A BIG climbing day. This is the day that everyone dreads on the entire trip. Going around the end of Cape Breton on the Cabot Trail.
Oh yes - we had an amazing pot luck last night. Met a few people that I had met last year including Sheila. A wonderful lady who came over and reintroduced herself to me after dinner. The amount of food was insane and well - let's just say that we ate well. Our crew made a fabulous salad and the best part of all - the most amazing apple pie that was cooked in a fry pan over the propane stove. The crust got a bit burnt on one of them (Yes - they made two pies) so they didn't feel it was presentable to the pot luck. However that was our good fortune because then we got to eat it and we also ate the leftovers at breakfast. Pie for breakfast - YUM
So I got off to an early start this morning - I knew the day was going to be tough. This is my third time going around this part of the Cabot Trail. I know - don't ask why. But I am certain that I will take a break - NO Cabot Trail next year.
The first part was very cold. There was mist (not rain) and fog and the sun wasn't high enough to clear the trees so at one point - I had to add the sleeves to my rain vest and bolero. Yes - it was that cold. But the sky was clear and the winds were favourable. I knew it was going to be a glorious day.
I made it all the way to Cheticamp before I really took a break. That was almost 70 K. Stopped at Tim's to fuel up and then I was off. I did take a lot of pictures today. Even though I have seen this area a couple of times before - the beauty of it is so amazing that you can't help but have your breath taken away by the sheer beauty of it. Well 20 K past Cheticamp is the first BIG climb. Oh - let me rephrase that - 20K is the first MOUNTAIN. There are a few wicked hills to climb even before you get to French Mountain. And the worst part - every hill you climbed up - well then you had a beautiful descent which would take you right back to sea level. However I did enjoy the down hills.
I didn't remember the climb on French Mountain to be as long as I found it this year. There are a lot of switchbacks and every time I turned a corner expecting to see the top - NOPE - there was another switchback. But at last - there I was nearing the top. It really isn't that bad of a climb. Once I got to the top - there is some nice relatively flat terrain that you can just sail along. Seen lots of RVs and why someone would want to take their RV up on that trail is beyond me. Then it was time for the descent on McKenzie Mountain. Yes - McKenzie is actually a bit lower than French Mountain so you actually descend to get to that summit - at least if you go around the trail clockwise like we did.
Well I don't know why but the descents seemed to freak me out. Could have been because my brakes were squeaking very loudly all the way down. I asked Stuart about it at dinner and he said they just weren't seated properly when they were installed. They work just fine - just very LOUD. Everyone could hear me go down the mountain - no doubt about that. But there are a lot of switchbacks and the speed limit is 30K - oh yes - I was hard pressed to keep the bike at 30K.
At last - cleared the last switchback and threw caution to the wind and just raced down the hill. Right down the middle of the road - if there was traffic behind me - they were just going to have to wait. Didn't even check the speed - didn't want to know!!!! This is the sort of thing you don't tell your parents and certainly don't want to hear about it from your kids!
Stopped in Pleasant Bay for a quick bite - just a small salad. I find on climbing days - I can barely eat. Not sure why - I should be eating lots, but just can't stomach food or much of it. While I was in the restaurant, I saw Alec, Craig and Kirk pass me. Then I was out and had to wait over five minutes for the stupid bike computer to start up. Oh boy - that thing is driving me crazy!!!!!! Passed Kirk at the general store a few K down the road and then I was off to meet North Mountain. This one is the toughest of all the climbs on the Cabot Trail and I was not looking forward to the climb.
The first year (two years ago) when I did the climb - I know that we stopped at least once on the ascent. Last year with Neil - we did not stop and this year - well I didn't know what I was going to do. I started out and right away - it was hard. But only 8 percent or so, but that quickly became 12 percent which went up as high as 16 percent, but mostly 12 and 13 percent. My goal was to watch the speedometer. From the sign at the bottom of the mountain - it is about 4 K to the top. I was watching that thing like a hawk and inch by inch - I was crawling up the mountain. Keep in mind it was very HOT outside and with the effort - I was sweating from every pore on my body.
I reached the one K mark. OK - can I go on??? Yes - then 1.5K Crap - this is getting tough and I don't want to keep going. But I did. Then the 2 K mark. And I have to say that I almost whimped out at that point, but I found ONE MORE GEAR on the bike and kept going. At last I can see the final turn - oh but it isn't the final turn yet. But a jeep was coming down the hill and the driver said - YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!! And I did!!!!! I passed Craig who was walking his bike - he was almost at the top and Alec was waiting for him at the top. What a feeling - to reach the top!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!! I'm on top of the world!!!!!!! It is a very tough climb and I would say that 90 percent of that climb is mental. Yes it is physically tough, but the mental force needed to not stop when the going gets tough is much needed.
I did not remember the crazy descent off North Mountain. I thought that was the descent off Smokey which is tomorrow's mountain. Well - it is a pretty scary descent on a bike and my brakes squealed loudly the entire way down. I did pump them but every time I touched the back brake - SQUEAL. And towards the end when the switchbacks were gone - I just let loose. I know - let's not think about the consequences of going that fast on a bike. I was in the middle of the road and had my hands on the brakes - as if that would have done much!
I arrived in camp before 4 PM - which was pretty much what I had planned. I did stop to take lots of pictures and of course - the mountains did slow down the usual pace. According to some of the other's bike computers - we did about 2,400 meters of climbing!!!!!! That is a lot of climbing in one day.
Our team was on cook duty tonight and I had no idea when the others would arrive so after the tent was up and I had a shower - I got to work grating cheese and making the salad for dinner. The rest showed up not that far behind and we had tuna casserole for dinner. A LOT of tuna casserole, but I don't think anyone is going to go to bed hungry tonight.
After dishes got cleaned up - it was getting dark and lots of mosquitos so I am hunkered down in my tent to get this blog written. Now my routine is all off kilter - I hope I shall be able to function!!!!!
Oh yes - I forgot to mention the stupid dog early today. I am riding past some farm and this dog comes running out - well what to do???? The stupid dog tried to jump up and actually scratched my leg!!!!! I yelled at it and it went away, but still I was lucky it wasn't trying to bite me - that wouldn't have gone over too well. Not like the other day when I whacked my leg with my pedal and now I have a massive bruise on that shin. Ouch!!!!!!
And let's just say that if I didn't have colour before today - I have lots of colour now. Even though I put on lots of sun screen and more than once - I have very pronounced tan lines on my arms and my face is bright red!!!!
Tomorrow is a shorter day with only one climb. Yeah!!!!!!! But I had to laugh - almost everyone who came in said today was the MOST CHALLENGING day of the trip. Oh yes - those hills in BC are graded for transports - this road is NOT - although we did see a couple of big trucks on the road as they were hauling equipment up and at one point - we saw a boat!!!!! On a truck of course!!!!
Forgot to mention about a piece of crappy road yesterday. I saw a sign - a motorcycle with the bumpy road so you think that the road has been stripped parallel to the edge of the road. NOPE - this was WASH BOARD for about 30 feet. I hit that without realizing what it was and my god - I almost lost control of the bike. My eyes were bouncing around so much - I couldn't even see where I was going. It was a very dangerous piece of road. Guess I need to be prepared for bumps in both directions in future!!!!!
On that note - still having a great time. The trip is almost done!!!!!!
Have a great day!!!!!