Archive for the ‘Cycle Touring’ Category

We spent five nights at Annapolis Royale hoping to avoid cycling in the rain. Zander barely walks in the rain let alone cycle all day! We sat out horrendous rain storms, a thunderstorm, and long, slow drizzles! Finally, I could take the inactivity no more–and we cycled regardless. Turns out that day was overcast and cool, but rain began shortly after we got a room in Bridgetown.

Annapolis Royale is this small village at the mouth of the Annapolis River, and I stayed at the Dunromin Campground.Our first day in the area was filled with sun and warmth. I decided to stay one more day to do laundry and shop for food–and then the rains descended and Zander seemed “down”. He suddenly became very subdued, not interested in leaving the tent, ignored people, and uninterested in walks. Checked with the local vet, but all the vital signs–temperature, eating, drinking, and pooping were normal. So, staying a day or two to seemed like a wise choice. I was able to do lots of reading, writing in the journal, and meditating. Zander slept or snuggled close. Each day we went into town (about 2 kilometres away) for food, to check out another part of the town, or just see what was going on. It’s early in the season, so the town is almost empty during the week.

A couple of times we ate lunch in town. One of the things I have appreciated in many of these small tourist destinations are the number of restaurants that have gluten-free options and Zander can sit with me on the patios or decks. The German Bakery and Restaurant made the best macaroons I have ever had–they were a daily treat!

Annapolis Royale encompasses land that was highly fought over by the French and English and the history of mistreatment and expulsion of the Acadians. Fort St. Anne is the major historical park, which Zander enjoyed walking and rolling in the grass. It now has a number of beautiful old, Victorian bed and breakfast places, some interesting restaurants, and typical arts and antique tourist stores.

Annapolis Royale lies close to the Bay of Fundy and is highly affected by the tides. When they built one of the first wharfs, it was a long ramp out to the middle of the river to accommodate the various levels of the 29 foot tidal changes. The Bay of Fundy is shaped like a deep funnel with wave patterns that are highly resonant with both sun and moon tidal effects. So, within 24 hours, the tides rise and fall about a foot an hour. Near the village, a tidal power generating station takes advantage of this.

We also discovered the French Basin Wetlands–about 15 hectares of pond, bog, and wetlands that help purify the local water. It has a 1.2 kilometre trail which we explored, chased chipmunks, and watched the various waterfowl including Blue Herons and mallards. We saw cormorants (either the Great or Double-Crested) near the tidal power station–they were huge.

Zander seemed to perk up and Highway 201 through Annapolis Valley is known for little traffic==so Sunday we left. It had rained the night before, but was overcast but no rain during the morning. We headed up the valley toward Wolfville looking for a motel with a warm bed, hot shower, and dry surroundings. The first section had some pretty steep rolling hills. I am not sure whether it is the myasthenia or what, but my legs seemed strong with my lungs struggling. We walked a number of the steep hills, which Zander loves because he gets to sniff so many new smells. However, some of the downhills were great and we reached 41 kilometres per hour on one! We had lunch at a small, old barn where they gather apples during the harvest. Passed a small store with apple jam–self-serve, leave the money in the till! The road passes mostly small, moderate homes. A number of people stopped me to ask about Zander’s seat, talk out of curiosity, or just waved. Eventually, I had panoramas of the Annapolis River, fields of crops, huge family gardens, vineyards, and apple orchards.

Bridgetown came in two hours–so I am averaging about 12 kilometres an hour, which is about the same average of my B.C. trip. And that includes breaks and walking time for Zander. It is part of the average on regular roads–the downhills provide a higher speed that increases the average over time. We got here before the rains started again. We were able to buy some food at the grocery store–all the restaurants were closed–and settle in for the night. Zander slept snuggled close to me; I think constantly being stimulated by new smells exhausts him. Supposedly, the weather will clear tomorrow–even if it is just overcast.

I felt good and energized when we reached Bridgetown and thought I could go on for a couple of more hours. Clearly, Zander’s seat makes these types of hills much more difficult–if not impossible even at the lower gears. And he gets very antsy after a couple of hours–so it is not clear to me how we negotiate longer distances. He seems to enjoy many of the aspects of camping, is comfortable being left in the tent alone, and explores when he is put down to walk alongside the bike. But some down days seem necessary for him. The next couple of days will be short, but we will move from place to place each day.

