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Did you really think the adventure was over? Day 35!

Home for the Night: HOME!!! My very own bed in the Gaspereau Valley!

Distance: 45.8 kms

Weather: Sunny, gloriously sunny! A perfect, bluebird day. No breeze until late afternoon.

B: Coffee with CREAM, yogurt, blueberries, granola

L: A delicious flight of cider, chocolate zucchini muffins, cheese, apple, dark chocolate

D: Lentils, sweet potatoes, cabbage, zucchini chow, chard from the garden, CHIPS, cheese and beer

 

the magic unfolds

a rolling celebration

so much yet to come...

 

My toque slid off my head, uncovering my eyes to the growing light outside the tent. I could hear birds chirping, and a sliver of sunshine danced under the opening of my vestibule. It had grown chilly overnight with the clearing skies and the muggy, oppressive heat of the past few days was gone. I glanced at my alarm which wasn't set to go off for another half hour and I took stock of how I felt.


Today was the day. The final push to get home! I felt well rested and deeply nourished from my long sleep and huge dinner. It wouldn't be too long before Scott would arrive and this moment of early morning reflection was precious. Collecting myself to go find the port-a-potty I decided to wear my goretex socks, not ready to stuff my feet into filthy, wet sneakers, quite yet. Everything was still soaked and dripping either from condensation, mist or the rain/fog of the past several days. Today was the first day I had woken up to lasting sunshine since camping on the shore of 2nd Lake, SIX DAYS AGO. What a treat!! The nip in the air reminded me that the calendar had flipped and it was officially October! If it weren't for my trip log it would be hard to remember the date I left home on, 35 days earlier. Crazy. Totally crazy!

I draped all of my possessions along the little fence line at the end of the property noting how extra filthy they were from the previous day's mud, rain and sweat. The sun was hardly warm yet, but at least things psychologically felt like they were drying out. Every time I squatted down I would catch a whiff of my sneakers on my feet....they were literally rotting underneath me and were more akin to compost than footwear. Mud seeped out of the holes worn into the toes, sand was plastered along all of the seams and one of my laces was hanging on my the smallest amount of string possible. Despite the high foulness rating of my stuff, I still celebrated it and how well it has held up after a month of seriously heavy use. I love my tent, my bed, my clothes, my stove, my headlamp...but most of all, BLACK BEAUTY!! I love that bike so frigging much and all the research/care she represents when I bought her with an excellent tax return years ago. She is the first bike I have ever bought...and the first bike ever fitted for me. I had always thought a bike, was a bike, was a bike and all a human needed to do was ride it. It's true...but a human can have a way more comfortable and efficient experience if the bike actually fits them! Every single thing that I had chosen to bring with me on this trip had been tested over years of experience. I knew I could rely on my gear when everything else was unknown and challenging. Knowing your stove will always light no matter how hard it rains or cold it gets is incredible peace of mind when you're on the road for weeks at a time.


Returning from a second visit to the very clean port-a-potty I was met by Scott, his wife, Page and their three adorable children! HOORAY!! They had been fervent followers of my entire adventure and it was amazing to see them all standing there in the morning sun. We chatted for a few minutes before Page and the kiddos headed off for French tutoring at home. I gratefully plopped myself down at one of the dozen picnic tables with Scott, shamelessly devouring the beautiful breakfast spread they had brought me. COFFEE in a THERMOS!!! They all get hero status for sure. We chatted about all sorts of things, catching up on the past many months of life since we had seen each other on a frozen lake in March. Scott and I had met the past winter through his joining the Nordic Skating group I'm a part of. He and his family had moved to Nova Scotia exactly one year ago and it's so great to see them settling in, finding their community.


