Day 15: Friday 28th September : Last night together, crabs and beer

With a shorter riding day today to get us to Baltimore for our final night, we had an official departure time of 10am to ride a very short distance to get breakfast. With Don leaving the group to head to his home in North Carolina, that left just 7 of us and 6 of us were down for breakfast in the hotel at 7am as usual, unable to sleep in. With Aaron joining us at the allotted time, we rode round to a local chain breakfast place and had brunch. Then we took a very scenic ride down by the river on a road that bore more than a passing resemblance to British B-roads, tight, bumpy and twisty, running through a forest. After 2.5hours of riding we finally stopped, only having covered 93 miles. We were then on slightly more open roads, but with the traffic a little heavier going was still slow. It was getting warmer and when we took a wrong turn and had to u-turn in a retail park’s car park I took the opportunity to stop and remove a layer. Whilst I’d seen which way the group went, when I set off again I’d lost sight of them, but as I had the coordinates of the hotel already programmed in my GPS I wasn’t worried and decided on my own route. I turned off the main highway to ride south through Lancaster (most of the place names in these parts of the US are the same as places in the UK) and into the countryside. With the traffic lighter and me on my own able to make more progress the riding was very enjoyable. The countryside resembled parts of rural France or Germany, with rolling hills and fields on either side of the road. The main difference were the Amish communities I passed through, with families out in horse-drawn carriages and children dressed up like something from a Dicken’s novel riding weird low-slung old-fashioned bicycles that looked like they had no tyres.

Eventually my route joined up with the I-95 Interstate into Baltimore, which was a busy multi-lane highway with traffic buzzing by at 65-70 mph on both sides. This made it interesting as I was still route-finding and trying to ensure I didn’t end up in the wrong lane and heading the wrong way. But there was no real problem and I found the turn-off that took me onto the road and straight through a rough-looking part of the city, then past a nice looking park with joggers and dog-walkers enjoying the sunshine and downtown to where there we road works and road closures. Some quick thinking enabled me to skirt this and arrive at the hotel quite quickly and without having to ride round the block a few times. I’d only just parked up and removed my helmet when who should arrive but Aaron with the rest of the group following behind! There was then some confusion with the valet parking guy, who first got Aaron and some of the group parked out front of the hotel, then he realized there wasn’t room for all of us so directed us to the parking garage around the back of the hotel. So three of us rode there and parked up, and sometime later Dean was told to move his bike (Aaron, Jeremy and Rom all avoided the staff so couldn’t be told to move theirs!).

Once we were all cleaned up we set off walking round the riverfront, which was beautiful as the sun was setting, to the Riptide restaurant. The whole of this area of Baltimore was full of life, with bars and restaurants everywhere and this being Friday night, everyone was out in their finest, except us, of course, as we’re still in our travelling clothes (albeit clean, for now!). At the restaurant we ordered crabs – a local speciality – and I was a little surprised when my cutlery turned out to be a small wooden hammer and a thin-bladed plastic knife. I was even more surprised when the waitress turned up with a large piece of brown paper and we had to take all our glasses and stuff off the table so she could lay it down like it was a posh tablecloth. All was revealed when the crabs came – all 10 of them – as they were unceremoniously dumped on the table in front of us. They were whole, cooked in a thick spicy breadcrumb like topping and the idea was for us to eat them with our hands, using the hammers to break the shells. Now there is a technique to eating crabs which Aaron demonstrated and I’ll record here should you ever be in the same situation. It goes like this:

  • Step 1: Remove the claws and their associated legs by snapping them off the body, set aside
  • Step 2: On the underside of the crab is a central bone than can be levered up, then pulled back and used to separate the shell from the body – this is best demonstrated rather than explained!
  • Step 3: Remove the legs and set aside
  • Step 4: Take the body and break in half
  • Step 5: Take each half of the body and split into two horizontally – this will reveal the meat where the legs attach. Eat this, it’s delicious!
  • Step 6: Take a claw and separate the moving jaw by pulling downwards – if done right, this will pull the meat from the claw out with it, consume this, it’s really good!
  • Step 7: Smash the claw shell with the hammer and then scoup out the meat with the plastic knife. Eat this too, it’s also really good.
  • Step 8: Break open the remaining leg segments and scoup or squeeze out the meat. Eat this too, it’s not as good as the rest, but still tasty!
  • Step 9: Throw all the remains in the bucket and grab another crab
  • Step 10: See Step 1.
  • Repeat until you’re full, there are no crabs left or your hands are so caked in goo that you can’t hold your beer glass. Go wash your hands. Wash down the crab with lots of beer.

