Friday, July 25, 2008

July 22-25: A Few More Provinces

July 22: St. Louis de Kent to Shediac
102 km
5:43 on the bike
17.8 km/hr average
After an enjoyable evening talking with two fellow campers - Russ and Sue from Oshawa (solar homes in Ontario Cottage Country), it was up at 6:30 am for another day of Acadian Coast riding. This time we had the pleasure of a local guide for our ride -- Jean-Guy. At our parting yesterday Jean-Guy said that he had always wanted to do the ride from St. Louis down along the coast to Shediac, so we said "what about tomorrow?". He said sure, and Jean-Guy arrived at our campsite just after 8:00 am.

We set out together under an overcast sky with a few drops of rain, but with a good (most of the time) tail wind. The wind held and the clouds soon cleared and we had some sun for our ride. We used the coast road -- Highway 505. We went through Richibucto, Cap Lumiere, Bouchtouche, and Grande-Digue. The ride gave us a good look at working fishboats and small docks, estuaries, rivers, and sea side. At Cap Lumiere we had our first view of Prince Edward Island. The roads were in good shape and very quiet. I don't know why these roads are not crawling with cyclists! The views are superb, and the people very friendly. I think that New Brunswick is not promoted enough as a cycling destination province, but I'll certainly recommend it.

Riding in this area was very interesting. This is not a touristed area, so one downside is that there was not a coffee to be had between Richibucto and Bouctouche. But, since we were well off the tourist trail, we had a chance to talk with some residents. For example, the fellow in Richibucto-Village who has a brother, Alphonse, who lives in Ladysmith. And, when you travel with someone from the area, you get to meet his friends too. We stopped in at Saint-Edouard-de-Kent to say hello to Gilles and Rosemarie, brother and sister-in-law to Jean-Guy. As well, one of Jean-Guy's neighbours saw us stopped at the Bouctouche spit and dropped off a huge bowl of strawberries for us to eat. However, we didn't want to ruin our appetites because it was off to Bouctouche village for a lobster roll lunch -- very tasty.

Lest you think it is all about the food, I should mention that the estuaries, rivers, marshes, and dune enviornments on this coast are truely a Canadian gem. From the bayou-like salt marshes of Kouchibouguac National Park, north of Saint Louis, to the 12 km long dune spit outside of Bouctouche, this area is home to all sorts of shore birds, migratory birds, moose, bear, deer, etc. Highlight birds for us today included an osprey with a fish in its talons, heading for a nest.

We said goodbye to Jean-Guy (thank you for the good wine -- much appreciated with dinner) just outside of Shediac and quickly got a campsite just inside of the town. Hopefully we will meet up with him again next week when we are in Cape Breton. Right now it looks like a rainy evening in camp, so tarp and drying from the last rain are important. Tomorrow is a big day, we will be leaving New Brunswick and heading to PEI -- one province closer to our goal.

July 23: Shediac to Cumberland Bay Campground, PEI
91 km
5:30 hours on the bike

Seven down and three to go! Today we left New Brunswick and went over the Confederation Bridge to PEI. Once again New Brunswick proved to have some world-class riding. We started off with some rain and cloud in Shediac, after a surprisingly quiet night (given that we were close to a road and some type of factory). Shediac is famous for its beaches, but no one was sunning themselves in the rain and cool temps of the morning. We stayed on the 133 highway through to Cap Pele, where we left for Highway 950 and the sea-side town of Petit-Cap. This quiet road took us by salt marshes and along the ocean front. It was very interesting to see the mix of working harbours, fish processing operations, and vacation homes all existing side by side.

We stopped for 2nd breakfast at Shemogue on Highway 15, then it was on to the quiet 955 for a seaside ride to the Confederation Bridge and PEI, our eighth province. We got views of the huge bridge well before we arrived at Cape Jourimain (where the bridge touches down on the NB side). It really is quite an engineering marvel, and goes hundreds of feet up into the air above the Northumberland Strait.

We had quite a wait at the New Brunswick Tourist Info for the bike van -- cyclists are not allowed to ride across the bridge, we have to be shuttled. However, while we were waiting I scored a full-sized New Brunswick flag. The one outside the Visitor Info station was a bit tattered, so one of the staff was taking it down for replacement. I asked what she was going to do with the old one and she gave it to me. New Brunswick's flag is very interesting. It has a griffin and a boat on it. None of us are sure what this symbolizes, but guesses of ties with Wales or Scotland, and possibly the John Cabot boat, are the best we can do.