I wrangled my stuff into some semblance of order struggling to maintain a conversation AND pack at the same time....I had yet to have anyone around for my morning yard sale! Scott, being the mellow and super laid back guy he is didn't mind in the slightest, he was just so happy to have taken the morning off work and be in on an adventure. Eventually I psyched myself up enough to step into wet underwear, bike shorts AND my swampy sneakers, ready to air dry on the road. I cautioned Scott that he should stay upwind of me so he wouldn't barf. As we rolled out onto the road, I waved goodbye to Jonny's, which was waiting patiently for the next day's bustle to begin. I was so grateful for the gift of a perfect landing place and the generosity of Jonny himself.

Ready to Roll!! Honour Guard: Scott Murphy

Oh my GODDESS did the sun ever feel amazing!!!! The air was clean, clear and sparkly as we rode through downtown Berwick and headed north to the Paradise Valley Road. I had chosen this route last night, having never been through this corridor of the valley. Eventually we would find ourselves on Brooklyn Road bound for Kentville. Then we would hop back on the rail trail to ride the rest of the way to Wolfville and THEN I'd be home!! It was the most perfect day! Sunshine, everything freshly saturated and refreshed from days of rain and I felt positively giddy.


On we rode, chatting about touring, life and shared the joy of being in a place neither one of us had seen before. Scott and his family were discovering so much of the area and it was great to hear what they have come to know so far about a place that people come to visit and wind up staying for decades. We rolled past farms, lines of old oak trees and pastures full of cows and horses. The road was beautiful and oh so flat! We both were already looking forward to riding this route again as soon as possible. Even the pavement was pretty damn good, which is saying something!


All too soon we realized we were nearing Kentville. I found myself wishing for this part of my trip to go on longer and kind of fantasizing over this beautiful road winding onwards into eternity. Really?! Adrien, remember how disgusting your gear is!? Remember how badly you'd like to wear a cotton dress!? There really can be a funny thing that happens in the brain in these moments. There is a wish for the challenges of the trip to end at least a million times, then getting REALLY excited that the trip is actually going to end...and then being scared that it will all be over soon and that dragging the last day out feels like a way of staving off the inevitable. The inevitable return to a different purpose and a life far more complicated than life on trip. Over the course of many expeditions I have come to expect and come to terms with this bizarre part of an adventure. It's often not mentioned, but it's a very real part of the experience.


It must have been the sunshine coupled with the festive vibe in the air that made me suggest we stop at my favourite local cidery for a drink. Maritime Express, housed in the old Cornwallis Inn in Kentville has been a labour of love by very dear friends of mine. Scott was totally on board and it struck us that this was the best idea that could have ever occurred! It was harvest season after all and apples were rolling out of the orchards this time of year in The Valley. I had woken up in the "apple capital" of The Annapolis Valley and it seemed silly to not partake in a local tradition of drinking cider. When in Rome!


Almost within eyesight of the cidery, we got caught in construction for Kentville's new bridge. While waiting, Darrel, the very friendly backhoe driver struck up a conversation with us and we passed a very long red light chatting about the trip and how he used to work in Toronto before moving back when the General Motors plant closed. He thought the bike trip was super awesome and was so inspired that he was going to pop over to Jonny's for lunch! Imagine that...just drive to Jonny's and back on your lunch break! Eventually we were let through the chaos of the major intersection, avoiding one particular pick up truck whose driver felt it necessary to yell stupid, unnecessary things at the fellow directing traffic. He clearly had some secret knowledge of how a construction site should actually be managed. We shouted a cheery "thank you!!" to the freshly accosted worker who replied with a wry smile "welcome to the funny farm!". It cracked us right up and we giggled the whole way around the one way loop of Kentville arriving with glee at the cidery.


We stepped inside and before claiming a table on the patio I showed Scott around the old building that is complete with a ballroom, formal lounge AND antique elevator! Scott and Gen, my friends and partial owners of the place were some of the first people I met when I moved to Nova Scotia in 2003. We were all in the same residence at University, only a few doors apart...and somehow, against all odds we were still in touch and maintained friendship over many countries and experiences lived. It was great to see the place thriving. I inquired if there were any seasonal specialty ciders on tap and our server said Jimmy (the cider maker/mad scientist) was planning on turning over a keg of pumpkin chai cider that day! We ordered two flights and settled into life on a balcony patio continuing the monumental task of catching up on life.