It was great fun, too. When we left the restaurant it was still early so we went into another bar and had another beer, then most of the group went back to the hotel. Dean had bought a cheap harmonica so he could go and play with one of the buskers, so Grant and I accompanied him to see what would happen, only the busker had gone (I think the idea of Dean returning with a harmonica had frightened him away), so we started walking back to the hotel ourselves. Only to stop at another bar for a couple more beers and some late-night conversation. And late night it was, as we were shocked to discover it was 1:25am and we were still in the bar, so we drank up and then tried to pay, only for the bar’s tills to stop working. Which meant we were each given another beer on the house whilst waiting to pay. So it was gone 2am when I finally rolled into bed, being ever so quiet as to not wake Jeremy, who despite being the youngest of the group by nearly 20 years had wimped out and gone to bed earlier.

Day 14: Thursday 27th September – long rides, big pizzas

Now back in the US we have a long riding day to take us all the way to Pennsylvania, a distance of some 420 miles. Which meant an early pre-breakfast departure time of 6am, but despite last night’s beer drinking this wasn’t a problem and the group were in their usual high spirits. Dean’s dawn wake-up call of “Guess what we’re going to do today? Ride our motorcycles ALL DAY LONG!” resulting in a chorus of “SSHHHH!!!” as he was in danger of waking up the whole hotel. Not that the sound of 8 motorcycles starting up and riding off wouldn’t have done anyway!

A little further down the road we stopped off at Moody’s diner, another of the excellent family-run diners that the US is infamous for. On the menu was “Cheddar Wurst and Eggs” and intrigued I had to give them a try. Just as was the case with yesterday’s burger, I wish I hadn’t. The Cheddar Wurst was exactly what it sounds like – a wurst-style hot-dog sausage that oozed cheddar cheese when I cut into it. It looked like someone was squeezing a big sausage-shaped zit. But the eggs and home-made bread meant the rest of the meal was more palatable!

A long blast down the interstate saw us cover 330 miles before we arrived at Frank Pepe’s Pizza place in West Hartford, where Aaron had assured us we could get the best pizza in the US. He wasn’t wrong, the pizzas were excellent – huge great big slabs of pizza the size of a table-for-two cooked in massive wood-burning pizza stoves. We were joined for lunch by Aaron’s step-dad David and a friend of Dean’s (who’s name escapes me), and ordered 4 pizzas for the 10 of us but there were still plenty of slices left over for David to take home. I still ate way more than I should have done, though.

Following lunch was more dull uninteresting Interstate riding to Matamoras in Pennsylvania and the Best Western where we were staying. The best thing about this hotel was the guest laundry, where I was able to wash all my clothes properly (I’ve been washing my underwear and socks in the sink up until now). Still stuffed from lunch I went to the restaurant in the hotel with the others, skipped drinking anything but water and had a bowl of French onion soup for supper.

Day 13: Wednesday 26th September – leaving Nova Scotia

Today will see us leave Nova Scotia and head back to the US, but first a quick breakfast in the B&B, which has recently changed hands and now wasn’t that good. But with a bit of time before we leave to get the ferry, I had chance to call home and speak to Tracy, something that always makes the day start well. After that, there was a short ride to the ferry where we checked in and parked up to wait. After an hour or so the ferry was ready for boarding and we rode on-board then tied the bikes down before heading up to the lounge. I didn’t even notice when we left our moorings, so smooth was the ocean at this point. With 2.5 hours to kill, we went and got some lunch and I immediately regretted it, the burger and fries being worse than McDonald’s. Or Wendy’s. In fact, worse than just about any burger I’ve ever had. But despite there now being a little swell causing the ferry to rock back and forth, my sea-legs kept everything where it should be.

Once we arrived at the port of Saint John we debarked, and then rode for a while to the Canada/US border, where I was asked the usual questions before being admitted again. The rest of the journey to our hotel in the quaint town of Camden was uneventful and a tad dull, being mostly interstate/highway. But the motel in Camden was nice and a short walk took us back into town and to the Salty Dog Brewery, where we sampled a couple of the local brews and ate some more seafood. In this case some Bang-Bang Shrimp (prawns in a spicy batter) followed by a lobster roll (think lobster in a warm buttered hot-dog roll), which was better than it sounds. After dinner we stopped off at the Drouthy Bear pub, and English-style pub with yet more local brews to sample. Which of course we did, the old tradition of drinking a fair bit the night before a long ride still with me!

