Rest Day in Charlottetown, PEI — Pizza Delight followed by the snooze of the over-fed, a walk through the lovley downtown area, and Cow’s ice cream

August 20, 2011 1 comment

Having a real Rest Day is a treat and it shows: things go in slo-mo: languid breakfast, an extra cup of coffee, leisurely conversation (where Bud and Margo, owners of Cycle Canada, were referred to as Budget and Embargo) and then an amble back to the apartment – so little to do and so much time!

Had a lovely catch-up call with Gay. We are actually discussing the end of the Ride, our days in St. John’s, and going home! This seems more than a little unreal, and yet it will be here, so soon! One little change: we are going to cancel our subscription to the Globe and Mail! I have been without it (and any other form of daily news update) for almost three months – and I haven’t missed it. And Gay has been advocating for this change for a long time!

Another catch-up call, this one with Avi and Kath.  And knowing that this sort of activity, so much part of my daily routine for years, will be back soon – and will be welcome!

Owen’s sister from Nova Scotia paid him a surprise visit: he was expecting to see her tomorrow, when she will pick him up at the camp site, and here she was! Owen, his sister and his daughter, son-in-law and grandson were heading out to lunch at a Pizza Delight and invited me to join them. Owen and Landen had spoken often about this restaurant chain – how could I say no? What ensued was a chain of minor missteps and miscommunications that seem funny and trivial in hindsight. But, at the time, when it is hot and people are famished … But we made it to a Pizza Delight! And it turned out to be just a short walking distance from our residence! (We had crisscrossed the town to get here – long story.)

I opted for the unlimited buffet. To paraphrase Owen: ’They are lucky that they don’t get cyclists in here every day – they couldn’t stay in business!’ I had three rounds, and they were good! I almost grabbed a piece of sweet pizza (topped with fruit and preserves) on the way out… And I felt full. And I knew that a snooze would be advisable. Inevitable. Before we say goodbye Owen’s sister and daughter make cash donations to SchoolBOX. I am so touched by such generosity. And I am so very grateful for it.

Owen and I walked back. Well, he walked, I waddled. And for me this was followed by two hours of blissful downtime.

I really needed to air myself out. So I walked to the downtown area: pretty, very picturesque, touristy yet lovely. It feels prosperous, welcoming. There was a big annual parade here just hours before we arrived, and a jazz festival was taking place the whole weekend. Lots of people in restaurants, pub patios, in stores and on the streets. A lovely feeling.

Big sale on sports equipment – mostly golf clubs and stuff, and various outerwear and sports clothing. I don’t need anything… and I have a hard time resisting a sale. There are several lovely Sun Ice jackets at deep discounts. I mull them over, and over, and over. I walk out. I return. There is one jacket that I would like to buy. But not at the price being asked. I walk to the front and ask if they would sell it at the price I want. The man says “no”. I thank him and walk out empty-handed. And I feel good!

Cow’s Dairy makes awesome ice cream.

Back to the apartment. I prepare a light meal. Just a bit more blogging – about today – and I will be done. Everything else is ready. Breakfast will be at 7 am. We will aim to make the Woods Island ferry by 11:30 am. Then we will be off to the province-before-last… amazing!

“Fuelled by Equator Coffee!”

imageStreet-scape in downtown Charlottetown — touristy yet lovely
imageCow’s Dairy Bars serve the best ice cream in Canada (and, according to one authoritative-looking survey, “The World!”) I have no reason to dispute those claims, based on my two scoops, of Espresso and Toffee Crunch.
imageUnusual fountain on a trendy street…
imageThe Home of Canadian Confederation (back view)
image

The Home of Canadian Confederation (front view)

Advertisements

Winds, salt water and an amazing bridge (NB); incredible weather change, postcard-perfect vistas and heading into our final Rest Day – Pointe-du-Chene to Charlottetown, PEI

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Last night I was ready – silk liner in the sleeping bag, various cold weather bits at the ready. And the temperature did not dip! So I had a nice night sans mega-layers, and this was ok too!

