The day started off moist. When I woke up, I spotted a couple of places where the tent fly was laying against the tent body, and it was wet. That seems like the first time that has happened with this tent, but Kay’s confident it has happened before. Either way, it might have something to do with my dog laying against the sides of the tent – I’m convinced that’s how the poles have acquired the slight bend they now sport. When we ventured out of the tent, it looked like we were in a cloud. Mist was everywhere – fog coming off the bay, I assumed. (We actually discovered later that there was a lake just up a bit from where we’d been camping, which might have helped to generate the mist… either way, the tent fly was soaked and nothing we could do was gonna dry it.)
‘dido decided to explore while we were packing up, and ended up getting absolutely covered in pine needles. At least he would smell good?
Good thing we bought that dog brush back in… wherever that was.
We packed up in reasonably good time, and decided to forego morning coffee since there was nowhere dry we could really enjoy it. It was my turn to ride the F650 today, so when I did my morning check, I noticed that the rear tire looked a bit low. I asked Kay to check it with the tire gauge while I finished a few packing tasks. He unscrewed the valve cover, and PSHHHHH! The core had gotten stuck open *again* and it was spewing air.
Something is screwed up in this tube – he tried to unscrew the valve core so we could check it or consider replacing it, but it got to a point where it wouldn’t unscrew anymore. I’d had this happen a few times at home, so I knew that if we just inflated it with air and then unscrewed the core quickly, it would pop out of the tube with the escaping air pressure. So out came the compressor, we got the tire inflated, removed the core, checked for obstructions (and couldn’t find any), put it back and re-inflated the tire. One of these days, I’ll get around to replacing the tube – but preferably not on a misty morning when everything is covered with moisture, and I haven’t had breakfast or coffee yet.
Finished loading up, and we decided to head toward Canso Causeway to cross over to Cape Breton and look for food along the way, instead of backtracking the 5km into the town we’d passed yesterday evening. Of course the GPS routed us in a way we didn’t spot anything until shortly after 10am, when we crossed the causeway and arrived in Port Hastings. Somewhere along the way, the rain had started in earnest, and we were both wet and looking forward to a sit-down breakfast indoors. I had Kay go into the Visitor’s Center just at the edge of the Causeway to ask for a recommendation, and they sent us down the road to Country Kitchen at the Hearth Stone Inn.
It fit the requirements – it was warm and indoors. I got an extra big breakfast, with the intent of taking some of the meats out to share with the dogs… and I just kept eating. I ate all three soupy sunny-side up eggs (I prefer them a little more set in the whites, personally, but I was too hungry to complain), and I ended up eating the uber-thick pancake (the worse I’ve had in Canada, but it wasn’t actually bad – I’ve just had some really good pancakes up here!) all of the home fries and even the wheat bread. And the meats. Poor dogs. We ordered a side of bacon to take out and share with them, since they’d been sitting cooped up in the sidecar with both sides rolled down to keep them dry.
By the time I’d finished cleaning my plate so thoroughly that you could barely tell it had held food (believe it or not, that’s atypical for me – as was the 3 cups of coffee I drank – Kay was all “Damn, what’s gotten into you, woman?”) and we’d fed the food to the dogs and geared up again in our damp motorcycle clothes, it was around 11am when we hit the road.
Today’s goal: find the Trans Canada Trail, an abandoned converted railway, just over the causeway in Port Hastings, and take it 92km up to Inverness. We’d miss a good portion of the Ceilidh Trail, which I was interested in, but it was one of the few requests Kay has made for this trip. In my opinion, a happy husband is a good husband, and he’s always doing stuff for me, so I wanted to make sure we hit this ride for him. Even though we had no idea what condition it would be in, but there was a good bet it would be sloppy, as it had been raining all morning.
We found the turnoff we’d marked on the GPS with only a little backtracking, and ended up cutting through some cottages to get to the trail, as I spotted a sign that said “Off Road Vehicles May Cross Through Cottages” in the first building. Right away, it was nicely graded red sand… which quickly became a rocky water crossing next to a big drainage pipe. Kay was leading the way on the Ural, and he powered through full steam ahead, so I had no excuse not to try. Got mostly through and was starting to come up the other side, when the F650 got stuck on a rock and I stalled it. But I didn’t drop it! Got it started again, gave it a lot of gas and powered it up the rocky bank – and a few dozen feet later it became the nicely graded red sand again. Looking back, Kay noticed a sign that said “Trail Section Closed” or something to that effect. Oops.