Day 12: Tuesday 25th September – Across Nova Scotia to Digby for some scallops

With the sun shining brightly in a cloudless sky we left the hotel and headed out of the city. The temperature was cold still, but once clear of the city the riding was beautiful as we took highway 333 down to the coast once more. The ocean was as calm as a mill-pond as we passed via several small fishing ports and on to Peggy’s Cove. Here we stopped in the visitor’s car park and wandered around, taking photos of the lighthouse on the rocks and then walking down towards the harbour. The whole of Peggy’s Cove is a conservation area and dotted about are old wooden buildings that have stood on this remote outcrop for generations. Aaron tells us that he’s never seen the ocean so calm and that normally the waves are crashing into the rocks obscuring the view with spray; today there’s barely a ripple on the ocean and the whole place is quiet and very peaceful. Until the coaches start to arrive and disgorge their contents of elderly tourists chattering towards the lighthouse.

After purchasing yet another fridge magnet we departed and rode further round the coast to Hubbards, where we stopped at the Trellis Café for breakfast. Another of those great, family-run cafés that we have used on the trip, with fresh home-made bread to go with the cooked breakfast of eggs, sausage and beans. Nicely set up for the day and with the route in my GPS, I opted to separate from the group for some “me-time” and so I could ride at my own (slow) pace. I initially led away from the group, but due to a small mistake in the route found myself doubling-back and rejoining the route behind them, hanging back to create space to ride in. The coast road was beautiful, passing a couple more fishing ports before it reached Bayswater where I stopped to look at the memorial to Swiss Air Flight 111. Just 8 miles off the coast is the place where the flight, from New York to Geneva came down, killing all 229 people on board. The remains were gathered by teams based in Peggy’s Cove and here in Bayswater and the recovered remains are interred here, with a large stone wall inscribed with their names. It was very moving, reading the names and seeing several members of the same family inscribed on the wall.

After a few moments of reflection I rejoined the road and now with a good gap to the group, who hadn’t stopped, I could ride at a very sedate pace without fear of holding anyone up. Riding alone and taking in the view was very relaxing. At Mahone Bay there was a scarecrow festival going on, with lots of scarecrows stood outside the businesses, shops and houses that lined the road through the town. Riding slowly I could admire the sense of pride in the local community as everyone seemed to have joined in and put a lot of effort into their own scarecrows. I saw the Addams Family, the 2 princesses and snowman from “Frozen” plus countless other film characters as we as other, more generic, scarecrows. I rode through town very slowly, but didn’t stop for photos, preferring to etch the images into my memory than my camera.

Further on up the coast the route had me taking the ferry at East LaHavre, and was showing an estimated arrival time of 7:10pm! I was expecting to get a ribbing from the group for taking so long, but then discovered the ferry wasn’t running due to repairs. By now I was convinced I’d got the wrong route, but didn’t worry as I was having a great day and the riding was enjoyable; besides, I knew where the hotel was and so would get there eventually. Deciding to follow the estuary road further inland before joining the main highway, I continued on, reveling in the sharp flowing corners and enjoying the stimulation of the sights of life going about its normal business as I passed by. A little further up the road I spotted a Shell garage and decided to stop for fuel and to double-check my route and there, parked up, were the group! Aaron had also encountered the non-working ferry and was busy replanning the route, using the same roads I’d decided upon!

Once again I dropped to the back of the group as we left the garage, then hung off the back as we took to highway 103, preferring to set my own pace again. After a while we took highway 8 inland, cutting across the island towards our overnight stop at Digby. Part way along this road we turned off onto a dirt road to McGowans Lake, where Kenny (the Nova Scotian who had joined us earlier in the trip) was stationed with his helicopter. Kenny flies for the government, dealing with incidents including forest fires and rescue operations. Parked up next to the lake was his helicopter and he was gracious in showing us round it and answering our questions. After a few photos we returned to highway 8 and continued on to Digby, arriving at our B&B (the aptly-named “Come From Away Inn”) by late afternoon.

After the customary shower and change of clothes we headed out for dinner, opting to eat at Fundy’s Restaurant, where we naturally chose the “world famous” Digby Scallops (but not before we’d shared a portion of Bang-Bang Shrimp). These were good, but not as good as the ones the previous night, as they were not in a sauce. After dinner we took a stroll through town, stopping at a couple of the souvenir shops, where I bought yet another fridge magnet – at this rate, I’m going to need to buy a second fridge just for these!