The forecast called for gusts of wind, ‘up to 40 kph and higher at times’. No kidding! Even while riding along Hwy #1 we saw the weather change (as almost always, from the south): the sun was covered up by fast-moving clouds and the mercury hovered around 18C.

We turned onto a secondary road, and the winds really picked up. At times it felt as if an invisible hand was trying to push me off the bike. We did over an hour of the rolling hills routine, up and down, up and down and then I smelled the long-familiar salt-sea air, soon after which we reached the Northumberland Straights. On the horizon I saw the faint outline of a fairytale bridge, reaching over the curvature of the earth.  We passed a couple of fully-loaded young riders headed in the same direction. And then we were on the runway-flat access to the Confederation Bridge.  At the entrance my cell phone rang again: a second attempt at an interview. This time the connection was ok and we had a good conversation. I actually quite enjoy these interviews now.

The following comes from the bridge’s website: “The Confederation Bridge joins the eastern Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, making travel throughout the Maritimes easy and convenient. The curved, 12.9 kilometre (8 mile) long bridge is the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water, and a decade after its construction, it endures as one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century.”

And we couldn’t cross it! By this I mean that pedestrians and cyclists can only cross the bridge in a shuttle vehicle. The Mouseketeers got there ahead of us and Ric told us to get our numbers and wait – the shuttle would be by within an hour. I tried to get a self-portrait with the bridge in the background… I won’t quit my day job! J

Turned out we were lucky to pass the other two cyclists: our whole group filled the shuttle, along with four pedestrians. The van towed a well-designed bike carrier that held our seven bikes securely. The ride across was a thrill: crossing over so much water on a ribbon of concrete!

At the PEI side we split up: Owen and I headed to Hwy #1 (The Trans Canada Highway) while Landen and Isabel took the coastal route. Ric was busy climbing on a giant cow outside the Cow’s Dairy store to have his photo taken – and I had no worries that the Mouseketeers would get to Charlottetown.

What really amazed me was the weather transformation: even though we were just about 15 km away from New Brunswick, it was as if we had moved to a different continent! Gone were the wind and most of the clouds. In their place we got a blazing sun, and I mean ‘blazing’, with a reading of 36C!

I had imagined PEI to be relatively flat. Wrong! We did a lot of climbing and descending, which was fine given that the road had fair shoulders most of the way. And the scenery was postcard-perfect: fields of potatoes and corn and other crops stretching to the horizon, towards picturesque hills or the ocean. Beautiful farm houses.  Lovely roads and lanes. Everything in designer colors. Perfect for tourism. And everything seemed so clean and neat and … pretty!

We stopped about half way for some ice cream and drinks at an odd spot: it advertised a dairy bar, go-cart track and bumper boats in a huge swimming pool! It was fun cooling down and watching people have fun in a very low-tech, electronics-free way.

I was mindful of a reporter wanting to meet me around 3 pm at Holland College, where we would be spending our final rest day of the Tour. Owen’s GPS took us around the edge of downtown and deposited us near our destination. At the college we learned that our rooms weren’t ready… and that Bud would be arriving the following evening and rooming with Landen. We cracked a few jokes about who might make the ideal roommate for Bud: Ric? Jim? The reception person got a bit flustered and defensive due to our hovering and the fact that our rooms weren’t ready. She left and then returned with the good news: a couple of rooms were available! Owen and I picked our gear and headed upstairs. Nice apartment with two separate bedrooms, a decent kitchen and an ok bathroom.

I was really tired. The reporter arrived and got to meet with me in my riding clothes, pre-shower. Then I simply crashed for a couple of hours before showering, doing laundry and contemplating dinner.

The evening was low-key: light meal, catching up with email, mindless staring at the boob tube, and then a deep, deep sleep.

“Fuelled by Equator Coffee!”

imageConfederation Bridge, connecting New Brunswick and PEI
imageFirst (and last) attempt at self-photography LOL
imageLeaving NB
imageLike a bridge over troubled water…
imageApproaching PEI
image

This is how the bikes are carried across the Bridge. Note the sandbags, needed to weigh down the trailer due to strong winds!

