Nova Scotia is built for motorcycle touring. I’m sure of it, provided you hit the right speed to skim over the roads of the Sunrise Trail, which run from smooth to brutally potholed. They are gently winding and combined with late fall light and a warm day the ride makes for motorcycling satisfaction. If the Multistrada didn’t have a date with a technician for an oil change and fresh tire in Moncton, NB, I’d be out on the Cabot Trail for a second round. Instead, I wind my way through the province, checking off place names as I go; Antigonish, Marshy Hope, Tatamagouche, Pugwash.
In the name of making time I briefly hop on the 104. Arterial clogs of traffic blocking my way I quickly retreat to the numerology of quiet roads – the 4 and 6.
In Pugwash I stop for a tea and “scotchy-o” at the Chatterbox Café, the latter being a butterscotch peanut butter conglomeration topped with chocolate. File that under a special treat. I’m on my way out of the café when a couple sipping beer in the window ask me about the bike.
Jennifer and Olaf are from Toronto and, having put their bicycles on the train, are touring Nova Scotia. I’ve eyed the minimalist shoulders of these roads a few times and the verve of local drivers and file this couple under “brave souls.” We chat about our respective trips, and then Jennifer asks a question that’s cropped up a few times, “Have you been on CBC?”
At first this ride didn’t strike me as much. Conceptually it didn’t seem overly intrepid to ride across Canada. The abstract distances on a map have made a fool of me. The ease of sliding across a country or around the globe in Google Earth makes us easy armchair travelers in a sea of data and information. It distances us from weather, circumstance, and time. The information should never be confused with experience or even knowledge. Twenty years ago that train of thought would have been science fiction, now it’s easy to shield ourselves with data and retreat from the real.
I know this in a deep and personal way, most of my planning was done in a room surfing that sea. A quick scroll of the mouse, cross a province, map out days – how hard could it be?
Strangely, this has been one of most challenging rides I’ve ever undertaken. Next to this the Arctic Circle attempt was a waltz in a very large and periodically muddy park. It is purely a function of scale. Canada is the second largest country in the world, and I’ve ended up attempting to cover it one and a half times over, an act that gives these abstract distances solid reality.
Back in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, sitting looking out across the Atlantic, this ride transformed from a frantic game of catch-up to something more accepting of travel’s version of reality. In a vaguely Zen way I let go of destinations, the cascade failure of the schedule, lofty literary preconceptions, the luggage of watching an impaired (be it by intoxication and/or fatigue) Sam Whitehead dump a bike earmarked for this trip and the baggage of Harley Davidson/Buell’s inaction in rectifying the situation.
Letting go of the outcomes frees me to enjoy the trip, turning the mad dash into a whimsical chase across the country. In reality the only outcome that really matters is that Multistrada and I arrive home safely, I see friends, and I share this ride.
It’s not the only transition at work. The sun is lower in the sky, stands of trees have given up green for yellow and foliage bursts with pockets of red. All these things are warning signs that my ride has a deadline, not to magazines or OneWheelDrive, but winter’s firm immutable pressure. Fall has splendour though, making it hard to imagine a more scenic time to ride the country.