When it comes to vacations, I like to get off the beaten path. My favorite trips usually involve far-flung locales, breathtaking vistas, and a good bit of solitude. The ones I don’t care to relive usually entail crowds and tourist traps. I kind of hated Rome for this reason, while my heart still longs for Montana. It’s why Iceland is on my list of future destinations, while Las Vegas is notably absent.
Even so, I ended up spending a week in Nova Scotia earlier this month almost by accident. It started with an advertisement on the train for the new ferry from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I’d been contemplating a trip to Acadia, but a boat ride sounded fun. I mentioned it to a cousin, who mentioned it to her dad. Suddenly, it was a seven-person family trip. A Suburban was rented. Tickets were booked. Between all of my other travel last month, I didn’t have much time to think about it. I packed my bags, loaded up my bike, and we were off.
The ferry ride ended up being a low light of the trip. It’s main redeeming quality is that it’s an overnight trip, so you go to sleep off the Maine Coast and when you wake up, you’re there. I also liked that it enabled you to bring your car, which meant space for coolers, luggage, and bikes. But the whole boat smelled like the aquarium, the entertainment options were kind of terrible, and while the bunks were comfortable, the staterooms were miniscule. There was no quiet place to sit outside, and the whole thing seemed more like a cheap cruise than the laid-back ferry I’m used to taking to Martha’s Vineyard. We cancelled our round trip tickets and decided to drive back to Boston.
We landed in Yarmouth, and after clearing customs, headed straight to the town’s Farmer’s Market. I was half expecting a tourist trap to lure ferry passengers, but I could not have been more wrong. Local farmers sold wild blueberries and delicious little yellow plums, a guy hawked lobster rolls, and a woman named Su Morley sold me a slice of the best coconut cream pie I’ve ever had. There were stands selling homemade soaps, chocolates, scones, and oysters. Folks were friendly and chatty, everyone seemed happy to be there. It was my first experience in Nova Scotia and it ended up being one of my favorites.
From Yarmouth we headed to Digby, exploring the coast along the way. Each vista seemed more scenic and beautiful than the last. People were few and far between. It was like Maine, without all the tourists. We lunched at La Cuisine Robicheau, a family owned spot that specializes in local seafood and Acadian cuisine. It was one of the best meals we had on the trip- simple seared scallops, a hearty seafood chowder, and some excellent desserts. The chocolate cream pie was huge and decadent, and the coconut cream pie was also pretty great (yes, I ate coconut cream pie twice in one day, and while the Robicheau’s make an admirable one, Su Morley’s at the Yarmouth Farmer’s Market was the best.)
After a night in Digby, we drove out Digby Neck and took a small ferry to Long Island. Most folks pass on through and go on to Brier Island, but we stopped in Tiverton, which I highly recommend. We stumbled upon a “free will” breakfast put on by the local volunteer fire department, that featured some excellent homemade baked beans and French toast (free will = pay what you can). The breakfast, held in a town hall of sorts gave us a chance to chat with some locals about the lobstering season, the weather, fishing, and the economy. It was casual talk, but friendly and welcoming, the kind that doesn’t happen often enough in a city like Boston.
After breakfast we headed up the street to embark on a whale watch. Whale watching is abundant in New England, but I never get sick of it. This trip was particularly neat as we went out in a small, hard-bottomed inflatable that really got you close to the whales. It was pretty spectacular. We saw two species of whales, porpoises and seals.
From Digby we went north to Canning, where I did a nice bike ride, had some great food, and hiked Cape Split. The hike was about two hours each way, and featured some spectacular views of the Bay of Fundy.
The Bay of Fundy has long fascinated me. As a New Englander, I’m well familiar with the ebbs and flows of the tides, but the Bay of Fundy makes our nine-foot fluctuations look puny. Each day 160 billion tons of water flow through this 170-mile stretch, causing tidal fluctuations of almost 30 feet. Boats that seem normal at high tide look pretty ridiculous a few hours later.
Here’s another example.
The fluctuations also enable something called tidal bore rafting, in which you ride on rapids created by the incoming rush of water. After Canning, we headed to Urbania, where we gave it a try on the Shubenacadie River. Photos weren’t possible, given that we spent four hours filling a small inflatable boat up with water, but it was amazing. The first part of the trip entailed admiring the scenery, looking out for bald eagles (so many!), and sliding down the muddy river banks like they were a slip n slide (so fun!). When the tide turned, the water started to come in fast, whole sandbars were covered in minutes. That’s when the real fun began as we raced through rapids and waves. (If you’re curious, this video is a pretty accurate depiction.)
From Urbania we headed up to Cape Bretton Island, home to one of Canada’s best national parks. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore it properly, so I’m already making plans for a return visit.
Cape Bretton is probably the most touristy part of Nova Scotia, and yet it still didn’t feel crowded when compared to what Cape Cod and Maine are like during the summer. We spent one day in Baddeck (home to Alexander Graham Bell), and then headed across to Maragee Harbour and down the coast.
We left Nova Scotia on a Thursday and spent a day in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick before driving home Saturday. I have a feeling it won’t be long before I head back.
Well, I seem to be making up for lack of long rides lately. Last weekend I headed to Jaffrey, NH for a Wicked Awesome New England Adventure (W.A.N.A.) weekend, hosted by my new friend Lily. Most of the 25 or so folks attending were triathletes, though some were just there for the fun, and some were there with triathletes. Lily grew up going to this area, and her parents graciously hosted a large group of us for a weekend of riding, swimming, and general shenanigans.
