Friday, February 14, 2014

Halifax to North Sydney

I got up for breakfast feeling like I had not slept at all, in spite of the wonderful bed at the Chocolate Lake Best Western

A wonderful cup of coffee revived me nicely and after getting fuelled up I headed down to my packed bike. I was meeting some of the boys from CAV at a Timmy’s parking lot and they were going to escort me as far as Truro.

We rode through Stewiacke and into Mastodon Ridge via some beautiful secondary roads with lovely twists and the ever-incredible Nova Scotia scenery.

Mastodon Ridge is a park with a mini golf course, an art gallery at the edge of Stewiacke.
We stopped for fuel, coffee and hugs and pretty soon I was riding by myself. Jason Rourke of 2 CAV in Cape Breton was going to be meeting me at the Canso Causeway’s Big Irving gas stop to escort me to the Ferry.

On my way to hook up with Jason 
I decided to stop in Pictou and take in the Hector Heritage Quay Museum and to stop in at the world famous Grohmann Knives.

Known as the birthplace of New Scotland, Pictou is a pretty picturesque place whose roots go back to 1,773.

The first stop was Grohmann Knives. The German Czechoslovakian knife maker from Sudetenland who came to Pictou after the Second World War to help found Pictou Cutlery at the behest of the Nova Scotia Government was named Rudolph Grohmann.

I looked around the shop at all of the incredible examples of their workmanship and asked if there was a tour of the. Sadly there was no tour of the factory the day I stopped in, but I was able to get a lesson on the history of this company and the man who designed some of the world’s best knives.

One of Rudolph’s long-standing customers from Quebec had offered to help him get started in Canada if he ever decided to leave his homeland and when he decided to come to Canada he contacted the customer who introduced him to the people who eventually hired him. After the closing of the Pictou Cutlery, he went to work making cannon balls for the Korean War effort and aviation parts.

Frustrated, he built a workshop and began building and designing knives. The private secretary to then Prime Minister MacKenzie King, Deane H. Russell decided it was time Canada had knives made in Canada instead of only the imported variety and he and Rudolph came to work together to design truly Canadian knives. The DH Russel Belt Knife along with other designs won awards around he world and together they went on to design and create three more famous knives. The Trout and Bird, the Army and Survival. Grohmann Knives Limited was formed in 1961 and is still a family run company today.

I headed over to the Hector QuayHeritage village and marvelled at all of the Clan Tartans that I saw hung on the lampposts that line the street. It seemed that they did not repeat themselves but that post after post bore another tartan from another clan.

In 1773 a ship called the Hector landed in Brown’s Point with 189 Scotsmen from the Highlands.

It was the first of many sailings that created a massive immigration and earned Pictou the rightful name of the Birthplace of New Scotland.

The interpretation centre is filled with the artifacts and history of the proud highlanders that settled this region.

It is also home to a full sized replica of the Hector. There is a fully operational blacksmithing and carpenters shop on site too.

Sometimes timing is everything and for me, mine was off. The day I was at the museum, they were doing some work on the main mast of the ship and during the time I was there, they had temporarily halted the tours of the ship itself for safety reasons.

Still, I was able to see and learn a lot about my Scottish ancestors. Time was starting to close in on me and so I headed off wishing I had time to spend in Baddeck or to stop in for a visit at the Middle River Cabot Trail Motorcycle Retreat and visit Patrick and Angela.

I would have loved to tell them in person how sorry I am that they are closing. Apparently the government will not fix the Middle River West Road, which made CAA’s Worst Road list for Atlantic Canada.

Yes, I have to plan another trip to this province. I have been here three times now and haven’t seen one tenth of what I would like to.

I hooked up with fellow CAV member Jason at the Canso Causeway Irving, the weather had begun to turn a bit, it was becoming overcast so we high tailed it for the Ferry at Sydney. We rode pretty steady only stopping once for fuel.