These “little towns” or villages along the Annapolis Valley include one grocery, one Home Hardware, post office, community centre and/ore recreation facility, a handful of restaurants, and some tourist shops surrounded by homes. Bridgetown has its own varieties of older, Victorian-like homes with more moderate or one-story apartment complexes. It does have a golf course which created a fair amount of business before I arrived Sunday afternoon. But by late-afternoon Sunday, all food places but Tim Horton’s were closed.

We will push on toward Middleton and Greenwood on Monday looking for a pet store and some kibble for Zander. Hopefully, the sun will actually appear, although I see thunderstorms are predicted for Wednesday.


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2014-06-05 09.55.28

Zander & “The Dube” on the bridge before Martin’s River



We spent five days at Ray Port Campground at Martin’s River; it’s the closest campground to Mahone.  The weather was variable, and Zander does not do well with lots of rain. In addition, Mahone is a fairly busy tourist destination, and we took advantage of it to do some training with Zander.



The Black Fly Menace

It’s black fly season, and it’s not as bad on the coast as inland. Although Zander seems to have developed a tolerance for them, I certainly have substantial reactions to them. I had forgotten about how pesky black flies are, and how reactive I am. So, out came the bug spray and benadryl, plus diving into the tent often. Still several bites needed treatment with polysporin. Given the descriptions of the black flies in small communities along the route overland, a ride to Annapolis Royale seemed the wiser choice.

Fresh Organic Asparagus

Just down the road from the campground is a small organic farm and landscaping business. The two women who own it are in their sixties and seventies and had great stories about the 63-year-old German woman who slept on the floor of their shed and the three elderly women who decided to hitchhike Newfoundland together. From the story, the women paid for few meals and never  for lodging. My heroes!! The organic farmers grow asparagus, grapes, and other vegetables. They have chickens and guinea fowl plus small plants for gardens. The asparagus was just coming up, so we stopped to get a bunch. It had been picked an hour before we arrived–sweet enough to eat raw. What a great addition to dinner! And yes, freshly picked asparagus tastes incredibly different from even the produce at a farmers market.

Random Encounters

The five days were also a window into the culture and community of RV campgrounds. Many of the families and couples have had a spot at Ray Port for over 20 years. Some of the folks live within an hour from the campground. The classic low decks, decorated yards (even planted and mowed grass), pink flamingos, and festive lights. The popular string of lights was shotgun shells brought back from Alberta!

The first evening I was there, the husband of the couple next to me stepped through a rotten board on their deck. He is in late stages of cancer with substantial edema. Since I heard the commotion and panic in her voice, I went over to see if I could help. It was tricky getting his foot out and him back on his feet–although that was all I could do at the time. Well, that little offer made the rounds in the campground. People would stop and say: “You’re the woman from Edmonton?”

But it allowed me to hear stories and see how the community had grown over the years. It’s fascinating to see the interconnections in a province so small–and even throughout the Maritimes. So, the young man who drove me across the island used to spend time at Ray Port because his girlfriend’s family had a spot here. One of the guys is a retired, but working part-time, Mountie who everyone was worried about the day of the Moncton shootings. The son of the campground owner was one of the sound technicians for the memorial service.

2014-06-07 09.59.43We are some of the early risers in the campground, so Zander and I take long walks along the backroads to see some grand old and new houses and the shoreline. Not far from the campground was a small flock of mallards who seemed unperturbed by our passing. They were mostly males with about four females. By the end of the stay, the females seemed to have finally paired with a male leaving a group of lonely males.

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Dynamite Trail Map

We have been following the Rails-to -Trails rather than the highway for the most part. Each district is responsible for their section. We are now on the Dynamite Trail. Thanks to a woman in Chester, I take a photo of the trail map as you enter each section. There are no other maps for many of the sections–and sometimes not even a posted map. It is a basic map with little details such as distance or what roads lead to the towns nearby. The assumption over and over again is that “you will just know” because the locals do! As I now know, the beauty of traveling on the highway are the local food stands and services, while the trail gives a nice quiet, “wilderness” feel for the most part.