Surviving the night (well, this might be a bit overstated); riding on Owen’s old turf – where he knows people at every turn – Penobsquis to Pointe-du-Chene (last day in New Brunswick)

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

There was nothing unusual about ‘going to sleep’. But from then on, at three different times, I woke up and added layers: socks, then my warm top and cap, then my warm leggings. Finally I was almost-warm! By 5 am I was nicely chilled (like a good white wine) and whining internally that I would not be able to sleep anymore, so I read for an hour. Ric then called out to Nieka to “Turn up the heat!” I then got up and deviated from my routine: first I went to the truck and put on my rain jacket (zipped up to my neck) as well as my socks and riding shoes. Then I inhaled a ton of food. Only then did I take my tent down and go through the rest of the pre-ride prep! This included checking the temperature: 7C, at 8 am! Must have been a lot colder during the night!

We started by returning to Hwy #1 – but it went from fair to poor in a few hundred meters: no shoulder, rough surface (currently under construction) and then down to a single lane! At that point we switched to a side road which carried us to the front of Owen’s old home, large parts of which he had built himself, overlooking the river. The house is nice; the lot is wild: 200 feet wide, by…2,000 feet deep, all the way to the river!

We stopped at a Tim Horton’s. People always smile and ask questions – about the ride, about SchoolBOX. Two older couples were seated at a nearby table and made small talk. Owen walked up to them, looked at one of the women and said: “Nancy?” (at least I think that was her name.) Turned out he knew her and her husband. And when we rode on he recognized a man who was walking a gorgeous white standard poodle – the man was an air traffic controller and a former associate!

The rest of the ride involved riding along the shoulders of Hwy #15, which were mostly fantastic. And, aided by a tailwind, I was able to quench my ‘need for speed’ for the better part of the 10 km I led our foursome, reaching a top speed of 28 mph, or about 45 kph! It felt great. And tomorrow we head to PEI!

 “Fuelled by Equator Coffee!”

imageTidal river of mud near Moncton, NB. It has the same ‘backing up’ effect as the Bay of Fundy
image

Tidal river of mud near Moncton, NB.

Productive Rest Day in Fredericton, followed by a New Brunswick Variety Pack of roads and sights – Fredericton to Penobsquis (which sounds more interesting than Sussex!)

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The furnace-like temperature in the residence, coupled with the thunderous motor of the air recirculation system, led to a restless night. I woke up around 3 am and blogged for a while, then read a bit at 4 am. By 6 am it was ‘game over’ – might as well get up. On my way out I saw one of the cleaning staff and asked her about the heat. She chortled: ‘It has been like this since it was built, five years ago. It is a sick building!’ I couldn’t agree more!

I took the elevator five floors down to the laundry room and put in my pile – just $1.25 per load and a mere $1.00 to dry – a real bargoon! (At some campsites and residences we paid three times as much.)

What to do next? It was raining steadily. I needed to buy more diaper rash cream and Gravol for the ferry ride to Newfoundland; get bills in exchange for the heavy bag of coins collected by the K93 radio station van in Grand Falls; tour the downtown area and…oh yeah, I also had a couple of interviews to do! As I was checking the times for the interviews on Google Calendar the phone rang:  the reporter from the Gleaner wanted to change interview time. I suggested that he could come right away, which suited him. It was funny trying to describe to him where the New Residence was located, based on what I could see out the window: the ‘something something’ hall to my left, a couple of large buildings to my right, and a large mud field straight ahead! Eventually he figured it out and showed up with a photographer. Thankfully the rain took a break. We had a good long chat while I posed by my bike.

As an aside, I noticed how much more comfortable I am with ‘being interviewed’. How come? (1) I  have had lots of practice and (2) I have thought a lot about SchoolBOX and Nicaragua’s poor children. I can now do a  Cycle 4 SchoolBOX interview at a second’s notice. Cool!

It was getting close to 11 am. The live radio interview with Mark Kilfoil of CHSR was scheduled for noon. I had checked the station’s address and it appeared to be on the other side of the Saint John River, about 8 km away. I could ride there, or take a cab, or figure out how to reach it by bus. I entered the address into my phone’s GPS. It said my destination was…430 meters away! Huh? I checked the detailed calendar entry: sure enough, CHSR was located in the Student Union Building, which I could see from my window! Lucky that I double checked before heading out! So this gave me some time. I walked south quickly, up a steep incline, to the pharmacy I had seen when we rode in the day before. Here I got the items I needed and some lunch fixings – a litre of chocolate milk and two slices of banana bread, to go with the chicken sandwich I had waiting in the fridge.