Day 11: Monday 24th September – to Halifax, N.S.

After 3 nights in the same location, this morning saw my travelling routine re-energised as I packed up and loaded the bike ready for departure. With breakfast to be taken en-route, we met up and checked out before leaving the eclectic grounds of Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort and it’s wonderful host, Paul, who came to see us off and wish us happy travels. Riding south again on the Cabot Trail via Baddeck and on west before heading north towards Margaree and the Dancing Goat café. This is another of those wonderful family-run cafés that Aaron has found and recommended for this trip, and it didn’t disappoint with a very good breakfast to set us up for the day. From here we rode to Margaree Forks where we turned south following the coast via Inverness and past the Glenora Distillery, both good examples of the many Scottish influences in this part of the world. The distillery is where Dean bought a couple of very small (250ml) bottles of their single malt whisky, which he filled himself from the cask and were individually numbered. He even had to sign his name in the book alongside the bottle numbers to record his ownership. The first of these bottles didn’t last long, as last night he poured some large measures for the group so he could share it with us all – it’s been that sort of trip. I didn’t have a glass myself, preferring to keep my alcohol intake down, but I did sample it and can report is was very good!

The coast ride didn’t disappoint either, with good views under a clear blue sky and despite the temperature being a little low it all made for a great morning’s ride. Just after we crossed the causeway back to mainland Nova Scotia we stopped for fuel and met up with Aaron, who had stayed behind to take an important business call. Reunited we continued on via Antigonish, where we turned to take the coast road down to Halifax.

Arriving in a big city was something of a shock to the system after being up in the wilds for so long, but the group managed the traffic and endless roadworks very well, arriving at our hotel on the waterfront without drama. Once checked in and with the bikes parked in the underground car park, I showered and then Jeremy and I went out to try and meet up with Vernon – another brit who had been on the Globebusters’ Colombia trip I led in 2015 and who just happened to be on holiday in town. We met him in the Warehouse, where we’d be eating that evening and it was good to catch up and talk about all the travelling he’s been doing since we last met.

Dinner that evening was a big affair, as we were joined by Ken and his wife, Scott (who we bet at the Boston Pizza place) and his wife and Shereef and his wife, making a total of 16 of us. Naturally we would feast once more on lobster, but not before sampling a starter of Digby scallops, which were truly delicious. The beer and conversation flowed, and it was another great evening.

Day 11: Sunday 23rd September – another day on the Cabot Trail

After the food excess of last night it was little surprise that I woke not in need of breakfast. But with clear blue skies the thought of departing early and having brunch instead appealed greatly. So I was first to leave the hotel, hitting the road at 7:50am with the temperate hovering around freezing and the bike’s dash flashing me the temperature in Fahrenheit to warn me of the possibility of ice. But crisp mornings like this show the  world at its best and this morning was no exception, with mist rising from the glass-calm waters of the inlets at the roadside as I rode through beams of pale orange sunshine between the trees on the other side of the road. I headed back the way we’d come yesterday, intending to ride the Cabot Trail in a clockwise direction. First thing I needed to attend to was fuel, so I went to the Esso garage in Baddeck that I’d passed yesterday, only it was closed. No problem, there was another petrol station in town on the GPS map, only that didn’t exist. Ok, time to get back on the main road, and there was a fully-functioning petrol station almost immediately. With a full tank of fuel I was now totally content, and that mood would remain with me the whole day.

I rode north west, over Hunters Mountain and via Middle River to Margaree Forks, where the Cabot Trail heads due north, joining the coast at Margaree Harbour. From here it hugs the coast for some distance, affording spectacular views of a deep azure-blue ocean dotted here and there with white horses as the waves gently make there was ashore. This was quite a contrast to yesterday when it was very windy and decidedly choppy. The ocean here is known for whales and there are many excursion options out to see them, but we don’t have time on this trip, which meant I kept scanning the ocean whilst riding just on the off-chance I got to see one. I didn’t, but the white horses kept me alert, as each time one appeared I’d be scanning looking for signs of the ocean giants.

Just before Pleasant Bay were the road-works and dirt section we’d ridden yesterday, only this time my confidence was higher and it didn’t pose even the slightest problem. I had planned to stop for brunch at the Rusty Anchor, where we stopped yesterday lunchtime, but it was closed, so I continued on. After a short while I reached a turn-off for the Beulach Ban falls, so took this and rode the short dirt-road to the trailhead, where a short walk took me to the falls. These were not very impressive, but as the sign close by had a poem to them, it would be churlish not to repeat it here.

