Spring Tour, 2014: Southern Nova Scotia

ADVERTISEMENT

We do a lot of touring here at CMG, but one area we haven’t toured extensively is in our own backyard; specifically, southern Nova Scotia. In early June, we found out, with some help from the Nova Scotia tourism board – read on. There are four pages to this story, so click the link at the bottom of each page to get to the end, and the photo gallery.

When ancient cartographers wanted to draw up a map but were too lazy to actually sail to the edge of the world and survey the area for themselves, the solution was easy: Simply scrawl in the margin that Here be dragons and add an appropriate scary picture.

Motorcyclists can be guilty of doing the same thing. Instead of really taking the time to research an area’s best roads, they write off a whole region because they did some boring highway riding through there once.

That is the case with southern Nova Scotia; it’s just another boring collection of rocks and trees if you stick to the main highway. ‘Arris and I have both been there and done that, but looking at a map you see a whole load of back and coastal roads that contort around Nova Scotia’s jagged coastline. It’s not the quickest way through the area, but we thought it would make the ideal destination for the 2014 CMG Spring Tour.

We lined up a Multistrada and a V-Strom 1000 and pressed Rob's long-term GS800 into duty for this trip. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
We lined up a Multistrada and a V-Strom 1000 and pressed Rob’s long-term GS800 into duty for this trip. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

We had assembled a collection of three adventure bikes for the recce; ‘Arris with his long term BMW F800GSA, myself on a Ducati Multistrada 1200 that the Canadian Ducati rep kindly dropped off for us on his way to Newfoundland for a holiday, and lastly a Suzuki V-Strom 1000. This was made available through Suzuki’s  Halifax office collected by fellow motojournalist and east coast transplant, Michael Uhlarik who we’d managed to convince  to join us with promises of free hotels and expenses paid(ish).

We left CMG’s HQ in Sackville, NB on what was possibly the year’s first sunny Friday afternoon, taking our time through the secondary (and third-dary, if that’s a word) roads between Truro and Wolfville, where we’d meet up with Mr Ulharik and  the tour would officially start. There’s lots to see before you reach Wolfville, but that’s where the tour really kicked off, from the Old Orchard Inn.

On the 101, just outside Wolfville. Like all highways, it's not terribly exciting, although in some parts the scenery actually beats the secondary roads with their views of front lawn after front lawn. Once you're clear of towns, though, that's mostly done with. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
On the 101, just outside Wolfville. Like all highways, it’s not terribly exciting, although in some parts the scenery actually beats the secondary roads with their views of front lawn after front lawn. Once you’re clear of towns, though, that’s mostly done with. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Day 1: Wolfville-Yarmouth

Wolfville, like any good university town, has plenty of upscale cafes aimed at draining the wallet.  Saturday morning dawned with ‘Arris and Uhlarik trying to one-up each other with orders of fancy Euro-style coffee, while I checked out the day’s map with a cup of joe straight from the pot.

I’d heard there was good riding to be had in the Annapolis Valley, but it was hard to know for sure without actually hitting the roads. Rural Atlantic Canada is a strange mish-mash; sometimes, country roads are the empty stuff of motorcyclist’s dreams, with plenty of scenery and no speed enforcement, and sometimes you ride for miles stuck behind commuter traffic and don’t see anything but front lawns.

Leaving Wolfville, we were soon in the heart of the Annapolis Valley. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Leaving Wolfville, we were soon in the heart of the Annapolis Valley. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

At first, leaving town, I worried we’d be in for nothing but front lawns as our route took us through Kentville and Centreville, and we ended up stuck in traffic. But once we hit the 221 that traffic fell right off, along with a lot of baggage. Not actual motorcycle baggage – I’m talking about the caged-in feeling of looking out the window all winter at cold, white nothing. My east coast winter had been nothing but bad weather and broken bikes, and it was fantastic to hit a road with curves, great scenery, and all aboard a new motorcycle that wasn’t mine.

As it turns out, our timing was impeccable, with the Annapolis Valley’s famous apple orchards just coming into bloom. For those who don’t know anything about “the valley”, it’s a bit of a geographical oddity, formed between two ranges and running for over 100 km from Wolfville to Digby, paralleling very closely to the Bay of Fundy.

The rising hills on both sides of the Annapolis Valley make great views, and bring a micro-climate that benefits local farmers. Photo: Rob Harris
The rising hills on both sides of the Annapolis Valley make great views, and bring a micro-climate that benefits local farmers. Photo: Rob Harris

The northern range keeps out the cool air from the Bay of Fundy, and the southern range  keeps the cool air of the Atlantic out. This causes a relatively warm micro-climate that makes it the garden of the Maritimes for veggies and fruits, particularly apples. Its wide, flat bottom has Highway 101 running down it, but there are also many secondary roads offering the rider gentle, rolling curves through a unique bit of gorgeous geography. It’s a little bit like Pennsylvania, only sans Amish.

