Cape Breton offers some of the best motorcycling in Nova Scotia. I often describe the twisting curves of the Cabot Trail as "The blue ridge parkway meets the sea", very similar to California 1 on the west coast. Alas, I have enjoyed numerous rides up here before and know the steep grades and limitations of La Tortuga in such conditions. Perhaps it was my fatigue or desire to continue south but I started down the familiar Scotch Lake Rd through the center of the island of Cape Breton. Road signs are bilingual here in English and Gaelic, a direct identification of the highland Scottish ancestry of the region. Canadian Gaelic has been spoken here since the first Scotts arrived in 1773 but the language is in sharp decline with fewer than 1'500 speakers in Canada today. The lilting language bent my ear when I overheard a conversation in a Sherbrooke pharmacy.
Travelling south through Cape Breton, the climate was noticeably more humid and warmer than Newfoundland. The abundance of deciduous flora, birch and various pine trees gave both the promise of milder climates ahead mixed with the emotions of leaving Newfoundland behind. The landscape there had really taken a hold on me and I know I will return. I explored a variety of gravel and sand roads south through the center of Cape Breton, eventually arriving at Port Hawkesburry and the Canso Causeway by 2 in the afternoon. A stiff wind tossed me around on the causeway which crosses onto the mainland of Nova Scotia, returning me to mainland North America. I celebrated by treating the empty fuel tank to a gallon of Canada's (re)finest. Turning east, I followed the Straight of Canso until it began to rain. Sure it was 70 and a warm rain but my body screamed for rest. I found my way to an abandoned section of road along the water and two apple trees which had grown into one whose sheltering interior provided an ideal site for the hammock.