I walked back to the Student Union building and found the radio studio. I was intercepted as I walked in: ‘Mark is broadcasting live right now’. ‘Yes, and I am the guest’. “Oh! Come in”. Mark was at the control panel. When I introduced myself he exclaimed “Oh, it’s Tuesday!” He had forgotten I was coming. But we transitioned smoothly to a background chat and then to a lovely 30-minute interview. At the end Mark invited me to return for another interview when I did ‘the next thing’ or was back in Fredericton.

Lunch. More blogging…I am just about caught up! I then walked in the rain to the downtown area – smallish and distinguished mostly by the beautiful river running right through it. At a charming artsy cafe I treated myself to a wonderful cappuccino and delicious slice of apple cheesecake. And then a delightful teller at Scotiabank treated me very well, recounting the coins and finding an error in our favour!

Long wet walk back. Decent dinner at the university cafeteria. Back at the dorm I turned off the fuse for the noisy motor, welcoming the silence. I got caught up with email. Then I went into deep sleep clutching on to the illusion of being in control J.

Morning. As promised, the rains of yesterday were gone. We faced blue skies with tufts of clouds and a very soggy earth. We filled our bellies at the cafeteria (one of the best offerings to date) and rode away.

And here is where the Variety Pack came in. The first 50 km were ‘run of the river’ – flat terrain, next to the water, surrounded by luscious fields that Owen said get flooded every spring. This was classic — fast, easy and fun riding. The one surprise was the new type of road kill: tens of frogs, some tiny and others larger than my hand, mostly spread-eagled on their backs, showing white bellies. Strange.

The next 50 km were both challenging and rewarding: very hilly, with steep grades and no shoulders. And surrounded by beautiful scenery: trees, trees and more trees, farms clinging to the slopes, cows posing for passers-by.

The final 35 km were a ride on Hwy #1 through Swiss-like vistas: meticulous fields and roads, and the landscape then rising into foothills. This was especially pronounced near Sussex: we rode ‘down to it’ while an enormous postcard-perfect vista spread in all directions before us. A bit further down the road I saw four enormously tall concrete towers, topped by an irregular structure on which was painted a highly stylized “P”. I did not recognize the logo and couldn’t even remotely guess what purpose they served. Turns out they are part of a very lucrative potash industry. The first two towers are about 15 years old. The next two were built recently to expand output of this highly valued fertilizer, at a cost of $1.7 billion!

The Mouseketeers arrived. Ric was his typical excited self: he had milked a cow! His enthusiasm is infectious and he always cracks me up.

At the campsite the conversation turned to the evening in St. John’s. Different people have different plans. It will all get sorted out over the next few days.

 “Fuelled by Equator Coffee!”

imageRest day in Fredericton — view of the river in the rain
imageRest day in Fredericton — view of a parking lot (LOL) and some typical architecture, in the rain
imageReally? Why? Environmental art just outside our U of NB residence…
imageLeaving Fredericton, NB
imageAren’t rivers AWESOME? On this bridge for cyclists and pedestrians were two young women staffing an unusual station. They are employees of SNC Lavalin, a huge engineering firm, which is rebuilding one of the two major bridges in the downtown area. The company created this station to ‘apologize’ to cyclists and pedestrians for the inconvenience during this extended project! And they offered little treats: water, fruit, power bars etc. — and a weekly draw for a bike! Now this is my idea of smart public relations!
imageBeautiful river and marsh views during the first 50 km of the day’s ride
image

More river and march

Woodstock to Fredericton — boring is good. And a good Rest Day in Fredericton.

August 16, 2011 3 comments

Given the previous day’s ‘canine’ experiences, everyone agreed that Hwy #2 was the preferred route to Fredericton. Getting to this highway was very easy. Riding on it was just as simple: wide shoulders, protected by rumble strips, extremely long and not too steep climbs followed by extremely long and not too steep descents. Boring. But fine with everyone.

