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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
“Wait!”
Basket by the cashier–placed one or two items
Out to Zander. “Good Boy!” Several pieces of cheese as treats.
“Wait!”
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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