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How do you handle your biggest fear coming true? Day 33

Home for the Night: Anjeanette's yard up on North Mountain, above Bridgetown

Distance: uknown sloppy distance to and from car at Gulliver's Cove, 30 kms by car, 63.9 kms by bike and then 8 kms by car

Weather: POURING RAIN!! or SCORCHING SUN!! Otherwise drizzly and super damp. Warm throughout the whole day

B: Crumpets, eggs, smashed leftover potatoes with LOTS of butter, bacon, fruit, coconut yogurt, caesars and coffee with cream!

L: muffin, cheese, wonderbar, gross carab chewy things.

D: homemade beef and vegetable soup, kale salad, bread, butter, cheese, brownies, ice cream, red wine and tea.

 

Misty. Muggy. Hot.

a not so wonderous bar

Puke City Barf Fest!!

 

Remember how Holly and I had set up the tarp in the shelter of the trees just in case the weather decided to show up to our party in full force? Before daylight I awoke to the sounds of water sheeting off the tent fly in outrageous amounts. Our foresight paid off in dividends as torrential outburst after torrential outburst pummeled the tent all throughout dawn and into the start of a new day. Fortunately, we didn't have an agenda...I just needed to get myself to Bridgetown at some point, roughly 60 kms from Digby where I'd get to reconnect with yet another dear friend, Anjeanette!


Holly and I dozed on and off, the rain coming and going, eventually slacking off enough for us to scramble for the tarp to make breakfast. Everything was beyond wet, completely saturated, but the ground under our little piratey stronghold was mostly still dry thanks to the thick spruce canopy and angled pitch of the tarp. It was quite pleasant to sit on the ground while the rain appeared, vanished and appeared again. The air was very warm and our heartfelt (and hilarious) conversation from the night before resumed without skipping a beat. I made coffee and Holly made everything else...thanks Holly. Soon we were feasting on a sumptuous breakfast, our plate piled high with food far more elegant than your average pirate could have dreamed of.


A plan was hatched; eat, pack, roll back to Digby to where Holly had picked me up so I could once again transition back to Black Beauty and the open road. We weren't in a rush, but I was aware of how short the days were starting to feel as we moved ever closer towards October. A downpour brought a steady stream of fresh water off the tarp to scrub up the breakfast dishes and with the next break we moved about gathering the many, many items that we had dragged to our site. The weather gods and goddesses were kind enough to give large spaces between cloudbursts and we found ourselves either waiting out each deluge either under the tarp, in the tent or soggily sitting in the car. It was a proper mostly, sort of, sometimes rainy day!


I took a final load to the car amidst light sprinkles, noting the ominous, VERY black clouds rolling over the headland towards us. The sky opened and for the final 5 minutes of my walk I laughed and laughed as water found its way into every nook and cranny of my rain suit, soaking me and everything I was carrying. Although I still had a few nights ahead of me on the road, I was so close to finishing this adventure that I didn't mind so much getting drenched. At the worst, I'd only be wet and miserable for so much longer, and I knew I could handle it...the finish line was in sight.


Holly had gone back to retrieve the tarp and few small odds and ends. I dumped my soggy load into the car and turned to go help her. I was quite certain we had parked the car yesterday in a normal, dead-end road styled gravel parking lot. Today I felt like my canoe would have been useful to ford the giant puddles that were only getting bigger by the second. I didn't make it very far up the path before a billowing, blue figure strode into the meadow as if on the catwalk in Paris. With yet another brilliant idea, Holly had fashioned the tarp into a glamourous ponchocapegown and floated through the rain in high style. Knowing how talented of a seamstress she is actually made the sight even more spectacular and if I wasn't worried about permanently ruining my phone despite it's supposedly waterproof case I would have photographed the whole thing. I laughed even harder than before and soon joined her under the tarp, squelching our way to the parking lot to end as we began...in hysterics. If anyone was home at the little house near the trail, I hope they caught sight of our entertaining antics...my stomach and face was starting to hurt from so much laughter over the past 24 hours, what a fine problem to have! Between the dragging of stuff yesterday and wearing a tarp today we could have charged admission for our circus. I mean, our highly professional, hardcore and epic adventure in piracy.