Entering Fredericton involved crossing numerous ‘on’ and ‘off’ ramps of various other roads entering and exiting Hwy #2 and then other roads we were on. This required extra care and clear communications, and we executed all of them without incident. As we neared the University of New Brunswick I saw a Hakim Optical outlet! Great — this would be my first destination after I settled into our dorm. And there were numerous other stores and food outlets around — civilization again!

Fredericton is built in a very hilly area. We traversed several of those on our way to the Residence office. Here we got our keys and access cards and learned that our rooms were ready! But all our stuff was still on the truck. So … I won’t bore you with the logistics. One thing that was truly unusual was the temperature in the entire dorm building — it was like a sauna. And this extended right into our unit! Sliding the temperature control to the lowest temperature had no impact. And the only impact of a very loud central fan seemed to be the noise it was creating.

Got my backup glasses repaired and bought a temporary set of glasses that fit my current lenses reasonably well. I can see! A quick meal, a side trip to an electronics store that yielded none of the items I need, then back to the dorm. Jim’s birthday party was supposed to start in his room around 6 pm. There was no one there at that time, nor for the next while. So I started catching up with my blogging. Eventually I gave in to fatigue and went to bed, with the tent fly and the ground sheet sprawled across pieces of furniture to dry out. The heat was unbearable — I was in my shorts, on top of the bedding, with earplugs inserted and I could not go under. So I got up and wrote some more. Then I fell into a fitful sleep.

imageLanden and Isabel resting next to spectacular rock formations, beside Hwy #2
image

Owen doing an Owen thing.

‘Three dogs day’ and running blind — Grand Falls to Woodstock

August 14, 2011 1 comment

Wedding party – at the Golden Age Club just above our campsite. Loud party music played till 1 am sharp! I managed to fall asleep with the help of earplugs.
I love my Garmins – when they work! Second unit fails ;-( – I started it up this morning and it seemed fine. Then, when we started moving, it started flickering between ‘auto start’ and ‘auto pause’. I tried several things but nothing worked. So now I have no way of tracking distance, speed, and several other key variables. DAMN!
Almost missed Hwy 105… – it was early on and involved a turn away from the highway we were on. But we caught it in time…
And then wished we had! Yesterday the road was near perfect. Hwy 105 was anything but … It actually felt like we had been transported from a lovely vibrant town to a movie set left over from the making of “Deliverance”
– narrow road, no shoulders, patch upon patch
– non-stop ups and downs; Lay-of-the-river often means running right next to a gently-sloping stream. Here it meant the sharpest climbs and descents in a long time! Over and over again!

– Many ramshackle houses in poor repair; grassy areas not mowed; rusting hulks of cars, trucks, farm machinery.

3 dog attacks within 25 km! On several occasions during the ride, in every province so far, different riders remarked about ‘no dog attacks’. All the dogs we had come across have been chained or restrained in some other way. We rode next to a house that was near the road — and then a dirty, shaggy, large dog, seemingly a cross between a golden retriever, boxer and a minor devil flew towards us, snarling and barking. I surged ahead and told Owen to do the same. He looked at the devil-dog closing in on his leg and sprang forward.  We accelerated and the dog gave chase for several seconds, then abruptly slowed down and returned to his place. The second dog, of no clear lineage, ran down a driveway towards us but then turned and ran within his property and then the next one alongside the road. Even as we sped up it kept pace. Both Owen and I took out water bottles, ready to spray it in case it came close. Then it just stopped. The third attack, just a bit further down the road, was by a large and ragged looking German Sheppard. It too came flying from next to a house just by the road, barking and baring it teeth. I had a bottle at the ready and sprayed a shot in its direction, then a second spray. I think one of the spurts hit its mark — the dog stopped abruptly and ran back to its home.
First opportunity we had we fled to Hwy 2 – the Trans Canada – given the road condition and the dog experiences we looked at our alternatives. We found that there was a bridge across the river in about 5 km, which would take us to the Trans Canada. We realized that it might be another challenging route, but at least dogs would be unlikely!
Long, hot, boring ride…and that was ok!
Owen’s GPS got us to Cozy Cabins – and it is important to enter addresses EXACTLY: Lower Woodstock, not just Woodstock. Electronics are so helpful, and can be so unintuitive and frustrating!
Tour D’Afrique is next to us…night and day – 8,000 km in 3 months, from California to St. John’s Nfld – about 10% more than the Tour Trans Canada; 110 km per day; two vans, four staff, a professional chef cooking custom meals; lunches cooked and served on the road every day, seating area ready and camping gear taken out and ready for set-up: at a cost that is about 25% higher than our tour. Guess which one I (and every one of the other riders I asked) would choose!
A lovely interview with the Woodstock Bugle – good questions and a delightful conversation. And an interesting reporter: a 10-year career running through theatre, drama, film and journalism — and teaching college is next!

