A weekend trip to Canada! This adventure was another cycling-inspired trip that had me visiting the beautiful Canadian province of Nova Scotia. After hearing about the terrific cycling infrastructure in the Halifax area, I decided it was well worth a trip up for a long weekend. At the time I was traveling for business to the Washington D.C. area, and I was already booking travel every weekend. This was a great opportunity, because I was already on the east coast, so Halifax was not to difficult to get to.
Photos are all at the bottom!
Day 1 - Inaugural Flight
The start of this trip was very early on a Thursday. I was staying at the Motel 6 in Falls Church. Don’t ask why, it’s complicated. But anyhow, I arrived at the DCA airport and boarded my AA flight to Canada with a stop in Philadelphia. The flight itself was pretty quick and before an hour and thirty minutes, we were landing. The pilot announced as we touched the ground that there would be “waterworks” to welcome out inaugural flight to Halifax. Apparently this was the first AA flight there. And yes, there were two firetrucks positioned on the runway, and they shot water overarching the aircraft as we taxied to the terminal. I met some friendly folks that were doing a 10 day road trip of Nova Scotia and they offered to split their taxi with me. Happily I joined them and we talked about cycling, the trip, and Canada.
We arrived at their hotel for drop-off in downtown Halifax around 2PM AST. Now Atlantic time was an hour ahead of Eastern Standard, and 2 hours ahead of where I live. I said goodbye and headed toward a coffee shop to get some wifi. There was a nice little coffee shop across the street called Cafe Taiyaki 52. This was a great little spot, and I saw may local folks come to get their drinks here and the friendly staff greet them as regular customers. I got my plans situated for the night. I needed to locate my accommodation called the Haliburton, and begin planning my ride for the next day. I met the lady who brewed my London Fog tea and she was super helpful describing things to do and where to go in Halifax.
I wrapped up my drink and headed to the Haliburton to unload my luggage. The accommodation was a bed-and-breakfast style hotel. Situated in the south part of the city near the universities, this was a quaint historic accommodation. I went over to my bike shop that I would be renting from. I Heart Bikes, located on the walking pier. I arranged for my pickup the following morning at opening. 9AM. After that, I explored the city a bit by walking the extensive Halifax boardwalk pier. The piers jutted out at various lengths into the Halifax Bay, which was surrounded by Dartmouth on the other side. The boardwalk was continuous, making it very nice to walk the entire city seaside.
After the boardwalk, I wanted to try some poutine. It became an inside joke with some coworkers and I decided I had to try it while in Canada. Now if you are not familiar with Poutine, it is essentially french fries with gravy and cheese curds. It’s pretty famous in Canada. And that I did find. I went to a great local restaurant away from the hustle of downtown. Exactly what I wanted. Darrell’s Restaurant had Poutine, beer, and the most fantastic PB burger recommended by the staff. Needed to get plenty of calories in before the ride. I would need it. After dinner, I wandered around the city and citadel, a large fortification that sits on a hill. The views from the top are great. By 9PM, it was starting to get dark, and I needed plenty of rest for the ride tomorrow. I headed back and got some shut-eye at the Halliburton.
Day 2 - Rum Runner’s Trail
The trail I would be doing is called the Rum Runner’s trail. It starts in Halifax and follows a railbed through coastal villages until reaching the quaint fishing village Lunnenburg. The ride was around 119km and I would most certainly need an entire day to make it. I had a nice English-style breakfast at the Haliburton, and then headed to the bike shop. I was equipped with a Norco Indie Drop Sora. This was a road bike that was much nicer and more expensive than my Panasonic road bike at home. I was equipped with the bells and whistles, which included a lock, helmet, lights, spare tube, and inflator.
