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Days 87 - 91
Day 87. August 10. 135 km. Total
6940 km. Charlo.
I am finally here! I have been looking forward to this since the day I left home. Reaching this point was the last milestone I had before getting to St. Johns and I have not been disappointed. I was so happy to be here that I did my little victory dance right in the tourist info center in Cambellton while singing "I'm in the Maritimes" to the tune of "I'm in the money". You should have seen some of the looks I was getting but at least one person clapped when I was done. Heck, I BIKED HERE, I'm expected to be crazy so why disappoint them. Plus it's more fun this way. Leaving Quebec and reaching an officially bilingual province was also an euphoric moment.
Back in Quebec, Hwy 132 was really quite good. From Causapscal to Routhierville (~35 km) it was pretty much all downhill (honest!) and through gorgeous county. You follow along the Matapedia River as it meanders down to the Atlantic. The river is nestled in a valley with rocky cliffs to the north and rolling green hills to the south. The water is coloured brilliant blue and green and is sharply contrasted by the sheer black shale walls of the cliffs that border the left side of the road. From the road I could see fly fishermen casting from the shore and drifting down the river is small punts. From Routhierville to Pointe a la Croix the trend was still downward but there were some small hills that had to be traversed. At Restigouche there was an excellent historical site and museum that was well worth visiting. In the bay right near Restigouche was where the last naval battle between France and Britain was fought in 1760 and it was here that the fate of New France was sealed (or so they would have you believe). The government has raised sections of the Machault, a French warship, and have it on display along with an interesting historical story of the time. I have heard that these ships could hold 150 soldiers and 100 sailors but I couldn't grasp the size these ships must have been until I saw the keel standing over three stories tall. At Pointe a la Croix you cross into Cambellton, New Brunswick via a bridge and from Cambellton to Dalhousie the road was in great shape with a large shoulder for 90% of the time. There were several small climbs but the climbs were short and the descents were long so I was a happy cyclist. This was where I encountered the bicyclists fallacy for the umpteenth time this trip. The fallacy being "Just because the road is great here does not mean that it will be good for the entire length of the province". As I biked to Dalhousie along the great road and no traffic I though to myself how nice it was that N.B. maintained its roads so well. That thought was shattered when I left Dalhousie down speed bump hill. This hill was patched into a billion bumps and my bike threatened to toss me off like a bucking bronco.
I really wanted/needed a shower and laundry done tonight so I took advantage of being able to speak English again and did The Knock. It could not have turned out any better. The family I am staying with is just awesome and I had a great time talking with them and their little girls tonight. They were so welcoming that I am staying in one of the kids beds while they double up in the spare bed. Unbelievable!
Well it's 11:45 pm and apparently there will be a near total eclipse of the sun tomorrow so I will be up at 6:00 am to try and catch it. With the time change that means that my body will be thinking that it is 5:00 am. Ouch! But how many times in ones life do you get the chance to see an eclipse?
Day 88. August 11. 86 km. Total 7026 km. Salmon
Staying with that great family last night was just what I needed. Good company to strengthen the spirit and restore the soul. At the time I was feeling really worn out and run down but now I am ready to go and do another 2-3000 km to finish off my trip.
I was up super early to try and catch the eclipse but unfortunately I did not see anything. I think that perhaps a slice of the sun was missing but it was so bright that I really could not tell. It did work out ok though because I was up in time to head over with the family to his brothers for a bacon and eggs breakfast, Yummy! After breakfast they watched me pack up my gear and then each of the little girls gave me a gift for the road. Megan gave me a picture she drew and a clay worm she made while Chelsea gave me a big, coloured clay rainbow that is currently riding on the back of my trailer. Thanks girls.
Finally the cruddy weather I suffered through in Quebec has broken. Today was a great day for biking. It was warm (23 degrees) and the clear blue skies lifted my spirits. However, even though the terrain was only gently rolling I was having a great deal of difficulty with it. At first I though that it was because I was so tired , which I am sure contributed, but then I realized that it was because I was low on carbohydrates. The meal last night was German sausage "hot dogs" and this morning was bacon and eggs. Great food but just not as high in readily accessible calories as granola and other high carb. foods. At lunch when I realized this I astounded even myself by eating 7 (yes, that is 14 slices of bread) peanut butter and marmalade sandwiches (my current favorite), an apple, a pudding cup and a package of chocolate. Wow. Once the sugar rush hit I had no more problems with the hills. I just flew over them.