We got in a little bit early and so we parked the bikes at Tim Horton’s so the gals from the Cape Breton Saddlebags would know I was around and we walked across the street to the A & K Lick-A-Chick for some of their amazing chicken.

We sat outside to eat and low and behold about 10 minutes after we were finished the gals started rolling in. We walked over to greet them and then some of the gang from the CVFR PEI showed up and before you knew it there were about 30 of us in the parking lot.

I got Rita out of her saddlebag and we took a ton of photos, we had some laughs and before you knew it I had to go. I needed to be at the ferry 2 hours before departure.
Jason and the Saddlebags rode me to the ferry and with a few waves and honks, they were gone and I was in a line of about a dozen bikes all waiting to take the ferry to Newfoundland and that my friends is where we will pick it up next week.

I want to thank the guys and dolls of 2 CAV, Sue Cole and Joe Gregoire and all of the people who did so much to make my time in their province as wonderful as it was.
Everyone truly understood that I wanted to ride like a local and experience and feel their province the way they do and man oh man did I ever experience the warmth, the hospitality and the amazing history and lands/seascapes.

All I could think of as I waited in line for that ferry was the song, Farwell to Nova Scotia and it played over and over and over in my head….

VIEW My Nova Scotia photo albums


The room was well appointed with a comfortable bed and I was eager to get out of my gear and into something more comfortable. I was truly looking forward to the morning. Some time to get caught up with tagging photos and videos, answering emails and getting some of the work I needed to do off my plate. I was also eager to go explore some of the Halifax waterfront to see what changes had taken place since I had visited last.

In the morning I was greeted with more glorious sunshine. I headed upstairs to the outdoor patio to have my breakfast and watch people swimming in the lake. I was having a hard time getting motivated to work but I did finally manage to roust myself from the deck and make my way back to the room. At around noon, Red and his lady showed up to take me to the water front.

I was grateful for them let me tell you! There are a number of one-way streets and a whole bunch of construction and I just know I would have spent a lot of time being lost and frustrated.

At about 1 pm we pulled into the waterfront parking area and said our goodbyes.
I grabbed my camera and headed off for a leisurely stroll.

The waterfront is beautifully done and it was filled with people from around the world based on the accents I was hearing.

I stopped and watched this young fellow break dancing for tips – he had drawn himself quite the crowd.

I had some of the best ice cream I have ever eaten at place called Sugah Confectionary & Ice Cream.

               My hand paddled ice cream cone filled with bits of butterscotch in hand I went over to the windows and watched chocolates being hand made. The lady I spoke to told me that all of the ingredients that can be, are sourced locally and that they make chocolates in very small batches. 

The place is packed to the rafters with all sorts of confections, all Nova Scotia inspired!

I also spent some time in a place called Rum Runners Rum Cake Factory.
Since I am a rum drinker, the name intrigued me so I had to check it out.

Rum Runners is a cake factory that makes the most incredible golden delicacies.
Rum Running was at one time an important, if illicit, trade in Nova Scotia. Out of Cape Breton came one of the most famous Rum Runners of the 20’s, a man named Gordon Stevens. His wife is responsible for the recipe that Rum Runners uses today, but back in the 20’s her recipe was a way to get rum to those suffering from prohibition and authorities that didn’t take kindly to rum being smuggled.

With pecans, coconut and a generous soaking in sweet rich rum, these golden confections are addictive!
I tried a sample and toyed with the idea of buying a cake to take to the room, but I still had a lot of exploring to do. I did however grab their card and am planning on buying a cake through their online store for the holidays!
I meandered along stopping frequently as all along the waterfront there are statues and monuments that speak of the history of Halifax, the harbor and her people. Everywhere you turn there are shops, restaurants and pubs and a variety of attractions to take in.

I had taken my sweet time walking around taking in the sights and sounds, and ended up missing the Maritime Museum but I did get to go to the Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour. 

Although beer is no longer brewed here, the tour provides one of the best history lessons  on Halifax and the man known as Alexander Keith, his contributions to the city and beer drinkers.