A while later as we were finishing our 4th and final mini glass I spied Jimmy coming up the stairs with a keg in his arms...aha! The new cider! Our server came over shortly with a taster for us both...the first two sips out of the first keg! V.I.P status! It was delicious, amazing even, just like all of the other ciders that Jimmy whips up in his lab down below. Our server started asking questions about where we were riding from and once again, the whole story came out...I let Scott share it, enjoying the break from having to recite "the spiel". I think Scott got a kick out of experiencing the disbelief and further questioning that always resulted from someone casually asking about what I was doing. As Jimmy was making his way back towards the stairs I caught his attention and soon we were all gabbing in the sunshine. He and his partner Madeline (much like Scott and Page) had migrated to Nova Scotia not long ago to make cider and for Madeline's practice as a physician. More wonderful people living in a wonderful place!


Recognizing that at some point Scott would have to return to work (begrudgingly) we made our way back to our bikes. Scott generously picked up our tab (thanks Scott!) and as we nibbled on some homemade muffins I shared how fun it was to have company on this really special moment of my trip. Helmets on, smiles shining, we hit the gravel rail trail feeling damn fine on cider. It was a beautiful, quick ride on a familiar trail, one I had ridden countless times over the years.


It was very interesting to have another human to ride with...time passed quickly and I didn't feel as focused on my surroundings. Maybe I was distracted? Or maybe it was just a different kind of experience? Nearing Greenwich, which is just outside of Wolfville I made the decision to ride home to the Gaspereau Valley up Deep Hollow Road. Scott would continue on the rail trail, back to his home office and we said goodbye behind Noggins Corner Farm. Scott totally understood my need to finish on my own and we both had a fantastic time together. I watched him ride off and suddenly I was solo, once again.


Most transitions are best marked with a pee and a snack and not one to break tradition I dug a shriveled apple out of my bag and contemplated what was next. I would be riding right by my buddy Silas' house so I sent him a text to see if he'd be home in the next little while for a celebratory halllooooo. Packing my things back up I was overcome by a need to go see the river that bordered the northern edge of the farmland I was on. The Jijuktu'kwejk. Many have come to know it as The Cornwallis...but efforts are being made to reinstate the river's first name, rather than venerating the General who was responsible for countless atrocities against the local Mi'kmaw as the British asserted "ownership" over the land. It is pronounced "gee-gee-wok-tuk" and means "narrow river". Feeling the pull to the water below, I rolled down to the river.

The tide was very full along the dykes and I stared out in the same place I had so many times before. I watched the water slowly flow downstream as the tide began to drop, heading back to the Minas Basin and beyond. I could feel it...the pull of the draining tide was in my sternum, my belly, my pelvic floor. The draw of so much force created a mental image of the river, flowing out to the entire Bay of Fundy. I could see my route and the people I had met, the experiences I had had and the stories that were shared. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. The tragic, the glorious, the desecrated, the protected...all of it. Like little bubbles superimposed on my mental map of the place I had just been. Where I had just been carried through, held up by. Suddenly, my home community was connected to the whole wide world beyond our muddy banks in a way I had never felt before. It was almost overwhelming.

As a member of this part of this region, part of this landscape, everyone knows what it is like to live by The Bay. Some more than others, but all of the communities along the shores are threaded together. It would have been different (and a lot more sensible!) if we still travelled mostly by boat! So much more direct, like the ferry crossing! To drive from Digby, NS to Saint John, NB would take over 6 hours. Or? the 80 km crossing is covered nonchalantly by a lovely boat in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I guess there are 50 foot tides to contend with, wild winds and a whole lot of mud....so I understand why the reliability of the car has taken over, but it wasn't that long ago that a lot more boats plied the waters of The Bay.