Soon enough, we encountered a little pulloff with some benches and a few informational signs. (Here in Canada, they call it an “Interpretive Center.”) It was the former site of the Troy railroad station, and it talked a bit about the railway and its history, and how it has been converted to the TCT now. It also had GPS coordinates for subsequent trailheads and stations. We decided “Screw the rain – this must be photo-documented” and pulled out the non-waterproof helmet camera and our ruggedized, waterproof tank bag cameras. And then we proceeded to ride along a lovely coastal section of the TCT.
The going was smooth. The red sand was nicely graded, with only a few ruts that had gotten filled with water by the rain – just enough to make a satisfying “SPLOOSH!” when we powered through them. The ocean beckoned off to our left, offering beautiful views that were definitely better for being seen from a track barely wide enough to accommodate the Ural, rather than the boring mundane old road.
The only annoyance was the Barricades at pretty much every road crossing and even some driveways. The barricades were designed to keep cars and other wide vehicles OFF the TCT, and unfortunately, some of them were very tight for the Ural. Every time we approached one, we had to slow down to practically a stop while Kay tried to maneuver the Ural through the widest opening. I’d watch from behind, and tell him if he could clear the right fender, as it’s difficult for the driver to see – particularly with the dog cover and luggage on the Ural. Happily, we could clear every one of them, although we did leave a little fender paint on one. Oh well.
Alas, the idyllic going was not to last. Now and again, the smooth-graded red sand would give way to a rockier section, with wheel ruts on either side and gravel collected in between, or sometimes even grass growing in the middle. This wasn’t so bad – at first. But when we’d encounter a deep rut and a puddle on one of these sections, I had no choice but to hit it with the F650 – crossing over the deeper gravel in the center between the ruts did not seem like a good idea. The few times I tried it, the bike went WAY squirrelly. I decided to just stick with the right wheel rut, as it seemed to have fewer potholes, and go with it.
Kay was getting wetter and wetter. At one point, he told me that whenever he went through a big puddle with the Ural, the water was flying all the way up to splatter his face – and he was standing most of the time. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d approached the puddle-filled ruts at a slower speed… but slow is boring. ADVENTURE!
Sadly, my “waterproof” boots were quickly becoming portable puddles. For a while, I’d pick up my boots whenever I crossed through a wet rut, and hold them as high as I could (about even with the BMW tank badge) but that took a lot of energy as the puddles became more frequent and deeper. Eventually, I gave up and left the boots on the pegs, and they got so wet that whenever we stopped and I stepped off the bike, I could feel a “squelch.”
Ick. If you’ve ever ridden with wet feet, you know how miserable it can get. But if you’ve ever ridden with boots filled with water – so much that you squish and you have to wring out your socks when you stop for the day – it’s a morale killer. I was still willing to keep going on this waterlogged route, but I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm.
Unfortunately for me, when we turned inland, conditions continued to deteriorate. There were fewer and fewer stretches with the nicely graded red sand, and more and more rocky sections with deep ruts. Eventually, we encountered a “Caution: Steep Hill” sign – and the hill was indeed steep, with the squiggly ruts that rain wears across a path. When you hit one of those ruts with a wheel, you’re pretty much stuck in it, or the bike goes all squirrelly trying to get out. And when the road is deeply rutted, with a tall berm of gravel in the middle and nowhere to go on the sides, you’re going to hit those rain squiggles.
So I tried to come at a steady speed and just let the wheel go where it wanted without fighting it. Alas, at the bottom of the steep hill there was a pretty deep puddle… and it was mud. And my Michelin Anakee 2 tires are fine for stuff like the red sand, but they’re not made for mud. So of course, when the bike hit the deep puddle and mud wallow, it started to go every which way. Again, I tried not to fight it and to keep the throttle steady, and miraculously just hanging on seemed to do the trick. The bike bucked this way, and then that, with the back wheel sliding out a bit… but then traction! Magic! Going up the other side of the steep hill was still harrowing, as there were large-ish rocks embedded in the dirt so it was pretty bumpy, and there were more of those snakey rain ruts – but I made it. But that particular spot took a lot out of me.
After that, and some more of the ruts with gravel in between, I started begging for the red sand to come back. “Oh, red, sand, why have you abandoned me? Come back!” And whenever it would reappear – which it inevitably did, I’m happy to say, I was all: “Red sand! My dear friend! Oh, how I love you, red sand!”
For the rest of the TCT, it was pretty much that. Red sand. Then a rocky, gravely section. Puddles. Potholes. Rinse. Repeat. By the time we’d hit around 70km (over 2 hours later) I had definitely lost enthusiasm. Even the red sand had gotten saturated by the water at this point, and everything was squirrelly. Solid road surfaces were just a fond memory. Kay offered to switch bikes with me, as the squirrelly wasn’t really a worry on the Ural – it’s not like it was going to slide out – but my pride had me determined to finish the stretch on the F650.
