Sunday, September 16

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia Bound!

A few weeks, back while staring at a world atlas, I saw how I could do the remaining Great Lakes in two, rather than three seasons. Simply do Lake Erie and Lake Ontario together. These are small enough lakes that together would make a nice trip of around 2500 miles. An atlas is like a dictionary. While searching for what you want, new and unexpected discoveries are often unearthed. That's how I first thought of a trip to Nova Scotia, specifically, Cape Breton Island, where I would ride Cabot Trail.

I could do the southern portions of Erie and Ontario, continue to Maine, take a ferry from there to Nova Scotia--or hook up with the Trans Canada Highway and enter by land, say, via Lake Ontario to Montreal to New Brunswick and south to Nova Scotia. On the return, I'd do the northern portions of the two lakes. A graduation I plan to attend in Vermont in August will be an extra leg to add. In VT, I'll make a major stop in Montpelier, where I hope to meet up with an old teacher. Then I'd trek down southwest to Middlebury for the graduation.

When I checked my most colorful and detailed atlas, I was hooked. I'm going to Cape Breton Island next season! It's amazing how when you start thinking of something, bits of information about that something start trickling in from seemingly everywhere. Soon after this, I ran across a DVD on motorcycling in Nova Scotia. A simple Google search put more information at my finger tips than I could absorb in several sittings. A visit to an online Nova Scotia travel site had tons of information, which I requested immediately.

Then, Friday I was thumbing through a newspaper and learned that Sept. 15-16 Chicago would host their annual Celtic Festival and along with the music, rugby, kilts, Guinness, fish and chips, there would be a Nova Scotia tent. Be still my heart! I thought I might pick up some travel brochures but I collected far more.

By the time I reached Randolph St., I could hear the signature bagpipes and my years of marching with a drum & bugle corps automatically made me step to the rhythm. I found the Nova Scotia booth easily and waited for the first layer of people to move away so I could inch my way forward. I waited on one side but it moved too slowly. I went around to the other side. The friendly ambassadors were enthusiastically giving away spongy red toy lobsters on a stick. At the same time, one could sign up for a prize that included a lobster dinner. I didn't.

Finally, I was able to move to the table, where much of it was covered by a beautiful laminated, highly detailed map of Nova Scotia. I want that map! I would occupy a special place right above my desk, to aid in "keeping my eyes on the prize." I studied the map, which I've now become familiar. I asked the woman about the ferry from Maine. It leaves from Bar Harbor, she told me. She gave me some info and we looked at the map together. I asked about travel alone in Nova Scotia. While she didn't anticipate any problems, she smartly shared a general caveat about safe travel anywhere--no place is 100% safe. However, she stressed that Nova Scotia is exceedingly safe and that I should not encounter problems. In fact, she said, the I will find the friendly citizens caring and helpful, people who will reach out and "probably just take you under their wings." Hearing this conveys great comfort. Her words confirm everything I've learned about the area. If people are half as welcoming as those I met between Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and Thunder Bay, a little bit of heaven awaits me in Nova Scotia.

When I told her I'd be traveling by motorcycle, I definitely saw a sparkle in her eyes. She told me that I'd love the beautiful roads. We chatted a little about the Cabot Trail, which she pointed out on the map. The best, freshest fish awaits me, I'm told. By then, my heart was pounding. I retrieved a travel book from the table that I wouldn't know until I arrived home was, "Motorcycle Tour Guide Nova Scotia"--how great is that?!

Before leaving, I left my name and email address with this amazingly helpful woman, whose name I stupidly did not get. She said she'd pass my info on to their "media" person who might be able to help me put together an "itinerary." I departed with a bag of goodies and a joyful heart.

Usually, I spend the winter months toying around with various trip ideas for the coming season. I'm still open to going to other places but Nova Scotia is calling me. I could do the two lakes as planned--but with a twist. The twist is: a side trip to Cape Breton Island. I did some preliminary mapping and a round trip will be well over 6,000 miles and possibly closer to 8,000 miles given the many legs I'll add to the trip.

My excitement overflows.
Let the planning begin!