imageThe Gorge — just outside the campsite. And we heard its rumbling yet soothing sounds all night.
imageThe Gorge — just outside the campsite
imageOwen comes down the free fall slope onto the hydroelectric dam bridge
imageSt. John River
image

Another river view

Categories: Day to Day

Riviere Ouelle to St. Marc Sur Lac Long (day 1) to Edmonston to Grand Falls (day 2) — “Look, Ma, no glasses!”, Kamouraska, a close call,and help from Const. Pierre Ouellette;and $214.02 collected by K93 radio station van!

August 13, 2011 2 comments

So I actually ‘lost’ a day in there! Maybe because it was a rough one? The photos of the two days are mingled together, but the memories are not!

Riviere Ouelle to St. Marc Sur Lac Long (day 1)

Riviere Ouelle was a tough campsite. What does this mean? The truck was parked a bit further from our tents than usual. and there were other people’s campsites between us and the truck, so we had to ‘detour’ in order to get to our stuff, food etc. And I broke my glasses. All this you know if you read yesterday’s blog. So here is some new stuff: I found my backup glasses. Cool. And one nose pad was missing! I remembered it was loose already when I last used them, a few years ago. And now it was gone! I searched the bathroom — no luck. So what’s resting on the left side of my nose bridge is a thin metal loop that digs in … leaving a real impression, which turned into a headache within an hour, give or take. Soooooooo…. as the (modified) saying goes: “Look, Ma, no glasses!” I can ride this way, without much difficulty. Things are a bit blurry — so I think of this as ‘another perspective on the world!’ But I can’t read without glasses. So I tucked the less disabled backup pair into one of my jersey’s three rear pockets and pulled them out whenever I needed to check the map, or the GPS, or a menu, or…

But I am getting ahead of myself. We left Riviere Ouelle with rain coming down. A drizzle, actually. I led for the first 10 km. Then Owen, and then Isabel. The wind was at our back and there was almost no traffic, so we kept a fast pace, often exceeding 30 kph. We rode by the picturesque village of Kamouraska, famous because of the novel by Anne Hebert and the subsequent film by Claude Jutra. But the rain prevented me from taking photos, of the village or of the famous low-tide mud flats stretching into the St. Lawrence. Oh well. Those who are really interested can read the book, or watch the film, or cycle … you get my drift!

It was now 08:59. Landen took over the lead at 30 km. I was behind him. Up ahead a small side road joined our highway from the right. A small two-door car, faded red, approached the intersection at considerable speed. I recall thinking: “They aren’t going to stop!” as we both approached the junction. The four of us were meters from the intersection when the car just kept going and turned left, right in front of us! I clearly saw the young woman driving, alone in the car. Dark hair, expressionless, seemed tired or… ?

All four of us slammed our brakes, skidding on the wet pavement in all directions — to avoid being hit and to avoid each other. I shouted “Hey!” and watched her whip by, about a meter or two from Landen and I. Then I shouted an obscenity and flipped her a rude hand sign. No reaction — she just kept going. I had my glasses on as protection against the rain. I glanced at my GPS monitor — my heart rate jumped from its steady rate of around 110 to over 130! This is the kind of adrenaline rush none of us wants.

