Used with permission from
Tandem Magazine Spring 1999
Kent and Jenny Peterson
If you're planning an inn-to-inn cycling tour of Prince Edward Island, there are two items of interest we can pass long: you will encounter some hills (no matter how flat the car drivers tell you it is...), and you will eat incredibly well, even if you're a vegetarian. A third tip we could offer is that you might consider working ahead of time with a tour organizer from the local area -- it pays off in spades once you're on the road!
Prince Edward Island, located about 10 miles north of Nova Scotia, is part of the Canadian Maritimes. It is Canada's smallest province, and although it is also the country's most densely populated, the feel is decidedly rural, as you wheel along past red dirt roads, beautifully-tended potato farms, and wide fields of sweet-smelling clover.
In planning our trip to PEI, we decided to go with an outfit by the name of Freewheeling Adventures, which is based in Hubbards, Nova Scotia. We found the company to be easily accessible by phone, fax or e-mail (see below*), and co-owners Philip and Cathy Guest, very helpful and easy to deal with. Two other important factors for us were: the price was fairly moderate, and they were willing to plan a self-guided trip with itinerary. Kent and I have never been big on cycling in big groups for extended periods of time, so the solo adventure option sounded good to us, but we also appreciated having someone "in the know" plan an interesting tour for us. And it worked out just perfectly.
We had also decided, after a previous experience of shippiahead and then having to deal with The Big Box at the other end, that we'd invest in one of the take-apart tandems that can be checked as luggage on your plane. Having previously owned and loved a Co-Motion Double Espresso, the decision was not a difficult one to go with their new Co-Pilot, which is regulation size, but is constructed with six sets of S&S Machine couplers so that it takes down into three main sections which canstowed (carefully!) into a rather oversize suitcase. You need to be fairly handy with a standard set of bike tools at the other end, but when fully reconstructed, the Co-Pilot rides like a dream!
Finally September arrived! Kent carefully disassembled the Co-Pilot, wrapped each piece of tubing in its appropriate casing, and then worked out the jigsaw puzzle of stowing the frame in its hardsided case. We had decided to go with the othe wheels and all the other extras, such as helmets, water bottles, bike shoes, and so on. The second suitcase was softsided, but has stiff plastic liners to provide structure along each side. (These suitcases can be purchased through any company that sells S&S-coupled bicycles.) Obviously, the more care taken in packing the bike, the less trouble you'll have on the other end. Ours sustained very little damage, requiring only some electrician's tape to mend some gouges in the captain's handlebar tape, and some truing of the wheels. (If you forget your spoke wrench, as we did, a handyman at your first inn may be able to lend you an ordinary small adjustable wrench to do the job!)
The self-guided bike tour that Freewheeling Adventures planned for us on PEI was to begin in New London. After a glassy-smooth ferry crossing from Caribou, NS, we caught our first glimpse of Prince Edward Island's characteristic red cliffs at the little port of Wood Islands. A closest spit of land as we approached. How could one not be charmed by such a sight?
DAY 1: NEW LONDON to BRACKLEY BEACH (28 miles)
After a night in PEI's capital city of Charlottetown, where we were lucky enough to see the season's final production of "Anne of Green Gables" at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, we set out by car for New London, about a 45-minute drive to the north central part of the island. New London is the birthplace of Lucythe world-famous "Anne of Green Gables" books. Since I am a librarian, I was fascinated to see the very home where she was born, and made sure to take plenty of pictures to show my fellow library workers back home.
At the Visitors' Center just down the road, we parked our car as pre-arranged, and finally started re-assembling the tandem. As we worked at this task over the next hour and a quarter, the hazy clouds started to give way, and by the time we'd changed into shorts and jerseys, we needed our sunglasses as well. A lucky omen, we thought! Although the sun that day was essentially the last we saw for the rest of the bike trip, we only encountered a total of about ten minutes of rain the entire week, so we still considered ourselves lucky and were able to enjoy the trip.
For an extra charge, Freewheeling Adventures had arranged for our car to be delivered to the endpoint of our trip, so after secreting the keys as directed, we wheeled out of the lot and bid adieu to four-wheeled transport for five days. It felt wonderful to be riding again!