We collapsed into the car, the windows fogged up from the very wet and very stinky salad of gear piled haphazardly in the backseat and began our return journey to Digby. Only 10 kms from Gulliver's Cove we found blue skies and sun! It seemed that the cove collected the incoming weather system differently than the rest of the local area and we had, in fact been living under ALL of the clouds that streamed across the coast. The road was even DRY!! The sudden sun and high humidity was a shocker to us both and as we parked in front of the Visitor Centre we gratefully stripped off wet layers to air things out in the sun. Our drying time was short lived and within minutes, our cloudy friends found us and reassured us that they had no intention of letting us leave them behind! The sky grew black and soon the pavement of downtown Digby was dancing under torrents of water. It truly felt like we had brought the rain into town!! Everywhere we looked people scrambled between their vehicles and stores and we scrambled to get all of my gear onto the dry portion of the porch at the Centre. In a bit of a bizarre blessing, the tourist hub was closed for the season which meant I could sprawl my junk out everywhere in shelter of the storm without impeding anyone's access to the building.

Bike overhaul in fine style....with COFFEE!

During a break in the rain, Holly went off in search of coffee while I fiddled and repacked my gear, once again. I decided to offload a few items that I wasn't using or was willing to scrape by without (like gifts from people and a few clothing items) and was grateful to jettison any extra weight that I could. Holly returned, not only with coffee but a MUFFIN to send along with me, knowing (like everyone else at this point) how much I love them. We drank our coffee and chatted while I greased up Black Beauty, loaded up and was eventually mostly ready to roll. Knowing it was time to say goodbye, we shared how grateful we were to have had this time together and looked forward to reconvening back at home once I got myself settled in. Off she drove, tooting the horn and I was left on my own, the solo cyclist with her trusty steed.


I sat down to quickly send some emails, check in with Anjeanette about timing for my arrival and make sure I had my route figured out. The blessing of being a solo cyclist is that more folks seem to feel comfortable approaching to inquire about your journey. The curse of being a solo cyclist is that more folks seem to feel comfortable approaching to inquire about your journey. Doing the best I could to speedily "just check a few things" took the better part of an hour and a half as people came and went, asking questions and sharing their own stories of bike riding, life in Digby, the weather, their dogs, you name it. It's always delightful even if it means I don't get on the road until 2 PM. What the hell, right?? It's not like I'm a crack of dawn rider and the spontaneous human interaction is part of what has made this adventure so incredible and rewarding.


With darkening skies, once again I pushed off from the shelter of the Visitor Centre, zipping my coat up over my bike helmet. I would take the gravel multi use trail for the first little while of my ride, which would get me over Big Joggins Bay and help me avoid the 101 Highway. Almost as soon as my front tire hit the gravel of the trail I found myself wishing for my life jacket and paddle. Puddle after puddle with rain pouring down my body made for an invigorating and very gritting first 5 kms of riding. It was actually quite fun in a way, the trail was firm under the water and the footing was consistent enough that I could just plunge into each puddle with confidence, rolling in and out and in and out of ruts made by ATVs. Yet again, I celebrated how gosh darn awesome Black Beauty is, even though she's not a touring bike....I couldn't be doing what I was doing on any other rig.

Bridge over Big Joggins, looking back towards Digby Harbour

In between the downpours over the next little while, the sun would poke through and sear me like a steak on the grill. Or maybe more like boil me in a slowcooker the humidity was so high. Still, it was beautiful in a wild weathery kind of way and when one lives outside it's kind of amazing to have no choice but to observe the continual shifts of the day. Eventually I was able to hop back on the coastal route and get off of the muddy trail. I purposefully rode headlong into the biggest puddles I could find in a bid to wash the grit out of my gears and maybe a little off of my legs. I crossed the highway, turning inland to wind my way towards the community of Bear River and left the noise of transport trucks behind. The road ahead of me was beautiful, winding along the west bank of the river lined with oak trees galore. Leaves blew across the road and the autumn colours made me grateful that I would be home soon, just ahead of the uncomfortably chilly part of the season. There were few cars and I was able to weave back and forth across the pavement to soak in the views as desired.

Heading upstream along Bear River

Originally, I had hoped to stop in Bear River to poke around a bit. The community is known for its artistic and indigenous presence and I knew there was much I could learn from spending time there. Due to the hurricane hold up and my other little side trips I knew I would have to come back another time. Especially with such a late start on today with a hefty ride still in front of me. I didn't even feel like stopping at the Sissiboo Coffee Roaster and Café, a place I had seriously looked forward to. I could still feel the caffeine racing through my system from Holly's gift and I wouldn't fare well if I added more fuel to the fire. I had been to Bear River once before, many years ago and remembered there being a few good hills in and out of the town. As I rolled slowly along admiring the shop fronts and galleries I began the process of:


"don'toverthinkitadrien,you'reinepiccyclingshape,ridewithyourbodynotwithyourmind!"