The section between Martin’s River and Mahone is fairly well-maintained and passes by a couple of substantial lakes and watershed areas. The lakes also include boggy areas, standing water for vegetation, and shaded areas–all great for hatching various types of insects. The warden at Graves Island Provincial Park told me that the bat population has been hit by a mite or parasite; so, they are also low on predators of black flies and mosquitoes.

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Turtles at Common Lake


We did stop at Common Lake to watch several turtles out sunning on a rock. And in numerous places during the drive to Annapolis Royale, there were signs to protect turtles.



Mahone is a popular destination for both local and non-local visitors: arts and crafts stores, harbour for water sports and sailing, old restored bed and breakfast spots, Saturday flea market, and easy access to other areas along Mahone Bay.

Zander and I did a day trip to Mader’s Cove which is a little further down than Mahone. It’s a road that stays close to the shoreline and winds through some elegant homes. Zander got his first opportunity to put his feet in the ocean. He is not impressed with how cold the water is or the movement of the waves. However, a man, his young son in a transformer costume, and two dogs were able to engage Zander in some play on the sand. The lab cross finally got Zander to play with him including running through some of the surf!

Zander is certainly getting better at waiting for me, but people who approach him quickly scare him. And his bark is obnoxious. I explain to people what is happening and carefully plan where to leave him and how to quickly get shopping done. However, there is less understanding from most of the shopkeepers, and some shops have few places to tie him up except at the front door. The need for image and higher end customers changes the relationship dramatically–even at the Information Centres.

However, Zander is gaining more and more confidence as he is being left. I find as many opportunities as possible to train him while people are walking by. He still gets nervous when I pack up, but I think it is taking less time to understand that once the tent is up–it’s home.

We were shuttled across the island on the 10th of June. The road didn’t look all that challenging, but the services were at least 40 kilometres apart. And I am not sure I could have out-pedaled the black flies. So, I think it was a good call for both of our sakes.

We barely got the tent up at the Dunromin Campground in Annapolis Royal before the rain began. We had a quick supper in between rains. Bugs are less here, because we are close to salt rather than fresh water. The winds also help and keep it a little cooler even with the sun shining. We had planned on leaving today, but Zander was quite subdued last night, and I awoke feeling uneasy. So, we discovered that we get a free night if we stay two more nights. The town has some great walking trails, a Rails-to-Trails system on this side of the island, and a vet. Rain is predicted tonight and tomorrow; since Zander doesn’t really like walking in the rain, I won’t make him travel through it at this point. And the longer I stay and meet people, the more I hear about how to travel well along the shore of the Bay of Fundy.


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Do not deprive me of my age. I have earned it. May Sarton

On Tuesday, I officially turned 65 and claimed all those Senior’s Discounts!! Some you can get as early as 50, but most all of them are now available to me! Graves Island has been the perfect place to celebrate this transition–beautiful surroundings, the ocean to contemplate the mysteries of life, and Zander completely happy wandering the trails and chasing small little critters.

It is my opinion that enjoying yourself in the present and loosening your definition of time slows the ageing process. Frederick Dodson

My favourite poet while studying and working in Japan was Basho who regularly walked throughout Japan to remind himself of the impermanence of life. His haiku was brilliant for capturing what could not be captured. I have a book about him on this trip, which is so fitting for moving toward accepting whatever has to be and letting go of what cannot be. Of enjoying transitions and impermanence. And of reminding myself that there is “no way” but only our own way as we move through life. Cousineau, in The Art of Pilgrimage, suggested that writing a poem a day solidifies the memories of the day. We have seen cold and windy days, trees and flowers bloom, the change in insect populations, the hint of fruits to come in the fall, and now rain and fog. So, with time to observe, write, and travel soulfully, here are some haiku from Graves Island June 2014:

ant runs across white page
no visible traces
saying everything

loons haunting call
traveling the Milky Way
Sliver of a new moon

Pink and White

tree uprooted in storm
trunk once cut
pink and white blossoms bloom






fiddleheads tightly coiled
into backbends of feathery ferns
open to the sky




The day itself was warm and sunny filled with chores (getting all my clothes cleaned and groceries), a fresh lobster sandwich and iced mocha coffee at the Kiwi Cafe while watching the filming of “Haven,” small conversations with people gardening in Chester, and a long walk with Zander. One of the wardens of the park, who has taken a shine to Zander and watched him while I take showers, brought me chocolate brownies as a surprise! The hospitality of Nova Scotia and its small towns has been amazing!

