Cabot Trail Cycle Tour - A Daily Journal of An East Coast Adventure

By: Brent Drewry
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Join guest blogger Brent Drewry over the next few days as he reports on his down East cycling tour of the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia.

The Cabot Trail is a scenic roadway located on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island and measures 298 km or 185 miles in length. The famous trail named after explorer John Cabot completes a loop around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island and passes through the scenic Cape Breton Highlands as well as the national park. Follow along with Brent as he cycles the beautiful Canadian Atlantic coastline. Each day will bring a new journal entry…and we’re sure some new challenges as well!

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Day 1

“A sense of adventure knows no age…today marks Day 1 of the Second Hand Lions Tour of Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia.  I can’t believe I’m actually quoting Rob Lowe, but here goes, because this remark speaks to the nature of this journey…”My issue isn’t about physical aging, my issue is about wanting to remain vigorous and youthful on my spirit.”

Let’s be honest, why DO you embark on a 5 day 400km cycling tour through the hills of the east coast of Canada with 7 other aging athletes?

Is it the incredible sights of the Cabot Trail highlands, of the ocean, the invigorating smells of the sea, the endless hospitality of the people ?!

Or is it a youthful desire to recapture past feats of athleticism and prove to ourselves we’ve still got some punch left in us?  As a group of fifty-something athletes who have represented Canada at a national level in rowing, cycled across this great country of ours, or run marathons, we’ve started down the trail of self-discovery in one of the most beautiful places in the World, let alone Canada.

Let’s see what this week has in store and let you know what this Amazing corner of Canada has to offer … that is if we have enough Advil to get us through!

Stay tuned … tomorrow is Day 2 with an 8 am start on the bikes…

if we can ever get out of the pub that is…”

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Day 2

Day two featured a 90km day starting in Baddeck and headed clockwise around the Cabot Trail. Here are some of the highlights!

  • Baddeck is home to Alexander Graham Bell and the place the first flight in the Commonwealth took place by Bell’s “Silver Dart.”
  • We enjoyed excellent accommodation and a “breakfast of champions” at Inverary Resort in Baddeck
  • Mike from Freewheeling Adventures got us all set up with bikes.
  • What is the #1 accessory for our age bracket? Costco bifocal sunglasses!
  • The first challenge was up Hunters Mountain, our first climb of the trip. This is where you want to rip the saddlebags off and get rid of every extra ounce of weight.
  • There is no stopping for long during this time of year black flies will have a feast.
  • A cloudy day turns into a beautiful sunny day with amazing views along the way through Middle River and the Margaree Valley with a quick pistol at the dancing goat. The trip keeps getting better as we get too close to the coast.
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Day 3

  • 2 broken chains, 1 flat, and a frozen derailer – not bad across 8 bikes and some hard riding.
  • spent the night in Cheticamp beautiful spot, big team dinner, and a few of the guys ended the night at the Dorryman, Thurs night is talent night!  Mario the crab fisherman had many stories and a round of Propeller beer to buy, great guy
  • left Cheticamp Friday morning after a phenomenally hearty breakfast at Maison Fiset House
  • one of the guys broke a chain 100m  into the ride – far better than doing it at top of one of the mountains but delaying departure into the mountains
  • The hospitality keeps getting better the farther east you go:  case in point – Lynn the manager at Maison Fisette, when she realized we might be delayed on the start due to the broken chain, called the bike shop owner to open up an hour early; when she realized someone forgot their banana and iPhone charger she drove them down to the bike shop
  • Lynn helping one of the guys clean up hands from chain grease, what a host!!

ready to roll!

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into the Park!

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amazing views looking back towards Cheticamp from the first climb (called “La Bloc”) into the Highlands Provincial Park

  • a fine memorial to fallen soldiers puts the view into perspective
  • The first big climb is French Mountain at 455m challenging with the panniers (saddlebags) on!
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Andre in the bike shop in Cheticamp told us North Mountain would be challenging (as a racer he used to do training rides from Dingwall to Cheticamp and back in 6 hours) not much can prepare you for an average 14% grade in some places 20% in the climb to the top; every bend in the road you think (pray) it’s the top.

