The Cabot Trail — Day 5

Because the Vespa was having obvious muffler problems (sounded like a Harley in heat, but with way less power), we decided to alter our route in order to visit the nearest motorcycle repair shop, which happened to be MacKenzie’s in Middle River, along the southern end of the Cabot Trail.  This required us to travel north on #19 (the “Cheilidh Trail”), to intersect the Cabot Trail in Margaree.

The Cheilidh Trail reminded us a lot of western Maine — forested roads through big hills, although here with the occasional ocean view thrown in.  After a bit more than an hour, we pulled into MacKenzie’s Motorsports and were extremely impressed.  MacKenzie’s appears to be a small family business, selling motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles (including a 1950s-era BMW bike, along with the ancestor to Robin’s bike, the venerable Honda Helix!).  One of the mechanics immediately left whatever he was doing and came out into the driveway to work on the Vespa, quickly diagnosing the problem.

Apparently, when the new rear tire was put on last month, my mechanic in Brunswick made a judgment call which, as it turns out, did not work out.  I (ever the motorcycle expert) had thought that the coupling between the engine and the muffler pipe was loose.  In fact, there is a gasket in there which is supposed to be about two inches long.  The MacKenzie mechanic pulled out what was left of the original gasket, now a quarter-inch long at best.  This fragment-of-a-gasket was nowhere near long enough to block the exhaust gases and the noise from the engine.  The MacKenzie guy installed a new gasket, put everything back together, and the Vespa was once again running — and sounding — like new, all in the space of less than an hour.  Smooth, powerful, refined and elegant (everything a Harley isn’t, in my opinion), it was now ready for the Cabot Trail. I saved the gasket fragment for a pointed discussion with my mechanic once I get home.

We thanked the MacKenzie’s guys profusely (and now recommend them whole-heartedly to anyone having mechanical trouble) and made our way into the lovely lakeside village of Baddeck to visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, a place I heartily recommend.  Everyone knows Bell as the guy who invented the telephone, but I was surprised to learn that he did so much more than that.  He had a life-long interest in helping the deaf, working with Helen Keller and many others to develop a method of teaching them speech.  He improved on Edison’s phonograph, replacing the original tin cylinders with wax and a floating needle, making it commercially viable because now the cylinders would last.  And he did some significant work in aviation, helping to design the first plane to fly in Canada, along with innovations in tetrahedral designs and structures still used today — not to mention inventing the hydrofoil, the boat that floats on air.  Apparently he was a life-long humanitarian, always seeking to invent new ways to help people.  He kept a summer home in Baddeck, which is why this memorial is there.

From Baddeck, we finally made our way north to St. Ann’s and the meat-and-potatoes part of the Cabot Trail.  The entrance to the trail here gives but little hint of what is to come:

at the southern entrance to the Cabot Trail
at the southern entrance to the Cabot Trail

However, the Trail soon climbs.  Those interested in riding the Cabot Trail themselves should note that we chose to experience the trail COUNTER-clockwise, based on online and guidebook recommendations.  I will say that this worked out great for us, because all along the way we were on the ocean side of the road, with the best views and with the easiest access to the many scenic turnouts.  So, count this as another vote for doing the trail COUNTER-clockwise.

on the way to Neil's Harbor
on the way to Neil’s Harbor

One of the most memorable moments on the Cabot Trail is the ascent of Smoky Mountain.  This is an extremely steep grade with a number of switchbacks and s-turns, making for some extremely exciting scootering.  The ride here is breathtaking, with panoramic ocean views on the right and imposing mountain cliffs on the left, and the scooters handled them effortlessly.  Once over Smoky Mountain, the Trail continues into Ingonish, where we spent the night after enjoying some awesome snow crab, along with death-by-chocolate ice cream at Neil’s Harbor.  The restaurant is impressively located as well:

image image image


On the way to Neil’s Harbor we came to a moose and calf right beside the road.  This is a constant possibility along the Trail and something for which bikers should be continually aware.  I got a lousy picture of it because, just as I was getting ready to shoot, a car came and stopped beside it from the other direction, scaring it off.  You’ll just have to trust me on this, the photo isn’t worth publishing.

Anyway, Ingonish is the largest town on the east side of the Cabot Trail and is located about a quarter of the way around the trail.  That means more of the Trail tomorrow!


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