The Return

In a world that’s always knowing
In a place that’s far away
A boy decided he was going
And left at break of day
He left behind huge cedar trees
He crossed the dusty fields
Made his way through city streets
Full of yells and screeching wheels
He walked on through the frozen land
And crossed the Miramichi
Right by the beaches of red sand
With scarcely a glance went he
Onto the mainland’s rocky shore
By the light of evening moon
He crossed the causeway’s stony core
Whislting a bagpipe tune
Through vale and forest he then strode
Crossed bridges all alone
Following John Cabot’s road
The hills would take him home
And finally he slowed and stopped
A tired, weary man
By where the highlands waters drop
At a place call Beulach Ban
From here I returned the main road and fueled up at Cape North, where I met up with Jeremy who was also riding alone, having his own adventures. We decided to ride up to the Bay of St Lawrence and on via the dirt road to Meat Cove together and this proved to be a really beautiful ride. On the dirt road we passed the rest of the group (minus Dean) heading the other way, and once at Meat Cove we stopped at the café for lunch – another excellent bowl of seafood chowder!

After returning to the main road we separated again, each of us happy to spend time alone exploring this beautiful island. I took the road to the port at Dingwall, then the little coast road to White Point, which proved to be a real highlight, with great riding and some wonderful little harbours, with brightly coloured fishing boats moored up, surrounded by hundreds of old lobster cages.

Eventually I returned to the main road once more and made my way to the place we’d had breakfast at yesterday, the Clucking Hen. When we were there, I’d spied the home-baked carrot cake and the thought of this had kept me determined to head here on the way back to the hotel! It proved to be just as delicious as I’d hoped, and with my hunger once again satiated, I completed the circuit back to the Cabot Shores Wilderness lodge and my cabin home-from-home. With a couple of hours free I was able to look at some of the photos and update this story, but can’t help feel that I can’t do days like today justice in words and pictures. Some days are days that really make me feel so very fortunate. This was one of those days – just spectacularly enjoyable!

And tonight, we’re heading out for more lobster!

Tonight wasn’t just lobster, though, it was also all-you-can-eat mussels (I ate a LOT!) and even a taste of snow-crab. And Lobster, of course. All delicious too!

View from the Cabot Trail On the Cabot Trail View from the Cabot Trail Beulach Ban Falls Lighthouse on the Cabot Trail First cake of the trip!

Day 10: Saturday 22nd September – On the Cabot Trail

A slightly later start of 8am saw us head out of the hotel to the bikes in thick mist and with the temperature barely above freezing. No time to linger as today we head to the main reason for this trip – the Cabot Trail – but more of that tomorrow. First, we have a full day riding across Nova Scotia, zig-zagging from the East coast to the West coast and back again, before crossing on to Cape Breton island at the northern end of Nova Scotia.

Despite the temperature, the riding was superb, winding roads and great views of the ocean. Before long the sun made an appearance and started to burn away the early morning mist, and whilst it remained chilly (never rising above about 15C) it was very pleasant. With Aaron leading the group of now 8 – Sharif had left is at Amherst yesterday to head home to Halifax, whereas Kenny left us after seeing us to the hotel in Truro – we had a leisurely ride, the pace settled and the riding easy. Lunch was a Big G’s restaurant in Guysborough, where me met up with another of Aaron’s Nova Scotian friends, Chad, who is joining us for a couple of days. After lunch we continued on our way, the riding getting ever more scenic the further north we headed, with great views of the ocean and the many fishing ports that dotted the coastline.

From Guysborough we headed north east on highway 4 to Sydney, where we took the scenic road across Boulardie island and then around the coast to pick up the start of the Cabot Trail as we turned off highway 312. From here it was a relatively short ride to our accommodation for the next 3 nights, the very quirky Cabot Shores Wilderness Park. This is more like a hippy commune than a traditional hotel, with various buildings, cabins and yurts scattered about a large compound bordering the ocean. After checking in we rode our bikes round to the cabin I’m sharing with Jeremy, which is just lovely, with it’s own kitchen/living area (I won’t be cooking, though!) and a bedroom and bathroom each.

