Monday, 30 May 2011

The Nicest Guy in Nova Scotia

After a long, LONG day cycling yesterday, I was dead on my feet and would have happily pitched my tent on the highway, but luckily Si is a bit more demanding and pushed us on for another few miles until eventually he rolled into a farmhouse gateway for another stab at negotiating the corner of a field for our tents.

A truly lovely chap called Steve not only happily offered his barn and his field but then appeared with 3 cold beers and the offer of his 'cabin' instead. So we spent a very happy and extremely comfortable night in the most delightful little house in the middle of the woods; the boys went for a swim in the river and drank beer while I curled up in my sleeping bag in the gallery bedroom. Fabulous - a big thank you to Steve and family - may your organic farm grow and prosper.

Today the Big Fat Cry Baby Monster that had been galloping behind me for a couple of days finally caught up with me on yet another horrid hill, so I had a red face and puffy eyes to add to my patches of sunburn, mozzy bites and unwashed hair - photographic evidence of me on my hols will be strictly censored. My lovely husband force-fed me cinnamon roll and gave me a hug and my lovely son insisted on burgers and fries at the next fast food joint and hey presto I was back on some sort of form. Big milestone today as we reached Wolfville so we are almost on (second) home turf and due for a day off; just back from a boozy night at Paddy's and nothing to do tomorrow except sleep, eat and swim in the pool. Glad I packed that bikini after all :-)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Hot Sun, Cool Rivers

Perfect blue skies today and lovely quiet roads this morning made for a happy start to the day. Annoyingly my knee decided to play up which kept the pace slow but we rolled into New Glasgow by food o'clock and feasted on quesadillas (cue Napolean Dynamite quotes) and chips. Found a bike shop to stock up on spares and headed out of town in a heat-haze barely dented by the persistent wind - stopped for ice cream for me and beer for the boys and now we're camped up by the river in a picnic/country park type area and hoping no-one's going to ask us to leave when it closes at dusk.

It struck me today that I have absolutely the best travelling companions a girl could ask for; my husband and son have been unerringly patient, cheerful, kind and encouraging; I'm a lucky girl.

Six days cycling done - quite a few more to go... But hopefully only 2 until our next day off -woohoo!

Friday, 27 May 2011

On the road again

After a fabulous day of motel living (donuts, Subway, rubbish TV, bubble baths, mascot shopping -see pic!) and a bizarre encounter with a mad shopkeeper, we hit the long road south again today. Cool, cloudy, a delightful lack of wind and gently rolling roads made it almost a pleasure to be back in the saddle again and the miles flew by without too much pain. We are now slightly ahead of schedule, having stopped in Antigonish at a very nice student cafe for lunch and then pressed on for another few miles - today we tipped just over 200 miles in total - only 350 to go!

Had to ride a couple of stretches on the main highway today which was very scary and really made me appreciate the quiet backroads we are on the rest of the time. The sun came out late afternoon so another first being able to ride with bare legs; on the downside the sun has bought out the blackflies, so we pitched our tents in a frenzy and dived inside to wait for sundown when hopefully they'll naff off. Poor old Hoss went for a dip in the river before doing the tent bit though so he's been eaten alive!

I'm not quite so comfy in my tent today as my lovely inflatable mattress died on me so I popped into Walmart and got a foam mat, which stinks and feels about as bouncy as paper. But its warm, sunny and peaceful and I don't ache as much today so I'm pretty content with life.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wind and Wild Camping

It's Tuesday and I am completely wiped out. We didn't make it Port Hood yesterday - 60 miles against a fresh wind after 2 days of mountains was too much to ask of my skinny legs. We did about 40 before deciding to try our luck with some good ol' country hospitality: 'excuse me ma'm, we're doing this ride for charity and are dead on our feet-might we camp in your field?' Blank look. 'Of course we would pay you something..?' Umm... No.

Hmph. Fortunately just up the rode we found a handy little corner in the woods and out of the wind so pitched tents and hoisted our bag of food up in the trees a safe distance from hungry bears - we haven't seen any yet but we have seen tracks, moose as well as bear.

So up and at it early this morning, hoping to make up some lost ground. The sun was shining and the wind was not so cold, but boy what it lacked in freeze factor it didn't half make up for in relentless ferocity - we actually had to pedal to keep going downhill! All very wearing so we decided to aim for around 40 miles to the Canso Causeway rather than attempt the remaining 30 miles to Antigonish. My tiny victory today, apart from endless miles battling the wind, was to not chicken out of riding across the Causeway, which is windy (of course), narrow, with BIG trucks bombing across. I raced across gripping my handlebars for dear life and rolled safely off the other side - piece of cake. A motel perched on the bay was just too tempting to resist, I had the most welcome bath of my entire life and am now tucked up in bed watching cheesy sitcoms after a hot dinner and a beer, with the promise of a foot massage from my lovely husband. Bliss.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Up the Mountain and Down T'other Side

After a stunningly scenic drive north on the east coast of Cape Breton we arrived at the aptly named Hideaway Campground and whooped for joy as our good friend and driver Chris had booked us into the most delightful little cabin, so we got let off camping for night one. Simon whipped up a fire and some tins of chilli which we ate on the deck while watching the sunset - perfect. Pleased to report that my fab new sleeping bag is every bit as toasty warm as I had hoped, so I slept like a log and snored like a wild boar. Awoke to rain and a chill wind; thankfully our impatience hit the road was tempered by protracted packing of gear, so by the time I took my first wobbly steps on the 550 mile trek, only cloud and a nippy breeze remained. Which was just as well-pretty soon we hit the steepest and longest climb I have ever encountered. Layers off, ipod on, and the lowest gear possible... 1,400 feet later I emerged triumphant at the top, red faced, shakey legged and gasping cold mountain air. Quite pleased with myself as I rode most of it and only pushed a bit! We then rode past snow drifts and through the clouds before whizzing down the other side (well the boys whizzed, Si at 41mph, I hung on to my brakes for dear life) into Pleasant Bay - and very very pleasant it is too. As it was our wedding anniversary, my lovely husband had booked us a motel, which annoyingly had ignored his emails and phone call and was still closed for the season, but by a stroke of very good luck the delightful Highland Breeze B&B was open for business, cinnamon rolls big screen TV and a warm welcome included. So we stolled along the beach, ate buckets of mussels and slept in warm beds. Anniversary antics excluded though-they only had one room free, so my son had a campbed in with us :-)