I was ready to embark so I set off headed southwest along the streets of Halifax. The initial climb to get past the citadel was difficult, but with some mild traffic, I made it to the first part of the journey. It took me to a paved railbed headed out of the city towards my first trail segment, the BLT trail section. This section quickly took me from the cityscapes of Halifax to the wilderness that is Nova Scotia. Filled with pine and greenery, the trail quickly was overcome with wilderness and the occasional lake. At this point the trail became crushed gravel and the weather was foggy, but luckily not raining. I continued the ride and got the feel for my bike and the excitement of the trip truly began. I rode this section for an hour or so until I reached the Bike and Bean coffee shop. This gem is highlighted on my Rum Runner’s map but you cannot miss it. It is built out of the old train station this trail runs. I grabbed a coffee and had my first rest. Had a quick snack and then checked out the bike shop. I quickly realized the gravel made for a pretty bumpy ride, so I purchased some riding gloves that were padded to cushion the long distance rattling of the wrists. I also grabbed a nice Bike and Bean jersey to have as a memorabilia, and because I did not have any wicking shirts to wear this ride (big mistake).
After embarking from the coffee shop, the trail became the St. Margaret’s Bay trail segment. This section introduced me to an exposed coastline, but quite foggy still. I remember of this section of trail is that it was quite foggy, and that there were some hills. I briefly stopped and walked the bike to the coastline access area to have a light lunch. An MRE that I had brought. I cut open the ration, and although I didn’t have a tray to get it out onto, I enjoyed the veg ravioli cold from the retort pouch.
The Aspatogan trail cuts through the Aspatogan peninsula through some real wilderness. At this point in the trip, the fog and cloudiness began to clear up as the sun came out. This was a very remote section of trail. I remember at this point, truly being able to clear my head and not really think or worry about anything. Quite a great feeling while cycling, and one of the goals of this trip. I did not see a single other rider during this section, and was truly sensing the desolation of the wilderness trail. I stopped by a few picnic areas along this section for a rest, because at this point, I was beginning to feel the fatigue of riding on gravel for the entire morning. I had my water also.
I continued the Aspotagan trail until reaching the Chester Connector trail. There was another resting area about an hour into this trail where I was recommended to ride into Chester to visit the town. What a nice little town it was! I stopped at a convienece store for some A&W root beer and a Big Turk bar. I have never had Big Turk before, but it was quickly something I liked. I just needed any form of caloric intake at this point. Food was becoming fuel and stopping in Chester was a good plan.
After re-joining the trail outside of Chester, I was back on the connector trail. This section was easily the most unforgiving. Because it had rained the night before, there were many puddles of water and ditches across the trail. I was constantly dodging these with the bike and loosing a lot of speed and energy slowing down. I lost a lot of time in this trail section and by the time I completed it in Mahone Bay, it was already 5PM. I was hoping to be in Lunenburg by then. If you do this section, I might suggest skipping the trail and just riding Trunk 3 until Mahone Bay. By arriving in Mahone Bay, the ride was well worth it. I wish I could have stayed here a bit longer. This was a little village nestled in a cove with many unique buildings, churches, and architecture. The vibrant paint schemes really make this part of Nova Scotia shine. I stopped here for some ice cream for some quick calories, because I still have a little ride until Lunenburg. And by this time, I was quickly becoming exhausted. The ice cream shop owner suggested taking the road at this point and the ride left was around 30 minutes. Not bad!
After departing Mahone Bay, I was on the home stretch. Trunk 3 winded through a few hills, and the scenery went from seaside riding to a colonial countryside. Lunenburg sort of popped up from nowhere and I had finally arrived. I needed to arrive at my Bed-and-Breakfast at a reasonable time. I had arrived a little after 6 and it felt great to have made it. I wasn’t even thinking about the ride tomorrow. Just to arrive and relax a bit. The BnB was on top of the hill of Lunenburg. The city sits on the edge of a large hill overlooking the bay with shops and historic homes. It is truly a place to be experienced. Again, I wish I had a bit longer to stay and explore, but I can always come back, right? I met the owner Robin, and he suggested dinner downtown. After a much needed shower, I headed down to the city to graba a quick fish n chips at the Fish Shack. Boy, it was nice and sustaining with a beer to drink. I sat out dockside, and enjoyed my meal while resting. I headed back and passed out asleep.