Once showered we met up in the main building where we had some very nice “Kitchen Party Pale Ale” and dinner – a very nice dahl curry in my case. Then off to bed ready to spend the next two days riding the Cabot Trail – voted one of the top-5 motorcycling roads in North America. Can’t wait!

Day 10: Saturday 22nd September (175 miles)

So today is our first day riding the Cabot Trail, a 175-mile tarmac road route that loops round the northern shore of Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia. With a late departure from the hotel of 8:30am, and with a very short ride to breakfast at the Clucking Hen Café & Bakery, it was a very leisurely start to the day. The café served a great bowl of oatmeal/porridge which filled me up completely and then I left the group to ride alone for a change. Whilst riding in a group has a few advantages, mostly in the highways and when stopping, it does mean that I don’t get to ride with my own rhythm and that can be somewhat dull after a while. But that wasn’t the case now. With rain falling and the roads wet, I took it fairly steady as the road wound it’s way around the coast, with dramatic views of the Atlantic ocean to the right and tree-covered hills to the left. I stopped a for fuel and to take in the view a couple of times, but I still arrived at the designated lunch stop (the Rusty Anchor, approximately half-way round the trail) before 11:30am. I was joined by Ram, so we grabbed a hot chocolate and chatted whilst waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Eventually they did and somehow they ordered lunch, which I couldn’t contemplate after only eating breakfast a couple of hours previously. The menu did look very good though, and I had a taste of the Lobster Roll that Dean ordered (delicious), so perhaps tomorrow I should skip breakfast altogether and have lunch here!

On the way in to the Rusty Anchor we got talking to a guy who was sympathizing with us about the rain, and he mentioned a section of roadworks a little further up the trail, where the road had been stripped of tarmac and was basically just mud and gravel. With the rain still persisting, this could be quite a challenge on bikes fitted with road tyres. By the time I was ready to get on the trail again the rain had stopped and a weak sun was trying to sneak out from behind a blanket of thick grey clouds. The roadwork section was just as the road headed up the hillside, but it wasn’t a problem, despite memories of when I fell off in similar conditions in Colombia, injuring my shoulder. Once back on tarmac I upped the pace a little as the road flowed back down the hillside, with spectacular views of the ocean vying for my attention with the reducing-radius bends. A couple more stops to admire the view and I was down from the hills and riding through the picturesque, if bleak, village of Cheticamp with its painted wooden houses staring out over the bay, where fishing boats bobbed about on a choppy ocean. From here the road opened up a little more, the wind, which had been a constant challenge since we started the climb into the hills before lunch, now blustering with greater intensity, blowing the bike about as I tried to maintain a steady course.

At Margaree Forks, the road headed back inland to rejoin the 312 as it looped back and up towards Baddeck. Here I took a deviation to ride through the town in search of an ATM, and it was another pretty town with wooden buildings and an imposing church. Back on the main road I turned off onto the Cabot Trail using the same junction we’d used yesterday and after a little while, with the sun now out, I pulled over onto a patch of gravel overlooking the ocean. Here I took a pannier off so I had somewhere to sit and simply sat and watched the ocean for 20 minutes or so, enjoying the peace and quiet and nibbling a handful of trail mix. I like to do this when out riding, just pull over and enjoy the moment. At that point, there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be, just me, a bike, and a view.

Ram eventually arrived so my reverie was over, and I put the pannier back on the bike before heading off again. With just 20 minutes riding left before arriving back at the hotel, and the sun now out, I was tempted to continue on again, but the opportunity to get some washing done was too good to miss, so I returned to the cabin and attended to my chores. These included heading over to the main building, where there is wi-fi, and updating the blog from the last couple of days (and writing this). It’s so very peaceful here, and after a solid week’s riding, covering over 3,280 miles, it’s nice just to sit and relax… but tomorrow I’ll be ready to ride the Cabot Trail again and if the weather forecast is accurate, we may even get to do so in sunshine!

But first, it’s dinner time, and tonight we’re having fresh lobster!