I passed the roastery and then began the climb. It had been steep enough to remember from the seat of the truck years past and as I settled into my lowest gear and slowest cadence I ruefully thought about the ease of a gas pedal and a cushy vehicle. The hill got steeper. I got slower. Slow enough that passing vehicles shouted out words of encouragement as I clawed my way along the shoulder of the road. Steeper, steeper, steepest with no end in sight. FRIG. This hill was quickly gaining a place on the podium of "Steep Ass Hills of the Bay of Fundy". My heart was beating fast enough that it apparently didn't matter that I was in epic cycling shape...or what on earth would have happened if I wasn't!?! I would have been walking for sure.


Then. It happened. The thing I have always been fearful of. The thing I have come close to witnessing several times on this trip, but thankfully avoided. I was almost to what I thought was the top of the hill out of town and I came up to a house with a dingy aboveground pool and many people standing around in the yard. The road had gotten quite busy all of a sudden and vehicles were passing closely to me while oncoming traffic streamed down the hill. I was SO close to finishing the climb. Off to the left a dog started barking and my peripheral vision a black streak barreled out of the yard by the pool, down the bank and


BANG!!!!!!!!!


Right in front of a utility van coming down the hill. I screamed, the van stopped and I wobbled off to the side of the road to lean Black Beauty on the guardrail, heart pounding.


Shitshitshitshitshitshitshit


Traffic had slowed, I called out to the people in the yard that their dog had been hit and fearfully looked back to where the accident had happened, terrified of what I would see.


The dog was gone and so was the van. A man was running down the driveway and suddenly a woman's voice was calling out that the dog was back in the yard. I felt like I was going to barf and not entirely because of the hill. As I trotted back down the road to the house, the van which had turned around pulled into the yard. The two fellows in the van looked stunned and confused. The owner of the dog was cursing and swearing that the dog deserved to get hit for being stupid enough to run out into the road. I didn't actually see the dog, but the man said he was fine. Fine?? I was in disbelief. The impact was serious and the van had to have been going close to 60 kms/hr. I asked the men in the van if they were ok. They both said yes, with a bit of a question in their voices that made me not quite believe them. They asked the same of me and I said it was my biggest fear of this whole trip, was someone's dog getting hit because of coming out to investigate/bite/play with me. The dog's owner didn't seem to care in the slightest and the rest of the folks in the yard stood around watching with cigarettes and beer in hand. Young children looked on from where they had been playing and riding their bikes and there was an air of rough, challenging life circumstances to the whole place.


I offered my concern over internal damage/bleeding and that adrenaline is powerful enough sometimes for a fatally wounded animal to get themselves out of harm's way. The guy waved me off. The sick feeling in my stomach intensified and I knew there was nothing to be done. I wished everyone well, especially the two men in the van and shakily returned to Black Beauty on the road. Frig.


I climbed back into the saddle and struggled to get enough momentum to start pedaling again. I couldn't stop thinking about the poor dog and the whole unsavoury scene I had just witnessed. I found myself trying to exhale more deeply, trying to purge the whole experience out of my mind. It would have taken nothing short of a miracle for the dog to be ok, and from what I had witnessed I was fearful of the poor animal suffering. I know there was nothing to be done, but my mind just kept replaying everything over and over and over again...and I STILL had to get my ass up the hill.


Eventually I crested the top and found a flat, safe spot to pull over and collect myself. I had a pee, had a drink and sent ease and a hopeful relief of suffering to the dog and all of the humans I had just crossed paths with. I knew I wouldn't quickly forget this experience and wondered if some people have the ability for these moments in life to not cause such an affect. I was a wreck...the curse of the eternal empath. Fortunately, biking is a great way to move things along and I let the wind, passing showers and blowing leaves carry my sadness and heavy heart away.