The road so far has varied from excellent to poor and generally the poorest sections are found within the towns. Up to Bathurst the road was mostly good with not too many hills while Hwy 134 after Bathurst to Salmon River is in poorer condition with some occurrence of the asphalt wave. Traffic over the entire Hwy 134 route so far has been extremely light as the major highway (Hwy 11) runs parallel to this road and most tourists take that one. The scenery has been very pleasant although not exactly what I had been expecting. I was picturing riding along cliffs but instead most of the time I have been at sea level, cycling over gently rolling hills with picturesque farms to the inland and small cottages on the ocean side. The cobalt blue water of Chaleur Bay with the mountains of the Gaspesie peninsula were a pleasure to look at. The only negative thing I can say is how "touristy" the whole area feels. Most of the towns on the water feel more like resort areas than actual communities. Some even boast of having a winter population of 5000 but a summer population of 25,000. That is not a selling point in my book. That aside it is still a really pretty ride. It was along here that I met two new cyclists. They were two guys who had left Vancouver on July 17 and were going all the way across. We chatted for a bit about how the trip has been so far and in the course of talking about routes the CCA Touring book came up. Disgust flashed into their eyes, "You mean the Book of Lies?" Ha! That's a great description for parts of it. They had followed the books recommended route for B.C. and a portion of Alberta but then gave up on it. I am still using it to give me an idea which route to take but then the rest I do on my own by looking at a map and talking to locals.
Tonight I wanted to be on the water so I just bided my time until I found the perfect spot. A large yard and what looked to be grandparents playing with a grandchild in the backyard. I rode up, introduced myself and within the hour my tent was pitched and I am writing this. Any closer to the water and I would be getting wet. At this time of night having all the cottages along the bay is a nice thing because in the dark the cottage lights look like a string of pearls along the shore, reflecting eerily in the water.
Day 89. August 12. 50 km. Total 7076 km. Caraquet.
Well it's true that tonight even with a wealth of doors to knock on I opted for bush camping in behind of a public tennis court. The reason for turning down a possible meal and supper? I just needed time to myself to think about the last few days and plan the remainder of my trip. I also wanted to try and get to bed early tonight to catch up on the sleep I lost trying to see the eclipse. If I opted to stay in someone's yard there would be no way that I could do any of these.
The morning could not have started out any better, warm and clear skies and the older couple I was staying with game me $7 to go and buy breakfast!!! Wow, I am already being paid for telling my stories, maybe I should write a book.
The cycling today was much closer to the mental picture I had of the New Brunswick. The road climbed until instead of bicycling at sea level along the beach I was now continuing along large, craggy seaside cliffs with the surf rolling in below. At Janeville, Hwy 11 joined up with Hwy 134 and traffic increased accordingly with everyone going faster. Hurry up and relax seems to be their motto. Always in a rush to get somewhere so they can stop and have their vacation. There was not much of a shoulder but the lanes were wide and the road good. Between Grande-Anse and Bertrand is a historical site called The Historical Acadian Village. Here they have restored/replicated all the building of an Acadian town for the period between 1770 and 1890 after the deportation of 1755. Along with the restored village is the history of the Arcadians here on the North American coast. In this display they were definitely portrayed as the innocent and helpless victims of big, bad Britain but I just didn't feel that I was getting the whole story. When you are stuck between two superpowers, Britain and France, I don't see how you can remain neutral especially when on conquered territory. I also find it hard to judge 16th century acts using 20th century morals. To make an educated analysis of the situation I would guess that you need ALL of the information to make a decision on whether it was right or wrong and all I have been hearing is the French Acadian side of the story. It would be interesting to hear from the other side and when I get home I am going to try and do some research to find it out. It was still a really neat place to visit. Just my own 2 cents so no one go and get offended.
Here is the funny thing about doing tourist stuff. The reason I stopped to check out the village was because I was fighting a Prairie force headwind and needed to rest. However, after leaving the site I was more tired than I started! This tourist stuff is hard work! Walking around, fighting crowds, viewing stuff and reading the info. It's no wonder most of these people have big motor homes to get around, after three hours of this I was ready for a nap. I think that from now on I will just stay on my bike and view the tourist areas from the road as I go by.
As the day progressed the weather got continuously worse, a strong headwind blew from the south-east and storm clouds moved in. At Caraquet (the Acadian capital) the headwind was keeping me to about 10 kph on level ground so I just decided that I would call it quits for the day. I had only traveled 50 km but since I don't have any deadlines (Yay!) I will just consider today a rest day. Caraquet is a strong bastion of French language in New Brunswick, everyone here appears to speaks it and not English. Arcadian nationalistic pride is also very evident by the presence of Acadian flags and colours painted EVERYWHERE. Flagpoles, lobster traps, houses, you name it. At first I though that this was the way it was all the time (and it might be) but then I found out that the 15th is an Acadian holiday and everyone here is celebrating it.
Now for soul baring time. The reason that I needed time to think my feelings out tonight was that today I received an e-mail from that girl in Trois Pistoles. I can't stop thinking about her. We only talked for 15 minutes and yet I felt like we sort of clicked. Maybe it was just the mindset I was in that day and being able to talk to someone in English that coloured my thinking. I guess that at heart I am just a romantic and will always wonder "What if?".
