Starting out there is only a two-way highway with no shoulders, but the traffic, although busy, passes safely. Our destination is Pleasant Bay, some 138 distant. A flat 138 is one thing, 138 in Cape Breton is another. We alternate, 30-30-30, then Darrell and I mount up to finish off the day. Immediately after we begin, D says to me, "look ahead". I peer upwards to see a strip of road winding and switch backing up a steep mountain, French Mountain to be exact followed by MacKenzie Mountain. The combined length is 8 km with grades from 8-12 degrees. I follow Iron Darrell up the first part, pumping for nearly all I'm worth (no jokes please). The temp must be 85° and the sun beats through our helmet holes. I climb a steep incline and round a corner to face another steeper one. Okay Ker, it's white towel time for me. My head is so hot it's reminiscent of my last Gran Fondo, where I went all out to better my previous year's time. I finished hard but left nothing out there and was slurring my words at the finish. This is called heat stroke and on this trip, I wasn't going to repeat that. We all have to take care of our mental health in the long run. Darrell, although we worried about him, stopped to take water once, but managed to climb the whole thing. He gets the gold and deserves all the kudos we can manage. In fact I'll say it's about the hardest thing I've ever seen anyone do, ever!
At first I feel like a quitter, a looser, not a bruiser, but not far underneath, I know I have done the right thing taking care of my body and learning from my past mistakes. Fact is it was out of my pay scale, the high jump bar set to a level I have never done before. I'm totally ok with it. Having said this I jump on my bike when my head cools and I ride most of the the mountains. When we get to the top, there's a huge plateau of wild moose pasture. Every 1-2 km there are pullout viewpoints, absolutely spectacular views of the canyons, deciduous forests, and sea coast far, far below. D and I stop and admire the views, then begin the 8 km downhill screamer, with up to 17 degree descents. We discuss the downhill, daunting in its own right and agree because of the broken pavement and sharp switchbacks, that we don't let our wheels run, but astutely manage our brakes. Yes, and it's an absolute thriller downhill, my biggest ever by far and we are cooled by the winds we create as we glide into Pleasant Bay.
Safely home and into an air conditioned motel room, heavenly man! It's playtime and after cool showers some of us take to the lush grass field beside our motel for a little bocce ball. We have pulled our rig right up to the front door of our motel room, but with no kitchen in the rooms, we ask the motel-restaurant owners to cook up the 6 lobsters we have purchased before in Cheticamp. It happens there is a picnic table set under the shade of a big tree and we enjoy a festive time ripping away at our major crustaceans and dipping our prizes into the hot frypan of butter and lemon. Burnt out from the tough day of hill climbing, the party doesn't last long and the lights flicker off by 10:30. Satisfying and spectacular the day was and we look forward to another tomorrow.