Not being able to get the window closed last night led to a surprisingly chilly night. Kay and I hunkered down in the bed, under the blanket and comforter, under the down sleeping bag, and under a pile of dog. It’s a testament to the cold that the dogs stayed piled on the bed with us. My dog, Ben, generally won’t sleep on the bed at night; he’ll hang out when the lights are on, but once they go out, he moves to the floor – usually right next to the bed so he can still be close to us. But it was so cold in the room that he stayed on the bed last night, and none of us wanted to get up this morning.
Kay eventually ventured out to use the SMALLEST SHOWER EVER (seriously, smaller than even any campground shower I’ve ever used – when I raised my arms to wash my hair, I couldn’t do it without banging my elbows on the walls – Kay says it’s as small or smaller than the shower he used to have in an RV back in the day) and discovered that at least we have warm water. I ventured out shortly after, and once we were moving around, we had to force ourselves not to get back in the bed or we’d be trapped by the cocoon of warmth. (It’s worth noting that the dogs showed no inclination to get off the bed – they watched us from the warm pile until Kay finally took them out, and then leashed them to the Ural outside so we could pack up the sleeping bag without them getting on the bed again.)
Eventually, we were off, after a crappy toasted bagel and cream cheese “continental breakfast.” But it was a cheap hotel, so at least our expectations were low. The food matched.
Plan for today was to slowly wend our way out of Nova Scotia, hitting a few points we wanted to see along the north shore. We ended up on the Sunrise Trail – so we’ve driven pretty much every “scenic route” trail on Nova Scotia. It was nice riding – much nicer than yesterday’s “Bras D’or Lakes” scenic route, which turned out to have very little in the way of views.
Around lunchtime, we hit a town that had a knife shop we had been pondering checking out: Grohmann Knives. Apparently they sell handmade knives, including the Russell Belt Knife, and we both love our Leatherman/Swiss Army Knife type things, so we thought we’d check it out. It was pretty much what you’d expect. The craftsmanship was impressive, but we didn’t actually need a knife, so we didn’t buy anything.
I read in one of my guidebooks that we happened to be in the same town as Mrs. MacGregor’s Tea Room, which the book claimed had sticky toffee pudding to die for. One of our friends makes great sticky toffee pudding, but we don’t get it very often as it’s mostly a holiday thing, so I decided we should stop and try it. After all – we’re on vacation!
Wandered over to Mrs. MacGregors, where we discovered that they no longer served food food – just desserts and shortbreads and things. But the helpful gent there (Mr. MacGregor, I think) referred us to the Stone Soup Cafe around the corner for lunch. Kay moved the bikes so we could keep an eye on the dogs, and we had a very tasty lunch of sandwiches and soup of the day, and a nice chat with some ladies who were also having lunch there.
Afterward, I went back to Mrs. MacGregors to get a sticky toffee pudding to go, which I intended to enjoy with Kay back at the bikes with the dogs. I also snagged some of the famous “Scottish shortbread” (in the chocolate and original recipe variants) and they turned out to be super delicious! Yay!
Back at the bikes, I discovered Kay pouring water all over a very bedraggled-looking ‘dido. Turns out, he’d walked the dogs while I was off acquiring sticky toffee pudding for us, and ‘dido had found the most disgusting pile of stinky runny dog poo and started rolling in it! YUCK! Kay had been attacking him with baby wipes (essential for hygiene in a tenting life) and water, and I reminded him that we have liquid dish soap in the kitchen bag. Dish soap was added to the mix, making ‘dido thoroughly damp and hopefully clean enough to live with in a tent.
Ahh, the dangers of traveling with dogs.
In the meantime, I enjoyed the sticky toffee pudding (yes, it was delicious, but our friend back in Boston makes it better!) and shared a little bit with Kay between him rubbing soap and baby wipes all over the poor dog. As it happened on his watch, I felt only fair he clean up the damage. Besides, my sticky toffee pudding was getting cold and the ice cream was starting to melt!
Back on the road after this surprisingly eventful stop, and I steered us to the next point of interest on my map: Train Station Inn in Tatamagouche. They had converted a bunch of railroad cars to themed rooms where you could spend the night, and they had a dining car that served lunch and dinner. It was too late for lunch, too early for dinner, and way too early to stop for the day, so we wouldn’t be buying anything here – but it was a curiosity worth checking out. I found it really cool.