Our first views of PEI featured looking back at the bridge over field and fields of, you guessed it, potatoes. We are now in camp on Cumberland Bay. It is still overcast, but the rain is holding off and we are going to have an early night. The bay is a place of complete quite. All we can hear is me typing and hundreds of birds singing.

Tomorrow we plan on visiting Charlottetown and taking in Province House. PEI looks to be as fine a place to ride as New Brunswick, and it has a bike trail running from one end to the other. We will probably ride on a small part of the trail.

July 24: Cumberland Bay to Northumberland Provincial Park Wood Islands.
102 km
15 km/hr average

Today PEI dispelled us of one main notion -- the island IS NOT flat! At least not on the routes that we took. Keep in mind though that we were "off the beaten track" riding through some of the beautiful green and gold farmland of the south island. Our roller-coaster route took us along some of the red-dirt roads between Crapaud and Emyvale. We followed highway 235 (I think?) into Cornwall (our first big town of the day), and then hopped up on the Trans Canada Highway for a ride into Charlettown.

The TCH leads right to Province House where we had a fine tour of the PEI legislature. A beautiful sandstone building, stuffed with history and presided over by Parks Canada interpretive staff. The island had 27 MLAs and what I think is the smallest legislative chamber in all the country -- about the size of a coffeeshop. We were surprised to learn that PEI has the largest voluntary voter turn out in the democratized world. 90 percent of PEI votes in every provincial election. Also, at 34 Robert Ghiz is the youngest premier in Canada (even younger that the New Brunswick whippersnapper).

We had a quick bite of lunch on the benches outside Province House and then did a tour through downtown Charlettown and headed out east over the Hillsborough bridge to our destination for the evening: the Provincial Park at Northumberland, close to the Wood Islands ferry. On our way over the bridge we stopped to help a motorist in distress (a 911 call).

The afternoon riding was mostly on secondary grid road 26, after following the coast road out of Charlottetown and then the TCH for a bit. This was one of those roads designed by a planner in an office to go straight through the countryside, regardless of topography. It was another roller-coaster. I was less than impressed, especially as we rode by the Trans Canada Trail (a rail-trail -- more exactly, a FLAT rail-trail). However, the peek-a-boo views of classic PEI farmland from the tops of the hills were worth the effort.

Our camp at Northumberland was buggy, but had supurb access to the ocean. I went for a dip -- well, more like a wade.

PEI really is a wonderful place to cycle. Mark and Cathy will be back to do a bit more riding here next month, and I'm sure they will have a great time.

July 25: 100km to Antigonish - 8 down!!! 2 to go!!!
Well, another day, another province. This morning we went down to the ferry terminal and spent some time at the tourist information checking email and asking the TI people everything we could think of to kill time before the 9:30 ferry, which we took to Nova Scotia!! Another province done, and boy was that one fast!!

Major irritation: Nova Scotia has no "Welcome to Nova Scotia" sign!!! Very irritating - I will have to take a picture at North Sydney (assuming there's one there).

We went into Pictou on the side roads and looked at the Hector replica (ship that original Scottish settlers landed on) and met Wally, who is riding from Vancouver (left early June) and is riding with a RV support across the country, but he skips parts, as he rides around 100km a day and then gets picked up and goes ahead to camping. He might ride with us tomorrow towards Mabou!
The views from Pictou were only spoiled by huge mills in the area.

We then went across the causeway and took the back road into New Glasgow, then we got a bit turned around trying to find Highway 4 out of town and ended up on the trans-canada for 10km, which was fast but uninteresting. By this time it was 2 or 3 in the afternoon and we had to get another 50km to Antigonish, which turned into a hot cycle along Highway 4 across the countryside. Nice countryside, very remote - all the towns on the map between New Glasgow and Antigonish are really nothing towns - just a few houses.

On the way into Antigonish I very nearly ran over a stupid chipmunk which refused to move until I nearly creamed him - and I couldn't dodge him because of traffic. Stupid chipmunk.

We are camping in the campground/cottage park called Widden's in downtown Antigonish - hopefully we'll get to near Mabou tomorrow on the coast of Cape Breton.


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