Biking Across Canada Day 61 — Antigonish to North Sydney, NS: Fear is a Powerful Drug

I once had no fears, none at all, and then when I had some
To my surprise I grew to like both, scared or brave without them
The thrill of fear, thought I’d never admit it
The thrill of fear, now greatly enjoyed with courage
When I once was untouchable, innocence roared, still amazes
When I once was innocent, it’s still here but in different places
Fear is a powerful drug. Overcome it and you think that you can do anything.
Untouchable innocence. It’s still here but in different places

Björk, _Innocence_

Today I was a man with a mission in two or three editions, as Elvis Costello would say. My plans to take the long way across Newfoundland were in jeopardy, and I was determined to salvage them if I could. Just like when my wheel broke outside of Drumheller and I ended up breaking 200 kilometres for the first time, my broken wheel provoked a similar reaction today, prompting me to ride, ride, ride as long as the sun would let me. The fear of not achieving your goals can be harnessed in surprising ways.

Tearing down camp

Chapter One: We Didn’t Really Get Along

The bike shop didn’t open until 9:30, so I was able to sleep past sunrise. For the first time since those 4:30 am prairie sunrises I used my sleep mask to block out the sun. After packing up camp I got to the Highland Bike Shop a few minutes early, where the owner saw me outside and let me in right away. I was really impressed with the service there. Matthieu took his time truing my wheel, taking multiple passes to get the dishing dialled in to compensate for my off-centre dropouts. Matthieu biked across Canada himself in 2010, so we were able to have some good conversations about bicycle touring while he fixed my bike. Highly recommended. I stocked up on spare tubes, and got out of there in 45 minutes to hit the road.

First view of Cape Breton

After leaving the shop I was on the Trans Canada for quite a while, which was not great for cycling but at least it was direct, and I needed as much help as I could get today if I hoped to make it to the ferry terminal before it left just before midnight. I also didn’t want to do any more riding in the dark than I had to.

Chapter Two: I Think I Fell in Love with You

After a few hours of riding, and a quick stop for coffee I made it to the Canso Causeway, gateway to Cape Breton. After this the riding improved considerably. It was hilly but scenic, with far less traffic. Thanks to his noodly appendages, I was blessed with tailwinds today that let me travel higher than my typical average speed.

You Said You’d Stand by Me in the Middle of Chapter Three

I made it to Whycocomagh after a couple more hours of riding and stopped at Tim Hortons for more sustenance. My friend Evan who gave me the fun e-bike tour around Calgary on day 13 was visiting family in Cape Breton and spotted my bike outside. It was a brief but fun reunion, as I had to keep moving to make my goal tonight.

But You Were Up to Your Old Tricks in Chapters Four, Five and Six

Whycocomagh was just past halfway between Antigonish and North Sydney and I still had almost 4.5 hours before sunset. I was starting to feel confident enough to look at booking a ticket on the ferry. I was quickly punished for my hubris with a flat tire. Just like yesterday it manifested as a slow leak, and I was able to quickly tell it was due to a hole in the sidewall caused by my tire rubbing against they frame. I was out of spare tires at this point but have carried the same tire boot in my repair kit for probably 18 years. Now was finally the chance to use it! I didn’t even bother patching the tube. I just put in one of the new ones from Highland as I’ll have more time to fix it when I’m not racing against the setting of the sun. All-in-all I only lost about 25 minutes of sunlight to the flat.

I’m Giving You a Longing Look

After the flat tire it was mostly smooth sailing, with some steep hills thrown in. The scenery was even more beautiful here as I rode along Bras d’Or Lake and the ocean shores. 

The climb to the top of Kellys Mountain was a challenge, especially after a long day of riding, but I had some strong motivation to get me through.

I got to the ferry terminal about 25 minutes after sunset, with enough twilight that I didn’t need my bike lights to see (still wore them to be seen, of course). If I didn’t have that flat I would have made it before sunset.

As the only cyclist, I got to ride on with the motorcycles

Today’s Distance: 198 km

Cumulative Distance: 7554 km

John Kyle @JohnKyle