It was time to head home. But not until I stopped by my favourite tree on the farm. I made my way to the centuries old white pine and sat beneath it eating the last of the cheese I had bought at the Whitehead General Store. It was just starting to smell funny, reminiscent of my sneakers. Black Beauty and I both leaned against the enormous trunk and I reflected on the age of the tree. Years ago I had worked for this very farm as an educator and tour guide. The tree had been aged to over 300 years old by arborists and was always a highlight of my trips into the forest with school groups. This tree had witnessed the arrival of the Acadians in the 1600s, the construction of the original road that is now only driven by tractors and was near a documented and very important seasonal riverside camp for the Mi'kmaw. The very forest in which I sat had provided medicine, nourishment and supplies for the first peoples of the land, originating after Glooscap had appeared.


When the Acadians were rounded up and heartlessly disbanded from the land they had cultivated for over 80 years, the forest and fields would have fallen silent for 5 years, completely empty. Then came the Bishop family in 1760. They were New England Planters that were deeded this tract of land upon arrival by the British government...and to this day they farm hundreds of acres for fruit and vegetables. They have become one of the foremost farming families in the region and this very pine tree had witnessed it all. The Bishops left the stand of old growth hemlock and pine to remain for generations, seeing value in the native forest. There is still evidence of Acadian cellars on the land it is a special (and rare) tract of fairly intact forest habitat in the Wolfville area...a sanctuary really.


Which is how I've always felt every time I have wrapped my arms around the old, grandmother pine. I have brought hundreds of children to the tree, everyone always mesmerized by her size and the story she represents. Trees have perspective that we, as humans can never understand...our lives are too short! My entire trip around The Bay could be summed up, written into the vibrations of historical events imbedded in the tissue of Grandma Pine's trunk. Cultural shifts, industries come and gone. Modernization. Victories, failures, tragedy and joy. Birth and death. Trees witness and hold space for all without judgement...living testaments to the honour it is to bear witness to change.

As if to mark the significance of my reflection, I came across the final 3 squares of salted dark chocolate that Mathieu had given me when we said goodbye in Saint John, days ago. It was the perfect boost to get me the final 10 kms home. I had gotten word from Silas that they would indeed be home, so the rolling celebration would continue!


I rode up the winding pass of Deep Hollow to White Rock, admiring the trees and their autumn colours. Against the blue backdrop it was stunning...picture perfect. The seasons had been shifting in front of my eyes...I had left in what was still very much summer and now, it was fully autumn. I rolled into Silas' yard to see him standing in the chicken pen, his daughter Hilda holding a two week old bunny and the two dogs (Flax and Luna) nosing about. I was given a VERY enthusiastic welcome and celebratory hugs all around. Before I knew it I had a bunny in my hands and a VERY excited Flax dog clambering for my attention. He wanted nothing to do with the bunny other than for me to get rid of it so I could have my hands free for rubbing his belly. We caught up, sharing stories of a very full month for all of us. I remarked how high the tide was and Silas mentioned that it was October now and it was the full moon was tomorrow morning, after all. See? People who live by The Bay know these things. Silas and I have shared many fabulous skating adventures and most recently, a fun family canoe trip out onto our favourite lake that Hilda was a part of. We had the BEST time and it was so incredible to know they had been following along on my journey, cheering for me every step of the way. It was so nice to see a few more familiar faces after a long time of meeting new people. Hilda scrounged a bag of chips from the house and we snacked our little hearts out, surrounded by sunflowers, chickens and dogs.


