From Pleasant Bay I got to Cheticamp, famous for its history of rug-making, and the heart of Acadian Nova Scotia. To read more about Cajuns, Acadians, the southern US, and what it has to do with Colonial Canada, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acadians.
This place is gorgeous and would make a damn good drive. Everyone speaks french, a strange, curling kind of french, the Newfy version of Canada’s francophone percentage.
Every house has the Acadian star above its door, like a Canadian version of the Confederate Banner, and the crab-traps that stand in stacks like everywhere else in NS are painted red white and blue.
Outside Cheticamp there’s a scarecrow village overseen by a local named Joe Delaney. In a massive central circle hemmed in by smatterings of small gatherings and even a few solo’s, nameless effigies in costume jump in beside presidents and royal family members and other celebrities, to a total number exceeding a century.
A character or two were originally installed to protect some veggies doing their best to grow up and be eaten, but as usually happens when a species gets together, the scarecrows eventually multiplied.
Inverness, famous for folk music, was a disappointment, only because of the ranting and raving I’d come to expect about it. To the ears of a cyclist three days away but fast approaching, Inverness had taken on the mental image of a Mecca where I would stay for a few hours and drink at the bar with fishermen. Not so much. Just like any other town, beautiful in its normality, but sparse. I ate lunch at an abandoned gas station on the outskirts and then went on biking all the way through Mabou where the entire town had gathered in a local watering hole, kids included, and a band was making it happen big time on bar-worthy strings: Tunes from instruments that had been learned on by the same Old Boys 30 years before I was even born, and knew their maritime gusto well-enough by now that they practically played themselves.
Must be honest though, I was desperate to get out of Cape Breton. The Canso causeway, the link to mainland NS, was looming in my mind and it was hard to break the temptation about making a record-ride and hitting Antigonish in the morning.
Unfortunately I’m like the rest of the mortals and right outside of New Port Hood I ended up in a wild-growing field, the bike hidden under bushes and me in my green bivy, snuggled in the damp sleeping bag in the soaking grass, the occasional car headlights washing me and then vanishing again.
At 0500 it started to rain and by 0900 I’d reached Port Hastings and the causeway. I’d woken up in typical fashion, because the drops were hitting my face and crawling down my T-shirt into the bag. Its amazing what a rainy day does: What takes you twenty minutes to pack and get ready on a yummy warm Sunday morning takes 2.4 seconds in the dark, weeping dawn of a coastal storm.
The causeway was interesting enough [Canso is from the Mi'kmak word Kamsook which refers to a 'location opposite lofty cliffs' ]. The last time I went over it I didn’t even see it in the pitch dark, the lights inside the bus making mirrors of the dark windows. The thoroughfare is comprised of a swing bridge to allow the passage of large ships, and leads onto the long wall of rock on which the road is built. The artificial barrier is there to block sea-ice from entering the straight which allows for a large year-round sheltered harbor. A freighter lay at anchor just inside.
On the mainland, getting out of my rain jacket, I took breakfast at a Husky and took a serious chunk out of War And Peace, seriously ready to hang out and eat gas-station food for as long as it took.
Eventually the rain stopped as it always does, and Antigonish was only forty K out [two hours].
That night was spent in a dorm at St. Francis Xavier. It’s an old one and the mahogany made me think of Hogwarts [no I'm not a fan, no I'm not fan, please don't think I'm a fan, but I have seen the movies – because of girlfriends – and I couldn't help but be reminded].
It was also steep – but forty bucks but when you arrive soaked is something you’d skip the insects for and burn under a magnifying glass.
In a McDonald’s I met a fat, adventurous couple from Powell River who’d driven out here in a van that was ready to blow out and settle for its axles. They’d been everywhere, and by everywhere I mean everywhere, you get the picture, and we talked and talked till my computer battery died and the McFlurry was a sad sticky pool at the bottom of the soft paper cup.