Next stop on our Sunrise Trail tour: Jost Vineyards in Malagash! We’d been seeing stuff about Jost all over Nova Scotia (pronounced yoast, like toast) and they offered free winery tours – I had been wanting to check out one of the Nova Scotia wineries, and we were 45 minutes before the tour started, so this was it! The Ural was running poorly again, so we took the opportunity to pull the air filter and swap it for our spare. I theorized that after all the rain we’d been riding in, plus the mud and wet when we did the TCT, it might just be a wet or clogged air filter and not breathing properly. It’s easy enough to swap – just 20 mins of work or so since we have to pull the air filter housing out to do it, as the K&N air filter is a smidge too tall to fit in with the air filter box installed under the seat. (I insisted we’d have to pull the housing off entirely, Kay thought we could do it with the housing installed… we tried it his way first but I was right.)
Then off to our winery tour… which was very short and not at all what I was hoping for. You walked out to the field adjacent to the parking lot, got a glass of wine, heard a (very) little about how they maintain the grapes and how their growing and harvesting works, then you go into a 3,000-liter wine cask in the parking lot (which is admittedly pretty cool) and hear a bit more about the wine-making process at Jost… but it’s really just an extended ad for Jost. Which is fine, but if they’re calling it a “tour” – I expect to see a bit more than 10 feet and hear a bit more about wine making in general.
After the “tour” – we headed to the tasting bar and sampled a few things. We actually found a white wine that Kay really liked, which is surprising because he’s only just beginning to appreciate wine in general and typically isn’t a fan of most whites, so we bought a couple of bottles and snugged them in a fuzzy blanket in the trunk of the Ural, hoping they’d survive the trip home intact.
Then we got the dogs out of the sidecar again, hung out in the grass for a while, chatted with a gent who knew a fair amount about Urals from his life in Europe, and buttoned things up after our impromptu air filter change. We don’t drink and drive – not even a single beer at lunch or dinner when we’ll be riding afterward – so we stayed a good long while to make sure that the tiny sips of wine we’d sampled would not impact our riding.
Back on the Sunrise Trail again, and that was my last point of interest for Nova Scotia. It was off to New Brunswick. Due to the time we’d spent at the winery, as well as our other impromptu stops for the day, we only got as far as Moncton before it was time to call it a day. Moncton is a bit of a no-mans-land for camping as far as my GPS and guidebooks are concerned. The only camping I knew about was an hour back in the direction we’d just traveled, or an hour and a half forward. We needed dinner and it would have been dark before we stopped, so we opted to stay in a hotel YET AGAIN in Moncton.
Did the standard run around and check prices – we started with Holiday Inn, where Kay convinced me to go in and do the talking since I had more Canadian cash left (typically he handles the lodging booking) but the price seemed high. I came out to check with Kay, and we decided to try a few different spots. We checked at a place across the street that looked nice, but they didn’t have any pet-friendly rooms. (We also encountered the European guy we’d chatted with at the winery at this hotel – apparently Moncton is a place to stay when leaving NS!)
Comfort Inn was across the street, and although we both were tired of their lame continental breakfasts and uncomfortable beds and pillows, we decided it was probably better than Super 8 and opted to give it a try. I wasn’t sure about the place – it was under renovation and the lobby was closed, and instead they had the office in a hotel room with a door that opened to the outside. But as we were starting to pull out again without checking with the office, someone opened a curtain to a room right in front of us – the room actually looked good, so I went in and listened as the couple in front of me chatted with the receptionist. It turned out that they were renovating the entire hotel, and had finished all the guest rooms and were just now wrapping up the lobby and breakfast room. So we ended up getting a newly-renovated room, on the ground floor, where could walk in through a sliding glass door with the dogs and the MC luggage – and it was nice! The bed and pillows were comfortable, it didn’t smell like smoke – it was one of the better hotel experiences we’ve had on the trip, and it was $50 cheaper than the Holiday Inn next door. Score!
Dinner was delivery – again. Neither of us felt like gearing up and going out again to find food after we’d settled in, and nothing was really in walking distance. I saw “donair” on the menu, and decided this was the last time I’d get to eat it and I really enjoyed the donair poutine I had in Dartmouth, so I got it. Turns out, this one had a weird flavor and I decided after eating a quarter of it that it was inedible. Bummer. I filled up on leftover potato chips and beef jerky from our various snack stops during the day, and garlic sticks from the delivery place. One of the most disappointing dinners of the trip, but the day was actually pretty good with all of our stops, so I’d call it a win overall!