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Dartmouth musician tours southern Nova Scotia by bicycle

Dartmouth musician Chad McCoy performing at Edible Art in New Minas. McCoy recently completed a musical tour of Southern Nova Scotia entirely on his bike.
Dartmouth musician Chad McCoy performing at Edible Art in New Minas. McCoy recently completed a musical tour of Southern Nova Scotia entirely on his bike. - Contributed
KENTVILLE, N.S. —

Picture a musical tour.

However, instead of crew-heavy productions, bright stages and large vehicles full of musicians and gear, replace all that with one man carrying everything he needs on a bike towing a small, wheeled trailer.

That was how Dartmouth musician Chad McCoy toured southern Nova Scotia after embarking on a musical voyage along the old Rail to Trail that took him from Queens County to Kings County - and beyond.

McCoy pedaled a total of 750 kilometers on trails that traced former railway lines through the region as part of his Packin’ Light Tour.

“I went from Halifax to the South Shore, taking the Rail to Trail, down into Queen’s County, Shelburne, Yarmouth, then up through Claire to the Valley, then back to Dartmouth,” McCoy said.

Travelling along an old rail route was a good history lesson, he said.
“That’s one of the biggest things I took from this tour,” he said. “You, by going to these different places, get to see the history of the railroad and the communities around the railroad. I ran the original route the railroad took, and it was really interesting to see those places.”

While packing the equipment for an entire tour into a bike and a single trailer seem onerous, McCoy noted that all his instruments fit into the trailer.
“It forced me to optimize my show. I could take it out and set it up easily,” McCoy said. “It also forced me to think differently about my show, and because of that, I was able to stop and play all sorts of places, not just the shows planned but a lot of spontaneous performances.”

McCoy thrived on that sense of spontaneity. It helped him get to know many of the quieter corners of the province.

“Spontaneous shows are a good way to animate spaces that don’t always get animated in that particular way,” McCoy said.

And if there’s a way to animate a space, it’s the way McCoy plays music. His performances featured him playing drums with his feet, playing a toy piano with his feet and strumming the guitar – all at once.

McCoy’s spontaneous performances brought him to restaurants, parks and other public spaces. In one case, he ate supper at one restaurant and, on the spot, asked proprietors if he could perform there.

They agreed.

Turns out his impromptu intimate performances were, by design, deliberate. McCoy said he originally planned a number of set shows, but went out with the intention all along of playing numerous spontaneous shows.


FRIENDLY LOCALS

The hospitality he received while conquering his route was a highlight of the tour. This was found in everything from the many positive experiences he had while performing, to the help he got in Clare when he popped a tire.

“The main thing I enjoyed were all the small interactions I had while on the road,” McCoy said. “There were some wonderful interactions. People were great, and everyone I met was friendly.”
One of the few difficulties McCoy faced was on the trail itself.

While the in-person interactions he had were fine, McCoy noted the interactions he had with ATV drivers were “variable.”
“Some people were kind on the trails, but some were really aggressively driving their bikes or ATVs, which didn’t make me feel safe,” McCoy said. “Overall, though, it was a really good experience.
“It seems crazy to me that they haven’t developed a trail across the whole province. Bike tourism would be massive if they did that.”


GREEN TOUR

Above all, the tour was a departure for McCoy from his comfort zone – a mental and physical challenge.
One reason he undertook such a physically demanding feat was to call attention to the need for people to reduce their carbon footprint.

The idea was to do a tour that was as low-carbon as possible – something McCoy described as his own contribution to the conversation surrounding carbon emissions and a transition to a greener, lower-carbon economy.
“I wanted to try something, and it had all these additional bonus beneficial outcomes, the interactions with people, seeing the landscapes changing, going at the speed of a bicycle.”

Planning a tour around a trail made him book it very differently than if he’d been planning to use a motor vehicle.
“I had to be more strategic, to see where I was going and where I was going to land certain nights,” he said.

Looking forward to future tours, McCoy said he plans to return to the Annapolis Valley.
“I loved playing in Windsor and at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market. I want to play in more bars and pubs in the area; or house shows or anything like that,” McCoy said. “I really enjoyed the overall vibe in (Hants and) Kings County.”

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