WHAT A HOOT! If you are ever in Halifax, this is a must do.
The actors in this place are some of the best I have seen.

They are so absorbed in their character and role that you really do get a feel of what it must have been like back in the day. I am not a beer drinker. 

I am actually allergic to beer – to be precise, the brewer’s yeast, so I have never really paid attention much to brewers and their history, so for me, this was the ultimate in history lessons.

Alexander Keith’s Brewery is in the same place now as it was back in the 1820’s. The man himself, a Scottish immigrant, was the Mayor of Halifax 3 times and was involved with council for 30 years not to mention being a director of the Bank of Nova Scotia. 

He was a Freemason who became the Grand Master for the Maritimes. He was powerful, influential and very charitable.

Now this man came to Canada at the age of 22 and was already a master brewer, a craft he learned in England at an uncle’s business. He started out his brewing career as the head brewer for Charles Boggs; he then became the business manager as well and eventually bought the brewery in 1820.

As the actors move you through the original building in to Keith’s Hall you are truly taken back to the early 1,820’s and until you are done sampling beer in the Stag’s Head Pub, you never feel like you slip back to the present.

The tour takes you through the history, the brewing process and even involves a little singing to go with the beer sampling.

I did try a wee bit of the beer. I tried the India Pale Ale. It was crisp and clean and very refreshing and I had to remind myself, only a little. In spite of that warning I did end up with a vicious headache, but nonetheless I did enjoy my little taste.

At the end of this delightful tour which is going to cost an adult around $19 to include the cost of the 2 beers, you end up in the gift shop and can purchase souvenirs etc. Or you can go finish whetting your appetite in the adjacent pub.

I left Alexander Keith’s and headed back to where I had parked the bike some 5 hours earlier. Of course, I got lost thanks to all of the construction. 

I had intended to go and see the Halifax Public Gardens, little did I know that they close down at sunset.

Hopelessly lost, I saw a rider and his wife in a pullout. 

After a few pleasantries I asked him if he was from the area and could he help me get back to the Chocolate Lake Best Western. He agreed to guide me and about an hour later I was back at my room and packing up to get ready to head out in the morning.

I had a heck of a time settling down in spite of the comfortable bed. I was going to be getting on a ferry tomorrow, heading to Newfoundland and I was as excited as a four year old who is heading to Disney World!

VIEW My Nova Scotia photo albums.

Yarmouth, Shelburne & Peggy's Cove

We saddled up and headed out from Yarmouth and the weather was picture perfect – it was another one of those days that every rider lives for, good company, sunshine and next to nothing for wind except the wind our machines create.

There was a toy run being held at Barrington and so we rode to the Tim Horton’s, which was the staging area for the local riders to gather. There had to be 70 bikes there all getting ready to ride out and meet the others who would be partaking that morning. It was fabulous to get the chance to meet so many that I have only, until now, known on the Internet.
Our little group was heading to Shelburne to take in some of the sights, we wished the Toy Run riders well and soon we were heading down some gorgeous highway through little places like Port Mouton and on into Shelburne.

Shelburne was amazing, utterly incredible and it is famous for a few reasons.

Number one, it was the 4th largest community in North America in 1783 and when 3,000 Empire Loyalists came to the region, the population swelled to over 10,000. Birchtown, not very far away became the first free Black settlement in Canada as a result of that immigration.

There is one other thing that Shelburne is famous for and that is being the set for the Scarlet Letter featuring Demi Moore and Robert Duvall. Because the filmmakers wanted the town to be exactly as it was in the 1,700’s, the movies producers paid to have the overhead power lines buried and left the rebuilt market square behind for the community and it’s visitors to enjoy.

With no overhead power lines, the views are unfettered and clean, making this, a photographer’s paradise.

The narrow little streets are reminiscent of the times when this place was built, and everyone is courteous and considerate of each other.