Happily, the final 20ish kilometers were pretty good again. There were a few sections of gravel and rocky potholes, but it was mostly the red sand, or a darker variant, which was fairly slippery in the wet at this point, but it wasn’t too bad if you didn’t make any sudden moves and kept the throttle steady. By this point, though, both Kay and I were soaked through – from the rain that had resumed and forced us to put the helmet camera way, and from the puddles-cum-water-crossings after it had rained all morning. Neither of us fancied the idea of setting up a wet tent and spending a damp night in it – particularly as the rain showed no signs of letting up.
When we reached Inverness, the pavement felt strange. It was very flat and boring, and so very… fixed in position. The bike was so solidly planted, I found the sensation odd. It was around 2:30 – it had taken us 3.5 hours to do 90ish kilometers, with a couple of stops along the way – and I had used up my energy. We were both wet and tired, but felt a sense of accomplishment for sticking with it the entire way. But with the rain, and how depleted we were feeling, we were ready to call it a day and splurge on a hotel instead of camping.
We stopped to get gas, and Kay took the doggies to a little park across the street for a quick walk while I consulted the guidebook he had gotten us at the Visitor’s Center in an attempt to find lodging. I quickly felt overwhelmed by the options, and daunted by trying to find something with a vacancy as we’d been having trouble in Halifax due to Labor Day weekend, so I routed us toward a random option about 30km down the road. I thought it was closer to other lodging, so we could try a few spots, but it turns out to be sort of off by itself at least 30km from other options. When we rolled up to the Duck Cove Inn, we were praying for a vacancy, even though it seemed very mediocre… it had a restaurant, and we could pull the bikes up right in front of the room, and it was threatening to rain again instead of the steady mist it had been doing for the past half hour. And to be fair, it has an incredible view.
Kay went in to check – and HUZZAH! They had a room! It was more than it should have been for what it is, but we were wet and a bit miserable, and didn’t want to drive 30km on the off-chance that the next place would be better, or would have a vacancy.
Into the room with the luggage (very filthy) and the doggies (very ready for a change after being cooped up in the sidecar with the sides rolled down to fend off the rain). Warm showers for all – amazing how different it feels to be wet when the water is warm and you’re not wearing motorcycle gear in it – and my socks got wrung out and the boots are now sitting on the floor with the fan blowing into them.
Alas, it was 3:30 when we arrived, and the restaurant didn’t start serving dinner until 5:30, but neither Kay nor I was willing to put on wet gear and go out in the rain (it started downpouring again shortly after we arrived) to go hunt down snacks. So we killed time until 5:30 offloading video and photos, and getting more and more sleepy – we were apparently more depleted than we realized.
When the appropriate time rolled around, we got up to head over to the dining room – and Kay let out a bit of a squeak accompanied by an “ouch!” Apparently sometime along the way he’s tweaked his back. So off I go to the dining room to order us takeout, which the lady was kind enough to put on a tray for us with cutlery and salt and pepper shakers and everything, and I took it back to the room so Kay wouldn’t have to venture out. Both of us are feeling more energetic after the meal, and I’ve loaded Kay up with Ibuprofen, but his back is still owie.
I’ve just gotta hope that a night on the hardest bed that either of us has ever encountered in a hotel will fix his back enough to ride the Cabot Trail tomorrow. Maybe I should grab our air mattresses from the bike…
(Also, keep your fingers crossed that our wet gear dries overnight. I hate putting on damp motorcycle clothes!)
Dachary’s FroggToggs failed her again. We are very dissapointed and don’t know what’s going on. Our old pairs worked so well for both of us. The Aerostich Roadcrafter held up quite well, for a while the worst I had was just a damp sensation, but after throwing enough buckets of water at it it eventually soaked through. The Ural seems specifically designed to deposit as much water as possible on the driver during river crossings. For a while we had the inside cover open on the sidecar and the dogs stayed relatively dry but Bandido’s butt got soaked because it was hanging out a bit.
Despite my getting soaked we’ve come to the conclusion that GoreTex Pro Shell is a spectacular thing. We much prefer FroggToggs (when they’re working) to GoreTex liners, but when you bond that stuff to a nice outer shell you’ve got something really great. Yeah, it has its limits, but behind me on the BMW Dachary’s top half was only mildly damp after being rained on and splashed all day. I’m convinced I was only soaked because of how aggressively I attacked the puddles and how much of the water comes splashing up on the driver when riding a Ural.