  • almost 1800m in total climbing to get over French and North Mountains
  • still snow up there! you get the peak and it’s absolute silence too few places like this on earth!
  • the view down to Fishing Cove amazing definitely need to come back to hike the trail down
  • race down the mountain at 60-70 km hr though the switchbacks and destination Dingwall at the Markland Resort
  • a tough day behind us, settle in for a lobster dinner and some Irish Red beer
  • bonfire on the beach
  • outstanding meals and hospitality at The Markland thanks to manager Kim and the rest of the staff. Kim actually went so far as to lend us her car when we needed to get into town for supplies and for the trip up to the northernmost village on Cape Breton (Meat Cove) – fantastic!
  • if you get to Meat Cove be sure and check out campsite #11 at Justin’s campground on top of the outcropping – don’t look down if you’re afraid of heights!
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Day 4

  • tough to leave the Markland had a great time and fed well
  • Dingwall to Ingonish destination: Keltic Inn
  • short ride about 55km and beautiful sunny day with strong tailwind out of the north
  • took outer shoreline loop (White Point Road) with hills but outstanding views to the north towards Dingwall
  • check out the lighthouse at Neil’s Harbour
  • cliffs offer good handstand picture opportunity!
  • arrive at Keltic Inn and settle into the cottage
  • Keltic Lodge was originally the summer home of the Corsons, a Midwest US industrialist; built the home for his wife who was suffering from lung problems and needed the fresh sea air; the story goes that Mr. Corson was shown the land by Alexander Graham Bell on a journey on horseback over from Baddeck via St. Ann’s and fell in love with it. Portraits of The Corsons still up in the main bar area of the lodge:
  • taking in the Hiking trail to Middle Head (point out from Keltic Inn), was where cattle used to graze
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Day 5

  • settled into Keltic Lodge for a day off of riding …..and of course, decided to ride …but only about 5km down the road to the Franny Trail
  • always nice to ride without the panniers and extra weight – and did the 8km hike up to an elevation of 430m with a great view of Middle Head and Keltic Lodge
  • well worth the hike up and excellent refreshments waiting back at Keltic Lodge – Keith’s and Lobster Sliders it doesn’t get any better!
  • Robert and the rest of the restaurant staff very helpful
  • James in the pro shop set us up to play on the famed golf architect Stanley Thompson designed Highlands Links course
  • watch for the eagle on the 4th hole and moose on the 11th!
  • then an entertaining night with musician Danny Keegan singing sea shanties and all joining into “Barrett”s Privateers”
  • tomorrow – back on bikes for a 100km ride back to the starting point of Baddeck!
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Day 6

This trip has reinforced how fortunate you can be to share experiences with old friends and have the opportunity to also make new friends along the way, in the group and the places you ride through.

Riding in a group creates some inter-dependence, competitiveness. and trust – not unlike many team sports.

All of this is to say when you set out for a 100km ride into 30 to 50km headwinds with luggage on the back of your bike, you’re pretty thankful to have a great group of guys to ride with, share the load, scenery, and sense of accomplishment.

  • Throw in the climb of over 430m up Smokey Mountain with many steep switchbacks on the descent for good measure and it’s a great day on the road!
  • all ready to record the big downhill run on the new iHandlebar iPhone …
  • earned this lunch at the Lobster Galley St Anns
  • 20km more into Baddeck and a complete Cabot Trail cycling loop!
  • Excellent seafood feast at the Lobster Supper in Baddeck
  • Sincere thank you to all who helped us on this trip, and the fantastic hospitality received everywhere!
  • Cape Bretoners are without a doubt some of the friendliest people on the planet!!
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Cheers to all!

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