Now I know that recently I’ve been trying to lose weight and get healthier, but there are nights when it is far more desirable to just enjoy the wonderful food available. Tonight was one of those nights. To start with, I had the seafood chowder. Now this is a personal favourite of mine ever since I had my first clam chowder in Boston back in ’96. But OH MY GOD! This one was so good that I interrupted my own conversation to savour the flavour. It may have only been a relatively small bowl (just as well as this was the first of three courses) but every morsel was delicious. Then came the treat we’d all been waiting for since we arrived in Nova Scotia – fresh lobster. This came on a large plate, separated into 5 parts – the head (which obviously you don’t eat!) reared up and staring to the sky as if in prayer, it’s mouth a weird smile made of a slice of lime. But ignoring that bit (or rather, putting it immediately into the trash-bowl) there were the 2 claws and the 2 halves of the tail, simply rammed full of delicious lobster meat. Now I’ve never had lobster like this before (just lobster tail with steak in a surf-and-turf, or the lobster-roll sandwich I sampled at lunchtime), but as with the chowder, this was another OH MY GOD! moment. It was exquisite. So much so that Aaron had ordered 8 lobsters between the 6 of us eating them, so I got an extra claw! After that, it seemed completely unnecessary to have a dessert, but there was a carmel (sic) cheesecake jar that screamed at me from the menu, so I had to have one. That was also delicious and sent me off to bed feeling both satisfied and decidedly guilty. I just hope I haven’t put back on all the weight I lost before coming out here. Maybe tomorrow I can be a little better behaved?

On the Cabot Trail On the Cabot Trail Relaxing with a beer at the end of the day Fresh Lobster for dinner

Day 9: On to the start of the Cabot Trail

A slightly later start of 8am saw us head out of the hotel to the bikes in thick mist and with the temperature barely above freezing. No time to linger as today we head to the main reason for this trip – the Cabot Trail – but more of that tomorrow. First, we have a full day riding across Nova Scotia, zig-zagging from the East coast to the West coast and back again, before crossing on to Cape Breton island at the northern end of Nova Scotia.

Despite the temperature, the riding was superb, winding roads and great views of the ocean. Before long the sun made an appearance and started to burn away the early morning mist, and whilst it remained chilly (never rising above about 15C) it was very pleasant. With Aaron leading the group of now 8 – Sharif had left is at Amherst yesterday to head home to Halifax, whereas Kenny left us after seeing us to the hotel in Truro – we had a leisurely ride, the pace settled and the riding easy. Lunch was a Big G’s restaurant in Guysborough, where me met up with another of Aaron’s Nova Scotian friends, Chad, who is joining us for a couple of days. After lunch we continued on our way, the riding getting ever more scenic the further north we headed, with great views of the ocean and the many fishing ports that dotted the coastline.

From Guysborough we headed north east on highway 4 to Sydney, where we took the scenic road across Boulardie island and then around the coast to pick up the start of the Cabot Trail as we turned off highway 312. From here it was a relatively short ride to our accommodation for the next 3 nights, the very quirky Cabot Shores Wilderness Park. This is more like a hippy commune than a traditional hotel, with various buildings, cabins and yurts scattered about a large compound bordering the ocean. After checking in we rode our bikes round to the cabin I’m sharing with Jeremy, which is just lovely, with it’s own kitchen/living area (I won’t be cooking, though!) and a bedroom and bathroom each.

Once showered we met up in the main building where we had some very nice “Kitchen Party Pale Ale” and dinner – a very nice dahl curry in my case. Then off to bed ready to spend the next two days riding the Cabot Trail – voted one of the top-5 motorcycling roads in North America. Can’t wait!

Day 8: To Truro, Nova Scotia

Another early start as we continue the ride North with the aim of covering 420 miles and getting into Nova Scotia later today. The weather was cold, overcast and with intermittent rain as we left our breakfast stop at a local McDonald’s (where I’m happy to report they do oatmeal/porridge and tea!). The roads wound there way to the Canadian border, nice, easy riding once more. The border crossing at Vanceboro/St Croix  was tiny but manned by a very efficient blonde female customs agent, who told me what I was doing – “you’re going to be in Canada for a week, riding round Nova Scotia, right?” and then stumped me by asking when I was last in Canada (I couldn’t remember, so said 2013, when in fact it was only a couple of years ago!). But that didn’t matter as I soon had my passport stamped and was waved into Canada with a smile.

From the border the road became less interesting as we heading up the highway via Fredericton and on highway 2 all the way to Nova Scotia. This section was cold, but after a brief fuel stop near Amherst we took the longer, more scenic route down to the coast and on to our overnight stop at Truro. By the time we arrived we were very cold indeed, and it took a good 10 minutes of standing under a hot shower to restore my body temperature to normal. It’s not that it was that cold outside, either, with the temperate around 10degrees C, but the humidity and wind-chill took their toll. That evening we headed out to a local Boston Pizza place for dinner, where we had some not-very-good beer and a nice chicken jambalaya.

