13 August 2010
DAY 7: Pleasant Bay to just past the summit of North Mountain, 15 km
DAY 8: Neils Harbour to North Sydney, 122 km
My stay in the hostel was seriously refreshing. When Michael and Nicole came to pick me up yesterday afternoon, I was totally pumped to ride again. My body hadn't yet fully recovered, but my spirit had, and I was now ready to take on this Cabot Trail I'd heard so much about. We began riding, and for about 8 km we were flying. This part of the trail was amazingly beautiful, we had a slight tailwind, and it felt like we were going down more than up. That's when we started ascending North Mountain. This climb was INSANE, with a grade of 13% over 3 km. In case this means nothing to you, it's steep. And long. I was in my lowest gear, standing on my pedals, and still only managing to go 5-7 km/h. The only thing propelling me was the amazingly spectacular view and the honks, waves and thumbs-up of encouragement from motorists. What an awesome feeling it was to reach that summit!
After taking some pictures, we began the long and equally steep descent down the other side of the mountain. Not long into it, Michael was stopped at the side of the road. I pulled over to see what was up, but because Nicole had already gone ahead, we decided to relay her messages via cars that we'd pull over. I think these messages tell the story best.
Message 1: "Hi, there is a cyclist waiting a ways down the mountain. Could you please tell her that Michael broke three spokes and got a flat tire, so we'll meet her as soon as we're done fixing it?"
Message 2: "Hi, there is a cyclist.... Could you please tell her that Michael has fixed the spokes, and is currently fixing the flat, and we'll be down to meet her shortly?"
Message 3: "Hi... Could you please tell her that after fixing the first flat, Michael immediately got a second. We're going to try to hitch a ride in a truck to meet her and try and fix it again there."
That's right: after fixing three broken spokes and a flat, which took just under an hour, Michael got yet another flat in the same tire just as he began to move. He was frustrated. I thought it was kinda funny. So we waited at the side of the road for a pickup that could give us a ride to Nicole, where we would continue the repairs. Just as we were getting frustrated by the fact that all the trucks that were passing us were going the wrong direction, one of them pulled up beside us with a message from Nicole! It turns out she'd misunderstood the last message, thinking that we were having a hard time hitching a ride, so she arranged a truck to come to us! It also turns out that Nicole was literally just around the bend, waiting for us at the first lookout. We sat down and Michael proceeded with his repairs, while Nicole and I prepared a sumptuous feast of instant pudding, made with water and powdered milk. What a marvellous idea: you mix two kinds of powder (pudding and milk), add water and stir. Voila! You have pudding (or at least a brown, pudding-like, liquidy, lumpy substance).
After many attempts to figure out what was happening with his tire, Michael gave up. Nothing seemed to work; his inner tube kept popping. By this time, sunset was approaching, so we called the park warden, who came to pick us up. He drove us to Niels Harbour, a small town further down the trail, and dropped us off outside a medical centre there. This was the furthest he could take us, since it was out of the park bounds. Here, we got lucky: two paramedics who were on duty right where we were dropped off, Mike and Lyell, offered us a place to spend the night and treated us like kings. They have a little paramedic apartment where they spend 24-hour shifts. The place was newly renovated, had a couch, cot, TV, and a nice kitchen. Lyell brought us food from the medical centre and towels so we could have showers. The next morning, Joe, who was taking the next shift, made us eggs and toast and sausage for breakfast. It was so awesome to have a great place to spend the night, with such good company! These guys really made us feel at home there.
Mike the paramedic drove our Michael to Sydney this morning, where he got his tire repaired (it turned out he only needed some new rim tape). Nicole and I had a lovely cycle to North Sydney: gorgeous weather, a nice bit of trail, lunch and baked goods halfway, and a greasy dinner at the end made for a fantastic day. Tomorrow we catch the ferry to NL! We have to board at 4 am... ugh.