Unfortunately our Google Maps route took us down some gravel road and although we were on adventure tourers, the Ducati’s 17-inch wheels with sport rubber didn’t offer a great off-road experience, so we opted to do some quick re-routing.

Ah, yes, our wives always said we'd end up there ... Photo: Rob Harris
Ah, yes, our wives always said we’d end up there … Photo: Rob Harris

Our revised route took us north-westerly, to the Bay, which is hardly the worse thing that could happen, but as soon as you crest the ridge, the cold air off Fundy brings the temperature down a good 10 degrees – a reality evident by the sudden lack of population, despite the ocean view. The upside is that you get to navigate a very unexpected set of switchbacks to get back into the warm valley, complete with postcard quality vistas.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day. It’s always a treat to ride on a rare sunny and warm spring day, but when unknown roads offer up a great ride, you really feel like you’ve hit the jackpot.

No, that's not the set of a Connery-era Bond flick. That's a tidal generating station. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
No, that’s not the set of a Connery-era Bond flick. That’s a tidal generating station. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Just before lunch, we hit the Annapolis Royal Tidal Generating Station, and had a quick lesson in the facility’s energy production. This is highly worth the stop, if you’re riding through the area; it’s Canada’s only functioning tidal energy station, in business since the 1980s, and staff can not only give you the site’s vital statistics, but also fill you in on other fascinating projects being planned in the area.

Lunch was at the Bistro East in Annapolis Royal, around the corner from the Fort Anne historic site. Everybody was polite and courteous in town today, a far cry from the scene about 300 years ago, when this area was one of North America’s bloodiest battlegrounds during the French/Indian war. Thankfully, there were no militant Acadiens or vengeful, armed New Englanders in sight, and we passed through unscathed, unlike the military expeditions of the past.

Even in rural Nova Scotia, 'Arris managed to find Euro-style dining. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Even in rural Nova Scotia, ‘Arris managed to find Euro-style dining. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Outside town, we headed down some more bumpy pavement towards Bear River – Michael had heard legends of some sort of town built on stilts in this area. Upon arrival, the town turned out to be picturesque, but a bit small and beat-up, with a few stilts holding up some collapsing buildings.

It’s also where we had our first brush with the law. Luckily, all Officer Andrew wanted to do was talk – he was off-duty, and stopped his V-Strom to chat with fellow adventurists. He led us out of town at a much-more-legal pace than what we’d been riding at, and pointed us towards the night’s destination, Yarmouth. From here the road gets a little more populated (lots of lawns) but it doesn’t last for long and is a small price to pay for what had preceded it (though it may be worth jumping on the 101 to save some time).

The Cape Forchu lighthouse is a must-do if you're in the Yarmouth area. The view is fantastic, and the roads to get there are a real treat. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The Cape Forchu lighthouse is a must-do if you’re in the Yarmouth area. The view is fantastic, and the roads to get there are a real treat. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Our only drama came after checking into the Rodd in Yarmouth and heading out for some quick snaps at the Cape Forchu Lighthouse. The road between Yarmouth and Cape Forchu is short, but one of the twistiest in southern Nova Scotia, winding by beaches and wharves, with plenty to see when you stop (just don’t take your eyes of the road when moving).

The road is much less exciting, though, when your bike doesn’t start and your co-riders don’t notice, merrily gunning for the horizon while you sit and pull fuses and press buttons, hoping you don’t have to end the tour and leave a $23,000 Ducati on a decrepit dock.

"Ha! Ha! Won't Kurylyk be upset when this bike won't start for him!" - Uhlarik and 'Arris congratulate themselves on their always-reliable mounts. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
“Ha! Ha! Won’t Kurylyk be upset when this bike won’t start for him!” – Uhlarik and ‘Arris congratulate themselves on their always-reliable mounts. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Thankfully, I eventually got ‘old of ‘Arris when he checked his messages back at the hotel. He rode back out to help diagnose the issue. Turns out that sometimes keyless ignition can get confused, and requires the battery to be disconnected and reconnected to solve our problems – albeit with the gauges now set to miles.

Eats: Just Us! Wolfville Coffee House, Bistro East, Rudders Brew Pub
Accommodations: Rodd Grand Yarmouth


View CMG Spring Tour, Day 1 in a larger map

DAY 2 >

8 thoughts on “Spring Tour, 2014: Southern Nova Scotia”

  1. Nice write-up. Some more good roads for whenever I’m next on the east coast with my bike.
    Still having problems with the electronics on the Multi, huh? Not surprising, I suppose – an Italian bike with so much electronics – what could go wrong? Lol.

    1. We think it was because we moved it around without the keyfob in proximity, but nobody really knows why … all we know is, disconnecting the battery fixed it.

  2. I am seriously envious. Those coastal roads look wonderful.

    I’ve done coastal route 7 up from Sheet Harbour and loved it.

    Add to that the D2D route last year, and Nova Scotia is a riding destination.

    “No one leaves until the Ducati starts. ” Lmao!

Join the conversation!