I have gone through the maps for the rest of my trip and have roughed out the remainder of my trip. I had been thinking of doing a 60 km (120 km roundtrip) jaunt to the Bay of Fundy to see the tides but the weather is so poor that I think I will just push on and can spend that extra distance in Newfoundland. I expect to be in Charlottetown, PEI within 4 days and will spend 4-5 days there visiting all my relatives and typing up the past months worth of entries (ACK! Am I that far behind again?). After spending ~200 km in PEI it is another 800 km through Nova Scotia to reach the ferry to Newfoundland. I am really looking forward to reaching The Rock. As much as I like these areas, they are a little too tame for my tastes. Years of habitation have left them looking somewhat manicured and I am really looking forward to the rugged coastline of Newfoundland. As it stands right now it looks like I will be spending about 1500 km in The Rock before I am finished, September weather permitting.
Well there went my chance for an early bedtime so I better call it quits now.
Day 90. August 13. 175 km. Total 7251 km. Saint
Louis de Kent.
Today was really a nothing day in terms of scenery, just conducive to putting your head down and pedalling. However, as usual it is the people that I am staying with that will make the day so memorable.
From Caraquet I got turned around and missed the exit for Hwy 11. Instead I went exploring and took Hwy 355 to St. Simon and from there cut across to Hwy 11. Even these New Brunswick back roads were in good shape, no shoulder but they followed the coast along the water. Using the sun as a guide (rises in the east, right?) I was able to work my way back to Hwy 11 and continue from there. These little mistakes can sometimes lead to the most interesting little areas and it is always nice to get away from the main route. Hwy 11 for the whole day was in good to excellent condition with at least a full 2 foot wide shoulder. So far, in terms of roads I would have to say that New Brunswick has the best. Now I mentioned the poor scenery earlier. That was the downside today and I call it thinking scenery (you are not distracted by anything so you just think). Nothing but mostly flat road going inland through the bush. If it wasn't for the lack of big hills this could be eastern Ontario. Around Miramichi it was not quite flat, more like gradual climbs and descents but nothing overly strenuous (at least for a cyclist who has traveled 7251 km <GRIN>).
All in all there was nothing too memorable about today until I found a place to sleep. I knocked once in town but was turned away so I headed to the outskirts. I knocked on a likely looking house (with a Canadian flag) and spoke with the woman within. She was Acadian and hesitantly agreed to let me camp and I thought to myself that I might have made a mistake in choosing this place (shower wise that is, if they appear uncertain about letting me stay I don't push their hospitality). Boy was I ever wrong.
I set up camp and started to eat dinner when the rest of the family drove up and invited me in to escape the mosquitoes. I was just in the process of making PB&J sandwiches when she asks "We have some lobsters left over from dinner, would you like one?" My jaw hit the floor, "I would LOVE one". So that's what I had for supper, LOBSTER! This is quite funny because when I listened to todays message from Chris and Karen (they update their answering machine at home everyday), they said that they had met up with the Carmichaels and were having a lobster dinner. Up till now I was feeling jealous but then I got a lobster dinner of my own. Unbelievable.
Uh oh, its midnight. I had better get to bed now. 240 km to Charlottetown, ETA ~4:00 pm on the 15th.
Day 91. August 14. 101 km. Total 7352 km. Shemogue.
I certainly can understand why ancient cultures ascribed the power of the wind to gods and elemental spirits. Sometimes it is your best friend while other times it seems to be a malevolent spirit, set out to break you down and drive you into the ground like a bug. Every road I took today, no matter which direction, seemed to head right into the wind. South for 70 km on Hwy 11? Into a crosswind. East on Hwy 15 from Shediac (the lobster capital of the world)? Into a headwind. Turn left or right? Headwind. It just kept blowing and blowing. And as if the wind were not enough I had to fight torrential downpours all day. I mean the rain came down with the same force as a prairie thundershower and yet lasted longer. The rain would come in sheets with such power that the massive raindrops would actually bounce from the road. At times it was coming down so hard that I saw cars pull over to the side of the road with their four way flashers on because they could not see anything at 100 kph. (Hmmm... Maybe I should not have been out riding in it either?) It was just like that one scene on the Truman Show where Jim Carrey is outside when the rain starts just over him, he can dodge in and out of it but it follows him like a shower head until it starts raining everywhere. I would be biking along with not a drop falling then all of a sudden I could see a wall of water coming at me and boom, it would wash right over me in a torrent. Now this was fun the first three times it happened but I quickly grew tired after that. It is a good thing that I have excellent raingear, I was damp and warm as opposed to being soaked and cold, Gortex is worth its weight in gold.
I had really hoped to make it into PEI tonight (~35 km further) but the wind was just too strong today and my left hip is bothering me. Plus, because it is getting late I did not want to risk getting caught waiting for the shuttle to take me and my bike across Confederation Bridge (the bridge is over 12 km long over the Northumberland Strait and you are not allowed to bike on it).
As for the scenery today? Boring just like yesterday. Hwy 11 was in excellent condition as usual but it just goes through flat bush.
I am completely beat so I am calling it quits for the night now (7:45 pm). I hope to make it to Charlottetown (~135 km) tomorrow, weather and wind permitting.
Another province down. Three to go. Hi ho, hi
ho, it's off to PEI I go.