Canada: Nova Scotia, A Seaside Sojourn in the Maritimes

Canada: Nova Scotia, A Seaside Sojourn in the Maritimes
I have traveled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all! -  Alexander Graham Bell

Just entering Nova Scotia, where that great inventor of telecommunications lived for 30 years, we weren't aware of the historical significance of the ground we were approaching. To us the village of Pugwash represented little more than a place on the map where we hoped we could get a quick bite to eat before riding on. Downtown, a stop in front of one of the signs calling Pugwash the "Village of Peace" had us wondering what we were missing. Yes, it's nice and quiet here, I thought, but it had been that way everywhere we had traveled for days. What makes Pugwash so special?

Noticing the puzzled looks on our faces, a local lady immediately escorted us into the town's community center to give us a quick lesson in local history: "On July 6th, in 1957, and at the height of the Cold War, 22 international scientists from the East and West, among them Albert Einstein, met in the village of Pugwash. They came to discuss the peaceful use of their discoveries and to speak out against the proliferation of the atomic bomb. Cyrus Eaton, a Pugwash native who made his fortune as an entrepreneur in Cleveland, Ohio, had invited them to his home in Nova Scotia. The scientists parted four days later after deciding to meet again. Thus the Pugwash Movement was born. In 1995, it won the Nobel Peace Prize."

Stopping at the Caboose Café, in Pugwash, boosts our flagging spirits.

That encounter serves as a good reminder of what motorcycle travel can be all about, how easily riders can make contacts and learn from the people met along the way. It's not likely that nice woman would have approached an SUV and rapped her knuckles on a darkened window to offer assistance.

The Canso Causeway carries us on to Cape Breton, an island where Gaelic is still spoken and taught in the schools, and where place names like Iona and Inverness indicate how emotionally attached the early Scottish settlers were to their homeland. The shores of Bras d'Or Lake first catch our attention. It's a huge body of water connected to the ocean by three channels, supporting an ecosystem where both salt- and freshwater species (cod, herring, and rainbow trout) thrive.

Taking a secondary road from Port Hawkesbury to Cleveland (Cape Breton) and West Bay rewards us with beautiful scenery, and we stop at Marble Mountain to enjoy the shimmering views of the lake. The combination of white pebbles and clear water creates astonishing turquoise colors only Nature is able to compose.

Tranquil transit: many quiet fishing villages line the way...

At Iona, a steel bridge carries us over the Barra Strait, a narrow between the two parts of Bras d'Or Lake, north along the St. Andrews Channel. And west of North Sydney, we turn onto the Cabot Trail, named after Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), the Italian explorer who sailed for the English and first sighted Cape Breton Island on June 23, 1497.

Renowned among motorcyclists, this 200-mile route around the upper tip of the island was once intended for road racing, much like the Isle of Man course. We were told the Cabot Trail ride is best when done counterclockwise, because of the fantastic, right-hand views of the sea, and the start is a relaxed ride through pleasant countryside. That's followed by the excitement of swinging in and out of the corners up to Cape Smokey. And once you're on top there, I would dare any motorcyclist along for this ride to maintain a straight face after removing his helmet. In fact, it's so much fun that we returned immediately and did it all over again. Drained by the adrenaline rush, we soon recover over a basket of crispy fish and chips at the Main Street Café in the pleasant, bayside town of Ingonish Beach.

Fully recharged, we continued through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, with the goal being to get as far north as we could. The road ended at Meat Cove, a name at odds with an astonishingly beautiful spot that features a natural campground of great cliff-side views over a dark bay.