I drove out there Friday after work, and arrived almost at the same time as Katy, which was fortunate as she was one of the only people I knew there. Friday night was pretty low-key: eating, a few beers, and meeting the other folks in the group. I was having so much fun talking with people that I completely lost track of time and didn’t head to bed until midnight (super late for me!) I was up at 7 the next morning, and after a delicious breakfast, 16 of us headed out for a bike ride. There were 30, 50, and 60 mile options, which all started together and then broke off, depending on the size of the loop. Five of us did the 50-mile option, a hilly route through western New Hampshire.
view of Monadnock/ in-motion selfies
I had kind of a tough time on this ride. The hills were hard… I always have a tough time with hills, but I felt like I had nothing in me Saturday. Nutritionally, I was ok, but my legs just felt generally weak. I’ve been amping up my running a bit, and wonder if that’s making biking harder? Fortunately, I was with a great group of people. We chatted, took some selfless, and admired the scenery along 54 miles of (sometime dirt) road. It really was a great day to be out.
When I got back, I wanted nothing more than to lay in the grass and eat a plate of food the size of my bike helmet. Instead, I put on my shoes and did a quick three-mile run. My legs felt pretty good, and my splits were decent, which was nice after the way I’d felt on the bike. I rewarded myself with lasagna and a beer.
Later that afternoon we headed to a lake near Lily’s house, where we did a quick swim across the lake and spent the rest of the time taking advantage of the diving board, slide, and floats. It felt like summer camp.
I headed out soon after, as my little brother arrived Saturday to visit for a few days. Even though the bike was kind of touch, I’m so glad I went and did this. It was a beautiful way to spend a day.
The rest of my week looked like this:
Monday: run 8
Tuesday: swim 1,000
Wednesday: ride 15
Thursday: swim Walden
Friday: run 4
Saturday: bike 54, run 3
Totals: swim 2, bike 69, run 15
I had my eight-week assessment at PT last week, and while my right hip is still weaker than my left I’ve made a lot of improvement. It’s unclear whether my insurance will approve another round of physical therapy, even though I still don’t feel 100 percent. My therapist told me that the chances are slim, given that I was able to run 8 miles last week. But, I know what exercises I need to be doing, so I just need to be good about incorporating them into my routine to avoid more injuries. Less than three weeks until Timberman!
I enjoyed my ride to the Cape so much that last weekend I decided to do it all over again. Except this time on Martha’s Vineyard.
Some of my earliest bike rides took place here, as my mom used to bring my sister and I to the island for day trips when we were little. We’d rent bikes and seemingly ride all over the place. I’m sure we probably only covered 10 miles or so, but back then these rides seemed epic. It was here that I learned to shout “On your left!” as I passed slower riders, found out why riding through sand is a bad idea, and came to appreciate the post-ride ice cream cone.
Fast forward 25 years and not much has changed. I set off Saturday morning at a seemingly civilized 7:15 a.m. The island was still pretty quiet, though there were a fair number of bikers and runners out. I made it to Edgartown in no time and met up with my friend Scott, who is also training for Timberman. We set out south towards the beach and then went back up to Edgartown- West Tisbury Road. We hopped on the bike path for a while and then headed into Chilmark and on to Aquinnah. Martha’s Vineyard always seems like a tiny place until you try and ride around it by bike, and then it’s suddenly much bigger.
Scott had yoga and beach plans so he turned back soon after Chilmark, at which point my ride became less intense and more sightseeing. I swung by to Gay Head Light, rode down Lobsterville Road, and then hopped on the bike ferry to Menemsha. The bike ferry is sort of great… you go out on this dock and ring a bell, and after a while a guy in a boat comes to take you across Menemsha Harbor. The trip takes about five minutes, costs $5, and saves about 5 miles. Plus, it’s kind of fun to hop on a boat with your bike.
The ride from Menemsha to Oak Bluffs seemed like the home stretch, but really I had about 20 miles to cover. I decided to cut through the middle of the island, as I’d ridden along North Road before. The aptly named Middle Road is a picturesque road that meanders past farms and art galleries. I stopped more than once to take photos of cows.
I hit an island traffic jam when I got to Vineyard Haven. Between tourist traffic and the arrival of the car ferry, no one was going anywhere fast. The road is two lanes, and there’s almost no shoulder, so it was pretty slow going. In the future, I’d detour around that part because it was no fun. I stopped my Strava there because things were so slow.
I ended up doing almost exactly 60 miles in four hours. Slow, but I stopped to take photos, waited on the bike ferry, and generally had a good time. I felt a lot better on this ride than I had the weekend before. I ate after the first hour, and then every 45 minutes after that. In total, I had two gels, a Clif bar, and some gummy worms. I also drank two bottles of water, though I should have drank more.
After the ride, I headed out on a six-mile run, which also went a lot better than the week before. It wasn’t as hot, which helped a lot. My miles were kind of slow (10 minutes), but I had to stop and look at the map a few times. All in all, I’m pretty happy with how the day went compared with the week before.
The rest of my week looked like this:
Monday: run 6.4
Wednesday: ride 15
Friday: run 3.3, PT
Saturday: bike 60, run 6
Totals: Swim 0, bike 75, run 16
That is probably the most rest days I’ve taken in months. But life happens, and as I’ve said before I’m determined not to become one of those people who only trains and has no social life. Still, I endeavor to swim this week, and ride my bike to work a few times. Haven’t been very good about that lately. Four weeks until Timberman!