Declining a beer, for the sake of ever making it home I prepared to finish my ride, once and for all. It was ACTUALLY time to go home! The last few kilometres awaited, through the Gaspereau Valley...my home and place of inspiration, rest and centre. A wash of familiarity and many years of memories flooded past me as I waved goodbye to Silas, Hilda and the dogs. Other bike rides and countless excursions visited my senses as I rode past my favourite swim hole and gazed out over a view I'd appreciated a million times. It was beautiful. It always was. Past the farm where I buy eggs. Past the field of cows that are often plugging the entire road, being driven across the river to graze...and just as I approached the final kilometre mark within eyesight of the turn onto my road, I heard my name called out from behind me. Curious as to who it could possibly be, I wheeled around to see my dear friend, Lindsey resplendent in a polka dot dress, the golden afternoon sun glowing on her like honey. She was standing there, arms outstretched with her red shower bucket in hand. She and her husband have been building an incredible home up on the mountain and have the good fortune of many supportive friends who offer showers, while construction is ever ongoing. Our home has been one of many to share a tub, the wifi and a warm place to sit during the two years of heartfelt design, problem solving and epic undertaking a new build is for people doing the work themselves. I knew the significance of the red bucket...and as I flung my filthy self into Lindsey's arm I said "Oh Linds!!! You've just finally had your weekly shower and here I am, instantly undoing all your effort!!!" She couldn't believe I was returning home in this exact moment and it truly felt like a divine coincidence.


Hardly! Life is far too cosmic to be coincidental, but we still cackled at the uncanny timing of my passing and her walking to her car. As I should know better, that wasn't the end of the magic...in fact, it was just the beginning (or continuation!?). Just like Silas, Lindsey mentioned that it was October 1st...AND the full moon was approaching with sunrise the next morning.


Now. For some context; exactly 10 months ago as a bit of a New Year's commitment, Lindsey had hatched the idea to hike Cape Split in the dark, to arrive at the tip of the split for sunrise. If the timing/weather/energy/conditions were right, one could theoretically watch the full moon set and the sun rise from the split! It was a grand idea and one we had been trying to actualize ever since. For a little more context: at least 3 weeks ago I had started toying with the idea of incorporating a hike out to Cape Split as part of this adventure. The geologic marvel sticks right out into the middle of The Bay of Fundy and its relationship to all I had explored is pretty darn significant. Also, I just kind of really liked the idea of having three hikes on the trip....three is always a good number! Despite how much I liked the idea, it didn't seem like I had the energy to make it work. Biking out to the split, staying out another couple of nights sounded like too much and I really just wanted to get home. I had peacefully come to terms with the fact that Cape Split would be its own adventure, a little later on...perhaps a form of post-trip reflection.


Back to the present! Without even thinking, Lindsey mentioned that the weather was absolutely perfect for a sunrise hike to The Split. She was feeling a bit bummed, because finally all the conditions had lined up to go, but Mark, her husband was out of town. The idea of going alone seemed a bit too risky and she was ready to wait for hopefully the next full moon to be right. I know......it's a real head scratcher as to what is going to happen next, right?


There was a palpable feeling of magnetic connection and within 6 minutes of me turning around on my bike to see who was calling my name we hastily agreed that Lindsey would come pick me up at 4 am, we would head out to the split and bring coffee making supplies. With all that settled, there was nothing left to do other than hug each other like excited maniacs, knowing we'd see each other in less than 12 hours. It was FINALLY going to happen! This trip was officially NOT over when I got home, there was one final element left of the whole journey!!! I couldn't believe the serendipitous magic of what had just happened. Poof! Just like that! Lindsey was the absolutely perfect person to share in on the grandest of grand finales ever. This was exactly the kind of magic that had guided me around The Bay for the past 35 days...and it wasn't finished yet.


Grinning like someone who has just been gifted 30 pounds of fine cheese and a new pair of wool socks I rode out onto my road and began the final climb of my trip. I peddled slowly, curious to see if what had always felt like a bit of an epic hill would still feel epic after a month of conditioning. I picked my way along, dropping into the mental and physical place I had endless times over the past month. Left, right, left, right, breathe. Whether on the bike, or on my feet...that's all it ever has been or ever will be. Despite the effort, thoughts, aversions, concerns and everything it takes to overcome gravity...it can always be distilled to its simplest form if you don't get in the way. Low gear. Focus. Left, right, left, right, breathe.


