve been together 11 years. I was sorta freaking out inside. They all climbed back into the truck and headed off down the bumpy road toward their camp.

I turned the BMW around and somehow, the boyfriend got his jacket back on, climbed on the bike, used his left hand to put his right hand on the throttle, and was ready to head out again. I suggested that I could ride him and his bike out to the paved road, walk back, and ride my bike back out, but he was insistent.

We backtracked to get back on the highway to get to Mira River as quickly as possible. We were about 40km away from our destination.

When we pulled into the campground, I practically ran into the ranger’s office. It turns out that the campground was under major renovation and most of the park was closed. I explained what had happened and that we needed a very quiet site, away from people, where he could just relax and try to heal. The ranger, Betty, put us in a part of the park that was closed. The road was a mess and most of the sites were torn up, roots and trees downed, as workers were redoing this section. I didn’t care; we were away from the RV section. Betty said, “He’ll be ok there. Go drop off your things and come back to see.” Turns out, Betty rides.

Look how calm I am, like nothing happened

Look how calm I am, like nothing happened

One more hurdle. Navigating the super-thick gravel to get to the campsite. “Do you want me to ride you in?” I asked. No, he was going to do it. We get to our spot and I get a chair out. “Sit.” I quickly set up the tent, blow up the mat, and set up the sleeping bag. “Lay down.”

I wanted to go back to the ranger station and ask for help. I knew that I could get codeine over the counter in Canada. After he settled down, I rode back to talk to Betty. I walked into the station and asked a bunch of questions. “Where’s the closest pharmacy? Where’s the closest hospital? How does US health insurance work here?”

Betty hauled out the phonebook. She called the pharmacy. Yes, they have codeine and they’ll be expecting me. Here’s how to get there. She called the hospital. Not the one in Sydney. “Oh, you don’t want to go there. Go to New Waterford.” She was transferred and transferred and transferred until someone finally could tell her how our insurance would work in Canada. [We would pay out-of-pocket and then apply to our insurance for reimbursement.]

Damage to the BMW with me in the background headed out in search of codeine

Damage to the BMW with me in the background headed out in search of codeine

I headed into Sydney in search of codeine at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Prince Street. The girls at the pharmacy counter were, indeed, expecting me when I stumbled in wearing my hi-viz jacket. 100 count bottle. Good-bye migraines.

I stopped in the LC, too, as I had passed it on the way into town. He was really in a lot of pain. I was tempted to pick up some Alex Keith’s, but I opted for my Strongbow.

Back in camp. I have no recall of how this night ended. I can’t even remember if we ate. I know there was a lot of adrenaline. He absolutely refused to go to the hospital. What was actually wrong with him?

I like how the butterfly matches my bike

I like how the butterfly matches my bike


One Response

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  1. Pepper said, on 2011/01/26 at 7:40 pm

    I enjoy reading your blog but this story was hard to read. I am glad that I am reading it long after the fact.

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