If every day is an Awakening, you will never grow old. You will keep growing. Gail Sheehy

Today (June 4) is cooler, but still warm, and alternates between foggy, misty, and rainy. It took me hours to get Zander out of the tent–the downside of me not enforcing walks in the rain at home! We finally did get out in a very light drizzle, and he loved all the smells! The bay is socked in with clouds! A great day to catch up on reading, writing, and contemplation. The new two-person tent is ideal and gives lots of space for Zander and I.

Self Portrait

With the end of the academic career appearing somewhere on the horizon, new projects emerging, and a deep feeling within me that something is brewing for the next chapter of my life, this trip is shaping up as time to ponder those currents. It comes as an interesting force — much like Goethe described duende: a dark and quivering companion to the muse and angel. The Spanish poet Lorca say it as a deep sadness and dark force that portend tenderness from brushes with mortality. This trip has been filled with interesting images of older houses and architecture in various stages of disintegration and renovation, bursts of regeneration, opportunities for accepting what is and letting go of what cannot be, and glimpses of the circle of life-death.

dark rain-streaked bark
leaves strung with droplets
world shrouded in fog

loons echoing
solitary sea gull soars
I alone planted on earth

Zander's Nemesis

Zander’s Nemesis


Tomorrow, we wander down toward Mahone and Lunenberg.We will miss the brave and pesky squirrel that keeps Zander alert. We will get a ride with Freewheeling to the west coast of Nova Scotia to the Annapolis Valley. It is too risky given the long distances, the uncertainties of the weight and my energy, and Zander’s unease with long days. More time to explore individual places along the way, seek out the “soul” of each area, and enjoy time with Zander.

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This is the true wine of astonishment. We are not over when we think we are. Alice Walker

This trip might have gone as planned if my legs were stronger, the dog carrier didn’t prevent recruiting the main glutes, Zander enjoyed long hours on the bicycle, and the iron infusion provided more strength and energy. These are not, what Zen Buddhist call, the “thusness” of this trip. Since it was about putting bicycle, Zander, and his human together, the plan had to change–and it did! Along the way, great gifts have appeared as we explore what can be or the thusness of a purple Surly bicycle, Zander, and his human.

We picked up the Rails to Trails segment in Timberlea thanks to Howie who lives in the house with the wishing well. As we were getting trailer and bike back together, it became apparent that the quick release for the trailer had lost a nut. Had it come off during a downhill, Zander and I could have been badly hurt!! But it did not, and I had a spare. So, off we went! This section is well-maintained by volunteers and meandered through residential areas, lakes, and small wilderness parks. Fiddleheads, perfect Christmas tree pines, and various types of spruces, fir, tamaracks, and a multitude of flowers in white, yellow, purple, and blues lined the trail. Since it is an old railroad, the grade was easy and a good way to become comfortable with bike, trailer, and Zander in his seat. Even with stopping every hour for treats, walks, and tricks, Zander grew tired of the cycling. The downside of the trail is none of the downhill runs that add speed and increase the overall average daily speed. It was a long day, and we stopped short of our intended destination.

Hubbard’s Beach Campground was the first and only campground in Hubbard. I thought the road would be DOWN to the beach–it was but not before it went up over a hill! I would learn that this may be the norm in Nova Scotia. It is a cross between a campground (mostly RVs) and residential RV and trailer park near a beach. The owner was very nice and allowed me to camp near the washrooms, which was helpful as I began to train Zander to wait in the campsite while I was away. The community itself is a mixture of retired couples and working families who just come from Halifax for weekends and summer holidays. I never did learn what “Duck Drop” event during summer was, however! We stayed an extra night, because Zander was more tired than I the next day.

