There are not many options for cyclists travelling from Halifax to Cape Breton Island. We studied our maps before and during our trip and had decided that the best way to go was Route 7 along the coast, and then turning inland for a mix of paved and dirt roads. It took us three days to reach the Island. The first of these three was spent getting out of Dartmouth in the rain. This was mostly done on busy parkway and highways, with one short spell on a rough rail trail that resulted in our first flat tire.We planned to ride one hundred miles, but the wind, water, and traffic ate away our ambition and at one o’clock in the afternoon, with only 36 miles under our wheels, we found ourselves dripping dirty water onto the lobby floor of Jeddore Lodge and Cabins. We booked ourselves a one room cabin, cranked up the heat, hung our wet clothes in every possible place, ate dinner in bed, and watched an X-men marathon.
The stormy weather cleared overnight and we hit the road dry and refreshed on June 10th. We followed route 7 along the coast until Sheet Harbour, where we turned north on route 374 and stopped at a Lochaber Mines Provincial Boat Launch for a meal, bike maintenance, and a good cool foot soak.
In the afternoon, we turned east on Cameron Settlement Road. This was clearly an active logging road, the type of which I had stated we would not ride on, but fortunately, it was a Saturday and there were no logging trucks about.
In fact, it seemed that we had these roads all to ourselves until, suddenly, several miles from anywhere, there were two older men sitting by the side of the road. They got up when they heard us coming, hoping, as it turned out, that we were a car. The two men had been fishing on a small lake off of a side road for four days. When they went to drive home, they found their car battery dead. With no cell phone signal and several hour’s walk to the nearest town road, they were feeling a bit down on their luck. Of course, we could do nothing for their car, but we chatted for a few minutes – swatting at a sudden abundance of black flies the whole time – and promised to try and send help as soon as we came across a vehicle. Then off we went down the road. Half an hour later, we came to a paved street, and were able to flag down the driver of an SUV. The couple in the car were on their way to a meeting in town, but they directed us to a white and red house just down the way, and told us that the man there knew all the trout fishing lakes and he would know where the stranded fellows were and be able to help them out. There are many places in the world where it would be difficult to convince a stranger to drive miles on a dirt road to possibly find other strangers and jump their car. But in this isolated section of Nova Scotia, we never doubted that the folks in this white and red house would help. And help they did. We knocked on the door, and a man answered right away. He invited us in without even knowing our business. We told him our story and he got out a detailed, annotated map of all the lakes in the area. His wife offered us cold drinks, and the fisherman showed us his fishing diary. He had caught 88 trout in May. Then he and his hound were off in their truck to find the two men and help them get home to their own families. We thanked him, and he said simply. “Well, you never know when it might be you that needs help out there.”