We took in the Shelburne County Museum, the JC Williams Dory Shop and the Ross-Thompson House and Store. The Dory shop is located on the waterfront and is the last of 7 shops of it’s kind to still stand. The dory is considered one of the most important of the small boats in Atlantic Canada and New England history and the JC Williams Dory Shop at it’s peak built 350 dory’s a year employing up to 7 craftsmen.
It was a trip to walk through the museum, see the tools of the day and see what the construction of a dory entailed. Dory making is still alive and well in Shelburne thanks to the craftsmanship of a gentleman named Milford Buchannan. He is a Master Dory Builder who possesses a Wooden Boat Building Certificate.
If you’d like a traditional Shelburne Dory – he’ll even build one for you!
The Shelburne County Museum is just across the road and offers a unique look into the history of ship building in the region along with many historical archives. The place is packed with amazing antiques that all play a role in telling about the history of the Loyalists of the American Revolution who settled here.

The Ross – George and Robert Ross, sons of a Scottish merchant, founded Ross - Thompson House and Store in 1784. 

They sold pine boards, cod and pickled herring in foreign ports and brought back salt, molasses and many other goods that were needed in the region. 

The store operated for over 100 years and closed for business in 1880. Today the store and house are an interactive museum with the staff dressed in the garb of the time. And the buildings have been restored to what they were in the 1820’s.

If walls could talk something tells me this building would have a lot to say. Every room is filled with goods, images and artifacts of what it was like to live in Shelburne during those times and the actors are superb at making you feel that you just stepped back in time.

The place is in magnificent shape as are all of the artifacts. 

I enjoyed my time in Shelburne and would love to go back to stay for a few days.

Our little group headed off for the meeting point with 2 CAV’s Battle of Atlantic Unit. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time jibber jabbering, as we had to get me to Halifax and the Chocolate Lake Best Western if I was going to be there on time for our ride to Peggy’s Cove.

I said my goodbyes to Joe and Doc and was left in the capable hands of Brenden – Big Mac and Chris – Red.

In all there were six bikes that headed for Mahone Bay.

We stopped in this gorgeous, gorgeous little community because I wanted to see the famous churches.

There are many things I would have loved to take in, in this most picturesque community, but alas, there was no time. I would have loved to see the DesBrisay Museum that had been founded in 1880. I would have also liked to take one of the 2 historical walking tours.

And I will, when I go back to Nova Scotia. I have to come back here; there is just no way around it. The riding is simply, absolutely stupendous. The people are so kind and warm, the food is fabulous and the scenery and history envelope you.

Pretty soon the group headed out, some of the group was going to have to leave us long the route to Chocolate Lake, other obligations had to be attended to and that would leave Brenden and Red to ride me into town.

I checked in at the Chocolate Lake Best Western, the staff in this place is something to be appreciated, efficient, friendly and fast. I appreciated the kick stand puck and wipe down cloth I was given at check in. (They came in handy more than once!)

Once my gear was unloaded and he knew I was taken care of, Brenden headed off to take care of a few things he had to do. He would not join us for the evening ride. Red and I went to a great fish and chip joint for a bit to eat and headed back to the hotel to meet up with those who were going to ride with us to Peggy’s Cove.

I had not been at Peggy’s Cove since 1986 when I had been to a Harley-Davidson Dealer’s Convention in Halifax and I was eager to go back. The place is glorious and I had heard that the ride in was spectacular.

Spectacular does not begin to cut it! There are no words to describe that ride or the views it takes you to.The visitor’s center was closed, but I still managed to learn a great deal about this place from Red who took the time to answer every one of my many questions.
The Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove in St. Margaret’s Bay was built in 1915 and it had a post office in it on the ground floor until 2009!

The Swiss Air 111 Memorial sites are located here in the community of St Margaret’s Bay, along with the communities of Bayswater and Whales Back.

There are not enough hours in the day to take in everything one would like to but I was grateful to have gotten to see and do as much as I had on this day.

We stayed until the sun went down and I got some of the most amazing sunset shots.

We rode back to my hotel and Red promised to stop in with his lady in the morning to escort me downtown to the Halifax waterfront so that I could go explore.