As I came down off the mountains, headed toward the sea-side town of Cheticamp, the spire of St. Peter’s church stood tall above the low-lying roofs of the surrounding houses. The afternoon sun glinted off the dark blue ocean, the light reflected from the brightly painted homes and fishing boats, the smooth, soft emeraldness of the coastal meadows backdropped by the muted fir-green of the Cape Breton highlands.

This place was so lovely I was all set to find myself a piece of property and move. The scene reminded me of a beautiful woman, done up in her very best, at whose feet, in my rather feckless youth, I would have thrown myself and begged her to spend her life with me. I stopped at the Cheticamp harbor to allow the vision to soak in.


From left to right above: Water power was the way lumber was sawn for hundreds of years before steam or electricity came along; Santa Fe Dennis cruises past the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove; the Cape Bretonites take a very traditional view of farming; Louisbourg seen through a fortress wall; fishing boats docked in Mill's Cove.
This trip was cooked up by Northeastern Motorcycle Tours, and five of us had convened in Bar Harbor, Maine, the previous week, to meet CEO Sean Reid and David, the Chase. The tour had been touted not only as a superb ride, but also a gastronomical extravaganza.

The first meal was definitely up to palatal snuff, as I savored my smoked salmon with caviar, followed by a pasta with lobster sauce that arrived with a massive heaping of crustacean on top.

We woke early in order to make the fast catamaran ferry that runs between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia, except the poor Cat was mildly crippled by the lack of one of its four 9,500-horsepower engines. Put that in your Suzuki Hayabusa! However, repairs were in progress, and the captain swore we would enjoy the full glory of the sea-skimming boat on our return eight days hence.

Landing in Yarmouth, our group headed out on a delightful run of the province’s southwest coast. The reason people pay Reid good money to go on his trips is that he knows the best roads to ride, the best places to eat, and the best places to lay your head at night. We continued our gastronomical adventuring at a little restaurant where the specialty of the house was rappie pie. Scrumptious! And if you want to know what that dish is, go to Nova Scotia, because Helen LeBlanc made me promise not to give out the recipe.

As we rippled along the narrow coastal roads, it was a most picturesque ride, passing small harbors with fishing boats pulled to the wharves, neat houses lining the waterfront, young mothers pushing baby carriages in the waning light of the evening sun.

We came upon a little ferry that plied 200 yards across La Havre River. "Wouldn’t it be fun to take it?," I asked Reid. "Even more fun to do the 20 miles along the road to get to the other side," he replied. Sensibly we did the road.

On the waterfront in Lunenburg - don't worry, this is a one-way street.
That evening we bedded down in an old sea-captain’s house in Lunenburg, the residence now an exquisite Bed and Breakfast. We ate three scrumptious courses at a nearby inn using many plates and regretting not a mouthful.

A number of vears ago some bright lights in Nova Scotia realized that they were sitting on an untapped tourist treasure. New England had been done, and done to death, with gift shops and motels filling every chink between Mystic Seaport and Acadia National Park, but New Scotland was a whole new world. Americans could ride up and get on a ferry and be in a distant land in less than a day.

The Nova Scotians love the tourists, too, being by nature an extremely friendly lot, and genuinely so. They are happy to talk, ask about your travels, lend you their own phone to call the office. Yes, I stopped at a gas station in a remote village, Cape North, and asked if there were a pay phone. “No,” said the woman at the counter, whereupon she cheerfully offered me her own portable instrument. I liked that.

Traveling the back roads we could not help but absorb much of the history of the place, as the Scotians have done an excellent job of pre­serving or resurrecting much of their past. Sherbrooke Village is a turn back to the 1860s, whereas the astounding re-creation of the Fortress of Louisbourg is like stepping into the 1740s—seeing Louisbourg alone is worth the price of the trip.

This Canadian province covers some 21,000 square miles, bigger than New Hampshire and Vermont combined, and has less than a million residents. Fishing and min­ing have long been the mainstays of the econ­omy, but catering to the likes of us has become an equally important source of revenue. Several Indian tribes fished and hunted here for hundreds of years, and the Vikings may have landed at some point, but the first Europeans to record sighting the land were John and Sebastian Cabot, father and son, who sailed by in 1497.
The KLT sails through the curves near Cape North.

