Checking the ditches travel blog

red sky in the morning means trouble ahead

heading to Smelt Brook

on towards Neil's Harbour

got all the directions covered

first look at Cape Smokey

the descent of Cape Smokey


Day Sixty Nine – Aug 28 Englishtown 108k

This is the beginning of the end. The tough part is over. A few days of riding and we can go home happy. And try to figure out how to decompress from this journey.

Today we cycled from Dingwall to Englishtown which is only a few hours ride from Sydney. We were to catch the ferry to Newfoundland. A short ride in the morning would allow time to unload and then load ourselves onto the ferry for a fourteen hour crossing.

Once again I cycled out of the campground by myself. It was not yet 7:30am. Five or six hours of riding should get me to Englishtown by midafternoon. The first part of the route for the day was to go off the main highway and take a sideroad which led to Smelt and then Neil’s Harbour. The road was a broken asphalt, up and down, meandering track that allowed wonderful views of the ocean. I hadn’t gotten too far when I was swarmed by other cyclists leaving camp. It was a mix of a couple groups and we all rode the highway constantly stopping for the views and to take photos. Then they took off and I was left by myself.

There was a head wind when I left camp but this side route was protected by high terrain to the south and west. It was only when I came into Neil’s Harbour that the wind became noticeable and irksome. Maybe there is a constant breeze and it makes people who name streets impatient.

After an hour of this wind in the face, and there were few views to distract, I stopped in Ingonish for my second breakfast. The riders who had shared the road with me around Smelt were already in the café and getting ready to order.

The tables were full and I sat at my own table. Rosie saw me and chided me for sitting by myself. She was sitting with Kate, Em, and Jamie. They made room for me and I moved over. This was just after I had placed my order and the waitress came back to me to make sure that where I was now was the place I intended to be. I assured her I was staying.

Hardly had I settled in when my breakfast was laid in front of me. I looked around at the girls and asked if they had ordered. Yes they had. Okay but I don’t want to be taking someone’s breakfast. I wasn’t and started in on my meal. My coffee arrived and I was set. My coffee went down and the waitress came by and topped me up. The girls had their cups up but were ignored. This was good. This was my day.

Em decided that she was going to stay close to me. After breakfast her and I cycled together. It surprised me that she was cycling with me. We were doing a pace line and she kept her speed at a rate to stay behind me. I was okay with doing the pulling. I would be splitting the air whether she was there or not.

We had one long climb for the day which was Cape Smokey. There were a few steep sections but this climb had some undulations to give some respite to the effort of getting up. At the top of Cape Smokey there was a side road that lead to a look out. At the intersection we were met by Rosie and Byron and Jamie. We cycled in to the lookout, had a look, took pictures, had a sandwich and then we were downhill.

Cape Smokey has some switchbacks on the down side. Miss a switch and you could be fish food. I checked my brakes before I left. With the gusting winds I wasn’t too keen on letting go and being whisked away on the wind. Jamie, who had the scare with a blown tire on a downhill, wasn’t too keen about riding down. We all made it without incident.

Em and I continued our little pace line once we got to the bottom. Byron came up the road and joined our little line. He too dropped his speed to keep behind me and when he went in front he maintained the speed we had been going at. The three of us did alternate leading. After an hour we passed a roadside café that had some riders at it. Byron dropped off to join them. Em and I continued on.

The wind picked up when we took the ferry crossing to Englishtown. Good thing that exposure on the causeway was only for a couple of k. We got to the ferry just as it was ready to take vehicles. We got on and went to the side. A few minutes later we let the vehicles off and we were on our way to the campground.

It had been a good ride and I enjoyed the riding with Em and Byron. Once we had left the Smelt side road the photo ops had diminished so just riding was in order. We had one last steep climb to get into the campground. The finish line was getting closer. A two hour ride tomorrow and I could lay claim to bragging rights.

I was feeling good when I cycled into the campground. The elation was deflated quickly. Someone said that the ferry crossing was off for tomorrow. What? How can that be? For seventy days I have been riding to make it to the ferry on time. Now you tell me there is no ferry. A tooth ferry I could believe doesn’t exist but don’t tell me that there is no ferry.

There would be a meeting later in the day to explain.

The explaination went like this. One of the ferrys on the Sydney to Channel-Port-Of-Basques crossing was down for maintanence. Marine Atlantic, the crown agency running the ferries between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, decided to divert a ferry from the Sydney to Argentia crossing. That diverted ship was our boat. The next boat to leave Sydney to Argentia was not till Friday. Some of us could wait it out but there were a number of riders who were leaving St. John’s the next day after we got there. Their flights were at risk. Their lives would be messed up. The solution was to pop everyone’s balloon.

We would take a ferry from Sydney to Channel-Port-Of-Basques. We would then take a chartered bus to St. John’s. We would get in to St. John’s the evening of August 30; Thursday evening. We would be back on schedule. Except that we would not ride the last 145k to St. John’s. This was anticlimactic. We had cycled across Canada and came this close and were denied the opportunity to consummate the closing. Aaahhhhhgggggg.

This would be like the climbers who come within meters of the top of Mount Everest only to turn back because of weather or whatnots. They had one shot and it didn’t work. Oh that danged rabbit. Yet we wouldn’t be like them. We were being airlifted to our peak. The feeling isn’t the same. There will be no fist pumping on Signal Hill knowing that you got airlifted there. Is there any ice cream available so I can console myself?



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