The day after French Mountain was a pitiful day of weather. There was a stiff north westerly that brought a cold hard rain. A perfectly miserable day to get back on the bike. So I didn’t. On the advice of many Facebook friends, not that I needed a great deal of encouragement, I checked in for a second night at the Mid Trail Motel in Pleasant Bay and enjoyed a morning of leisure in my overpriced, phoneless, prefab room. In the afternoon the rain let up enough to get out and get a few photos without getting completely soaked. It felt good to accomplish something that day.
The next morning was a fine crisp sunny one with a light breeze from the west as I headed westward out of town toward North Mountain. Every local person I had spoken to since climbing French Mountain had seemed more than happy to throw at me the idea that the worst was yet to come. They seemed to revel in the notion that whatever pain or suffering I may have encountered on French would pale in comparison to what I would experience on North. Sadistic bastards. So with a slight trepidation and an unhealthy dose of fear and loathing for a mountain I had not yet met, I set off.
The ride out of town was beautiful. The trees standing at the roadside in beautiful shades of orange and red cast mesmerizing shadows on the grey asphalt. A short ride down the road I came to the Lone Shieling, a replica of a Scottish crofter’s hut, sitting on the edge of one of the largest old growth hardwood forests in the Maritimes. After a quick stop it was back to the road. One last chance for a warm-up before hitting the slopes of North Mountain. It was a pretty damned brief warm-up. Almost immediately I began to climb. As I did I passed a signed that stated, “North Mountain.” I was on it. Warm-up time was over. It was go time.
The first approach was surprisingly steep. After this first rise the mountain offered a nice long stretch of slightly easier riding. It not only gave me a little break it also offered false hope that this was not quite the monster than I had been lead to believe. The monster soon returned and ugly was it’s reared head. The next rise was unbelievably steep and long as was every other rise on the mountain. Unlike French Mountain, North doesn’t offer respites. There are no gentler slopes to ease the suffering of oxygen starved legs. There is no place to ease off in one’s pedaling in order to catch a brief rest. There is only pedal steadily or stop. But then, before I was even ready for it, long before I ever expected it, before me lay the final stretch. The top was right there. I scaled this last steep stretch with great enthusiasm, no longer concerned about saving energy for further climbs. I crested the top with a great flourish and pushed on through, never stopping, taking no breaks; just like French. I soon had my steed racing at speeds of 35 to 40 kilometers an hour as we raced across the plateau to the south side of the mountain. I felt fresh and alive, invigorated by my successful summit of the toughest climb I would face on my tour. I felt great. The view from atop the southern edge of the mountain into the valley below was tremendous, leaving me once again sputtering small, single syllable words, in a vain attempt to describe what I was seeing. Here’s the part where I get sick to my stomach.
I took a couple of photos from the top and began to ease my way onto the steep, steep down slope. As a last thought, I decided I should give both sets of breaks one last good check before heading off. Front brakes? Check. Back brakes? Che.. Oh, shit! The back brakes failed. I damn near rode the south side of North Mountain with no rear brakes! Looking down the intimidating slope in front of me I became nauseous at the thought that me and my heavy laden beast had nearly bombed North Mountain. It still makes me a little nauseous today to think about it. But I corrected the slippage, gave it MANY tests before heading off down the mountain. Along the way I stopped to take a few photos, getting a young lady near the bottom to take one of a victorious Tramp. I had successfully climbed the two most difficult mountains in my path and I couldn’t have felt better.
After a little snack at North Mountain Lookout it was back to the road. After a short ride I passed beautiful Cape North. A little while after that I climbed South Mountain, which is a bit of sweat maker but presented few of the challenges of it’s earlier counterparts. By mid-afternoon I was in Ingonish where I checked into the Glenghorm Beach Resort. I soon discovered it is owned by a Korean guy which gave me the opportunity to use the 8 Korean words I still remember. Just kidding. I actually remember 12.
After a bite of supper at the pizza place that wasn’t serving pizza it was off to bed for an early night. It was a rewarding but tiring 8o kilometer day. The next day would see me exit Cape Breton Highlands National Park for the last time and reach the end of The Cabot Trail. But, as they say at the end of the original Conan the Barbarian, that is a story for another day.