WELCOME TO CAPE BRETON, NOW PREPARE TO GET WET.
(At least that's what the sign should have said.)
Beng a surfer, the first thing Witt brought up after coming on board for the trip was the fact that I had planned to go to an island in the Atlantic in September — primetime hurricane season. After doing a bit of research on Cape Breton's past weather patterns and history of hurricane activity, I decided the liklehood of encountering a storm would be minimal and to move forward as planned. In hindsight, I’m not sure I would have necessarily changed anything, but as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Morning Prep — 6:30am
100% CHANCE of RAIN
Timing is everything, right? Well, we managed to show up right alongside Hurricane Leslie. Not exactly a threatening sounding storm — Leslie. So, whatever.Right?
The rain had rolled in the day before, so fair warning had been served.
Our cottage and campsite was about 10 miles south of the causeway onto Cape Breton. It had been nice having a dry place to get organized and regroup the gear.
THE STRAIT of CANSO
After crossing the causeway onto Cape Breton, I spent much of the morning with a view that looked a lot like the one above. The native indians of this area, the Mi'kmaqs, appropriately named what we now know as Cape Breton, Unama’kik which translates to Land of Fog.
There are a few hours of riding between Port Hawkesbury and the great Bras d'Or Lake. With an already sparse population, the ominous weather setting in made it feel like I was riding through a Cormac McCarthy novel. I mean that as in the best sense, desolate roads are exactly what I had come looking for.
BRAS d'OR LAKE
WHERE THE HIGHLANDS AND THE LOWLANDS COME TOGETHER
With 1,000 km of coastline, Bras d’Or is easily Nova Scotia’s largest interior lake. It’s also where the highlands and lowlands come together. That’s an important transition, after all what’s a cycling tour without some hills to climb.
I was ready to get into the hills and more specifically up onto the Cabot Trail, but I couldn’t miss spending some time riding along the lake shores, plus it made for a more complete tour of the island.
The Mi’kmaq’s refer to Bras d'Or (pronounced Bra'door) as the long sea. In fact it really does feel more like and inland sea than a lake. You don’t have to wade very far out to see signs of ocean life — there were starfish and jellyfish everywhere.
Between the coast, the lake and the rain, this trip was developing an awfully aquatic theme for a bike ride.
HERE COMES LESLIE
Here she was. After a morning of casual showers and fairly warm temps it was time to see what the storm had in store. The fog and clouds rolled in along side some pretty nasty winds. It was easy to imagine the weather that was coming right behind it, but missing my mileage on the first day simply wasn't an option I was willing to entertain.
The options for storm refuge between Port Haweksbury and Sydney are pretty much slim and none. Despite that, missing my milage would mean being "off schedule" for the rest of the trip. Pushing the limits of my rain gear, I pushed on too.
Early afternoon brought on what ended up being a hellacious downpour. I don't think the rain let up even for a moment. In fact, by the time I rolled into Sydney and was back at sea-leavel, the roads were quite flooded. I found myself rolling through calf-deep water on many of the main roadways coming into town.
Aside from the hurricane rolling in, the day actually finished well. I was on track distance-wise and not terribly upset about it being our lone hotel night. With the rain not predicted to let up for another 12-18hrs., a nice warm dry bed was fine by me. We’d earn our stripes on the ground for the rest of the week, but for tonight it was cable TV and extra pillows.