Monday - this is going to be a long blog by the time I get somewhere with a phone signal! Yesterday we climbed McKenzie mountain - I made it to the top with only 2 stops at 'look off' points, and no walking-very pleased with myself. Then along the ridge through freezing wind and finally down the other side - oh and then up again, and again. By the time we hit the real descent I had frozen fingers locked on my brakes, so dug out a pair of wool socks for improvised mittens. Sadly but inevitably by the time we reached the iconic Cape Breton rollercoaster my legs did not want to play any more so I trudged up a few slopes before we finally rolled into Cheticamp and pitched our tents. A huge 'surf'n'turf dinner watching gannets dive in the bay and that was game over for me by 6pm-cue sleeping bag for me while the boys played with fire.

I feel quite guilty this morning as they both froze their butts off all night while I was warm and cozy (did I mention I am in love with my sleeping bag?).

But finally the sun is shining and although there's a cold wind we are all set for a 60 miler along the coast today to Port Hood. Pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast and away we go.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Well Hello Nova Scotia!

Arrived Halifax airport yesterday, bikes intact and slightly jet lagged, to glorious sunshine and clear blue skies. Which I suspect might be a bit deceptive-the leaves on the trees are barely showing green, so spring is a few weeks behind the pace at home - I think the nights are going to be chilly.

Last night we were in the Esquire Motel, which sounds uncomfortably close to 'Escort Motel' and is a bit Psyhco-esque, but on the upside has a handy diner where we wolfed down burgers, fries and an enormous seafood platter. Our buddy Chris is picking us up this morning to whisk us northwards to Cape Breton - Saturday will be first day on the bikes, so still plenty of time to steel myself for the task ahead.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Kit, kit and more kit

Well here we go - only one long hot bubble bath and a blissful night under my soft duvet before we fly west tomorrow. Its all very surreal, I don't think I will believed its going to actually happen until we push off on our bikes from Dingwall on Saturday morning. I'm all packed and ready to go, I have minimalist packing down to an art form (see pic - quite reserved I think). My lovely husband, meanwhile, has just recycled 2 old contact lens holders into rather stylish salt and pepper pots- we may be living on one-pan-pasta for a while but by golly it will be properly seasoned - fabulous! So - the burning questions now are: 1) will Simon fit everything in his panniers? 2) Will Hoss wake up in time to catch the flight? And last but not least; 3) just how stylish am I going to look for airport travel in waterproof cycling trousers and a lurid yellow cycling jacket...? Lovely.

Friday, 13 May 2011

FBH - am I scared..? Nah...

Its Friday evening, the sun is shining in between the showers, countryside is lush green and pretty and I am going out on my bike tomorrow - after a couple of glasses of wine and something yummy to eat tonight. I have only 3 days left in the office (admittedly with a ton of work to get done, but hey, its only work, and I'm on mental turbo charge) and then its off on the biggest adventure of my life, childbirth and marriage to my lovely husband excluded. Woop woop. And I'm not even tooooo terrified by the 1,400 feet of climbing on Day 1. No really, it'll be fine. I can always walk. Check out our fab new route maps - I tried to ignore the gradients but if you want to check out my pain, click on 'Detailed View'.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Happy soggy bunny

Well I'm more of a happy bunny than a scaredey-cat today, after a good ride yesterday in spite of getting caught in a downpour and arriving home soaked through. Hubby had to gently explain to me that (cheap) panniers that look waterproof are in fact just that - they look convincing while only in fact fending off a gentle shower. So more shopping today for 'dry bags' to keep my one set of must-not-get-wet-ever clothing, essential I think for those inevitable days when it rains and all I want to do is crawl into my lovely downy sleeping bag clad head to toe in merino layers. Of course it is entirely possible that it won't rain at all for 3 whole weeks - or perhaps only on the occasioinal nights we are in a motel? Oh yes, and I got a temporary ban from Facebook this week for being 'annoying' - I was only being helpful and messaging my sons friends to plea for sponsorship, cos I just know he won't find the time. So now I'm being sneaky and lobbing the occasional message while hopping around the wwweb. Annoying, possibly, but all in a damn good cause.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Big Fat Scaredy-cat

I've been trying to write a post for a few days now - I think I have rabbit-trapped-in-headlights-of-oncoming-oversized-Canadian-truck syndrome. (yes I know, that's a cat, not a rabbit.) I'm wavering somewhere between outright panic and a girlie wobble, and I need to seriously pull myself together. It was all going quite well until my training plan went awry, then I coasted downhill and crashed and burned at about the same time as I fell off my bike, and apart from a few 'righto, enough of this' moments I'm having a hard time getting back the buzz. But - thanks to all you fantastically wonderful people who are donating money to the cause, the balance is now tipping nicely towards cautious enthusiasm. I'm back on a last minute training frenzy (well, more flap than frenzy), I have re-assessed my kit list, thrown out anything that's not absolutely necessary - who cares if I look and smell disgusting?! It'll put the bears off for sure. So THANK YOU all you lovely sponsors - I truly adore you all x