Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 12

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
239 miles (2,776)
drift tree
I think it was the rain that caused it, but nevertheless, when I entered Canada, I felt extremely lonely. As if I had left everything that belonged to me, and everything to which I belonged. The money was odd – I couldn’t get used to dollar coins and two dollar coins. Gas is sold in litres and costs almost twice as much as it does at home.
I gassed up just before I crossed the border, but of course I only carry 4 gallons. At highway speeds, in the rain and extreme Bay of Fundy winds, I got poor mileage, and went on reserve at only 120 miles. I stopped to get gas, and my credit card was declined. I had been waiting for that, since I’d been zipping across the country and using the card every 100 miles. But it was a blow to have it happen first thing when I came into Canada in the cold rain. I used my backup card, and though I only got 3 gallons, and the pump charged me twelve dollars and some odd cents, the credit card was charged $88. I stopped sooner next time, worried about running out of gas, and got another 2 gallons. This time, the credit card was charged $115, and Allison got an alert that a hold had been put on that card as well. Fortunately, I’d stopped at an ATM and got some Canadian cash.
I called the card company next day, but they certainly did nothing to ease my mind. They did, however, remove the hold. The very next time I used the card, they called Allison again. I sure do appreciate how alert they are to irregular purchases and locations, but having a credit card does me no good if I can’t use it.
Anyway, this was my welcome to Canada.

Tonight though, when I arrived back at my campsite cold and wet, and built a fire, and watched the clouds and fog clear out, exposing myriad stars, the milkyway, and the brand new crescent moon, I finally felt at home. This is the same sky I have at home. This is a sky I share with the people on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. This is the same sky I sat under in New Mexico, and Wyoming, and California last summer.
I’m thinking of Will, who is enthralled with the concept of seeing the milkyway, though he has never seen it. He has not yet spent these waking, late, dark moments beneath the clear sky. I’m looking up and seeing the occasional shooting star pierce through the hazy strip that is the reaches of our own galaxy. It is dark as dark out here. I’m thinking of Abraham, how one star he saw, had been lit for me – I am a stranger in this land, I am that, no less than he- and on this road to righteousness, sometimes the climb can be so steep – I may falter in my steps, but never behind Your reach…

Today, once again, I when I looked at the time, and realized that the miles traveled didn’t match, I was thinking of the difference in the perception of time when riding. On the bike, time doesn’t pass. That is, the perception of time doesn’t register. I feel the passage of miles, but am completely unaware of the passage of time. I was thinking today, as I rode, completely unaware of what the clock might say, that is not time passed that matters – it is time spent that counts. I’ve always been perplexed by the term “pastime.” As if we had nothing to do and were looking for something to pass the time. That is a foreign concept to me. Time passes in busyness, and I wonder where it went. I can’t remember ever wondering what to do with my time.
Leisure is not a luxury, but a decision, a discipline – a sacrifice even. I sacrifice, my family sacrifices. But it’s something that needs to be done. Time spent in Sabbath. Time spent in intentional space. Time spent beneath the milky way, far from the lights of industry, of busyness, of day-to-day.

And so, tonight, I sit beneath that hazy swath of light, stretching across the darkest sky, and realize that this is not a familiar sight to the busy person. This is not something that a healthy, wealthy and wise person can experience. Perhaps we’ve mis-defined healthy, wealthy and wise. Early to bed and early to rise. Space is healthy. The Milkyway is healthy. There is nothing more healthy than an easy soul, and that is accomplished only in Sabbath. -withdrawal from the day to day.

Today may have very well been the first day that my soul became easy. I’ve had a wonderful time visiting while hiding from the rain. I’ve felt loved and accepted, but I’ve been stressed about the unrelenting weather, even when shielded from it. Today, though, I rode off into a clear morning along an extremely gorgeous scenic route. About 50 miles in, I entered the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I took a scenic detour at the northernmost point in the park and dealt with heavy rain for about half an hour. During the rain, I missed a poorly marked turn and followed a back road toward Bay St. Lawrence. I realized I was on the wrong road about 5 miles in, but it was so beautiful that I couldn’t bring myself to turn around.
Eventually, remembering that I wanted to catch a boat for whale watching, I turned around in the rain and headed back south to make the turn I’d missed earlier. There was road construction all along the way, and all the flagmen smiled knowingly at me as I passed on my way back to the right road.
Tell me a TailWhen I arrived at Lake Pleasant Harbor, just as the rain subsided, I was told by Captain Mark’s crew, that the whale trip was iffy. There were no other passengers booked for the ride. They postponed the departure by 30 minutes and eventually closed shop and went home. The competition next door had gone many miles further out to sea because of the heavy fog, and were late by 2 hours and a half. I waited, however, and had a lobster roll and got on the boat at about the time I’d planned to be back to my campsite.
The wait was well worth it. We immediately came upon dozens of Pilot Whales and spent the next hour watching them surface, arch, blow and swim alongside and under the boat.

When we returned to shore, I mounted the bike, thinking I had seen everything the Cabot Trail had to offer. I’d just twist the throttle and head toward camp. Little did I know that the best of the Cabot Trail, and Cape Breton lie ahead. The next hour held the greatest frequency of “look offs” and photo stops. At Cheticamp, I stopped for gas, and another local biker struck up a conversation. I’d thought that distant travelers would be an everyday occurrence in a place like this, but apparently South Carolina is more distant than the average biker attempts. So I was met with awe, and an extra meaningful “welcome to Canada.”
During the last darkening hour before I reached my camp again, I road through swarms of bugs that completely blackened my face shield and blotted out my headlamp. The roads were wet, but I’d come through just as the storms subsided.
I reached camp beneath a clearing sky, and now as I sit beside the fire, the milkyway stretches brightly overhead.