We kept flying northeast. I was now in the lead. Suddenly we came into a large intersection with Hwy 289 which headed southeast. And I remembered that this was our turn. I signaled a stop, confirmed my recollection and looked at our new direction — a steep rise cutting through thick forest. No more ‘shores of the St. Lawrence’ for us! And the wind was now directly in my face! The grade reached 10% and I was soon huffing noisily. Discouraging, how quickly you lose your climbing edge! We crested the first big climb and stopped in Saint Alexandre for a coffee, chocolate bar and a pit stop. And we donned our full rain gear: jackets, helmet covers and rain pants. And then we kept going. We were a lot less talkative, each rider ensconced in their world of pedaling discomfort.

About 55 km later we were all ready for a real break. Riviere Bleue was one of the only villages of any size along the day’s route so we slowed down and searched for any familiar names. None appeared. But we saw a ‘resto’ advertising spaghetti and pizza — the cyclists’ ideal meals. My French enabled us to order without too much fanfare. And to the advertised fare we added a medium plate of Poutine — Quebec’s contribution to world cuisine: french fries drenched in gravy and topped by (unpasteurized?) raw cheese curds. YUM! Real stick-to-your-ribs food, perfect for such a day and for our group! We wolfed down every last bit of every dish and suddenly the world seemed brighter! And the rain ebbed away!

A really bad stretch of road — all cut up and sending shocks through our tired bodies. And hilly. We caught up with Graham and Ric. And then Jim came riding in the opposite direction! I figured he had gone to camp to secure the better tent sites and had now ridden back to join the others.

Then we rode into the village of St. Marc Sur Lac Long. My odometer showed “119”. Bud’s map indicated a turn at “129”. And we did not see an Eglise (church) so we figured we had to keep riding. Up a steep hill, across a really bad section of gravel, permitting one way travel at a time. So much fun! At km 129 we were outside the village and heading… this just didn’t feel right! Could it have been another Bud blunder, a typo? Landen and I checked our GPS units. Neither of us had any reception but Landen’s phone had stored a map of the area when he had looked it up the day before. And sure enough, it confirmed that we had overshot our mark! Damn! Just as we were about to turn the Mouseketeers came up to us! We told them we were turning back but they just kept going. Oh well.

Back in the village I saw an old woman and asked her about Rue de l’Eglise. She pointed at the other side of the bridge. From this angle I could see the tip of the church’s steeple. OK. We rode there. No road. No road sign. Just a rough dirt path filled with holes and boulders and mud. But this had to be it! So we gingerly rode up and then on this path, waiting for the next surprise. A couple of km down the awful path, this turned out to be the campsite! Situated on a rise above the lake with a magnificent view of the water and the opposite shore, where we had ridden in error just a short while back and where we expected (hoped) to see our three comrades riding…soon!

And the surprises did not end here! The only place for our tents was a fairly narrow ledge, about 20 steps below the plateau on which the truck and all the RVs and campers were parked! This put us a meter or so above the water! Interesting! The ledge was covered by goose poop. The geese were floating on the water and loudly protesting our invasion of their territory.

The next surprise was the ‘bathroom’. Singular. One toilet, one shower. For everyone! The shower didn’t even have a lockable door! And the toilet ran out of paper. And there did not seem to be anyone in charge!

Rain was clearly coming again. We set up our tents and huddled under the tarp next to the kitchen area. We ate their as the rainfall intensified, until it was no longer possible to stay dry, so some of us ran into the truck while others shivered and ate, ate and shivered, and then witnessed two spectacular rainbows over the water. And then the only thing to do was to dash into the tents and hope we would not get drenched from above or flooded from below!

St. Marc Sur Lac Long to Edmonston to Grand Falls (day 2)

Started rough. As we ate our breakfast a young couple approached. The man asked me (in French) if I spoke French. I answered ‘a bit’ at which point the woman asked, in quite good English, if Margot was here. ‘Margo is not with the tour, she is in Ontario’ I replied. ‘Well, you were not supposed to stay here last night! You are just lucky that a bunch of campers cancelled their reservation at the last moment, otherwise there would have been no room for you!’ Great. I passed the conversation on to Nieka for her to handle this latest demonstration of Cycle Canada ineptitude.