Day 3 - A Quite Different Trip Back
Saturday I rose much well rested. I was pretty sore in the morning, but I took some time and drank my tea and had a peaceful time until breakfast at 8:30. There was another guest staying at the BnB who joined me for breakfast. Robin seated us at his dining table and provided an assortment of English style breakfast. Crosier ant, egg, bacon, and fruit. It was just the fuel that was needed to start the day. Robin told us the story of the fire that had consumed the original property we were staying. I had not even realized, but the house was not original. But how impressed I was to learn that it was reconstructed to be identical to the original house that once stood. The fire was caused by faulty electrical along the chimney and it had all mostly burned. I was astonished to hear this and the story mad me realize what a blessing it was that nobody was injured.
I said my farewells and headed for the road out of Lunnenburg. This time riding out, I decided if I wanted to make it back at a reasonable time, I would be taking the coastal highway the duration of the trip. I headed out towards Mahone Bay on Trunk. I arrived and stopped at a coffee and espresso shop right in the downtown area. I saw some fellow bikers on a ride on this lovely day so I decided to introduce myself. The ladies were on the last leg of their ride around the Mahone Bay area. There was a group of around 5 or 6 having a coffee break o the patio of the coffee shop. I grabbed myself a cup and was invited to ride with Peggy, Nancy, and Joy for part of their journey. We set off and they showed me the beautiful hidden coast Indian Point. It was a small fishing settlement that is known for building wooden boats. We rode to a junction point, and I left the group as I headed east on Tunk 3 toward Chester.
The ladies had suggested staying on the road for scenic views of the bay, and to stop in Chester for a lobster roll. That was my plan. I rode on some beautiful sea coast that I did not see at all on the ride before. The weather was so different and the skies were clear and blue. The sun was shining and made the water glisten as the ride continued towards Chester. I arrived in Chester around noon and stopped for lobster at a seaside restaurant. This was also a good resting spot because I was getting pretty thirsty. The lobster roll was great and was just the fuel to keep going. As I left the town of Chester, I realized that this was a completely different ride than the day before.
Riding through the Aspatogan trail was quicker but also more difficult than before because I was back on the crushed gravel. This section took about an hour until I headed back to St. Margaret’s bay. The weather was fantastic still, and the ride along the coast was, again glorious. I rode by Queensland beach and was a good point to take a rest, and a plunge! I was wearing trunks anyway, and it felt great to cool in the salt water. I stayed around the beach for a half hour, and took it back to the trail until I reached the Bike and Bean coffee shop again.
I stopped for ice cream here, and met a guy who was doing an afternoon joyride from Halifax. We shared the ride together until the very end of the trail. This point it was nice to have someone to chat with for the last leg of the trip. It was such a relief when we reached the paved area of the trail outside the city, and meant we were only a few KM to go.
I parted with my friend and I headed back toward the bike shop to return my bike. The clerk was happy to help and I shared me experience. At this point I wanted to check into my accommodation. I wandered the city for around an hour without wifi, until I found the double tree. Oh how delicious that baked cookie tasted after that bike journey. It was warm and satisfying. After showering and resting for a bit, I went down to the pier for dinner. I grabbed some chowder and a “Beaver Tail” pastry. I walked around and explored the pier for a bit until the sun set, and my head hit the pillow.
Day 4 - Last Day
Day 4 was pretty relaxed. I got up and had breakfast at a coffee shop with a croissant. I really love croissants as you can tell. I explored the city garden, the city front, and the gathered my luggage to hit the bus to the airport. My final spot was the same place I started this trip, Cafe Taiyaki. Partly because it was right around the block from my bus stop, and I enjoyed the atmosphere at this place. I wanted to share my experience with them and had a drink before saying goodbye and riding the bus to the airport. I met some folks on the bus from St. John’s NL and, who knows, maybe I will visit there next!
What a great trip! I hope to do more cycling trips such as this, and even get a group together and cycle some place for an extended period. And finally, the pictures!