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Nova Scotia: Prince of Rides - The Cabot Trail

Text: Geoff Drake • Photography: Geoff Drake, Janet Proctor

For the fourth time in one day, I am mangling the pronunciation of town names in Nova Scotia. Is it Why-COCO-maw or Why-COG-ama? Anti-GONE-ish or An-TIG-anish? Meredith and I have been in Canada for three days, but I haven’t gotten any better at this.

Meanwhile, our traveling companions, Jimmy and Janet, are wondering if another strategy might serve me better than my current foot-in-mouth approach. “You know,” Jimmy suggests gently, “as my grandmother used to say: Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

I can’t fault his logic. But a life of silent and seeming perfection would be so much less interesting, don’t you think? And so, I persist, butchering the local dialect in the tradition of traveling Americans everywhere.

“Why, yes,” I boldly pronounce in the next restaurant, “I’d just love the soup du jour of the day!”

Fortunately, everyone we meet on this eight-day, 1,834-mile trip from New Hampshire to Nova Scotia and the famed Cabot Trail is unerringly nice despite my frequent indiscretions. This corner of Canada is like that: It’s a place where tourism, farming, and the hardscrabble fishing life exist in equal measure; where picture-perfect ocean-side villages alternate with rough and odorous harbors; and where 1,500-foot peaks amidst the Cape Breton Highlands drop sharply down to their inverse—bogs and unending mud flats that are home to the most dramatic tides on earth.

From “The Garage Majal” to the Bay of Fundy

Meredith and I are riding a new Indian Roadmaster, a reincarnation of a century-old motorcycle that bristles with amenities never imagined by Mr. Hendee when the brand was launched in 1901, including heated seats and grips, cruise control, Ride Command seven-inch LCD screen, and most important, 36 gallons of storage in the capacious side bags and topcase. 

Jimmy and Janet are on another great touring mount: a Honda ST1300. Before departing from their house in Enfield Center, NH, Jimmy gives me a tour of what he calls the “Garage Majal,” a cavernous barn containing the complete or recognizable remnants of at least eight motorcycles, near as I can count. As a kind of nostalgic homage to my Indian, Jimmy insists that I blast up the highway in front of his house on a few of his vintage bikes. It’s a delicious menu of ancient iron, and I first choose a Honda CL175 high-piper and revel in the noise of the frenetic twin joyfully ricocheting off the dense woodlands. Then I switch to the pièce de résistance, a six-cylinder Honda CBX, which bellows a complexity of mechanical noises I have never heard emanate from a motorcycle before. If they were on iTunes, I’d buy the whole album. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2018 back issue.