48 Hours

Coastal rid­ing in south­west­ern Nova Sco­tia

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Me­lanie Cham­bers

Coastal rid­ing in south­west­ern Nova Sco­tia

“T hat could have been bad, real bad,” says the cy­clist next to me. A gust of wind com­ing off the St. Mary’s Bay had just pushed my bike side­ways, al­most smash­ing me into him. I re­acted quickly, and now I’m steady. It was one of many close calls on my first gran fondo, in Baie Sainte-marie, N.S.

My face wrapped in a mask, my hands in win­ter gloves, it’s 10 C in Septem­ber. Lo­cals rat­tle cow bells and jump up and down with mo­ti­va­tional signs: “It’s just a hill. Now get over it.” Mar­itime hu­mour.

Head­ing back on the 67-km loop to­ward Church Point, where a steeple higher than the Statue of Lib­erty beck­ons rid­ers, as it does fish­er­men com­ing to shore. St. Mary’s Church is the largest wooden church in North Amer­ica.

In only the ride’s sec­ond year, with al­most 900 rid­ers (dou­ble the num­ber from its first year), the Baie Sainte-marie Gran Fondo is the largest bike event in Canada east of Que­bec. The race also of­fers a glimpse into the re­gion’s qual­ity road cy­cling and its in­trigu­ing his­tory.

“Here in Clare, we are blessed to have hun­dreds of miles of scenic, ac­ces­si­ble and safe road­ways for cy­cling,” says Larry Peach, tourism man­ager for the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Clare. For the 2017 event, or­ga­niz­ers are show­cas­ing more of those roads with a 161.5-km loop, the new su­per gran fondo, with 1,083 m of climb­ing. Rid­ers can also choose from 35-km, 67-km and 120-km rides.

Set near the south­west­ern shores of Nova Sco­tia, most of the road cy­cling in the re­gion lies in Aca­dian ter­ri­tory. The Aca­di­ans are those French colonists who re­mained in Nova Sco­tia fol­low­ing the Bri­tish mil­i­tary cam­paigns

against France. In 1755, as­sum­ing the Aca­di­ans were help­ing the French, the re­cently vic­to­ri­ous Bri­tish gov­ern­ment be­gan the Great Ex­pul­sion. Aca­di­ans were sent to other Bri­tish colonies, and later, to France it­self. Many died from cold, star­va­tion and dis­ease. Roughly 1,000 Aca­di­ans died en route back to France. Later, some re­turned to Nova Sco­tia. To­day, rid­ing through the his­tor­i­cal fish­ing vil­lages, many homes painted the colours of jelly beans have the French Aca­dian blue, white and red flag hang­ing from their front porches.

On a 74-km route start­ing in Bel­liveau Cove that shares roads with the fondo, I see white­caps smash and spray against the rock cliffs. It’s pos­si­ble to ride un­in­ter­rupted with few traf­fic lights or other bar­ri­ers all the way to Yar­mouth to the south. But with the plethora of nat­u­ral and his­tor­i­cal de­tours, it’s easy to take rest stops.

Con­tin­u­ing along High­way 1, dubbed the “long­est main street in Canada,” feel­ing the cool spray of salt wa­ter on my face, I’m re­minded of grow­ing up in Hal­i­fax. It’s only when you move in­land that you re­al­ize the sea’s im­pact. Cy­cling past the town of Meteghan, es­tab­lished in 1785, the red fish­ing sheds and wharves are re­minders of a sim­pler, and slower, time. If you ride to Smug­gler’s Cove, you should re­ally get off the bike. Dur­ing pro­hi­bi­tion in the ’ 20s, a nearby cave, only ac­ces­si­ble in low tide, was the perfect stash­ing spot for rum-run­ners tak­ing ship­ments to the U.S. To­day, when the tide is low, you can take the 80 steps down to walk the ocean floor.

Far­ther still along the route, Port Mait­land Beach is one of the long­est beaches in the prov­ince: when the tides go out, the 13-kilo­me­ter beach triples in size. At night, the star-stud­ded sky is leg­endary. The fi­nal stretch of the route leads to a Mar­itime gem: built on a rocky shore, the Cape Forchu light­house over­looks the Yar­mouth Har­bour.

A tour in­land feels com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the the coastal rides. The Yar­mouth County Rail Trail start­ing in Wey­mouth me­an­ders through farms, wood­lands, lake­sides and dense for­est for a 100-km loop on a multi-use gravel path. “It’s very iso­lated, so don’t ex­pect to bike up to a dough­nut shop,” says Daniel Thi­mot, an avid lo­cal rider. “It’s so close to undis­turbed na­ture – some­times you’ll see ea­gles, birds of ev­ery kind, and you’ll cer­tainly see rab­bits on ev­ery ride. You cross streams and rivers; you’re re­ally in the mid­dle of nowhere.”

But you can’t get far away from wa­ter in south­west­ern Nova Sco­tia. An­other pop­u­lar in­land loop, about 20 km, fol­lows the Meteghan River for a stretch along Placide Comeau Road, which runs past the Ban­gor sawmill (one of the last re­main­ing wa­ter-pow­ered sawmills in the prov­ince) and turns into a gravel path. About a kilo­me­tre past the mill is the St. Benoni wa­ter­fall. Pedal an­other

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