I turned onto the gravel driveway that wound through the cemetery and called out a cheery "Hi everyone!!!". It felt simultaneously like yesterday and a million years ago since I had said goodbye to our field of neighbours. It was official, the hill was certainly still a proper hill and I had to work to grind my way up the final gravelly slope into our yard. Even if the hill was exactly the same, I, Adrien felt different. My body was a finely tuned machine that just took the effort in stride and didn't really think it was such a big deal as before.

Bum ba daaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy $%@#!!!!!!

Black Beauty and I victoriously hooted and hollered before I leaned her up on the nose of my car. Hi Car!!! No one else was home and I meandered around the yard at a little bit of a loss of what to do. My whole world and everything I actually needed was strapped to my bike. I stepped into the house and grabbed a jar from the cupboard to fill with spring water. Delicious water I hadn't drank since I filled my bike bottle before leaving. Sweet, clear water that comes from a pipe at the bottom of the hill. Water that the entire surrounding community has been filling jugs from for as long as anyone can remember. I wandered into my room...oh how nice my bed looked!!! FLIP FLOPS! put those on Adrien. I flopped around, seeing my favourite mug on the shelf in the kitchen, one I had bought while cycling in the Magdalene Islands years ago. THAT is the mark of coming home...a mug on a shelf that you love to drink out of.


Leaving Black Beauty to rest in the driveway, I plugged in my phone to call home to my first ever sponsors and biggest fans. Mum and Dad have watched me prepare, undertake and successfully complete every major (and minor!) expedition of my life. They have the appropriate amount of parental love, pride, horror and fear that I would expect from just about anyone in their shoes. Knowing they've been able to follow along every day with the blog has been so great for us all. We don't know when we'll see each other next because of the pandemic, so all we have are words; spoken and written.


Erica, the third wonderful human who lives in our house came home while I was chatting with Mum and Dad. Soon she and I were catching up as Erica prepared a beautiful and nourishing dinner for us. This was her last night in the house as she was moving to the city to start a new job and be with her partner. An exciting transition!! She hadn't cooked or eaten a proper meal in over two days, consumed by the effort of packing and moving...so it was great timing for us both. I had no food to contribute other than oatmeal and some dried figs, so I graciously and gratefully accepted her offer to cook! We carried our plates of food up onto the bluff above the house for sunset. It was great to see the home trees and forest, like reuniting with my family. Food, chats, hearts wide open and more magic. The bugs and a chilly breeze eventually drew us back to the house.

Beautiful sunset, beautiful Erica

I hung up my gross gear on the line and had the longest, most luxurious shower ever. Adam came home, exhausted from working with a friend and the three of us shared space long enough to connect, move a giant armoire that Adam had bought and that was enough. We were all ready to crash and my trip wasn't over. I was fading quickly from the beautiful high of the day. I rustled about, finding a small backpack and transitioning my gear (including my good luck bike charm!) one final, albeit unexpected time for an adventure by foot.


The alarm was set for 3:15 AM. I took one last look at my pile of gear for the hike, hoping my sneakers had 16 kms left in them. Sinking into the cotton glory of my bed, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow, carried off to dreamland by gratitude and excitement for the last chapter of my adventure to unfold.


Thanks for reading everyone! Only one more entry to go!!!







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2 comentarios


François Côté
François Côté
30 may 2021

I just read your last blog... What a nice read ! Maybe I will have to binge read from end to beginning !😊

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Scott Murphy
Scott Murphy
31 dic 2020

Yay, you made it! Super fun... thanks for letting me a part of your adventure. Great adventure and a great blog to boot! See you on the ice!

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