Morning walks included seeing a Great Blue Heron, sea gulls, and learning that the Haven TV series was filming an episode in a house along the road. I would see notices for a “Haven Contest” in all the Hubbard stores! At night, we would hear loons, and a local woman told us we could see a huge loon in the bay–but we never caught sight of it. I wasn’t sure how I was going to shop for food–and then realised I could use it as training.

The cheese came out
Zander tied by the bike in the shade
Basket by the cashier–placed one or two items
Out to Zander. “Good Boy!” Several pieces of cheese as treats.
Repeat the process until done. Pay the Cashier.

Out to Zander. “Good Boy!” More pieces of cheese.
“Let’s go!”

We got a roast pork taco (corn masa soft taco) from St. Lawrence Restaurant. You would miss the place if you were driving too fast (and the speed limit is only 50 km at this point), because the sign is small and it’s on a side street. The place looks like a small house or store recently renovated for a small house-like kitchen. The owner-chef uses local meat, and the roasted pork taco (with rice and beans) was amazing.

Hubbard's Barn and "The Dube"--The little Fox horn is our mojo for the trip

Hubbard’s Barn and “The Dube”–The little Fox horn is our mojo for the trip

He sent us to “The Barn” where the Hubbard Farmer’s Market is held. They are also trying to expand it to a gathering place–horseshoe pitches, old-fashioned dump-truck toys and sandbox, and plenty of picnic tables and benches. We had a delightful lunch in the warm sun with the cool ocean breeze.

The trip to Graves Island Provincial Park was 22 kilometers. This section of trail is not nearly as well maintained and has a higher ATV usage. There are sections that are washboarded or simply loosely-laid gravel. I never thought I would be grateful for ATV use, but it was their tracks that had sometimes packed a trail through the gravel. For the parts of packed white sand-gravel, the dark pine, spruce and tamarack turned to lighter evergreen trees with some areas that looked cleared or blown down. Beautiful lakes along the way with a picnic table nicely placed at one. For the last several kilometres, I was simply focused on keeping the bike on the narrow trail in the rocks. We arrived at East River without mishap, and then cycled the highway for the first time. In parts, there was a narrow but adequate shoulder. However, here is where the small but steep hills kicked in. The placement of his seat between handlebar and my seat post prevents me from recruiting the main glute muscles or standing. So, even at my lowest gear, these hills can be a challenge to pedal. Some, I simply had to walk–especially when I got “chain suck” (the chain gets pulled into the gears the wrong way). Again, the mishap could have been disastrous, but I had slowed down, easily stopped, and figured out how to unstick it.

The paradox of Nova Scotia–one I both love and am frustrated with–is the lack of signage or local knowledge for these smaller parks. I had a general idea of how many kilometres, but many locals actually can’t give any definitive distances for local sites (hence the mis-directions in Bayers Lake). So, not yet a kilometre on the highway and a sign appears “Park.” Is this the park I want? Down the road to find out, “No, it isn’t.” But no one can tell me how far it is down the road. So, I return to Highway 3 and keep going. No signs. I wonder if I am on the right road. A gentleman taking out the trash appears, and I asked him. “Down the road about a kilometre. Up the hill.” At least I am on the right road. As I pedal way, he adds: “Oh, it’s two more hills.” Got it! At the top of the first hill, which is the biggest, a sign for the provincial park. The next hill is smaller and than a sign “Graves Island Road.” Is this the road to the park? So, I turn down this one. I stop a woman out for a vigorous walk to double check. “Of course it is!” she replied. I will later understand given the park is really used by mostly local people with few visitors beyond the Maritimes.

Entrance Sign to Park--1 km in from Highway 3

Entrance Sign to Park–1 km in from Highway 3

Graves Island Provincial Park is a true gem of a park. It is a drumlin formed by glaciers some 15,000 years ago connected by a causeway. It was developed by early German settlers for both homes and a camp for under-privileged children in the 1920s. The area became a park in 1971, and the daughter of the last owner (Noah Graves) watched the old house and camp dormitory burned down for park development in 1967. She wrote in a letter: “While watching the old house burning it seemed to me the fire itself was very much like life itself, burned for awhile, then a puff and its all over.” The top of the island is for RVs, and tent sites ring that area lower down. Added features are benches for watching the ocean under trees, picnic sites, a small beach, and areas to launch sea kayaks. On weekdays, it is almost like having the island to itself. Loons serenade us at evening, during the night, and early morning. The stars are amazing–the Milky Way is clearly seen late at night. I had forgotten how much light pollution we live with. Chester is an easy 4 kilometres away with grocery store and laundromat.