Day 7: Wednesday 19th September : Littleton, NH to Milford, ME

Another day begins with me waking up well in advance of the alarm clock, but fortunately this time not 4 hours before, just the one… Still, that close to get-up time it’s hardly worth going back to sleep, so I got up and showered, then caught up with events at home whilst packing my bags and getting ready for the off. But today is a late start, with a meet in the hotel lobby at 8am, followed by a short walk to the “Topic of the town” café for breakfast. Which took a while, as this is an old-school “mom and pop” place, with a great, cheap, menu and home-cooked food. The “two eggs over easy on toast with sausage links and an English breakfast tea” was very good, although as is often the case in the US, I couldn’t get my order in without being asked a question (in this case, I asked for the sausage but forget to mention links as they also do patties!). It was therefore quite late by the time we got on the bikes and started rolling, but with only 259 miles to do today that wasn’t a problem.

The ride out of town was beautiful, the old white wooden church building resplendent in the weak sunshine from the overcast sky. Once clear of town we had a nice gentle winding ride on roads bordered by trees that changed from deep greens to bright orange and made our way up towards the mist-covered hillsides in the distance. Gradually we gained altitude and the temperature dropped from a reasonable high-60’s (Fahrenheit, I’ve still not fathomed out how to change the bike’s external temperature display to Celsius!), to mid-50’s. Enveloped by mist it looked like the ride up Mount Washington would be in poor visibility, but that didn’t prove to be the case. Once we’d paid at the entrance ($17 and I had to copper-up and use all my loose change or break another $100 bill) we started the ascent, up the steep, narrow and very twisty road that leads to the summit. With Aaron leading, and the pace set to ‘very slow’ to ensure we all made it, we rose up into the clouds and then after a short section of dirt road emerged into bright sunshine the other side, with the clouds below surrounding the mountain like a blanket of cotton wool. At the summit we parked the bikes and took lots of pictures then walked up the wooden staircase to the very summit where there is a gift shop (another fridge magnet!), a sign proclaiming this is the spot with the highest wind-speed ever recorded at a manned weather station – a staggering 213 miles per hour! – and a museum with the story of the weather station that’s been manned here since 1932. It must be very bleak, especially in Winter when the temperature drops well below freezing and the scientists have to venture out in 90mph winds to break the rim ice from their instruments with crow-bars!

After the obligatory group photo (which I’ll steal once it’s been posted to FaceBook) we got back on our bikes and headed back down, surrounded by fantastic views up until we descended into the clouds. Eventually we emerged below the clouds, now under an overcast sky and continued on our merry way riding in formation on roads that weaved gently through the trees interrupted only by the occasional town. The road signs provided some entertainment, particularly the one that read “Peru 5 Mexico 1” – at first I thought maybe this was a football score, then realized it was simply the distance to small towns with big names!

After a stop for fuel and to grab a snack for lunch, we continued on, the ride totally relaxed and the passing scenery sufficiently interesting to make the ride very enjoyable. The downside was that riding in a group meant that when we caught up with a slightly slower moving vehicle we ended up following it for mile after mile, the pace slower than ideal, interrupting the rhythm of the ride. A section of interstate for 70 miles just before the town of Milford and our motel for the night meant the ride didn’t end as well as it had begun, the monotony of the interstate dulling the senses sufficiently for me to notice the odd ache and pain from another long day in the saddle. But the motel is nice, next to the river and only a short 30-minute walk from the BoomHouse pub, which has a trivia quiz every Wednesday. This was planned, as last time Aaron led a group on this trip they came second in the quiz, and with Jeremy the current 3-time trivia quiz champion at home, and a team of 10 including an architect, a doctor and several other highly intelligent professionals (plus me!) we were in with a good chance of taking the top prize! Only that proved not to be the case at all, as the questions were ridiculously obscure (and very American-culture focused, ruling me out even more than usual!), meaning we actually finished joint last. Hey-ho, at least the local beer (Wolf Pup IPA) and the chicken salad were excellent!

The Thayer's Inn, est 1843Leaving LittletonLots of famous people have stayed here...At the bottom, before the climb up Mt WashingtonShould we really be riding up this road?Riding up the Mt Washington road Riding up the Mt Washington road   The view from the summit of Mt Washington, with the chain-driven train At the summit of Mt WashingtonAt the summit of Mt WashingtonMaking it look windy for the photo!Warning, extreme weather here!Riding down the Mt Washington road The glass says it all...