Day 15: Antigonish, NS to North Sydney, NS (St Columba and the Sleeping Symphony)

Suggested Listening : Little Changes by Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls

Total Distance Cycled: 2225km

Antigonish, NS to North Sydney, NS: 184km

Waking up at 5:40am is never easy, but it’s especially hard after 14 days of riding your bike straight. With a tough day ahead of us though we wanted to make sure we had enough time to have a big breakfast, put away our hanging laundry and get packed up without feeling too rushed. Breakfast was peanut butter and banana bagels with a Boathouse smoothie. It was quite filling and should hopefully help power us for the first part of today’s ride. Despite the early morning we still didn’t manage to get on the road until 7:30am. If I’m being honest I think we were procrastinating on getting started because the day seemed daunting.

It should be no surprise to anyone that hasn’t just reading this now that we started off quite slow. Shantel in particular was moving slower than usual and while we had lots of time to make it to the ferry if we continued at the pace we were going we might not have made it in time. We pulled over and chatted about how she was feeling. She said she was struggling to keep her eyes open and it was then that it dawned on me – she didn’t have a coffee or any caffeine yet today. I suggested she give herself a little boost by putting a “boost tablet” into her water. A short while later she said it was helping quite a bit. To make sure she was extra alert though we stopped a little later at a Tim Hortons where we refueled ourselves with some Beyond Meat and an ice coffee for Shantel.

After our rest/food stop Shantel got a huge energy boost and really stepped it up. We continued riding and things felt pretty decent all things considering. At one point we even went for a shirt dip in the water to cool down. We sort of regretted it afterwards though since the bugs attacked us pretty badly. It was only when we reached St. Columba “Rd” that things got especially awful. This “road” was among the worst terrain I’ve ever cycled on in my life. For starters it was dirt/mud/gravel. I’d say it was filled with potholes, but that would imply that the road was even slightly even to begin with. It wasn’t. The “road” was a disaster and to matters even worse we had 7km of up and down on it. 7km might not seem like a long time, but trust me on a “road” like this it felt like an eternity. Going uphill took so much work because we could barely get traction and our bikes are are so heavy. When going downhill our hands hurt so much from holding the breaks so tightly. I consider us quite lucky that neither of us got hurt at all on the road because it could have easily happened. Eventually St. Columba road turned into a nice smooth road which was almost impossible to imagine.

The final stretch of the ride has a few good ones and downs, but one especially tough uphill towards the end. Energized by my music and the desire to get to the ferry and relax I push myself pretty hard and felt great after sccomplish the hill. Shantel while tackling it slower showed the hill that she meant business.

It was around 8:30pm when we finally made it into North Sydney. We had biked 184km which made it the longest day of riding for our trip so far. It also included a lot of elevation change. Hungry, sweaty and tired we had to two objectives in mind: get food and try to see if there were any cancelation for the berths on the ferrry so we could actually have a shower and bed, rather than recliner seats. We had try to book the berths quite some time ago, but they’d been sold out for every day in July for months now.

Before worrying about the berths though we needed to make sure we had food to eat on the boat so we went to a place Shantel looked up near the ferrry terminal called Black Spoon. Shantel ordered us a few dishes (which would all turn out to be pretty disappointing) while I watched the bikes outside. While waiting for Shantel to come out I ended having a conversation with a fellow traveler that walked by the restaurant. Peter as I’d learn was traveling from Montreal to Newfoundland and while not cycling at the moment has been involved with a regular fundraiser for the sick kids hospital in Montreal and Toronto. He also will be doing a Ottawa to Kingston ride later this summer that sounds fun. After chatting about cycling and our trip for a bit it was time for us to see if we could sort out the sleeping arrangements.

When we made our way to the ferry terminal we were told that therer haven’t been any cancelations, but they do save some berths and sell them on the day of to people on the wait list (which I had fortunately asked to me on when I bought our tickets). She said we were quite far down on the list and that once on board they would call the guests down and offer it to them. We tried not to get our hopes up since it seemed pretty unlikely, but we also really wanted a shower and actual beds to sleep in so it was tough not to hold out some hope.

When it was time to board we were directed to line up outside with the motorcyclist and other cyclists. For whatever reason the boarding process was quite slow and I froze while waiting. Bored while waiting I eventually struck up a conversation with a couple of the motorcyclists since we’d noticed their Ontario plates. It turns out they were from Cambridge and and only decided to make the time a few days ago to visit a friend here. When we told them about our trip they seemed pretty impressed with the distance we’ve covered so far.

As we rode our bikes onto the ferry we got mixed messages about where we should be going with them. After it was sorted we set our bikes up against the wall and grabbed the one pannier bag of mine that we had sorted out everything we would need for the night into since once we left this area we couldn’t come back until the ferry landed in Newfoundland. During the time we were setting up our bikes and getting the bag we started chatting with a couple of young guys from the USA. We shared details about our ride and ask about there’s since it was obvious they were camping along the way. It seemed like they were riding at a much more relaxed pace and sort of just going with the flow of things. It seemed like a relaxing say to ride in comparison to our journey. Just like with the motorcyclists we forgot to introduce ourselves and get their names.

From here we went to chat with the reception on board the ferry to inquire about the berths again and they said that they would call us down if we got one. All we could do was sit now so we opted to head to our reserved seatng. We waited as name after name was called over the PA system only to be disappointed. Once they made the final announcement that all the berths had been sold we admitted defeat and changed into our casual clothing despite feeling gross. All we could do now was try to get some rest in our recliner chairs. They weren’t exactly La-Z-Boy though so finding a comfortable position wasn’t easy and it was especially challenging for me since my legs were too long for it. It seemed like many other folks were much more prepared with pillows, blankets, etc. On top of the chair not being all that comfortable it was freezing cold (to the point that I was using a spare t-shirt as a blanket for my legs) everywhere on the boat and the lights while dimmed remained on all night. If it was just these issues with some luck I might have been able to get a decent sleep since I was exhausted, but with the symphony of snoring all around me it was near impossible to get any restful sleep. Nonetheless, with no other choice I slept for as much as I possibly could. It was exciting to think that when Shantel and I wake up tomorrow we will start riding in our final province of the trip.

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