In 1604 France thought to develop this bit of North America by sending over colonists from the La Cadie region east of Bordeaux; one of these Acadians, Antoine Cadillac, later became semi-immortalized by having his name appropriated for a large American car. The British responded to the French a few years later by claiming the land for their crown due to the English origins of the Cabot excursion—and calling the place Nova Scotia after sending Scottish settlers over. The situation was not resolved until 1763 when the French ceded the place to the British, and there still are French-speaking areas of the province. Though to reassure you linguaphobes, everybody does speak English. 

Three quarters of Nova Scotia is a lobster-claw shaped peninsula coming off the Canadian mainland, while the northeast quarter is the island of Cape Breton, separated by the Canso Strait, a very narrow and often windy channel of water. A causeway now runs across the strait, with a drawbridge for the occasional boat, so access to the island is much simplified.

We headquartered in Baddeck, spending four nights in that lakeside town, which allowed us to wander at will for the next three days. Baddeck itself is most famous for being the adopted home of Alexander Graham Bell, and for the superb museum dedi­cated to this brilliant Scot. Many of his creations are housed there.

To give you a measure for the appeal of the island, let me quote A.G. Bell, “I have traveled around the globe. I have seen the. Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland; but for simple beauty, Cape Breton out-rivals them all.

On our first morning in Baddeck, Reid led us off to the Cabot Trail. This is a destination for all motorcyclists who go to Nova Scotia, being a loop of nearly 200 miles that runs to the northern end of the island, through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. And a superb ride it is. The dilemma that presents itself is whether to do the ride clockwise or counterclockwise. So we did counterclockwise the first day, clock­wise the second.

It is a tough call, but I would recommend clockwise if you can only do it once. That way, you get the full glory of riding up to the ridge of the mountains and seeing both the Gulf of St. Lawrence to your left, the Atlantic Ocean to your right, and forest everywhere in between, except for the thin ribbon of asphalt.

Top to bottom: A blacksmith tries out his high-wheeler; Riders gathered on the rocks surrounding Peggy's Lighthouse; A traditional Barn; A hexagonal barn near the Bay of Fundy.

As we sat at the table on our last night in Baddeck, going through a bottomless bucket of mussels as an appetizer, then dismantling entire lobsters or slicing into thick filets of planked salmon, we could barely speak for the pleasure of eating. But we did discuss the riding. “Stupendous,” said the doctor from New York. “Outstanding,” said the man from Santa Fe. “Remarkable,” maintained the couple from Oregon. In truth it was. Aided of course, by the excellent weather.

Which brings me back to the harborside bench in Cheticamp, where I was engaged in conversation by a local who came by to admire the motorcycle. When I told him of my having fallen in love with Nova Scotia, he sagely advised me to come back in February or March before making the decision to move here permanently

I decided not to visit the real estate office in Cheticamp. But I will go back to Nova Scotia. Perhaps by then the fourth engine on the Cat will have been fixed. The ferry had been made in Australia, and apparently the factory was much too busy with the Olympics to get around to sending a spare part.

- Clement Salvadori, Rider, April 2001


Clement negotiates bail after a colonial speeding ticket (Louisbourg)


Northeastern Motorcycle Tours

Vermonter Sean Reid is the driven force behind NMT, which has been running tours since 1996.  You can bring your own bike or fly in as rentals of BMWs, Ducatis, Harleys and Hondas can be arranged.  Reid prides himself not only on his choice of routes and lodging, but also the food.  All breakfasts and dinners are paid for and at dinner you can choose anything you want from the menu; for any gastronomes, this is a great plus.  You pay only for gas, lunch and liquor. The Nova Scotia tour runs for nine nights, with the ferry rides included, and costs $2595 for a solo rider in a shared room.  Bike rental is extra and prices varies depending on the motorcycle.


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