View of Graves Island Provincial Park Looking East

View of Graves Island Provincial Park Looking East

However, 22 kilometres was still long for Zander. The trip across the island to the West Shore has lots more challenges, longer distances, more and consistent hills, fewer campgrounds and services, and hotter temperatures. The less services, the less gluten-free food and the more issues for me! Met a woman from Chester on our early morning walk who suggested getting shuttled across the island–maybe by the Freewheeling guide group.

So, we are in the process of re-thinking the trip plan. I’m going to miss seeing some of that country by bicycle. On the other hand, the priority was nurturing a travel partner and that takes compromise and adjustment. And this jewel of a park is the perfect place to re-orient and enjoy a transition. Although Nikki Giovanni was talking about ageing, it applies here as well:

“Embrace the change no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new worlds your in and take advantage of it.”

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Walk upon waking–slow, smelling the happenings of last night
Breakfast, intensely watching the squirrel
Napping while owner eats, washes dishes
Walk to recycle centre and check out the garbage
Snooze while owner changes clothes, brushes teeth
Slow walk along trail, rolling in fishy stuff, rolling for glee, startling a squirrel
Checking for squirrel when returning to campsite
Owner and Zander nap
LUNCHTIME–Cheese for tricks and some peanut butter
Owner reads or writes in journal (BORING!); Watch people, dogs, and maybe a squirrel
“I LUV this tent cuz I can see out of it!”

2014-06-02 03.58.45

Watching for people, dogs, and SQUIRRELS.

ANOTHER WALK!!! YEAH!!! Roll in more fishy stuff! I smell real good now!!
Snooze on park office concrete floor while owner does email
Another nap and a massage from owner
Dinner time! Tip over food bowl just in case the squirrel likes kibble!
Watch for squirrel while owner eats, does dishes
Another walk!
Bed time. Owner checks all my black fly bites and another massage. I get to the sleeping bag first for prime position. Owner has to wiggle around for whatever is left over!!!

Zander Sleeping Bag

Tuckered Out

Karen: I am busy trying to to go with the flow–and finding some room in the sleeping bag!  Zander enjoys meeting people, settling into one place. He is now comfortable staying in the tent as I wash dishes, take a shower, etc. He is getting more at ease waiting whileI shop, but he still sits “at attention” eyes focused until I return. Long cycling days are a strain, but long downhill rides are fun for him! The trip is shaping up very differently than planned with unexpected gifts and surprises. More to come from Zander and me!

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I did not expect my 65th birthday to be anything other than an ordinary day in June. But over the last month or two, I have been startled by the random thoughts of aging, the reminders from Revenue Canada about health policy changes and “Old Age Pension,” and the need to make work decisions with consideration of a tentative retirement date (doctoral students take a commitment of 4-6 years). And, of course, decisions now have a kind of finality or lack of open options that decisions at 20 or 30 did not. I am also flooded with memories and realizations of what an incredible life I have already lived and a joy for the challenges to come and projects I have yet to finish.

So, what a great time to undertake a bicycle tour of Nova Scotia with Zander. I have always wanted to tour the Maritimes. The memories of my last bicycle trip consistently remind me of the generosity and abundance of life, that any hill or mountain can be traversed one step or pedal revolution at a time, and many more insights that seem particularly important to embody again.

Tonight is my last night in the Westin Hotel overlooking the Halifax harbor. Tomorrow, I unpack my bicycle and get everything packed. Zander and I will leave Halifax on Sunday heading south toward Peggy’s Cove. We will do a relatively short day getting used to the bicycle, trailer and roads. We are hoping for good weather–it has been variable and a little on the coolish side. It feels like another grant adventure….a pilgrimage into a new chapter of life!

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