I rolled on and on. Up and down, up and down. The road was so straight it looked like it had been built on a compass bearing. I had never seen this part of the province and took in the view of rolling farms, forests and small communities with names I have entirely forgotten. The humidity hadn't let up at all and my queasy stomach stubbornly stayed with me, keeping me from feeling hungry for hours. On and on, I just couldn't get my energy up and I felt sluggish and heavy, like a soggy little robot that was about to short circuit. I needed to eat even though I really didn't want to. At the next church parking lot I came across I pulled over for a true break, map check and calorie load up. It was muffin time and I thanked Holly with my whole heart for her generous and thoughtful friendship. It was a damn good muffin too, what a friend! I rooted around through my food stores (which were getting low and wholly unappetizing at this stage of the trip) and ate a bunch of random stuff. It all proceeded to sit like a rock in my stomach and not make me feel particularly good. I was still a long ways from Anjeanette's waiting arms and I hoped my gross lunch would eventually translate into momentum.


On and on and on. Thoughts of the dog accident became fewer and further between. The autumn colours were stunning. My legs started to wake up. The sun poked through tentatively at first and then in a fit of golden glory. The whole world sparkled from the earlier rain and this little robot began to finally find her stride as she made her way towards Annapolis Royal. Back into familiar territory I cruised along a secondary highway, staying away from the rail trail that could have taken me all the way to Bridgetown. I knew it would be a mucky, gritty mess and I opted for hardtop over the mushy gravel. The valley floor was beautiful and I admired quaint homes, orchards and the meandering Annapolis River off in the distance. I was officially back in the Annapolis valley, nestled between North and South Mountain and my home was waiting at the other end.

The Annapolis River, glowing in the sun, tracing my path eastwards to Bridgetown

Although the road I was travelling was pretty, it was a constant low grade roller coaster. I think partially because I knew I was close to finishing the adventure, but also because of my crappy experience in Bear River I didn't have a whole lot of enthusiasm for the terrain. The kms slllllloooooooowly passed and despite the scenic beauty I found myself wishing for something less challenging. In the small village of Tupperville I decided that once again, a change was as good as a rest and found an access to the rail trail. I was still several kms from Bridgetown and hoped that the peace of a golden pre-sunset cruise through the fields would keep my spirits up enough to finish the day's ride. It was beautiful. Ask anyone who has lived in the valley...there is a certain quality to the autumn light in this place that illuminates an every day existence into something that truly must be appreciated. It coincides perfectly with the bounty of the harvest and it always feels like one final celebration before winter sets in. I had come home just in time to see the start of the show.

My dreamy appreciation of the season carried me through the mud puddles and soft spots of gravel. Even the sign marking "Blood Creek" didn't bring me down. Yikes! I felt at peace with my slower rhythm and knew I'd be able to have a shower fairly soon. I crossed a few roads and then without very much warning at all rolled onto the pavement that would take me right into Bridgetown!! I was here! Hooorah! I pulled over to text AJ to let her know I was in town and began to make my way across the valley floor towards the foot of North Mountain where AJ would collect me. It had been her idea to give me a lift up the 2 km winding doozie of a hill to her place and I accepted her offer with zero protest. Tomorrow she would happily deposit me at our point of rendezvous and I'd continue on my journey. She is no stranger to huge adventures, having completed many multi-week adventures including a 50 day canoe trip in the north years ago. She got it. She knew exactly what my mind space was like and exactly what sort of commitment I had for tenaciously completing my mission.


Ravens flew overhead and the sun set off to my left. The southern face of North Mountain loomed in front of me, a veritable wall and I was SO grateful I wouldn't have to ride up it. Valleyview Provincial Park sits at the top of the hill and I wondered how many hapless cycle tourists have decided to stay on the brow of the mountain. Although I have always giggled about "mountain" being used in this area...one truly understands that it's an appropriate name from the seat of a bike. It may not be the Rockies, but anyone having to get up the hill under their own power (or brake very carefully with a heavy trailer going down) would endorse the designation, no questions asked.

Suddenly AJ appeared and pulled onto a conveniently located gravel parking lot....YAA!!! Then, just as suddenly Black Beauty found herself on yet another bike rack and I was whisked away to an off grid cabin in the woods where beautiful food, hilarious young boys and heartfelt, loving conversation swaddled me in good cheer. AND I had a shower. AND I got to hang up my soaking wet, stinky gear to dry. My day had been a veritable sandwich...the filling of many challenges cradled lovingly between the "bread" of two dear sisterfriends. What could have been a very difficult day to digest had been transformed into a wholesome and nourishing meal that found a happy place in my being. One more day down, only two left to go....home was so close I could feel it.

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