Ducati: Many Roads of Canada – The Cabot Trail

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Thwack!  Something hits me in the neck, hard.  Happens all the time riding, whatever it was probably just bounced off.  Three minutes later the rain starts, and I hunch my shoulders against the onslaught and “sting”.  Not just “sting”, the kind of sting that sends you careening to the shoulder.  The sort of sting that has you desperately stripping your clothes off at the road’s edge in a cold driving rain, just in case whatever stung you has the potency, ability and will to do it again.

Cars crawl by.  Some slowing to a near stop.  A half naked man shaking his jacket senseless on the edge of the road tends to do that.

I needed to stop and put on my raingear anyway.  After I disassemble the luggage looking for my antihistamine.

An inauspicious start?  Hell no.

Coming out of Cheticamp the Multistrada and I were “forced” to do repeated passes of the Cabot Trail’s vertiginous slalom for the sake of video.  I’m not sure that pass worked out quite right?  Maybe the camera wasn’t running?  Oh, the lens was a bit wet. Best do it again.  Oh, the angle was wrong?

Honestly, the things I do in the name of art.  Such was my suffering I almost failed to notice the scenery in the flurry of deep corners and hairpin twists that spirited us deeper into Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

With the shocking natural beauty of a complex coast, the road traces Cape Breton’s rugged coastline overlooking the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  Despite the name, the trail doesn’t follow John Cabot’s explorations.  Cabot landed in Atlantic Canada in 1497, most likely in Newfoundland.

Faced with the cliffs, the changes of elevation, the elaborate scrollwork of a coastline, Cabot’s voyages never involve almost mistakenly dragging a knee in textile gear.  Likely there was no in-helmet laughter or thanking the gods of silica for the Avon Storm’s tenacious grip even as the skies let loose and roads go from damp to wet.

The rain goes from hard to deluge.  An hour later on the far side of the park in Pleasant Bay, I’m sitting in as unmemorable a roadside café as you’d ever care to forget.  Nursing a tea and apple pie, what is memorable is the downpour watched through the window as it drowns the urge to ride.  I out linger a tour bus of retirees from Maine, before conceding myself to a solid soaking.

Reaching Neil’s Cove, my narcissism forces me to stop, and have a coffee and change gloves… there’s no hope for the rain soaked set despite a good wringing. By the time I reach Cape Smokey the roads are dry and a good thing too.

Smokey’s makes the ride out of Cheticamp look like a coy and playful warm up.  The descent is made more technically challenging by the dramatic grades.  Physics of bike, suspension and weight distribution aside, the hills are a mindbender and the corners a mix of adrenaline and lean angle enthusiasm.  Narrow, plunging, convoluted, sea crashing below and heroically scenic, on the East side of Cape Breton, the Cabot reaffirms that best motorcycling roads have doom on either side.

Oh look, there’s a scenic vista… Make that a passing blur.

Reputations can be deeply suspect.  Tourism jargon can trump reality.  Spin can overwhelm fact.  From a motorcycling perspective the Cabot is criticized for being a “short run”.  Perfect to take repeatedly until satisfaction is achieved and satisfaction is guaranteed.

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