In Cavendish, just up the road, we were able to tour the Macneill house, which belonged to relatives of L.M. Montgomery, and was the inspiration for "Anne of Green Gables." Now a national park, the beautiful old home has been lovingly restored to reflect late19th-century furnishings and grounds with accuracy. Once again, I made sure to record the visit for my coworkers.
After a picnic lunch in the little town of North Rustico, and a busy stretch of road beyond, we delighted in catching a scenic loop from South Rustico to Cymbria, where we witnessed the late afternoon sun hitting white country churches, and caught our first whiffs of incredible sweet clover. These are the moments we touring cyclists live for!
DAY 2: LOOP THROUGH PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND NATIONAL PARK (35.8 miles)
Back on the road, although there was not much traffic, the wind and frost heaves combined to make the ride challenging, but before too long, we'd reached our recommended lunch stop at the far estately old home called "Dalvay-by-the-Sea." Built by an oil baron in the 1890s as a summer home, this huge old-world mansion is now a sumptuous inn and restaurant (and incidentally serves as the "White Sands Hotel" for the Anne of Green Gables television series, "The Road to Avonlea.") The warm wood-and-stone interior, friendly service, and delicious "caramelized onion torte" we ordered for lunch did much to restore our windblown psyches.
DAY 3: BRACKLEY BEACH to BAY FORTUNE (54.8 miles)
Loading up all our gear, we headed out by about 9:15 under overcast skies, for what would prove to be our most challenging day of map navigation. Luckily we had been forewarned by our tour organizer, and had been provided with excellent and detailed written instructions for every single turn along the way. And by golly if we didn't make it!
The route soon turned inland and treated us to a real panorama of the island's rustic scenery and little-traveled back roads. It is here that we began an incredible succession of twists and turns and Y's and T's, so that we were stopping virtually every mile - or less! - to consult our indispensable map and directions. The latter also clued us in to a rather nondescript gas station in a tiny town called Mt. Stewart, which did indeed have restaurant facilities where we were able to order sandwiches to go (and use the restrooms). These are the invaluable tips that local tour organizers can supply!
DAY 4: LOOP to EAST POINT from BAY FORTUNE (60.8 miles)
After a gourmet breakfast on the glassed-in veranda, and after picking up ourorganizer), we were ready to head out for what would turn out to be our longest day yet. The sky was still deeply overcast, but we were hopeful that there might be some sun by afternoon.
By the time we hit Souris an hour later, we were ready to stop for a rest at the Visitors' Center"Souris" comes from the French for "mouse," as it was apparently overrun with the little critters at one time, but we can attest to the fact that we saw nary a one during our visit. This pleasant little workaday town was easily the largest we visited on this end of the island, even boasting a hardware store and pharmacy, which were just what we needed for picking up a few necessary items. We felt like country bumpkins in the Big City, awed by all we found on the shelves! Such excitement.
DAY 5: BAY FORTUNE to POOLE'S CORNER (42.7 miles)
We had hoped that we might have some sun for the last day of our tour, but as we gazed out at the familiar overcast skies that morning, we realized it just wasn't to be. So after another fine breakfast, we donned our leggings and jackets once more, bid adieu to the Inn at Bay Fortune, and headed south.
Our route generally took us inland that day, around Howe Bay and Boughton Bay. A short visit to the wharf at Annandale on Boughton Bay provided a glimpse iweathered sheds piled high with lobster traps and other fishing gear. Set off by the familiar red clay roads, it was a picturesque sight.
At Poole's Corner, we located the Visitors' Center and there, sure enough, was the car we'd left almost a week ago in New London, which Philip had arranged to have dropped off. Like magic -- for a price, of course!
The next hour and a half were spent taking the bike apart, padding the pieces, and packing it up to fit back into the two suitcases we'd left in the car. There were times when we swore it wasn't all going to go back in, but since we'd come with it that way, we knew it had to fit! With only moments to spare before the Visitors' Center was to close, we puzzled it all out, and were able to use the restrooms at the Center for a quick wash and change.
>From there we continued our journey on four wheels instead of two, but knew that we would always savor the memories of our bike tour on this friendly rugged island. Back home, when we unpacked the bike and found little bits of that rich red dirt still clinging to the tires, we smiled and relived our adventures all over again.
* FREEWHEELING ADVENTURES
Phone: (541) 485-5262
Fax: (541) 341-0788