Subtle welcome to New Brunswick. The road to the boundary was poor and we wondered aloud what it would be like on the other side: better? Worse? The sign welcoming us to New Brunswick was very modest, unlike most of the signs till now.
Superb road. We were relieved to find a much improved surface with a very good shoulder. Looked promising! One thing that did not change was the strong French and Catholic influence. This is the only fully bilingual province in Canada, but so far we were seeing French, almost exclusively.

Graham loses a tire. We rode up to the Mouseketeers standing at the side of the road, with Graham waving a tire. It was incredible — the tire had totally fallen apart at the point that it connects with the wheel’s rim. We could see long strands of rubber, metal and other fibers, delaminated in catastrophic failure! And again, no cellular reception, and thus no way to reach Cycle Canada! So they could only wait and hope that the truck would be by soon, carrying the spares that each of us has there.

Edmonston:
– Looking for Tim’s, finding Subway. We actually started out looking for an optical store, to hopefully supply a nose piece for my backup glasses. Couldn’t find one, nor could we find the Tim Horton that Owen’s GPS suggested should be “right here!” Technology can sometimes be really frustrating! But we saw a Subway and decided to stop for lunch.
– The most helpful policeman: Const. Pierre Ouellette. I had seen him walk into the restaurant ahead of us. He was now eating his lunch at the booth next to our. Then he leaned over and asked if we spoke French. He then switched to quite good English and asked about our ride. We got into a long conversation. Among others I learned that the optician across the hall from where we sat, about 10 meters away, had closed at noon — about 15 minutes earlier. Damn! We also asked about where we could get maps of the province, since such maps had proven very helpful earlier in our ride when looking for alternatives to Bud’s routes. Pierre said: ‘Just follow my cruiser’! And he drove off with us chasing him! He stopped by an old wood fort, encouraged us to photograph him and then suggested that I come in the cruiser so he would quickly show me the location of the Information Center, in case he got called away. He sped to that destination, mentioned that his wife worked at a restaurant across the street that offered a local specialty, a type of crepe made with maple sugar, then sped back to where the others were waiting. He then confirmed that Hwy 144 would be the better choice for us, and then he sped away! The perfect example of a friendly, engaging, helpful civil servant! I would love for him to be recognized for his service to us!
– Hwy 144 was the right way to go. It was a terrific road and got us to Grand Falls quickly and safely. If only they were all this great!

Grand Falls is impressive. The falls are beautiful and the town is lovely.

The obscure campsite. Took us a while to find it, tucked away as it was in a hollow next to the river’s gorge. Again a crowded spot, with one toilet and one shower… for all us guys! This can’t be the best a group can do!

$214.02 collected by K93 radio station van! Shane Button came dropped by the campsite and brought with him a large envelope filled with coins and a few bills! They had a fund collection initiative, run by Justine in the station’s van. What wonderful generosity from total strangers!

imageA couple of expert windsurfers were flying across the waves, making full use of the high winds. Beautiful to watch.
imageNot sure about this one :-)
imageView from the little restaurant where we stopped for lunch: decent spaghetti with meat sauce and …poutine!
image…and Owen got a very good pizza!
imageTents on a ledge at St. Marc du Lac Long — just before the deluge
imageStorm coming…
imageRainbow…and more storm coming in a few minutes…
imageBreaking down camp in the deep fog
imageFOG
imageMore fog
imageLanden’s improvised drying rack — clothes were just as wet as the evening before, when he hung them :-(
imageAnother province and another time zone!
imageReally, really, we did come from Quebec!
imageWe didn’t get the chance to shoot a Welcome to Quebec sign when we entered from Ottawa, so this is a ‘makeup’ shot :-)
imageWith Const. Pierre Ouellette — the friendliest and most helpful police officer we have met on this ride!

imageFort in Edmonston, dating back to the British – French conflict (17th Century?)
imageGrand Falls — very impressive
imageGrand Falls, NB
imageGrand Falls
imageGrand Falls
image

Grand Falls

Categories: Day to Day
%d bloggers like this: